A week of wonders. This week, I witnessed the miracle of conversion on multiple levels. I saw the real power that comes from the Book of Mormon.
For quite a while now, I’ve heard people explain away the Book of Mormon, talk themselves into agnosticism or atheism, convince themselves that there can be no more continued revelation, and blatantly accuse us of blaspheme. Just this last week, I had someone tell me I believed in a “demon religion”, that “I was severely misguided” and he “hoped that I would see the light.”
Discouraging? It can be. Disheartening? Sometimes. Frustrating? Most definitely. But it can’t change what I’m a witness to. I’ve seen with my own eyes the reality of the message we share. I’ve watched marriages healed, addictions overcome, sorrows comforted, hurt healed, peace found.
I am a personal witness of the reality of Christ’s Atonement. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we live, or where we’ve been: we are children of God and He is “proceed[ing] to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men” (2 Nephi 25:17). Isaiah prophesies of latter-day unrest, wars and rumors of wars, and evil, yet several times during this same prophesy, he declares, “[B]ut his hand is stretched out still” (Isaiah 9:17). He is there for us no matter what, we just need to take His hand.
My faith may not yet be the perfect knowledge that Alma mentions in Alma 32, but I’ve taken his challenge to take a chance that this might all be true. I’ve planted the seed, I’ve nourished it, watered it, and I know that what he says in Alma 32:33 is true: “And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.”
So this brings me back to my earlier-mentioned skeptical friends. I’d invite them to take up John’s promise when he says, “[T]ry the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1) and Moroni when he says to, “[A]sk God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true” (Moroni 10:4). I know that Moroni’s promise is true: “[B]y the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). I’ve tried it. I watched others try it. True, it may not come easy, but if any of my hiking experiences have taught me anything, it’s that the most beautiful vistas require some of the greatest effort. So take a chance: this just might be the best thing you’ve ever done. (A take it from me and millions of others, it will definitely be that.)
“Baptism is the gate” (New York New York South Mission Vision; 2 Nephi 31:9)
Let’s start with the most exciting news first: Betsy was baptized and confirmed this last week! I’ll start with her baptism.
We spent a portion of Saturday creating the program, cleaning the font, setting up chairs, washing the baptismal clothing, and the logistics. Into the late afternoon, we reached out to Betsy to see how she was doing. Her response? “I am totally happy and calm.” Needless to say, that made Elder Jeppson and I smile; even just in that moment, what she said brought the Spirit. She told us they were at a nearby diner, so we stopped in for a few minutes and chatted for a few minutes.
6:00 pm rolls around and Betsy arrived at the church with her children and friend. Of course, we took pictures, we all said our hellos as people started showing up. In fact, President and Sister Reynolds came! (That’s our Mission President and his wife.) We started the service at 6:30 and immediately from the opening song, there was a very special, sweet Spirit in the room. Sister Check gave a brief talk on baptism, followed by another on the Holy Ghost by Sister Ferreira. Both have been good friends to Betsy and incredible examples to us of disciples of Christ. After the talks, it was time for the baptism. Just a week earlier, she had asked me to baptize her.
For a second, I’ll pause here. From the very beginning of my mission, I made a commitment to the Lord that I would do whatever I could to have a member baptize. There were 2 reasons for that: 1) to help strengthen friendships between members and new members, since we’re pretty transient as missionaries and 2) it was my way of making sure that I didn’t boast of myself for someone getting baptized. In every way, I wanted to remind myself that this is the Lord’s work. Especially starting out as a missionary, pride was a big issue for me and I knew that, so I wanted to make sure that I “[did] not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom…but…boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things” (Alma 26:11-12). Recently, however, Sister Reynolds told me that it was there duty to make sure each Elder got to experience the sweet blessing of baptizing someone. Still unsure, a week before Betsy’s baptism, she asked me to baptize her. It was a simple question, but for me it carried real power. Of course, I said yes.
