Monday, June 12, 2017

The Blessing- Week 96

Wow...This had to be the most insane and miraculous week of my mission and if not then it is certainly one of them.
Let me tell you a little bit about Hannah and her quest in seeking to find and know Jesus Christ and to follow Him and the pure and absolute miracle of conversion that has transpired for her and in her over the last 3 weeks.

Sometime prior to May 5, Landon arrives to Oklahoma as a summer sales representative and through a funny story is able to meet Hannah but only through skype.

Saturday May 6: Hannah and Landon meet in person for the first time and Hannah notices something different and special about him for a number of reasons so she inquires about it and he is able to offer a simple and somewhat casual testimony/response which led to her telling him that she wanted to come to his church, check it out, and learn more because she was just intrigued.
Sunday May 7: She came to church with him for her very first time in an LDS church service, Landon introduced us to her and she absolutely loved every minute of the entire three hours. (Unexpectedly, that morning, without us or Bishop knowing that Hannah would be coming to church that day, Bishop texted us and asked us to teach gospel principles class which was essentially on the Restoration of the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ.) She was mesmerized by it all and later asked Landon if she could come back with him the next week.

Sunday May 14: They came together again and after gospel principles class we were able to sit down with her and had our first lesson together and it was one of the most spiritual visits I've ever had. She asked us a lot of questions which we worked at answering and essentially just ended up talking about Christ and His power and about the miracle of conversion in which we were able to share personal stories of. She would make comments such as "I'm not saying I am converting, yet, but..." or "Growing up my faith would teach ..... but I love that you believe ....." and other things similar to that. We left, simply inviting her to read 3 Nephi 11 from the Book of Mormon. In a Spirit guided fashion, we told her that we wouldn't invite her to convert or to be baptized at any time unless we were absolutely overwhelmed by the Holy Ghost because we knew and were confident that she would feel the Spirit and be invited by the real teacher, when the time was right and when she was prepared to take that step and it would be something that she would just want to do to follow Christ and commit to Him.

Monday May 15: We had a lesson all together at Landon's apartment and once again had an equally spiritual visit as we answered more of her questions and talked about accepting Christ's invitation to throw the net to the other side, to love Him, feed His sheep, and to follow Him. She had read 3 Nephi 11 and continued reading through to 4 Nephi. We invited her to continue reading and praying.
Tuesday May 16: We had another lesson all together at Landon's apartment and taught about our Heavenly Father's plan for our salvation and happiness and success and she loved every second of it and we had, yet again, such a powerful and spiritual experience together and it left me stunned. She had read from the Book of Mormon for over 3 hours that day out of her own personal curiosity and desire. We invited her to continue reading and praying and she would make comments such as "I think it is just the greatest thing in all the world that you believe we can be sealed with our families for eternity" with the biggest, happiest smile from ear to ear.

The rest of the week she had job interviews in Chicago and Edmond because she just graduated college that week with a graphic design degree so she kept reading and praying and pondering on her own and talking with Landon and doing all she could to continue learning more. At various times her father would send her some anti-Mormon things simply out of love for her and because he doesn't know what we really believe but only what he had heard from others and from online. None of it ever phased her though because she was learning and seeking for herself and asking us all of the questions and seeking the guidance and inspiration of our Father in Heaven.

Sunday May 21: They came to church for the third time together and that night we met at the temple and sat on the steps of the temple as we had, yet again, one of the most spiritual visits I could imagine and had experienced. She had begun saying things like "Our faith..." or "I used to believe ...." and she would talk about "conversion" and "baptism" and ask questions about those things. We answered more of her questions and continued teaching the doctrine of Christ and we, still hadn't invited her to baptism but it was apparent that the Spirit had already touched her, pricked her heart, and invited her to be baptized so we inquired about her feelings and, being absolutely overwhelmed by the Spirit, followed up her words of desire and commitment by encouraged her to pursue this course and to do as the Spirit invited  her to do just as Alma invited the people at the waters of Mormon to be willing to bear others burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, stand as a witness of God at all times and in all places and to clap her hands for joy because this was exactly the very desire of her heart.

