Posts Tagged ‘Missionary work’
“Everyone get down.”
A rock crashed through the front window of the bus. We didn’t have to be told twice. Some passengers ducked in their seats. We got on the floor. My heart raced.
The bus sped up. I looked at my companion. It was hard to see him in the dark. He seemed terrified. We held on to the seat legs for support.
“Dios mío,” said one of the women. Children cried. Rocks crashed through the side windows. Glass sprayed all around us. The bus driver laid on the horn.
A man shouted something in Spanish out the window. A rock hit him in the side of the face. Blood spattered the seat next to us. Several women screamed.
Chickens flew in the aisle. More rocks smashed windows in quick succession. The bus hopped over obstacles in the road. Men, women and children bounced up and down.
A shot rang out, then another. They came from behind us. One last rock hit the back window. The bus veered to the right in a sudden turn. The crashing rocks ceased.
“Are you alright?” I asked my companion.
Elder Morales didn’t reply. A woman next to him sobbed. He spoke to her in Spanish. He tried to comfort her. The bus slowed to a more reasonable speed.
After a moment I saw the lights of the main street ahead. The bus driver stopped at the corner. He got out and swore. “Damn those kids. Look what they did to my bus.”
We all piled out after him as fast as we could. Women gathered their children who still cried. Men stood around the bus driver. They asked him to keep going.
“They would have burned my bus if I stopped,” the driver said. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going home.” He got back in his bus, closed the door and sped down the road.
I helped Elder Morales clean the glass out of his hair. His ear was bleeding. I gave him my handkerchief. We began the long walk back to our house outside the barrio.
We worked in Reparto Schick all day, every day. The dangers of that poor neighborhood just outside of Managua prevented us from staying there at night. We had come from a day full of meetings and visiting the people in their homes. It was Sunday, February 5, 1978.
We worked with a small church group called a branch. The leader of the branch got up in church that day and renounced his position. Then his assistant renounced. He said he didn’t want the job either. We spent the afternoon trying to convince them to stay.
“What are we going to do, Elder Morales?” We walked at a fast pace away from the shouting and fires that still burned in the barrio. “President Jimenez can’t quit like that.”
“Elder Malone, you’ve got to understand these people. There are so few that are willing to lead a church. This is the third time he’s been Branch President.”
“I know, but he can’t quit. He has to be released.” Elder Morales looked at me with a kind of sadness. He seemed so much older and wiser than his nineteen years. He was from San Jose. One eye was lop-sided. I could never tell exactly where he was looking.
“We’ll talk to President Garcia. Let him handle it.” I liked that. Give the problem to the District President where it belonged. I was going to miss Elder Morales.
This was our last full day together as companions. I was being transferred the next day to work in Bello Horizonte as a zone leader. All the missionaries in my incoming group of fourteen were about to become zone leaders. It happened with the passage of time.
The only cars on the road that night were taxis and a few busses. Very few people had cars. Sometimes a church member who drove a taxi would pick us up. Not that night.
The shouting in the distance grew louder. Army trucks rolled past us going toward the barrio. A helicopter flew in the distance. Its powerful light searched the ground below.
“Elder, I think we had better get off this road. Let’s cut through the field.” We were about five minutes from our house. The commotion was growing louder. Elder Morales agreed.
The stench of a dead dog filled our nostrils. The light from the helicopter revealed it was infested with maggots. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Elder.”
Elder Morales began to cough, then sneeze and gag. He grabbed at his face. Tears flowed from his eyes. Surely the scent of a dead dog couldn’t do this. Then it hit me.
Tear gas has a powerful effect even after several minutes. The helicopter light shone fully in our faces. A voice in Spanish over a loudspeaker demanded to know why we were there.
Neither one of us could talk. The wind from their rotor blades whipped around us. Tears blinded my eyes. My tie whipped up in my face. I held my hands up high. So did Elder Morales.
“Don’t shoot,” Elder Morales managed to shout. “We’re missionaries.” It must have been the white shirts that saved our lives. And Sandinistas don’t wear ties.
“CIA go home.” I had to laugh. The voice over the loudspeaker spoke English. It was intended for me. I waved in reply. Both arms. I waved them off. Get out of here.
