Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29, 2014

  • Hey Everyone,
       This week went well. It was just another week to tell you the truth. Although we did find some new investigators. I'm pretty excited about them. One is an old race car driver and then we are also teaching two teenagers we play basketball with here and there. Speaking of basketball, I guess I'm developing some street cred at the apartment complex in our area. They have an outdoor basketball court and when people are on it, I play with them. It's a pretty much guaranteed way to have a conversation with people, especially if you win. Humility is key to coming to Christ. Sometimes people have to lose a game of basketball to find it.
       The other people we are teaching are doing great. We brought our family of three that will be baptized next month to a baptism on Saturday. The objective was to help them understand what their baptism will be like. It went alright but we will have to have a lesson later this week to discuss further what they have to look forward to.
       YSA work is still tough. Not much has grown there in the past week. Our work as of right now just consists of visiting members and encouraging them to do missionary work. It's rough but at this point that is really all we can do.
       We went on another hike yesterday. We drove out to Superior to climb Picket Post. It's a mountain overlooking the town and is a fairly challenging hike. Most of it is simply straight up the mountain. However, It was a very cool hike. At the peak of the mountain there's a bench overlooking the view, right next to a mailbox. In the mailbox is a notebook where you can add your name to the list of people who have completed the hike.
       On the way to Superior we had a forty five minute drive. Therefore I had some time to rest and to think. Earlier this week, we were talking to a man outside in his front yard. Somehow the topic of Vikings came up. This man turned out to be very knowledgable on the subject. He told us about how the Vikings were known to be very brave warriors. He told us about how committed they were to victory and how they seemed to have no fear as they carried out their duties. But hen he said something that really caught my attention. He told us that a lot of the time, this commitment and bravery didn't just happen to flow through their veins. They were trained to think that way. And to further their commitment, once a Viking army landed on the beach and was prepared for battle, they would be commanded to burn the ships. Once the ships were gone, there was no turning back. The only choice was victory.
       It made me think of my life. How many ships do I have, waiting on the shore for me to turn back and sail away? How many ships do I need to burn to be fully committed to the life that I should be living and what are they?
       This also led my thoughts to one of Jesus Christ's parables. This parable is a story about two men. These two men are in the process of building houses. As they look for places to settle down, one of the men finds a nice open area on the sand. As I think about this, I picture him finding a place on the beach. Convenient for his entertainment, but not exactly conducive to having a firm and safe house to live in.
       The other man finds an area where the ground is sturdy without any sand. I picture him finding a place most likely near the first man. The difference is that he probably put more work and thought into it and decided to put in the extra work and follow the guidelines that go into building a safe home. He probably thought about not following some of the guidelines so that he could have the temporary pleasures that the other will find on the beach. But as the story goes, he was smarter then that and decided to choose safety over temporary fun.
       The two men finish their houses and move in. The man on the beach goes out and enjoys the sun and the ocean and has a great time. He probably stays out there all day and let's a few things slide like taking care of his house and making sure it's maintained. But he has a good time so it's all good. The man who built his house on he sturdier ground stays at home for a while and fixes things around the house. Not only does he fix things, he probably improves them. That way he's prepared for whatever may happen to his home. Once he is finished with his labor, he walks to the beach. He lives about a mile from the beach so it will require some walking. He might even question himself a little bit. He might ask himself why he didn't just build on the beach, nothing will happen to him anyway. Then the thought leaves his mind as he remembers the guidelines and the blessings that will come from following them. He eventually gets to the beach and enjoys himself while he's there, just like the other man.
       That night they both return home. It was getting cloudy so there was no point in staying on the beach. They fall asleep and prepare to repeat the day in the morning. As they are sleeping, a storm comes in. The rain starts to beat against their roofs and the wind begins to push at their walls. The man that lives on the sturdier ground wakes up for a moment to acknowledge the storm. A thought enters his mind and he wonders if the storm will damage his house in any way. Then he remembers that he built his house just like the guidelines said he should. He had a good foundation and his house was maintained and prepared for if this happened. Comforted by the fact the followed the guidelines, the man gets back in bed and prepares to repeat the day once the sun rises.
       The man on the beach has a different experience. Drops of rain start to seep through a hole in the roof that he forgot to fix. As the rain water pelts his face it startles him and he wakes. He has a hard time getting up. His long hours in the sun have caused his skin to burn under it's rays and he is feeling the effects of it. The wind outside is terrible. As it presses against his walls he sees what appears to be a crack in one of the major beams he left exposed in the wall.the more the wind blows against it, the bigger the crack becomes and the closer his wall comes to destruction. He throws his blanket on the bed and ignores the pain from his sunburns so that he can run over and do his best to support the beam. The hole in the roof has grown. Rain water now comes as it pleases and continues to destroy the home. Water has also begun to rise up from under the floorboards, flooding his home. The wind finally rips open the door and water rushes into his house, pulling his feet from under him, and separating him from the broken beam. The beam gives out and the wall crashes down on him. Ironically enough, the beam he was trying to save has now trapped him to the floor. The water rises in his home. The beach has flooded and the tide is rolling in. Waves crash against the remaining remnants of the man's home, slowly pulling him and his home out to sea. He is forced to watch as everything he has worked for is washed away. As he lays trapped under the beam, he realizes what the guidelines were for. How he wishes he had put a little more effort and time in and followed them.
       The storm leaves and the ocean returns to its normal position. The sun rises and the man who followed the guidelines rises and begins to inspect his home. Pleased with the small amount of maintenance the storm has left him, he begins his chores and repeats the day.

