P-Day fun at the beach!
We're still trying to work with Adam, he's actually come a long way, I don't feel dissatisfied with the work we've done with him. He's gone from knowing nothing about the church and with various addictions, to wanting to be baptized and sincerely repenting. He just wants to be ready on his own time. Whenever we try to set a date, there's a member on the lesson who says "it's ok, you don't have to" which sounds nice, but kind of frustrating. It would probably be best to take a returned missionary on the lesson. Investigators need to realize how essential baptism is in the conversion process, and at least having a goal to work towards would help. Our main commission as missionaries is to teach the restored gospel, it says it right on p. 1 of PMG, and that gospel includes faith in Christ's atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Every lesson we have should increase an investigator's faith unto repentance and help prepare them to make and keep covenants with the Lord. That's all the gospel is about, and really our central aim and focus of missionary work. The longer I've been out, the more I've come to know that that is the heart of missionary work.
We had a miracle at church on Sunday. A random Chinese lady walked into church, and was very friendly and absolutely loved church and the friendly atmosphere. In other words, she felt the Spirit. She literally told us "I want you to teach me," and we said of course we could do that and we'd be more than happy to. She agreed to come next week. On that note, our chapel is in the perfect location. It’s right in the heart of Bournemouth, not to busy, but only a 10 minute walk from the town center and a 5 minute walk from the railway station. It's not too far from the university, and right next to a bunch of language schools. So people walk by all the time. Anyway, whoever is in charge of figuring out where the chapel should be, they did an excellent job.
There was also a French guy (it's a weird French name so I forgot, sorry) who's staying with a ward member who's really good with member missionary work, and so she took him along to the stake barn dance (which I thought was really funny, basically it was a barbeque with square dancing type stuff.) He was also at church, and I think he enjoyed it. We have a guy in the ward from the Congo or something who's French speaking and basically he was able to teach him the Restoration in French. Really cool how international the area is.
The Great Apostasy -
We have a Filipino investigator who attends the Iglesia ni Cristo, or Church of Christ. Basically, he invited us to one of his services, and it was pretty interesting. I've decided they're basically a combination between our Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses, affirming priesthood authority, restoration, prophet, etc but also denying Christ's divinity (just a man) and also we cease to exist when we die (which really just doesn't make sense logically, but whatever.) Anyway, it was fun, we bashed (friendly) with one of their ministers, and we'll keep meeting with him to clear up what we believe. Basically I explain it using Bible passages and then what happens is that he says "We'll have to agree to disagree" and says its interpretation differences. My testimony was affirmed that THE BIBLE ALONE DOES NOT RESOLVE DIFFERENCES OF INTERPRETATION BETWEEN THE CHRISTIAN SECTS, OTHERWISE THERE WOULDN'T BE THOUSANDS OF THEM. Thanks to the Book of Mormon and guided by modern day revelation, there is no question of interpretation. We have the flood of light of modern day revelation, and we simply use the Bible to confirm the truths of the restored gospel. The only thing our good Christian friends can agree with is to join hands to destroy the true Church and the restored gospel which it contains.
The three things that destroyed true worship and ushered in the great apostasy (and the resulting restored truths) are the following:
1. That God is a Spirit nothingness, having no body, parts, or passions, and dwelling outside space and time, and is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and is big enough to fill the universe but small enough to dwell in one's heart.
The truth is that God is the Father of our spirits, that he possesses a tangible body of flesh and bone, that by the power of His Spirit he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, and that he cares for us and desires and has given us truth, laws, and basically the entire plan of happiness for us to advance and progress like himself.
2. That Christ was just a good man who lived on the earth to teach us good principles and that's all, or that His Atonement is something that excuses us to continue to live in our sins, or any other such doctrine.
The truth is that Christ is the Only Begotten in the flesh of our Heavenly Father, which He inherited a state of mortality, while possessing the power to overcome death and provide the resurrection for all, and that power is given to him to forgive sins on condition of repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel.
3. That revelation and the power of the Holy Ghost is something that was abundant in the days of the Apostles, but ceased somehow and is no longer with us.
The truth is that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that the gifts of the Spirit are to be had by the faithful in every dispensation, and that God still speaks in our day.
I am thankful for the restored gospel. I'm glad for those things I've learned on my mission.
5 things I’ve learned -
So as a part of finishing the mission president has us write to him on the major 5 things learned on the mission and a favorite scripture. I decided why not share with you guys.
1. The one that is most essential is obedience + fun = success. When we have fun while keeping in the boundaries of the commandments and mission rules, we are happy, we're blessed with the Spirit, and people will see those things and have a further desire to investigate and accept commitments etc.
2. The next one (related to the other one) is to maintain a positive outlook even if we pass through difficult times. If we allow the adversary to drag us down with him, we'll be miserable and less effective. A good indicator if we have good mental and spiritual health is whether or not we focus on positive, uplifting thoughts, or negative, sarcastic, lustful, etc thoughts.
