Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And you thought last week's letter was good....


We had a truly AMAZING week. A little background: Brother Andres in our ward is the only nonmember in his family. I think he has four daughters, two of which have been married in the temple. His wife is a strong member as is everyone else in his family. He's been taught on and off by missionaries for the past 26 years or something like that, with the sisters in our ward making a renewed effort on him during the past year or so. He comes to church just about every week and holds a calling even though he's not a member. He just never felt like he had recieved a strong enough answer about the BOM to leave behind his Catholic roots. Well, every year the Kirtland stake puts on the musical theatre production "This Is Kirtland!", depicting the life and times of mormon settlers in 1830's Kirtland. Bro. Andres' wife and 2 daughters that live at home were in the play and it was suggested that he participate as well since he had to drive them down to the stake center every day for practice. He conceded and played the part of Elder Green, one of the 12 Apostles. Everyone was so sure that the play was going to be a great, powerful, spiritual experience for him and it definitely was; so much so that last Sunday morning as I was talking to the sisters in our ward (Sisters Wirig, Golightly, and Decker), they were very confident that he would commit to baptism during their lesson later that day. By all accounts the lesson was powerful and compelling - the spirit was palpable and the sisters were guided by the Lord's hand in presenting their lesson. Finally, the time came, and with the Spirit's piercing flame bearing witness of the truth, they comitted Bro. Andres to set a baptismal date. Time stood still. Every breath was bated. The seconds of silence could audibly be heard ticking by as they waited what seemed an eternity for his response.

Finally he spoke

And his answer crushed their soaring hopes into oblivion. His wife broke down and left the room in tears. The sisters were devastated. They had been so sure that he was ready-the cast of the play and everyone in the ward had friendshipped him so well, the spirit had been so strong...how could he persist in his obstinance? Sister Wirig's dream had been to see Bro. Andres baptized before she went home from her mission just a week and a half later, and now she knew that her vision was not going to materialize...

We talked about it at district meeting that Tuesday (a week ago today). They were crushed.

Later that day, the sisters called me, ecstatic. At 3:00 am that morning, Bro. Andres had come to a conclusion: stopping haltingly between two faiths wasn't getting him anywhere - he had witnesses enough and he needed to follow them. He decided to be baptized that very Saturday.

The rest of the week is a whirlwind from that point - On the way back from a leadership meeting in Cleveland we stopped at Kirtland where he had arrived early for the play and I interveiwed him for baptism. The major factors in his decision to keep moving forward were the spiritual influence of playing one of the 12 in the play, the love showed for him by the cast and crew of the play, as well as the rest of the ward, and the amazing diligence, persistence, and love showed by the sisters in teaching him.

He was baptized this past Saturday at 4:00 by Bro. Hay, one of his longtime friends from the ward. We brought Steven to watch it and it was a great experience. The Spirit was strong throughout the baptismal service, the attendance of which overflowed the chapel at the Stake Center. The cast of the play payed to fly in his two daughters and their husbands so they could witness his baptism as well. He was confirmed by one of his sons-in-law right after his baptism, and ordained a priest the next day by his other son-in-law. After the baptism, we went with Steven to the historic Kirtland sites and Sis's Wirig, Golightly, and Decker gave us an amazing tour - another opportunity to feel the powerful spirit. After that we went back to the stake center (only about 1/2 mile away) to watch the final performance of the play. In one scene of the play, Joseph Smith, standing on a table at a feast in the N.K.Whitney store, says "we rejoice with the Snow family in the baptism of Brother Lorenzo". That night he added in, "and we also rejoice with the Andres family in the baptism of Brother Lawrence." The overflow crowd went wild.

(please note: By necessity, literary license has been exercised to help the reader feel more intimately and accurately the mood and atmosphere of the account. The writer has drawn from several sources including personal interviews with many of the involved parties to ensure the maximum possible fidelity of the present narrative.)

Anyways, that's Bro. Andres's story. I hope you liked it.

On Sunday we took Bro. and Sis. Elliot to a musical fireside at the Kirtland sites and again had a powerful experience. They both felt the spirit and we were able to identify that with them. A couple weeks ago Sis. Elliot fasted with us that she would be able to get Sundays off from work so she could come to church. She asked her employer about it and things are looking good at this point. I think we will be able to set a baptismal date with her pretty easily once she is able to consistently come to church.

Steven and Bro. Elliot came to church on Sunday.

Sounds like you guys are doing lots of fun things back home, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world.

Congrats on being DQP, Cody. One of my first experiences with recieving personal revelation that I can remember is feeling impressions as I prayed about who should be my counselors in the Deacons' Quorum Presidency.

The new duty to God program seems pretty cool. I was SO sold when they pitched it in conference. Cody and his peers are going to be the most prepared missionaries EVER.

Unfortunately, Steven isn't making much progress with the Word of Wisdom. He reads and prays every day, comes to church, and keeps comittments, but I don't think he has a very strong desire to quit smoking at this point. We're working on it. Prayers are greatly appreciated.

More loosening of the rules: Now we can listen to anything in the hymnbook, childrens songbook, or any mormon tabernacle choir.

elder matthew smith