Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chastity, The Book of Mormon, and a white castle

SAN DIEGO — This week has been so full of miracles, I figure the best way to share with you is to share some clips from my journal.

Brittany was so happy to get letters and packages
But before I do that- HR Dudley, the marine we have been teaching is getting baptized this Saturday and we have 4 other investigators with a baptismal date for the middle of November! There are no words to express what it is like to see a person use the gift of the Atonement to change their lives completly to follow God. I wish I could explain it. I was thinking about the thoughts shared with me from Elder David A. Bednar's talk and there is a quote in Preach my Gospel from President Howard W. Hunter that talks about missionary work and our own conversion:
"Surely taking the Gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people is the single greatest responsibility we have in mortality... we have been privileged to be born in these last days as opposed to some earlier dispensation, to help take the Gospel to all the earth. What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others... A great indicator of one's personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others."

It's just as Lehi felt when he tasted of the fruit of the tree, he desired his family to taste of it as well. I don't know all of you who are reading this, but many of you have tasted of the fruit, many of you have experienced the cleansing power of the Atonement — don't keep it to yourself, go share it with others. I promise that looking outward and not inward, by thinking of others and not yourself, you will be following the example of Jesus Christ and will become more like him.
October 19, 2011
We were on splits today because we had too many appointments. Yay! What awesome words to hear as a missionary! I taught HR the Law of Chastity with his girlfriend and Relief Society President, Amanda Stubbs. I had the most amazing experience as we finished up the lesson. I asked him if he had any concerns or questions that would be keeping him from living the Law of Chastity. Immediately I felt as Ammon did in the Book of Mormon when he was able to discern the thoughts and intents of King Lamoni's heart. I knew exactly what HR was worried about —that it would be hard for him to keep his thoughts and words clean while he was on base with the other Marines. We were able to talk about his concerns and because of Heavenly Father's tender mercy, I was able to help him with his worries...
October 22, 2011
We had the temple shift this morning. There were lots of people here today, but mostly for weddings. In Winnie the Pooh terms, it was "a blustery day"!

While we were shivering under the umbrella at the temple, a car pulled up and a guy asked us for a Portuguese Book of Mormon, which we were more than happy to give him. He told us that he was Mormon and that his girlfriend told him about a dream she had last night with a white castle and how badly she wanted to go inside during her dream. The boyfriend told her he would take her to that building and we were able to give her a Book of Mormon and send the missionaries to her home because she wants to be baptized. Wow, what a testimony of how Heavenly Father really does know and love us individually and will answer our prayers in many different ways!...
October 24
We were on exchanges today. I was in my area with Sister Kearsley and we were able to teach Michael, Kerry, and Raul. Kerry came to the church and we talked to her about the Plan of Salvation. I asked her if she received her answer about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. She looked me straight in the eye and in a whisper said, "yes, I know that Joseph is a Prophet of God and that this book is true"

I do too! I know that Joseph is a Prophet and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, another testament that Jesus Christ lives, and a loving gift from Heavenly Father to guide us in this day! It is amazing how powerful the Book of Mormon is. It truly has "a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword or anything else"

As we were teaching Raul, we asked him how his reading was going. He said in his own words, "Well, it's going okay, I'm really bad at names, but I read about these brothers that went to this mansion to go get some books, and the bad dude, was like, "bang bang bang" I want your riches, and so they had to run away and then later the bad brothers were whipping their other brother and the Spirit came and told them to knock it off...." Oh my goodness, Sister Kearsley and I looked at him with our jaws dropped to the ground — I'd say he is reading and understanding the Book of Mormon!

The Book of Mormon is such a powerful source in conversion. There is a talk called, "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon" by Ezra Taft Benson. It is an amazing talk and something I have been thinking a lot about this week. I have been able to talk to a lot of people about Joseph Smith, I have reminded a lot of members about the sacrifice of our ancestors, and every day as I take people on the tour, i am reminded of what people, namely Joseph, went through to bring this Gospel to the earth again.

Joseph would not be tarred and feathered for a mere lie, he would not watch his children, neighbors, family, and people be mobbed and persecuted because of their beliefs, he would not go through trial and tribulation to bring forth the Book of Mormon for a lie. He would not do that!

