January 19, 2015
During the course of my mission, I have learned well how difficult it is for people to learn and digest even very basic concepts. Missionary work, for example. We are given a manual for missionary service entitled “Preach My Gospel” (PMG). Every single week we hold a training meeting with our district and discuss the principles taught in PMG. Along with this we are encouraged greatly to study the manual during our hour of personal study each morning. Through the course of a year and a half, 228 pages about the ins and outs of preaching the Gospel become a little stale.
Some missionaries try to make up for this by looking for the “next big thing” in missionary work. The silver bullet yet to be found that will sway the masses into the baptismal font. Others get to a point and think that it does not suit them to keep reading and will then focus all of their efforts on deep study of the Old Testament. Before my time in Ukraine I asked myself the question as to why the church teaches the same basic ideas every single year in Sunday school classes. The truth is that people need a lot of repetition of basic principles. With time we forget and without frequently going back to fill in forming cracks in a foundation, the building will eventually collapse. I developed more of an idea of this yesterday during one of our lessons.
Our investigator, S , until yesterday has not been able to grasp a core basic concept. He first walked into the church back in October. He happened to walk in on that day that the ward was watching General Conference and he stayed for all of the sessions. The missionaries started meeting with him in November and the teaching has been continued up through my time here. He has a very in depth understanding of the Bible and considers himself a scholar in the subject. He personally reads from three different translations, dives very deep into online websites; thinks a lot about the different meanings of various scriptures.
Last night we just wanted to focus on the Book of Mormon and whether or not he is reading it. The idea to convey is very simple. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only church which preaches from the Book of Mormon. (This of course excluding any other Mormon churches including the Community of Christ and FLDS Church.) As written in 1 Corinthians 2: 11-14, truth is made known by the testimony of the Holy Ghost. So, if a person reads the Book of Mormon with sincere desire to know whether or not it is true, then the Holy Ghost will testify of that. Likewise, if a person does everything needed and does not receive a testimony, then they can reason that the Book of Mormon is not true. Dependent on the answer they receive to the first question, the answer to the question as to whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was actually organized by God and Jesus Christ becomes obvious.
Somewhere along the course of the last several months, the idea was either forgotten or never fully digested. During the lesson yesterday, he would continually get lost by focusing on deep ideas such as the translation of scriptural words into original languages and how they do or do not support what we are saying. I told him that none of those kinds of things really mattered. At the end of the day it leads to his effort to understand the Book of Mormon and then the witness that comes from the Holy Ghost. I said that if he puts forth a true effort and then receives no comfort, then he can deduce that our church in not true and that meeting from that point forward would be worthless.
We when lost him as he started teaching us that the most important thing is that we follow the first two commandments to love first God, and then each other. I pulled him back to what I was trying to say and he finally understood what I was saying in a moment of silence, when it then really clicked in him mind. Within only a few more seconds, he went back to talking about the first two commandments, but it was okay because the main idea took. Fortunately, he is now at a point in which we can really teach him.
The reason why basic ideas are repeated throughout the church is because it is that important. I have met many people who have not been to church for years. Their knowledge has dissolved over time into something of very little use. They get caught up in pushing for deeper ideas, and in the process lose what they had, making all of the effort up to that point for nothing. Without repetition, we will forget what is important. No matter how simple something may seem and established in our understanding, it really is fragile.
During this week, we also had a member from the branch serve with us on a mini mission. Due the lack of time I am relying on my companion’s email to explain:
“We had the chance to bring one of our youth with us on a mini mission, because he’s been having a hard time, especially without really having a priesthood example in his home. It was a pretty cool experience; I was surprised by his spirituality and strength. This youth is a good friend of mine, and he’s looked up to me as a missionary for a long time.
“The Mini mission came at a rather unfortunate week, because at first, we had an epic week planned up, with lots of lessons, several new investigators, and basically awesomeness. Throughout the course of the week, almost every lesson cancelled on us, and we had extensive amounts of contacting every day. However, I believe that that was a good thing, because while we were contacting, we got to know Artur much, much better, and we really helped him figure out how to help himself. It was really cool. He’s a good kid.
“And, to end, I’d just like to give you all a weather update. It’s January 19th right now, and we’ve had snow once this winter. During the past week, it rained twice, and got below freezing only a couple of times during the night. Now, Ukraine is generally thought of to be a Frozen Wasteland. That’s because generally, during the winter, it is. Today, I’m going to go race go-carts to celebrate the birthday of a missionary in my district. All you people living in the US with all that cold and snow are jealous, I know it.”
It has been a very eventful and fruitful week for both me and my companion. I hope this next brings the same results.