What a week! This week has been packed with good, spiritual, weird, creepy, and rejuvenating! …it’s been a strange week lol.I don’t really know where to start.
Michelle is doing great! We found out this week during one of our lessons that she went onto the church website and looked up baptism and what she needed to learn to prepare for it this Saturday! She printed out the baptismal questions which we hadn’t even told her about yet, and she even printed out a simplified hymn book so she could learn the music! She’s doing everything she can to learn about the commitment she’s about to make and she has such a pure desire to know the truth. The Book of Mormon has become special to her as more after the Bible, but a book that also compliments it.
I watched a video yesterday in preparation for a lesson with a friend (that ended up getting canceled), about a high-school student who is asked to prove the Book of Mormon isn’t fiction. She then finds herself in a court room as a defense with her fellow schoolmates and others in the room. Though she isn’t familiar with every fact and detail to prove the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness, she finds that its not about proving it with facts. It’s about reading it yourself.
Michelle has been doing exactly this. She has a desire to seek truth, not just what fits with her beliefs. Don’t we sometimes look for answers with bias? We want a specific answer, and sometimes we can be stubborn about what answer we will find. The first time I experienced something so strongly connected to receiving answers through prayer was one time when I wanted to go out and participate in an activity at an animal shelter on a Sunday. I asked my parents if they thought it would be alright, and they both told me what their thoughts were, but that I needed to make a decision for myself. They encouraged me to pray about it, so I did. Every day for the last few days of the week, I prayed about what the right decision would be. I don’t feel like I had a desire to truly know what was right for me to do. I wanted to get an answer that it was okay. By the end of the week, I made a decision to go and said one last prayer before I confirmed with the people taking me that I could go. I said in my prayer that this was the decision I had made, and if it was okay to let me feel peace. I didn’t have any particular promptings or feelings towards it until I got in the car to go. As soon as we drove out of town, I had a feeling of dread the entire time. I felt trapped and suffocated. I knew that my decision was not focused on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I went through the activity and tried my best to get my mind off of it. After the activity, my ride went out to eat and I had an opportunity to explain why I wouldn’t be purchasing food on a Sunday. It was a great missionary opportunity in a normal and natural way, but I couldn’t wait to get home.
That experience changed how I look for answers. I’m not perfect, and I still have my moments in prayer where I say,”I really want this. That would be great, thank you, bye!” Heavenly Father is not ever going to take away our ability to choose, and we have to be open to hearing the promptings of the Spirit.
When my cousin, Matt was out on his mission, I remember reading one of his emails where he talked about how prayer changed for him when he started taking time after each prayer to stop, ponder, and listen for the promptings of the Spirit. What an impact that made in my life! I know I needed to hear that to have more direction in my life. Prayer for me used to not be very effective. I felt like I never received answers and didn’t have any direction. Then I realized after reading that email and having a couple of my own experiences, experimenting with it, that I needed to allow Heavenly Father to respond through the Spirit. I was having one sided conversations with Heavenly Father. I was telling him,”thank you for this, I want this, please help me this.” And as I changed to listen and to search for truth rather than what I wanted to hear, and I allowed myself to hear the promptings of the Spirit, my prayers nearly immediately turned into a conversation.
I remember the first time I tried listening after a prayer. I had been at odds with a good friend and I felt like I had done everything I could to do my part. I pleaded for help in knowing what I could do for this friend and asked for inspiration. I waited after I concluded my prayer, and after a moment or two, had a thought to invite them to dinner out. I thought to myself,”I’ve already done stuff like that, I already did all of these things.” But I gave it a try. I invited. They canceled. I prayed again. My answer: try again. I tried again. Canceled. That time I was hurt. I prayed. I was in despair! I felt so alone and that I was just wasting my efforts. Finally after getting an answer after a prayer to try one more time, I was successful with this friend. I wouldn’t say our problems were magically solved, but that one experience I had let to us being able to talk to each other and overcome obstacles we had faced in our relationship with each other for months. I’ve been so grateful for that experience.
I guess the reason for me sharing that is that earnestly praying for truth, not just what we want to hear, is going to make it so much easier for Heavenly Father to guide us. When we feel like we have gotten two separate answers, let the Spirit guide.
