Sunday, June 30, 2013

Stories from My Mission: The Spirit of Discernment

This story is perhaps a little different from the others that I have so far shared. It is a little more personal and deals with the spirit of discernment. The spirit of discernment is one of the spiritual gifts listed in D&C 46 (actually more properly the discerning of spirits) which in my experience is the ability to discern the disposition and unspoken thoughts of any spirit, both embodied and disembodied spirits. It is a rare and powerful gift that should not be taken lightly.

This story took place in the city of Barranqueras, my last area of my mission. It was perhaps my second or third week in the area since I was just getting to know everything but I was not yet familiar with all of our investigators. There was one particular family that we had visited maybe once or twice, always very late in the evening when it was very dark out. In order to get to their house we would walk down the levee that kept the Río Paraná from flooding the city, and then just past the local soda pop bottling plant we would drop down into a very dark neighborhood (the same one where I later met and taught the local crime boss).

My companion had been teaching this family for some time before I got to the area, and when I arrived we had had one or two visits with a minimal amount of teaching. We then had a period of time where we could not find them at home because of illness and other things, until one day we managed to set a date to visit with them and have a real charla (missionary lesson). We arrived at their house at about 8:00 at night. The husband was finishing up something in the back room and said that he would be right out. We chatted with the wife and their kids for a few minutes while we were waiting for the husband to join us.

My companion was excited about this family since they were a complete family (with the parents actually, legally married, which was a rare thing in Argentina). They seemed like great people and I was happy that we had a complete family to teach. For my companion I think it was a point of pride that he had found and had spent so much time carefully teaching this family and that they were receptive to our message. He was hoping to extend to them that evening the offer to get baptized and was hoping for the best. I did not know them very well so I couldn't say one way or the other how they would react to the offer.

While we were waiting I remember sitting there at their kitchen table letting my companion do most of the talking not focusing much on anything. That is when I began to feel different. It felt almost like Déjà vu but without the feeling like I was remembering anything. It was more like I knew what was about to happen, and my sitting there listening to the conversation was like listening to and watching a replay of an event that I had already seen. I remember distinctly the husband coming into the kitchen and hesitating at the door way for a moment and then returning to check that he had actually turned off their washing machine in the back room before coming and sitting down with us.

As I sat there and looked at him I began to see what was about to happen. We chatted for a few minutes before my companion began the charla. I knew that it would not get far and indeed it was only three or four minutes before the discussion changed into something else. The husband was not vocally expressing any doubts and my companion still had great confidence that they wanted to get baptized. Even though I did not know them very well I could discern that they would not get baptized, and there was nothing that I could do about it. As my companion continued to talk and teach them it came to my turn to teach. At this point the feeling I had been having became even more intense to the point that I could discern everything in the room with perfect clarity. I still recall every detail of the room as it has been burned into my memory.

As I sat there with this intense feeling washing over me the conversation came into such sharp focus that in an instant I was able to discern the entirety of the conversation from the point that I began to speak to the point that we left the house. I knew everything that would be said before it was said. I knew the reactions of each person, including my companion. When it was my turn to teach I began by asking the husband what he thought about what we had been teaching him. He answered with a rather non-committal answer.

From this point on it was like I was merely reading a well rehearsed script rather than speaking to them. I knew the questions I would ask, and the answers that they would give. I knew their reactions, the reaction of my companion, what he would say to them and how they would respond. It was literally like watching a movie where I had already read the script. There were no surprises. There was no uncertainty. It happened just as I had seen it, down to the very last word.

In response to a further question the husband informed us that he was not really interested in continuing with our discussions. My companion made a plea to get him to change his mind. When my companion had exhausted all his options he looked at me. I continued with the script that I had already seen in my mind. To every question and comment the husband responded exactly word for word how I had seen it, and politely, but firmly turned us down. The wife also expressed her doubts but noted that she enjoyed discussing the scriptures with us. After a time we had nothing left to discuss so we said our goodbyes and we stepped out into the night.

I had only seen to the point where we left the house and that is where the spirit left me. It was a powerful and energizing feeling, but also one that took a lot of my stamina. As my companion and I walked along in silence, I marveling at the incredible and unique experience that I had just had, and my companion rather shocked and saddened by the rapid and unexpected change in their willingness to hear our message. After a while I felt that I should say something to my companion since he was on the verge of tears. Here was a family that he had invested so much time, effort and emotion in and they had just told him that they didn't want to hear our message any more. It must have been quite hard on my companion, and made harder by the fact that it was unexpected for him.

For me nothing that happened that night was unexpected. As we walked I tried to figure out if my companion had felt the same thing that I had felt. I asked him if he had any idea that we were about to get shut out. He said that he had no idea, that it was the most unexpected thing for him. I asked him if he had tried to notice or see anything (i.e. discern anything) when he look at the family. He looked at me like I wasn't making sense and asked if I wasn't as surprised as he was. I told him about my experience and about how I could clearly discern everything that was going to be said before it was said.

His reaction, at the time, surprised me. He got angry with me demanded to know how I could be so uncaring about what just happened. I didn't know how to explain to him that I did care about what had happened, but that it did not come a surprise. I again tried to tell him about my experience and how I had clearly experience the gift of discernment, but he would have none of it. He reacted with anger and accused me of being arrogant and unfeeling. I was just flabbergasted.

Now as I look back on the event I realize that the reason why my companion had not felt anything was because he had closed himself off from the idea that this family that he cared so much for were unwilling to listen to him. The Spirit could not get through to him to tell him what he needed to know so in the critical moment it revealed to me what was to happen so that I could be a part of it and witness the event, and give testimony of it because my companion would not. It was something that needed to happen, even though I have no idea why, and the Spirit needed me to know what was going to happen so that I could testify of what had happened. I pray that that was not the final chance for that husband and wife to accept the gospel.

I did go back another time with a different companion but there was never any more interest to talk about the gospel and our doctrine. The wife was kind and respectful but they had made their choice.

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