Carter's talk from his Homecoming:
I lost 50 pounds for this moment.
It is a little surreal to be standing in front of you again. Two years ago, I gave a talk from this pulpit. My mission was the best thing that I have ever done – ever. Nothing compares to it not even football. My mission was the best and I am grateful that I get to talk about it a little bit today.
My topic today is tender mercies. Tender mercies enable us to push through the tough times and trial that come into our lives to all of us. To look at this, lets read out of the Book of Mormon. 1 Nephi 1. This is Nephi talking. Nephi and his family were commanded by God to leave Jerusalem around 600 BC before it was destroyed, which was a tough thing to ask. They had lived there their whole life and all of us can relate to that in some way. They were led by God to the promise land and there were a lot of tough things that happened to them. I love what Nephi says in verse 20 the very last verse of chapter one. I think it is very significant at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. As I read this, look for the words tender mercies. When the Jews heard these things they were angry with him. Yea, even as the prophets of old were cast out, stoned, and slayed and they also sought his life that they might take it away, but behold I Nephi will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he has chosen because of their faith to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
Nephi had been through a lot of craziness, but he chose to have a good attitude and see the tender mercies are over all the Lord has chosen. Tender mercies are specific personal blessings that come to us. They can be in the form of a text from a friend, a feeling of peace in a tough time. On my mission, I saw many tender mercies and many things that helped me get through my mission. It was hard – it was the hardest thing that I have ever done.
One thing that comes to mind, every six weeks there comes a transfer. So every six weeks there is a possibility that you will get moved into a new place in Florida. In the first two transfers you are trained by your trainer . You call them your dad. My trainer was Elder Bagshaw. He was a good guy – we got a long really well. Totally opposite from me, totally theatrical. He was a good little feller That is what they say in Florida – short for fellow. After these first two transfers, I was transferred to Coco Beach. I got a call from my mission president and asked to train another missionary and it had only been 12 weeks and that was a tough thing for me. At the time, I was like good heavens – why are they asking me to do this. There are plenty of other missionaries that could have done this. I was freaking out. What happens is every 6 weeks we get another and find out where we are going. At that time, my best friend Jayden Johnson had just gotten to the mission and was being trained by another Elder, Elder Jeppsen. I was transferred to the same zone they were I and that was a tender mercy for me.
Why does God send us tender mercies? Go back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God gave them two commandments - he asked them to have children and told them not to eat of the fruit of that tree. Everyone knows the story – Satan came and tempted them and they ate and they were kicked out of the garden – which we all call the fall. When they fell, two things happened. One, they were going to die, which we all will eventually at some point and Spiritual death – sin. This is what God wanted to happen. A lot of Christianity thinks this was a mistake, but it was meant to happen. It was all part of the plan from the beginning.
Open the Book of Mormon to 2 Nephi Chapter 2. Lehi is writing a letter to his son Jacob. Jacob had a tough life. He was born in the wilderness and watched his older brothers fight and saw a lot of hard things, but good things too. I am sure Jacob asked why does God allow bad things to happen. Lehi answers that in verse 11. He said it must needs be there is an opposition in all things – if not so my first born in the wilderness righteousness cannot be brought to pass neither wicked ness, holiness or misery- all things must be compound in one.
In essence, he is saying you can’t have good if you don’t have the bad. If we don’t have the hard days, we won’t have good days. Without good and bad, we would not have the right to choose. It is very important. Life is hard sometimes, and you want to cry yourself to sleep. But God being the good father that he is, wanted us to have happen. This is why tender mercies are so important. Hope is so important and one of my favorite things. The message of the gospel is hope. Without hope, we cannot have faith. Faith in the world today – people think of as a belief. Faith is hope plus action. You can say I have faith, but if you don’t act, you really don’t have faith. God wanted us to have hope and faith to get through these tough times. That is why he allows us to see the good.
The question is how can we have more tender mercies in our lives. There is a way we can invite more tender mercies into our lives. That is by obedience. Obey the commandments that God has given us. In D&C it says – A big fat promise – the Lord gives us in 82:10 – I the Lord am bound when you do what I say, but if you do not what I say, you have no promise. The Lord will help us get through the tough times if we do what he says, but if you don’t do what he says, there are no promises.
President Bednar talked about this cool thing. God is always raining down blessings like rain cascading down mountains. As we walk through life, we get hit with the rain and get the blessings, but when we are disobedient to the commandments, we put up an umbrella. The blessings still come, but they hit the umbrella and fall by the wayside. Thank goodness we can repent and change and take the umbrella down and the commandments are instructions to take the umbrella down to claim the blessings that are rightfully ours. Happiness is the central message of God’s plan – at any point and time you can change.
