Wednesday, September 21, 2016

South Island Trip - Day 8: Learning to Recognize the Spirit of Elijah

We had an AMAZING night at the Dunedin Family History Center.  We started off by filling out the inventory of equipment and downloading the teaching tools we have been taking to all the centers here in the South Island.   Then we had an opportunity to work with some of the folks who were there, explaining the My Family 15 program.  Everyone was excited to show what they had done and to talk about next steps for expanding the information in their trees.

We took photos of everyone there and showed them how to upload the pictures in the memories section.  That was well received.  We especially appreciated having Bishop Mather from Dunedin 2nd Ward there that evening so we could fill him in on the Family 15 program and encourage him to get his ward leaders and members engaged.

One of the most rewarding parts of the evening was working with Eric M. He had done quite a bit of genealogy back in the old PAF days, but was not at all familiar with the new web based FamilySearch.   We showed him how to access the tree and how to add and edit data.  He discovered that his own mother had never been sealed to her parents, so he was able to submit that work to be done.

Eric has Parkinson's disease, so he has some real challenges with using the computer.  I served as his hands as he showed me the information on paper print outs that he wanted to put in.   Because of the Parkinson's Eric generally shows very little facial expression, but when we helped him print out the temple card he had tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, feeling so much joy.

Bishop Jason Mather of Dunedin 2nd Ward

Eric M. submitted a family name to take to the temple

Gail P. is Ward Family History Consultant in Dunedin 2nd Ward

                                                Annette T. of Dunedin 2nd Ward has her Family 15

 Nicholas T. has his Family 15


Missionaries serving in Dunedin Stake are learning to use FamilySearch as a way of teaching the gospel.     Left to right: Elder Bowers from Bountiful, Utah, Elder Pearse from Brisbane, Australia, Elder Gardner from American Fork, Utah and Elder Andelin from Springville, Utah. We love our missionaries!

The next part that was very powerful was working with the young missionaries who came in to learn about how to use Family History when teaching about the gospel to investigators.

We got them putting in some basic information and then did the exercise we have repeated so many times on this mission, putting them into pairs and then having them each tell a story about some member of their family.  Then we went around the room to ask each one of them to tell what they had felt while they were telling those stories or listening to their companion's story.

As usual we heard of love, curiosity, excitement,  pride.

We helped them recognize that the good, warm feelings they were experiencing was what we sometimes refer to as "The Spirit of Elijah", and then reminded them of Elder Nelson's teaching about the Spirit of Elijah being a manifestation of the Holy Ghost testifying of the divine nature of families.

We told them that when they first begin teaching people who are investigating the church that the people may be unfamiliar with what the Spirit feels like.  By starting with family history they can help the people they work with to learn to recognize the way the Holy Spirit communicates with them personally.  Once they achieve that, then when they ask the people to read the Book of Mormon and to pray about it those people will know what feelings to look for and to recognize and answers to their prayers.

As I talked about this with those dear young elders, I experienced it myself,  feeling a STRONG witness from the Spirit that this work we do IS true.  Through sacred temple ordinances families can be eternal.  The Gospel IS true.  Christ really did atone for my sins and is aware of me personally.

As I felt this complete certainty coursing through my mind, heart and spirit I was again so grateful for these mission experiences. 

  I am used to gathering information and knowledge from many different sources.  There are things I know because I have studied them, applying questions and testing them out.  There are things I know because someone I trust has explained them to me.  There are things I know because I read about them in a book.  All of these can be useful for living my life.  Most of those things, however, are subject to change or adjustment as new information becomes available.  So nearly all the knowledge I carry is somewhat conditional, based on whatever level of understanding is available at the time.

However, the things that I know because I have had personal spiritual witness from the Holy Ghost are in a whole different category.  Personal revelation is a powerful thing.  When the veil becomes very thin and I feel communication with Heaven, that builds a kind of certainty that goes all the way to my bones.

In relaying the story of his First Vision,  the Prophet Joseph Smith stated:  "
I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it".

While I have never seen an actual vision with my eyes,  I have felt experiences of the soul which have been ever bit as powerful for me.

Being here on this mission has filled me with such a rich sense of meaning and purpose.  I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had to help others grow closer to their families, and in so doing grow closer to the Spirit.  But I am especially glad for what it has done for my own testimony and my own sense of my divine nature as a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who knows me personally.

It was a great day.  It was a powerful night.  

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