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

Monday, October 14, 2013

10/14/13 "Led by the Spirit"

"And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do."
-- 1 Nephi 4:6

Elder Richardson was talking to a nonmember man once, and the man got on a tangent that went something like this:

"Y'know Samson, in the Bible, it says that he killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, right? Well, I figure, how'd that work out? 'Cuz you'd think that once he'd gotten around three or four hundred of 'em they must've realized that they just weren't gonna kill this guy and so they would've started runnin'. So how was he able to get all one thousand? Well, I figure...Samson musta had soupah speed!"

Well, who knows. God uses many methods to get things done. Back in Old Testament times the power of God manifested itself by oceans parting or she-bears tearing people apart. Now it works in more G-rated ways.*

*This brings up the fascinating "Declining Scale of Miracle Impressiveness," a concept that takes note of the fact that miracles get less and less spectacular the closer you get to the present day. The Apostle Peter getting a lame man to walk is impressive, but nowhere near as showy as Elijah calling down fire from heaven, and that, in turn, is nowhere near as monumental as the plagues and miracles Moses wrought which affected large regions. And even then, those are nothing compared to the global flood during Noah's lifetime. There's probably some sort of eternal principle behind all this.

In missionary work, I've come to see how God doesn't need to bully the laws of nature to get something to be a miracle. In so many ways, considering how many variables had to come into play over such a long time to cause us to meet someone is far more impressive of a miracle. When the odds of a choice encounter are astronomical, but it still plays out.

Consider, for instance, this past week when I was on exchange with my saintly District Leader, Elder Haskell. It was 8:30and we didn't particularly want to go finding, so we decided to go try an investigator, Michael. We knocked on his door, and he was not home. Since it was not yet 9:00 we didn't want to go in, so we resigned ourselves to going one street over and try to find someone at home who we could teach.

As we go to leave, however, I see that my back tire has come off the bicycle. I stopped for about thirty seconds to put it back on. In those thirty seconds, a car drove up and Michael was dropped off by a friend, and we were able to talk to him and have a very spiritual conversation -- one of the best I've ever had.

Now, my back tire has a history of giving me problems, so I checked it before leaving the apartment. I checked it before heading to our last appointment. I checked it after leaving that appointment. It was perfectly fine when I rested my bike against a tree for the thirty seconds or so it took us to walk up to Michael's door, knock on it, discover he wasn't home, and walk back.

Yet somehow, during that thirty seconds, my back tire had managed to come off for no apparent reason. Had it not done so, we would've gone one street down and missed Michael by a few seconds. Instead, we were kept in that spot for the few moments that would allow us to catch him and talk to him.

This experience was very encouraging, but it also brought up a slightly worrying observation along with it. With many missionaries, miracles like this generally happen because they receive a prompting and follow it. Whereas on my mission, it's always seemed that I get confused or have some sort of mechanical malfunction which ends up causing a miracle to occur.

So, in other words, other missionaries get prompted by the Spirit. I get confused by the Spirit.

I find it worrisome that the only way Heavenly Father can get me in the right place at the right time is by having the Holy Ghost clonk me alongside the head. Or mess with my stuff.

Well, whatever. I'll take it. I'm always grateful for miracles, however they come.

All this is just a refreshing reminder that Heavenly Father really is in control of all of this. He doesn't have to bend or break the rules to get things done -- he just knows how to work the system. He can line up all the million-to-one chances so that things slide into place and bam, a miracle occurs. Much of the time a missionary, or a member, is just one of those little tumblers that click into place and make things happen. 

I have come to realize then, like Ammon did, that if anything good happens in missionary work it probably wasn't due to anything I did. And I certainly didn't plan for it to happen. It was all the Lord's doing, and we just get to be His instruments.

I know that this work is true. It has also come to mean quite powerfully this week that Jesus is truly the Savior. His love is something I struggle to comprehend, but, as small and contemptible as we may be, He still loves us. I know this to be true.

I love you. Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher

10/7/13 "I invite you to consider your situation and repent"

"For those of you who are not paying your tithing...I invite you to consider your situation and repent."
-- Elder David "the Boss" Bednar

We met a man named Jeff sitting on his porch last Thursday and sat down to talk with him. A few minutes into the conversation, I felt prompted to say the following:

"Jeff, let's say that you walk into a room. You close the door, and turn around, and there is the Savior, sitting there. He says to you, 'You have five minutes.' What do you talk about?"

