Friday, September 30, 2016

September 26, 2016

Agency is perhaps one of the most important things to understand. If we understand the importance of agency, maybe we will decide to use it a little better. 

The only thing that is truly ours that we have to give to God is our agency. Everything else came from him, we are just borrowing it. However, with agency comes opposing enticements. We have to be tempted in order to exercise agency, otherwise the only will we can choose to follow is God's will, making no choice but to follow him. 2 Nephi 2:16 says:

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

D&C 29:39 puts it more clearly:

39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet

If we choose to give our will to Heavenly Father, he will make us much better than we could ever make of ourselves. But if we give our will to Satan then we may feel good for a bit, but ultimately will be nothing. He will just drag you down and then abandon you, just like he did Korihor (see Alma 30). 
In Alma 30:60 it says:

"...thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to he[ck]."

2 Nephi 2:27:

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.


Think of this, if there is no God there is no you. You would just be a body following the laws of nature like everything else. Everything has a specific job. An apple falls from a tree at the same velocity every time, the earth rotates around the sun in the same elliptical shape at the same speed every time, everything is determined. This is called determination theory. Determination theory is the theory that everything is pre-determined. That includes everything we do. The theory includes our brains saying that they follow a predictable pattern like everything else and there's nothing we can do to help it, however we have the illusion that we are the ones in control. You have no actual decision-making ability. But then if everything we perceive is an illusion, that means there's no real value in anything, including the ones you love, that would suggest that you nor anyone you know has no more value than a rock. Thank heavens that's not the case and determination theory is incorrect! If everything was pre-determined and there was nothing you could do to help it, why would we look both ways before we cross the road? Why would we play games and have vacations if all we are wired to do is survive?

Satan was the original one to want to take away our agency. He knows that if he can make us think that we have no agency, then he's winning. Satan has influence over our minds, which is why he can put thoughts of determination theory and nothing has value in the minds of atheist philosophers. But, if we give our hearts and mind to Heavenly Father, then we will know and feel that these things are true.

We went out with a member to Olive Garden for dinner. The waiter handed me my water and I spilt it all over me, my shoes, my pants, and more importantly, my food. Leave it to me...

You guys would be proud of me, I ate my first whole steak today! Other than that, just the same ol' stuff. Cancelled appointments, unsuccessful door-knocking, and people not showing up.

We did some service. Then we went out to see if we could see people.

We had a zone meeting, then we had to move our stuff around because I went on exchange with another Elder. Then we went to another meeting. By that time it was 8:30 so we went to Walmart to talk to people.

Well I may have had the single most embarrassing moment of my life. And no one judge me for this...We were in the church doing our weekly planning which takes a good 4 hours at least. So we decided to take a break for a couple minutes and lay down on the stage in the gym, the only other people in the church were other missionaries that we are all close with. So I kicked off my shoes because I don't like shoes and untucked my shirt. As we laid there Elder May did something and I yelled, "what'd you just do???" And he said he wiped a booger on me and I yelled, "NO YOU DIDNT!! I KNOW YOU DIDNT WIPE A BOOGER ON ME NOW TELL ME WHAT YOU DID!!" And guess who walked in right as I yelled that while we were laying down without shoes and an untucked shirt? The area 70. We got rebuked by his wife and then him (but they were nice about it and I'm sure understand we have teenage moments). Then they said they loved us and what we do...then as we walked out disappointed in our lives one of the other missionaries looked at us and said, "you look like you're guilty of something." So we hid ourselves in a small corner room to finish planning in shame. But then later that night we ran into each other again and we had a great conversation about stuff and he even gave me a hug so I don't feel awful anymore.

Service from 8am-5pm pretty much with a break for lunch. I was on splits with Elder Afleck and we were going to visit a less active when he suddenly felt we should turn on the street because he felt like we were supposed to be there for someone who was ready. Then someone walked out onto his driveway, Elder Afleck said, "That's him!" Then we taught him, gave him a Book of Mormon, got his number, had a good discussion and he said to come back tomorrow. Meanwhile my companion who was on splits with someone else committed one of our investigators to baptism.

