Monday, February 17, 2014

Week Thirty-Three

WEEK THIRTY-THIRD February 17, 2014

I was deeply touched, unusually so this week, when reading this account in the current Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith manual: “[Once] as I sat alone with my father [President Joseph Fielding Smith] in his study, I observed that he had been in deep meditation. I hesitated to break the silence, but finally he spoke. ‘Oh, my son, I wish you could have been with me last Thursday as I met with my Brethren in the temple. Oh, if you could have heard them testify of their love for their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!’ And then he lowered his head, and tears streamed from his face and dropped to his shirt. Then, after many seconds, without as much as raising his head, but moving his head back and forth, he said, ‘Oh, how I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!” (50).

Sister H and I have had most weeks here, the opportunity to attend the Newport Beach Temple, usually early on Tuesdays. Today I thought I would give Elder Scott’s suggestion a try and prayed that the individual, for whom I was serving as proxy, might enjoy a sweet experience today. Whether that was the initiator or not, I don’t know, but it was an especially heart-warming session for me so I will continue to follow this practice.
I was reminded anew that humility is a soul infused with the light of recognition and a deep sincere gratitude and appreciation that one is completely, willingly and totally dependent upon God. I think King Benjamin’s message in Mosiah 2 is that without Christ in our life, man is absolutely nothing and is less than the dust of the earth. We read in Helaman chapter 12 that the dust of the earth follows and obeys the commands of God which man so often refuses to do. Unless we recognize we are dependent upon Christ for all that we have and can become we have lost everything. He alone is to who we are to look.

Brother Two, who just two days ago was ordained an Elder, is working for the next month on 12 hours on 12 hours off shifts in a very dangerous job. Before he left I gave him a blessing. Today he texted: "I wanted you to know that I've been experiencing a peace today that is unreal. But by all means real. Usually I'd be nervous to work at night. Uneasy. When you said the Lord had blessings in store you meant just what you said. Tonight I can truly say that I know that Peter, James and John laid their hands on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the Holy Order of the Son of God." 

At our district meeting today, Sister H shared a powerful testimony of the atonement and its capacity to change people’s lives. She talked about the climbing up and down stairs to visit with one brother, he being pretty well unresponsive, and wondering just what are we accomplishing. Then last week, the Lord allowed Sister H to see just what was happening to him, she could see the changes he had made, the strides he was now taking, the love the Lord had for him and saw with new eyes what was happening week upon week, right in front of us. The missionaries were still as can be throughout her testimony. I notice earlier when we were sharing ideas about the atonement their focus was primarily upon being washed clean whereas mine was on the power and strength incident to the Atonement which changes, enables and perfects us if we are willing to allow it, so that we become someone who will be comfortable in the presence of God and Christ.

We had our third meeting with Brother Forty-Two, again at Panera Bread. I asked him why he wanted to learn about the church. He said he had met so many Mormon’s, all of whom were such good people, so he wanted to understand why. I then asked him how he responded to those who came to him seeking a testimony. His reply was Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 that whoever calls upon the Lord will be saved. I couldn’t elicit any discussion of prayer, study, desire, or practice. He was anxious to review our previous discussion and pulled out all his notes which he proceeded to go through one by one.

We have a recent convert who has had a tough time getting away from the Bible so he could spend any time at all with the Book of Mormon. We have felt for some time that the Lord wants him to become as secure in the Book of Mormon so we have been encouraging him to do so. Today he told me, “The Book of Mormon is awesome! I’m starting to see why they say that no other book will draw a man closer to the Lord.”

At our Bible Study this week I compared John 17 and 3 Nephi 19, reading and commenting together verse by verse. These two chapters are very emotional to me as they create powerful images in my mine, principally of our Savior personally representing me to Heavenly Father. Tonight however another idea, equally as powerful came to my mind. A partial genesis for tonight I am sure was that the ward missionary leader’s five young daughters, the oldest just turned 12, were with us and took their turns reading verses with their pure, sweet, innocent voices. I thanked the mother and father for the contribution their daughters had made the night before and he told me he had felt impressed to be a little more firm in inviting the girls to stay the whole time given the topic.

I think a broader concept of unity and its importance, as eternal beings enjoying exaltation, began to form in my mind last night and I began to see an association with light and joy. Light is such a difficult subject to discuss as it is so complex. I thought I had a handle on it once and tried to teach a 16 week Institute class on the subject of “light” alone. However, it became apparent to me as we neared the end of the semester that I had been unable to awaken class members to any understand of just what that substance, and it is a substance I believe, is.

