God does not just tell us something because we are curious, he tells us because of what we intend on doing with the answer.

The Southampton missionaries had to pack up their things in preparation for the possibility of being evacuated due to Hurricane Hermine. It was a good practice run as the storm forecast started with super storm flooding and ended up being only cloudy. Along with this excitement, the week brought other “bizarre” encounters. One person they spoke with started out seeming quite on common ground then, expounded in quite a different direction. On another day, the Elders walked by a “BIG party” in a front of a fire station:

     When we got close, two of the men looked at us and said, “What are you doing?” We said that we were walking by and were curious to see what was going on. So we met a bunch of the guys (many of which were starting to get a bit buzzed from their alcohol consumption), turned down 3 alcoholic beverages, and got a tour of the fire station. One of the men asked us, “Who are you? Because you look like helicopter pilots.”

     A few took “discreet” pictures of us, because so many were surprised to meet Mormon Missionaries for once. While we didn’t stay for long and it definitely wasn’t conducive to sharing a Gospel message, it helped us meet a TON of men leisurely and on good terms (usually the men are the ones which are least anxious to meet with us). I have to say, they were all super nice! They even invited us to stay for their steak dinner, which we turned down after we saw how much alcohol was going to be drunk. That would have made for a much too exciting night!

 

This week I am posting two parts of Elder McConkie’s letter in reverse order. He has learned so much and we are learning so much from him. The first part of his letter shares his learning about the Atonement of Christ. I will leave that to finish his post in the best way today.

 That said, there is yet another very important message in this letter that has touched my heart so much this week. It really makes me think about prayers, answers to prayers and faith to act upon those answers. What is our intent? Do we have a sincere reason for asking? What do we intend to do with the new knowledge we are seeking? Is our response conditional as to whether the answer is what we want? Here, see what you think…(Part 2: Sincere searching, then Part 1: The Atonement)

 Part 2: Sincere Searching (and a few more details about his week)

      To start the week off strong, we saw a couple we have been meeting with for some time. I sure love those two! Our message for the evening focused on the answers we desire from God.

     Often times, when those we teach are not receiving their answer it is probably because

  1. they have actually already received their answer and didn’t recognize it or decide to follow it,
  2. they don’t completely understand what they are asking for,
  3. they aren’t studying on their own (the most important part of what we do!),
  4. they’re not asking the right question (“help me to know what the right path is for me” vs. “Please help me to know if this is true”), or
  5. they do not intend on acting on the answer they receive.

With this in mind, Elder Asplund and I have been praying how we can best help this couple find or grown their testimony. From the first time I met them, they have been through a lot and they really are coming to know God better and better, so we want to help them take even the next step to get to know Him even better. So when we planned what we wanted to share, we felt that they were struggling with #5: that is, they didn’t intend on acting on the answer. We shared a short message, asking them if they intended to follow if they did receive an answer, and I found their reply to be very thought provoking: “We would need a pretty big sign.”

     During the visit, we talked over this, invited them to read the Book of Mormon with us each night, however it has still been on my mind. God does not just tell us something because we are curious, he tells us because of what we intend on doing with the answer. Our whole purpose here on earth is to learn and grow, and if we don’t intend on acting, then there is not reason for Him to answer. At the same time, we must be willing to accept His answer, which more often than not, is not a big sign. It is a whispering to our heart.

     Galatians 5:22 tells us that the Spirit speaks by “love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Each of these are neither loud nor explosive manifestations or answers. They are simple, quiet, calm, yet very real. And how do we know that these are the answers we will receive? God tells us “he will manifest the truth of it unto [us] by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). And usually, the Lord doesn’t appreciate us asking for signs. In fact, the most powerful signs are not the most mind-blowing phenomenons, but the most personal promptings from the Spirit.

     Also on Tuesday, we visited a member who was struggling in his last days on earth with cancer. He has since passed away. While we were there Tuesday, we said a prayer with his wife. He was mostly incoherent, though I’m sure he felt the Spirit. His wife asked us to do her grocery shopping for her, as she had been unable to leave the house. We agreed and were back in half an hour. The whole visit had such a special spirit about it. There was a special reverence with these two incredible people. I had only met them for a brief time, yet I love them both so much.

