Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning Heaven, Trusting God

SAN DIEGO — It seems so unreal that I have come to this point in my life and on my mission.

Is this really the last email I will write while sitting in San Diego? I have come to love this place with all my heart.

I love the people.
I love the missionaries.
I love the sights.
I love the experiences that will forever be in my heart.

Sister Kennington always says, "San Diego is my sacred ground." I am beginning to understand exactly what she means.

At the beginning of this last transfer, I struggled A LOT with "what ifs" and "should have beens":

"What if I spent five more minutes each day studying the scriptures?"

"I should have done this or that for my companion."

"Why wasn’t I more patient with people?”

I felt this blanket of regret weigh down on my soul.  Just as I began to let myself think I have not made a difference, I realized something —If I hadn’t messed up with teaching, patience, loving, working, listening and all of the other things I could have done, I would NEVER be the person I am today. 

Those trials, those moments of 'failure' were God's tender mercies to help me live the Atonement. through Jesus Christ, I have been able to change, to learn, and to grow. And THAT is something I have come to realize will never end. I will forever be learning, and growing, and becoming more like the Savior. I will forever embrace my inadequacies and trials, for they are what are refining me. What a beautiful thing that there is no expiration date to progression.

I have thought a lot about the lessons I have learned. I suppose if I were to make a "top ten list" It would be something like this:
1. Stay Pure in heart
2. Be the best version of yourself, not a bad version of someone else
3. A leader takes take the lead, he makes the lead
4. Exact obedience brings exact blessings
5. To prove to God you are worthy to take care of His prepared one, talk to EVERY one.
6. Work hard AND work smart
7. The Holy Ghost will not prompt a messenger that will not act
8. Specific Prayers get specific answers.
9. By small and simple things, great things come to pass.
10. Love people into doing what’s right.

I want to share one last experience I have had this past week. I have taught a Young Single Adult (we will call him Bill) for my whole time in the Helix Ward. He has had so many ups and downs, twists and turns, trials and triumphs. Every time I teach him, there is something in my soul that tells me I promised him I would find him. He has a special place in my heart. I hope as you read this, you too can feel what I feel as I have taught him.


December 13, 2012

Just again tonight, I saw as the powers of Heaven helped me in this amazing work. Sister Jarrett and Crawford were together having their own adventures in the boonies of Jamul while I was with a member teaching Bill. 

We started talking with him, as I did my very best to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. There was a somber feeling in my heart. I could almost hear the hosts of heaven holding their breath, waiting to see what happened at this lesson. This is the first time he has met with us for over a month since we last spoke and he felt he needed time to himself. I felt the need to give him an overview of the Restoration, Plan of Salvation, and Gospel

After, he said, "When I was learning from you at first, I just thought you sisters were full of crap, but I just kept listening because you were cute, but now my heart feels different. I know it, and I want to keep learning." 

I asked him what living the Gospel to him even meant; his reply was the generic, "Be a good person, live right...." 

My heart felt like shouting out —WHY CAN'T YOU JUST GET IT????? 

Calmly I told him, "Bill — that is what every Christian church teaches. We are not like every Christian church. What makes us different?" He thought for a minute and then said, "What I love about you Mormons is that you live what you believe." 

HOORAY! My spirit took courage as I realized the Holy Ghost was enlightening his mind.

"You are right, Bill. We do live our religion. The reason we do is because we make covenants with the Almighty God that obligate us to follow and bind us to Him. Unless you make those covenants, you might as well go to any other church you wish." 

I looked at him and told him that the whole time we have been meeting, from what he has been saying it sounds like, "Well God, it's a great plan, but I just don’t trust you." 

By this time I was shaking in my boots, I couldn’t believe the Holy Ghost wanted me to say all of this! Then, this thought came so strong: "Bill, your test is to trust God. We will have the baptismal font filled next Saturday, we will meet with you every day, and if you trust God, I know he will prepare you to be ready to make a covenant with him. What do you say?"

The room was dead silent. We knelt in prayer and he asked God to give him the strength to trust him. After the prayer, He looked up at me, and said. "Okay. I think I can do this."


That was a sacred experience for me. I want you all to know that I have seen the powers of heaven this past year and a half. I know that will continue.

I have heard and seen and felt Heavenly Father in my life. That doesn’t have to stop.

I have learned lessons that are preparing me to return to live with God. I am learning heaven, not just earning it.