We arrived home a few moments later. The doña had the usual rice and beans waiting for us. That night she added a little chicken and some plátanos in my honor.
“You’re late. Did anything interesting happen today?”
I looked at my companion.
“We had a great church meeting,” he said. “Please pass the rice.”
On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org. There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.
01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?
Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer. We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work. We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help. We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service. It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.
02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?
The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another. I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not. It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that. To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first. He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.
03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.
Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is. Think about it! Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday. It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God. I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.
04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.
I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man. He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed. But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come. I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.
05. Why do Mormons go on missions?
I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries. As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries. It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism. I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.
06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?
Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives. I am a product of all those who came before me. My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover. Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation. We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).
07. How has attending Church services helped you?
One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday. I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings. I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior. I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week. That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week. I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.
08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?
Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry. I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure. So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members. I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most. We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.
09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?
Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding. Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control. We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material. So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!” It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content. We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.
10. Could you talk about your baptism?
I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago. My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance. I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission. My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost. I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood. I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back. I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance. It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.
11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?
I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior. I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others. I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way. I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion. I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too. Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger. I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life. The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.
12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?
When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity. Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations. When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift. The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices. Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes. The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.
13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?
There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two. Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife. After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy. I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there. One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me. I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family. I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers. I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later. The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.
14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?
My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual. I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life. But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family. We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals. For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active. We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community. The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.
15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?
Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world. Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary. I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come. Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things. Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be. The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.
16. What is hope and what do you hope for?
Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life. Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow. I hope for a glorious resurrection. I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life. Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here. This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.
17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?
In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life. Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is. One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8). In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted. Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy. The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream. What a great story!
18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?
I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life. There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift. The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life. The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places. The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered. The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain. The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.
19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?
It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life. For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting. But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good. The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him. And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better. It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.” I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.
20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?
One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved. We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us. Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes. Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do. We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.
21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?
Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome. For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment. In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak. We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come. We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.
22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life. Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent). But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member. Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors. When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.
23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?
A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer. I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers. And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself. My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit. The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer. I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.
24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?
I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old. I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher. Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon. I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together. I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it. In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family. No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed. The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God. It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us. The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.
25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?
Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints. Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy. We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church. In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do. I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis. These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.
Last November, LDS Harvard undergrad Rachel Esplin made viral video news with her incredibly articulate and intelligent responses to some very difficult questions about the Mormon faith. She was asked whether she wears sacred undergarments, if Mormonism is a cult, how she views the role of women in her church, and what her relationship is with Jesus. For not having served a mission, this young 20-year old is an amazing missionary for the LDS faith.
The interview is twenty minutes long and something you may enjoy viewing as part of a Family Home Evening or perhaps even burning it to a DVD and sharing it in a Sunday School lesson about how to share the gospel in today’s media savvy world. Rachel was on the debate team in her high school and her mother teaches at BYU Idaho. But still, this young woman did a better job than I ever could at responding to difficult questions with poise and confidence.
You may also be interested in viewing some of the hundreds of comments that accompanied just one typical news piece covering the popularity of the video as it appeared in the Boston Globe. I think the very first comment is excellent as it helps us to see how the world perceives us as being closed and secretive. Especially note the tenor of the comments that focus on the claims of exclusivity. This continues to be a difficult point for many to deal with both within and without the church.
I don’t know this blogger and I normally don’t do this, but one of the joys of blogging is reading what others have felt important to share. I feel particularly impressed with this essay shared by Memoirs of a Married Mormon Man and felt it deserved additional readership. He writes that it will be his only blog post this month but it is worth it. Here is the heart of the essay:
A Missionary in Germany
“I recognized a smartly dressed elderly gentleman as he strode toward us. He looked as if he had somewhere to be. Someplace important. As he stopped in front of us, a wide smile on his face, he said hello to me. I smiled back, astonished at the happy coincidence, and introduced my companion to him as my father.
“He then turned to my father, and in fluent, though accented English, greeted him with, ‘I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that your son stopped me on the street one day. Before we met, I had lost God. Because he talked to me, I have found God again. Thank you for sending him here. Thank you.’
