Now, here's the thing about spotting people outside. As a set apart full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I and every other missionary out there are under the divine mandate to talk to everyone. Whether they're mowing the lawn, walking the dog, gardening, smoking, you name it - they're a child of God and they need to know about the Restoration of the Gospel. That said, it's not exactly mine or most missionaries most favorite thing to walk up to people and invite them to hear about the gospel. There is definitely room for awkwardness there. So as soon as missionaries spot a person outside, we look really fast at our companions to see if they saw the person too, and if so if they would be the one to make the awkward approach, or if it's all on us. So this is exactly what I did when I saw this guy outside, but glancing at Sistah Stoff it was clear that she hadn't seen the guy, and so I was left to make to decision to talk to him or not. And for a split second, I had the thought "oh...nah. He's going back inside anyways. Keep walking" but then every page of Preach My Gospel, the White Handbook, and every scripture on opening our mouths and being obedient flashed before my eyes and I made a sharp 90 degree turn to cross the street and approach this total stranger. We talked with him for about 30 minutes and told him about eternal families, about Joseph Smith, about God's plan of happiness, and as we left him with a prayer, Sister Stofferahn and I had the most incredible spiritual epiphany. All of those 2 hours of walking and changing direction and knocking on doors and awkward contacts - ALL OF IT, had been perfectly arranged by Heavenly Father to put us right there at that precise minute to talk to this man, Derek. If we had been by earlier or later, we would've missed him. It was all divinely organized, a master plan, that ultimately hinged on that moment where I saw Derek and made the decision of whether or not to talk to him.
And you see, that's where agency becomes so important. Yes, God is in control. Yes, God plans and coordinates and runs and directs and is the master planner of worlds. However, all his planning and organizing is directed towards moments of choices - choices made by us. To just think of all the planning that had gone into those 2 hours of me and Sistah Stoff tracting, and how much they would've been completely frustrated had I just decided to be disobedient to my counsel to talk to everyone and walked right by Derek. And really, that is the same for every choice we make. God has a plan, but the key players are us, and the key moves are determined by the choices we make.
So yeah. That was obviously a pretty grand moment of realization.
And the spiritual highs of the week just kept going from there.
We had powerful Spirit-of-Elijah testimony-of-family-history moments with both Aljae and Diane (whose baptisms are ancestry.com but then they asked for credit card info so that was as far as I got." Seriously though, how many 17 year olds have just randomly decided to look up their ancestors on ancestry.com? *cough*prepared*cough* Aljae is seriously amazing. As for Diane, in between conference sessions yesterday (more on that in a minute) we set her up with a familysearch account, and after we discussed how she would probably just need to add her family in name by name, she typed in her father's info to find that his mother's line has all been filled in and found and updated and all that jazz all the way back to Adam! It was incredible, and I have never seen someone so excited about family history as Diane as she looked and discovered the names of her ancestors. Moral of the story: don't take family history for granted. Go do it. Baptize souls, living and dead. We're all children of God no matter when we were on the earth.!) With Aljae, after teaching him about why and how we do work for our ancestors, he responded "yeah, I've always wanted to know more about my family - and like I tried to go on
And then of course there was conference. And yall know the spiritual high that is every time (or at least you should - if you didn't watch it...that's what repentance and the internet is for. Go, watch, and sin no more).
Here were some of my favorite moments:
1) TheMorning session's abundance of talks on following the prophet. With that kind of repetition, it sounds like somebody's trying to make a point...
2) Neil Andersen's challenge to the youth to listen to the Joseph Smith story in their own words to strengthen their personal testimony of the prophet Joseph. And I'll tell yall, that works. Every single time I recite the Joseph Smith story, my testimony of him and of the Restoration is pressed more deeply and deeply into my heart.
3) Christofferson starting his talk out with some Shakespeare. Henry V for the win.
4) MoTab singing "And If I listen with my heart." Primary songs sung by the choir are always my favorite.
5) Dallin H. Oaks' talk on civility. 'Nuff said.
6) The recurring theme of developing and strengthening our personal testimonies - Helaman
7) Jorg Klebingat's (spelling?) entire talk - calling us out on our physical wellbeing while I downed the Peanut Butter M&Ms Sistah Stoff and I had for lunch that day. Not really...but kind of.
And then of course, a million more things. And now, for the most exciting part of conference, we get to take what we learned and APPLY it each and every day to become more like Christ.
Love yall! I hope you had as stellar a week as we did here in Humble. Keep on praying, go rewatch conference, and next time the missionaries come by - feed them pancakes.