Elder Burdge: “Knowing the Church is True and Being True to the Church” 03/17/14

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The past week I have enjoyed many opportunities to learn and to grow. There were many challenges that came up this week, but I have been able to see the blessings of them all. I have also learned for myself that little sleep as a missionary is quite a challenge. We had exchanges on Saturday with the Traveling Assistants. These Assistants to the President are missionaries who are great leaders. They are called Traveling Assistants because they are responsible for the Spanish learning and speaking that goes on in the Texas San Antonio Mission. They travel all around the mission and accomplish assignments from the Mission President. An exchange is when we switch companions for a day in order to learn new ways of planning, studying, finding, and teaching so that we can improve our own areas. The exchange with the Assistants required that we drive very far and get little sleep. However, I was grateful because I had the opportunity of spending an entire day immersed in Spanish.

I love this opportunity I have to be a missionary; especially in the Texas San Antonio Mission. Our Mission President truly is a man of God who is inspired and strives to assist us in increasing our faith and testimonies. About a month ago President Slaughter gave us a packet to study during personal study everyday. He explained that a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is founded upon four cornerstones: 1) the true nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ; 2) the divine calling of Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God; 3) the validity of the Book of Mormon; 4) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Kingdom of God on earth. We have spent a week studying each cornerstone and understanding the importance of each. Last week we studied the last section of the packet “Knowing the Church is True; Being True to the Church.”

At the beginning of this week we received an email from President Slaughter with the following parable:

“Imagine, for a moment, a paradisiacal island in the middle of the sea, far removed from the reach of any civilization. The people often speak and read of this paradise island, and would–so they say–give anything to find and settle it.

Imagine also, one ship–the Sephinah–the only ship that is able to withstand the rigors of the sea; and one captain–Sar–the only captain who knows the way and has the crew to man the Sephinah to the desired destination.

Now imagine all the different people. Many are delighted to find that there is a way, and so they board the ship and heed the crew. Others, however, are conflicted; they can see the ship is greater than any they have ever seen; yet they simply cannot bring themselves to board a ship that has an organized crew; they prefer to do it their own way. They begin to build their own vessels–plastic rafts, wooden canoes, tin boats. There is one more group–these have read about a people who have taken the ship before them, followed the crew, and arrived safely at the island; and now having read such stories, they feel this is sufficient, and there is no need to board the boat themselves.”

President Slaughter explained that the island is a representation of eternal life. The Sephinah is the restored Gospel of Jesus Chirst. Its crew is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, captained by Jesus Christ himself. It is His ship; He commands His crew.

As a missionary I have come across many of the people spoken of in the parable. Many feel that “organized religion” is not something that is necessary for salvation and thus they seek for other ways to make it to the “paradisaical island.” Lately, most of the people we meet are in the mindset that the Sephinah is not the only ship that can make it to the island; every ship ever made has parts that are just as strong as the Sephinah, therefore those other ships will be fine. These are those who say, “I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might be true. But I will never believe it is the only true church.”

To such, the Lord, Jesus Christ, has responded: “[This is] the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). Now, that is not to say that every aspect of every other religion is completely and utterly false, for they do contain parts and pieces of truth. However, Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy noted:

“What it does mean is that this is the only church that has all the truth that has been revealed thus far in this dispensation–the only church that has the ordinances necessary for exaltation and the only church that has the priesthood of God to perform those ordinances with divine validity.”

Part of our study was on a talk titled “What is the Blueprint of Christ’s Church?” by Elder Tad R. Callister and I would like to discuss parts of that talk. Elder Callister spoke of a blueprint he and his wife had made for building their house. The blueprint was unique and molded to satisfy the necessities of his family. He explained that such a blueprint, if compared to every house in the world, would match only one house–their house. Elder Callister compared this to the Church which Jesus Christ himself established while He was on the earth. If we took the blueprint of the Church established by Jesus Christ and compared it to every church in the world–comparing every aspect of organization, teachings, ordinances, fruits, and revelations–only one church would match it exactly. That church being the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Callister then began testing such a bold and arrogant assertion beginning with the Organization of Christ’s Church.

“First, Chirst’s Church was founded on apostles and prophets. When Paul was writing to some new members of the Church, he said that they were now ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone’ (Ephesians 2:20).”

