Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 2, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This wast week was good! We found a new investigator. In fact it came from the least expected source too. I decided to fast on Sunday for more people to teach. That night, a less active member we have trying to teach called us. She said her best friend had a few questions about the temple and asked if we could come over. As soon as we heard this we flipped our bikes around and booked it over there. They directed us to the back porch and we sat down and talked with her. Immediately she started throwing questions at us. After answering a few, I told her that all her questions would be answered if she would let us teach her the lessons in a more organized way then just Q&A. She agreed! Now we have a new investigator. It's interesting to me how The Lord waits for us to prove to him that we need blessings. I really don't have an answer yet as to why he does it so I'll have to think about it and get back to you later.
   The Hermosa Vista stake continues to amaze me. People here live in castles. Although it makes it near impossible to find people to teach, it's a lot less disturbing at night than the Baywood ward. It's an area densely populated with politicians, professional athletes, dentists and doctors, extremely successful entrepreneurs, etc. People live very comfortably here. Let's just put it that way. There is absolutely no one who is being compelled to be humble. It's a tough area. Luckily for us, the members are spectacular. We just need to help build their faith in the fact that if they invite, things will start rolling here. I'm excited for when that day comes. Its a very similar situation to the Groves ward. Hopefully it pans out with the same success.
   Since this week is Independence Day, obviously, my thoughts have been directed towards our freedoms. But what I really focused in on was hope and faith. In my mind I really couldn't figure out the difference between the two. It made me think of a scripture in the Book of Mormon. Ether 12:4 to be exact, which reads, "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."
   As I read that I came to this conclusion; hope is the righteous desire for blessings, faith is the hopeful action to obtain them. To me, freedom is very intertwined with these two gospel concepts. I look back to our forefathers and I know for a fact that they had a hope for a better world, even a literal place at the right hand of God. Because of their hope for this change, they showed their faith through what we know as the revolutionary war. In the end, their hopes came of their faith. Their hopes were brought to a reality as they faithfully stood sure and steadfast, and made sure that they were abounding in the good works they were performing.
   Now what they did was great, but we still have the battle between freedom and captivity today. It is important to remember that God is all about freedom while Satan is always about captivity and addiction. God, in his infinite love for us, gave us the right to choose for ourselves who we will serve. He promises us that if we choose him, we will be free. But if we choose the devil, what may have sounded like freedom at first will quickly turn to captivity and addiction.
   On my mission, I run into both situations every day. I run into wonderful people who help me to know that I am on the right path. They help me to know this because of the blessings of freedom that they have experienced through obeying the Lord's commandments. I also meet wonderful people who help me to know what path I don't want to be on. Even here in Hermosa Vista, what looks like freedom and luxury quickly turns into a scene of captivity and false compensations when the ingredients of the devil are added.
   I could most likely go on for days on this subject but I don't have the time. However I do have a few last thoughts. Everything in the gospel comes down to one principle; God loves you. God loves you and wants what is best for you. Even if you don't see it right now, even if it seems like he is too restricting, he is not. Satan is restricting. Satan is all about captivity and addiction, God is all about freedom. Because God wants you to be free, he lovingly commands you to stay away from things which will ensnare you in the fetters the devil so willingly provides. If you think that you are already ensnared and that this advice is too late for you, let me assure you it is not. You still have a savior named Jesus Christ. He suffered for every pain and affliction you could possibly feel. If you are addicted to cigarettes, he knows exactly what it is like for you specifically to be addicted to cigarettes. If I am missing Oregon right now he knows exactly what it is like for me specifically to be missing Oregon right now and he can help me be better because of it. He suffered in the garden of gethsemane and then died on the cross so that you and I can repent and come back to live with him again. Please do not procrastinate that day of your repentance. God wants you to be free, satan wants you to be captive. Make your choice.

