21 August 2016

Celebration of Hayden Prior to His Departure

This may be overkill, but here are some of the pictures taken at Hayden's home after his talk in the Bountiful Heights Ward.  

Evan Martin, Hayden, Logan Cook

St. John's

Kim Cook talking with Julie
It was super nice of Luke's parents, Mark & Ann Maeser, to come up from Lindon to attend.

Ryan Butters has been Spencer's friend forever.  Jordan is a new friend going to USU.

Ellie Mott

Dave, Chantel and Tanner came up from St. George and Kim and Jordan from Henderson, NV.

Beautiful friends of Hayden's

Zayha and Ammon, soon to be missionaries also.

Grandma Bonnie St. John worked so hard and did so very much.

Becky, Wendy and Cami

Melissa Mott, Chase and Mason Paxman

Luke and Katelyn Maeser

Lauren Bailey

Kim and Jordan Parker

Madi Mott and Sunny Cherie St. John (named after Hayden's Mom)

Spencer was not lacking for friends.

Grandpa and Grandma Cable with Hayden, Chantel, Julie and Kim

Beautiful Paige.  This sister will truly miss Elder St. John.

Tom and Julie Uriona

These two.  Hayden and Logan Cook.  Friends forever off to do great things.

Farewell to My Ward, My Friends and My Family

I, along with many others, thought Hayden's talk in Sacrament Meeting was one of the best talks ever given by a departing missionary.  Many who heard it have asked for a copy.  Hayden has given his permission to have it printed here.  

Hayden James St. John
Sacrament Meeting Talk Prior to Leaving on His Mission
21 August 2016

Brothers and sisters welcome, and to my family and friends I thank you for your support here today. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Hayden St. John and I’ve been called to serve in the Madagascar Antananarivo mission speaking Malagasy. And I am so excited to get out there and share this wonderful gospel.

Today I have been asked to talk on the power and importance of faith. Ether 12:6 states “And now, I Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of faith.” I love that scripture for two reasons the first being the definition of faith that he uses. He states that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen. I love how he used the word hope. He doesn’t say that faith is things which are KNOWN and not seen. He says hope. Moroni tells us that faith is not an absolute surety of the things which are not seen, but says that faith can be as small as a little bit of hope. In a talk in the April 2013 General Conference Elder Jeffery R. Holland shares the story of a young kid who tells him, “Brother Holland, I can’t say that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” Elder Holland then hugged the boy until his eyes bulged out and proceeded to tell him that only believing is nothing to be ashamed of.

Faith must always start somewhere and it will never start out with an absolute knowledge that the gospel is truth. Like it says in the children’s song, “Faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow”. But constant nourishment is needed in order for a seed to grow. So where do we receive this constant nourishment from? Of course scripture study, prayer, and church attendance are all sure ways to grow your faith; however, sometimes more is needed. This is where the second part of Ether 12:6 comes in. It states, “dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of faith.” In this scripture Moroni is telling us that in order to receive a true witness we must endure our trials of faith.

Every one of us is in a personal storm of whirlwinds threatening our faith. We all have the opportunity to let these storms help to grow and build our testimony or we can let those same storms tear us down. In an April 2014 General Conference talk, Elder Neil L. Anderson compares these storms in life to trees. He states, “In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.” Later on in his talk he goes on to say, “I promise you that if you are faithful you will see these whirlwinds for what they are.... tests, temptations, distractions and challenges that will help you grow. And as you live righteously year after year, I assure you that your experiences will confirm to you again and again that Jesus is the Christ. The spiritual rock under your feet will be solid and secure. You will rejoice that God has placed you here to be a part of the final preparations for Christ’s glorious return.” Trials in life will always come. No one can escape temptation, pain, or challenges. These tests are the reason why we are on this earth. Like Elder Anderson says, these whirlwinds will make our roots of faith grow; however, even if our roots are deep and strong they can still fall if we haven’t anchored them in a sure foundation. Like in the children’s song, a house who’s foundation is built upon sand will not stand the test of time. Just as a foolish man builds his house upon the sand, foolish men now build their foundation of faith upon the knowledge of men, and when their faith is truly tested will surely fall. I know this because even as a young man, I have had experiences where I have had my faith tested and I have seen how some great storms in life can shake my faith but how those same stormy winds can also bless my life.