Not much. Elder May had mad revelation to knock on the third floor left door of this complex as we rode by. Turns out the guy had talked to missionaries before and had a Book of Mormon. We were able to talk for a bit and get his number, he wanted us to come back.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

September 19, 2016

When I was a lad I always wondered if I could get away with living it up until I got old and settled down. Then I could repent later. But that's not true repentance. We can't just expect to be able to repent whenever, that is a strategy Satan uses to deceive people into living a poor lifestyle. Whether we like it or not we will always move in a direction. If you aren't moving towards Christ you are moving away, there is no staying stationary. An analogy I heard is that your mind is like a stage that can only be occupied by one actor. If it is unoccupied (not living the gospel and filling your mind with scripture study, prayer, etc) then naturally, darkness will flood the stage (your mind). Darkness naturally floods because 1. we are human and that's what we do and 2. we are constantly exposed to the world which is filled with darkness. The more time goes on without living the gospel, taking sacrament, etc...the thicker the darkness gets.

Alma 34:33-34 says:

33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

It says to not procrastinate the day of repentance. The best time to plant a tree was years ago, the second best time is now. No time like the present. It also mentions laboring at night in the first verse. When we do yard work, what's the best time to do it? The morning, when the day is fresh. The longer we wait the harder the work gets because of the heat and bugs. So we will want to work (start living the gospel) later and later until it's night. Then it gets nearly impossible. Much like delaying work until night, living the gospel gets nearly impossible if we wait until later and we won't want to do it. Then it goes undone and ends up bad, like an unkept yard, our minds become overcome with obnoxious weeds and plants (bad thoughts and behaviors) and chaotic.

This analogy probably will make more sense. We are like clay. When we are young we are like wet clay but as we get older it hardens gets harder and harder to mold. So if we wait to live the gospel and to come closer to Christ, it will be harder to change back to how we are meant to be and more changing will be required, making it nearly impossible if we wait too long.

Moral: Don't wait to do whatever is you need to. Whether it be read scriptures more often, making more of an effort to make it to church, pray, spend more time with family, etc.. If you wait it will only get harder to change.

Not much

I was asked to conduct the zone training and preside over it. That means I got to sit in the special folding table up front. Apparently I did really well directing it, a lot of people said they were surprised with me being so new. And the zone leaders called and asked me because they wanted to see my reaction and I said I wanted to do it so that's what I did.

In the ward over last night some missionaries got a call from someone who'd been going to church for a while and was never asked to be baptized. So he talked to the missionaries and is getting baptized today. And Deshawn called us finally! He got a good job in Florida that is stable and paying for his housing. He said he wants missionaries down there to keep teaching him and when he comes back up here in a few months he wants us to baptize him! Except we probably won't be here. But still. I also had an encounter with a cockroach in the shower today so that was cool too. 

While tracting we ran into a girl who was interested and said we were meant to be there. But then her dad came down and yelled at us saying to go away and that there is no Jesus. Then we went outside and he kept opening the door to yell at us. Total spirit killer. And he was in this Walmart bag looking thing to just covering his tah tahs. I felt bad for her. Immediately afterwards we talked to a guy who gave us the names and numbers of people who would prove why the book of Mormon is wrong to us and he said that there is a lot wrong with the book of Mormon but he hasn't even read it. He is just taking other people's biased words for it. Never mind the fact that scholars have found it impossible to disprove it. He also said we were a cult and asked us not to tell people we're Mormon because it's disrespectful to Christ's name or something. But the way he said it was respectful which was weird. But a lot of people respectfully tell us how much we suck so it's not out of the ordinary. Then we almost had cops called on us so a neighborhood manager told us to leave. So it was a fun day! I like days like these. A lot of fun people to meet.

We did a lot of planning today. And we did a lot of tracting as well. Not much success, but nothing weird like yesterday either. Except we did drive in the mini van (man van) with the other companionship in the ward with the doors slid open. We figured if jeeps could do it then we could. We got a lot of looks and laughs for some reason. Then when we pulled up to a stop light I looked at the lady in the car next to me and waved. Then I pulled out a Book of Mormon and pointed to it. She laughed, then I said, "do you want it?" And she nodded and rolled down her window. I got out of the car and gave it to her. I'm the first missionary to do that so woohoo.

Tracting all day baby! We biked a solid 10 miles. Not much success but it feels that way when you bike that long. We ate at a restaurant for some reason and both left a solid $1 tip (the service wasn't the greatest). So once she took the envelope we bolted out to the back where our bikes were. At the same time she went out back to show them our tip and she saw us seeing her showing her pals our crappy tip. Awkward.  I also fell on my bike again. But I can justify it this time! I was trying to make the tightest I could when my bike slipped. But it's ok! I jumped off and played it cool this time.

