It seems kind of wierd to write you after only talking yesterday, but so be it. There is always something more to tell. I have been feeling really comforted this week as I begin to realize that the time is limited. There is so much more to do. I am comforted time and time again by the spirit which testifies that the Lord is happy with me up until this time in my service but I know there is so much more to give.
We have been focused on teaching families and I have had some of my most powerful first lessons this last week. The interesting part is that it seems as though most of the families we are teaching right now have a problem with their commitment to come to church. We have heard more times in one week this haunting phrase: “If only I would have met you guys earlier, I would come to your church. But I am comfortable in my church. I can´t leave it.” It is a heartbreaker. Many of these people listen to our message but they decide not to pray becuase they dont want it to be true. They are certainly blessed in their lives becuase of tradition, or atleast good intention, but they miss greater blessings becuase they deny the spirit. I have pondered this time and time again in the mission, and I learned another great truth while teaching one of these families.
We had given them 3 Nephi 11 as a reading assignment after having taught the first lesson. We were very excited at first to hear that they had read the chapter but as we reviewed the contents of the chapter, we began to feel like the family was reserved. At several points in the lesson as we talked about the truthfulness of the gospel, the mom made an uncomfortable facial expression showing us her apparent desicion to not accept our message. The words of the husband seemed reassuring but in time he to admitted their non-commital agreement to recieve us in their house. We read the first few verses and upon reading them I gained more insight into how people can leave good things behind for the better.
1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
Here the people were doing something good. Their past knowledge had led them to a point where they could openly converse about Jesus the Christ. They knew the signs of his coming and even becuase of their past obedience, they had not been destroyed with the rest of their bretheren. But apparently their present conversation was interfering with their understanding of God´s voice becuase it took three times to internalize his message. They had to pay special attention and be willing to obey.
5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
Upon paying special attention the spirit, these people witnessed to a greater degree the testimony of the Christ in their lives. They would not only talk of him, but their willingness to listen to His spirit would allow them to see him, touch him, and know Him. This is much different than knowing of Him.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
As we taught these principles to the family, I learned that God will always give his message by the still small voice and that it is up to us to listen. We cannot force this message upon anyone. Though God wants to give us the greater portion of his word, he cannot unless we open our heart to him. Alma describes this principle too:
"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” Alma 12:10
I hope and pray that these people might come to know the Christ in a greater way. Joseph Smith said of the Book of Mormon that a man “would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” I know that this is true. We offer to these people another testament of Jesus Christ which will help them come to know him even more, but in the end it is our choice to come to know him.
I know that this message is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that as we listen to the still small voice, heed to his words as found in the restored gospel and keep his commandments that we will also “know of a surety and bear record that is is of he of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.”
Elder Grant Russell