Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Missionary Stories 2

Here's another mission story:

Throughout my mission, a constant challenge was talking to strangers on the street and on the bus about the gospel. It's just a little bit scary. I must have talked to hundreds--if not thousands--of people in the course of a year.

My last day, I wanted to remember street contacting with pure joy. I was sick and exhausted, and I could easily have spent the day inside, but I asked my companion if we could go talk to people on a street corner on my last evening.

We did so. I was so tired that I had to sit down and rest a couple of times while my companion kept talking to people. We met several Persians, met a number of wonderful people, and got a new investigator family. I gave out a copy of the Book of Mormon to someone who said he'd read it, and I also gave away several pamphlets. It was fun! I really enjoyed it.

I don't know all the variables that determine how fun missionary work is, or anything for that matter, but that day I talked to people because I wanted to do it. I wanted them to feel the Spirit, I wanted to feel the Spirit, and I wanted it to be natural and enjoyable. And it was.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Missionary Stories 1

Well, a friend of mine wanted me to tell him some missionary stories, so I thought I'd post a few here.

First, I'd like to post a funny story. I tell it fairly often. On the phone, people often think I'm a woman. I think it's funny. So, as a missionary, we often asked members of the local congregation to come teaching with us. Their insight and testimony is helpful, and it's easier for someone to start attending church if they have a friend--or at least a friendly acquaintance--at church. So, I once called a wonderful lady to come with us. She said yes, and we decided to meet at a certain street corner and take the bus to the teaching appointment.

Well, I was in a group of three missionaries, which does sometimes happen. So, we went to meet the woman, and all seemed well. Then she asked, "Where are the sister missionaries?" We were quite confused. "What?" "Who's the sister who called me last night?"

Well, I walked away and started laughing silently. My two companions tried to change the subject as gracefully as they could. Then, later, she brought it up again! So, we did our best to change the subject again. We never did get up the courage to tell her what happened.

Next, I'd like to share a story about a day that was really hard for me. I had been sick for quite some time (about two weeks later, mission leadership decided to send me home since I couldn't do a lot of missionary work). This day I felt depressed and discouraged for several hours--feelings that I usually held at bay fairly well. Finally, in the evening, I felt physically and emotionally strong enough to work.

So, we went out, and I had a prayer in my heart that God would help me to enjoy missionary work that day. I really wanted to be a good missionary and to be healthy as well. As we went out, we had several special experiences. I'll share two of them that happened within five minutes of each other.

We went about that evening knocking on doors and inviting people to hear our message. As we began to walk up one driveway, a man in a car called to us. He was a Persian member of the Church who had stopped attending and also stopped living some of the standards of the Church. Now, my missionary companion was the only missionary in all of Toronto at that time who spoke Persian well. That this particular member would find us--out of all the missionaries in the area--was completely beyond coincidence in my mind. A feeling of joy come over me, and the Spirit reminded me that God is, indeed, with His missionaries.

I spent my last couple of months as a missionary learning to find greater joy in the work. When I came on my mission, I liked missionary work, but I wasn't really passionate about it. I was only passionate about what every missionary is passionate about--that is, teaching people who really, really want to learn. My sweetest memories are of teaching those sorts of people.

I hope that when I return to the mission field, I can be passionate and find true joy more often in missionary work.

Note to self: Write about my last night of street contacting.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


God gives us our bodies to hold the light and power that our spirits have--to be filled with love and intelligence. For this purpose, our bodies have certain natural desires--desires for love, desires for nourishment, and so forth. However, Satan tempts us to give in to these desires in ways that contradict God's laws.

Addictions and sins are usually motivated by fundamentally good things that are twisted to an improper use. That is why almost everyone will inherit a kingdom of glory, as shown to Joseph Smith (D&C 76). For example, food is fundamentally good and important. However, some obsess over food to the point of eating too much, too little, or too unhealthfully. We sometimes lose sight of the real reason God gave us food--for health and for moderate joy--and eat to forget our troubles. Most sins are not because we are fundamentally evil, but because we allow a lesser good to distract from God. Elder Maxwell stated, "On the two great commandments, Jesus declared emphatically, everything else hangs, not vice versa (see Matthew 22:40). The first commandment is not suspended just because of our vigorous pursuit of a lesser good, for we do not worship a lesser god" (Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, Dec 2008, 26–30).

