Sunday, November 11, 2012

Farewell Talk

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil,
For Thou are with me
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We have met to take the sacrament.  I do not want to detract from that high point.  However, Elder Oaks said at important occasions we should teach important doctrine.  That is what I desire to do.

The words to the song the choir just sang are inspired by Psalm 23.

1.  The Lord is my ashepherd; I shall not bwant.

I believe in God the Eternal Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.  I believe they are separate beings physically, but in every other way they are one.  It is much simpler to explain how they are one than how they are not one.  They are one in everything except physical bodies. 

This is the most important doctrine.  Truth is independent in the sphere in which God has placed it, but truth rarely stands alone. Truth is part of a hierarchical system. Not all truth is of the same importance. Satan knows that the most important doctrines are the ones at the foundation of the Gospel. Whether Jesus was 6 feet tall or 5’10” and was right handed or left handed is trivial, but having a correct understanding of the true nature of God is essential to our worshiping him correctly.  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the Gospel, and is in fact the first principle of truth and reality.  Truth is knowledge of things as they really are. Paul taught that we are children of God, and children have the potential to become like their parents, because they are of the same family. There are more things common with us and God our Father than there are things different.  True, there are differences just as there are differences between me and my youngest grandchild, but children become grownups (sometimes the parents wonder about that one, but it is the nature of how things work).
Jesus is my shepherd, and I am one of his sheep.  My Shepherd will supply my needs.  Jehovah is his name.  From the very beginning Jesus has been the one to step forward with the plan of redemption.  When Lucifer tried to sabotage the Father’s plan, Jesus, also known as Jehovah, stepped forward to fulfill the will of our Father and voluntarily be the One to put his life up as ransom for our lives.  He is my shepherd, and I am his lamb. 

I have learned that I am on this earth to be tested and to learn and grow.  Life is a school, and this is not recess.  Therefore, the challenges we now face, have faced, and will yet face are real, and they are worthy tests of the reward that awaits our successful passing of the test.  In the process of enduring to the end, however, I have been given the promise that my shepherd is there for me.  He secures the ninety-nine who are at the moment secure and not wandering, although we know that sheep love to wander and that each will wander a little, sooner or later, and will need to be rescued.  With the 99 safely in the fold, watched and protected and led by the undershepherds, Jesus comes looking for me.  And I want to be found.  I must listen for his voice as he calls me.  I must move towards that voice with resolution, motivated by love.  

My Shepherd will supply my needs, and because of Him I shall not want.  The word “want” has many meanings, but the one that applies in a Gospel sense is “need”.
see also Lack; Need.
  1. in want of all things, Deut. 28:48
  2. place where there is no want of any thing, Judg. 18:10
  3. Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want, Ps. 23:1
  4. they that seek the Lord shall not want, Ps. 34:10
  5. fools die for want of wisdom, Prov. 10:21
  6. she of her want did cast in all that she had, Mark 12:44
  7. famine … he began to be in want, Luke 15:14
  8. when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, John 2:3
  9. your abundance may be a supply for their want, 2 Cor. 8:14
  10. Not that I speak in respect of want, Philip. 4:11
  11. set in order the things that are wanting, Titus 1:5
  12. suffer much for the want of food, 1 Ne. 16:19 (3 Ne. 4:3).
  13. administering to their relief … according to their wants, Mosiah 4:26 (Mosiah 18:29).
  14. every man … receive according to his wants, D&C 42:33
  15. every man equal according to … his wants, D&C 51:3 (D&C 82:17).
  16. searching after the poor to administer to their wants, D&C 84:112
I am one of the undershepherds.  Actually, we all are.  We are called to assist the Shepherd in finding, leading, and saving the sheep who have wandered.  Dear to the Heart of The Shepherd expresses this beautifully. I am capable of assisting in the shepherdly duties, but because of the nature of my humanity my capability fluctuates.  As President Don Smith said, we are expected to give our all and do our best, but sometimes that best is not very good. We need to cut each other some slack.  But the goal is to get better at it, to learn from our experiences to distinguish good from evil, and to move along the path as we hold to the rod.  

If we hold to the rod we are sliding our hands along while maintaining contact as we move forward.  We thus maintain contact with the rod as we progress toward the Tree of Life and its glorious fruit.  It is interesting to me that those who cling to the rod are the ones described as short-lived in their visit to the Tree of Life.  They see the world and are embarrassed and ashamed by their unworldly position by the Tree, so they leave.  I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he aleadeth me beside the still waters.

As my shepherd, Jesus leads me to where there is food and water.  In fact, Jesus is the Bread of Life, and he is the fountain of Living Water.  He is the Light, the Resurrection, and the Life. He leads me and makes it available.  He does not force me to go where he wants me to go.  I have been blessed with the power and responsibility to choose.  

The Mormon definition of Agency is the opportunity to choose what I want to do.  But the meaning of Agency in the 1830 dictionary, which tells us something of what Joseph Smith meant when he used the term, has more to do with acting and being a representative.  It relates to being an agent.  An agent is given the right to act in behalf of the one who gives the agency, so as long as the agent behaves and obeys the terms of the contractual arrangement, his actions are recognized and accepted by the granter of the agency.  However, when the agent decides to ignore or violate the terms of his contract, he loses his agency and is no longer filling the role of agent.  Repentance gives us, the intern agents, the opportunity and ability to regain our agency, but it remains that agents are bound to act in the terms of the agreement.  Agents do not have the right to act outside the terms of their agreement of agency.  When they do thus act, they have lost their agency, and it is because they gave it up, not because someone took it away. 

