Elder Creer was asked to speak in his home ward prior to departing for the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. He was asked to speak about conversion. The following is his "Farewell Talk":
Conversion is a spiritual or moral change that happens to us when we have faith, repentance and consistent obedience. But doing these things and going to church is not enough for our conversion. Going to church is necessary, but it is just an external influence on our lives until the gospel penetrates our hearts and becomes the core of who we are and not just an influence. If we do this with humility, letting the Lord write the gospel in our hearts, then we will be truly converted.
The Lord has given all of us different trials and experiences that are unique and test us. They are there to help us with our conversion. For me, a big part of this was my senior football season. I had learned the gospel growing up, but my testimony grew and my conversion deepened from those experiences. A little background on my days of football begins all the way back to when I was 4 years old. My brother and I received football uniforms for Christmas. Mine was the Miami Dolphins and Bry’s was the San Francisco 49ers. Most of our one-on-one football games were played in our living room. I roughed him up a little bit which sometimes led to tears. I learned that I had to let him spend some time on top of the tackle if I was to keep him interested in playing. Mom says I tried to gather as many neighborhood kids who were 4 years old to play, but all I had were Conner and Kelci who were 2 and 3, no complaints there. The 4 year old glory days have long passed along with many other seasons, I played grid kids with Brady on the O-line back in the day, he was big and strong and I was small and round…didn’t like that position so much. I switched to receiver and defensive back but was not the fastest or strongest kid growing up which resulted in minimal playing time until I got to high school. Even then I wasn’t playing as much as I had hoped for and not seeing the success either. My junior year things got better and I was excited by the playing time and opportunities I had. This motivated me to work harder than I ever had before during that off-season to make sure that I did everything I could to make sure I was prepared for the upcoming season. I was doing strength training, speed and agility work, and running routes with our quarterbacks often. I didn’t only try to do my part on the football field preparing for the upcoming season; I knew that that wasn’t the most important thing. I had developed a strong relationship with my Heavenly Father through prayer and reading my scriptures. I knew that this was more important because the happiness that would come from a successful football season was minimal to the happiness that comes living the gospel and having a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father. These had become habits in my life. I owe these habits to my parents and church leaders growing up. My parents have always taught me to work hard in everything I do. Often times when I was young I would complain saying that no other kids in the world were working as much as us. Looking back on it now I am truly grateful that my parents were patient with me and taught me the value of hard work. My parents also taught me the importance of scripture study and prayer. Every night I remember that we would sit down and my dad would lead us in scripture study and then have a discussion on the principles that were in it or how it applies to our lives and then we would pray as a family. This taught me the importance of family scripture study and prayer but my mom also taught me the importance of personal prayer. When she was a senior in high school she was hoping to get the locker assignment next to the big heater, which was the center of social activity between classes. When she got her locker assignment she thought her social life was over as she found her locker was almost as far away as possible from the social spot. She quickly realized that she was often alone there because all of the other kids who had lockers next to her opted to share lockers with their friends down closer to where all the action was. My mom took this opportunity to use this time to pray to her Heavenly Father. She would pray between almost every class. She counseled with the Lord in all her doings. In Alma 37:37 is says to “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good”. This was important to me growing up because I always knew that I could find answers in the scriptures and through prayer and that I could pray to my Heavenly Father at anytime and he would be there, just as my mom did at her locker. Church leaders were also a big reason why I have developed the habit of scripture study. Brother Nielson really influenced me growing up. He was very patient with our teachers' quorum and had a strong testimony. He taught us the importance of scripture study and the Duty to God program. He would reward us every Sunday with a piece of candy out of his huge candy bag if we read our scriptures everyday of the week or passed off a Duty to God requirement. This really motivated us to read our scriptures and fulfill our Duty to God requirements because we wanted that candy. He was developing good habits in us and it has stuck with me ever since. He knew of the importance of scripture study and passed it on to us and for that I am truly grateful. Another leader that has had a very positive influence on my life was my priest leader Brother Ward. He was there for me during some of the most difficult years of my life and he took the time to get to know me personally and be a friend. He took interest in the things that I did and played basketball with us often. He always had a positive attitude and was a great example. He showed his testimony through his actions and as I watched him it made me want to be more like him. He was there every Sunday with encouragement and he also told me to rely on the Lord and he is always there and we can communicate with him through prayer. I can’t thank either of these leaders or my parents enough for the habits they instilled in me that have helped me every day of my life.
