Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Week Seventeen

WEEK SEVENTEEN October 28, 2013

In the course of a discussion on receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, Brother Two who has used his lesser priesthood to bless his family already, wanted to know what the difference was between giving a blessing as a priest or as an elder. That initiated a discussion of the difference between a prayer of faith and speaking in the name of the Lord. Later in the week we had another discussion on the Melchizedek Priesthood in which I asked the questions I would have asked as bishop and we discussed his answers. At the end of the week on Sunday we met again to finalize things and were invited to dinner. We had eaten at 6:30 a.m. and then been involved in meeting all day until 7 at night without a thing to eat so the invitation was eagerly accepted. Thank goodness for Sundays because on our schedule I think I’ll pack on 10 pounds this mission just from In-N-Out.

We also had a discussion with Brother Twenty regarding receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, who having read the 84th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants as requested, greeted us with the questions, “What if I change my mind?” So our planned discussion went out the window as we attempted to answer the question he felt in his heart. We invited him to attend a Bible study cottage meeting the coming Thursday which he did come to. Our discussion that night was on the final words the Savior spoke as he hung on the cross. This brother added some very insightful comments.

As we entered for our meeting with the Nineteen family the wife was in tears as that day the ambulance had picked up her neighbor, the one who had cancer and for whom we had been praying. We had another wonderful meeting with the Nineteen family thinking we were moving on to a discussion about the restoration, but instead we spent another 1 ½ hours on the Plan of Salvation as the sister had thoroughly digested the pamphlet and marked a number of items she want to review with us. They shared some powerful stories about their life even one very dark time when she found her face pressed against the glass doors on the Lake Forest Chapel, her arms outstretched and palms against the glass as well as tears cascaded down her face. In great distress the noticed a small sign on the door which read, “In emergency call Bishop Smith.” So she did and he came and cared and offered hope. A decision was made sitting in the parking lot of the chapel a week or so later that put to rest the darkness and charted the future.  The husband who is retired good naturedly said, “I’m not sure she could ever pay tithing.” This caused the wife to tear up and say, “When I consider all the blessings God has given me how could I begrudge Him 10%.”

Had our first meeting with the Seventeen family and shared a number of techniques in handling stress and letting go of overpowering thoughts. When we got home there was a message on our telephone thanking us for coming and for the beautiful and thoughtful prayer Jan offered, which, she said, showed you understood my concerns and all that is happening to me. She mentioned how Sister H had pled for her in her behalf. She was also impressed by the sweet and caring spirit we brought with us and looks forward to further meetings with us.

The Nineteen family called to inform us, at our request, of the passing of their atheist neighbor at 2:00 p.m. the day before. Said she, “But fortunately I was able to be with her at 8:30 and I prayed for her the way you taught me to pray to Heavenly Father and there was a sweet spirit of peace.”

Brother Two had called earlier in the week to see if we could do a baptism for the dead for his father on Saturday. When I called the temple they told us Saturdays are assigned to stakes for their purposes and she didn’t know which stake had it or whether they were coming and encouraged us not to come adding that if we didn’t have names there would be nothing for us to do anyway. I called again to see if I misunderstood. Is there really nothing we can do for a recently baptized individual who wants to perform temple work for his ancestors? No, I was told, short of bringing 7 brethren with us to take care of manning the ceremony. I was about to call the brother to apologize when I decided to call again. This time a different part answered me informing me that they did baptisms for the dead for the YSA every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings at 8 a.m. I told her we only had one name to do and called the brother who to my surprise told me he could make it Friday morning. So I called back and schedule the baptism. Jan wasn’t feeling well so I drove to the Temple alone feeling vulnerable all the way until Brother Robinson, the WML of the Aliso Creek Ward pulled in behind me and escorted me to the Temple. Brother Two arrived and I learned he was just going to miss work for a few hours because “getting docked a paycheck was certainly worth performing this work for his father.” We had different workers than the week before who were much more accommodating and more pleasant to work with. I was asked to offer an invocation for the service and as I prayed it was as if the veil was lifted and I saw and felt the presence of those on the other side. The words I spoke were not my words as a sense of destiny and power fell upon me. One other sister had arrived to participate and I was to perform the baptisms. First we did 10 confirmations each waiting for Brother Two’s wife and son to arrive and then I performed 10 baptisms for the sister and ten for Brother Two and then his father. For some reason the feeling was very different as a took hold of Brother Two for his father. My voice even sounded different to me. The spirit was nearly overwhelming and as we concluded we hugged for some time in the water before confirming him in behalf of his father. As we left the temple he commented that his father had always wanted to be baptized and he had converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith when he married but they didn’t allow him to be baptized. And now he was not only baptized but by the proper authority as well. It was a thrilling experience. I found myself thinking as I drove home, just how much the attitudes and actions of temple workers contribute to such rich experiences. I wonder if they appreciate the role they play. I tried to think of that all the time we served as ordinance workers. Had we had the workers of a week ago I’m not sure we would have enjoyed the same experience but those today were so kind, so gentle and accommodating that the Two family was on top of the world. Also I learned that contrary to what I had been told they do have a temple baptism file and could have accommodated Brother Two’s wife as well.

