29 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 6

In my studies of the Book of Mormon, I've arrived again at the sections I have struggled most to be nourished from or apply into my life. Most people I've met struggle to appreciate the poetic and prophetic qualities of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi.

The bane of my Book of Mormon-based existence has long been the war chapters in Alma. However, as a missionary I finally have an application in my life for these chapters.

Being a missionary is a lot like being in an army. We're men and women under authority who follow very specific orders to bring about the objectives and visions of our leaders. We each play a role in those visions and objectives, and the role we play depends entirely on the character of our leaders. I have more reason now to care about the wisdom expressed in the war chapters because they lay out so clearly the difference between good leadership and evil leadership—good leaders and evil leaders.

Alma 47 and 48 give a nearly side-by-side comparison for good and evil leadership. Chapter 47 focuses on Amalickiah, a wicked and deceptive man in the histories of the Lamanites. Chapter 48 focuses on Captain Moroni, one of the most righteous men in the entire Book of Mormon. Mormon as a historian doesn't just focus on the events in which these men had remarkable significance. He focuses on their qualities, which helps us as readers to avoid and apply their examples, respectively.

I want to comment on some of these differences and apply them to missionary work because I believe they apply so completely to members and missionaries alike today. Because Amalickiah was a tool in the hands of Satan, and Captain Moroni in the hands of Jesus Christ, we learn things about them respectively as leaders as well.

Mormon establishes the comparison he's making when he says, "Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God." (Alma 48: 7)

  • Amaleckiah begins his deception by playing off of the division between his people and the Lamanites who don't want to fight the Nephites anymore. He specifically tries to gain favor with those who are disloyal and disobedient to the king. Captain Moroni gained favor with his people through loyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ and being true to the Title of Liberty (Alma 47: 5 & Alma 48: 10, 12) 
  • Amalickiah was double-minded, giving the appearance of serving the king, while also trying to achieve his own agenda by going against the will of the king. Captain Moroni has one purpose which is apparent in everything He does--to truly help his people by bringing them closer to Christ (Alma 47: 8 & Alma 48: 13) 
  • Amalickiah works through secrecy and persistence--two of the elements of temptation. Captain Moroni relies on revelation from God to best care for his people (Alma 47: 10-12 & Alma 48: 15) 
  • Amalickiah was perfectly willing to sacrifice his men to his opponents to accomplish his own selfish objectives. Captain Moroni protected ALL of his people, giving special attention to those who were most vulnerable. (Alma 47: 13-15 & Alma 48: 8-9) 
  • Amalickiah murdered his commanding officer by means of deception (poison). Captain Moroni lived the laws of God regarding warfare and only used war to protect himself and his people. He did not delight in bloodshed at all. (Alma 47: 18 & Alma 48: 14, 16) 
  • Amalickiah betrayed and murdered the king of the Lamanites, then covered it up through conspiracy. Captain Moroni defeated such evil through personal righteousness and relying entirely on Jesus Christ to save him and his people. (Alma 47: 22-24, 27, 34 & Alma 48: 17) 
  • Amalickiah instigates war and causes others to sin and break their covenants. Captain Moroni encourages everyone to follow the Lord, to keep their covenants, and to pursue peace wherever possible. (Alma 48: 3 & 23-24) 
  • Amalickiah's only strength is in numbers. Captain Moroni's strength is the power and promise of Christ. (Alma 48: 4 & 18-19) 

When I read this list I liken Amalickiah to Satan, and Captain Moroni to Christ. It helps me to understand how to be a better missionary, a better soldier in the cause of Christ. I understand better who I'm up against, and how to fight smarter against my enemies. I know to whom I should look for guidance, and the power He has to save me from destruction. I find this list to be entirely consistent with my experiences from both the Adversary and the Savior.

My favorite realization was what I saw when I likened Alma 48: 17 to Christ Himself:

"Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [Christ], behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."

I know that by keeping the commandments of Jesus Christ, we find that power in our lives. Satan has no power to tempt us because we find no appeal in anything he offers, and the methods he encourages us to use are despicable in our sight. Some might be dissuaded from missionary service because they think there is a lack of freedom in our decision making. Some resist the call from prophets to live lives of discipline, honoring the commandments of Christ.

