This has been one wonderful week! It started off great with a special gift. Our Malibu had gone over its 60,000 mileage limitation (that's when the Church decides to stop using vehicles for missionaries). Thus, we got a brand new 2014 Toyota Corolla! It is ridiculous. It had to travel the 200 something miles from Charleston to Roanoke, so it arrived with a little over 200 miles on it. I'm not sure that I will have a brand new vehicle as nice as this for a while. It has a back-up camera. It has a touch screen up front. I can even plug my flash drive into it, and it will play whatever is loaded on there! Since discovering this, I have downloaded lots and lots of General Conference talks. We listen to them in the car, and we never have to listen to one more than once unless we want to. How great!
Well, we have a few investigators here in Cave Spring. One of them is Freddie. Freddie is a Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist preacher. He runs three congregations in the area. This last week we got to meet with him. He readily seemed to accept the concept that Joseph Smith could be a prophet. (Seventh Day Adventists believe in modern day prophets) He is going to read the Book of Mormon in order to decide for himself whether Joseph Smith was a prophet. How great! The only problem is that he believes that everything a prophet say must line up exactly with the already established word of God. Of course, this is not sensible because revelation brings about new truths and new knowledge. How can revelation always be constrained by the already established word of God? If that were so, Noah would have received no instructions to build with, Abraham would have received no covenant to hope with, and Moses would have received no law to govern with. The glory of prophets is that they may speak for God in a way that draws us ever nearer to Him and His ultimate reserve of knowledge and truth. What is most important is to judge every revelation against the spirit of truth. The Spirit is sent from God and is our ultimate touchstone of truth. By the Spirit we can gain a supreme and surreal understanding of all that is true. Freddie is having a hard time understanding that. His biggest hold-up is the concept of a pre-mortal existence. We try to share biblical scriptures with him, but he still maintains his own understanding and interpretation of the scriptures. We will continue to try to help him, but it will take humility to accept that "[God's] thoughts are not [our] thoughts, neither are [our] ways [His] ways.... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [His] ways higher than [our] ways, and [His] thoughts than [our] thoughts." Nobody likes being told that they are wrong. How do we know that we are not wrong? We have personally received a pure and powerful witness from the Spirit that the work we labor diligently under is true.
We found another investigator this week through some interesting means. We were driving home one night when we stopped at Walgreens so that we could talk to some more people before heading in. As we were leaving, a woman told Elder Grajeda that her husband would love to talk to us. She told us that we could talk to him the next night when he was working at Starbucks. She gave us his name and drove off. Well, we had no idea which Starbucks she was talking about. We drove all over trying to find Scott at Starbucks. Imagine three Mormon missionaries driving all over and going to every Starbucks in the area, not a normal sight. :D Anyway, we couldn't find Scott. At our last stop, we started talking to another worker behind the Starbucks counter. His name was Jon. He was really nice. I gave him a card, and he said that he could talk to us longer if we waited for him to start his break in a few minutes. We happily waited around. (In the meantime I tried to start up a conversation with a man wearing a Utes shirt. He was having none of it. Maybe I shouldn't have started off by saying, "I went to BYU"?) After our break chat with Jon, he asked to meet with us again. We planned for the next day at Mill Mountain (another coffee shop, but it has good food). Well, we were really having a good time talking and socializing over lunch when I asked him if he had had the chance to look over the Book of Mormon at all the night before. He said he did, and that he had a few questions. He warned us that his questions might be pretty hard. "Bring it on," I said. Well, he started rattling off question after question attacking the validity of the Book of Mormon. It was a little pathetic. He had to take his phone out during the middle of the conversation in order to look at his research website and "remember" all of "his" questions. On the plus side, he was being sincere about it. He wasn't just rudely attacking us, but he was curious. Luckily I was prepared for the onslaught. My two younger companions listened as I answered his patronizing questions that ranged from the reality of pre-Colombian horses to the weight of a block of golden plates. It was ridiculous. It was especially ridiculous because every primary answer to each question was simple. I know the Book of Mormon to be true. This knowledge has not come from historical study. This knowledge comes from God himself. Who am I to deny His holy witness. Who am I to deny His glorious truths? It is so wonderful to know what I know. I am glad to share this with everyone. In the end, Jon was satisfied with the answers he received. He said that he would read the Book of Mormon and decide for himself. We can only hope that he will follow through with this commitment.
Another exciting investigator is Norman. He is schizophrenic and was once accused of murder. Don't worry, he's cool. He was innocent, and he has family that is Mormon. He doesn't hold that against us. Well, Norman thought that he would really like us to attend his church service for a change. We had conference this weekend, so we wouldn't be occupied during that time. We agreed to it. Bad idea. We went to his church (not really a church, it was a "sanctuary" housed in an office building). We got there and started wondering if we should really being driving around our brand new car in this part of town. We went in and were three of 20 people there. We were the only white folks there. I only say this because it became a point of discussion later during the service. There was a man up front just chanting and fast talking about the goodness of God. Everyone was waving their hands in the air and shouting amens and hallelujahs. There was another man across from us who was sitting and speaking gibberish to himself (they refer to this as "speaking in tongues"). That went on for five to ten minutes. Then the service began. I had already determined in my mind that I would not engage in any conduct that was not becoming of a representative of Christ. I would respect their worship, but I would not participate in something that disrespected my god. The preacher started. Well, it didn't take long for him to notice three white Mormon missionaries sitting in the back of his congregation. Yeah, he got in our faces. He asked us if we knew the word of God. He looked directly at us for most of the time he sermonized. He asserted his own superior knowledge of the word. He drew conclusions from the scriptures that I found no basis for. All the while, the people laughed at his clever words and phrasing as he discoursed to them blasphemy upon blasphemy. He asked us if we wanted to contend against anything he had said, if we wanted to argue that his teachings were not scripturally founded. How I wanted to get up and bear pure testimony against them all, but a feeling inside me told me to stay still and remain under control. Thank goodness. I probably would have lost it. I sat in my chair quietly. I kept my face straight. I did not "amen" his teachings. I did not clap when he commanded. I "set my face like a flint" and did not waiver from it. Finally we had to leave in order to get to the conference. We luckily left before they started their "healings" and "speaking in tongues".
One of the most surprising things was that this man had called himself a prophet. A prophet! He did not invite the Spirit. He did not edify me. It made such the sweeter contrast when I got to go to General Conference and hear the true and pure words of God's anointed servants. What a blessing! What a heavenly manifestation of guiding love! I am so grateful for the prophets and apostles that lead and guide us today. I know them to be true men of God. The Spirit will bear testimony to you of this truth. There were so many good talks this last conference. I had questions answered. I was edified and uplifted. I hope that you were, too.
I love you all so much! I hope that everything is going well with y'all. I always love to hear from you and hear that things are going well and progressing as normal in the Ayer household. :D You have my love and prayers always. Have fun getting ready for Will and Stephenie to come home! Love you!
Love, Elder Parker Ayer
P.S. Starbucks smoothies are guh-ROSS!!!