Yes, week 18 in Sabotsy Namehana, but it is now more than 52 weeks on his mission! Michael has crossed over. More than a year. Here we see pics with a little celebration or two for Elder “Iray Toana” (to be explained below). Picture descriptions are at the end. There’s also a reference to some Essay David wrote, but we’ve not seen that.
Subject: "You should write a book: How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less."
Report on Solo: he wasn't able to learn at all this last week. So still no progress there. But they say no news is good news, so let's take that to mean that the Holy Ghost is working with him, helping Solo to understand.
Mom, you gave me some teaching ideas about authority, which were great. I've been reading in "Our Search for Happiness", and Elder M. Russel Ballard uses that very same driving/being given a ticket example. Police have authority, our neighbors don't. So if you were wondering, your teaching is right in line with that of a living apostle. Gold star!
As for the mirror example, we use that a lot. I personally like to explain it as a glass bottle, filled with soda (because hey, soda is tasty). When it shattered, all the pieces were separated, and the soda was lost. People took little pieces and made churches based on a little truth, but not the fulness. But even if you could rebuild the full bottle, that soda is already lost forever. That soda represents the authority. No matter how closely and completely you follow the teachings of Christ, if you have no authority, it's pointless. An empty soda bottle won't fill anybody. (Side note: the Malagasy word for pointless more accurately means "an empty thing", so you can joke around about how "empty" a church would be without authority. And thus, you all know a Malagasy pun. Congratulations.)
And you're absolutely right about faith. Facts don't convert. Those facts are good, but if you don't apply them with faith, you might as well be a baby that never learns to crawl, or walk. As a baby, you see people walking, and maybe you understand the concept. Two legs, one moves while the other stands still. But until you try it out for yourself, you're still just a little blob on the ground.
One more example. The gospel is like a math class. People can tell you all the formulas and principles they have, but it's not until you APPLY what you are told that you really understand it (if only I had known this in high school!). You start seeing their teachings in new ways, understanding it better. The more you learn and apply, the more you understand. And the more you understand, the better you can accept more complicated formulas, new ideas, or rather, deeper doctrines.
I've learned from my own studies that the gospel is only as deep as you let it be. When you study and really understand, things start to click in your brain. Not just the facts, but the reasons for them. The gravity of just what we are facing in our lives. The perfection of God's plan and His love for us. But if you don't use what you learn, those ideas will never click. As some famous person once said, "the gospel has to become real to you". It can't just be a good idea. It has to work inside of us, so that we really begin to understand: not that there might be a God, but that there IS a God. He IS watching us, and He DOES love us. Each and every one of us.
But yeah, we explained all that to Solo, and he just says that all churches have their own WAYS of following Christ, but the main idea is still there. Yeah... some churches follow the fulness of his truth, with his authority, and some don't. But Solo refuses to accept that. For now.
On the other hand, we found another person, named Fano, that is just as frustrating. But he has his own problems.
We found Fano a couple of weeks ago, gave him a pamphlet, and tried to set up a lesson for next week. He told us that that is too long. So we came back two days later and talked about his reading from the "Restoration" pamphlet. Everything went pretty well, so we left him with a Book of Mormon and told him to read. Unfortunately, he couldn't learn again until yesterday, and here's what we found.
He had read from the introduction through a couple verses in 1 Nephi, and told us that he didn't agree with what he had read. Okay, that's nothing new. What's the problem? His problem was that Moroni should not have been able to be resurrected, since Jesus Christ himself was the only person to be resurrected, and will remain as such until the second coming when everybody is resurrected. Okay, also reasonable.
We showed him the verse in Matt... 27? or 29? It's one of those. And it talks about how after Christ's resurrection, "the graves opened" and the saints walked out. We explained how that scripture shows that there WERE people resurrected, other than Christ. Even the apostles have been resurrected (or at least some of them. John the Beloved technically hasn't died yet, so resurrection is difficult for him).
Fano thought about that for a minute and said, "no, that's not right. This scripture is talking about the people that didn't know about the gospel of Christ. The were brought back to life so that they could learn the gospel, but they were still mortal. They would still die again." I was going to throw Alma 40 at him, which teaches about the Spirit World, but Fano brought up a bigger problem.
He had kept saying that "this isn't okay with me" about the Book of Mormon and things that he had read. And I'm like, "that's nice. But have you asked God if it's okay with HIM?" After all, we're following God's will, not Fano's. And Fano told us that he will not pray, or ask God for an answer. He explained that God knows what we need, and will give it to us on his own. So why should we ask?
Well, that's kind of what the apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ himself taught us. So that's worth following in my book. To make a long story short, we got into Bible bashing, me giving a scripture that tells us to pray, him misinterpreting it to mean what he wants. Then he would give a scripture, I would explain how I see it, and he disagreed, and the whole cycle continued.
