Monday, September 22, 2014

Miracles do happen.

My letter this week will focus on amazing experiences that have fortified my faith that God lives and that this is His work that I am carrying out with His divine help.

First of all, let me share with you an experience I had on wednesday. This is taken from my weekly letter to my Mission President:

"...I would tell you one more story from my exchange with Elder Gruver. It was about 8:45 and we had nothing else planned, so we went to knock some doors (honestly, I probably would have just driven home). We knocked half a block with one great door slam, yet no other success. It was 9 by the time we knocked the block, but we decided that we had to go to one more house. I saw one more block down, in a cul-de-sac, an open garage with a man busy at work inside. I told Elder Gruver, "we are going to go help them with something." So we went and offered help to his wife who was out front. She said no and did not seem interested by anything else. She had met with missionaries before. Then her husband called, "HEY! Are you two free labor?" We were excited and knew that this is what we were looking for. I talked to the wife for a minute about temples and eternal families, then I joined Elder Gruver in helping the man push a very large, metal shop cabinet across his garage. Then we addressed the couple and their teenage daughter. We explained our missions a little bit, prayed, then went over the restoration briefly. It seemed that we answered concerns they had previously developed about The Book of Mormon, and we were able to testify that it was not a chance meeting. We helped with another service project for them the next night, and we will return tomorrow night to teach them. By the way, the man has recently had a change of schedule which gives him weekends off, and they were unimpressed by the New Hope church because of their focus on money and their new in-church coffee shop. We know that we were guided to that street at that time and that the Lord blessed us for diligence..."

The next day, we had another amazing experience. A man from the Church here stopped and helped a man on the side of the road. He has had serious health problems that have hospitalized him and kept him from work, making his time more available. He has been reflecting on life and having many regrets, yearning for a chance to change. On Thursday, we visited him in the church member's home. As we talked about our basic doctrines, he expressed his desires to change and his disappointment with his life to this point. Our conversation shifted to baptism, and the Spirit caused emotions in him that I'm sure he could not explain, because he apologized for his tears. When we invited him to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the authority of God, he hesitated none to accept November 1st as his baptismal date.

Two nights later, Elder Sullivan (My companion) and I were out of people to visit around 8 o'clock. We had no real idea of what to do. I asked him to say a prayer to ask for guidance, so he did. In what felt like a random choice, we headed off to a nearby trailer park. We were rejected by one man, then we dropped off our bikes. I took out a Plan of Salvation pamphlet from my backpack, and I told Elder Sullivan that I felt like we needed to use it. We started walking, we knocked on a couple doors, which proved to be interactions for the purpose of delaying us, because when we started walking again, we heard a door open off to our side. We turned to it and started walking. We introduced ourselves briefly, then I asked, "Has anyone close to you passed away recently?" He told us that his dad had 4 years ago, and it had caused many family problems. We testified that we were there to tell him what happened to his father after he died. We prayed with him, talked about the purpose of life and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and testified that he could be sealed to his father forever because of the restored gospel. He committed to continue learning from us about this message.

The next night, which was last night, our Mission President came into town and wanted to go out to work with us. We tried to visit 2 people, one who had an appointment with us, but both fell through. Again, we wondered what to do. I asked President Anderson to say a prayer for guidance. He prayed that we could find someone with concerns that we could answer. After the prayer, he asked if our ward leaders wanted us to visit anyone. Someone very specific came to mind. We did not see that person last night, but I know it was inspired because it took us the right direction. As we looked for their home, I noticed a man sitting alone outside. I asked if the other two saw him, and they said no. But, I said that we should turn around and talk to him. President Anderson sent us out to ask him for directions, but we ended up talking about the gospel, because he had a cross around his neck. He said we could spend some time with him, so we beckoned to our Mission President to join. We prayed together and started to talk about his religious background. We learned more about his life, and he said that he moved up here because of a nasty break-up caused by his anger issues. We testified that we could help with that. Then, his sister joined us outside and we had a discussion about The Book of Mormon. They both want to learn more, so we are going to send the sisters back on Tuesday.

I bear my testimony to all of you that Our Father in Heaven is a God of miracles. He has the power to bless us and those we meet because of our diligent efforts. He wants us to work hard in the service of others, and the best service we can give is to declare the glad tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, He guides us and directs us and grants us success when we put our heart into His service. I promise that you can find God's guidance and influence in your life if you are willing to act in faith. He loves you as a perfect and all-knowing Father. I testify that He sent His Son Jesus Christ and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the organized body that holds the authority of God to teach, baptize, confirm, and seal families together for all eternity. I know that The Book of Mormon is holy scripture that does not add to or take from the Bible. It is not the work of men, but it is the word of God. God is free to speak to us, and to say that He stopped giving us His word with the limits of the Bible is to place on him restrictions with no doctrinal foundation He will continue to speak to us and work miracles. This Church and the large missionary movement of over 85,000 full-time missionaries is the "Marvelous work" and the "wonder" spoken of by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 29 of the book. The angel spoken of by John in Revelation has sounded his trump and spread the everlasting gospel over all the earth. This message is a message to happiness and truth. It is not designed to take anything away from you but to add to your faith in Christ, even to complete it, that you may be filled with joy and peace.
Isaiah 29:13-14

13 ¶Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

Revelation 14: 6-7

 6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Mormon 9: 7-10, 15, 20

 7 And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;

 8 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.

 9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

 10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

 15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

 20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Still here in North Dakota!

This past week was another transfer week, and I'm safe here in North Dakota. That means I will be here at least a total of 5 1/2 months! Here is a picture of an oil rig, in case you were curious. Most of them are at least a few miles from town, but this one is actually pretty close to our church building. I heard some cool history about the oil industry recently, beginning in the times of the great depression. There was a man who owned many grocery stores throughout the North Dakota area, and during the depression, he would give free groceries to farmers in the area in exchange for their mineral rights. Now that the oil industry is so huge, his grandchildren are being rewarded for his kind deed. He had no practical use for the mineral rights, but he made the trade anyway for the good of society. What a cool piece of history. 

I would like to briefly address a problem that we face as humans. There are many sources trying to define success for us. We often feel pressures from those we associate with to fulfill their desires in order for us to be successful. There is only one source that, without fail, wants for us what will give us the most happiness that we can have. God does not promise us wealth, popularity, approval from our leaders, or freedom from challenges and trials. He does promise us eternal life, however, if we are faithful in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Father sent a Savior to us to show us the way to live now and to make possible infinite peace and joy in the life to come by paying our way into the Kingdom of God, into which no sin can enter. In the Church, we hope that our leaders always want the best for us, but even they are far from perfect. Sometimes in our efforts to follow the counsel of our leaders, or bosses, or teachers, or counsellors, or even parents at times, we forget the ultimately more important priority to seek and live the will of God for our lives. It may be the strictest and require much self discipline, but it does not put unnecessary pressure or stress on us. It is important to trust those that have been put in our lives to instruct us and direct us, but we must remember that their influence and authority cannot and will not ever overpower God's merciful hand, which He so lovingly and patiently extends to us. His invitation is to repent and be baptized, with faith in His Son,  which pattern of life will never fail to give us true and lasting success; Real success that does not give us worldly status or recognition but that makes us perfectly and permanently clean in the eyes of Our Creator. John 14:1-6, 15-27 (KJV):

 1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
15 ¶If ye love me, keep my commandments.

 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.

 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.

 25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.

 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.