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I Will Not Fail Thee, Sister Alexis D., May 27th, 2024

My senior year of high school, the Seminary theme was “I Will Not Fail Thee.”  I went to seminary in Orem, UT where we had timed release in a building right off campus during the middle of the school day with the overwhelming majority of my classmates also being LDS.  On the last day of school, there was a video shown to the whole seminary with beautiful music and captivating images of the Savior and His commitment to us.  I remember I just started sobbing watching this video.   That probably doesn’t seem unusual knowing me today but I was a pretty firm brick wall back in high school.   My teachers and classmates must have thought I was either a very emotional girl or perhaps I had experienced some trauma that had led me to believe that God wasn’t present in my life.  However, it was quite the opposite, I was sobbing with the realization that I had completely misunderstood the year’s theme as myself making a promise to the Savior that I wouldn’t fail Him and the saddest thought filled my entire being. 

How could someone think that God would fail them?  I was so fortunate to grow up in a home and know that God loved me that He heard and answered my prayers.  I made a commitment right then and there that I would find those people who didn’t know this universal truth as well and introduce them to the Savior’s love. 

For the past 5 years, most of my church stories have been about the miracle of my two little girls.  Prior to 2020, my good stories and analogies were about my adopted son Matt. The topic today lends itself quite nicely to go back to a few great stories of my now 22 year old son.  I got involved with the organization called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in my late 20s.  The organization advocates for children in the foster care system.   In 2013, I was assigned to an 11 year old boy whom the spirit told me was meant to be my son.   I took this young man to skate park on our first outing and after I dropped him back off at the group home called Orangewood where he had been living for 9 long months, I sent a text message to my 4 parents and 6 siblings and said “I’m going to adopt an 11 year old Filipino boy!”  I have a very cool family and they know when I say things, I actually do them and the responses back were along the lines of “Cool! Another grandson!” and “Wow, that’s awesome” and “are you kidnapping that kid from the skate park?”  I wasn’t married at the time, in fact Tim and I hadn’t even met, but I told myself the only way I fail is if I quit and I knew I wouldn’t quit.  Matt turned into a package deal when after 6 months with me, his mom passed away leaving Matt and two 18 year old siblings without a single adult in the world to depend on.   Although I have not legally adopted Chris and Maryann, they are part of our family and have a stocking above our fireplace at Christmas. 

I won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say, that Matt had an extremely traumatic first 11 years of his life.  His case file was several inches thick of the atrocities he had endured. Before I tell you a story of our early years together though, I want to fast forward to today and tell you that Matt has turned into an outstanding young man.  He has a heart of gold.  He hugs me daily, tells me he loves me and seeks me out just to talk.  That may not sound like a huge victory, but when I tell you it took him 9 years before he told me he loved me you realize his behavior now is nothing short of a miracle.  He got his electrician certification and has a full time job with The Irvine Company.  He is extremely gentle and caring with his new little sisters and has expressed numerous times that he wants them both to have the childhood that he was robbed of.  He is fiercely loyal and will defend his inner circle to the death.  It’s pretty hard to get in that circle, but if you can, you have a defender for life. 

Having Matt as a son is mostly wonderful now but getting here was REALLY REALLY hard.  I spent many hours in humble prayer begging for divine help with my lost little lamb.  Due to the trauma Matt experienced in his childhood, he unconsciously pushes people away.  He tests the adults in his life with emotional hurdles designed specifically for my own personal triggers so that can push me away before he gets abandoned again.  He tries to prove that he’s not lovable. 

When Matt was about 16 years old, one of his push against me instances was the time that he got caught at school with some undesirable herbs. When he got home, I told him that we would need to search his backpack before he left the house again.  Matt argued passionately and valiantly regarding his first and second amendment rights to be free from my search and seizure.  Matt‘s older brother Chris, who was 22 at the time was with us this evening and was witnessing and participating in this event. At one point Tim, myself, Matt and Chris were all in Matt‘s bedroom and as the conversation got a little bit more heated, Matt was making fists and advancing towards one of the walls. Now Matt had punched numerous holes in my walls on prior occasions, so we had a good idea that this was where it was headed. Tim stepped in and grabbed Matt‘s arms to restrain him from hurting himself and our walls.  Chris has the same brotherly loyalty as Matt and not liking his brother being restrained, he jumped on Tim’s back in attempt to get Tim to release Matt’s arms.  At this point in our marriage, Tim and I had a Doberman and a 90 pound boxer both of which were very protective of Tim and I. Matt and Chris are both much smaller than Tim but both started displaying superhuman strength as we have seen people do when constrained and the dogs in particular were getting very upset and were growling and lunging towards Chris.  The only slightly heroic act I managed was successfully grabbing the dogs collars and extracting them from the room so that they didn’t get in the middle of the fight and ran to grab my phone to call 911. In my head I have heard my 911 call play out on several true crimes TV shows and I still have to laugh at what I said to the police. I promise I was not trying to be dramatic but this is just what came out.  I said, my husband and son are trying to kill each other!! - which elicited a very immediate response from several levels of the Huntington Beach Police Department.  The dispatcher continued with her standard issue questions and asked whether or not there were any weapons in the home.  I told her that yes! my husband is a cop he carries a gun at all times and they probably all have pocket knives on them and yes!! there are definitely weapons in the home, please hurry!!!  With this information, the dispatcher then asked what was happening now.  I walked back towards the bedroom and heard the frightening sound of silence.  Fearing the worst, I peeked cautiously around the corner and saw all three sitting very calmly on the bed, Chris and Matt both in a headlock.  Two or three minutes later there were at least five cop cars, including the sergeant on duty at the time at my house.  Thankfully I caught the cops at the front door and let them know everything was calm before they came in with guns blazing.  After attempting to recruit My Husband for their police department I asked them if they would go speak with Matt for a couple minutes and advise him of the limitations to his first and second amendment rights (*wink wink) against parental search and seizure.