We had a wonderful face to face devotional that our mission had an opportunity to watch and I loved what Elder Bednar said about promptings from the Spirit that seem to conflict with each other. He said that sometimes (in a scenario of dating) we are led by the Spirit to, for example,’get to know that person.’ Then, once we do, the Spirit seems to whisper,’not that one.’ He said that it is a pattern of an answer, and that it can provide direction to help guide us to make the decisions to get to where we need to be. I’m heavily paraphrasing here, but this made such an impact on me. It answered questions that have been weighing on my mind for months now! I don’t actually know if those words make any sense to anyone, but they touched my heart because (as Elder Bednar stated several times throughout the devotional), it’s not about the words that are being spoken. It’s about the Spirit teaching us individually. That’s what I got out of it. It was the place and time I least expected to get an answer. But I know I got it because I was looking for truth and looking to build my spiritual knowledge.
One last thing I love that Elder Bednar said was,”It’s not what answer we give. It’s what we invite them to do.” Wrapping back to Michelle, I’ve already mentioned this I believe, but the first time we met, Michelle said she didn’t understand a lot of what we said, but she felt the Spirit there and knew that this (being the gospel) was the answer to something she had been searching for for eight years. It was the Spirit teaching, and our invitation that allowed her to be taught, and act.
I’m so grateful for all of the experiences we have, good and bad (and weird), because it makes the simple, but strong experiences all the more special. Throughout this last week, we’ve had weird experiences with friends flirting with us, someone on Facebook telling me they were a nudist and couldn’t meet, and disappointing experiences with being ghosted by friends, and not being able to meet with anyone due to canceling, rescheduling, etc. We care about these friends immensely and know that we were put in their path for one reason or another, but their time for accepting the gospel has not come. We have to stop teaching some of them to let the Spirit teach them for a time. But we have a work to do! And we have little time to do it. The work is not going to be complete when we finish our missions. The work continues as this is the greatest work we can be a part of.
I was listening to a talk yesterday by President Nelson called,”Let God Prevail” (Oct 2020 GC). He talked about the Hebraic definition of “Israel.” It means,”let God prevail.” He continued to talk about how the work of gathering Israel is finding people who are ready to let God prevail in their lives. He extended an invitation to ponder whether we let God prevail.
“Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?”
I strongly recommend looking at this talk. The work of gathering Israel is not just for missionaries called to serve for 18 months to 2 years! It is for every baptized member of Christ’s Church. We can find many normal and natural ways to invite people to “come and see.” They don’t have to accept. Just invite.
Michelle was a referral from a member in our ward who turned around during church and said,”I have a couple I want you guys to meet.” And turned back around. Now, Michelle is preparing to be baptized and has come and seen, and is deciding to stay. But we don’t meet many “Michelle’s” throughout our missions or throughout our lives. It can be discouraging to invite and invite and see no fruits of our rewards, but the invitation is so important.
I’ve always imagined (with my friends back home), me seeing them after this life and being asked,”why didn’t you try to share the gospel with me? Why did you never invite me?” I didn’t want to get to the end of my life without giving everyone I met and opportunity to come and see. Many of my friends I have invited, do not seem relatively interested at this time. Where others may be. Either way, it is not my duty to teach them and force the gospel into their lives. I just invite. Sometimes inviting looks like standing up for my beliefs, or talking about how the choices I make because of the gospel make me happier. I am not perfect, and have a lot to work on. I’m working on being more joyful and optimistic when I am currently facing hard things, so I can be an example of my beliefs, rather than feed into despair. It’s not easy, but that’s why I’m working on it. I know if I reach out to Heavenly Father, He will help me.
Well, I’ve probably written enough for this week, but I’m so grateful for all of the support I get from all of you. It goes a looooong way! I can now look at comments, not so much respond to them, but I can see them now, and I appreciate all of the comments that have been made in the past. These posts are for me to remember the experiences I have gone through every week, and to share with others what I’m learning. I realized last night. That it is very much a journal to me since I haven’t had much time to journal throughout the week.
Love you all! Stay safe, love others & yourself, choose happy, and stay away from strangers in hats! The cake is a lie.
Sister (Katie) Malan