We had another attempt to finish “The Great Plan of Happiness” with the Six family, but only managed about one other page as more questions arose. He did agree to go with me to Stake Priesthood Meeting next Sunday.

On our preparation day Sister H and I drove to Long Beach, Terminal Island and Ports O’ Call in San Pedro. There was a restaurant we enjoyed eating at there in the parking lot back in the 1960s but alas it has gone under and the building demolished. But we had an excellent meal and watched the busy harbor activity. While there we saw two of the dredges that Brother Two works on and called and talked about his work and the operating of that huge machinery. Sister H thinks the trip was so we could share in his occupation with him. Maybe so!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week Sixteen

WEEK SIXTEEN October 21, 2013

This week had Sister H and I again wondering whether we would ever present a “traditional” missionary discussion while on our mission. So far we have given discussions upon such matters as comparing the theology of Jeremiah with Joseph Smith; the organization and structure of the quorums of the seventy; the function of area authority seventies; the various offices of Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods; preparing to receive the priesthood; keeping the Sabbath holy; why we believe the children of God can become as He is; how to pay tithes and offerings; death; how to pray; hearing the voice of the Lord; finding balance in life; 2 Nephi 31; raising children; many different marriage and relationship issues; how to deal with stress, anxiety and depression; patriarchal blessings; performing of priesthood ordinances; how to hold family home evenings; family history; temple preparation; developing a family mission plan; forgiveness of others; California’s Prop 8; and the position of the Church on gays, blacks, and polygamy.

In a Patriarchal discussion with the Two family when we got to being sealed up against the power of the destroyer, the husband exclaimed, “I’m ready to get my patriarchal blessing right now. That being sealed against the adversary is what I need.” He also shared with us his experience in giving blessings to his children as a priest, “My wife said she could immediately notice the power of the spirit that was present.

At the request of the mission president I put together an introduction for the mission on the new resource booklet “Adjusting to Missionary Life.” He asked me to take 40 minutes and I told him I thought I could cut it down to that, whereupon he said, “Take an hour or whatever you need.” Two days before the meeting I met with his counselor who was anxious to orchestrate a much more programmatic approach than I had envisioned including leaving the Atonement out of the presentation entirely. But the whisperings of the Spirit were otherwise and the presentation was based on the Atonement using the experience of Peter’s failure to walk on the water along with his willingness to take the hand of the Savior and allow himself to be lifted up as the focal point, drawing upon self-help techniques along with the Atonement and recognition of the need perhaps for medical assistance through counseling and medication as well. I felt as my presentation concluded that I had shared what the Lord wanted them to hear which was more important that the office brother who said, “That was like listening to a general authority.”

We began meeting with the Twenty family and preparing him to receive the Melchizedek priesthood discussion in depth the 107th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants for over an hour.

Jan continues to have therapy on her leg. Our son-in-law Mark Wadsworth was in town on business with his associate Nick Ludwig and we had dinner with them at the Rusty Pelican in Newport Beach. Terrific garlic bread. Two nights later Mark accompanied us as we met with the Fifteen family to develop a project. I introduced Mark to their daughter as the father of the other 10 year old granddaughter I had asked to write her. She told me she had received a letter from Whitney Sheffield and was very excited as she had already written her back. Mark said that all the grandkids were excited about him doing missionary work with granny and grandpa. Made our day, week and several months. Then he said, “I am really proud of you and all you are doing.” When something you are doing for the Lord means as much to your family, how can you top that in missionary work?