It was an unusual question, one that I'd come up with myself and had only used once before in my entire mission. I'd invite you to take a moment and ponder about it yourself. I'll get to my own thoughts later on in this email.

Jeff paused for a long moment, and then responded, "I'd talk to Him about all the bad choices I'd made in my life."
I nodded at that, and then asked, "And what do you think He would tell you?"
Again, Jeff stopped for a good while. Finally, his voice soft, he replied, "That it's never too late to change."

For a brief moment I got to see inside this man's heart. It was a sacred experience I will not forget.


My new companion is Elder Herr from Tuscon, Arizona. I am already in the process of making a massive pun skit using his name. The scene would easily work, since we also got a new sister missionary in our ward at the same time.

Elder: "We have a new missionary in the ward. Would you like to meet Herr?"
Member: "Sure!"
E: "Okay. *searches* Where is Herr?" 
M: "Where is she, you mean? She's right there." 
E: "No, where is Herr. Herr is my companion."
M: "It's said 'she is my companion,' Elder. And since when were sisters companions with elders?"
E: "They're not. Oh, golly, don't tell me I lost Herr."
M: "She's not lost, she's right there. Where's the other missionary?"
E: "I don't know."
M:  "We'll need to find him, then."
E: "Herr. We need to find Herr."
M: "We don't need to find the sister! We're looking for the other one. What's his name?"
E: "Herr."
M: "I don't need to know the sister's name. What's the elder's name?"
E: "Herr!"

And so on, and so forth.


Andy, the young son of an investigator we've been teaching, got bitten by a Brown Recluse on the tummy not long ago and had to be taken to the emergency room for surgery when the bite got infected. We had given him a blessing and were quite relieved when he was back on his feet and smiling again.
"Wanna see the bite?" he asked us eagerly. He lifted up his shirt, displaying the gruesome hole in his stomach.
I regarded it. 
" 'Looks like ol'' Shelob's been havin' a bit of fun,' " my brain said.
"It looks great," I replied.


I had a lot of insights at Conference, but for the sake of time I'll just share some select highlights:
1) A common theme this conference appeared to be compassion. Ponder this.
2) Christofferson's talk about women was amazing.
3) I had prayed for weeks that the Choir would sing "O Divine Redeemer" at conference, and they did. I was very thankful to Heavenly Father. They also sang "When He Comes Again," much to my delight. The only one that was missing was "This is the Christ," my favorite song of all time.
4) Elder Nielsen, who gave the "Exclamation Point!" talk, came to our mission last June.
5) When Elder Nelson began his talk by saying "I recently heard a chorus of children sing 'I Am a Child of God,' " he was probably referring to how he made the children stand up and sing for him at the Stake Conference at Pineville in February, which I was present for.
6) Terence Vinson's talk really stood out to me: God's work and His Glory is that something as imperfect and flawed as a human being can become like Him. He glories in the fact that He can take a being so frail and weak and make it godly.


Were I to walk in a room and the Savior be there and I had five minutes with Him, what would I do? I've had a lot of time to think about this. 

My first response would probably be to fall at His feet. But, assuming that I couldn't do that, I'd probably just listen to what He had to say. If I had to find something to talk about, things get a bit more difficult. At first I thought that I would ask Him what I needed to do in my life, what I needed to know, life choices I've made, who I should help, what I should say to them, that I love Him, etc. etc. Or possibly doctrinal questions, like where we go after we die and what it's like there.

Upon further thought, I realized that none of these are good questions, because I think I already kind of know in my heart the answers to them. I know what I need to do in life. I know what things I must learn. I know what choices I've made that have been bad. I know who needs helping and what needs to be said to them. I already know all of these things because of His light that is inside me, the Light of Christ. I do not have a perfect knowledge, but the Spirit has already revealed most of the answers to me, if I stopped to review.

As for the doctrinal questions, like if there's life after death...if I had already believed by hearing them from regular people, then it wouldn't make any difference hearing them from Him. If I had not believed those truths coming from a regular person, I wouldn't believe them coming from Him.

I got a pretty good idea of things I wouldn't say. Selfish or disrespectful or trivial things, like "At what point were you suffering for me in the Garden?" or "Did you ever get sealed to someone?" Or stupid questions, like "Do you love me?" or "Can I be forgiven?" or "Will I make it?"

