Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 35: Choose to be Chosen (This turned into a pulpit-pounder. I'm not sorry.)

I guess I can start with the miracles.  We pushed "inspiration tracting" this week, to everyone in the district, because I know it works.  If you know any missionaries struggling to find people, forward them this procedure:

1) Pray for forgiveness, individually.  We all need repentance and this proves to be a very humbling experience.  God works with people willing to change.
2) Pray for inspiration.  Be specific in your requests so God can be specific in his answers.  Pray for your companion to be inspired too.  Believe that there are prepared people out there.
3) One missionary looks over the map and makes a list of ten streets.  Write down any street you have the slightest hunch about.  That's how the Spirit speaks - a still small voice.  A righteous hunch.
4) The other missionary then prays over the list and makes a list of five from the list of ten, then the companion does the same.
5) Compare lists.  At least one will match up, usually more than one.  Go out and tract these streets with hope and enthusiasm.

So we did it.  To conserve miles, we biked to one of these streets, only to find that it was at the top of a MOUNTAIN but we pressed on, and THEN discovered it was a private subdivision with an ominous and discouraging "no trespassing" sign - but, since we knew it was inspired, we knocked anyway.  The first door we just asked for directions for a couple of lost German girls touring the US who had stopped us on the road - not something that happens every day.  We gave them a Mormon.org card.  You're welcome, German missionaries.  The second door, a woman asked us where we're from, marveled that there was a Mormon church in Florence, mentioned that it was interesting we showed up right then because she'd just been thinking about God and her relationship with Christ and then started crying as she told us about her struggles, how she didn't attend church because she didn't fit in, how she can't find any good people to associate with, not a single good friend, how she's trying her best to raise her teenager as a widow - and we haven't been at her door for two minutes yet.  Of course she let us in when we offered to keep her company and share a message.  As we talked, she brought up questions she'd want to ask God when she gets to the other side, and I nudged Sister Creager, said "POS" which of course is code for Plan of Salvation, and we straightaway ditched the plan to teach the Restoration and pulled out pictures to illustrate the great Plan our Heavenly Father came up with and revealed to modern day and Book of Mormon prophets.  It answers so many of those big questions of life, like "What does it really mean that 'Jesus died for me'?" and "What are we all doing here?" and "Where does the soul go after death?" and "Was that whole deal with Adam and Eve actually supposed to happen that way?"  We read 2 Nephi 2 with her, and she reread verse 25:  "Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy."  She liked that a lot.  Sums up the meaning of life in one line.  She was stoked to read the Book of Mormon after that, turns out a friend gave her a copy back in the 70's.  If she gets baptized, we're looking up that friend.  Of course, every time we find someone this golden, they disappear on us.  She left town this week and we haven't been able to get ahold of her since.  Sigh.
Similar experience at our appointment with a young man in our apt complex (so much easier to keep track of them when you're neighbors).  As he answered our question about what he'd want to ask God, the Restoration demonstration we do with mini cups got pushed to the side and Sister C whipped out the POS pictures.  Likely due to his experience in the army overseas, his question was essentially, "What will happen to all the Muslims that live good lives?  Are they condemned because they don't know about Christ?"  Doctrine: The gospel is taught to the spirits in prison.  Everyone gets that chance.  Heavenly Father thought of everything.  He also asked, "Was Jesus Christ fully man?  Because there's no way a man could live a whole life without sinning and be normal."  He then said he thought it might be hard for some people to trust in Him and keep His commandments because "if you've never been a drug addict and you try to preach to one, he won't wanna listen because you've never been where he's been."  I tried very hard to contain my excitement.  You guys, even many of the best Christians don't fully understand the extent of the Savior's atonement.  We answered both of these statements with Alma 7, and our personal testimonies that Christ, as the divine Son of God, took upon himself all our sins AND infirmities, so that He can say truthfully to each one of us "I know how you feel" and then beckon us to follow Him and find joy and peace in redemption.  The Atonement was reason the Plan could happen.  And what an awesome plan it is.

 24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who aknoweth all things.  [2 Nephi 2:24]

Got our hair did.
Nonetheless, when that "wisdom" doesn't line up with your own expectations, it's a tough pill to swallow.  One of the investigator's we're most hopeful for, who kept our appointment, had all his siblings there to listen too, who actually began to read the Book of Mormon when invited to, who listened intently to the POS and was spot-on in line with true doctrine every time he made a comment, who looked at the diagram of it and said "I've seen all this before" (to which I pointed to pre-earth life and said "There, you learned about this when you were there") and who even confirmed Saturday night, did not show up to church on Sunday.  Which means according to our end-of-the-week report, "not progressing."  I still don't understand how a people who have been taught since birth that going to church is a routine and necessary part of life have such a hard time coming to church when we invite them.  Sigh.

Though, I have seen the "wisdom of him who knoweth all things" unfold before, it's true.  For example, months after the fact, I realize that having a van that was so not dependable ended up being a huge blessing - because I never knew when it was going to give out on me, I had no choice but to make prayer a daily part of my commute and even memorized a few hymns that I would sing on my way to school every morning.  I might have found no need to do so had I driven a car with no faults or failures.  Similarly, our weaknesses and adversity prepare us for things to come, by teaching us how to rely on the Lord.  It could be worse.  I could be like Joseph in Egypt.  He had to be hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, and wrongly imprisoned for two years, just so he could eventually be discovered by Pharaoh and save all of Egypt and Canaan from seven year famine.  I had to be called to the Bible belt and serve 8 months without a baptism because..... well, I don't know the answer to that one yet.  But maybe it'll reveal itself eventually.

It's hard though.  And don't tell me I'm here to plant seeds, or strengthen my own testimony, or help out my companions, because while these are all naturally part of the work, that's not what I'm here to do.  I'm here to baptize.  Baptism is the first covenant that we make with our Father in Heaven and it is mandatory for progression.  We cannot have full access to the Savior's Atonement without the priesthood-authorized covenant of baptism.  If ordinances and covenants were not essential to eternal life, so much of the POS would be useless.  Don't think I'm giving up.  I've come way to far for that to be an option.  But I am going to make this known to all of you, my dear friends, because your non-member friends, relatives, colleagues, and co-workers will spend the rest of their lives barred from the full cleansing and enabling power of the Atonement UNLESS you put your faith before your fear and invite them to read, to learn, to meet with missionaries, to church, to partake in the fullness of Heavenly Father's blessings that come from having the fullness of the gospel in their lives.

Consider the attitude of the sons of Mosiah following their conversion:

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not abear that any human bsoul should cperish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure dendless torment did cause them to quake and etremble. [Mosiah 28:3]
When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.  We can't make the choice for them.  But we can choose to give them the choice.  "Many are called but few are chosen."  We are all called.  All of us.  A prophet of God made that known to us with the invitation to help the Lord in the work of salvation by joining with missionaries, pulling together. "Now is the time," he said.  It has also been said that the Hastening of the Work will go down in history as being of equal importance as the Restoration.  i.e. This is no small matter.  And though all are called, what determines who is chosen?  Answer: You.  Your choice.  You choose to be chosen when you choose to heed the call.  Then you "call" your non-believer brethren and they choose whether to be chosen.  It's not easy.  It's not comfortable.  I'll be first to attest to the pain of rejection.  However, in spite of it all, my conscience is clear, because I chose to be here.  There is no failure in the work of salvation.  Only peace.  Only blessings.  I love you all immensely.

Sister Valdez

 36 And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.
 37 And how blessed are they! For they did apublish bpeace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth. [Mosiah 27]

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