He has passed on his legacy to us. It is now our turn to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon, to turn outward and not inward just as Jesus Christ would and teach, help, lift, inspire, and love all of those around us. You can do this! You are children of God, you were born with the responsibility to share what you know with the world. I know that there will be many people waiting for you when you return to Heaven, with arms wide open, thanking you for opening your mouth and sharing what you know. You can do this! Go forward with faith, not fear! Share a smile, give a hug, and let your light so shine:) 
I love you all so much. Thank you for sharing with me all of your experiences. You are so amazing, and I am so lucky to know you all.
Just FYI- Transfers are November 9th. I think Sister Nelson will be transferred since she has been in the area so long, but honestly I have no idea.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Created for greater things

SAN DIEGO — Once again I am writing you with tears dripping down my face! Man, who knew you could all make me cry so much!!! Sara asked me a question last week that I forgot to answer. She asked, what is your biggest blessing?

Without question, the first thing that popped into my mind was family. And I'm not just saying that because I am writing you. Seriously, you mean the world to me! Heavenly Father knew I needed all of you. I need your teasing, I need your hugs, I need your laughs and smiles, I need your words of encouragement. I need every single part of each of you that has helped me become who I am today. Most importantly, thank you so much for loving me.

"For a wise and glorious purpose, thou hast placed me here on earth..."

Heavenly Father has been blessing us in finding a lot of people to teach. I want to tell you about a couple of them:

H.R. (ya, that is his first name) is a Marine that the other missionaries referred us to.  He works with a Marine who is Mormon, and before he was deployed to Japan, he took the missionary discussions, but he was not interested. He has been back for a few months and is really interested in the Church and has accepted a baptismal date for October 29th, and is so excited to be baptized. I can't believe the change in him. It is so amazing what this Gospel does for people!

Kerry is a friend of Michael's (our investigator that can't get baptized yet). She comes from a broken home, and has had a rough life, but every time we meet with her, she can't stop talking about the peace she feels. It is such a testimony to me, hearing people who do not know what the Holy Ghost is, talk about it. More and more I am reminded that we are not teaching these people. We are reminding them of who they are — of their divine worth and the potential they have. How could anyone forget living in the prescence of God? They can't. I am so grateful for the tender mercy of Heavenly Father sending the spirit to touch our hearts and remind us of where we came from and who we can become. Those moments are priceless.

Archie is a referral from the Elders. His mom and sister were baptized a year ago, and he never wanted to "barge in" on their lessons, so he has no idea what they believe, but as he has been learning about the love Heavenly Father has for us by restoring His Church here on the earth, and as he has been reading the Book of Mormon, his heart has been changing and he wants to find out if what we are teaching is true.

I wanted to share a little bit about these people, because each of them came to find out about the church through an example of a friend or family member. (That could be and definitely is all of you!)

As I have been on my mission, I am learning more and more what God expects of me and what promises I made to Him in Heaven. Oh, how I wish I wouldn't have wasted so much precious time before my mission when I could have been lifting a burden, mending a heart, sharing the truth of this Gospel, giving a smile. Life on earth is the time to prepare to meet God — what better way to prepare to meet my Father than to follow the example of His son, Jesus Christ, and serve His children.

I have a quote in my journal from Elder Holland that I have been thinking about.

"I believe we have all been created for greater things than we can comprehend. The times call for great things, but great things in the noblest and most redemptive sense are predicated upon tolerance, love, respect, understanding, dignity, prayer and God."

I want anyone reading these words to know that I add my testimony to that of Elder Holland's. You are created for great things. You have divine worth. Don't hold back the love that God has given you — go share it with the world!

I know this letter is a short one this week. I'm really sorry, I just am kind of at a stupor of thought. I don't know what to share with you, which has not happened before because usually I put you through reading long letters of which I'm sure most of it is boring. Is there anything you want to know about? Sometimes I get into the missionary groove and forget that you might have questions or curiosities. Let me know, I would be happy to share. For now, just know that I love ya. I'm doing well, and trying my best to move the work forward.

Love you all. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The miracle of the missed appointment and unanswered questions

SAN DIEGO — Wow, I can't believe another week has gone by! I am almost halfway through another transfer! I hope Little Brooklyn had a Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a fun little birthday party for her.

