The Only Scripture That Ever Made a Difference

As a missionary, I took pride in my familiarity with the scriptures. No matter the question, I could usually present an investigator with a scripturally backed answer. Being somewhat slow on the uptake, it probably took me a year or more to become conscious of the fact that most investigators didn’t ascribe the same level of authority to the scriptures that I did. I just took for granted that “proving a concept by the standard works” = “concern resolved!”

But that’s a topic for a different post. This post is about the one scripture that did make a difference. I was teaching a woman whose marriage was shaky (though I didn’t know that at the time). She had a cat that she loved. I suppose that her cat was the one source of stable affection in her life. As we were reaching the end of our lessons (the fifth discussion, I think. This was when there were six missionary discussions, following which a person was expected to be baptized), she asked about her cat. She wanted to know what would happen to him after he died.

So I turned to the only scripture I knew that had anything to do with cats, dying, and their post-mortal destiny:

Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders?
A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity.

I didn’t know what the scripture meant then. I don’t know what it means now. Joseph’s description of beasts, likeness, figurative expressions, etc. in D&C 77 is wonderfully mystifying. But it was enough for me to let this sister know that her cat would enjoy “eternal felicity” (incidentally, one of my favorite phrases in all scripture). She cried, and told us that she was ready to join the church.

What role have the scriptures played in your attempts at sharing the gospel, either as a full-time missionary or otherwise? Have you referred to them to confirm your discussion points? And if so, how have people responded?

32 comments for “The Only Scripture That Ever Made a Difference

  1. Julie M. Smith
    June 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I hate cats.

  2. Dovie
    June 9, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I love cats.

  3. Jax
    June 9, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I eat cats.

  4. Jacob M
    June 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I was on my mission, and while teaching one wonderful woman, she was bombarded by her born-again friends with a bunch of anti stuff. She was telling my companion and I that while she was with us, what we said made sense, and then when she was with them, what they said made sense. How was she to tell which one was the right one? Under inspiration I pointed to Doctrine and Covenants Section 8 verse 2, how revelation comes to both the mind and the heart. My explanation was that for something to be the Spirit, it has to have both our mind and heart in allignment. It took her a while, but she did get baptized. That was one of my favorite teaching moments, and has stuck with me ever since.

  5. Jax
    June 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I don’t think it is just investigators that don’t ascribe value to scripture… I think we would naive not to mention that (IMO) most U.S. LDS people don’t consult the scriptures for answers OR they ignore the answers because they don’t like what the answers are and try to find answers that justify their disobedience.

  6. June 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Maybe dogs go to heaven … and cats go somewhere else.

  7. June 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I agree with Dave (6) – as cats most likely would experience “eternal felicity” somewhere else.
    Kidding aside, I always go to the scriptures. I feel like I have to. The following scripture explains perfectly why I always feel like I need scriptural backing/understanding:

    7 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;”D&C 109:7

    I know that I don’t have the faith it takes to go to church every single week, to pay my tithing, even to pray – without constantly studying the scriptures and understanding the commandments. I have a friend who is amazingly faithful. I was surprised to hear that she’s never fully read the Book of Mormon. I mean, she’s really good. She has a solid testimony. I look up to her! When she made this remark, I realized that I don’t have the faith she has, and I need to study from the best books – words of wisdom.

    I also share scriptures all the time, with other people (maybe not directly, but scripture absolutely steers missionary conversations). I also use scriptures very obviously and directly with my children. Do they like it/respond to it? I have no idea. oh well!

  8. Melissa B.
    June 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Dogs, puppies and kittens got to heaven…oh, and baby deer.

  9. Melissa B.
    June 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Excuse the typo

  10. Melissa B.
    June 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I found on my mission that if the investigator wasn’t really searching, it didn’t matter what scripture I pulled out, they wouldn’t believe. Some just wanted to argue (which never got anyone anywhere), some just wanted to be around missionaries and enjoy the spirit they brought. Only the ones who were truly seeking seemed to care what the scriptures said.

