Wednesday, September 25, 2013

So I will tell you a little about my new companion...

First I want to thank you for your fun letters and emails this week. I really enjoyed them and they were just what I needed. And also HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMMA!!!!!!! I hope you had a great day. 

Elder Bennett

So I will tell you a little about my new companion. His name is Elder Bennett, he is from Magna, UT, he plays trombone and was in an acclaimed Jazz band while he was in high school. He just graduated this last year and is 18 years old. It is funny because he is like 6' 1" and weighs 80 pounds more than I do, I guess what I am getting at is that he looks 19 or 20 and he is being trained by someone that looks about 16 haha. Somebody at this last transfer meeting asked me if I had just finished my training with Elder Stratford. Anyways he is super upbeat, enthusiastic, positive, a little irreverent and happy to be a missionary.  He likes the Office, a show called Duck Dynasty, and movies like Tommy Boy and Dumb and Dumber. But he is a good missionary and loves this work already. It has been an interesting transition, since I have become so used to the general flow of missionary life somethings that I used to find strange or had a hard time getting used to have become normal and familiar. Being with Elder Bennett has brought back a lot of memories from when I first came out and my experience as a new missionary. I remember being really scared and unfamiliar with all the meetings,rules and people. I know that the best solution to that is time. It just takes time to get used to it all, I don't really know if their is anything that you can do or say to make it easier or to speed up the process. So I think as a trainer the best thing you can do is be patient, supportive and light-hearted (easy-going and not taking things too seriously) as they learn the ropes. Is that what you found Dad? Also I am trying to find a good balance of having him take the lead or do things and making it not overwhelming. I find that sometimes I dominate the lessons a little bit or sit back too much. It is definitely a different experience, but like you said Dad, there is no better way to learn than having to teach it and be an example. You do feel a pretty big weight on your shoulders and I imagine it is a little like having a kid haha because you have this feeling that you are helping someone become the future of society or the future of the mission. Luckily I have been blessed with a really good companion that likes to work hard and is willing to do whatever is asked of him. I would love some advice though, I want to make this a good experience for him and I want to gather as much information as I can and what better source than the people that I trust the most. But I am excited to be a trainer and I can already feel it helping me as well. It is always good to get back to the basics.

I am glad that Emma liked her present! And I am also glad that you like the music. It is funny because I think a lot of the things that we listen to back home are probably mission appropriate, but I like the distinction between the music on my mission and the music back home. I enjoy this music and it does help me to feel the spirit too. I think it will also help me to appreciate the wholesome music that I will listen to when I get home too (Avett Bros, Tallest man, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Shins, Death Cab etc...). Maybe you guys can make a play list of good music that I need to listen to when I get home. haha that's far but close I guess. Sorry back to Emma, I am glad she had a good birthday. That is cool that she did a mustache themed party, man I wish I had a picture of Bro. Simmons cause he has the best mustache I have ever seen. What kind of things did she get for her birthday? And that is really cool Mom that you made a mustache cake, that is really impressive! I actually really enjoyed your thing about watching the office with Emma. I really think that watching and analyzing shows like that helped me to understand people and the interesting quirks we all have. I bet it is good for Emma.

Also thank you for including that story about Heber C Kimball and also the thing about the Book of Mormon play. I remember that story really well and I can picture in my mind the building that it took place in too. That really was a cool experience to be able to tour the UK and see all of the cool church History sites. You remember finding those pamphlets in that old old church that had a picture of Uncle David in it? guess what? We have the same pamphlets. I didn't realize that it was the standard ones that have his picture in the back haha pretty cool. And also that helped me to understand the play a little bit better too. I have heard a lot of different views on it and I just want to know different sides to it. I have my opinion and I think I most closely agree with you. I don't think it is all bad. Yeah, it is vulgar and profane, but I really don't believe it is an attack or out of disrespect. More than anything I think they respect us a lot and so they felt like they could make a play about us. Thank you for sending that. 