I guess, besides listening, the only thing I could really think of to ask is "What do I need to hear so that I may strengthen my brethren when I go back?"

As Elder Nelson taught last Sunday, all of us, someday, will have a personal interview with the Savior. On that occasion, however, some very specific things will be discussed. This hypothetical situation is not the Last Judgment; it's a preliminary, preparatory "review," you might say. A question and answer session before the qualifying exam for the Celestial Kingdom.

I hope to be ready for it. I don't think I ever will, but if I do, it will only be because He has helped me.

I love the Savior. I love my mission. I love my companion. I love all of you. Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher

9/30/13 "Things as they really are"

The statement above hit me quite powerfully this last week. It was followed by this insight, which popped into my mind:
1) Humility is an acceptance of truth.
2) Pride is a denial of truth.

If we are proud and look down on others, we are denying the truth that says that they have divine potential. If a man lusts after a woman in his heart, seeing her as an object, he is being proud, for he is denying the truth that she is a daughter of God. If we feel that we are worthless, or that we have sinned and cannot be forgiven, we are being proud, because we are not believing our Heavenly Father we He says that we are of infinite worth to Him.

Satan was proud. He thought that he was better than others and that, consequently, they should do what he wanted them to do. He denied the truth that Heavenly Father's plan really would work for everyone, he denied the truth about others, and he denied the truth about himself.

The Savior, on the other hand, was humble. He knew that He could do nothing of Himself. Even though He was the most talented, intelligent, and powerful individual to ever walk the earth, He was always humble. And, when He suffered in Gethsemane, He quite literally came to know the complete and entire truth about all of us.

If somebody gives us a compliment, like "You're so beautiful" or "You're such a great teacher" or "You are a fantastic cook," and we respond with something like "Oh, no, I'm not," believe it or not, that response is not necessarily a humble one. Humility is acknowledging that our talents come from God and are meant to be used for the good of others.


That was my line of thinking this week.

On Saturday we met a man named James working out in his yard and offered to help, despite being in our proselyting clothes. He accepted and let us do some small chore. We had a nice conversation with him for a few minutes and then had to take off to an appointment.

On Sunday, right before church, we get a call from James, asking for directions to our church building. We eagerly told him how to get there and then went inside the chapel as the meeting had started. At the time of the sacrament hymn, they closed the doors, and no sign of James. We sat there nervously.

There is a sister in our ward who had been having an extremely tough Sunday morning. Otherwise obedient children had decided that morning to scream and put up a fuss and take off their church clothes and jump back in bed earlier. Her husband, having a calling, had to take off early and she, presumably alone, had to get the kids to church. She arrived too late to be inside for the sacrament and was sitting in the foyer, tired and at her wits' end.

All of a sudden she saw a rather confused looking man walking down the hallway. "Where is everybody?" he asked. This sister quickly realized that he was not a member and was able to explain to him the sacrament while they waited for the doors to open. 

This man was James, who had walked into the building with no one in sight and not a sound to be heard. Unaccustomed as he was to our strange LDS church layouts, he couldn't find a chapel, and determined to walk a lap around the church and leave if he didn't see anyone. Right as he came to the end of his lap, he bumped into this one exhausted mother who was having a rough day.

I call this experience a miracle. It is amazing how Heavenly Father answers multiple prayers and helps multiple people using such simple and wonderful means. He really does remember all of His children:
1) He answered our prayer, which was that James would come to church and have a good experience there;
2) He helped this poor sister's, since she was able to have a powerful spiritual moment when she was desperately tired and discouraged. This sister later went and bore her testimony during the meeting, sharing her experience with the whole ward.
3) He helped James, who was able to start off his experience with the Church by having a very choice encounter with a member

To top it all off, James was hit by an avalanche of member fellowship shortly after the meeting. When Elder Richardson and I got home I had him kneel down on the carpet with me and say a prayer of thanks for it all.

I know that Heavenly Father loves us and watches over us. It is incredible to see, looking back, that Elder Richardson and I's decision to go finding on one particular street ended up helping a mother in need. We enjoyed the miracle, and James did, too, but in the end it was probably the mother that needed it the most. How could we have known?

I could go on and tell a ton more stories about this last week, but this email has gotten rather long and the time is wearing on. I'll just say that good things are happening here in Lakefield and I'm excited to be here for another transfer.

I love being a missionary. Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher