Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013

Hey Everybody,
   This last week was pretty awesome. Christmas was great! This family that lives in our apartment complex called Elder Meline and my parents and figured out our family traditions and then invited us over for lunch to do them. It was pretty cool. Plus I got to talk to my family which made the day even better.
   Transfers are this week. Elder Meline and I will no longer be together. Our area is being split. Elder Meline will be taking Hampton Ward as a zone leader along with Elder Bostic and I'll have Baywood Ward. My companion will be Elder Cupp starting on Wednesday. I'm excited though. We have a baptism this Saturday and then he will be confirmed a member of the church on my birthday this Sunday.
   With New Year's coming up I've been doing a lot of thinking as to what it actually means. It's supposed to be a time of change but I feel like that is seldom the case. Why? Because everything worth striving for is always an inconvenience and we live too far in the past to progress out of the present.
   As I took this predicament to the scriptures it put a pretty cool meaning into some stories I hadn't picked up on before. A man here was kind enough to share with me his recent revelation from the story of Abraham and Isaac. For those of you who don't know, Abraham was a prophet of God. Abraham and his wife desperately wanted a child. It wasn't for many years until God let them have a son named Isaac. Isaac grew up to be everything a father could ask for. Abraham loved him. One day God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him. Torn between his feelings and his trust in God's will, Abraham finally decided to make the trek up the mountain with Isaac by his side. Now, you can imagine the thoughts going through Abraham's head as he climbed. I'm sure he was still trying to make up his mind as to whether or not he was going to kill his son. Isaac was everything to Abraham. The choice ahead was going to take everything he had to fulfill God's commandment to him.
   Abraham and Isaac reached the top of the mountain where they proceeded to build an altar. Once finished, Isaac obediently lay down on the altar and watched as his father picked up the knife to end his life. Abraham finally brought himself together enough to plunge the knife down in  an outward profession of his complete and unshaken obedience to God. But he didn't kill Isaac. The Lord had sent an angel to stop the knife before it could touch Isaac. Now just imagine the thoughts going through Abraham's head as he traversed down the mountain. Yes, the obvious answer was that he felt blessed and grateful that he could keep his son, but look further. What did The Lord want Abraham to learn?
   Through this act of total obedience, Abraham was giving The Lord all he had without the knowledge of what was to come. He was keeping a commandment that would try every fiber of his being to fulfill. And he did. He made the choice to obey God and sacrifice his son. The point is, Abraham knew this. God wanted Abraham to find out for himself that he had the ability to obey all of God's commandments, no matter how inconvenient and difficult they may seem. The Lord didn't want Isaac to die. He simply wanted Abraham to have enough faith in himself to have total faith in God.
   Keeping that in mind, another story in the scriptures is the story of Lot. Lot was commanded by God to leave Sodom and Gomorrah. God was going to destroy these two cities because of their wickedness and he needed Lot, his prophet, to be out of there first. So Lot gathered his things, got his family, and took off. Lot's family wasn't the happiest about this decision but they followed their father anyways. As they left that vile place, The Lord gave one more commandment. He said, "Look not behind thee". For whatever reason, Lot's wife turned around. Maybe she left her wallet, maybe she heard a noise, maybe she simply felt like walking backwards. But for whatever reason, Lot's wife turned around and gazed at the iniquitous home she was leaving behind. What happened to her you might ask? A pillar of salt she became. Literally.
   As simple a task as it was just to not look back on the city, she couldn't do it. It was just too much of an inconvenience to simply look forward and never look back. She probably didn't even stop to realize what could be in store for her and how much better it could be. She was living too far in the past to progress any further from the present. So a pillar of salt she became.
   So what's the moral of all of this Biblical rambling? How does this apply to us? Because we need to be more like Abraham this upcoming year and less like Lot's wife. We need to reasonably look past the inconveniences that Satan puts between us and significant blessings. That's the way Satan works. He puts logical and completely ethical reasons as to why we shouldn't do things. No matter how much they may benefit us. That way he lets us fight against our own discomforts in order to receive all that God has for us. Nothing worth while comes without stress, discomfort, and inconvenience. Convenience is a long sought after gift that rarely comes to those who search for it.
   In other, simpler terms, look not behind thee. Trust in The Lord in all thy doings. Choices become easier as we continue to choose them. That's the lesson Abraham was able to learn. As we put God first and move forward, the inconveniences that seem to be at hand will fade away and we will only be left with blessings. Don't look back. "The future is only as bright as your faith".

        Sincerely, Elder Earl

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

Hey Everyone,
   Well, Merry Christmas. It doesn't feel like Christmas whatsoever here in Mesa. It's still in the 70's on a normal day. I'm not sure if I enjoy being in the nice weather or if I miss having a white Christmas. That said, I've gotten to the point where I have to pull out a sweater as soon as it hits 60 degrees...
   This week went extremely well. We had lots of teaching opportunities and we found some new investigators. One of them even lives just a few apartments down from ours. Pretty much every lesson went well but I definitely had a favorite. Elder Meline and I have been teaching an elderly woman for about two weeks now. She has kept every commitment with just one slip, she didn't show up for church a few Sundays ago. This was somewhat concerning given the fact that she had promised to be there. Especially since her promising to do things has always meant that she will do it. We finally were able to catch her on Saturday. Brother and Sister Martinez from the Hampton Ward were kind enough to join us. We came in and, as usual, she had us make ourselves at home while she fended off her two chihuahuas with a fly swatter. 
   Ultimately, the goal of the lesson was to help her understand the importance of the commitments we were helping her to make. However, as we began to teach, it quickly turned into us letting her vent about the problems she has been facing ever the years. This woman has recently had her seventh heart attack. That by itself is incredible to me, but the list doesn't stop there. For two years she had watched her husband fight and eventually succumb to cancer. She has had multiple strokes, one of which took away her ability to speak. Either due to an amazing threshold of willpower or just an impressive amount of stubbornness, this woman taught herself how to speak again by watching television. She would lay there and simply repeat everything they said on the T.V. until she had the ability to talk again. But her biggest burden is her granddaughter Aubrie.
   Aubrie is a four year old little girl who is suffering currently from cerebral palsy. She can't walk, she can't talk, but according to this woman, "She's an angel". She has long dark hair that this woman braids every chance she gets. It make's her day. Even with all the perfection a four year old could possibly have, Aubrie will be spending Christmas in a hospital bed. That fact alone breaks her grandma's heart.
   After she let everything out, it left an immense opportunity to teach this woman. We explained how Aubrie won't have to worry about the pains her disease causes her forever. Because Aubrie has a Father in Heaven who loves her more than any of us can comprehend, He has made it possible for this little girl to have a perfect body one day. She'll be able to talk, she'll be able to walk, she'll be even more perfect than she already is. Also due to the plan of happiness that God has prepared for us, this woman will be able to see her husband once more. He as well will no longer be suffering from the cancerous pains which caused him to leave his wife behind. He will be perfect, and so can she.
   We opened the Bible and read John 15:2 with her. It says, "...every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit". We then proceeded to read Job 23:10 which reads, "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold". The lesson we were able to help this woman understand helped myself learn tons as well. Because bad things happen to us, it doesn't necessarily mean that we are doing anything wrong. "Obedience to God's commandments is not insurance that bad things will never happen". As it says in John, when we do the things the Lord commands us to do, and see success because of it, at times we need to be purged. Sometimes to humble us, sometimes to protect us, but always to help us grow. The decision we have to make then is whether or not we will use the tools the lord gives us "come forth as gold".
   We followed that up by switching to the Book of Mormon. One of the stories told there is about a people who lived at the time of the Tower of Babel. They were commanded by the Lord to leave Palestine and sail across the sea to a new land. They were commanded not build their boats how they usually built them. Instead, for their protection, God instructed them on how to build these ships so that they would survive the voyage. Following the council of God, they built the ships in exactness to His commandments, made preparations, and departed for their new home. The sea was terrible. Storms beat them 24/7 yet they prevailed. All because of their faith and exact obedience in using the tools the Lord had provided them with. In Ether 6:7 they say, "And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters".
   The lesson we were able to help her with became simple. Was she allowing the Lord to help her? The church is the tool which Lord is providing her so that she can let Him take some of her burdens. She cannot do it by herself. In the previous scripture, God instructed the vessels to be made "tight like unto a dish" so that "when they were encompassed about by many waters" they would be safe. The waters around them would not be able to destroy them. That's what the Lord has intended for us. We go to church so that we, as parts of the vessel, can be made tight like unto a dish when brought together. When we are obedient and follow this council of His, there is no room for the waters or trials that surround us to seep through the cracks and sink us, whether it be physically or especially spiritually.
   This woman ended up coming to church this last Sunday. She stayed the entire time and before she left came over to me with teary eyes and thanked me for letting her come. She proceeded to say,"You were right. I needed that". I'm so grateful for the tools the Lord gives us to make our lives more bearable. He does not give us things such as church simply to inconvenience us. He gives them to us to prevent us, His children, from falling through the cracks. This world is not built tight like unto a dish. It is up to us, and us alone, bring ourselves tight unto the Lord. There is no other way to protect ourselves from the waters which encompass us. Don't fall through the cracks.

   Sincerely, Elder Earl

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013

Hey Everyone,
   This week went really well. We have another woman on date to be baptized now. I'm extremely excited about her. We also just had a very productive week. It makes it all worth it when you get to see the fruits of your labors.
   This morning a man from one of the wards we cover took us on a hike. The Superstition Mountains are beautiful from a distance but their even better when you're on them. We went on a hike called First Water. It was pretty sweet. We found a bunch of Native American pottery on the ground next to some ruins. It was awesome.
   Some of the best parts about the Superstitions are the stories behind them. One I heard today was about the Peralta family. Back in the mid 1800's they migrated from Mexico to Arizona to pursue the gold rush. As they were crossing the Superstition Mountains the found gold ore just lying on top of the soil. So obviously, they began to harvest it. Pretty lucky strike right? Well, while they were mining their way to fortune the natives began to raid them. They came every few days until they eventually killed all except for one of the Peraltas. This last Peralta escaped and ran to little town called Tortilla Flats. There he met a Dutchman who agreed to go back to harvest the gold with him. They went and were never heard from again. The word is that they hid all the gold in the mountains somewhere. All who go after it seem to come back with physical, financial, or mental problems as a result.
   It was a cool story but as I think about it, it all goes back to my thoughts regarding greed. Especially during the Christmas season. "Happiness isn't having what you want. It's wanting what you have." Greed is easy, it's contagious, and it's extremely destructive. Happiness will not come from wanting more. True satisfaction comes from doing everything you can with what you already have.
   It's interesting that the people I meet here that are the least happy seem to have all they need. They simply haven't gone out of their way to help someone else have the same. I have never been more happy then I have been serving here in Arizona. Every moment is busy and even the hard moments become purposeful as I continue to serve. Selflessness expels greed and ushers in a sense of peace and satisfaction that can be found in no other way.
   I remember growing up that every Christmas season my parents would get us all in the car one night and we would head out and deliver gifts to families in need. I still remember the thrill came from leaving a gift at the door step and then running for cover. I never knew the families but I knew that we were helping them have a Christmas. It meant that we wouldn't have as many gifts but I wouldn't have traded it for the world.
   This Christmas season I would simply invite you to search for ways to serve others. Happiness most easily comes when you aren't striving to keep yourself happy. It comes when you see the happiness in someone else that you helped provide. I guess, simply put, I'm inviting you to be a little happier this Christmas season. And still, it's completely up to you.

         Sincerely,  Elder Earl

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013

Hey Everyone,
   Life hasn't changed much since my last email. Actually, it hasn't changed at all. Which isn't a bad thing. I love how it is right now. Life's pretty great as a missionary.
   We decorated for Christmas sort of. We have a two feet tall fake tree on a table. That's about it though. We went to the Christmas lights at the temple with some investigators. It was really cool. I love working with kids. I got to explain to a four year old named Raja about how he has a Father in Heaven who loves him and the story of how his brother Jesus Christ was born while we sat beneath the Christus. He just simply looked at me as I told him and then back at the statue of Christ and then reverently said, "I wish someone had told me that before." 
   I've been thinking about what he said all week. It pretty much broke my heart to hear that. He comes from a family where his mom has had a child out of wedlock three times, all with different dads. In fact, Raja doesn't know his dad too well. He doesn't have a fatherly figure like I've had growing up. And to top that all off, his mom is moving with them to Illinois to get back together with his oldest brother's father. As I talked to His aunt, she doesn't know the next time Raja will be able to see his dad. It definitely won't be soon.
   This last Thursday, Raja's aunt's boyfriend took him to the church Christmas party. Raja was hyper and loud the entire time, just like a four year old should be, until the primary kids put on the nativity scene. Raja suddenly got quiet and stared at the stage as Joseph and Mary walked on. In Mary's arms she held the baby Jesus. Raja tapped my shoulder and then quietly asked, "Is that my brother?". All I could do was smile and nod. The grin that Raja had on his face after that made my day.
   I'm so grateful that I have a dad who's been there for me my entire life. Even while I'm in Arizona. He still manages to write me every week. I can't imagine what life would be like without that support. Especially if I was four years old and being taken around the country due to my mother's continuous romantic mistakes, living a life completely void of the peace and security that the gospel brings.
   In this Christmas season I promise that true happiness will come from paying attention to it's name. With that also comes the need for gratitude. Christ wasn't born in a fancy hotel, He was born in a manger. Among the lowliest of the low. Following His birth, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee to Egypt due to the impending massacre in Bethlehem, completely intended for the death of Christ. With that knowledge, who are we to expect gifts of any more value than a manger and a target on our heads? The fact of the matter is we've already been given the only gift we truly need.
   We have a Father in Heaven who loves us enough to give us His only begotten son to live and die for us so that we can live with Him once more. I'm so grateful to have been brought up with that knowledge. I'm also extremely grateful to have the opportunity to share that gift with people like Raja. I know that the knowledge of Christ's gift for us is the ultimate source of happiness as long as we live worthy of it. That's all he asks in return. It's up to you to decide whether or not that's too much of gift for Him this Christmas.

                      Sincerely, Elder Earl

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 2, 2013

Hey Everybody,
   Just finished another great week in the AMM (Arizona Mesa Mission)! It's still around 70 degrees here. It's weird to think that it's December. People here start putting their Christmas lights up pretty much the day after Halloween so most of the place is already lit up. We went to a member's house for dinner and walked into a winter wonderland where their living room used to be. I don't really understand it. I guess you have to compensate for the lack of snow somehow.
   Thanksgiving was good. We started out the day with the Hampton ward turkey bowl at 7am. They had already been playing since 4. They're insane. We played with them until 10 and then we rode our bikes 8 miles to murder the YSA zone in their turkey bowl. Then we just got fed the rest of the day. It was great.
   We had another lesson this week with the man getting baptized on my birthday. We talked about the Book of Mormon and how all his answers will come from reading it. Apparently he hasn't had the time to read it. He also told us he has a problem smoking. It ended up being a really good lesson. We promised him that if he would read Moroni 10: 3-5 and pray about it that he would know that it's true. I also promised him that as he read the book that he would be able to stop smoking. He said he would but he's said those exact words before and he never did it.
   The next day he showed up at church with his son and pretty much slept the entire time. After the meeting he pulled me aside and thanked me for the night before. He said he took me up on reading it and he couldn't put it down. He stayed up all night reading. He said he knows it's true, he hasn't smoked since he picked it up, and he wants us to come back. It was a pretty cool experience for me.
   It's funny how everything I study seems to apply to someone I teach that day. This past week I've been studying charity. I guess it was just something I wanted to apply in my life but there's really no set definition that I could strive for. The only definition I've ever heard is that charity is the pure love of Christ but that's a huge goal to strive for and something that will take a lifetime for me to perfect. If not more. So as I studied this week I came up with a simpler, attainable goal for me right now. So, for me, charity is patiently expecting the best out of others.
   As I read about Christ, that's how he treated all of his disciples. Not only his disciples, but all mankind. For example, look at Peter. Peter tried to rebuke Christ on multiple occasions, fell asleep only a stones throw away from where Christ was atoning for all of our sins and sorrows, cut a man's ear off, denied Christ three times in one night, and then after all he had seen simply went back to fishing.
   In John:21, Christ comes to Peter and His other disciples and patiently expects that they do what they were asked to do before, and feed his sheep. In every single instance with Christ, Peter is corrected not with harsh words, not with stern criticism, but with patient expectations. Because of the way Christ dealt with him, Peter rose to those expectations. It came to the the point where crowds lined the the streets, praying that the shadow of Peter would fall upon them so that they might be healed. This not only happened with Peter. Paul of Tarsus became one of the most renowned missionaries of all time. John became the Revelator. Moses became the leader of the Israelites. But why does that matter? Because people rise or fall to the expectations you have of them.
   So for me, charity, simply put, is patiently expecting the best out of others. If I expect someone to be annoying I'll probably act according to those expectations and they'll do the same. But if I act how Christ would, it will be a whole lot more beneficial to them and to me in the long run. That man who I taught this weekend proved that to me. He used to be...well...really bad and now he doesn't even swear. The best part about it is he doesn't realize it. It wasn't until we talked about it that he said "I haven't dropped an F bomb for a month". I know that if it wasn't for the expectations that Christ has for him he wouldn't be where he is at today. God knows our potential and knows that every single one of us can reach it. Those are His expectations for you. Reach them.

