Hallelujah Family, Friends, and Fans --
Less than one week until General Conference! Can you FEEL the excitement in the air? I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve! Would you like to ensure that your general conference experience is a good one? Then try these simple steps:
1) If you're watching at home, get up, bathe, and dress nice. You're listening to a prophet of God after all.
2) If you're watching at church, sit at the front so you can see and hear clearly.
3) No matter where you're watching, come up with at least three questions you want answered... they can be doctrinal, personal, whatever. Write them down and pray to have your questions answered during conference ... then pay attention!
4) Take notes. Don't write down everything you hear - that'll be in the Ensign in a month. Write down impressions from the Spirit and things you want to be sure to remember.
5) Last but not least, STAY AWAKE. Whatever you do, DO NOT FALL ASLEEP. Get up, do some jumping jacks, eat a sno cone if you have to. Don't fall for the "I'm recording it and I'll watch it later" excuse, because you and I BOTH know you never end up watching the whole thing, and reading them is just NOT the same experience.
Whew. Now that I've got that outta my system here's the news for the week:
We've got 3 investigators with a date... Courtney for 4/8 and Odain&Demetri for 4/9. Workin' hard to ensure they go through, and we need to drastically build our teaching pool so we're working on contacting and finding a lot this week. That hasn't been hard because we went over on our mileage so we've been walking all day everyday. Not only am I more tan, but also less skiddish about talking to people! We've had some great lessons this last week like reading 3 Nephi 11 with our investigator Marlon ... the Spirit was so strong and testified to everyone there the reality of the Savior's ministry to the Nephites. Sis. Everette says very long prayers, and during a lesson this week Bro. Morrison, at the end chose her to pray and said "Alright Sis. Everette, give us one of those loooonnnggg prayers ..." It was hilarious. You had to be there. She's doing very well - soaking up the mission - struggling with her boyfriend issues, but if anyone is qualified to help her in that area its Sister Wilkinson and I.
We went to Spanish Town for transfers, not because we got transferred but because they needed to switch us cars for a while. So we got to say goodbye to Elder Rebeiro and Packard who went home (Elder Rebeiro gave us a tie, a tradition amongst Elders - he's a star, and I now know how to tie a tie two different ways). We got a new district leader, Elder Powell, who is training a greenie in Hopeton, Elder Clark. They're pretty cool guys, so far. We got good transfer gossip about some crazy Elders, but I'll just keep that to myself. We did get to see the other Sisters, which was crazy. Sis. Smith told me Clarissa has been going to church in Nassau for the past four weeks straight. That's some awesome stuff.
What else ... I've become addicted to Milo. It's like a chocolate milk/hot chocolate drink. It's good. From walking, I've experienced the revenge of dirty feet that I remembered from Lucea -- wearing sandals and walking for 8 hours on the streets of Jamrock ... my feet are black when I get home every night. I had a horrible bout of hayfever yesterday, I wanted to collapse and not move for the entire day. It was rough. The weather is getting warmer, which unfortunately means that roaches and flies are taking over. We had five roaches in our house yesterday, and they're HUGE ... simply HUGE. It's a sad experience. I need to buy a new toothbrush. :/
We went to a funeral for a member's mother yesterday at a 7th day church. We sang an impromptu version of Beautiful Zion, Built Above and got an "amen". It was an interesting experience, of course. The night before we helped her with a gathering of friends and family. I ate mannish water. I repeat. I ate mannish water. Boo-yah. Sho'nuff. Still not eating chicken foot, but I do what I can. At her house they were watching Power Ranger Samurai, which I thought was lame, and made me miss Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers of my childhood, and then led Sis. Everette and I to a conversation about GhostWriter. That was a good show. Good times. Speaking of Sis. Everette, anytime something is really funny she laughs and in her southern accent says "that was good to me" ... it's the best thing I've ever heard. I've adopted it.
Here's your scripture chain of the day:
1 Cor 2:9
3 NE 17: 16
The Andersens are great, and have been such great friends and a great example. We love Sunday dinners with them, and I got to talk to them lastnight about some of my worries/fears/struggles. We talked about the progress we've made on our missions, and how far we still have to go. One thing I realized is that I want to want to do whatever the Lord asks of me. I do it, but mostly out of obligation or duty or a desire to be obedient and a love for the Lord. That is good, don't get me wrong. But what's even better is WANTING to do all that stuff ... my will being His will so it's not ever done with a grudge. That is something that is hard to achieve, but I know it's possible. I'm working on it. I'm working on not comparing myself to other people. That gives Satan such power ... and I am unique and cannot be compared to anyone else. I just have to seek to follow the Lord's example, and do what He wants and expects. I've gotta stay focused on seeking His approval. Sis. Andersen was saying how she has the same weaknesses now approaching 70 as she did in her 20s. That's depressing, but Elder Andersen mentioned how life is made up of overcoming ... that is our purpose. So it only makes sense I guess, that we spend the duration of our mortality overcoming the same ol' weaknesses. I just wish they'd go away. Sister Andersen also helped me to understand that though I believe I'm awesome, I must work to make something out of that. God gives us the tools and trusts us to build something with them. If we just put them away, as awesome as those tools may be, nothing will ever be produced and they will go to waste.
Some scriptures that stuck out to me this week were:
Something important, vitally important, is to filter out the good, the better, and the best. I think that's the solution to many of life's problems -- jacking up our priorities. I have also learned that it is key for members to fellowship recent converts and less-actives. Without that, they will not last. Take notice! And I also noticed that I'm developing some pretty good ball control and football skills. I am however, terribly out of shape. So'go.
