|Elder Molinaro with his Zone.|
Sunday, March 30, 2014
So, I love atheists. I just do. Weird way to start but hey, where else would I begin? Let me tell you why. Because they have the guts to actually pick the other side of the argument. There's this tendency for people to claim they're on the same side of this whole "religion" thing as you and it drives me crazy. "We all worship the same God, so it doesn't matter what church we belong to!" Oh, how that grinds my gears. By claiming that, they're claiming that TRUTH doesn't exist. And if that doesn't exist, there isn't a God. (See my farewell talk). I read it again this week and it reminded me not to take that as an answer. I love when we stop to talk to people and they act as if "I'm Catholic, or Buddhist or Baptist, etc." should be a sufficient reason for me to get back on my bike and ride off into the sunset.
Let's be clear again. My testimony is either true for you AND me or for neither of us. The Book of Mormon is either the word of God or a fraud by a very clever, but very evil man.
This is often how it goes with those we talk to:
"You're Catholic, Buddhist or Baptist. Ok, so why are you [insert name of any religion here]? Can I tell you why I'm Mormon? Because I asked God if this book was true and He told me it is. If God told you the same thing through His spirit, would you be baptized?
........................"If God told you to do something, you wouldn't do it?"
"Because I'm [insert name of religion here]."
Somehow, something isn't computing.
Or there are those who say "yes". We teach those people.
Or there are the ones who say "No one will ever know about religious truths until we die."
To which I say : "No, I KNOW NOW AND YOU CAN, TOO."
And so I'm left loving atheists. Because they'll look at you and tell you that you are straight up wrong. THIS I can deal with. And indeed I do. So let's discuss our atheist miracle from this week. His name is "B", and he is living proof that you never know who will be interested. Our first exchange went something like this (he was smoking with his less-active friend -- #face palm).
"You ever talked with missionaries before?"
"Nope, I'm an atheist."
"I LOVE ATHEISTS! What makes you an atheist?"
"I don't see evidence that there's a God. I need evidence."
"Well have you ever read the scriptures?"
"Well, let's fix that. This is the Book of Mormon. It's your evidence that there's a God. *Cue Restoration*.
So we go back a few days later. And he starts talking and we had had him read Alma 22. And he prayed. and he's like.... "I can't deny I felt something."
"So...... is there someone up there listening to you?"
"I believe there is."
Ok, so let's be real for a second. "B" went from being an atheist to having a baptismal date in a span of 20 minutes. I think it was top 5 most shocking moments of my mission. My jaw was dropped for a solid 2 hours after that. He came to church the next day, the first time he had stepped in a church in... recent memory. So that was pretty cool.
But we have time for a couple more miracles, because that was just what happened Saturday.
"A". The man has the gift of believing on other's words. He was praying with his wife that their marriage would be closer. Then we knocked on his door with gospel answers and ordinances.
And then there is the "P" family. They're the kind of family you pray to find. A perfect part-member family who is so prepared to hear God's word.
Oh, the miracles.
What else? We started teaching a Pentecostal preacher. You gotta be on your A-game for that one for sure. It's quite fun. But hard not to Bible bash. It's ok though, we turned them over to the Spanish-speaking Elders.
I'm just kind of giving you a highlight reel for the week.
Uhhhhh teaching kids and families is the best. Especially the kids. It makes me remember the guiding force that the gospel is in my own family and how much that changed my life.
"What's their commitment?"
"Become an eternal family by entering in at the gate through baptism."
So much goes on. So many people we talk to, invitations we extend, miles we ride, laughs we have, prayers we say.
Prayers we say. Purity in prayer. Let's all strive for that this week.
We had "J" -age 8- say his first prayer with us last night. He didn't have notions of what a prayer was supposed to be. He didn't have habits. He just spoke to God. And he said, "I like the stars. So thank you for them. I love my family. And friends. And...these people. Thank you for all of them. Amen."