    Elder Earl

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   I got transferred. I now serve in the Hermosa Vista stake over the Hermosa Vista and Hillcrest wards. I remember thinking my last area was affluent, which it was, but this area is about five times more so. No large apartment complexes, no one that is compelled enough to be humble enough to listen to us. This will be a challenging area.
   My new companion is Elder Hutchison. He will be my third companion in a row from Utah. He's a great guy though. He's been out six months and is a good companion.
   Saying bye to the Groves and YSA wards wasn't fun, but it had to happen. There's a lot of people there that I will have to go see after my mission ends. I still find it ironic that every time an area I serve in starts to go extremely well, they boot me. It almost makes me want to stop seeing success just so that I won't have to pack again. Almost. President Hinckley once said the only thing common in life is change. I couldn't agree more.
   I got to this area on Wednesday. Since then, not much as happened. I'm at that stage where I'm trying to learn everything I can about the place while my companion knows everyone. I'm not the biggest fan of that part. Things should start to go a lot smoother once I figure it all out.
   Really nothing crazy happened this week. But I did have some good study time. I've been reading a lot in Alma lately. Alma is a book smack dab right in the middle of the Book of Mormon. In Alma there's a lot of wars and contention among the people. One story that caught my attention was the story of Lahonti and Amalikiah.
   So it all starts with an army. It's a large army with two leaders. Amalikiah leads one half and Lahonti leads the other. Lahonti keeps his half of the army in a mighty fortress on top of mount Antipus. Amalikiah, however, keeps his in a valley. Amalikiah isn't exactly the nicest man. He's a greedy man who wants nothing more then to be the leader of the whole army so that he can do whatever he wants with it. He's tried before to do his will but Lahonti has always said no.
   Amalikiah is a persistent man and he plans to get his way eventually, so he tries again. He takes his army to the bottom of mount Antipus and asks for Lahonti to come talk with him. Lahonti, sensing the obvious trap, declines. So Amalikiah leaves a part of his army behind and takes a smaller portion a little farther up the mountain. He asks Lahonti again to come down but to no avail. This continues to happen until he is right in front of the fortress walls with a only a few of his soldiers. He calls to Lahonti. Lahonti looks out and realizes that Amalikiah only has a few soldiers and he decides that he cannot be harmed by that weak of an army.
   So he sends his army out and surrounds Amalikiah. He takes his weapons and forces him to surrender. He then takes Amalikiah prisoner and let's him inside the fortress. Realizing that he has the upper hand, Lahonti lets his guard down and talks to Amalikiah. Amalikiah is a smart man. In fact, this had been his plan all along. Now that he made it inside Lahonti's fortress, now that Lahonti's guard is down, he can do exactly what he came to do. Amalikiah proceeds to poison Lahonti. Lahonti dies, and Amalikiah takes control of the entire army and begins to work his evil desires.
   As I read this it made me think of my own life. How far down the mountain am I letting satan stay? Am I making sure that the gates to my stronghold are sealed shut? Or am I letting my guard down because it doesn't seem like this particular thing can harm me?
   Especially in this day and age, Satan is hard at work. In his genius he continues to make himself seem less and less harmless to the point where he fools us into opening our gates and lowering our guard so that he can poison us. He is persistent, he is smart, and his very desire is to get what he wants eventually, so he'll try again. He'll try again, and again, and again, until the little things lead to big things and until the small, insignificant number of soldiers being held captive turns into an entire opposing army occupying your own fortress.
 He wants nothing more then for you to lose all you have been given.
   However, there is something miraculous in all of this. God loves you, and because he loves you, you don't have to open your gates. And even if you do open them, through Jesus Christ you can repent and cleanse and strengthen the fortress once more. In fact, you can do it time and time again and he will still love you and he will still cleanse you. It is important to remember however, that his mercy is not an excuse to wait. Each time you open your gates and let satan in, no matter how weak his force may seem, you grow weaker and distance yourself from God. My invitation is to act now before hints get worse and before strengthening your fortress becomes too difficult. Satan will damage your fortress if you let him. On the other hand, God and Christ will continue to strengthen it if you let them. "...His hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 5:25)