This work is true. It is our responsibility to learn it. Live it. Love it. And share it.
"That is your mission, my brethren and sisters of the Church, that is your responsibility. Freely, you have received and our Heavenly Father will expect you freely share with his other sons and daughters theses glorious truths. We will attain our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom only on the condition that we share with our Father's other children the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and observe the commandments that will enrich our lives here and hereafter." - Joseph Smith

I testify of the truths I have shared with you today and the past 18 months and end this chapter of my life in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

May you all continue on in this cause — Courage brethren, forward not backward and on to the victory!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Helping Larry Remember

SAN DIEGO — I feel like this week, I need to share my experience at the Mormon Battalion. I think my journal entries will say enough.  
December 5, 2012
Every day at the battalion is a new adventure. Some moments are spent helping less-active members once again feel the Holy Ghost penetrate their long-overdue hearts. Others are filled teaching families how to build and strengthen relationships. Then there are the times where Heavenly Father sends His precious children to learn and feel of the Restored Gospel they once knew before their mortal lives on earth.

Today, Heavenly Father gave me the adventure of helping Larry remember. 

Jimmy from Taiwan walked into the Battalion this morning. Despite his broken English, he was able to understand that we could tell him a story of a group of soldiers who had the courage and faith to follow a prophet of God. He agreed to come with us and was rather excited that we told him we could give the tour in Mandarin. Just as I walked Jimmy to the first room, Larry from China walked in with Sister Jarrett. He too, wanted to hear the promised story of service, sacrifice, and faith.

We finished the tour and walked them both into the resource room. I stood in front of the glass case that holds the Book of Mormon and the Bible as Larry told me how his wife encouraged him to travel the world to get a new perspective of life other than that of Mainland China. He spoke and I listened (and prayed) with all my heart knowing that the thing he needed to hear the most was sitting in a glass case right next to me.     
He spoke of his dear wife and his little boy and how they have made the difference in his life. As we talked about the families in the Battalion, he choked up, “I am just so scared to die and leave them behind,” he almost whispered. 

I took him to the teaching room, and on the back of one of the comment cards, I sketched out the Plan of Salvation as simply as I could. Tears streamed down his face as I told him that God was a real being, his actual Father and not just some unseen power floating in the universe. When I spoke of temples and eternal families, I could almost feel the excitement trying to escape from his heart, knowing he could have his wife and little boy forever. I knew he needed to see and feel the power of eternal families, so we watched the God's Plan video together. I tried to sneak glimpses of his face, every time I did, he was mesmerized. I only wish I knew what he was thinking.

After the film, he was silent for a while. When he looked up at me, I will never forget what he said.

“My parents are part of Communist China. Many of my people don’t believe in God. They believe in proving themselves by getting to the top no matter what it takes. I never could hug my parents. I don’t want that for my little boy. When he grows up, I want him to know that he can hug his dad. I just don’t know how to love.”      

I testified that the gospel of Jesus Christ would strengthen his family, and teach him how to love. He just kept nodding his head. He told me that as he was walking around Old Town, he got the feeling to walk up the hill to see the town better. Just at that moment, my sweet companion, Sister Jarrett got the same feeling that she should walk to the statue to find guests to welcome in which is where she found Larry. What a divine intervention from Heaven. Larry left today with a Book of Mormon, knowledge of the plan that God has for him, and a desire to love.
December 7, 2012
I was taking pictures of my tour in the resource room this morning when Sister McNeil told me  “A Larry was here" to see me.

“Wait a minute. Larry? Like, Larry from China?” I thought to myself.

No way could it be! I walked up to the front and yes indeed, it was Larry from China. My heart started pounding. Something inside me told me that this meeting was really important.

We walked to the teaching room and before I could even sit down, he started talking about how he had been reading the Book of Mormon and was having trouble understanding it, but he really wanted to know more. He talked to his wife last night. She was mad at first, but after he explained what he had learned, she wanted him to learn more. In China, he explained, the way you say “Mormon” can also sound like the word “Evil”, so many people think Mormons are an evil religion (What a pest Satan can be!).

He was so excited learning about families the other day, he asked me to help him understand more where we came from. Once again, I got my handy dandy referral card out and sketched a simple diagram of the Restoration. At the part of the great apostasy, he slapped his hand on his forehead and exclaimed, “Oh! I get it, I’ve seen that part in the movies!’ (He was referring to the Dark Ages).


I played the Restoration movie in Mandarin and we watched it together. It was amazing to me the Spirit and power that filled my soul, even though I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. I know he felt it, too.

After the movie, I asked him what he felt about it. He said, “I think I will be like Joseph Smith and study this out for myself." I looked him in the eye and testified that if he would do just that, God would answer his prayers. He got a thoughtful look on his face and then asked, ‘Sister Newman, when I go home I want to share with my class what I learned from you today. Is that okay? I don’t want to force them to be Mormon, but I know that this can help them change.”
I told him that I knew he would be an influence for his family and all of China, and that he would need extra help. So we knelt down together in the teaching room and I taught a man, that just two days ago learned he was a Son of God, how to pray.

