I love the rain! These last few weeks we have been getting a lot of rain (comparatively, Utah is a pretty dry state). With the extra rain, there have been a lot of worms on the sidewalks. With the extra moisture I guess it is a good time to travel; but sadly, many of them are not able to find a spot of earth before the rain stops. The sun comes out quickly, everything is soon dry, and the worms become cooked to the sidewalk. Not only is this very gross, but I do also have some sympathy for the worms. In walking to the temple yesterday morning I decided maybe I could give a little charity, and save a few worms. I did this by picking up the worms which were still moving and throwing them into the grass. It was good at first, but very quickly it became strenuous. It was not fun to keep bending over, and I felt gross after touching each worm. I felt torn about leaving the worms to suffer, or alleviating my own pain. Even though the worms were small and mostly insignificant it was difficult for me to rationalize a good reason to let them die, but I did not suffer long as I soon found a reason to stop. I was saved later when I saw a bird tearing up a worm that was too big for it to eat all at once. I rationalized that by saving worms I was really killing birds, I was taking away their breakfast. In order to work for the greater good, I have stopped saving worms in order to save birds.
It struck me this morning how much this is really like the experience of many of those who fall away from the church. It starts with joy and gladness, but as it becomes difficult it is easy to find excuses. Unlike saving worms, the gospel is something which is good for both the worms and the birds—metaphorically speaking. And the consequences of leaving it are more than just a gross looking sidewalk and dead worms.
This gospel is the power of salvation to everyone that believeth (Romans 1: 16). It is very interesting in our lives how easily we can rationalize away things we find difficult. Following the commandments can be tedious and takes work. Faith grows like a living organism, almost like a plant or a tree in our lives. It takes care, nourishment, we need to prune and dig about it. Jesus Christ compared it to a seed for us as well in Mark 4. My effort in picking up worms was a lot like those whose seed falls on stony ground. I started with gladness and looking for the future, but as the verse says “and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4: 17)
I think offended is an interesting choice of words. People can find it hard to follow and do the things God expects of them, it is easy to look for a way out, and Satan is more than happy to provide many opportunities for us to leave. Just as with the worms, there are an infinite number of rationalizations and things we can come with to find a way out. People get offended because of the actions of some member, someone does not do what they think they should do, they are offended because of some comment by some past member of the church, or there really are an endless number of reasons.
God knew we would have doubts. He knew there would be things which we would or could not understand. God in His infinite love and wisdom has given us a sure way to know what to do. Isaiah referred to this as “a marvellous work and a wonder,” even to the effect that “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isaiah 29: 14). We know this of course to be the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is evidence of God’s love, and evidence of the restoration and re-establishment of God’s church in our day. We can read it, ponder it, study it out, and as we apply the principles and pray about the message and teachings we can and we will find a witness from God it is true. (Moroni 10: 3-5) This witness may not come all at once, but it is something which can and will grow in our lives much like coming from a seed. It isn’t always easy, it takes work, things will come and try to take it down, but it is always worth it. As Elder Packer said in this last conference “It is not easy to be a Latter-day Saint, but in the long run, it is the only true course.”
I do know this is the true church of Jesus Christ. I know it has helped and guided me in my life. I know I am very blessed to be here as a missionary to share it with others! I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and I know He died to take upon Him my sufferings, and I know I can be clean through repentance and His atonement. I know He loves and cares for me, as I continue to feel His love for me in my life. Brother Benson who we live with made the comment last evening, “The gospel is easy for those who work hard at it, but hard for those who work easy.” I love being here as a missionary, and I love working hard to share His message, the message of Jesus Christ, which is His suffering in Gethsemane, death on the cross, and His resurrection—through which, we can all return to live with God by accepting Him through our faith, repentance, being born again through baptism and receiving His spirit, and enduring to the end.