Monday, May 12, 2014

Week Forty-five

WEEK FORTY-FIVE May 12, 2014

We met with the Four Family, our former AME minister. Brother Four has written a book which we felt impressed to review with him, chapter by chapter. When we extended the invitation both he and his wife were excited to do just that. Tonight was our first discussion on his chapter entitled “Evangelism.” We had prepared significant notes, a copy of which Sister Four wanted to keep as we left, and had prayed that the Spirit might be there enabling us to establish points of common belief from which to expand additional light and truth that has been revealed in the latter days. We had a marvelous two hour discussion. I was surprised he didn’t want to lead out but wanted us to direct the discussion which we did. Interestingly many of the things he felt were missing in the Christian churches both to assist those coming to Christ and to better prepare the neophyte were found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We began the discussion with a sweet prayer from him that the spirit would be there and that a friendly discussion ensue; and ended with a prayer from Sister Four for “this wonderful couple.” It turns out she had been secretly wanting an avenue for him to be able to discuss his beliefs to sort of get back in the harness and our invitation and interest fit perfectly. We began the discussion comparing evangelism to “hastening the work” and how the Brethren were anxious for each member of the church to shoulder responsibility in bearing witness. I shared D&C 84:61 that partaking of the Atonement one is under obligation to share the witness of Christ with others. He was impressed with Amulek’s confession in Alma 10:5-6 “that’s me, that’s where I was” and 3 Nephi 5:13 “oh that’s beautiful.” In fact he seemed surprised with all the latter day revelation supportive of his beliefs. I suggested that Christ accepts everyone just the way they are, there are no preconditions. He just asks us to take His hand and hold, in doing so Christ would bring each of us to where we need to be. He liked that analogy. Also when we suggested D&C 11:11-14 as means for preparation, learning the scriptures, knowing whereof we speak, joining with others more experienced etc., he thought that all was music to his ears. When I suggested one of Satan’s ploys is to distract us with good but not eternal things, he said, “Oh I like that word that really fits.” When I read Galatians 2:20 he quoted it along with me; turns out it is a favorite of both of ours. It was a positive and power gospel discussion. He suggested a return visit next week to discuss his chapter on Spiritual Warfare.

Thursday morning we met the Two family at the Stake family history center where we got the family hooked up on Family Search and were able to trace their line back to the 900s. Sister H was exhausted two hours later after trying to corral a four and seven year old all that time.

Met with Brother Forty-Two and had a discussion mostly on Daniel 10-12 and Revelation. In his ministerial role he told us, this is all he teachers. He shared his experiences in Queens, New York where the Indonesian congregation was very humble and willing to have him preach. Not so here in Irvine he said, “they want to see a degree after your name.” So he is thinking about moving to New York.\\

I was invited to lead the discussion at our Bible Study class this week on the Woman at Jacob’s well (John 4). I started out with a little history pointing out this story goes back nearly six hundred years when according to prophecy the wickedness of Judah saw the capture of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah taken into captivity. The Samaritans were the descendants of a combination of the foreign colonists brought in by the Assyrian and Babylonian victors and those who escaped captivity. They occupied the area in central Palestine, which included Mt. Ebal (2,950 feet) and Mt. Gerizim (2,850 feet), which stand only a third of a mile apart. In fact the city of Sychar where the woman resides is located between the two mounts.

Approximately fifty years later, after Cyrus had unified the Medes and Persians, the spirit of the Lord inspires Cyrus to allow the Jews who so desire, to return to Jerusalem and they are led by the prophet Nehemiah. When Nehemiah returns to the ruins of Jerusalem he is met by Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and others who offer to help the Jews rebuild the temple. Nehemiah rebuffs their offer, refusing to allow the Samaritans to participate, and later expels Manasseh, the grandson of the chief priest Eliashib because of his marriage outside the faith, thus violating his priesthood responsibilities (Nehemiah 12:23-31). Manasseh goes to Samaria and builds a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim where the Samaritans worship for nearly 400 years. It is the temple in those mountains to which the woman at the well refers when she says, “our fathers worshipped in this mountain” (John 4:20). The Lord then teaches here that true worship is not limited to a place but rather a condition of one’s heart (see John 4:22-24; and JST footnote).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie upon quoting this passage taught: “There is no salvation in worshiping a false god. It does not matter one particle how sincerely someone may believe that God is a golden calf, or that he is an immaterial, uncreated power that is in all things; the worship of such a being or concept has no saving power. Men may believe with all their souls that images or powers or laws are God, but no amount of devotion to these concepts will ever give the power that leads to immortality and eternal life. …

“But if he worships the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon him, and he will have power to raise the dead, move mountains, entertain angels, and walk in celestial streets” (“How to Worship,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 129).

The well itself is Jacob’s well and was dug on the land Jacob settled when he returned from working for Laban in Padan-aram (Genesis 33:18). Jacob later bequeathed this land to his son Joseph.

Being tired and thirsty while traveling from Judea to Galilee, to escape the persecution of the Jewish leaders, the Savior sits down on Jacob’s well in the middle of Samaria at about noon, “about the sixth hour” (John 4:6) while his disciples go into the city to procure meat. The Savior surprisingly speaks with the woman, I say surprisingly because the Jews did not speak with Samaritans nor did lone men speak to a single woman. Later when the disciples return, even they “marvelled that he talked with the woman” (John 4:27).

