Monday, January 30, 2017

Week #80--January 30, 2017

Hey! It's been a good week!

Sad news, Elder Prestwich and I have parted ways. :(

I'll miss him a lot, but that' just the life of a missionary I guess. 

My new Companion is Elder Barnes! He came out with Elder Prestwich and is hilarious! He's just the ultimate homie. Super down to earth, super down to work hard, super funny, super nice. But the weird thing is he's 6'6 and about my build so he makes me look kind of like a little guy. But if nothing else, we can just intimidate people into taking the lessons, haha! (I'm staying in Barstow, btw)

So we had the worldwide broadcast this week, and that was really cool. I think the craziest part was that Elder Oaks said "Umm", haha. For those who don't understand that, Elder Oaks ALWAYS speaks so smoothly and never mistakes, so when he all of a sudden he stopped in the middle of his sentence and said "Umm..." Elder Prestwich and I looked at eachother absolutely shocked!
But on a more serious note, I really like the changes. I also loved the doctrine shared. They talked about our need to have a bedrock understanding of the Doctrine of Christ. That really stuck with me. The Doctrine of Christ is a very simple 5 step process of Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the end. That's a pretty simple concept and we teach it quite often, so in the back of my quite prideful mind, I guess I thought I'd learned everything I've needed to know.
Holy cow was I wrong! All week I've been focusing my studies on just the doctrine of Christ, more specifically just Faith and Repentance. I've learned so much. 

One cool story that comes to mind is we felt prompted to drop by this house that we knew was empty, because we knew where the Less Active who used to live there had moved. We knew he was gone, but for some reason we just went and knocked on it, and he was there! He was cleaning up some stuff. After a brief chat, we shared this scripture:

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. (Mosiah 24:15)

After we shared that, he told us about how he'd been going through a lot at the time and how he had come back to clean up some stuff from his old house, but was just overwhelmed and stressed and kind of called out mentally to God for help, when all of a sudden he heard a knock at the door. We talked about how we can all do better at "[Submitting] cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." That's something I've been pondering a lot. Our willingness to endure that which the Lord throws at us. 

Linked with that, one of the things that has really been on my mind is a story that a member told us. He told it as a joke, but it really hit me hard!

A man was walking near a ledge, when all of sudden a huge wind came and blew him off the ledge and he began to plummet to his doom. In this chaos he reached out and grabbed a branch that was sticking out and began to hold on for dear life. In fear, and seeing his impending death below him, he cried out to God. 
In that instant, he (We'll call him John) heard a voice. "John, I am your Father. Do you believe in me?"
John cried out hastily: "Yes Lord, I believe!"
"Do you believe that I control the wind, the very wind that blew you off that ledge?
"Yes Lord! I believe!"
"John, do you believe that I am He who caused that branch to grow many years ago, knowing that someday you would fall and need something to save you?"
"Yes Lord! I believe!"
"John, do you believe that I have the power to control that wind and have it blow you back up to safety?"
"Yes Lord! I believe all these things!"
"Then let go."

When he told that last line, it hit me like a brick wall! I think there are many lessons we can learn from this small parable, but something that I've thought about is why? Why would God allow that to happen if he was just going to bring him to safety again? Why would he allow similar things to happen to any of us? We have all experienced being blown out of our comfort zones into trials full of fear. Why? 
At first, the thought came that God wanted to test John's faith. He wanted to see if John would let go in faith. But isn't God All Knowing? Doesn't he know John perfectly? 
Perhaps God wasn't trying to learn a lesson about John, but rather he was trying to help John learn a lesson about John. 
So, when you feel discouraged about all the trials that seem pointless and you feel like you're just running around in circles, rather than being frustrated with God and holding onto our branches that seemingly "Save us", have the Faith to let go, have the humility to learn the lesson, and have the courage to keep walking by ledges. 

Well, sorry this was so long! There's so much I wish I could fit into this, but If you ever want to burn an hour, just ask me after my mission "Hey, what's a cool story from your mission?" 

Missions are great!
I love you all!
Church is true!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week #79--January 23, 2017

This week was pretty good. Also pretty rough, but that happens. 

Edmund is doing well since his baptism! He's started getting his friends to take lessons, so we started teaching 3 of his friends. At the end of the first lesson, one of them said "So when can I get baptized?" Which is easily the best question you can get asked as a missionary.

We got to go up to the military fort on tuesday because the senior couple has some baptisms and needed an interview. That was pretty cool! It's a night and day difference to leave Barstow and go... Well... Anywhere! Barstow is kind of dirty and really run down. But the fort was neat and clean and full of responsible people.... It was awesome! I'm sure Utah is going to be quite the culture shock when I go home. 

