G'day one and all!
It is, as always, a pleasure to be writing to everyone! It sounds as though Halloween was fun for Robby and Elizabeth! I kinda wish I hadn't missed out BUT it comes with the definition of being a missionary: "Missionary- a person who leaves his/her family for a short period of time so that other people can spend all time and eternity with their families."
This week (I'm not sure how much time I have so I'll cut out the fluff and tell you what's up, and maybe I'll get more time later today to tell more, but we'll see) Elder F (one of the Zone Leaders) and Elder W (the District Leader) came up from Mildura to interview our TWO (count 'em) baptizees. M is set to be baptized this week on the 9th, and DJ (a friend of M's and a mutual friend of President P's) will follow him the following week on the 16th. Elder W had to interview both of our investigators since these are convert baptisms, and after spending plenty of time with both individually (a period of time in which I was more or less anxious) he said our investigators were good to go. He advised that we focus on strengthening DJ and continue to keep his mind focused on the "strait and narrow path" that we all know is baptism into the Lord's church. M is strong, though (he's been sober and hasn't smoked for 6 weeks and he knows that if Satan's been withholding the big guns, this week is the week he will use them), but even so, we're going to continue to give him the support that he needs. Baptismal week is always a nervous week for missionaries because this is the week that Satan will work overtime. Please please please pray for M and DJ- they will need all the help they can get, no matter how firm their foundations.
Fast and Testimony meeting as well, and I've never seen nor been in such a spiritually fulfilling meeting in that branch before. Our attendance was at 20, and usually there's a brief pause in the beginning of any testimony meeting in which no one goes up to the pulpit. At first I feared that would occur, and we would have a testimony meeting in which us missionaries were the only ones to bear testimony. I was proven wrong though, when Sister O -an older albeit spry woman- charged to the pulpit. After her, Sister G went up (not a big surprise- her words are inspired and she never fails to speak her mind). Following her, Sister W (visiting from New Zealand) went up, followed by her husband. Elder P then went up, having deemed it alright to do so (as missionaries, we try to wait before going up to the pulpit, to give the members a chance to bear their testimonies). Elder P was followed by Sister D, a semi-active member who shared her overall life experience and the role the Church and Heavenly Father have played- I've not heard such an inspiring testimony in all my life (save for that of my very own mother's)! Then Elders F and W went up, and M was going to go up after Elder W -and I after him- but we'd already gone thirty minutes over our time and President P then chose to close the meeting. Still, the Spirit was SO strong, and it truly was a humbling experience that I think would shame some of the larger wards. There have been sacrament meetings like this in which -after the time is given to the members to bear their personal witnesses that they know what they believe and practice are true doctrines- no one takes the stand for AGES and there are long and awkward silences. Here in Broken Hill, in our chapel designed for 150-200, we met -the 20 of us- and had a testimony meeting that -should every ward and branch in the world experience the same- would have shaken the very gates of hell.was
I got to thinking about it, just briefly (because I know that the spirit of contention is strong with me and I did not want to feed it), why is it that when the time is given to us to bear our testimonies... we don't? Is it fear? Fear is of the Devil, and cannot coexist with faith. Is it because of shyness or nervousness? Both stem from fear, which is of the Devil. Can you see where this is going? Testimony has strength- as missionaries we are taught that when you cannot "convince" anyone that what you are saying is true, bear strong, firm testimony, to which no man can argue or dispute. It is true- no one can make further argument when testimony of truth -no matter how simple or short- is born from the lips of the righteous. Our testimonies are our own personal conviction that what we claim to believe and live is true, and by sharing them, we can not only rebuke the words of those who dispute and argue against truth "thinking they are learned", but testimonies also strengthen those who are weak. How have you felt after an apostle or prophet has born solemn witness that what he has taught is true? How much stronger is the Spirit's presence? I know that a simple testimony has the strength to help an investigator overcome addiction, freeing himself from the Devil's flaxen cords. I know that a simple testimony can invite the Spirit at any time and place. I KNOW that by bearing testimony, we can not only be forgiven of our sins (as is the promise from our Father) but we can lift, strengthen, and encourage those amongst us who are struggling. Satan knows this as well- that is why he encourages us NOT to go up during Fast and Testimony meeting. He knows as well as we do that our words -our testimony and conviction- could very well be the one thing that would bring a less active member back into the fold, or even introduce a new person to it.
