Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7 Letter

There is nothing better than General Conference on a mission. But there is nothing worse than having Conference END on a mission... I was thinking that since we call one of the sessions semi-annual and the other one annual, that it seems we should have one of those be twice a year, the other once a year, equaling three conferences a year! I'll try to bring it up with the Quorum of the Twelve next chance I get.

Anyways, first I'll talk about General Conference and then I'll follow up with how this week went. I know that seems a little backward, but aside from Stephen and his family coming to Conference with us (unfortunately, to the fifth most powerful session), not too much thrilling happened haha.

On Friday night, President Francis called all of us asking to write down three questions and prayerfully seek their answers during Conference. As is evidenced by my last email, I was already planning on it, but it was nice to have recent reinforcement to my plan, plus to have a number given of how many questions to ask. So, were my three questions:

1) Why do we need the church structure? It's abundantly clear in the scriptures that organization has always existed, but why? It seems like a "personal relationship with my Savior" (the go-to goal of Born Again Christians out here) would work just as well, perhaps without as much stress and conflict. 

2) How do I know where promptings are coming from? They could be from God, me, or Satan disguised as an "angel of light." How do I differentiate, and how do I help others differentiate?

3) How do I acknowledge and seek answers to gospel-related questions without getting frustrated or damaging the faith I already have built up?

I'll go ahead and give the answers I came up for each of these first, then go into some of my other insights. I'm pretty excited to talk about some of my thoughts in a less missionary-ish setting, because there are some things (Ordain Women's campaign) that I couldn't really talk about too much in the real world out here.

So, answers:

1) We need a church for unity, obviously. Ephesians makes it clear that apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, etc are for the "unity of the faith" and the "perfecting of the saints." But still, why? We'll all be unified eventually, right? And none of us are perfect yet, so we'll all need correction eventually. Bishop Gérald Caussé made a comment that had nothing to do with this, but really got me thinking and eventually lead to a little bit of an answer for me! In the Millennium, Christ will reign as "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." That means there will be one government. There won't be a handful of nondenominational governments. The Church, lead by revelation, helps prepare not just for heaven, but for the Second Coming of the Messiah!

Also, a "personal relationship" is living far beneath our privileges and obligations as disciples of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is based on commitment to action, not just a firmness of belief. James makes it clear that even the devils believe in Jesus Christ. The Church provides the means and opportunities to build up the Lord's Kingdom. It doesn't just prove our willingness to actively participate in God's work; it strengthens our resolve to do so! It gives us the chance to serve, and it surrounds us with others who are willing and eager to do so. As a Church, we can build off of each others' strength.

Really, a personal relationship is just that: Personal. Name one time that Jesus ever said, "Just sit alone in a corner and believe me." Granted, that is an unfair way of painting the Born Again picture, but clearly God wants us to be together in a group, working together and growing together.

2) This was the question that was probably answered the least, although it was indirectly touch on. Really, I got two things concerning it;

First, judge a work by its fruits. Satan cannot father goodness. If a prompting leads you to do good, at the very least you can count out it coming from the devil. 

Second, a more thoroughly taught principle than the first, is to act and see. At least two speakers said the Holy Ghost has the capacity to testify of the humble listener's actions. I believe both quoted Ether 12 about a witness coming only after a trial of faith. Sometimes we have to pray first, but if we don't get a stupor of thought, we just have to act and see. Elder Hales especially emphasized the importance of working something out in your mind first then taking the idea to the Lord. So, how do you get direction? Ponder it out in your mind. Take your idea to Heavenly Father. If you don't get told "no," then go forward, constantly listening and seeking direction from the Holy Ghost. He can testify if what you are doing is true, not just if what you are believing is true.

3) This one I think was covered more than anything but missionary work - even beating out women's role in relation to the priesthood and the necessity of protecting families. Here's the gist of what I got out of it all.

First off, "Doubt your doubts more than you doubt your faith." There have been enough changes in archaelology, science, etc. to trust God over much of academia. Not that pursuing deeper learning is bad, and anyone who knows me knows I do NOT advocate that. But, God reveals truth to prophets. Any truth a researcher learns is something God already understood, and could have (and often already has) revealed it to His prophets. Really, why do we like to cling onto the darkness of doubt over the light of faith? We are just as likely to be wrong in our doubts as we are in our faith, even if revelation from a perfect being weren't in play.

Second, live worthy of having the Holy Ghost with you ALWAYS. That will point you in the direction of truth. Repent whenever and however necessary so that you are not seeking God's truth without God's power. No matter how many times you have fallen, trust that this time you will stand back up.

Third, recognize that trials of faith are under the same umbrella as other trials. They are given to us to strengthen us and our resolve to serve God for eternity. I loved what Elder Bednar said about getting blessings that aren't quite what we had in mind when we asked for the blessing. One example was to pray to resolve spiritual concerns, and receiving the perseverance to stay strong throughout our search.

