December 9, 2013
Wow this week has been amazing. We got in to our new area Tuesday night, and get this Rachel and Ryan: Elder Nelson is from Minnesota, and has been to the state fair many times. He worked for two summers before coming out, and is, after 5 days, pretty well acquainted with the work and is really taking it on.
I love how with this new age change the stigma behind going at 19 is gone. I am so glad I went when I went, there's no way I would have been able to work with my companions, investigators and members that I did without the experiences I had with roommates and people at BYU. Also some people take longer to learn diligence and hard work than others...
So the new area only contains one ward, but it stretches from almost downtown Eagle to the rolling hills north of Eagle. It's a pretty big ward, with almost 450 people. Our bishop is a prominent banker for a rather large bank and is very committed to hastening the work here in Boise.
They're excited but at the same time reluctant to have us, because the last missionaries did almost nothing in the area. One of them is very out of shape and did not want to do work in the 4th ward because it would require more riding. I was stunned when I saw the area book, there was nothing in there from the last 3 months! I've forgiven them, and the Lord knew the situation, and He waited until we arrived to give us some special investigators, who are very important sons and daughters of His.
The first is a Michael K. The day after we arrived we got a call from Bro. Nielsen, our ward mission leader, that he had gotten a call from the bishop about a man that wants to be baptized as soon as possible. He's read the Book of Mormon 3 times, and has made very significant changes in his life. His has been very rough, a life of very loud parties, "riotous living" (see prodigal son Luke 15). In a very personal way we're all like the prodigal son, and need not judge others because we sin differently from them.
We also have one recent convert, a returning member, 13 prospective elders (men to yet receive the Melchizedek Priesthood) to contact and try to teach, 5 Relief Society sisters to work with, one lady who lives out on the end of the ward who is super friendly and could use weekly visits/service, and many youth that can be involved in the work.
We're getting rides frequently from the members, since it's been 15 degrees and snowy every day for the last 5 days, but it should warm up soon. Our ward mission leader and another member bought us matching boots and gloves for the winter, we're going to look like brothers, haha.
This last Sunday we had talks from the ward High Councilor and a missionary that had just returned home. The returned missionary went first, I'll summarize his talk later. During the High Councilor's talk, I felt what Joseph Smith calls "pure intelligence", flowing into me, I learned that Michael K., despite all the shame of his youthful lusts and and the reckless lifestyle from the past, would go on to serve many of his brothers and sisters here in this area. It was a powerful experience, where it was not just the still small voice, but pure light and understanding from God.
From Joseph Smith, “When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 151.)
It's incredible being a missionary, for occasionally our faith is bolstered immensely by similar experiences that let us peer for a moment into the life of these people, how incredibly stalwart they are despite their current appearances. It doesn't always happen, for surely God wouldn't let us become dependent on spiritual promptings to have faith in the converting power of the gospel, but rather to lift our sights occasionally when appearances indicate otherwise.
I can see now why missionaries often have a hard time going home, we are lifted from almost all earthly problems, thoughts and considerations, filled with the Spirit to accomplish God's work among His children, and then a portion of that is taken away. That privilege will not stay after my mission, at least until I have my own family :)
Back to the returned missionary who spoke about the Atonement: he shared the Redeeming and Enabling aspects of it. Most of us know that we can be cleansed from sin, but not so many of us understand the enabling power. If you look up the word "grace" in the Bible Dictionary, the word itself appears often in the New Testament, and it refers to strength from heaven to accomplish good works that we otherwise could not do on our own power. He shared experiences about a Japanese businessman that prayed every day for the power to quit smoking, and he was able to never smoke again. Read the talk sometime, it's called "In the Strength of the Lord." by Elder David A. Bednar it's under BYU Talks.
The work is true, there's so much hope and reason to carry on. God really does have everything under control no matter how chaotic life can get in our lives and the lives of our families. He truly does work in mysterious ways and He will, like for Abraham, remember our families forever, because of the covenants that we know of through the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know it's true, particularly the Book of Mormon, and because of the temple, which has been especially meaningful to me. There's so much awaiting us if we will endure to the end,
From President Eyring: "We acknowledge that your path will at times be difficult. But I give you this promise in the name of the Lord: rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal gratitude that you chose to trust the Atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength . . . . My dear friends and brethren, no matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up! Your destiny is a glorious one! Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now! Of this I [and Elder Szendre testify] in the sacred name of our Master and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen." (From his talk "You can do it now" October 2013 General Conference.)