Shivers ran down my whole body as I listened to Larry speak to God for the first time here on earth. “Heavenly Father” he said. “The other day I wanted what Sister Newman taught me for my family. But today I ask that you help it sprout through all of China."

And through all of China I know that someday, it will. I can feel the power of this work. I can see it hastening on. And I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for letting me be a part of it. And especially for letting me help Larry remember.
I know God is in this work. He is real. I know it with all my heart. These are things to share. Please don’t be afraid!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Harry Potter and the Convert from Hong Kong

SAN DIEGO —This week was AMAZING. Brady got baptized!

Let me start you off with a laugh:

The day Brady was supposed to be interviewed for his baptism, we set up splits (we split up as missionaries and go teach with a member). Our district leader forgot about the interview.

Long story short, Neil, one of our members who always rescues us, drove to the church to be our district leader’s companion so the other two elders could teach their lesson and we could still have Brady interviewed for the next day. While we were waiting for Brady to get done, I practiced with Neil and Adrienne how to bring up the Gospel in everyday conversation. They were practicing at a grocery store when Brady came out of the interview. He listened as they finished. I felt the need to ask Brady to practice also so I turned to him and said, "Hey Brady, you are almost a Mormon, why don’t you come practice sharing the gospel!"

He picked the scenario to be at a bookstore. Adrienne was pretending to read a book (She only had Preach my Gospel so she was using that).

Brady asked her, "What book are you reading"

"1984, she replied".

"No your not!" Brady said, as he took the Preach my Gospel and started scanning it over. "This is printed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!"

I thought to myself, "oh dear, what have we got ourselves into: He doesn’t even know how to pretend!" (Remember Brady has only spent four or so weeks in America, after living in Hong Kong all his life).

After teaching him how to pretend we started again.

"What book are you reading?" Brady asked.

"1984" replied Adrienne.

"Oh! What kind of books do you like to read?" asked Brady

"Oh all kinds, history, adventure, action....” replied Adrienne

Brady sat for a second, "Well have you ever read Harry Potter?" (At this time I was thinking, where is he going with this?)

"Yaw" she said, "I love Harry Potter!"

"Well you know how the pictures move? There is a cool place in Old Town that has talking pictures that move too. It’s about Mormons. I’m a Mormon too! And I would love to invite you!"

I looked around the room. Elder Clarke's jaw was to the ground, Adrienne had the biggest grin across her face, and Neil looked stunned! YESSS! Our soon-to-be recent convert shared the gospel in a bookstore using Harry Potter. THAT is what I am talking about doing missionary work!

To tell you more about Brady, I want to share my journal entry from his baptism this Saturday:


December 1, 2012

"It is amazing what a single action can do to change the life of an individual. Sister Riggs and the Hudsons made that single action just a few weeks ago as they listened to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and street contacted Brady. A single "hello" and a start of a conversation brought him to the waters of baptism today. 

Brady has already paid that single action forward. This morning, he and his friend, Steve walked into the Elder’s Quorum room this morning where the font is. We were introduced to his friend who sat down with us while Brady was getting changed into his white clothes.

Steve looked at me and said, "I want to know how Brady, who has grown up all his life going to Christian schools and not changed a tiny bit, wants to be baptized into your church after only a few weeks."

He continued, “I have never felt anything from a church before, and I don’t expect to. But I want to learn more about what you taught him."

A single invite to a baptism, and Steve has been introduced to a message that will change his life forever.

Baptisms are always filled with the spirit. Brady's was no different. 

Oscar and Parker talked about following Jesus Christ and enduring to the end. Corey sang a beautiful song. There is no way anyone sitting in that room could doubt the powers of Heaven were present. I watched Brady walk into the font and be baptized.  Someone who holds the restored Priesthood of God baptized him. I wish I could have had a glimpse of the angels in heaven rejoicing as Brady made his first covenant with God. His testimony was so powerful. He talked about his life in Hong Kong — growing up in school, he felt forced into Christianity and so he fell away. He decided that the wanted to lean towards the sciences and math, and just be a good person. Then, just a month ago, he came to America and met the sisters. He talked about how his friends kept asking, "How can you do this?" "Why do you believe this anyway?" Brady's reply has stuck in my thoughts these last few days. He looked at us as he was sharing his story and said,

"I could have told them a lot of things. But I knew the most important thing to say was, I feel it. I just feel it."

I felt it right then. All I can say is, I too felt it. I felt it as he was baptized. I felt it as he shared his story. And I felt it as a young single adult from China bore his testimony that he knew the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God..."


The Holy Ghost is the only one who can seal our testimonies. Think of Alma. He said, I know of a surety because of the Holy Ghost, not because I saw an angel. I want you to know that I know Jesus is the Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. And I know that Joseph Smith was called by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth.