          Sincerely, Elder Earl

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This week was good. Easter was great. We were able to attend the Easter Pageant a few more times before it closed with some investigators. It never got old. In fact it got better every time we went. Other than that not much was out of the usual. Except for two more of our investigators died this last week. This time they weren't lucky enough to have made it to the hospital.
   I'm not going to say how. They are simply not with us anymore. The two missionaries that now cover their area went by at the beginning of the week for a lesson that had been set up and were told that they would not be taking the lessons anymore. Upon further inquiry they were told that they are no longer with us. They were found in the parking lot of a junior high, leaving their four year old son here to live without them.
   When I found out about this I went over to his parent's home, where they had been living. It had been a few days since the event, therefore I expected to find them mourning his loss. When I rang the doorbell I was greeted by his mother. Without hesitation, she invited us in. His father came out and greeted us. Definitely not as cheerful as usual, but definitely not as sad as I had expected. We sat down on their couch and just began to talk. You could definitely tell that they were hurt, but they kept talking and laughing despite the matter at hand.
   We finally found ourselves talking about their son and his girlfriend's deaths. Immediately, they told me that they knew what their next step was. They are now working towards going to the temple together and having them sealed for time and all eternity, just like God always intended. Because they have that option, it brought them comfort.
   It really made an impression on me. It proved more so to me how much our God loves us. Because of that love he gives us the ability to progress through this life and to come back to Him. As we take those steps to come back to Him everyday, we can feel the peace and comfort that comes with it. Because they knew what God wanted them to do next, they are not suffering as much as they would be if they chose to sit still. They understood the magnitude of the loss of their son and now they are making the most of it.
   It also brought my thoughts to why we celebrate Easter. It is interesting to me that the single most important event of all human history happened as Christ was alone, in the seclusion of a lowly olive orchard. Christ then took upon himself all that we would ever feel. All guilt, pain, suffering, grief, loss, loneliness, etc. has been felt by Him. We can never say that no one understands. We can never say that we have no one to turn to. By himself, Jesus Christ descended below all, so that we would never have to be alone.
   I know that because of Him, this family was not alone. Because of Him, there are no endings. Because of Him, come what may, we can find peace in our existence hear on earth. As long as we choose to let Him, He will ensure that we are never alone.

        Sincerely, Elder Earl

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This week went well. Elder Clarke and I are finally starting to settle in to the new area and the work is progressing. My cold streak is over. We committed a family of three to be baptized on May 17th last night. I'm pretty stoked about that. We had been teaching them for a few weeks and it all came down to the wife to decide what was right for her. We asked her to keep reading and praying about the Book of Mormon so that she could get an answer to that question. Sunday night we got a text that read, "We are to be baptized! What's next brothers!" It was a pretty sweet surprise that helped my day out a lot.
   Sunday afternoon we were out at the Genoa Lakes apartments when one of the people we were teaching there came cruising towards us in his power chair. He informed us that another man we had been teaching was found dead outside his apartment earlier that afternoon. Luckily, they found him in time to revive him and get him to the nearest hospital. Apparently he had been hurt pretty badly a few months ago so a doctor prescribed him pain killers. He used them and it eventually got to the point where he found himself addicted to them. This then led to cocaine and meth addictions as well. On Sunday he overdosed and his wife found home laying lifeless on the concrete. We got to the hospital that night to find that he had pretty much completely recovered and was to be released the next day. It was kind of a shock to find the man that had been found dead earlier that day completely healthy, watching family guy in his hospital bed, and ready to be released the next day. Hopefully this will help us to help him turn his life around.
   The Easter Pageant started this week. The Mesa Easter Pageant is the largest Easter Pageant in the world with close to 100,000 people attending each year. It's a great missionary opportunity. We were able to bring people twice last week and we are planning on taking three more this week. It's an amazing event. There's this huge stage that they build each year, right in front of the temple. Then there is an hour long play on the life of Jesus Christ. I love it. The only bad thing about this is that every person in Arizona who hates the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints comes and pickets the play every night it shows. It's disgusting. They hand out pamphlets as to why the church is of the devil, they get in your face with their signs, they yell at you, sometimes they even throw things into the crowd. It hurt as I watched two twelve year old boys have their testimonies of Jesus Christ ripped to shreds as they tried to defend themselves against some of these picketers. It was terrible.
   As I walk around our area everyday and talk to people it is easy to understand how this much hate came to be. I believe the roots derive from simple misunderstanding with a side of ignorance. I talk to people who won't go to this Easter Pageant because, "I'm not a member of your church and it's your version of the story". These people, who have never been to the Easter Pageant before, have a misunderstanding of the complete, biblical accuracy of the play which could be solved by simply finding out for themselves. As much as that bothers me, I feel as though that's exactly where the people who picket the story of Jesus Christ started out. It's like the Pharisees in the bible. It started out with a misunderstanding of the the law of Moses and next thing you know, Jesus Christ has been nailed to a cross, sentenced to death.
   Something a woman said to me this week applies to the situation extremely well. She said that her dad used to tell her, "Don't worry about what people say about you. Worry when people stop saying things about you. That's when you know that you have stopped having an impact on people. What they say is pointless. The truth will come out in the wash." When I watch the play and read about Jesus that saying now comes to mind. People have yet to stop talking about Christ. What they said about Him when he was on the earth is now irrelevant. The truth came out in the wash and has been impacting people's lives for the better ever since. He did what He knew was right. People said what they perceived to be true based off of misunderstanding with a side of ignorance. They acted on what they perceived to be right. Yet still, the truth came out in the wash.

