Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Miracle of the Pamphlet

My missionary son and his companion recently experienced one of the many tiny miracles that occur when we seek to share the Gospel with others. Here's a condensed version of his story from a while ago, minus some identifying information:

A few weeks ago, the elders in a neighboring area . . . contacted a girl. They set up a time for her to come to the chapel and start meeting with them. After they parted ways, [she] decided she'd probably just forget about them and stand them up.

A day or so later, [my companion] and I went out in the afternoon to go contacting while holding a big sign we made to advertise for the free English class we have on Wednesday. The mission office makes tons of pamphlets with information about the English class, so we took a big stack and walked up and down the street passing the pamphlets out like crazy. Dinner time came so we started contacting our way back to our apartment building, where we would hang our sign back up in the lobby. By the time we got back to the little patio outside our apartment building, we had exactly one English pamphlet left. We wanted to eat food but we decided we had to get rid of the last pamphlet before we hung up the sign and ate some dinner. That's usually not a very hard thing--people usually take pamphlets pretty easily. So we started going around to the people sitting at tables on the patio and telling them about the English class. Strangely, every single person in that area refused to take the pamphlet. We looked around a little harder and finally saw a girl . . . . We went over and tried to give her the pamphlet. She wouldn't take it either. She said she already had one. She told us she'd met the [other] elders a few days ago and showed us the restoration booklet they left her. We talked to her a little about what they shared and encouraged her to keep meeting with them. . . . Because we ran into us after she decided to stand the other elders up, she realized this is a message God wants her to hear and changed her mind and went to meet with them. She met with the [other] elders for a while until they found out she lives in [our area]. Now we're meeting with her and . . . she's getting baptized next week! Isn't it amazing what God can do with one pamphlet?

I think the effort of "hoeing to the end of the row"--working to the end, even when hungry--often brings unusual blessings. Many great stories seem to have the element.

13 comments:

Bookslinger said...

Gospel material, or any contact really, is like a seed. You never know where or when it will sprout.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I must share with you that I am currently experiencing something similar...

I have been on a path of self study regarding the church for a couple of years nows...reading blogs like this one & websites...reading books by writers such as Mconkie and Bob Millet and the like...reading the BoM and other standard works and learning about the church - all w/o the missionaries...I have chatted with them on the mormon.org site though...about 6 months ago I was studying/reading almost everyday and praying about the BoM - I felt I received no answer so I dropped everything put it on my shelf and moved on.

I was married this past Jul and 3 weeks ago discovered that we're having our first child together - now I am an avid Bible reader and I pray each morning and evening, but for some reason after learning of my unborn child I started reading the BoM again and in fact all things Mormon that I own...so the course began again. Last week I checked my email after work and had a message from 2 elders at BYU - it seems they were contacting me about the BoM I requested and recieved from the Church a year ago - so I thought that was strange...but then on Saturday with my Bob Millet book in hand I accompanied my 15 year old son to his guitar lesson and was engaged in conversation by another parent who was waiting for her son to finish his lesson.

She saw the book...turns out she is LDS - she shared her testimony and her honest assessment of the church (with some slight criticism) she has been LDS for 28 years and said she wouldn't be anywhere else.

No that's more than coincidence I think - I have never been one to see divine providence in daily life, but after these two things in a row I have requested the Missionaries to come over to my home - though I think I am beyond the "discussions" I know this is the first step. BTW I have been reading this blog for 2 years and you have been a challenge and a blessing...

Tony said...

I admire your faith and search for God anon. As a convert of no more than two years, I can say that God works in mysterious ways sometimes. Wish you the best.

Jeff, awesome post. Neat missionary story!

This reminds me of the divine law of witnesses.

Tom said...

"Because we ran into us after she decided to stand the other elders up, she realized this is a message God wants her to hear and changed her mind and went to meet with them."
Or it could just be coincidence and your son's untested assumptions coming into play here. That would be too logical an explanation though. :)
By the way, the English teachers in Taiwan do not look favorably on those elders that give away for free what they have a degree and a license to teach.

