“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear”
In 2016, there was a World Wide Missionary Broadcast where Elder Bednar gave a little workshop on the Holy Ghost and missionary work. He commented on the common sentiment that ‘if one can just testify with enough force, their testimony can be jammed into the heart of the person they are talking with and they’d be forced to feel the Spirit.’ He notices that if this were true, then every person with whom the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talked with would fall at his feet and say, “Baptize me now.” And that just doesn’t happen.
This has been a tough topic to learn. When people close doors, end conversations, or inform us they are no longer interested, my concern has been, “Did I say the right thing? Could I have taught more powerfully and boldly so that they might have accepted the message?” Perhaps. However, I saw the principle Elder Bednar taught in action as we taught Janice, a woman on whose door we had knocked. We taught her the Restoration on her front door step clearly and with testimony. When we finished, Janice said she wasn’t interested. A bit perturbed, I asked her if what we shared made sense. She said, “Oh, it makes total sense. That’s just not what my church teaches.” I pondered on what she said for the rest of the night.
It really is true, the gospel message will only touch the hearts of those who are ready. Brigham Young said, “I had only travelled a short time to testify to the people, before I learned this one fact, that you might prove doctrine from the Bible ’til doomsday, and it would merely convince a people, but would not convert them. You might read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and prove every iota that you advance, and that alone would have no converting influence upon the people. Nothing short of a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would … bring them in their hearts to repentance. Nothing short of that would ever do.” (Journal of Discourses 5:327.)
The Holy Ghost is essential in conversion and unless someone is willing to accept His influence, then it’s just as Brigham Young said: “Nothing short of a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would…bring them in their hearts to repentance. And just as important as teaching by the Spirit is, they must also “receive it by the Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:19).
So what does this mean to me? If someone chooses not to accept the message of the restored gospel and I’ve done what I could, then that doesn’t mean I’m a “bad missionary”. Instead, I’m reminded of Elder Dallin H. Oak’s October 2016 Conference Address when he quoted Clayton M. Christenson:
“We need to remember ‘that people learn when they’re ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them’.”
People are ready when they’re ready. So instead of my success being based off of finding new investigators, having people we teach at church, or even people who are baptized, God measures my success off of my personal obedience, diligence, faith, hope, charity, virtue, knowledge, patience, and humility (for all you Preach My Gospel guru’s, that’s Chapter 6). In some cases, this might mean bringing thousands to “the knowledge of the Lord” (Alma 23:5) as Ammon and his brothers did. In others, it may just mean I bring “one soul unto [Him]” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15). It might even mean that the work the Lord has for us is our own conversion.
I’ve slowly been learning that there is more to this work–and even this life–than I realize. God has said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
This work is about so much more than numbers. It is about glorifying God. It’s about being a disciple of Christ. My call as a missionary, set apart by those called of God, is about spreading this message. My mission as a member of Christ’s church restored in these latter-days is to be “an example of the believers” and share my testimony, for “how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:8).
The man makes his return
Sean has been MIA for a few weeks now. We’d gotten to the point where we wondered if we had done something that offended him, if he had pulled Houdini and vanished, or perhaps if leprechauns had stolen him away (after how often people we teach disappear, leprechauns seems like a pretty good explanation). So plot twist: he called us on Tuesday and asked to meet up. Obviously, we were ecstatic. The lesson went really well. We were able to connect Nephi’s story to his, helping him to identify with the Book of Mormon better than before.
On Friday, I was on exchanges with Elder Stewart (our District Leader’s companion) and we had another stellar lesson with him. We read 1 Nephi 2-3. At the end of the lesson, I asked, “Sean, what do you think about this message? How do you feel when we study together?” He said he thinks it’s all true and that’s why he continues to meet with us. Talk about a special moment. I’m grateful for the Spirit that touches people’s hearts. Honestly, I’m becoming more and more aware every day how I’m not the teacher. I’m merely a tool in the Lord’s hand. And there’s no where better than to be in the Lord’s hands.
I absolutely love the ward here. I just want to put it out there that this has been the greatest blessing to be a missionary here. Every single member has a special place in my heart. They have all touched my life. So many are devoted to Christ, each with their own hard circumstances. I made the comment to Elder Jeppson the other night that when we turn in for the night, I feel like I am home.
Elder Jeppson and I are the Zone Leaders for Zone 8 in our mission, comprising the Plainview, Westbury, and Brentwood Districts. This last week, we’ve been focusing really hard on finding new people to teach. Each night, we gather all the names of the people that were found that day and we text them out to the whole Zone. Each Sunday, we’ll even include the names of those being taught who made it to church. Of course, we have fun with our texts and use silly hashtags, give shout outs, and the works. I’ve learned a few things from this:
1. The more unified we are in the work, the much better it goes.
2. Humor goes a long way.
3. We are all more motivated when we feel a part of a bigger cause. Namely, we’ve noticed that when we have a rough day, when we can see the success the rest of the Zone is having, we feel pretty motivated.
4. Hashtags are way too much fun.
5. We have some really, really good missionaries serving here.
Good things are happening here. The Lord is hastening his work.
Betsy is still inspiring us. She is working through a lot, but she is also being blessed a lot. We’re so grateful for her. We didn’t get to see Lynne this week, but we rescheduled for Tuesday. Also, the church is very true, plus the book is super blue. (#ImAPoetAnd….ImTotallyAwareOfTheFact….)
Hope y’all had a great week. 🙂 The Lord is too good not to be grateful. There are just too many things He has blessed us with. I’m so grateful for Him, His patience, and His love. He really is there for each and everyone of us.
Have a good one!