   Elder Earl

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This week went pretty well. Things have finally gotten to a point where we are busy most of the time. It took a lot of work to get it there. We have at least 20 people to teach and life is great. Because of the success, I'm being transferred. They are moving me to the Hermosa Vista and Hillcrest wards in the Hermosa Vista stake. Every time things get good, you leave. Such is life. I will definitely miss this area. I have had so many people that have made me a part of their family and I can't begin to express my gratitude for it.
   I have learned for myself that I hate drugs. I have seen so many lives destroyed here from the use of them. We taught a man yesterday that wanted money from the church to feed his drug addiction. The only reason he wanted to talk to us was so that we could pay for his medical marijuana. This same man was found dead a month before from a meth and cocaine overdose. He claimed it was dehydration. We left and two hours later I still felt like I was suffering from secondhand smoke.
   A family we have family home evening with every week about breaks my heart every time we talk. An eight year old should not know at that age what a DUI is. She especially shouldn't have learned because her mother got one. This family has six kids, all being raised by the father. They joined the church three years ago and were going strong until the mother fell back into her drug habits. A divorce soon followed as well as a restraining order against the mother. I remember sitting in the living room talking to them about how the having a loving Father in Heaven while the girls cracked jokes and the mother showed up. The father had been instructed by a judge to buy her a car. She threw a fit about how she didn't want the car he had bought and how she wanted to see her kids. The kids then ran, cried, and hid from the monster their mother had turned into. No body, especially kids, should have to be put through that. Don't do drugs.
   I look at the father of the family however. He is a trooper. He gets his kids to church on time every Sunday without fail. He does his girls hair and gets them all dressed and ready. He goes to work all day every other day to pay for their needs and on top of that takes care to rid himself of his previous alcohol addiction. He's a great father.
   Speaking of fathers I want to take a minute to praise my own. Everyday I gain a new appreciation for my father. My dad was born in 1970. He grew up in Las Vegas. From the amount of jobs that my dad has told me he has done I find it hard to believe that he hasn't been working every summer since he was ten. My dad was a runner. An incredible runner. He worked extremely hard to run for Bonanza High School and was a state competitor every year. He won't tell you this but he could make his way one time around the track in a 400m dash in 47 seconds. My dad was such a good runner that after he graduated, BYU gave him the choice of going on scholarship for either track and field or cross country. He chose cross country. My dad was so good that he already had the hookups to make a profession out of it in the European circuit. A profession that he would have taken had he not busted knee shortly into college.
   Luckily, my dad was a hard worker. My dad was an incredibly good student as well. Even though his dreams of becoming an all star runner were crushed, my dad chose another dream and pursued it. My dad chose to be a doctor.
   As he pursued that dream, his mother started bugging him about a girl. A girl named Beth Reynolds from Hermiston Oregon. My dad caved and took her on a date. He never dated another girl again. They were married August 13th 1993 in the Portland Oregon LDS temple.
   They started their married life in Provo Utah where my dad continued to pursue his degree in medicine at BYU. Two years later, I was born. He also won't tell you this but secretly I'm the favorite child. Not Hannah. Shortly after I was born, my dad led our small family to Kansas City Missouri for medical school. We literally lived off pancakes. All day every day. Hayden was then born in the Independence Missouri hospital. I really don't know much more about our time in KCMo other then we lived in a terrible part of town and life kind of sucked.
   To further my dads pursuit of medicine we then moved to Mesa AZ. Weird right? We lived in some sketchy apartments on Brown and Horne that I've been what some might call lucky enough to go back and visit during my time here. I'm pretty sure last week they found a dead girl in one of the dumpsters of that complex.
   After our time in Arizona we were led by my father to Spokane Washington so that he could do his residency at Sacred Heart hospital. He excelled so well there that a year or two into it my dad was offered a job in a tiny town called Goldendale Washington. If you ask my dad about it he will call it GoldenHell. If you are from Goldendale and are reading this, I apologize. You either love the place or you hate the place. There's no middle ground. Hannah had already been born in Good Shepard hospital but while in Goldendale Collin made his way into the world and was born in the Dalles. My dad continued to excel to point where he was offered a job back to the home of my mom, Hermiston Oregon.
   My dad bought a house on 12th street in the neighborhood right next to sandstone middle school. While living there, my mother became pregnant again. Sadly, the baby didn't make it. Because of this my mother was convinced that our family was not complete. In 2006 three more children entered my dad's family. Peter, Andrew, and Martha. I've already talked about them in previous letters to I won't spend too much time now. They are from Africa. They came with a note from their biological father asking my father to take care of them. A responsibility that not one other human on earth could fulfill.
   Later on, my dad built a house in hat rock, just outside of Hermiston and right on the river. A home to our family and hopefully all others who enter. My dad then became president of Family Health Associates as well as co-owner of the company. He has served on the hospital board for some time now, routinely running all over the country for meetings to support this position. My dad continues to be my coach and my mentor as well as my siblings and many others who have found themselves lucky enough to be placed in his path.
   My dad serves. I don't have enough fingers to count how many times our kitchen table has been used as an operation table to stitch up cuts or take care of other injuries. I even remember him stitching up my little brother in the back of a gap outlet. Don't worry, my dad is also an Eagle Scout and can handle that sort of thing.
   My dad knows God. My dad served a mission in Brazil, just like I'm doing right now in Arizona. My dad served so selflessly that he became a leader in the mission. Even to the point where his stewardship was second only to the mission president.
   My dad since then has served time and time again in church callings. He has served everywhere from nursery, to a member of the bishopric, to where he serves now as young men's president. He is such an example to me of faith and love for The Lord.
   My dad is my teacher, my example, and my friend. I could share many more things about my father that add to the hero that he is. Now, I know that I'm not the only one that loves his man. I also know that my mom will post this on Facebook. I want to ask my dad to post it for me because I know he would be too humble to post this for himself. But I want to ask all who read this to please comment a memory or something about by dad below the Facebook post. For Father's Day please let Derek Earl know how much he is loved.

