This chapter is by far the longest. I thought about splitting it up, but the chapter is a basis for the rest of the missionary lessons. I promise that the other lessons are shorter. Hope you enjoy it.
Elijah was pretty groggy from the pain medicine and lay down on the couch for a nap when he got home. He knew he had been out for several hours as Becca’s coming home woke him up. She stood over him looking at the bandage on his head. Elijah opened an eye and looked up at her.
“You all right?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Elijah mumbled in return.
Becca smiled, “Did it like knock some sense into you?”
Elijah opened both eyes, “What’s that s’posed to mean?”
Becca furrowed her brow and leaned forward. “Well, I left you yesterday at school with Jonathan and when I get home today you’ve been out running around all buddy-buddy with Mark Roche wrecking cars. Now you’ve got us all having dinner at his house and meeting with some kind of missionaries?”
“So, I see Gram’s updated you?”
“Gram could only tell me so much over the phone. I’m gone for one day and the whole world gets like flipped upside down.” Becca helped her brother slowly sit up then sat down on the couch beside him. “Now tell me what this is all about.”
Elijah tried to sit up further and let out a slight groan. Undeterred by the pain, he eased back into the cushions and continued the conversation from there. “I found the boy in the vision, Becca. I got to leave school a little early yesterday, that’s another story all together, and Mark gave me a ride home. We made a pit stop at his house and there he was, the boy from the vision in a picture on the Roche’s wall. I’m telling you it was meant to be. Mark told me all about him. His name was Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“You mean like the Mormons?”
“Yeah, that’s why we’re going over there for dinner. The missionaries are going to be there to teach us about it. I even ran into Elders Poulson and Horsewood at the hospital.”
“And you think the vision was to get you to become a Mormon?”
“Maybe, I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Elijah confessed. “Maybe that’s what all the visions were for? To help more people find the church.”
Becca paused for a moment, “And how did you wind up hitchin’ a ride with Mark? You two haven’t exactly been pals the past several years.”
“That’s a miracle all in itself. Mark’s really had a change of heart. Just wait until tonight, you’ll see.”
“Mark Roche, a changed man? Shut-up!” Becca exclaimed in disbelief.
Gram came into the room from the kitchen looking somewhat less worn than earlier. She’d spent the time that Elijah was sleeping occupying herself in the kitchen, as she often did when she was worried or upset. “Becca leave your brother alone. He’s had a rough day.”
“I’m feeling better now I’ve had some rest, Gram. I just need some ibuprofen.” Elijah slowly stood, steadying himself on Becca’s shoulder. Once he felt balanced, he started walking to the kitchen.
Within half an hour, Dad had made it home. He was relieved to find Elijah up and moving around. Becca had changed from her school clothes and everyone sat in the living room while Elijah filled Dad in on the whole story.
So far, everyone was in agreement that meeting with the missionaries was the direction Heavenly Father seemed to be pointing them. Still, Dad and Gram both had questions about things they had heard over the years. Rumors are hard things to get past, whether they’re true or not.
It would soon be time to leave, so they started getting ready. Dad had a long flight and then a long drive from the county airport. He excused himself so he could get cleaned up a little first. Elijah could see that, like Gram, Dad looked worn out. It was more than the baggy eyes and drooped shoulders. It was the energy, or lack of energy, that he emitted. Becca must have sensed it too and she offered to help him take his suitcase up stairs. Gram told Elijah to follow and change into the outfit she laid out on his bed.
Gram made sure that everyone looked presentable. She didn’t require anything too formal, button down shirt and jeans. Elijah found a white shirt with blue stripes waiting for him. He didn’t care for long sleeved shirts, they just weren’t very comfortable. So he rolled up the sleeves several times, like Dad often did when he came home from work. Hopefully, it would pass Gram’s inspection. He didn’t care for collared shirts either, but it wasn’t worth trying to argue about it. Gram had set out what he was to wear and that would be what she expected.
