Good news or bad news first?
Good news- our investigator Thomas is getting out of prison on Tuesday! We did community service with the inmates on Tuesday and we got to see him. We actually taught him the entire message of the restoration to him. He has started reading the Book of Mormon that we sent into him. I can't wait to teach him.
The bad news- our investigator Rastis is going back to prison. Funny story actually... We walked in Rite Aid one day and we see him so we say hello... And then six cops follow behind him escorting him out hahaha. That's Butler for ya.
Okay so here's some updates and highlights of this week.
We see Ivan all over the place now, our Puerto Rican friend. One day we were walking downtown and I saw a guy way down the street waving us down. It was Ivan, who came to say hello. We went back to the house Sunday night (last night) again for dinner. We love teaching in Spanish. Even though Ivan speaks English very well, we teach in Spanish. There is always a different spirit.
We met with the woman whose husband was just killed in a car accident. We had actually tried to go out and see her many times before this, she is a less active member. She never answered. Kind of ironic that we are coming now. She asked questions like "Where is he?" "What is he doing?" "How do you know?" She and her husband were never sealed in the temple, so we will be working towards that.
Bill, the man we met who had been studying the Book of Mormon for 20 years is great. He came to Book of Mormon class on Wednesday and to church yesterday. He has been studying it for 20 years but somehow has missed the key doctrine. When we met with him Saturday he told us he knew we were the answer to his prayers.
I'm really excited for Lamonte and his family. They are the family that have been taught by missionaries since last year. When the missionaries first found their family it was the dad who wanted to do this for/ with his family, but since has never sat in on a lesson, and neither parent has come to church. Their mom said she wanted to wait until her husband was ready. Last week something was so different. After our lesson, their mom and dad said they will be coming to church this week.
We taught our newest investigator Ron, who we met on Main Street. He even missed "bike night" for our appointment. Haha. He pulled up on his Harley and bandana on, and after recounting the first vision and Joseph smith, we asked how he felt. "Peaceful," was not what we expected to hear. He said he would like to bring his 13 year old son to church this week.
We did encounter a lot of.... Unfriendly people this week. Quite a few anti Mormon people around here. It seems everyone spends so much time opposing our church but no time on what they actually believe. Who get all their information from anti-mormon sources, then throw facts at us. It really wrecks your day and your spirit.
Church yesterday was great. Sacrament meeting was so amazing, if I do say so myself. Jk. Hahah, I spoke along with our newly called ward mission leader and a girl who just returned from her mission early for medical reasons. Here it is!
A little bit about myself... I'm from Salt Lake City Utah, home of the Mormons. Both of my parents were converts, but I was born and raised in the church. I've been here about six weeks now, this is my first area, yes I'm a greenie. I was called to the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania mission, Spanish speaking.
Growing up in Utah I really took for granted that I was constantly surrounded by the gospel and members of the church, it was everywhere. Literally, there was a church on every other block. You can see four temples out our windows at home. There are over 200 missionaries currently serving from my graduating class. It was only when I left home, the "bubble," and came on my mission that I have gained a true understanding and appreciation of the gospel. Any one will tell you that the first person you convert on your mission is yourself. I can attest to that wholeheartedly.
I always had a testimony. I always went to church, and I always prayed and read. That's what they teach you in primary isn't it? I knew the church was true, the Book of Mormon was true, and Joseph smith was a prophet. I had never even questioned questioning the things I had known all my life. It wasn't until I got here that I realized my testimony had to be stronger, and unshakable.
I don't think it's fair to discount a persons conversion or testimony because they were baptized at age 8, nor do I think any great conversion story needs to involve not being raised in the church. 19 years later and I am a true convert to this gospel.
Why do we do missionary work? And I'm not only referring to full time missionaries that wear a name tag. As members we do missionary work because we want to share what we have. We know the happiness this gospel brings.
Assuming that Mormons are only trying to increase numbers is assuming two things; one- we do not care about them, and two- we do not truly believe what we say we do. We have the knowledge that families can be together for eternity, not "til death do we part." We know the purpose of this life, and we hold in our hearts the key for eternal happiness. If we claim to care so much about someone, even to "love them," would we keep that to ourselves? If we are not sharing that with the people around us, it is our own testimonies that need to be strengthened.