During our Bible Study I began to see that joy, glory, light, truth and intelligence are of the same spiritual continuum, or substance, all manifestations of God. My favorite scripture along that line is Alma 19:6 which describes what was happening to King Lamoni when he was under the power of God. I love the part where it says "the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul." This verse seems to be saying to me that the joy we feel, as we act in righteousness, comes through or because of the light of the glory of God which He enjoys because of His goodness, having chosen to live in light and truth.

We learn from the 93rd Section that light and truth is both the glory of God and intelligence and that these cannot be created or made and have always existed. Further that we condemn ourselves when we reject the light given to us, reminding us always that it is a gift. Finally, in D&C 50:23-24 we learn that it is light that is the edifying source and comes from God.

The ward mission leader pointed out to me that John 17 contains no Joseph Smith Translation changes, a connection I had never made before which got me wondering if this chapter got through unscathed, keeping all its plain and precious parts.

We learned from the sister missionaries that a young girl has decided to be baptized after corresponding with our granddaughter Whitney who shared her baptismal experience with her. The young girl telling her mom, “I’m ready to be baptized.” So the sisters will begin teaching her this week. All of which is very exciting for our granddaughter doing effective missionary work while only ten years of age.

Week Thirty-Two

WEEK THIRTY-SECOND February 10, 2014

This week we met with a new MLS Senior Couple bringing to three the number of couples serving as proselyting missionaries in the California Irvine Mission. They are from Alpine, Utah. We shared with them the following ideas that we have gathered so far in our service, all of which has been learned on the fly.

We have a special skill that no other person in the ward or the young missionaries have and that special skill is TIME. T=time to serve; I=we are on an island, it is the family or individuals we are serving and the Lord, there is little direction; M=support of the members is crucial, they have to see you as an asset not someone demanding their attention (we have enjoyed great success as home teachers and visiting teachers notice a need and introduce us to those in need); E=our call is not to do as much as to enable, we are not to cause those we serve to feel what we feel, but to enable them to feel what they “can” feel. Most of our discussion our outside the lessons contained in Preach My Gospel.

We made meeting with the Stake President and High Council member over missionary work, our two Bishops, and the Ward Mission Leaders our first priority when we arrived. That has been followed with Melchizedek Priesthood, Relief Society, YM, YW, and Primary leaders.

We learned we had to do things to assure young missionaries that we were there to help. Many are suspicious perhaps because of the enormous pressure exerted upon them that Senior couples get in their war. We quietly attend District and Zone Meetings, mostly just speaking when asked to do so.

Although it has taken some time with two wards meeting on rotating weeks, our goal has ever been to become part of the ward. We have volunteered for temple, ward cleaning, service projects and other assignments that ward members have been asked to participate in and have attended ward activities and parties.

We always attend Ward Council, always attend Missionary Correlation meeting and I submit an email every couple of weeks to our bishops.

Great effort is made not to become a burden on the Ward. We never ask what we can do but look for things to do and volunteer to do them. Senior couples should always be found sustaining the Bishop and WML with all members. We have not placed ourselves on the regular dinner list the young missionaries are on (although welcome invitations as they come), coordinate with home and visiting teachers, give coordinated attention to new members but careful not to overwhelm them, get on the ward email lists and programs, make friends with less actives and invest time in them.

We have found much success in not having the back stories when we visit which allows us to ask questions and listen until people have talked everything out. Further it moves any possibility of inspirational interference.

Well during our presentation one of the Senior office missionaries came in saying there was someone in the office who wanted to understand the Restoration, so I quickly volunteered. We met with Brother 42 an evangelical minister from Indonesia and presented the Restoration discussion. He had a lot of questions which made Sister H happy she was with me. We were able to navigate his questions with him commenting that we “were very smart.” l told him it was easy when one was speaking the truth and had the companionship of the Holy Spirit to show the way. He smiled and asked for a second discussion the following afternoon at Panera Bread. I tried to get us to his apartment but he said his wife was not where he was (couldn’t understand if he was saying she didn’t have the same interest he had, or that he felt his level of understanding was superior to hers).

