Monday, August 31, 2015

Week #7--August 31, 2015

Hello friends and family, I think this one will be shorter than the novels I usually write, and I'll try to make it brief. 
No pants wheelchair guy (Neil) Is progressing really well! And we love meeting with him every week 2 to 3 times. He also came to our music fireside which was a big success! The arrangements were great and every one who came loved them! But all the refreshments had wheat in them. #thestruggle

We also met a new investigator named Lisa who was a Jehovah's Witness for 39 years, but always felt empty. She tried really hard and followed all the commandments and just felt empty, so she left for 17 years and is now having lots of friends who are being baptized LDS and is loving everything about the lessons so far!
She's super cool, and doesn't look 56. She looks way younger and actually works in hollywood fro Disney Channel. She was a little disturbed at how excited I got about that and how much I knew about said Disney Channell shows, but... I don't feel bad. She's the prop manager for shows like Jessie, Ant Farm, Liv and Maddie and the one she's working on now is a new one. (Bunked?) That hopefully doesn't mean anything to most of you, but I got excited.
I've been thinking a lot about Grace. I got bible bashed for the first time by some member of Calvary Chapel. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Calvary Chapel actually teaches anti-mormon classes! (Yeah Christianity!) And they're not the only one. But they made the claim, that we as Mormons didn't believe in Grace and we were trying to Earn our way to heaven. I got confused and went into a lot of study on the matter. They pointed out how in the bible it says we are saved by Grace, and in the Book of Mormon it says we are saved by Grace, after all we can do.
Elder Russell then showed me an amazing talk by Brad Wilcox called "His Grace is Sufficient" And I encourage you all to listen to it. But he talks about how through Grace ALL of our sins are forgiven. We can't pay him back for what he's done and through the atonement he covers it all, and we will live with him forever. Then why works? Because it's like a young child taking piano. Mom pays the price for the lessons, and asks us to practice. Does practicing pay the piano teacher? No. Does it pay back mom? No. But she doesn't want us to pay her back, she wants us to become pianists. So we're not Earning heaven, we're learning heaven. The lord loves us enough to let us live with him if we choose, but this life is an opportunity to obtain celestial habits that will prepare us for Eternity in Heaven.
If it seems confusing, read the talk. But the point is I am so grateful for our savior Jesus Christ. He's already paid the price and taken everything on himself. And as President Uchtdorf said in this last Conference, we obey his commandments because we love him. Just because we have been saved by Grace does NOT mean that we can now sit back and relax and stay in sin. Then we're missing the point. Born again Christians miss the point because this truly is a learning experience.
So brothers and sister, I plead with you to read your scriptures more fervently and to pray more fervently. Those two habits are so key in "learning" heaven. SO key. I never was good at either one at home but my mission has woke me up to that fact. Because when you're studying 2-4 hours a day and praying 6-8 times on your knees and 40-50 other times throughout the day, you see the increase in blessings. It's overwhelming.
I love you all. Church is true.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Week #6--August 24, 2015

Hey guys! 

Another great week. I don't know if I talked about Neil, but I don't want to re read my email's so I'll just re-tell his story if I haven't, because he's left an impact on me. 
We were looking for a less active-member and knocked on 'her door' to see a tiny bald head pop out from the door at about knee height. As you can probably guess, Elder Russell and I were slightly, (or gravely) taken aback at the sight of such a head at such a low part of the door. We asked if Jennifer lived there, and he asked: "I dunno, do I look like Jennifer?" (But in a nice way... When I type it it sounds like he's mean.) We laughed and said no and asked if he'd like to hear a message about Jesus Christ, and he said "Okay... Can I put some pants on first?"
Oh yeah! You can't buy this kind of entertainment ladies and gentlemen.
Turns out he was in a wheelchair, so that combined with his absence of trousers explains it all. He's awesome. He's hilarious and Catholic, but disagrees with a lot of catholic beliefs. He studied Theology in college so he's familiar with the bible, just not our beliefs, and we've met with him 4-5 times since then. We brought the Elder's Quorum President a few times, and they're both a riot so the first half of each lessons is just us 4 laughing. But then it get's super spiritual. 