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of arighteousness for his bname’s sake.

The process of repenting is strengthening.  It is the greatest of the gifts of God, for it gives us the opportunity and the method to continually adjust our course to the path that leads beside the stream leads to the Tree of Life.  Indeed, Eternal Life is the greatest of all the gifts of God.  
We can gain Eternal Life by obedience and repentance, made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  We are judged according to our acts, and we know it is by grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved after all we can do.

4 Yea, though I awalk through the bvalley of the cshadow of ddeath, I will fear no eevil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they fcomfort me.

There is ample opportunity for us to experience the depravity of a world that frequently chooses to follow Satan, or at least chooses to dawdle in Babylon, the counterfeit of Zion.  President Packer has said that we are living in the great and spacious building.  It is no longer separated from us physically.  We must learn to recognize the difference between Zion and Babylon, for knowing the difference is paramount to leaving Babylon and coming to Zion.  

This world is a dark, disturbing, enticing, momentarily gratifying, confused, dangerous place and more importantly, lifestyle.  The reward that lies at the end of the path leading to the world is misery and unhappiness, for Satan desires to make all men miserable like unto himself.  

We, on the other hand, are free to choose life and joy according to the product of obedience made possible through the redemption of Jesus Christ.  Although the world is a scary place, we do not need to be afraid of evil.  In fact the final score is already known and the winning team is already known.  As Elder Holland put it, the only thing left undetermined is which team jersey I will wear.  I choose to be on the Jesus team, for that is the one that will win in the end.  So as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death and destruction and misery, we can do so with joy and rejoicing, for Jesus is our guide and his love will ward off the attacks of evil if we will only allow it. 

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou aanointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

The sacrament is an opportunity to refreshen our covenants with the Lord.  More than that, it is a renewal of those covenants.  We get to make them again every time we partake of the emblems of the Atonement.  We renew every covenant we have made, including baptism, the accepting of the commandment to receive the Holy Ghost, the oath and covenant of the Priesthood, and every covenant we make by sacred signal in the Temple, including when we kneel at the alter.  

Truly, Jesus has prepared a table for us.  The sacrament table is a place of feasting.  Feasting is not the same as gorging or banqueting.  A feast in the Old Testament was a time of renewal of covenant and refreshing of awareness of the requirements of the journey we are on.  It is a celebration of God’s love for us, his children, his sheep.  The Feast of the Passover became the Feast of the Lord’s Supper.  The transition was seamless, for the unleavened bread and cup of the vine of the Passover was the bread that Jesus broke and the cup of wine he blessed to be the emblems of his divine Atonement.  Thus, the cup of our blessedness is overflowing.  All we must do is sit down and partake.  It is available to all without money and without price.

6 Surely agoodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

When we realize the safety and security that is available to us when we make and keep the covenants, our hearts rejoice.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  

The two verbs “shall” and “will” are not accidentally put in here.  Shall is a declaration of actions whose fulfillment are not in any doubt.  It portends the future in certain terms.  There is no uncertainty or waffeling connected to “shall”.  Look it up.  "My words shall all be fulfilled" said the Lord.
“Will” is an expression of desire.  What wilt thou have me do? was the question Paul asked.  The sacrament prayer speaks of those willing to take upon them the name of Jesus. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life--a declaration of certainty, intent, or expectation.  I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever--a declaration of desire, resolve, and decision.  I want to be there.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth, said John.  I want to be there.  Yea Lord, wash my feet and my whole body, said Peter.  What I want to hear most of all is the Lord himself saying to me: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Come in.  Sit down.  Enter into my rest. Let me put my arms around you and allow you to feel the fulness of my love for you.  You have proven faithful over many things, I will make you a recipient of all things that my Father has.

I have looked forward to serving this mission for most of my life.  As a young man it was my goal to serve a mission.  My patriarchal blessing says I shall bear my testimony in distant places.  My first mission was to South Africa.  Two weeks after I arrived there in April 1966 I participated in a testimony meeting in Port Elizabeth in Cape Province.  There is no place on teh planet more distant from my home in Rexburg Idaho.  Since Gaye and I formed our family it has been my desire to go with her out into the world somewhere to preach and teach and work as missionaries do.  We decided we will “go where you want us to go dear Lord” and we are excited to be on our way.  I am confident that the Lord’s work will go on with or without me, and I want to be on the field with the team, not on the sidelines.  I am a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Army, but in this army and in this battle, I want to be a foot soldier in the front line if that is where the Lord needs me.  It may not be at the battle’s front, but after all, someone needs to be the leader of the first charge, going on as a Christian soldier, sounding the war cry “Watch and Pray”, wearing the whole armor of God including the shield of faith and the sword of virtue.  For it is true that the only way to secure our life, to save it, is to give it or surrender it to God.

The words to the song we just sang:     My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

My shepherd will supply my need; Jehovah is his name.
In pastures fresh he makes me feed beside the Living Stream
He brings my wand’ring spirit back when I forsake his ways,
And leads me for his mercy’s sake, in paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death, Thy presence is my stay;
One word of thy supporting breath drives all my fears away.
Thy hand in sight of all my foes doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows, Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
O may thy house be mine abode and all thy work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest while others go and come,
No more a stranger, nor a guest; but like a child at home.


  1. Great talk dad. Thanks for posting it. This is worth hanging onto. I am really excited for you and mom right now.

  2. Good job Ken and Gaye! We are excited for you. You will do a great job serving those in your mission.

  3. Thanks for posting your non-farewell talk. I know that as I study the scriptures you provided I too can feel even closer to Heavenly Father.