So we met the next afternoon, had an opening and closing prayer at Panera Bread—
wonder what our neighbors were thinking—and presented the Plan of Salvation. I again used the drawing depicted on the back of the mortuary calendar. I thought Brother 42 had a lot of questions the first discussion but this was infinity more. He wanted chapter and verse from the Bible supporting our claims relative to the Plan of Salvation, which we provided and he dutifully wrote down. He also asked me to diagram some of the principles and doctrines so he could understand them better, which I did. As we concluded the meeting he said, “So I have yet to be baptized because it was not done with proper authority?” “That’s right,” I said, “you haven’t.” “And I have not yet been born again?” he said. “No, you haven’t.” “And,” said he, “I haven’t really received the Gift of the Holy Ghost? “No,” I again said. “I’m going to have to think about this,” said he. He is leaving town and asked to set up a meeting next week before he left.

This week we had a first. A family that Sister H and I had taught how to hold a Family Home Evening and for whom our daughter-in-law Julie had made a Family Home Evening assignment board, invited Sister H and I over for Family Home Evening at their home. Each of the children had an assignment. We had a good short lesson, an activity and desert. We were really touched by both the invitation and the presentation. We also had a sweet experience with the One family, being delivered by the spirit to their home at a time of considerable need and the wherewithal to remedy the situation. Oh the tender mercies of the Lord. They are all about us and ever with us.

During this week also I was called upon by two families to offer prayers in their home. I always try to be attentive in such prayers to meet the particular needs of the families and as one has probably noticed we all seem to have a style and word patterns our very own. But in these two prayers the wording was not my own, noticeable to both Sister H and to me, clearly I was speaking the words of the Spirit rather than my own. In both instances the family members were noticeably overcome as I believe they heard the Lord speaking to them directly as if I was not even there.

I somehow managed to rip a large section out of the seat of a pair of slacks. Don’t know how it happened. Went to Men’s Warehouse to get them replaced after we learned the repair would cause greater distraction than the tear. We were treated well and a week later I came back to pick them up following alterations. As I walked in the door the salesman said spontaneously, “Just a minute Mr. Haddock, I’ll get those slacks for you.” I thought, wow, remembering my name a week later and when I got to the car I blurted out to Jan my astonishment. Jan said, “You hadn’t considered that your giant name tag gave you away?”

I was blessed to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordain Brother Two an Elder this week. Following which the Bishop invited him to share his testimony which he did. Then the Bishop became very emotional in describing the relationship that had developed between Brother Two and me and how I now stood as his spiritual father. He then tearfully recounted how the spirit moved upon the Haddock’s to serve a mission just at the time that the Two Family needed us and through the direction of the Lord all have become edified. I was suddenly without words and nearly overcome. What a wonderful privilege it is to be along for the ride when the Lord performs His work.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week Thirty-One

WEEK THIRTY-FIRST February 3, 2014

O’Connor mortuary and Chapman Funeral Directors have printed up a calendar (the 2014 LDS Historical Calendar) that has been distributed throughout the meeting houses in our mission. Sister H noticed the picture for the month of February is the Alabama Birmingham Temple where her sister and brother-in-law are currently serving as the matron and president of the temple. So she sent them and each of our children a copy. Also on the back is a nice graphic depicting in color the Plan of Salvation. Her sister called to say that they were thrilled with the calendar, have shown it to their family and plan on placing it in the temple to show all the workers.

Met with the One family, she a couple of weeks out from her second knee replacement and he suffering from the effects of Parkinsons. After a lengthy discussion we showed the first half of the Legacy film that used to play at the Joseph Smith Building in Salt Lake City. They had a lot of questions mostly revolving around why the Mormons were treated so badly by others.

Discovered, or rather more accurately, were led to a new video on entitled “We Can Find Happiness,” which traces an ex-con, a model, and a rich dude who later found the gospel, changed their lives, and found happiness. Our first meeting afterwards was with Brother Forty so we showed him the short video which had a noticeable impression upon him emotionally.

Our daughter shared a story from the New Era that is right in line with the aforementioned video.

A young man is asked “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” He said, “I see a na├»ve, lost boy.” That’s what I thought I saw, but she said I was wrong.

Every day for the next few weeks, I thought about that question. It bothered me that she said I was wrong. About what? I realized that I could figure it out if I had regular scripture study with meaningful prayer. It took me a while to establish a schedule where I was reading and praying on most days of the week, but I did. A few weeks later, some thoughts came to me while I was mowing the lawn. They taught me about the real person I see in the mirror:

I see a young man who decided to come to this earth to face the fiercest evils and the darkest nights. I see a son of God, a child of Heavenly Father. I see a disciple of Jesus Christ, who will always help His followers. I see a young man with family and friends who will stand beside him.

