Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cameron's Baptism

SAN DIEGO— A LOT has happened this week! I guess some of you know that Cameron was baptized on Saturday. It was AMAZING. Let me share part of my journal about it with you (I barely had time to write down his story, so its not that great of an entry).

Sister Kennington and I at Cameron's baptism
May 26, 2012
I can't believe this day finally came. 

This was one of the most powerful baptisms I have been to so far on my mission. Jason, his friend in the Church, bore a powerful and simple testimony and then we had a musical number by Kelly.

She sang, "I Will", by Hilary Weeks which blasted the room with the Spirit. The song was about standing tall even if you are alone-something that Cameron has had to do ever since we started teaching him. 

We then watched Cameron and Brother Bryant (the one who referred him to us) walk into the baptismal font. Sister Kennington and I had our arms around each other as Cameron was baptized. It was amazing. I knew that if my spirit was as excited and thrilled as it was, the hosts of heaven must be singing for joy. I wanted to cry as I pictured Heavenly Father smiling down from heaven. What a proud Father He must have been at that moment. 

As Cameron was getting dressed, Sister Kennington and I shared a message. We played the Mormon Message, "The True and Living God" by Elder Holland.  Then we had three of our members (who we previously asked) to one by one get up and share their one-sentence testimony of Jesus Christ

"I know that my Savior lives." 

"I know Jesus forgives me of my sins."

"I know if we follow Jesus Christ we can return to live with God"

Just imagine the power of those simple, yet intense testimonies of Christ. Sister Kennington and I then got up: 

"I know Jesus is the Christ" 

"I know that Christ lived. He died. And He lives again." 

As we closed in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, we all sang the hymn, "I Believe in Christ".  At the close of the song, our Branch President invited Cameron to get up and share his testimony. He said that he had researched, studied and read the Book of Mormon and that he knows the Gospel and the Church are true. He explained that he felt like he had been through his own great apostasy, but now he was found. 

It was so touching to hear him testify. You can tell what a strong spirit he is. It was confirmed to me again, when he was receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. His blessing said that he was one of Heavenly Father's favorite sons and that one day he would be sealed in the temple. It hit me so hard how much Heavenly Father wants each of us back. 

We all have our own “apostasies", whether it is lack of reading, praying, or studying the scriptures. Whether it breaking the commandments, not going to the temple, thinking bad things... whatever it may be, living the gospel of Jesus Christ is what brings us back and what keeps us on the right track.

I was reading the conference talk "In tune with the Music of Faith". Elder Cook's words stood out to me:
"Having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and keeping his commandments are and always will be the defining test of mortality."

What we do defines us. This time on earth IS important. It is where we prove to God who we really are. If you are struggling, let me share with you some advice from President Kimball:

"I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns."

I think the question is not, "Does God hear me?", I think the question is "How far away am I from hearing His answer".

Speaking of answers to prayer, let me share with you a quick miracle Sister Kennington and I experienced this week before I end. 

A few weeks ago, Sister Kennington got the impression to ask the elders if they wanted us to meet with one of their investigators, Camilla. They are teaching the whole family, in fact missionaries have been teaching them for years. The elders accepted, as they were on their last resorts to figure out how to get this family to understand. Sister Kennington and I went over about a week ago, and got to know her. It was perfect. She is a 17-year-old girl, and you know how well it would have gone over if she tried to tell the elders about her prom dress and her frustrations about her 1-day-old manicure chipping. Needless to say, we clicked right away and were able to teach her the Restoration

The Spirit testified so strongly; I was almost expecting the Holy Ghost to start shouting at us. Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost were able to work miracles on her in those precious few minutes and her understanding was clear and her heart was opened. Just yesterday, we met with her again. It was funny because the elders were there with the parents doing service. We taught Camilla in the dining room. We retaught the Plan of Salvation and once again the Spirit was intense. In fact, my heart was pounding out of my chest, I could almost hear a voice yelling to invite her to be baptized. 

She said yes! She wants to be baptized this weekend before her and her family go to Brazil. Her dad called us today not very happy, he says its too fast and she is not ready for that. If there is one thing I have learned it is that, with God anything is possible. If he gave Moses the power to part the Red Sea, who am I to think he can't soften the heart of an old man? Definitely something Heavenly Father will do if it is according to His will. So please Keep Camilla and her family in your prayers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roller coasters and choices

SAN DIEGO — Since Cameron is going to be baptized this Saturday, he has been on my mind a lot. I wanted to share this week's experiences from my journal and share some thoughts about what happened.

