Monday, January 20, 2014

The power of families


Isn't it about...time? That's right, it's about time for my weekly email! How great! I am so happy every week to be able to read your emails and to then respond to them. There have been many wonderful things that have happened this week, and I hope that I can spell them all out for you.

First, we had an interesting experience in the laundromat last Monday after I emailed you. Elder Lyman and I started talking to a ginger Nephi-type guy (large in stature). At first he was a little intimidating, and then he started pouring his heart out to us about his conversion from atheism to Christianity. He was very passionate about his conversion and focusing everything in our lives on the Savior. After preaching his conversion to us in his non-denominational way, I brought out the Book of Mormon to share with him. As soon as I mentioned it, he said, "do we really have to bring THAT in?" Sometimes people's ignorance about the Book of Mormon can be frustrating, but it's not their fault. The frustrating part is when they actually become educated about the Book of Mormon by us, and then continue to deny it as a true testament of Christ. That's what happened in this circumstance. We told him all about the divinity and sacredness of the Book of Mormon, but he would not recognize it. We read him powerful scripture describing Christ's atoning power, but he wouldn't open up his heart. We then proceeded to read prophecies from the Old Testament about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and he scoffed at us that we had to turn to the Old Testament to find reference to this great and marvelous Latter-day work. Just when we were about to end with simple and powerful testimony, a woman walked over to where we were sitting and talking. She said, "Sorry, I just overheard you talking and wanted to ask a question. Do you really not think that God reveals more scripture in our day like the Book of Mormon?" I was relieved. Here was a member of the Church come to support our testimonies of the Book of Mormon. I'd never met her before, but I was relieved to hear her defend the Book of Mormon. Then I was woken out of my relaxation when she said, "I'm a sister at the local Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Do you not believe that God has more hidden scriptures that will come forth out of the Hill Cumorah or somewhere else?" WHAT THE WHAT? What were the chances that we would happen to meet an RLDS person? And what was she doing ruining our discussion about the Book of Mormon by introducing obscure ideas such as additional scriptures hidden in the Hill Cumorah? Well, it was an interesting experience to be sure. She started teaching RLDS doctrine about no need for a living prophet in our day. We quickly ended our part of the conversation and offered a free Book of Mormon. Our clothes were still a little wet in the dryer, but we took them out and decided to hang them up at home. Too funny.

We had a really great experience later that night at Kirsten and Mark's house. Did I tell you about them? They are great! Monday night we went with the plan to talk about the Plan of Salvation. We were also planning on inviting them to be baptized on a specific day. When we got to their house, we started chatting, and Elder Lyman and I were wondering if the lesson was going to go anywhere. After about half an hour of talking, Kristen asked about temples. That was a perfect transition into what we wanted to teach. We had a prayer and began teaching about temples. I thought they might find it strange if we taught about baptisms for the dead, but I felt like we should anyway. When I described the procedure and purpose of baptisms for the dead, the Spirit immediately entered into the room and they were touched. Even though they had little understanding of baptism or vicarious work, they appreciated this divine act of love and concern for deceased loved ones. It was amazing to see. Then Kirsten asked a question about tithing (she had heard you had to pay ten percent of your money to get into the temple). We happily explained tithing, and they thought it was a principle as well. That's when Mark asked a question about resurrection. We were amazed! Clearly, the lesson was not being directed by us. We decided then to read about and discuss the Plan of Salvation. They understood and agreed with a pre-mortal life. One of the most powerful parts of the lesson was when we talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They really had no understanding of this the most pivotal moment in all of time and eternity. When we explained the divine sacrifice, the room was absolutely still. Hearts were touched by the Spirit, and there was a deep feeling of love. Finally we described the heavenly kingdoms of glory. We were not intending to talk about eternal marriage, but since they had asked about temples, I decided to talk about celestial marriage. Celestial marriage, performed in the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are the only was for couples to be together for eternity and continue to progress after this life. Mark had kind of been on the fence about his interest in the Church, but when he heard about eternal marriage, his whole face lit up. We asked them if this was something that they wanted to do. (Mind you, they aren't even married yet.) They said that it was. We asked them when they wanted to be baptized. Mark immediately said February 2nd. Kristen responded a little shocked, like the date was too close. Mark said, "February 2nd is when I want to be sealed". They planned to be sealed next year, and baptized this year. It was such an amazing experience, Elder Lyman and I just walked out of their dumbfounded and completely happy for them. They really understand what this is about. Everything in the gospel leads us and our families to an eternal glory with our families through the merits, and mercies, and grace of Christ's atoning sacrifice. The lesson was a little bit of a time warp because we came out of their realizing that we had spent two and half hours with them! :D

