February 2, 2015
One thing that has really become apparent to me in the last couple of days is how important being obedient to every rule is. Even if the reason for not obeying is honest and seems reasonable, there will always be some sort of unexpected consequence.
There is a family here who several years ago moved to Ukraine from Iran and are religious refugees. Just under one year ago, they joined the church. The father in the family does not speak Russian and needs a serious back surgery that holds a high risk in Ukraine and lower risk in nations with better hospital equipment, like Germany or the United States. If there are any problems with it, the chances of paralysis setting in are very high. As such, he has been working for a very long while to receive a visa to the United States.
The stake here has agreed to pay for his surgery in Ukraine, but cannot finance for him to travel somewhere else. Permission for that would have to come from the Presiding Bishopric, which would not come because both the mission doctor and doctors here have said that it is doable in Ukraine. He thinks that the United Nations would agree to pay for everything because of his refugee status.
There is where the obedience part comes in. Missionaries have a very strict rule to not help people with immigration in any form. One missionary here who served around this family decided to ask those at home to send an invitation to this man for the surgery. They would not pay for it; rather just house him during the recovery. Upon receiving this letter, he was filled with a lot of hope that this would make the difference for him. The problem is that this letter does not itself make a huge difference. So much so that the embassy does not even require it be notarized. Anyone could make up the same letter.
What did happen was that it made absolutely no difference, and instead postponed him making the personal steps toward accepting that it will have to be done in Ukraine. The missionary did this out of the goodness of his heart. In no way were his intentions bad. The outcome, though, is negative. This member is still focused on how this letter is going to make the difference for him getting to the United States some other way. He is moving further away from the decision that it just needs to be done here.
Negative effects can be found in other “justified reasons” of not being exactly obedient. Take a scenario where there are two companionship of elders serving near each other. Assume one companionship hates each other. The companionships might decide it is best to do frequent exchanges more than once a week, so that the two companions are separated for some time. It seems okay. Just pull them away from the heat long enough to cool down. The unseen downside might be felt much later. Maybe the experience gained by staying in the frying pan with the heat on high would be the difference in developing communication skills that will help them in their marriages later in life. This topic has been on my mind a lot for the past seven days. Exact obedience without any exceptions, even good ones, really is that important.
All of this man’s priesthood leaders have advised him to have the surgery in Ukraine, so I spent time this week explaining the concept of priesthood keys. I compared keys and the priesthood to a screwdriver with interchangeable heads. The screwdriver itself represents the priesthood and the heads are the keys. Every worthy priesthood holder is given the instrument, but the heads determine what we can do with it. A prophet is given a complete set of heads needed to maintain the affairs of the Church, and collectively the apostles are given an identical set of heads. These are then granted to stake presidents and bishops so they can take care of their areas.
What I then did next may have not been the best idea. He asked why the mission president was brought in to resolve the situation about the letter if he is outside of the stake. I showed him the part from the missionary rule book about not helping people with immigration for permanent residency, schooling, or work, and explained that because this rule was violated by a missionary, the mission president was pulled in. At first it seemed to go well with him, but the next day at Sacrament Meeting he noted that it did not say anything about medical treatments. I tried to explain how they were also covered by default because it is a related activity, but I don’t think he is willing to let himself grasp that idea.
It was also my privilege to serve with another missionary on exchanges this last week. His name is Elder L, and for the past seven months we have been serving around each other in varying leadership positions, but for whatever reason we did not go on a single exchange with one another. I traveled to his area which is a small city twenty minutes outside of Kiev called Brovary. He is a really good missionary and I was able to learn a lot from the way he has been managing his area. Nothing horribly eventful happened during the time; we just worked hard and talked to a good amount of people.
My impressions of the week are that it was good.