Anonymous said...

Tom

It could indeed be just coincidence...but what if it isn't. Some would say that someone who is dilligently seeking something out may find something similar and assume it was what he/she was looking for all along..

As for me, (I am the Anon above) I was raised in a Christian church - from a family that was and is still active...I would consider myself a Christian...but I have felt unfulfilled for years even though I have been a fairly active Christian myself...I have a degree in Theology that I earned at small Christian college in NC and I was taught there and elsewhere that the LDS church was a cult. So I didn't come to my study of the church lightly or because some starched shirted young men showed up at my door.

My study began as an interest...waned and then/now has become an intense journey guided by sincere and heartfelt prayers to a God I believe exists and interacts with humankind.

So for me the email I received after a year of nothing plus the chance meeting with a member of the church at a guitar lesson is not a coincidence - I think it might be the prompting of the Holy Spirit answering a prayer that I have had over my entire course of study - is the church true? is the BoM true?

Bookslinger said...

I think God makes the vast majority of His miracles look like coincidences so that they'll be hidden from those who don't have faith. "Hidden in plain sight" that is.

The doubter will see it, shrug his shoulders, say "Yeah, so what?" and move on.

The believer will say "Wow! That's a miracle!"

Anonymous said...

Tom,

the English teachers in Taiwan have nothing to worry about as I doubt that most of the Elders (I also gave free English lessons on my mission) could not illuminate on the subtleties of the subjunctive tense or when it is appropriate to use the progressive versus the future tenses or the differences between weak versus strong verbs. The free lessons do help with daily conversation and I can only imagine that the teachers would be thrilled to have their students practice conversations with native speakers.

CatholicGirl said...

Bookslinger-

And what do you call the miracles of other faiths? Coincidences? That sort of thinking runs both ways. Just saying. I can think of numerous such instances that can be said for everything from choosing a college to religion. Human beings are predisposed to finding patterns, its an inborn adaptation that allows us to make sense of our world. This really does just seem like taking an ordinary chain of events, and taking spiritual meaning out of it because you wish to. The real miracles to me are the tales of men such as St. Maximillian. Now THATS a miracle!

CatholicGirl said...

Also, an addition, my comment was not meant to take away from the story above. I actually quite liked it, and do not want to take away from the spirit in which it was written. I just wanted to point out the double nature of what Bookslinger said.

CHR said...

Magician Jeff:

"That I exist is a perpetual surprise which is life."
--by Tagore

I think the "I" is miracle.^-^

Tom said...

Bookslinger, I heard almost that exact same explanation for Dinosaur fossils from a BYU coed. They were there to confound us in a way and only the true believers would not be fooled into thinking they roamed the earth millions of years ago.
Funny thing is, this story shows our predisposition to believe certain things. The Elder believes it was God helping this girl find her way to them.
The Chinese are predisposed to blame any strange occurrence on ghosts. You almost can't find a Chinese person that does not have a ghost story they have experienced. Since they already believe in ghosts, anything very out of the ordinary is blamed on a ghost. How many people do you know that have personal stories of ghosts? Fewer Americans believe in ghosts so you would have fewer things being blamed on ghosts. No predisposition there to just blame the unknown on a ghost.
When someone dies prematurely, you don't hear anyone blaming God for it. No one goes back and sees how God put that person into that position to die. They don't follow the story back and discover each piece of the puzzle that put that person in that position, and blame God. They just say it was chance that he was in that place at that time. Each step was just chance and luck.
I think this missionary story shows we tend to believe what follows our own belief system. If it fits in our belief system, we accept it without question. If it does not, we start to question whether it is true.

Bookslinger said...

Catholic Girl, that's interesting that you would read it that way.

I said nothing about Mormons or other faiths; only God, believers, and non-believers. I don't think Mormons in general claim any monopoly or exclusivity to miracles. I don't.

Tony said...

Looking for patterns or not, I've been through enough coincidences in life that I know it's more than just coincidence. I've almost stopped believing in coincidence all together. The Lord is at work in the affairs of men.

Just my take on it.