Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Farewell talk

I would just like to thank everyone who came to my farewell, it really meant a lot to me. I would also like to apologize for saying the word suck over the pulpit. For all you that want a copy of my talk here it is. I’m so happy to be serving the Lord I leave in 9 days for the MTC in Provo and ill be in there for 9 weeks and then ill be off to Singapore! The church is true!


In Hebrews 11:1 we learned that the apostle Paul taught “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen”

Alma made a similar comment in Alma 32:21, “If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. He also states in there that it is not to have perfect knowledge. I absolutely love this poem about faith. The poem is called

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.

Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.

Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,

Other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed

That during the low periods of my life,

When I was suffering from

Anguish, sorrow or defeat,

I could see only one set of footprints

So I said to the Lord,

"You promised me Lord,

That if I followed you,

You would walk with me always.

But I have noticed that during

The most trying periods of my life

There have only been one

Set of footprints in the sand.

Why, when I needed you most,

You have not been there for me?

The Lord replied,

"The times when you have

Seen only one set of footprints,

Is when I carried you."

Mary Stevenson

We like this man walking through the sand have come across our fair share of trails. But we have to exercise faith that Christ is there walking beside us helping us along the way so to overcome those trials.

In the August 2011 Ensign there is a story that John L. Flade tells that really portrays faith, my parents joined the church in former East Germany in 1925, one year before I was born, so my sister and I grew up in the church. The doctrines of the gospel became the focus of what our parents taught us and the foundation on which we built our lives.

As a young man I was drafted into the German military in 1943, during World War II. The day I left my father gave me a priesthood blessing promising me that if I kept the standards of the church, I would come home again. I clung to that promise. If ever I needed assurance of the Lord’s mindfulness of me and an ability to trust in him it was then.

Our unit was transferred to France, where I spent most of my service as a forward observer. Basically that meant I camped between our front line and that of the enemy and, using a large periscope, watched enemy troop movements. I then reported what I observed to my superiors at head quarters. It was an officer’s position and I wasn’t an officer, but so many of our unit had been killed in Russia that I was made a sergeant and inherited the job. I was 18 years old.

At one point, I was camping out just outside a small forest near what became know as Utah beach. About this time-it was July of 1944- my captain assigned me to oversee two other soldiers at my post: one was a fellow sergeant who had just been released from a punishment battalion for cowardice and was being given another chance to prove himself. The other was a brand-new soldier, just 16 years old. The three of us lived in a trench we had dug.

One night, the 16-year-old woke me up and said, “I hear something.” Sure enough, enemy troops were advancing toward us. I didn’t know whether they were American, British, or Canadian, but I could tell that they were speaking English. (I had taken English classes for many years in school.) Before we could hear voices, we received an artillery barrage that slowly moved over us and toward the German lines.

At this point the other sergeant got up and ran away. I reached for the telephone to contact headquarters, but one of the grenades must have hit the wire because there was no answer, we weren’t about to move. If we did, we’d be shot. If my commander found me away from my post, he’d shoot me himself. It seemed best to wait it out and work our way back to our battalion’s headquarters.

Before long, the troops were right over us. One of the soldiers fired rounds of a submachine gun, killing the other young soldier instantly. Another threw a small hand grenade into our hole, rendering me unconscious and wounded, miraculously, through the kindness of the Lord, I survived. When I awoke, I was in pain-especially my leg and my head- but I could stand and walk, so I started back for headquarters. However, I was still disoriented, and instead of walking straight through the forest, I veered left in to a small opening. I pushed through some bushes and found myself looking directly down the barrels of three rifles. The Canadian soldiers holding the rifles looked at me and me at them. Gratefully-and this was just one of many places where I saw the hand of the Lord intervene in my behalf-they didn’t shoot.

I said something humorous in English, which made them laugh. They offered me a cigarette, which I didn’t accept because of my commitment to the word of wisdom, and they started walking me back to their first-aid station. I was a prisoner of war, but I was being treated kindly.

From there I was taken to England with other prisoners. On the ship, I heard a request for a prisoner who spoke English over the loudspeaker. Before I left home, my father had warned me: “Never volunteer in the army.” That seemed especially good advice now that I was in enemy hands. But a feeling urged me to offer my services anyway, which I did. I was offered good food, the likes of which I hadn’t eaten in sometime. When we arrived in London, they took me to meet with military intelligence personnel. They thought I might have information about the area where I was captured, but I didn’t know anything about what they were asking me. After being in England for a week, I was taken to meet with another man, a Jew from England. This did not bode well for me as a German soldier.

His first words surprised me: “Is your father’s name Hans?” I assumed it was a trick, that I shouldn’t trust him. So I responded with my name and my prisoner number. He responded, “Son, I think I can help you if you are who I think you are.” When he said that, I suddenly felt different. A feeling of discernment told me I could trust this man. He continued, “Is your mother Hilda, and your sister Susan? And do you live on such-and-such street?”

I was astonished. “How do you know my family?” I asked
“I owe your father my life.” he told me that while he was on a work trip in Germany, the Gestapo (which was the secret police of the Nazi) was hunting him. My father, I learned, had helped this man escape to Switzerland and subsequently return home to England. When the gentleman saw my name, he wondered if I were Hans’s son. “If you are half the man your father is,” he concluded, “I owe it to him to help you.”