I've been reading out of a book, Willpower Is Not Enough. It makes the wonderful point that to change, we don't just gain more willpower. Instead, we redirect our natural, fundamental desires. A desire for love and closeness can easily be misinterpreted as a desire for romance or sex. A desire for good, wholesome food can easily lead us to binge on M&M's. The addiction never actually fulfills the desire, and so we go on and on. If you have ever eaten half a package of Oreos, I'm talking to you! (Yes, I have.) It's not because we are evil binge-eaters. I was just hungry, and Oreos were easier than making healthy food. Obviously, eating sweets just doesn't work as well.

Anyway, good luck to everyone who reads this--most importantly myself--in their quest to sanctify their minds and bodies. The Holy Ghost is the single most powerful tool in this quest. It can change who we are. That is how the Atonement reaches us--the Savior's sacrifice authorizes the Holy Ghost to help us.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spiritually Blind

I've been reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. He wrote a section about prayer. Here's a quote that got me thinking:

"There is, we are aware, a philosophy that denies the infinite [meaning God]. There is also a philosophy, classified as pathologic, that denies the sun; this philosophy is called blindness."

The scriptures often call those who reject God "spiritually blind." The problem with athiesm and agnosticism is that both philosophies assume that God must be intellectually and scientifically provable. Now, there are many logical explanations for God's existence, and many logical explanations for God's lack of existence. But no one can prove it, intellectually or scientifically, either way. Most people seem to have a preconceived idea of whether God exists or not, and almost all scientific data and logic can be harmonized into one mindset or the other.

In other words, belief in God is independent of scholarship. God is available to everyone--regardless of their intelligence, scholarship, or lack thereof. How can this be?

The answer is that God makes Himself available to us through a different means--His Spirit. The Spirit does use our intelligence, but it also uses our emotions, our relationships, and most of all, our spirits. Every good thing responds to His Spirit. Everyone has felt the Spirit, and everyone has a basic instinctive understanding of good and evil--what drives away God's Spirit, and what invites it.

God's Spirit gives people gifts. One of these gifts is a belief that He lives. A greater gift is an absolute knowledge that He lives. Some of us naturally doubt more than others. But all of us have gifts from God, and the closer we get to Him and His Spirit, the more gifts we will receive.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sharing Who You Are

One of my greatest desires in life is to bless the lives of others. As I've cultivated this desire and matured, I've tried to share my love, personality, and intelligence with those around me.

As I've done so, I've observed that I cannot bless others unless I have something to share. I need to take some time to develop my own talents and my own relationship with God. I have to be something unique. In essence, I have to discover who I am.

When I searched for quotes on finding out who you are from the prophets, I found two talks about family history--how our ancestors can be role models that help us discover who we are. I went and studied one of my ancestors--my great-great grandfather. He was known for being friendly and charismatic, yet also bold, passionate, and aggressive. He let people know where he stood, and he invited everyone to learn about the gospel, but he never gave cause for offense.

I want to be myself, to be someone unique, so that I can bless those around me. It's a risk, but it's worth it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Testimony

EDIT: You may be looking for the more thorough explanation of what my testimony is and how I got it that I wrote in August 2012.

I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

This message has always been carried forth by the Holy Ghost. "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ" (2 Nephi 32:3). The prophet and missionary Ammon said, "A portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God" (Alma 18:35). The Holy Ghost witnesses of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 31:18).