When I was composing the outline of this talk in my head, the analogy of the previous story was concerning my relationship with Matt and how it has evolved over time as Matt has come to trust me and how this relates to our relationship with God. But as I was writing this out, I hit me that I am actually Matt in this story.  How many times in my life have I pushed away the Savior questioning His love for me and thinking that I knew better and could do this on my own? How many times have I asked “Why?” and felt like He wasn’t there for me in my moment of grief and pain and how many times has my Savior taken me in a loving headlock and said Alex I’ve got you. Be Still.  I love you and I will not fail you.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”9

As the years have passed with Matt, his push against me incidents have gotten smaller and less impactful as he comes to trust me and know that I will not give up on him.  As I have progressed and grown in my own life, gone through the crucible’s fire, and come out the other side, I have gained a more eternal perspective, let go of fear, surrendered to the will of the Father, and am learning how to yoke myself with the Savior, my trails have become so much easier to bear.

A few short months after his wife of 65 years passed away, President Monson gave a talk in a general conference talk entitled “I will not fail thee” and he said this:

When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night’s darkness. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.

Only the Master knows the depths of our trials, our pain, and our suffering. He alone offers us eternal peace in times of adversity. He alone touches our tortured souls with His comforting words:

He said I am one with Father and the Father is one with me. You in me and I am in you.  We are connected, always, and to the end.  I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you.  And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;

This last quick story comes from the Emily Belle Freeman Blog.  She wrote this inscription after several extremely tough first years of marriage when her and her husband sought wisdom from a marriage counselor.  Instead of offering advice, he begins to tell the story an auction, a farmer’s auction, where people are buying pigs and sheep and oxen. They file into the arena to be sold, each owner entering with his livestock, and the oxen enter the arena last. They are brought into the arena in matching pairs, yoked together, ready to pull. Each team is harnessed to the heavy load in the middle of the arena, and before the auctioning begins, they pull the load forward. When they are done, the auctioneer begins his calling, and the numbers are raised, one after the other until each team is sold. The teams come out in order. Those who can pull the most weight are saved for last. The longer the night wears on, the more beautiful the pairs become—matching height, matching weight, even the color of their coats matching.

Finally, the auctioneer calls for the last team to be brought out. An old man enters the arena before the pair. The farmer, stooped with age, stands calm. His team follows behind. As they enter the ring a murmur moves through the crowd. People begin to scoff. Some laugh out loud. One ox is huge, by far the biggest ox that has entered the arena that evening. His legs are powerful, his shoulder muscles hardened with use; the yoke barely finds room to rest just behind his massive head. The other ox pales in comparison. The animal is small and scrawny. It looks malnourished. Not only is it dwarfed by its counterpart, the yoke hangs heavily across its back. The farmer harnesses them to the load and then adds more weight. More weight than any team has pulled so far. Then he calls to the oxen to move. With one accord they begin the work of it, moving in sync, fluid, each one making up for the weakness of the other, pulling the heavy load. A hush fills the stadium seats. The unexpectedness of it leaves the spectators in awe. And then the auctioneer begins to call; one by one the numbers are raised. The team sells for the highest price of any team that evening.

You probably don’t remember the photo on the program cover from last week when I was supposed to speak 😉, but it was a depiction of the Savior being yoked with a young man and you could clearly see that the Savior was not only doing all the heavy lifting, he was carrying the cross and the yoke for the man as well. As in the story with my son Matt, I am the weak one yoked with my Savior.  I am the one who will always struggle and fall short to pull my weight. Yet for some reason, the Lord has agreed to be yoked with me. The idea of it brings me to my knees. He will have to pull harder, lead stronger, push on longer because of my weakness, and still, He extends the invitation to come unto Him and find rest and peace.

May we always remember that our Father in Heaven is with us through every moment of our lives, particularly the trying times.  May we change our perspective and live with conviction to not fail our Savior and do this simply by trusting in Him and surrendering our lives to He who knows and loves each and every one of us far more than we can begin to comprehend in this life. 

I testify that God loves you, that if you come unto Him, you will find peace and rest and unconditional love in His loving embrace.  I say this these things in the sacred name of my brother, the Savior, even Jesus Christ, Amen.   

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