During the dinner, Jan and I had our badges on of course, and after several minutes an extremely cute waitress came up bubbling over with excitement to see some missionaries from “her church.” Her name is Britney and she is from Atlanta and is now living here and attending Orange Coast YSA as she was baptized just a year and two days ago. She said, “One of my fellow workers came to me and asked if I saw the badges. I told her no, what badges. She said that couple from your church. So I had to come over.” Her spontaneous enthusiasm, sweetness of spirit and honest to goodness thrill she felt in seeing us really touched both Jan and I. It was emotional powerful to be in her presence and feel her spirit. Maybe she was one of those tender mercies from Heavenly Father to get my mind off extraneous matters I had been dealing with the last couple of days and get in the proper spirit for my presentation the next day at the mission wide conference. Her presence released a flood of emotions in me and I felt like I wanted to jump right up and give her hug for the lift she had given us. I found myself silently praying that she find a good, good man and enjoy the blessings of eternity with her family.

We participated in our first baptism for the dead in the Newport Temple with some of those who have been recently baptized. I was able to baptize four sisters each for five patrons and two brethren for five each themselves. Eligible family members were present as well to experience in preparation for they own baptismal work. Sister H served in the women’s side. During the men’s baptisms a number of Spanish names appeared which I did my best to pronounce in the proper Spanish accent which according to Sister H impressed the two witnesses who commented, “He must know how to speak Spanish.”

This week we gave our first sort of traditional lesson, The Plan of Salvation, to the Nineteen Family. I say sort of traditional as the discussion lasted for 2 ½ hours. It was without a doubt the most positive, enriching, and spiritual plan of salvation discussion I had ever participated in. The questions and spirit present were outstanding. The tone of the meeting could not have been better. The willingness to learn and the desire to understand was as good as anything I have ever participated in. I asked the husband to offer the closing prayer and he deferred to me. I gently insisted and the wife said, “Honey, I think he wants you to offer the prayer.” Which he did, a heartfelt appreciation for the message they had heard this day and an impassioned plea that they would believe and accept all that they had been taught. We set a next appointment to discuss the Restoration. We learned that over fifteen years ago the husband had studied with some sister missionaries and a number of missionaries dropped in over the years always bringing a sweet spirit with them, but “questions have been answered today that we had never received answers to before.”

We enjoyed another discussion with the Six family regarding Elder Dallin H. Oaks conference address, “The Great Plan of Happiness.” We also had purchased and presented scripture rulers, my famous Prismacolor 922 soft lead red pencils, and scripture markers following their comment of the previous week that they didn’t have anything nor did they know how to mark scriptures. I explained my marking system along with a disclaimer that there was no one way to do it but here was an example.

On our preparation day we received permission and drove to Santee to visit with our dear friend Joyce Broadhead and her daughter and son-in-law. We had a wonderful visit and breakfast. It was so good to see Joyce again, to hear her sweet voice and laughter and feel many memories rekindled of the time she and Don and Sister H and I had together in Provo, Utah for twenty years.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week Fifteen

WEEK FIFTEEN October 14, 2013

Zone leaders called to say “Thank you for your comments at the Zone Training meeting last week. We apologize for saying some things we didn’t mean about being led by the Spirit.” They also offered to give us any assistance we may need. Sister H thought it was interesting that the ZL who hadn’t made the comments was the one who called to apologize and wondered further why would they need to apologize to us anyway.

This week Elder Enrique R. Falabella, of the First Quorum of the Seventy toured the California Irvine Mission. On Thursday half of our mission (three zones) met with him in a joint training session from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.  Elder Falabella is from Guatemala where he was a manager with Bayer before his call in 2007 to the First Quorum of the Seventy.

The attached picture is not of an alien, but rather Sister H at her eye exam.

Called on a sister, the Eighteen family, who hesitated and then invited us in telling us we were the first members of the church to be in her home in quite some time. Raised in Arizona, spent the last few years in Salt Lake City. Parents served a Senior Couple mission about five years ago and remain active as does her married daughter still living in Utah. Husband is Catholic and she seems fearful any interest will affect her marriage. Has an eight year old daughter who was blessed as a baby who, she wants to be baptized. Accepted our invitation to find a Primary pal for her daughter, promised to bring her to Primary, and gave us her email address so she could receive the ward bulletin. Hasn’t had home teachers or visiting teachers but said that was difficult with their very territorial dog.

Followed up that meeting with a visit to the Nineteen family. We had attempted to visit them a couple of times previously but never found them at home. We finished up with the Eighteen family and I was driving to get something to eat when Sister H suggested we go the other way and try to see the Nineteen family again before we eat. Turns out they were leaving for a movie and we would have missed them had we eaten first.