K back to football, I was reading my mom’s journal of my football days when I came across something that happened before the first home game of my senior year. She wrote: “As I arrived in the parking lot, B was already there and dressed. He appeared to be retrieving something from his rig. I parked and then snuck up on him only to see him reading his Book of Mormon…I gave him a soft knuckle to the arm and told him “way to put your trust in the Lord” then walked away truly grateful for what I had seen."
So how did I get to this point in my life where I knew to put my trust in the Lord? Through many hard times and trials and the example of my parents. I remember when I was a freshman in high school I was having a really hard week. I was talking with my mom about my bad week. I told her that I bombed all of my finals, which lowered all of my grades. I had a basketball game which was awful because I couldn’t shoot if my life depended on it and I was really upset because I felt that I had let all of my family and friends down that came to watch me. On top of all of that I was really upset at my mom’s brilliant idea to clean the whole house every Saturday. So after listening to my terrible week I was having, my mom asked me what I had done right this week. I told her I thought I did everything possible, I read my scriptures, said my prayers and attended both of my teacher’s quorum activities. I felt like I did all of this and got nothing but a bad week in return. So then my mom asked me, “Does God really exist?” and I said that I know He does. Even after that bad week I had I still put my trust in the Lord. I knew that he had helped me before and he would help me again. My parents taught me that when there are struggles in life, the best thing you can do is to put your trust in the Lord, so that’s what I did. Sure enough my life wasn’t over and I was going to be okay.
I am grateful that my parents taught me the importance of putting your trust in the Lord. In the Book of Mormon, Shiblon had troubles too. His father told him in Alma 38:5 “that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day."
This strong relationship of prayer that I developed as a young kid through my football years has continued to help me today, I know that if I ever need anything at all or if I get lonely, he is always there for me and I can communicate with him through prayer. There was one time last semester at school where I saw this directly in my life. There was one particular time when It got to me one day and I just started crying because I was so lonely. All of my family was back at home and I didn’t know what to do. My family has always been a huge support system for me growing up. They would do their best to attend all of my football, basketball and baseball games and were there to cheer me on. I always knew that I was going to have a cheering section at my games and I am truly grateful for their support. My grandpa has been a huge support and positive influence on me for as long as I can remember. I remember that one night when I was a really young kid, I had a baseball game and I struck out three times in one game which was more than I had all season. I was devastated. When we got home I wouldn’t get out of the car because I was so upset. Dad was out of town on a business trip and Mom had to take care of Bry and Jessie and she didn’t know what to do with her eldest who refused to get out of the car. She said that she said a prayer asking Heavenly Father for help and her answer was "Grandpa". I remember him coming over to the house and he somehow got me out of the car and we went on a walk around the block. I don’t remember anything he said but I remember that he made me feel better about myself. He has always been there coaching my brother and I in sports with how we can improve ourselves. He has been very patient with me, especially on all of the fishing trips that we have been on. I truly treasure the time that he has spent with me growing up and I know I wouldn’t be the same person today without his influence in my life.
So-- without my family there to help me or comfort me I remembered the teachings of my parents and youth leaders that my Heavenly Father is always there for me. So I prayed that I would be comforted and that I would feel the blessings a friend. My prayer was soon answered. The feeling of loneliness was gone and I was comforted.
I also remember learning to pray at a small age. This was because of the example of our babysitter Jason Plaisted. I remember that one day he was babysitting us and we were outside playing in the backyard and there was a light that kept going on and off and nobody was in the house. This freaked us kids out but Jason remained calm. He got us to all kneel down and pray. I don’t really remember anything after that but the important thing was that Jason was teaching us to pray by his example. He showed us that he was confident his prayer would be answered because of his faith. My little sister Jessie is an example to me too about praying at a small age, I remember a couple of years ago she lost was her treasured heart blanket and she was devastated. She couldn’t find it anywhere but she had the faith that if she prayed to Heavenly Father she would find it. Her example reminds me to have the faith of a child and that our Heavenly Father is always there; we just need to talk to Him through prayer.
