Dear Friends and Family, July 5th, 2010
Well, like I said last week, I'm back in McCarthy Hills Zone. Even funnier, we had to do a ZL-DL split with...... Kasoa. [ His old area ] Because I don't know my new area that well, I had to go there. I served with Elder T. He's a big humble Samoan who is going to do wonders for the mission. I loved teaching with him. His greatest strength is one I've been trying to learn my whole mission: the gift of being quick to observe. He sees Elder B. (his trainer and former AP) and adopts every strength the guy has in minutes. Anything I did well one lesson, he could do flawlessly the next lesson.
I've gained new appreciation for my companion, Elder Ho. We sat down one night and just kinda looked at our mission. This mission has a problem with obedience. Man, just talking about it was like a punch in the gut. It put a huge hole in my stomach, for sure. Elder Ho paid me a huge compliment, saying I'm obedient, and obedient for the right reasons. He's really put a lot of work in himself. He's a clean-freak, which I'm trying to copy, and we're both setting a new standard for Obedient, hoping our Zone will follow suit. The Lord is really rewarding us, too. We've found some of the greatest people in my mission this last week. One guy, named F., was "just" a street contact. We gave him a Joseph Smith Pamphlet... which he read... and took notes. He said over and over how this just makes him happy, how it feels true. As we taught about Christ's church, and the Apostasy, he cut us off. "So what your saying is, God used Joseph Smith for a purpose..." ...Elder Ho. and I were both praying in our hearts... "say the right thing!!"... "...which was to re-build Christ's Church." YES!!! YES YES YES YES! Then he nodded his head. "I know what you'll teach me is true, so I'll believe anything you tell me." Hello, King Lamoni! [ a king in the Book of Mormon ] To top it off, he brought his daughter to church with him on Sunday! We never want our lessons with him to end.
We've also had a lot of success this week as we've taught the Plan of Salvation. This is the part of my letter on which I want everyone to focus. I'm going to attempt to answer some big questions.
"Where did religion come from?" Religion started before the world did. Heavenly Father sat down with all His spirit children in Heaven and devised a plan by which they could learn, grow, and become like him. That, at its most basic, is religion. As part of this plan, Adam and Eve came to this earth. After being given their freedom, Adam and Eve broke the commandment, not to partake of the forbidden fruit. Now, this wasn't all bad, as it gave us the chance to be born and come into this life, but more on that later. Because of transgression, Adam and Eve fell, being separated physically and spiritually from God. This continues, but also answers the next question.
"How does 'church' figure in to Christianity?" As they exercised faith, repented, and called upon God, He again gave them commandments, obedience to which would allow them to return to live with God. This is where the Church, our Church, first started on earth. Men were chosen and foreordained, according to their faith and good works, to be priests and teachers in this life, teaching others these commandments. The purpose of THE Church (singular) is to preach these correct doctrines and principles, and administer in the ordinances of salvation, through proper priesthood power.
"Then what does Christ have to do with it?" Now, as men had fallen, they were incapable of "earning" salvation through obedience only. In their weakness, no one would be perfectly obedient. Jesus Christ had been prepared from the foundation of the world to overcome the negative affects of the Fall. Any separation from God we will experience stems only from our own sins. He also opened the way to repentance for all, so that if we will repent, and come unto him, our sins may be forgiven, placing nothing between us and God.
"Why doesn't God just forgive our sins regardless? Isn't He a merciful God?" Absolutely, but He is also a just god. Every infraction has to have a punishment. These punishments don't stem from God, but are the natural consequence of poor choices. He didn't put them there, they were always there. Imagine a large canyon. A kind, wise, benevolent person would naturally put a guard-rail there. Now, you have every right to jump over that guard-rail, and break through it... but you will fall down the cliff. The man who put the guard-rail there is not the one who punished you, any more than God is the one who punishes you when you sin. Repentance, however, overpowers justice with mercy.
"How does it do that?" The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event to happen in the history of the world. In the garden of Gethsemane, Christ took upon himself all our pains and afflictions, but most important, all the punishments of our sins. If a particular sin you committed required ten stripes, he instead took your ten stripes. Through his Atonement, justice was wholly satisfied and he could extend mercy to those who would accept him.
"Then why bother not to sin at all? Why not sin and repent indefinitely?" Trust me, we do that without even trying. However, to willfully sin means that you are perfectly fine with the idea of your Eldest Brother taking all your punishments, and will gladly heap it on him. Does this demonstrate a love for your fellow man? No, it does not. This means whatever you called "repentance" was insufficient, as it didn't really change you at all.
Whew! This has been the subject of our teaching for the past week. This is the Plan of Salvation, the way by which man becomes like Father in Heaven. This is the central message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a doctrine unique to our Church, and taught in the Book of Mormon. As D&C 20:17 states, "by these things [the Restoration and the Book of Mormon] we know" God's plan for His Children, and what we must do to gain peace in this life, and happiness in the life to come.
Elder W. Farnbach
PS That's the other thing! World Cup! Ghana was robbed out of advancing, with BELLIGERENT play by the Uruguayans... At the same time, whenever Ghana beats a team with one or more whites on it, I hear "Obruny! We score you!" incessantly. Plus, every time they play, we missionaries have to go in our apartments, so I'm not broken up about the loss. When Ghana beat the US, it was horrible... except the fact that my name and complexion makes everyone think I'm from Germany. So I correct them. "Obruny, we score you!" --- "False. We score you. And England. And Argentina." GO GERMANY!