Well, a couple days shy of my one year mark. It has been an amazing year! I finished the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time lastnight. I think that's the first time I've read it twice in a year. I would love it, if everyone reading this e-mail, would start and finish the Book of Mormon by the time I get home. I'm not gonna make it a commitment, because it should just be your decision. But I can promise you, that if you do, you will have a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, a better understanding of His gospel, more peace and comfort in times of adversity, more guidance and direction in your everyday life, and answers to life's greatest questions all by September. Hard to pass up, no? I'm endeavoring to finish Preach My Gospel, the Old Testament, D&C and the BOM one more time before I come home. So I know, you can do it!
Something that is crazy is that a question I had regarding the doctrine of the apostasy back on September 6th was answered during my scripture study of Mormon 1:13-17 on March 24th. That's a big chunk of time without an answer! I know it came on the Lord's time ... a spiritual witness of the divinity of the Book of Mormon had to come first. It was only after that could I receive my answer about the other doctrine. Very cool how that works.
Well, I think that's all folks. Sorry no pictures today.
The church is true. The gospel's great. God lives. Jesus is the Christ.
Repentance is real. The Atonement is infinitely powerful and necessary.
The Book of Mormon is the word of God. Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God.
Keep it real. Walk Worthy,
Holy Hey Family, Friends, and Fans --
Could General Conference have been any more amazing? The answer is no. No it could not have been. I will try my best to contain my excitement into a single e-mail.
I'll start by saying some themes I noticed at conference: becoming as little children, patient persistence, continuing in faith, receiving answers to our prayers and a testimony line upon line, lose yourself (in the service of others) to find yourself, be the answer to someone's prayer, and get married already! Most of those messages were pretty hard to miss.
Some of my favorite talks were Elder Cook's talk about the role of women (seriously answered some of my prayers and questions) and Elder Oaks' talk about desires (again, hit the nail on the head as far as some of my deepest questions were concerned). Of course Elder Robbins' talk about the difference between to be and to do was a highlight. I haven't stopped thinking about it. It really made me think about a lot of things. My two favorite talks were C. Scott Grow's about the Atonement and Pres. Uchtdorf's about not waiting on our road to Damascus. Whoa. Powerful. What a blessing General Conference is, to have the heavens opened and to hear the voice of God through His servants. I gotta say what was super funny was all the members singing along when MOTAB was singing. I find it hilarious that I was sent to a people that love to hear their own voice, almost as if the Lord was like "see, Sister Payne? see how that is for other people? think twice before you open your mouth every five seconds!" ;) Most of the lessons learned during conference are written in my journal and my study journal and are too lengthy for me to share ... sorry. I think most of them are strictly personally relevant for me anyway, and I'm sure each of you heard what you needed to hear over the past two days. That's the miracle of the gospel - no matter who you are, where you're from, what your circumstances or background are, God can specially fit the Spirit and revelation to you as an individual. To see the variety of people at the church yesterday - old, young, Jamaican, American, single, married, all with different weaknesses, personalities, strengths, and opinions all united in a common belief and all seeking God's counsel in their lives and receiving it - THAT is the miracle of the restored gospel in a nutshell.
This last week was extremely long and busy. We had a leadership training in Kingston that was wonderful in every way. It focused on the 8 new Preach my Gospel concepts and how we can more fully apply them in our finding and teaching efforts. We've seen an outpouring of support for Sis. Bodley who just lost her mother, which has strengthened my testimony of fellowship and the importance of church. We've had great lessons with lots of people, specifically Odain and Demetri who are progressing toward baptism and will be baptized April 9th. Awesome! Courtney has some issues he needs to work out before he can be baptized, but he's meeting with Pres. Hendricks this week to get it all sorted out. I've learned a lot in my companionship - that pride is killer, that communication is key, and that if someone is mad at me I tend to know exactly WHY they're mad and the exact moment they got that way. I guess I'm observant to those things (probably a heightened sense from watching all those seasons of Psych ;) I have learned to not ever do something to "prove a point". The lessons continue.
The miracle of the week was the inspiration to call Gavaska, our old 7th day investigator, and invite him to conference. He said he wasn't gonna come and then he came to BOTH sessions on Sunday. It is a hard thing to see someone who knows the truth. His soul has been awakened and he recognizes that he is relearning what he always knew, but he can't bring himself to face it. He fights it with everything he has. He resorts back to the same old arguments that have never made sense, simply because he cannot accept being wrong. It used to be frustrating, but now it is sad, because we love him and we want him to have the fulness that he is seeking. It was great to have him there though. A real blessing, and one step closer to his heart being softened. We played a hilarious prank on Elder Ashton this week, getting the Assistants to call him and tell him he's being emergency transferred because one of the Sisters confessed to having feelings for him so he can't be our zone leader anymore. It was priceless. He even called Pres. Hendricks, hahahahaha. We have pranked the prankster, and I am content.
Here's your scripture chain of the week:
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord NEVER backs down on His promises.
Your random thought of the week is that I love chili - and I really want to go to a chili cookoff. I'm having dreams about it for goodness sakes.