“My father was speechless. I felt like I was in a dream. This man was obviously ecstatic to see us. At that moment, I don’t know who was happier: me, my father, or this newly converted gentleman. But I have a suspicion that our happiness pales in comparison to the joy the Savior must have felt knowing that a few more of his children had found their way to Him.”
LDS Bloggers have stories to tell
That’s why I love LDS blogging. You can find jewels like this all over the place with just a little patience and digging. By the way, I found MMM through a comment he left of one of the blogs I regularly read: Rough Stone Rolling. I wish there was some place where we could nominate great stories to the LDS bloggers hall of fame. Anybody? Now go read the rest of the story.
The Mormon missionary experience has always been described as a rite of passage. It is a growing experience for most who serve. I learned that being a junior companion does not always mean submissive support. Our full participation and thoughtful contributions are needed for the success of the work of the Lord.
I shared the following as a comment on Dr. B’s missionary website, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, but felt it deserved a place on my own blog as well. It describes a life-changing moment for me that occurred early on my mission. The Lord blesses his missionaries when they try to do things the way he has asked, with full purpose of heart.
A missionary in Honduras
La Colonia Kennedy in Tegucigalpa had been worked over for many, many years before we got there in 1976. It was a world of dirt roads an no cars back then. Yet the field was still white and ready to harvest. My first companion, Elder DJ Webb had lined up a half dozen baptisms the first few weeks I was there.
We taught at least three or four discussions on my very first day and every day thereafter. I think we baptized a dozen or more in the six short weeks we were together. Obviously Elder Webb was a hard worker and trying to do what the Lord wanted. Being a senior companion can be hard, but I didn’t know anything about that.
Tracting builds character
One day we were tracting and came to a corner, wondering what to do next. Elder Webb looked at me and asked, “What do you think we should do, Elder Malone?” Up until that moment my focus had been on memorizing the discussions and conjugating verbs.
It was all I could do to keep up with Elder Webb, especially since he seemed so fluent in Spanish and I was still struggling with the language so much. I said, “I don’t know. You’re the senior companion. You tell me.”
Leaders make decisions
I don’t think I could have hurt him more if I had cut him with a knife. Poor guy! He was exercising so much faith and working so hard to make sure that I had a good start to my mission and I couldn’t see that he could have used a friend at that moment.
Patiently, but with some emotion betrayed in his voice, Elder Webb chastised me for not responding favorably to his request to share the burden of leadership. I was surprised by his lecture and listened closely, apologizing when he was through.
The Lord can teach us
“No problem,” he said and shrugged it off. He smiled and we went on our way, down the next row of close-packed houses that I remember so well in the Kennedy. But I continued to think about what he said and just for a moment, as I did, the spirit touched the eyes of my understanding and I saw Elder Webb in a different light.
From then on I did everything I could to be his friend and show him that we were on the same team. He seemed to mellow a bit after that and I noticed an increase in the spirit of our teaching and the tenor of our prayers. He was asking for help in his duty to lead the work in our area.
A great missionary companion
I later learned to appreciate what a great companion Elder Webb was as I gained experience in the mission and was able to compare him to other companions who didn’t work as hard and to a junior companion who gave me the same treatment once that I gave to him.
I can say without a doubt that Elder Webb was the hardest working companion I had and exactly the kind of first senior comp I needed to get my mission started off right. He taught me to think straight with one simple question, “What do you think we should do, Elder Malone?” I have been forever grateful.
Think for ourselves
He taught me to think straight and not be just a mindless, yet submissive missionary. I have been able to use this lesson many times over the years as I served in similar situations with bishops who were called because of their faithfulness and humility but could use some straight thinking from their counselors.
“What do you think?” might be the smartest words a bishop can ask of those who are called to assist him. It takes a humble man to solicit and accept counsel. And it is a wise counselor who has done some thinking and can offer sage advice in a spirit of love and encouragement.