Well, once again Heavenly Father has been showing me miracles. It is amazing how when you open your eyes and your mouth, the miracles that He can send your way. It reminds me of the scripture in Mormon- 
"And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many miracles? And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being?" (Mormon 9:18-19)

I know with all my heart that He has not ceased to do miracles. I want to share with you a couple excerpts from my journal that happened this week:

October 7, 2011
I saw so many miracles today! Both of our appointments fell through — that doesn't sound very much like a miracle, but indeed it was. We had a member with us, so we went to visit Brian Murray, a less active member. I hate apartment complexes so bad! I always get so lost and of course once again we found ourselves wandering aimlessly around the complexes trying to find a building that didn't seem to exist.
We were about to say a prayer when a young guy walked out of the complex. Our member recognized him from high school and so we were able to talk with him. His brother is a recent convert who he is living with and he agreed to come to church with us on Sunday!

On our way to visit a former investigator's home, we saw a lady walking her little granddaughter and stopped to talk to her. She expressed that she just moved in and was looking to attend a church. Heavenly Father knew our plans for the day, and He needed us to talk with these two people. Just coincidence? There is nothing in this world that can make me think that this was anything less than a miracle from God. He numbers His sheep. Even in a little town in San Diego, a woman taking her granddaughter for a walk and a young man on his way to a job interview matter to Him.

October 10, 2011
We were able to contact Pani, a former investigator that the elders found, and set up an appointment for today. Pani is from Iran, but her family moved to Ukraine, converted to Christianity and now lives in San Diego.

As we sat in her living room tonight, she couldn't stop asking questions. She had so many, all we could do was listen to her concerns as she kept asking and asking and asking, giving us no room to answer — "How can I feel the Spirit?" "Where am I going after this life?" "Does what I do here even matter?" "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

My heart ached so badly for her. I watched a 19-year-old woman voice her deepest concerns and desires for her life and she didn't have the answers. She didn't know she was a daughter of God. She didn't know that her Father listens to every prayer she says, and knows exactly the intents of her heart. She didn't know that she lived with her Heavenly Parents before coming to this earth and that she chose to follow the plan to help her become like and return to her Father in Heaven. She didn't know that Her Father made a way to restore His Gospel on the earth for her day in this time.

We, of course, couldn't teach her everything at once, but we did talk to her about the Holy Ghost. After the lesson, as I was saying the closing prayer, my heart longed so badly for her to recognize the Spirit. I prayed with as much faith as I could that she would recognize the feelings of the Spirit. After we got out to the car, I got a text from her that said three simple yet beautiful words: I feel amazing.

Family, I love you so much. There are so many miracles around us. Something I wish I would have done better before my mission is not being scared to open my mouth and talk to people. There are people longing to hear about this Gospel — And yes, there are even people in Utah and Idaho, too! Please open your mouths, talk to people! You don't have to share a formal testimony, but your light and your spirit will touch your hearts. I want to hear about your experiences, I promise you that if you act in faith they will come! I love you more than you even know!
Mom and Dad: HAPPY LATE ANNIVERSARY! I know it was on Sunday, but I forgot last week to wish you a happy day in advance. This is so bad, but I can't remember how many years you have been married? Are you on year 30 or are you passed that? Time goes way too fast! Also, I can't remember when Grandpa Newmans Birthday is? Is it like the 23rd or something?

Thanks for updating me on the goings on in football. It's so funny, we get a lot of visitors from Arizona and Utah who are huge BYU fans, so I get bits and pieces now and again. Sara told me Nick and Juli got moved into their apartment? Sounds fun! You will have to send pictures! Speaking of pictures, could you send some pictures of the family? I only have two — one of Sara and one of me and mom. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Sis: (I'm going to write you a quick note here, because I don't think I will have time today to write you a handwritten letter, sorry!)

My missionary plaque scripture is 2 Nephi 22:2. What do you want yours to be? And I just have to say, I almost stood up and cheered when I heard you placed your first NG tube- THATS MY SISTER! You rock Sis! I know the tests are going to be one of your challenges in nursing school, but don't let that discourage you. Remember, Heavenly Father wants you to be there, you have and always will put in your best, and He will do the rest. Trust Him, He will not fail you, I promise!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"You Mormons speak so freely to God"

SAN DIEGO — It sounds like you are all doing well and busy busy busy with life!