He asked early on how he could know it's true, which is like a golden question to get as a missionary, so we talked about Moroni 10:3-5 and how all he needed to do to find out for himself was read and pray with a sincere heart and he'll know. 


The reason this has been on my mind goes beyond him. 

It bothers me because it's a simple request that so few people heed. 

ETERNITY IS HANGING IN THE BALANCE HERE PEOPLE. Forever, always, never ending. It's even longer than the Sound of Music! If this church is true, then what we're claiming is the passage way to Eternal Life and happiness through Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the End. We're claiming that this is the only church with the fullness of the gospel, the fulness of Priesthood Authority (Or any Authority, really) and we're claiming that this is it. This is how we can spend the rest of time with God, Christ and our families. Literally the three best people or groups of people to spend the rest of time with!
And all of it is hinged on the Book of Mormon. It's so simple. That's it. That's all you need to do to know it's true, because once you have read those 580-something pages, and prayed with real intent and Faith in Christ and a willingness to act on your answer: You. Will. Know.
And there's no 18/19 year old boy, 42 year Quorum President, Stake President, Area 70, Apostle, Prophet or Angel who can tell you anything more powerful than that witness. Upon that witness and knowledge that the church is true, everything is balanced.
Read the Book of Mormon. Read it daily, read it constantly. Feast on the words of Christ. Treasure up thoughts of it through out your day. Ponder on it in your mind and in your heart. 

Don't have time? Make time. I personally don't think I'll ever look back in the vast endlessness of eternity and think "Wow, my job was definitely more important than the Gospel." 

I was a slacker at home, and I didn't understand the seriousness of that book. I challenge you all to figure out it's weight and take Moroni's challenge. Take James 1:5's challenge. Take Joseph Smiths challenge. Ask of God. Ask him if things are true. 

And I promise if you do it with a sincere heart, with real intent and Faith in Christ; you will receive that witness.
I love you all. The church is true. I know that know more than ever, and because I love you more than you know, I need you all to find that out for yourselves as well. Because I don't want to see any of you miss out on any of the blessings your Father has waiting for you. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week #5--August 17, 2015

