That is so cool about my roomates [getting their mission calls]! They are all going to be such good missionaries and it is interesting to see where they are all going. [Hunter: West Indies; Alex: Dominican Republic; Scott: Toronto; Rocky: Winnipeg; Brett: Iowa] Tell them I say hi and that they are so prepared and they don't even know it. Also I am getting excited for Cooper, Kevin and Christian to leave soon too. It will be cool when we are all out serving the Lord. Man, I am just doing a little jig in the library.
Elder Soper and Elder Gentry
I did give a talk this week and I was happy sister Gordan could send you that picture. I might attach my talk [see below] and I used part of your talk you gave me a couple weeks ago dad. Sacrament meeting was crazy though. I gave my talk and it went really well. I had fun preparing it and writing it. Then lo and behold, Bro C was up next. He started out his talk saying he did want to speak because he didn't feel worthy. He transitioned to thanking many people that contributed to African American rights, he then talked about challenging the sluggish mind. In the middle of his talk an investigator fell asleep and was snoring. Brother C got down from the pulpit, tapped him and told him to listen up. He then walked back to the pulpit and proceeded to speak. He ended his talk by going through people in the Branch by name and telling them why he respected them. It was the craziest talk I have ever heard and it was so fun. The whole time I was just thinking "My family would have loved this." But the Plaquemine branch really has character. I almost lost it a couple of times. It was a fun Sunday. Later than day we had a musical fireside and that was really cool. All the missionaries in the Baton Rouge zone sang the EFY medley and Pres. and Sister Wall had us sing it again to record it. Maybe it will go on the blog?
We are continuing to see Louie [name changed] and he is still boiling water on his stove. But that is okay, because the first half of the week here was really cold and super rainy. These southern rainstorms are nuts! It falls down hard. Fred [name changed] is moving back home, I guess he had been staying at a member's house for the Holidays. That is pretty sad and I am going to miss him. But we did get his address and will send the missionaries to him in his area. We were able to sit down with Willard [name changed] again for a little bit and that is awesome. Hopefully we can start seeing him regularly. We helped an investigator with some service and we are becoming really good friends with him. His name is Roberto [name changed] . The only problem is that he has one friend in the Church, his neighbor, who is more converted to Marie Osmond than the Gospel. His neighbor is a less active. So we are trying to have Brother C go over there to see him.
I am running out of time (I'm on a timer computer...stinky) But a few more things, brother C_____ came out proselyting with us and that was great. We helped a less active wash his Camaro and his drunk wife surprised hugged me and Elder Gentry...scary. And we saw this really cool graffitti wall in Baton Rouge. I will try to send you a picture [below].
Thank you guys so much for your support and prayers. They are helping so much and I am foreva grateful to you. Missionary life is beginning to feel more natural and is becoming just life real life. I know it will just continue to go like that. I love being our here and I won't lie this is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I have grown a lot while I have been out here--a couple inches actually. JK LOL maybe a little bit, but most emotionally and spiritually (not too much maturity wise though as you can tell, haha). I love you guys so much and I as so happy that we are all able to share in this adventure. Well I have to go, I love you guys!
Elder Soper's talk last Sunday:
Good morning Brothers and Sisters. First of all I want to thank you for being so kind and welcoming to me in the past weeks during this time of change and adjustment. I would like you to know that you have made the transition much smoother than it might have possible been. I was asked to speak for about 10 or 15 minutes but I decided since everyone believes I am about 15 or 16, I am justified in cutting it down to about a 5 minutes youth talk. I was given leeway in what I could talk about today and I thought I would speak about something that is a really big part of my life right now and that is missionary work. But more specifically the why we all need to be missionaries, how we do that and what we can do to prepare. First I want to begin with a story about my conversion to the Gospel.
About a year before my mission I started seriously thinking about my testimony in the Gospel and became concerned because I felt that I may have not had as strong a testimony as those around me. I didn’t feel like I could say that I “knew” that the Church was true. I didn’t know if I was converted to the Church, because I liked the people and the activities, or if I was sincerely converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I decided to find my own testimony, so I could say that I knew. But it didn’t come as easily as I thought. I began studying my scriptures more regularly, praying, going to seminary and going to church. But even after doing all these things I wasn’t visited by an angel and I didn’t have a miraculous moment where I realized the Church was true.. I realize now that I was going about this the wrong way. But I was still a little bit discouraged. One day I was going out home teaching with my grandpa and while we were out, he asked me to bear my testimony on priesthood blessings. As I was bearing my testimony, I realized that I really believed what I was saying and I was able to say it with conviction. After the lesson, one member of the family thanked me for my testimony and told me he could really feel how strong my testimony was. I didn’t realize until then that I had always had a testimony of these things. From the example of my parents and being able to see the gospel work throughout my life, my testimony had grown incrementally and I hadn’t noticed it until I had the opportunity to share it.
