It's been a thrilling week!
The high school journalist in my is kicking in and I'll just start with the coolest story first.
So, I think I mentioned part of this last week, but about two or three months ago, a man named Shane called Brother Lonsberry from our ward, who does a big talk radio show in Rochester where he is very open about his faith. Well, Shane asked Brother Lonsberry where and when church is, and he's been coming essentially every since with his mom, Sandy, and his 7-year-old daughter, Hannah. This week, we finally had a real, sit down lesson with him! I haven't had a more classic, "The District"-style lesson in my whole life. We went over to a member's house, ate dinner, then went out into the front room, where we said our second prayer of the night to start off the lesson. We were able to ask questions and get real, good answers. We were able to read scripture and have good, real conversation about them. It was all just so wonderful! As we were talking about the cycles of apostasy and restoration that are found throughout the scriptures, Sandy "interrupted" and said, "Well yeah! We see that same stuff going on today with all the different factions among 'Christianity'!" Haha we had to slow her down a little so we could talk about Jesus' ministry! It was also cool, because at the beginning we asked them to each think about the one thing that matters most to them. After giving them a little bit to think, we asked Brother Steele (whose house we were teaching at) what the biggest blessing of the gospel was to him. He responded that it was probably being able to be with his family forever. We then asked Shane what he was thinking, and he said Hannah. We then asked Sandy, who also said Hannah. It was a pretty cool start to the lesson! Long story short(ish... this is already a pretty long paragraph I guess), they both committed to being baptized on the 15th! Sandy didn't even want to pray about it, she was so gung-ho, be we decided she should anyways haha. Regardless, they're legit!
Then the other highlight of the week! About four or five months ago, the sisters in Buffalo Ward were teaching a guy named Michael. He was doing INCREDIBLE. He had downloaded every LDS app onto his iPhone before he even met the missionaries. I think he'd came to church on his own three or four times before any missionary finally met him, as well. He was set for baptism, and everything was just wonderful! Annnnd then he came across an anti-Mormon website and everything crumbled from there. The sisters had me start emailing him, because I'm the weird guy who likes to study those things just to find holes in the argument (something I've stopped doing as much... but I still have my knowledge bank pretty full). Well, eventually he stopped meeting with missionaries or emailing us altogether and decided he was going to join an Orthodox Church.
About a month ago, though, I received another email from him! He said he'd been thinking a lot about the church lately, and was wondering if I could forward him some of our old conversations. He started asking more questions. Mostly they were based on anti-Mormon garbage, but slowly they started transitioning to real questions about doctrines. Soon he was asking questions like "if I were to get baptized..." or "If I were to start only attending the Mormon church..." One time quite recently, he excitedly emailed me that he had found an answer on his own by looking at some better websites!
Anyways, last week, I found out he went to church again! Then we had a lot of conversations that were MUCH more faith-promoting instead of simply doubt-destroying. (I love a quote that Neal A Maxwell once used by Austin Farrar: "Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows that ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.") One day, for instance, he sent me an email that first talked about how he was using Mormon Messages for his son's bedtime stories! Then, he said:
"Your faith shows me a Christ-centered, positive, uplifting message and you got it right in less than 1/10th the existence as the orthodox. Like I told others: I heard the name Jesus Christ spoken of more times at a one hour Mormon sacrament meeting than I did at a whole month of catholic high school. Not kidding."
I figured that was a good sign. But it gets better. He started to ask A LOT of "If I were to get baptized..." questions. He went to church again yesterday. Well, now he is calling President Francis this week to see if I could attend his baptism whenever it happens! Haha it is quite the transition over the course of primarily internet-teaching! I have only met him in person once and it was mostly in passing. The sisters haven't met or heard from him in months. Internet proselyting at its best!
Well, after those two stories, anything I could add would be pretty boring. We met a lot of cool less active people this week, especially one named Debbie. She is the most Christian lady ever, I swear! She was baptized a while back, but said she never really had a testimony of the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith. Normally, I think that's a cop-out, but for her, I think I believe her. She said that she went ahead with baptism, trusting that God would reveal it to her whenever she was ready for it, but I guess she joined another church before that came. Granted, it doesn't seem like she had read much of it. Anyways, she is awesome. She knows sooo much about the Old Testament, which makes the setting for the Book of Mormon much more logical. She read the first 15 chapters of 1 Nephi over the past three weeks (In between our visits... not sure why we waited so long. This was my first time seeing her.), so hopefully she'll keep it up and keep going. She has some incredible stories, for sure!
Hahahaha oh, and saying Debbie reminded me of another Debbie! Haha she was a referral from a different less active lady who was actually Debbie's mom. Anyways, we finally went to go contact the referral, and this lady in her 40s answered, but turned around and said to someone "I'll let you handle this one." Within a few seconds, a kinda gruff looking man in his 40s came to the door, and pretty quickly explained that they were busy and weren't interested. As he was shutting the door, I asked him if that woman had been Debbie. I wanted to 1) make sure we were actually at the right place and 2) make sure he realized we weren't just tracting and actually meant to be there... normally that's a good thing. Hahaha well this time, it wasn't. His eyes got all big, and he came outside, slamming the door behind him. "EXCUSE ME?!" he said, pointing his finger in my face, "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE ASKING ABOUT A MAN'S WIFE LIKE THAT!? GET OFF MY PORCH!" Highly confused, we got off his porch. I hurriedly tried to explain that her mom had sent us over, which at least slightly calmed him down. "You're lucky you said that, man! I don't even _________ know you guys! You don't go asking random guys about their wife! Someone less reserved than me (HAHAHAHAHA!!!) would have thrown you off their porch!" Hahahaha me and Elder Ryser were trying so hard not to laugh the entire time. Anyways... sometimes maybe referrals aren't as great as we make them out to be ;)
Well, I looove you! But I don't miss ya!