Just as President Monson counseled in General Conference:  IF you don’t have a testimony, find it. If it’s not as strong as you would like, fix it. And if it is strong and deep, keep it that way.

You don’t have to know everything. Notice what you feel inside. Especially as this month is centered on the Savior. Notice how you feel as the world testifies of Him. It is no wonder to me, that there is a different spirit during this month — because the Spirit is testifying to the world of the testimonies that are being shared of the Savior of the world.

I love you all! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

See Him as He May Become

SAN DIEGO — The first week of the transfer has been great. I still am in Helix Singles Ward. That makes 11 out of 13 transfers in a Young Single Adult ward! So much fun. So much DRAMA! 

Our new companion is Sister Crawford. She is from Wyoming and has actually been out about five months. She is a sweetheart. It is definitely a new challenge being in a threesome companionship, but I love it.

I know a lot of you have and are having challenges right now. I don’t know why all these things happen, but I know it will all work out. I love you all, and I am so excited to be there seeing you become who Heavenly Father wants you to become. That is something that has been on my mind this week, to see others as they may become.

When I first left for my mission, President Homer blessed me that I would be able to see others as they really are and not be afraid of who they appear to be. I thought that was interesting as I started my mission, now I can see what Heavenly Father meant.

Yesterday, we got a text message that said, "What do you believe about gays?" I explained that marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God. We had quite a long chat over text, and it appeared that he was just trying to argue with us. We explained that all of us are children of God, and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth so all mankind can find peace and happiness in this life and live with God in the next. 

Surprisingly to me, James, the texter, agreed to meet.

All that night, I kept thinking about the conference talk by President Monson, "See them as they may become".

President Monson tells a story: during a mission conference, N. Eldon Tanner Interviewed a missionary asking how he had so much success. The Elder replied that he "attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything — particularly religion — the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind, he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and trousers. And the missionary could see himself leading that man into the waters of baptism. He said, "When I look at someone that way, I have the capacity to bear my testimony to him in a way that can touch his heart"

As our lesson came yesterday, I kept thinking about that. See him as he may become, see him as he may become, SEE him as he may BECOME! We sat down, and I could feel the Holy Ghost calming my heart. We gave him a church tour, and as we were in the chapel, I asked him how he felt. He explained that some missionaries had talked to him and told him to read a part in the Book of Mormon last night and as he did, he felt good, just as he did right then. We continued our lesson bearing testimony of the Holy Ghost and invited him to be baptized, which he accepted. This man can become a priesthood holder in the kingdom of God!

I am so grateful for this lesson I learned. Church is not a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners. The Gospel is to heal EVERYONE. President Monson said, "We have the responsibility to see individuals not as they are, but rather as they can become".

I am so grateful for who each of you are:

Mom: You are an amazing example of selfless service. I have lived all my life watching you help and serve and work hard for all of us around you.

Dad: You are organized and motivated. You have taught me the importance of not being asked to do, but to take the initiative to do yourself.

Most importantly, you both are wonderful parents of 2 sons and 2 daughters of a Heavenly King!

Nick: You have a tender heart, and a passion for people. You have taught me what it means to truly love, and be interested in others and make sure they know it. You are an amazing father, brother, husband and friend.

Juli: You are a nurturer. You teach and bless all of us. Your kiddos, your family. You are an amazing teacher in the Kingdom of God.

You both have inspired me and taught me how to raise my children with a love of the gospel. Thank you!

Chris: You are the most diligent person I know. You work hard to achieve your goals, provide for your family, and accomplish your dreams. Because of you, I know I can do hard things!

Hannah: You find joy in the journey. You know how to laugh and help others find joy in the journey too. You are inspiring to both of your families and will continue to bless your future family too.

Sara: You are an example of courage. Not because you are never scared, but because you face all of your trials with faith, and boldness, and dedication. I have never met a braver soul. You inspire me to keep moving forward no matter what. You are my sister, and my friend. You have changed my life forever!

That is only a glimpse of what I see in all of you, and that is not even who Heavenly Father knows you can become! Don’t be content with where you are now. You are meant to be heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. This life is preparation for eternity.

I want you to know something: how you view each other and how you view the world, is as it will become. If you find the faults, that is all you will see. Let's not look at each other or the world with all our faults. We are meant for more. 

We will one day be in our eternal home, Dad, Mom, Nick, Juli, Chris, Hannah, Sara — You are special and I cant wait to have you for eternity.

I have made a promise to myself that I will NEVER be the reason why someone else can’t change. We all have the potential to become. Let’s help each other see it in ourselves.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I never answered the phone

SAN DIEGO — Can you believe I am on my last transfer? I am so thankful Heavenly Father let me have 13 instead of 12. 