The missionaries sang in the choir. I'm a missionary, so I sang ("sang") in the choir. My companion and I also taught the primary today about missionary work. We also had meetings and one appointment so not a bad day.

There was was a major gas leak in a Texas pipeline to the East states so there's a major gas shortage. Most gas stations don't even have gas and the stations that do have gas are about to have long lines and ridiculous prices. So this week is going to be fun, I'm glad I'm on bike!! Craziness.

Friday, September 16, 2016

September 12, 2016

A very common belief by people today is that you are saved by believing and having faith in Christ alone. Especially in the South. This is not true, that to me sounds like a belief someone made up to get more of an audience for their church. Like a business pitch, it's easy, quick, and has great results. Who wouldn't want that? Sorry to break it to you guys, but salvation ain't easy (But it is worth it). 
Their perspective is that when Jesus went through the atonement, he died for all our sins and all we have to do is accept him. And it says in the bible that through faith we are saved. So I get where they're coming from totally. But! Faith is a verb, a verb is an action word. So we must act if we have faith. 
Jesus died for our sins, yes. But he did not die so that he could take away our personal responsibility. That would be chipping away at our agency which would make God's perfect plan invalid and worthless. We can't say we have faith if we don't act, then it's just a belief (and I'll get to why that's not necessarily good later). We still have to be responsible for our actions. We are saved by grace (a lot of people will say that) but it is ONLY after we've done ALL that we can do. That's found in 2 Nephi 25:23.
The reason for this belief is because of Ephesians 2:8-9 which says:

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ok, so what it's really saying is works ALONE won't save you. But I do understand where the misconception would be. However, like I said in two emails ago, people tend to take bits and pieces to bend it towards their liking and not look at the whole thing. I'm the very next verse of Ephesians in verse 10 it says:

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

It's basically saying that we are supposed to follow Jesus' example (ordained that we should walk in them) and do good works with our faith.
Why would God have made the Ten Commandments and why would Jesus have established a church and gospel if we could just be saved by believing in him? We still have to follow him and show him through following these and living the gospel that we love him. Otherwise he would've just said "Love me and you'll be saved." And he does say that the greatest commandment is to love him, but if you love him, you will want to follow him and keep the commandments and live the life he has asked us to live. If you can say that you are already saved through faith and don't need to acknowledge following him, then you don't truly love him, if you love him you will want to live in the guidelines, it won't be a half and half, you will live it fully. If you don't truly love him then you don't truly have faith. You only believe. Which brings me to this scripture, which is in the bible by the way, but people like to skip it because the truth hurts for those who aren't living it. It's in James 2:14-26. It says:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Again, this is in the bible. Verse 14 asks if faith alone can save someone. 
Then in 17 it says faith without works is dead. There's no other way I can think of interpreting that! If you don't act on your faith it's worthless. For example, I have faith that the lights will turn on if I flip the switch, but if I don't act on that faith and flip the switch, what good will that do anyone? Nothing. Acting is key. Otherwise it is just a belief.
Verse 19 is intense. It literally says that even the devil believed. Where did that get him? Not very far. He believed, he didn't act in the Lord's will, therefore he didn't have faith. 
In 21 it says even Abraham (in whom every Christian religion believes was a prophet) that he was justified by works! The next verse says that faith is made perfect by our works. People get mad at us because they think we believe that works alone "save" us. No we don't believe that, but we believe that the works make our faith whole.
Then in 24 it again, very clearly says the by works man is justified, not by only faith. It doesn't get much clearer than that. 
25 hits a good point as well, just like we are dead without a spirit, faith is dead without works.
Again, that's in the bible. It kind of goes to show that people like to take the pieces they like and make a business out of religion and bring in a lot of people because their way (not the Lord's way) is easier.
So as we work on what we know to be true, then we will truly show that we love God and our faith will be made whole. If we don't keep the commandments and the gospel then we are quite literally saying, "You know, I love you Jesus, but I don't love you enough to do this." As you come to increase your faith and work and study, you will want to follow him. It will still be hard because you're living in the world. But hey, that's why we're here, to test our faith.

Elder May sprained his ankle pretty badly today, so I'm not sure how well biking is going to go this next month. And once again, ALL our appointments fell through or we were cancelled on.