This is a good measuring stick and we can ask these questions to ourselves. How do I feel peace, do I see blessings that are promised in the scriptures, do I feel happy, when I go to church do I feel happy and enjoy it. If the answer is no to these questions, ask Heavenly Father how to improve and just do it. Get it done. If you do that, I promise you, you will see the blessings come from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – Jesus Christ is the center of our message.
God stated his purpose. He stated this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That is what God wants that is why we are here. God tells us what our purpose is in D&C 11:20. He is talking to Hyrum Smith. Hyrum asked Heavenly Father about the truth and it says this is your work to keep my commandments – yea upon your heart, mind and strength. So our purpose in life is to choose God and the opposition that comes. Opposition always comes. Choose God through that opposition and the tender mercies that he promises will come. In a way, tender mercies are from the Lord for Choosing the right.
There is a story I want to share. I learned a lot about this early in my mission. In my first area, I was in a place called Hunters Creek and it was south of Orlando. It is rated the 21st best place to live in the United States. We were pretty proud of that. I was excited to be there. In my area, was the mission home and office. It was a good area and we were working hard white washing the area, which means they took 2 previous missionaries out and brought 2 new ones in. We had no one to teach and I asked Heavenly Father was to do. We fasted, prayed and were obedient – praying we could find someone to teach. One day that finally happened. A tender mercy finally came on a Tuesday. We were going to visit a potential investigator – a lady we met at our mailbox. We knocked on her door and hear not interested, go away, which happens a lot. So we left and started knocking on other doors. It started to rain and in Florida, when it rains it can come down, so we knew we wanted to knock on another door, but we went and sat in the car for a minute. We were sitting in the car and I look to the left and see a red door with a Mercedes Benz in the driveway. We picked that door to knock on. We knock and at first, no one answers. Then knocked again and a lady answered. Her name was Sally. She looked at us and said that is spooky. She is from Great Brittan so she had an accent. I knew I should have done my hair that morning and I had on a bad tie with turtles on it. So we talked to hear and we said why did you say that is spooky, what prompted you to say that. So she tells us this story. She said two months prior she came across Mormon.org online and watched a video message – you know those cute videos that make my mom cry. She kept watching them and was infatuated with these videos and kept watching them every day. She was on Mormon.org and the week before we came ordered a Book of Mormon. Before we came to the door, she was inside her house praying to the Lord and asking him is this is the right church and to let her know. Right when she said Amen, we knocked on the door. I will never forget the look on her face. Sally and her entire family were baptized. A family’s life was changed forever. It showed me that miracles happen and those things that you hear actually happen. If we do what we are supposed to do and follow the commandments, we will see miracles.
From that point, I did the best I could to fulfill my role as a missionary and I think I did a good job. I can stand here and honestly say with all my heart I did the best I could. I worked hard every day and followed the rules. Heavenly Father blessed me. Before I close, I leave an invitation for you. Find a way you can do better, commit to God and just do it. I promise if you do that you will see miracles like I saw on my mission and everyday miracles. A huge miracle like knocking on Sally’s door or a small miracle like an open parking spot near the front door, I don’t know, but I know this church is true.
The past two years in Florida, Jesus Christ testified to me that it is true, it has to be. I saw too many miracles and felt the spirit too many times. Another story, when I was on an exchange in an area by Disney World, I was with a missionary about to go home and he was done with Florida and ready to go home. I had been out 8 months and I remember thinking this sucks and I need help. I prayed to the Lord to help me with exchanges. The next morning, I was studying the Book of Mormon and I felt like I should study 3 Nephi 11 when Christ comes to the Americas. I was reading along and I was at the point in the chapter where Christ invites everyone there to come up and feel the prints in his hands. As I read it, I felt the spirit really strong and I heard a voice that said Carter, this actually happened. I knew this was all true. Joseph Smith was a prophet – he has to be. The Book of Mormon is true and above all Jesus Christ is a real person, he lives and loves us and suffered for our sins and went to the cross and died for us and on the third day he was resurrected. Because of that, we can all live happy lives and we can feel peace from the gospel. That is the message of this church and that is the message I was privileged to bring to the people of Florida for 2 years, but it is not over. Once a missionary, always a missionary. I love Jesus Christ and love this church. I testify of these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
After Carter spoke his sister Brianne sang a beautiful version of "Come thou fount of every blessing".
Following church we had an open house at our home so that family, Ward members, friends, and former companions could come and visit with Carter. It was a fun time and we had lots of help with food, which was a HUGE blessing!
So thankful for Carter's service and even prouder of the man he has become! Onward and upward.... he returned with HONOR!