The past couple weeks have been busy! We’ve been blessed by the Lord to have degrees of success in our area. I’ve also noticed that because we all have agency, sometimes the best of choices aren’t made. Serving as a missionary during the holidays is difficult because most people are busy with Christmas shopping and whatnot. As a result, most of the people we speak with ask us to come in January instead. Such was the case with the generous man and his family. With the hustle and bustle of Holidays, they decided they would have perhaps more time to hear from us in January rather than December. I’ve learned that after all we can do, people still have a choice and tradition usually takes priority.
However, we were granted success in teaching another family. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is a group of leaders that meet a few times a month to discuss how best to help the area in which we live. The Bishop and other leaders discuss those who are struggling and how the Church can support and strengthen them. Together with this council, my companion and I have been trying to reach out to a less active family. There is a lady there who is a member of the Church along with her 23 year old son. Living with her are her 25 year old daughter and her fiance, a godchild of the woman with his wife and 3 year old son, another son who is 12, and a couple other people we haven’t met. Their situation is difficult. They have run into hard times and are struggling to get by. The Church has been offering support but no one has been able to meet with the family to help meet their spiritual needs. The week before last, I was able to meet with them along with their home teacher while my companion taught another investigator with the young men of our ward.
I went with this Brother and together we invited the Spirit into their home and bore testimony of the importance of Church attendance. We discussed that in order to receive blessings from the Lord, we need to obey the commandments He gives us (D&C 130: 20-21). We invited this family to come to Church so that they can feel the Spirit and take the Sacrament. I asked the others who were living there if we could stop by and teach them about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and two of the men agreed.
A couple days later my companion and I split up again so that he could teach a part member family at the same time. Together a Brother from the ward and I met with a man and his wife who was 9 months pregnant. While we started teaching, the 12 year old young man joined us. We bore testimony of the Book of Mormon that it testifies of Jesus Christ. We taught them about the Prophet Joseph Smith and how the Savior called Him to Restore the Church Jesus Christ again on the Earth. I asked them if they would read the Book of Mormon, pray to know that it is true and Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. They agreed. It was amazing to see the joy they found in what we discussed with them. To see the interest and excitement in the young man as he learned from us was incredible.
Elder Franks and I met with them another time and were joined by another man in the house. This man’s fiance is also 9 months pregnant. As we’ve taught him and asked him to read and pray to find the truth, he has struggled. His family is baptist and he still clings to the traditions of his family. He feels the Spirit and he feels it to be true but he isn’t sure if he can let go of the past. We are working with him and the other four to build their faith and act on that faith.
We had a great encounter last week with a man who was on a list in our area book of someone who we should stop by. We went to his house and he invited us in. He told us that he works with a lot of LDS people and has heard about Joseph Smith. We taught him about the Restoration and he told us that he has read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it but didn’t get an astounding confirmation of it’s truth. In my life, I’ve searched for these knees-weakening answers from God and I know there are those who receive those things. However, I also know that the Spirit of God testifies to us as a still, small voice. A feeling of peace, love, and happiness. A calming influence in our lives. But still, many search for awe-inspiring answers to their prayers. As I asked this man about when he read and prayed, he told me that he felt good. He felt happy. He felt that the Book contained good things in it, but he just never felt a powerful witness of the truth of it. I told him about the Spirit and how it often manifests to us in small ways such as the feelings he felt in the past. I bore testimony that if he would read and pray again about the Book of Mormon, he won’t even have to get halfway through before he knows that it is true and it is of God. I have been striving to search for myself for the small whisperings of the Spirit rather than the mind-blowing manifestations.
Today we met with him again and his wife, who is Catholic, joined us. He had read the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon and we discussed what he’d learned with his wife. The man is searching to find what Heavenly Father wants for him and he says he is leaving it up to the Lord’s own timing. We’ve encouraged them to read as a family and pray together and we will be meeting with them again next week. I am thankful for the opportunities we’ve had to share with those around us these past couple weeks. It’s crazy that Christmas is in only a few days!
This Christmas will be different for me than years past. I’ve never been a fan of the Christmas Season, but I’ve been rebuked by the Spirit and realized the significance of this time of year. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in December which is the darkest time of year for our part of the world. The days are short, and we have long, dark nights that are often quite cold. The prophets in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon testified that when Christ would be born, a new star would shine for the world to see. These prophets added light into the world with their testimonies of our Savior little by little. When Christ was born, the star shone in Bethlehem and was seen across the world in the Americas. As the Lord walked the Earth His light shone to everyone who searched for Him, but many rejected that light and He was crucified on the cross. The light that Jesus Christ brought into the world was destroyed. Almost two thousand years later, a boy prayed so that he could find that light. Just as the wiseman who came from afar, Joseph Smith read the prophecies and desired to find the Redeemer of the world. As he prayed he saw a pillar of light, above the brightness of the sun. Christ called him to be His prophet and to restore His gospel.
When Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to the prophet, it was no longer the light of a star shining, but the glory of the Sun beaming radiantly. That brilliant light will never again leave the Earth. It beckons all to partake of the glorious gospel which has been restored. In truth, that light reflects from all of us who have a knowledge and a testimony of this gospel and this truth. We are all standing in that pillar of light and those around us see the light we are in. We have the opportunity and obligation to share that light and invite those we love and respect to join us in it.
There is a song that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings titled “What Shall We Give?” In the holiday spirit we become wrapped up in the concerns of what to give our friends, what to give our family, what we will get. But the most important question each of us should ask is what shall we give Christ? Our Savior was born in a stable and came to live in the lowliest of circumstances, to suffer all, to experience the worst, all that we might be saved. He’s given us two incredible gifts: His atonement, and our agency. For Christmas, and for Christ, I pray that we all might share and give of both gifts. To give of our time, effort, and lives to share the atonement of Jesus Christ with all those around us. To escape our comfort zones to reach out to those who need this light we have. Wise men still follow that star that shines within us. Will you help your friends and family reach Him?