North Carolina Charlotte Mission

Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are your brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. -Alma 31:35

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dec. 17th "I stole de babay!!!"


First off, happy birthday, Dad! A card for you is on its way.

Secondly, why I am writing today instead of Monday is due to transfers getting changed. Due to all the 18-year olds, missionaries are not spending as much time getting trained at the MTC, so transfers is actually this Monday instead of Wednesday. To make up for this, Preparation Day is today, hence this email.

Thirdly, I am going to be a trainer this transfer! I am bidding Elder Heydorn fond farewell as he heads off to a different area, and I'm taking over this area with a new missionary who's arriving soon. I'm excited and nervous at the same time, doing a lot of praying and studying so that hopefully I'll be able to teach this missionary good things and be a good example for him. Thankfully, I am still living in the apartment with the Zone Leaders. Elder Howell is headed home, but Elder Hales is staying, so all should be well. I'll let you all know more next Monday.

So this has been an extremely interesting week. We got three texts at 4:35 AM Monday morning from a lady named Renee, telling "Elder Burton and Elder Christensen" that she had changed things in her life and wanted to get baptized now. We gave her a call later that day, got in contact with her, and went to go visit her. Renee is a young single mother of four who had met with missionaries in the past, but she'd faced opposition from her boyfriend. Well, now the boyfriend's gone, and she told us she's had several dreams about her family that make her want to change. She came right out and said what two specific things she'd have to change to get baptized. response to one of those particular problems she told us about, I had her bring up the contacts on her phone and delete the one labelled as "Weedman."

Problems aside, Renee really does seem very sincere. She hasn't challenged us on anything we've asked her to do, and she has a lot of real intent. We have been truly blessed with a lot of very sincere people who are coming to church, meeting with us often, and reading what we give them. I have a lot of high hopes for this area.

And now for the super awesome thing I realized last week (caution, it's a bit long:)

I was sitting there in the hospital while Elder Heydorn was getting CT scanned. I'd been reading about charity that day, and wondering why it was so important, since both Mormon and Paul talk about how it is the greatest, most crucial aspect of all. We've all heard this for years, and we all kind of know, but I really didn't understand. Suddenly, Paul's words clicked with me, and I realized that we can definitely do good things all our life, showing immense faith and obedience, but ultimately, if we are not obedient out of a love for the Lord, if we are not serving others out of doesn't mean anything. At least not to us.

We've been teaching Douglas, a member of the Community of Christ. We'd taught him the Plan of Salvation, and the Three Degrees of Glory had been new to him. After the lesson, I sat down and read in D&C 76 and 88 about the Kingdoms of Glory. It hit me that the Atonement has enabled all of us to enter the Celestial Kingdom on certain conditions, the Gospel of Christ. It made me wonder how the Gospel of Christ really works, when you get down to it: faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. How does it enable us to enter the Celestial Kingdom?

We've all heard that we need to accept the Atonement to reach the Celestial Kingdom, and we do that through the Gospel of Christ. But suddenly, a lot of insights over the last few weeks all combined in my head -- C.S. Lewis' conclusion about how God is looking for a certain kind of person, not necessarily faith or works; Elder Holland guessing that what the question will really be at the Day of Judgment will be, "Do you love me?"; Mormon and Paul's remarks about charity; knowledge of why people go to the Kingdom they go to; talks I've read about grace -- all of it sort of meshed together in my head, and for one glorious moment, Iunderstood. The Spirit just dumped a bucketload of revelation on me.

The Atonement had to be infinite. It had to cover every sin anyone could possibly ever do, for everybody. That's why we can be forgiven no matter how many times we sin. The Atonement also covered the problem of death, so that every single person will be resurrected and brought back to the presence of God. Because of the Atonement, the Savior paid the price for all of us, so that He can step between us and the Father and then judge us on His terms. If we accept His Atonement, which is freely given, we will enter the Celestial Kingdom.

The thing is, we can't earn our salvation. We can't. The Savior did it all. We rely entirely on His mercy to return home. So why, then, does God give us commandments?

It's because if we do not love Heavenly Father, we will not accept the Atonement. If we are not willing to live a Celestial Law, we will not go there; we will descend to a Terrestrial or a Telestial place. In the end, we will go to the place which has the things we love the most. If we love our sins the most, we will go to the Telestial Kingdom. If we love our own way the most, we will go to the Terrestrial Kingdom. But, if we love Heavenly Father and the Savior most, truly do love them, we will accept the Atonement and enter in to enjoy eternal life and exaltation.

The first great commandment is to love Heavenly Father. Every commandment we have been given is built off of that, since when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God. This love we have for others, the love Heavenly Father commands us to have, is charity. Charity is the pure love of Christ, the ability to honestly say "Yes" when we get to the Judgment. Everything we do should be with the purpose of filling us with that love.

So in the end, what gets us into the Celestial Kingdom is not completing a checklist of things, nor just confessing the Savior's name. We need to have charity. We need to become sanctified. And that is what the Gospel of Christ is. Getting baptized doesn't magically make us a better person, and receiving the Holy Ghost doesn't suddenly make us never sin anymore. What the Holy Ghost does is that it shows us what we should be doing, strengthens us to start doing, and sanctifies us so that we don't even want to sin anymore.

What the Gospel of Christ is, essentially, is a fitness program for our charity. We are developing to the point that we are willing to give up everything, all our sins, for Heavenly Father. We are developing so that we love Him more. God requires us to make covenants so that we'll stick to the fitness program. Baptism is just the first step; we're promising essentially to be good. When we make further promises in the temple, we are committing to give up everything.

Because ultimately, that's the question. When we stand before the Savior, and He asks, "Do you love me?" if we haven't become sanctified, we won't be able to say "Yes." We won't have been changed by the Holy Ghost so that we want to live a Celestial law. There will still be things we want to keep, so we will slink away, remembering our sins, and returning to them in a lower kingdom. In the end, everyone will get exactly what they wanted.

Thankfully, for those of us who do want to make it back home, the Savior will be there every step of the way. The Holy Ghost will guide and change our hearts. We need to do our very best to be filled with charity, the one thing in this whole world that cannot fail. If we love the Lord, truly, truly love Him, He will ask us to do anything and we will do it. When He asks us to accept His gift and come back home, we will be able to say "Yes," and live with Him and our family forever.

I know this to be true. I know the Church is true. I am so glad that I get to be a missionary, helping others and myself commit to our spiritual fitness program.

I love you all. I love my mission. Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher

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