So a little bit more about this week. Actually something really cool happened. So we got another set of missionaries in the ward this transfer so now we have 8. The two new ones are  Elder Sun and Elder Scholes. They are both really great missionaries and are a great addition to the ward. So you know how Aunite Kare translated for a missionary that came to Louisiana? I have been looking for him for my whole mission and have actually gotten myself into some embarrassing situations because of it haha. But when I met Elder Sun he said "Hey, your Aunt translated for me in the MTC." And I was super happy because not only did I meet him, but I get to serve with him as well. He is from Tahiti and this is his 4th area. He is super down to earth and so is his companion Elder Scholes. I am really looking forward to serving with this district, we have some good missionaries down here. 

We have been biking a lot because we are running really low on miles. But that has been way fun because Elder Bennett also likes to bike and so it has become a good time to get out some energy, be outside and talk with each other. And also a cool front came in this weekend so it has been a balmy 80 degress. We have been blessed to to not be rained on...yet. We spent a lot of this week visiting members and the other people that we work with. And I do want to tell you about one miracle that happened. So we were going to try to find this less-active member and when we knocked on his door it wasn't him. We talked with the guy there and he was friendly and said that we could come back sometime. But as we were walking away another guy stopped us and asked if he could talk to us. His name is J., he is 23 years old and he told us that he had just come from his little niece's funeral. He told us he has made some mistakes in his life but he wants to give his life to God. We were able to teach a lesson to him and his fiance and it went well, we mainly focused on prayer because he said he didn't know how to. But we set up and appointment to come back the next day. Elder Bennett was super excited and so was I because it just makes you feel grateful for how the Lord prepares people. We went in the next day with the intention of teaching the Restoration. We started and it was going alright, we were teaching the doctrine well, but it was just going over his head. He doesn't have much back ground in church or religion, so we quickly reigned it in and began focusing on the basic and simple things like how God loves us and how the spirit makes us feel. The lesson took a turn for the better and it turned out to be pretty powerful. It reminded me of what you said in your letter mom about Pres. Monson. How we can have a general plan of what we are going to do either in our day or even a lesson, but we need to be flexibly to the spirit just be easy going about it. Elder Bennett did a a great job adapting to the changing and shifting aspect to lessons and missionary work. It also helped me to realize that I need to start focusing on the simple and precious truths of the Gospel, really pare things down to the essentials. It was a good learning experience and we are looking forward to seeing J. tomorrow. We also had a couple miracles in seeing some less active members in our ward. We were able to meet M.B. and his family, who are really awesome. They are a young, fun and easy-going family, he is a member but his wife is not. His Mom is Sister B. who is a pretty active member in our ward. That whole thing was a good learning experience for me. We rode our bikes over there and I was really hesitant to knock the door because I wasn't sure how he would react. He goes to a catholic church now with his wife and I guess I was just affraid of the unknown. But Elder Bennett was just gung-ho about meeting new people and so we went for it. That turned out to be a major blessing becasue we got to become better friends with an awesome family. 

This was a really good week and I am excited for this transfer. I really liked what you said in your letter this week mom about Magnifying our calling and not ourselves. I am really trying to take that to heart and I want to magnify my calling. I'll share a  scripture and excerpt about that from my presidents letter:

This transfer Elder Billings wants to put a really big focus on Sanctifying and purifying ourselves. I think another good way to explain this is "Magnifying our calling." My Mom said that phrase in a letter to me recently and I think this is exactly what loving, serving and teaching leads us to do. I found a great scripture about this in my study this week to and it is in Helaman 5 verse 35.

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

The sanctification of our hearts or magnifying our calling comes as we "[yield] our hearts unto God." We are purified as our will is swallowed up by the will of the Fathers. As strive everyday to become disciples of Christ, to do what He wants us to do our capacity to do so will increase. I am really excited about this transfer and am looking forward to seeing all the missionaries (myself included) and members of the ward magnify their callings.

Thank you again and I really did feel your prayers and thoughts this week. I know that helped to make it a smooth transition. To end I want to share this cool thing we did in Elder's quorum yesterday. They had us write down a message that we would send to our family if we could only send them 25 words. This is what I came with:

I love you. Our Heavenly Father and Savior Love us. These things will make us happy: Book of Mormon, Prayer, Church, Service, Love and Family.

Prayers and Thoughts Always,

Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This was probably the busiest and craziest week of my mission...


