Monday, September 22, 2014

Truth and Freedom

He held a loaded pistol in his hand the entire hour that we talked. We were armed as well. It wasn´t anything out of the ordinary, really. After all, we were in a small town on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, statistically the most dangerous part of the most dangerous city in the world. His 9 mm pistol carried an extended clip, loading it with around 30 bullets in total. Our primary arm carried 66 rounds, our secondary 15. They were also on the table. The only difference was that our arms were made of paper, binding and glue, his of cold metal. His was meant to penetrate muscle and destroy life, ours to heal hearts and save souls.

A gun on the table. Two "Mormon Missionaries" on the other side. The young Honduran accountant bounces his leg. I wipe the sweat off of my face with my tie. "I read what you left me to read," he finally says, breaking the silence. "I prayed about it. And for the first time in three years, I received an answer to a prayer."

Being a missionary is a funny thing. In less than 15 minutes of knowing someone, we dive into the deepest, most sacred experiences, fears, doubts, failures, meditations, and pondering and try to forge bonds of faith and understanding where confusion has often made passive the soul's most basic yearnings for truth.

Want to talk about growing up or challenging views? Imagine explaining to a devout religious man that the authority and church that Christ established actually disappeared from the face of the earth as the church collapsed into apostasy 1900 years ago. Try testifying that God still speaks to prophets and apostles today to a pastor convinced that the heavens were sealed shut two millenia before. Think about presenting another testament of Jesus Christ to a man with whitened knuckles looking onto his worn-leather bible, or telling this worried, Honduran that his brother, killed by gang activity two years earlier, is not entirely abandoned to fiery lakes; that he can still be redeemed even though his mortal life is over. 

What could possibly prompt a young, perfectly sane, not as attractive as he probably thinks he is, 19 year old to leave his schooling, friends, and nearly every earthly delight (including root beer) to sweat with parted hair amidst banana trees and shaking, unaccepting heads and shutting doors? The same desire that sparked Socrates´s pre-poison fingerpoint, and Martin Luther's nail purchase for his 95 thesis in October of 1517, and has driven philosophers to furrow brows and has raced defiantly through the veins of every martyr that has laid down his life -- that which is most precious because of their desire to know, and then share, and then defend the truth. I served my mission because, in the words of a 14 year old boy in 1820 named Joseph Smith, "I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it."The knowledge I have of the answers to those deepest questions of the soul are fundamental to me. I have a purpose here. I know who I am, where I am from, and where I am going. My faith defines me and it drives me. And in doing so, I define my faith and drive my future. More than anything, I find peace in the words of the lord Jesus Christ, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Truth is freedom. To find it, one must look. To be sure, one must prove it. To be free, one must share and defend it.

"It´s true. I know it´s true," he said, staring into the dark night. He didn't cry in the end, or at least no tear fell. Men with guns can't afford to cry. But the moisture in his eyes was more that just the humidity in the air. And that, as missionaries, is the sweetness that what we live for.

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15
"He that has ears, let him hear." Matt 11:15

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