I'll start with Tuesday's Bible study. Over all it was pretty uncomfortable. The Bible study starts at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night at the church building and is open to visitors. There is even a big banner outside that lets everyone and their dog know about it.
Well Elder Goodsell and I went to see how it was going and lo and behold there were about five non-Mormons there! We went to go put up our coats and saw we had a voicemail from the Bishop. It said something along the lines of "Elders, it has been rumored that there are going to be anti-Mormons (Mormon haters) at the Bible study. I want you to go and make sure it doesn't get out of hand." Of course as soon as we get to the classroom there is this fifty year old man waving his Bible around in the air arguing about the Trinity and whatnot. They were in the first few chapters of Matthew and of course he was under the impression that the Jesus Christ that we believe in isn't the same one in the Bible. Wrong.
We sat down and the poor lady that was teaching the class was doing her best to keep this guy calm and to continue the study. Of course every other nonmember (with the exception of one) in the room was a part of his posse. There was an older woman that all she said was "I agree with him!" and "But what about the Temple?", and older man who sat quietly with his iPad out, another older woman who said nothing, and a bald guy that was asking actual questions that weren't directed at being contentious.
I quietly raised my hand and, when called on, said "You came to an LDS Bible study. We study the Bible the way that we understand it. If you have any questions feel free to give us your information and we will answer all of your questions in a different setting." Oh but the man arguing about the trinity wouldn't have it. He continued on and on without ceasing and the woman in charge ended a little bit early after finishing Matthew.
Afterwards I approached the man and asked him if he wouldn't mind giving us his phone number so that we could answer his questions. "Oh no no I can't. I'm a.. traveling business man from Florida and all I have are business numbers," he said. Then I asked his name. He told me it was Michael. Then he began to argue. He asked me question after question and tried to catch me up in words. I didn't bother arguing with him all too much although I did for a few minutes until it was clear to me that he wasn't really looking for answers. After a while I just stood there with my arms crossed while he spoke, waiting for him to get tired of talking and to leave which he eventually did.
Michael and his posse congregated in the foyer of the church and exited the building. Elder Goodsell and I tried to make an exit to get to an appointment but they stopped us in the parking lot to argue.
Long story short. I had a theologian talk to me and present me with all of these "evidences" as to why I was wrong. "In Greek [blah blah] means [whatever]," and he just kept going. He told me I was going to Hell and that I was wrong about everything and that Jesus had literally possessed him which caused him pain (pretty scary experience if you ask me) and it was horrible. I did not feel the spirit at all as he spoke. And what can you do? I told him that I didn't agree and that I knew what I had felt before to be true. It was like talking to a brick wall of "But!" and "If!"
I wasn't going to share this experience because I didn't feel it was worth sharing (I'm sure you can imagine how I felt about it) but the other night I had an interesting experience.
As I lay in bed Saturday night I began to replay the experience in my head. It was a slew of "What if"'s. "What if I had said [this]" or "What if I had said [that]," but then a thought, "What if they would listen to our message with an open heart?" I began to expand that thought. "What if they came to understand the Gospel the way I do?" I saw their lives change, their hearts soften, and I eventually saw them as Heavenly people with smiling faces. When I had their end-goal in mind in which they could achieve their full potential, it hit me. That's how God sees all of His children. He doesn't look at us as who were are right now. Instead he see's the big picture. He sees where we've been, who we are, and who we can become. His love is perfect and it isn't limited to us. There is nothing that we can do to keep Him from loving us because we can all change. We can all succeed despite who we are or what we have done. He wants us to be successful.
So what is holding us back from being the best that we can be? Each of us has the most powerful being in existence rooting for our success, ready to help us learn, grow, and overcome. What is it that holds us back. I venture to say that nothing stands in our way but us. If we remain humble, as the dust of the Earth is humble and susceptible to the wind, and can do no more than hope for His help, it will come. Will it come if we are not ready to act? Probably not. What good is a light switch in a dark room if you won't bother to feel around for it?
I've probably already shared this scripture but in Romans 8 it says:
35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come,
39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I love you all and I want you to know that I am doing very well. Keep doing your best and hold fast to your faith and everything will be okay. It does not matter what happens, you are always looked after by God and His arms are always outstretched towards you.
With deepest love,