Sean was asked to speak in church before he left on his mission. We tried to record it, but we had an error occur. Here is his written talk for those who would like to read it:
Good morning brothers and sisters. It is a wonderful day to be alive and to be able to attend church today. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to speak to you today and pray that the Spirit might be with me as I address you today.
In Matthew 4:18-20 in the scriptures we find a beautiful account of Peter and Andrew's apostolic calling. “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” From these scriptures I would like to talk about the very significant topic of obedience to God. I ask that you open your hearts to the Spirit and allow the Lord to teach you things exactly what He would have you learn from my comments today.
As is taught in DC 130:20-21, “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated- and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” I would like to touch on a few poignant portions of this scripture. First, before we even came to this earth there was a law established. It is a law that would allow us to receive blessings from God by our obedience. Second, this law was irrevocably decreed. This law was set up never to be changed, modified, or put aside. It would be the structure of our existence here on the earth. As we talk about obedience to God, let us remember that before we were even placed on this earth, there were laws given which would allow us to receive blessings based upon our obedience to them. We were given the foundation to receive all the blessings which our Heavenly Father has in store for us.
With this is mind, let us look to the creation of this world and the Fall of Adam. The Gods commanded the elements and the world was made. It would be a place for man. Man was created in the image of God and placed in the Garden of Eden, being in innocence. In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve their agency. They were commanded not to eat of the forbidden fruit. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, and they choose to do so. Adam and Eve were then cast out of the Garden of Eden and from God's presence. From such we have the mortal man and the ability for God's spirit children to come to earth, obtain physical bodies, and be tested. God would call prophets and write scripture so that all mankind could know what God commanded them to do. We would have the ability to know the commandments and we would have the ability to obey the commandments. There was a Savior provided who would atone for the sins of the world. We could receive a forgiveness of our sins as we repent and keep God's commandments. If we were faithful in keeping the commandments, we would inherit eternal life.
When we look at the beautiful Plan of Happiness that God has given us, we find that we are given commandments so that we can be happy here and in the world to come. Our happiness is based upon our obedience to the commandments of God. Though we are not void of trails and heartaches, we are able to best the storms of life as we keep the commandments of God. As we speak of keeping the commandments of God, we know that we find happiness and joy in doing so. We are promised in DC 14:7 that “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” Our ability to live forever with God and our families cannot be achieved unless we obey the commandments. Knowing that obedience to the commandments not only brings happiness here and eternal life in the world to come, I would like to spend the remainder of my time addressing a very personal topic in regards to obedience. I would like to speak about how by keeping the commandments of God, we find who we really are and who the Lord can mold us into.
We learn from the scriptures that these are the last days. It is a time of great wickedness and turmoil. The hearts of men fail them because iniquity abounds. Likewise, it is a time that the most obedient of Heavenly Father's children have been sent to the earth. It is a time for the noble and great. We live as a marked generation. Each of us come to this earth at this time because of the obedience which we exhibited in our pre-mortal existence. But truly think about it. We were born at this time because of your diligence in keeping the commandments. You were of the noble and great of the hosts of Heaven. You were distinguished before you even came to this earth. For you to become as your Heavenly Father, you would be placed on this earth within a family which was unique to you. You would be placed in a family wherein you would have the specific and utterly unique tutelage which could grant you eternal life. Before your first breathe of air, your personal tutelage was prepared for you. You would grow and experience life in the way that your Heavenly Father desired you to do so as you kept His commandments. You would have parents, friends, bishops, home teachers, prophets, apostles, and others who Heavenly Father had placed here for you to learn who you are dependent upon your obedience to His commandments. Each of us has this unique tutelage for our own lives. There is none of Heavenly Father's children who is found without such.
Our lives our tailored in such a way that would test us as to our willingness to obey the commandments of our God. Our lives were set up for us to realize who we really are through obedience to His commandments. I would like to first speak of the Apostle Peter. He was unschooled, poor, and impetuous. He was of no high esteem. He was a fisherman on the sea of Galilee. In Matthew 4:18-20, there is an extremely powerful lesson being taught. As the Savior called to Peter and Andrew, notice His declaration. To those who would call themselves fishermen of Galilee, comes the Savior's response, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. The poor fishermen of Galilee had been given the most significant commandment of their lives. It is one of the most significant responses in all scripture to me as “they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” If we continue through Peter's experience with the Savior, we see the same personal refinement according to his faith as we experience in our own lives.
I would like to take a moment to discuss how we truly follow the Savior. Helaman 15:7-8 teaches this very plainly. “And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them – therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free.” What strikes me about this passage of scripture is that it is a belief in the holy scriptures and the prophecies of the holy prophets that leads the people to faith, repentance, a change of heart, and ultimately firmness and steadfastness in the faith. It is all based upon faith in the promises of the Lord whether by Himself or through the words of His prophets. If we are to ever have firm and steadfast faith in Christ, we must first have faith in His promises.
In viewing the task of keeping the commandments let us reflect deeply upon the principles found in DC 82:10 and 1 Nephi 3:7. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” These two principles are critical in our ability to becoming firm and steadfast in the faith. The first being that the Lord will keep His promises as long as we do what He asks and the second that the Lord provides a way when He commands.
