Monday, June 17, 2013

Mind and Heart

Family! Friends! Awesome followers of my blog that make me feel validated!
Hello, there! This is Sister Fox, after another *mostly* fantastic week in good ol' Tennessee. I'll get to that later. I really did have an enjoyable week, and we got so much work done! The area is picking up, and slowly but surely, the work is moving in West Hills North!
But before I get to that, I have a very strange request. First one to send me the science behind the firefly gets a box of candy shipped to them. Sister Paxton and I love them! It's firefly season, and they're everywhere! They're super cool up close; we were admiring a few just the other night. We were wondering how they actually light up. Are they generating electricity? What makes them glow? First one to answer, as I said, gets a box of candy. I'm a poor missionary, so the bribe doesn't get much better than that. That's all I've got. Plus, when we got to West Hills North, we found our cupboards completely packed with candy. And neither of us want it. So it's going home in boxes.
This email may sound a bit scattered as well. It's amazing what missionary work does to your brain. All the days blend together, and your brain is constantly going, but sometimes not generating much. The wheel is still spinning but the hamster's gone, you know what I mean (That's a saying I learned from a ward member. It's a keeper!)? I'll try to make this letter make as much sense as possible though. I'm just really happy it's P-day. I am physically and mentally exhausted, especially after this week.  I'll tell y'all all about it!
Last p-day was the first p-day I actually had time to sit back, write letters, and take a nap. It was so fantastic. Today we're meeting up with the elders to do some basketball. And maybe some tabeling?  Elder Sprague is a rock climber too. And the way he gets over his climbing cravings is to climb underneath tables from one end of the table to the other end without hitting the floor. We'll see how that goes. One thing y'all should know about missionaries: we're really easily entertained. And we do weird things.
Tuesday we met with two investigators on very opposite ends of the conversion spectrum. Oh heavens. First we met with Antoin (Antwan?), who is so solid! We brought him a Book of Mormon, and he got so excited to read it! He generally doesn't like reading, but he says he feels different when he reads the Book of Mormon. He prays for understanding and he just gets it. He knows that it's true. What a rock star. We taught him the Restoration and he agreed with every word. We invited him to be baptized and he accepted! He's not quite ready to set an official date yet, but we'll keep working with him. He's awesome! He can't quite explain it, but he can feel of the truth of the Book of Mormon. He accepts what he feels and he wants to follow that.
And then a few hours later we met with Scott. Oh Scott. It was probably the most irritating lesson I have ever had with an investigator. He's actually not much of an investigator. He invited us back for the sole purpose of converting us to his Baptist faith. People do that sometimes. I don't like it. But I try to be patient with them and help them all the same. He was a bit beyond help, though. We tried to teach him the Restoration, but we could barely get a word in, because he would cut us off mid-sentence all the time and question/contradict with everything we said. Yeup, my first real lesson with a bible basher. A bible basher who said he wasn't familiar with the bible. But he studied the book of Galatians really heavily before we showed up, and tried for over an hour to convince us that man is saved by faith alone. One thing I learned about bible bashers, they won't listen to reason. You can say what you want to refute, but they will always think of something to say in return, even if it makes no sense. We pulled out the verse "faith without works is dead," and he said Paul trumps James because Paul was so much . . . better. And then after expressing desire to learn more about the Book of Mormon, we tried to teach him more, and then he expressed that he would never, ever believe in the divinity of the Book of Mormon. Open-minded, right? I realized we were slowly falling into the "bible bashing" trap, and I didn't want to sit and argue, and every time I tried to bear testimony he cut me off, so for the next 30 minutes I tried to get out of there, but he would not stop talking about how only the most ignorant of people could read the Bible and believe that man isn't saved by faith alone. And that there is no right church, "the church is in your heart." And God doesn't speak to prophets anymore because he doesn't need to. Christ atoned for our sins, we're all saved. All we have to do is believe he'll save us and we're fine. After that he kicked us out of his house before we could say anything, because the "head of the house gets the final word." That went well.
The next day we met with Daniel. He is kind of like Scott. But . . . a little more open-minded. Cuz he let us talk. He used a lot of the same arguments that Scott used. But this time, we were prepared to bear pure testimony instead of going head to head with doctrine. Because the Spirit is the converting agent. If the Spirit isn't there, it's man for man, and we are left alone. "Brett, I had a class!! Oceanology!!!" "Oceanography!!!!" Yeah. Super productive.
With Daniel, the Spirit was there, but not all the way. What's interesting about Daniel is that he is so rooted in logic. He doesn't trust how he feels, or in emotions. He doesn't believe you can feel truth; you can only know truth. FAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCCCCCCTTTTTTTTT. So getting him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon to find out if it's true didn't stick with him. He has studied the bible all his life. He knows its origins, he has a whole timeline set out, and he calcuated the chance that it could be false and came out with an actual percentage. He's a scholar. He really clicked with Sister Paxton, but I didn't click with him at all. He said he saw a spark in her, and that's why he invited us back. Well, at first, I was kind of offended. I wondered why he didn't see the "spark of Christ" in me that he saw in her. But as Sister Paxton and I were talking later, I came to learn that she clicked with him because