Monday, December 9, 2013

To all my friends and family... It's all about the DOCTRINE!

I want to write about probably the most important thing I have learned on my mission so far. I can already see how it will benefit the rest of my life. I'm going to write this kind of like I would in my journal. It will be most time effective.

While I was in the MTC, I saw a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar where he talked all about Doctrine, Principles, and Applications in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He laid the emphasis of his talk however on "Doctrine" and said this concerning it: "The answer is in the Doctrine. ALWAYS the Doctrine." He repeated himself after saying it to make sure everyone heard it. Anyway, I think about this a couple of times each week. The Spirit seems to be trying to tell me something.

Back in March while I was playing basketball in Italy, I had a little bit of a dilemma where I had to make a decision. We had two games on Sunday - the quarterfinals and the semifinals (if we won the first). It was Saturday afternoon when I found out about this news. We were getting ready to play Sweden in about an hour so I pushed the thought aside and started to get ready for the game. Two hours passed away and I found myself back in the locker room with my team again. Our coach was recapping the game and analyzing what we need to keep doing as well as start doing. We had just beat Sweden by twenty points, so everyone felt really good about the game - especially me. I had defended their point guard well and was "feeling it" from beyond the arc. I think I had four threes in the first half.  He then finished it up by telling us about a team dinner that evening and what time he would like us at the game tomorrow... The thought hit me, "No! Tomorrow's Sunday..." I immediately started to panic inside. "What do I do?"
We broke it out as a team and everyone started to walk back to their lockers. I stayed there, later calling every one's attention in the middle of the locker room. "I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Part of being a member includes 'Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy.' Coach, I won't be able to make it tomorrow to the shoot-around in the morning. I also will miss the first half. I will be there to watch the second half but I want to let you know that I won;t be playing tomorrow. Sorry if this may let anyone down but tit's something that feels right and a commitment I have made to always keep."
I got various responses out of different teammates, which opened up a lot of opportunities to share the truths I knew to be true. I found myself, along with four other teammates, still in the locker room about an hour after the game had already ended. Question after question was asked, as I prayed that I would be able to give an acceptable response. I definitely didn't feel comfortable, especially because I looked up to a lot of these guys. They were going to play Division one Big Ten basketball next year. However, the Spirit was with me. This decision just "felt right."
One question kind of stumped me, and not until today, can I finally give an answer that I feel comfortable with. "Why are you going to an Italian church tomorrow, where there will only be Italian people only being able to speak Italian? No one back home will know if you went or not, and besides, you won't even be able to understand anything that's said."
 President Boyd K. Packer once said (it's in PMG now), "True Doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."

So what is doctrine?
According to Elder Bednar's talk, Doctrine is "truth revealed from God to His children, that will benefit man's eternal progression..." It's never-changing. "It will always answer the "Why?" of the problem/question. I think that is very interesting. Understanding "True Doctrine" always answers the "Why?" and will improve attitudes and behaviors.
Elder Bednar goes on by emphasizing the word "understood." "'True doctrine UNDERSTOOD changes attitudes and behaviors' - but understanding comes through our hearts and minds."

Abinidi in Mosiah ch. 12 preaches to King Noah and his priests that they do not understand The Law of Moses because they "have not applied their hearts to understanding." They could recite off to Abinidi what the Law said, thus understanding in their "mind", but they didn't yet understand it in their "heart." Understanding through you "heart" comes by the Holy Ghost. He will confirm those thoughts that you understand in your head (mind) by the feelings you receive in your heart. The Lord taught this same thing to Oliver Cowdery. See D&C 8:2.

So this makes sense, right? Once we figured out what the "doctrine" is, and after we study it out in our minds, we come before the Lord and ask if it be right. If we feel the Holy Ghost, it's true (Moroni 10:5). If we do not, we've got some more studying to do.

Because I've been thinking and studying this, I decided to apply it to a couple of investigators. I thought, "If they understood what was at stake, they would do these commitments. It they truly understood the "doctrine' of reading the scriptures (WHY we are commanded to study the scriptures), their behavior would change and they would study The Book of Mormon everyday. They would be keeping these commitments."

