Moroni saw me daily
Often, the people God place in our lives provide us with the impetus to move from one piece of joy to the next. it is not always about trials and fear. Life is about more than enduring to the end. it is also about living in the moment.
Patrick M., the son of Patricia M. mentioned in an earlier blog entry, is another spiritual giant in my life who fellowshipped me encouraging me, Rodric Anthony, to want to be a missionary and live the life, the Christian life
I was there when Patrick left and returned from serving a mission for Christ representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint. When he returned from that glorious service, he brought with him some of the most severe stories about his missionary experience, effectively mortifying me of missionary service for myself.
I know, I said that this was not about trials, so to speak. Just keep reading. I do not believe Patrick told those scary stories on purpose, but I hung on every word of his, becoming the annoying little brother type. His services as a missionary definitely put him on my mental hero status board, a pedestal.
One story he told me about a companion of his with mental concerns. Patrick saying that he knew that the Lord wanted him to be the one to deal with that companion and all of his issues, revealing that he had several companions with psychological concerns. This was on of the issues that brought fear with it into my hearted about serving a mission, the psychologically challenged companions.
The only reason one of his companions went on mission was to fulfill his rite of passage in Mormondom. We don't go by Mormon's name anymore, but what this former missionary that Patrick told me about was nothing but a cultural manifestation without any religious substaince, so Mormon.
This companion did not want to be there. In fact, this one companion of Patrick’s could not go home! The family told the mission president that if that elder went home early, he would have no home. They would disown him!
Harsh, I know! It made no sense to me then. And, it makes no sense now that I have a son who is old enough to serve as a missionary. I cannot imagine disowning my son forever just because he did not serve a two-year mission. I don’t want to imagine it either.
Patrick could not believe what he had experienced on mission! He told the stories because they were incredible to him and to us--his family and me. He knew I wanted to go on a mission so he told me that I should be prepared when I went to Utah, admitting that the people can be racist and there is hazing in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
With tell of thoses stories, I became more anxious, not knowing that I had to go through such things just to preach the gospel! Patrick’s mission sounded horrible! In fact, I remember nothing good that he told me about the mission save the Lord confirmed to him that his chief reason to serve a mission was to minister to his companions. The spiritual changes in him showed evident in his walk, as when he returned from his service, he was more like his Mom, Patricia M., a spiritual giant. Now, for that change to come upon me, was I willing to risk going to the MTC! Yes. I would risk it.
"And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance," Moroni inscribed in reference to people like missionaries and others called to minister in the Church. "To fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men." (Moroni 7:31)
Patrick said that he had a feeling that God put him in the places he needed him on mission to help his companions. During Patrick's missionary service, it was before the Spiritual Bar was raised. This was during a time where missionaries went into the mission filed to gain their testimonies as the shared the Restored Gospel rather than share with the world the testimonies they had of Jesus Christ as a function of the Restored Gospel.
Patrick realized as a minister of Christ that he had, as Moroni records, "to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they, [not only the people he taught outside of the church with his missionary companions, but the ones whom he served with as ministers] may bear testimony of him." (Moroni 7:31)
In his episodes with his companions whom he had to monitor, he did so with the understanding that he was to serve as their connection to Christ until they could foster their own connections, if ever.
It was not a curse, as I would find out later on my mission. Patrick was not at fault that I did not hear his entire story, but only the part that was unsavory. Ministering as a witness of Christ was not only to those who stood outside the Church, but to those who stand in it, as well.
"By so doing," Moroni instructs, "the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof."
That service that Patrick performed would lead to someone's testimony in Jesus, even if it led only to the solidifying of Patrick's testimony alone! It also led to my testimony and willingness to serve as a representative of Christ as a missionary even if too, I had to be what Patrick was to his companions. A minister is a minister to all whom Christ's service put in his or her way, because "after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men." (Moroni 7:32)
What has Moroni seen in you?
As my greatest cheerleader, Mother told me my entire life that I was special and lifted me up. I owe to her my confidence. Mother was so thorough at teaching me that I could do all things that I did not know that all things bit came with a caveat until I grew up and had kids of my own. I thought all things were possible because Mother would not allow me to feel any other way, overcompensating for something lacking in her own life from her childhood.The only thing that Mother left out of my training was to know that all things ARE possible through Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Again, caveat, though.
Now, I am no fool. Believing that all things are possible through Jesus comes with a responsibility to be a reasonable person. God is no genie in a bottle who comes out because we rub His Bottle and make a wish. No. God is a glorified man who knows what is best for His children to learn to become like He is and guides them, us, in the direction that best accomplishes that. If a miracle is needed to help, it will occur. If suffering through loss and pain will help, He will lead us down that path.
With our limited understanding, we can sometimes mistake the horrible things we experience in life as divine disfavor or proof that God is not there. Neither are the truth. If punishment comes in this life as divine disfavor, then Jesus must have been very evil to be forced to pay for all of the sins, hurts, shames, and sorrows of humanity. Since Jesus is not evil, bad things happen because life is about experiencing the good and the bad. Some of us experience what seems to be more bad that others, which can seem unfair.
