Monday, October 26, 2015

Week #15--October 26, 2015

So my first week in Victorville has been pretty crazy! Elder Jones is one crazy guy. Apparently he was ranked 7th in the nation for high school wrestling. At peak performance the kid was 5"8, 200 pounds and about 5% body fat. The dude's a beast. I'm pretty sure he wrestles alligators in his spare time. 
But him and I (Although total opposites) have become super good friends! He's a very VERY loving individual and I've learned a lot from him. 
The desert is very different from the valley, but the weather is gorgeous! It's felt so cool and nice every day and biking has been a real joy! We work super hard and laugh super hard so it's been a fun week. 

(THIS part is super long and boring, so if you don't want to read it skip down to "Because at the end of the day")I've been thinking a lot about obedience, and my thoughts may be super confusing so I apologize if I don't make any sense. So we're promised in D&C that every blessing we receive is received by obedience to whatever law or commandment it is connected to. Another missionary legend coined the phrase that "Application of correct principles produces desired results." While it seems simple, I've been thinking a lot about that. 
Missionaries out here have categorized missionaries into to categories that I think we categorize ourselves into as members of the church. "Letter of the law" missionaries and "Spirit of the Law" missionaries. This is of course a reference to Christ talking to the pharisees, informing them that Spirit of the Law was better. Letter of the law missionaries are kind of put in a bad light because they see the rules as stiff (Because there are some rules in the white handbook that are a little more strict and particular) while Spirit of the Law missionaries state that they try to understand the principles and make decisions based off what feels right. 

This bothered me. Because I didn't understand why there should be a difference, or why we should have to choose between Letter or spirit of the law. 

So drawing it back to the original statements, we can understand that: Application of principles=Blessings (Or results) and it isn't until we Apply PROPER principles that we achieve the DESIRED results. 
Now, we cannot believe that understanding principles is enough to achieve the blessings. Just like we cannot think that knowing a trail very well because of amps and pictures we've seen is the same as actually walking the trail. So principles must be put to practice. So: Practices based on Principles lead to Promises from our Heavenly Father (because he is bound when we do what he says, but when we don't he is not bound). This equation (Principle => Practice = Promised blessings) is doctrine. So for example, the doctrine of Christ: Principle= following him and being born again. Practice=  Acting in Faith, Repentance, Baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. Promised Blessings= returning to live with our Father in Heaven.

So, this was basically what had to go through my head to wrap my head around this whole "obedience" thing. So how does it apply? 

As a member of the church I get too caught up in the particulars without understanding the principle. And sometimes, I get caught up in trying to understand the principle without actually paying heed to the practice. I usually chose whichever one would be most convenient at the time.
But, as we understand and apply principles, we receive blessings. But when we understand and apply PROPER principles, we achieve the results we desire. These "results" come in many forms. Comfort. piece, temporal blessings, blessings on those around us, and most importantly having the spirit to be with us. 

We cannot say that we "Understand the rules so we know how to break them" in the gospel. Because if we truly understand the principle, we understand why the practice (our commandment, or guideline from any priesthood holder with authority over us) is in place. And if we don't understand the connection, that's fine. We're not commanded to understand the connection between the Principle and the Practice. We're merely asked to understand the Principle, apply the Principle through whatever practice has been given us by Priesthood Authority and to enjoy the results, blessings, whatever you want to call it. ('Adam fell that men might be, men are that the might have joy' sort of thing) 
So I've had a lot of fun taking commandments I don't always understand or commandments that are a little more vague with how to practice them and breaking them down through this model. 

Because at the end of the day, what we do is a sign to our Heavenly Father of how much we love him and how much we want his spirit to be with us. The more we strive to be like Christ, the more we are guided by the spirit and the closer we become to becoming one with the Father. With that, we will enjoy more blessings of spiritual happiness and joy that can only come through obedience and submission to the will of the father. Let us take on an attitude of "Not my will, but thine" in all we do. 

I love you all! I brag about my family and friends all the time, and can't wait to see you all again! (scratch that, I can wait... but you know what I mean)

Church is true!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week #14--October 19, 2015

Well, I've been transferred! (2/17) And let me tell you, I am going to miss this last Ward. They said some incredibly kind things to me on Sunday, and a lot even over the pulpit! Then a family threw a huge farewell dinner with all you could eat tri-tip steak and salmon and... Yeah. That dinner made it into the journal entry. I love that ward so much and will miss the wonderful people I met there dearly.