Jessica would drive me crazy. She would ask us to keep coming back over to teach her or to come to our scripture study every Thursday night, but she wouldn't come to church. She would read and pray when we were with her, but she wouldn't when she was alone. I grew so frustrated with her and felt that it was just a waste of time, that I tried "dropping" her.
Every person we teach, we fill out what is a called a "Teaching Record" which tracks basic personal information, lessons you have taught and how they received those lessons. At the bottom of the piece of paper on the back side is space for you to "drop" an investigator - in other words, stop teaching them. I never enjoy doing this but it needs to be done in order to stay focused and use your time most effective.
I met Jessica back in the first week of September with Elder Peery, tracting. We began teaching her and things were okay. I didn't know exactly what to expect, I was brand new. Anyway, we would invite her to do something (like read the BoM) every lesson and then find out that she didn't do it in our next visit. It was heart-breaking! I would show different emotions in response to her not keeping commitments, to try to "motivate" her in some way. I would pray with her and for her to remember things. We would send her reminders over text or call her at nights.  It got to the point when I felt that she was "wasting" our time. We met her back in September and it was now November. She had read I think two chapters total from The Book of Mormon in two months. We would line up rides everySunday for members to pick her up for church, but she wouldn't wake up. She even would schedule appointments on her own and then cancel when we would finally get to her house on bikes. So, I pulled out her "teaching record" and "tried" dropping her.
To make a long story short, the Spirit wouldn't let me. I seriously couldn't "drop" her. The Spirit hit me after the third time I tried with Elder Bednar's words: "The answer is in the doctrine. Always the Doctrine."
I got ready for bed this third time of a failed attempt of dropping a non-progressing investigator, thinking about Myisha. Why she was progressing so well. She was the same age as Jessica, lived at home with a single mom, had little brothers, graduated high school last year but wasn't starting college until January. I realized how similar they were to each other and then thought how strikingly different their behaviors were to our teaching. Myisha was on FIRE! It hit me again. Jessica doesn't understand the doctrine. She doesn't understand the "why?" where Myisha does.
It became evident the next day when we saw both of them. I asked Myisha why she would read and pray about the BoM (she was almost in Mosiah in 6 days). She said, "If I come to know this book is true, then I know what y'all taught me about Joseph Smith is true. If Joseph Smith was a Prophet, then the Priesthood really was restored. If the Priesthood was restored, I can finally be baptized by the proper authority. And if I'm baptized by that authority, I can live with my family forever. So, I read because I want to live with my family forever."
Talk about music to your ears... Wow.

I wish I could write more about this but I'll close with these thoughts.
Motivational speeches are only effective temporarily because it's only one part of the two parts of understanding. If we understood, truly (mind and heart), our behaviors and attitudes would change. If we understood the "why" behind a principal of the Gospel, our entire character would begin to change.

Well, you know the story - Jessica was later baptized last week. She finally caught a grasp on the doctrine of baptism and confirmation. Myisha, along with her two younger brothers, are also on date now to be baptized in two weeks.

At the time I was in Italy and was faced with this dilemma between going to church or playing in the game, I didn't know what to do. I didn't understand the "why" I should attend an Italian speaking ward on Sunday or "why" I should keep the Sabbath Day holy. All I knew was that it "felt right." I failed to truly understand the doctrine behind these things (Sacrament and Sabbath Day). This time, I understood in my heart, but not my mind. Luckily, for me, I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gift I am incredibly grateful for.

I love this gospel. I love my Savior. I know that He lives and that He understands fully what we are going through. He understood the doctrine of The Plan of Salvation, giving Him with the determined resolution to suffer every pain, to endure every sin, and to literally descend below ALL that is crude and filthy in this world. He knew who He was.  He knew that every living creature depended on His perfect performance. He truly understood that He was the Savior - that He was the ONLY way.

I want to invite all who read this email, to seek to understand the doctrine behind every principle and application of the Gospel. To ask the question, "why?" - Why home home and visit teach? Why should I attend all three hours of church? Why break the bread during the song and not before the meeting? or kneel as you offer the blessing on the Sacrament? Your mind will be opened and enlightened as you seek to understand these eternal truths. Mothers could even apply this to their children.  Instead of saying "because I said so" when a child asks why he should clean his room, or wash the dishes, teach them the doctrine - "Well, it's because it's a commandment of God to honor me, your parent." You may have to go deeper depending on their age and conversion, haha.

It's true. It's so true. Everything in this amazing restored gospel is sound doctrine. It's pure and never-changing. President Monson is the Lord's Prophet. He has called me to serve here and I am beginning to truly understand who I am as a full-time missionary. It's a heavy responsibility, but I have He who is the Greatest of All with me.
I'm Livin' the Dream! And my dream is to baptize the entire world... (after they understand the doctrine...)

I love you family!

Elder Welch

Update from back home in Ohio:
This is Marshall Davis.  He is a senior from Olentangy Liberty who goes to school and played football with Tyler and Matt.  Matt attended the missionary discussions with Marshall who became interested in learning more about the church after attending Tyler's mission farewell.  He was baptized last Saturday (December 7). So awesome!!

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