As missionaries we have quite of bit of time to study. Four hours every morning- personal study, companion study, language study, and for me, training. The more I study deeper into doctrine the more I realize how simple they are. How simple the doctrine of Christ is. It really all comes down to the five things found in the fourth article of faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:
first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;
fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
These things are repeated, again and again in the scriptures. It is so simple. What I have come to understand is that even though the scriptures took place more than 2,000 years ago, the people found in it are not so different than you or I. I have always wondered what it would be like to live in their time- the time of Nephi and Alma, Mosiah and Helaman. I realized, how is it any different today? If we were to have "plates," or scriptures of our time, we would read about the great prophet Thomas S. Monson, and the twelve apostles. What we hear in conference is scripture. Think about in the Book of Mormon, you see over and over again a pride cycle. The people are blessed for following the Lord and keeping the commandments, and so they become rich both "spiritually and temporally." They stray from the path and forget what's important. And then they are visited by a prophet, telling them to "repent." Or their city is destroyed, everything is taken back they were given. And again they are humbled and turn to the Lord. We see this cycle in our lives and our world. Although the ground may not shake, or cities be destroyed, we are humbled through our modern trials. We are reminded, told, to repent- by the prophet and his apostles in general conference. And the cycle continues. It is possible that people in the future could read a record of the ancient prophets and apostles- Monson, Holland, Bednar.
We are living in the time of the "last days," where the gospel has been restored. The only thing that's really changed is technology- the way the prophets travel and the way the gospel is now spread.
President Uchtdorf said: "This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history! Ancient prophets yearned to see our day."
"Let us be awake and not be weary of well-doing, for we “are laying the foundation of a great work, even preparing for the return of the Savior... when we add the light of our example as a witness to the beauty and power of restored truth, we will not sleep through the Restoration"
President Eyring reminded us of he promise we made at baptism:
"...as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death..."
That is why you have a feeling to want to help a person struggling to move forward under a load of grief and difficulty. You promised that you would help the Lord make their burdens light and be comforted. You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We have been blessed with the burden of feeling others grief, bearing others burdens, mourning with those that mourn. And we have Christ as our greatest example of this, taking on not some, but all of this.
Elder Holland spoke about how focusing on the atonement helps full time missionaries, member missionaries, and mission leaders:
He answered the question as to why missionary work was hard. "Because salvation was never a cheap experience."
"For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived.
To those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you--members and not yet members--who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there.
So many people speak about when they get home from their missions getting "normal" again. Their friends and family make it their "job" to do so. What does normal mean? In our world today, our missions are the closest to "real life" anyone will ever be.
This last conference you may remember the talk by Bishop Gérald Caussé, where he asked "Is the gospel still wonderful to you?"
He invited us to do three things:
"First, never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel.
Second, anchor your faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel.
Lastly, I invite you to seek and cherish the companionship of the Holy Ghost."
As a missionary I have heard over and over again, pray that you will love the people you are serving. They do not tell you how much harder, how much more heartbreaking, how much more personal the work becomes when you have this love for them. Each day the weight on my shoulders gets heavier. I am responsible for the greatest work on this earth and in heaven here for this short time. And maybe I am here for one person, maybe I am learning Spanish for one person, but for them it will be worth it.
We have all been trusted with quite a bit of responsibility as members. It is possible we promised someone before this life we would bring them the gospel. Or that Heavenly Father trusted us enough that we were given the knowledge we have, and we were raised with the knowledge of the gospel.
I am here because I love this gospel, which I know to be true. I am grateful for the pure and simple truths that are the gospel.
My favorite apostle L Tom Perry passed away yesterday afternoon. May we remember his words
There's my week, hope you didn't snore through this one! Here's another poem that was shared with me this week. Anyone that has served a mission will understand. It hits home.
"Highs and Lows of a Mission"
A mission is a strange experience
It is a trial and a test
A mission throws at you the worst
Yet, teaches you the best
I've never been so happy
I've never been so depressed
I've never felt so forsaken
I've never felt so blessed.
I've never been so confused,
Things have never been so clear.
I've never felt my Heavenly Father so distant,
He's never been so near.
I've never been so discouraged,
I've never been so full of hope.
I feel like I could go on forever,
I think I've come to the end of my rope.
I've never had it quite so easy,
I've never had it quite so tough.
Things have never been so smooth,
Things have never been so rough.
I've never traveled through more valleys,
I've never ascended more peaks.
I've never met so many nice people,
I've never met so many freaks.
I've never had so many ups,
I've never had so many downs.
I've never worn so many smiles,
I've never had so many frowns.
I've never been so lonely,
I've never had so many friends.
I hope this is over soon,
I hope this never ends.
All is well in PA. Love y'all.💜