Friday, July 23, 2010

A Kind, Thoughtful and Able God

I've heard some remarkable stories this week that have made me pause to be grateful.

Herbert Klopfer and his parents escaped East Germany when he was fourteen.  Later as a young man he was called on a proselyting Mission to Switzerland.  Out of the blue he was called for a season to labor at the Swiss Temple, not as a proselyting Elder but to do administrative work.  During that short stint his three remaining Grandparents were granted permission to leave East Germany for a visit to the Temple.  Herbert was able to spend some precious time with them.  It was the only time he ever saw them again in mortality.

I spoke with a young man this week who I will not name.  During a time of struggle, rejection and loneliness, he changed schools and struck up a acquaintance with someone who freely gave him the new and blessed gift of friendship.  Some time later they discovered that they were full brothers; one having been given up for adoption when their shared parents were young and unwed.

During High Priest's Group Meeting on Sunday we were talking about the duties of a Teacher.  To quote from the 20th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
53  The teacher's duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;  54  And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;  55  And see that the church meet together often, and also see that the members do their duty.  56  And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absense of the elder or priest.
There was some angst expressed about such heavy responsibility being placed upon 14 and 15 year old boys.  I expressed opposing concern that we lacked significant faith if we failed to entrust such, Heaven decreed responsibilities upon them.  My comment spawned some agreement and some dismay.  One fellow declared that even High Priests don't shine in those prescribed areas, how could we expect boys to do so.

The time was late and I didn't want to further annoy some obviously agitated brethren, so I let the matter drop.  I will, however, respond here.

In my opinion, we tend to shoulder too much of the burden and to take too much of the credit in matters as here described.  I will give first a negative example, followed by a positive one.

Example A:  I have a couple of friends who have been cohabitating for some time.  They have a faithful Home Teacher whose visits they dread.  He's a nice enough man, but he feels it his duty to censure them each time he visits their home.  He clearly takes the admonition of Section 20 very seriously.  During their most recent visit this couple mentioned that they are moving to separate apartments while they decide if they should get married or not.  They took a pretty uncomfortable lecture on marriage and morals replete with unwelcome advice about how they should proceed with their lives.  This couple grows less and less amenable to the church and it's representative with every encounter.

Example B:  I once taught a wonderful widow lady who refused to come to church.  She hadn't been for over 50 years.  I like the home teacher in example A, did my best to persuade her to repent and come partake of the blessings church activity affords.  Always she resisted.  Always she showed signs of the discomfort my friends from the other example expressed.  I had a 14 year old companion and one month I decided it was his turn to teach the lesson.  He accepted and showed up prepared to teach our little less-active sister.  My young companion began his lesson by telling us that he hadn't known what to do for the lesson and that his mother had found a poem for him to share.  I don't remember the poem, or that it had any special meaning.  I most certainly did not have anything to do with whether the sister ought to be attending church or not.  I do remember though, that the young man was moved by the message of the poetry.  When he finished, his eyes misted up and looking directly at the little lady and said, "I sure love my mother."

The next Sunday Sister Wilson showed up to church.  She spoke with the Bishop.  Eventually, she received a Temple Recommend and spent the balance of her life active in the church and serving in the Temple.  Later, she told a mutual friend that she never needed to be told what to do, in her heart she already knew that.  "What I needed," she said, "was to feel the Spirit of the Lord and when that young man helped me feel it, I knew in an instant that I must have more."

Now, you can't tell me that my junior companion didn't fulfill, completely, the duties of a Teacher.  Whereas, I most assuredly had not.  The primary duty of any Priesthood holder is to bring the Spirit of the Lord into the meetings as associations he's involved in.  And here are two examples of High Priests failing to do that and one of a Teacher succeeding.

What does this have to do with the earlier two stories?  Everything.  God is good and kind and deliberately involved in our lives.  He is able to do His own work.  We take too much upon ourselves when we undertake to do God's work for Him.  Our assignment is to help those we serve to make their own connection with God, not to presume to be that connection.  Hence, "if ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach!"  (D&C 42:14).

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