May 18, 2012
Yesterday, Sister Burden and I were on exchanges. We taught Cameron about the priesthood right after he had his baptismal interview with Elder Smith. The Spirit testified with such a power that even I was taken aback. 

Later in the lesson, we asked Cameron what it meant to him that there is a prophet on the earth. He told us that after he watched the movie/biography of President Monson's life, "On the Lords Errand", he fell to his knees and asked God if President Monson was His prophet. He bore such a strong witness of the answer he received that tears came to my eyes. In that moment I realized that the angels were probably sitting in silence, hanging on every word as one of their fellow brothers bore truth of the prophet of God. We ended by watching a Mormon Message called, "Sanctify Yourselves" by Elder Holland. We all had tears in our eyes as we watched the power of the priesthood heal a little boy from being electrocuted in a rainstorm. Think of the power of that! There is no power to equal the priesthood in the whole world...

May 19, 2012
Cameron called and told us that he had finally talked to his parents and told them about his decision to be baptized. He was very sad, because his parents were not very happy. His parents mean the world to him, and for them to be upset and accuse him of making an irrational decision definitely stung deep. What he told us on the phone touched my heart. He said that he knew that at some point he would stand in front of Jesus Christ and it wouldn't matter that his parents were mad. It would matter if he chose to make and keep covenants with God. His simple yet firm testimony strengthened my testimony that I too know that my Redeemer lives!

May 21, 2012
.... On the way to Family Home Evening, we realized that were locked out of the church, so we called Brother Bryant and he let us use the restroom and even had leftover chicken pot pie for us on the table when we arrived (He is the one who referred Cameron)! He told us that last night Cameron came over and was very upset. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to get baptized because his family is so upset by it. 

They were able to talk, and Brother Bryant asked if he would be okay if those that wanted to in the branch could fast with him tomorrow. After FHE Brother Bryant explained that Cameron was having a hard time and those that wanted to could join in a fast for him tomorrow. Josh asked if we could say a prayer for him. About 20 Young Single Adults knelt in prayer in our branch president’s front room and the sweetest, most earnest prayer was offered for a man that many of them have only known for a few weeks, yet sincerely call him friend. The love, the charity, the unity and faith of this moment was tangible, it was breathtaking. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ...

I wanted to share a few moments this week to help you get a glimpse of what missionary life can be like. Full of ups and downs, disappointments, miracles, frustrations, and happiness. I believe that this roller coaster ride Heavenly Father has developed is the curriculum to build our faith.

I have been studying about faith this week and have learned so much. It was very apparent to me this week noticing my feelings and the feelings of my companion as we experienced ups and downs. I wondered to myself, why am I letting my faith parallel these experiences? Why isn’t my faith at a constant incline? It is amazing to me what faith is. Faith is a principle of power. 

"If ye will have faith in me ye will do whatsoever thing is expedient in me" Moroni 7:33.

I have experienced something on my mission and that is the power of prayer and the power of faith. It is by prayer, by our words that we call down the powers of heaven and it is by our faith that we receive it. 

I love what the Bible Dictionary says Faith will give us: 
1. The knowledge that our lives are acceptable to God. 
2. Blessings 
3. An assurance of our salvation

In there it also explains obstacles to our faith: 
1. Hard heart and blind eyes. 
2. Looking for approval from others and not seeking the honor of God. 
3. Doubt.

As I have been pondering, My mind was swept away into a daydream: I see myself standing in heaven with the angels showing me what my life will be like. Before I can start my journey on earth, they ask me one question. "Brittany, what will you choose?" I see my self standing up from my chair, and looking at the angel who asked me the question. I reply- "I choose FAITH!"

What will you choose?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Revelation, Sacrifice, and Miracles

SAN DIEGO — It was so great to talk to you on Sunday! First things first:

Grandpa Morgan: Just in case I don't get a letter written, THANK YOU for painting that picture for me. I cried a whole bunch when you told me. It means the world to me. I can’t wait to see it!

Everyone else, thank you for the birthday wishes, the cards. It was a great day!