This was probably the busiest and craziest week of my mission haha. I took a nap most days because when we got home for break I was just completely exhausted. We have been riding our bikes for the majority of everyday, since our miles this month are a lot lower than usual. So that adds to the already sweaty and stinkiness of being a missionary. And I do love my bike, I bought an extra tire this last week with my debit cad just in case something happens. But I have really had hardly any problems with it on my mission. It is really smooth on the road and it holds up well on rougher terrain as well.

So I know you asked about exchanges mom...Usually the district leader decides who is going with who and when. But they usually happen about twice a transfer, just so the district leader can get to know the members of the district better. And dad, yeah I haven' had quite as much anxiety around people as I previously had. I hadn't really noticed that until you pointed out, but I think it is that concept of how growth comes so incrementally that you hardly notice it. I still get nervous sometimes and still say stupid stuff haha but I don't know if I will ever grow out of that. Wow, I can't believe how well your garden is doing this year. Haha I remember going outside and looking over at that garden and wondering how it could grow so monstrous. Hey, I don't think I told you guys this, but I have kinda gotten a taste for tomatoes as of late and so now I will be able to enjoy those with you. Do you remember how I used to gag at the thought of eating them? Yup, I am really growing up haha. Oh man...I miss those peaches. I got your guys letter and dad told me about the peaches and I will say I was a little bit jealous. But we went over to the Pattens for dinner and for dessert we had a peach cake. It was really good and I told her, "This is really really good, especially because peaches are my favorite fruit." And she said,"You want some peaches?" And I couldn't deny, so she gave me about 6 and I have been eating them for breakfast everyday haha. Tender mercy.

Speaking of that, I think you guys would love the Pattens. They are super down to earth, humble, a little irreverent and fun. They are both Japanese, but he is from Louisiana and his wife is from Japan. Bro Patten went to his mission to Japan and so they have taught all of their kids to speak Japanese as well. Their kids are really smart and funny. John, there oldest boy loves Avatar the Last Air bender and everytime we go over there we have a couple bending battles...he usually wins. They also like the same food that we do. They both went to BYU and he went to Medical school at the U. We had a long conversation about Beto's breakfast burritos and Bombay House. They made this really good Egyptian grilled chicken for dinner and I think that you guys would really like it. I will have to get the recipe. And also sister Patten makes her own bread and it reminds me of Jordans. Holy cow it is good. They are a really fun family. We had the opportunity to go the hospital with Brother Patten on sunday before dinner because he had to pronounce a patient dead. We couldn't go into the room, but he told us something that stuck with me. He said one reason he loves being doctor is he gets to help ease them into the next life and he says it is always a spiritual experience. I think that is pretty cool.

That is cool about Emma's soccer team. It sounds like it has been a really good experience for her and I am glad that they are doing so well too. I bet that Emma loved being one of the ball girls at the BYU game, that would be such a cool experience. I can't believe that she is already going to be 13 years old. And I can't even imagine what it will be like when she is 14 when I get back haha. It still feels like everything should just pause while I am on my mission... I can't wait to see some pictures of Taylor at homecoming in their totes cool outfits. I am glad that he had so much fun.  Thanks for sharing some of your traumatic experiences.  It is funny because many times things like that can be traumatic, but as soon as you are able to joke about it, it is a lot easier to shrug off. I am glad that I have been able to have your guys example of doing that, because that is a skill that has become a necessity on my mission...I don't know if I would still be sane if I couldn't laugh at all the mistakes that I make. And I am looking forward to the time where Taylor, dad and I will be able to play on an intramural team at BYU. I doubt my skills will be as refined as dad and taylor, but you can count on me to have some muscular thighs (from biking). I don't how much help that will be haha, but maybe I can be the comic relief. 

So I will tell you a little about this week.  I mostly just want you guys to know so you know what is going on and I trust you guys a lot.   We had a cool experience blessing the sisters apartment in Houma.   It now feels like a safe haven from the world, full of the spirit. This experience has increased my testimony so much of the priesthood and the absolute power that God has. I had a very special experience this week as I was thinking about out it and I had the spirit testify to me of the strengthening, healing and loving power that our Savior has. I was wondering why I felt so calm for this, when I feel so nervous and on edge for something like public speaking haha. I realized it is because I had full confidence in Christ, I completely trusted the priesthood and the selfless power that it has. That gave me a lot of confidence because I know now that I may not be the strongest or best missionary, but like it says in the scriptures "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Our true confidence and power lies in our Savior.