This man coordinated with a friend of his, a colonel in the United States army who oversaw thousands of POWs, so that I would be sent to the United States on the Nieuw Amsterdam. This 36,000 ton ship was transporting wounded American soldiers back to their home country. There were also a handful of us prisoners on board. I could see that heavenly Father was inspiring ideas in me and in others and putting kind people in my path. That is one of the lessons I learned as a young man during the war: even in horrible situations, you can always see the hand of God. That helped me maintain hope and strength.

I thought it strange that the first time I saw the Statue of Liberty was as a prisoner. When we disembarked, we were taken to a train. Nobody slept because the train itself and the cities were passing through were lit up. In Germany we hadn’t see lights in ages. The war had turned everything back home pitch black. Blackout drapes hung in every home to block light; this prevented airplanes overhead from seeing our cities and towns. In other places, the cities were bombed out and there simply was no electricity. So this light – a sign of freedom even though we were prisoners- was quite significant to us.

We arrived in Texas at a POW camp during autumn. Fields of cotton and onions were waiting harvested as far as we could see.

I discovered that my father’s friend had been very kind to me in making arrangements for where I was to go. Life at this prison camp was good. We didn’t have extensive comforts, but the other noncommissioned officers and I had plenty of good food and decent living conditions. Although the harvesting work was hard, it wasn’t unpleasant. At one point, I was even given a Jeep to drive because I worked as a translator.

Back home. My family had received notification that I was MIA. I was later told that in the face of that kind of uncertainty and many tears, my family had great faith in the Lord. My father told my mother and sister, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath Taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). That kind of response takes more than a strong belief. It takes knowledge. Growing up in that kind of family, with parents who exhibited that kind of trust in the Lord and faith in the plan of salvation, helped fortify me in my own challenges.

A few weeks later my family in Germany received the news that I was alive and was living as a POW in the United States. About that time, members of the church in my hometown gathered for district conference. After the closing prayer, the mission president, who was presiding at the meeting, instructed the congregation to sing “God be with you till we meet again.” Most of the congregation was in tears- during that bad time, the congregation knew there would be some they’d never see again into this life. Even though they had hope in the promise of eternal life, it was still an emotional time. Before leaving the conference, my father approached a young woman I was fond of, Alice Wagner, “Sister Wagner, I’ve got to talk to you,” he said. “John is alive; I need to tell you that he asked me to watch out for you because when he comes home, he’d like to marry you. You should wait for him.” She agreed to consider it.

With in a few weeks, dad was drafted to Berlin

for three years I continued to write home, both to my family and to Alice’s family, but I thought for sure they were all dead because I was not getting any mail in return. (I later found that the outgoing mail system was working quite well but the incoming system was not.) I eventually stopped going outside the barracks at mail-call time. But one day while I was still sitting in the barracks, I heard my name.

“Did I hear that right?” I wondered I ran outside: “I’m here! That’s me!”

I had not one but two letters. One was from Alice. The other was from my sister. When I saw my sister’s handwriting on the envelope, I instantly knew that dad was dead. He had died two years earlier, but her letter hadn’t gotten through until now.

Dad was killed on the last day of the war in Berlin, May 8, 1945 the letter my mother received said that he died 15 minutes before the cessation of fire. We think he was on his way to the mission home to exchange his uniform for a suit before returning to civilian life.

The news was devastating, of course. But even with that terrible news, I knew I needed to maintain faith. I had seen the hand of the Lord in my life too many times to not trust in him now. I knew that he would continue to take care of my family and me. I returned home to Germany in November 1947. Alice and I married five months later. Our country had been ravaged by war, and things were not easy for us starting out. But the faith and hope we had been developing our entire lives, and especially during the war, continued to fortify us. We continued to grow in the gospel and participate in church. On Sunday mornings we walked an hour to Sunday school and back, and the same distance in the evenings for sacrament meeting. We went to priesthood and relief society on Mondays, mutual and choir on Wednesdays, and on Tuesdays and Thursday s, I often held cottage meetings in small, outlying villages by assignment. We were happy to spend this time and travel long distances to participate in these things. We couldn’t wait to get together with our brothers and sisters, strengthen each other, and share in the Lord’s blessings together. In what were the worst times, we developed the strongest faith.

I had to have faith in family and friends, but most of all I had to have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ. We all need to exercise our faith in him. In seminary we learned that we need to rely on Him completely, trust in His infinite power, intelligence and love. It includes believing His teachings. It means that even though we do not understand all things, He does. We need to remember that He has experienced all pains, afflictions and infirmities; He knows how to strengthen us so that we may raise above all our trials.

So as time passed this last year I was faced with the decision of whether or not to give up my first love, football. I couldn’t possibly know how things would turn out either way. I could have gone on playing and maybe my dreams would come true. Or I could end up in a wheelchair with brain damage.

I had no option but to exercise my faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. All would be well which ever choice was made. Even though I gave up football, because the conscience of losing more than memories the next time seemed like the choice they needed me to make.

I put my faith in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father because they are at the helm! They know and understand all. Since that time I have regained my memories. I have learned that when we work with them to make decisions our lives come together.

As we all end what has seemed to be the longest time in our lives, our lives are just beginning. We all are going to be making a lot of hard choice here the next little bit. But I remind you of the words our prophet said “Your Future is as bright as your Faith.” With college, missions, and marriage our faith will be tested, but I bear you my testimony, I know that having faith in our savior has brought so many blessings into my life and I know that as we keep our faith firmly planted in His gospel more blessings will soon come. And that we can look back at our footprints in the sand one day and know that Christ was there, Always, every step of the way. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.