Well. Today was rough. Things are slipping through our fingers like sand. That Deshawn guy who needed a job and had a warrant for his arrest, he got a job and the warrant was taken away. Then he got fired because they found out his background. And now he's probably moving to Florida. That Mike guy (the one we prayed to find) gave us an address and phone number that don't exist. And there's a few other things, but those two were such big miracle blessings and now they're slipping. 

Today was a lot better than yesterday. We had two planned appointments that fell through, so we knocked on two other potential investigators' doors. The first door we knocked on was the wrong door! But we started talking to the guy and he felt prompted to keep talking to us (at least that's what I think he was saying). So we stepped outside, taught him a whole lesson, got his number and have another appointment set up with him and he said he wants to come check us out. The lord works in mysterious ways. And he had biceps the size of my biking thighs. Then we went to knock on someone else's door who wasn't there. Her name is Lisette. We lost this person's contact info so we were kinda sad because we've been knocking whenever we are in the area. As we left her door and were heading out of the complex we saw her walking in! And then we taught her a lesson too and she's also coming to church and has a return appointment set up. She's really tall. She's taller than me. And taller than my companion. My companion is significantly taller than me even when I'm on my toes he can look over my head. So it's intimidating to have a girl that much taller than me.

So Deshawn packed up and left to Florida without even letting us know. Hopefully he can get in touch with missionaries down there. We'd love to help him but he isn't answering our calls and we are really hoping he's not getting into selling drugs again. Long story short he's just been suspicious lately. But we aren't to judge. All of our lessons fell through today. But I gave my second blessing and I feel much more comfortable giving them. If anything, I've learned how to rely on and speak with the spirit while being out here. And that's useful in a blessing.

So Elder May gave me a haircut today and he insisted that I go shorter. I said no when I go shorter it starts getting patchy. But he insisted so I said ok. When he was done he looked at me and ran out of the room laughing. This is the shortest my hair has been in at least 7 years. When I left my hair was at a size 7. Now it's at a 1 and 4. So don't be expecting any pictures of me up close for at least a month.

Nuthin' much. But Lisette came to church.

September 6, 2016

Well I don't think this week's email is as spiritual or uplifting as
last week's, I shouldn't have set the bar so high for myself. But I
will say this, I have learned so much this week that I choose not to
share it because it goes past the point of being spiritual and into
being just mind blowing. It won't really help anyone become closer to
Christ just because I will make it confusing and hard to understand.
But that brings me into my topic of choice this week.

We often look at other people and think it is never possible to get to
that level. But it is. If you look at a large mountain and aim to get
to the top, you may want to get there now. That is the natural man.
You simply can't get there now, that's now how it works. You can't
jump to the top of the mountain, it all starts with one step after
another. It will take hundreds, probably thousands of small steps to
get to the top, but if you look at it and give up because you can't
jump to the top, then you won't go anywhere. You'll just stand there
at the bottom. The same applies to life, if you want something, you
have to go get it. The more you want the more you'll have to work, but
you will never go anywhere if you expect it to come easy.

The Lord works in that exact way, he knows we can't just jump to the
top. So he builds us "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi
28:30). So as we take the actions to learn more and build our
testimony, he will build us up. Do you think the prophets had it all
figured out as 12 year old deacons? I'll bet they barely knew why they
were even passing the sacrament. But as we take those steps, he will
help us grow. I have been studying a lot more obviously and because of
it I can look back and say I've grown to know more than I thought I
ever would in such a short time, and it's because I'm being helped by
the spirit and relying on the Lord to help me grow as I put forth the
effort to learn more. So let rely on him, "you will only make of
yourself a smudge, he will make of you a masterpiece.

Today I emailed, but it wasn't super hot, it was kind of a rough day
afterwards. But it's ok. Jason is going through a lot of the same
things I was emotionally so it was awesome being able to tell him it
gets better and see how far I've come in the time I was in his shoes.
I'm excited to see where his mission takes him.

Today we went on exchange again and I led the area for the first time.
I lead the way, planned, talked to everyone first on our bikes,
started discussions since only I knew the people, etc. it was a great
learning experience and I did a lot better than I thought I would. I
was really nervous but now I'm much more confident. So that's great.
And for my mother, I want you to know that we are taken care of.
Someone stopped by on the side of the road from another road offering
us dinner at her place right now, but we couldn't, we had an
appointment (that fell through), but we also were getting pizza
brought to us. Members like us a lot and I love it!