I feel like I should start off with a good laugh first. Do you remember me telling you about TIWI? It’s the company that monitors our driving: how fast we are going, how hard we stop and whatnot. We have a little box in our car that warns us when we do something wrong. For instance, "Speeding violation" or "Aggressive driving".

Sister Kennington was leaving a message with the counselor to our mission president and I was changing lanes, and missed in my blind spot a car that was coming, so I slammed on my brakes, but was in the middle of both lanes so I had to get over and the car in back of me was not going to let me. While Sister Kennington is leaving the message, she yells, "the car is still coming!" and then I yell back, "Well, that car is an idiot (yes, I should have kept my temper, I know) and then all of a sudden, the TIWI box talks in its computer voice, "Aggressive driving!" Sister Kennington then realizes that all of this was on the message to President Hunt. We look at each other, down at the phone and bust up laughing as she finishes the message, knowing full well that President Hunt heard the whole thing. OOOPS!

I shared this experience with a few of you, but since Dad, Sara and any others reading this did not hear, I thought I would share it with you again. Sister Kennington and I were having a pretty rough day the other day, and were pretty low when we went to the temple for our temple shift.

I noticed a member standing out front (he was dressed in a shirt and tie) and went up to talk to him. He kept asking me questions like, "How many sisters serve per shift, what are zones like, how do zone conferences work" etc. I asked how he knew so much about missionaries and he explained that he was just released as a mission president in Ohio. We were so excited to talk to him, and asked what advice he had for us.

It was so cool to see how much that question meant to him. He pondered for a minute and looked at us, and said, "Sisters, that is a great question. Let me ask you something: If you could pick one lesson that you have learned from your mission, what would it be?"

Sister Kennington explained that she has learned the "Why" of the Gospel —why we do what we do. I honestly have learned so many things so fast, it is hard to grasp everything. But one of the biggest lessons I have learned is the eternal perspective of missionary work. After we explained, he looked at us, pointed each hand at Sister Kennington and I and said, "Sisters, my advice to you is when this part of your mission is over, is to teach these lessons you have learned to your husband and your children."

It hit me that what I am learning is not for myself. It is for those around me. I know that each of you have lessons you are learning from Heavenly Father as well. Are you sharing those lessons with your children? Your friends? Your family?

I feel that before I leave, I need to share 2 more things that I have learned this week with you.

I want to talk to you about what I learned from Elder Zwick about what he calls the "cycle of spirituality"

In D&C 132:50 it says,

"Behold I have seen your sacrifices and will forgive all your sins... Thus sacrifice brings forth a remission of sins."

In Moroni 8:26,  Moroni explains, 

"And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart. And because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the spirit."

In summary, if you want the Spirit, it requires a sacrifice on our part. King Lamoni's father was willing to give all he had to know God. What are you willing to give?

We had Zone Leader Council this week, and each of us went around and shared miracles in our areas. The scripture came to mind, "has the day of miracles ceased"? I add my testimony to Moroni that indeed they have not. Here is a testimony that miracles still happen every day.

One set of Elders walked up to the church and there was a note on the door that this woman wanted to learn more about the Church and to give please call her and teach her more.

Another set of Elders were teaching a man from Peru. As they were in one of the first lessons, he told the Elders to hold on, he called his family in Peru, and asked if they wanted to hear more. They enthusiastically said yes, and the Elders arranged for other missionaries in Peru to teach them.

Other missionaries were outside church talking to a woman and saw a man walk by. They felt the urge to talk to him. He explained that he always wanted to go in, but every time he knocked on the door, no one was there.

A friend gave a man at the marine base a Book of Mormon a long time ago. When he got to base, the only church he knew was "Mormons" he went to church, started reading and wanted to be baptized. That same friend is serving a mission just above us and was given permission to baptize him.

Have miracles ceased? I think NOT! Look for them where you are, if ye seek, ye shall find.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Imperfection, Action, and the Great and Spacious Building

SAN DIEGO – Heavenly Father has really decided to push and pull me around a little bit —and it is definitely working. I want to share with you some things today, some lessons I have learned: some experiences that have humbled me, and some moments that have strengthened my faith. It's a lot, so please bear with me.

Before I start, I want to tell you what I used to think of when I heard the word "missionary". I thought of a guy dressed in black pants, a white shirt, name tag on shirt, scriptures in hand ready to conquer the world. I thought they could do no wrong, they knew every answer, they never had a hard time, they never messed up. You can see that my understanding of what it means to be a missionary was very skewed.

