Monday, March 4, 2013

A Few Parting Thoughts...

 Church service is often characterized as opportunity for personal growth, not to mention, helping and serving those around us.  Over the course of my lifetime, I have had many opportunities to serve in my church in a variety of ways.  Most of those years have been spent with the youth and young single adults.  It is where I connect and feel most comfortable.  There is an exuberance;  a contagious energy about young people that I enjoy and a tenderness and tolerance I feel for their efforts to discover who they are and what they will become.  As parents and church leaders we can teach by the book and from personal experience, but I firmly believe each individual has a unique journey that is theirs alone to travel and everyone deserves their own learning curve.  Obstacles and challenges litter the way and it is a privilege to offer reassurance that they are not alone in their trials and they have the adequate strength to overcome.  Associating with the youth of this church brings with it a sense of rallying the troops, of fortifying the castle and collectively conquering the enemy. 

When it comes to serving there are the rare opportunities and callings that you just don’t care for, many more that were dreaded but actually turned out to be beloved and then there are some that bless and change your life in incomprehensible ways.   How privileged I am to have had several of those opportunities to serve in my life.  The most recent has been to serve with my husband, Mike, in a Young Single Adult ward in the Salt Lake Area. 

My skills in writing and articulating my thoughts, feelings and insights of the past six and a half years are hopelessly inadequate.   How do I begin to identify the men and women who have impacted my life in such a profound way?  I marvel at their mastery of gospel principles both in practice and in knowledge.  I marvel at their level of strict obedience demonstrated solely on personal motivation and discipline.  I marvel at their conviction and testimony of dedicated home and visiting teachers that don’t just “visit,” but strive to become friends with those within their stewardship.  I marvel at goodness and kindness and love.

For the past several months I have been studying the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul from the New Testament.  Year after year, he fought an uphill battle of trying to reorient the people who were steeped in tradition of outward religious manifestation teaching a more important notion to be inwardly, rather than outwardly converted.  He was mocked, hated, spit upon and beaten for his missionary efforts to relay this message of the gospel from our Savior. 

Paul, in no uncertain terms, traveled the known world of his time to teach the new notion of pure religion.   So what is pure religion?  Joseph F. Smith defined pure religion as follows,

“This may be interpreted as meaning that a person who is religious is thoughtful to the unfortunate, and has an inner spirit that prompts to deeds of kindness and to the leading of a blameless life; who is just, truthful; who does not, as Paul says, think more highly of himself than he ought to think; who is affectionate, patient in tribulation, diligent, cheerful, fervent in spirit, hospitable, merciful, and who abhors evil and cleaves to that which is good.  The possession of such a spirit and feeling is a true sign that a person is naturally religious.”  

In every sense of the word, Pres. Smith’s quote has just described the current and past members of the Winder YSA 2nd and the Winder 19 wards. Each and every week I drove away from the church building feeling not only edified, but uplifted and inspired to do and be better.  Thank you, all of you, for your example of pure religion.  Thank you for constantly demonstrating the qualities I just listed whether anyone is watching, whether in the confines of your apartment with your roommates, or alone. 

Thank you also for allowing us to participate and observe your struggle with a variety of issues.  You are strong and capable and demonstrate resilience and the ability to move forward.  You demonstrate great courage when your life’s goals do not seem realized and a level of humility as you teach us to trust the Lord’s timing and course for you.  You are God’s greatest instruments in building His kingdom and I feel great confidence in the future of the church with you at its helm.

I feel profound gratitude to have served with a husband that magnified his calling every step of the way with a relentless energy for the task.  I am grateful for the support of our children who shared the dinner table, holidays and a great deal of family time with members of the congregation.  I am thankful to have served with amazing individuals who taught me so much about life, dedication and pure charity.  Thank you Kimballs, Burdettes, Ralphs, Hubers along with Jonny Day, Mike Scrogham and Brian Bowers for those precious lessons.  Yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the kind gestures of support that we felt at the farewell dinner and by the attendance of so many past and present members of the ward, by all the social media posts and the photo album that will be such a keepsake for us. 

One thing I have tried to live by and have tried to teach my kids is that to be a true friend, you should strive to leave those with whom you associate better than you found them.  The tables have been turned, I am being left better than I was found.   I love you, I admire you and I will never forget you.
JD,it seemed like something was missing from the photo and very thoughtful comments you posted.  It was sort of like posting a photo of an airplane without its engines.  Here is one with both engines attached at the wings in the form of @[1258620563:2048:Jonathan Day] and @[761435050:2048:Mike Scrog]!  Your service was, and continues to be, extaordinary.


Kara L. Barney said...

Dearest Teresa:
You're awesome and so is Mike. Both of you are, in a word, EPIC! I love you both and will never forget you...never. So dear to my can I even describe it? And I'm supposed to be the one that's good with words :). If you ever need anything, please let me know!

Tatay said...

What a wonderful tribute to your love and tender sensitivities, and to the strength of these ward members! I can only imagine what a blessing this has been. My only regret is that we didn't get to do more of it together! How I admire and love you and Mike!

Preston Pond

Nettie Martin said...

We are all better people because of our association with the Larsen's. Here's to many many more years of friendship!

emily Stoddard said...

Sister Larsen, thank you so much for your love and wisdom you've shared with me over my course being in the ward. I've always watched and admired the example of marriage that you and brother Larsen set. I admire how active you both are and how family is your most important priority in life. Thank you for all that you've taught me. Love you much! Let's run!
Love, Emily Stoddard

Tamara McMurdie said...

As I have read along in your blog this evening. I can't help but think of our growing up years together and what this life has brought to you and I. I'm so deeply touched and uplifted by your mighty spirit, and yes, you have articulated your words perfectly, I might add.

I am so grateful for your life Teresa. That you were born and that I had the great opportunity to grow up with you, and see the young girl, that now stands at the front, with steady sea legs. Not wavering, and finding joy in the moment.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your life, your insights and your convictions of raw loving emotion.
It will be a wonderful day when we finally get to meet the wonderful Apostle Paul, won't it! That is one man I can't wait to squeeze.

Now, your efforts will guided in a new direction, which is always filled with stretching the soul.
You humble me my friend, and I am grateful to know you, and call you friend!

Thanks for sharing,
Love Always, Tamara

Mike Larsen said...

Nice Job Teresa!

Bob said...

While I was never in the Winder 19th Ward, my nearly 11-year association with what for a period of time was called the H4 is some of the most treasured time of my life. I distintly remember working with you and Mike on many activities, especially Walk on the Rock. Both of you are amazing people who were a real inspiration to me.

I wish you well in the future.

-Bob Aagard

Aubrey said...

I'm attempting once again to comment. I'm so impressed with your blogging skills. You don't even need me anymore:) Seriously though, great post. My life has been changed over and over because of the Larsens.

Allison said...

I second Nettie's comments. I have learned so much from you and Mike and am so grateful for those experiences with you that continue to make me want to strive to be better.