Glad to hear that everyone is doing well. I got so excited to hear that Grandpa Ted was going to write me an email but then got way bummed when there wasn't one from him in my inbox. Hmm, maybe he hasn't gotten around to it yet. Man...This past week has been interesting to say the least. Remember how I mentioned that Sis Mills and I were going to be trying our best to be exactly obedient? And that we were pretty sure that biggest hurdle we were going to have to jump with obedience would have to do with leaving a member's home on time? WRONG. This past week has been the week of failed appointments and so much ANTI-mormon sentiments. Where to even begin. It seemed like the first two weeks of this transfer were just steem-roller weeks. We saw baptisms, we found people to teach, we gave church tours, basically everything that we could hope for in missionary work. We were on such a high that the test, we found out, was to be able to carry that same momentum despite major opposition.
The adversary held nothing back this past week. Particularly at the door when we were out finding. People had such hate in their eyes. Looking at us like fools, people that didn't even deserve pity. Fools for believing such "garbage." For believing in a "ridiculous science-fiction story." Scoffs and scorns that "we were out wasting our time when we could be out doing something to better the world, because clearly [you're] just making it worse." It hurts to hear words like this. To feel someone's spirit trying to attack and antagonize and demean ours. I guess I experienced a microscopic percentage of what Christ endured almost every day that he walked the earth. The lesson or point that I feel like Heavenly Father wanted us to learn was to be obedient "at all times and in all things and in all places." To "stand tall in crying and in suffering" as put by Elder Holland.
Earlier in the week, we had a training by one of our zone leaders (and one of my favorite elders in the mission) Elder Topp. He spoke on the topic of attitude. That our attitudes really are an indication of our faith; our trust in God. He shared the story of Abinadi in the Book of Mormon and how he returned to the wicked people he was crying repentance to, even after they had kicked him out of the city. Paraphrasing, he said, "Touch me not! For I still have a message to deliver. God will spare my life until I am able to deliver this message! " He had so much faith, such an unbelievable attitude as he is being tormented and ridiculed and had his very life threatened and he still stood tall in his suffering. You all know the story reveals that in the end Abinadi is ultimately killed but he valiantly bore witness and testified and warned the people of their fallen state. That when he had completed his mission he had said in Mosiah 17;19-20 "Oh God, receive my soul..." I hope that by the end of my mission, when I have the opportunity to attend a session in the temple with the other missionaries that I will be going home with, that I can turn over the mission to the Lord in His Holy House. That I can say "Oh God, receive my [mission]. That I did all that I could with the time given. I served this mission for thee. I hope it is acceptable."
Something really great happened this week though. It was the shining star amongst several dark nights. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles came and spoke to the Tacoma and Seattle missions. Nearly 400 full-time missionaries gathered in the Federal Way stake center to be instructed and inspired by someone so close to the Savior. The first two rows of the chapel were reserved for the sister missionaries and my companion and I arrived early to guarantee the best seats. I got to sit within 7 feet of an apostle! How powerful of an experience to one day be enduring mockery and ridicule on someone's porch to not even 24hrs later to be addressed in the flesh by an apostle of the Lord. That really the person that should be felt sorry for is them. They who rejected the glad message that is the Gospel. Not me. That they were so far from the truth, with hardness in their hearts, when at one time they knew. That they had agreed to the Plan that the Savior put forth and that they came to earth wanting to return to Him.
Here are a few notes from his address:
- He said that as much as he wanted to say that he came just to see us (the missionaries) he did not. He came to address the Bishops, High Priests, Ward Mission Leaders, and Stake Presidents. The church is growing so rapidly, that it needs more Priesthood holders, specifically Melchezidek priesthood holders. This is totally the case in our YSA ward. With Rob, our ward mission leader getting married, there is an opening for that calling. With such few Melchezidek priesthood holders in the ward to begin with, it doesn't help that most are going back to school for the fall semester. The others are either aaronic priesthood holders are if they do hold the higher priesthood they are not worthy. Bottom line; We need more priesthood leadership. Did you know that 75% of stake presidents, 66% of bishops, and 60% of Elders quorum presidents are Returned missionaries?
-He mentioned the Broadway show that has caught the world's attention. Every bus stop, taxi cab, and building marquee had THE BOOK OF MORMON plastered to it. He said the church's public affairs office in Manhattan has never seen more inquiries than as the time following the broadway show. The world is becoming more aware of who we are. Of the power we hold. The Lord expects a lot of me as a full-time missionary, but he also expects a lot of the general members of the church. Now is the time to be opening our mouths and bearing witness of the truth. To help bring the less actives back in to the fold. To strengthen our recent converts. To invite our friends, family, and neighbors. To cause a mighty change of heart of the people in the world today. He stressed the importance of unity in the church. To be part of a team that works together with the SPIRIT, with POWER, and BOLDNESS.
-He reminded us that the Head of this church is not Thomas S. Monson. He is merely a designated Holy messenger. The head of the church has been and will always be Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite scriptures that I read this week during personal study is in Alma 29:1-2 "Oh that I were an angel, and could have the wish of my heart, and that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people...Yea I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
That is my prayer for my mission. For all of you, I hope that you could stand before someone and know that you have a testimony of the living God. Of Jesus Christ. That the boy Joseph Smith beheld a vision. That the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. And that there is a prophet on the earth today. So that when you are ever put in a position where that testimony could be questioned, that you can stand in faith, immovable in the Gospel. Make your testimony solid if it isn't today. Elder Holland counseled, "May we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only in word and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear." I know that "I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of Him to declare His word among His people that they might have everlasting life." (Helaman 5:13)
Love you all,