I want to open up my life as a missionary and let you see that though I do have a black name tag on my shirt, I am imperfect: I mess up, and life is HARD for me many times. I cried myself to sleep last night; this week has been so hard. I am not telling you this to get your pity or sympathy. I am sharing this because I want you to know that I am just like you. And just like you, there are lessons that I need to learn to be a better daughter of God.

I hope that as I write by the Spirit and you read by the Spirit, that my experiences this week can help you learn something that God needs you to learn to reach your full potential as well.

First, let me share with you some lessons I learned:

Elder Zwick, if you remember, toured our mission a few months ago. This past month, he was touring Samoa, Tahiti, and other islands in the South Pacific. On his way back, he stopped once again in San Diego and wanted to take his family through the tour with some other close friends. He asked if he could have a fireside with the sisters at the Battalion. I want to share with you a story. I only have time for one, but maybe next week.

This story actually comes from Sister Zwick. She told us a story about her son Scotty, who is in his thirties and has some mental disabilities and thus lives in a group home in Orem while they travel around the world.

The temple President in Portland are the Zwick's good family friends. The president shared an email with Sister Zwick that his son had emailed to him. His son had been having a really hard time with his family and other things. He was really feeling low. But he was really excited for General Conference that was coming up, and he was praying and praying and praying that something one of the General Authorities would say would answer the questions of his soul.

Session after session ended and by the time the closing prayer was ended, he felt dejected and that God had not heard his pleas. Just at that moment his cell phone rang and the caller ID said, "Scott Zwick". Brandon wasn’t going to answer it, because phone calls with Scotty are often full of questions and last a really long time, and quite frankly, Brandon felt that he wasn’t in the mood, but something made him answer the phone. He heard Scotty's voice on the phone and he said, "Brandon, I just wanted to call you and tell you that Jesus loves you and I love you too." Brandon explained, that at that moment, he knew that God had heard him and did know who he was.

And all that he needed to know was that he was loved, by a Father in Heaven and by His Son, Jesus Christ.

Do you see what I mean when I tell you that what you do makes a difference! Listen to the Spirit when he urges you to do something. If you don’t act, God will use someone else to do his will, and what a shame it would be to not be trusted by God enough to follow out His will.

Second, Let me share with you an experience that humbled me. I think I will write this out of my journal because I really don’t want to retell it- I hate messing up!

May 3, 2012

"Today was really hard. We had our weekly training meeting where we train the sisters at the Battalion. Sister Kennington and I did the training and then separated to practice with the sisters. When we came back, my group was a little late, so they were already talking. I asked if my group could hear what was said. We went on with training, but I could tell something was hurting my companion. I looked at her and my heart sank. 

I knew that I had acted out of harmony with Jesus Christ, for I had caused her hurt. We talked and I came to the realization that I had made her feel that I didn’t trust her to wait for all of us to get back into the room and I didn’t work with her in unity. I have been trying so hard to be better at allowing others to lead, but I think the harder and harder I try, the more and more I seem to mess up. 

It is really hard for me to allow others to lead. It's a weakness I know I need to get over to become a true disciple of Christ. It may seem like a little thing that happened today, but I realize that if my companion felt badly about it, then it matters a lot. She is so gracious and so patient with me, something I admire in her a lot. I think this experience opened my eyes to how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ care. This little things that we do matter. The little ways we mess up, and then become better are a big deal. We don’t live life by the year; we live it by the hour, by the minute, by the second. It is day by day that we become who we are meant to become....."

Finally, I have one more experience I want to share, a moment that has strengthened my faith. Cinco de Mayo in Old Town is CRAZY. I mean ridiculous. Sister Kennington and I were at the temple in the morning and then on shift at the Battalion at night. A drive from the temple that usually takes about 10-15 minutes took us just over an hour.

We were driving bumper to bumper trying to get to our apartment, which gave us plenty of time to watch what was going on around us. It hurt my heart to watch how past feeling all of these people were. Alcohol, tobacco, loud, offensive music, inappropriate dancing and actions, immodesty (bad, I mean real bad). It was like a movie, driving through a sea of people who weren’t real, they were literally like zombies.