Wasn't Conference SO GREAT? I can't wait for the Ensign to come out so I can read it again!

To answer your question about what I did for Conference. We watched the first session at the Mormon Battalion and then drove to our area and watched it at the stake center.

I don't have a lot to write about this week. It was such a hard week. I am beginning to understand a tiny bit what Ammon is saying when he said, "Now when our hearts were depressed and we were about to turn back".

I know that just as the Lord told Ammon, I too must "bear with patience thine afflictions and He will give unto me success."  So many people in the world think that baptism is the final step. I am here to testify that enduring to the end is where it is at! I know we can all do hard things, we can all bear with patience our afflictions for God has promised us that when we do, He will reward us openly and how great those blessings will be!

There is nothing new to report on our investigators, so I would like to share with you an experience I had working at the Mormon Battalion- it is an entry from my journal, so it might be a little bit scattered- sorry:

September 28, 2011
Tonight at the Battalion, I had a special experience. I was taking a tour of a young family and an older couple. The elderly man told me he had been here before, but wanted to show his wife the tour and the mother of the young family was talking to me about her mission, so I assumed they were all Mormon and thus tweaked my tour towards Mormon families.

The young family had to leave the tour early because their daughter was scared, so that left just me and the older couple. After the tour I gave the man (Curtis) a referral card. He held it in his hands for a minute and then he just started talking. He said, "you know, I think it is really neat how in the other room you called God, Heavenly Father. It just rolled off your tongue so easily!" He explained that he is Presbyterian and he never knew anybody to talk so freely about God as "Mormons do". As he was talking about how we so easily talk about Heavenly Father, I realized, "Yes, I do indeed know my Heavenly Father!"

How many people in this world don't even realize how kind and gentle and loving He is?!? I felt the Spirit so strongly talking with him. I know Heavenly Father was answering my prayers and testifying to me that He really is here. I never want to forget that warmth and comforting feeling that I felt sitting at the end of the tour in a brick building with this man and his wife. For a moment, I could almost touch Heaven. I could almost feel Heavenly Father wrapping His arms around me. I could almost hear Him whisper that He was proud of me.

He lives! I know that My Father lives! I know that his Son, my Savior and Redeemer live! What comfort that sweet sentence gives.

He loves you. He numbers you. Just as President Uchtdorf said, we are numbered like the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky. Though we may be nothing to the world, to Heavenly Father we mean everything!


Mom: I would LOVE if you could send me an ensign! THANK YOU!

Thank you for your package you sent — I LOVE the treats you sent me — the granolas and trail mix are THE BEST thing ever!

Dad: I would love it if you sent me the general conf talks/ more music! I can even send my iPod home and have you put it on that so you don't have to send another one?  We do have the aux jack thing in our cars, so that would be AWESOME! I am so excited for you and Sara if you end up going to Finland. I wish I could go back! I want to write Leena a letter, so I might send it to you and have you forward it to her since I don't have her address. I keep thinking about the saints in Russia and Finland- they are so amazing!

I love you all to the moon and back!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Peppers, pit bulls and patriarchal blessings

SAN DIEGO —It sounds like I might have forgotten to send my letter from last week, so here it is:

It is so good to hear from you! I love hearing how things are going with all of you. I only have a few minutes today to email. We got to the computers late and someone is signed up after us. I have to say this week has been a "hoot and a half" as Sara would say:)

We had exchanges this week. The first day I went with Sister Kennington to her area, El Cajon. We did service for an older lady who is curious about Mormons. She had us wash all the baseboards and doors and frames in the upstairs. I never thought I would miss cleaning while on the mission, but I have to say having a bucket and rag washing the doors brought back good memories of Saturday chores with mom and Sara! (Mom, do you remember when you tried to get Aara to want to do chores and so we played that "Rats" game and whoever won got to pick the job they wanted to do?)

