Wednesday, April 11, 2012
To a specific friend, regarding struggling with faith.
Dear Family and Friends,
Thank you all for your birthday wishes! I can hardly wait to read your emails and updates. It truly means a lot. Thank you!
Well, what a packed week it was. We started the week off strong with a few lessons with two people we have on baptismal date. One was with a young man who we found through English. We kept calling him (his NAME)-3 Nephites, because he found out about the church from three young men on the train, but he said they weren't missionaries. I had no idea who it could be until he came to one of the youth activities, and a youth that just got back from his mission recognized him! He, and two other youth, had actually "contacted" him on the train and invited him to the church. Members are the best! Anyway, this young man comes from a big, 8-child, Catholic family. We had two lessons with him this week. In the first lesson, we taught him the first half of the plan of salvation, teaching of the role of Christ and our role in following him. He asked us a wonderful question: "How do we repent?" as he was wondering if it was similar to the Catholic church. When we answered that it was a personal affair, between us and God (and if the case, the person we may have harmed), he lit up like a lightbulb! His smile couldn't have been any bigger. Something we said must have clicked for him. I came out of the lesson and said to the other missionaries: "He's loving it all! Because it's truth!" In our second lesson with him, we taught him the second half of the plan of salvation with the girl who was just baptized. It was her first lesson teaching with the missionaries, and she was ON FIRE! He had all sorts of wonderful questions, and she was opening up her Book of Mormon, looking up references, and reading verses to him, to help him clear it up. I could see her own testimony grow as she bore it. After he left, she even did a little dance and said, "I'm a teacher!" She was so excited about the gospel.
We also taught that girl from Slovakia this week, who just showed up to church. We taught her at a member family's home, and she ate the whole restoration up. She had so many questions. We told her the story of Joseph Smith, and she said, "Ah, so Joseph Smith was kind of like Moses, right? He led his people across the land, because they were being persecuted?" Well, yes. Exactly. Just like Moses.
We also taught our recent convert at a member's house to teach her about family history and temple ordinances. We taught her at a member's house who I've been wanting to get her to for a while. This woman is a long-time member of the church, is very old, widowed, and has cancer. She is absolutely amazing thought! She still has a calling that she does from home, and she is still on fire. She just spilled her wisdom out on this new, young convert. I wanted this girl to see someone at the end of her life, but still holding tightly to the rod, fulfilling her calling, not backing down. I hope that she will look back on that experience many years down the road, when she may be struggling to endure herself.
I want to address this part of my letter to a specific friend, but I hope any others who have struggled to keep their faith alive and breathing will benefit from it as well.
I've been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about what truth means, and how precious it is when truth is revealed to us. I've thought a lot about many of the different people I've come in contact with before and during my mission, who have struggled to remain active in the church.
There is a statment in Preach My Gospel that has been running through my mind nonstop for the last week or so: "Truth is a knowledge of things as they really are, were, and will be. It does not change with conditions or time" (p. 75). As we listened to conference this past weekend, in the last session, when Elder Pieper got up to talk, he tied together all of my thoughts from the last several weeks into one beautiful talk. He talked about how we have been given experiences with the divine. We've each, at some point, been given confirmations of the truth of this gospel and the legitimacy of the restoration. It is because of those confirmations that we took a step forward and entered the covenant of baptism, or went even farther and made eternal covenants in the temple.
There may be times when those experiences with the divine (those feelings and impressions from the Spirit, those moments of confirmation) may fade so far into the past, and become so dim that there may come a point when you feel like you can hardly muster up a drop of a testimony.
However, the fact is (and it is only a fact and nothing less than a fact) that moment when you felt the truth of the gospel HAPPENED, and it was REAL and UNCHANGEABLE. "Truth is a knowledge of things as they really are, were, and will be. It does not change with conditions or time." The truth of that moment, that confirmation, cannot change. Your testimony that came from that confirmation will always exist and will never leave existence. Look at the group in Lehi's dream in 1 Nephi 8 who tasted of the fruit - a fruit that is "desirable above all other fruit" and can fill our soul and has filled our soul with "exceedingly great joy." There is a group that tasted of the fruit, but then "were ashamed," and "they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost." Did the scene ever change? Did the fruit ever become less desirable, or the tree ever disappear? Did the rod ever become less sturdy or the path ever suddenly turn crooked? No. The only thing that happened was that this group of people turned their backs to their testimonies and walked away.
Elder Pieper counsels us that from those moments of confirmation on, it is our responsibility to remind ourselves of that testimony. The tree will always be there, the path will always be straight, and the truth will never change. WE are the ones who must hold on tight to those experiences with the divine (D&C 6:22-23).
I have 3 more pleas:
1) Do not play halfsies. When God gives us a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, we do not sort through and pick and choose what is truth or what is not. Christ is the Savior or he is not. Joseph Smith was a prophet or he was not. Priesthood authority was restored or it was not. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and convincing evidence of the restoration, or it is not. Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet or he is not. The Church is headed by Christ and led by his divinely appointed servants or it is not.
2) If you're at the point where you're doubting, and you're starting to pick and choose, I have to ask you - at a time when you're tinking so much about the things of God, are you still praying to that God who has all the answers? Are you still asking for His guidance as you make these decisions? Don't forget that it doestn' matter one bit what you think. The only opinion that matters is God's.
3) After all the testimony and strength you've given to so many of the people in the church, how can you turn your back on them? Be an example of enduring! Show them what it means to "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men" (2 Nephi 31:20). Pray to your Father in Heaven. Read His word. Don't you dare back down now. Don't you dare forget the witness He has given you. You would break His heart and the hearts of so many people who love you.
I know the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the sure way to lasting happiness in this life and the life to come.
I love each one of you!
Sestra Lucy Brimhall