Went on exchanges with Elder Taylor in the district. That went really well! His personality is kind of like Kawika (one of my friends from high school who is a grade A stud), so that was a good throwback. We even listened to 'New life' off the EFY CD that Kawika sings, and I said "Hearken! 'Tis your Polynesian brother"

Had a devotional this last week about Christ. That was really good. Then Elder Parry (aka Calvin Klein, the one I exchanged with) told this story by C. Scott Grow of the 70:

Recently, a member in Monterrey, Mexico, told me how the Book of Mormon changed his life. As a teenager, Jesús Santos was impressed by the LDS missionaries he saw walking down the dusty streets. He wanted to talk to them about their church but was told by a friend that you have to wait for them to contact you.

Many times he would go to the Church building and look through the iron fence at the missionaries and the Mutual youth playing games. They seemed to be so wholesome, and he wanted to be part of them. He would lean his chin on the fence, hoping that they would notice him and invite him to participate with them. It never happened.

He moved to Monterrey, Mexico. Nine years later he was visiting a friend across town when the missionaries knocked at the door. His friend wanted to send them away. Jesús begged him to let the missionaries talk to them for just two minutes. His friend consented.

The missionaries talked about the Book of Mormon, how Lehi’s family traveled from Jerusalem to the Americas, and how the resurrected Jesus Christ visited Lehi’s descendants in America.

Jesús wanted to know more. He was especially intrigued by the picture depicting Christ’s appearance in America. He gave the missionaries his address. He waited for months, but they never made contact with him.

Three more years passed. Some friends invited his family to a family home evening. They gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon.

As soon as he began to read it, he knew the Book of Mormon was true. Finally, 12 years after he first became aware of the Church, he and his wife were baptized. So many years had been lost. If missionaries had just talked to him, if the Mutual youth had just noticed a lonely teenager looking over the fence, if the missionaries in Monterrey had found him at home, his life would have been different during those 12 years. Gratefully, member neighbors invited him for a family home evening and shared with him that book which has such great converting power, the Book of Mormon.

Today Jesús Santos serves as the president of the Monterrey Mexico Temple.

This story sounds like a great story, right? About how God's purposes will always roll on?
Well Elder Parry then told us the title of the story. "I could've served a mission." 

Talk about a slap to the face as a missionary. That hit home hard. 

I think we often get in a rut as missionaries, either full time or part time or member missionaries. We realize eventually the prepared will be brought to the gospel, so we shouldn't worry too much. While it's true that we shouldn't WORRY and we shouldn't feel GUILT, we should feel some sort of DRIVE to find those who are prepared, and to find them NOW! Otherwise, we'll have another President Santos constantly saying "I could've served a mission". 

Well, that's it for this week!
I love you all!
Church is true!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Week #78--January 17, 2017

It's been yet another good week here in Barstow! We've been super busy. 
Edmund got baptized! So that's probably the biggest news. Really happy for him. 
Got to go to president interviews, that was fun. Got to see Dan on the way there, and that is always a joyous occasion. 
We went to the Nevada border. That was tight. I was closer to my family in  Vegas than I was to my home! And WAY closer than I was to the mission home. 
This week definitely had some ups and downs. We met with a guy named Omar. He was referred by his mother in law, and was super interested at first. Came to church, was reading and praying, etc. Then he got busy and we weren't able to meet with him last week, and when we met with him yesterday he said he'd been going to a non-denominational Christian Church and was just focusing on the bible for now. Luckily we had a super cool lesson where we read from the Book of Mormon and helped him understand it better and he has recommitted to reading and praying about it. 

My main spiritual thought is this quote by Henry B. Eyring:


I am a part of the fellowship of the unasamed. the dye has been cast. I have stepped over the line.

The Decision has been made.


I won't look back. let up, slow down. or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded . I now live by Faith, lean on HIS presence, walk with patience. I am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power . My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven. My road is narrow, my way is is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, and paid up for the cause of Christ. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And when He returns for His Own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My Banner will be clear.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of GOD unto Salvation to ever one that believeth... " Romans 1:16.

Author :- Elder Henry B. Eyring

Isn't that good? I loved that a lot. 
Don't be ashamed of what you believe in! Don't turn back on a good thing just because times get hard. 
I love you all!
Church is true!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week #77--January 9, 2017

Hello Everyone!

This week was crazy!

We taught 20 lessons this week which is my mission high!

Half the mission went down the hill for a meeting, and while I didn't get invited (they literally were SUPER random) Elder Prestwich did and the Zone Leaders both went and we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders so I got the gist of it. 

Basically here's the recap:

1) We're getting IPads pretty soon
2) The Book of Mormon is so cool.
3) We've been doing missionary work wrong this whole time!

It was a big wig from Salt Lake and the head of the Missionary Department at the MTC who came and they re-taught us how to do missionary work. Hard to describe over e-mail, but basically it's all about focusing on just the 3 commitments of church prayer and reading, simplifying things A TON and making people's 1st experiences with the Book of Mormon a lot more meaningful. So that's going through the mission like crazy and has changed a lot with how we teach! And we're already seeing huge results!