So back to the football season. The season started out with us getting blown out. Good times. The next game was almost just as bad, the coaches were scrambling all week and all game trying to move things around to produce better results. One of those changes happened to me in the 3rd quarter. There was a fumbling problem that was happening on when we were returning kicks and punts, so my receiver coach took it upon himself to sub me in for the kick returner. He was like "Hey Creer- can you catch?"
And I was like "uh yeah.."
And he was like "Go in right now and catch the kickoff."
I was thinking 'oh cool' forgetting that I had never practiced catching a kick in the 9 years that I played football. Mom says that she was super nervous for me but I caught it and ran it back for a nice gain, after the game my mom asked me if I was nervous for the kick, I told her "Not at all! I've done it a thousand times on Madden". (My Uncle John made sure I was always working on my Madden game; he beat me almost every time.) Mom laughed and then I started thinking how this was similar to the gospel. I had prepared myself for this kick thoroughly with all that practice on Madden and it paid off. The same has been true preparing for my mission. My leaders and parents growing up taught me things that I should do to prepare to serve a mission. Things like not drinking or smoking, not steady dating and attending seminary. I remember when I was a freshman and I had Brother Skeen as my seminary teacher. I didn’t really know anything about seminary but the first day he taught a lesson and involved Michael Jordan and he took the time to get to know me and even knew what basketball shoes I was wearing. Not all seminary days were like this or this interesting, but I knew that I needed to go so I could learn the gospel and prepare for my mission. I owe this desire to the help of my parents and priesthood leaders.
I have had this same principle over and over again in my life, the better we prepare for something the better the end result is. As a young kid I realized that the better I prepared for the basketball game by practicing, the better I would do. And the better I prepared myself by learning the gospel the more I loved it.
Back to football. During the 3rd play of the 3rd game, we were running the ball again because our passing game was terrible, which meant blocking for me. This time though something went wrong and when I blocked my guy I had a very sharp pain go up my arm and into my neck. The pain didn’t go away for the rest of the game and as the game went on I was losing the ability to move my arm. At the end of the game I just couldn’t physically lift it. The team trainer said that it was probably just a stinger. I took some days off practice the next week because of the inability to move my arm up, crucial to catching the ball. Game time came and I was cleared to play, during a tackling drill in the pregame drills my shoulder gave out again which brought more pain than the first time, I went to the training room and the trainer wrapped it up or something and I was cleared to play. I remember that I still couldn’t really lift my arm that much but I still played. I caught a couple passes and it was holding up great, then just a couple plays before half time I was blocking again and it gave out again. In the training room I heard news that I was done for the game and needed all these tests to see what the problem was. I was a little upset that this was happening during my senior year of football which I had been preparing for my whole life. I wasn’t supposed to get hurt. That following week we went to the doctor to see what was wrong with my shoulder. The conclusion was that I partially tore some nerves from my shoulder to my neck which was causing the inability to move my arm up. The doctor told me that depending of the severity of the injury I might be able to play again in two weeks. So when he was saying this, in my head I was thinking 'alright, that means I’ll be good to go by this Friday'. "This Friday" came along with the doctor appointment: no progress had been made which meant no game for me. This continued every week for the rest of the season. I was hopeful every week to hear the news that I would be able to come back and play another game of my senior season. The day never happened; the doctor never cleared me to play. This was really hard for me; something that I had prepared for a long time was just gone in the blink of an eye. It seemed unfair to me that this is how my football season was ending. I didn’t understand why it was happening to me, I felt that I had done all that I could by practicing and by doing my part spiritually. I realized that what I had envisioned my senior football season to be was not what my Heavenly Father wanted it to be. He had different plans for me and it was my job to realize that things happen on God’s timeline and according to His will. It was my job to put my trust in Him and know that this was happening for a reason and that I would be blessed if I endured this trial with faith. I learned to accept the will of my Heavenly Father.
I am truly grateful for the patience that my receivers coach had with me throughout the remainder of the season. He knew that there was a good chance that I would not be able to play again for the rest of the season and yet he still helped me with little things, like running routes and footwork drills. He constantly was helping me improve and never gave up on me. What my coach was doing for me was service.
