WEEK SEVEN August 19, 2013
First some random things:
1. Came across a quote this week from Shawn Achor, which resonated with me: “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.”
2. Saw an application for “real intent” in King Lamoni precursor statement to Ammon (Alma 18:21-22) that he would give whatever Ammon required in advance of learning what would be required, that is, the king made a commitment prior to making his request.
3. Lots of discussion this week and meetings re repentance causing me to reflect upon D&C 19:15-19. The question is not whether to repent or not to repent as many seem to see it, but rather more accurately, whether to repent or to suffer.
To help explain in a district meeting that a change of heart was much more than merely stopping or refraining from doing something an idea of how to show it graphically came to me while Jan and I were discussion our assignment this week. I drew a circle with the word God in it then a horizontal line extending a couple of inches away with an arrow at the tip. Then a circular line from the arrow to the start of a line parallel with the first but this time the arrow back at God. I told them this was a picture of what repentance looked like. Then a similar diagram with the circle with God inside, the line heading away a couple of inches with an arrow at the end pointing away. Then three dots and a vertical line. I told them this was a picture of what stopping or refraining from doing something looked like and asked them what the difference was. They got the turning back, or turning around to God as being the difference. I then asked how that happens? With the answer that repentance requires a complete recognition of one’s absolute dependence upon Christ, which in turn produces a broken heart and a contrite spirit. As Jan and I prayerfully considered what we have observed over the years as the qualities of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, we came up with the following:
In summary a broken heart and a contrite spirit is the willingness to do anything and everything that God asks of us, (see Abraham 3:25; Mosiah 3:19), in following the example of the Savior who “came from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). It is this submissiveness that allows the atonement to take effect and repentance to occur.
Those who possess a broken heart and a contrite spirit—
• Are completely open to the Holy Spirit
• Recognize their absolute dependence upon Christ
• Willingly sacrifice all pride and personal desires
• Allow themselves to be changed in Christ, to be molded and shaped by the Master
• Have a heart continually filled with gratitude for Christ’s suffering in their behalf, causing their heart to break
• Exhibit “godly sorrow” which is a desire to be cleansed from sin that is so consuming their heart aches with sorrow for the suffering they have personally caused the Savior, coupled with an intense yearning to be at peace with their Father in Heaven.
This week our Zone, the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake, had what is called a “Zone Conference with the Mission President.” It went from 10 a.m. until a little after 4:30, including lunch. The presentations were made by the three assistants and President Orgill (a very enthusiastic presented making it difficult for the assistants to keep up) coupled with several breakout sessions to practice. The theme was 20/20, giving twenty 20 minute discussion per week requiring multiple visits each week rather than marathon 45 and longer discussions once a week as they have been doing here historically. I’ve seen the results of such discussion when Elder Robert Taylor was my companion. We seemed so in sync in every aspect that our discussion time was reduced by at least one-half and the commitments of investigators were more firm. We also noticed there were far less objections during a discussion, everything just seemed to flow.
I noticed in the “preferred” language for street contacting the question is “Can we share a special message ….” The though immediately came to me that such a question is easy to say no to but if we were to say, “Would you allow us to share a special message ….” It would be much more difficult for someone to say in effect, “No, I won’t allow it.”
Also during the conference the mission president’s wife and Jan were in hushed conversation. Turns out she is seeking some help to relive burdens she believes her husband is carrying and was interested in learning of my experiences as bishop and in working with the YSA group. Not sure anything will come of it but apparently there are a number of missionaries with needs that she feels need to be addressed.
Shortly after our arrival I had the feeling the six pamphlets were not being used very much nor effectively. I thought for example they could form the basis of the entire new member discussions and marked up and added scriptures to my set accordingly. At the zone training meeting the missionaries were asked to make better use of them.
President Orgill wants the following planning outline to be used in all investigator planning;:
1. What does the investigator need to do
2. What will their concerns be
3. What is their desire
4. What do I need to study for them
5. What can we teach him
We got into the meeting just a tad late as brother Russ Greiner, the institute director here, had called me asking if I could teach a weekly, 10:30 Wednesday, hour and one-half class at the institute building on the Doctrine & Covenants. I was over joyed with the news and over that day put together quite a list of questions I wanted to ask Russ as we met the next morning. But by then the Area Director had warned him that if the class was successful it could cost the job of one of his two full-time personnel as it would be difficult to justify if the classes were already being taken care of. So he withdraw the offer and I didn’t ask the questions. He did ask me to teach his classes the last week of August as he would be out of town. So Monday through Thursday I have 2 Old Testament classes, 1 Book of Mormon and 1 Pearl of Great Price and 1 Preparing for Eternal Marriage class.