Transfers work like this: Tuesday morning, our zone leaders call and the zone leaders tell you if you are leaving and or if you are training. It’s really funny at the Battalion, because we are all at the laundromat Tuesday morning. So here I am folding my clothes, and all these sisters start getting calls. Everyone is freaking out because they get to stay together or whatnot. Well, Sister Jarrett and I start getting more and more nervous because almost all of the English-speaking sisters were called and only one was training...

We got our call and I am finishing training Sister Jarrett on her last 6 weeks and we are going to be in a trio training one of the new sisters! WHEW!

Heavenly Father knows is really pushing me to the finish line! Please pray for our area, we really need to find some more people! I don’t know who the new sister is, but one is from Africa and one from Samoa, so either way SO FUN!

Missionary work has been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, member missionary work. President keeps reminding us that because of all the new missionaries. We have got to make sure the members help us, or there will not be enough work to do. Our bishop asked us to speak last Sunday on missionary work as well, so I feel like it is the lesson I have been learning this week that I want to share with you.

I remember when I was in Young Womens and there was a signup sheet to go out with the missionaries that was passed around if we could drive the sisters to their appointments. I had no problem with driving, in fact I really wanted to help, but I was so scared to be in a lesson — a real, live lesson with missionaries and non-members! I felt bad because the signup sheet went around, and no one signed it.

I kind of felt obligated to, so I did. The sister missionaries called me the next day, but I was too scared to answer the phone. For the next few weeks or so, they kept calling, and still, I was too scared. I’m sad to say I NEVER ANSWERED THE PHONE!

I didn’t understand my purpose as a member in God's kingdom. We are to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel. It doesn’t have to be that hard. We have to "stand as witnesses at all times and in all things and in all places."

I’m reminded of a story about Elder (Neal A.) Maxwell. He was assigned to visit a mission in Brazil. Prior to leaving, he found out he had leukemia. He begged the First Presidency to let him go before he started chemotherapy. He arrived in the mission, and the president and his wife kept him busy, speaking and visiting people there (They had no idea that Elder Maxwell was so sick). 

As the time came to a close, Elder Maxwell was told of a little boy, Jared Ammon, who was sick in a hospital with leukemia and desired a blessing. Elder Maxwell went to visit the boy and gave him the requested blessing. He asked the little boy, who was alone with only his sister, what else he could do for him. "Would you sing me, 'I am a child of God?'" Jared replied. Elder Maxwell cradled the little boy and sang him that beautiful song.

Elder Maxwell lived his life as a disciple of Christ. Sometimes we think we have to be an Apostle or a General Authority to be a witness of Christ. That is just not true. You may not know everything, but you know enough!

The Widow of Zarephath had little, but gave it all
Think of Elijah in the Old Testament: wandering through the city of Zarephath, he sees a woman, and asks her for some water. She kindly turns to go get him a drink.

And then Elijah asks, and could I have some bread too?

This time, the poor woman looks back in distress. 

"But sir, I only have a handful of meal and a cruse of oil, I was preparing the last meal for me and my son before we die."

Elijah replies to this woman of faith: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. Bring what you have to the Lord and He will magnify it.” (1 Kings 17: 8-16)

That’s what I have been trying to do this week. I don't have a lot to give, but as I have given my all, Heavenly Father has magnified it.

Yesterday, I took a tour with a man and his daughter, Bryce (she was named after Bryce Canyon, fun fact). Anyway, they are non-members from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (also fun fact as I got to tell them my brother served a Mormon mission there). I was so exhausted, having taken a few tours before and not eaten dinner yet, but I knew this tour was important. They didn't even want to go on it, but I talked them into going on the first two rooms.  I did the best I could, and to my surprise in the outfitting room, they asked about the Restoration of the Gospel, which I was able to testify of.

The dad just kept saying, "that makes sense, because all the people came up with their own ideas, I see why we have so many churches!" Then, they kept asking and asking about the story, so I asked if they wanted to just finish the tour, which they did. In the courthouse, he asked about Joseph Smith, which I was able to tell him what Joseph Smith saw. 

There is a special spirit, and you can feel it when God's children come into the Battalion prepared. This family was one of them. And though I had little to give, I gave it, and Heavenly Father magnified it.

I love how Lehi describes the fruit of the tree in his vision: "I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted." 

THAT is what the Gospel sounds like to me! 

When I had my birthday earlier this year, one of our members in Black Mountain, Paul, brought in this golden box and set it on the table in front of me. I looked at it with curiosity and he said, go on open it. I did, and inside was the most beautiful cake I have ever seen in my whole life. (I think I sent a picture of it home). It was dark chocolate with curly cursive handwriting (Sister Kennington’s favorite) and golden sparkles! It had beautiful purple flowers on it too. Paul told me about how it was supposed to taste, and I just couldn’t wait to eat it and share it. I ran back to the kitchen right there and we shared it with him and the rest of the sisters at the Battalion.

