Hey hey hey Family, Friends and Fans --
Apparently a lot more people read these e-mails than I thought. I hope they are of some worth, and most importantly I hope they effectively invite anyone reading to 'come unto Christ'. After all, that is my purpose.
I'll start off by going over the basics of the week. Monday night Sis. Ockey made me a customized birthday dinner. I ate like a champion. Yum! We had a baptism Tuesday night. Jean Max Alexis, who is the coolest, was baptized and everything went great. After that, our week kinda tanked. Wednesday I took Sis. Smith out for lunch (for my birthday, lol) and we ate at Twin Brothers - world famous at the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay. We had conch fritters, broiled grouper, and cracked lobster. Once again, we ate like champions. Unfortunately we brought the grouper home and nuked it in the microwave the next day and then our entire house smelled like fish for four days. That is a lesson learned ... never again, never again.
I can't believe I've been out six months now. It feels closer to three months. So if that ratio continues I guess after this is all said and done it'll only feel like nine months. Good times. There's not much else to say and not much else exciting that happened this week in the realm of actual events. We did get hit by tropical storm Nicole, but nothing major other than lots of rain and wind. Transfers are coming, but we haven't heard anything so I guess we're staying here another six weeks. Sis. Smith and I have been together 24 hours a day 7 days a week for six months. Needless to say the honeymoon is over - but we're working on it and I'm learning valuable lessons in companionship and patience and charity.
Now onto the insights. I read an article by David A. Bednar about how the Holy Ghost answers us "line upon line, and precept upon precept". It rocked my world. It started out with a question he received all the time -- "how do I know if the answer is from the Spirit or if it is just from me?" Man, who DOESN'T ask themselves that all the time? He went on to say the Lord's pattern for revealing truth is not like the stories of Paul and Alma the Younger of Joseph Smith. Those are the exception, not the norm. For us, more often than not, it comes a little at a time - through a prompting, a scripture, a conversation, a lesson, a feeling ... until it culminates in our answer. The Lord trusts us to use our agency righteously and have it confirmed through the Spirit. Anyway, it changed my outlook on a few things to say the least.
I loved getting the October Liahona. I read it in two days. I miss the temple! I especially loved the article by Howard W. Hunter about being a temple-motivated people. That is a goal for me and my future family - look to the temple! Definetely snag that issue if you have not already, it is amazing and has beautiful pictures and counsel!
I noticed something. You know when your friend buys a car, and you never noticed that car before but now that you have a friend who owns it you see it everywhere you go? So it goes with studying a particular gospel principle. Once you study something, or the Spirit brings to your mind a new understanding from something you've read before, you begin to see it and hear it in everything you experience. For example, after reading about the temples I recognized references and ties to temple work in every lesson! I realized how lucky we are to have a temple so close to us back home. The members here have to travel to Orlando to go to the temple - and few have the money to make the trip. The members in Jamaica have to go to the Dominican Republic. It is not easy. They go once a year, if that. And to think, I had a temple fifteen minutes away but I barely made it once a month.
Something I realized when I was driving home one night is, we often think of our legacy and how grateful we are to be included in such a work that ties back all the way to Joseph Smith. We think of the pioneers, how this work is greater than us but goes back to those suffering saints in Nauvoo and Missouri and Kirtland. What we too often fail to realize is that this is bigger than that! It extends all the way back to the pre-mortal life! This gospel, our discipleship, is the same that Christ established, that Paul and Peter followed, that Noah and Moses preached and that Adam established! It is the same that we all shouted for joy over before we ever came here. Yes, our footsteps are along side the early saints, but they are alongside many generations and dispensations before that. How great is our duty and privelege to be numbered with such! It is remarkable.
I have struggled with some discouragement, depression, and lack of motivation over the past couple months. But I can testify that Gordon B. Hinckley's father's advice to "forget yourself and go to work" is a sure fire cure and the only cure I've found to help me endure to the end. I think we can apply that in more than just missionary work. Forgetting ourself is key.
That leads me to General Conference. I loved the talks - specifically Christofferson's and Uchtdorf's. I learned so much both days. I wish Conference was every weekend! Here are some themes I noticed throughout the course of both days: the importance of our influence in the communities around us (shoutout from Elder Cook to William Wilberforce! What what!), the importance of the righteous use of our agency, and of course safeguarding ourselves and our families against the evil influences of the world.
A couple things really stood out to me. The first was an underlying theme of 'beware of lackadaisical discipleship'. Many times before my mission I didn't want to be "super Mormon" and read my scriptures 'too much' or 'magnify' my calling or whatever. My faith was more just another part of who I am, rather than a CENTRAL part of who I am. I noticed many talks about our agency and guarding against sin talked about the need to commit ourselves to FERVENT prayer rather than just praying and scripture STUDY rather than just reading our scriptures -- WORSHIPPING at church rather than just attending, and having CHARITY rather than just caring.
Another thing was the plague of pride. Basically everything talked about could tie to pride. Whether it was our pride leading us to addiction, preventing us from repenting, being afraid of being judged by our children for firm parenting, or not being grateful enough for the things and life that we have ... all of it could be tied to pride. I had read Alma 5 yesterday morning, and realized pride is not just merely exalting ourselves above other people. I think we naturally assume we are humble if we don't talk down to others or wear costly apparel. But we can be proud and poor - we can be proud and pleasant toward others. Pride is anytime we trust in ourselves more than we trust in God. I am guilty of pride in many many many ways that I am just now realizing. I'm not too proud to admit it! ;) I am working on becoming more humble, and trusting in the Lord with all my heart, and leaning not unto my own understanding - knowing that if I can humble myself before Him, He will direct my paths and make my weaknesses strengths.
Last but not least, I feel that so many of us are great at being Mormons - making the centerpieces and the jello, showing up for our meetings, blogging about church and babies -- but so many of us could be a lot better at being Christians. Don't forget - Jesus Christ is the center! We only do anything we do in the church because of Him! My commitment and challenge to all reading, and myself, is to ask ourselves how well do we really know the Savior? Have we served Him? Is He in our minds and in our hearts? Read Mosiah 5:13, and make conference your study guide for the next six months. Draw closer to our Redeemer, and seek to truly understand why this gospel and this church really matters.
Love you all! We're gonna take a chill day today and do nothing. Ah, sa ce'st la vie.
Til next time,