Monday, July 14, 2014

A Loving God

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sister Porter :

Many years ago I was driving home from a meeting listening to a discussion on the radio. A man had written a book about how violent the God of the Old Testament was. He used a lot of scriptures to try to prove his point. A few people called in to the program trying to defend God, but the man would quote scriptures and refute their defense. As I rode along I tried to think of what I would say to that man. I came up with three scriptures, and I have since added one. I don’t think anything will persuade the man, but it helps me to refute his argument.

One thing he and the people calling in didn’t understand is that the God of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ—the same one who came in the meridian of time teaching love, mercy, kindness, and compassion. I think it is critical to understand that in any discussion we might have on this subject.

The first scripture I thought of was Moses 7: 28-29, where Enoch asked the Lord why he was seeping. It says:

And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

The Lord then explained to Enoch that the reason He was weeping was because of the wickedness of His children. He wanted them to choose Him as their father but they wouldn’t. God was going to destroy the wicked, but it wasn’t something He wanted to do—He wept because it was necessary. The God of Heaven wept. This scripture shows me the deep feelings of love and compassion that God has for His children. Even when He lets us suffer the consequences of our choices, He still loves us and has compassion on us. Enoch was also taught that God would send His Son to work out the Atonement. The Atonement was an act of love on the part of the Savior and our Father in Heaven. A vengeful, violent God wouldn’t sacrifice His life or the life of His Beloved Son for the welfare of wicked people.

The second scripture is 1 Nephi 19: 9. It teaches us why the Savior did what He did for us:

 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.

The Savior allowed Himself to be scourged, spit upon and crucified because of His loving kindness towards the children of men. A God who delights in violence would never do that. In my scriptures I have underlined 20 times where it talks about God’s loving kindness. I believe that even when He has to chasten us it is because of His loving kindness. This brings us to the third scripture that is found in D&C 133: 52. The Savior describes how he has trodden the wine-press alone, and how he will destroy the wicked at the Second Coming. Then He tells us that in spite of all the terrible destruction, the thing that will be mentioned is His loving kindness. The verse says:

And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.

I know that the man who wrote the book about the violent God of the Old Testament would look at the angry and violent aspect of these verses, but it is plain to me that our God is one of deep tender feelings for us who has to chasten His children but does it out of love.

Now, let’s look at the scripture that I have since added to my list. It is in 2 Nephi 15: 25 and it says:

Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them; and the hills did tremble, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

In the footnote of Isaiah 9: 12 it tells us that the phrase “his hand is stretched out still” means that “in spite of all, the Lord is available if they will turn to him”. After all is said and done, we have a God who is always reaching out to us to forgive, bless, comfort, encourage, lift, strengthen and ultimately exalt.

I invite all of you to find your own scriptures on the Savior and our Father in Heaven that you would teach to the man who wrote the book, and share them with me.

Finally, since this is my last letter to you, I want to share my testimony of our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. I will share a scripture that is may be my favorite. It is D&C 138: 1-4, and it says:

 1 On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures;

 2 And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world;

 3 And the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world;

 4 That through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved.

It took incredible love on the part of both the Father and the Son to complete the Atonement. Both gave something—The Father gave His Son (John 17: 3) and the Son gave His own life (D&C 34: 3). I wouldn’t want to give what either of them gave. I don’t comprehend the love that it took for both of them to give what they gave. Whatever I give in return to them is a pittance compared to what they have done for me. They are always there for us, reaching out, and showing us mercy, compassion, lovingkindness, and tender mercies.

Thank you for serving so valiantly. I invite you to continue to do your very best. Sister Sperry and I love you.

President Sperry

I have asked two companionships to write letters. Sister Porter and Sister Loo wrote about the work of salvation and Elder Bird and Elder Hansen wrote about teaching families. I know that many of you are already doing these things but I hope this will help each of you to do just a little better.

Here is the letter by Sister Porter and Sister Loo:

The past two transfers in Pangarap are difficult to put into words. We’ve had ups and downs  just as in any other area. But we’ve also seen change, progress, excitement, miracles and the hand of the Lord. The best is knowing that it’s only the tip of the iceberg and much more is still in store. We are far from perfect missionaries, with much more to learn, but we have done all we can to be exactly obedient, move forward with faith and catch the vision President Monson has described in Hastening the Work of Salvation.

 For us it really all began on our first day together in Pangarap. We were exited for the companionship and a fresh start. As we went throughout the day, plans were changed, even some appointments dropped, but each step felt guided. It was as if Heavenly Father was showing us what was possible in the days to come if we trusted Him.

