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.