Sorry for the capitalization errors, one of my shift keys is broken.
Yesterday and the day before, we went to downtown Mar del Plata for a Christmas flashmob. Mar del Plata`s downtown is different on weekends. There was one of those sponge painters forming a painting before your eyes (the kind of thing that wows you on instagram). There was a lady covered in green paint--i thought at first that she was supposed to be the statue of liberty, but she was just covered in green. She held a paintbrush and one of those artist`s paintholders. She`d hold still like a statue until you put money into her jar, then she`d come to life and with fairy-like grace she`d lean down and paint a whimsical decoration onto your face. It was pretty cool to watch her work. There was also a rock concert, which was almost a problem for us. We had to negotiate with them so that they`d pause for us to do our flashmob, which they eventually did. The choir director began, singing Joy to the World along with the keyboard in melody, then seven more of us joined in singing parts as we emerged from the crowd. I sang tenor, which is new for me. I always sang base, but out of need of tenors, I sang tenor. After the first verse, everyone else joined in (around fifty or sixty people in a crowd of hundreds) and we sang the song as if we were performing normally. It was pretty cool; I have a video of it, though I probably can`t get it to you until next week.
So on Wednesday, we talked with the ward mission leader and he said that I should prepare to present myself to the ward, and that if they needed I might give a talk. i´d presented myself before, so I wasn´t too worried, but on Sunday they said that they wanted me to give a fifteen minute talk. Oh. I ran to a classroom and planned out what to say. I´ll give a bit of what I threw together.
I started out introducing myself. I talked about where I was from, where I´d been in the mission, and some of my impressions of Mogotes. I then introduced my topic: faith. Somehow I had spoken charismatically enough up to that point that the topic of faith didn´t cause everyone to drone out. I´m not a very confident public speaker for those who don´t know, but i´ll explain later why I was able to give a good talk. I shared Hebrews 11:1 ("Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"), which had recently been the scripture guiding my study. Faith isn´t just "gee, I hope that god is real," it´s (in spanish) the certeza, or the certainty of that which isn´t seen. It isn´t believing something that you don´t know, it´s knowing something that you don´t see.
Have you ever seen grass grow? No, but it´s pretty obvious that it does. Do you see the waves from the microwave enter your food to heat it? no, duh. You just know that your food comes out hot. (I didn´t share it exactly this way in the talk.) You know that microwaves heat things up because you, trusting in what you´ve heard, have stuck stuff into microwaves before. Your faith leads to actions, those actions lead to evidence, and that evidence leads to more faith. Your first time seeing a microwave, you might be doubtful or even fearful of it. You wouldn´t trust your whole meal to it, but you might see if it can´t heat water. Later, after using it a lot, you´ll be willing to do more. If you´re like me, you´ll stick a plate of tortilla chips topped with shredded cheese in there, and you´ll have a perfect knowledge that your plate of nachos will come out beautifully melted. Man, I miss that. Anyway, faith in God is the same way. The microwave might be prayer. The first time, we might not trust it much, but even just trusting it a little bit allows us to act and to receive evidence, which in turn will grow our faith. We see the results, and this is how we can develop a certainty of truths that we can´t see.
I talked about faith in three things: the existence of God, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and faith in ourselves. First we must believe in God. Then, we must belive that Jesus Christ has the power to change us for the better. I used the story from the penultimate conference about the woman who felt completely alone when her drug addiction was discovered. The woman received the small evidence of a night of peace. Her faith magnified, and over time she acted with the knowledge that God had helped her and that he would help her in the future. Finally, I said that we must have faith in ourselves because we must be able to say "I can do it." Maybe a better word for this would be hope. We need to let our faith in God be accompanied by a drive to accept the help that He offers. (See Ether 12:4 ("Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.")
They made me sit up on the stand during sacrament meeting, and sitting up there writing nervously, it took a certain degree of faith to keep myself from just curling up in a little ball. I was the first speaker, so I knew that right after the sacrament I would be speaking. As I took the sacrament, a vital change occurred. I received peace. I was able to finish my preparation, and I was able to stand and give a talk in spanish better than I had ever done in english. Without the spirit, even with all of my experience speaking as a missionary, I couldn`t have thrown all of those ideas together as I had. I received attentive nods from the congregation, which was not my expectation. Finally I gave my testimony, stating that I knew that the Book of Mormon was true and explaining how I came to know with the cycle of Faith, Works, and Evidence. The spirit was speaking through me. Giving a talk has always scared me, but upon taking the sacrament, I received anew the promise that the Spirit would always be with me, and it helped me through my trial. I know that God is pleased with what I am doing, and I know that there is real power in the scriptures and in faith.
Have a great Christmas!