      Sincerely, Elder Earl

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25, 2013

Hey Everyone,
   This week went well. I started my second transfer in the same area with the same companion so nothing much has changed except he's district leader. Honestly hardly anything has changed. We still do the exact same thing ever day. I think the most entertaining part of my mission happened this last week. Elder Meline and I were going to teach an 81 year old woman named Jeraldean when we found some other woman climbing through her window. I asked what she was doing and then she quickly came over to us and started talking. I don't even remember most of what she said but she was definitely on something. Jeraldean then showed up and we got to sit back and watch an 81 year old have a gospel conversation with a tweaker. It was great. It destroyed the lesson but it was great.
   I got to play a game of horseshoes on Monday. Elder Meline and I were riding by Jefferson Park in a last ditch effort to find someone to teach and we found these two men playing horseshoes. So we rode over and started talking to them. Their names are Ramon and Hector. I guess their idea of fun is grabbing some beer and marijuana and playing horseshoes every night. Ramon started trying to make fun of us which ended up with me playing a game of horseshoes against him. If I won he had to let us teach him but if he won I had to convert to Catholicism. The score was 6-2 and he was winning. Then I came back and won 7-6. He's now an investigator of the church. I'm still not sure if he was serious about me converting to Catholicism.
   Oregon losing to Arizona was probably the worst thing that could have happened for me. Church yesterday was less about Jesus than it was about making sure Elder Earl knew his state got crushed by theirs, even though they're all ASU fans. It sucked. Every time the ducks lose the whole state seems to verbally gang up on me.
   Anyways, being here in Arizona during thanksgiving has put a new perspective on gratitude for me. Seeing all of these problems that people have makes me extremely grateful that I was raised in a way that put me on a safe path away from all of that. Because I was raised by two shining examples of what life is like without the influence of what many seem to think is happiness, I'm happier then ever. In fact, I'm free. A girl I was teaching the other day said she doesn't like "Mormonism" because of all the restrictions. The only thing I could think of was how much it must suck to look at it that way. Because I've lived those "restrictions" I've seen them for what they are. They are simply the only way to be unrestricted.
   These "restrictions" say that I shouldn't do drugs. Because I don't drink, smoke, or whatever else someone figured out I don't have to live with that constant dependency on those substances. I don't have to sleep in bed sheets that smell like a crematorium. I don't have to worry that I drank too much to drive home safely. I don't have to worry about what will happen to me while I wait for my wits to return. I don't have to worry about whether or not this body that God gave me is as suited as it used to be to hold up against the impediments that I already know are waiting for me.
   These "restrictions" say that I should stay abstinent until marriage. Not only that but I shouldn't view pornography. Ever. In fact I shouldn't even have immoral thoughts. Because I've followed those rules I've learned many valuable lessons. I've learned self control. I've learned how to respect women. I can live the life I'm supposed to live right now. Having kids is not what I'm supposed to be doing right now. Whether or not it's an accident. Because I'm living the way I'm supposed to be living right know, I know that later I'll have a wife that loves me, kids that will grow up in a home with two parents just like they deserve, and I'll have a greater sense of loyalty and fidelity because I've already chosen it.
   These "restrictions" say that I shouldn't gamble. The world says "you can't win if you don't play". That makes about as much sense as using cocaine as a weight loss program. Just don't do it.
   These "restrictions" are the only way to keep yourself unrestricted. They are the only way to be free from sorrow. They are the only way to be yourself. Honestly they're the only way to be free at all. To drive the point in a little further, they're the only way to live the life God meant for you to live. "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10).
   I am so grateful for the way my parents raised me. Because of them I can be truly happy. The knowledge that they helped me find for myself is priceless. I'm grateful that my parents lived and are still living the way that God intended. I am who I am because of their example to me. I'm grateful for my younger siblings. I love my parents but Hayden, Peter, Hannah, Andrew, Martha, and Collin are my role models. I'm grateful for the example they've shown me. As hard as I am to put up with they've done it in the most loving way possible. Someday I hope to be able to gain the attributes that my siblings already have. I love them. I'm especially blessed to be on a mission as a representative of Jesus Christ. I know that my Father in Heaven loves me. I know that because of that love he prepared a way for me to return to Him someday. I know that because of that love He sacrificed his only begotten son in the flesh to atone for my sins. I know that because of that love I can repent and be brought back onto the straight and narrow path back to Him. I know that because of that love he restored His gospel through Joseph Smith. I know that because of that love I can be with my family forever. There is nothing more I can ask for than the peace and security this gospel brings. This IS the true church of Jesus Christ restored again to the Earth. Through it you can live the life that God intended for you to live. The Book of Mormon IS the word of God. It coincides perfectly with the Bible. It has the answers that God wants you to know. You can read it, think about it, and pray about it with a sincere heart, honestly intending to know whether or not it is true. If you do this it will be manifested to you through the Holy Ghost so that you can know the truth of all things. Why? Because God loves you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