But if we do not serve Christ as He has instructed, who then do we serve?

I know that Christ lives and He loves us. I know He has the power to guide us and protect us, and I've received that protection from Him too many times to count. I know that as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we accomplish the purposes of our Father in Heaven. For Christ, there was nothing more important than the will of the Father. When we truly live our lives in the same way, we can liken Alma 48: 17 to ourselves, with our own name.

For me, there would be no greater reward.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

23 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 5

I was on the Square today, and we saw a family at the Christus statue. After a really hard morning of being turned away abruptly from everyone we spoke to, this family was such a joy to see.

She was a mother, a member of the Church, and she had two young sons--they must have been about 3 and 4 years old. As soon as her children saw the Christus statue, they were so excited! Their little bodies were just an explosion of happiness, jumping and stomping their feet. Their smiles took up their whole faces, and their gazes were fixed on the face of the Savior. The youngest yelled, "JESUS!" and his little voice echoed and pierced me to my very soul. The feelings of my heart as I watched them both run up to the Christ statue and touch His feet... I can't describe in words the tenderness I felt. It brings me to tears now even to think of it.

In a moment, my soul was lifted up and nourished by the faith of these small children. I realized in a new way what Christ meant when He was teaching the twelve disciples this same lesson:

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18: 1-3

In the Book of Mormon, He taught the same thing to the Nephites when He appeared to them:

I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
3 Nephi 11: 38

The faith of children is exactly what I saw in those small boys. They didn't have that reaction because their parents taught them to do that. They have that reaction because they know Jesus Christ--they knew Him before they came to this life. In their pure and innocent state, they remember him better now that they will for the rest of their lives. Seeing them, I see what Christ was talking about. We aren't just supposed to believe in Him as some far away person who just happened to die for our sins. The faith of a child is exactly like the faith of those small boys--to be totally overcome with joy not just at the thought of Christ, but the memory of Him. To immediately run to His feet because that's where our greatest joy--our home--is found.

I've personally experienced how being obedient and keeping the commandments has helped me to remember the Savior, and to remember the things I knew in my heart before I came to this earth. I wouldn't trade that knowledge, that memory, for anything in the world. And just when I needed that reminder the most, the Lord provided the perfect messengers to help me--two small boys who have no idea how much their souls have just blessed mine.

I know Jesus Christ lives. I know He is my Savior, and I couldn't serve this mission without Him. He leads me continually to my Father in Heaven, who strengthens me beyond my own abilities to do the things He has asked of me. Even though this mission is the hardest thing I've ever done, I'd do it again and more for Him. Experiences like the one I've had today remind me that all of this--everything I'm experiencing now--is worth everything I will pay for it.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

16 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 4

Here is a list of my favorite things I've seen, heard, experienced and learned so far on Temple Square:
  • The two year old girl who says "Nebuchadnezzar."
  • There are about half a million creative ways to eat tortillas. And also, peanut butter.
  • The bride with the zebra-stripe bolero for her wedding dress, with matching bridesmaids.
  • If you say "Panda bear" in Mandarin with the wrong tones, you will say "Chest hair."
  • The round windows on the Salt Lake Temple actually open.
  • Members who see us walking, poke their small children and say, "Look! Missionaries!"
  • Inside jokes with other sisters because of the goofy things we experience in the call center. ("I don't have a brother.")
  • What is this man's name?!
    Trying not to laugh about aforementioned inside jokes when you pass other sisters on the Square.
  • The picture of the man on top of the Temple Spire in the South Visitor's Center. I've made it a mission within my mission to find out what his name is.
  • Accidentally seeing President Packer. And by "seeing," I mean "almost plowing into the security detail of."
  • Randomly humming the music from different Visitor's Center displays.
  • Also, recognizing when other sisters are doing this.
  • The little boy who introduces himself as "Batman."
  • D&C 60: 15
  • The Plan of Salvation summed up by the convert from New York: "So you're a god, eventually. But can you pay rent?!"
  • The techno version of If You Could Hie to Kolob. With violins.
  • Trunkytown = the place I go when a wedding party comes out of the Temple.
  • Working in constant sight of the Temple is only a blessing if you take the time to see it often.
--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

09 September 2011

Temple Square--Week 3

I just realized today that I'm passing through the valley of the shadow of death, also known as the three month mark of my mission.