Later, Elder Seegmiller shared with us his experience with being down in the middle of it at the booth. He told the sisters there to watch him. He walked into the middle of the swarm of people making their way to who knows where and he would wave right in front of their face. None of them acknowledged him. None of them knew he was there. He related it to the great and spacious building. My heart started pounding as I heard that. The Spirit was teaching me that this experience was exactly that. My faith was strengthened by seeing how real Satan is, and how real the Savior and His Atonement are.

I am out of time, but I hope these lessons I learned have strengthened and helped you. In summary, help others, be humble, and go forward with faith.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Inactivity, service, staying put

SAN DIEGO — YAAAAAAAAAAAY I am so excited for Dad and Sara to be having their adventure! I love the stories:)

I actually went to school with Aubin Lewis, then she left for a few semesters. I can't remember if it was for a mission or something. Great stories. I'm glad you're having fun. 

The only thing I want you to do for me, Sara, is give Leena a great big hug and tell her how much I love her. She is one of my heroes. Seriously. She has changed my life a lot. Talk with her every chance you get and write it down so you can tell me about it:) I would love to hear her conversion story again. I forgot it! 

Guess what? The former mission president in Finland that just got released came to the Battalion yesterday. It was great to talk with him. He knows Leena of course. It made me miss pulla and piirakka. MMMMMMMMM.

You are not going to believe this, but Sister Kennington and I stayed together, stayed training sisters, and stayed in Black Mountain!!!! I am very humbled, very grateful, and so excited for this chance. I love Sister Kennington so much. She's my best friend! We have gone through more together than I ever thought was possible as a missionary. The amazing thing is we have learned how to love each other, despite all of the weaknesses we have. It is a hard thing to live with someone 24/7. I am grateful that I get to live with a patient, kind, and loving companion. I couldn't go through this refining process without someone like her. My furnace has been HOT, and is only heating up. But I am grateful for the opportunity to be changed.

It was such a sweet experience Sunday, not only because I was still in the area I love with all my heart, but because I walked in and Kyle, the less active we have been working with since November — the one who is stubborn and hard on the outside, but really a softie on the inside — showed up in a white shirt and the tie we bought him. He got up and said the closing prayer as well. No one in this world can tell me that people can't change. That is a total LIE!

I was taught another lesson from Elder Seegmiller about why so many people stay less active. It is because they feel they have to fix their mistakes BEFORE they can go back to church, when it is church that is the place to help them become better. So what if someone has a problem with the Word of Wisdom. So what if a person has a problem with the Law of Chastity or keeping the Sabbath day holy. I hope and pray that you or I would not make any of them feel that they could not enter a place for healing the wounded soul. In fact, it is our duty to find them and to help them understand that they NEED to come back, that they are loved. Keeping the laws is the least of their problems.

It is coming back to change, to align themselves with God, to repent that is what keeps people from returning to God. So please, please, please don't be the cause of one of God's precious children shying away from the only place that will give them peace and hope. Its not just in our actions that keep them away, but in our LACK of action that does it as well.

Last thing I wanted to tell you about was Mormon Helping Hands day. Do you do that in Utah? I forget. Our branch was in charge of painting the community center in Mira Mesa. It was an amazing sight, painting the center. Our branch was on the roof, a bunch of 18-30 year-olds that could have been doing anything else on a Saturday afternoon. I took a moment to look around at them, and to walk to the edge of the roof and look down at the crowds of other members painting beneath me, laughing, painting, serving the community and serving God. People walked past with wonder in their eyes. I am sure thinking to themselves, "who on earth are these people? are they crazy?" Many of them, probably not even realizing that we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints —followers of the Savior of the world.

I guess this scene hit me harder today, as an investigator's father claimed that our Church only thinks  about itself and no one else. If only he could have seen the selfless service of these people on this day. My soul was touched deeply with the pureness, the charity of it all. It was a great experience.

I guess the whole reason for my email today is that there is more happiness to be found than what you have right now.

I know that at times, you may read this and think, "Oh, she's just a missionary. She doesn’t remember what living in the world is like. She's just weird and all she wants to talk about is the Gospel." 

Some of you may even have a hard time remembering that I did live where you live, I am real! I experienced much of what you are experiencing now! Being a full-time missionary and a member of God's church is not as far separated as regular members of the church put us.

I challenge you to find the happiness that God has for you. Many of you may have to change where you are looking for it, but I promise it is there.