Monday, December 15, 2014

Is God Real?

I'm guessing that you have all heard of the "He Is The Gift" initiative that the church is doing? If you haven't it's ok. I'm going to give you a second chance to crawl out of that cave. Last Friday the mission leadership met together in Scarsdale with Elder Perkins of the Seventy and 6 representatives from the mission department along with the head guys at Bonneville Communications (the guys that put together the He Is The Gift video). They had the New York South Mission leadership skype into the meeting and they talked about this initiative. They have made the New York area the focal point for the initiative. With all the money they have put into having ads in Time Square, they want to make sure us missionaries are involved as much as possible. As districts and a zone we have been coming up with ideas to spread this initiative as much as possible. They have asked that as a New York North and New York South Mission combined, we share the He Is The Gift video to 20 people a day. We have been going around showing the video on our iPads to every person we have an appointment with and even random people we talk to in between. 

"He is the Gift" in Times Square

The Church Leadership back in Salt Lake have a Christmas wish that by the end of the month, the missionaries in our two missions will have shared the video to 100,000 people. It's harder for us upstate to share the video with that many people a day because we aren't usually able to talk to that many people a day.  But I guess we need to show our faith. I think it's a fun thing to have us try to reach this goal but at the same time people are getting caught up in the numbers. After serving in Scarsdale aka one of richest zip codes in the world where there are many Jews that don't want to hear a message about Christ, I have learned that one way to get depressed quickly is to play the numbers game. Some missionaries get so caught up in teaching X amount of lessons that they forget to actually teach people. 

We have been making quite a bit of sport here in Middletown. The ward has volleyball every Friday night for anybody that wants to come. We try to make it out to that if we can. I'm no Kizzy Willey but.... I'm getting better. We played basketball Saturday morning with a bunch of non-member guys. They were pretty good, better than I am. We got players that play for local high schools to come out. A kid that played with us was visiting from The Bronx. He played like he was from The Bronx…super flashy, a little cocky, but will break your ankles any chance he gets. It was a good time to play some basketball and talk a little bit about the church with guys that might not listen in a different situation. From what I've seen in NY other than The Spirit, sports converts more people than anything else. 

A wise man once told me to choose who my heroes are very carefully because we often emulate those people we watch the most closely. I have been trying to study the different attributes and leadership styles from some of my religious heroes. Obviously there is Jesus Christ who is my number one but I've been working on emulating him my whole life. I'm going to keep trying to be like Jesus but recently I've been studying another one of my heroes, Thomas S. Monson. With our iPads we have access to every general conference back to 1970. I have been reading every single conference talk he has given so I can come to know who he is, how he became that way, and how I can become that way.  While I was studying I came across a story that he shared in one of his talks that hit me very powerfully and reminded me that as Gods children, He is watching out for us and we have the ability to call upon the powers of heaven to help us. The story goes as follows.

"A few years ago, I was afforded the privilege to serve as a mission president and became intimately acquainted with more than four hundred missionaries. We had one young missionary who was very ill. After weeks of hospitalization, as the doctor prepared to undertake extremely serious and complicated surgery, he asked that we send for the missionary’s mother and father. He advised there was a possibility the patient would not survive the surgery.

The parents came. Late one evening, the father and I entered a hospital room in Toronto, Canada, placed our hands upon the head of the young missionary, and gave him a blessing. What happened following that blessing was a testimony to me.

The missionary was in a six-bed ward in the hospital. The other beds were occupied by five men with a variety of illnesses. The morning of his surgery, the missionary’s bed was empty. The nurse came into the room with the breakfast these men normally ate. She took a tray over to the patient in bed number one and said, “Fried eggs this morning, and I have an extra portion for you!”

The occupant of bed number one had suffered an accident with his lawnmower. Other than an injured toe, he was well physically. He said to the nurse, “I’ll not be eating this morning.”

“All right, we shall give your breakfast to your partner in bed number two.”

As she approached that patient, he said, “I think I’ll not eat this morning.”

Each of the five men declined breakfast. The young lady exclaimed, “Other mornings you eat us out of house and home, and today not one of you wants to eat! What is the reason?”

Then the man who occupied bed number six answered: “You see, bed number three is empty. Our friend is in the operating room under the surgeon’s hands. He needs all the help he can get. He is a missionary for his church, and while we have been patients in this ward, he has talked to us about the principles of his church--principles of prayer, of faith, of fasting wherein we call upon the Lord for blessings.” He continued, “We don’t know much about the Mormon Church, but we have learned a great deal about our friend; and we are fasting for him today.”

The operation was a success. When I attempted to pay the doctor, he countered, “Why, it would be dishonest for me to accept a fee. I have never before performed surgery when my hands seemed to be guided by a Power which was other than my own. No,” he said, “I wouldn’t take a fee for the surgery which Someone on high literally helped me to perform.”

So far on my mission I have seen a lot. I've seen a lot of people question if there's a God. Is there a God? Some people need evidence to believe. At this point I would need evidence to not believe. 


Elder Tyler J Johanson
Elder T. and I feeling pretty unified
when we went matching to our Ward Christmas Party
Me with my homeboy Ryan, looking fresh to death

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