So, on thanksgiving, I arrived in Sturgis, SD. This place is awesome. Elder Emmett, who I knew before, is my new companion, and we are going to work great together. He cares a lot about missionary work and the gospel! We also work in some surrounding towns, including Deadwood and Lead, which are beautiful. They are in the Black Hills, and really, the towns were built on very hilly terrain. Lead was built there out of convenience for Miners who worked there back before the automobile days. The houses there are beautiful! I took a picture of the town, but the library computers here won't accept my camera, so I'll have to figure something else out for next week.
I just want to take a minute to talk about the Christmas season. The Church has put out a Christmas website (christmas.mormon.org) with a 2 1/2 minute video called He is the Gift. The site is centered around the pattern: Discover the gift, embrace the gift, and share the gift. Last night, the Church also put on a Christmas devotional that we got to watch over satellite. It was full of beautiful music and great speaking from Church leaders. I would invite you to find it on lds.org. Beforehand, I was feeling a little bit dull. I think that's the right word. I wasn't sad or upset, but there was something weighing on the back of my mind and draining my energy. I was not my cheerful self, and I have no idea what was causing the negativity. But, the devotional brought me some peace. At night, I still felt that weight, though. It was time for my nightly prayer, and here's the experience I had, in words that I shared with my Mission President:
"I was praying, planning to communicate with Heavenly Father about some of my weaknesses and some minor concerns with the gospel that came up, but as I was expressing my shortcomings, I literally felt something stopping me. I tried a couple more times to express different things that were on my mind, but I was prompted to stop and listen. As I waited, familiar yet personal words were put in my mind. They were so clear, and it felt so different than if I were just remembering or reciting the words on my own. I have the words recorded somewhere, but here I'll just say that the Spirit pierced my heart with these words and peace overcame me. I had no more desire to dwell on my weaknesses or even seek guidance on the concerns I had been having. I now feel better prepared to go and help others discover and embrace the gift of Jesus Christ."
As I went to church services and the devotional, I discovered the gift of Jesus Christ through learning about and listening to words about him. Through prayer, I embraced the gift. Now, I wish to share it with everybody. Please go to christmas.mormon.org and at least watch the He is the Gift video. I hope some of you have already seen it.
I'll end with my testimony of Jesus Christ that I have gained from experience and the Holy Spirit of God. We all have burdens in our life, and we all need spiritual cleansing. We suffer from the weight of past sins and unresolved emotional pain. I have felt all of that. I know that relief from any of this can be found through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as His power gave sight, hearing, and health to those whom he ministered in life, the power that comes from his ultimate atoning sacrifice grants us spiritual healing when we come unto Him. If we embrace the true gospel, His grace will make us whole from the negativity that seems to be stuck to us. You may pretend to mask these feelings of guilt and pain from the past, but unless you have embraced Jesus Christ and been changed by Him, they still linger in your soul and they will forever. Let Him help you and heal you. I know that as you discover and embrace the sacred teachings of His gospel, you will find relief and healing, which will make room in your heart for peace and joy beyond understanding or explanation. This process is the only way to be prepared to enter the Kingdom of God when you meet your Creator face to face.