    BTW – I don’t know what that scripture means, either. I love the word “felicity!”

  11. Martin
    June 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Cool story, Jacob M. Thanks.

  12. Mephibosheth
    June 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm
  13. Ben S
    June 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Now THIS will be a divisive thread. I’m a cat lover, and dogs are naught but stinking crotch-sniffers and face-lickers.

    Great story.

  14. Mark N.
    June 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    My testimony as to whether ALL dogs go to heaven is wavering.

  15. June 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I kind of hope all those goldfish that ended up down the toilet are up there somewhere. But yeah, I think lots of Mormons read those verses (and the common exegesis) and feel good about cats and dogs that seemed to be members of the family and hopefully part of the family in the hearafter.

  16. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    June 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    My recollection is that the only scripture that I ever had success with in teaching investigators was Alma 32, which teaches the continuum of faith from a “willingness to believe” to the “fruition” in partaking of a confirmation of knowledge of God that is sweet above all that is sweet, a hope for which is enough reason to embrace the gospel before you are totally certain about it. We talk so much about gaining a “testimony” and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost, in accordance with Moroni 10:3-5, that we sometimes forget that we only need to have faith in Christ, have hope of the truth of the gospel, and embrace a commitment to act in charity, reflecting back to Christ the love he gives to us, that is all the reason we need to be baptized. Check out Mosiah 18 and D&C 20. There is no requirement that an investigator have a confirming witness from the Holy Ghost before he or she can qualify to be baptized. We can get the witness after we “try out” our faith by accepting baptism and the ordinance of confirmation that offers the Holy Ghost. Demanding a witness, a testimony before we are willing to repent is a defiance of God, and acting like a “natural man”. Someone may get that witness before baptism, but it is not something we need to demand of investigators.

  17. June 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I try never to throw personal insults at folks, but this time I will make an exception:

    Julie (hates cats). Oh, ye hypocrite! Have you not heard of the love of Christ?

    Jax: (Eats cats). You’re an idiot. Pure and simple. An idiot! I hate it when people in forums call other people “idiots,” but, damnit, you’re an idiot! Every cat I have ever known including the three who hang out with me now are smarter than you and they all know it, too. I don’t care if you got straight A’s at BYU or even Yale or Harvard. You’re an idiot!

    As we say in Alaska, “I jokes.” Doesn’t mean it’s not true, though.

    Thank you, Dane, for sharing that scripture. This alone makes all the time that I have spent browsing this blog worth it. Once, an anthropologist I know claimed that Christian faith holds that animals do not have spirits or an afterlife, unlike most indigenous believes. I knew that my pup who died when I was seven and then appeared in spirit upon the washing machine before me when I was sick with the measles and damn near bleeding to death from a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop would resurrect. My mom told me so and she knew everything there was to know about the gospel.

    So it is good to have some scriptural backup to refute such nonsense.

    My first real senior companion loved to scripture blast and ground this into me so deepo that I wound up able to blast both the protestant preachers, the Catholic priests and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who sometimes knocked on our door right off the floor – but I never converted any of them.

    Sometimes, in the winter, when we would visit prospects, that same senior companion would grab a cat and then press its paw against the woodstove and shriek with delight as the cat shrieked with terror and pain.

    He was very intelligent, but he, too, was an idiot.

    Cats are grand. And Celestial life would be hell without them.

  18. Bob
    June 10, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I hate to think every pet I ever had will be hanging around me again. It could be hundreds.

  19. Bob
    June 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Bill__you need your cup of coffee.

  20. June 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Bill, the story of your senior companion and the cats is awful. I knew a missionary who bragged about some of the awful things he would do to cats. Ugh.

  21. June 10, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I don’t know that we ever had an experience teaching in the mission field in which we shared a scripture and it was “the” answer an investigator needed. But our honostly-seeking investigators did seem to enjoy going to the scrptures with us to learn. Bible bashing simply never worked, despite all the great stories LeGrand Richards told at the time (always prefaced or followed with an injuction that we don’t do that anymore).