God knows the entire picture of eternity and can see the good that will come of enduring the evil hour well, without loosing faith, that is.
"O then despise not," etched Moroni in what is now the ninth chapter of the Book of Mormon in the large library called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. (Mormon 9:27-28)
Back to Moroni...
"Despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord," Moroni counsels. "Ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need." Moron give the universal sign for self-service directing us to ask what we need of the Father. That, however is not the end of what he means because we at time may not know what we need. But he tells us to ask any way with some stipulations to follow.
"Doubt not," he instructs, "but be believing." What are we to believe? All things are possible through Jesus Christ, just like my mother sort of taught me. Moroni fills in where she left off by adding "and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart," which to me, means all the desire, the feelings and devotion of the heart do we go before the Lord.
"Work out your own salvation," Moroni inscribe as a vital component to getting help from God. "With fear and trembling before him," i.e. do it with respect. How do we work out our salvations? We do the things that we know will get the results. There is this saying:
Pray like everything depends on God, but work like everything depends on you!
We work out our salvation by doing the things we know brings results. If studying brings results of good grades, we pray for good grades as we STUDY. If being healthy brings good physical health, we actually EAT HEALTHY and pray to God to be healthy.
James said it best, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." No, not your cousin or uncle James, but the apostle James in the New Testament in the book which bears James' name. (James 2:17)
"Be wise," Moroni continues. "Strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume [your life] on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God."
We learn from Moroni what to ask for during our petitions to God for help in our lives. We ask to serve God and not yield to the temptation to serve our distractions away from serving God. What does it mean to serve God?
King Benjamin in the Book of Mosiah answered it best when he taught, "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17)
My Moroni Take-away
God is not a genie in a bottle, but a Father in Heaven who helps all of us who seeks Him become better people despite what we experience in life.
Mother filled my head with so much conviction that I marveled when I failed a test and thought I had embarrassed her. She always lifted me up to a fault! I had a long journey down from the mountain of arrogance I built upon her encouragement. She gave it freely and often. I am so glad that she did. Growing up without a father of my own to depend on made her belief in my ability all the more important!
As another prophet from the Book of Mormon describes a group of young men called the Stripling Warrior, who grew up without fathers, Helman recorded,
They had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it." (Alma 56:47-48)
Echoing them, I did not doubt Mother knew it. What has Moroni seen of you?
I do not know how I had time for seminary, school, and football. I did it though.
I adored Sister Patricia M. She was my seminary teacher when I joined the church. She, along with a host of other members fellowshipped me into my ward. I did not start attending seminary until my sophomore year of high school. I lived right down the street from where Sister M. conducted the lessons. She did so from the office where she worked.
Every morning for my first year of seminary, Sister M. called my home at 5:30 am for me to rise for seminary. It seemed that way anyway. We stopped answering the phone, and my mom would yell in consternation from her interrupted slumber, “Rodric, get up and go to seminary!”
We knew from whom the phone call came. We knew there was no avoiding it and I loved her for it. Sister M. was a busy woman with a penetrating spirit. The scriptures came alive when she taught, me hanging every utterance from he lips. God put spiritual giants like my seminary teacher in place to lift and inspire. Sister Patricia M. lifted my heart!
The church did meet together oft
"After they had been received unto baptism," etched the intrepid Moroni on the golden plates that became the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, "They were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God," (Moroni 6:4).
The level of involvement the Church exacts of its members, all of our own volition of course, provides a psychological benefit that creates stability in the lives of millions. Why is that important?
Moroni answered in his etchings, "that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way," (Moroni 6:4). The benefit that Moroni saw in the Saints in his day he could see being of the same value in our day, which is why he included it in the record. One of the many meetings where Saints get to check on each other was seminary for teenagers. There is also for adults, institute ( religious classed catering to college-aged people and beyond), ministering brothers and sisters, family councils and interviews, and the list goes on.
Why all of these things, distractions as they are. Reader, have you paid attention to what is going on with the moral fabric of society? Yeah, we need some distraction from the continual slope towards debauchery.
This busy work helps "to keep them continually watchful unto prayer," Moroni inscribed. It helps people like me to keep, "relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith" (Moroni 6:4). Seminary became one of those oft meetings of which Moroni spake.
Family Home Evening
Meet together Oft
The M. family was to me a good example of a Southern Saint family. They taught me that my misconception about the White Southern family needed updating to the twentieth century from what it was that I gathered of it depiction from Gone with the Wind! No, they did have slaves! I was ignorant to some degree.
From them, I learned about Family Home Evening family-led, church supported program where families set aside one night a week, usually a Monday, for family gospel instruction and fun above all other things. Because of their family, my family has family home evening 95% of the time—most weeks!
I recall sitting in their kitchen listening to them talk about different subjects and then playing games in their living room. Not understanding how White people could just invite me in and treat me so well when we were not supposed to be associating according to my third-grade teacher (that story is detailed in the book) escaped me. Barriers came down because of that association.
