Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 24, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   I'm not going to lie, this week wasn't as successful as I would have liked. With the exception of a few miracles, nothing really worked out too well. It's getting warmer which is somewhat foreboding. Summer is coming too fast. I'm just grateful that I have a car for now.
   We got a few new investigators. I'm not sure how interested they are yet but at least it's a start. The one investigator we had set for baptism has fallen off the face of the earth. On the bright side we were able to find and start reactivating four members this week. That made my week a little better.
   One thing I've realized since being on my mission was completely summarized in a talk I read earlier this week. Our society has become more focused on our rights then on our responsibilities. Our world used to be one of moral absolutes. It is now one of moral relativity. The fact of the matter is that God has always, and will always, be a god of moral absolutes. Sin is, and will always be sin. Obedience is a very straight forward concept that has been skewed to be a very relative term. The world now thinks with a mind to bend the rules. What is a sin for one has now become socially acceptable as perfectly righteous for another.
   With this has led to a focus on rights and an apathetic disregard for responsibilities. For example, "it's my right to consume what I want" is one I have heard recently. First off, it's not. Second off, it's your responsibility to keep yourself clean and functional in the body a loving god gave you. It's your responsibility to have a sober mind that you can use to benefit yourself and others the way God intended.
   That was just one of the many things that I've heard on my mission. This world is changing. Sin is becoming more and more common and acceptable, even supported and encouraged. My worry is for my younger siblings and future children. How can they best be safe in a world like this? As I gave this some thought I remembered some insight Elder Meline shared with me a few months back. It's in the Book of Mormon. 1 Nephi 18:2 and 4. In this chapter it's talking about a prophet named Nephi. Nephi and his family have just fled Jerusalem. God has commanded them to cross the ocean to get to a promised land. Because of this commandment Nephi prays to The Lord for guidance. The Lord commands him to build a ship and these verses are the result: "2 Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men. 4 And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord."
   This relates completely to us. If we build ourselves after the manner of men, we'll turn out alright. But it will just be alright. However, if we build ourselves after the manner of The Lord we'll turn out "exceedingly fine". That includes what and who we surround ourselves with and how obedient we choose to be. The gospel is simple. Choose the right. Build yourself after the manner of The Lord. My invitation is simply for you to choose to be "exceedingly fine". Nothing else. "Wickedness never was happiness."

     Sincerely, Elder Earl

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17, 2014

Hey Everyone!
   This week was a good one! I'm now officially covering the Mountain View and Mesa 2nd Young Single Adult wards. It was sad to leave behind the Baywood ward but I was ready for a change. My new companion is Elder Spencer. He's a super good missionary and I'm learning a lot from him.
   YSA work is hard. It's extremely fun and there's always something to do but it's hard to find people. We have to rely completely on the members to introduce us to investigators. There are a lot of activities though so it works out really well. It's weird being around so many people my age. Especially since almost all of them are returned missionaries. It feels like there are more eyes watching than normal.
   I had a lot of fun experiences this week. Day 1 we were asked to do a funeral for a dead cat. We got a call from a member's neighbor. She said the cat died a day earlier, the body is still in the house, and that we needed to come give a blessing to the cat before it got cremated....We didn't do any of that. We kind of just let it be.
   There wasn't too much on my mind this week actually. we teach a lot less lessons as of now. We need to get the stone rolling. We went on a hike this morning. It was pretty awesome. We hiked this place called the Wind Caves. The caves weren't impressive but at the end of the hike you end up at the peak of a mountain. It was beautiful. you could see the whole valley and at sunrise it's a pretty neat view.
   One thing I love about hikes is that they take effort. If you're doing it right there will be sweat, blood, and an extremely hungry stomach at the end. But there's always something to experience that's worth all the exhaustion. It reminds me a lot about life. In Arizona the landscape seems to have been built to make every possible moment uncomfortable. I haven't gone on a hike yet without getting cut at least once by a cactus. There's rocks, sand, venomous creatures, cacti, weeds, and a lot of sun. But on these hikes there's always a trail. This trail always has most of all that cleared out of the way. That way you know where to go and it's a whole lot easier to get there.
   Our lives are exactly like that. Ultimately, life is just one huge hike. It has rocks, it has cacti, it even has venomous creatures. But because of Jesus Christ it also has a path. We have a loving father in heaven that prepared a path for us. Jesus Christ came to pave that path for us. It still takes effort. It still has some cacti in the way. But through Him we can overcome all that this hike has to throw at us to reach the top of the mountain. No matter how sweaty, bloody, or hungry we may be. There is a top to every mountain. Through Jesus Christ and His Atonement, you can come back to the path He prepared for you and reach it.