I may feel lost and confused sometimes, but I don’t have to live life alone. Satan may try his hardest to succeed, but in the end he will fail. And in the end, I can see myself walking up to Heavenly Father and hearing Him say, “You have served me well, my son. Welcome home.”

We had another good meeting with Brother Twenty in his preparation to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. He is becoming much more positive about himself, even dressing much more nicely at Church, and frequently bearing his testimony as he wraps up the Gospel Essential class as its president. We began studying together President Boyd K. Packer’s address, “What Every Elder Should Know—and Every Sister as Well: A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government,” April 1992. It will take us two or three weeks to get through this I think.

Received a call from the Mission Office to meet with a new couple who will be arriving Sunday, “the president would like for you, the Haddocks and Lloyds, to meet with them to review how you are carrying out your assignments, how you work with the Bishops, the missionaries, and the nature of work with less actives and non-members. The couple have a second home in Corona del Mar although they are from Alpine, Utah.

We were excited to learn of the High School graduation of our oldest grandchild, who has done extremely well in school. Happily no one out here thinks we could possibly be old enough to have a granddaughter graduating. One “elderly” couple said we must be at least ten years younger than them; turned out it was 18 months.

The Twenty-first family had to leave for Washington for a funeral and just arrived back the afternoon of our scheduled visit. He got called in to work to do some needed paperwork and we had to postpone our visit for a week.

Had a discussion, sponsored by the High Priest group leader in one of the wards, with the bishop and then the stake president as to how to handle those who have asked for no more contact with the church. Apparently there are quite a few in that category. I shared my thoughts noting that as bishop it was more likely they would speak with me than any other ward member, sort of like getting a free pass. I used the free pass to personally visit each one who requested not to be contacted, first seeking resolution in trying to understand their position, second holding out a life-line should they ever change their mind, which I encouraged them to do and lastly at their request removing their names from the records of the church with an understanding of the ramifications of that decision. The stake presidents counsel for this stake is: 1) There should not be any no call lists, period; 2) First effort should be to reclaim the lost sheep by resolving their concerns; and 3) If after understanding consequences of having their name removed they are still of that persuasion, act quickly in doing so.

We were invited to Olive Garden with the Two family who graciously treated us and we enjoyed a good discussion together before leaving for our Bible Study class this week on the Last Supper.

Friday evening was the baptism of Brother Forty-three, a fourteen year old young man that is wise beyond his years. Virtually the whole Ward Council and all 14 boys in the Teacher’s quorum showed up. What a turn out by the ward in support of this young man. The place was packed. The spirit there was electric, causing Brother Two to text me later about the amazing feeling of love that was present which gave him further confirmation that his baptism was the right thing for him to do some months back and another reality check as to the truthfulness of the gospel. I suspect the mother of the young man will be right behind him in participating in this sacred ordinance. One of the young elders spoke at the baptism, hesitatingly and with great emotion exposing his nervousness, but the richness of his testimony and the message he shared quickly overpowered everything else and I felt to share my thoughts with him via a text.

Find myself continuing using this quote: “Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Infinite Power of Hope," CR Oct 2008; Ensign Nov 2008).

Watched the Super Bowl (how un-missionary can you get) with the Six Family and enjoyed a sweet discussion on the requirements for one to be baptized—which may be a first in missionary work. Received a call while there from Brother Two, requesting me to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood upon him the following Sunday and ordain him an elder. I told him I would be overjoyed to do so.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week Thirtieth

WEEK THIRTIETH January 27, 2013

Received a request from the Bishop to provide him with copies of the materials I prepared for Brother Two’s Melchizedek Priesthood preparation and I had to confess to him that the materials came about in response to question Brother Two had asked and I would have to get with him to find out what he had received. So I called and made arrangements with Brother Two, wrote down the articles I had given him and that he had shared with the bishop during his interview and emailed copies to the Bishop. This moving forward not knowing beforehand the things you should do, can prove embarrassing. The bishop also shared his desire for me to teach the Temple Preparation class for his ward which I am delighted to do.