3. We must have love for people, whether or not they accept our message. I've had many investigators where I've said "they're wasters, (which means waste of time because of lack of commitment.)" But I have to quickly repent and remind myself that they're children of Heavenly Father, they're not wasters, perhaps they are going through difficulty and we must exercise patience and love as missionaries. We simply teach by the Spirit and give them commitments, and then the agency is left for them to decide. However, we have a big factor on how people progress if we have the teaching skills and the Spirit to aid us and to give us the words the investigator needs to hear at that moment.
4. Another thing is that the best way to prepare for a mission is to become a missionary, and become converted before our service as a full-time missionary begins. This means getting converted and personally worthy and clean, making covenants and fulfilling them, and then sharing the gospel actively with those around us. Another necessity is to go out with the missionaries once in a while, or better yet find people for them to teach.
5. This brings me to my last point. If there's the biggest lesson I've learned on my mission it's this: missionary service does not end when I get released by the stake president. If anything, that's when it begins. Members are full-time finders and missionaries are full-time teachers. I've spent the majority of my mission finding people to teach, which is ok, but it's not the most effective. As members, we know people that we can share the gospel with in a more natural way, whereas the full-time missionaries don't know anybody. What I'm saying echoes what the Brethren have been saying for decades, that we need to work together with the missionaries in finding people for them to teach and helping to fellowship investigators and new members. The general attitude in the Church here is that bringing people into the Church is the missionaries duty, and it is, but it won't happen until we begin working smarter. Working hard + working smart will bring miracles and tremendous growth in the Lord's kingdom. This is the general tenor and message of the recent broadcast "The Work of Salvation."
What I’ll miss -
I will definitely miss the culture here, the food, dry sense of humor, accent, pretty much everything. I'll also miss teaching the gospel, although we still do that with home teaching and on a Sunday, but not to the extent that we do on missions.
Everyone's asking me if I'm happy or not going home, and I'm fairly mixed. I'll miss many things, but I also look back and see a fulfilled mission and gained so much from the experience. It is time though to move on to the next stage of life (Eccl. 3 I think.) I would say that there was a lot of happy moments as well as adversity, but we know that without opposition, we could never grow. That is why repentance is the central purpose to life (Alma 34.) We are in a probationary state in life, as we are within a mission, a time to grow and experience the trials and vicissitudes of life, and without them, we could not experience the good from the bad (Moses 5:10-11.) So in all our trials, whether mental, physical, or spiritual, we can take comfort as we place faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and are baptized unto repentance, and with the Holy Spirit as our guide, continue in righteousness until we overcome the world. This is a gospel of comfort, of gladness, and of joy (D&C 128:19.) This is how we become converted unto the Lord. It's great if we have a testimony, but unless that becomes a part of us and influences our decisions, it will not flourish into a giant tree but wither up and die (think of the potential of a mustard seed.) With the grace of Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ we can be cleansed, born again, and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. This is because in these last days, he has reached out in love and revealed Christ anew in our dispensation to the prophet Joseph Smith. We have all the keys, powers and knowledge given for our salvation and exaltation, and it is found in this true and living Church.
The most important witness I can bear is that of the reality of the living Christ. Although someone might say "well, you just read it out of a book" it simply is not true because the power of the Holy Spirit has borne witness to my Spirit that He is the Savior of the world. This comes from searching the scriptures, pondering the plan of salvation, and praying earnestly to know of the truth for ourselves. I know that without the Atonement of Christ we could not be ransomed from the spiritual and physical death brought into the world by the fall of Adam and Eve, or first parents. If we follow the gospel path, and walk in all the ordinances He has given, we will be at peace, and find true peace that the world cannot give, whatever may happen to us or what other people do or say about us.
Last email –
So I'm not too sure what to say, as I felt the past couple emails concluded my thoughts, but I think for this one I just want to say that for one thing I've come to have profound love and respect for Mom and Dad, family really. The thing is, you don't know what you have until you don't have it, so being away for two years makes me realize that, that time is precious and I could have spent more learning from parents. The biggest thing I want to say is that I've realized I've come this far because Mom and Dad led me in the light. I don't know what I'd do if I wasn't thus guided.
Anyway, thanks Mom and Dad for taking care of me and loving me (and your other children of course.)
We continue to see miracles happen. We had a couple new people at church, a guy named Armin from southern Germany, and also a woman Vera from Switzerland (both here to learn English.) It's just funny because I've taught more people from other countries than English people. Vera was very nice and respectful but was way into her Catholic faith (always tricky ones) and so she wouldn't read the Book of Mormon, but she would still like to come to church. Statistically, people need several different contacts before investigating the church properly. You never know what effect you can have on someone even if at the time they don't want to be commitment keeping. Our responsibility is to teach clearly for understanding and bear testimony by the Spirit and invite. That's all that missionary work revolves around as far as application.
Can't wait to see you guys. Just crazy how little time. Don't worry, I've got some things to take home (physical) because I know Mom was wondering about that.
Anyway, love y'all, see you soon!