Alright, my last two thoughts for the week are thus:
1) As I was reading in Enos with our RC Chamieka, I learned something ... Enos had OFTEN heard the things of God taught to him by his father. I envisioned Enos growing up in a household where they spoke often of the gospel, read the scriptures and had family prayer ... but it didn't take root in him. It never entered his heart. It wasn't until he had this experience, hunting in the forest, that the words he had heard all along "sunk deep into [his] heart" and "[his] soul hungered". It was only then that the things he had been taught or told could make a difference in his life. It was then that he changed. I know this experience well. I identified with Enos moreso than I ever had, and it has become my favorite Book of Mormon story. What held him up in the past that kept him from feeling that? Sin, probably. Stubborn behavior, or lack of desire. But when, after experience and trial his heart had been softened and his mind opened, the Lord took aim and sent the Spirit straight to him. Cool.
2) I am extremely grateful for a branch president and stake president that supported me serving a mission. They were my priesthood leaders who acted under inspiration from Heavenly Father to never once discouraged me or steer me in another direction. I fully expected to meet resistance given my circumstances, but they respected my agency and listened to the promptings of the Spirit in leading me through this process. What a blessing that has been in my life, for even though they did not understand why at that time, this was the course my Father in Heaven wanted for me. This was my golden ticket, the way in which I have become and am becoming who my Savior wants me to be. My mission has done more for me than I think anyone could really understand, and I will be forever grateful. I have no doubt in my mind that I am exactly where God wants me to be.
I wouldn't be a very good missionary if I did not bear my testimony. As President says, we have no other purpose as missionaries but our purpose, which is to invite others to come unto Christ. I know this church is true. It is led by He whose name we bear. Everything we do in the church is centered around the Master. We listen to a prophet's voice, we read the Book of Mormon, we attend church and have families all because that is what draws us closer to Christ and prepares us to live once again in His presence. Jesus Christ DID atone for our sins! He did! Do you believe that? He suffered pain, and bled from every pore, and died on the cross to live again so that you and I and each and every one of us could be forgiven of our sins, be free from shame and guilt and pain, and find strength to carry us through difficulty. I know He did, because I have personally felt the healing power of the miracle of the atonement. The purpose of our lives is to gain a spiritual education that will prepare us for the eternities. This is the time for us to prepare to meet God, and there is JOY in the journey! There is no greater happiness that can be found in all the world than in following the gospel of Jesus Christ. No amount of wealth, fortune, fame or fun will yield as much peace, comfort, and prosperity as will keeping the commandments and being filled with faith. This is the message I share with people everyday, one that has taken me a long time to find out for myself, and one that I want to share with everyone I love.
I love you. Believe it.
Until next week,
We celebrated my one year mark by eating chili and spaghetti.
Hey Family, Friends, and Fans --
I'm sorry this will be short. This week has been hard and discouraging and awesome at the same time. I will briefly elaborate:
1) Odain Johnson and Demetri Roulston were baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday. We've been working with Demetri (his family really) since we got here. It was an emotional experience for me, and spiritually powerful and we couldn't be happier with their progress. I'm excited for their future! Their whole family, less-active, came to the baptism and to church. His uncle, Rhuel, wants to be taught and wants to get baptized. Awesome.
2) The Atonement of Jesus Christ has the power to turn wounds into scars. I can't say in words how thankful I am for that and how it has changed my life.
3) I've been working on changing "you" to "I" when I take notes. I get in the habit of writing stuff like "if you do this, then you'll get this blessing" ... I've started to change it to first person to get a better personal application from the things I learn.
4) "Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action. Goal setting and planning are acts of faith." - Preach my Gospel
5) Chamieka's baptism didn't count. In short, the two Elders that were witnesses were not truthful about her going all the way under the water, most likely because she had such a hard time with it they felt bad making her do it again. All the same, we had to break the news to her and her mother this week that she needs to do it again. Man, it has been a struggle - feeling let down by fellow missionaries, frustrated with our church leaders who assumed we knew about it and were hiding it consequently questioning our integrity .. it hasn't been an easy situation to deal with. But it's working out and we're moving forward in faith.
6) There is contention in our companionship. It's a living hell in our apartment right now, for true. At zone conference on Wednesday, that'll have to be addressed because the work is suffering. It is easy to get along with someone on a social level, but on a missionary every day in and day out level, it is difficult. Especially if there is no communication. This is the first I've encountered such a challenge, and I honestly don't know what else to do.
7) We have a new district leader, Elder Larsen from Gilbert, AZ.
8) I made a list called "what my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means to me". It reads as follows:
b. eternal life
c. peace of conscience/freedom from guilt or shame
d. purpose and direction
g. the gift of the Holy Ghost
h. prophetic counsel
Honestly, that's it this week. Sorry it isn't much. The greatest lesson I've learned this week is no matter how hard things may get, the Lord is still with me and The Book of Mormon is still there to give me the exact comfort that I need.
All the best from Jamaica,
Hey Family, Friends, and Fans --
Sorry about the lame e-mail last week. It was a rough week. This last week has been a little better and consequently I have more to write about.
"Wherever you live on this earth and whatever your life's situation may be, I testify to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the divine power to lift you to great heights from what appears at times to be an unbearable burden or weakness. The Lord knows your circumstances and your challenges" - Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf
That is my testimony this week - not one of us is ever forgotten or forsaken ... as we turn to the gospel of Jesus Christ we find the solution to every problem. We have had what seems like debacle after debacle lately. If there was one word I would use to describe my time in Mandeville it would be AWKWARD. If there isn't a challenge in our companionship, then there is a challenge with a member, and if not with a member than an investigator. So is the nature of this work. We've encountered challenges that believe me, I have felt like I did not sign on for. But through them all I've grown stronger and learned, as I have always believed, trials are awesome.