   I love you dad.

           Elder Ashton Earl

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June 10, 2014

Hey Everyone!
   This week was great! We taught a lot more lessons then usual and found tons more people to teach. Last night we had a BBQ at the apartment complex and it was a huge success. We had over a hundred people show up and the night ended with 14 new investigators to teach. Life is great.
   One of my favorite things about being a missionary is being able to hear so many peoples life stories. Not only that, but being able to help them move on to the next chapter. Last night at the BBQ a young woman came up to us and asked if we could go somewhere away from the people to talk. We did and she ended up spilling everything that has happened to her in the past year. People seem to do that to us a lot. Even if they're things we really don't want to know.
   But anyways, she's a single mother who's child is in possession by CPS. She has spent all of her money on getting her back and by doing so is being evicted from her apartment. Because of this she came to us for help. One thing she said however hit me pretty hard. She said, "I appreciate what you guys do. I see you walking around all the time and even with all of this going on in my life it makes my day. You two never stop smiling even with the hard work you do in this Arizona heat. Seeing you guys so happy helps me to be happier too."
   What she said really triggered my thoughts. It helped me to realize the impact we can make on other people simply by the attitude we carry with us. I never knew she was watching. All I knew was that life is a lot easier when you are happy.
   Because of what she said it makes me wonder how many other people have been influenced by the attitude I have. Whether for good, or for bad. I think it really comes down to how grateful we are. I can think of many times in my life that I have been ungrateful and because of such an attitude things have not gone my way. Here on my mission it helps me to realize how much I have been given. Even though things don't always go my way it's so much easier to have a smile on my face because of the realization of the daily blessings my loving father on Heaven sees fit to give me. 
   This then presents the question, how can we be more grateful? President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, provided an answer. He said, "The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!”
   I'm grateful for the ability that god gives me to be thankful and for all that he gives me to be thankful for. I'm beyond blessed and I need to realize it more often. That woman was a wake up call for me to be more conscious about the attitude I help other people feel. I know from experience that God works through us, his children, to do his work. It is our duty to help others feel God's love. In order to do this we must be able to feel that love ourselves. The only way to do that is through an attitude of gratitude.

