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 purgatory...so 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