Though my mission was both a huge challenge and a long string of challenges, it has been a blessing. I have learned and gained so much. I am so so grateful for the opportunity to serve and to be a full time missionary. One of the greatest things about being a missionary is that it's not about yourself. You go to serve-or at least come home realising that. It's amazing that in the process of serving others and bringing them closer to Christ, we can come closer to him and become more like him as well. I don't think I could say that it was the best two years of my life in the sense that it wasn't easy or even pleasant often but I can say with firmness that the last two years of my life have been the best for me-in making me what Heavenly Father wants me to be.
Thank you to everyone who supported me and helped me in being a missionary! You may not know who you are or what you have done but there are so many people who have touched my life for good and have made me who I am. One was a Deacon's Quorum advisor who prepared a well-thought-out lesson every week when I was the only boy in the class. Another is a seminary teacher who accepted the call to serve and faithfully taught a class of 4 every day at 6:00 a.m. Another is a Bishop and his wonderful wife in my ward who cared a lot about me and sought to know and help me. Another was a wonderful friend who wrote me an uplifting email almost every week of my mission. Another is an aunt who hand-knitted cushy wool socks to keep me warm in the cold and wet of England and Wales. Another is a Principal who built me up and taught me to be a leader. Another is a Swim Coach who always pushed me to be my best. These and many other people (and I really could keep going for a page of these wonderful people) have made such a significant and lasting impact for good in my life. Thank you!
I was asked to speak today in Sacrament Meeting and thought that my talk would be a fitting end for my mission blog so here it is!
Honour Thy Father and thy Mother
Luke Kemper Houghton
Sun 10 May 15
I’m really lucky today. In England and Wales, Mothering Sunday, as it is formally called, is on a Sunday in March. So this is my second Mother’s day this year!
Today, I have been asked to speak on the fifth of Moses’ Ten commandments. It reads: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” This commandment and its accompanying blessing have never been revoked.
We may wonder: why is this commandment so important to our Heavenly Father that he would give it as one of the first commandments to the Israelites and repeat it many times throughout the scriptures? President Thomas S. Monson answers this question. He said: “May each of us treasure this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and [our earthly] mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”
Our parents are partners with our Heavenly Father in raising and rearing his children in righteousness. The Family Proclamation reminds us: “HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” I can testify of this love from parents. The saying goes that you realise on your mission which woman loves you most by who writes the most often. I don’t think my Mom missed a single week.
I believe this kind type of loving care and compassion from parents is a type of the love that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. We ought to honor our parents in part because we know how important the roles of parents are in Heavenly Father’s plan and we know that they love us and have sacrificed for us. Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President said: “In the life to come, I do not know if titles such as bishop or Relief Society president will survive, but I do know that the titles of husband and wife, father and mother, will continue and be revered, worlds without end.” I believe this is one reason that the commandment for us to honor our parents is so important to Heavenly Father -- their roles are eternal.
The next question we may face in seeking to obey this commandment to honor our parents is: How exactly should we honour our parents? What does it mean to honor our parents? Elder Dallin H. Oaks answers: “If you honor your parents, you will love them, respect them, confide in them, be considerate of them, express appreciation for them, and demonstrate all of these things by following their counsel in righteousness and by obeying the commandments of God.”
One remarkable example of keeping the commandment to honor father and mother is that of Helaman’s 2000 stripling warriors.
The fathers of these young men had each covenanted never to go to war again after repenting of their former bloodthirsty warmongering ways. After a few years of peace, an aggressive Lamanite Army approached and threatened the people. Knowing that their families were in danger and desiring to protect them, these 2000 young men prepared to go to war against their enemies. Helaman writes of their great courage and faith. He recounts that they said to him: “behold, our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we shall fall” Helaman continues: “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives…” (Alma 56:46-47). These young men honored their fathers by helping them to keep their covenant to not take up arms again. They further honored their fathers by the way they lived. “And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all-- they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20-21). I am sure that their mothers and fathers were honoured by their willingness and preparedness to serve.
We read further to understand how the Stripling warriors gained and kept such strong faith in the Lord. Helaman tells us: “yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying; we do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:46-48). They honoured their mothers by hearkening to their words and, as Elder Oaks suggested, surely, they honored their parents by “following their counsel in righteousness and by obeying the commandments of God.”
These young men knew what it really meant to honor their parents. They were commanded just as are we: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” We can see in the outcome of their story that this specific promise of the Lord was fulfilled. They were blessed and protected so that even though many fainted from the loss of blood, not a single one of these untrained soldiers was killed during the many engagements they had with their war-hardened enemies. Their courage, faith, and righteousness in times of great difficulty came because of their valiant and righteous parents.
As in all virtues, the perfect example of a honoring father and mother was that of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, himself. In Luke 2, we read:
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
The young boy Jesus did not hesitate when his mother sought him out-He went down with them and was subject unto them. He hearkened to the words of his mother and honored her by heeding her counsel.
Jesus gave the greatest honor to his Father possible when he performed the atonement. In this act of selfless love and compassion, totally obedient to his father, he bled at every pore and was eventually tortured and crucified. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he cried out:
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus honoured his father by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins and afflictions. He suffered immeasurable pain in order to satisfy the demands of justice and offer us the plan of redemption as his father had commanded him to do. Because of this act of perfect love and obedience, we can inherit all that our father hath.
In the lives we lead, we may not be asked to give our lives and suffer for others as He did. We may not ever have to strap on our armour and go to war against a vast army of Lamanites. However, in our lives, we will have countless opportunities to honor our fathers and mothers by choosing to follow and learn from their examples and seeking to draw closer to the Saviour Jesus Christ. By keeping God’s commandments, we draw closer to our Heavenly Father and show gratitude for our parents who have made our very lives on earth possible. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “If we truly honor [our parents], we will seek to emulate their best characteristics and to fulfill their highest aspirations for us… Nothing we could give them would be more prized than [the] righteous living [of] each [child].”
I am truly grateful to be a part of a family where the gospel of Jesus Christ is taught by example. Though my parents are not perfect, I always have known that they want to do what is right. I knew that I was honoring my parents by serving the Lord as a full time missionary. For me and for the other missionaries I knew, there couldn’t have been a more meaningful invitation to be more Christlike than when our mission president asked us to strive to be the missionaries our mothers imagined us to be.
I am grateful on this Mother’s Day Sunday for a Mother and Father who sacrificed so much for me and for each of my siblings. When I was little, I told them that I thought it was unfair that we had a mother’s day and a father’s day but no kids’ day. They laughed a bit and then said “every day is kids day.” I didn’t appreciate that until recently when I came to understand just how much parents give for their children- it really was every day that they sacrificed for us.
I know that the commandment to honor our earthly parents is an important facet of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that by honoring our earthly parents, we honor our Heavenly Parents. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I am grateful for parents who tried their best to get us up and going in the morning to read the scriptures when I was younger. Dad tried to get us to do jumping jacks to wake us up at 6 a.m. I know that this church is true. It is the church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth once more. I am grateful for wonderful parents who shared their testimony of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with me before I had my own. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I am grateful for parents who follow and sustain the Lord’s chosen prophet. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve a full-time mission. It has been a huge blessing in my life. And, I am grateful for wonderful parents who encouraged me to serve and then supported me every step of the way. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.