The other bishop we work with sent me a ward mission plan and asked for “candid feedback about our ideas.” Never quite sure how to respond to such a request but this bishop and I see to be on the same wavelength so that made it easier. After reviewing the material and spending a few days prayerfully considering it I sent him my feedback.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that the Lord is in simple plans, in fact the more complicated the plan the more likely the Lord is not a part of it. I remember a stake president of ours who once insisted that everything be produced on a single page, anything longer he just discarded. Upon review it seemed so much effort was required in the busyness I couldn’t see where any time left for actual missionary effort. When phrases such as “as much as possible” are used the less committed often take that as a license reduce their effort while the more committed break their backs, jeopardizing family relationships and work to fulfill their obligation. So I offered a few suggestion to streamline the effort and spread the workload more evenly. The bishop thanked me for the response coming to the conclusion that “we definitely need to consider focusing on what's most important and letting the Lord helps us through the process.” I later learned he had forward my comments to the stake president as well.

Had another very productive meeting with Brother Forty in his Melchizedek Priesthood preparation this week. Presented a copy of the Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, the single volume, Answers to Gospel Questions that Sister H had secured at a store in Las Vegas who responded “you and Jan are the strongest testimonies to me that the Mormon way is true. I really mean that with all my heart. Knowing your zeal for the Lord it actually makes sense to me all that you tell me.” Just maybe we are doing some good here!

This week at the request of a home teacher (how I like it when visits happen that way) with Brother Forty-One, a single fellow close to our ages. I knocked on the screen door. He came to the door but I couldn’t see him nor hear him because of a 100 plus decibel Chihuahua which he put into a kennel and opened the door after ascertaining why we were there. We told him who we were and that his home teacher had asked us to come by and get acquainted. He has a roommate whose children he says refer to him as Papi. He joined the church about thirty years ago and while a prospective elder was called, sustained, and ordained a high priest and set apart to serve on the High Council. He told us, “I haven’t been to church in twenty-five years but I’m not inactive. I just haven’t been to church. I still know the church is true.” We had a good acquainted visit and he was willing for us to come back again and said “when he is ready” he will notify us so we can go to church with him.

We learned this week that one of our grandsons has been selected to go to the US Olympic Wrestling training facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado this summer. So the world still moves on without us—all is well.

We were invited along with the elders and sisters in the Lake Forest Ward to a dinner with the Six Family. The elders had texted me a message they were considering and wondered if I had some ideas which I shared with them. Following the dinner Elder Anderson announced that Elder Haddock would be sharing the spiritual message “this evening.” Which I did. It was nice having the young elder and sisters there, our first such experience.

Sent I letter I felt a strong impression to send to the 12 year old daughter of the Ward Mission Leader in Aliso Creek Ward who was with us at the temple for the baptisms for the dead the first time, and being baptized by her father. “Every time I am able to witness someone doing Temple work for their ancestors I find my heart swelling with joy. I count it a privilege to be there with you today. It’s a bond I am grateful to share with you. It rekindled such experience with our own children and grandchildren. Just think, what it will be like someday to be greeted by those ancestors on the other side of the veil. I suspect there will be lots of hugs and kisses as there was with your parents today. Doesn’t it make you want to do all you can to always be worthy to enter the Temple and perform sacred ordinances for those whose earlier work had a lot to do with making you who you are?” Sunday her parents said they felt this little note will do much for their daughter’s desire to stay worthy to participate in temple work.

Jan and I on P-day took a walk on the beach at Corona del Mar. A place I have always felt very comfortable, would enjoy living there. The cool breeze, the sand and pounding of the ocean was delightful. Used to love the days we did this in Encinitas, just walking and talking just the two of us. We met an elderly lady pushing a walker, then a bunch of kids and a couple of mothers came by, “Missionaries” they exclaimed. 15 kids and 4 parents drove down from Ogden today to go to the beach and to Disneyland tomorrow. Then met a lady on the beach, the daughter of the elderly lady we had met earlier. In all met 21 people on the beach, all of whom were LDS. What are the odds of that?

In the Savior’s sermon on the Bread of Life we read in John 6 that “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” In essence, He who was speaking proclaims that he is the Son of God, removing all doubt as to His authenticity as the emissary of the Father, and the only name under heaven whereby men may be saved. How did many of his followers act following this proclamation? We read, “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him.” Why did they turn away and discontinue following Him? I suspect those who fell away saw inconsistencies and issues and, without even realizing it, began to see their reasoning or understanding being superior to God’s and since everything was not perfectly aligned or fully understandable they felt free to disbelieve even what the Spirit had communicated to them. Turning to the Twelve the Savior then said, “Will ye also go away?” Peter than answering for the Twelve and for the rest of us who choose to not cast away our confidence, says with straight forward conviction, “Lord to whom shall we go: thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:65-69).