Also of interest is the sequence of her salutations which shows an escalating testimony in the woman who goes from referring to the Savior as “a Jew” (John 4:8), to “Sir” (John 4:11), to “a prophet” (John 4:15), to “the Christ” (John 4:29).

The Savior here established his converting power and likewise so does the woman, perhaps the first to head the call to “hasten the work” as her witness is of such force that the men of the city “went out of the city, and came unto him” (John 4:30) because they “believe on him for the saying of the woman, which testified” (John 4:39).

Confused when the Savior offers her “living water” that would be “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:10, 14), she points out that he has neither to draw with nor to hold such water. Especially poignant is the concept of “living water” as taught in 1 Nephi 11:25 and Doctrine & Covenants 63:23.

Our first recorded instance in the Gospels of Jesus announcing who He was, is found in John 4:26: “I that speak unto thee am he” the Messias who is to come.

Notice that after the Samaritan woman had tasted of the “living water,” she leaves her “waterpot” in her haste to bear witness of him to the men of the city. Then, as the people saw the Savior and heard His words, their testimony of Him deepens (see John 3:41–42).

Following the Bible Study we went with one of the young elders to give a blessing to the Fifty-Eight family. They have twin girls, about 3-4 years of age. One had had a sore throat and cough leading the doctor to think she may have asthma. The family is hoping that is not the case and wanted a blessing which I gave as Elder Stephenson anointed. We are anxious to learn the result.

In our meeting with the Twenty-First family this week we were reminded of a blessing I have him a couple of months back over a very difficult work situation. The blessing said he was to be patient and to resolve the animosity he felt toward his boss for his egregious actions. Tonight when I announced we were getting to the end for Melchizedek Priesthood preparation he said, “Oh that is bitter sweet. I really want to receive the priesthood but we have so enjoyed our weekly lesson and visits with you.” Then he shared this story. “Two weeks ago while driving past the San Diego Temple for a work project, I found myself praying over my work situation. As I was praying I felt an answer from the Lord. I was to be patient and a big change was coming soon. Well the next week my boss quit and my best friend and current supervisor was named the new boss. I couldn’t be happier. Not sure I want another job now.” We had a wonderful discussion about prayer, discerning the answer to prayers and he shared another experience. “In high school my buddy and I took a couple of girls to the prom. It was held at some air museum in Hollywood. We decided to up to the Hollywood sign but didn’t know where we were going and ended up on Mulholland Drive going west. Neither of us had ever been there before. My buddy was a religious sort. I was not. He had tried and tried to get me interested and I told him it held no interest for me at all. We finally realized we were going the wrong way and I had a feeling to turn around. Where was the question? I told him I felt after the next bend in the road there would be a turn off on the right. There was and as we turned off, to cars came roaring past us, one in each lane racing one another. They would have creamed us had we stayed on the road. That got me thinking. There is a God. I had been given an impression. That started me on a search, I knew something was out there but didn’t know what or which until I found the church.” We got another “I love you” and wave from daughter Emily as we left.

Enjoyed a mother’s day dinner with Elder and Sister Litchfield on Saturday. In our meeting with the Six Family we took over an apple pie, it was Mother’s day, to celebrate with Sister Six. I had something prepared on the temple for them but instead felt to make a presentation on the Book of Mormon describing how the central role of the Book has changed since my first mission as a young elder where our focus was primarily on the Bible. I then shared what I had told to Brother Forty-Two when I told him that the Book of Mormon was a tangible piece of evidence for one to study, apply and pray about asking, “Was this written by an unlearned boy or did this book come from God.” If the answer is that the book is inspired of God then a whole bunch of things fall into place. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God; he did see the Father and the Son; there was a necessity for and God did restore his true church to the earth; necessary priesthood authority was also restored and baptism under that authority was not only necessary but again available and required of all seeking to enter the Lord’s kingdom. To which Jere said, “That’s why I’m a believer. I’m not a bible scholar although we are learning more each week. But when I read the Book of Mormon it was clear it came from God. Therefore, as you said, all the dominoes fall into place that you mentioned.” Again, as we left I found myself asking myself and Jan, “why oh why does this man not avail himself of baptism?”

One of our daughters shared with us an experience while participating in SS class when asked what was her Promised Land. She told them it was where she was right now. She felt to keep waiting for something new and different to find happiness didn’t make sense to her. We followed up suggesting D&C 101:36, Alma 31:38 and 1 Nephi 17:13 as scriptures supportive of her view and ours as well. My experience has been that we arrive at the Promised Land when our afflictions are swallowed up in the joy of Christ.

When asked about my marked scriptures I responded “It’s to help me reverence, remember and retain the words of Christ.” Our Gospel Essential teacher suggested the church lower the age of missionaries to 16 for two reasons: That’s when they know everything and their mother’s won’t cry when they leave. He also said “What Satan can’t prevent he will pervert.” We also heard about 911 praying, reserving our prayers for when we need them most. Also “sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Other times he lets the storm rage and calms his children.” And the 3 S’s: Scriptures, Spirit and Servants as our guide to whether what we feel are impressions are from God or not.

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