We had another very inspired meeting this week with our investigator Mary. She is a pretty hardened person. She is not willing to open up her heart to accepting the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a prophet, but she still wants to meet with us. On Saturday we had a meeting with in which I saw her change in a way I have never seen before. The meeting started out by Sister Knight (Mary's friend) asking us to tell us a little bit about ourselves and our families. It just so happened that both Elder Lyman and I had our personal little photo albums from home. I showed pictures of all yall. Mary loved the picture of Sunkist. (As a side note, I had a dream about her last night as a little kitten. Has she died recently and returned to her youthful state?) Anyway, we both bore testimony on the importance of the gospel in our families. It was very powerful. We talked about how Mary needed to open her heart and let God answer her prayers to know if this is the truth. At the end we talked about the possibility for eternally bound families. We allowed for silence so that the Spirit could teach (something which rarely happens with Mary). We gave a closing prayer. After the prayer I began packing my stuff up when I realized Mary was crying. Mary does not cry. Mary is the type of hardened West Virginian who had to fight off abusive parents and husband. She has been through the mill and put others through the mill. I knew that this had to be a tender moment for her. After several moments of silence, I asked if she was alright and how she was feeling. She didn't respond with anything, but I knew that her heart had been touched during the prayer. We bid farewell. I hope that the Spirit can continue to teach her.

Sunday I finished reading through the Book of Mormon again. As you may recall, I have been reading through the entire Book of Mormon marking every example of mercy that I read. It has been fulfilling and enlightening. I have loved every moment of it. I was very surprised when I got to Moroni's promise in Moroni 10:3. There, he exhorts us to ponder on how merciful the Lord has been to the children of men before we ask about the truth of the Book of Mormon. When I began my study, I didn't even realize that I was building up to this moment. I have had three months to reflect on how merciful Heavenly Father has been to His children. He has given us great blessings. He has prepared us to come forth at this time, within our families, with the divine tools to help us change and become like Christ. God sent His beloved Son into the world to be smitten and killed, then to rise triumphantly all so that we could receive His divine mercy. God has given us commandments so that we may be governed in our minds and hearts so that may receive His goodness and kindness. Heavenly Father has brought forth the Book of Mormon in our time so that we might now of the goodness of Christ and the joy we can have through faith on His name. I know this to be true. As I knelt down to ask about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, I was filled with the knowing influence of the Spirit. The Book of Mormon really is the word of God. It is true. It is good. It is enlightening. It will bring us closer to Christ than any other book. If anyone doubts this, they need only read the Book of Mormon with an open heart to know that I speak the truth.

I love you all. I love the support you have given to me. I know that families are central to the Father's plan for His children. I know that joy in the gospel comes through families and that joy in families comes through the gospel. Stay strong and know that I love you!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I have submitted all the stuff for the FBI clearance. Don't worry about that unless they call you or when you get it in the mail. Also, the driving record is for the mission' purposes and isn't for the FBI clearance.

P.P.S. Elder Lyman likes the Broncos. Sorry if you haven't finished yet, but the Broncos beat the Patriots. Love ya!



Elder Ward, Elder Colligan, Elder Lynman, Elder Stechnij, Elder Gadberry, Elder Ayer

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