Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 17, 2015

Greetings Brothers and Sisters from frigidly cold Toledo Ohio.

 So it is cold right now and we aren't supposed to see anything above freezing until Sunday but it makes missionary work all the more interesting. There is no big news to report except transfer calls came in last evening. The result was that Elder Lee and I will be spending my last six weeks in Perrysburg East together. As I approach this final transfer my mind has been drawn repeatedly to the doctrine of enduring to the end, the concluding step of the Doctrine of Christ. 
 As I have thought about Enduring to the End there have been several things that have been drawn to my mind.
 1)The first is a missionary who was once my zone leader who I had great respect and admiration for early on in my mission, he was a fantastic Elder and missionary who had been dealt a very difficult hand over the course of his mission. He was  a hardworking obedient kind and dedicated servant of the Lord. Several months ago I was on exchanges with one of my zone leaders who had formerly been my companion and had lived in the same apartment as the above mentioned elder during his last two transfers. As I asked about this elder I was told he had really gone downhill during his final few months of missionary labor, he had become really trunkie didn't work very hard, and over all had just gone downhill. 
 2)The next is a less active member family we are trying to work with, I say trying because they are very much in denial that they are less active. They used to be incredibly strong members of the church, they had been to the temple and been sealed, he had served for many years on the high council and as the stake clerk, she had raised seven wonderful children (who are all now less active) and had been a pillar to the ward. Now however; she never comes because she has to work some Sundays and because of the long shifts she works she is "too tired" on those Sundays that she doesn't work. He is more active than her, but if there is snow on the ground, too dangerous, if it is below freezing it is too cold, if the wind is gusting, it is too risky, I haven't been here during the summer time but I am willing to bet that his vehicle has the same problem that Wally's (from the hit office cartoon strip Dilbert) car has, it can't start in direct sunlight. 
3)Another member we have the privilege of working with is Tom. Tom has served in many church positions over the years, but never something super visible like Bishopric, or stake level capacities or anything like that. Every week Tom gets up on Sunday two hours before church starts, so he can pick up the missionaries for their meeting that starts two hours before church. That is 45 minutes from his house, he even came when it was a level 3 storm warning and there were 5 inches of snow on the roads. He constantly strives to magnify his calling, and has not missed a day of church since I have been here. His children have all gone less active, and his wife though wonderful is not quite as committed as him, initially his family was very unhappy with his decision to join the church, because his father was a Methodist pastor. Yet he is unwavering in his dedication and faithful to the extreme. Tom is an interesting guy, and more than a little quirky, but someone who is committed to the kingdom. 
4)The story of Abinadi in the scriptures. He was rejected and then came back, he testified boldly with a power that was so great it caused his face to shine as Moses's did when he returned from conversing with the Lord on Mount Sinai. He was threatened with physical violence, mocking, and eventually a cruel death, but never wavered in carrying out his mission. In the machinations of Heaven he was not called to be one of great success and honor, to bring thousands into the church as did the Ammon and Aaron, he wasn't going to establish a great stake, or deliver many people from the bondage of Satan. His mission was the unappetizing  task of standing before the wicked and ensuring that when they were thrust down to hell their judgement was just, he was to do less saving and much more condemning; certainly not what the glorious and oft sang side of the work of salvation. Yet he continued without shirking and shrinking to his appointed hour until his work was finished. 