Also, went on exchanges with Elder Parry. He's from St. George and looks like Calvin Klein. I'm not even joking. He is just a good looking guy. 

We had a referral from Church HQ's that lived out in Hinkley which is in the middle of nowhere, but we found out she actually lived about 8 miles north of Hinkley on some unlabeled dirt road, so we spent 2 1/2 hours driving around the desert trying to find it. Also it was raining so the road was legit mud. 

It was so much fun. We finally found it, but as we drove up to it 5 HUGE dogs ran out and surrounded to car and tried to attack it. Obviously in a Dog vs. Car matchup, Dog's don't win so we escaped unharmed. 
This time we decided to sneak in the back way. 

But to no avail. The dogs saw us and came at us. Surrounded the car. Mission failed. We were about to pack up and call it a day, but we thought "NAH" We'd made it all the way out there and we were not going home that easily!

So we drove very quietly until we were somewhat close to the house and parked. We both looked at each other and Elder Parry was like "If god shut the mouth's of the lions for Daniel, he can help us see this referral."

I would be lying if I said I was anything but scared out of my wits. So we got out and started the long walk! We called it "The Brown Mile". It was SO INTENSE. 
And the crazy thing? NO DOGS! They had all gone to the back door and the owners let them inside for a bit with no knowledge that we were out there and that happened to be the time that we walked up. 

She wasn't that interested and just wanted a free bible. 

BUT STILL! It was super awesome. 

So that pretty much wraps up this e-mail. I love hearing from you guys! Let me know how you're all doing. 

Love you all!
Church is true!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Week #76--January 3, 2017

Good morning America!

Another good week flying by in the grand city of Barstow. 

New Years was quiet, although I will say we tried wine for the first time!

It was non-alcoholic, but wine nonetheless! It was disgusting. Absolutely vile. Martinelli's wins again. I'll send the video of us trying it, it's pretty funny. 

I made the wise decision of not wearing a coat one evening. #ShortSleeves4Days We dropped by this less active who was not willing to let us into his house, so we stood outside in the FREEZING cold wind while he imitated instrument sounds for us. It was pretty funny. He was good though! 4 1/2 stars for sure!

Played a classic round of Bean Boozled which is a game that Satan invented. There's a little spinner that lands on an assortment of beans. Each bean can have one of two flavors. One flavor is gross, (Barf, Dog food, Grass clippings, Baby Wipes, etc.) and the other potential flavor is good (Peach, chocolate, etc.)
If you spit it out or choose not to eat the bean the spinner lands on, you lose. 

I won. 

Of course. 

I got really sick.

Of course. 

I have no regrets.

Teaching wise, this week was pretty rough. We had quite a few lessons, but a lot of our investigators either moved, dropped us, died (Rest in Peace Granny Barbara) or stopped progressing. So now we're pounding hard to find. The goal is to find 20 new investigators this week. #Faith #BaptizeBarstow #GetSwole

Now on a spiritual note, this week I've been really studying the core doctrines as they're taught in the scripture. It's something I did a lot when I first came out, but I guess I thought I 'grew out of it' or some prideful garbage. Anyway, the point is that I'll pick a topic from the Preach My Gospel Lessons and just study every scripture I can find on the matter. Highly productive. 

The scripture that really hit me hard this week was this scripture from Ezekiel 36: 26-27  

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.​

I was really struck by the simplicity of it. As we turn to God he truly helps us become new creatures. Our disposition to do evil diminishes and our natural man slowly dissapears. Doesn't mean we have no disposition to do evil... At least not yet. But we have a new heart. 

This takes place at our baptism. We turn our old heart in and receive a new one. He pours his spirit on us when we receive the Holy Ghost, and each weekwe receive that new heart again. 

But we must come to Sacrament Meeting, willing to lay that Natural Man, and that stony heart on the Altar.  As our good buddy Elder Maxwell put it: "So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the “sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving “away all [our] sins” in order to “know God” (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him."

So let's all work on accepting that new heart into our lives!

I love you all! Church is true! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Week #75--December 27, 2016

Well Merry Christmas! 

Christmas was good. Phone call home was nice. We found 3 new investigators from tracting on Christmas night, which was an awesome blessing. Life is just good! Loving life.

Paul is still doing really well. He's super hyped on the church which is awesome. We're working on bringing him to some lessons. 

Also his neice made me a German Chocolate Cake for christmas and it was literally perfect. I just about started crying right there in their living room. Totally from scratch, totally heavenly. 