Chamieka ended up not needing to be baptized again. The ordinance was ratified by the first presidency. This was a huge blessing, as her mother and some of the members were up in arms over the ordeal. The complexity and confusion is not over, but the worst of it is. Sister Wilkinson has struggled with the entire process, and her faith has been challenged. I have recognized the gift of faith that I have been blessed with, and have been grateful for the prior experiences I've had that have sparked doubt in me that I have been able to draw on to help my companion at this current time.
Andre dropped himself, but then called us saying he realized something and wants to see us again. Who knows. He's an enigma. Chris is struggling with smoking, but halfway committed to baptism. We have high hopes for him. We had a very sad lesson with Courtney, where he tried to give us back The Book of Mormon. He had put his earrings back in and basically given up on the repentance process. We're keeping him in our prayers, but he hasn't come to church or activities lately.
I had a very cool phone call the other day - from Nicki Broby, my old Relief Society leader from Desert Ridge singles ward! She's a star, and she's volunteering on a US Navy Medical ship that is docked in Kingston, borrowed the Shafermeyer's phone and gave me a ring. It was great to hear from her and once again I'm influenced by her righteous example to serve in such a capacity. It was awesome to hear a surprising familiar voice!
We had zone conference, and it was AMAZING. We watched a talk Elder Holland had given at the MTC in January that literally changed the way I look at my mission and the rest of my life. The greatest lesson I learned is that after Christ's resurrection, Peter went back fishing. The Savior called him to shore after letting them get a great catch and asked him THREE times if he really loved Him ... Peter responded a resounding yes, all three times to which the Lord responded "FEED MY SHEEP"... Elder Holland pointed out that our calling is not just for 18 months or 2 years, but it is for a lifetime. We are under covenant to always remember Him, and we cannot remember Him and not love him, and we cannot love Him and not serve Him and our brothers and sisters likewise. He stated how we cannot return to the life we had before ... we cannot ever be the same because we have been set apart for the rest of our lives. It was really motivating and refreshing, and has refocused us on being organized, prepared, spirit-centered servants of Christ.
I've been pondering a lot about the messages in the last general conference, about charity and loving and understanding others. I think it was so cool to hear the leaders talk about charity and that if we do not serve one another that our faith is in vain. It reminded me of the quote from Brigham Young in one of the first conferences, about when the pioneers were crossing the plains in harsh conditions. He told everyone at the conference that they were to go out and get the saints off the plains. He said:
"On the 5th day of October, 1856, many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. The text will be, 'to get them here.'
That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess. It is to save the people. This is the salvation I am now seeking for.
I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains. And attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, or temporal duties. Otherwise, your faith will be in vain. The preaching you have heard will be in vain to you, and you will sink to Hell, unless you attend to the things we tell you"
Man, that's one of my favorite quotes. Echoed in the latest general conference Bishop H. David Burton talked about the start of the welfare program in the church. President J. Reuben Clark who headed it stated that it would be “a system that would … reach out and take care of the people no matter what the cost.” He said he would even go so far as to “close the seminaries, shut down missionary work for a period of time, or even close the temples, but they would not let the people go hungry.” 3
In 1 Corinthians 13 it says:
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not acharity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2And though I have the gift of aprophecy, and understand all bmysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the apoor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Paul even goes so far as to teach us that our acts and works are not enough - it is the quality of love within our heart that defines charity. If I give all my time and money and effort to others but do it out of obligation or with a grudging heart then it profits me nothing. Isn't that amazing? I am seeing in a fresh view what we learned at conference - that without charity, we are nothing, and that until we reach that level of discipleship we are not the Saints that we need to be. And I've found that seeking more to understand one another - backgrounds, views, struggles, etc - greatly improves our love for one another.
I have learned that there is little meaning to anything I do as a disciple of Christ until I lose myself in the service of others. Until that happens, I'm merely in this for myself. Until that happens, I'm not really following His example - the Master who labored all His days for the salvation of others. Just like it says in Luke 22:32 : When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. I'm grateful that Peter received so much advice that I need to follow.
This is just all stuff that I'm working on. I'm also working on freestyle rapping. We do it basically everyday. My rap name is Mizz P-Nut. Sister Everette is DJ Fro$t and Sis. Wilkinson is Willie Fantastik.
Our zone leaders did a super cute gesture for us. They pretended to take a survey for zone conference, and ended up just buying us our fave candy and drinks and leaving it on our door with a note saying keep up the good work. It was awesome - I don't know if I wrote about it last time or not, but it was great. We have the best zone leaders ever.
I may come home in October, not September. Stay tuned.
Don't forget --
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." - Joseph Smith
I know this church is Christ's kingdom, and I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know Christ had a perfect church until He let all of us inside of it. I know I was called by that very same Jesus Christ to serve a mission here in Jamaica and labor among God's children. I know that it is only through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we can receive the FULL happiness and FULL blessings that have been prepared for us since before this world was created. I know, and I don't know of myself. Nothing I have studied or heard or learned from any man or book has taught me these things. While I believe everything I believe is logical and sensical, I can only hold onto it and declare it as I do because of the feelings I have felt and the confirmation I have felt from the Holy Ghost - the supernatural thoughts, impressions and feelings that are not of this mortal world but of an eternal nature have confirmed to me the course I am on is correct, and I am forever grateful for it.
I love you all! Have an amazing Easter week.