And before anybody things I'm a bad teacher (because of Bible bashing) let it be known that I told Fano, every time one of us gave a scripture, that we are only seeing it by our own translation: what we want to see. So unless we pray and receive (recieve? Neither of them look right right now) an answer from God, we'll be stuck Bible bashing forever.
But Fano looked me in the eye and said, "I will not ask God for an answer." Then you won't know the truth.
I mean, prayer is such an obvious, fundamental part of what Christ taught us, so universal to the churches that exist, that I was just entirely unprepared on how to explain the need for it. Honestly, I was pretty mad after leaving him. Luckily I couldn't remember where the scripture is that says, "the evil spirit teaches man that he must not pray," or I would have thrown it at him (2 Nephi 32:8, for the record).
But enough whining about Fano. Suffice it to say, I felt pretty awesome about my Bible skills when I finished that lesson, although I felt less awesome about the effectiveness of our time.
The rest of our week was pretty awful. Six-and-a-half days of full schedules, and we ended the week with eight lessons total taught. The week before totaled at 22, and the week before that was 21. I mean, what the heck? Fortunately, the lessons that we did teach (aside from the one with Fano) went pretty well, and we found a few new investigators. And we're starting to make some progress on hunting down members' houses, so even though the numbers are low, the progress is progressing. Progressfully.
One final note about an investigator that we found. We had tracted into this lady a while ago, and she told us that she was busy working. So we set up a return appointment, and came back on the appointed day. She was still working. I, being unhappy about her choosing work over God (granted, subconsciously), asked her what is more important to her: work, or God. She said she really had to work. So I said goodbye, and made a mental note to never go back to her.
The next week (this last week), we happened to be passing by, and I thought, "I'll bet she's still working. She just has no understanding of how important God should be in our lives." I really didn't want to go back, but I figured (as with Matt Damon's wife in 'We Bought A Zoo'), "why not?". So we knocked on the door.
After one of her kid's brought her to the door, this lady let us in. Just like that. She sat us down and told us that she still has work to do, but she decided to set some time apart for God's servants. We had a really good lesson, and at the end she explained how, when we knocked at the door, she had been working, and almost denied us again. But she heard a spirit tell her to make some time, and accept the missionaries in.
In summary, I almost didn't go back to her, but the Holy Ghost convinced me to man up. She almost didn't let us in, but the Holy Ghost convinced her to listen to us. Interesting how God plays both sides of the table sometimes, isn't it?
This week has been long and tiring, but the coming week looks even better. We have members planning to help us out (and give us yogurt, for some reason), and good lessons lined up.
I hope this last week has been good for you all, and that the coming week is better. Keep up your missionary challenges (and if you haven't started yet, get your butt in gear!).
Thank you all,
- Elder Arrington
PS: David, I thoroughly enjoyed your essay on the "Book of Mormon/Books of Mormon" enigma. Well thought out, and well explained. Especially the part about "book of Mormons" referring to one book, written by multiple people named Mormon. Cracks me up.
And I know what you mean about just wanting to "sort this out". Sometimes it's just fun to do. And sometimes it's way helpful for understanding. I do that sometimes in my studies, and all of the new knowledge and understand that I find just blows me away. Half of me thinks "I knew that before, but I finally GET it!" and the other half thinks, "I might be the only person in the world that really understands this." Of course that's not true, but that's the magic of the gospel becoming real. Real understanding.
For some reason I can never remember to explain the pictures that I send. Here's a quickie on the most recent ones:
We had a big, combined zone meeting (two zones), in which I got to see Elder Andriamanganoro, my last companion. We also got some rather delicious cake sort of thing. Thicker than cake, but way better than bread. I'm not sure how to describe it, other than delicious. We also got told about a bunch of Malagasy culture things that we need to respect, and we had never known about. But we'll talk about that later.
We split a cheesecake (courtesy of a loving mom and family in America) four ways on my year-mark, and I got a picture with my part. The people here have trouble pronouncing my name, so they just call me "Elder Iray Toana", which means "Elder One Year". Hence, I'm pointing to my nametag. One year gone, one year left, Elder One Year. Get it?
Remember the Malagasy culture thing? Somebody had invited us to their wedding, and, according to customs, we accepted. And since I'm apparently the only person on the planet with a camera that's not hidden inside a camera-phone, I became the appointed photographer. For the record, this is what they call a "Fisoratana", which is when they get papers that say that they are married. But if you go by pure Malagasy customs, they had actually been married for a while, although they never had a paper to show it. It's pretty interesting stuff, actually.