Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"And Who Is My Neighbor?"

Well, we’ve had yet another crazy week. Things are going well, but they are definitely interesting at the same time. We lost the 1st Ward in an effort to ensure that there are missionaries in each ward every Sunday, so we are down to Ang Mo Kio and Bedok, which we are doing our best to build up.

On Thursday, we met up with a new investigator named James. He lives in welfare flats, and I’ve only been to them one other time before with Elder Palfreyman. It was at night this time, so it was definitely a different experience. The member who came with us had a fright when it looked like his car was about to be towed away. We had a good lesson with him, and also had a good lesson with a friend he introduced. He definitely has some radical ideas, but we continue on in helping all to learn about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Friday was really busy! We had four appointments after our day in the office in different locations, so we had to rush around. Our first appointment was with a kid who I had contacted on the bus. He wouldn’t give me his number, but called later that day to ask if we could meet up. Well, the lesson started off well enough, but it quickly went into him just talking to us, and telling us that he was a messenger from God. We talked about needing the authority to teach and to perform ordinances, at which point he asked if we could give it to him. We had to explain why we couldn’t, where he then continued to push his own agenda. Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes people would probably think that of us too. Anyhow, we gave him a copy of The Book of Mormon. Later that night, he sent us a number of texts telling us that he was called of God and that we were going to hell. The only problem was that while he told us that the Bible was the only word from God, he himself admitted during our lesson, well, boldly declared that he did not read the Bible.

Had a lesson after that with Cheryl, another person who I contacted, but was very much willing to learn. She has been studying with a Jehovah’s Witness teacher for the past three years, so she feels close to her. We talked about the restoration and let her know that she could find out for herself what was true, that she didn’t need to listen to us or to her teacher, but rather to the Lord. Our appointments were stuck too close together, so Elder Rajah-Kanagasabai and Elder Klemm had to leave first, while Elder Stone sat in. Elder Klemm and Elder Rajah K. set a baptism date with one of the men they met that night!

I went on exchanges with President Clark Friday evening to teach a new investigator. It turned out being a very powerfully spiritual lesson. Leonard, the young man I contacted, brought a friend along. Leonard isn’t Christian, but his friend, Wei Chin is. We started to talk about God being our loving Heavenly Father, but Leonard immediately expressed his belief of being semi-Atheist, so we talked to him about it all. He felt that religion restricted your freedom and ability to choose and have fun. Wei Chin was pretty frustrated with that, and was actually a good help. Leonard did have a desire to learn, but as a teenager, had his own views. It was fun to be able to go back and forth with President talking about God, strengthening my own testimony. President continued talking to Leonard, and I started up a conversation with Wei Chin because he seemed to have a good understanding of the gospel. Taught him the lesson covering the restoration. He started off with the concern of not needing to go to any particular Church, but as I explained our view to him, he came to understand it. And, as he learned about a living Prophet and Apostles today, he got way excited! We asked him to pray at the end of the lesson, and his prayer included this phrase, “Thank you for sending us living prophets and apostles today to lead us out of darkness.” It was great! Leonard pulled President aside later and thanked him for talking to him, really seeing President as a father figure.

Still working with Wilson. Brandon is struggling with some family issues, but he finally met with us, and we got to talk to him a little more about the relationship with his parents, meanwhile reminding me how much I love my parents!

Gave another talk on Sunday in Bedok Ward. I hope that it inspires you! Have a great week! Oh! Thirteen months in the office four days ago!

And Who Is My Neighbor? By Elder Ee Chien Chua

My companion in the MTC, Elder Shwe, was from Burma. He was a recent convert and had only been a member of the Church for a little more than a year. He had a limited command of the English language and not so great of an understanding of the gospel either. He was nice enough, and we started off well. But, as the days went on and we started to teach together, it was frustrating for me, because we weren’t able to teach well, and it got annoying that I had to explain things over and over again. The teachers noticed my frustration, prompting one of them to pull me aside, and had me read the section on Charity and Love in Chapter Six of Preach My Gospel. I read it, but it didn’t really sink in. We continued to have challenges in our companionship. About two weeks into training, the MTC President, President Smith announced the speakers for sacrament meeting that Sunday. Among them was my companion, which surprised me, since he still had really bad English. After that meeting, President Smith pulled me aside and told me specifically that he wanted me to help my companion prepare his talk. He told me that he knew that I could have given the talk a lot easier, but it was something that my companion needed to learn. On Saturday evening, Elder Shwe worked on his talk, and I helped him out a little. We didn’t make too much progress before we turned in for the night. He said that he was going to wake up early to finish it up, to which I told him that I would get up too to help him. He told me I didn’t need to, and I don’t think either of us expected me to get up early that next morning. Somehow, I got up that next morning, and starting dictating to him his talk. As I did so, and as he attentively listened and wrote down what I was saying, I realized how much my companion loved me. He had never once showed his frustration at the way I had been treating him. I had been short tempered and had shown my displeasure many times, but all he had ever said was “sorry,” and always told me that he loved me. I had looked down on him, thinking I was better. His response had been Christ like in every way, and he was definitely the more “educated” of us two, because he had learned what was most important. We had a great end to our companionship as I showed him the love that he deserved. Charity was a lesson I learned well from one who I least expected to be taught by.

