Monday, October 28, 2013

Change Your Destiny

I have good news! We had a baptism! Our deaf investigator, Odgerel, was baptized on Friday and confirmed on Sunday; it was very nice. The font water was even warm!  Odgerel told us later that when she went home she cried for joy of feeling the Spirit. It was a real testimony to me of the power of the Holy Ghost. 

It's hard for deaf members, but I hope she will be able to endure to the end. Meeting with us has improved her life in many ways. She has first off found the Gospel, her sign language has improved significantly, and it seems to me her confidence has improved a lot, too (it's hard being a deaf person that doesn't really know sign language).  I remember what a struggle it was for her to ever try to pray in the beginning. She'd sign "Dear Heavenly Father," and then bail out. It grew until she finally learned to pray and now she prays great. I'm grateful to have been able to help her... now we have the period of the new member lessons to lay a good foundation for her.

At our last zone conference, we watched Faith In Christ, the Church DVD about Christ's life.  At the end, it shows the apostles going off on missions that would last the rest of their lives.  I thought about these men, ordinary men living ordinary lives until something extraordinary happened that changed their lives forever.  Of course, they had been foreordained in the pre-mortal life, but they didn't know that when they encountered Christ at first.  

And did any of the apostles--when they were getting beaten and reviled or were alone or facing hardship--regret for a minute that this had happened to them? Meeting the Savior was a fantastic experience, but the only reasonable response was to serve him forever. It changed their destiny and put them on a path far different than what they might have lived. I wonder if Peter or anyone ever wondered what it would have been like to have lived a normal life. But that is only from a mortal perspective; their Apostleship changed not only their mortal destiny but their eternal destiny, as well. They will go on to inherit eternal glory, all coming from their being born in 1st century Judaea and following the call to "Come, Follow Me." 

A similar thing happens in our lives, when we are born into this time into families with the Gospel. It sets the course of our lives, putting us on eventually a very different course than our fellow men. Being members of God's church and partakers of His holy temple covenants puts us into a different track than our peers.  This difference does not only affect our mortal lives but our eternal destiny. If at any time the responsibilities we assume by having the Gospel seem difficult, we can remember that our eternal destiny will be one of everlasting Glory.  And it is our responsibility along the way to help others get off the "normal" track and onto the eternal one, to change their destiny forever and find the joy of the Gospel. 

I had this thought in the first place in connection with books I love to read. We read of countless Chosen Ones in literature. Think of Harry Potter, who was chosen at his birth to live a life very different and full of difficulties, but ultimately of great importance. Aragorn was born into the birthright of Isildur, which brought many hard tasks into his life, but he saved Middle Earth and became King of Gondor. We are called by God to enter into His Covenant and, if we endure it well, inherit His Glory, for which we should be eternally grateful and ready to serve Him our entire lives.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

A poem

A Chandelier hangs overhead
in UB's old enkhtaivan Church
Its twenty light bulbs light the room
suspended from their lofty perch.
Some weeks ago, I wryly thought,
the lighting piece did exposite
Mongolian Church Membership:
of twenty, only 4 were lit.
And in defeat I bowed my head,
and worried for the woes at hand.
When will this country rise above?
When will a temple grace this land?
Well, just today, while at the church,
I glanced again and saw the light.
To my surprise, all twenty bulbs,
were lit and each was burning bright!
Recalling what I 'ere had thought
Repented me of my regret.
For while I know not when nor how,
This land will build a temple yet.

For as late Elder Maxwell prayed,
this land must be a shining light
to nations near and far, he said,
Exemplary of truth and right.
And though at times things may look dim,
The day will come when we shall see
That strength foretold, in all its might,
in this land for eternity.
It may seem strange to put such hope
in Prophecy by Maintenance,
Yet I admit this token pinned
a smile upon my countenance.
What's more I trust Prophetic Prayer,
that promised us the blessings sweet,
that I shall see when I return
and with the faithful converts meet
Upon a freshly templed mount,
some stately hill not far from here.
Amid Hosannas I'll recount
of my oracle chandelier.

--Joshua Sims, October 2013

When people join the Church, it can be hard for them to maintain the same conviction they had at first.  They face persecution for their choice, life gets in the way, and they find keeping the commandments hard.  Like the friend that I wrote about last week, these converts may know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true but they may not feel it strongly enough yet to attend weekly meetings.  And when they don't do that or the other things important to daily Gospel living, their light begins to fade and they forget, as it were, why it was so important to devote themselves to following Christ.  Mongolia is no different than any other part of the world, and so we do struggle here with less active Saints.  My poem helps me remember to have faith that dimmed lights will return and new light will be added so that the Mongolian Saints can shine brightly on a hill in the future.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Work Moves On

I'm always so happy when the Lord gives us investigators, like last week when two 19-year-olds accepted the opportunity to hear more about the Restored Gospel, but the Lord also gives those same people agency.  A lot of people we meet wind up not so interested in the end.  But we keep moving forward.

Sometimes this helps me appreciate some Bible stories more.  I might feel badly if an encounter that seemed really good in the beginning went nowhere in the end.  But think of Saul or David ... they started great, the were the Lord's Annointed.  And they went bad in the end.  Just because an investigator doesn't get baptized or stops meeting with us doesn't mean we weren't blessed to meet them in the beginning.

We read in Alma that "the wicked remain as though there were no redemption made" because the only thing that can reverse the Infinite Atonement and its effects for an individual is that individual's agency to reject it.  And so even people that the Lord gives to us to teach can reject our message, avoid us and give us false phone numbers.  They have their agency, their right to choose how to accept God's gifts, and this is truly important.  But the Lord will not cease to bless us as missionaries.

God wants us all to receive an infinity of blessings, but we cannot if we don't obey His commandments.  I shared this recently with a member who has not been coming to Church much, and he bore his testimony that he knows the reason we go to Church and live the Gospel is so that we may be saved.  It isn't just a matter of tradition or convenience or social gathering.  But the Lord will not force us to accept His gifts.  We have to come to Him.