Hallo Familie u. Freunde!
In order to talk about this last week, I would like to start at the end.
Yesterday I gave a talk in church. I received my assignment several weeks ago – when I first arrived here in Neumünster. I studied the topic and the assigned scriptures and really enjoyed the topic. I learned a lot and wrote a nice talk with scriptures and personal anecdotes and my testimony of it all.
… then we moved apartments this last week. As I packed up my desk, I took my talk, folded it in half, and stuck it inside one of my many books so that it would not get lost. As Sunday approached closer and closer, I couldn’t find the talk. I searched EVERY book possible – and missionaries have A LOT of books. It was NO WHERE to be found. I was devastated for a moment and then started the next logical step: write a new talk. I had all sorts of thoughts and ideas and connections in my head. But as I sat down at my new desk in the new apartment to write, nothing would happen.
I had one thought, went to write it down, and it wasn’t right. I tried again and again and thought, “Surely something has to work here!” I even said, “Heavenly Father! HELL-OOOO!!! I need a talk! In German!!” And then He said, “No you don’t.” And that’s when it clicked. God didn’t want me to give that other talk. I was very careful at keeping track of it. And God wanted me to say something that I normally would not have said had I written out a talk.
As a mission we are studying the Book of Mormon together. As I spoke on Sunday, I shared what I had learned from the Book of Jacob, chapter 5. Here Jacob compares the gathering of Israel to a vineyard, cared for by the Lord of the vineyard and His servant. I remembered studying this as I was in Schwarznberg. At one point in this chapter, things are not going to well with the olive trees in the vineyard. The Lord and His servant have been working hard to make sure these trees not only live, but thrive, so that they do not have to cut them down and burn them. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said of this chapter:
“… At least fifteen times the Lord of the vineyard expresses a desire to bring the vineyard and its harvest to his ‘own self,’ and he laments no less than eight times, ‘It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.’ “
My most favorite verses read:
“But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh. And it grieveth me that I should hew down all the trees of my vineyard, and cast them into the fire that they should be burned. Who is it that has corrupted my vineyard?”
Surely after all that had been done, it must have been someone else who came in and ruined their trees and spoiled their potential harvests. But what the servent says to his Lord strikes me to the core every time.
“But, behold, the servent said unto the Lord of the vineyard: Spare it a little longer. And the Lord said: Yea, I will spare it a little longer, for it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard.”
As I study the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, I truly see how God’s love is manifested through that which Christ taught (His CORE doctrine): faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, confirmation for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and faithfully enduring until the end. This is the straight and narrow path which leads back to him. And sometimes it is a hard path.
This last week we met with a less active member. He has been gone a while and just had so many callings in the church. As he explained to me all the callings he had at the same time, I shuttered and understood why he left, much better. The last few weeks have been hard. As missionaries, we have face-to-face contact with the adversary on a daily basis. He does not want us doing this work. But, when this member said, “I am seriously considering coming back to church now,” I could hear my soul say, “This is why you are here. Isn’t it worth it?”
In 1 Nephi, we learn that the “condescension of God” is called the Atonement: the sending of His Son to earth to suffer for us. Jacob 4:7 says though:
“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his greatcondescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things” (italics added).
The path may be filled with stumbling stones and hurdles, but He sends multiple messengers and tender mercies our way. Elder Holland continued on in the same quote:
“Clearly this at-one-ment is hard, demanding, and, at times, deeply painful work, as the work of redemption always is. There is digging and dunging. There is watering and nourishing and pruning. And there is always the endless approaches to grafting—all to one saving end, that the trees of the vineyard would ‘thrive exceedingly’ and become ‘one body; … the fruits [being] equal,’ with the Lord of the vineyard having ‘preserved unto himself the … fruit.’ From all the distant places of sin and alienation in which the children of the Father find themselves, it has always been the work of Christ (and his disciples) in every dispensation to gather them, heal them, and unite them with their Master” (Christ and the New Covenant, 165–66).
I love it. I love it all. God, My Savior. The Gospel and this Church. I have a prophet. And scriptures. Even my own patriarchal blessing. I am servant of the Lord, endowed with His power and authority, which was RESTORED in the last days before He comes again. How could I NOT have reason to shout?
I am sure many people have questions as to why I am here, in a foreign county without television or Pinterest, going door to door every day and so on. It’s because I know this is the truth. It is as true as humans need good nutrition. We can live our whole lives off of chips and donuts. Sounds nice, appetizing, even! But true happiness lies in God, His plan, and in the Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s better than my dog and school and friends (sorry). It is even worth putting my education and career on hold for 2 years or missing the birth of my niece, whom I have not met yet, because the Lord’s blessings are so great. I hope my family can see those promised blessings of my service here in Germany (read Doctrine and Covenants 31
There is much reading, praying, and attending church is expected of us. And there are many commandments which we are expected to obey. It all can seem like so much. But these commandments are given from a loving Heavenly Father. They are for our protection and eternal salvation. These are not tips. He does not want to lose even one tree. We are all precious, the old, young, tall, short, believing and unbelieving, the strong and weak, the broken and the crippled, the lost sheep and even the wolf in sheep’s clothing. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder RR Hoffman
Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der letzten Tage
Germany Berlin Mission
Eating with Familie Danklefson! One THE COOLEST former Stake Presidents!!!