Week 45 – Lapaha

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Elder Hirinuki, Siliva, and I. Almost a year ago Siliva’s son Atu had dinner at our home in North Carolina. He promised that if I ever worked in his village his family would roast me a pig. Lapaha is pretty close, so Siliva came and delivered on the promise with some manioke, lu and puaka tunu.

Another so-so week. Nuki and I were pretty tired physically, mentally, and emotionally by the end of the week. Letdown after letdown just kept piling up. Lots of scheduled appointments fell through.

We were going through the ward directory with the ward secretary so we could be more familiar with the less-active families. It was depressing to see how many people were strong members in the past but have since gone backwards. If every family in the ward were active almost the whole town would be at church on Sunday. It makes me wonder how we’re supposed to do missionary work when everyone except strong opposers have already been baptized. I do believe it’s important to help strengthen less-active members because they bridge the gap between the active members and nonmembers. Often times it feels like fruitless work though as people lie to us, ignore us, or show absolutely no desire to change, even when they know what is true and right. Half the ward is angry at the bishop for this or that reason, and I don’t know what to say because maybe they really were dealt with unjustly. I wouldn’t know unless I asked the bishop himself, but it seems like a waste of time to get involved in matters like that. I sympathize, on a much lower scale, with the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said:

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.”

So how do you reactivate someone who believes in everything we teach, but might have a legitimate reason to be at conflict with the bishop? And how do you know when it’s time to stop allocating time to a family because nothing we say will change them? If the home and visiting teaching was strong then we wouldn’t have to worry about that, but it’s not. If we don’t work with the less-actives then the investigators we teach have nobody to associate with or rely on, and will most likely turn into just another name on the directory and worsen the problem.

This week our message has been stronger and to-the-point. When we visited a less-active family I shared a message based on Alma 9:23 which says:

23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.

The Lamanites who did not know the truth were more easily forgiven by the Lord than the Nephites who knew the gospel but rebelled against it. There are so many people in the world who haven’t had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Those of us who have heard and gained a testimony of its truth must keep the commandments or it certainly will not be well with us.

When we taught our investigator Uinipola I asked him in the beginning of the discussion what he thinks about what we have shared in the past. He said it is all true. Then I asked why he hasn’t joined the Church yet. His response was a familiar one: “We all believe and pray to the same guy, right?” I thought for a second and said “No, we don’t. For example we believe that the Godhead is three different personages.” Then we went on to reexplain that we believe this Church is the same one that Jesus established during his ministry and how he empowered and authorized his Apostles with the Priesthood so that the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel would be kept unchanged. But after the Apostles were all killed, various churches sprang up with different beliefs and ordinances from the way Jesus taught them. Then I pointed to the doctrine of infant baptism. Catholics believe that people should be baptized in their infancy while we believe that baptism should not be performed until the age of eight, when a child understands right and wrong and is able to sin. Is it possible for both to be true? Can there be two truths? He paused for a while, then said no. Hallelujah! Someone finally got in their head the most basic essential principle. There is only one truth. If two opposing ideas are present, either only one is true and the other false, or both are false. Of course everyone already knows this but the mind will come up with all kinds of excuses to avoid the discomfort of discovering a paradox in one’s thinking.

After the lesson I asked my companion and myself if the Spirit was present in our discussion. I fully believe I was led by the Spirit to say what I did. In fact I had no idea what we were going to teach until we sat down. The only reason I was unsure was because our message was stronger than usual and did not closely follow any of the Preach My Gospel lessons. I believe the Spirit is both the Comforter and the Discomforter. There is nothing cozy about repentance, but the Holy Ghost stirs us to make changes in our lives when God reveals our inadequacies.

To be honest I am kind of tired of working in this area, but it’s not like people are much different anywhere else. At the same time I am nowhere near giving up on the people I’ve grown to love here, and feel a stronger motivation to get something out of this transfer. Funny how pain is usually self-inflicted. When your desire is to work hard, don’t be surprised when it hurts. Another thing about pain is that it’s always humorous given a little time. Even just reading back on this post makes me laugh and throws a lens on my difficulties which makes them feel more manageable. Hopefully those of you reading can sense the humor too. I don’t want to depress anyone.

I love missionary work, and I love how it’s tough sometimes. If converting to this gospel and staying strong your whole life was easy I’d be a little more wary about if it was true. Lots of people slip down the slide and out of this church but nobody accidentally slips up the other way. All of this only strengthens my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only church led personally by our Savior Jesus Christ, through modern-day prophets who receive the word of God through revelation. Jesus was a cause of stark division while he was on the earth and quite appropriately his Church is exactly the same. The other day I was wondering if the woman caught in adultery did as Jesus said and sinned no more, or if she returned and continued in her sin. Though it would be sad, the latter would not lessen Christ’s power. When members of the Church fall into temptation that does not make it any less true. It only testifies to the power of the adversary and the weakness of man.

Hope my dad appreciates this post for Father’s Day. Sorry it couldn’t be more cheerful, haha. ‘Oua aupito e fo’i ‘i he ngaue. ‘Ofa atu.

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Author: Elder Patrick Watts

I am serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission.

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