THAT is what sharing the Gospel should be like. If Paul would have come in, opened of the box, grabbed a handful of cake and thrown it at my face, I would not have been happy to say the least. The cake would still have been beautiful, and still tasted good, but I would not have wanted it.

I know that sharing the gospel can be hard. (Remember, I really do know: I NEVER ANSWERED THE PHONE!) Elder Holland said, "Missionary work is not easy because salvation isn’t cheap." How true that is! There are so many things you can do. I'm already thinking of the kind of member I want to be when I go home.

When your friends, coworkers or neighbors ask you how your weekend went, do you respond with a "Oh, it was great, how about yours?" Or do you tell them about the ward activity you went to, or what you learned at church? If you are too scared you can't answer their questions, have you made a mormon.org profile and told your friends to check it out? Have you prayed as families of what less-active member you could invite just to have dinner? No strings attached, just dinner!

That is something I have learned from the members here in San Diego. No, they aren’t perfect, but they ask. They share. Their ward councils and Relief Society meetings, Young Mens and Young Womens are all focused about rescuing, retaining, and finding- MISSIONARY WORK! You cannot keep the cake for yourself!

In Preach My Gospel, there is a quote by George Albert Smith:

"That is your mission, my brethren and sisters of the church, that is your responsibility. Freely you have received and our Heavenly Father will expect you to freely share with His other sons and daughters these glorious truths. We will attain our exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom ONLY on the condition that we share with our Fathers other children the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and observe the commandments that will enrich our lives here and hereafter."

Intense, right? 

But really, you can do it! "Minastraba" in some language I totally forgot, but Elder Zwick told us once, means to "put it on your heart". Put your missionary purpose on your heart, and you will see miracles. Just like the man from Florida this week: I see miracles every second of every day and it never has to stop. Not for you and not for me.

Just remember, missionary work is not easy because salvation isn’t cheap!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pure love and agency

SAN DIEGO — I have a lot of thoughts and emotions right now. I honestly had an internal debate whether I wanted to write home or not this week. Of course, the Holy Ghost bonked me over the head and told me, "don’t you dare, your mother needs a letter!" The Holy Ghost is ALWAYS right.

We just got back from what is called a "sisters retreat", where all of the sisters in the mission met at the Clayton's home and had lunch. We learned from President, Sister Clayton and the training sisters. Sister Clayton spoke. I don’t really remember what she said, but the tears rolled down my cheeks as I looked around at the beautiful scene of a roomful of Sisters in Zion.  My heart hurts at the thought that my time is almost finished here in San Diego. What an amazing journey this has been.

I sometimes get the time to ponder about the plan God has for us. I have had a few of those moments this week.

The first thing I was pondering about was the love Heavenly Father has for us. 

Yesterday, I was teaching a man who doesn’t leave his home, he plays video games all day, and does drugs and alcohol. His father is Mormon, so he asked if we could come and teach him more about the Church. At first glance, my immediate reaction was, "There is no way this man will accept or live the gospel." The Spirit kindly chastised me, and I cringed thinking, "Who are you, Sister Newman, to say who can and cannot be changed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

I said a silent prayer, and pictured him being sealed to his future spouse. During the lesson, I told him that I knew we didn’t know about him, but we cared about him and loved him. He surprised me by saying. "How can you?" Heavenly Father opened my heart, and somehow, some way, he helped me love this man just as He did. That is how I know that God loves all of us.

I was also pondering a lot about agency this week. Agency is such an important part of the Plan of Happiness. God will not and never has forced us to do anything. I have seen that this week with many of our investigators.

Selina watched the Joseph Smith movie and explained that she knew she needed to read the Book of Mormon to find out it was true, only to tell us this morning that she would be too busy to learn. 

Lupita, whose sister is a Mormon, is sitting in lukewarm water, not caring either way if the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored again. 

Celeste decided that she felt too much pressure and won't answer any of our calls. 

Every single one of them, just prior to their decision to ignore and turn away, had a spiritual experience as the Holy Ghost testified that what we were saying was true. As much as it hurts my heart, I know that they have to be able to choose. I wait patiently for the day in heaven, when I can sit by their side, wrap my arms around them, and tell them how grateful I am that they are here.

Lastly, I have come to realize how perfect this plan is. We just taught Brady the Plan of Salvation. At the end of the lesson, Sister Jarrett asked what he thought of the Plan of Salvation. He smiled, rubbed his chin and then replied in his Chinese accent, "Well, I think the Plan is perfect!" He is a sweet, sweet soul.