Haha I told Elder Stratford earlier this week that we really don't have normal lives and that if we had a regular day where we taught a few lessons, maybe a few fell through, we had regular breaks etc. that I would be a little freaked out. It seems like everyday this week we have had to deal with some sort of emergency or interesting situation. I am glad that Heavenly Father is helping us, because otherwise I think I would be really stressed out and anxious. But we have been able to see a few people like Sis. T., Bro. P. and B. and they are doing really good. This last saturday we had a Stake Leadership training where they talked a lot about the Book of Mormon play that is coming to New Orleans soon. Hey dad, do you think you could send me a few excerpts of that article you were in about the play? I don't know too much about it, but I do know that the actually book is true and it will change your life if you honestly read it. The church buys adds in the play bill and some of them say "If you think the play is good, go read the book." or "The book is always better." I like how the Church and Heavenly Father is turning something unwholesome into something good and being lighthearted about it too.

After the training we went to Pres. Wall invited us and the Tabors to lunch at Pei Wei, a yummy asian restaraunt. That was a ton of fun just to be able to hang out with the Tabors and Pres wall. I really look up to them a lot. Later that night we had dinner with the Tabors and that was probably one of my favorite mission experiences and memories. All of the Tabors were there and Bro P. was there with his son and nephew. We had these really good honey bbq ribs and mash potatoes with crescent rolls. It was just a good dinner, with great company. I will always remember the feeling of love, friendship and the spirit that was present there that night. We then had a really cool lesson where we were able to share the two songs and have a lesson on the joy, peace and comfort that the spirit can bring into our lives. A couple people bore their testimonies and you could tell that the spirit touched all of our hearts. The cool thing was is that Bro. P's son and nephew came to church along with the Tabors girls friends who are non-members. That dinner is something that I will always remember. It was kind of a going away party for Elder Stratford as well, because he is getting transferred this week.

Your suspicions were correct dad, it is transfer week and we are getting split up. I am staying here in Thibodaux and I got a call from President Wall this morning letting me know that I will be training. I am kinda nervous and a little scared, but I know that Heavenly Father will help me help him. Wish me luck. So sorry if this letter is a little scattered and weird, I am a little on edge this morning haha.

I do want to end with my testimony though. I know that this Church is true and I think I always have. I used to be worried because I have never had one of those experiences where I was overwhelmed with the spirit, but I do know that I have had a ton of small comforting experiences that have testified to me that I do have a loving Heavenly Father and older brother who died for me. I love the scripture in Alma 37 where he talks about how through small and simple things great things are brought to pass. I know that is true. I know that as I have followed your guys humble examples and tried to live the gospel day by day my testimony has grown little by little, the seed has taken root and I am learning to love this gospel more and more everyday. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he truly was inspired of God. I know that Thomas S Monson is a Prophet of the Lord and that if we follow his guidance, we will be blessed. I know that is true because I have tried it! I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that if we read it everyday, even a little bit we will be happy. I know our Savoir lives and that he loves us. And I know that I love you guys and you are an amazing blessing in my life. Thank you so much and I love you!

Prayers and thoughts always

Elder Soper

PS Emma you should be getting a gift sometime this week

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So this has been a whirlwind of a week...

Good Afternoon,

So this has been a whirlwind of a week. But first I want to thank you for the letters. And I will let you know if they become to silly or crazy...but I don't think that will happen. I mean I am the same Devin...Elder Soper, but the Lord is helping me to become better. I have the wonderful opportunity to tell you about my everyday life and things that happen to me during the week every time I email, and I think that it is only fair that you guys would be able to do the same. The most uplifting things that you could write to me are the fun things that happen to you during the week. I am learning a lot on my mission to not take life too seriously. There is a quote that I read somewhere that says something to the effect of, "I am convinced that our Heavenly Father is a kind, good-natured, warm, friendly and happy being, because I am kind, good-natured, warm, friendly and happy when I have his Spirit." I am also convinced that our Heavenly Father is a very happy person and I am the happiest when I have his spirit. Life is meant to be enjoyed and I believe that happens best when we learn to laugh. Elder Wirthlin in his Come What may and Love it talk says one of the most important things we can do in this life is learn to laugh. He says it will bless your life and it will bless the lives of those around you. So to sum this whole little rant up, your letters are some of the most uplifting things that I receive because they make me laugh. I really enjoy hearing about your everything that happens to you and hearing about the things that you love: soccer, painting, school etc... Anyways I like your letters and I love you guys haha. 