   Elder Earl

Monday, November 18, 2013

Photos of Ashton and his companion Elder Meline

November 19, 2013

Hey Everybody,
   This week went lots better. We had transfers but Elder Meline and I get to stay together for another six weeks (which is sweet) unless he gets his visa. I feel like I'm in a two year long game of hide n' seek. Literally. Multiple times this week Elder Meline and I have caught people hiding from us. It's pretty pathetic. Last night while we were walking home we watched as a guy saw us and then jumped behind a tree. He then noticed that his chihuahua wasn't hiding so he came out awkwardly but as soon as we looked away he jumped behind a bush and then dragged his dog into hiding with him. It was about as subtle as a gun but it was fun to watch so we pretended not to notice him. I don't know what people are worried about. Maybe we'll baptize them too hard? Maybe they don't want to live with their family forever? Actually, now that I think about it, someone has told us that eternal life with her family sounds a little worse then that's probably it.
   We got in a high speed chase this last week. That was fun. This guy realized that we were biking behind him so he started pedaling progressively faster and attempting to nonchalantly look behind him to make sure we weren't there anymore. We were there. We probably shouldn't have but we caught up to him and taught him as we rode around town. I don't know where he was going because we pretty much rode around aimlessly and crossed our path a few times. I think he thought we were going to get tired eventually or something, but we didn't. Finally he took a Book of Mormon and our phone number but he hasn't called back.
   On a better note we had a lesson with the first person I taught on my mission. We left with a date set for him to be baptized and confirmed on my birthday. That was definitely the highlight of my week. Seeing him follow in Christ's footsteps really is amazing. I won't go in to detail but he's had a tough life which has lead him to do a good amount of things which weren't exactly Christlike. Seeing the way the Gospel has helped him change has made me extremely appreciative for the Atonement and has really built my testimony of it as well.
   As I did my personal study this week everything seemed to fit in with the needs of this man. But the more I helped him solve his needs and build his own testimony he built mine. While I was studying I learned ultimately one thing: There is no point to life without Christ. As humans we naturally have false assumptions due to pride and unreasonable hopes. One of which is that we can avoid trials. We can't. Nor should we expect to. No matter what we do, how good we are, how secure we feel, we will be tried. "Obedience to God is not insurance against pain and sadness." Trials are for our benefit. God gives them to us so that we can learn and ultimately become more like Christ. Christ suffered and he was perfect. Who are we to expect that our imperfect selves won't be tried? Camille Frank Olsen said, "Christ came to wipe away our tears, not to insure that we would never weep." Yet going back to what I said before, trials are pointless without Christ. The Atonement is not insurance that we will comfortably ease through trials. It is comfort that we can be tried and forgiven as we turn to Christ, no matter how low the trial brings us.
   Which leads you to another false assumption that we can trust in our own efforts. John 16:33 says, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.". We can't overcome the world. God knows this. If we could there would have been no need for the Atonement. There would have been no need for Christ's sacrifice for us. Christ overcame the world so we wouldn't have to. Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." We can never rely on our own strengths. We can never walk the path alone. Flying solo doesn't cut it. We need Christ. Luckily he has promised us that we are never alone.
   So again, there is no point to life without Christ. We can't do it. We shouldn't try. Christ overcame the world for us. Don't walk alone and pretend like He didn't. You're better then that. Now live that way.

   Elder Earl

Monday, November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013

Hello Everyone!
   This week wasn't too bad. It was slower then usual but other than that nothing much has changed. I still get up to see the Superstition Mountains out my window, I still ride around with helmet hair, I still talk to everyone (usually they don't talk back), I'm still a missionary.
   We got doors slammed on us a lot this week. One man even slammed the door, realized he had more to say so he opened the door back up and slammed it again when he was finished. Then he yelled at us from his window. It made my day. The best part was it wasn't even his house. No worries though. We'll be back. I'm beginning to feel like I didn't pay close enough attention in English class. In my mind it doesn't make sense to reply with "nope" after I ask how you're doing today. Maybe that's just Arizonian for "I'm doing well! Thanks for asking! The weather is great today isn't it? Also, if it's not too much to ask, could you do me a favor and let me follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by one holding the proper priesthood authority of God?". Who knows?
   This week has really made my appreciation for prayer a bit better. Friday was probably the least successful day of my mission so far. Elder Meline and I rode around from house to house for hours but nobody wanted to talk to us. It was about 8:30 and we ended up hitting a dead end next to a pond. All of our options were pretty much gone but we still had at least half an hour left to serve that day. We were exhausted. We were hopeless. We were clueless. Elder Meline then voiced the obvious answer to our problems. We needed to pray.
   After we had voiced our concerns and asked for the help and guidance that we knew our Father in Heaven would offer us, we found our answer. It didn't come immediately. It wasn't blatantly obvious. It just all worked out. We decided to go try and talk to a man we had tried earlier today. We rode across the street to the LakeView apartments but found another man walking down the street. We stopped and introduced ourselves but he insisted that he had to make it to the bus station or he would be sleeping outside that night. I said that wasn't a problem and we could walk him there. He agreed and so we began walking. His name is Ryan. He's a single father of a little six year old girl named Madilyn. He is in the final process of getting her back from the state. He has been fighting for her for the last 20 months and is now just two months away from getting her back. In the midst of all this the state gave her lasik eye surgery resulting in her being legally blind. In other words, he's had a hard time.
   Because of us simply being on the same side of the road as Ryan we were able to discuss how families can be together forever. We talked about how Madilyn won't be blind forever. Christ suffered in Gethsemane. He died on the cross. He rose again so that Madilyn can rise as well. Her lack of sight is only temporal. She will see again. And Ryan will be right there next to her seeing exactly what she sees with perfect vision. 
   We gave him our number and left as he boarded the bus. He was the only person we were able to talk to on Friday but somehow those thirty minutes made up for the 23 1/2 hours that had felt empty. God was there for us all along. We simply needed to stop and notice. Henry B. Eyring once said, "The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are." I had never found that statement more true then I did after meeting Ryan.
   To further push the point that apparently I needed to hear this week, all the talks were on prayer this last Sunday. One thing that really stood out to me was an analogy used there. If we are thirsty and there's a spring right in front of us where will you drink? There are cows drinking directly above stream from you. Will you drink right where you are now? No. That's disgusting. If you drink right there the water will be mixed with whatever bacteria flows downstream from the cows. You want to go to the source of the water. That's where you can drink freely without the worry of disease or uncleanliness. Prayer is like that. You need to go the source. God is always listening and will always give you pure, clean, and 100% bacteria-free answers. You simply need to choose to walk past the cows (metaphorically speaking) and reach the source. Life's a lot easier when you let God help.

