Posted by: capetownelder | October 3, 2011

The Man Who Knew No Repentance

Hello everyone! Good week? On my end, in the African wasteland of Namibia, it was great! I mean, if I had to report on anything NEGATIVE in Namibia, I’d be considered ungrateful and ought to be struck down with lightning 😉

Something interesting happened this week. To flash backwards in time, we started teaching a man named John who is a native of Namibia and knew next to nothing about God or Jesus Christ. We first taught him about God, who He is, why He cares, etc. I hadn’t been in a situation as intense as this one! He was so willing to learn, but because his English was limited and he had never been taught about God, it presented a difficult teaching experience.

Over the following weeks we taught John about God, Jesus Christ, how to pray and how to exercise faith. He seemed to be OK with and understand these concepts at a level to which we felt we could move on to the subject of repentance. This is where we made the mistake.

“So repentance means…” I started slowly, realizing I normally talk too fast and he wouldn’t understand me unless I slowed down and spoke simply. “…repentance means…to change. To be somebody better.” He looked very confused.

“Buy why do I need to change?” He asked.

“Well, we all do bad things every day,” I explained. “We need to ask God for forgiveness…”

“For what?” he inquired. “What do I do that is bad?”

I began to think about that question and then it occurred to me. You should’ve seen this poor man’s face as we talked about how he needs to repent when he doesn’t even know God’s commandments yet! He has no idea what he’s done wrong!

“How many mistakes do you make a day?” Elder Chatora asked.

“I don’t make any mistakes…maybe I’m late to a meeting or something, but that has happened only twice. Maybe I make two mistakes in my whole life…” he responded.

We decided to slow things way down. I couldn’t help but feel a genuine love for this man’s desire to learn and grow closer to God. But in order for him to feel the full effects of the Atonement of Christ, he needs to know God’s commandments. We have observed that he breaks certain commandments because he is very open about it, but to him they are just things that happen in every day life.

Elder Chatora and I talked about this. After that experience, we felt we understood the Adam and Eve story a lot better. If Adam and Eve didn’t even know they were naked in the Garden, let alone feel any pain, sickness, or any other consequence to mortality, how in the world would they know what joy, happiness, and parenthood is like? They simply didn’t know what right and wrong felt like (2 Nephi 2:23-25) Satan “knew not the mind of God” and “sought to destroy the world” (Moses 4:6), so his intention was to destroy the souls of Adam and Eve as well. But really, by partaking of the fruit “the eyes of them both were opened” and the Lord proclaimed: “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…” (Genesis 3:7, 22) Satan’s plan was thwarted and Adam and Eve progressed.

I am looking forward to working with John. He soaks up this knowledge of God and his Word like a sponge and water. Ignorance is not bliss, and I know Heavenly Father wants us to gain as much experience and light as we can, because that will benefit us in the eternal world to come (D&C 130:19). He wants us to grow, to be happy and to return to him, and that process begins with the first two vital Gospel principles: faith and repentance.

I love you all!

Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission

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