Monday, May 5, 2014

The Blessings of Obedience

You know, sometimes I feel like I really am in a foreign country... everything is so different here! For example, the weather.
Unlike the quiet rainy forest of my childhood, Tennessee has something here called "tornadoes". It's supposedly a pretty common thing in the springtime... and of course me being unaware of this supposed whirlwind of doom, God thought it was time I had an idea of what I'm up against. (Okay in case you were wondering, a lot of that was sarcasm, I know what a tornado is ;)).
Anyway, on one especially windy evening, Sister Pinkston and I had the great idea of driving as far away from town as possible, to go see an investigator. We took a member with us, and made our way through the back roads of Tennessee to a place I like to call "the middle of nowhere". Come 8:30pm, Sister Pinkston and I being the good little missionaries we are, finished our lesson and headed home so we could be home promptly between 9:00 and 9:30pm (a mission rule). 

We got in the car to leave and our member noted it was getting pretty dark. Also, it was starting to rain pretty hard. Have you ever heard the term "raining buckets"? Have you ever experienced it?? Because I sure have. The rain started coming down so hard that it was like we were in a carwash! We couldn't see ANYTHING and our member started driving off the road into small ditches and out again... Sister Pinkston and I begged her to stop the car, but she wouldn't! Hail came down and lightening flashed and we continued to plead with our member to stop. We had to begin directing her  to "turn to the left, take a slight right" as she drove blindly down the narrow twisting path. Finally, she halted some ways off the road. We said a prayer to our Heavenly Father, and right as we closed the prayer, lightening illuminated the sky and revealed to us a HUGE tree that had fallen in our path. 

The member we were with told us the reason she wouldn't stop driving was because she could see the trees above us being blown down, and she feared they'd fall on us and didn't want to risk it. We called 911 and then waited for quite some time for help to arrive. We sang hymns and talked about the craziness of our situation. I said a silent prayer in my heart and as the words to the hymns "Lead Kindly Light" and "Abide With Me Tis Evn' Tide" filled the air the storm calmed. Eventually help arrived and they chopped up the tree and moved it out of the way. We got home WAY WAY past curfew (like 10:20) but President was MORE than understanding... haha. It was a pretty scary experience, but I know that we were safe because of our obedience.
I know that as long as we are living obediently, we will all be worthy of the blessings and protections of our Heavenly Father. In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 we read:
 "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of the world, upon which all blessings are predicated- And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."
Our sweet mission presidents wife, Sister Anderson, always tells us that if we want more blessings, we just need to find more rules to follow! And it's so true! For every commandment, there is a blessing pre-predicated to it. We know that the Holy Ghost purifies and sanctifies the obedient. 

I recently had a special spiritual experience in which I was able to further witness the joy that comes from the cleansing power of Christ's atonement. What Christ did for us, he did for ALL of us. Not just for the sinners, not just for those with major physical ailments, it is for all. We can rely on the enabling power of the Atonement to give us strength through our hard times and even to lift us up further during our good.  What are things we can do to better understand and use the Atonement? We can read about it in the scriptures! It is a commandment to study the scriptures, so surely there must be some pretty awesome blessings that come from it, right? I remember the conversations I had with my grandma before leaving on a mission about the importance of feasting on the words of Christ so that we can speak by the power of the holy ghost and with the tongue of angels.
"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21)
This is something I have TOTALLY found for myself to be true. The more I pray to be able to speak the words my Father would have me speak; the more I study His word in the scriptures and the talks of His prophets, the more I am blessed to be able to speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The scriptures do more than just that, of course. They bring us joy! The other day we went out with the Relief Society President's granddaughter, Ali. She is preparing to serve a mission soon in Roseville, CA. We had so much fun dancing in the car, having awkward run in's with people we try to contact, singing to old people in the nursing home, teaching investigators who have some CRAZY southern ideas about God... it was just awesome. We didn't baptize anyone, we didn't find anyone new to teach, but we were still about our Heavenly Father's business and as we were obedient, we were blessed with having our eyes open to the tender mercies all around us. I love that even though there was no crazy outward success that day, and God knew it, He still blessed us as we strived to do what was right.

The following day we had 2 investigators drop us. We were DEVASTATED... but we both knew that people have their agency. They can choose for themselves... but it still really hurts to see those you love fall away. We went to a family's  house recently and witnessed the affects of being disobedient to what the Lord has asked of us. As this family slowly began to stop keeping their commitments to obey the word of wisdom, read from the Book of Mormon, go to church, pay tithing, etc. they had a lot of hard things occur. It's not that these trials would have been gone had they been being obedient (though some of their burdens would definitely have been lessened), it's that they were pushing away the power of God to help them get through their circumstances. God cannot bless us if we won't let him.
"If ye love me, keep my commandments"  (John 14:15)

I realize that obedience and love really do go hand in hand. Like the merchant who sold all he had to obtain the pearl of great price, we all need to love our Savior enough to be obedient to Him. One of my goals for this mission is to work to love the gospel so much that I would sell all that I had for it. To love my Heavenly Father more than myself.  I know that as I am obedient, I will come to love my Savior more. In John 7:17 it says:  "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself".
Preach my Gospel says: "As we live a specific commandment, we learn the truthfulness of it by experience... acting on what you have learned will bring added and enduring understanding. (62,19)
I know that as each of us strives to be obedient to specific commandments, we will see specific blessings, and receive an increased love and appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week was Stake Conference. The McMinnville stake has more missionaries in it than any other stake in the mission, so you can imagine it was quite exciting to go with my fellow Elders and Sisters to hear talks given to members all about missionary work! Elder Hymus of the 70 spoke to everyone, as well as my Mission President and his wife and several others. One thing I came to realize from the general authority that was there was that I am a full-time part-time missionary. In other words, I am called to be here in Tennessee only part time. It is the members of the congregation that are here full-time. I am here to help them on THEIR full time missions. It is the same wherever you go. The missionaries in Washington (my home state) are there part time to help you with your full time duty to be a member missionary. I was taught in this stake conference that what the candy "M n' M's" REALLY stands for is "Member n' Missionaries". When we are baptized, we make covenants with God to follow Him and the example of His son.  Jesus Christ was the greatest missionary of all. I know I've said this all before, but really, you are ALL missionaries! And so this week, I'd like to issue a challenge.
Make an effort to reach out to a less active member of your ward or stake, then report it back to me and share your experience!
I recognize I also need to follow up on past challenges. So just a reminder, has anyone tried saltine crackers and ice cream yet? Who's passed out a Book of Mormon recently or talked to someone about the gospel while in the store? Write me and tell me all about it! And thank you to those who already have :).
Being a missionary is the greatest; being obedient is the greatest, and this gospel is the greatest. I love you all and thank you for your support yet again :) I am so lucky to be able to call you my friend!

PS. A big shout out to Sister Heather Wehrhahn on her Spanish Speaking Mission call!

Sister Hochstrasser
Tennessee Nashville Mission
105 West park Drive Suite 190
Brentwood, TN  37027

Above, Sis. Hochstrasser and Sis. Pinkston
Below, the District

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