   Sincerely, Elder Earl

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   Well it's time to say bye to my beloved Baywood Ward. I've spent almost 5 months here and I guess it's time for me to leave. My new area should be fun though. I get a car! My area is fairly big. I now cover 2 young single adult wards. I cover Mountain View and Mesa 2nd. My new companion will be Elder Spencer. He is a zone leader. It will be kind of weird. I feel like President Jenkins has been running all of his tests on me. I was the first missionary in the mission ever to be trained by a visa waiter, then he made me senior comp over part of a broken zone as a test, and now he's trying out having the zone leaders split up to see if it can benefit us as their companions. I'm a guinea pig.
   I'm happy that I was successful here though. I definitely left the place better than I found it. Instead of one person set for baptism we now have eight. The ward has gotten much better at member missionary work as well. They come with us to pretty much every lesson and the drastic increase in the numbers is a result of their efforts. I'm happy for them. The ward will do well. Elder Cupp will be staying here to make sure the work continues.
   This week definitely had its ups and downs. It was a very good week but it had some sad parts as well. Good news first. We set another baptismal date. A woman I've been working with for a while will now be baptized on March 15th. Hopefully her family will follow. On Saturday a woman I taught from my last area was baptized. It was nice to hear that.
   That family of seven is progressing better than ever. They will be done smoking on the 14th and they no longer drink coffee. It's pretty awesome. We took them to a church open house on Saturday and the dad, who had been holding the family back for a while, flat our said, "I've been looking for 15 years and I think I've found my new home". It was great to hear him say that. The 16 year old girl is even already talking about a mission! They will be baptized on March 8th. I'll have to find a way to make it back for that.
   We took our 91 year old investigator to watch Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration on Thursday. She loved it. She will be baptized on February 22nd and she is stoked for it. I don't think I've ever seen a woman as energetic as she is and she's 91! It's insane! She looks as though she could outlive me at this point.
   On top of all the great things that happened this week, I found out some bad news. I found a member I've become very close to here on my mission crying in the church foyer yesterday. I went over to make sure she was ok and she told me that she has just recently found out she has breast cancer. This amazing woman is the mother to an 8 year old son and an 11 year old daughter. Her husband is incredible as well and they have been some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. It was definitely sad to hear about her condition.
   It begs the extremely common question of "why do bad things happen to good people?". The answer is short and simple. Good people are forged from bad things. Good people don't just happen. Therefore bad things are required to make good people even better people. But a thought really hit me hard this week. Well, a few thoughts did. The first one I had while reading about Adam and Eve.
   I was reading In Moses. I read about the Garden of Eden. I read about how Lucifer beguiled Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I read about how Adam followed suit after Eve in order to obey all of Gods commandments. I read about how they were cast out of the garden because of it and it wasn't until then that I found something that applied. In Moses 5:11, Adam and Eve are looking back on their choices and the outcomes thereof. The scripture says, "And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient."
   I love how Eve admits that if it wasn't for the trials they went through, they never would have had what they have now. I think that applies to all of us as well. God gives us trials because He loves us. He wants us to learn and grow so that we can come back to Him one day. If not for those trials we would not learn and grow. I know in my life I have looked ahead and worried because what I wanted to happen was no longer possible. The fact of the matter is that if you are obedient and patient in your trials, The Lord will give you what will help you be as happy and satisfied as you possibly can be at that time in your life. His will should not be contradictory to ours. We need to realize that and align ours to His to find true happiness.
   The second thought that I had pertained to the way that woman has been living. She has spent every waking moment with her family. They have one of the most unified families I have ever met. It made me think of another scripture. Matthew 6:20 and 21 say, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
   What matters most lasts the longest. Obviously, in her case, she has chosen to let her family last for eternity. That is a choice we all make on a daily basis. If your friends are who you spend all your time with, your friends will last longer. If the T.V. is what takes precedence over a good portion of your life, the T.V. will last the longest. If you choose the river over going to church, the river will last longer than church will for you. Desires dictate thoughts, thoughts dictate actions, and actions dictate your eternal outcome. If you want your family to last forever, act now. If you want God to be part of your life, act now. If you want to become the person that you were created to become, act now. The same works for the T.V., if you want that to be there the longest, it's just a click away. It's completely up to you.

