Elder and Sister Hafen Devotional

Well, my blog hasn’t been going that well recently but we recently did have the privilege of having Elder and Sister Hafen visit our Stake for a Devotional and they shared their presentation on ‘Faith is Not Blind’ and I was asked by another member who couldn’t attend to take notes. I did, and I figured I may as well share them here!

Elder Hafen

Concerned about use of the Internet and the way that answers are presented to people with bias and without context

  • Instead of letting surprises shake us, it is an opportunity for us to grow and strengthen our faith if we follow the Spirit This is a painting of Peter and John on the morning of the Resurrection
  • Women had visited the tomb of the Saviour and found it empty
  • They told the 11 remaining apostles – the scriptures state that they thought it was idle tales
  • John outruns Peter (in his account he seems to want to make sure we know this!) then waits for his senior companion to enter the tomb
  • The expression on their faces is similar to perhaps the father who took his son to be healed from the Saviour and exclaimed “…help thou mine unbelief”
  • Like Peter, John and the father of the ill son, there are reasons to seem perplexed today

Sister Hafen

Brother and Sister Hafen met in a class called ‘Your Religious Problems’

  • They would choose a religious issue (be it with Church History, Joseph Smith etc) and would discuss
  • Many, if not all the issues today, were around then but the major change is the Internet
    • A number of issues are portrayed and informed without context or wider circumstances
  • We, however, need to understand the ‘gap’ between the real and the ideal
  • When we are young, we often see things as black and white with no colour
    This ‘gap’ will be experienced in many of our lives

    • It may be when a parent/hero/leader has made a mistake
    • It may be when we feel a prayer has gone unanswered
    • It may be when we encounter questions about Church policy or history that are currently unanswerable for us

Example of their son’s mission

  • Many people believe that going on a mission places you in a situation where you are only experiencing the ideal
  • However, a mission is the battlefield of reality
  • Holiness does not remove us from reality

 

The ‘gap’ will stretch us – is this good or bad?

  • It can be good as it then allows us to grow and develop our understanding
  • It can be bad if we experience doubt and then don’t prayerfully seek for the answers
  • In society today we are led through a lot of uncertainty (link to Lehi’s dream and the mists of darkness)

 

Elder Hafen

He could not say in his farewell talk for his mission that he knew the Gospel was true

  • He experienced that gap and saw that there was understanding he didn’t have which kept him from the ideal
  • Over prayer and deep study this came over time

 

Stage 1 – Faith is innocent or untested

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity

[on] this side of complexity.

But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of

complexity.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

 

Stage 2 – Complexity – a testing period, whether it’s a faith-based question, concern or a trying period in our lives

 

On an assignment, Elder Hafen went to the Utah State Prison to meet with a branch of inmates having their sacrament meeting, which was a testimony meeting

  • One inmate stood and explained how when she was younger, she would be the kid who went up every month and bore her testimony with great excitement
  • Now, she has gone through great extremities (her Stage 2) and has come out on the other side and truly experienced spiritual understanding (her Stage 3)

 

Stage 3 – Simplicity beyond complexity – we have been tested, held to the truths we knew before and emerged with a deeper understanding

  • Some may try to ignore reality to get through – but this is potentially damaging and can easily be shaken when further questions arise
  • Some may try to ignore or dismiss the ideal but then we become sceptical and cynical, something which can be equally damaging

 

Experience when training a new missionary companion

  • In the first couple of days, they had gone on exchanges and he returned very excited saying that he had found someone who was going to be baptised
  • Elder Hafen was very sceptical and asked where this person lived – they had not got their name or exact address but they knew that the person lived on the top floor of a certain apartment block
  • Not wanting to quash his enthusiasm – Elder Hafen hiked up and down for 2-3 hours with his companion but after this time suggested that they move on
  • His new companion looked with tears and earnestly said that he had felt the Spirit telling him that this person needed to be taught, was he saying they wouldn’t find her?
  • Still cynical, Elder Hafen continued with his companion – and near the end they found her…
  • A few days before this Devotional, Elder and Sister Hafen met 2 of her granddaughters, 1 of whom was about to receive their mission call

 

Sister Hafen

Stage 3

  • It isn’t blind obedience, but trusting obedience
  • Experience-based, informed faith that recognises the ideal and the real and the complexity
    • Then, it moves forward, prayerfully searching, but giving the benefit of the doubt to begin with

 

Holly’s story

  • She grew up in a ‘Mormon’ community – was very strong in the Gospel, completed the Personal Progress very quickly and so on
  • However, around the age of 18 she learnt about women’s role in the Priesthood and decided women should be able to hold the authority of the Priesthood, ultimately, she had her name removed from the Church
  • At University, her roommate started meeting with the missionaries and was challenged to pray for an answer
  • Holly heard this and decided she too would take the challenge to pray
  • When she opened her heart to Heavenly Father, her heart began to soften
  • She returned to previous spiritual habits but this time was doing them differently
  • She had experienced ‘closeness’ with God which helped her trust Him implicitly, which then allowed her to move into Stage 3
  • She is often asked about her thoughts about women and the Priesthood, she still recognises her ‘gap’ but she trusts Heavenly Father now, that He knows what He is doing

 