Also, I need to remind you that wickedness never was happiness. Trying to find joy in sin is contrary to the nature of God. I know that probably seems a little harsh, but I promise it's because I love you all so much! And sometimes we need that reminder. Everyone makes mistakes, and it IS true that God will always love us, but we must also remember that God doesn't tolerate sin. And he always wants us to improve. We often times see God as the perfect Cheerleader, because he's always there for us and always cheering us on. Even when we're down 70 to nothing a cheerleader will still cheer us and tell us how great we are.

In many ways that is true, but while listening to a talk by Hank Smith, he pointed out that perhaps it would be more accurate to describe God as a Coach. A perfect Coach. It's true, he's always on our side, but he is far more concerned with our progression than he is with our personal comfort, and therefore is going to push us. He's going to make us uncomfortable to make us better. And it doesn't matter how much a coach loves his players, an interception is an interception. A fumble is a fumble. A penalty is a penalty. When we sin we open our selves up to injury, regret, guilt, and punishments beyond our own comprehension. 

That is why God pushes so heavily for Obedience. He does not ask for our Obedience IN SPITE of loving us, rarther he asks for obedience BECAUSE he loves us. Neal A Maxell once said "Consecration [The act of conforming our will to God's] is the only surrender that is also a victory."

Well, I love you all! Church is true!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Week #74--December 19, 2016

Hello! Happy Hanukkah everybody! Hope you have great plans involving Menorah's and other fun holiday festivities!

This week was a lot of fun! 

We have some pretty funny stories, but IDK if I can remember them all. One took place with our investigator Robert. He's awesome. He's only like 70-80% crazy, which is about 20-30% less crazy than the average Barstow resident. 

During our lesson we asked why it was important to read the Book of Mormon and he said "So I can learn the mormon way! Like stocking up on canned goods in the garage." we had no idea where that came from, so we started to suppress laughter and he pointed at me and said "BROWN KNOWS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!" I honestly didn't, but that's besides the point. 

We also helped him dig a mine shaft in his back yard this week


You read that right. 

A mine shaft. 

He asked us to come help with some yard work, so we showed up and he directed us to this area where some trees had created a little shack, and it kind of looked like the entrance to a mine shaft. So he wants to dig a ten foot hole with stairs. 

Just for fun. 

This is the same investigator who when we were watching the Restoration movie in the quiet of his home and feeling the spirit asked OUT OF NOWHERE "You guys ever seen eggs in a basket?" to which we said "Yes" and he just went back to watching the movie. 

I love barstow. 

Spiritual moment: Paul got baptized! That was a super cool experience. He has a lot of members in his extended family and they all came down for it. Also last week he went up to Utah for his nephews farewell and his family took him to temple square for his first time and Paul told us he just couldn't describe how strongly he felt the spirit there. 
Then right after the confirmation when he was shaking hands and hugging everyone, when he got to me we hugged so hard that it made a resounding clap sound throughout the chapel and an old lady said "that was loud" and everyone laughed.
We also found 3 new investigators this week! One of them was a guy named Omar who is at a low point and wants to turn his life around. His mother in law is a member, so he was accepting and then he came to church and really enjoyed it! So that was super cool.

Also, to shift focus on the investigators who have a date (now that Paul is baptized) Edmund is a 13 year old in a PM family who comes super consistently and due to some complications was waiting for his mom to get baptized, but asked if he could baptized sooner. So he's on date for January 14th! Then we have Granny Barbara, a 78 year old Black Lady who really wants to get baptized on January 21st and Robert (mine shaft guy) is planning on getting baptized January 28th! So if all goes well, that'll be three baptisms 3 weeks in a row! It'll feel like Santa Fe all over again. 

Well, as a spiritual Thought I've been reading from President Kimball and he talks about how our thoughts play a significant role in who we become. He quotes the scripture from Proverbs "For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he". He then quotes James Allen:

"A man does not come to the almshouse or the jail by the tyranny of fate or circumstance, but by the pathway of grovelling thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure-minded man fall suddenly into crime by stress of mere external force; the criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power. Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself. No such conditions can exist as descending into vice and its attendant sufferings apart from vicious inclinations, or ascending into virtue and its pure happiness without the continued cultivation of virtuous aspirations, and man, therefore, as the lord and master of his thoughts is the maker of himself, the shaper and author of environment...

Let a man radically alter his thoughts and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit and habit solidifies into circumstance... He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Columbus cherished a vision of another world, and he discovered it; Copernicus fostered the vision of a multiplicity of worlds and a wider universe, and he revealed it; Buddha beheld the vision of a spiritual world of stainless beauty and perfect peace, and he entered into it."

I don't know if there's too much more to be said, but aim high! Don't allow poor thoughts to enter into your mind. Your mind is like an empty lot (as President Packer once said). If you leave it maintained, slowly trash and garbage will pile up until it's a junkyard. so do any necessary cleaning out right now and hang signs that say "No Dumping" and "No trespassing" and keep your thoughts clean and aspirations high!

I love you all! Church is true!