Elder McConkie’s letter can be divided into two portions. The later part includes his experiences within the week. And although it doesn’t site specific situations, I am sure this first part is in response to many of the experiences he has encountered over the past almost 6 months. Our family loves reading and learn so much from what he has pondered and studied (often we wonder where he came from ;)). This first part answers and explains some spiritual questions many (if not all of us) consider.
Perhaps the most common response to our message from those we meet is, “I have my religion, and others have theirs. What does it matter if we worship differently as long as we are doing good, helping others, and trying our best?”
They say, “God is loving. I can’t imagine that he would allow any of his children to miss heaven.”
This has been something I’ve been trying to answer effectively in 30 seconds for those we meet.
To the first question, my first thought is James 1:27: “Pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” We can tell how pure a religion is by how it encourages service to those in need, to “the fatherless and widows”, to our fellow brothers and sisters. James 1:27 is how we determine the fruits (see Matthew 7:15-20), and because the fruit is delicious (see 1 Nephi 8:11), naturally we are curious to know what sort of tree produced this fruit. If the pureness of the religion is the fruit, then it would make sense that religion would then be the tree.
So what sort of religion is this tree? Or does that even matter?
The word “religion” is thought to be based from the Latin word religare, which means “to bind”. In legal terms, when something is binding, that means there is a contract or a promise between 2 or more parties. Between friends, this is called a promise. So it’s safe to assume that this religion, the tree, consists of promises. The Lord has told us he calls these promises covenants. These covenants are more than just a promise, though–they are two way agreements, as taught in Genesis 17:10 when the Lord tells Abraham “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee.”
From Doctrine and Covenants, we learn a little more of the nature of these promises. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” The Lord will always keep His promises, therefore it is up to us to keep our end of the covenant. And that only scratches the surface.
A further study of the Bible and Book of Mormon, coupled with prayer and fasting, reveals to us that just as police have the authority to write tickets and judges have the authority to interpret the law, God personally gives His authority to His prophets to make these covenants on His behalf (on God calling his prophets, see Exodus 3; on the role of prophets, see Amos 3:7 and Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; on authority and its significance, see Matthew 7:21-23 and Mosiah 18:17-18).
These covenants we make must bear the fruits of pure religion. The first covenant we make is baptism. Just as Christ was baptized by immersion (see Matthew 3:13-17) by someone who held the authority of God, we must do the same. In Mosiah 18, Alma tells us what we are promising when we are baptized:
“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life–
“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
“And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.” (Mosiah 18:8-11)
The covenant we make through baptism is exactly what is described as pure religion in James 1:27.
The more I study the Book of Mormon and the Bible together as companions, the more my testimony in this gospel is strengthened. We truly do have a living, latter-day Prophet. Through Joseph Smith, Christ did restore his church and “the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (Introduction, Book of Mormon). I testify that our Father in Heaven is our loving Heavenly Father and Christ is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our eldest brother and the key to knowing this is through sincere and purposeful study of the Book of Mormon, another Testament of Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Asplund and I started off this last week strong! Monday night we went out knocking for just over an hour and taught three lessons to people at their doors. A couple were kind and even asked questions, though they were pretty clear that they didn’t want a return appointment. Oh well. We gave those two a couple copies of the Book of Mormon, so hopefully the Spirit will move them to take some time and study it over. 🙂
Wednesday was a great day! We took out one of our Priests to do service and teach a lesson with us. Honestly, he is going to be such a great missionary. While he was with us, he helped our investigator feel so comfortable and he testifies plainly and powerfully. Such a good man.
Later that day, we taught our good friend, *Tom. When he was telling us about all the burdens he has, all the trials and struggles, we felt to share Mosiah 24 with him. He related very well to the story and when we needed to head out, we closed with a prayer, during which he started to cry. He thanked us and quickly said goodbye. That lesson left a powerful impression and prepared us for the next lesson we were off to.
Immediately after we left from Tom’s, we went to the church for a Book of Mormon study with a member who doesn’t come to church. We started with the Title Page and read clear through Joseph Smith’s testimony. The entire time, he would stop us and point out so many different places that touched his heart. In fact, he found the gold plates to be such a touching part of the story of the Book of Mormon, which is usually something people find hard to believe. Truly, he is hungering and thirsting after the gospel. Unfortunately, he didn’t come to church because he needed to work. Man! If only he knew that the light he was hungering for was one step away. He is tasting the sunrise and he just needs to step out of the shadows to feel the full warmth of the sun.
Thursday we spent 6 hours moving a woman, a former investigator from another area. Originally, we were only supposed to be there for 1 hour, but then it was 6. Yep. It was great, though! It was Elder Peña, Elder Hardy, Elder Asplund, and I with her, her two sons, and her friend. We (the missionaries) did the main moving, packing everything out and packing it in, as well as unloading it at the new house, while they grabbed the moving truck and did other miscellaneous things. 🙂 It was super fun AND she wants to meet with missionaries again, so that will be awesome.
I’ll end with our biggest miracle of the week. We were knocking in Hampton Bays. After talking to several people, it was clear that this neighborhood hadn’t been knocked in a couple years, so we took courage and got to work.
After about an hour and a half of knocking, we meet a young father. He introduced himself as a very active Catholic. In fact, his grandmother works at the local Catholic church (Elder Johnson and I actually met her a few months ago).
We got talking about him and his family. While I didn’t recognize it as a prompting then, I recognize it as one now when I felt the urge to ask him where he thought he and his family would go after this life. He said he believes in reincarnation and he hopes that he’ll see his family again someday. He looked at me and said, “What do you think?” I said, “That’s the message that we share: that we can be with our families forever.” I shared that the message we share gives us answers to how we can be with our families forever, why we’re here, and where we come from.
I asked him if he was familiar with the prophets in the Bible, and he said he was. We talked about how prophets in the Old and New Testament shows God’s love for us. I asked if–knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that the last of the prophets and apostles were killed off in the end of the New Testament–he felt God would ever call another prophet on the earth again. He responded that he thought so and hoped he would. I asked if he felt that could have happened 200 years ago. He said, “I guess so. Why?” So we shared the First Vision. The Spirit was there, testifying. We explained the Book of Mormon and why we treasure it. We gave him one and asked if we could come by Tuesday night and he said, “Yes please.”
The Lord is preparing many to receive his word, I just pray that we are prepared enough to be the tool he needs to bring them unto him.
I’m grateful to be out here in the Hamptons. Elder Asplund has been a good companion for me–he’s taught me a lot. 🙂 I really love this area and will be sad when I am asked to leave. I will be praying every night that the people here will continue to come closer to God, that they will be prepared. The Branch we serve in has the best members. I sure love them. 🙂 Each and every one of them inspires me.
Again, I don’t have much time to proofread, so I apologize if I misspelled or my thoughts are disorganized. Sooo, long story short, the gospel is still true. I hope you all had a great week! God bless ya! 🙂
A Hamptons Missionary,
As a final note, Elder McConkie has been feeling quite the weight of his calling. He is grateful this week to receive some inspired council from both his mission president, President Reynolds (during a District leader interview), as well as, his zone leader, Elder Peña, later in the week. In addition to “feeling edified” from the interview with President, Elder Peña was able to empathize and give supportive perspective. Elder Peña helped Elder McConkie to see…
…there are so many other successes going on all around us. He pointed a few of our successes we have as a District and in my companionship with Elder Asplund. Since then, I have felt a huge weight lifted off.
The Lord really does give us what we need to hear when we need it. Everything is in the Lord’s timing. I desire to do whatever it takes and when things are ready and in accordance with his time, I will be there.