The Apostle Paul taught that know man can truly know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah any other way. He said, "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3). How can anyone say that Jesus is the Lord with complete surety without the Holy Ghost? Seeing the Lord is a rare privelege that we cannot demand. But we can ask the Lord for the privelege of knowing, for ourselves, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

I have asked the Lord for the privilege of having this testimony. For me, it started out by asking if the Book of Mormon was true (Moroni 10:3-7). The Book of Mormon states that Jesus is the Christ. It also teaches many other gospel principles, and so I also know that those are true. The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith, and so I know that he was a prophet of God and that he saw the Savior with his own eyes.

Most of all, I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Power of Language

Ideas fill the world. They fill our minds. We communicate these ideas through symbols--words. Language.

How cool is that? An intelligent individual can portray ideas in words. We can dress them up in a metaphor, or we can illustrate them through a story. We all listen to others' ideas and develop our own, and then we express them as best we can.

Since the days of Adam and Eve, messengers have been sent by God to teach His gospel. To teach the truth about religion--not the corrupted religions that have caused tyranny and war for centuries, but the true religion of Jesus Christ that can change every person's heart. The religion of love.

But though God has sent missionaries, prophets, Apostles, angels, and even His own Son to teach these things through the symbols of language, many thousands have rejected His sublime truth. Why?

Because the Gospel cannot be understood without the Spirit of God. Everyone has a different amount of that Spirit in their life. Every act of faith in Christ, every uplifting word, invites that Spirit into life, while disobedience to God drives it away. The Spirit of God teaches us the ideas behind the language.

For example, we may hear the words "the love of God" from the pulpit or in the scriptures. What does that really mean? What ideas does it bring to mind? Some will dismiss it as a sentimental or nice-sounding phrase. Others will think, "If God loved me, He would solve all my problems right now. I still have problems, so He must not love me." Only the Spirit of God can whisper the real meaning of God's love to our minds and hearts.

As the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things--that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61). "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (KJV John 17:3). How can man know God except by revelation?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama's Foreign Policy

When Obama won the election a few weeks ago, a number of my friends were upset about his success because of his allowance of legalized abortion and other beliefs that could hurt the traditional family. I agree--I want to protect the family as the fundamental unit of society.

However, I pointed out that Obama's foreign policy would likely improve our international affairs. And since the President has so much power in foreign affairs, I voted for Obama. We would be able to decrease the United States's appearance in the world as such an arrogant nation. (And although the president's skin color has no bearing on how good of a president he will be, I am very happy that America has reached the point of being willing to elect a black man to the Presidency. We've come a long way from the colonial days.)

I was surprised by my friends' response. Some of them agreed; but several essentially said that our government's reputation in the world isn't really that important. I wondered where that idea came from. The United States is currently involved in multiple wars, and we have troops and military bases in many countries. We use our international trade laws to encourage certain countries to act the way we want them to. Our economy is thoroughly tied in with the economy of the rest of the world, through trade, oil reserves in other countries, outsourcing, and so forth. We have taken it upon ourselves to be a leader in international affairs for many years. We have started wars and we have ended wars. We have given billions upon billions in foreign aid. Everything our government does in foreign affairs affects millions of lives both at home and abroad.

What does our international reputation not affect?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blogger's Content Policy

As I read over Blogger's content policy, one phrase got me thinking. It says that one cannot publish anything on your blog that promotes hate against any person or group, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

Now, I'm not a proponent of a gay or lesbian lifestyle. I don't believe that God makes anyone homosexual or bisexual or anything like that, and I believe that people can overcome those tendencies, just like people can overcome tendencies towards anger, rampant sexuality, or drug abuse.

However, it's one thing to disapprove of someone's lifestyle or choices. It's something else to restrict those choices by law. And it's another matter entirely to hate someone because of those choices, because they've given in to a very powerful feeling.

So, I decided I thoroughly approve of Blogger's content restriction. Hatred towards someone because of their lifestyle will not help them change. It will only spawn more hatred, leading to war, misery, and everything else that makes this world dreary sometimes.

So, be nice! And mean it. You don't have to hang out with someone if you don't want to be like them. But give them a smile and a handshake. Give someone a high five and a compliment. Why not?