With these in mind, I turn to the account of Peter's walking on water which is very dear to me. Here it is as found in Matthew 14:24-32. “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, 'Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.' And Peter answered him and said, 'Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.' And he said, 'Come'. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, 'Lord, save me'. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 'O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?' And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.” This account is a beautiful representation of the principle of obedience. Note that when Christ first appeared to the disciples, they thought He was a spirit and were afraid. It is profound to note Peter's response. In this time of fear, Peter asked “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Peter knew that if this was Christ, if Christ commanded him to walk on the water, he could do it. He knew that if the Christ were to call him to walk on the sea, as he was firm in his faith, he would meet the Savior upon the water. The Lord called to Peter when He said “come”. The command of Christ was given. Upon this one word, Peter would step out of the ship and would walk on the sea. Notice that his attention was fixed on the Savior. He was firm and steadfast in his faith. However, when he directed his attention to the boisterous winds around him, he began to sink and cried out “Lord, save me”. Peter no longer doubted this was the Christ but would call to him in his lack of faith to “save me”. Christ then immediately stretched forth His hand and caught him with the response, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” The commandment had not changed nor had the promise associated with it been altered. However, Peter lost sight of the promise as he looked at the winds around him. He forgot the commandment and the promise for a moment, and he started to sink.
I would like to give a modern illustration of these same principles. I was mowing the lawn the other day. After mowing the perimeter I was about to start mowing the first direction. I wondered if there was something I could do to make mowing the lawns more interesting. The first thing that came into my mind were the stories about farmers lining their fields. The stories as I recalled them were about various farmers who had to pick a point in the distance and follow it as they laid paths for the crops. The stories go that if they didn't, they would find themselves with crooked lines and lose valuable space for their crops. I decided to make this my experiment for the afternoon.
I started this experiment by picking a point on the other side of the lawn. I looked at it and started to move the lawn mower. I looked at it until I hit a rough spot in the lawn which I would look down and correct myself. I mowed my first row this way and looked back at my cut. It was pretty strait except for the portion where I looked down to correct myself. I proceeded to do a few more rows and found similar results. Seeing that my rows weren't as strait as they could have been, I tried to focus more on the point. I tried this time to not move my head from the selected point on the other side of the lawn. I would keep my eyes on the point but I would watch the lawn mower and where I was out of the corners of my eyes. My eyes were looking at the point but they were focused on everything else. I did this and found that my lines were just about the same as they were on the first experiment. I then tried to focus entirely on the point in the distance. I took all the effort I had to focus on the point in the distance. I was not observing where I was in the yard or correcting myself when a bump came. I focused entirely on that point. When I felt that there was a bump in the lawn I would focus more intently on that point and rather than looking down, I would point the lawn mower towards the point. I stopped after the first complete attempt of this experiment and looked back on my line. It was almost perfect. I had never made such a strait cut in my whole life. What started as merely a curious experiment became a very profound lesson in my life. When I completely focused on that point in the distance, I found myself achieving exactly what was promised as I did so. I had looked to the lawn mower or kept an on where I was in the lawn in an attempt to achieve what had been promised me if I had just focused on the point in the distance.
As we look back at the tutelage of Peter, we see a child of our Heavenly Father who would find himself as the Prophet of the Lord. He was the prophet who was given the charge to take the Gospel to the world. From the poor fisherman of Galilee who acted on a promise, he would be the fisher to the world. Likewise, we look at the Prophet Moroni in the Book of Mormon. He was born in horrific times with a childhood surrounded by a cycle of continual carnage and bloodshed. This prophet historian would see the entire destruction of his people and would run as a fugitive for at least 36 years with no friends, family, or prospects of a future. Yet the man who witnessed the entire destruction of his nation would be the same given the assignment of instructing the boy prophet in ushering in the dispensation that would never fall. He would be honored atop of the temples of our God as a symbol of the kingdom of God on earth. We can look at Saul. Saul the great persecutor would become Paul the great missionary. His life dramatically changed when he hearkened to the commandment from the angel. The most important example is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus, the perfectly obedient son of the Father, our Elder Brother, became the Christ, the Redeemer and Mediator for all mankind. The completely obedient son became the Father of our exaltation.
My message to you today brothers and sisters is that we cannot comprehend the degree in which the Lord will mold us to be like Him. We are all given specific tutelage in our lives. We discover who we truly are as we obey the commandments which our Heavenly Father has lovingly given us. Each of us is given commandments which we can become great as we follow. The significance to us cannot be what the commandment is but that we follow it. We must remember that the Lord has a very unique tutelage for each of us and that each commandment given and each situation given will teach us in a very personal way. We cannot look at others and aspire to their tutelage. They will be instructed and guided to their own potentials. We each have a personal and eternally fulfilling one of our own which if obeyed, will give us identity, power, and in the end, eternal life. We may be called to run or to sit. We may be called to testify or be silent. We may be called to shoulder a burden or relieve a friend's. We may want to act when we are called to be patient. We may wish to stay when we are called to go. We may worry and fear when we are commanded to be faithful. Whatever the Lord asks of us or where ever the Lord calls us, no matter our own desires, let us obey Him. We will find that the true desires of our hearts fulfilled and will we know exactly who we are. We will find ourselves as we truly lose ourselves for His sake. We do not know the specifics of who the Lord will mold us into as we are obedient, but it is my testimony that as we believe in the commandments and promises of the Lord, trusting in God, and knowing that He will provide a way, we will receive the blessings promised in Jacob 3:2. “O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.” It is my prayer that we will believe in the commandments and promises of God and act on them in faith. And by so doing have our hearts pure and our minds firm to feel of the love of God forever. I know that my Redeemer lives. I know that Joseph Smith entered the grove of trees and saw God the Father and His son Jesus Christ. This is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth again with all the keys and authorities necessary for our salvation. The priesthood of God is on the earth today and is used by worthy men to perform the ordinances of salvation and bless Heavenly Father's children. We have a prophet today who speaks the words of the Lord and guides us to eternal life. I ask that we may all believe in the promises of the Lord, act in faith and obey the commandments of God in which we may truly find our greatest happiness, love, and identity. It is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
He recently returned in June. We are thrilled to have him home.
Their son Jonny is a dear friend and younger brother to Sean.