   Sincerely, Elder Earl

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3, 2014

Hey Everyone!
   This week was nothing short of miraculous. Literally. I'll just go ahead and say it, we set six baptismal dates. The ward baptismal goal for 2014 is ten. We are on track right now to have that complete by mid-March. We set one with a 91 year old woman. She's awesome. She has been coming to church for years now but we finally were able to commit her to be baptized on February 22nd. We are very excited for her.
   We also have continued teaching this family of seven this last week. When we first started teaching them they were pretty gung-ho on going back to the salvation army's church. They smoked and drank coffee nonstop. Their kids had tons of problems. They didn't exactly have it all going for them. Just over the course of this last week there have been enormous changes. We showed up for a lesson to find ourselves waiting for her to get back from finding an alternative to coffee. They are both trying to quit smoking. We brought the young woman's president from the ward and she talked to their sixteen year old daughter about the youth program at the church. That girl has read the entire strength of youth pamphlet (a book for the youth explaining standards and values and why we have them) and is now continuing on with the Book of Mormon. They already have family night every Friday where they watch a movie and have pizza. This last week they didn't have a movie to watch so we brought them Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration to watch. They not only watched that but they also watched a few other church movies from the DVD we gave them. They also read the Book of Mormon as a family and best of all, they will baptized on March 8th.
   I really appreciated the lesson this family taught me this last week along with a letter from my dad. The first time I invited this family to be baptized it was kind of iffy. But the mother simply and honestly said, "the problem is, we are afraid to fail". The simple honesty and humility of tap hat confession definitely made an impact on me. As I thought about how to portray my answer in our oncoming lesson on Tuesday I read a letter from my dad. He was talking about my little sister's basketball game about a week ago. He said, "The game went about as expected. They played well and won handily. It looked as if her team is finally pulling it back together. I did notice something this week, though, about her team. Her team has a problem with trust. Some do not trust anybody else on the team to advance the ball or score. Most of the team does not trust 2 or 3 girls to be where they are supposed to be. One does not trust herself. Many of the others do not trust their shots, so they are reluctant to put the ball up. Until they begin to trust each other and themselves, they will not be able to play to the level that they are capable of playing at."
   As I read that I finally came to the answer that I needed, and ultimately the answer that this family needs to hear. The question we need to ask ourselves is simple. Are we willing to trust ourselves enough to play to the level that we are capable of playing at? If not, we need to start. The fact of the matter is that we have so much given to us that if we simply use it, it is impossible to fail. We have a Father in Heaven that loves us enough to have given us scriptures to edify us, prophets and the Holy Ghost to guide us, repentance for when we don't use His gifts as we should, and above all His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for us to be able to play to the level that we are capable of playing at.
   One of my favorite verses says it as plain as it possibly can be. In Philippians 4:13 it says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". I can add my testimony to that simple statement and honestly say that we can trust in Christ. However, we should not only be trusting in Him. We are all literal children of a Father in Heaven who loves us very much. Because of that love we have the potential to come back to Him and be more then any of us can pretend to comprehend. We have the ability, the right, and the obligation to trust ourselves enough to follow His commandments and take the opportunities He gives us to come back to His presence through Jesus Christ. That is the level you are capable of playing at. The game starts now.

   Sincerely, Elder Earl