Elder Packer shares a few thoughts similar to this in an address he gave to new mission Presidents back in 1982. He says, “It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true…As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase.” In Ether 12:6 Moroni talks of faith and says: “6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that afaith is things which are bhoped for and cnot seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no dwitness until after the etrial of your faith.” Elder Packer ties that scripture to missionary work by saying “To speak out is the test of your faith” and that “it is by giving it away freely that it becomes yours.” This principle was very true to me and my experience in receiving my own testimony and I can tell you that during my brief weeks here on my mission my testimony is continually being strengthened as I share it. Elder Packer goes on to say that “The Spirit and testimony of Christ will come to you for the most part when, and remain with you only if, you share it. In that process is the very essence of the Gospel.” When we become converted to the gospel, we want to share it. We recognize that our purpose in life is to have joy through our Savior, Jesus Christ and we want to share that knowledge with others. Heavenly Father blesses us as we strive to do our best by sharing our testimony, by strengthening it. Our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ and I believe the best way to do that is to bear testimony of Him and His gospel. This is something that all of us can and our asked to do; we are missionaries whenever we share the gospel.
I understand better than anyone that this can be scary and unfamiliar experience to share the gospel with everyone. I am learning a lot on my mission and more often than not I am learning from my mistakes. And I will admit, I was very nervous to come out and talk about my beliefs, but luckily, Pres. Uchtdorf, in the February Ensign, discusses this exact thing. I am sure that many of you have read it, it is titled “A Word for the Hesitant Missionary.” He explains how sharing the gospel doesn’t have to be anything awkward or forced; it can be as comfortable as talking about one of our hobbies. I would like to share a few of his thoughts. He shares a quote by St. Francis of Assisi and it reads “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” I love this quote because it shows we can share our testimony by simply living it. I know now from experience that people watch us, they want to see how the mysterious Mormons act. It is important then that we have integrity and live those things that we teach and more importantly live true to our testimonies. Elder Bednar this last conference said, “We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.” Our testimonies should lead to action in our everyday lives. I had the opportunity to do an exchange with the missionaries that serve on LSU campus. I was able to see that in their situation being a missionary didn’t always consist of stopping everyone they see and telling them the good news. But much of their days consisted of making themselves available, familiar and being an example to those on campus. We can do this same thing that these missionaries do, share our testimonies outwardly through our actions.
Although, living the gospel is one way to share it, that doesn’t take away from the necessity of talking about it. Sometimes the hardest thing in missionary work is to have the courage to talk to people. It is the getting over the initial fear that takes the longest, but in reaction to thisPresident Ucthdorf in his message exclaims, “Brothers and sisters, have faith. The Lord can magnify the words you speak and make them mighty. God doesn’t ask you to convert but rather to open your mouths. The task of converting is not yours—that belongs to the person hearing and to the Holy Spirit.” We can have the faith that if we “Trust the Lord and do our best, He will do the rest.” (Elder Wirthlin) Our job is to share the Gospel, along with the happiness that it brings and the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of it to those who are prepared to receive it. We must do our part though in preparing for these opportunities.
As a full time missionary, we have the unique opportunity follow a routine every morning of personal and companionship studies. This time is essential to refill our spiritual tanks and grow in our knowledge of the Gospel. The Holy Ghost needs something and someone to work with and work through. One of the best ways to do that is to study the scriptures and become more familiar with the word of God. I would like to suggest that that is something that we should all do; set a part time from the world to study the scriptures. I recently received a letter from my dad, who is the Bishop of my home ward. He included part of a talk he gave and I believe some of it is applicable to our branch here in Plaquemine, along with missionary work in general. He goes to say:
Partaking of the sacrament is an essential, weekly ordinance, but the bulk of our engagement with the Gospel shouldn’t be confined to sitting in a seat in sacrament meeting or in attending Sunday school—it should be something we do on a daily basis by ourselves or with our families…As members, whatever our life situation or stage, perhaps we can recommit to studying the scriptures daily with real intent. Let’s try to carve out a quiet period of time each day where we’re not distracted by television, email, or cell phones to commune with the Spirit and Heavenly Father’s words—and to record in a journal some of our spiritual impressions.
I would like to extend this same commitment to all of us. It is important to find time to become spiritually renewed each day and we will be blessed as we try to do our best. As we become more familiar with the Spirit in our own studies, the spirit will be with us more as we try to share the Gospel. It is like a giant domino effect of spiritual strengthening. Heavenly Father is really really smart and it baffles my mind in how ingenious missionary work is. By having the faith to share our testimonies, our testimonies grow, and as our testimonies grow, we want to grow in our knowledge of the gospel, and as our knowledge grows, our faith and desire to share the gospel grows too! All we need to do is take the initial step forward.
To end, I will come back to my previous story. My testimony came to me in a way that I never thought that it would, but even then I tried to take the necessary steps to receive it. I will admit in my search I was maybe a little dense…no I was pretty dense and naive as I was digging through my gospel ground to find that seed of faith. I was digging around in the ground right under a little tree that I didn’t even realize had grown. I was a little to busy searching within myself and didn’t think to share what I already knew with others. But once I took the chance, everything became a lot clearer. When we are missionaries and we strive to share our beliefs, our testimony’s will grow and our desire to share them will grow. We will be a vessel that the spirit can work with and work through to help others progress in the Gospel. I know this is the Lord’s work… my testimony