Mark greeted the Abbots at the door. He didn’t get a chance to see Elijah after they made it to the emergency room; the hospital had been quick to get him in and out. He stuck around to ask about Elijah and was assured that his friend would be fine. Finally, Mark’s mom convinced him to go home and get some rest.
“Elijah, how ya feeling?” Mark asked looking at the bandage on Elijah’s head. Not having actually seen him at the hospital, Mark wasn’t sure what to expect. Even at the accident there had been a police car flanking them on the next street over. By the time he’d come to himself an officer was already at his side and another standing at the door beside Elijah. There had been plenty of bruises in football, he’d even seen a kid break a finger once, but he’d never seen someone in a car wreck. He imagined Elijah looking ‘worst case scenario,’ so that when he actually saw him it would be better than expected.
“I’m much better than this morning. How about you?”
“Heck, I’ve been tackled harder than that,” touted Mark puffing out his chest. “Man, that guy came from outta nowhere; never saw him until he hit us.”
“I wish I hadn’t seen him at all.”
“Well the Elders are out in the kitchen helping mom and dad with dinner. Have a seat and I’ll let them know you’re here.”
Mark walked out into the kitchen. Elijah felt drawn to the picture of Joseph Smith. The boy knelt in the woods, arms outstretched, looking towards a light shining down from the Heavens. It was almost identical to how he’d seen it that night. He stared at the face in the picture. The light illuminated it just as it had in the vision coming from an unseen, but powerful source.
Dad stepped beside him, breaking his focus. “So, that’s him?”
“Yep, just like in the vision.”
They stood and studied the picture for a moment. Mark soon returned followed closely by his family and the missionaries. Introductions were passed around. Mrs. Roche announced that dinner was ready and led everyone into the dining room. Elijah couldn’t help notice how much larger the Roche’s table was than the one in Gram’s kitchen. It was usually just Gram, Becca, and he so they rarely used the big table in their dining room.
Everyone found a seat. Elijah sat between Mark and Gram, next was Dad and Becca. Mr. Roche offered a blessing on the food and then Mrs. Roche started dishing out some kind of Mexican casserole. Gram commented on how delicious it smelled and asked for the recipe. Dad started talking to the missionaries, asking them where they were from and seemed surprised to find that neither was from Utah.
As everyone started eating the conversation died down. Elijah felt a little out of place eating around such a large number of people. There were tons of kids around the school cafeteria, but that was far less formal. Gram had warned everyone about using their manners and Elijah was making sure not to take too large of bites or chew with his mouth open. Mr. Roche broke the temporary silence, “So Elijah, tell us more about your vision. I’ve only heard bits and pieces of it from the news.”
“Yes, as missionaries we don’t get to watch television and we’ve only heard about it by word of mouth,” Elder Poulson added.
Elijah swallowed the food he was chewing and smiled. “Sure, this is the first time I’ve told the whole thing since I saw the picture of Joseph Smith. It’s the same vision, but the meaning’s changed a lot.”
He began recounting the vision. It did have a new meaning to him now. Knowing that the boy was Joseph Smith gave him clarity on the overall purpose. Now that he was meeting the missionaries, he knew the direction would be even clearer.
After he finished there was a moment of silence again. This time Mrs. Roche broke the silence. “Thank you Elijah. Now let him finish eating,” she said looking at her husband as Elijah took the interruption as an opportunity to grab another piece of corn bread. “We can talk more in the living room.”
Soon, dinner was over and they moved back into the living room. Elijah glanced over again at the picture of Joseph Smith on the wall. The light from Heavenly Father and Jesus drew lines of light through the trees. Between looking at the picture and his memory of how it appeared in his vision, he found himself wishing he could have been there to see it actually happening.
Mr. Roche offered the Abbots one of the two large couches, the Roches took the other. The two missionaries brought chairs from the dining room and sat facing both families. Now Elijah was really excited. Now he would find out more about Joseph Smith and about the church he started. He felt that he had finally made it to where Heavenly Father wanted him.