   Elder Earl

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 4, 2013

Hey everyone!
   So highlight of the week, We have iPads. I'm not sure if I like them yet but that's probably because I haven't gotten used to them yet. This week went by extremely fast but then again most weeks do now. The days are long but the weeks are short.
   Elder Meline and I got to go play frisbee golf with a member today. That was pretty fun. I hit a duck so I was pretty proud of myself. Other then that It's safe to say that I need practice.
   We had exchanges this week so I got to be companions with Elder Stuart for a day. The first appointment we had was interesting...we got to listen to a guy go through a chart he had created that proved that aliens created the Earth. He also explained to us his somewhat logical explanation for God's ability to warp to earth and live inside us. Somehow it ended up being a good lesson towards the end but he is still pretty attached to his chart.
   I think the biggest thing I learned this week was how much God leaves up to us. In Philippians 4:13 it says we can "do all things through Christ". I knew the principle of doing things right and living by gospel standards but I don't think I truly understood it until now. God does his part only after we have done all we can do. Because God loves us he gave us agency, or the ability to choose. All of God's gifts require action and if we act in faith we use those gifts to their true potential. As a missionary I have been called to teach the gospel and invite others to come unto Christ. In Doctrine and Covenants it says "Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men". In other words if I don't do my part and learn what I need to teach through gifts God has given me such as the scriptures, preach my gospel, etc., then why should he help me to speak it when that time comes that I am provided with someone who needs to hear it? Why should he give me more when I don't use what I've already been given? He shouldn't and He won't.
   In the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf "Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in the darkness waiting for someone to flick the switch" God's light shines whether or not we flick the switch. However it is up to us to let that light shine on us. Use the gifts God has already given you. By doing so is how we find the countless other gifts He already has waiting for us.

    Sincerely, Elder Earl

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 28, 2013

Hello Everyone!
   This week was great! We had another lesson with the geese crawling all over us but it went really well! Arizona is starting to cool down. Today's the first day I've seen clouds since the day I got here. Elder Meline and I are getting more investigators every week and the work in our area is growing really well. We had a baptism on Saturday for Rick Johnson. He's a great guy and I'm really glad he asked me to speak at it. We also walked away with two boxes of cookies so it was extra special!
   I had my first bike crash this week. I guess the whole texting and driving thing applies to riding your bike as well...I looked up at an intersection and pressed the brake on my front wheel instead of the back. this resulted in me flipping over the handlebars. The best part was explaining the blood to the members we visited for dinner.
   We had exchanges on Saturday so I was with Elder Hock all day. He's my district leader. That was an experience. Enough said on that. Elder Meline and I had a great experience teaching relief society this last sunday. we got to teach about the woman's role in the priesthood. It's crazy looking back on how my Mom has been there for everything I've ever been successful in. I even got on the award stand for track and cared less about the medal in my left hand then the cookies she made me in my right. Ultimately she's the reason I'm on a mission, and now she's not here. However I know that this is where I need to be. If I come home, everything I learned from my Mom goes to waste. I have a lot that people need to learn about what my Mom taught me and through those lessons they can have eternal life.
   Hopefully this week the work will continue to rise here. I love being a missionary. I have a place to stay, Cap'n Crunch and chimichangas in the freezer, and people to help. What more do I need?