Until next time,
Alma 32: 37-39
Hey Family, Friends, and Fans --
Hope you had a great holy week and a fabulous Easter weekend. In Jamaica they take Easter very seriously... everything in town was straight up SHUT DOWN good friday, Easter Sunday, and today as well. We've spent the time today flying kites and chillin' with the Andersens. My kite got stuck in the tallest tree in Mandeville and Bro. Morrison climbed it and got it down. True story. We've had a lot of great things happen this week, as well as some not-so-great. But what else is new? In short, I broke a lightbulb over Sis. Everette's head, her and Sis. Wilkinson deskirted me in the middle of a grocery store, we ran into a less-active we had never met while bashing with some anti on the street, I found an awesome Star Wars reference in Psalms 83:10, I read Matthew 26-28 over the corresponding days of Easter week, we got a couple new investigators, Demetri has memorized the sacrament prayers and he's only ten, Odain will be getting the Aaronic Priesthood next week, everyone at the Goljar house spells their name differently everytime we talk to them, we spent so much time street contacting this week that we got 40 lessons, we freestyle rapped on a street corner to try to get people to stop, and it worked .... and I think that's about it. I got mail, which was miraculous (thanks Gibsons & Deckers) and as always, I've grown closer to my Savior.
I will share one lesson that I learned this week - a very important one ... one of the greatest questions I have had, and many have I'm sure, is "is that the Spirit or is that me?" Now I've received many advice about this and read many talks. But nothing hit me like what Elder Larsen shared at district meeting this week. My MTC teacher had taught us that if we are living our lives righteously, every good thought is from the Spirit. BUT the way Elder Larsen put it helped me to understand and apply that concept even more. He said that if we want to know if it is the Spirit check out
and if we want to know if it is us then check out
Every good thought is from God - so therefore we need to act on all impressions to do good. Our thoughts generally speaking will lead us to do something else. If we see someone walking down the street and have two thoughts ... the first is don't talk to them they won't listen, and the second is talk to them they need the gospel in their life ... it is easy to see which one is from God and which one is from me. I'm not doing a very good job at explaining this, but I hope that you can come to your own understanding and maybe it helps somebody reading. If not, it helped me a whole heap so job well done. This week I've been focusing on acting on every good impression. It's amazing how much easier I can sleep at night ;)
Well, since I didn't have too much to write about this week, in the spirit of Easter I wanted to share my testimony. Sister Morrison gave the best Easter sacrament meeting talk I've ever heard, and the Spirit was so strong. I wrote in my journal that if I wasn't a member already, I would've got baptized yesterday afternoon. She spoke on gratitude for the Atonement, and after a week spent bearing testimony of the living Christ it hit me. I was grateful for the opportunity to be in Jamaica and hear such a moving talk, full of sincerity and Spirit. I am B-L-E-S-S-E-D.
I know that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God. I know that He is the Savior, Redeemer and Exemplar for all mankind. The prophecies in the Old Testament are confirmed by the first hand account in the New, and the third witness in the Book of Mormon. I know that His work and His glory is the same as the Father's - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). I know that before He was ever born, He stepped forward and volunteered to be our valiant Savior in the pre-mortal life. I know that He was born in humble circumstances, He healed the sick and raised the dead, gave sight to the blind and taught His gospel. I know that He organized his church, an organization which made possible the saving ordinances for our salvation. He established authority, gave clear counsel and direction, and instructed His apostles to carry on His work. I know that in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ took upon Himself our every pain, weakness, and infirmity. I know that the pain was so great it caused Him to bleed from every pore. I know that He finished His suffering on the cross at Calvary, and it is only because of that profound act of love that we can be clean from our sins, be given divine help through our trials, and have complete faith in Christ. He is our advocate with the Father, pleading for us to receive mercy so that His suffering will not be in vain. I know that He died, and three days later was resurrected and that He lives. He showed Himself first to the people in Jerusalem, then to the Nephites in the Americas, and ascended to sit on the right hand of the Father. I know that He appeared to a young Joseph Smith in a sacred grove in Palmyra New York in 1820. I know that He lives today, that He heads His church, even The Church of Jesus Christ, the only true and living church upon the face of the earth.
But what does all of this mean? Why does it matter? Through this testimony I have come to gain a deep and profound appreciation for prayer. I have been able to talk directly to my Father in Heaven, with all sincerity because of the instruction Christ has given to us about prayer. I have been able to receive answers to my prayers, due to my faith in Jesus Christ, as weak as it is. I have been blessed by the Priesthood, and received the saving ordinances of baptism and confirmation, as well as the ordinances of the temple all through Priesthood power. I have been called by a prophet and set apart as a missionary for the Savior through that same Priesthood. I have an understanding of the plan of salvation, made possible only through the power of Christ. I know that families can be sealed together forever, as mine has, and after this life I will not be far from them. I know that when I get married and have my own family, we will be together for eternity if we live worthy of that blessing, and Christ is the one that makes that all possible, for we could not accomplish any of this on our own, nor be worthy of the privelege without His Atonement. Through scripture study I have seen life more clearly, as though I've slipped on a pair of eternal glasses that bring everything into focus. I have seen how obedience to the commandment of the Lord bring blessings, and I have also seen, sometimes too late, how wickedness never brings happiness. Through the Atonement I have received strength, help, grace, and mercy during my deepest times of loneliness and trial. I have a sincere gratitude for the access to that divine power, for there was never a way I could have gotten through so many hard times on my own. Through the Atonement I have been granted the gift of repentance, which is the greatest gift I've ever received. I have experienced a mighty change of heart, felt the miracle of forgiveness, and have been given bright hope for the future to replace what was once dark and helpless abandonment. I have learned how all things bear record of Him - whether it is math, literature, science, or history - the Creator is everywhere, if we but look for Him.
