Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No Unhallowed Hand Can Stop the Work

Rome Temple Progress
Thank you Anziano Steurer for the beautiful photo
"Why Did God Tell Me to Come Here Today?"
Chiara Magro came to us as a referral from a friend in England that called up the Anziani of Palermo 2 to put her into contact with the sisters.  We received her information on Saturday and got in touch with her the same day.  Because she was anxious to meet with us, she came to Church the very next day, and at one point asked, "Why did God tell me to come here today?  What do you have for me?"  That's the best question there is!  So we talked about how we have answers and the fulness of the gospel - truly the same Church Christ established when He was on the earth.  After an enjoyable experience at Church, she said she'd love to meet with us "if we have time" (ha!) because she has so many questions and wants to learn more.  Looks like the Spirit has been preparing someone!

A Match Made in Heaven
We met with another less-active from Palermo 2.  Turns out Sorella Mikesell actually knows her sister from Bari (Mikesell's previous area).  Crazy!  Mikesell and Palermo 2 is a match made in heaven.

Zone Conference: "Personal Revelation and Following the Spirit"
This was my favorite Zone Conference so far because the addestramenti (talks) were so good.  Just lots of inspiration and upliftment.  It was more discussion based, which was one of the reasons I really liked it.
Blindfold Activity:
Sorella Waddoups for her activity blindfolded four missionaries and sent them outside the room and divided everyone else into four groups (one for each blindfolded missionary).  I was one of the blindfolded ones.  We were not told what to do until we were back in the room with a group.

"Follow the instructions from your group" was the direction from Sorella W, and immediately all of my group (including my companion) start yelling all kinds of contrary information.  "Turn left!"  "Go straight!"  "No, don't listen to him!"  "Listen to me, turn around!"  Obviously, it was impossible and I ended up not going anywhere.

After a minute of that, we blindfolded ones were sent outside again, and when we were brought back in, our new instructions went like this:
     "Ok - in 3 seconds, the designated voice will say 'I am the designated voice.'  Ok - 1...2...3..."
     Anziano Stout (whom I had just barely met an hour before) says, "I am your designated voice."
     "Sorry Nef," says Mikesell, my companion.
Then everyone starts screaming again: "Turn right!"  "Go straight!"  "I am the designated voice, listen to me!"  Meanwhile, Mikesell is just rapping the whole time right in my ear.  Hilarious.

It was impossible to pick out Anziano Stout's voice in all the confusion.  Eventually I picked a voice I thought was him and started following it - it wasn't and I ended up on the stand next to Sorella Waddoups instead of next to the picture of Jesus.  Whoops.
     "Ok ok - that's enough!  Go back to your seats," said Sorella W.  "What can we all learn from this?"

It's a Rap!
Good question.  I responded that I didn't know or recognize Anziano Stout very well - I had just met him - so it was practically impossible for me to distinguish his voice from the others (except maybe from rapping Mikesell).  It's like that with investigators - they have only just encountered the Spirit in lessons, so it must be very confusing and disconcerting trying to work through all the distractions and noise of life to pick out the Spirit and it's promptings.  So we need to help them come to know the Spirit, give them help to pick it out, and learn more of how to recognize it.  A very cool experience.

The Battle Between Light and Dark
Some events this last week have been a sobering reminder of how real the battle is between good and evil. While I will not go into detail, I will say this:  The Lord has dramatically increased his missionary forces, so it should come as no surprise that Satan has done the same.

When it comes to battles fought against seemingly impossible odds, I think of the Old Testament story of the prophet Elisha.

They that Be With Us are More Than They that Be With Them
Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot, Passes his Prophetic Mantle to Elisha
by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754)
The Prophet Elisha was Israel's secret weapon.  Under God's direction, Elisha gave Israel tactics and strategies that led to their defeating the great Syrian army time and again.  When the King of Syria caught wind of Israel's ringer general, he immediately sent thousands of horses, chariots, and a vast contingent of men to surround the city by night so Elisha could not escape.  Their sole purpose was not to capture the city - they wanted to destroy the prophet.

Elisha's only ally at this point was his servant, a boy.  Not good odds.  One prophet and one kid against a ginormous army.  The boy was petrified.  He saw the enemy everywhere, and in terror he cried, "What are we going to do?  We're surrounded!" Elisha's reply was this:
"Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them."
2 Kings 6:16
They that be with us?  Are you kidding me?  Two.  Against a mass of darkness and evil.  Two!  No math needed here.  There are no others.  One companionship is no match for what surrounds them.  But then comes the prophet's prayer.
"Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.
And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw:
and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
2 Kings 6:17
The servant looked up and saw the hills literally covered with horses and chariots of fire and a massive army of heavenly hosts ready to protect.  More, indeed.  The sight changed everything.  Yes, they were surrounded by the enemy, but the enemy and they were encompassed by an awesome heavenly alliance, and suddenly the enemy seemed puny and powerless.  One glimpse of heaven's army and suddenly the boy felt unconquerable.  One glimpse of heaven's help can do the same for us.

