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.”