The missionaries dressed very business like with their white shirts, ties, and black name badges. Both Elders had short brown hair and were cleanly shaved. There was also an air of confidence to them, perhaps because they knew they were doing God’s work. Despite their outward appearance they still seemed very young to Elijah, not much older than the seniors at school.
“We appreciate your taking the time to meet with us this evening,” Elder Poulson started. “When Sister Roche told us about Elijah’s experience with the picture of Joseph Smith, I have to admit it gave me chills. I’ve never taught a prophet before. I guess I’m just a little nervous.”
Elijah blushed a little. “Well, I’m sure you know more about religion than I do. Up until the vision, I really didn’t know much at all.”
“At least after the lesson you’ll know a little more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Elder Horsewood smiled as he reached into his backpack and pulled out his scriptures. “We always like to start with a word of prayer. Mr. Roche, would you like to offer it?”
Mr. Roche accepted. His prayer was short, but beautifully said as he prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts. With the formalities behind them, now it was time to get down to business for Elijah. He was ready to learn more about the Mormons. Everyone looked back at the Elders for them to begin.
“If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them as we go through the lesson. There are certain points we’re supposed to cover, but if something isn’t clear we can stop and go over things more in depth,” said Elder Poulson.
The Elder began by telling them about the Mormon’s belief in God being our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. He is sad when we are sad and rejoices when we are righteous. Elijah already knew that, he had felt God’s love and guidance even before the vision. One thing that did stand out was when Elder Poulson said that God had a body of flesh and bone. Elijah had heard several opinions over the years as to whether God had a body or if He was only a Spirit, but had never really looked into it. To him it made sense though, after all, we were created in His image. It also made Heavenly Father seem easier to relate to, made Him seem more real.
Elder Poulson asked how everyone felt about Heavenly Father and there didn’t seem to be any disagreement, so Elder Horsewood continued on to the next topic. This one caught all of the Abbots’ attention. Elder Horsewood spoke about how the gospel blesses families and builds family bonds. “The home is the best place for families to teach, learn, and apply the principles of the gospel.”
“That’s something I need to work on,” Dad broke in. Elijah was surprised to hear his father speak. Dad was usually the quiet type, especially in group settings. He had indicated during the car ride over that he was mostly just interested in hearing what the Mormons had to say before he could pass any kind of judgment. “After my wife passed, I kind of left the spiritual upbringing of the kids up to their grandmother. Don’t get me wrong, mom’s done a good job. I guess I just felt it was my place to look out for the worldly stuff, the money.”
Dad looked over his kid’s heads at Gram who was looking back with a slight smile that showed a deep care and understanding that only a mother could know. “I’ve been thinking more and more about refocusing myself now that my current contract is coming to an end. Since Elijah’s vision, I’ve really felt like I need to be closer to my family. Not just physically, but spiritually, too.”
“I’m with you on that, Tom,” Mr. Roche agreed. “Even working close to home I often feel like I should be doing more to strengthen my family.”
“Thank you both for sharing,” said Elder Horsewood once he was sure they were both finished. “One of the main missions of the church is to strengthen families and help them to do just that, come closer together.”
Dad smiled and nodded. He looked like he just had a heavy burden lifted from him. Though he still felt skeptical about the church, he liked that the church not only believed in family values, but it also worked with families to build them.
“One important way God shows his love for us is by giving us guidance through prophets,” Elder Poulson continued. “Prophets are given messages that God wants his children to know. Then the prophets teach the message to others. These prophets are given the priesthood, or the authority to act in the name of God. The main message that prophets are given to teach is our Father’s plan for us to return and live with him again. This message is called the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“There are times we read in the Bible that the people listened to the prophets and tried to follow God. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of times that the people didn’t follow the prophets. When the majority of the people stop following God, He takes away the priesthood authority. These times are called times of apostasy.
“God loves us, He’s our heavenly father. So, to end these times of apostasy, He calls prophets to spread the gospel message, but it is up to us to choose to accept them.”