There is behind a locked gate about fifteen feet from the front door and the gate was on about a 30 degree angle from the door so when we rang the doorbell the way we were standing they could not have seen Sister Haddock. The wife came to the door and I explained that we were missionaries for the Church and wondered if they would allow us to share a message with them. She said, “Just a minute and went back into the house. At that moment I had the impression to move Jan closer to the left so she would be in plain sight from the doorway. I could overhear the woman telling her husband that they had a show to go to so she was going to turn us away. When she came to the door and saw Sister Haddock her just dropped and she retreated back into the house telling her husband she was going to invite us in and ask us to pray with them about a Sharon and another family whose name I didn’t catch. She came back to the doorway and told us they were leaving soon but just couldn’t turn us away and she opened the gate and invited us in.

They sat us in the living room and were very gracious. She is a retired English and Spanish secondary education teacher, for over 30 years, and he was an auto body repairman. Turns out they have studied the church with sister missionaries some fifteen years ago they had been introduced by good friends to the church over the years, that family has now moved to St. George. When I mentioned I had a brother named Greg he said, “If you do then you will never be able to spell my name.” Without evening thinking and while writing something down, my mouth began speaking and I was surprised to hear me using a very odd spelling to which he said, “You are the first person ever able to spell my name.” I suggested it was prophetic.

Wonderful couple, good spirit in the home. We had a terrific visit for over an hour and shared some thoughts about the need for a restoration and the plan of salvation, answered some questions that had never been resolved before and in doing so he asked if we could come by and have a discussion with them. So we set up an appointment. The husband said, “Let’s meet at 3 p.m. that way it won’t you’re your whole day.” I couldn’t figure out what he meant by the comment so I inquired. Said he, “Oh it will probably take three hours to answer the questions we have.”

Since I had overheard her comment about praying with them, I suggested we pray for those they knew who had needs. She was overjoyed and asked me to be voice praying for the Albrect family who had just lost their mother and Sharon, an atheist suffering from cancer. As I began praying I felt a powerful spirit and was given the words to speak. When I concluded both of them were wiping tears from their eyes. We said warm goodbyes and Sister H and I floated out of the house. As Jan and I drove away we were fascinated by the timing that brought us there, her response in seeing Sister H, and my spelling his name correctly, my overhearing their need for a prayer, and the power of the prayer and its effect on them. It will be interesting to see what purposes the Lord desires to accomplish with them through us. Later we learned that our daughter Kerri had that day put both Elder and Sister Haddock’s names in the Provo Temple.

Following is a photo of a 213 year old painting that captured our son’s imagination at four years of age when he loudly announced in the Serra Chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano, “Oh so it was the Catholics who killed Jesus!”

Dashing couple of missionaries at Mission San Juan Capistrano               

This week we also were privileged to attend the baptism of the wife of the Fifteen family and serve as one of the witnesses. Family and ward members filled the room to overflowing and a sweet spirit prevailed which I am sure was felt by other family members in attendance.

We concluded the week with another terrific discussion with the Six family, our eighth discussion with them. I reminded them that they were first door to open to us on our mission and he said, “And how happy are we that you came to our door.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Week Fourteen

WEEK FOURTEEN October 7, 2013

As I prepared for our farewell in Provo, I had a very strong impression that my efforts to “make a difference” as a young missionary were being replaced by the desire to just be used. The last couple of weeks the feeling has settled over me and has become a constant theme in my prayers that “the Lord may accomplish His purposes through us.” I’m feeling we don’t even need to know what those purposes are or how we fit in the picture, or whether those purposes have indeed been accomplished, either prospectively or retrospectively.

Our MP forwarded a letter from the First Presidency announcing the Saturday evening adult session of each upcoming stake conference will focus on “hastening the work of salvation through the faith, prayers, and efforts of individual members, their families, and full-time missionaries.” A number of suggestions were included to bring this to pass. The Sunday before general conference the Aliso Creek Ward stole a march on this idea with the fifth Sunday, both adult and youth sessions, focused on Hastening the Work with important of developing one’s own family mission plan.

Read a comment from a professor of New Testament at Notre Dame blasting Bill O’Reilly’s book on the death of Jesus for using the word Christian, which said she wasn’t used in biblical times. Wonder what her thoughts are about King Agrippa’s assertion to Paul that “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28); of the statement in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch;” or Peter’s statement that “if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Peter 4:16).