When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer I had confidence that the doctors and their knowledge of modern medicine in combination with fasting and prayer would provide a cure her. My heart was broken when I discovered that there was no more that the knowledge of men could do for my mom, and that Heavenly Father had a plan that was different than what I wanted it to be. After my mom passed away my foundation of faith had been shaken and I felt confused. Thankfully, unlike the man who had built his house upon the sand, I had the solid foundation of the Gospel. Even with the shallow roots of a 15-year-old I managed to stay faithful and anchored to the gospel and with the support of amazing family and friends, what could’ve turned out to be a loss of faith turned into a trial that strengthened my foundation of belief. At this point in my life I had never truly had a test of faith to this degree. I didn’t know God had a plan for me and I didn’t know whether or not my mom was just gone or if I’d ever be able to see her again. I may not have known, but I had hope.

I decided to root my faith in the gospel and study it’s teachings. My faith in the plan of salvation did not come to me through a huge miracle; rather it came through study and the fervent prayers of a broken heart. I still do not understand why everything happened. I do not know God’s plan, but I have faith and I trust in Him. I trust that even though something will be difficult and that I may not want to go through a trial or challenge, I trust that He knows more than I do and His plan is perfect. Even though I look back and still feel sadness because of this trial, I will never trade that experience. I know that my foundation of faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will never fail me and I know that this and several other trials that came afterwards made it possible for me to grow my roots deeper and stronger allowing me to have the faith to leave my family and serve the Lord for two years.

The experiences and challenges that Heavenly Father has blessed me with to this point in my life will give me the ability to go and bear a testimony that is built through personally having to put my faith to the test. In order to have a testimony that will persist and even thrive in the strongest of storms we must anchor ourselves in the Savior Jesus Christ. If we anchor our faith in Christ and diligently study the scriptures and pray, we will be able to come out triumphant over all adversity.

Not only should we set a foundation of faith in Christ, we should use the faith and testimony of others to strengthen and uplift us. In the October 1999 General Conference Elder Winkle of the 70 uses an analogy to the redwood tree. And I know by now you’re probably all wondering what’s up with this kid and trees, but all I can say is that I love trees. Anyways he says that these trees are the tallest in the world growing up to over 350 feet, yet their roots only go down about 3-6 feet which in no way should support a tree that size. However these trees’ shallow roots intertwine with neighboring trees using each other to support. So brothers and sisters I challenge you to spread out your roots and support all those who are in need of it. A new convert or a struggling member with no supports from others can certainly use the support and strength of all of those around them. And if you are struggling in faith, please listen to the testimonies of all those surrounding you. Please do not give up hope.

Yet no matter how strong and faithful a member is the winds will come and some may fall. Their roots of faith uprooted from where they have based their whole life. My heart and prayers go out to all of you who have lost your faith. And I’d like too direct the remainder of my talk to you.

In the April 2016 General Conference, Deiter F.Uchtdorf says. ”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.” He continues to relate this message to the parable of the lost sheep. He says that

Christ is the good Shepherd and will leave the 99 to go find the one lost sheep. He says, “It matters not how you became lost—whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control. What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you. He loves His children. Because He loves you, He will find you. He will place you upon His shoulders, rejoicing. And when He brings you home, He will say to one and all, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”

But, you might be thinking, what is the catch? Surely I have to do more than simply wait to be rescued. While our loving Father desires that all of His children return to Him, He will force no one to heaven. God will not rescue us against our will. So what must we do? His invitation is simple:

“Turn ... to me.”
“Come unto me.”
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”

This is how we show Him that we want to be rescued.
It requires a little faith. But do not despair. If you cannot muster faith right now, begin with hope.

If you cannot say you know God is there, you can hope that He is. You can desire to believe. That is enough to start. Then, acting on that hope, reach out to Heavenly Father. God will extend His love toward you, and His work of rescue and transformation will begin.”

In another talk by president Uchtdorf He says “ doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” Now many of you have already doubted your faith, but it is not to late to doubt your doubts. Brothers and sisters I hope that all of you who have lost faith will follow President Uchtdorf’s challenge and act on hope. I pray that all of you who have lost faith will open your hearts. In D&C 88:62-63 it reads “And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near.” “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

I’d like to leave you with my testimony that I know that if you ask the Lord, He will grow your faith. I know that this Church is true and that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that this gospel brings a joy and understanding that can be found nowhere else. I know that the gospel has changed my life for the better and I hope that all of you may be able to feel that same joy (say more if impressed). I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.