WEEK THIRTY-FIVE March 3, 2014
We enjoyed another rich and wonderful week with Brother Two traveling together through the sacred words recorded in the Book of Mosiah. When the terrific storms for which the members of the church have been praying struck Thursday through Sunday, I immediately sent a text message, as Brother Two was on the ocean and was happy to learn that they had come into the inner harbor to wait out the storm.
A tremendous storm has rocked California Thurs through Saturday. Fast Sunday in February and March has been about relieving the California draught conditions. The state had only received 1 inch of a normal rainfall this year and this storm has now raised that total to 5 inches already with increasing snow pack in the Sierra’s as well.
Now the negative side of texting. Our minister friend had begun barraging us with text questions several times a day. Even though he has told Sister H that her husband is very smart and a doctor of theology, he is time consuming. So we are doing our best to respond appropriately and still keep some order. His last questions dealt with the gender of certain angels and the names we will be known by the other side of the veil.
We were able to attend a baptism of my brother’s granddaughter. It was great to see so many family members, some of whom we have not seen in years. We were surprised that in the trio she sang in was another little girl who was the granddaughter of our Mission President and his wife. At the baptism one of the speakers shared a story about her own baptism at the age of 8. In her mind this was her special day and at the close thereof when her older cousin and the adults had ice cream while she and a ten year old cousin were sent to bed, she complained to her cousin that it wasn’t right, “this is my day.” Her ten year old cousin, “being wiser than I” said, “No this isn’t your day. This is the day you committed to follow the example of the Savior. It’s about the Savior, not you.”
Spoke to the daughter of the Fifteen family who has not decided to prepare for baptism because of the letters she has been receiving from our granddaughter in Pennsylvania. I was telling her our granddaughter was moving out to Utah and she said, “Oh I already know. She told me she is coming out here this summer, going to Disneyland, and we are going to get together. I’m so excited.”
Sunday morning after I had gotten ready for our early ward council meeting and as I was meditating and pondering on the message I had prepared, it was if a vision was opened to my mind. It referenced the Savior’s counsel (Matthew 5:15) not to light a candle and place it under a bushel but to put it on a candlestick that if might give light to all. In this version I saw the candle as being us and the light as being the Lord. In our missionary efforts as members of the church the Lord is seeking a change in us. We need to understand it isn’t about us, it is about the Lord. We don’t know who His elect are and may never know. In fact it isn’t our job to discover His elect. But He does know. When we place the candle (ourselves) under the bushel, His light cannot shine and bear witness to His elect. We are to invite all, so God can bear witness to those who He has prepared. It just isn’t about us so there is no reason for us to fear. I’m not sure it really matters what we say. It certainly doesn’t matter how much we know or how erudite we are in explaining or teaching the gospel. It’s really about putting ourselves in a position that His light can be seen and felt.
We had noticed an article in lds.org entitled Seven Simple Suggestions for Sharing the Gospel that I found on lds.org.
SEVEN SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS FOR SHARING THE GOSPEL
Sharing the gospel should be a natural part of life as a Latter-day Saint. As the Church grows, more and more people will ask questions, and it will be easier to respond with confidence if we pay attention to some basic principles. One of those principles, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches, is that the gift of discernment operates best when we are listening. So while talking about the Church, remember that it may help to ask clarifying questions and to do as much listening as we do talking. With that principle in mind, here are seven simple suggestions:
1. LIVE YOUR RELIGION. A Latter-day Saint’s life is his or her best sermon. Our conversations ought to be open, genuine, and engaged in with a spirit of kindness. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are most believable when our actions are in harmony with our beliefs.
2. ESTABLISH A FOUNDATION. Rather than responding to random questions, it might be helpful to establish a foundation—explain that we embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior and accept the Bible’s teachings, but believe that the Christian world departed from basic truths, and so Christ needed to restore His Church.
3. CONNECT THE DOTS. Try to discern the gospel principle at the heart of a question, and connect the answer back to the Savior. We do not need complicated, sophisticated arguments when the principles we try to live by come from the Son of God.
4. SHARE EXPERIENCES. Answering questions is not about reciting memorized answers. Sharing genuine, personal experiences can invite the Spirit to bear witness and carry the message into the listener’s heart.
5. UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE. The same conversation isn’t going to work for everyone—we all have different backgrounds. And remember that a casual question doesn’t require a half-hour lecture as a reply. Be sensitive to interest, comfort, and level of understanding. Signal that sensitivity so that those who are curious can feel at ease.
6. USE RESOURCES. The Church has created online resources that can be helpful for members to share with those who have questions. Church magazines are available online and in print, and items available at distribution centers may be helpful. Sharing a copy of the Book of Mormon may also be appropriate. You can also create an online profile on Mormon.org.
7. BE A FORCE FOR GOOD. Members of the Church can help clear up misconceptions and increase understanding of who we are and what we believe. People may see differences between what they believe and what Latter-day Saints believe, but they may also find common ground on which to build better relationships.
As we were preparing I came across this quote from President Howard W. Hunter: “Those of us who have partaken of the Atonement are under obligation to bear faithful testimony of our Lord and Savior. (D&C l84:60-61) [President Howard W. Hunter, "The Atonement and Missionary Work," (New Mission Presidents' Seminar 1994, Tuesday, 21 June 1994), 2]. The other quote that has forcible struck me in this labor, which I think requires a complete cultural change in the membership, is: “The invitation is the mark of success, not whether people get baptized or become active in the Church.” [Hastening the Work, Ensign, Oct 2013, 39]
Brother Two got away for Sunday and was able to come to church. We met with him on Monday. It was good to meet with him. He is being diligent in his Book of Mormon reading and the Lord is blessing him with a great testimony both concerning that book of scripture and also concerning His Savior. He was touched by Abinadi’s encounter and the references to the Lord extending his arms wide to receive those who are willing to become his spiritual sons and daughters.
We enjoyed meetings with Brother Twenty on the differences between an ordination to an office and being set apart to a calling; with Brother Forty and the Doctrine of Christ; Brother Forty-Two regarding the plan of salvation; and Brother Forty-One on being a patriarch in the home. We also visited with the One Family sharing our testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because of some questions our son has considered in preparation for a talk he is to give, and some questions being asked us by two or three of our investigators, I have been reminded of the normal focus on the remission of sins through the Atonement almost to the exclusion of the power of the Atonement to bless and sustain us daily. The Savior not only satisfied the demands of justice through His incomprehensible offering but willingly, as a result thereof, takes upon Him our grief, sorrow, problems and concerns. Somehow we tend to miss the promise contained in the invitation to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell wisely counseled, “Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins. Whatever our sufferings, we can safely cast our ‘cares upon him; for he careth for [us]’ (1 Peter 5:7)” (“Not My Will, But Thine”)
And from Elder Bruce R. Hafen, “Some Church members feel weighed down with discouragement about of their personal lives, even when they are making sustained and admirable efforts. Frequently, these feelings of self-disappointment come not from wrongdoing, but from stresses and troubles for which we may not be fully to blame. The Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to these experiences because it applies to all of life. The Savior can wipe away all of our tears, after all we can do… The Savior’s atonement is … the healing power not only for sin, but also for carelessness, inadequacy, and all mortal bitterness. The Atonement is not just for sinners.” (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, April, 1990)
I believe even members of the Church, by minimizing the effects of the Atonement, unwittingly minimize both the Atonement itself and our beloved Savior. We do that partially by thinking its cleansing effects upon us are the only reason for the Atonement or seeing the Atonement as the last blessing or gift necessary to bring us into the presence of the Lord. In so doing we resist, fail to claim or refuse to receive the Atonement as our daily source of power and change, even when circumstances may not change. In speaking of the second coming we read in D&C 133:52-53 that there will come a realization that that Lord was ever with us, bore us, and carried us all the days of our lives. I truly believe that.
"The Atonement of Jesus Christ and the healing it offers do much more than provide the opportunity for repentance from sins. The Atonement also gives us the strength to endure 'pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind,' because our Savior also took upon Him 'the pains and the sicknesses of his people' (Alma 7:11). Brothers and sisters, if your faith and prayers and the power of the priesthood do not heal you from an affliction, the power of the Atonement will surely give you the strength to bear the burden." (Dallin H. Oaks, "He Heals the Heavy Laden," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 9)