Frau Ruster and the Cure for Cognitive Dissonance
While Elder Callister was reading, a marvelous presence entered the room. How can I describe it? It was like pure electricity. It was as if an almost suffocating cloud of power and light filled the room. I have felt this power at other times in my life, but never like this, never with this intensity or immediacy or purpose. It was overwhelming, and it was the purest and holiest influence I have ever encountered.
Elder Callister stopped reading, and none of us could speak for quite some time. I don't know how long we sat there in the throbbing silence. It could have been an eternity. One of Joseph Smith's teachings about the Holy Ghost was demonstrated vividly by the presence that visited us that day. It bypassed the body completely and communicated pure intelligence to the spirit. Imprinted on my soul during that encounter was a very specific and unmistakable message: "It is true! It is all true!" To this day I can honestly say I know only two things with absolute certainty -- that I exist and the truth of what the Spirit revealed to me that day. I have never felt a presence more real than the one that came into Frau Rüster's home that day. Mere flesh and blood pale in comparison.
Eventually, not knowing what else to do, Elder Callister handed the Joseph Smith brochure to Frau Rüster and asked her to read it and pray about it. We excused ourselves. As I recall, she didn't say a word or even see us to the door. When we stepped outside into the thin air and walked to the gate, Elder Callister exclaimed, "Wow, did you feel that!"
I don't know that I answered. I had my witness. I knew. So did Frau Rüster. When we visited a couple of days later, she asked to be baptized. She said she had her answer. No more questions. We told her no. We wanted her husband to be baptized with her. We wanted him to receive the same witness. We wanted a whole family to join the Church together. Missionaries tend to be idealists. Herr Rüster was a bit shaken up by this new development, but he agreed to more seriously investigate the Church. He promised to read the Book of Mormon and pray. He never did. And I believe this is the greatest regret I have from my mission, that we insisted Frau Rüster delay her baptism. The doubts returned, and so, of course, did Pastor Kühne.
I learned through this experience that another thing Joseph Smith taught about the Holy Ghost is true: "A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him" (D&C 130:23). "There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost," the Prophet explained. "Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him."
Frau Rüster did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost in time. Perhaps someday we will be held accountable for our decision. We were both nineteen. I hope God takes that into account. But eventually Frau Rüster lost the very thing she had prayed for and received. We were devastated.
A transfer took Elder Callister away soon after this experience. Elder Blades and I tried to teach Herr Rüster. He was indifferent. Frau Rüster faded. One day she told us that a famous pastor was coming to town to preach. She invited us to come listen to him, insisting that we would feel the Spirit when he spoke, just as we had in her living room. We went with her and her husband. Elder Blades and I didn't feel a thing. I don't think Herr Rüster did either. Frau Rüster, on the other hand, claimed she felt the Spirit there. I was not convinced, so I asked her if it was the same Spirit she had felt that October day in her living room. "No," she confessed, "that Spirit was calling me to repentance." Fascinating, I thought, how the Holy Ghost could tailor a specific message for each person present.