I’ve decided to come out and be up front about it. I am a Mormon activist. Yes, I confess, my desire is to change your way of thinking to be more in line with mine. Of course, I believe that what I espouse is truth and will be for your good. Therefore, I have no problem being very insistent that you take a minute and consider my point of view. In particular, I want you to think about the possibility that what I offer is better than what you have. Of more correctly stated, the truth I like to write about can augment the truth you already posses.
I can guess what you’re thinking. You’re probably saying to yourself, “How very offensive! Let’s be tolerant. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If I want to think differently than you, then that’s my prerogative.” It’s true enough that everyone is free to think and believe as they wish. But I want to be a clear voice in boldly stating my case. Let there be no misunderstanding. I will try to not be “in your face” and you can stop reading anytime you wish. But I make no bones about it. I want to state up front that I am trying to push my points of view forward. I share what I believe in the hope that it will answer some questions for you.
Basic points of my activism
To those who don’t believe in God, or in life after death, or that there is a purpose to life, I offer this: I believe in God. In fact, I know that he lives and is a loving Heavenly Father. In other words, we are his spiritual children. I know this through many years of prayer and faith. No, I can’t prove that He exists any more than you can prove that He doesn’t. All I can say is that my faith in God brings me happiness and hope. It fills me with a sense of purpose and meaning. I believe that when I die, I will see God and that He will be pleased with my faith in Him.
I am also a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. I know that he lived and walked the earth thousands of years ago. He was more than just a good man or a teacher of good ideas. He was more than a prophet. He was and is the Son of God. He is my Savior and Redeemer. He redeems me from death. Because of Him, I know that I will live again. He is the resurrection and the life. He saves me from the effects of my sins. Yes, I believe in sin and I also believe in repentance. I desire to do all those things that Jesus taught. I am happy as I try to do so.
Advanced tenets of my activism
A lot of people believe in God and are Christians. Let’s narrow the focus of my activism a little bit. I am a Mormon. I believe in restored Christianity. I believe that Jesus Christ established a church is his day but that it was lost over time. Specifically, the authority to preach or to act in His name was lost. I believe that the priesthood was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and has been on the earth from his day until today. I believe in living prophets and apostles. I listen closely to what they say and try to follow their teachings.
I believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It is scripture just like the Bible. I have found much enlightenment in reading, studying and pondering the messages of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me closer to Christ. I have learned many truths that are not found in the Bible and have found greater understanding of the doctrines of salvation found in the Bible. I also believe in modern revelation that has been canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I wish that everyone would accept and believe them.
Been there, done that
But what about all those who say they were once True Believing Mormons and then found reasons to no longer believe? Perhaps they don’t agree with the stand of the church on homosexuality. Maybe they are upset with the church being involved in promoting the definition of marriage in law as being between a man and a woman. How can I continue to assert that believing in and following the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will bring one happiness? It’s very simple. The more I try to be a True Believer, the happier I become.
But what about the hundreds, if not thousands of websites and blogs that claim to have proof that Mormonism is not true, or that it is a cult, or that we aren’t Christian, or that Joseph Smith was a great deceiver? Perhaps you are thinking, “As an activist, do you want me to discount what all these other voices are saying? Why should I listen to you? You’re just one voice out there – one blog among so many that are so much more enticing and convincing. Why should I believe you and consider what you have to say?” Trust me, I am not alone in this.
Summary and conclusion
There are many millions who believe as I do and wish there was some way to help you to come to the same understanding that what we posses is priceless and of eternal worth. There just aren’t very many Mormons that know how to blog, or even know how to use a computer very well. With time, you will see more and more of us clearly share that our beliefs are worth considering and result in happiness. It is unfortunate that so far, there are a disproportionate number of bloggers and websites that do not portray the LDS Church in a very positive light.
As a Mormon activist, I strive to write essays that will convince you that we’ve got something special. I hope I am respectful of your intelligence. You are probably well educated and know how to research your subject through the miracle of the Internet. I invite you to keep coming back to this blog and many others that proclaim the hope and joy of living the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? I hope it wasn’t too “in your face”. Try these other essays:
1. We know the purpose of life
2. The sacred power of marriage
3. My experiences with the temple
4. Burning of the bosom – feelings from God
5. The atonement of Jesus Christ
6. A mother who knew
7. Why can’t I attend a Mormon wedding?
8. Authority to act in the name of God
9. The Book of Mormon brings us closer to Christ
10. Are Mormons Christians?
Blogging will be light for the next week or two while Carol and I enjoy not one, but two family reunions in Utah this Saturday and next. We went and saw Les Miserables last night at Tuacahn in St. George. What a treat. Outdoor theater with a great sound system where every seat has a wonderful view!
