Monday, October 7, 2013

30 September 2013

This past week I had the weirdest member present lesson of my life.

Below is what I wrote right after to remember it in its beautiful simplicity.
"Weirdest Member Present of my Life."
By: Elder Johnson
Sunday, 12:25PM

We were teaching someone who just walked into the church building looking for the Bishop. He stayed for church and afterwards we pulled him aside and sat down. A member had accompanied him throughout the day and in the lesson for five minutes but had to leave soon after it started. So, leaving the room for another reason, I found a member and asked him to come join us so this man could get to meet some people.

We invited him into the room and, having sat down, the first thing he said, "I have less teeth than you!" ...Weird... We started talking about prophets, priesthood authority, and the true church. Turning to the member, I asked him, "how have you been blessed by following the prophets?"

He sat for a second, clearly contemplating his answer, and said, "I have been in many fights in my life. A while back I was stabbed with a 12 inch melon knife through the gut. And  I'll tell you, that bled!" And I've been in so many fights. About  six months ago, a 400 pound man punched me in the back, dropping me to the ground. I looked up and I said a quick prayer..."

Elder Gaspar and I looked at each other in shock.

Continuing before we could stop him, he said, "I am a 69-year-old man, but I jumped back up as fast as possible. I got my shovel and hit him as hard as I could across the head. He fell down to the ground and hit him in the mouth a bunch of times. And this guy was supposed to be a good Mormon! He told us that he was a killer from Afghanistan and I didn't like him. And I've been in a bunch of fights like that!"

Trying to rescue it, I said, "and it's so great to know that even through trials, prophets are there to guide us."

That is a true story.

Speaking of intense stories, here is another one that I will never forget.

We are teaching a woman. She has been taught for about six months and has gotten close to baptism a few times. Well, she overcame her addiction to smoking and we were so proud of her for that. The week before her baptism, someone moves in with her and, very long story short, buys her cigarettes that she smokes.

We got a phone call from her that night cancelling our appointment but she mentioned something about the police so I told her we were coming over anyway. We floored it out of our appointment, raced the car (at the speed limit speed!) and flew over to home. As we approached the door we heard screaming. 

We were on edge. Tensions were high and things seemed to be happening at 100 miles per hour. 

The door opens and we hear more screaming. We walk inside and sit down between them for five minutes in silence as they scream. I was so angry, the spirit was not there and I thought I was going to punch someone.

These people are over 50 years old. Both of them. Eventually, after quiet attempts to quiet them down fail, I stood up, grabbed the Book of Mormon, and told them both to shut up for five minutes. I sat down and started reading from 3 Nephi chapter 11 where it describes the still small voice of the spirit. One of them kept mumbling and I spoke to him pretty loudly about how the spirit was not there and that was why everyone was angry.

He stopped. So I read. And read. For about five minutes I read in silence, both of these people in different rooms. When I finished reading I bore testimony. That testimony turned into a 15 minute monologue.

I can't remember anything of what I said, only that it was super intense and bold. I remember feeling terrified to say what I was saying but as the words came to my mind and out my mouth I remember the spirit being intensely strong. I remember looking at Elder Gaspar in confusion about what I was saying and him telling me to keep going.

After my little monologue things were quiet in that house. I pulled one of them aside and told this person, in very plain and simple terms, what the significance about what had happened was while Elder Gaspar spoke to the other alone. 

Afterwards we brought them back together and sat them down together and said, "You need to reevaluate this relationship. Is being together helping you get closer to Christ?" We left them with to think about and excused ourselves. 

I remember feeling overwhelmed after that encounter and we drove to the church where we went on splits and I stayed behind to vent to the bishop about it haha. He asked, "your eyes are red...have you been crying?" I replied, "No, I'm super stressed." It was a cool experience being able to counsel with him, receive good advice, and figure out the next step to take.

I don't think I'll ever forget that night. We're 20 years old. We shouldn't have been able to control that like we did. But we did. And I know it's not because I was speaking loudly but because the spirit was there and guiding all of us.

We spoke to President Toone about the situation the next day. We pushed the baptism back. Sister Toone was in SLC at the General Relief Society Broadcast that day and had lunch with the presidency of the General Relief Society. She is bringing back a hand signed note from the three presidency members which she will deliver to this person. 

Things can turn around, we hope they do. Please pray for a miracle.

That same night a very drunk man stumbled to the church but didn't speak English. The English ward was there and worried since the youth were there and this man could barely even walk. Since we were still on splits they asked me to take care of this guy so I went out, put my hand around his back, and explained the situation to him. He walked away with two bowls of salad that he was given in hand and we haven't seen or heard of him since.

This past week we also had the unique opportunity, at P. Toone's approval, to go and do some OYMs with two new sister companionships. They have been struggling with speaking with random people so we took them out and gave them some pointers. It was a really productive experience and we ended up teaching five lessons in an hour to random people including two sets of Jehovah's Witnesses.

I don't know how many of you saw my status on Facebook this past week but I'm teaching someone in Pakistan now. He said he and his congregation are looking for "more guidelines from Christ." I have his address, I'm emailing the mission president in the New Delhi, India Mission (which covers Pakistan I guess), and I'm going to be skyping this guy! Turns out there is a branch and missionaries in his city in Pakistan!!! THIS IS SO COOLLLLL!!!!