He made me decide to thank God for the stars, too. And maybe a few other things I take for granted.
I love you all.
Have a great week. Facilitate a few miracles. And do it with a smile.
I have decided that the mission thus far has been a reverse model of baptism. In Phoenix, I was baptized by fire. All 120 degrees of it, emerging from the ashes renewed and cleansed. This week, I experienced baptism by water. Allow me to explain.
Darkness reigned in the heavens. This was an irregularity in and of itself, considering that the sun reigns basically uncontested and unobstructed most days in Arizona. Clouds had rolled in, clouds the likes of which Russel from the movie "Up" would describe with a "Yep, Cumulonimbus." Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle, deluge. Now let me paint, for you, the situation.
Arizona was not made for rain. Neither were white shirts and ties, or bikes, or hair gel. That being said, suffice it to say that riding down sidewalks on a bike wearing a white shirt and no rain jacket while cars careen down flooded roads is quite the experience. I thought I was wet. Then I started getting splashed by faster-moving traffic. Elder C. and I were dying laughing by the end! haha. When we finally got to a point at which we could peel off our mud-caked, water-saturated clothes and bags, we did an inventory of our belongings. The phone was drenched. The planner was splashed. The pass along cards had seen better days. The scriptures were totally and completely dry and safe. Praise be. Prayers are answered.
Baptism by water also came in the form of the baptism of "S", an investigator who I used to teach in The Paradise Foothills YSA ward in my last area (pre-split). It was perhaps the best baptismal service I've ever been to. He asked me to come back so that I could speak at his baptism. "T" is basically the most prepared person I've ever met. There was a tendency in that area for people to find us rather than us finding them. He walked into church and declared that he believed everything and had been taught the lessons multiple times--he needed only to be baptized. We quizzed him and taught him and made sure and--yes indeed-- he needed very little before being ready for baptism.
The Spirit was there so fully at his baptism. You could feel the power of the Spirit sealing the ordinance and approving what was done. He was so ready. While he changed, the attendees were invited to write down their testimonies for him, to be made into a little book that he can look back on and remember. My testimony centered on the importance of reading your scriptures daily and remembering what the Spirit has told you is true. The path to destruction lies in not doing the daily performances that God has asked us to do--not for His benefit, but for our own. Because there was no church this Sunday, we got permission to do the confirmation right then and there as well. I got to be in on that too, and may I just say that that was even more powerful. "T" is going to do some amazing things in his life and with his priesthood. I can't wait to see what becomes of him.
Being back in Phoenix briefly reminded me of all the insanity that goes on. Apparently one of our potentials committed suicide by jumping into a river. He said that while he was dead, he had a vision of being in hell and begging God for one more chance, after which he woke up in the hospital and came back to life. He's looking to change his life now. It's amazing how some people become prepared--a different baptism by water.
The reason we didn't have church this week was the temple dedication. The day before the dedication was when it rained (which, might I add, is the first time it has rained in months). The temple had streams of water coursing down every surface, immersing it in the flood from the heavens. The cultural celebration was completed in the swirling storm. The next day, the sun regained its splendor and the sky was clear and blue. The temple was prepared then to be dedicated--baptized by fire.
It was a glorious dedication. Doctrine laid down, prophecy fulfilled, more prophecy laid down. It's there if you look for it. It's just like the Spirit and each of us-- He speaks if you are listening. And if you are worthy. His role is to warn of spiritual and physical danger. But He speaks as you listen. I'm beginning to understand more how He speaks. In answer, rather than in initiation of conversation. In what you need to know, not what would be convenient for you to know. He's told me before I meet them who smokes and who doesn't, who needs more time and who can be pushed, what doors to go back to and which to leave and never return.
And I know he speaks to each of you. I just don't know what you hear. I'm beginning to realize that listening is the most important thing. I wonder how much He has tried to tell me before, when I wasn't listening.