Be Strong and of Good Courage
Missionaries aren't the only ones in the thick of spiritual battles.  The struggle between light and dark are battles we all face every day.  

The War that began in Heaven before the world was, is a war that continues today; a battle for the souls of men.  Yet, take courage because angels of Light are fighting to protect you.

So, if darkness is dimming your view of the forces behind you and the powers guiding you forward, recall the prophet's words, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

I have not seen mountains full of horses and chariots of fire, but this week I have seen God's protecting hand.  Seeing Him buoys my courage.  It can bring you courage too, just look with eyes of faith.
Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.
Doctrine and Covenants 68:6

I will go before your face, I will be on your right hand and on your left,
and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.
Doctrine and Covenants 84:88

Put On the Whole Armour of God
Very few of the armies we face in life can be confronted with sword or shield, but we are not left without spiritual accoutrements of war.  The Apostle Paul describes the necessary arsenal in the New Testament.
Put on the whole armour of God, 
that ye may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with Truth,
having on the breastplate of Righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace;
Above all, taking the shield of Faith,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmut of Salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
Ephesians 6:11-17
Paul wrote this battle speech/epistle to prepare the Ephesian saints for the spiritual battles they would face. I wonder if he knew at the time that his words would inspire troops centuries later. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  Pray always with the Spirit, and watch with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephesians 6:10, 18).

"It is Not This Day"
Another warrior who unified his brethren and made equally courageous battle preparations is in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.  King Aragorn stands with his Army of the West outside the Gates of Mordor.  They are about to battle Sauron's hordes of Orcs, Trolls, and barbarian Mannish allies who surround a fortress that stands as the last defense of good against evil.

Aragorn's small force of the West is ridiculously outnumbered and completely surrounded by the enemy. The moment is dark.  The feeling - ominous.  It looks as if all is lost.  But before this final battle, Aragorn delivers one of the most epic battle speeches that stirs my soul and moves me to draw my sword in defense of all that is good.
"Hold your ground, hold your ground.
Sons of Gandor, of Rohan, my brothers.
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails,
when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship,
But it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields,
when the age of men come crashing down,
But it is not this day.
This day we fight!
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you stand, Men of the West!"
The events of this week may have become dark and disturbing, and the forces of evil may have hoped to "break all bonds of fellowship," or "shatter shields," or make the work "come crashing down," but, guess what - It is not this day.  This day we fight.  This day we fear not, for the Lord is our Salvation and this work - His work - will continue. 

Rome Temple Progress
Case-in-point: The Rome Temple.  As scaffolding comes down from the Temple, a holy edifice emerges.
Thank you Anziano Steurer for the beautiful photos

A monument to Eternal Life and Salvation.

Already stunning.

The closer the Temple approaches completion, the more Satan pours on the heat.  He knows he's running out of time, and the Lord's forces are only getting stronger.

Captain Moroni Raises the Title of Liberty
by Walter Rane
The Call to Battle
As missionaries hear the call to battle and raise our banners along side the likes of Elijah, Elisha, Aragorn, Paul, Moroni, and countless other commanders in God's Army, In memory of our God, our Religion, and Freedom, and our Peace, we can step up to the task before us without fear, for we do not fight alone.  

As the Temple steadily emerges, we know full well of the help that is increasing from beyond the veil.  Those that be with us are more than they that be with them

Satan may scream and holler, stomp his feet and pitch his fits, but you know what?  God is so much more powerful and in control, and Satan is on a short leash.  Truth is, the devil may land a punch or two.  He may even win a few rounds, but he never wins the fight.  

Spoiler: We know who wins in the end.  The manuscript has been written.  The book has been bound.  God and good wins.  End of story.  So, the work of God cannot be derailed. His work of Salvation will continue - in the world and within you.  Just have faith to stay on the Lord's side.

Battle Cry
Prophets, Generals, and Captains throughout the centuries have had battle cries that have defined an army and determined a battle.  Our dispensation is not left without our defining mantra.

I leave you with the Prophet Joseph Smith's Standard of Truth.
"No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; 
persecutions may rage, mobs may combine,
armies may assemble, calumny may defame,
but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, 
till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime,
swept every country, and sounded in every ear,
till the purposes of God shall be accomplished,
and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."
(The Wentworth Letter, History of the Church 4:540)
Amen and Amen,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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