I just want to begin by letting you all know that I love you. I feel your prayers, I feel your support. And more important than that, your Heavenly Father loves you. He's spent years and years and year creating you, teaching you, and getting to know you before you even came to this earth. And he wants nothing more than to see you succeed, and to see you return to him. His love is infinite, his knowledge is infinite, and his gospel is infinite.
Now as for the week: The work is picking up! I don't know if I mentioned this before, but Elder Russell and I are both new to the area. (It's called whitewashing) and the Elder's before us (Awesome Elders) were also over the Young Adult ward AND they were zone leaders, so their efforts were a little spread out. But after 3 weeks of exact obedience to the best of our abilities, we are seeing really incredible blessings! This last sunday was such a pick me up, because we had tons of Less Actives come that we were working with, some investigators, and even a woman who just showed up, lives in our area, and wants to learn more and be baptized! Exact obedience brings miracles brothers and sisters!
By exact obedience I suppose I should expound. One: That would not have been my first instinct, and I owe so much of what I've learned from my incredible trainer, Elder Russell. But he talks about getting up 5 minutes early so that you can be legitimately awake by 6:30, literally eating up the white handbook, every day getting rid of the smallest pieces of disobedience and other things like that. We'll end up at our apartment complex after a very long day at around 8:50. We need to be in at 9:00. So what do we do? We go bike around and meet people for 10 minutes before returning as we are prompted. Things like this have shown us the tender mercies of the Lord.
But Holy Moroni it was hot. Like freakishly hot. And we had so much biking to do. Every door we got to, people were shocked that we were biking in the heat we were in. But that didn't stop us! We had a message to share and lives to save! And souls still need salvation when it's 108 degrees outside! No exceptions!
We have one investigator who is 15, (I may have mentioned him) and is the sweetest kid you'll meet. He melts my heart every time we teach him. But he has a really hard home life, and it crushes me.
We also are teaching these two kids who are really interested but their parents are less active, and we go teach them and they're kind, and loving, and fun... And their parent's won't stop putting them down! One kid plays football and I asked what position he plays, and his dad yells from the kitchen: "Left bench! He can't play football!" The look of discouragement on his face killed me.
Brother's and sisters, especially friends of mine who will be parents in the next 5-10 years, don't put down your children. I am blessed to have parents who are very supportive of everything I try, even the silly things! They cheer me on, and praise me after every performance and always have. They're honest with their critiques, and help me as I strive to improve, but always happy and never put me down. Even on days when I got nothing but put downs all day from friends and others and even teachers, I always relied on my parents to cheer me up and make me feel important.
BE THOSE KINDS OF PARENTS! I can't wait to be! Forget my hobbies, my kids will be my hobby. I realize that parenthood is a ways a way from me, and there's that whole marriage AFTER my mission thing I've got before I get a baby, but still. It's the concept that I'm preparing now to be a father worthy of my children. Someone that is worthy of taking on the role of raising a Child of Heavenly Father. That's what it's all about.
I love learning about the gospel, and it's so cool to study. A young woman asked. "Is it true that you can read the Book of Mormon multiple times and get something new out of it?" I responded by telling her that you could read the Book of Mormon an infinite amount of times and learn more each time. Because God is infinite, anything he creates must be infinite. Otherwise he would no longer be completely infinite and would therefor cease to be God. I told her how Elder Bednar has talked about how he has read it cover to cover well over 1,000 times, not to mention studying it for specific passages and specific scriptures. And why on earth would he continue to read it if he wasn't continually learning.
That's pretty cool isn't it?
Well, I've preached a lot. And it all seemed to have a bit more of a solemn note, so I apologize if you were searching for something very funny.
The Church is true. It has to be true. There's no other way. There is too much proof I see every day to say otherwise. If you have not had that witness yet, and don't know how to receive it let me draw for you the simple equation: Read the Book of Mormon + Pray about it= witness. It's literally that easy. It's a gospel simple enough for children and complex enough that gospel scholars spend their whole lives just trying to scratch the surface.
I love you all and pray for you daily. 
I feel your prayers and appreciate them.
Write me and I'll write you back
The Church IS true.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Week #4--August 10, 2015

