The Miracle Of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Missionaries

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TheDiscipleMD

Fahrenheit 451 is a novel written by Ray Bradbury that was published in 1953. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury understood to be the auto ignition point of paper. While I have never read this influential novel, I did see a movie based on it. One part of the movie has always stayed with me. A group of exiled book lovers formed a society with the intent of preserving books. Each member would memorize a book to preserve it for the future. As a young boy I was struck by the immensity of the task of memorizing an entire book. “How could anyone accomplish that?” I thought. Little did I know that fiction would become reality for me when several years later when I became a missionary for my church.

In 1975 I received a call from my church leaders to serve as a missionary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was enthused and happy to go for my two-year assignment. And although I had failed miserably in my high school Spanish classes, I went forward with faith. The first day after arriving at the missionary training center I was handed a thick book which encompassed the lessons I was to be teaching to the people of Argentina.

As I opened its black cover and flipped through its pages, it was clear that this book was written entirely in Spanish. I was told that over the next couple of months I was to ‘memorize’ the entire book so that I could teach the people in their native language. I remember sitting there and thinking. “Are you crazy? I wouldn’t be able to memorize this book if it was in English, let alone Spanish.” I don’t know what the other missionaries were thinking but I thought this assignment was impossible. Yet I recalled the words spoken to Mary by an angel of God, found in the first chapter of Luke when he declared:

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”(vs.37)

I began the ‘impossible’ task by repeating a syllable, then adding another to it until I got a word down. Then I would add the first syllable of the next word till I had two words which I would repeat together and so on and so on. It was a monumental task. I didn’t understand any of what I was memorizing for a long time.  They were sounds that were, well…Greek to me! The large hall in which I attempted this assignment was filled with other missionaries who were not only trying to memorize their black books in Spanish, but throughout the hall you could hear others repeating out loud the same words in Italian, French, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Dutch, Korean, and a host of others. Most of us put our fingers in our ears so we could hear ourselves repeat the words of our assigned language.

When I left the training center two months later, I had not memorized the entire book, but within a few weeks after arriving in Argentina I had accomplished the ‘Fahrenheit 451’ miracle.

Since that time ten of thousands of young men and women have accomplished the “Fahrenheit 451’ goal that was set for them. But by so doing they had not cheapened the miracle of it all.  No they have proven the words of the angels to be true that ‘nothing’ really is impossible for the Lord. If I hadn’t personally experienced it, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.  My belief in the words of the prophets were strengthened.

“For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles, and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever…” (2 Nephi 27:23)

It has been many years since the Lord put me through his ‘refiner’s fire’, (Malachi 3:2), as a missionary, but the lesson that ‘all things are possible with the Lord’ has stayed with me.

 

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