I will also miss my companions. Elder Acox was a wonderful addition to our companionship for those last 6 weeks, and he was a great example of humility. He totally changed his attitude towards mission culture and things like that that I was pridefully worried about (lesson learned) and he just... Yeah. Humble is the best way to describe. And hard working. 

Elder Russell I won't see until I'm home since he's going home in just a few short months and we're far away. He really has changed me a lot. I'll miss his guidance and insight dearly. He just understood charity. And that was usually the center of both our goals and most of our discussions. How could we love people more, how could we show them, how could we feel the love our Lord has for us more in our lives. He gave selfless service often to me and Elder Acox, and never found fault in us. Always after an argument he would take the blame and apologize and make restitution, even if it wasn't his fault. A truly great missionary.
But onto bigger and better places! Elder Jones is my new companion, and he goes home at the end of this transfer. We're in the Parkview A ward, in Victorville. I'm officially in the desert, and apparently it's a different world up here! He's a very wise and experienced missionary. He's a small town Idaho boy (Moscow Idaho) and played varsity football all 4 years so the guy knows how to work! I'm really looking forward to hitting the pavement hard with this guy and just tearing up this area!
Thought for the week:
So there's this family in the Terra Vista ward named the Eggets (Yeah, Rebekah Egget's cousin for those of you who know her) and he's awesome. Him and his wife: super spiritually in tune. It's so cool to be around them. Anyway, he was talking about how the Gospel is like a Rubix cube. (Bear with me, this analogy is cool) A rubix cube is simple, 6 sides and 6 colors. For those of you who know how they work, it's like a 3 step process that you repeat over and over again to solve it. No matter what state that cube is in, you repeat the 3 steps and eventually it will be solved. 

He then compared that the gospel is simple. 1 plan, 1 destination, 1 Savior, one purpose, and a simple process of Faith, Repentance, making and renewing covenants and enduring to the end to solve it all. This process is all that matters. But too often, we rely on our own wisdom and our own knowledge to try and figure it out for ourselves. Have you ever tried figuring out a rubix cube without the steps? It's a mess. And the cube always ends up worse then before. As soon as we try to "Figure out" the gospel and delve into the weeds of deep doctrine and all the fluff, we assume that we can produce a process better than the one already provided. And our testimonies will suffer. The gospel is simple, and as soon as we over complicate it we end up with a weaker testimony. Read the Book of Mormon. Pray to know it's true. Act in faith on the Commandments of the prophets. It's these simple things that will get us to return to live with our Heavenly Father, even if it seems as mundane as a 3 step process you repeat over and over. 

Cool stuff, huh?
Church is true. Wish me luck in the new area. I love and miss you all!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week #13--October 12, 2015

Hello! It's good to write you all again. The weeks seem to keep getting shorter and shorter, which is a good thing but also a scary thing. I worry I won't take advantage of the time I have here as much as I should.
Some cool things from this week: Brother Rios, (the less active guy who fasted and as an answer we ran into him) Totally came to church yesterday with his whole family! How cool is that? I was so excited to see them all I could hardly hold it in! We plan to follow up with him to see how his experience was.
It was such a powerful fast and testimony meeting too! So many powerful people bearing their testimonies born. And our bishop bore his testimony as well. And that was cool. He had a really nasty surgery a few months ago and has been in brutal pain ever since, but his testimony as so powerful. He's an awesome man.
We also met a woman at a bus stop who told us "Yeah... I've met with you mormons before... But you lost me at John Smith's dishes" .... We were very confused for a bit, and had no idea how to respond to that... Then I realized where the mix up had happened: "Oh! The plates!" Haha, we got to clear up the misconception about that, and she also believed that it really was John Smith... Like from Pocohantos (spelling?). So that was a fun conversation.
And I've been thinking a lot about mom's. One of our investigator's was complaining about her Hashimoto's disease (again... spelling?) and how it totally wiped her out most days, and how he couldn't meet with us because of it. And everyone who knows what that was has taken it as a valid excuse saying things like "Oh yeah, that would give her lots of ups and downs." or "Oh really? I don't blame her at all, that's a really tough thing to go through!" And the whole time, I was getting confused, because my Mom suffers from the same disease, and it doesn't stop her at all! 
Now maybe that's too much information to share, but the point I'm getting at is that the longer I'm out on my mission the more I realize what a blessing my mother has been to me. Literally nothing can stop her from doing 10x the tasks of an average human being, and working on like half of the sleep. What a woman! And if that was the only medical issue she was dealing with, that wouldn't be nearly as impressive as if she was dealing with all the physical and medical conditions she is dealing with! But nothing stops her! 
And then I started thinking of all the amazing hard working women in my life that make everyone else in the world seem like a bunch of pansies! Both my grandmother's, my aunt's and adult cousin just to name a few. Elder Holland couldn't have picked a better topic for his talk because everything I am today I owe to my Mother and the other women in my life. Thank you so much for all you do.
Church is true, and families can be together forever. I know that to be true. With all my heart and soul. I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. Not because of any physical proof, or intellectual research, but because of the burning in my heart I receive as I read the Book of Mormon and as I pray for a witness that it is true. I know that by small and simple things, great things to come to pass and the foundation of a lasting testimony comes through the small things like daily prayer, daily scripture study and weekly church attendance. And I know that we have a solemn responsibility to proclaim these things to the world. In the words of my wise mother: "I believe that is what eternity will feel like... We will long for those who we didn't help and we'll wish we could go back and work just a little harder, accept a little quicker and love a little more." Share the Gospel brothers and sisters. Share the good word with all you come in contact with.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Week #12--October 5, 2015