Well goodness gracious I feel overwhelmed with gratitude! I am so grateful for all of your beautiful encouraging words that I received today! I am so blessed to have wonderful supportive friends and family. I want you all to know that I love you all incredibly. Almost as much as I love this gospel. But like.... I think you guys will have to enjoy the silver medal on that one. Because at this rate, the standings aren't changing. ;)
I found out that I come home 23 months from today, July 10 2017. This first month FLEW by. And I hear it just keeps going faster which kind of scares me. But luckily I have plenty of time to continue to do this.
This work is beautiful, can I just say that? I get to spend 16 hours a day talking to people I've never met, people who are struggling, people who are so unique, people who are in such terrible ruts and I get to be a tool in the Lords hands and assist them in coming to Christ. All day. Every day. I can't express to you the unspeakable joy that comes. If anything, I think I love these random people I've hardly said a word to too much. Just yesterday, a security guard got mad at us for biking in a no bike gated community, (We didn't know, I promise. We obey all the laws and rules we know about) Elder Russell and I started talking to him and what was originally a warning to leave the premises turned into a 90 minute discussion about his struggles and how Christ can help him, and he agreed to meet with the missionaries in his area.
Saturday, we went to see a less active who we called but she gave us the wrong apartment number. (We think it was on purpose) So we knock on this guy in a wheelchair's door and he invites us in. 2 hours of talking about the restoration.
I am so blessed to be here! To be a part of this work! To be immersed in the spirit! And Elder Russell is probably the biggest blessing I could have asked for. He knows so much about the gospel. Like, so much. He tells me all these beautiful things, and we discuss all these advanced doctrines and EVERYTHING denotes to the fact that there is a God, that Jesus is our Savior and that Joseph Smith restored Christ's one true full gospel. It's incredible.
This last Sunday, while we were teaching Gospel Principle's, (A simpler class for Recent Converts) a sister talked about her experience with the book of mormon that stood out to me. She said she was never very big on the book of mormon because there were always a million things stopping her from reading it. She kept asking for, and expecting, the blessings that come from reading it fervently and consistently but wouldn't get them. She realized then that she was asking for the wrong thing. And this is the key part:
Rather than asking for the blessings of reading, SHE ASKED FOR THE HUNGER.
She wanted so badly to want to read the scriptures, and so that's what her goal became. And she read it everywhere. She replaced music in the car with the Book of Mormon audio book, free time she cut out TV time and kept reading because she wanted to SO badly. Keep in mind, this woman is going to school part time, and has a big family that she is the mother of. So she already has a ton on her plate. But she ended up reading the whole thing in 24 days. Yep. 24 days. Because she hungered for the words of Christ.
It reminds me of when I was in the 7th grade and would pray (This a sad but true story) to wake up one day buff. Like, ripped. And many times, we all ask for shortcuts. But in all actuality, we should be praying and asking for that hunger. I should have been praying for the hunger to exercise, just like this awesome Sister.
I encourage all of you to pray and seek that same hunger in all worthy aspects of your life. OUR GOD IS NOT A GOD OF SHORTCUTS. He never has been. He never will be. Because we cannot receive eternal and celestial glory through shortcuts. It will be through hard work and obtaining the hunger and desire to do good. And unlike hunger for food (Which comes quite naturally for fat guys like me) our hunger for spiritual blessing will not come naturally. We hunger for the blessings but not the process required for attaining them. That is where we seek worldly and earthly things to satisfy that hunger. And for a moment we appeared satisfied.
But once you've experienced a fine rib-eye stake, a McDouble just doesn't taste that good! Sure it takes more effort to grill up some quality cut meats, and a lot more effort than sitting in the drive through and it may seem from the outside that the reward of nourishment is basically the same
BUT IT IS NOT THE SAME. We cannot expect that spiritual nourishment from worldly things. Period. End of story.
Well, off my soapbox. I hope that strange, greasy metaphor made some sort of sense.
I love this work, brothers and sisters. How many times can I say it? A lot. Because it's true. As true as the church. Which means 100%. Because the church is 100% true. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Week #3--August 3, 2015

So! I'm here! In my first area with my trainer! I was assigned to the Rancho Cucamonga Terra Vista Ward, and my trainer is Elder Russell. But I'll get to him later. 

       First off, I'm in love. I didn't think I could enjoy anything as much as I enjoyed the MTC, but that is just not the case! On Tuesday I met Elder Russell and we drove out to our area, (Which is right next to the mission home) and got our bikes. We live at the top of a big hill, and all the people we meet are at the bottom. It's really funny talking to other missionaries with cars, (Because like 80% do) and they say things like "Wait... They're making you Terra Vista on bike?" It's brutal. I suppose it didn't really hit me how exhausting biking up hill for 2-4 miles in 105 degree weather with a white shirt, tie and slacks 2-3 times a day would be until we started doing it. But I'm picking it up fast and getting in shape really fast. 

             The other thing about the area is it's mostly apartment complexes. There's like 30-40 complexes in our area. And that's a lot considering they all have about 200 apartments. (You do the math. I'm too tired to try) But that means we have a lot of really cool energetic young adults in our ward! And lot's of tracting (Knocking on doors) to be done. 

               Crime is higher than I expected. Our lights and water bottles got stolen the first day and we were in a gated community! An investigators friend got jumped by an armed hoodlum group in the middle of the day right outside his apartment while we were teaching a lesson, there's certain areas of town we're not allowed to go near past 7:00.... It's freaking awesome! And Heavenly Father just keeps pouring his blessings on my companion and I. 

            There are 2 cool shopping centers nearby with a great 99 cent store and a target and nice restaurants, and there's a gym in our complex where we work out every morning. Alright. Now that I got that boring stuff out of the way, let's chat BUSINESS:

Elder Russell has already become one of the most influential people I've ever met. When I met him he looked like a stuck up missionary with a comb-over, but I couldn't have been more wrong. He is extremely down to earth and knows what he's doing. He's been out 18 months, is from Grantsville Utah, and is also majoring in commercial music! How cool is that? So we sing everywhere we go. Hymns, primary songs, we write spiritual spoofs of other songs, it's a party.