she's a lot like him. She tried to come to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon through intensive study. She studied it from an academic perspective and dove into the doctrine to learn that it was true. She doesn't trust feelings nearly as much as she trusts logic and fact. Daniel called her a "seeker." I, on the other hand, trust more in emotion than logic and fact. I came to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon through feeling. I didn't have to know it from cover to cover or be able to map out the story before I knew it was true. I could read it and feel of the mighty truths there. Daniel called me a "revealer." Kinda weird. But  So together, we make a very interesting team, but a pretty strong one, if I do say so myself. I get irritated when investigators demand facts, logic, and intensive study. She gets irritated when investigators say they know before they've read the entire book. So together, we can click with just about any investigator. And after thinking about which way is a better way to come to learn the truth, I realized the error lies at the extremes. The strongest conversion, in my opinion, comes through both study and feeling. Study it out in your mind, ask God if it's true, and pay attention to the feelings in your heart.  The Holy Ghost, according to D&C 8:2, bears witness to both the mind and the heart, but it dwells in your heart. The heart is where conversion occurs, because conversion is the desire to align your heart with God's will. When the mind and heart are unified, testimonies grow stronger. You have to trust in what you can understand with your mind. You should look at logic and facts. But they will still leave a gap that only faith can fill. God will not prove His existence through fact alone because there would be no room for faith. Our trust in Him fills the gap that logic cannot fill. And when we choose to fill that gap with trust and take a leap of faith, our testimony grows so much stronger.
I would actually love to hear y'alls thoughts on the subject. Please and thank you!
Do you know what chapter defined this week? 2nd Nephi 29. Do you know what I learned? It's really hard to refute their beliefs based on evidence and scripture. Because they won't listen. A missionary doesn't do the converting. A missionary creates an environment where the conversion process can occur. Missionaries invite the Spirit through bearing pure testimony and allow the Spirit to speak through them to touch the hearts of others. And that's pretty difficult when the people you're trying to teach keep cutting you off with, "A Bible! A Bible! We've got a Bible! And there cannot be any more Bible!" They refuse to even look at the Book of Mormon. They pull *evidence* out of the bible that disproves the divinity of any other book of scripture. And they don't trust in Moroni's promise because they don't trust how they feel. They feel comfortable with what they know and won't connect with how they feel. And when someone's heart is so closed off to the Spirit, even though it's hard to give up on someone, you just have to leave. A heart that refuses to be touched is a heart that needs to be left alone until it's ready to be touched. And that was the hardest thing for me to learn as a missionary. We can't touch everyone. But there are people who are ready, and we need to spend all our time and energy finding and teaching them.  I'll be honest with all y'all, the Bible Belt is a hard place to serve a mission. But I am learning a ton! I've experienced a lot of growth out here, and my testimony has grown exponentially. I thought my testimony was strong before I served a mission, but I had no idea of its potential until I came out here. It's cool how that happens.
So, where was I? That was all Tuesday and Wednesday. Daniel said he'd read the Book of Mormon by the way. So that was pretty cool. Scott didn't. We gave him one anyway. Maybe one day, Scott. Anyway. Thursday. Good news: I experienced my first tornado warning (that means a tornado has actually been spotted). Bad news: I didn't actually get to see said tornado. More bad news: we had to stay inside ALL DAY. So we didn't get much done. Friday was better though. Our schedule randomly exploded, and we filled our day with appointments. We also met a new investigator, Michelle! The elders helped her move in and she is currently church shopping. We're meeting up with her this week! Pray it goes well! I don't remember what happened on Saturday. Two days ago. That's missionary work for ya. I'm sure it was a good day.
Yesterday was awesome!! So, Sister Paxton and I have stubbornness issues when it comes to goals. We set a goal to have 20 other lessons, and we got 29 last week. The Elders challenged us to get 30 this week. Well, we were at 29 again last night with 5 minutes left to go before we had to turn our numbers in. So what did Sister Paxton and I do? We literally sprinted from house to house trying to find someone to teach. We asked everyone we could to pray with us, to no avail. We almost got this young couple to listen, but they turned us down. Blessing in disguise!!! With 60 seconds left, we knocked on our final door. That's how we met Kathy. She is such a sweetheart. She happily agreed to pray with us and told us her family has been going through some hard times. We prayed with her for her family, and she invited us back to teach her more!! We got a new investigator!! It just goes to show that if you set goals through revelation by the Spirit, and you put enough faith, prayer, and diligence into it, the Lord will help you accomplish what you have set out to do. After that experience we happily submitted our numbers to the elders. =D
So . . . yeah. That's my novel. Hope y'all enjoyed it. I also wanted to wish you all a belated Happy Fathers' Day! My Fathers' Day wasn't all that great until the experience we had in the evening, so that made it a very happy Fathers' Day! Rest assured. :)
Thank you all so much for your letters! I love them so much! They help me hear y'alls voices and I feel just a little closer to home. Even if it's just a couple paragraphs, I would love to keep hearing from y'all! Thank you so so much also for your prayers and support. I can feel it every day, and it makes all the difference. Love y'all so much! Until next week!
-Sister Fox

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