Elder Hafen

Matthias’s story

  • He went on a mission to England, was sealed to his wife, became a Bishop
  • As a Bishop, he was asked faith-based questions about issues he said he had never heard of before – he was concerned that he had never been told about these things, that he had been ‘living in a bubble’
  • Interestingly, his brother said he had heard them
  • With the great expansion of the Church across the Earth, there hasn’t been much focus on an advanced curriculum, rather a focus on translating and publishing clear doctrines
  • The Church has published resources that help members move to Stage 3, prayerfully being able to seek answers and context
    • Encyclopaedia of Mormonism
    • Saints Volume 1 (soon Volume 2 will be fully published)
    • Gospel Topic Essays

 

Sister Hafen

Key Principles

I – Invite Faithful Questions

We need to have faithful questions, people who have questions about the Gospel should not be made to feel bad for that

  • Great quote by JRR Tolkien, those who wander are not lost
  • We should not be living in a bubble
  • We cannot be close-minded
  • It is a choice to be believing – remember what you know as you go forward

 

II – Be cautious about the Internet’s weaknesses

Bloggers at either extremes may not be trustable sources

  • All websites will reflect a certain bias
  • Church scholarship is the best that it has ever been
  • Also need to remember that some discreditors of the Church are seeking to justify past choices they have made – if you do not keep the commandments as you search answers you won’t develop the ‘closeness’ mentioned before

 

III – Focus on the Restoration’s hugely positive doctrinal content

Imagine a golf course in the peaks of the Alps and you are searching for golf balls lost in the rough

  • You would be missing the scenic view
  • The doctrine of the Restoration is beautiful and positive
  • Should we exert all our efforts on certain details when we see the evident good?
  • Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t search but it shouldn’t take precedent over enjoying the view

 

Elder Hafen

IV – Cultivate an attitude of meekness

On his mission, they met a German couple

  • They were accepting and moving towards baptism
  • Then, they received a letter from a disapproving family member about how black members of the Church could not receive the priesthood
  • There was a gloomy spirit in the home when they next visited, they demanded an answer to the question
  • They turned to Acts 10 and the example of Cornelius and the change of ancient Church policy about teaching to the Gentiles, they then left them and invited them to pray
  • The couple prayed and fasted – the light returned to their hearts
  • They recontacted the missionaries and were baptised – they didn’t let what they didn’t know yet discolour what they knew before
    • Example of Nephi in 1 Nephi 11:16-17 – I know that He loveth His children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things

 

Some get stuck in complexity – it may seem more ‘real’ but we shouldn’t stay there or we will lose the hope of the Gospel

 

Adam and Eve example

  • Stage 1 – Garden of Eden – innocent, untested faith
  • Stage 2 – the Fall, mortal trials and sins of their children (Cain and so on)
  • Stage 3 – the angel asked ‘why dost thou offer sacrifices?’ – Adam’s response shows that he didn’t know but he was giving the Lord the benefit of the doubt and showing trusting obedience

 

Arise and run to Christ as did Peter and John

  • We are surrounded by complexity but the joy of the Gospel can ring true

 

Search ‘Faith is not Blind’ Podcasts and Facebook Groups for further interviews and information

President Nelson Tour

Saints in the UK and Ireland recently had an incredible opportunity. After a historic General Conference, President Russell M Nelson embarked on a Global Tour of the Church and is visiting 8 countries in 11 days (and some of us used to suggest we couldn’t visit our handful of HT families in a month)! The very first stop was London and President Nelson, along with Elder Jeffrey R Holland and their wives taught so powerfully to the members of the UK and Ireland area of the Church.

Sister Holland spoke first and it was clear of her love for, and her reverence for, President Russell M Nelson and the sacred calling that he has been given. She encouraged us to study the words of President Nelson from his service in the General leadership of the Church. She recognised that she can speak so well of President Nelson because she knows him pers onally – she invited us all to get to know our relatively new prophet personally by studying his words and asking Father in Heaven about his call as Prophet, Seer and Revelator. This also reminded me of the invitation I had been given but not yet fully fulfilled – to study the talks given by any visiting authority. We were fortunate to have the Area President, Paul V Johnson, visit us for our Stake Conference 9 days after this special broadcast with President Nelson so I studied those talks before his visit.

Following Sister Holland was Elder Holland. He spoke of his felt inadequacy in following his wife and preceding President and Sister Nelson. He taught powerfully about revelation. As mentioned, we had a historic General Conference just a week before. He reminded us that, whilst President Nelson spoke a number of times to announce changes in Church policy, he did give a message on the Sunday General Session – revelation. The General Conference was all about revelation – whether it was Church-changing revelation or personal revelation.

Sister Nelson then spoke about her testimony about how she knows President Nelson has receive the mantle of the prophet. She made reference to a unique and divine experience that she and President Nelson had 2 days after the passing of President Monson which left her without doubt, an experience too personal to share. Also, she shared experiences of when President Nelson received revelation to guide the Church and she was directed by the Spirit to leave the room before the revelation was received. This was a powerful message, particularly after Elder Holland’s address to us to be more in tune to receive the quiet promptings of the Spirit.

President Nelson was the final speaker and he was an inspiration. He taught about the need to ‘clean up’ our lives before we meet our Saviour, similarly to how the Hyde Park Chapel was before his arrival. He then spoke of ministering – the new announcements from General Conference and how we need to become better ministers (or ‘shepherds’ as was suggested earlier on in the process). He left an Apostolic Blessing that all those in attendance would have a greater capacity to feast on the words of Christ. Also that we would be blessed with health and safety as we continued on our mortal journeys.