Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week 23 - WARNING: Spiritual Feast Enclosed

This week was a good week. We set records for member present lessons in our area, and got a bunch of new investigators, then to top it off, we got to go the the temple today! I really wish I would've had the desire to go to the temple like I do now when I was back home. As missionaries, we only get to go every other transfer, so it's a real privilege and kinda a big deal when we get to go to the house of the Lord! My favorite part is sitting in the Celestial Room. It's such a peaceful place and the spirit is so strong there. We pray for our investigators and seek revelation on how we can better help the work progress in our areas. It's awesome!
I really wanted to focus my letter this week though, on a conversation we had with a member last night at our dinner appointment. We got into talking about choices, and how important it is to make the right ones, especially because we have the knowledge of the gospel. Then he talked about how lucky we are to have that knowledge and be able to share it with people in this life, and the next. After a while, I told him living the gospel is hard sometimes, and then asked basically "Why do we have to live the gospel and keep the commandments, when there's other people who can do whatever they want in this life, then just accept the gospel in the spirit world and receive exaltation as well". Then he gave me the most spiritual dinner conversation I think I've ever had.
He went on to tell us how he had been less-active for 21 years because he got caught up in the things of the world. He figured it was more fun to not live the gospel. He said the whole time, he didn't recognize what he was missing until his daughter dragged him back to church one day. He said he sat in the back of the chapel, hungover, with sunglasses and a polo shirt on. But the spirit he felt there reminded him of why he used to go to church. He said every song, prayer, and testimony that was given, felt like it was meant just for him. However, he said that it was almost as if there were walls or as it mentions in the scriptures "shackles" preventing him from fully partaking of the spirit that he yearned to feel. He could feel the Holy Ghost, but not with the intensity, or in the way that he wanted to. He said he attributes it to his past choices, in choosing to stray away. He told us that even today, after he's worked so hard to build up his spirituality, he'll just remember something of his past life, then all that building up will be torn down, and he'll have to start from square one again. He said he feels like, even though in the spirit world they can accept the gospel, they'll have those same hindrances, slowing down their eternal progression.
A question I always hear from converts in the areas I've served in over here in Hawaii is "Were you born in the church?" When I tell them yes, every time the answer is "You're so lucky". I guess my membership in the church my entire life is something that I take for granted a lot. Once someone is truly converted, like these people, they see the joy and blessings that come from living the gospel, and wish they could've had this their entire lives. We really should be thankful for what God has blessed us with. I think that in the pre-mortal life, it was such an honor, and privilege to be selected by our Heavenly Father to be born and raised in his one true church restored on this earth.
The member continued to say that choosing worldly things is like sliding down a hill. It's fun sliding down, but difficult climbing back up. He pleaded with us to always stay strong, and never let yourself fall into the mindset of thinking you're strong enough to handle temptation "just this one time". He said he admired Gordon B. Hinckley so much because every time he talked about his mission, he didn't mention the number of converts he had, he only talks about how his mission converted him. Then from that true conversion, he was able to go on to eventually become a prophet of God, and his example, leadership, and firm testimony has brought millions to the knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel.
I'm so thankful for this knowledge and truth that I have in my life, and I consider it such a blessing and privilege to be a member of this church. I know it's not always easy, but by being fully converted, we can do so much good and help so many others. I think of temple work, and how rewarding it's going to be to get to the other side of the veil, and have thousands of people coming up to me and thanking me for doing for them what they couldn't do for themselves. And I just think how much better my life is, because of this truth which I have in it.
And this is all possible through our Savior. I'll never forget our member looking at us through tear-filled eyes and telling us over and over, how thankful he is for Christ and how much he owes to Him.
I love you all and hope you're able to recognize how lucky you are to have the gospel in your lives.
-Elda Merrill

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