For some reason, I thought of another traveling experience from many years ago. I guess my mind was wandering during the long hours between Ventura county and Utah. We have made this trip at least twice a year for the last 26 years. I never tire of the scenery. Here’s the story from long ago:
The wild ride
We could tell there was going to be trouble when the bus driver sped up and told everyone to duck down. Rocks started crashing through windows. Women and children were screaming. Our hearts started to race but there was nothing we could do. We held on for dear life.
What were we doing down here in Central America in the middle of a revolution? We didn’t come here to fight. We came to tell people about a way of living together in peace as families. We loved these people and enjoyed visiting them in their homes and in their churches.
Is this any way to run a country?
Luckily nobody was hurt. The bus driver got us to our destination safely but he was not happy at all the broken windows. “Damned kids,” he shouted. Those weren’t kids. They were local college students unhappy with the way things were going in Nicaragua at that time.
They were trying to kill us or at least destroy property. They would have turned the bus over and burned it if it had stopped. That was their way of protesting the corruption in the Somoza government. We could have easily been seriously injured in this particular incident.
We make it home safely
We hurried the rest of the way to our home that night on foot. The whiff of a tear gas canister caused us to choke and cough while a helicopter overhead shone a searchlight on us. They were shooting at the groups of kids who were throwing the rocks and burning the busses.
Luckily they saw our white shirts and ties and saw that we were gringos. “CIA, go home,” they shouted in Spanish through the loudspeaker. But we weren’t with the CIA. Can you guess who we were? Extra credit if you can guess the year. I know, it wasn’t that hard, was it?
The dedication of young missionaries
I didn’t think much of this incident at the time it happened. I guess I just figured that it was normal for our mission, but it soon got out of hand. As the revolution took the country by storm, missionaries were trapped in their homes for days. Worried parents called the mission home.
President Muren left the comfort of Costa Rica, traveled to Managua and did all he could to help the members find some peace and to get the missionaries out. He was successful, but not before some very close calls. You can read a few of them on this page from out last mission reunion.
My mission prepared me for life
I loved my mission. I loved serving in Central America. I loved the people. I loved the culture. I loved being able to serve in four different countries. What an amazing thing for young people to spend two years of their lives to share the gospel, and pay for the privilege of doing it.
I learned to work hard. I learned how to get along with difficult companions. I learned to be responsible for an area, a district, a zone and a branch. I learned that success comes when you do things the Lord’s way, and especially when you follow the promptings of the spirit.
My favorite mission story
I had a companion in Panama (San Miguelito) who bought some firecrackers in the Canal Zone and lit them all up and down the street as we were tracting one morning. The neighborhood kids loved it. Believe it or not, it may have been because of his firecrackers that we found, taught and baptized a golden family.
For some reason, Elder Pierson wouldn’t come to the door with me that day. I think he was mad at me for something. So I was doing the door approaches by myself while he stayed out in the street. Just as I introduced us as representatives of Jesus Christ – Boom! – he blew one up in the mailbox. I didn’t know what to say.
After a moment of stunned silence, Sister Delgado just laughed and laughed and then invited us in. We had a wonderful discussion and came back that night and taught her whole family. We developed a close relationship and a bond of love that I still feel to this day. Teaching and baptizing this family helped me to find great joy in sharing the gospel.
Summary and Conclusion
I hope my wild bus ride and the missionary blowing up firecrackers does not cause you to think any less of the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In some ways, missionaries are like Paul whose life was endangered while teaching of Jesus Christ.
Yes, some LDS missionaries have been killed over the years as they have gone about sharing the gospel. But the statistics are amazing when compared to ordinary death rates for 19-20 year old boys. What better way to spend these years then in serving a mission in the service of the Lord?