"The truth will always be opposed..."
So this week in the mail I got the saddest letter I have ever read in my life. The first line said:
"Sister Olivia Bitner
Since your release date is rapidly approaching....."
Ya....that's all I am going to share from it. That's the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. Why would anyone even bring that up? That isn't even funny. Ok, I'm not mad, but President sends out a letter during the last few months of your mission. It talks about a lot of good things and a lot of sad things, but I was just floored this week that my letter actually showed up at my door. I just got here. I still have so much time left. I don't know, there is nothing really miraculous to report from that letter, but it hit me for the first time that I am not going to live in Finland forever. Like literally, it just hit me this week. I did live before this, and I have to go back. It's not a good feeling, but I am so excited that I have so much time still in Finland. I am so grateful for all I have learned up to this point, and all I will continue to learn. One of the things President mentions in the letter is that he wants us to read the entire Book of Mormon again before we go home. I figured out that I have to read 5 pages/day in order to finish, so I have been working on that. I love the Book of Mormon and am so grateful for this challenge from President. It's going to be great.
This has been a really interesting, but amazing week. We have seen so many miracles and have had some pretty interesting experiences as a companionship. We have definitely both learned a lot, and I know because of this week, we are both more dedicated, converted missionaries. I am so grateful for that.
Did the title of my letter give you a scare? Good, I wanted to build the suspense :) No, just kidding, but we have just run into so many haters this week. On Tuesday night, we were contacting a potential investigator, and as we got on the train to go home, this Indian man comes up to us and starts basically chewing our heads off about how wrong we are, how there is no God, how we are wasting our time, how we need to leave people alone, how there is no way we could know that any of this was true...blah blah blah. Now, people say things like that all the time, but for some reason, I just got really frustrated with this guy. I didn't really say anything as he was yelling. Every part of me wanted to yell at him and tell him he was wrong, but I felt at the same time an overwhelming feeling of peace. I knew the Savior wouldn't have argued with him or yelled at him. So Sister Nyman and I just stood there and listened. And then when he was done, we testified of the truthfulness of our message and got off the train. Dad, remember when you told me that you can find out a lot about people when you look them straight in the eyes? Well as I was looking at that guy straight in the eyes while he was yelling at me, I really could feel the darkness and confusion from his heart. Ether 12:4
4 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, whichhope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
This man didn't have hope. He didn't have hope or love because he didn't have God. It's really as simple as that. I was really frustrated and wondered why people don't just leave us alone. Are we hurting anyone? No. Do we do bad things? No. Why won't people leave us alone? Why won't people leave the truth alone? That thought has been rolling around in my head a lot this week, but I will get back to that later.
Anyways, zone meeting was a huge success!! It was an amazing meeting and was led by the spirit. The comments the missionaries made and the discussions and role plays we had were so inspiring. We were able to sit up at the front with President and Sister Watson and the Zone Leaders, and as I was looking at the missionaries and listening to their comments, I was, once again, floored and humbled to be serving with these people. They are amazing. All of them. The spirit in that room was so strong and I know it's because we were all prepared to be taught. We were all willing to change. Sister Nyman and I taught about teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and why that's important and also how Faith in Jesus Christ raises our vision. When my time to testify came, Man, I was just so happy and excited. You could feel an excitement in that room. It's a feeling and a sight I will always remember. It made such a huge impression on my heart that these teenage kids...or 20+ year olds, leave their homes and families and friends and everything they know to come to a foreign country and teach the gospel. Like, what? It is so amazing so be here and to feel the mission changing. I am so grateful to be a Finland Helsinki missionary!
So on Thursday, I was able to go on splits with Sisar Pace....my greenie! It was so much fun to be with her. She has changed so much. I have changed so much. We have both grown up a lot. We had a lot of really cool experiences that day. One of them involved both of us crying on the street and being so grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and how much He has changed both of us. I just felt so blessed to have been able to watch another missionary's "first few months" experience and then to see her later on in her mission and how much she has changed. It just strengthened my testimony of the Atonement and missions so much. We had such a bomb awesome day! We talked to ALL the people and found 4 new investigators. It was amazing!! She is such a powerful teacher and a good friend. I will always cherish my relationship with her!
