Monday, April 4, 2016

A Temple In Quito!

In conference we always set up a "gringo room" for everyone who wants to listen to it in English, and there I was. I wasn't even thinking too much about the idea when President Monson started to speak, but then he said, first thing, "Quito, Ecuador-" and we all cheered. I could hear that across the hall, the members had pretty much the same reaction - I could hear them applauding. It was all I could think about for the next little bit, and the Spirit was just so strong for me. What a blessing! I definitely won't ever forget that.

It was funny to me because afterwards we had lunch with the district president, and as we drove in the car to his house he was talking all about the things they could do with a temple so close - only 2.5 hours from here in Ibarra. He was talking about how they could even do youth temple trips in one day, on a weekend. And to think that in Cranberry we complain about not having a temple closer. Here in Ibarra they have to travel 11 hours to get to the temple in Guayaquil!

But it would be cool to have one in Pittsburgh...

Anyhow, go to the temple, especially if it's close by. It's a huge blessing.

Apart from that, for me, this was the most spiritual conference I've ever seen. I'm not sure if I was just more in tune to the Spirit, but it was great. I wrote something down for almost every talk I heard. I've noticed in the past that with each successive session of conference the amount of notes I jot down gets smaller and smaller, but this time I had at least a page of notes for each session! I noticed a lot of interesting themes.

One of them was rescue efforts. I think all of us were especially touched by Elder Kearon's talk in the Sunday Afternoon Session, and it was really special to see how touched President Uchtdorf felt as well. I certainly felt the desire to do something to help people.

And on a similar note, I was really struck by the many teachings about charity, something I was thinking a lot about personally that weekend. There was a huge emphasis in seeing others - and ourselves - through God's eyes, seeing with the potential that he sees. I liked how one speaker mentioned that if we work hard, from time to time God will draw back the curtains for a moment and let us see how He sees. I'd certainly like to have that blessing.

Also, there was a lot of talk about overcoming doubts, and especially doubts regarding church history and doctrine. I feel like that must be a big struggle currently in some parts of the world. Not a lot of anti-mormon stuff finds it's way down here, but when it does, it's pretty unfortunate. I really hope those of you struggling with those questions of testimony can read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if it's true. Remember, you can never say you really investigated all sides of the story until you pray to God to know what He thinks. I know He's there and wants to answer all your questions. Turn to Him first, not to whatever you read on the internet. Spiritual questions should be answered by spiritual means. Just listen to the Spirit. Since I don't have any text from the talks from this conference yet, here's something I loved from one of President Uchtdorf's talks last conference. Sorry if it's a little long. It's hard for me to choose a favorite part.

Satan, our adversary, wants us to fail. He spreads lies as part of his effort to destroy our belief. He slyly suggests that the doubter, the skeptic, the cynic is sophisticated and intelligent, while those who have faith in God and His miracles are naive, blind, or brainwashed. Satan will advocate that it is cool to doubt spiritual gifts and the teachings of true prophets.

I wish I could help everyone to understand this one simple fact: we believe in God because of things we know with our heart and mind, not because of things we do not know.  Our spiritual experiences are sometimes too sacred to explain in worldly terms, but that doesn’t mean they are not real.

Heavenly Father has prepared for His children a spiritual feast, offering every kind of exquisite food imaginable—and yet, instead of enjoying these spiritual gifts, the cynics content themselves with observing from a distance, sipping from their cups of skepticism, doubt, and disrespect.

Why would anyone walk through life satisfied with the light from the candle of their own understanding when, by reaching out to our Heavenly Father, they could experience the bright sun of spiritual knowledge that would expand their minds with wisdom and fill their souls with joy?

When you and I talk to people about faith and belief, don’t we often hear, “I wish I could believe the way you do”?

Implied in such a statement is another of Satan’s deceptions: that belief is available to some people but not to others. There is no magic to belief. But wanting to believe is the necessary first step! God is no respecter of persons. He is your Father. He wants to speak to you. However, it requires a little scientific curiosity—it requires an experiment upon the word of God—and the exercise of a “particle of faith.” It also takes a little humility. And it requires an open heart and an open mind. It requires seeking, in the full meaning of the word. And, perhaps hardest of all, it requires being patient and waiting upon the Lord.

If we make no effort to believe, we are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving any light.

Recently I was surprised and saddened to hear of an Aaronic Priesthood bearer who seemed to take pride in the fact that he had distanced himself from God. He said, “If God reveals Himself to me, then I will believe. Until then, I will find the truth relying on my own understanding and intellect to light the way before me.”

I don’t know this young man’s heart, but I couldn’t help but feel terribly sorry for him. How easily he rejected the gifts the Lord was offering him. This young man had unplugged the spotlight and then seemed self-satisfied in his clever observation that there was no light.

Unfortunately, this seems to be quite a popular attitude today. If we can put the burden of proof on God, we think we can excuse ourselves from taking God’s commandments seriously and from taking responsibility for our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Brethren, let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage. Those who hold fast to faith are far more impressive than those who give in to doubt when mysterious questions or concerns arise.

But it should not surprise us that faith is not valued by society. The world has a long history of rejecting that which it does not understand. And it has particular trouble understanding things it cannot see. But just because we cannot see something with our physical eyes does not mean it doesn’t exist. Indeed, “there are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of” in our textbooks, scientific journals, and worldly philosophies.The universe is filled with wonders profound and astonishing—things that can be comprehended only through spiritual eyes.

That's the way things really are, today! Please, don't give up. Listen to the Spirit. Pray. Choose to believe.

I'll be honest: I can't think of a specific moment when I received a testimony. It was a struggle I had for a long time. But one day, I just decided to...believe! I'd felt the Spirit in my life. I wanted to believe. So I decided not to wait. Everything good in my life has come after that trial of my faith.

Anyhow, just last night, we had a very special experience. We'd planned to go to some investigators we'd been teaching for a while, a married couple, with varying levels of progress. We got to their apartment and they let us in, but we realized that something was wrong. They'd been fighting, right before we'd arrived. I just prayed and prayed to know what to do, and my companion offered a prayer on his knees to start the lesson. When he finished, he said, "Something came to mind." He suggested we watch President Uchtdorf's talk, which we'd just listened to the day before. Thankfully, the video was already up. We watched it, and I felt that every single word was directed towards them. They seemed a lot more humbled after watching it.

I know that President Monson is a prophet. I know Joseph Smith was called to restore the gospel. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that God still speaks to us today. Love you all lots!

The zone handed out "The Golden Potato Awards" this week to have a bit of fun. This is only funny (?) to those of us here in Ecuador forced to eat potatoes and rice...every day...

This one's from a couple weeks ago, but not sure if I ever sent it. We were checking out some buildings downtown.

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