Another awesome week and a half. Especially with Conference! Boy did I need that uplifting change in pace. That was so very nice! I wish I could write all my thoughts on Conference, but my condensed notes alone spanned about 20 pages in my study journal, so I won't put too much in here :)
Update on the work: Everyone was out of town! So we only got to teach one lesson since last Thursday, and that was on splits, so it was just me and our Ward Mission Leader. His name is Jason, and he's a hard-core gamer, so I've been the only missionary that's actually been able to progress with him. So it's been super cool to work with him! One night I really wanted him to say the closing prayer, but he was too embarrassed to pray in public (Because he went less active shortly after converting at 18) so we rolled dice for it like it was a DnD game. I had faith the lord would help on a silly matter like Dice, and he did! Jason said the prayer.
Another cool experience: (There were quite a few this week) We met a man working on his car, who was 23 and had gone from living in a small South American country with a dirt poor family to being quite successful here in the States. We talked about his religious background, and he used to be Jehovah's Witness and had read the bible many times... But didn't have any faith. We asked him if he believed in God, and he replied "I work in law enforcement. In San Bernadino County alone, 7 people are killed every day... Where is your God in that?" His question was not one of anger, or malice but of legitimate heartache and abandonment. I have rarely felt the spirit so strong as that moment when I had the opportunity to testify to him that there was indeed a Loving Heavenly Father. I asked him if it had been hard to turn his life around and leave his home to live here. He said Absolutely, and I then asked if he would trade those difficulties for anything. He stopped, and said with tears in his eyes that he wouldn't. I told him that this life is like a "refiner's fire" and that we go through, just like metal, excruciating heat and brutal pounding and shaping in the hands of the Maker that we may become the beautiful creation he wants us to be. It was so cool to see his countenance change, and even though nothing else has come of it, my testimony was strengthened that there is indeed a God who loves us all.
Another cool experience: We had just visited our Ward Mission Leader and had planned to be across town, but Elder Acox suggested we should visit a less active in the complex just over from us. So we did, and on our way we saw a different less active, who had stopped coming to church when he moved into our ward. We'd dropped by a few times but he was 'too busy' and didn't want to talk.Today though, he opened up to us completely. He was a returned missionary and has been swept away by Anti-Mormon material. He was truly hurt by things that the Church said, and there was no explanation to his concerns that we could say that calmed him. But the key was that he had stopped reading the scriptures about the time he came across these doubts. We talked about the importance of the Book of Mormon, things he already knew and had just forgotten, and the contention left immediately, and as the subject had changed, so did the mood. The spirit was strong as we testified of our knowledge of the truthfulness of that book, and he accepted the challenge to read it again cover to cover. As he was leaving, he said "You know, today for some reason... I just felt like fasting. I guess you guys were the answer!"
This church is so true. I have more experiences, but I don't have time to write them all. I just hope you don't take for granted the power of the scriptures. Seriously. That's the key. People can create arguments all they want, and they can disprove, deny and down-play the Book of Mormon, but none of that matters. What greater witness can you receive then from God?
I know the Book of Mormon is true, and I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God called to restore the one true gospel of Christ. And what an amazing gift we have that comes with that! The opportunity to be like God and live with our families forever!
I apologize if I seemed a little bummed out the past few weeks, because I really do love this work that I'm doing.
I love and miss you all!
Church it true!