So on Friday, the APs gave us a call and gave us a referral. It was a family from Syria. We set up an appointment for Friday night and got over there around 20:00. hahaha #armytime Anyways, they have a son who is 11 and a daughter who is 12 and then the mom are the ones who are interested to learn. So we sit down and the mom says, "Ok girls, listen...I met with missionaries from your church 10 years ago." (they have live in Finland for 13 years) she continued, "I love your church. I may join myself one day, but what I really want is for you to teach my children. They need to know about these things." YESSSSS!!! I was so happy! Turns out, they come from a minority religion in Syria called the Drews....I had never heard of it before, but they are a group of people from Syria that live in the mountains. Pretty sweet :) But anyways, the kids are SO EXCITED to learn. The mom is a little more "stand-offish" but she will come around. They are just so golden and ready. We invited them to church and their eyes got really big and they both said, "We can come to church?" Man, I just love questions like that. :) So all 3 of them came to church and they LOVED it and made so many good friends. We have a lesson with them tonight and are planning on setting baptismal dates with them, so katsotaan! We'll see! I know they will get baptized! I am just so grateful I have had the opportunity on my mission to teach so many families with kids. I think Heavenly Father knew that I would miss my siblings and cousins so much. It definitely is a tender mercy.
Cool little sidenote: In Sunday School we had people from America, Norway, Finland, Syria, Venezuela, Pakistan, India, and Ghana all represented. The gospel is sweeping the world!!! :) It's so sweet!!!
We once again have had SO MUCH SUCCESS this week with finding people. It's funny because I have never found so many people on my mission before. We are seriously running from appointment to appointment. It is every missionary's dream :) We met this way cool finnish guy named A on what we call "The Hill of Death" on Tuesday. "The Hill of Death" is this huge hill next to our house. It definitely gets the heart rate up. It's way steep. Now imagine that covered with ice...it's WAY sketchy, but good thing I know that, just as in skiing, if it's too steep, go down sideways. Works every time...except of course that one time this week I totally wiped out. Oh my goodness it was so funny. It was at the end of the evening and I was really tired and not really paying attention to where I was walking. Well Sister Nyman asked me a question and I didn't hear her so I turned around to ask, "What?" and my feet flew out from under me and I ate it so hard. Oh my goodness guys, my whole body was aching. I could tell Sister Nyman was trying not to laugh...she is such a good companion, but as I was laying there, on my back, in a skirt, in the snow, I just busted up laughing. I was like uncontrollably laughing. Then Sister Nyman started and we just about died...it was so hilarious! As I was laying there I said, "Sisar, this is what it's all about." And then a car came around the corner and almost hit me, but I got up and only have a few bruises. All's well that ends well. It was just super funny!
Anyways, we were coming down the "Hill of Death" on Tuesday and we met A. He is way cool and really open to learn more. It was funny because as we were exchanging information, he started to slip down the hill so I lost focus and started to slip and then Sister Nyman started to slip and we were all laughing and sliding all over the place...it definitely broke the ice...hahahaha man I crack myself up! Anyways, A is super cool and we have a lesson with him this week. He actually asked us if he could bring his friend, also a finn, who is really interested in religion. MIRACLES! I am way excited for him!
Anyways, all in all, we have had an amazing week. We have found so many people. Not all of them are very interested after 1 or 2 lessons, but the ones that are interested are super solid and we are so excited to be working with them. It's funny because all of the people that "aren't interested" are interested until we ask them to pray about the Book of Mormon. Seriously, it happens every time. Sister Nyman and I were talking about why they wouldn't pray about it. Here is our theory: They meet us. They feel the spirit telling them to listen. They invite us over. They feel the spirit. We pray with them. They feel the spirit. Then a little voice in their head, The Spirit, tells them that they should change some things in their lives in order to come more in line with the gospel. Then we tell them that the Book of Mormon and the message of the Restoration will change their lives. Then, for lack of a better term, their shoulder devil tells them that change is bad. Change is hard. They don't want to change. They don't want to leave their comfortable little sphere. So they don't. It takes a lot of courage to accept this gospel. It takes a lot of courage to confront the dark parts of yourself and to realize that you need to change. But it's so worth it. And it's all possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It's pretty amazing when they decide to change. I am so grateful I have a front row seat to see it!
Well I told you at the beginning how we have run into a lot of haters this week. We have had a couple people yelling at us this week and making fun of us. It doesn't feel too great, but it's ok. We had a lesson last night with a potential. The lesson was going really well at the beginning, but at the end, he whipped out this book and said he wanted to read us a little bit about our church. This book that he had was written by two Lutheran priests. They were comparing Christian religions. He said that throughout this whole book, they had said nothing but positive things about the churches they talked about. And the last church they decided to talk about was the Mormons.
I had the thought to get up and leave the table as soon as he brought the book around, but I didn't listen. I came to find out later that Sister Nyman had the same thought. This man proceeded to read to us all of the most horrible lies about our church that I have ever heard in my life. These priests, these "Christian" men were mocking everything that I love and care about and the reason I am here in Finland. I wish I could explain the feeling that came into the house. The spirit left us. Completely. I was so dark and alone. I felt the spirit leave my heart. I hadn't listened when he prompted me to leave and he couldn't be with me any longer. After he read us the book, I testified as well as I could that I know the church is true, and then we left.
