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Sister Ragen Porter

Good evening, brothers and sisters, my name is Ragen Porter. Here’s my quick shout out to the Beachside Ward, which is my home turf 🙂


Most of you probably can’t tell from the audience, but I have white spots/splotches of skin allover my body. I’m spotted. It’s a relatively benign autoimmune disorder called vitiligo, where my body is killing off all of my pigment cells, and I am turning all white. I have had it for as long as Ican remember, and it’s been spreading my whole life.


Well, my thought process growing up was, “Why have something obviously wrong with you, if you’re not going to have some fun with it?” So, fun I had. I would give high-fives to people and pull back with a gasp, “I’m so sorry, it’s contagious!” A lot of people thought I was severely burned as a kid, so I learned to come up with some sad stories to go along with that. I also heard through the rumor mill in high school that there was a girl who thought I had leprosy. I didn’t feel the need to quash that rumor.


But it all culminated in two separate experiences in high school, where I convinced two different girls that when I turn all white I will die. One girl I didn’t know that well, so she was gullible and easy to convince. The really impressive part is that I was able to convince a girl I had known for years. Granted, I didn’t know her super well, but we’d been around each other a lot for many years. I moved into her ward in high school, and she finally had the courage to ask about my skin. I told her in a sad voice: “I don’t really like to talk about it. We don’t really know how much time I have left. When I turn all white, I’m going to die.” I could tell she was not really convinced.


So, I had to step it up. I said, “Ashley, why do you think I do soccer, volleyball, run track, student council, orchestra, piano, try to get good grades...Why do you think I do the things I do?” That convinced her. Little did I know, the question, “Why do you do the things you do?” would be assigned to me as a future stake conference talk, so here we are.


Why do I do the things that I do? President Brown phrased it as, “Why do you lean into the work?” I really liked the mental image that gave me, of just leaning in and giving it your all. In order for me to get to the point where I can happily strive, I first have had to come to a correct understanding of my relationship with Jesus Christ, and of His role in my salvation and exaltation.


I love the Temple Endowment! I love seeing my progression along the path back to my

Heavenly Father portrayed and represented through the laws that I covenant to follow. You start with Obedience. Then you move a little further along, and learn to Sacrifice. Then, your motivations change even more, and ultimately, you learn to Consecrate. Elder Uchtdorf, in April 2022 General Conference, taught that, “To sacrifice means to give something up in favor of something more valuable.” He then taught regarding consecration: “When we consecrate something, we don’t leave it to be consumed upon the altar. Rather, we put it to use in the Lord’s service.”


So in my mind, I picture that continuum as starting with obedience-learning to obey for the sake of obeying. That is good! Then, you learn to give up. Your motivations become a little more holy, and you learn to sacrifice, to give up. Eventually, you get to Consecration, where you don’t just give up, you give FOR.


But what really hit me, is that before we make any covenant in that endowment session, we are already clothed in the Garment of the Holy Priesthood!! Throughout our whole journey along the path back to Heavenly Father, we are covered by Christ. We are no longer exposed to the Law of Justice, Christ has us covered, He’s got me. We are, as Moroni teaches in Moroni 10:32, "perfect in Christ.”


This realization has freed me. When I finally realized that the results of my efforts don’t save me, Christ saves me, it liberated me! My efforts didn’t stop upon this realization, they increased; I was no longer held back by worry, fear, feelings of inadequacy, or anxiety that I would never be good enough. Lehi taught his son Jacob so beautifully in 2 Nephi 2:3: “...Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer...” I heard this scripture expounded on by Hank Smith during a religion class at BYU. Brother Smith was pointing out that Lehi could confidently tell Jacob that he knew he was redeemed! Christ had saved him!


Meanwhile, I was sitting in the back of the class, shaking my head and thinking, “Nope. Jacob still has his whole life ahead of him to mess up. You can’t say for sure that he is redeemed.” Oh, man, I had it so backwards!!


It is not my efforts that save me, it is Christ’s! It is not my righteousness, but Christ’s. And

because my salvation is tied to Christ, it is sure. The understanding of my complete hopelessness without Christ, allowed Him to come in and fill me up with all the hope in the world.


So, brothers and sisters, why do I strive? Why do I do the things I do? Because I love my God. And I love His Son, Jesus Christ.


Why do I strive? Out of Gratitude. I am so grateful that Christ has done the work that I could never do on my own. He has bridged the gap that I could never jump, no matter how hard I tried (and I have tried).


But ultimately, I do the things that I do because I want the Spirit to be with me, and I want to be changed. I want to become a person who wants to be with God. I want to come to know Him, so that I want to stay with Him. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”


Moroni chapter 7 adds to this, when Moroni is writing the words of his father, Mormon. Moroni 7:48 teaches us to pray to God with all of our energy that we may be filled with charity, and with the Spirit, so “....that ye may become the sons of God; that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is...”. That is life eternal, to know God and His son, Jesus Christ! Doctrine and Covenants 76:94 teaches that “They who dwell in His presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of His fulness and of His grace;”.


I want to be seen as someone who wants to know God. I see darkly now, but I want the Spirit to be with me, so that I may see clearly. I want to know God, and we know from King Benjamin that in order for us to know our Master, we must serve Him and work with Him.


It is my firm testimony that Christ will not be the one turning me, or anyone, away at the last day. If I am not in His presence, it will be due to me turning away from Him, because I have not become a person who is comfortable in His presence. I do the things that I do, so that when I see my Savior again, I will see Him clearly, and be seen as someone who has become like Him in some small measure.


I testify that God lives. I testify that when we do-when we strive- with the desire to know God and follow Him, the process of becoming takes place in our lives. I know that Christ is our only hope, but that through Him we have ALL hope!


In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


---


Talk given at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

8702 Atlanta Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92646

on 9/10/2023

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