Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sharing the Gospel

When I began high school in New England my father began his tenure as the town's police chief. His cars were always unmarked, dark in color, and able to go very fast. One of his benefits was to be able to use the car as a personal car. He also became stake president of the Boston Stake, and had many opportunities to meet with President Hinckley. Because my father knew how to get everywhere, and get there faster than others, he became his unofficial chauffeur whenever President Hinckley was visiting in the area.

On one such excursion he asked my father about his conversion story, and then shared my father's story during General Conference, April 2002. He said, "Let me tell you of a man I know. I will not mention his name lest he feel embarrassed. His wife felt there was something missing in their lives. She spoke with a relative one day who was a member of the Church. The relative suggested that she call the missionaries. She did so. But the husband was rude to them and told them not to come again.

Months passed. One day another missionary, finding the record of this visit, decided that he and his companion would try again. He was a tall elder from California who carried a big smile on his face. They knocked on the door; the man answered. Could they come in for a few minutes? they asked. He consented.

The missionary said, in effect, “I wonder if you know how to pray.” The man answered that he knew the Lord’s Prayer. The missionary said, “That is good, but let me tell you how to give a personal prayer.” He went on to explain that we get on our knees in an attitude of humility before the God of heaven. The man did so. The missionary then went on to say, “We address God as our Father in Heaven. We then thank Him for His blessings, such as our health, our friends, our food. We then ask for His blessings. We express our innermost hopes and desires. We ask Him to bless those in need. We do it all in the name of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, concluding with ‘amen.’”

It was a pleasant experience for the man. He had gleaned a little light and understanding, a touch of faith. He was ready to try another step.

Line upon line, the missionaries patiently taught him. He responded as his faith grew into a dim light of understanding. Friends from his branch gathered around to reassure him and answer his questions. The men played tennis with him, and he and his family were invited to their homes for dinner.

He was baptized, and that was a giant step of faith. The branch president asked him to be a Scoutmaster to four boys. That led to other responsibilities, and the light of faith strengthened in his life with each new opportunity and experience.

That has continued. Today he stands as a capable and loved stake president, a leader of great wisdom and understanding, and above all, a man of great faith.

The challenge which faces every member of this Church is to take the next step, to accept that responsibility to which he is called, even though he does not feel equal to it, and to do so in faith with the full expectation that the Lord will light the way before him."

One of the challenges which faces every member of this church is to accept the responsibility of sharing the gospel. Sometimes we do not feel equal to it, but President Hinckley promised that the Lord will light the way before us. In the words of Elder Quentin Cook, "Our obligation is to love and never give up." In the words of Elder Neal A. Anderson, "Does anybody in this room have a problem with the plan of salvation?"

Let me share with you a few thoughts I have on this plan and our role in this plan as missionaries, or, as found in Jacob 5, the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees we are called laborers in the vineyard.

If I had a hard and difficult task ahead of me, involving much pruning, digging and fertilizing, I would choose those whom I would want to work with, those who had the same vision as I and who would work with all their might, mind, strength and heart. The Savior chose you to assist Him in His efforts during these last, latter-days. He also chose your grandparents, who are the reason we have the gospel, and who have labored so diligently, and set the way that their posterity may follow. Know how much the Savior knew what kind of worker you are, and how you would give Him your all. And He wanted you, out of all those who came before, and during the previous 6000 years, to work with Him and beside Him.

In Jacob 5:61-62 70-71, He says, "Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit...Let us go to and labor with our might this last time...And the servant...brought other servants; and they were few." Know that now is the time of which was spoken of, and that you are one of the servants of the Lord. Knowing you are one of the last laborers in the Lord's vineyard should fill you with the love of the Savior.

In Jacob 6:2 it says that "the servants of the Lord shall go forth to nourish and to prune his vineyard in His power." Just like President Hinckley promised the Lord would light the way before us. How can we not be successful?

One of the easiest ways to share the gospel is to serve a full time mission. One of my favorite letters from my son Tanner, while he was serving in Brazil, demonstrates literally the Lord lighting the way, just as Jacob and President Hinckley promised. He wrote, "Last week we found a 75 year old lady, 75 years of being Catholic, while following up on one of her neighbors. While knocking on his door, she was staring at us rather curiously. After her baptism this week, she shared that while she was watching us knock on her neighbor's door, we were shining. She said, "I saw a light illuminating from them, and that this light must be from God. I wanted to belong to God's church and be a part of this light and feel the way it made me feel. They were like two angels across the street and now I have two angels in my house with me."

Tanner continued, "These are the moments we live for, that we sleep on the floor for, eat rice and beans for, walk miles for and smell like African baboons for." I believe Alma said it a little more eloquently when he said (27:18) "Now, was not this exceeding joy?" 

Last fall the missionaries in Ohio shared with us an interesting statistic. They said that if they knocked on 1000 doors, they perhaps would find one person willing to listen to them and become baptized. However, if they received 68 referrals from members, they would also find one person willing to listen to them and be baptized.

We decided then as a family to try and give the missionaries 68 names. We had six children in all four of the schools, all involved in school organizations and sports, playing youth sports and being on a lot of teams, involved with the community cub scout program...after six years of living there we knew a LOT of people. When we fed the missionaries each week, we would try to give them a few names. Usually we told them, "Just ask them if they know any Mormons." And every time, our referral would say, "We know the Schenewarks." People always knew we were members of the church.  I think we were in the 20's when someone I didn't even know was a member asked if she could start coming back to church, and would the missionaries teach her son, Sawyer's friend. We were in the 30's when Hunter's friend's father began taking the discussions, and we met with him weekly in his home until we moved. Sharing the gospel in this way blessed our lives immensely. What a joy it was to participate in this great work, while my son was serving on his mission.


MarieC said...

Awesome, thanks for sharing this! I am impressed that you were able to give so many names to the elders, and that all of the said "we know the Schenewarks!" You are an awesome example!!

Bachland :) said...

We loved that talk, we turned looked at each other, looked and said "Grampie!"

Aaron H. said...

Good talk!

The Renaissance Man said...

thanks for sharing this: )

Wholly Duncan said...

Thanks for giving us another glimpse of your family. Love it!