AND HE KICKS MY BUTT. He doesn't really allow break time, nor does he allow nap time, slack off time, nothing. We get up at 6:30 and kick it into high gear until 10:30. No breaks. He bikes a million miles an hour, and makes me keep up with him, and has cut our allotted lunch time in half because that extra half hour he wants to spend proselyting. At first I was thinking "I'm done for" But the spirit is so strong with him and with us as a companionship as we do our best to remain exactly obedient. ALL THE TIME. His philosophy is that a missionary is defined by how he spends his time from 6:30 in the morning until 10:00, so we don't miss a beat. But he's still super nice about it and leads more by powerful/forceful example. 

We've planned and are working on a musical fireside at the end of this month. We're arranging songs and writing talks based on the Plan of Salvation with an emphasis on the Atonement. We hope to do more if it goes well and we get a lot of non members there. 

It's awesome being so involved with the ward. We teach lessons during church, meet tons of nice people, get offers of referrals and things like that from everyone. I think my favorite part is working with the ward so closely. 

We were whitewashed into this area, which means neither of us have served here and don't really know where to go for investigators. There were a few notes from the Elder's before us, but they didn't really pan out. We had hopes for a woman named Cori, but when we met with her we found out that she was a 57 year old with a 14 year old girl's personality. She just whined about her fiancee the whole time, and talked about makeup and clothes.... to missionaries... And found weird ways to go from the Restoration and Joseph smith to Mary Kay.... Yeah. That was an hour I'm never getting back. 

But now for the cool stories. We were tracting one day and this huge african american boy from georgia comes out of nowhere, excited out of his mind. Apparently last fall he had been meeting with missionaries and wanted to be baptized but when he moved out to California, he had lost all contact, and didn't know where to find us. Teaching him has been so cool and his spirit is so strong. He's still struggling to follow up with commitments, but we think if we can get him fellow shipped by some boys in the ward, he'll start coming. He committed to baptism for the end of this month.

Then Saturday came, and we were supposed to go very far west to meet some less actives. But after dinner, Elder Russell felt prompted to go to the very south east corner (Like 5-6 miles away down hill) to visit a less active. This was an area we had avoided because of the enormous journey it would take to get there so I said "Well Elder Russell, he'd better be there and we'd better change his life" This was, of course, an extremely selfish and foolish thing for me to say and I have since repented and followed my companions promptings with much more faith.
So we made the extensive journey down, and GUESS WHAT?!?!?!?!?

No one was home. 

Boy I tell you, I was not happy. In fact in the words of Elder Russell. "Wow, you know I've never seen you so grumpy Elder Brown" I then replied. "We have to bike back, and we got nothing done! And you're not even the fat one!" So we started back up and he felt prompted to visit some SUPER less active who was never home in a nearby complex. (Don't get your hopes up she wasn't home either) but while we were in the parking lot we were stopped by someone else. 

You have to understand, here in Rancho EVERYONE is a born again Christian, and there are TONS of bible bashers. Like, tons. Most people want nothing to do with us. So this guys pulling us aside was weird. 

He asked us to pray with him, so we did and started teaching him about the Restoration and his countenance changed completely. The spirit was so incredibly strong as we taught this man. Apparently he had just spent a few years in prison for manslaughter (That's a joke, I don't know what he was in for, but I figured I'd scare my mom) But he'd spent a few years in prison and he said he really wanted to change and become religious. He kept trying to describe what he was feeling, and I thought it was awesome! He was saying thing's like "It's like there's a rushing wind running through my body" "I can feel everything so much deeper" "I'm just happy but determined" "I can feel God telling me that meeting you was no coincidence." And things of that nature. We explained to him that this was the spirit testifying of truth. Then Elder Russell told the story of the first vision and recited verses 16 and 17, and holy cow. It was a powerhouse spirit. He started smiling and getting emotional, and I don't even remember the bike ride home being difficult at all.

I'm sure there's more I could say, but this is already too long. I love you all! Write me! Even if they're short! Just update me about your life! I'd love to hear about it and write you back! Church is true!