Apostles are essential to the organization of Christ’s Church. They hold all of the priesthood power necessary for the salvation and exaltation of mankind. They keep the doctrine pure as they teach and make corrections to what others have said to keep us from being “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). To assist the Apostles in such a work, Jesus Christ called men to which he gave the name Seventy (Luke 10). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints matches such a blueprint of Apostles, Prophets, and the office of Seventy.

We can also test the Church against the Teachings found in the blueprint of Christ’s Church. Elder Callister asked:

“Are God and Jesus the same Being, as taught by much of the Christian world, or two separate Beings? What does the blueprint say? The number of references in the Bible to the separate identity and separate roles of the Father and the Son is staggering. In the Garden of Gethsemane…the Savior declared, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done’ (Luke 22:42). This is the grandest act of submission the world has ever known. But what submission would there have been if there was no other Being to whom He could submit–if He and the Father were one and the same Being?”

After his humble and earnest prayer, Joseph Smith learned the truth about God and Jesus Christ. He saw God the Father standing next to Jesus Christ, the Son, and he spoke with them. Elder Callister explained,

“On that glorious day the heavens shattered the man-made myths of the past about the nature of God and revealed and confirmed the simple truth as originally taught in the blueprint: that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have a oneness of goals and will but a separateness of identity.”

Elder Callister then compared Ordinances found in Christ’s Church.

“What does the blueprint say about the manner in which the gift–not the temporary presence, but the permanent gift–of the Holy Ghost is given after someone is baptized? …The scriptures reveal the manner in which that ordinance is to be performed: ‘Then [Peter and John] laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 8:17). …Once again the blueprint and Christ’s restored Church are in perfect harmony.”

The talk given by Elder Callister goes through many cases where the Church of Jesus Christ matches that which was restored by Joseph Smith. A point which I found to be incredible was that the Word of Wisdom which Latter-day Saints now follow is not something new. In fact, Christ has always given His people a Law of Health and His apostles have always taught about the sacredness of our bodies.

“Because of this, the members of Christ’s Church had certain health laws they obeyed, such as certain restrictions on drinking wine, found in Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 3. In accordance with this divine law of treating our bodies like temples, Joseph Smith received a health law from the Lord for the members of Christ’s restored Church, known as the Word of Wisdom.”

Nothing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not match the original Church established by Jesus Christ himself. This Church is true. It is of God. It is the only Church that has all of the parts, pieces, truths, ordinances, doctrines, teachings, fruits, etc., contained within the primitive Church of Jesus Christ. There has never been a question about it in my mind. If you have questions, I encourage you to solicit answers from your Father in Heaven. I encourage you to read the scriptures; the blueprints which have been given. I encourage you to speak with the missionaries, for they know how to help you find the answers. If you seek proof, if you seek evidence of the validity of this Church, read, watch, or listen to the talk by Elder Tad R. Callister.

Now that I am a missionary and I see the power, strength, and blessings that come from living the Gospel and being true to the Church, I feel as though I need to shout it from the mountaintops for all to hear. I feel as Alma in chapter 29 verses 1-2:

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon the face of the earth.”

I pray that you all may be able to find the blessings which our Father in Heaven is ready to give. I pray that you all will feel an increase in your testimonies and your relationship with God as you humbly seek Him in sincere prayer. I pray that you all may feel His love.

Elder Burdge

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“I’m an atheist. Sorry, but have a good day.” 3/10/14

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I am forever grateful for the opportunities we have had to teach many people and for the miracles I have seen in my encounters with them. For about two weeks we have been teaching a man whom I will call John in this email. Elder Bala Perez and I were visiting a less active member one day and we had some extra time before our lesson. We decided to knock on a few doors in the neighborhood to pass the time. Most people didn’t answer. Eventually, we came to John’s door. As he opened it, he said, “I’m an atheist. Sorry, but have a good day.” I replied, “Well, sir, as missionaries we love doing service. Is there anything in your yard or some house work we could give you a hand with?” With a chuckle, John responded “You should have come yesterday. I did all my yard work then.”

He then began to ask us about ourselves and the work we do. We got to talking about his views of religion. He explained that he was wary of organized religion because it’s all run by greedy men just searching for power. John spoke of a religious leader he had known as a kid who lived in a mansion funded by the money that the church had given him. As we continued speaking with John we were able to explain about the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which we are a part. We informed him that our church is run on the work of volunteers; men and women who have responsibilities in their own lives, including family and careers, who serve in the church out of love for the Savior and for those around them. John invited us into his home and we were able to share the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him. He told us that we could stop by whenever we are in the neighborhood. Last week we did so.

