Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A New Journey Begins

As part of an assignment for my Book of Mormon class I’m taking at BYU, I thought I’d keep updating this blog a bit. It feels really good to get these thoughts down “on paper,” and it’s even more fun having people read them.

Not even a week after being home from the mission, I’ve already had to make hard decisions about what to do and what not to do, and I’ve had to apply the very advice I actually put here on the blog. It’s not easy to be in the world but not of the world, and I was reminded this week about what really matters.

In the mission, everything fits neatly into its little box and there aren’t too many questions to be asked. Here, in the real world, decisions and sacrifices had to be made. Towards the end of my mission I made some goals about what I would and wouldn’t do after coming home, and without going into details, I’ve already had to make hard decisions.

I made those decisions by praying and reading the scriptures. I love to ask the Lord my question in prayer before studying and then studying until I find the answer. This week as part of the Book of Mormon class I read from 1 Nephi 1 to 1 Nephi 7 and I found a new personal meaning 1 Nephi 3:7.

As Nephi says, the Lord prepares a way for us to accomplish what He expects of us. What a lifesaver, honestly! I learned that again this week. There was a decision I had to make and knew I had to make...but I didn’t want to make it. The only thing that helped me to make it was relying on that idea. And, without going into specifics, it worked out! I didn’t know how it would, but it did.

It’s kind of funny thinking that I’ve had to learn such a basic lesson again, but I suppose that’s part of the process. That’s how we build character - Richard G. Scott said you don’t build character in moments of decision, rather, that’s where you employ it.

So the next time you have to make a decision, remember once again Nephi’s council...and make the right one!

Monday, August 15, 2016

But If Not...

This is Jeremiah's last letter! He will be home on August 23. We get to have him home for two days before he leaves for school at BYU-Provo on August 26th. We will have an Open House for Jeremiah on Wednesday, August 24th from 6:30-8:00 at our church building at 2771 Rochester Road, Cranberry Twp. We know he would love to see you, so please feel free to stop by for refreshments and say hello to Jeremiah. Thank you for all your support for our missionary over the past two years!

I had to think hard about what to share in this last e-mail. It was hard for me to really think about what I have learned. What have I learned? I've learned a lot, but what's the most important thing I've learned in these two years?

I remembered that in the MTC and during my first little bit in the field, I read the Book of Mormon focusing on a question: What does the Lord expect of me in the mission? I'd actually forgotten about the answer that I'd received, so long ago, at the very end of the book, in Moroni 10:

 32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

But honestly, that's a fantastic summary. Be perfected in Christ, and love Him and serve Him.

Being perfected in Christ has been a process throughout the mission and I've learned much more about what that means, and about what we're to inherit if we succeed - as Paul described it, "...heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17)

I love the way President Kimball describes what we are meant to inherit, and the way he puts it in the perspective of our daily lives and decisions:

One man I know of was called to a position of service in the Church, but he felt that he couldn’t accept because his investments required more attention and more of his time than he could spare for the Lord’s work. He left the service of the Lord in search of Mammon, and he is a millionaire today.

But I recently learned an interesting fact: If a man owns a million dollars worth of gold at today’s prices, he possesses approximately one 27-billionth of all the gold that is present in the earth’s thin crust alone. This is an amount so small in proportion as to be inconceivable to the mind of man. But there is more to this: The Lord who created and has power over all the earth created many other earths as well, even “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33); and when this man received the oath and covenant of the priesthood (D&C84:33–44), he received a promise from the Lord of “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38). To set aside all these great promises in favor of a chest of gold and a sense of carnal security is a mistake in judgement of colossal proportions. To think that a person has settled for so little is a saddening and pitiful prospect indeed; the souls of men are far more precious than this.

One young man, when called on a mission, replied that he didn’t have much talent for that kind of thing. What he was good at was keeping his powerful new automobile in top condition. He enjoyed the sense of power and acceleration, and when he was driving, the continual motion gave him the illusion that he was really getting somewhere.

All along, his father had been content with saying, “He likes to do things with his hands. That’s good enough for him.”

Good enough for a son of God? This young man didn’t realize that the power of his automobile is infinitesimally small in comparison with the power of the sea, or of the sun; and there are many suns, all controlled by law and by priesthood, ultimately—a priesthood power that he could have been developing in the service of the Lord. He settled for a pitiful god, a composite of steel and rubber and shiny chrome.

...I am reminded of an article I read some years ago about a group of men who had gone to the jungles to capture monkeys. They tried a number of different things to catch the monkeys, including nets. But finding that the nets could injure such small creatures, they finally came upon an ingenious solution. They built a large number of small boxes, and in the top of each, they bored a hole just large enough for a monkey to get his hand into. They then set these boxes out under the trees and in each one they put a nut that the monkeys were particularly fond of.

When the men left, the monkeys began to come down from the trees and examine the boxes. Finding that there were nuts to be had, they reached into the boxes to get them. But when a monkey would try to withdraw his hand with the nut, he could not get his hand out of the box because his little fist, with the nut inside, was now too large.

At about this time, the men would come out of the underbrush and converge on the monkeys. And here is the curious thing: When the monkeys saw the men coming, they would shriek and scramble about with the thought of escaping; but as easy as it would have been, they would not let go of the nut so that they could withdraw their hands from the boxes and thus escape. The men captured them easily.

And so it often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world—that which is telestial—that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.

I've come to really feel and understand those ideas here in the mission. I think I've really come to understand what really matters, what's really expected of me, and how much I really want to do what God wants me to do.

We have to give up everything, serve God with everything we have to be perfected in Christ. He won't take in half-measures. He wants everything. But the incredible thing is what we get in return. The gospel truly is the "pearl of great price," and we must be willing to sell all that we have to go buy it (Matthew 13:45-46).