I'm under water here, on a mission. Away from the noise and the flashing lights. It gives perspective and lends insight. It's a time to listen and learn. The other noises are fainter here, so it's easier to listen. And I think I'm beginning to see.
I invite you to do the same. Seek silence and safety. Seek water. Water to cleanse, water to be reborn, water to drive away the rest of the sound, water to whisper silently to you what needs to be heard. Seek water. Seek life. Seek baptism. And then seek fire.
The gospel is true. The Spirit is real. The Book of Mormon is true. How do I know? Because God told me so. And I know He will tell you, too.
I love you all. Press on.
Well... Short week (because of his transfer to a new area). And there's so much to write about. I think Mesa is the most fascinating place I've ever been. As in it is so different from anywhere else I've been. Especially Phoenix.
I love being back on a bike, you get to talk to a lot more people. Though there's a strange phenomenon here of asking people on the street what they know about the church and them informing you that they are active members. Seriously happens about 3-5 times a day. And then there was the time this lady pulled up in a van and gave us a loaf of bread because we are missionaries. And, and, and. Well, it's basically just a whole new animal. But I'm loving the animal.
The ankle is basically back to normal which means it healed miraculously fast. Thank you so much for your prayers!
So Mesa is just different. It's fantastic and I love my ward. The members and families are fantastic and I can't say enough about how willing they are to do missionary work. There is a ton of potential rolled into a little package that we call the Riverview Ward. Tons of work to do here. And do it we shall.
Let me preach to you for a moment on doing right things IN THE RIGHT WAY. It is not just enough to do the right things. You have to do it in the appointed way or it doesn't count for righteousness. You have to be not only baptized, but baptized by His authority. The end is justified by righteous means always. So do things the right way.
A word on boldness as well. A wise man once told me that God has no use for a timid servant. That's roughly the truest thing ever. And it doesn't just apply to missionaries. It applies to everything and everyone. The work is hastening and we all need to be a part of it. We are called to labor in the Lord's vineyard, and we are called to do it IN HIS WAY and according to the Spirit that is given us.
Sigh. It's all Matthew 26 and we are Peter. How often does that happen? How often do we pledge to change, to grow, to be His in word and deed, and then fall short? And how willing are we to stand with Him and die with Him if it was required of us? I have no doubt that Peter was truly willing to die for the Savior, right there and right then. And that's where the majority of us, as zealous disciples of Christ, are. Ready to do great tasks and accomplish great things, ready to work miracles or sacrifice in big ways. But Christ has had enough people die for Him. He didn't need Peter to do it right then and He isn't asking any of us to die for Him right now either. Instead, He asks us to live for Him. And that is so, so much harder.
There's something poetic in the simplicity of attempted discipleship. Attempted discipleship. I like that. It sounds like some crime for which people would be punished in some Orwellian novel. I hope I'd be convicted. I hope you would, too. Anyway. Simplicity. We are asked to simply be disciples, to do the little things every day that allow Him into our lives. And isn't it funny that when we stop those things, everything we've built goes up in flames? Alma 31 (Book of Mormon) gives the account of the apostate Zoramites (ancient less-actives) who fell away in part because they would not pray daily to be kept from temptation. How silly is that? Why would you possibly gamble your soul instead of praying daily or reading the scriptures daily? It's beyond me.
I still wear my broken watch every day. It seems somehow symbolic to me. Still trying to understand where everything is and who it is that we are teaching, but things roll along. Faster and faster each day. Not that my clock tells me how fast, exactly. Maybe it means I'm still right twice a day no matter what. That's comforting, I suppose.
I love hearing of all your adventures, your lives and your trials, your thoughts and your testimonies. The heart changes before the behavior does. Never forget that.
Well, I love you all. So does He.
Try, at the end of next week, to be guilty of attempted discipleship. And live after the manner of happiness. 1 Nephi (Book of Mormon). I'll do the same.