Testimonies do not need to be long, drawn out, or be spoken with eloquence. "I know the Church is the Lord's church, and I know that He lives" is an example of what a testimony is. If spoken with conviction, with true conversion burning in the bearer's heart, the Spirit will come, and those simple words will cause the hearts of everyone else to burn as well. You do not need a story of conversion lined up and ready -word for word- before you approach the pulpit. You don't need a story of something you did earlier in the week to back up your claims. You don't need anything, save for your own conviction that what you know is true. There is always around 30-40 minutes of time to bear testimony, and I know that the entire Monument Ward -EVERY member- could bear his or her testimony in that amount of time. Think of the affect that would have on a new investigator, who has just been brought to the Church for the first time; if he or she could sit and watch as member after member approached the pulpit -even lined up down both lanes in the chapel- to tell everyone else that they knew for themselves that everything they had been taught was true. A testimony is like a prayer; when we pray, we do it so that we can converse with Father. The same is when we bear testimony- we don't do it so that the people below us in the congregation can say, "Wow, what an excellent speaker!" We do it because we want the Father to know that we love Him enough that -though we have that twinge of fear in our hearts- we are willing to tell everyone else that what we believe is true. That is what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, and everyone that is a member of His church -EVERYONE- covenanted to stand as a witness of Him at all times, and in all places, and in all things. Sister D's testimony really struck me, and she said some things that sunk in deeply to me. She helped me to understand more fully how repentance works and what our own part is in it. She helped me understand that part of repenting is forgiving yourself. This was not new knowledge, but I finally learned how to apply it through her instruction.
Every member of the Church has a testimony of something, no matter how "small". If there are any of you that doubt if you have a testimony, I promise you that you do. Take it from a guy who feared his lack of conviction and wondered if he hadn't just tricked himself into thinking happy thoughts all the time (so to speak). I attended church for 6 months, was involved in the Teachers Quorum presidency, passed the Sacrament, went to Mutual, and did all things Mormon for 6 months, and still I wasn't sure if I believed what I claimed to believe. I can promise you, brothers and sisters, that members don't continue to do what they do unless they have at least a sliver of faith that what they're doing is right, and what they believe is true. One of our less actives, Brother E, used to drive to Sydney (10 hour drive one way) for temple trips with the District Presidency once a month, carried out all of his duties, and indeed says that he had so many tasks that he could not see straight. He served for 30 years.... THIRTY YEARS, and claims that now, he never had a testimony and that's why he stopped coming to church. That. Cannot. Be. True. No one -NO ONE- does everything an active member has to do for 30 years and then throws in the towel because he/she doesn't have a testimony. I can promise you all that -even if you can't yet "see" it- you must have a testimony of some kind if you only do so much as come to church. The Spirit is subtle sometimes, and only by going back to the basics of reading scriptures, praying, and going to church can we learn to more fully feel of his presence, and once we can feel of his presence to the point that we can identify it, we will know that we have a testimony. I was so happy to hear that Elizabeth bore her testimony about keeping the Church as her center, or her keystone. I know -and this knowledge racks my heart with grief- that when we drift from the basics, and when we let other things get in the way of church, and when we start to slip and neglect "doing the basics" we become partially active, and then less active, and soon we are inactive and even adamantly opposing the Lord' church. It is a subtle transition -Satan has always been cunning like that- and it will happen when we neglect the basics. Stick to what you know, and STICK to it, and always bear your testimonies. Share your conviction that what you know is true with anyone and everyone, even when it's not Fast- only then will you have a firm foundation. I can promise -though I am young and in my youth- that as a representative of Jesus Christ, the Lord's blessings will be upon anyone who heeds to this counsel, and I leave these things with you in the name of our Lord, Savior, and Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.