That is so cool to hear about your missionary efforts back home! What you guys have done reminds of a couple of those stories in the Power of Everyday Missionaries. He shares stories about a few wards that gathered in people like crazy and the thing they all had in common was people felt loved when they went there. I'll bet those investigators have felt so loved and welcomed by you guys and that will make the gospel so much sweeter for them. Also think of how happy you will be to talk to them in the after life. I can just imagine them coming up to you and saying," Thank you so much for being my friend, and being there right by my side. I am so happy that we could come closer to our Savior together." Haha it might not be exactly those words, but something to that effect. Anyways you are doing exactly what President Hinckley said every new member needs. They need a friend (Check), They need a responsibility (haven't heard about that yet) and they need to be nourished by the good word of God (check...meeting with the missionaries and going to church!). Yeah I can imagine that it is hard to schedule with the missionaries and I always feel sheepish when I have to cancel appointments with people. Usually we don't have to do that too often. I hope everything keeps going well. 

I also wanted to say how excited I was for Emma and Taylor with their soccer teams. It sounds like they are both doing really well in their leagues. It was fun to see the pictures of Emma and Taylor wearing their soccer uniforms and warming up for the game. Emma looks really athletic and a lot taller than I remember her being.  And is next season Taylor's last season for soccer? Wow... that is crazy haha. Man I can't believe that Jordan can run 45 miles... I can hardly run down the street right now. But I can bike 20 miles in the blistering heat haha. Nevertheless, that is really impressed that he is able to do that and I am looking forward to having some good honey when I get back.

But I guess back to this week, The exchange went really well with Elder Herbert. I felt really happy while I was down there and I had a good time getting to know elder Herbert better. Like I said he is a really good missionary. We taught a couple lessons in Spanish and I actually really enjoyed them. I wasn't able to understand hardly any of it, but I read a couple scriptures and spanish, rolling my r's as best I could. We met with a man named B. and he agreed to be baptized, which was really cool. We were also able to volunteer at a Catholic run food bank and that was a lot of fun. That was my third time going there and so I have gotten to know a couple of the volunteers well. Elder Herbert really knew what he was doing there and helped me understand my purpose. It was cool to see how many people were so grateful for the help when they received the food. It feels good to help people out.  

Once I got back to Thibodaux we went over to a member's house house because he wanted to make us lunch. This member is a big guy in his 30's that was baptized a few years ago. For the past couple weeks he has made a valiant effort to come back to church and do what is right. He is really on fire right now and is living the gospel as best he can. He wants us to help him prepare for the priesthood and wants to go out with us to see people too. We decided to go over the Restoration with him and went about half away through before it was time to eat. The lesson went really well and it was a good refresher for all of us. He made us tons of Red beans and rice and then some fried chicken as well. He kept telling us that it was real "Soul Food" and it was real good. Probably not to good for ya, but tasty nonetheless. Later that day we dropped by S's and she drew a really cool picture, I am still trying to decide if I want to tell you about it. Because I might send it home to Emma for her birthday so she can take care of it for me... Haha I will tell you anyways, she drew a picture of all of us as Adventure Time characters and put in a ton of fun memories and little inside jokes. It meant a lot to me and I think it is a pretty cool picture too. 

We have been going to see Bro P. alot this week since his wife left him and he has been pretty down in the dumps. We have taken him out to some people with us and that has been really good because they are extending a hand of fellowship to him. We went to see Bro T. with him and they really clicked. Bro T. gave his first blessing to Bro P. and then offered for him to come hang out on the weekend. Bro T. has also taken another fellow under his wing a little bit and is acting as a good father figure for him. Bottom line, Bro T. is awesome. 