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the author of the topic sums up charity well by stating that: As the love of Christ, charity is characterized as selfless and self-sacrificing (1 Cor. 13:5), emanating from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned (1 Tim. 1:5). Thus, more than an act, charity is an attitude, a state of heart and mind (1 Cor. 13:4-7) that accompanies one's works and is proffered unconditionally (D&C 121:45). It follows, but surpasses in importance, faith and hope (1 Cor. 13:13).

This may have been what Jesus was trying to teach Peter in John 21:15-17,wherein he asks Peter three times if he "loves" him, and, to Peter's affirmative answers, responds, "Feed my sheep" and "Feed my lambs," teaching that the true love of Christ always goes out to others. Loving all of God's children and being willing to sacrifice for them are the depth and breadth of the pure love of Christ. This "bond of perfectness and peace" (D&C 88:125; Col. 3:14) becomes the foundation of all human relationships (cf. 1 Cor. 13). The everlasting love of charity is intended to be an integral part of one's nature: one is to cleave unto it (Moro. 7:46) and be clothed in it (D&C 88:125). In fact, all things are to be done in charity. Charity is everlasting; it covers sins (1 Pet. 4:8), it casts out all fears (Moro. 8:17), and it is a prerequisite for entering the kingdom of Heaven (Ether 12:34; Moro. 10:21).

Charity is an attitude. But, in order for us to have that attitude, in order for us to be able to have that charity within us, we first need to learn what charity really is, we need to learn how charity relates to our personal relationship with the Savior before we can extend it to our fellow men. With that, we remember the Savior’s and command to love our fellow men. In the 10th chapter of Luke, we read of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The preface, however, gives us great insight into the concept of loving our neighbor, of having charity and love for all men.

As the Lord taught his gospel in the temple, there was a certain lawyer “who stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?(Luke 10:25)” This particular lawyer was trying to trap the Savior into saying something that he could condemn him for. The Savior’s response was a question in itself, replying, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?(Luke 10:26)” The lawyer, well-versed and read in the scriptures answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself(Luke 10:27).” The Savior’s next response was a wonderful lesson, and, with these next few words, taught the lawyer, and us, that words without action mean nothing. Empty vessels really do make the most noise. He said, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live(Luke 10:28).” We do live when we obey the great commandment in the law, along with the second. Charity and love are attributes that truly become a part of us, charity is an attitude that is both felt and seen. Some would have been satisfied with that answer, but, to paraphrase Elder James E. Talmage, the lawyer in question must have felt that he had taken a hit to his ego because of his inability to deceive the Master. So, he asked “And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)” With that question as his base, the Savior taught us a wonderful sermon.

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise (Luke 10:30-37).

The Samaritan understood what charity was. We know through history the bad blood that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans. It was purely out of his love for his brother that the Samaritan was able to accomplish this task. No doubt it was a hard thing to do, because he had the chance of facing ridicule or abuse for helping an enemy. But, it was his understanding of love and charity that allowed him to do this. The Samaritan showed though action the values that he lived his life by, perhaps an ancient day example of what us modern Christians are supposed to be like. The advantage we have though, is our know ledge of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That will be talked about more later. Perhaps the other point that I want to focus on before I close up is the understanding too that the Samaritan had about forgiveness. He held neither grudge nor hatred for the Jew he was helping, but forgave his brother and his race for whatever suffering he might have experienced at their hands. It is on that note that I want to touch a little on the subject of forgiveness.

In Preach My Gospel, the section discussing Charity and Love states: You will avoid negative feelings such as anger, envy, lust, or covetousness. You will avoid judging others, criticizing them, or saying negative things about them. You will try to understand them and their points of view.

Charity does indeed teach us that forgiveness is not an option. C.S. Lewis said,

To excuse, what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life - to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son - How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night "Forgive our trespasses* as we forgive those that trespass against us." We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.

As we come to understand this and apply it in our lives, then we will get to a stage in our lives where we will be able to treat each person with respect and kindness, and look past their faults, because of the faults within us too. Of course, it is easier said than done. My personal struggle with it is part of the reason for the topic of my talk today. But, as I so my best to apply the principles I am studying, then I come to see the majestic and all-compassing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We know of this single most important act that the Savior performed on this Earth. Out of His pure love for each of us, the Savior of the world suffered and died that we, and all might live again.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated,

Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.

Let us remember the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Bishop talked about the sacredness of the sacrament last Sunday, which was wonderful, because we truly are remembering the Savior by partaking of the physical emblems of His suffering. If we can come to Church each Sunday, and remember what we really are supposed to remember, then we will leave stronger, having allowed the Savior to personally touch us with His sacrifice, and be who he wants us to be. The Atonement will be our guide through life, to know what we should do, say and be. As we remember that every person around us is our neighbor, and apply the teachings of the Savior to that, then perhaps we will be able to obey the great commandments in the law, and feel our Savior’s love and approval for that.