Another Connection, President Dave Ellis, from Escondido, the newly called first counselor in the mission presidency, and his wife are very close friends with Debra Romney. Debra’s daughter Ann lives in their ward with her family of four children. Said he, “When I told Ann about you serving in the California Irvine Mission she seemed overjoyed telling me that you were her bishop in her singles ward.”
In our visit with the Two family this week we focused on the father’s previous questions regarding repentance, he being concerned that it had been a few weeks since his baptism and he was not yet perfect to which I responded, “Join the club.” If we are becoming more aware of our weaknesses (see Ether 12:27), that doesn't mean we are drifting away from the Lord. More likely we are drawing closer. When we begin to understand the Atonement we see correction isn’t discouraging but motivating. Because of the Atonement we learn from our mistakes without being condemned by them. Elder Maxwell said, “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.” (A time to Choose, 46) I tried to explain that real growth without repentance can’t endure to the end without the necessary changes effected in us through the grace of Christ as we become “born again.” Unless people truly repent, they will not experience a might change of heart and they will not develop sufficient faith to endure.
After we had taught a lesson we began a very frank discussion about their son’s anticipated baptism date. The elders had noted some reticence from the family and I had told the bishop we would visit to see if we could get to the bottom of it. The young man shared in a very precise manner the sweet manifestation of the Lord as he had prayed about the truthfulness of the gospel and later about being baptized. Both experiences were similar. The elders had given him a baptism date of 24 August but when he prayed about that he did not receive a similar manifestation. He asked if he should expect the Lord to be in the details of the date as he had been in the details of the truthfulness of the gospel and getting baptized. I assured him that would have been my expectation as well. So after discussing the matter for some time with he and his parents I proposed that he set aside the date the elders had set for him and proceed to set his own date. The setting of his own date would be the demonstration of faith the Lord requires in order for manifestation to come. The second part of this strategy would be that after setting the date he would call us and the elders so we could pray that he receive that manifestation. I gave him a couple of scriptures from the Book of Mormon to read but later in the week had a strong impression that he and his dad should read Helaman 5 together before setting the date. So I communicated that to the dad and shared what I had proposed with both the elders and the Bishop. Everyone seemed to agree this was a good resolution.
We made two more visits to the Apple store to meet up with the Eleven family, the YSA working there to share with her the Tabernacle version of primary songs, the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and an offer to help he see why her grandmother found such joy in the Church. Unfortunately on neither occasion were we able to find her working at that time.
Friday evening we took the Six family to dinner. They seemed quite excited as he came home from work early to shower and get ready. We went to the California Fish Grill and to my surprise they had Barramundi on their menu. My first time to eat this delicious fish since our visit to Australia over 34 years ago. We had a good talk. I had wanted to introduce to them the feeling I had to set up a series of discussions about the temple but when I initially brought it up as we drove to the restaurant they immediately changed the discussion which gave me some hesitancy about bringing it up again. After dinner we went to a park near their home and walked and talked before settling on a picnic table. We talked about a number of things and I could tell Jan was getting a little anxious as she keep hitting my knee under the table because the sister seemed fidgety, but it didn’t feel right then. But shortly thereafter the conversation opened allowing me to describe the feeling I had felt the previous week while sitting beside the husband at church. As I was explaining my feeling to spend some time in discussing the temple the sister spoke up, “I have never thought about the temple before but this week three questions came to my mind. Would you be willing to answer them?” Which I did and then proceeded to give them the first discussion I had prepared. I told them this will be forever known as the Two Family temple preparation discussion as I didn’t think such discussions were the normal fare with non-members. Following the discussion I asked if we could set a date for the next one. The brother said with his work schedule in such a bind right now he suggested we meet at 4 p.m. on Sundays starting with the day after tomorrow.
Sunday at 4 we presented the second temple preparation discussion to the Six family that I had prepared and left the discussion with them to review in preparation for the homework assignment I left with them. The discussion went well as they agreed to my proposal to sit around the table (to free us from the distraction of the many dogs they have) and each brought scriptures with them. But the surprise that has had Jan and I talking about this for days was what came up in the first discussion. This is an unmarried couple so we have been very careful as we have been told that marriage is a taboo subject in their home and is not to be brought up. Well as Jan and I were driving home we realized that marriage was had been the topic for most of the discussion. A full two-way discussion with all involved. As Jan and I tried to dissect the evening neither of us could remember how the topic became marriage (who brought it up, how was it brought up, etc.) so we concluded that was the direction the Spirit wanted and the conversation was directed accordingly. A very sweet experience and a reminder that if we but open our mouth the Lord will take it from there.
Our week was capped by a welcome visit with Baldur and Nancy Schindler along with Cheryl and Lynn Teuscher, lunch at Olive Garden, sharing of memories, good stories and rejoicing in the goodness of the halcyon days of Encinitas Ward and the environment and solid role models our children were all privileged to grow and mature in.