My conclusion for this week's experience is that I am just a tool in this perfect work. The pain, hurt, frustration, and tiredness can be taken away if I could but trust in Heavenly Father. He’s in charge! Why worry so much? If I am just where I need to be doing what I need to be doing, I can have complete trust that Jesus Christ will make sure that the work is moving forward. The Atonement is so real. My heart is changing. I know yours can, too.

We can be made whole through this perfect plan. Holy smokes, it is so great. I love Heavenly Father so much. Sometimes, I get so homesick for Heaven. But boy, am I grateful for this time on earth to learn, love, and experience the joy of living.

There is joy in this journey!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


SAN DIEGO — It’s weird when fall hits, and the sun is still shining here as bright as ever. It messes me up sometimes!

This week, it has really hit me how urgent this work is. God really is hastening His work. We are gearing up for about 50-75 new missionaries come January. What an amazing work this is! I feel the urgency inside of me, my spirit is trying to sprint to the finish, it is all I can do to keep up the best I can. There is just so much work to be done. 

I can see how hard both forces are working in this world. It has been so evident this week how hard Satan is working to confuse, distract, and lead away the children of God. Many of our investigators have testified of the truth, yet they refuse to live the gospel. It has broken my heart. There comes a point when they have to choose — choose to follow God, or choose to turn away, to step back into the world they came from. A world of chaos, distraction, and loneliness. The hardest moments on my mission have been the times when I look at one of my investigators, someone I have come to love with all my heart, and they look me back in the eye and tell me they do not want the gospel in their lives.  

It is devastating. But the work will move on.

I have noticed on the streets, the world is getting harder, tougher, and more calloused. People we talk to on the street laugh and make fun of us. Some are kind, but refuse to believe that they have to live the gospel of Jesus Christ to return to live with God. They think that they can do it on their own. We are getting to the point where I feel like we are trudging through mud, trying hard as we might to find those that are prepared. Despite the difficulty, the work will move on.

I have had many experiences this week, but I would like to share with you an experience from the Mormon Battalion Historic Site I had while I was on shift.

November 3, 2012

I was finishing up a tour in gold panning, and a middle-aged gentleman walked up, looking around like he had just walked up to the historic site. I excused myself from the family I was helping and welcomed him to the Battalion and to Old Town. 

We talked for a minute and I asked if I could show him how to pan for gold. He agreed and we started panning. Over the past few weeks, I have had a few experiences talking with people at the Battalion or at the temple where a peace comes over my heart, and I am certain that they are a child of God that specifically has been guided at that time and at that moment to be healed by the message of the Restored Gospel

As I talked to him, I had that peace come over my heart. 

I looked at him and could feel the burden on his heart. I could see it in the sadness and darkness of his eyes. I hear it in the tone of his voice. I just told him that I could tell he had a burden on his heart, and wondered if he wanted to talk about it. 

He told me that he just didn’t like where he was at this point in his life. 

"I just go out on the weekends and drink, and party, and I don’t even know why I do it. I suppose because I am bored and I don’t know what else to do. I just want to change" 

I testified of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the power it has to lift his burdens, to comfort his heart, and that through the gift of the Atonement, he had the power to change. We walked into the resource room and looked at the display of the Book of Mormon and of the Bible. How amazing it was to me to be able to testify of the Old and New Testament, and Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The books that contain the Gospel, the way to find peace and joy in this life. 

He looked at them for a while and then looked up at me with his sad eyes and told met that ' I just feel like I have calluses on my heart. I just can’t feel anymore." 

I asked him if he had ever felt the Spirit before. He said, "Once. When I was a young boy, I felt that I should go back to church. I knew God was speaking to me and I didn’t do it." 

We slowly walked to the lobby and sat on the couch. I testified that the missionaries could teach him how to get rid of the calluses on his heart and help him start over, completely change. I felt the Holy Ghost remind me of my missionary purpose — To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. How great is my calling!

I turned to him and asked him if he found that what I was teaching is true, would someone holding the priesthood authority of God baptize him. He looked at me and said, yes. He hadn’t prayed since he was little, so we went to the theater and knelt down in prayer. I prayed first and then he followed. His prayer was the most sincere prayer I have heard. I felt honored to be kneeling in a room where God's son — His little boy —was returning back to Him.

That moment will be one I never forget.

The lesson I learned through this is that, yes, things are hard, the world is bad, and Satan is loosing his chains over the whole earth. But GOD'S WORK WILL MOVE FORWARD. And we have the responsibility to be part of it. 

Are you joining the fight, or are you sitting on the sidelines? With or without you, His work will continue.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A week of miracles

SAN DIEGO — Today is one of those days that my heart just got pounded with how much I love and my family. I hope you are all doing well. It sounds like it! Sara's interview, Nick's interview, Finding out about the mini-Chris or Hannah — you all have your hands full!