“I can see where you boys are going with this,” Gram chimed in. “Next you’re going to tell us that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet to overcome apostasy.”
“Yes, Mrs. Abbot, that is part of the lesson,” Elder Poulson smiled.
“You and your family obviously already know a great deal about Jesus Christ and His gospel, Mrs. Abbot,” Elder Horsewood interjected. “Over dinner you mentioned you were raised Methodist. As a Protestant, you also believe that there was an apostasy after Christ’s earthly ministry. As Latter-day Saints we also believe that, as Jesus said, there would be a falling away after He ascended to Heaven. We also believe that before Christ comes again, that God will prepare the way.”
“One of my favorite scriptures,” Elder Horsewood continued, “is where the apostle Peter says in Acts chapter 3 verses nineteen to twenty one that Christ won’t come back until after a time of restitution of His church. We believe that Joseph Smith was called by God and Jesus Christ to prepare the way for Jesus’ return. The restoration of the church is a sign that Christ is coming again soon.”
“Just like in my vision,” Elijah interjected.
“Exactly!” Elder Poulson replied. “From your vision, the picture on the Roches’ wall, and other places, you already know that we believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. When Joseph was a boy he wanted to know what church he should join. There were many churches having revivals at the time, but Joseph didn’t know which one was the right one. One day while reading the Bible he came across a verse in the book of James chapter 1 verse 5 that says, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’
“Joseph knew that he needed wisdom. He knew that God knew which church he should join and, as the scripture said, he knew he needed to ask God. So, in the spring of 1820, Joseph went into a grove of trees by his home and began to pray. He described what he saw; ‘I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell on me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!’
“In the vision, Joseph was told not to join any church because none of them had the fullness of His gospel or the priesthood. After Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph, several other heavenly messengers also appeared to him and his associate, Oliver Cowdery. John the Baptist appeared and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood, which has the authority to baptize. Later, the apostles Peter, James, and John appeared and gave them the Melchizedek Priesthood with the authority to organize the church.”
Elder Poulson paused to give them a moment to take everything in. “With the priesthood, Joseph restored the church. He was told to call twelve apostles and set up the church just like it was when Christ was on the Earth. Since then we have always had a prophet and twelve apostles leading the church. Because it is Christ’s church, we’re called the Church of Jesus Christ and because it’s the time just before Christ comes again, we’ve added the Latter-day Saints.”
“Wait a minute,” Gram cut in. “Elijah showed me on some website about your believing Smith to be a prophet, but to see God. Doesn’t the Bible say that no one has ever seen God?”
“We know that can be a hard concept for people from other churches to accept. The question often comes up during this lesson. I know the scripture you are talking about, Mrs. Abbot. John chapter one verse eighteen does say that ‘No man has seen God at any time,’ and yet we have other scriptures like Exodus thirty three eleven says that God spoke to Moses face to face,” Elder Poulson replied.
“Truth is there are numerous scriptures that say man has or hasn’t seen God. We could sit here all night reading through them and trying to prove one way or the other, but I have found that usually doesn’t get us very far. Heavenly Father wants us to know the truth and has provided a way. The Holy Ghost is His witness. It is only through the Holy Ghost that you can know for sure that Joseph Smith was a prophet.”
Gram thought for a moment, her forehead furrowed in thought. “Well, I certainly can’t argue with that. I know that the Spirit has guided me many times in my life.”
“Another way Heavenly Father has provided for us to know the truth is through the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” Elder Poulson said looking over at Elder Horsewood.
“Yes,” Elder Horsewood began. “After the first vision God sent a messenger, named Moroni, to guide Joseph to a hill where golden plates were hidden. These plates contained the writings of prophets that lived here on the American continent and God’s dealings with them. These prophets taught the people about the Savior and his gospel. After Jesus’ resurrection, He also appeared to the people here, taught them the gospel, and established His church.”
