This is a copy of Stephen's Farewell Address given Feb, 15th 2009
"Good morning everyone, anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows that I like a good joke. I love to laugh... so I'm going to read a short story before I start my talk.
On the first day, God created the dog and said: "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks by. For this I will give you a lifespan of twenty years."
The dog said: "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"
So God agreed.
On the second day, God created the monkey and said: "Entertain people, do tricks and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty year lifespan."
The monkey said: "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"
And God agreed.
On the third day, God created the cow and said: "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."
The cow said: "that's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give you back the other forty?"
And God agreed again.
On the fourth day. God created man and said: "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. for this, I'll give you twenty years." But man said: "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, Okay?
"Okay," said God "You asked for it"
So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. then for the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grand kids. and for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone."
The Bishop asked me to speak on the subject of the "Tree of Life". This is a story that we have all heard so many times...and that's kind of what I thought when I was preparing this talk...I had heard this story so many times I thought I knew it like the back of my hand. It was not until I opened my scriptures and realized I didn't know where it was in the Book of Mormon that I started taking it a little more seriously.
It turns out this topic was really good for me because I had forgotten a lot about the story of the tree of life... Like I forgot that there are two accounts of it... one from Lehi and one form Nephi. Lehi has the vision of the Tree of Life and tells it to his family, and then later on Nephi prays to see what his father had seen and know what it means.
I don't want to take up too much time with the retelling of the story so I'm just going to summarize and hit on a few key points.
Lehi starts in 1 Nephi chapter 8 vrs 10, saying "And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, who's fruit was desirable to make one happy." In 1 Nephi 11 an angel asks Nephi in vrs 21, "Knowest though the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? and he answers in the next verse saying "Yea it is the love of God which shedeth abroad in the hearts of the children of men, wherefore it is the most desirable above all things." Lehi then goes on to say that there is a rive stretching its way across the land and that next to this river is an iron rod, he also talks about a straight and narrow path that goes with the rod towards the tree. Lehi says he can see many people trying to make there way to the path and the tree to partake of the fruit, and in verse 23 and 24 it says,
" And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost. And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree."
I really like these two verses because it shows that when struggles came the way of these people that some held on tight and endured till the end... they didn't just give up at the first sign of trouble.
A Pastor had been on a long flight between Church conferences. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: *Fasten Your Seat Belts*
Then, after a while, a calm voice said, "We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened."
As the pastor looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive.
Later, the voice on the intercom said, "We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us."
And then the storm broke...
The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightning lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash.
The pastor confessed that he shared the discomfort and fear of those around him. He said, "As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying. The future seemed ominous and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm.
Then, I suddenly saw a little girl. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. she had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat; she was reading a book and every-thing within her small world was calm and orderly.
Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world.
When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid." The minister could hardly believe his eyes.
It was not surprising therefore, that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, our pastor lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time.
Having commented about the storm and the behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid.
The child replied, "Cause my Daddy's the pilot, and he's taking me home."
I really like this story... and it has a lot to do with each of our lives on this earth. We all have struggles and we all go through difficulties great and small. I know that it is hard, but we have to keep on going even when everything in us is telling us it's no use.
For the past few months I have struggled with many things, Satan knew that I was about to go on a mission and he was throwing everything at me that he could, if it wasn't one thing it was another, and he knew exactly where my weak points were. There was one night I remember where I thought that I couldn't take it anymore, I just wanted to give up, and everything seemed like it would get better if I just decided not to go on my mission. I told my dad and he looked at me and said, "Why do you think all these things are happening right now? Why do you think it's been so hard all of a sudden? It's because the adversary is working so hard right now, because if he can convince you not to go, then he can stop the gospel from being spread through you."
My parents helped me a lot to get through some difficult time in my life, parents may not know everything, but they probably know more than you think because they have been there before. When we have struggles in our life, we need to take a breath and remember that our Father in Heaven is the pilot and he is taking us home.
In verse's 26-28 of Chapter 8 Lehi goes on and says: "And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. and after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
Elder Zwick said in a conference report in 2008: "Nephi taught us a powerfully simple principle in recounting his father's dream of the tree of life. He described a strait and narrow path leading to a tree and a great and spacious building. This building was filled with people who were dressed in exceedingly fine and fashionable clothing. They were all in an attitude of mocking and pointing fingers toward those who were partaking of the fruit. They were trying to get people off the path and into the building. From all appearances, the people inside seemed to be having a great time. What in indelible image of temptation. In Elder Neal A. Maxwell's words, "The laughter of the world is merely loneliness pathetically trying to reassure itself."
"And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building... They did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not."
There at the end of the verse is Nephi's powerful principle, an answer to unwanted peer pressure: "But we heeded them not."
President Boyd K. Paker has recently emphasized this guiding principle: "However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much other yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield."
Do we recognize temptation when it is so well camouflaged?
Are we willing to fight the unpopular battle?
Paul clearly warned that we should not be "Men-pleasers; but [be] the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."
The time has come when we must take an unyielding stand. We must shore up our spiritual underpinnings, listen to the prophets of God, and follow their counsel."
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big movie fan... I love movies, and getting to work at a movie theater was like my dream job for a while.
In one of my favorite movies that came out not long ago, there are two good guys, one of them gets turned by the bad guys and joins him as they terrorize the city. This new villain turns at one point and says to his old friend (the hero of the story) "You thought that we could be decent people...in an indecent time."
I like this quote because the statement is very true, We all have to stand up and be decent people...in an indecent time. We all have to stand up and ignore the great and spacious building that is trying to get us to become part of the world. Ignore the drugs, ignore the pornography, ignore the filth in the media, and ignore all the things that would keep us from feeling the spirit.
I've found that the easiest way to get through life is to associate yourself with good friends. I wouldn't be half the person I am today if it wasn't for the friends I have made, If it wasn't for people like my brother, if ti wasn't for people like my best friend Brady, if it wasn't for my parents, or my leaders, or Bishops, if it wasn't for all these people my life would be very different.
There is one other thing that really kind of changed my life, (and this applies to the youth) if you have the opportunity, please, please go to Aarons camp, you will not regret it, and you will not come back the same if you put your heart into it.
I hope that I can serve the Lord faithfully and fulfill all that he needs me to do, I'm very scared to leave, but also very excited. I will miss my family so much, especially my little sister and my brother. I want them to know that I love them.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.