Monday May 22: Hannah's father sent her a lot of online anti-Mormon things which stated that we in no way were Christian but instead that we worship Satan and praise Joseph Smith and think we could replace God and a number of other things and we had emailed and told our Mission President, President Mansell, about her and we talked with him about what was going on and he actually lives in Edmond also and invited us and Hannah and Landon to come over to his house for a lesson that night so that's what we did. We addressed some of Hannah's questions and she said "I know it's true and I believe it and I am only asking the questions so when other people ask me what I believe or about our faith I can tell them the answer like how you have been doing it for me." She didn't have any concerns, no doubt about any of the things she had been sent and heard. In 8th grade she was at a Bible camp and read Matthew 5:48 which reads "Be ye therefor perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." She saw that it said perfect and asked one of the camp ministers about it and he told her not to ask questions like that and that perfect didn't really mean perfect like God but instead that it is absolutely impossible for us to be perfect like Him. She shared that with us after we had already gone over the beautiful doctrine of Deification and she was astonished and so pleased that the question she had asked in 8th grade was finally answered and that the answers came from the scriptures and that it made sense and felt right. We talked about a number of other things and concluded by watching Elder Holland's April 2016 General Conference address "Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You" and it was such a spiritual experience once again. It was amazing how President Mansell was able to say just a few short things and offer a fatherly perspective and give that kind of advice and comfort and counsel.

Tuesday May 23: She went back home to Fort Worth Texas with her family. She learned that she received both of the jobs that she had interviews with in Chicago and miraculously everything was smooth and loving and went well with her family.

Thursday May 25: We received a phone call and learned that Hannah wanted to be baptized that weekend. In a state of awe and excitement and thanksgiving and praise at the hand of the Lord in Hannah and each of our lives, we began making all of the plans and the arrangements for her baptism to take place on Sunday, May 28.

Friday May 26: We had another lesson all together in Landon's apartment and in standard fashion the Spirit was so powerful and tangible and we were able to have a beautiful visit, talking about the last three weeks and the miracle of each event and about the requirements of baptism and going over the questions of the "baptismal interview" (really it's just a sacred and spiritual testimony meeting that a missionary or the mission president gets to be apart of). By this point she has read over half the Book of Mormon and has it all marked up with incredible insights and we invited her to read Joseph Smith History and to look for the nature of God in this account of what is, in all reality, the second most sacred and most important event that has happened in the history of the world, after the first and greatest and most important event that of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. She told us that she wanted President Mansell to baptize her so we got to listen as she called him and asked him to baptize her and you could hear him begin to cry and he said he would be honored and so happy to do that and that he was so proud of her. After they hung up she sat for a moment and began to tear up as she expressed that she really enjoyed and needed to hear that he was proud of her as a kind of father figure because her father isn't supporting her in this and hasn't said that he is proud of her and it was such a tender and spiritual moment to feel that kind of love that surpasses all natural love and moves into the realm of pure and true and Christlike love that only our Father can give.

Saturday May 27: We met Hannah at the church and talked about the Joseph Smith story and how it all points to God and how it restored and helps us to understand His character and nature. She then had her interview and we went to Landon's apartment for one last, wonderful visit before her baptism the next day. The most powerful words that I've ever heard out of an investigator came in a request that she made to Landon, Elder Burrows, and myself. I won't go into them yet, because she also made the same request to everyone who attended her baptism.

Sunday May 28: They came to church for the fourth time now and it was exactly 21 days from the day we first met her until then. It was another incredible church experience and it was amazing, the lesson in gospel principles was all about baptism. It wasn't man inspired and worked out just too perfectly to merely be a coincidence.  
President and Sister Mansell invited Hannah and Landon and Elder Burrows and I over for dinner at their house before the baptism so we went there for dinner and then left to the church for the most spiritual baptism I've ever been apart of. After she had gotten dressed in white we went to take some pictures and she just broke down. She was so happy. She walked about half way down the hall from us and just fell on her knees and started praying. She is a miracle. She asked for some time to get up and speak before the baptism was preformed, and when she did so she rocked everyone's world. She read out of Mosiah 18 specifically, these verses:

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts

She bore such powerful testimony that she was clapping her hands for joy and that this was the intent of her heart. She then made the request. She asked that her story be told, but insisted that it was for a specific purpose. She asked that we never share her story to glorify Her, or Landon, or us as the missionaries who got to teach her, but that we share her story as a testament that people can change and hearts can be softened and to glorify our Savior Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. She insisted that she would never be a Mormon. She insisted that all she wanted was to learn more, but as she read the pages in The Book of Mormon, as she prayed and received answers to prayers, as she sincerely attended church, the Lord changed her. In 3 weeks, to the day, the Lord changed her. That is why I just wrote you all this novel (Sorry about that). I testify that people can change, and hearts can be softened. I wanted you all to hear her story so that I can make it very clear that I know that He lives. So I can make it very clear that I know that the power of Christ's atoning sacrifice is real. He is the Master Teacher. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. I hope you can feel the same and I hope that you can feel how much I love being a missionary. I can't believe the miracles that have happened in front of my eyes and I can't believe how fast the end is chapter is coming. This work is the Lord's, He lives and His love suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. Of Jesus Christ whom has changed me and whom I represent and of these simple truths I know, feel, and bare solemn witness of.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

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