Not until my mission did I have a personal experience with and witness of the Atonement, the blessing of Priesthood leaders, prophets and apostles, and the miracle of the restored gospel. This was all things I had learned and read about. It is different now. It is something that I live, breathe, eat, drink, sleep ... a follower of Christ is no longer what I am - it is who I am. And my strongest wish is to only grow stronger after my mission and to live a life worthy of such sacrifice and love that the Savior has given me.
My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. My invitation to all reading if to do just that - I cannot extend a commitment that is specific to each individual - no two lives are the same. But whether it is reading the scriptures, going to church, praying, bearing your testimony to strengthen it - etc etc etc ... wherever you are on the gospel path, do something this week to strengthen your faith, to change your heart and repent and return back to the Lord, to make/renew promises with your Father in Heaven, to have the Spirit with you and guide you, and to endure with joy to the end.
It's only through Christ that anything is possible. Whatever the question, He is the answer.
All the love in my heart.
Until next week,
2 Nephi 9:41
2 Nephi 31:21
2 Nephi 10:23
Wat a gwaan Family, Friends, and Fans --
Stay tuned for a disjointed e-mail ... I'm so tired my eyes are closing as I type. Here we go.
Transfers are on Wednesday, and Sis. Everette is going to Junction to be with Sis. Smith. Sis. Speakman is coming here, so the tripanionship continues. I'll miss Sis. Everette - its like making a best friend and having them move away a couple months after you meet them! Still in the same zone though, so that's good. And I have learned that the Lord is in transfer calls, so I'm not worried about anything. Six more weeks in Mandeville - I'm officially in this area longer than I was in Nassau!
Yesterday was Elder Larsen's birthday. It is a tradition in Jamrock to flour people on their birthday, so we snuck to their house, beat them home, hid in the bush and dumped three bags of flour all over him. It was awesome.
We've learned how to play two games from Elder Andersen - three card no peekey and hot dice. They're fun, and addicting and take up any down time we have. Unfortunately, both are games of chance. And I'm much better when I have to rely on smarts instead of luck. Oh well. It has been getting really hot - and we've been on foot lately. It's good, except when you come home and its even hotter in our giant apartment. I bought a mini-bible here from a Christian store. It is so nice to carry around - good purchase. I am still into drinking herbal tea in the mornings. I don't know how Sis. Wilkinson got me into that, but it is a routine now. My mornings feel weird without a cup.
As far as people we're working with, we had a great lesson with a new investigator Oliver. He was a former, and we had a spiritual powerhouse of a lesson where he didn't want to pray and we had him say a kneeling prayer at the end of the lesson ... we sat in silence, man it felt like we were on The District DVDs or something it was great. The next day, he lost his job and had to move to some remote part of St. Ann. WHY?! Curse said circumstances. We're still trying to find new people to teach, but we had three former investigators at church so we're gonna try to pick them back up. Odain got ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday (sweet!) and the family is doing awesome - walked to church in the rain! When we first got here, none were coming to church and they had a ride every Sunday. Everyone told us they were a lost cause. DO NOT EVER BELIEVE when someone says that about anyone - it requires patience, and love and diligence but everyone is capable of changing. That's the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ! The family is doing great. We have FHE every monday with this 15 year old less active and his active grandmother. We found out last week, poor kid, his mom is just off the wall with her emotions and is abusive and won't let him come to church and that's why he doesn't come. The kid is dealing with stuff way beyond his maturity level, and we have no idea how to help other than to fast and pray for things to work out. The sad thing is his grandma has raised him, his mom just came into the picture a couple years ago and now wants to control his life. If it isn't one trial, its another.
Somethings I learned or notice this week --
First, I love how there isn't any anti literature at any church bookstore - we don't seek to tear other's down to build ourselves up. We went into this Christian bookstore and there were four anti-Mormon books not to mention all the anti-Jewish books and a whole heap of other ones. They had a whole section about what was wrong with other religions right next to their "what would Jesus do?" bracelets. There's something wrong with that in my opinion.
I also learned that temporal welfare affects spiritual welfare. People have a very hard time thinking about serving in callings or doing missionary work when they're hungry. I understand on a different level why welfare work is so important for the salvation and happiness of God's children. They cannot have the stress and fear of poverty and how they're going to feed their kids that night, and be worried about studying a lesson for Sunday at the same time.
A member this week taught me that church is a gas station - everybody comes to get fuel but there are different kinds - some just get unleaded, just enough to keep them going ... some get Diesel because they're barely hangin' on and need something dense to get them through, some get premium - all there is to get and more and they leave ready to hit the road with strength ... and some, just pickup a candy bar and stall as soon as they get out the parking lot.
We watched the CES fireside lastnight with Rosemary M. Wixom. It was really good - what stuck out to me was the process of becoming, and coming to know things. We do not get anywhere by standing still, and as she said "out of ourselves and into Christ we must go" ... that's the definition of progress I think, in every phrase of our life.
I drove down the wrong side of the road lastnight on accident. It was scary. Jesus took the wheel.
We made a branch mission plan. We're really excited about it. Hopefully they stick to it! We can only do so much to implement it.