The adversary, the Devil, used that one event in my life in third grade to help color all of my experiences in the Church and without the Church with White people. I loved my White Saints so much that I almost considered them normal people, almost. It still took time to bury the incorrect teaching I received at age eight. I clung to the M. family, borderlining obsession.
Moroni knew that meeting together often in our homes and in other settings, doing service to others in the process, would help us look beyond our differences so that we could become more like Jesus Christ. What has Moroni Seen of You?
Uncle Johnny was my idol growing up because he was a dad. All my cousins had a dad, and I wanted a dad also. My father was alive and well, at the time and to my knowledge, he did not attempt to include himself in my life. Since my cousins referred to Uncle as Dad, I picked up the practice of referring to him as such—at least in my mind! The title “Uncle,” equaled in stature to the title of “Dad.” I imagined Uncle loving me the way he loved his children. It sometimes worked too.
He took all the boys fishing often, something I did not find interesting. Going with him though, made me feel included. Far be it from me to ever make it known that I did not like fishing because that dislike paled in comparison at the thought of spending time with Uncle.
A bunch of us kids accompanied Uncle to a fishing spot of his in Clearwater, Florida. Every time we went fishing with him, he caught something delicious for us to cook and eat--fresh crab or fried fish. It was great! I wanted to be just like Uncle in bringing something delicious to the house, but I had no fishing pole.
My cousin Edward allowed me to borrow his fishing pole and some bait, and Uncle Johnny showed me how to cast off. I hooked a fish my first try and pulled it in! Nervous, I did not know what to do and felt awkward about the situation.
I saw the pleased look on Uncle Johnny's face and beamed with pride. Edward determined since I used his pole to pull in the catch that he had jurisdiction over my fish. I did not protest. The fact that I made Uncle Johnny proud provided all the satisfaction I needed. Edward mutilated my fish. He said he did it to make more bait for other fishing. It made sense to my young mind, but Uncle Johnny chastised him for it. Again, I was overjoyed that I merited Uncle Johnny's concern. I was in heaven! I did not know it at the time, but I starved for a father figure. I am glad that Uncle Johnny was there to fill that role for me when he had eight of his own about whom to worry.
Sweet time for bitter shame
The trial that I experienced with my uncle occurred when I absentmindedly retrieved the sugar scooper from the dirty floor where I carelessly dropped it as we stood in the kitchen together. Looking back on that experience and what happened afterward, I believe there was something else on Uncle Johnny's mind than my mistake because of the intensity of his response. He yelled at me once he saw what I had done, took the scooper out of the sugar container, dumped some of the sugar out of the container and slapped me.
He did not try to hurt me, I know because he would have taken my head off had he really put any power behind the slap! The reason I remember it so distinctly rests upon my great reverence and love I for him. Up to that juncture, never had he really yelled at me that I could remember and he had always been the “cool” parent—he did help raise me. To hear the disappointment in his voice and the anger to strike me caused so much shame I wished to disappear.
I remember his hand crossing my face after asking me why I had not cleaned the scooper off before putting it back into the canister. I responded with some typical silly kid response that Bill Cosby would poke fun at had he heard. I remember his hand raked my left eye just a little. I covered my face with both hands and stood there embarrassed. I could not cry because I thought it would diminish me in his sight, and I could not move because I would cry.
I do not recall how long I stood there after that, but my other cousin and friend, Stephanie, comforted me afterward. She did not comfort me because I felt abused or physically hurt. I thought I had made Uncle into an enemy. She comforted me because I thought I disappointed the only man that I knew as a father by being careless.
To some, the incident was insignificant, but to my kid-self, my world had its foundation shaken. I have never really recovered from the disappointment I felt I caused my uncle, which amazingly still affects me presently. I regret I allowed years to pass without mentioning ever to Uncle Johnny how much I love him and how important his opinion of me mattered.
“Wherefore,” Moroni informs, “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
I could get that love if I prayed for it because it is a gift God gives to all of the true Christians!
I love my uncle even though the family dynamics have changed over the years. No one can take away my good experiences with him or the lesson I learned when I dropped the sugar scooper.
sugar SCOOP LESSONS
The first lesson is:
Sometimes even the best relationships have problems, but those problems are fixable if both parties are willing to forgive.
I did forgive him. Moroni knew that I would have many situations like this, so he put in Chapter Seven in The Book of Moroni in the Book of Mormon. Like Paul in The Holy Bible, Moroni instructed us to have charity, which suffers long and is kind. It does not seek its own desires but the good desire of others. It is good to forgive.
The second lesson I learned from that episode with Uncle Johnny is:
To be careful of my actions because I might not enjoy the consequences.
I gave no thought to my action when I removed the sugar scoop from the floor and put in into the container. Though it was a simple thing, do not great things occur because of simple actions? Also, I learned as a father that I must be careful of how I conduct myself. Never do I want to react or overreact to a situation that merited a less intense response. Uncle Johnny's actions did not take away my love for him in any measure, but my action toward my kids (or others) might not fare so well.
The teaching may not come directly from Moroni, but he still saw my day, my life and supported the book with his life that would eventually teach me. What has Moroni seen of you?