Monday, January 19, 2009

"They Were Just Doing the Best They Knew How"

Yesterday there was an amazing outpouring of the Spirit at Church. It began before Church, as I prayed in the morning, asking for Heavenly Father's help. I said I didn't feel worthy, but the Spirit rebuked me and reminded me that I am not the one to determine who is worthy and who is not, and that I am in need of repentance and should continue to search my heart as always, but that I am of infinite worth. It was with those tender thoughts still echoing in my heart that I listened to the Sacrament prayer, and pledged myself to keep those promises, even though I couldn't partake of the bread and water; and the sweet presence of the Spirit continued to grow. Then came the sweet talks and testimonies of Sis. and Bro. L., bearing witness to the importance of prayerfully "searching the scriptures." The Holy Spirit was present in a most powerful way, bearing witness to me of the truthfulness not only of what they were saying, but of the whole Gospel and of the Church.

After Sacrament meeting, my friend Sis. J. came up, full of life, with big smiles, and asked me how I was doing. Things have been well, I told her, though still difficult in relation to the Church. Göran still seems to view my attendance at the LDS Church as some kind of competition; as if he "loses" every time I go. We spoke heart-to-heart about my aspirations for my family, and for Glen. The tears started to flow freely. Sis. J. reassured me. It was a blessing. Such a blessing to be surrounded by and upheld by the Saints.

Then we proceeded to Sunday School. We talked about the Great Apostasy and the Restoration. People made thoughtful comments about what those events indicated about the destiny of the human family; and about the role and calling of Joseph Smith. There seemed to be agreement that Joseph was not the first nor the last to cry out to God for light; but he was chosen by God to be the instrument through which the priesthood authority was restored. The Spirit began to make its presence felt in the room; there was just a humble, sweet spirit as individuals one by one commented on what the Restoration meant to them. Then Bro. W., an African American brother and high priest raised his hand. He bore his testimony, he talked about what the Restoration meant to him. And then, his voice cracking and tears flowing down his face, he said, "They were just doing the best they knew how."

Now I'm not entirely certain what he meant by that, but I think I know. As we all know, the Church has a history as far as our African American brothers and sisters are concerned. And this brother is old enough to clearly remember a time when some pretty ugly, racist attitudes were very common among many of the Saints. And he's been a member of the Church long enough, I am sure, to have had his faith challenged, and to have to answer the question, "Why would you want anything to do with that church." And here he was, bearing solemn witness to the reality of the Restoration and the truthfulness of Joseph Smith's calling, something he knows in the marrow of his bones and something he's known since the missionaries first brought the gospel to his home. And to some it might seem a huge, insuperable contradiction for an African American man to bear such witness to a Church and a priesthood authority that had once shut him out of the temple. But his simple statement was, "They were just doing the best they knew how."

Well, those words of witness, and humility and love and forgiveness just finished me. The Spirit had already placed a wedge in my heart, and it was as if Bro. W. just took a mallet to it. The tears pretty much didn't stop for me after that.

We watched a movie about Wilford Woodruff's conversion story. And the part that killed me was the story of Robert Mason, a man who had a vision in which he sought the fruit of the tree of life. He had the fruit in his hands, but he could not partake of it. And he bore witness to Wilford Woodruff that there was no true church on the earth at that time, but that he knew it would be restored in Wilford's life time... I sometimes feel like Bro. Mason. The fruit of the tree is there, but I can't partake of it yet.

But I feel every bit as hopeful and full of gratitude as Robert Mason did. The tears flowing down my face were tears of gratitude. I do have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel. The whole truth of it; of the blessings of modern day scripture and prophets; of the restored authority to act in God's name. It's all true, every bit of it. So I'm grateful to know what I know. That testimony is of infinite worth. It is the most precious gift I have. But I am also grateful that I am not abandoned by God. I am not without hope. The Spirit was sweetly there, reminding me of what I had been reminded in prayer first thing that morning: I am of infinite worth. And I am doing exactly what my Heavenly Father wants me to do; I am bearing witness in the way He needs me to bear it. I am being faithful in the way He needs me to be faithful.

I am doing the best I know how. And so are they.


Sarah said...

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and feelings. It means a lot to me as I struggle just a bit with the church right now myself.

Beck said...

That's all any of us are asked to do... to do the best with what we know, to do the best with what we've been given. None of us can do better than that... It's not an excuse.

And no matter what, that portion that we know and what we've been given is never good enough - none of us ever measures up - including the leaders of the church. Thus comes grace to make up the difference.

I love this post!

Maraiya said...

Beautiful. I had very similar experiences yesterday, particularly in regards to the GD lesson.

I've been missing your voice and was so happy to find this post this morning.