This brings up another point taught by Elder Holland. If the cup does not pas, drink it. If every answer you've ever asked about the gospel or the church isn't handed right to you, prayerfully search for the answer, or set it aside for now and pay attention to more important things. Even more important is to recognize that you are not alone or forgotten or being ignored or overlooked.

Ultimately, the idea I got on this is to trust God and be worthy. Read the scriptures, keep commandments, repent. You NEED the Holy Ghost to discern anything.

(I touched a little more on this in my blog earlier this week.

So, there you go. Now for the more (at times politically incorrect) ideas I had:

- FINALLY the women leaders of the church talked to the entire church! I feel like about 95% of the time (that might even be generous) the women speakers speak to the women. The only time they talk to males are when they talk to males under the age of 12 or maybe males who are raising or married to women. This time? They talked to everyone. Sister Stephens' talk was the first time a Sister's talk has been in my top five. Well done, Sisters!

- Also having to do with women, I sure hope the ladies waiting in the standby line at priesthood session also attended the General Relief Society Broadcast and at least one other Conference Session. If not, they had better have stood in the standby line for all the other sessions until they got in. If they want Priesthood Session to be like the rest, why such an emphasis on getting in? 

- As a sidenote, I thought a lot about women and the priesthood. Essentially what I got to was, if the Apostles said they could have it, cool. If the Apostles said they couldn't, all right. I trusted their decision even before I knew it had been made. I hope Ordain Women meant, "Please pray to know if women can receive the priesthood" like they said, on not just "Please pray to know that women can receive the priesthood." We'll see in the coming months, I suppose.

- I like this line from Middle-aged Mormon Man (a blogger): "I'll bet the devil has a dartboard with President Packer's picture on it in his game room." What a beast.

- I think Dallin H. Oaks probably really scares anti-Mormons. They hate it when people are not just more spiritual than they are, but clearly more intelligent.

- I am super stoked that President Monson decided the #1 thing that the Priesthood needed to hear is: DO YOUR HOME TEACHING. In Preach My Gospel, Harold B Lee is quoted as saying home teaching is nothing more and nothing less than missionary work for members of the church. As a missionary, if people would just do their home teaching, our work with less active members would be cut in half, if we even had that much left anymore.

- I loved what David M. McConkie taught. What a stud. It really caught my attention what he said about knowing you are teaching by the power of the Holy Ghost when you learn something from what you said.

- Elder Andersen's talk should just be titled "Answers to random questions in Mormon culture."

- Sometimes - don't hate me until I explain - I used to get a little bored with President Monson's talks. Here were are in the latter days, Elder Oaks and President Packer are out and about calling repentance, Elder Holland is teaching us everything there is to know about the Bible, and President Uchtdorf just loves you more than anyone other than your grandparents. But President Monson was always so level. But it hit me just a week or so ago: How interesting is it that in the midst of some crazy times, we have a prophet who just wants us to simply be obedient, come back to the fold, and stay calm. When it would be incredibly easy to be uncalm, our prophet is calmer than ever. 

- That said, it was quite touching to see President Monson really hit on the fact that HE HAS TRIALS TOO! It's one of those things that seems so obvious, until you try to think of something that troubles him. But guess what? Things do! It is really hard to picture Moses or Noah or Samuel the Lamanite as anything more than fairy tale characters sometimes. I can't think of any role I would have President Monson play in a fairy tale, which is what is so cool. God uses real men. Moses probably was equally normal. Same with Moroni and Peter and Joseph Smith. The beauty of living prophets are how tangible, connectable, and real they are.

Now, for a little about missionary work this week. I'll make it quick, especially because I would be amazed if anyone is actually still reading by now.

So, like I said, Stephen came to the Hendry's house for Conference yesterday afternoon. He was probably a little confused by Elder Andersen's talk, but it is all good. Probably the real highlight was that he was there with his whole family, who really clicked well with the Hendry family. He told us on Wednesday that weekends are his family time, so if they don't come to church then he won't come to church. Hopefully this new connection gets somewhere.

Zach has been struggling a little. He went back to school, back with old friends who realllly aren't good influences on him. So, without getting into details, he's taken a lot of renewed emphasis. The good news? He came to priesthood session and seemed to really enjoy it! I was a little nervous about his first time at a church activity in a month being two hours in a dark room (remember, he's twelve), but he really seemed to like it!

It's really fun to talk about conference with investigators in past areas. There were a handful of investigators I was texting with or am now talking to on Facebook. Technology makes missionary work fun, and technology combined with Conference is just great!

Well, I should probably call this to an end.

I love you but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

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