This week was a good one. A busy one, but a good one. Elder Clarke is a good elder and I'm excited to be working with him. Our new ward is incredible. Everyone there is completely on top of all of their responsibilities. We have 85% activity and it's honestly just a really good ward. We still cover the Mountain View young single adult ward as well so we get the best of both worlds.
I've had a few interesting experiences this week. Last night was awesome. We got two new investigators. One because we simply asked right at the door how we can help her get baptized which somehow worked really well. The other reinforced my love for service. We knocked on a door we've been trying to get into for a while and the girl who answered it was completely drunk. We noticed that she had empty beer cans laying everywhere inside so we ended up walking right in and started cleaning it all up for her. Apparently we cleaned too well. We ended up finding a huge stash of weed and a coke spoon which my companion, not knowing what it was, proceeded to clean out. Because of this all we did for the next fifteen minutes was take her trash out and try to convince her that we weren't narcs. Luckily she came around and we set up an appointment for tomorrow. Hopefully she remembers.
One thing I love about this new ward is that they use us as a resource. One of the members we were visiting on Saturday talked to us about a friend he has that is convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult. He asked me if I could write a letter for him to give to her. So I did. I learned a lot from it actually. I had never really thought about why we're not a cult. So I studied it that night and then wrote the letter. This is the conclusion I came to:
To whom it may concern,
Let me tell you why I love being part of a cult. I am currently a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Today I was asked the question as to whether or not the organization I belong to is a cult. My immediate reaction and response to the question was one of denial. At that moment I truly felt as though that were true. Yet, as I thought about it, it made me wonder if those feelings actually dictated the truth of my response.
So here I am, at 9:34 p.m., sitting at a desk in my temporary apartment home studying and thinking about the matter at hand. The first thing I did was pull a Webster's dictionary off the shelf and proceeded to look up the definition of the word "cult". The definitions I found intrigued me. They made me really wonder what side of the argument I stood on. I found two. Of those two I would like to begin with the second.
The second definition states, "devoted attachment to person, fad, etc.". This definition led my thoughts to the prophet Joseph Smith. From and LDS point of view, let me explain my thoughts and feelings for this man. I know that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the Lord's hands consistently throughout his life. I admire him for having the strength and faith to be able to let The Lord accomplish His work on Earth through him. At the same time, I admire Gandhi for having the strength to make his world a better place through peaceful means. I admire Martin Luther King jr. for following in his footsteps. I especially admire the inspired man/woman out there who invented the maple bar. 69¢ at Safeway for each of those for breakfast have definitely made my world a better place.
Yet, however strong my admiration for these wonderful people may be, no matter how hard I try to be able to accomplish half of what these heroes did, that does not denote an attachment tot any of them. Therefore, according to Webster, that makes me free of the charge of belonging to a cult. However, there is a man that I strive everyday to be as attached to as possible. His name is Jesus Christ. I study and idolize Him daily. I do my best to live a life that I believe He would want me to live. I love Him and I am completely devoted to Him. In that sense, according to Webster, I am a member if a cult.
The first definition of the word "cult" says, "a system of worship or group of worshippers". According to that definition here is not a doubt in my mind that I belong to a cult. I go to church on Sunday to worship God and to learn more about Him. I strive to let my actions everyday be worthy of further worship of Him. I know that He established his system if worship long ago.even before the time of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ came to earth and not only fulfilled it, but perfected it. I know that The Lord's system was lost when He and His apostles were martyred for His system's sake. I know that as a consequence of that martyrdom, the system had to be restored upon the earth once more. I know that through Joseph Smith, that system was restored once more. I know that I am part of it. I know that the blessings I have seen in my life are directly linked back to that restored system. I know that because of the restored system, I can be together forever with my family. I can have peace and satisfaction because of the knowledge it gives me. I can be relieved of the burden of sin because of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for me. In fact, I've even been blessed with two years of my life to share the gospel and to help other people receive the blessings I currently have and continue to receive every day. I love it.
So yes. According to both definitions, I am a member of a cult. Would I call it that? Based on the knowledge that I now have I suppose I would. But also based on that knowledge I would suppose that any other human being who is associated in a form of worship is a member of a cult as well. I guess it's not that bad or uncommon after all. I guess all there is left to do is embrace it. I would invite all others to do the same.
Sincerely, Elder Ashton Earl