Here are my scriptures of the week:
38And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it aLiahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
39And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
40And it did work for them according to their afaith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.
41Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by asmall means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
42Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did anot travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.
43And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a ashadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
44For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the aword of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
45And now I say, is there not a atype in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
46O my son, do not let us be aslothful because of the beasiness of the cway; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would dlook they might elive; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
47And now, my son, see that ye take acare of these sacred things, yea, see that ye blook to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.
That's it for this week I guess.
Until next time,
Hey Family, Friends, and Fans --
Happy Mother's Day! Since I called home yesterday, this e-mail won't be as detailed because I don't like repeating myself. It was great to call home - it feels like I never left. It was weird to think about just how much time has passed, that this time last year I was in Lucea calling home for Mother's Day and I had just left the MTC. This time next year ... who knows! Time goes by weirdly slow and weirdly fast on a mission. It is hard to explain, but its quite an experience in and of itself.
We're having some challenges as always, some more unique than others. We have a less active whose mother is not a member and is basically pulling an Alma the Younger on the people of Jamaica. He wants to come to church, she won't let him. She won't let him sit in when we come over for family home evening with his grandmother. She only goes to her church to prove a point to her son that she's in control. She told two referrals of ours who had come to church and were super interested that we were a cult and not Christian and we would brainwash them and now they won't talk to us. We don't know what to do about the situation, but its devastating. The poor 15 year old kid is in way over his head. It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it, when we talk to him and he's crying because he just wants to get out of the situation he's in ... constant fighting and contention. Prayer and fasting ... its all we can do.
We've been blessed - this last week we got five new investigators - that's A LOT for our area and we feel pretty good about them too. We have a new zone leader, Elder Dale. Today is the start of a new transfer and we've set some pretty great goals in our zone and companionship that we're excited to work towards for the month of May. I started my study of the Old Testament today. If I stick to my reading schedule I will finish it in 12 weeks -- tedious, but worth it methinks. I have also started a change in my diet as of today which will pose a challenge - I'm striving to go completely dairy and gluten free. I'm gonna test it out for one month and see how my body responds. I'm all about health, you know me. Jk.
Sister Speakman is here now, and Sister Everette is in Junction. I miss that crazy gal, but Sister Speakman is a hard worker and takes the gospel very seriously so I know we'll get stuff done. I've officially now served with every one of the Sisters out here. My assumption is that Sister Speakman and I will be together the next three transfers until we go home .. but anything could happen. We have a funny less active member that calls us Sister Pam, Sister Willie, Sister Eve, and Sister Speechless. Don't ask, cause I don't even know.
I've learned a lot this week. Something that stuck out to me while doing my D&C countdown was D&C 130:18-19 and 20-21. It is so interesting to me that we gain knowledge through diligence and obedience, not just through being taught or taking a class. It is through our diligence and our obedience that we gain spiritual and secular knowledge. This shows me that we advance simply as much as we desire to advance. We our the gatekeepers of our own destiny ;) It is also very cool to me that every blessing we receive is a direct result of obedience. Think about how disobedient we are, yet how many blessings we receive each day! Imagine if our obedience was amped up, and we were actively engaged each day in becoming more obedient than we were yesterday ... the blessings are ours for the taking! I have also learned than in order to reach great expectations, chastening is required. If we cannot take correction, we will never progress.
Proverbs 3:5-6 -- let God erase all the disappointments and move forward with faith. This is the key to success in this life and eternal life in the life to come.
A couple days ago we were talking about the greatest change in us as individuals as a result of our mission so far. Mine required some thought... but I've concluded that the biggest change that has occurred as a result of my missionary service is a great and deeper understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That alone has changed my behavior, my choices, my desires, and my attitude about life, love, and faith. That alone has been worth the time and money and effort. That really, truly, has changed everything. And I am profoundly grateful for it.
I'll end with a sad and funny story. Lastnight we picked up the Johnsons, a married couple in the branch, to go teach a referral they gave us. After we dropped them home it began to smell like dog poop in our car. We assumed we had tracked it on our shoes. So we left our shoes on the back porch when we got home and went to bed. It smelled bad, I mean really bad, but we had forgotten about it by this morning. We get into our car to come e-mail and it wreaks, like fermented poo as Sister Speakman described. We took out the floor mats, holding our breath all the while, only for Sister Wilkinson to find a giant whole doodie stuck to the side of one of the floor mats, where Bro. Johnson had been sitting! CURSES! It grossed us out for days, and is just one of those missionary stories I'll always remember.
Peace in the middle East. The church is true, the book is blue, God loves you and I do too!
Hey Family Friends and Fans --
First things first -- as it is getting to the home stretch of my mission, I beg of you to get out your wiggles in the 7th inning and hold on strong until the end. By this I mean, keep writing, keep e-mailing, don't forget about me! Don't get trunky, and I won't get trunky. It's amazingly difficult for missionaries to not think about home as it is, let alone when you're in a really slow area and things just seems like they're crawling... and they are crawling ... but I'm pullin' a Derece Banning, pickin' up my bobsled and walkin' to the finish line. I ask you to do the same. Thanks in advance.
Part of why I say this is because we just got the news that 2 sisters are coming in October - which means my assumption that I'm staying til October is like 90% now. I'll tell you why. Sis. Smith goes home in July -- Sis. Wilkinson in September. Sis. Speakman requested September, which would mean that if I went home in September, Sis. Everette would have to train two new missionaries. That's not gonna happen - so I'm gonna be here to train one and then they'll be stuck in a tripanionship after I leave I guess. So - 19 months instead of 18. I'm in it to win it - lookin forward to it - I mean, when else will I get this experience? Never! But I know Satan will work really hard to get me to be a dead missionary, and I refuse. So stick with me, and I'll stick with it.