It is that foundational testimony that fortifies us against any frailties seen in the Brethren, inconsistencies seen in history or prophetic pronouncements of our current time. The trust the Spirit conveys to those willing to listen and believe is that this being the church of which the Lord personally testifies as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30) we can always comfortably follow the Brethren knowing that He who is in control is really in control, notwithstanding the frailties of men, and is interested personally in our individual welfare.

The winnowing effect of the Bread of Life experience has been felt here in California as some families and individuals have withdrawn in light of Proposition 8. It seems clear to me that the very Plan our Father authored, founded as it is in agency, precludes a neat package filled with compelling evidence. For God to bend to that wish would be to forfeit the very principles of agency and faith upon which the Plan was founded and, I might add the vehicle necessary to become as God. He is after all in the God producing business and unless we are willing to choose Him and Him alone, His ways and cede to Him how He purposes His work, we will never fit the role He envisions for us. His plan precludes Him from “making” us as He is while adopting a system of experiences designed to enable us to “become” as He is. It seems to me all those who want it done “their way” have missed the point Peter triumphantly announced, only Christ has the words of eternal life (to me that alone settles these matters) and only He determines what, how and through whom those words are given. He has established His church and has born personal witness of His church (D&C 1:30 and 115:3-4).

It takes belief to understand not reasoning (see Mosiah 26:1-5). King Benjamin’s rising generation “could not understand” because the “did not believe.” Therefore, “because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened” remaining “a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after.” Sadly for many the very leap of faith required proves an unyielding hurdle. It is not that God has to give us irrefutable proof or do things the way we think is best, it is that we have to believe, before the further light is received.

I have always been enriched by the description of King Lamoni’s conversion given in Alma. There is described how “the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul (Alma 19:6 emphasis added). Is that light not the testimony to which Peter bore witness? Are we not to look to Christ alone and whatever He determines is right for us?

Week Twenty-Ninth

WEEK TWENTY-NINTH January 20, 2013

A young bishop shared with me that during tithing settlement he “asked, according to whisperings for each family, that they prayerfully consider individuals in their sphere of influence each day, to invite someone to learn more about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have had a great response. As we desired to just try, Father in Heaven does the things only a God can do and puts those ready and willing in our paths. We have a young man in our Priest’s quorum that will be baptized in late January and another young woman (a clerk at 7-11) that said of a member that came in each day with her two pre-K boys, ‘She just has this glow. I know now it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I need to become a member of the Church to have this feeling.’ There are several other families that we are praying that the Lord can remove their obstacles.”

In our own stake here, we had a marvelous stake conference which included this counsel Pray, Act and Report. Pray each day for opportunities to share a gospel message and an invitation. Act upon those promptings. Report each evening to Heavenly Father on how you did seeking His assistance to make this part of your everyday life.

An illustration I have found myself using in the mission field ties together John 1 and 1 Nephi 8. Lehi describes the Iron Rod as the “word of God.” John tells us that Christ is the word and the “word was God.” I have suggested from that that the rod of iron can be looked at as the outstretched arm of Christ reaching out to each of us. But unless we take hold of his outstretched hand and hold on we won’t get very far. Coupled with this illustration is the often missed truth that our Savior takes people just the way they are, without any pre-qualifications necessary, everyone, He then, if they desire, takes their hand and leads them to what He knows they can become. It’s as simple as that. Just a willingness to extend our hand and clasp that of our Savior, hold on, and follow His lead.

My third great grandfather, Jacob Strong and his family joined the church in western Pennsylvania in 1836 having heard the gospel message preached by then 18 year old Erastus Snow. Describing his status at the time of his departure for a mission in western Pennsylvania, Elder Snow wrote, “I left Kirtland on foot and alone with a small suitcase containing a few Church works and a pair of socks, with five cents in my pocket, being all my worldly wealth.” (Our Heritage, A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, published by the Church [1996], 31.)