   Elder Earl

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 3, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This week was another good one. We found some new investigators and taught some really good lessons. Things are picking right back up and we are well underway to get some more baptisms this month. Another pretty cool that made my weak was that some people let me ride their tortoise. Yes, their tortoise. In exchange for helping them set up for a wedding reception they let us ride their two hundred pound desert tortoise. To be honest it's more like sitting on a log than riding an animal, but it made my day anyways.
   I still love seeing the Lord's hand in my life everyday. Especially when experiences happen where you can't deny that he had a part in it. Like on Friday, no one had signed up to feed us dinner. No matter how hard we tried we could not get anyone who was available to feed us that night. I'm not going to lie I was pretty disappointed. I'm a pretty big fan of not being hungry. After realizing we were most likely not going to be eating dinner that night, no matter how many times we prayed to ask for someone to be able to feed us, we decided to just keep on working till it was time to head in for the night.
   After we made this decision, we got out of the car and stepped into the 110 degree heat. We then proceeded to walk the area for the third time that we were walking I noticed the house of a member that the bishop had asked us to stop by. We went and knocked on the door and were greeted by a man in his early thirties. He turned out to be the nonmember son of the member we came to see. We asked if she was there but he said she was busy. Nonetheless he ran and grabbed us some waters and sat outside in the shade with us and talked. As we talked, the conversation quickly turned into a lesson for us. We taught him about how Jesus Christ restored his original church through Joseph Smith and helped him to understand what that means for him. As we were in the middle of answering his questions, his mother came out and invited us in. She, the one we had been looking for in the first place, had been busy cooking while we were teaching her son. It is my testimony that The Lord will always provide if you follow his teachings and do what we would want you to do. She ended up feeding us salmon for dinner that night. Her son also agreed to let us come back for another lesson. The Lord will always provide if you let him.
   This week was also a good week for my personal learning. I was reading in the Book of Mormon, going through a story I know fairly well. It was in Alma chapter 24. In this chapter, it's about a group of people called the Lamanites. They are very wicked people and don't obey the commandments of God. They murder, steal, and commit all kinds of sin. There's also another group in this chapter called the Nephites. The Nephites are a righteous people. They keep God's commandments and are blessed because of it. A Nephite missionary named Ammon has visited the Lamanites and has taught them the gospel. Because of this, the group that has turned to Christ and has been baptized and joined the church now call themselves the Anti-Lehi-Nephites. I know, it's a mouthful.
   These Anti-Lehi-Nephites repent. They take all their weapons that they have used to murder the Nephites and they bury them, covenanting with God that they will never shed blood again. Because of this choice and the wickedness of the other Lamanites, The Lamanites decide to attack the Anti-Lehi-Nephites and they are met with a bunch of righteous people that choose to die rather then defend themselves and break their covenant with God.
   This time that I read it, for whatever reason, it made me think about what weapons I need to bury. It made me think about what weapons I need to covenant with God never to use again. Have I lied to someone in the past? Have I been doing something that I know I should be doing? If so, what is the cost of burying that weapon? And what will I gain?
   I like in verse 16 where it says, "if our brethren destroy us, behold we shall go to our God and be saved." I know that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and made it possible to repent and have those sins washed away and forgiven. But I think that sometimes it's hard to repent. Satan leads us to believe that we can do it on our own. He leads us to believe that it will be too hard to repent. He leads us to believe that "our brethren [will] destroy us" if we repent. That's not the case. We will find only that we are closer to God and to salvation than we ever could be without repenting.
   My favorite part however is in verse 19 where it says, "and thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried their weapons of war, for peace."
   That's the purpose of repentance. Peace. God commands us to bury our weapons of war, for peace. No consequence will be too bad to hinder the peace that comes from using the atoning gift of Jesus Christ. If you want peace in your life, if you want to feel more satisfied with your life, there's a solution. Repent. Repent and feel the peace that Christ is waiting to give you. The Lord will always provide if you let Him.

   Elder Earl

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This week was good. It was slow but good. We are at a point right now where we baptized our golden family and need to find someone to replace them. Basketball at the apartment complex still happens regularly. Really nothing much has changed. It is getting hotter though. I'm not too excited about that fact. I think the increased heat is making me more tired as well. I suppose walking around in the sun all day will do that to you.
   Nothing too crazy happened last week. Graduation for the high schools here happened so our YSA ward grew quite a bit. Also this means a lot of the young men in the Groves ward can come out with us more.
   I still have yet to ever catch a fish with a pole. We went fishing in the canals yesterday. Elder Clarke caught three, the guy we were with caught three, and I caught zero. I'm almost to the conclusion that fish hate me. I'll probably try again next week just to make sure.
   This week I was reminded of a simple lesson I've learned over the course of my mission. The way that Satan works nowadays is interesting to me. Interesting as well as scary. Back when Cain was on the earth, satan appeared to Cain and coerced him to kill Abel. Satan doesn't work like that now. I've found it hard to believe that by coincidence, every single person I've baptized these last eight months has had something come up on the day of their baptism interview, the day of their baptism, and the day of their confirmation. Each time it is a completely logical and ethical reason not to make to any of these events. Because it is so logical and ethical, it's easy for one to rationalize not doing it or to move it further away, allowing Satan more time to work on you.
   This isn't just with baptism. This plays in every single action in our lives. Like I've said before, this world has changed from a state of moral absolutism, where God's law is God's law, to a state of moral relativity, where God's law changes based on an individual's situation. It is so easy in today's world to look at the choice as to whether or not to obey God and then to rationalize a way out of it.
   Really what it comes down to is the very real fact that God's law will always be God's law. The only logical and ethical solution to a problem or even just an everyday choice should be to obey God. He promises us that if we do so everything will work out in our favor, whether or not we view it that way. The scriptures say "By small and simple means are great things brought to pass." I believe you could also say that by small and simple means are great things hindered. By our small and simple choices every day we choose the outcome of our lives and, in turn, our eternal salvation. Think about that.

   Elder Earl