Second, WE HAD AN EARTHQUAKE THIS MORNING, complete with an aftershock or something. It was awesome - lasted for like a minute. It freaked us out, because it was much stronger than the last one and we're like "OH NO! Earthquakes in divers places! It's the last days! May 21st! Ahh!" But then it stopped, and we were good. Speaking of May 21st, that's all the rage here. Every Jamaican is expecting doomsday on Saturday. I think it will be funny to get to Sunday morning and see what happens to all the billboards. It's like the millennium again - y2k - only more funny.
Third, there will be a patriarch in Jamaica next month. This hasn't happened since the 90s. This is incredible for the members here, such a blessing. They are so excited and we're doing all we can to get them all amped up and even more excited. This will be such a blessing to the church here. We're really excited. We're not excited that our church is not on the census in the Caribbean, because the government thinks we're a cult, but hey ... baby steps I guess, right?
Fourth, Sis. Andersen has a ruptured rotator cuff in her right shoulder. This means she's getting an MRI and the Andersens are going home. DEVASTATION! AHHHH. I don't know what we're gonna do. They've made Mandeville awesome for us. Now we're gonna have nowhere to go when all our appointments cancel and we want some chocolate cake and laughter to ease our pain. We're pretty sad, and we try not to think about it or it gets us down. But they gotta do what they gotta do. Be sure to keep her in your prayers.
Fifth, Reading the Old Testament is like watching Days of Our Lives sometimes. I cooked spicy shrimp for my companions this week and they were grateful. I've developed no tolerance for stealing whatsoever seeing as people have been stealing our clothes off our line and our mop off our back porch. Ugh. And I've developed a sincere disdain for Yanni because Sis. Wilkinson blares it every morning while she exercises in an effort to get me out of bed. If I never heard Yanni so long as I live it will suit me just fine.
Sixth, service has become a huge priority in our zone. We have a zone goal to serve someone everyday, even if its small. So far we helped an investigator Perry chop his yard with a machete and lawn mower, and we've been doing a mission prep class for Tasamo, the next kid from the branch to leave on a mission. It's been really good. Also, it has helped Sis. Speakman transition into a difficult area by keeping us busy even when we have no one to teach.
Seventh, Odain passed the sacrament yesterday like a champ. It was great. Andre resurfaced, called us Saturday night, came to church yesterday and we had an amazing lesson with him. He is working on quitting his job so he won't be around bad influences, after a video we watched yesterday he said he knows everything we're teaching is true, understands why its important and wants to follow it. He has no support at home whatsoever, but he's got a positive attitude and is working hard and wants to get baptized. Hopefully he'll start progressing again. In other investigator news, we taught a guy this week who told us his name was Ian for like days, only to then tell us he lied and that his name is Paul. That's an untrustworthy foot to start off on haha. Pres Clarke, the branch president, came teaching with us this week and it was so good! I wish he could come teaching with us every week - he busted out scriptures and testimony like a star. My respect for him skyrocketed. Last but not least, we're teaching a cool rich couple. During our first lesson, before we began the lady totally felt the Spirit... we were all talking, then she turned the tv down without us asking ... then we talked some more and she turned it off altogether. That was a cool experience.
Eighth, Pres. Hendricks was at our district meeting this week. We had to roleplay a first lesson with him as our investigator. That was totally intimidating, but we passed and he complimented us hardcore. That felt good.
Ninth, our RC's sister-in-law is crazy and has totally turned what was supposed to be a fun sports day on Saturday into a boot camp. She was gonna teach the girls netball, but literally made us run laps do stretches and exercises before we could play. It was insane. Now I know how to play netball, kinda. Just take basketball and make it kiddiwonkers so it doesn't make any sense and you've got netball. It's very bizarre, and I'm not looking forward to next Saturday.
Tenth, we hate weekly planning. So before we do it, we do a power dance - aka turn on Sons of Provo full blast and jump on our beds like children. It really helps us focus.
Eleventh, members carry around their scriptures and tracts and pass along cards here everywhere they go. It's awesome, it's like a spiritual first aid kid - just so they can share the gospel with someone if the opportunity presents itself. Holy faith builder. I was thinking about how praying for missionary opportunities but not being prepared if they come is faithless -- its like praying for rain, but not taking an umbrella with you when you leave the house.
Twelfth, we've noticed a crazy phenomenon here with people that we teach. When we're visiting them regularly, they have a light. They look happy, clean cut, and are fun to be around. When we stop meeting with them, either because they're not progressing or because they don't accept our visits anymore, and then we see them somewhere their countenance has completely changed. This has happened now with four of our investigators - Marlon, Chris, Courtney, and Gavaska. As soon as we stop meeting with them they let their hair get wild, go back to drinking or smoking or whatever, wear sloppy clothes ... they just look rugged and are rude and unhappy. It has been a really sad thing to witness, something that I can't even really explain. But it's a good example to me of people living off of borrowed light - rejecting the light of Christ when they have it and ending up losing the Spirit. I've seen it too much. I much prefer to see those who embrace it and their light gets even brighter.
Last but not least, today we're having a water gun fight with the Hopeton Elders. They're going down.
All the best and all my love,