Which reminds me of a noticeable change from my mission as a young elder. Back then I seemed anxious to prove everything from the Bible, in fact we used the Book of Mormon very little. Quite a difference from now where all the latter-day scriptures are employed.

But the impressions I have been receiving this mission have been far more in line with a conversational and reasoning tone, rather than scriptural authenticity. For example, this week a born again evangelical came to our table at a restaurant. He told us he was directing a retreat the coming weekend on 2 Timothy and he wanted us to clarify something about “Mormon beliefs.” Said he, “Do you believe in more than one God?” I began talking about the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost when he interrupted me, “no it is my understanding that you believe we can become Gods. If something cannot be proven with the Bible I refuse to accept it.” I queried him how he dealt with Bible inconstancies, such as Exodus 33 where it is recorded that Moses spoke face to face with the Lord and later in the same chapter it reads no man can see God and live? He chose to evade my question and became quite confrontational, insisting that I prove we can become God’s from the Bible. I casually mentioned that somewhere Paul stated there were Gods many and Lords many but switched the topic to his family. I asked him how he felt about his children and their ultimate destiny. As he spoke of his family the confrontational manner disappeared and a more conversational tone ensued. We came to the consensus that as father’s we both wanted the very best for our children. I then said, “It’s hard for me to believe that our Heavenly Father, being perfect, would not also want the best for His children and if possible for them to enjoy the same perfection that he did, and thus become Gods themselves.” That brought our conversation to a close as he said he had to get back to his preparations. The experience reminded me of an encounter I had with Father Dunn, Dean of Theology at Notre Dame in Baltimore, Maryland. After a couple of hours of conversing together he said, “My mind is with the theology of Catholicism, but my heart is with the Mormon theology.”

We presented the Family Mission Plan to two more families in the Aliso Creek Ward, at one enjoying a very moving discussion about adoption as they had adopted their two sons. Also delivered the Bishop of the Lake Forest Ward letter to a sister who had requested her name be removed from the records of the Church. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation on her doorstep with both Jan and I leaving with the feeling this was a very difficult decision for her and not one wholly her own. The very thought that someone would turn their back on the truth after once having had it was very unsettling to Jan.

This week we attended a Zone training meeting which was very difficult to follow. To teach the point they had in mind, one of the Zone leaders drew a diagram on the board attempting to show the differences between different manifestations of the Spirit. As he spoke a tangible darkness began to fall over the meeting. I tried to bring us back by suggesting there was really no reason to categorize manifestations of the Spirit but he bowled over that thought informing us that a prompting is just a suggestion from the Lord and then rated other manifestations until coming to revelation which “requires obedience.” Many of the missionaries were confused which was apparent in the questions they asked finally the other Zone leaders asked me for my thoughts. I said  they probably were not going to like them and proceeded to draw their attention to the lack of spirit and the tangible darkness we all were feeling as this conversation continued and then taught correct doctrine, that we are to obey every things that comes to us through the Spirit.

During the meeting I had been directed by the Spirit to teach certain principles to one particular elder and while doing so several gathered around including a couple of the assistants to the president who were there. Apparently the one Zone leader had just gone off on his own, not something the four of them had prepared and just caught everyone off guard. We suggested that they figure out what their teaching objective really was and start over after the break, which they did.

We had dinner with a member family who had also brought over the Four family for another discussion with them. Also had dinner with the Fifteen family. She has her baptism scheduled for next week and we were able to answer some questions she had and try to lay some groundwork for their daughter and the husband. Wonderful family who would be a great addition to the Lake Forest Ward in every way. Had another meeting with the Sixteen family in preparing their twin sons for baptism. We had purchased a couple of baptism workbooks at Deseret Book and presented them and they seemed overjoyed and were already working on them when we left.

Had another productive meeting with the Six family the last two weeks they agreeing with 2 Nephi 31 regarding the importance of baptism and this week, the critical importance of authority in the performing of sacred ordinances. Sister H keeps waiting for them to jump up and demand baptism but that has not been the case.

We were able to enjoy general conference over the internet and today spent the afternoon with Elder and Sister Moyes, currently serving as Senior Missionaries in the California Anaheim mission but from Sandy, Utah. We had fish and chips on the Dana Point wharf and visited the Mission San Juan Capistrano where we again saw the painting of a bleeding Christ in the Serra Chapel which elicited from our four year old son who excited pronounced, “So the Catholics killed Jesus.”