Monday, February 3, 2014

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.

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