This was a pretty good week.
Chelsea came to church again this week and really loved it. She is awesome. The members love her so much. I have faith that she will be baptized soon. She is working on receiving her own witness that the things that we have taught her are true.
Roger has been out of town with his family in Tennessee. We haven't been able to have much contact with him this week. We are hoping and praying that his family did not give him anymore anti-mormon material while he was up there. We will be seeing him this week.
We got to teach a great guy this week named Brett. He is the boyfriend of a member of the ward. He is a really great guy and is looking for the truth. He really looks up to his girlfriend's brother-in-law, Brother Rucker, who is a convert to the church. I can see why he looks up to Brother Rucker because Brother Rucker is awesome. He has such a strong testimony and is just willing to help out with anything. When he first met his wife he was not a member but started to learn about the church because of her. At first he was just learning about the church because he Sister Rucker wanted him to, but during the lessons he noticed that the missionaries were answering questions that he's had for a long time. Brother Rucker is a great example to Brett. We are going to be teaching Brett this week with Brother Rucker. Brett has a baptismal goal for May 3rd. It is going to take a lot of faith and effort on his part for him to make that date. Please pray for Brett.
Sister Cole got chickens! Free eggs. Great news. She got four full grown chickens and 40 chicks (now 37 because three have died). I love the Cole's so much. Pretty soon we are going to be working with Brother Tackett and build a sweet chicken coop for them. I love the Cole's so much. I feel like the luckiest missionary because I've had the opportunity to live with them and really get to know them.
I want to write about some thoughts that have been on my mind. I hope that it will have some impact on whoever reads it.
I am teaching a guy named Brother Ellsworth. Smartest man I've ever met. Seriously, asks the best questions ever. He is married to a member of the ward, but he himself claims to be agnostic. He was raised in an atheist home, but is not atheist. He says that you can't prove there isn't a God. So he is indifferent. He asked me a great question. Really, the best question I've ever been asked. It wasn't really a question, but more of a statement. One I've heard many times, but for some reason when he said it, it like stopped me. Like he threw a wrench in the gears of my thought. He said, "You know, I understand the whole idea of God judging between good and bad people. That makes sense to me. But why would God judge us on whether or not we accept a set of beliefs?" I've heard that THOUSANDS of times on my mission. But this time when he asked it, I just couldn't even give him an answer. He stumped me. I could not understand why God would judge us on our beliefs. Why does that matter? As long as we are a good person we shouldn't we go to the Celestial Kingdom? His question made me so angry, because I just could not figure it out. After a good while of thought and study, I think I've figured it out.
There were many good people before Jesus Christ came to the Earth. There have been many good people after his death, people who have not believed in him. I would even say that if Jesus Christ never came to the Earth there would still have been good and bad people. There have been many great moral teachers who have taught similar things to what Christ taught. Jesus wasn't the first one to be great moral teacher, nor would he be the last. So if the only thing that got us to heaven would be being a "good person", then wouldn't there be people that could go to heaven without Jesus Christ? I fully believe and agree that there are good people that don't believe in Jesus Christ. Some of the BEST people I have met have not been Christian. So then that brings up the question, why is Jesus Christ important? I've seen people be good without Christ, so then why would they need Christ if they are already good people? Because he did for himself, and for us, what no moral teacher or wise good person could do. He overcame death, and overcame sin. He was resurrected. He was divine. Something that could not be done by any person regardless of how good they've been. C.S. Lewis spoke on this subject, he said:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
The difference between Christ and Ghandi, who both were incredible people and led nations out of bondage through their teaching, is that one had the power to overcome death by themselves, and the other one did not. One had the power to forgive sin, the other did not. Simple as that. You follow either, you may become a good person. But there is only one that you can follow to be saved from death and sin.
To go back to Brother Ellsworth's question, I want to tell you about this little parable that I came up with that I think will shed a different light on the judgement.
Imagine you are short $500 dollars for your rent. You have a debt that if you do not pay you will be kicked out of your home. You will be homeless. The end of the month is coming up and your rent is due, yet you have no way to pay it. No job, no extra cash, no things to sell. Just before the end of the month your friend, who loves you dearly, says that he will pay your debt because he doesn't want you to suffer the consequences. He is not giving you the money because "he owed you" or for any other reason besides out of pure love. You don't deserve his favor. Yet he offers his hand to help you out.
When his helping hand is extended you have TWO choices. To be proud, or to be humble. The proud would turn away his friend's helping hand. Not in a rude way. Maybe he'd just say to his friend, "No man, I don't want you to have to worry about my problems. I can figure it out on my own." Or, "No man, I can figure out some other way to pay. There is still time left." Regardless of his response, at the end of the day the proud will realize that there was no other way to pay the debt and will remain homeless. Not because he was a bad person, or even did bad things. Just because he did not accept his friends offer and was simply unable to pay the debt that he acquired. Him being a good or bad person had nothing to do with him ending up homeless. It was simply the fact that he was proud and would not accept help because he thought he could do it all on his own. The humble person would acknowledge that they could not do it on their own, and accept the friend's favor. Not only would he accept the friend's favor, but he would take the money and use it for it's intended purpose. He would do all that he can to show his gratefulness to his friend for saving him from being homeless.
My point in this parable is that whether you are a good or bad person is besides the point! There is more to it than just that. Belief is defined as: an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. An acceptance. God cannot force us to accept something. Whether we accept Jesus Christ's redeeming love and grace is up to us. To accept it we must acknowledge and truly believe that we cannot do it by ourselves. We must show him our commitment by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith in him, repenting daily, partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. That is how we "accept" our friend's favor or grace. So to go back to Brother Ellsworth's original question, "But why would God judge us on whether or not we accept a set of beliefs?" I would say because there is no other way. Christ is the only way to pay the debt. We simply could not over come death and sin without him. That is just something us as human beings we are not capable of doing. Acknowledging that does not make us weak, but it empowers us. God is a perfectly just being. Just as that apartment complex would not be "just" to forgive that person of their debt. The consequences of forgiving debt would be fatal to that apartment complex. If they started to just forgive everyone's debt without payment, they would quickly go out of business. Because God is a perfectly just being he will excercise his perfect judgement. But because God is our loving Heavenly Father he has provided for us a Savior so that we can overcome our debt on conditions of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that he might exalt us in due time. To truly reach our highest potential we MUST be good people, but we also MUST be humble.
I love you all so much.
-Elder Ryan Romero