Good morning. I am so excited to speak to you today, as I can’t believe this day is finally here. For the past 3 months of waiting, I felt as if this day would never come. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Alex Cattich. I have grown up in this ward ever since I was 8, and this past year I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for 3 semesters. This upcoming week I will be leaving on an 18 month mission to teach the people of Dallas, Texas and have the awesome opportunity of preaching the gospel in the Spanish language. I would first like to start out by wishing my father a happy birthday today. What many people don’t know is my dad was the first one to know that I wanted to serve a mission. There is a little experience that I wonder if he remembers but last October conference, after a wonderful day at both Sunday sessions, I called my dad from outside of the Conference Center. When he answered he automatically said, “You’re going on a mission aren’t you” I responded with tears in my eyes and a choked up throat, “Yeah.” He said back,” Well when can you start your papers.” My dad didn’t have the opportunity to serve a mission as he is a convert to the church, but he has been one of the most supportive people through every step of my mission process so far.
I would like to start off by talking about how I got to be here, standing in front of you today, and in less than 8 hours I will be set apart as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. On October 6th 2012, President Thomas S. Monson announced that young women could be recommended for missionary service at the age of 19 instead of the previous age of 21. This was such an exciting time to be at BYU and living in the dorms, where most of the girls I lived with were either 19 or about to turn 19. My story is probably a little different from others and its quite a long one so I won’t say it all, but after a series of unfortunate events over the October conference weekend, I found myself sitting in the conference center during the afternoon session on Sunday with one of my best friends Abby, crying after reading a powerful passage in my partriarticle blessing that answered my question of, “Should I serve a mission?”
The topic I have been assigned to speak on today is the atonement. First I should answer the question, “What is the atonement?” The atonement is the greatest event in all of history. It was a great sacrifice that Heavenly Father made, by sending his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins. (Doctrine and covenants 76:41-42) Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, was hung on a cross, and then was resurrected 3 days later. The word atone means to reconcile, or to restore to harmony. Through the atonement we can be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. The atonement is a crucial part in Heavenly Father’s plan. It is the step in his plan that allows us to return to Heavenly Father and live in his presence with our family and loved ones for eternity.
I have a little analogy to the atonement. I had the opportunity to go to a BYU leadership camp in Aspen Grove the week before fall semester started last year. One of the activities they had us do was on the last night, each person in our “family” had to hold hands with one another while wearing a blind-fold. Our counselors had to take us on a hike. After about 15 minutes of walking, we noticed that the hand holding chain was starting to break. We were being separated. Moments later I knew that I was alone with a blind-fold on in the middle of the woods. I had no idea how far people were from me. I started to worry as I could hear other voices around me, but no one stopped to help. After standing there for a few minutes I started to hear a soft song. Soon I realized it was the song, “Savior May I Learn to Love thee.” Not knowing what to do, I just stood there. People then started to sing, “I need thee every hour”. I still had no idea what to do. They started singing a 3rd song, and I felt someone come up and nudge me to start walking. Eventually I felt a hand reach out and pull me into a group hug and my counselor Andrew pulled off my blind-fold. I was surrounded by my friends in my company and they were all singing with smiles on their face. I watched as they pulled one last member in my company into the circle. Heavenly Father leads us on a journey, much like the hike that my company went on. There are times where we are separated and confused. We feel alone and we are afraid. But if we listen closely, to the still small voice, even over the voices of the world, we can find our way back. Sometimes we may need a push, but we will always be greeted by smiling faces and warm hugs when we have reached the end of our journey. I imagine the second coming to be a lot like this. Surrounded with our family and friends that mean the most to us, who have been waiting to meet us with open arms.
Why do we need the atonement here on this earth? This event helped man over come physical and spiritual death. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve and we all experience spiritual death, or being separated from the presence of God, as well as physical death. Without the atonement, our body and spirit would never be reunited and we could not live in his presence. Our journey here on earth is a testing period for us. It is a time for us to grow and learn, as well as make our own decisions, in other words have free agency. Through our trials we make mistakes, we become sick and suffer all different kinds of pain. We give into temptation and we distance ourselves from God. We become short of his glory. Without the atonement, spiritual and temporal death would place a barrier between God and us, because we cannot save ourselves from the fall and our sins. Therefore we would be forever separated from our Heavenly Father, “for no unclean thing can enter the presence of God” (Moses 6:57) Christ lived a perfect life and was the only one capable of meeting the demands of justice. He kept himself free from sin. D+C 88:6 says “He descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in and through all things, the light of truth.” Christ knows our struggles and weaknesses. He understands our pains, trials, temptations, and he made this sacrifice for us, so that we can live with our Father again.
How can we use the atonement? We are accountable for our choices. At the age of 8, we are at the age of accountability and we can choose whether or not we want to be baptized. When we are baptized we become clean from our sins. From that point on we are responsible for our actions and when we sin, have bad thoughts, or give into temptation, it is our responsibility to humble our selves and ask for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. The repentance process is personal and it is essential. One of my favorite quotes from my Book of Mormon teacher at BYU, Brother Griffin, was “The atonement is not only infinite it is intimate.” It affects everyone in this world and other worlds that our Heavenly Father has created. Yet it is for us personally. Heavenly Father cares about each one of his children, he loves us individually and knows us personally.
