“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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