This week, prior conference, it seemed only the gloomy presence of the adversary was upon the people of Dalarana. Investigators fell away, all potential investigators decided to not meet with us, and a strange air of apathy was rampant on the street. We went days with every door slammed in our face and every “hejsan!” on the street replied with a cold “nej tack” before we even got to say a word. The once friendly, sociable people of Dalarana who were so often custom to listening to our message, even if they were not interested in finding faith, throughout the course of this week seemed to dramatically warp into disinterested cold hearts. The work seemed to disintegrate in our hands despite our best efforts to keep it alive.
What is more, I received heartbreaking bad news from past investigators, converts and friends in past areas who are facing deportation, family members killed, and frightening uncertain futures…. And complete disappearance, allowing my mind to dread the worst. So, with disheartened slouching shoulders, I sat down, emotionally and spiritually drained, for General Conference. And oh, how it comforted my soul and energised my spirit! I can not express my full gratitude for the Lord’s true prophet and apostles upon the earth today, who serve to bring hope and light and strength to us and inspire us to be better.
Of course, as you may well guess, my absolute favourite talks were the ones on the church’s strong invitation for us, the members, to truly follow Christ by doing our part to help in the refugee relief effort. This really is of highest importance as disciples of Christ. Maybe it is hard to see in every corner of the world, but living and serving in the heart of this worldwide crisis, with these good hearted refugees as my neighbours, and in many cases my close friends, the church’s call for our service in this cause is of the greatest importance. Do not take it lightly. Even if there are no refugees in your community, find a way to help. Now is the time the Lord is calling the Swedish members of the church to action. We here in this blessed northernmost haven need to wake up from our centuries of decadence and turn outward. Only then will we find any lasting increase inward. Many Swedish members are doing just that. Many are giving there time, talents and hearts to these good refugees….
This is a work unlike any that has been performed before. We cannot rely on a great Berlin airlift to reoccur. We cannot rely on bombs to cease dropping and their victims to stop running to us for safety. We cannot rely on the world leaders to fix all of the refugees’ problems for us. We can no longer lean upon the expectation of someone else saving the world. We need to be the means of saving the world ourselves. We need to be the open arms and open hearts. We can be the means of great miracles, one soul at a time. We can be the personal Berlin airlift to the individual. We can truly live the words of Jesus Christ when he said: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (…) Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
We cannot miss this opportunity to serve our fellow man and, in doing such, truly serve our Saviour. The Gospel is not always convenient, nor should it be, as Elder Renlund pointed out in general conference. C.S. Lewis posed that true Christian charity ought to mean that there are things that we would like to do or buy but can’t because of our charity.
If we are too comfortable, perhaps we have too little charity in our lives. There are more than 60 million refugees in this world, half of which are children, and obedience to Christ entails us by discipleship default to sacrifice our wants for others’ needs.There are more in need than we can ever fully give, so we should never cease giving up our wants for their needs.
So……a rather negatively strong emotion arose from me this week in regards to this refugee crisis. A not very good emotion at all. For the first time, in a very long time, I was sincerely angry; probably more furious than I’ve ever been in my life. It was bottled in side me. I made no outward action of my inner passions, but regardless, I was wrong for hosting such anger. My anger was because of this; as of late, the bigots of this country have taken to graffitiing nazis symbols across the town, and on the apartments of refugees, with the words “refugees not welcome”.
They’ve turned the phrase into stickers with a cross mark over a running refugee child. These stickers have littered the whole city. On the bus stops, on the busses, on the buildings, on the foreheads of statues. Some witty opposer decided to respond by plastering light blue stickers in classy cursive writing saying “please don’t be racist. Thank you.” But these stickers have only been purposefully shredded to now read “please be racist. Thank you”. All of this I handled well until someone put “refugees not welcome” stickers in front of our church.
Now, one is free to harbour opinions, free to express your opinions, no matter how racist, unkind, or evil they may be….. But no message of hate directly in front of the church as no message of hate will ever be shared by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.One may believe what apathetic belief or reject whoever one wishes. One may live life like Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life, as a warped old man who cares only for himself and his money. And though I cannot expect all to magically soften hearts and realise their gall of bitterness, I do hope for respect toward a house of prayer, where we who choose to serve the refugees, because we choose to serve the Lord.
Of course, this anger that grew inside of me from seeing this display of hate in front of our church is by no means justified. If we are to fight against the fires of the adversary we’d be awfully foolish to fight with fire. Anger is never justified in any circumstance. ever. Though anger can come when one is passionate about a good cause, the good cause does not condone the anger. Ever. It’s basic Sermon on the Mount doctrine. Only love, kindness and peace are weaponry allowed on the Lord’s side.
So back to me outside the church, tearing the hateful neo nazis stickers to shreds…… as long as I was fighting with anger in me, I realised I will only ever be fighting alone. I can only make a difference, I can only soften hearts, I can only help these refugees with LOVE. No other weapon is fit for the battle. I could shake my fist at the heartlessness of the world, but what good will that do for the refugees? I must put aside my often too Gryffindor fiery passion, and exercise all my energy into service. Cursing the sun isn’t going to stop it burning your skin. You have to find shelter to save yourself. Likewise, cursing the bigots is not going to stop the refugees from suffering, I have to go and serve refugees myself.. We all do.
I have a firm, unshakable testimony that the words from our living prophets and apostles are true. They have spoken and have told us to care for the refugees among us. Therefore, if we believe they are the prophets and apostles of the Lord, we must obey their invitation. We must serve these refugees, as it’s a direct invitation from our Saviour and redeemer, Jesus Christ. The very Jesus Christ who, as the premortal Jehovah, commanded the children of Israel “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” This same commandment he gives us today. It will require no small sacrifice on our parts but as Linda L. Burton promised in General Conference “Sometimes reaching out is inconvenient. But when we work together in love and unity, we can expect heaven’s help.”
So, rejoice in the inconvenience. Inconvenience is a sure sign that you are doing the good work of the Lord.. No act of Christlike charity is any great sacrifice ultimately if we but maintain a perspective of eternity. No trial of my mission, no door rudely slammed in my face, no helpless stranger in desperate need of a lift. We must wake from our Eden and think about the souls to save and lives to bless.