“So that’s what Miss Freed meant in history class when she talked about the Indians having similar beliefs in a savior and believing the early European explorers were Him returning,” Elijah exclaimed.
“Exactly! We believe the people in the Book of Mormon are the primary ancestors of the American Indians.”
“I hate to interrupt you boys again,” Gram said, “I’m not trying to be difficult, but the Bible specifically says that we are not to add to it.”
“That comes up a lot in this lesson, too,” Elder Poulson smiled thoughtfully. “Several books in the Bible say that nothing should be added to or taken away from them. The most popular one comes from the final book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Many people believe that passage refers to the Bible as a whole, but one thing to remember is that at the time each individual book was written there was no Bible.”
“It would be decades before the scriptures would be compiled as we know them today. Even then there are sacred books that are mentioned in the Bible that we do not have. Just as Heavenly Father spoke to the prophets in the Bible whose writings we do and do not have, He also spoke to prophets here on this continent.”
“I just don’t know, boys,” Gram answered. “I’ve always been taught that the Bible is God’s word and that’s that.”
Elijah looked at the missionaries, wondering what they were thinking. Elijah knew Gram, and when Gram sounded final there wasn’t much arguing with her. He supposed they probably had scriptures for people that had believed the Bible was the only book from God, but when Gram sounded like this there was usually no changing her mind.
Before the missionaries could answer, Mark spoke from the opposite side of the room and all eyes turned towards him. “Mrs. Abbot, I know that I haven’t always been great at setting a good example to others, but we’ve been reading the Book of Mormon for seminary this year and its really helped me feel closer to Heavenly Father. Miss Freed teaches the class and she’s been telling us that if we read and pray about the Book of Mormon that God promises to let us know that it’s true.
“The other day I was acting like a real jerk to everyone, especially to Elijah and Jonathan Moore. Well, Miss Freed caught me and gave me quite a talking to. After she sent me on my way, I really started to think about what she’s been saying in seminary. I haven’t had a chance to tell anyone about this yet, but after the crash this morning I was upstairs sitting in my room. I was just kinda staring off into space when I noticed my Book of Mormon sitting on the desk beside me. I picked it up and started reading. As I read, I realized that I’ve never really prayed to know if it’s true for myself.
“I got down on my knees by my bed, I prayed that Heavenly Father would show me that it really was true. That all of this - the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the church - were really true. I can’t really put into words how I felt when I prayed, but I know I got an answer. I know that the Book of Mormon is from Heavenly Father.”
Mark’s mom put her arm around his shoulder and pulled him close to her. His dad smiled and put a hand to Mark’s knee. A look of joy beamed from their faces.
“Thanks for sharing that, Mark,” Elder Horsewood continued, turning back to the Abbots. “The answer that Mark got to his prayer isn’t unique. As missionaries, we see people get answers to their prayers all the time. Heavenly Father gave us a promise in the Book of Mormon.”
Elder Horsewood leaned over and picked up his backpack. It was worn and reminded Elijah of his school book bag. He pulled out a small book with a dark blue cover. Pages were quickly turned to the section the Elder had referred to. It was clear that the Elder had opened to that section many times.
“The last prophet in the Book of Mormon was Moroni. He had seen the destruction of his people and knew that there was going to be a period of apostasy among them. But he also knew that his people’s writings were to come forth in our day. In these verses, Moroni leaves us with this promise, ‘Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.’
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
Elder Horsewood looked up from the book at Gram. “Heavenly Father promises us that if we read the Book of Mormon and we really want to know if its true, He will answer our prayers.” Three additional dark blue books were pulled from the backpack. “We have a copy of the Book of Mormon for each of you. If we give you a couple passages, will you read them and ask Heavenly Father to know if they are true?”
Gram gave half a smile while she thought about what the Elder had said. She leaned forward and took one of the books from his hand. “Well, I do believe God answers prayers. I guess it couldn’t hurt.”[Home] [Chapter 20] [Chapter 22]