To Nina from Sis. B Nelson August 13, 2012
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE UNASHAMED
Whenever you hear missionary stories over the pulpit at church, you hear about miracles. You hear the success stories. You hear about how someone’s heart was open and ready and how their life has changed for the best and about the unbeatable, unmatchable, unbelievable joy that a testimony of the restored gospel produces You hear about how this joy is felt not only by the new member, but also by the person who introduced them to the gospel. You don’t really ever hear the stories about the people who say no. People don’t tend to share the stories about being yelled at or ridiculed or avoided. You don’t hear someone at the pulpit tell how they’ve lost a friendship or a family member because they shared their testimony of the gospel with them. You don’t hear about the sadness and the hurt feelings, the discouragement, the tears.
My sister, Nina, is eleven years old. She recently got up the courage to write her testimony in a Book of Mormon and give it to one of her dearest friends. She was even brave enough to read her testimony before handing her the book. She gave it to her friend because she loves her and wants her to feel the joy that she feels. Nina was shocked when, instead of appreciation or respectfulness, her friend responded with anger and even started mocking Nina and the beliefs she holds sacred. Stunned, but still sure that this gift would bring peace and light to her friend, Nina asked again if her friend would take the book. Her friend became angrier and gathered her things and started to leave our house and walk home. Ina followed her with the Book of Mormon, pleading with her friend not to be mad, but to take the book because it means so much to her. The next day when Nina went over to play at her friend’s, no one called her Nina but referred to her as “missionary” in a degrading way and purposefully did things that they knew went against what Nina believes and then teased her about them.
This is obviously NOT how Nina imagined sharing the gospel with her best friend would go. This isn’t your typical pulpit experience. It’s one that ends with your head buried in your mom’s lap crying tears of sorrow and pain. It’s one that leaves you asking why your attempt to share happiness was met with contempt and ridicule.
I understand why we don’t hear these stories in church, why we don’t share these stories with each other. We want to encourage one another. We want people to know that the outcome can be great. It can be wonderful. It can exceed wonderful. We don’t share the rejection stories because we don’t want to discourage people or create fear of sharing the gospel.
But the truth is that there are people that say no. There are people that get angry. There are people that persecute us and belittle us and despise us. And it’s hard to take; and it hurts. Yet, Elder Jeffrey R Holland said this about missionaries, “When they struggle, when they are rejected, when they’re spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, they are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best life this world has ever known.”
Experiences like Nina’s are important. They define us. They force you to evaluate where you really stand, what you really believe: Do you I still know that Jesus Christ lived and died for me? Do I still believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet? Is the Book of Mormon the word of God? Is my testimony worth more to me than my pride? Than my popularity? Am I willing to keep opening my mouth? Am I willing to face more rejection? Was I seriously committed when I promised god to stand as a witness of Him in ALL times and in ALL things and in ALL places? Am I willing to share the gospel with everyone I meet? After one person says no, am I willing to try again with someone else?
Not all missionary experiences are pleasant ones. That’s why we’re afraid: they could say no. Sometimes they do. But, if the gospel means that much to us, if they mean that much to us, why aren’t we following them out the door with a Book of Mormon? Why aren’t we reading our testimony to them face to face? Why aren’t we insisting that we have the answers they’re looking for? That we know why they are here on this earth? THE reason they’re here and what their assignment is and how to accomplish it. Sure they have their agency, their choice. And they do. And some will choose to walk away. But, when the end has come and when everything is clear, we can look them in the eyes and not feel guilty and not have to worry that they’ll say, “Why didn’t you tell me? You know that whole time? I thought we were friend! They didn’t you tell me?”
Nina’s friend left that house that day angry and upset AND without a doubt in her mind that Nina Nelson believes in Jesus Christ and the restored gospel, and that Nina wants her to have the same thing. Nina stood shoulder to shoulder with Christ that day. No doubt she made Him very proud. She set a shining example for me.
She reminded me of something that gets passed around the missionary world that I really like. I’ve even written it out and signed my name under it because I so completely agree with it and want my own life to reflect what it says. Legend has it that it was written by Henry B. Eyring, but I haven’t been able to verify that. Either way, it’s my new creed. It’s called “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.”
I, Brooke Nelson, am part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed. The die has been cast; I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap
I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, recognized, praised, or rewarded. I know live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power. My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, deterred, lured away, divided or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stood up, stored up, and paid up for the cause of Christ. I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach all I know and work until He stops me.
And when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My banner is clear…Brooke Nelson
Nina is part of The Fellowship of the Unashamed. I know it and the Lord knows it. And because He has seen that she’ll open her mouth. He will use her and put people in her path that ARE ready to hear and accept the gospel. And she’ll find them as she continues to open her mouth; and then she will understand as I do what Alma meant when he said, “And this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. And behold, when I see . . . my brethren truly penitent and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy . . . my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy.” (Alma 29:9, 10 & 16)
Keep sharing the gospel, Nina. The Lord needs valiant servants like you. And if you will stand by Him, He will stand by you. I’m proud to say I know you. I’m proud to say you’re my sister. And I hope it make YOU proud when I say that YOU are a great MISSIONARY.