I had an experience about service when I came home for Christmas after the first semester of college. My parents had a talk with me because they had noticed that I was a little selfish. The whole past semester I had only been concerned about myself and what I needed. I had forgotten all of the lessons of service that my parents and priesthood leaders had taught me. I hadn’t even realized it. I knew that I had to change and have more humility so I was prepared to serve a mission. My mom had the idea that I should make a service journal and write down one small act of service that I would do each day. The idea of this was to have me always thinking about others and less about myself. At first it was a little hard because I hadn’t been used to it but as time went on it became almost second nature. It wasn’t always easy though; there were several instances where I thought it was hard. This just strengthened my testimony about how important service was. One of my favorite journal entries was: Sat next to a kid in the cafeteria was eating by himself and talked to him. I felt really good after doing this and it made me want to do more service because of the good feeling that it brought. I am grateful that my parents reminded me of the importance of service and for the idea for a service journal. It helped me out a lot last semester. I know that just as my receivers coach was there for me and was always trying to help me, the Lord is also there for all of us and is trying to help us.
I had another experience right at the end of my football season that gave me the opportunity to rely on and put my trust in the Lord more than ever. So football season had ended, I was ready for that trial to be over in my life so that I could get ready for basketball season. As I began playing more and more, I kept having pain in my hip and it got to the point where we went to the doctor to get it x-rayed to see if there was a problem. He noticed something abnormal at the bottom of my hip x-ray that was on my femur so then they took an x-ray of my femur. There remained unanswered questions. I had MRIs, CT and bone scans. We soon learned from the radiologist reports that there was a large tumor. We were told that it was one of two possibilities: Cancer of the bone or a healing fracture. So they were either telling me that I had cancer or that I had fractured my leg during football without knowing it and since I had done nothing it was trying to heal itself. This was unlikely but we were all hoping that it was the second option. My mom spent many hours reviewing my game film trying to find out when I could have possibly been hit hard enough to cause a fracture. After several days she brought me into the room and questioned me about several hits and I replied "no, no no". I told my mom to go to the first home game; just before halftime and that I was running a route across the middle of the field and got hit. I remembered that my leg was killing me going into half time. I had a heating pad on it trying to keep what I thought was a tight muscle from tightening up so I could finish the game. That was the only time I could remember there was a possibility that my leg had been hurt.
We were all hoping that the cause of the five inch tumor in my leg was the cause of a fracture and not cancer. The next Monday my parents and I packed our bags and headed to Spokane to see the specialist who was going to determine whether or not it was a healing fracture or cancer. I remember the drive up, wondering what life could be like the next week if I had cancer and how different things would be. I had a feeling though that everything would be okay, a nice feeling of peace. When we got to the specialist, he looked at the x-ray of my tumor a couple of times and he said that it wasn’t cancer and that someone just beat me up. He gave me props for being able to play through it and told my mom to ease up on me if I said something hurt. This was an indescribable relief. I knew that if I had been diagnosed with cancer my life would have changed but the feeling of peace that the Lord was aware of me prepared me for either situation. I knew that that feeling of peace I had was because I had put my trust in the Lord and knew that this was happening for a reason on His timeline and it was my job to have humility and accept His will.
Learning to accept the will of our Heavenly Father was taught to me by my parents specifically before I got my Patriartical Blessing. They taught me that I needed to be prepared to hear anything and be okay with it because the Lord was giving me the blessing; I needed to be okay with His will. Once I gained a testimony of accepting Heavenly Fathers will, I received my Patriartical Blessing. I am grateful for my parents teaching me this.
I know that a big part of my conversion had to do with the struggles of my senior football season and tumor. If you would have asked me before- what I had envisioned my senior year to be, I promise you that those things were not in any script I would have written for myself. I learned that the Lord sometimes has a different plan for us than what we expect or hope for. It is our job to accept His will and stay faithful, doing our part by studying the scriptures and praying to Him. I learned that if we live our life like His, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then the Lord will bless us and give us peace about our trials.
I’d like to end with my testimony. I know that the gospel of this, The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints church is true. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son and translated it. I know that President Monsoon is a living prophet today. I know that if we have faith, study the scriptures, pray, put our trust in the Lord and accept the will of our Heavenly Father...we will experience true conversion and be blessed for our righteousness. I know that I have been called to Salt Lake to serve for a reason and that the Lord will bless me for my service. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.