It's been a little slower with the quantity of lessons taught this week, but as far as quality goes, which is the most important, we've had a great week. I'd rather have one quality lesson and get one investigator progressing towards baptism than to heap on the numbers of lessons taught to disinterested people who get a kick out of hearing white kids speak Chinese. Earlier this week we taught our progressing investigator, Andy, about the Word of Wisdom and the importance of keeping our bodies healthy and clean so that we can be more receptive to the Spirit. When we asked if he was willing to keep the commandment, the best answer we could get was, "I hope." Then yesterday Andy came to church, dressed in a suit as usual, and as he shook my hand he said in his most articulate English, "I did NOT drink coffee! hhaahhaaaaaaaaaaawaahhhh", the last word more or less indicating the full blast of fresh morning breath he blew into my face to prove his triumph. Considering the announcement preceding the attack, I found myself satisfied getting a whiff of his faith and obedience. The Lord was proud.
The Bishop asked me to give a 10 minute talk in Sacrament meeting about the importance of member missionary work. There's been a huge focus on that in the recent months, and the Asia Area Presidency is really cracking down on getting the unity going in Hong Kong. The night before I didn't have very much time to plan, and I was very thankful for the Preach My Gospel translated into pingyam, or romanized Cantonese. I've gotten pretty good at making myself sound native when I read from it. Just before I went up to speak, however, I had some inspiration to share with the Ward a little Chinese Proverb I picked up when I was serving with Elder Woo, "Gwok ga hing mong, pat fu yauh jaak," or, "The rise and fall of a nation rests with every one of it's citizens." Chinese people love it when you speak to them in their own ancient proverbs. Then I changed the words to mean, "The rise and fall of the Lord's work rests with every one of the Church's members." I proceeded to share my talk with more ease than usual, and felt very blessed by the Lord to be able to testify powerfully to the Ward in their own language. I know that the Spirit magnified my ability to communicate His message. When I finished, I proceeded back to my seat in the congregation and one of our hilarious old man investigators, Mr. Tam, who is virtually impossible to teach, waved his missing pinky at me and said, "The rise and fall of everybody rests with Elder Hazen."
I've got a quick story. When Elder Young and I were finding about a month ago, we ran into a man with perfect English who is a very faithful Christian, belonging to a church in Wisconsin. We shared with him a lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel through modern day prophets and apostles and gave him a Book of Mormon, and although he willingly accepted the gift and commited to read, he seemed very intent on letting us know what the Bible "really" says and pulled out the scripture in Revelation which says that we cannot "add to or take away" from the book. Knowing that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, if John the Revelator meant that all recordings of the testimony of Jesus was ended with his revelation on the Isle of Patmos, then I suppose every time I've written a single word about Christ in my weekly emails is adding to the Bible and thus I should have all the plagues he wrote of to kill me sometime soon. But anyway, that's a doctrinal discussion for later.
He told us at the end of the conversation we Mormons believe we're saved by our works, and not by grace, but that grace is a gift from God and it's the only way to salvation. He ended by asking us how we would respond if we got hit by a bus and Jesus Christ asked, "Why should I let you into Heaven?" I responded that if I were standing before Christ at the Judgment Bar, I wouldn't be standing, I'd be kneeling. I said that I would look to Christ and say that I kept His commandments and, even in my imperfection, showed sufficient faith in his Atoning sacrifice through my deeds on the earth, and tell Him that it is according to His will that I am permitted to enter into His rest. Then the man told me that he thought there was a measure of a lack of confidence that I'd be able to make it to heaven in my statement, and that because he fully accepts Jesus' gift of grace he'd have full confidence in entering the Kingdom.
We ran into him again this week, and he asked us if we had thought about his question. He wanted to know if we had changed our answers, supposing that he could catch us in some inconsistency. I told him that grace is a gift, as it is the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I heard a wonderful analogy once about how grace works, and I shared it. I told him that as a child my Mom provided me violin lessons, a gift that as a child I could never be expected to pay my mother back for. I had a teacher who helped me interpret the notes on the page, and I showed my appreciation for the gift that my mother graciously gave me by practicing diligently. Through time, I began to understand the beauty of the gift that my mom provided when I was able, through my talent, to bless the lives of those around me by sharing it with them. No, I could never be expected to pay the Lord back for His Atonment, but if I were to never act on that gift or use it, how could I ever understand it? In that respect, we "Mormons" do not earn salvation, we learn it. 2 Peter 3:18, James 2.
I know that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we are saved. I know that the grace that comes from the Atonement is the product of our choosing to act in accordance to the will of God and apply the Atonement. The Atonement is the gift. The grace is what we get when we use the gift. The pursuit of perfection is not an event for us, it is a process. I know that Christ lives, and that He gives us the power to overcome and have peace amidst all challenges mortality inevitably brings.