In a letter to Oliver Cowdery, Elder Erastus Snow writes of his missionary efforts—

Pres. O. Cowdery: Sir,-I left Kirtland on the 16th day of April last, and returned again last evening, (Dec. 29) having been absent a period of eight months and fourteen days. During this time I have been laboring entirely alone, in the western part of Pennsylvania. But my heavenly Father has been with me, and given me power over much and heavy opposition; for I have often met with it, especially among the priests, that wear long faces. I have traveled about 1600 miles, back and forth; preached 220 sermons; obtained 20 subscribers for your interesting paper, and baptized 50 persons. I, thro' the grace of God, started one branch in Brush Valley township [this is where Jacob Strong and his family resided), Indiana county; one in Plumb Creek township, Armstrong county, and a third on the corners of Venango, Mercer and Butler counties. The work seems to be gaining ground fast wherever I have traveled; and I have often had calls for preaching 20 and 30 miles off, in every direction; and had about six to where I could fill one. I wish the Elders traveling east, would call and visit my brethren, and spread the word of life still more thoroughly through that country.

In 1839 the family moved to Nauvoo where my second great father James Thomas Strong was given a name and a blessing under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1841. Thereafter with the winds of hatred swirling against the Prophet causing even leaders of the Church to dissociate, my third great grandfather had quite an experience.

As near as I can remember, it was in my tenth year (about 1862). I am now seventy-five years old on this date. I was at fast meeting, which was then on Thursday, in the old Tenth Ward adobe meeting house, in Salt Lake City Utah. I heard Jacob Strong testify in that fast meeting that he knew the Gospel was true and Joseph Smith was a prophet, which made a great impression on me, as young as I was.

When we were alone, putting in some alfalfa in the north end of the lot where mother lived, joining on the west side of James T. Strong’s lot, I asked him how he knew the Gospel was true, and he said—

One day when I was in the east, Nauvoo, I doubted the work, and doubted the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it so preyed upon my mind that I went out in the woods to pray.

As I knelt down in humble prayer I asked God, the Father, to give me a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and while I was praying, supplicating to God for this testimony, a voice said to him, “Jacob Strong, arise, Jesus Christ, Son of God, revealed this great latter day work to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and called him to be a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, and carry on and spread this glorious work, for the salvation of the human family.” I have never doubted this work from that day to this. (Letter of John Walsh, written 22 Aug 1927.)

I have ever been impressed that as Jacob Strong went forth to pray it was not with doubts that preyed upon his mind, but rather a request to have God give him a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and the divine mission of Joseph Smith. In other words he wanted the gospel to be true and for Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God. I submit that in that distinction lays the difference those whose faith will be strengthened and those who will cast away their confidence thinking they know better. Of that same testimony, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and through him the Lord re-established His church, Jan and I are now privileged to bear witness.

Brother Fifteen invited us to join with the young men in the ward to witness him forging a knife from raw steel. The forge reached 3300 degrees and watching him pounding mercilessly on that glowing steel with what looks like reckless abandon made me glad that is not what the Lord does to forge us. I thanked him for the demonstration saying it was hard to believe those beautiful polished knives start out being pounded to death.

Brother Two called to tell us he had a marvelous experience with the bishop, spent an hour with him discussing the Melchizedek Priesthood and has set up the final appointment with the Stake Presidency in two weeks. We received a nice note from the Bishop on how well Brother Two was prepared, saying: “The trajectory of many lives are intersecting at this time and place, and marvelous things are occurring!” Isn’t that the truth. Unexpected circumstances rule the day in the mission field. I’m going to have to write up a talk with that title, “Unexpected Circumstances.” Brother Two followed up with a note: “The two of you are the best testimony there is that the gospel is true.” I’m guessing I get drawn in being a tag along with Sister H.

Sunday I was privileged to team teach our Gospel Essentials class with a very timid Brother Twenty. We played the part of Zeezrom and invited the class to play the part of Amulek in answering our questions. There was excellent class discussion and many afterwards commented on the “novel approach” pleasing Brother Twenty no end.

Also had a wonderful meeting with the Twenty-first family in preparing the father to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. We have four so progressing at this time Brothers Two, Twenty, Twenty-One and Brother Forty.

Saturday we participated in sacred ordinances in the Temple with some of our recently baptized members and had a wonderful turnout and a special, special spirit present.

Monday, today we received notice that I suspect every senior missionary couple never received. It was from a good friend who is a minister informing us that “Months ago in this churches Prayer Circle, which means people and or circumstances in that circle get daily "directed" prayer, the names of Elder and Sister Haddock were added! Hey, those United Church of Christ prayers do in fact work too.” We of course appreciate all the help. I shared with the minister that we are having an interfaith fast and prayer Sunday, February 2, 2014, to relieve the drought here in California.