I've been thinking about sharing this for a while, and today seems like a good day for stories. Because of the type of story this is, know that I am being deliberately vague about the details.In one of my previous areas there is a man I will call Brad. Brad is a convert to the church, and is a man I look up to very much because of his faith and all that he did to further the work in the area where he lives while I was there. His family is great, and the Ward could say nothing bad about him. I found out last month at a missionary meeting that this once stalwart individual has in almost every way fallen from the church, going as far as to join another church with 'clearly false doctrine', as he had told me repeatedly while I was serving with him. He is now working there in some religious capacity (I don't know exactly what) and is receiving payment for his services. Not only is that directly against how the Lord would have us live, but all of this is for a stupid reason.He thought he knew better than the prophet. This man has been to the temple. He served as a Mission Leader. He received a witness from God that there were prophets on the earth today. He knew through thick and thin that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Christ's church had been restored back to the earth after centuries of being lost! And he abandoned it. He was so confident in his own interpretation of the scriptures that when an ordained prophet of the Lord said otherwise, it was easier for him to surrender all that he had already gained, than to see something in a different way. I bring again to your attention all that he had been through and all that he once was. In a way, he was spiritually the mightiest man I had ever met. And yet, he still fell, bringing with him his wife, his children, and several other members of the church, helping them to forsake the covenants that they had already made.I do not bring this up to put him down in any way, nor do I wish to make it sound like everything going on is his fault; it probably isn't, and at best I have second-hand information. But Brad, if you were to read this, all I want to ask you is "How? How could you walk away? What could possibly be worth the blessings you are giving up? Do you have any idea what an inspiration to me you are, or how many times I have shared your conversion story with others to bolster their failing faith? Do you know how often I pondered how I could be strong in the church the way you were? To both of those questions, more times than I could count. Please, if I could ask you to do nothing else, remember your faith, and the feelings you had when you were growing that faith."The moral I get out of this story is to beware of pride. It is so true, that being learned is good, but only if one hearkens unto the counsels of God (2 Ne. 9:29). We cannot know everything there is to know about Him, not in this life, and probably not long into the eternities either. But we can trust in His word, and in His chosen mouthpieces among us today (Amos 3:7). I invite each of you to ponder what you can get out of this story, what moral you can apply to yourselves, and then to do it. Don't just think about it and then condemn the back of your mind to that scarcely looked at file cabinet (you know the one I'm talking about; we've all got one), never to be seen again. Yes, I realize I am starting to sound a lot like of of those really cliche email chain things that are usually typed in massively large font, but this means a lot to me, so please, do it. Write it down someplace - journal, notebook, nearby napkin, whatever works.Those who are currently drifted away from the church for one reason or another, I am writing specifically to you. Don't stay away. It isn't worth it. What is there to gain which is of any lasting value outside of the church? I was talking with an atheist man a while ago, and if there was a reward for being a depressed human being he could be the one standing on the pedestal holding the sign that said in big bold letters "Exhibit A" while wearing the gold medal. (He probably would say it was filled with uranium or something.) His line of thinking was that after death, there was nothing, and the only thing we could do was to try and fruitlessly make a lasting impression of ourselves on our kids and on the world. Books are burned, buildings collapse, medicine grows outdated, history is forgotten by all but the most near-sighted, and even the greatest scientific theories are someday proven false. Within 4 generations, he said, nobody would even know you existed.Now that's a depressing way to see the world! Basically, life sucks and then you die. Game over. Blackhawk down. Do not pass Go; do not collect 200 dollars. Thank the creator of all that's holy that there's a more too it than just that, and that you I an both know what that way is. The full blessings of this life and in the life to come are available to us in the temples, and all we have to do is cash in that spiritual check. Getting there might not be terribly simple. It could be downright a pain in the rear. But it would be worth it in the end. Not only find the entire stash of Mario's green mushrooms, but then we also go on to trade a couple of our underdeveloped brown properties for Parkplace and Boardwalk, with a couple of hotels thrown in for good measure. Remember how you felt when you were growing your faith, and start with that. The rest will come, and in no time we will be turning in our green mushrooms and plastic game pieces for the mansions prepared for us in heaven.To those who feel that they are strong, and to those who feel that they might be slipping, I commend you. In either circumstance it is impressive to see you keep going strong. Things are hard, and it could be our very strengths that would be what the adversary tries to use against us. Think of how you were a month ago. Do you feel as close to our Heavenly Father now, as you did then? What changed? I've been doing a bit of introspection lately, and more and more I've been thinking of how important it is for me to go back to the basics and back to what it was I started out with. My purpose as a missionary; the 4th missionary; daily Book of Mormon study; chapter 3 of Preach my Gospel. More now than ever I am feeling the importance of keeping close to the basics of the gospel, because ultimately it won't be how much deep doctrine we know that will help us, but how strong out testimonies are in the basic principles and ordinances. And the only way we can keep those testimonies strong is by prayer and scripture study.Just a little slice into my mind as of late.~Elder Barker
"Don't forget to read!"