John was at home and welcomed us in to his house again. We spoke of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. We invited John to be baptized and he responded with a smile, “Well, I’ll try!” He explained that he needed time to think about it and really consider the message we brought before he made a decision. I am so grateful for John. I am glad that he takes our message seriously and is pondering in his heart the truths we have presented. Elder Bala Perez and I asked if we could return again and John told us, “Absolutely! Could you come a little later next time? I want you to meet my wife.” This past Sunday we met with John again and was able to meet his wife, his daughter, and three of his grandchildren. I am amazed at the miracle we have had to meet such a man. I am thankful that the Lord has prepared him to receive the message of the Restored Gospel. I am grateful that John has an open and willing heart.

My companion and I are teaching many people but I would like to mention one other couple whom I will call Erin and Mark in this email. Erin is the mother of two young daughters and is happily married to her husband, Mark. The two of them grew up in the Catholic church and are very grateful for the foundation it gave them. Erin attended several nondenominational churches recently and told us that she hasn’t felt like she belongs or feels a connection to them. She has been searching for God in her life and how best to reach out to him. Before I arrived in the Culebra Creek ward, the missionaries met Erin and began teaching her. We have discussed the Gospel with Erin and Mark and were able to read the Book of Mormon with them. Erin reads constantly on her own and always comes prepared when we teach her. She asks thoughtful questions but is frustrated because she doesn’t know what exactly she is searching for. She prays to God but she doesn’t know what to ask Him. We invited her to pray to know if Joseph Smith truly was a prophet called of God. Erin did. She explained to us that the answer she feels she received was to study more. I am grateful that she is sensitive enough to the Holy Ghost to recognize the promptings He gives her.

On Thursday nights in our Stake, there is a Strengthening Families class at the church building. We felt it would be a valuable class for Erin and Mark to attend. Erin was very excited and they showed up to the class fifteen minutes early. Due to poor planning, Elder Bala Perez and I were going to arrive late. There was day care provided during the class and Erin went to drop off her daughters. The members running the care told her, “this one is for 8 and up.” Disappointed, confused, and uncomfortable, Erin and Mark left. This experience was in no way the fault of the members, nor do I harbor negative feelings toward them. If anything, the fault lies with my companion and I for not being there early to make sure everything went smoothly. I simply wish to note that in the Church, mistakes and miscommunication happen. When we arrived, Erin and her husband had already left and were disappointed. We found that there were multiple child cares going on in the building and they were separated into different age groups. Unfortunately, Erin did not want to come back that night but we were able to schedule an appointment for the following Thursday. Both of these experiences remind me of two talks given in April 2013 and October 2013 of General Conference.

In his talk “Come, Join with Us,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks of the work done by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He told the following story:

Once there was a man who dreamed that he was in a great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered. He realized that each religion had much that seemed desirable and worthy. He met a nice couple who represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, “What do you require of your members?” “We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.” The couple went on to explain about Church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare and humanitarian service, and assignments to teach. “Do you pay your people for all the work they do?” the man asked. “Oh, no,” the couple explained. “They offer their time freely.” “Also,” the couple continued, “every six months our Church members spend a weekend attending or watching 10 hours of general conference.” “Ten hours of people giving talks?” the man wondered. “What about your weekly church services? How long are they?” “Three hours, every Sunday!” “Oh, my,” the man said. “Do members of your church actually do what you have said?” “That and more. We haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.” The man said, “Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?” The couple smiled and said, “We thought you would never ask.”

Members of the Church offer all they have to help build, sustain, and strengthen those around them. All of the effort and time put in to the various callings and assignments is done to help uplift individuals, families, and communities. There are countless sacrifices made, but even more innumerable are the blessings received by all. As a missionary I love the opportunity I have to explain to all those who will hear “why anyone would join such a church.” I encourage you to read President Uchtdorf’s talk. Even as members of the Church, we can be strengthened and uplifted by the words of one of the Lord’s anointed servants.

The second talk of which I am reminded is titled, “Lord, I Believe,” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Speaking of mistakes and miscommunications in the Church, Elder Holland admonished us:

…[Be] kind regarding human frailty–your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.

Mistakes happen. Miscommunications arise. It’s a fact of life. Dwelling on such errors improves nothing and no one. The obstacle experienced this week is only an obstacle if it is focused on. I am grateful that Erin and her husband, Mark, were willing to meet with us again and that the mishap did not impede her search for truth.

I love the Lord.

Elder Burdge

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