How do we know we are forgiven? Through my use of the atonement, I know that I am forgiven often by a feeling of peace and comfort. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and know that he loves us. An example of this in my life is this past summer my closest friends left on their missions, went to college for summer semester or moved. Often times I felt alone and my 2 summer jobs of Papa Johns and daycare were not places that I could feel the spirit easily. When missionaries say that the adversary works the hardest while you are preparing to leave, they are being very honest. Over my summer I would think about serving a mission and there were several times when I felt inadequate and unprepared to be a missionary. Throughout the summer I wrote letters to friends that are serving missions. The words in their letters and emails were inspiring and uplifting. I received a letter from my friend Evan, who is serving a mission in Argentina. I hadn’t told him about the feelings of doubt and inadequacy that I was having. When I opened the letter, there was a picture that he had drawn on the backside of the paper. The picture was of an old fashioned scale and one side of the scale had riches, gold, and other worldly things, and on the other side of the scale, was a drawing of me. I outweighed all of the riches, gold and worldly things. He listed some scriptures that he wanted me to read. These scriptures talked about the worth of women in the sight of God. He had me replace some of the words in the scripture with my name. One of the scriptures ended up saying, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For Alex’s price is far above rubies!” When I read these scriptures all of my thoughts of doubt, fear, inadequacy and frustration, seemed to fall away. The feeling of forgiveness made me smile and I knew someone was watching over me. The feeling of knowing you are forgiven is probably one of the best and most powerful feelings in the world.
What does this mean for a missionary? As a missionary I will put aside all of the worldly concerns such as school, dating, working, friends, social media and electronics and devote my time and efforts 100% towards my Heavenly Father. My goal is to have a positive influence in people’s lives so that they can experience the same joy and happiness that I have in my life. We as missionaries are called to teach this glorious message and be examples and helpers through service and also genealogical work. A quote that I want to live by on my mission is, “Where e’re thou art, act well thy part.” I can act well in my part by being a friend to others and reaching to those in need. Even if my contribution is little, I know that my Heavenly Father will be proud of me. To finish my talk I would like to end with a poem about the atonement, our responsibility as missionaries.
I have been in that hole for a very long time, in the dark and the damp and the cold and the slime.
That shaft above me; I could see it quite clear, but there’s no way I could ever reach it from here.
Nor could I remember the world way up there, so I lost all my hope and gave into despair.
I knew nothing but darkness, the floor and the walls, the off in the distance I heard someone call: “Get up get ready there is nothing the matter, take rocks and old sticks and build up a fine ladder.”
This had never occurred to me, had not crossed my mind, but I started to stack all the stones I could find. When I ran out of stones, then old sticks were my goal, for one way or another I’d get out of this hole.
So soon I had a ladder that was sturdy and tall, and I thought, “Ill leave soon this place once and for all” I climbed up my ladder, it was no easy chore, for from lifting those boulders, my shoulders were sore.
I climbed on up the ladder, but soon had to stop for my ladder stopped short, some 10 feet from the top.
I climbed back down the ladder and started to cry, I had done all I could do, I gave my best try. And in spite of my work, in this hole I must die.
And all I could so was to sit and think, “Why” Was my ladder to short? Was my hole much to deep, then from way upon high came a voice, “Do not weep.”
And then faith hope, and love entered my chest, as the voice said to me that I’d done my best. He said, “You’ve worked very hard, and your labor’s been rough, but the ladder you have built is at last tall enough.
Do not despair you have reason to hope, just climb up your ladder, “I’ll throw down my rope.
I climbed up the ladder, then climbed up the cord, when I got to the top, there stood the Lord.
I couldn’t be happier; my struggle was done, I blinked in the brightness that come from the son.
I fell to the ground, his feet I did kiss, I cried, “What can I do to repay thee for this?”
Then he looked all about Him, there were holes in the ground, they had people inside, and were seen all around.
There were thousands of holes that were damp, dark and deep. The lord turned to me and he said, “Feed my sheep.”
Then He went on his way to help other lost souls, and I got right to work calling down to the holes. Get up get ready there is nothing the matter, take rocks and old sticks and build up a fine ladder.”
Now it is my turn to spread the good word. The most glorious message that man ever heard. That there was one who was willing to save one and all, and we have got to be ready when He gives us the call.
He’ll pull us all our of the hole that we are in and he will save all our souls from death and from sin. So do not lose faith, there is reason to hope, just build up your ladder, he will throw down his rope.
I am so excited for the opportunity that I have to enter the Provo Missionary Training Center and put on my missionary tags and spread the most glorious message that man has ever heard. My call to Dallas, Texas is the perfect place for me to serve a mission. I can not wait to share my simple testimony of, I know that my redeemer lives. He loves each of us and we are his children. He wants us to live in his presence for all eternity. I know that the book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth and it can answer every question we have. I know that the Book of Mormon and the bible contain the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that President Monson’s mission call announcement was inspired by Heavenly Father. I testify to you that no matter what mistakes you have made, and how alone you may feel at times you are never alone.
This gospel has played such and amazing part in my life, and I am thankful to each and everyone of you in this room as you have made me who I am today. I feel so blessed to be able to serve a mission. I will see you all again in 18 months. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.