    I know that personally I prefer in a class when someone quotes a scripture (including reference) rather than paraphrasing badly (or incorrectly) or cites “some” talk he heard once. Often in those cases (where scripture is read or accurately quoted) it provides new insights.

  22. June 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Bob – thank you for the suggestion. I just had one, but I will go pour another.

    Dane – Yes, it was awful. I would scold him about it afterwards but he laughed me off. I am working on two books inspired by my mission, one a novel and the other photos that I take of missionaries and then match them up with my own stories. The cats are in both of them.

    As an aside, if anyone is curious, my work got a little feature in the online New York Times Lens blog today and my mission and Mormon background was mentioned. They made a few mistakes – I was born in Utah but did not grow up there, but, that’s just how these things go. I’ve made such mistakes myself.

  23. June 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I should add that a prudent person might express skepticism as to whether or not I will ever finish or publish these books. I intend to, but, who knows?

  24. June 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I love cats and also dogs, but cats are all my responsibility, and sometimes dogs run in packs and tear cats limb from limb, so it’s harder to love them in groups. But individually, I think they’re also quite nice.

    People who are cruel to cats for fun, why it were better for them that they should have millstones tied around their necks and go swimming in the deep ocean. And that’s scriptural. I have a sweet little one curled up next to me purring even as I’m typing. They are wonderful and dear. I can never understand why people would hate them not even as individuals but the whole species altogether.

    I did know someone who was afraid of the glowing of their eyes, who thought that meant they must be demonic, or something, when it’s actually just a reflective layer under their retinas that helps them see in low light circumstances. People are often afraid of what they don’t understand, I suppose.

    There will definitely be cats in heaven, no question about it. I’m so glad Joseph Smith realized that.

  25. June 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Tatiana : )

  26. Bob
    June 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    @ Taliana:
    I have owed cats and dogs. The cats were always killing things more that the dogs. But I still have only cats.

  27. Ray
    June 11, 2011 at 1:08 am

    2 Nephi 31 was critical in the strongest conversion experience of my mission.

    The experience is too complex and wide-ranging to recount here, but reading that chapter with our investigator was the catalyst for her eventual conversion.

  28. Ray
    June 11, 2011 at 1:13 am

    “There must needs be opposition in ALL things.” Hence, dogs and cats are examples of the influence of God and Devil in mortality.

    You can argue about which animal manifests which extreme, but as for me and my house, the answer is unambiguous.

  29. chris
    June 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    1 Nephi 19:23 describes how Nephi was often turning to the scriptures to explain things to his brothers. Even though it didn’t always produce a lasting and sincere result, I think it’s the best we can hope for. I think the hope is that by preaching from the scriptures, we can actually create a “how can I trust these old records?” question in the recipient and then they can seek their own revelation. So turning to the scriptures provides the groundwork for personal revelation.

    If we just put implicit trust in the books without seeking confirmation by the spirit I don’t think it works.

  30. Rob
    June 17, 2011 at 1:57 am

    My favorite shirt as a young man showed 2 birds from the comic strip Shoe. At the bottom of the shirt it said, “CATS SUCK!!”

  31. Dee
    June 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    If we combine D&C 77:3 with content under “Revelation of John” in the Bible Dictionary, we’ll begin to understand the meaning of D&C 77:3. In the Bible Dictionary under “Revelation of John,” we read the following under the heading “Some Points of Doctrine”:

    “Animals are resurrected from the dead, and there are animals in heaven, redeemed by the blood of Christ” (5:11-14; D&C 77:3, HC 5:343).

    In other words, that animals are resurrected is “doctrine” of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As far as I know, that’s contrary to the “doctrines” of other Christian churches. It’s also comforting for pet lovers to hear–both cat and dog lovers.

  32. Bob
    June 18, 2011 at 10:27 am

    @ Dee: If all the animals are resurrected from the dead, they will be about ten miles deep on the earth.

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