 As that first day was coming to a close, we were walking past a member’s home and felt the clear impression to stop and teach. We were warmly welcomed in and asked if we could share a message. We opened the scriptures with them and began a discussion on the Work of Salvation near the end of the lesson the mother looked at us with tears in her eyes and said they hadn’t been able to trust the missionaries for some time. We promised her we would take care of her referrals and set-up a return appointment, which they accepted. We left their house that night with a determination to show their family that we could be trusted.

  The next day was weekly planning and we got to work in setting goals, we decided that first and foremost our priority would be to gain the trust of the ward. We decided to start with the family we taught the night before. They had mentioned several referrals who were lost in the past, so we started there. We opened the area book to find those referrals and made plans to visit each of them, that way when we returned the next week, we had something to report. As we did so, it was incredible to see the change in their entire demeanor around us. Because we went out of our way to involve them, they went out of their way to be involved. They began inviting us over, working with us, and getting to know our other investigators. We saw what a difference it made for this family and set out to do the same with other member of the ward.

 As we began working with one sister she began referring us to several of her friends, which eventually led to her introducing us to a family lost by previous missionaries. Members are the reason this family was now prepared to receive the gospel. As we prayerfully selected members, couples and families to take with us to those teaching appointments, we’ve seen individuals catch the vision of missionary work. This family is now surprised when members aren’t teaching beside us. They’ve felt welcomed, supported and loved along the way, all leading to their baptism this Saturday.

 By taking the time to seek out members according to the needs of our investigators, both the members and investigators have had sacred experiences and left wanting more. Members have shared with us how they’ve grown and changed alongside the investigators. More and more individuals are coming to church, yet we are the ones left alone in our pew, because members are the ones who greet, fellowship, sit beside and walk our investigators to class.

 We’ve tried finding among the members on Sunday, as you would any investigator. We look for individuals we don’t know, introduce ourselves, get to know them and ask if we would be able to visit and share a message with their family. One family we visited shared that they had been waiting for missionaries to come to their home for over a year. We’ve been able to meet and address member’s concerns just as with our investigators. We’ve fasted with them, prayed for them and loved them.

 Although working with members, at times, has been difficult to coordinate and taken sacrifices of our time, it has been worth every minute of it. Nearly all our work is now done through referrals. Members are now approaching us with a desire to be involved and the work in Pangarap Ward is hastening.

 Here is the letter by Elder Hansen and Elder Bird:

We have seen over the last two transfers a big change in the success in our area. We feel that the source of this success is a change of focus that we felt we needed to implement.  We really enjoyed President Sperry's Workshop on the importance of family at the last zone interviews. In preach my gospel it says, "Satan is attacking the family on many fronts and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts." In the interviews we discussed all of the different ways Satan attacks the family. As missionaries, even before we go home and start our own family, part of our purpose is to help others strengthen their own families through teaching the gospel.  When families are sealed together for eternity, the doors are opened to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. As those parents embrace the gospel and keep their covenants, they teach their children and raise righteous seed up unto the Lord. Too many missionaries lose focus on helping investigators they teach to be sealed with their family in the temple.  In our tracting in our area we have been doing something we call, "Find the Tatay". When we find, we focus on finding fathers with a spouse and children that we can teach together as a family. Even if the father is available to be taught we strive to set appointments when their whole family can be there. We emphasize to them that this message is for families.  An example of how well this has worked in our area is the _________ family. We found the ___________ Family by speaking to the father, Brother ______________. Throughout their conversion process Brother___________ has pushed his family through. When it came time for their baptismal interview, we discovered that their fifteen year old son, _____________, hadn't been completely avoiding coffee, contrary to what he had originally been telling us. We took Brother _____________ aside and explained that his son could not be baptized until he had completely stopped drinking coffee. After we left, Brother ____________then gathered his family, found the Word of Wisdom pamphlet we had given them and retaught to his family a lesson on the Word of Wisdom and committed each of his children to live it. Headed by their father throughout the process, they have made the decision as a family to embrace the gospel.  The best part is that the _____________family can be sealed in the temple in a year if they are faithful. Too often, recent converts don't even have that possibility because they were baptized as an individual and not alongside their families. This is the reason it says in Preach My Gospel, "Strive to find and teach families - a father, mother, and children - who can support one another in living the gospel and eventually be sealed as a family unit by restored priesthood authority." We have seen the power of teaching fathers, mothers, and their children together. We have seen them support each other in making the difficult changes that are required in order to become a disciple of Christ. We hope to hear of temple sealings in a year and look forward to a bright eternal future for them.

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