     Wednesday evening, we went on exchanges with the other Elders for Zone Leader exchanges. (Because I am District Leader–a district is the smallest organization of missionaries–Elder Asplund and I get to interchange for a day with our Zone Leaders–a zone being comprised of multiple districts. Also, our Zone Leaders just so happen to be in our District. So that’s fun.) For 24 hours, I got to teach and spend time with Elder Hardy. And YESSSS! IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! Our Zone Leaders are Spanish missionaries, so I got to spend the day in Spanish lessons. While my speaking is not the greatest, it was so fun to be able to understand everything that was going on and help find scriptures, teach just a little, and say some prayers. As a side note, apparently I have a decent accent….but was told that I need a little practice. I’m pretty sure that’s a really nice way of saying “You’re very white.” And that’s pretty true, last time I checked. Anyways, exchanges were pretty good!

     On Thursday, we had District Meeting and it went really well! I can’t remember if I mentioned that per President Reynold’s counsel, we have all started arriving to District Meeting 15 minutes early to study the topic we would be discussing during our workshop that day. I play the piano during this time and, can I say that this has made a HUGE difference. The Spirit is so much stronger, the meetings are way more inspired, and I even enjoy them more. Elder Asplund gave a STELLAR workshop on using technology in our missionary work (something that is actually a bit harder to implement than I thought). We also did some role plays where we had to use 3 scriptures to teach the Restoration. All in all, a pretty good meeting. I even pulled out something that President Jonathon Johnson taught me when I worked for him, so that was fun! 

Part 1: The Atonement

     In chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel, it says, “As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the ‘great…importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth’ (2 Nephi 2:8).” That’s a pretty big promise. According to President Gordan B. Hinckley, the Atonement is “the keystone in the arch of the great plan.” The LDS Bible Dictionary states, “The word gospel means bible-videos-jesus-gethsemane-1426750-printgood news. The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind.”

     Time and time again, prophets both in the scriptures and in these latter-days have emphasized how important the Atonement is. With this base amount of knowledge, this last week I have started a study on the Atonement in depth. And can I say it is the most rewarding study I have ever undertaken.

     In The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister, he says “If a survey were taken of history’s most significant events, common answers might include the harnessing of fire, the discovery of America, the splitting of the atom, landing on jesus-on-the-cross-1138638-printthe moon, the invention of the computer. Each is a wondrous event, but absent the backdrop of the Atonement, each is of but transitory importance–no more than a shooting star illuminating the sky for a brief moment, and then vanishing into the night.” President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace.” If this is true, then the Atonement is not only an event of unfathomable importance, but also requires not only intellectual research, but committed action.

     We are told that if “[we] would ask God, the Eternal easter-pictures-mary-magdalene-tomb-1104071-printFather, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true…with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto [us] by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:3-4). Just as any good parent knows, children learn better when they are doing and not just listening. And we can gauge how sincere our heart is and how real our intent is by our intentions to act on the any answer we receive. We also must be willing to receive our answer in the Lord’s way, for He knows how we learn best.

     In addition, Elder James E. Talmage spoke of his inability to fully comprehend this divine event. Just as college classes are most effective when taught by a competent professor, our spiritual insight into the Atonement is not aided by the instruction of the perfect teacher, but instead is enabled.

     President John Taylor said, “It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself, and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it” (Preach My Gospel, chapter 10). In 2 Nephi 31, Nephi tells us how our Father teaches us: “he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.”

     We not only have the privilege to have the access to the most information ever on the most important topic in the history of mankind, we are also invited to be taught by the greatest teacher ever.

     My study of the Atonement has proven to be the most enlightening study I have undertaken, though the most demanding study, as well. I have had so many of my questions answered, such as questions relating to being saved by grace, why authority is important when we are baptized; what baptism means. I would encourage everyone to take time to study this divine event of Christ’s love for us more closely: it will change your life. And I know this because it is changing my life right now. Even though I have so many more questions and I have just barely scratched the surface, so much is beginning to make sense.pictures-of-jesus-smiling-1138511-print

     I have felt Christ’s love for me more deeply while studying the Atonement–evidence of His love for me–than ever before. My testimony is growing, but I can confidently say that I know that Christ is our Redeemer and Savior. He is our literal Eldest Brother. Our Father in Heaven is the literal Father of our spirits. And just as has been done in times before, God has called a prophet on this earth to witness of him (see Acts 10:43) and direct this Divine work today. Take the time to strengthen your testimony or plant the seed (Alma 32). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sincerely,

Elder McConkie

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