On the way home I cried and cried and cried. It was horrible. I was so upset. I knew that I had offended the Spirit of my Heavenly Father and that I had basically invited the spirit to leave. We were on our way home to eat dinner, and I went into our bedroom and prayed my heart out that Heavenly Father would forgive me for not standing up and saying something. For not following the spirit and leaving that house. I learned a valuable lesson though. I couldn't decide whether to share this experience in my email or not, but I felt like I should so here ya go. First lesson, we can't even flirt with anti-mormon material. It is so evil and is not from our Heavenly Father. People say we need to see both sides...well one side is Heavenly Father's side and the other is Satan's side. I don't need to see Satan's side. I have seen enough of that. I am staying on Heavenly Father's side and I will never ever allow that kind of material to be read or shared in my presence again.
Second lesson, Mosiah 2:36-37
36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—
37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholytemples.
I withdrew myself from the Spirit of the Lord. These scriptures are pretty dramatic, but that is the feeling I felt last night as I left that house. I invited the Spirit to leave by the fact that I didn't follow a warning. We invite the Spirit to leave when we sin. We withdraw ourselves from the light of our Heavenly Father's love. How horrible is that? It's amazing how the amount of the Spirit we have in our lives is totally dependent on us. Think about the apostasy. The apostasy was a natural result of people withdrawing themselves from the Spirit of the Lord. How scary is that? I know there are songs I need to throw away and movies I will never watch again when I go home because they offend the Spirit of the Lord. We can't afford to have Him leave. We need Him now more than ever.
Third lesson I learned, the truth will always be opposed. Out of all the religions those priests could have bashed, ours was the one they focused on. Why? Because it's the truth. And the truth will always be opposed. Remember that talk from two conferences ago about Joseph Smith by Elder Corbridge? I wanted to share a couple of parts from that:
"Joseph said that when he was 17, an angel told him that his “name [would] be had for good and evil among all nations, … among all people.”4 This amazing prophecy is continuing to be fulfilled today as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spread throughout the world.
Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to the truth. Whenever the truth with regard to the purpose and destiny of man is revealed, there will always be a force to oppose it. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, down to the ministry of Christ, and on down to our day, there has always been and will ever be an effort to deceive, derail, oppose, and frustrate the plan of life.
Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt that is kicked at One who was most opposed, challenged, and rejected, beaten, abandoned, and crucified, One who descended below all things, and there you will find the truth, the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind. Why did they not leave Him alone?
Why? Because He is the truth, and the truth will always be opposed.
And then look for one who brought forth another testament of Jesus Christ and other scripture, look for one who was the instrument by which the fulness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ were restored to the earth, look for him and expect to find the dirt flying. Why not leave him alone?
Why? Because he taught the truth, and the truth will always be opposed."
Later in the talk he said:
"And this is only a part of the flood of revelation poured out upon Joseph Smith. Where did it all come from, these revelations which give light to darkness, clarity to doubt, and which have inspired, blessed, and improved millions of people? Which is more likely, that he dreamed it all up on his own or that he had the help of heaven? Do the scriptures he produced sound like the words of man or the words of God?
There is no dispute about what Joseph Smith accomplished, only how he did what he did and why. And there are not many options. He was either pretender or prophet. Either he did what he did alone, or he had the help of heaven. Look at the evidence, but look at all of the evidence, the entire mosaic of his life, not any single piece. Most importantly, do as young Joseph and “ask … God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given [you].”17 This is not only how you may learn the truth about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith; it is also the pattern to know the truth of all things.18"
The gospel is true. This church is true. The truth will always be opposed. I had such a strong impression this week that Heavenly Father is going to call on us as we head closer and closer to the second coming of the Savior to stand up for what we believe in. Persecution is going to be greater. People will attack our beliefs and try to make us believe otherwise. If we aren't doing what is right, we won't be able to stand up to it. It's as simple as that. We have to make the decision now to boldly represent our Savior, Jesus Christ at all times, and in all things, and in all places. It's not an option anymore. It's part of being a member of the church. Thankfully I know this is all true. I know it and nothing can make me think otherwise. I have received a witness from the Holy Ghost that God lives and loves me. Jesus Christ is my Savior. Joseph Smith was a prophet. The church has been restored through him. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet today. In the end, what else really matters? Nothing. I love you all so much. I love the gospel and love that I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve a mission. Nothing has brought me more joy in my life and my life has been changed forever because of this decision. I love being a missionary. My heart is so full. I love you all and hope you have an incredible week! Stand strong! #embark :) Choose the Right. You will be blessed!
P.S. "Something Finnish" The closest related language to Finnish is Estonian and Hungarian. Finnish stands on it's own...there is really nothing like it!
|Filipino party on splits :)|
|Splits with my greenie! She's grown up so much|
|The happy light....I am so happy :)|