A Spiritual Roadblock
After settling down and attending church the first time I had a pleasant surprise. I found the English members there were much more knowledgeable and eager to learn than the complacent people back home. The missionaries had a truism that the further away you got from church headquarters the more seriously the members took the teachings and the closer you get the more apathetic are the members. Overall, I found this to be pretty accurate.
That first Sunday evening I was asked to give a member a blessing. This was to be my first occasion to do this as an Elder in the church as well as a missionary. I was happy to oblige.
When I blessed her I felt the Spirit and thought I told the young lady some inspired words. After returning to our digs (residing place) I felt great, like I was lighter than air halfway dwelling in celestial spheres. I felt like God was with me and that had to be a good sign.
After retiring to bed I laid there awake for some time just basking in the heavenly feeling that seemed to surround me. This was great and I started talking to God. I believe I whispered something to Him. I wish I could remember but do not recall exactly what I said but it seemed to trigger something very unexpected. Just as you can turn a light switch and the room turns instantly from light to dark, even so in that instant the wonderful spiritual feeling instantly disappeared and was replaced by its exact opposite. The difference was more contrasting than night and day.
In an instant I went from enjoying bliss, peace and spiritual fire to dread, fear and spiritual agony.
I had an encounter with negative spiritual force of major proportions once before at the age of 16 and I felt I was dealing with Satan and his angels. This time was different because it seemed so seamlessly connected to the spiritual fire from God that I thought it was God.
As soon as the spiritual force turned negative the thought entered my head that it was God himself that had examined me as a person and concluded that I was a spiritual impostor not worthy of giving anyone a blessing or using his priesthood. At that moment I reflected back on my weaknesses and concluded that this may be true. I was imperfect and probably was not worthy to share in that wonderful peace I was previously feeling.
Suddenly, I was struck with a sense of guilt that defied the imagination which was way out of proportion to what should have been. Using any logic or reasoning did not help, however. The dread and spiritual pain only increased through the night.
The next day I had to drag myself off to work as I received little or no sleep. I thought about telling my companion, but figured he would think I was crazy. I thought about asking for a blessing but concluded it would do no good since it was God himself that was angry with me. I somehow had the idea that if I received a blessing that I may be struck dead or at the least condemned.
This intense feeling of condemnation along with tremendous spiritual pain increased every day for six weeks. Every day I prayed intensely for forgiveness and asked God to take the pain away, but it just got worse. I even got to the point of making promises to God if he would just give me relief, but again, it just got worse.
Finally during the sixth week of enduring intense pain and fear for my own soul Sunday arrived and we attended church. I was asked to bless the sacrament. As I sat up front and approach the time I was to give the sacrament prayer I felt with tremendous intensity that I was condemned by God and it was against his will for me to give the blessing. I thought I may be struck dead if I were to do so. As the clock ticked on and the time approached the negative spiritual force increased beyond imagination and it was so powerful I was about to lose consciousness. Just before I was to give the prayer I rose up and walked out of the church. I’m sure the congregation thought that was odd and wondered what was going on.
My companion followed me out of the building and wondered what was going on with me. At this point I knew I couldn’t keep my problem from him any longer and then told him what happened. I then told him the reasons I thought I was unworthy to give blessings or to even do the missionary work.
He laughed and told me my sins were no big deal that he was probably worse of a guy than I was.
For some reason his words became like the voice of God to me and immediately the dark force began to subside. I felt like I was in an elevator with hundreds of people stuffed in there with me and suddenly they all start to leave and finally they are all gone and I can breath again.
Then something dawned on me. What I felt leaving me was not anything from God, but were dark entities that I assumed came from Satan. At that instant I concluded that the Prince of Darkness did not want me to continue with the spiritual work and tried to deceive me by making me think God was tormenting me when the torment had nothing to do with God. Light does not turn the darkness on, but light can leave and darkness prevail for a time and that is what happened.
Anyway, feeling these dark entities of what seemed to be pure evil leave me and then be replaced by peace was the greatest sense of relief I had felt in my life. It was a wonderful feeling indeed. I was now ready to proceed with my mission full speed ahead.
My readers who read this will perhaps understand why many of my teachings put so much emphasis on overcoming guilt and its root cause. What happened to me is just one of the many problems that it can cause.
It was nice to be able to work again in peace with a clear conscience, but I still had two problems hindering me. The first was that I was a junior companion. That meant that all the decisions concerning work were made by my companion. What he said went. I was really looking forward to being made a senior because I believed that I could be much more successful when I was in charge. To hasten that day I worked hard on learning my teaching lessons and increasing my ability.