The hard part was that this woman chain smoked so bad — not even kidding! I felt like I was getting lung cancer just breathing in there! By the time we left, we smelled SO bad! We had to take off our layers and sweaters so that other people we met that day wouldn't think that Mormons Smoke! It was pretty funny.

The next day, I had exchanges with Sister Kearsley. I was in El Cajon again. We had a dinner at a member's house — cream of carrot soup and stuffed green peppers (yep mom and dad, I can see you laughing right now: you know how picky I am!). Well, thank goodness for Finland's not so delicious Mammy and nasty fish stuff, that broke me in. I ate it with flying colors and a smile on my face. One thing I hate about being a missionary is everyone feeds you SOOOOO much! If they have to roll me off the plane when I get home, I am NOT going to be a happy camper! (Don't worry mom, I am eating my vegetables!)

The week doesn't stop there. Just yesterday, we were walking back to our car after an appointment and there were two men in the garage. I said hello to them, but they had a big mean dog and it looked like they had been drinking, so I kept walking. Sister Nelson decided to walk up to them and try to give them a Mormon Battalion card and a mormon.org card, even while the dog was barking and showing its teeth at us! You know my luck, the dog starts chasing after me! I squealed like a little girl! I said the fastest prayer I have ever said in my life and fortunately, the dog stopped before it got me, but you can imagine I was not very happy with my companero!

I have learned the difference between Elders and Sisters- When Elders see a dog with fangs, a mean bark and drool hanging from its mouth, they run! When sisters see a dog- they try to give handouts?!?!?

On a spiritual note, I have been thinking a lot about my mission call. I have shared with some of you that I have always felt like I promised Heavenly Father that I would serve a mission, and being here I know I am keeping my promise. I was reading my patriarchal blessing yesterday, and it stuck out to me that one of the promises I have made is to gather Israel, to share the Gospel with all the world. My patriarchal blessing says that I will have the opportunity to bear testimony to many people, people of other lands. 

I have been pondering that this week. In the past two months I have been able to bear my testimony to people from England, China, Germany, Spain, Austria, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia and many other places around the world. What an amazing opportunity this has been for me. I want you all to know the testimony I have that we are all God's children. I see all kinds of people here in San Diego — so many with different circumstances and outlooks on life.

Many of them don't even know who they are. I do. You and they are sons and daughters of a King! You are Royal. You are worth something. God loves you and He numbers you individually. I know He cares. I have seen His hand in my life and the lives of others every single day. This is God's work. He has restored his Gospel on the earth today. The hail, the storms, the shafts in the whirlwhind cannot change the Truth. Satan can try as he might, but he will not win. Lies, tricks, and deceivings never win in the end. The truth will conquer —He lives! I know He lives!

I love you all so much. Please don't hold back — don't you dare hold back what you know! God's children are looking for something and they don't know where to find it. It is in each of you. You have the light of Christ. You have a testimony. You matter in God's plan! He needs you! You are his missionaries whether you have a black name tag or not — you have been called to this earth at this time for a specific reason. What trust He has in each of you!
Go out and do good in this world like I know you are already doing. I love hearing how you are all doing. Thank you so much for loving me!

Sara: I LOVED the pictures of the glasses- You are STYLIN! and the snuggie is pretty awesome too. I am so excited to hear you like clinicals! I am going to have to hand write you a note to answer your questions because I am low on time, but know you have a letter coming!

Nick and Juli: So where did you move to? I need your address! I love you all, please tell the girlies hello for me! Thank you both so much for writing me, it means so much!

Chris and Hannah: Brother, I am due for another letter. It has been three months, wasn't that our deal?! How are things going for you? Hannah, I hope you are doing well, sure do love you both!

Mom and Dad: Thanks for the updates. I laughed out loud when I heard both of you were using the sound dictation system at the same time in different rooms of the house to write to me! Thanks for the BYU update. WOW! I am SOOOOO glad the Central Florida game was so good! Keep me updated please!

Uncle David: I don't know if you read these blogs, but I was thinking about you the other day and all of the fun memories me and my family have had with you: ice cream and brownies on Sundays, visiting you at Modern Display, lots of fun stuff. I just wanted to say hello and that I love ya. Please tell Natalie, Jason and Brandon hello for me, I hope they are doing well!