July 1, 2013
Happy 4th of July everyone!
It's crazy to think that this time last year I was leaving the MTC and entering the mission field. This past year has definitely changed my life (for the better of course) and I'll never be the same. A year ago I was so nervous to enter the mission field and unsure of what was to come. Now I know what I'm doing and I'm enjoying mission more than ever. I feel like I could do this forever honestly haha. Teaching the gospel is great! My companion and I are getting along very well and the work is on fire right now. We are really starting to find great people and the Lord is working miracles.
I don't have a lot of experiences to share from this past week but there was something I was reflecting on. In South Africa there are many "prophets" and people that perform "miracles" in front of huge crowds. Every time I see them on peoples TV's here I feel peace leave my heart. So often people ask us if these people are real prophets. Each time I point them to Mathew 7 which talks about false prophets and by their fruits we will know them. Then we direct them to Galatians 5:22 which tells us the fruits of the spirit. When they hear these prophets do they feel the fruits of the spirit? There response almost every time is a resolute no. If we don't feel peace or joy in our hearts then we will know that these things are not from God. This leads me to an experience we had this past week.
We were doing tracting and found a pastor that invited us in. At the door she asked us a question about being "born again" and I directed her to the Saviors conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Like many pastors here in South Africa she quoted Romans 10 which talks about confessing with your lips and in your heart and you will be saved (even if your a murderer and you confess Jesus on your death bed she said...not joking). As she was talking she started to yell and get really loud. Immediately I didn't feel the spirit and I felt as though the spirit could not be present in the conversation. As soon as I felt it leave I decided it wasn't even worth it to try and Bible bash with her. We told her what we believe and cut the conversation short. I knew the spirit wasn't there and it wasn't worth our time. Only the spirit can teach us the truth and if it's not present then we can't do our job.
Teaching by the spirit is essential to everything we do in missionary work. The way that I know Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet unlike many people who claim to be "prophets" is because I feel peace in my heart when he speaks. The spirit more often then not does not work through overwhelming emotions. As the scriptures describe it, the spirit is a still small voice which will bring peace to our hearts. Sometimes we feel like we have to have these overwhelming experiences in order to say we "feel the spirit." As members of the church we have all been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Most of the time the spirit is going to give us calm and peaceful feelings. This is something I wish I understood a little bit better before I came on my mission. Now I more fully recognize that the spirit is with me even when I'm not feeling a huge burning or overwhelming experience in my heart.
Each and everyday I am learning something new through the spirit. I have come to recognize that only through the spirit can we teach and learn. There is a father named Bro. N____ that I spoke about last week. We had a lesson with him on Wednesday and he was firing questions at us left and right. He likes to use the internet by the way. I've never received so many different questions in a single lesson. After we answered one of his questions his wife started to give him fire saying that some of his questions are ridiculous. He responded by saying he was trying to give us a "challenge." After that we told him that the spirit of a man teaches the things of a man but the spirit of God will teach the things of God. He was trying to have us convince him but that's not our job! Our job is to teach our message with clarity and simplicity and have them gain an answer through the spirit. We are really trying to help him understand that the ONLY way to receive an answer is not through us but by the spirit of God. It was an important reminder for me that we will always have questions but the only source of truth is our Heavenly Father. As Elder Holland said in conference, it's okay to have questions but what we know will always trump what we don't know. All things are possible to them that believe. We will never know everything but that is part of the purpose in life. As Mosiah 4:9 states: "Believe in God...believe that he has all wisdom...believe that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend." We must believe and don't let our belief waver because unanswered questions. Go to God and He will answer you through the spirit, don't go to the internet for answers.
I know this church is true not because other people have convinced me but because I have prayed and I feel the spirit of peace, love and joy when I pray to my Heavenly Father to know the truth.
I hope you all have a great 4th of July and never forget the sacrifices of those that gave us independence! By the way, this past week on June 27th was the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. I hope we never forget all they sacrificed so that we have the fullness of the gospel today.
I love you all!!