My Farewell Talk

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Good morning brothers and sisters, wonderful friends, and my dearest family, my heart is so full as I look out on this room filled with the people I love and who mean so much to me. I truly feel so lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing support crew and thank you to all those of you who have traveled far and wide to be here today for me.

This morning I would like to share with you two sentences that have changed my life forever. They go like this:

Dear Sister Dunlop,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Alaska Anchorage mission.

I hope to never forget the overwhelming feelings of joy, peace, and love from my Heavenly Father as I read those words aloud on a rainy night in April. I report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday afternoon and will spend about three weeks there and learn everything about becoming a missionary. In the beginning of September, I will climb onto an airplane and head up north to Alaska for eighteen cold months and return home in February of 2018.

The preparation that I have done for my mission includes watching just about every single episode of the TV show “Alaska Bush People”, researching the recipes of “moose tacos”, “muktuk”, and “eskimo ice cream”, and buying enough Smart Wool tights and Patagonia parkas to last a lifetime; and I think I’m finally ready to stay warm enough for my eyelashes not to freeze off while I am there. Hopefully.

My message this morning is simple and it is one of the happiest messages in the world. It is the message that we have a Heavenly Father who loves each and every one of us. And that He loves us NO MATTER WHAT. He ALWAYS loves us because WE are His children.

To me, there is no doubt that there is a God. Everything around us testifies of Him; the rushing rivers and towering mountains, the change of seasons from green to white, the stars in the night sky, and being surrounded in a world of millions of people, none of which are the same as you, and yet, He is mindful of YOU because He loves YOU. ISN’T THAT THE COOLEST THING? There is a quote that says, “how cool is it that the same God, who created mountains and oceans and galaxies, [knew] that the world needed one of you too?”. You are important to Him.

Part of Heavenly Father’s Plan was for Jesus Christ to become our Savior. In order for this to happen, Jesus Christ needed to perform the Atonement which allowed for each of us to repent and have the chance to return to live with our Heavenly Father again in eternal happiness and joy.

Jesus Christ is known by many names- the Light of the World, our Savior & Redeemer, the Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, the Lord Omnipotent, and many others. But one of my favorites is the Good Shepard. The job description of a shepherd is someone who cares for and looks after each one of his sheep. And because we are all His children, we are all under the watchful and loving care of the Good Shepherd because we are His sheep. And we are all a part of His fold.

When Jesus Christ was alive on the earth, the religious leaders of His day condemned Him for spending time with “sinners”. Jesus Christ then taught the Parable of the Lost Sheep which can be found in the 15th chapter of Luke. It reads: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s said of this parable, quote, “over the centuries, this parable has traditionally been interpreted as a call to action for us to bring back the lost sheep and to reach out to those who are lost. While this is certainly appropriate and good, I wonder if there is more to it. Is it possible that Jesus’ purpose, first and foremost, was to teach about the work of the Good Shepherd? Is it possible that He was testifying of God’s love for His wayward children? Is it possible that the Savior’s message was that God is fully aware of those who are lost- and that He will find them, that He will reach out to them, and that He will rescue them? If that is so, what must the sheep do to qualify for this divine help? Does the sheep need to be able to use a GPS to define its position? Does it have to have the expertise to create an app that will call for help?

No. Certainly not! The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd,” end quote.

One of my favorite hymns is called, “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd”.
The lyrics to this song are as follows:
Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are the sheep of his fold;
Dear is the love that he gives them, dearer than silver or gold.
Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are his “other” lost sheep;
Over the mountains he follows, over the waters so deep.
Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens, bringing them back to the fold.

Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are the lambs of his fold;
Some from the pastures are straying, hungry and helpless and cold.
See, the Good Shepard is seeking, seeking the lambs that are lost,
Bringing them in with rejoicing, saved at such infinite cost.

Dear to the heart of the Shepard, dear are the “ninety and nine”;
Hark! He is earnestly calling, tenderly pleading today.
“Will you not seek for my lost ones, off from my shelter astray?”

Green are the pastures inviting; sweet are the waters and still.
Lord, we will answer thee gladly “Yes, blessed Master, we will!
Make us thy true under shepherds; give us a love that is deep.
Send us out into the desert, seeking thy wandering sheep.”
Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue we’ll hasten, bringing them back to the fold.

Over my last year of school at Utah State University, this hymn brought so much peace to my soul in times of trials. Having the knowledge that I am under the loving watch of the Good Shepherd even when life gets tough, meant the world to me. It gave me comfort when I was feeling lost or afraid and made me remember that as a Child of God, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for me, even when it sometimes seemed that the light at the end of the tunnel seemed impossibly far away and out of my own reach. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves each one of us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices with us when we do what is right. He knows where we are and what we need. We are His children and He loves us. And because He loves us, He will come to the rescue. Since the Savior has experienced everything that we will go through, He can help the weak become strong. He experienced all mortal challenges “according to the flesh” so He could know “according to the flesh” how to help His people according to their infirmities. He knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, our suffering because He willingly experienced them all through the Atonement.

It also helped me in my decision to serve a mission. The last verse reads, “Lord, we will answer thee gladly “Yes, blessed Master, we will! Make us thy true under shepherds; give us a love that is deep. Send us out into the desert, seeking thy wandering sheep.” Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold; off to the rescue we’ll hasten, bringing them back to the fold.”. As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we will go out and find people to teach about the joyous message of the restored Gospel in the latter days.

If you knew the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you share it with everyone? If you discovered the most delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe, wouldn’t you make a dozen for every person you knew? That’s how I feel about going on a mission. For me, the Gospel like the cure for cancer or that amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe. This simple and beautiful Gospel is what makes me happy! I want others to share in this happiness with me and so I am going to go and share it.

President Uchtdorf said, quote, “It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. There is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.

The joyous news of the gospel is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father and through the infinite sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, we can not only be redeemed from our fallen state and restored to purity, but we can also transcend mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory,” end quote.

I love the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and that we can be with our families forever. I know that we have a Heavenly Father who always loves us and that He has a plan for each of us. I know that God gives us commandments to help us progress and so that He can bless us. I am grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who atoned for our sins and helped to make it so that we can repent and work to become better people. I am grateful for the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost to help us know right from wrong. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we have a living prophet who guides and directs us in these the latter days. I am grateful for this ward and for the way that it has shaped and strengthened my testimony.

In Greek, “gospel” literally means good news. I am so excited to go and share this good news of hope and light with the people in Alaska and know that this is exactly where Heavenly Father needs me to be. I love my family and am so glad that we can hang out forever and ever. I know that this church contains the restored gospel in its fullness and that it is true.

See you in eighteen months.

I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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