Mom and Juli: Thanks for the package, it is just perfect. I’m going to share the Halloween treats tomorrow at district meeting:)

Mom: would you tell grams and gramps thanks for the letter and that I love them? I wont have time this week to write a letter.

Dad: I blew it on Grandpa (Newman)'s birthday. Can you tell him happy birthday for me, and that I love him so much! So sorry about that, I feel so bad!

This week we have been teaching people a lot about the Ten Commandments. Every time we talk about "thou shall not covet" to me, Heavenly Father is saying, "Brittany, please be grateful for what I have given you." 

We have a calendar up in our apartment and each day we write down one of the miracles that happened to us. I am so very humbled every time I look at that calendar to realize the hand God has in my life. This week I want to share with you my week of miracles.

Monday, October 22, 2012: Celeste committed to be baptized!

"...Sister Jarrett, having been so scared to recite the First Vision, started speaking with such power and authority that all in the room could in no way deny that what she spoke was from Heaven. The Holy Ghost bore a powerful witness to all of our souls of the truth of Joseph’s vision. I looked at her, with conviction in my soul, knowing that if she felt what I did, she would want to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized with someone holding the priesthood authority of God. As I invited her to be baptized, she looked at both of us, and said. "Yes. It makes sense.... Yes".

Tuesday, October 23:

After Preparation Day, we had shift at the Battalion. The senior couple was stuck in traffic; I was assigned to the desk. (Meaning I make sure that the sisters coming on shift relieve the senior missionaries that were taking tours). After a few minutes of slight chaos, the job was done... or so I thought. After about 10 minutes, a guy pops out of the outfitting room and says, "I tried to give them the tour, but the ladies come to the window and I don’t know what to do next!" This poor Mormon guy, who had been in a week before and brought his friends back, gave the tour from the enlistment room to where Martha comes to the window in the outfitting room! I rushed in, played it off the best I could. Can you imagine though? HA! I wish I had their perspective of a pioneer popping into the tour looking concerned that the roof might leak! It was pretty funny.  That made it possible for us to laugh and joke the rest of the tour, by the end, our only non-member on the tour felt right at ease and was willing to learn more.

Wednesday, October 24: An opportunity to serve

Sister Stirling was sick and we were the only ones that could help so her companion could stay on shift. We sat at her apartment and weekly planned, and had extra time to clean their apartment. What a good feeling it is to help someone in need. They had been worrying about when they would have time to organize, and here Heavenly Father plopped us right in her apartment room, making our schedule available, so Heavenly Father's dear daughters would have one less thing to stress about. I love Heavenly Father's timing!

Speaking of timing, as we were finishing up, President called me out of the blue. He just had this feeling to ask me if I had considered coming home on the 29th. It hit me so hard as he was speaking, because I have been suppressing this worry inside that maybe I should have decided to come home a few days earlier to get school in order. Thinking that it was too late, I pushed those feelings aside, knowing that I already committed to that date. But as President talked to me, I felt Heavenly Father's reassurance that He really does know me inside and out —worries and all — and He does care. (So, FYI Parents, even though I don’t want to think about it, my departure date is now December 29th. So don’t leave me stranded at the airport!)

I’m running out of time so I’m going to skip Thursday- It was great though!

Friday, October 26: A roomful of mission presidents

All of the mission presidents in the western United States had a mission president’s conference in San Diego this week. I was on shift as they all came to take the tour, and was lucky enough to take one of the tours. It was slightly intimidating, as there were about eight mission presidents and their wives, and 2 sets of General Authorities. I felt so honored to tell the story of my ancestors.

When we got to the courthouse, I stood in front of them, not as a nervous 22-year-old, but as a representative of Jesus Christ. As I spoke, I know the words didn’t come from me — these men faced challenges every day. "Though yours aren’t the same, I know you have to do hard things. My mission president has made all the difference in my life as you do for your (missionaries)." 

Imagine that scene, three benches filled with men in suits. I felt their tiredness, their frustrations as their missionaries choose the wrong, the pressure of moving the work forward. And at that very moment, Heavenly Father helped me tell them that they were important to Him. (I hope you know that you are important to Him too)

I’m really running out of time now! I'll do one more

Saturday, October 27:

We were on shift at the temple and Julio and Blanca from Mexico walked up. They had seen pictures on the Internet of the temple and wanted to know what it was. As I was telling them about the temple, it was different than any other experience I have had before. The Spirit came from them. Their eyes wouldn’t leave mine. Heavenly Father told me they are ready. And yes, they were. God will move His work forward with or without us. But believe me, you don’t want to be left behind.

Just a final thought:

"Who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable being?" And behold I say unto you HE CHANGETH NOT; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles."

That is as true in my life as it is in yours. Have you thanked Heavenly Father for today's miracles?