We knew we were going to miss Elder Livingston. He had an openness and honesty that made him special. Breaking in a new partner was going to be difficult. We had covered so much theological ground and now for the most part we were going to have to start over. We needed to make sure we welcomed the new elder and asked questions about his life and spiritual journey. We would then try to catch him up on materials covered.
Week 7: Dylan and I met with Elder Baker and his new partner Elder Davidson. Elder Livingston was now in Poway. Davidson was from Arkansas and had been on his mission for 20 months. He gave his testimony about how he was raised in a Mormon family, as he got older he put all the Mormon materials away and lived life as a non-Mormon. He did continue to attend services with his family. One day he woke up to go to work and decided to read the Book of Mormon and found afterwards his day went smoother. He sensed an improved attitude towards work and others. He continued to read and eventually prayed over the Book of Mormon. That experience convinced him Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon was true. He then asked Dylan and me to tell our stories. Dylan and I gave our testimonies about how Christ had changed our lives and some background information.
We then spent time trying to bring Elder Davidson up to where we were before he arrived. Elder Baker did the majority of the talking and said he had been thinking about the issues we had discussed. The main thing was the concept that we need to test experience and feelings with evidence. He went through the 6 evidences I gave weeks earlier for why I believe the Bible is a supernatural book. Elder Davidson liked these tests and we all agreed we could use them to test of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
I then revisited 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4 and 13-15 and we read and discussed those verses. My point was to establish the fact that one of us is wrong and being led by Satan. Elder Davidson was not comfortable with that conclusion and looked for passages in the book of Mormon and the Bible that spoke that the fruit of the spirit as a better test of truth. His point was a book that helped someone become a good person has to have the truth. Dylan pointed out that if a Jehovah’s Witness was also with us, he would point out his good works and say he has the truth. If a Muslim was present, he could say he was a better person because of the Quran. We would have 4 different opinions of the truth and all would be good people. Dylan asked, how do we know who has the truth?
Elder Baker said we should look at evidences such as the 6 we discussed earlier. Davidson was still not convinced because in his mind his testimony, his feelings were right and true and trumped whatever we had to say. He said he is not comfortable making evidence the primary source of truth and discounting experience. He pointed to me and said that I came to my faith by examining the evidence. I then corrected him and said I examined the evidence after my experience of the Holy Spirit. I made sure he understood for me it was experience first then evidence. Dylan said the same about his life. Davidson then said he would be more comfortable with a greater balance of evidence and experience. We all agreed that we would not discount experience, because we all had one but would be willing to look at the evidence for belief.
We established the evidence we would look at would be prophecies, theology, and the historical record. I acknowledged we had an advantage because of the limitations of information imposed on them by the church. They are only allowed minimal books for their mission and they cannot use the internet.
We set our next meeting. Both Dylan and I wished we still had Elder Livingston because of the guarded attitude of Elder Davidson. We have our work cut out for us over the coming weeks. We prayed during the week for God to open the heart of both Elder Baker and Davidson.