Because I was trained to go to serve a proselyting mission in Brazil and I ended up at a Visitor's Center on Temple Square, there's a large gap between what I was trained to do and what I'm actually doing every day. I try very hard to be receptive to the guidance and the changes so I can adapt to all the things I didn't expect. It's a lot to take in, and sometimes I struggle with the constant correction. I know this isn't unique to me--it's a huge part of what it means to be a missionary. Receiving correction well from the Lord is a huge part of the refining process that every missionary experiences throughout his or her mission.

I was feeling particularly discouraged last night, so I decided to deal with how I was feeling this morning in my personal study. I didn't quite know where to start, but a scripture one of my companions shared from Proverbs 3 came to mind. That's how I found this counsel:
11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:
12 For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Our Heavenly Father does not give us correction because He hates us or is displeased with who we are or how hard we're trying. He loves us for who we are and He believes in us. He wants us to be successful, and He knows that we can do anything with His help. His correction is meant to help us and guide us so we can be successful. Whether we choose to feel good or bad about ourselves because of that correction is our choice, not His.

I was happy to receive that guidance, but I still craved the comfort of the Spirit--to see what I was still missing in my understanding so I could feel close to Him again.


I felt like I needed to read the Book of Mormon, and I opened to where I had left off last time. I opened to Alma 29, which is a chapter where Alma was struggling with the same desires I was feeling. Many people in the Church--including missionaries--see the first two verses...
1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

...but they don't see the realization he makes afterwards:
3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

I've been struggling to understand what my role is here. I was trained to actively proselyte, which is what I expected to do. But being in a Visitor's Center, my role is one to extend invitations for others to meet with missionaries, but also to buildgood relationships with members of other faiths and to promote a good image of the Church. I've really struggled to know how I can show other faiths the same respect they show us by visiting us in Temple Square, but still fulfilling my responsibility as a missionary to share what I know to be the truth.

Alma answers that question in verse 4 when he says:

4 I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.

The Lord does not force people to come to him. He will give faith, knowledge, peace, and strength to those who want a relationship with him. For those who do not actively seek to build that relationship with Him, or to build one further, He does not force that upon them. Ultimately, He respects their choices and gives them exactly what they ask for--what He extends to them is always in harmony with the decisions they make to come closer or pull away from Him.

Alma went through this, and I love the conclusion he comes to of why he decided to serve a mission, even though he knew he couldn't convince people, nor was it his job to do so. He says:
12 Yea, I have always remembered the captivity of my fathers; and that same God who delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians did deliver them out of bondage.
13 Yea, and that same God did establish his church among them; yea, and that same God hath called me by a holy calling, to preach the word unto this people, and hath given me much success, in the which my joy is full.
That's why I decided to serve a mission--because even the chance to help someone who wants my help reminds me of everything I've been through. I remember how it felt to walk into a Church building and feel as if I was coming home for the first time in my life. I remember how it felt to have my prayers answered. I remember how it felt to see my life changing, to see a power so much greater than I was come into my life. I remember feeling God's love for me, and knowing that He is my Father, and the first time I realized He had loved me all of my life.

Realizing that I have a relationship with the same God that delivered Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt--that I can rely on Him for help, comfort, and guidance--it brings such peace to my heart and soul. I love Him so much more than I ever could have had I never served this mission because I see more clearly how He works and how much He cares about every single person He brings to this Square.

Correction does bring wisdom, and wisdom helps us to see through the eyes of God. For now, while I'm new, those glances are only brief glimpses. But I know that as I grow, it will change. I love Him for that. I love the Book of Mormon and how it blesses my life. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith and the sacrifices he made to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth again. I love my Savior and His atoning sacrifice. I love my Father in Heaven, and I know that every good thing that happens to us is because of His love for us all.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

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