I learned today that salt lake said that this mission has the most
missionaries sent home for emotional and mental stress. This is one of
the most emotionally bashing missions. Crazy! I woulda never thought.
I'm feeling fine though. From what I understand, salt lake is
questioning whether or not we need this many rules. I got this from
someone who knew someone in salt lake or something. It's because we
have more rules than just about any other mission  (no sporting
equipment, no white watches, no eating past 6:00, long pants and
sleeves if you're doing any kind of service whatsoever, an hour of
email, not everyone has a car, can't go to the local gym, etc). Other
missions don't have those and they think it may just be causing people
to snap on top of the stress of being in the Bible Belt.

Well today was hot. We biked about three miles to an appointment only
to find out he left 15 minutes earlier and told his brother he'd be
back in an hour. Phhhhhh. We're on the lords time, not his time. So we
started off to our next appointment which is 5 miles in the opposite
direction. We went and about half way elder May's tire popped. So
people in your area with cars are able to pick you up and if they
can't, the zone leaders can. But, the the sisters have the cars and
the only pair of elders that have a car is the zone leaders, so we
called and asked for a ride. However, they happen to be far away, so
we had to walk back to our apartment with our bikes. And all of our
appointments fell through.  We also walked for almost two hours to
teach a lesson. But it's all a matter of how you choose to look at
your trials, like I said in last week's email. And I wasn't too upset
at all, I'm getting better at that since I've been out. We also had a
big ol' cockroach in the apartment. Also on Thursday night I was
laying in bed when I hear it start pouring rain outside, it took all
my will power to not ruin my slumber by getting up and looking at it.
I just sat there thinking, "it's just water, you don't need to look at
it, just stay in bed and sleep before you can think too much about
it." Then I saw a bright flash of lightning and thought, "ok I'm
getting up." And I stayed up way too late watching the dumb thing on
the porch outside. And the funny thing is, I went back to bed and got
back up again. But the road was a river and there was plenty of purple
lightning. I'm glad I stayed up to watch it.

I'm not glad I stayed up to watch that storm. But there was a fetching
hurricane just south of us!! And as I type this now it is just barely
missing us. So I'm very upset. We got to go to a Muslim service today
though with the Islams I was speaking of earlier. It was cool, I now
know what people feel like when they come to church for the first
time. They are very friendly like we are. Other than that, we did
nothing today productive because everything fell through. So lots of
walking around.

All our lessons fell through AGAIN. So we went tracting and the
neighborhood we knocked up sent a mass email to everyone in the
community saying that the missionaries were there so they were being
very very rude to us. I just wanna mmgaahhhh!!!! You know? But alas, I
kept my cool and didn't get the last word in. The only nice ones were
a Presbyterian and a Mormon we tracked into by accident.

Yet again, all our plans fell through, except church. So other than
church, nothing happened, just biking around knocking on doors with no
success.  But I fell on my bike again. While Elder May and I were
riding our bikes to an appointment, I asked a dumb question (as usual)
and he replied with a sarcastic response. I just looked at him and
said "I'm just not gonna talk anymore." And kept peddling away. I was
just joking around. He started trying to get me to talk but I ignored
him. Then he started making up a song about how when he gets home he's
going to steal Kayli. It was actually a pretty good song, it flowed
really well. After He finished singing he got on the grass and road up
next to me and asked if I liked it. I said no and tried cornering him
so he'd have to get behind me, then our peddles hooked each others and
we both went crashing down on the side walk ๐Ÿ˜‚. Then we laid there for
a good 30 seconds just laughing hysterically. The only thing that hurt
was my dignity.

We made a lemon stand with free lemonade and walked around to pass
lemonade out and did contacting through that. We passed out around
100ish cards with our numbers so it was successful. We figured there'd
be lots of people at the park since its Labor Day, so that's where we
went. It was great! On the downside, we had someone on date to be
baptized who said he didn't want to anymore because the people in the
other church are nice to him. But he never even tried our church
except for once and he was on his phone๐Ÿ˜‘ There's just so many things
like that on a mission it's ridiculous. I need to learn patience big
time because sometimes I just wanna grab people by the face and throw
up piles and piles of information as to why they're wrong and I'm
right (to put it bluntly). But that's not the right thing to do, Jesus
never did that, he looked for those who were ready, he didn't waste
time on people with the most ridiculous arguments known to man. so I
just bear testimony, even though a lot of times they look at that as
they won and I had nothing to back me up. It's aggravating!!! But