Elder Earl

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

Hey Everyone!
   The mission is going great!! Elder Meline and I set two more baptismal dates this last week which is pretty exciting. One of them actually happened last night. We've been teaching this guy for a while and just stopped by to bring him some cat food and walked out with a baptismal date for November 30th. He lost his leg in a motor cycle crash and is an interesting guy to say the least. He's a hard man to teach because he has had problems with his memory ever since the crash. He has a cat with a hole in it's head named Oreo. You can see it's brain. It's disgusting. I'm not sure why we found food for it. I kinda just want it to die.
   The other baptism is this lady that got called in as a referral. She started talking to someone about the church through World of she's a World of Warcraft referral. i think that's a first but I'm not sure. I'm still new. She lives in this tiny run down house in the ghetto and has sixteen geese and ducks running around her tiny yard. We got chased out the first time. I think I would have preferred sixteen dogs. Dogs don't hiss at you. apparently geese do. We went back anyways and had a discussion while birds climbed all over us but she's getting baptized on the 23rd of November so it definitely was worth it. We went back yesterday to pick her up for church with a member and the geese were a lot nicer for some reason...Holy ghost maybe?
   The members here in Mesa are really nice. everyone else is okay ha I love them but most of them don't love us. We get yelled at a lot. It's really not worth saying much more about that. I love when people try to tell us that we're going to hell. I don't even argue. I did the first time but then I realized it wasn't worth it. Dad was right. Don't tell him I said that though. The last time it happened I just smiled and nodded along and gave him a pass along card when he was finished ranting.
   Anyways I hope everyone is doing well and that the world isn't ending. I wouldn't know if it was because of the lack of news. I like it that way actually. Arizona has news enough. If the world was ending, however, that might increase baptisms. So I guess I have mixed feelings on the subject.
   I love you all and, like I said, I hope everything is going well back in Oregon. If it isn't we know know who to turn to. Christ already payed for and felt all of our pains and suffering. Don't waste that gift. It's not refundable.


Elder Earl

P.S. Phillipians 4:13

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

President and Sister Jenkins

I received this photo from Ashton's mission president today.  It was taken October 8, the day he arrived in Arizona.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013

Hello Everyone! This week has been pretty crazy ha I found an investigator in the airport which was pretty cool. I guess that means im off to a good start. The last week of the mtc went by insanely fast. I sent off my jamaican companions at 2:30 tuesday morning resulting in no sleep that night because i had to board a bus at 4:30. Arizona is beautiful. I dont think ive seen this many palm trees in my life. everyone here says its cold even though its 90 degrees outside...anyways my new companion is Elder Meline. He's from California and has been waiting for his visa to go to the Sao Paulo South mission for four months so I dont know how long we'll be companions. We already have a baptism lined up for october 26th. We've found a lot of new investigators as well. I get to go teach this guy who i guess practices the Aztec beliefs..Im not sure exactly what that means but I guess I'll find out. My first night here I stayed with two zone leaders named Elder Owens and Elder Brooks. Because I was running on 40 hours without sleep I fell asleep during a discussion. She's still getting baptized though so everything worked out. Our apartment almost burned down that night ha they came home after leaving some potatoes on the oven to find the place filled with smoke and fire running up the wall. Owens ran in and opened the sliding glass door and Elder Bennet threw water on the oil fire...not the best idea. Elder Ault happened to have a gas mask (dont ask me why) and ran in, put that on, then ran outside and broke the glass on the fire extinguisher and put the fire out. Now all my stuff smells like smoke and they dont have an oven. Now i live with Elder Meline in the Waterford Appartments and we havnt had a fire. yet. I would share more but Im pretty much out of time. My new address is 2525 N 32nd St. Mesa AZ 85213. If you feel like sending cookies that's where you should send them.

Elder Earl

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October 3, 2013

Ashton's first 2 emails arrived today.


Im glad you got my letter ha i was beginning to think u all wouldnt write me! i still havnt got anything except for from madilyn. im glad the kids are all doing well. hows collin? and hayden? is he stepping up like i asked him to? im sure he will. hes a good kid. and im doing extremely well here. im now a district leader and its very humbling to help everyone. i gave 3 blessings in a 10 minute span last night. its pretty crazy. i love you and u all should write and not email. i can write every day but email only happens once a week. see ya!


Hey everyone!
   The mish is going great! i love being here with so many great people. i have two really good companions named elder layton and elder graft. theyre heading to the jamaica kingston mission. i think the hardest thing here is the schedule. i hate trying to fall asleep at 10:30. i feel like i should be tired since we go nonstop from six in the morning til then buutttt im not ha. the food is starting to taste exactly the same. it looks different but im pretty sure its exactly the same. every day. i cant wait to get to AZ!!! its gonna suck saying bye to graft and layton but theyve got people to serve in paradise. literally. anyways the place is great, the investigators are pretty solid as well, and the church is true. nuff said.

Elder Earl