       Sincerely, Elder Earl

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   This week was solid. We had a good amount of lessons and most of them went well. The work is definitely starting to pick up now that we have a family ward. It's nice to be tired again.
   I really enjoyed general conference. President Uchtdorf's talk on gratitude was probably my favorite. I never really thought about gratitude like that. It makes sense that we should be grateful for our circumstances instead of simply for things. I guess it just never really occurred to me. Conference was also a great missionary opportunity. We were able to bring a family of three to a member's home to watch it on Sunday. When you need someone to feel the spirit, you can always count on the prophet. The mother of the family, who really had kept to herself for the most part, finally opened up and started asking questions. It was great. We are looking to get them baptized on the 26th of April.
   We also picked up a new investigator. She's an old blind woman from England. She's awesome. She has not one, but two big, red, British telephone booths inside her tiny apartment. Every time we go in she has tea on the stove as well. She's an extremely interesting woman. We are working with her towards baptism at the end of this month as well. She leaves for Britain on the 27th for a six month visit so we really can't wait any longer.
   Just like I've said before, Mesa is jam-packed with interesting people. I met one of the fifty six people ever to have flown an S71 Blackbird for the Air Force the other day. We will most likely be going over for dinner later this week so he can tell us more about it. Maybe we can teach him as well.
   I was able to have a discussion with a less active from the ward this week that really made me think. He was talking about how messed up this world is. Especially for him, a democrat living in Arizona. He talked a lot about politics and his ideas on the way things should work. It made me think about beliefs in general. Political, religious, even just every day habits. As I look around, especially as a missionary, I feel like a lot of the problems we see every day stem from ignorance, inherited beliefs, or in a most cases a combination of the two.
   As I walk around and talk to people it is not uncommon to find myself talking to someone who claims to be from another religion yet has not gone for years. They don't know when church is or even what is normally taught there. Yet because of this thin strand of so called belonging that they have to this other church, they decide that it's not worth it listen to us.
   I remember growing up I always went to church with my parents. I was a product of inherited beliefs. My thoughts were always what I was being taught, but that's the same with all of us. I remember going through high school with a knowledge of what I should believe and because of that, I acted on it and followed it's precepts. It wasn't until I decided to go on a mission that things really changed for me. I finally decided to read the Book of Mormon and to ask God if it was true. As I studied and prayed I came to know that the life I had been living was a life that God had wanted, and will to continue to want me to live.
   I wasn't ignorant. I went to other church functions, listened to what they taught, even defended my faith at a few of them. I came to know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church on the Earth. It really is a church led by Jesus Christ. I don't think I've ever really understood the belief that you can get to heaven through any church as long as you believe in Christ. That's like saying you can pass a test by choosing any of the answers you want (even the wrong ones) as long as you believe that there's a teacher who will grade it once you're finished.
   Tests aren't like that and neither is life. Jesus Christ came to earth and organized his church. He taught us how to live and set up apostles to lead and guide the church on the correct path. It was only once they were martyred that multiple churches formed. Look at the epistles of Paul. Every one of them is him trying to rebuke and persuade people to get back on the one true path that Christ established. Once all the apostles were gone there was no one to do that and many churches formed, all with a different view of the one true church that Christ organized.
   Luckily for us, that church was restored. We are given all the answers to the test. All we have to do is look. And even if that isn't easy enough for us, Christ died so that when you still choose the wrong answer, you can erase it and fix it. There is a teacher who will grade the test once we are finished. There is only one way to pass the test. Ignorance will only hold you back from reading the answers that the teacher wants you to know. My invitation is simply to find those answers. I did and I know you can too.

   Sincerely, Elder Earl

Sunday, April 6, 2014