We have to have the attitude that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had. President Murphy had interviews with us last week, and although he of course didn't spend much time with me, I did have a moment to ask him a few questions and talk about some challenges in the sector. I was wondering about humility, and he shared with me these scriptures from Daniel 3. King Nebuchadnezzar makes a golden idol and commands everyone to worship it or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego aren't about to be fooled by that "pitiful god." They knew what awaited them if they were faithful, that they could become "joint-heirs" with Christ. So this is the way they respond:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

What have I learned in two years? I've learned that I have lots of dreams and desires. I've learned also that God demands that I give everything to him, even my very best dreams and desires. I've learned what I'll receive in return.

When I get home I'm sure there are many things I want to do, lots of movies to watch and people to catch up with. I'll go back to doing a lot of the same things I did beforehand. But I will never be the same. From now on I will always try to remember who I am in every decision I take. But if it's not what the Lord wants, that's ok too.

I'm just grateful that the Lord is really patient with us as we try to perfect ourselves in Christ.

I know that Christ lives. I know that this is His true church and I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet today. And I know that families can be together forever.

That's what matters most to me!

Sorry, I didn't take too many pics this week. But here I am eating my last encebollado.

How I actually feel about this being my last encebollado.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Character and Faith

We learned some interesting things about the relationship between character and faith this week. Character, in essence, is how we choose to respond to adversity. Every problem that we have in life, big or small, is intended to help us develop that character. We have to act with faith as a response to the stuff that happens in our lives. The Lord explains it this way in D&C 58:

 26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

 27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

 28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

The truth is that God doesn't want to do anything for us that we can do for ourselves. Basically, He just wants us to keep on working. The point is that we TRY to solve our problems before turning unto Him fo help. That's what character is. As Elder Holland has said, God's opportunity is man's extremity. It'll always be raining, at 9:29 at night...that's when the miracles happen.

And I've definitely seen that in missionary work! Last night we had all our appointments fall through and we found ourselves in a part of our sector where we'd already contacted everything...some of it twice over. So, reluctantly, I suggested we contact part of a street we'd already contacted before to have something to do before the last appointment we had scheduled in 30 min. As we contacted it turned out there was ONE house that we hadn't contacted before, so we knocked the door. This young guy came out...and was really receptive! Wow! We came in and got to know him a bit better and it turns out he'd not only met some members that I'd met in Ibarra, but his aunt is the same Laura Picausi who lives in Chaltura which means he has a cousin who's on a mission! I was like, "What a small world," but's a miracle, there's no other way to explain it. And we totally gave him a baptismal date.

I've learned, more than anything this week, who we really depend on. I was reading 1 Nephi 17 and I love Nephi's attitude. When his brothers were skeptical and made fun of him for making a boat, Nephi reminded them that he was on the same side as the God who'd made the earth, the stars, and everything.

 51 And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?

Wherever you are, don't give up! God can help you.
We also went to the Cascadas de Peguche today, here's a pic

A horse.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Sacrifice Brings Blessings

A few stories about that.

First, the zone leaders have been having a rough week. They've been working way hard to keep the zone alive (speaking almost literally there, almost half the companionships in the zone have been in the hospital at least some point during this change for various health problems) and sacrificing tons of time to be in other missionaries' sectors and help them out. On top of that we've had meetings with President and they've even more meetings with the other leaders of the mission and the stake president...all in all there was almost an entire week where they weren't even in their sector, and if you know anything about missionary work just being absent one day seems to kill the sector. But they then told us about how, as a result of that act of faith, they feel the Lord blessed them. The Sunday after that terrible week a member showed up out of nowhere with his non-member girlfriend and asked them to teach her, and now she has a baptismal date!

Another companionship that I admire is the companionship of sisters in my district. One of the poor sister missionaries had some horrible migraine problems and was hospitalized two hours south of her sector in Quito for almost two weeks. But despite that, she and her companion came back super strong to their sector and not only destroyed their goal of less-actives for this week but within a few days had investigators with baptismal dates! They've been giving me a good example - we don't have anyone with date in our sector as of yet.

But...we will pretty soon! We've also been sacrificing, working hard despite seeing a lot of success, and this week we were finally blessed with several less-active and part-member families to work with. We've had this referral of a part-member family that we've been trying to find for a while. The husband is a non-member, and the wife had told us we should visit with the first councilor in the bishopric because apparently they get along really well. We've been trying for about two weeks to get the appointment to happen but either they weren't there or the first councilor couldn't get there or something happened...but last night the planets finally aligned and we got an appointment.

At first it was obvious it was very awkward for this investigator and he focused on talking with his friend, the first councilor. Eventually we could get the investigator to sit down and as we got to know the investigator, we realized he did have a very deep interest in his family. I felt like we could talk about the Family Proclamation, so we did. After he read the first paragraph I asked him if there was anything he had questions about and he said something like, "I've always wondered what God's plan is for families. Does he want us to be with our parents and siblings for forever?"

I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear him ask that question. We talked about temples and got another appointment out. I'm excited to teach him.

On those lines, I'd like to close with the latter half of one of my favorite sections of Doctrine and Covenants, 123. Read it carefully.

11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—

 12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects,parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

 13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness,wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—

 14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.

 15 Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints,which depends upon these things.

 16 You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept work ways with the wind and the waves.

 17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we standstill, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

This is the Lord's work! Nothing will stop it. Love you all lots!
Caught my compa in a good pose.

A cool pic overlooking Otavalo I got in the sister missionaries' sector when we went to help them out.

We went to eat some encebollados and some guys came in playing music. They played The Sound of Silence on their Andean flutes, which I wasn't planning on hearing for another 3 weeks, so that made me happy for a moment.

                                In the building on the right they're making food out of this guy.