Recently a friend at work with whom I work very closely and I had our regular bi-weekly planning meeting. In these meetings we discuss current and future research projects, what we need to move forward, any impediments or barriers, and other strictly-business topics. We also take time to talk about life. We talk through our struggles and frustrations, puff up our families, tell jokes, and on more than one occasion, we have shed tears.
Religion occasionally comes up during our talks. She is a very active Baptist and is absolutely unafraid to lob bombs of Baptistness during working hours. Regretfully, a great deal of our religious discussion has involved my frustrations with various aspects of my callings: struggles putting together an effective elders’ quorum lesson; trepidation before giving a talk on leadership; wishing I had greater confidence to speak; and so on. I wish I only had ultra-positive things to say, but in these intimate meetings, it is impossible for me to hold back when I am hurting.
With our most recent meeting, however, things took a much different turn from all the others we’ve had over the last six years. I don’t remember exactly how it started up, but we became entangled in a discussion on whether “Mormons” were Christians. Naturally, I was inelegant and clumsy in my speech, constantly re-evaluating my words before speaking, desperately trying to paint the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the most positive light possible. I don’t know why I did this; I knew where she stood on the topic, and I knew that nothing I could say would change that. Nevertheless, I persisted.
And all for naught, I must say. For every shoddy deliberation of mine, she responded with great clarity and precision, as if she were an actress well-versed in her Oscar-worthy script and I was the stand-in they found wandering around the lot. I, of course, was not a Christian. It pained me to hear her say this, and it pained me more with how easily and effortlessly her argument was laid forth. My lame argument of “we still worship the same God” was squashed like the spider below the flip-flop. Eventually, it calmed down, and I was able to correct many of her misconceptions about the Church and matters of our theology, but one thing kept happening that eventually frustrated her so much that she raised her voice at me:
“Stop saying sorry, Kanko!”
I had inadvertently been apologizing – constantly – for not explaining things perfectly, for being an ineffective spokesman for my faith. This was irritating her not because she found my phrasing innately annoying, but because she understood something at that moment far better than me: it wasn’t about me.
It’s a bit embarrassing to have been schooled on about my religion by a Baptist. She reminded me that it is not up to us to convert each other, but that we are merely conduits of the Spirit. Of course, her understanding of the Holy Ghost is considerably different from mine, but on the matter of bearing witness and testimony, we agreed. In bearing testimony of the things we believe, our effort alone is sufficient to warrant divine assistance and welcome the power of the Holy Ghost unto the convincing of men. I had been so wrapped up in my fear of rejection and failure that I had forgotten this truth. I was trying to convince her by my own knowledge and understanding that the Church was true, and I was failing.
God has promised us that when we open our mouths to proclaim the Gospel and preach His truth, He will fill our mouths:
Yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that the field is white already to harvest; wherefore, thrust in your sickles, and reap with all your might, mind, and strength.
Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness.
Yea, open your mouths and spare not, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your backs, for lo, I am with you.
Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (D&C 33: 7-10)
Indeed, I had opened my mouth, but I had forgotten God’s promise. It is likely that it was being filled despite my clumsiness, and that the Spirit of God was there regardless of whether I knew it or not. Heavenly Father promises He will support and guide us, but he does not promise success in terms of converts. Even when faced with the awesome power of God, agency must still be exercised, and many will exercise it in the way we do not desire. This doesn’t matter though, because it’s not about me or my wants. It’s about Him. It’s about the Holy Ghost. It’s about Jesus Christ.
My colleague loves her church. She is absolutely committed to it, as I am absolutely committed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I do not know if she and her family will ever accept the fullness of the Gospel. I hope she does, even if right now she has no desire (“be a goddess and make spirit babies forever?! No thank you!”). That is her choice, and hers alone. All I can do is open my mouth, hope for the best, and let God’s will be done. In closing, I’m reminded of these words from Elder Uchtdorf:
As you share the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, do so with love and patience. If we interact with people with the sole expectations that they soon will don a white jumpsuit and ask for directions to the nearest baptismal font, we’re doing it wrong.
- “Missionary Work: Sharing What Is in Your Heart” – Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2019
- “To the Rescue: We Can Do It” – Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, April 2016
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