We had a cool experience of "being in the right place at the right time doing the right time." It was 8:40 at night and we were in a complex talking to some people. We ran into this one guy who was outside smoking, drinking, and listening to music. We asked him what he was listening to and after a couple minutes he said, "I'm a Mormon, guys." We talked a bit more and I told him, "Hey, I feel really strongly to show you a little clip, four minutes long, is it ok if we come a bit closer?" He said yes so we sat down and watched, "Mountains to Climb," the Mormon message. Afterwards he said, "Wow. You two were here for a reason tonight.That was exactly what I needed to see. I feel so lost. I don't know how to come back. I know it is all true and I know I need to come back." He had been through some hard things that I won't write about. I told him, "If you want to change, start now. Pour out that beer." He did and the spirit was so strong. He got a big smile on his face and he is excited to meet tonight. Another blessing of this technology we have. Nothing we could have said could have impacted him like that message from President Eyring did on that Mormon message. I'm convinced it was made for him.

Moments like that remind me why I'm out here walking in the heat, getting bitten by dogs, feeling sick, tired and stressed. It is all worth it in those small and simple moments when people decide to improve their lives. It is all worth it. We ended that night with big smiles on our faces.

Last night we taught a lesson to someone who moved from Saudi Arabia 2 months ago. We were able to use the translator on our phone to speak with him and even had a prayer with him! I asked him if could record his prayer since prayers in Arabic, or Muslim prayers in general, are so musical.

Six cop cars went flying past us this past Saturday night, sirens blazing, and drifting around corners. One of the Crown Victorias under-steered hardcore and took a corner way wide. lololololol. Anyway, we did what we should have done....and followed them! We saw rifles out and guns out at a door and decided to leave. That was an exciting end to the day.

I almost died at dinner this past week. Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it hurt! I was drinking a smoothie and started choking and all the sudden smoothie was flying out my nose and I couldn't breathe. Meanwhile, while I'm suffering of what I thought was the end of my life, everyone is dying of laughter while I suffer in bitter agony! 

Ok, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration as well, but it hurt! Mostly my pride.

This past week Mesa zone broke three records that have existed since 2008. We blew away total teaching opportunities by more than 50 lessons, lessons to recent converts or less actives by 30, and "other lessons" by 20! Wooooo! Mesa Pride!

I think the week highlight was watching someone we've been teaching get baptized. This woman is an amazing woman and is a great example to me. I was pretty stressed out and angry at the baptism since only 10 other people showed. None of the speakers or prayerers (?) showed up either. I was honestly fuming in my chair haha. Luckily the baptismal ordinance was flawless and the spirit again was super powerful. After the baptism Elder Gaspar and I, on our recently borrowed violins, played a duet on the violins. We played "I know my Redeemer lives" and it was the first time either of us had played in three years. Luckily it went really well. We are practicing to play at a zone conference this Wednesday. 

This past week President Toone asked me to head up a not-yet-created group on training on using the internet to share the gospel. The story behind how he asked me is kind of cool.

I have been having a ridiculous amount of ideas on how to use the internet come to my mind. Like it's ridiculous. After MLC I asked to sit down with President and told him I'm getting too many ideas and don't know what to do with them or how to implement them and it was a little overwhelming. He looked at me and said, "Elder Johnson, you are an answer to my prayers." He said he has felt a little behind on everything with Facebook and the iPads and has been praying for direction and he feels like it has been coming through me. So now I'm supposed to keep a record of all my ideas. I've written up a document about vision, direction, dangers, potentials and whatnot of what we have at our fingertips, literally, now. The big struggle right now is that since 50% of our mission are in their first 4 months, they JUST said goodbye to family, friends, and facebook, and now all of the sudden they're back in it. But I'm confident we can get around that distraction.

I was asked to write some advice on the "how to" of preparing for a mission. I'll write some of my thoughts below in the few minutes I have left.

Read those leather bound books we call scriptures. You can't teach what you don't know for yourself. Start young and read. You don't need to be obsessive about it but make it something you do for a little bit of time each day.

Attend seminary. It is fun, the teachers are great, and it helps you know where to find the evidence of our doctrine!

Practice sharing your testimony in formal and informal ways! It's not hard!

Pray for whatever!

Invite people! It is not a scary thing to do, you make a bigger deal about it than anyone you invite does.

Visit with the missionaries. Practice makes perfect.

Obey the commandments and what your parents tell you to do. Believe it or not, they usually know more than you or me. Sometimes :)

Enjoy, laugh and be happy. No one is going to believe the gospel makes you happy if you aren't genuinely happy. Let them see that "light" and feel the love you have for them and for the savior. Don't take it all overly serious or you'll have no fun. Recognize the balance between seriousness and enjoy-ability and connectivity. 

And, newly available option, use social media for sharing the gospel! It's as easy as a status, as nonthreatening as a "like" and as powerful as a "share." Recognize the blessings we have through technology and use it! 

I didn't take my preparation, at least the memorizing scripture part and seminary part, seriously enough. I felt prepared by knowing the doctrine and wasn't scared to share it with people but I regret not spending more time memorizing things.

To this day that is a weakness I have.
Thanks Elizabeth, Mom, Eric, Will, and Grandpa J for the letters! 

Love you all!

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