Going back to Betsy’s baptism. I was definitely nervous to baptize her. I’d only said the baptismal prayer in my mind a million times over in the minutes leading up to it. As I performed the ordinance, I felt the strength of the Lord. I was still nervous, but there was a very special spirit in that font. It was quite a surreal moment as I baptized her. Baptism by immersion means that every part of the person needs to be fully immersed for the baptism to count, so I made special care to make sure she went completely under and brought her right back up. She thanked me and we went our separate ways to change into our dry clothes.
Immediately into the dressing room, I knelt in prayer. I offered up my heart in gratitude to the Lord. I prayed for Betsy, that she would be strengthened and always watched over. Recently, a wise brother in the area spoke of keeping firmly in our memory the moments I know the gospel is true, so they can be an anchor to hold onto during difficult times. In that changing room, on my knees, having just performed the baptismal ordinance for someone who has become very special to Elder Jeppson and I, that was one of those moments.
When we were both finished changing, Betsy had some time to bear her testimony. And wow, was it powerful. She told her story. She quoted the Book of Mormon. The Spirit filled that little room.
I know that God loves his children. I felt it that night. I know he knows us individually. I heard just how involved he was in his daughter’s life in a very sincere, heartfelt testimony. This gospel is absolutely the “good news”. And I desire to always “sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26).
Exchanges for Dayz
One of my favorite things as a Zone Leader are exchanges. Once a transfer, we’ll bring the District Leaders in our Zone to the area we are working in and we’ll mix up companions for 24 hours. It’s always fun and there’s always a lot learned. This last week, I was with Elder Oleson and Elder Afoa on exchanges.
With Elder Oleson, we had the chance to give a sister in our ward a priesthood blessing. She had been going through severe pain and was actually half-joking about dying. Of course, we were only 18- and 20-years old, so we comforted her as much as we could. We gave her a blessing, she thanked us profusely, and we headed on our way. This last Sunday, she stopped us and thanked us for the blessing. She was doing much, much better, just as she was told she would be in the blessing. Chances like this make being a missionary the best.
Elder Afoa and I had a good time together. He’s finishing training and it’s been incredible to see just how much he’s grown. He’s from American Somoa, so he’s a big man. He already carries a presence wherever he goes, but now he also carries a spiritual presence. When he testifies and teaches, his testimony always brings the Spirit. In fact, Elder Jeppson and I had recently decided we needed a new area to knock and develop. So Elder Afoa and I took 20 minutes to pray and ask the Lord where we needed to work. It was amazing to see that the Lord slowly gave us direction. Each time we prayed, he would narrow down the area even more. Finally, he gave us the street we needed to be on. And guess what? It’s called Elder Drive. We got a good laugh out of it and felt pretty good about knocking there. So far, I’ve knocked there once with Elder Afoa and once with Elder Jeppson and we’re seeing a bit of success. In fact, this Thursday, we’re going back to help trim some bushes for someone.
Daily Contact At Its Finest
Chris and Nadia are two recent converts that were baptized at the beginning of this transfer. Recently, so we started up a schedule to study with them every single morning for 20-30 minutes. It’s only been going for a couple days, but both have said that it has really helped them. Nothing profound, but it’s impressed upon me the importance of opening up the Book of Mormon with people as soon as possible. There is absolutely real power in reading that book. It’s more than a book with good values. It is the word of God and the Spirit is in every part of it. I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon!
Transfers are tomorrow, so we all got the news for who’s leaving and who’s staying. Not much is changing up for this Zone, which we’re pretty pumped about. The only changes are Elder Afoa is leaving and Elder Watson, an Elder down in Bayshore, is leaving. Other than that, we have the same STELLAR zone. AND this means that Elder Jeppson will finish with me. We’re both PUMPED!!! Easily, this has been my favorite transfer of my mission. And we’re excited for the next 6 weeks!
Love you all! I hope all’s well. 🙂 Have a great week!
A Native Long Islander,