At that time the missionaries taught seven lessons lasting about 45 minutes to an hour each and we had to learn six of them word for word. Some missionaries never mastered them. I was one of the first in my group to learn them so I thought I would be one of the first to become a senior. In this I was mistaken.
The second hindrance to my success was a nagging cold and cough that I picked up after shedding my excessive thermal underwear upon arriving. The cold started when I first arrived and just seemed to continually get worse.
It was ironic that after all the trouble of bringing the thermal underwear to Britain that I rarely used them. The reason was that it was so humid that it seemed that nothing one did made you warm. Putting on a sweater there was almost like putting one on when you are under cold water. It just didn’t make a lot of difference. The only thing that seemed to help was my heavy overcoat.
We were also required to wear hats and they helped keep the heat in the body somewhat.
I remember talking to some people who had recently arrived from Iceland and they said that they couldn’t wait to get back because it was much more difficult to get warm in northern England than their country.
The most oft repeated joke in the North was “Summer came on a Wednesday this year.”
There was a lot of truth to this statement as I could only recall not needing my overcoat only one day the first year I was there. The second summer was much better however.
Anyway, with a nagging cold and bad weather I continued the best I could.
It was the mission’s policy for us to change companions every six weeks or so and soon the day came that Elder Dee was transferred and replaced by an Elder Branch who was still my senior and again I was under orders to strictly follow him.
Elder Branch was from the old school of black and white religion and was a letter-of-the-law type guy. Most people didn’t like him much and he really got on my nerves.
Then he did something that still irritates me to this day. One morning I read in the paper that the Beatles were coming to Leeds, a town about ten miles away. Since I loved the Beatles I approached elder Branch in utmost humility and asked him if we could attend the performance. I even volunteered to pay his way.
Immediately he gave the cut and dry answer: “The Beatles? Their music is inspired by the devil. Of course we will not go.”
Over the next couple days I did everything in my power to change his mind, but all I did was irritate him. It got to the point that if I persisted further I think we would have gotten in a physical fight.
Finally, I had to resign myself to missing them. The only other choice was to sneak out and see them, but that may have caused the mission president to send me home in disgrace.
That was indeed a piece of history I missed and one thing I found odd about my fellow missionaries is that none of them seemed to like rock and roll. Even though they were the right age (19-21) I found it amazing as to how many actually preferred music recommended by the Church. I do not recall one single missionary I worked with who liked the Beatles or rock and roll in general. They all loved Rogers and Hammerstein type of music. I kind of felt like a stranger in a strange land as far as music was concerned.
One companion I worked with sang Rogers and Hammerstein songs all day long. It didn’t bother me much for the first two weeks I worked with him but then about the third week he started to drive me crazy. Finally, after about another week I couldn’t take it any more and presented my problem to him as gently as possible.
“Elder,” I said, “you have a fine voice and you really have these songs down well, but your constant singing is just getting to me and driving me up the wall. Can you do me a favor and not sing so much?”
I thought he may take offense, but he didn’t seem offended at all. Instead he calmly looked at me and replied, “Singing these songs is just who I am and I’m not going to change who I am.”
Then he got up and started singing “Some Enchanted Evening.”
I couldn’t believe his audacity. “What could I do,” I thought to myself, “short of putting a choke hold on him?”
Actually he was very easy to get along with outside of this one flaw but after about six weeks it was a great relief to get rid of him. At that point his incessant singing seemed comparable to Chinese water torture.
Anyway, back to Elder Branch… The rest of the time I worked with him was not much fun. If you want to convert anyone to anything the first thing you must do is get them to like you and few liked him much. We didn’t have much success together and my cold turned into bronchitis and near pneumonia.
I was growing somewhat frustrated. I had to follow a guy who didn’t know how to lead or teach and my health was quickly deteriorating.
Finally I got so ill that the headquarters pulled me out of the field and brought me in the mission home to recover. They also sent me to a private doctor (separate from the socialist system they have there). I had previously been to a couple doctors that were a part of their universal health care and was amazed at how many people were in each doctors office. I was also amazed at how short each visit was. The first doctor I remember seeing began writing me a prescription long before I was finished telling him what was wrong with me.
Anyway, the Mission Home’s private doctor was much different. He was unhurried and relaxed and we even shared some small talk.
I tried to follow his advice, but just seemed to get worse.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey