Real quick, that pagoda sounds awesome! I wish I could have been there. Mom: Good luck on your trial. Dad: That is good advice about the baptizing. It’s true, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game. Elder Riddle has a little diddy for that: “Numbers, numbers matter most, let’s forget the Holy Ghost!”
This week has been kinda “meh” overall, but it actually had a few really cool parts. The first is we met with the man who walked into church and said he ‘d been baptized 13 years ago – and had picture evidence! We contacted global services, and there are no records of him at all. All we can assume is he didn’t receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and
was never confirmed a member. We met with him this week, and the Spirit witnessed to me for the 2nd time that he is truly truly repenting right now. He reminds me a lot of the Psalm of Nephi in 2 Nephi 4:
27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why
should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my
heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because
of mine enemy?
28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and
give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my
strength because of mine afflictions.
30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I
will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God,
and the rock of my salvation.
31 O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the
hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the
appearance of sin?
33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy
righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before
mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not
place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way
before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.
He is on the road back. He wasn’t at church this Sunday, so it appears it will be a bumpy one, but Elder Riddle pointed out something interesting. He told us about how he had had a really hard life, and how he really hated God for a long time, but then one morning, about 4 months ago, he woke up and felt the Spirit really strongly, and knew
he needed to turn his life around. That included going back to church. He finally did it last week. Elder Riddle noticed that these spiritual promptings came to him almost exactly the time I arrived here, and he came to what will most likely be one of my last Sundays here. He said he thinks for some reason, I can help him in some way. I’m not sure if that is true, but I’ll do my best to help him. I will say that I believe there are certain people that certain missionaries are supposed to meet.
On Wednesday, I had what has to be one of my favorite lessons on my mission. We met with the Petro’s, the Serbian family. They have referred all their extended family, so we taught 7 people over the age of 8, and 2 under. Bo, the first investigator, was awesome. He’s had his up’s and down’s, his doubts, but he was on fire. He was answering everyone’s questions, and it was clear to me that he has made his decision which path he wants to follow. I think he will get baptized, and his aunt too. Her son, Bo’s cousin, age 11, is incredible too. He speaks only Serbian, but he read 59 pages of the Book of Mormon in 2 weeks! What a stud! We even set a baptismal date with them for Serbia, which isn’t real at all, bet keeps them focused on baptism. Some missionaries in Serbia are about to get the miracles of their missions, I think. I hope they send me a picture!
Before I go, I wanted to share a story that is very personal to me. I realized I haven’t shared it with you guys, so I wanted to do that. It is the biggest reason I have a testimony today, and why I went on my mission.
My whole life, I have been very obedient. I’ve read my scriptures almost every night since the age of 8. I’ve prayed almost every day. I’ve always loved church, and I’ve always been excited for a mission, because I’ve always wanted to do what was right, and I knew that is a commandment from God.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. probably starting my senior year in high school, and definitely in my first year of college, I started seriously doubting the existence of a God. I’d studied it out enough in my mind to determine that if there was a true church, it was this one. But the buck stopped at the first point in the first lesson, the first thing we usually say to investigators. “God is our loving Heavenly Father.” It just didn’t make sense to me that there would be such a thing as a being above all of us who created us and the universe but was invisible and not many people have even claimed to have seen Him. Contrary to what some may believe, I did NOT find this opinion freeing. I was miserable.
How was I to continue in this church? How could I ever be happy? The church was such a big part of my life, and my testimony was so much weaker than what I supposed everyone else’s was. I would have given an arm to have real proof to know, to really know, that it was all true. It was such a happy message – a God of love, who wants nothing more than your true and eternal happiness. It sounds wonderful – and naive. I struggled with this for a long time. I never stopped reading my scriptures, but I’d done that my whole life. That was the way, right? Read your scriptures and pray and you will keep your testimony.
Before I knew it, I had sent in my mission papers. I couldn’t even admit to myself, let alone my parents or family, that I just had almost zero testimony. All I could hold on to was that I was happy when I was obedient. I was called to Germany. I was excited, but my stomach hurt every time I thought about it.
It was four weeks before the MTC. I had bought all my suits, my shoes. I had suitcases. And I couldn’t say “I know God loves me” with any real courage or conviction. My thoughts raced constantly, filled with part of the Primary song “A Child’s Prayer”. It reads:
Heavenly Father, are you really there? Do you hear and answer every
child’s prayer? Some say that heaven is a far away, but I feel it
close around me as I pray. Heavenly Father, I remember now, something
that Jesus taught disciples long ago. “Suffer the children, to come to
me,” Father, I come in prayer now to thee.”
Over and over, feverishly, desperately, I thought of these words. I could not remember the last verse, no matter how hard I tried, and the song kept running in my head, mocking me. I felt my heart ache with a desire to actually believe such a thing. Two weeks before I was supposed to go into the MTC, I decided I was going to try one more time, a last
ditch effort. It was 3 a.m. I read my scriptures, searching for meaning. I read my patriarchal blessing, grasping for answers. And I prayed. I told my Heavenly Father that I was stubborn. I needed a real, undeniable answer. I needed to know. I promised with everything I had that if I got an answer right then, I would go on a mission. And I would give absolutely every atom of my being to His service. I promised him I would work until I couldn’t, and then let Him work through me. I promised Him. And in the very moment I said Amen, I felt a peace come over me. Words came into my head that I know for a fact were not my own. I remembered that 3rd verse of “A Child’s Prayer”,
clear and sweet.
Pray, he is there.
Speak, he is listening.
You are His child.
His love now surrounds you.
My eyes burned, my breathing accelerated. I was going to serve a mission. Not out of habit, but from real conviction.
It was all true, I might have laughed, I don’t know. I felt wonderfully and undeniably GOOD.
I know this gospel is true. I know that the Savior died for me. I know that He is there, always, for everyone, and he felt what we felt so that he could understand us on a level no one else can. I know this is the true church. I know I am in the right place.
Thank you for your wonderful examples, and I’m really sorry this was so long. It was more for me than for you.