 These examples to me are very illuminating on the importance of enduring to the end. I often wonder if the less active parents in the above mentioned family began to become actively engaged in living the Gospel, rather than just checking off boxes, what difference could that make in the lives of their children, and eventually their grandchildren and for generations yet unborn, how could they change the destiny of hundreds if they simply were willing to sacrifice now? I don't know if it would make a difference but I do know it wouldn't hurt. Then there is the bright enthusiastic Elder that started the journey with so much promise but just when the finish line was within sight felt that he had earned a rest, and the time that could have been his greatest triumph, when he could have gone out with a bang, instead ended with a whimper. Then Tom, in contrast to the before mentioned never served in a glamorous position, isn't incredibly popular, but faithfully fulfills his duty. If the crown of glory we receive in the celestial kingdom is proportional to the effort which we have put forth on this earth, will not this humble assistant ward mission leader have so much greater a glow than the now less active High Councilor. Our treasures in heaven will not be laid up in great and glorious heroic deeds that are to be sung of for generations, rather our royal storehouse will be much more filled with the quite, small acts of Gospel living that we carried out consistently over the course of our lives. When we take this into prospective it becomes very apparent why small acts of worship such as regular prayer, and daily scripture study become so vitally important in the economy of heaven. Then we have the mighty Abinadi, one who despite being so great was given so bitter a cup to drink, and yet endured it carrying out his appointed task. Not all of us will be called in life to be the world's greatest gospel doctrine teacher, or to sit in the relief society presidency, we have not all been chosen to fill the post of Elders Quorum President, or to preside over a ward. Some of us have the smaller and less glamorous tasks of recording home teaching, of simply being home or visiting teachers to a family that needs a little bit more support than most. Yet when the day of final accounting comes part of the rubric of enduring to the end will be how well we carried out our less visible and acclaimed positions, and if the day never does come when the Lord requires of us a calling that demands us to attend many meetings, and sit on various councils, he will still require just as much of our effort as did those who had to get up earlier for church. In addition he will ensure that if we are magnifying our calling we will be able to touch just as many lives as we need to, we will receive just as many blessings as others and one day we will sit on just as exalted a throne in the Kingdom of the Great Eternal I AM. 
 The most important account of Enduring to the End was something I studied this morning. It started with hymn #191 Behold the Great Redeemer Died, verse 3 line 2-3 "I've done the work thou gavest me" this led my studies to John 19, and Luke 23 with the words "It is finished... Father into thy hands I commend my spirit" Thus ended the sermon ever preached on Enduring to the End. We are all called to carry our various crosses in life, we will all have to spend our time in Gethsemane and upon Calvary, and at these times of trial will come the greatest temptation to give up. It may be an unfaithful spouse, a wayward child, a physical illness, a thousand other things, and a thousand combinations of  everything. So what do we do, when the Sun in shame hides its face, when hopes once bright flame is now merely the pilot light to the furnace of greater disappointment, when the promises of Heaven and Eternal Life seem so very very far away. It is in these moments when we must reach out to the everlasting Son of God, who has been there before and knows our pain, it may require us to change somethings in our life to be able to better hear the whispering words of love he has for us. It may require us to humble ourselves more fully and give up some of the weapons or our rebellion to which we are so desperately clinging because they are our only sources of comfort on the storm tossed seas of life. The Love of God is there though, when we do not feel as though we can go on if we will turn to the Light and Life of the World by pouring out our souls to him in secret, vocal prayer, he will hear the pleadings of our heart. He may not immediately change our circumstances but we will feel his loving embrace, we will be given the strength to make it through the day, or the hour, or maybe even the next ten minutes. The Holy One of Israel knows where you are at, he knows your grief and pain, and he has a perfect empathy we cannot begin to understand. But when we come out of our furnace of affliction, once the gloom of Golgotha breaks, and we step into the dawn of the Sunday sun, we will find that those things which we have endured and endured well, will have made us more capable of understanding that perfect empathy which the Saviour has for us. We will find that we have been made more Christlike in the process of purifying, we will be able to better minister to others as the Lamb of God would because he has ministered to us in our time of darkness. Then we must endure after that in patience waiting for the day when we have completed all we have been sent to do, to be called home in a glorious reunion in which we will be able to look upon the face of the Everlasting Son of the Everlasting God and as the ancient American saints did, feel the prints of the nails in his hands in his feet, and bath those feet in our tears. That is the promise to all the faithful, but for now we endure trusting that God who has all reality manifest before him past, present, and future, will be our strength in times of trial and will be our comfort in the midst of darkness. I testify of the Living Reality of the Living Son of God who knows us perfectly who loves us infinity and whose power to redeem is eternal and unbounded. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, whom I have been called to represent. Amen.

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