Haha so you guys might think this is funny. Elder Stratford and I were heading back to Thibodaux from the exchange and we were both pretty hungry. We remembered that somebody recommended we did it. It has a good old-timey feel to it and also feels a lot like how Jim Gaffigan describes it. The good is really cheap and actually tasted pretty good. I got biscuits with Sausage gravy and it hit the arteries. Just kidding haha...I hope. But it did taste pretty good and it was just a fun experience. 

We had a meeting in New Orleans this week and it went pretty well. The mission is really focusing on us using the basics: Scriptures, Preach My Gospel and Pamphlets. And right now they are putting a big emphasis on Preach My Gospel. I am looking forward to getting to know that book better. After the meeting though, we were trying to get home... this was the first time we had gone to New Orleans without someone that knew their way. So inevitably we took a wrong turn. We thought it would be no big deal... it turned out there was a 6 car pile up later down the road and the 4 lanes of traffic turned into a parking lot. We ended up spending and hour just going half a mile. It was fun, kinda haha but we were going a little stir crazy. New Orleans is a crazy city. And then we went there yesterday again for Stake priesthood meeting, but that went well because we got a ride, and they knew what they were doing. We were also able to help the Smiths move and I remember you asking about them. They have 4 little kids: Coy their oldest boy is 7, Scarlett is 4, El is 2 and Addy is just a couple weeks old. It was funny, they were renting a 2 bedroom apartment, but the complex made them move to another apartment with 3 bedrooms within the complex because they had 4 kids. They were a little bummed, since it is a hassle, but they were good sports. And with Laurie and Cade, Laurie is actually his mom and was baptized by Brother Bybee when he was here on his mission. Also since I am telling you all the odds and ends of the week, we got to bless and dedicate a school classroom, and my testimony grew a lot on the power of the priesthood. And you are right mom, the priesthood has so much power because it is selfless.

I think I will end with a little excerpt from my president letter:

I was reading in Alma 26 the other day and Ammon is reminding his Brothers of the amazing miracles that they saw, but also of the trials that they over came. Ammon says in verse 20:

"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

What really stuck out to me was the phrase: " bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you SUCCESS." I have always looked up to these men as amazing missionaries. They seem to go about the land loving, serving and teaching all they see and inviting all to come unto Christ. They were also able to see the fruits of their labor in a very tangible and immense way. But that word, success, means a lot more than just baptizing, the Lord promised them more than just being able to see many enter the waters of Baptism. That is an amazing thing and I don't want to dumb down that at all, but I also believe they became successful in the way that Preach My Gospel explains it. The Lord promised them that as they are patient and diligent, they would:
•Feel the Spirit testify to people through them.
•Love people and desire their salvation.
•Obey with exactness.
•Live so that you can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, who will show you where to go, what to do, and what to say.
•Develop Christlike attributes.
•Work effectively every day, do your very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve.
•Help build up the Church (the ward...or city/nation) wherever you are assigned to work.
•Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments.
•Teach and serve other missionaries.
•Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message.

The sons of Mosiah and Alma became Preach My Gospel missionaries and that promise that the Lord made to them is still applicable to us today. As we bear with patience the refiners fire, we will become successful and acceptable in the eyes of God. That is a pretty amazing promise.

I love you guys a lot.

Prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This has been an interesting week to say the least...

Hey guys,

About the songs I recorded and sent: I didn't write the lyrics to either of those songs, but I did write the music. The second was actually kind of a miracle in my eyes. Elder Stratford wrote the lyrics one morning after he had a bad nightmare (by the way he is a really good writer) and after studies he pushed the lyrics over to me and asked "can you do anything with that." and I said "lemesee..." Somehow after about 5 minutes I had the thing down haha. Heavenly Father must have really wanted us to have that song, because I had divine help as I was practicing it. And like Ammon says, I am not saying this to boast of myself, but I say it to boast of God. Through him we really can do all things. But anyway I have loved being able to play guitar and it has become such a good release for me and to make it even better we have been able to share both of those songs with many many people. It opens a lot of doors. But I am glad that you liked them and that guitar that I got is perfect. It is a nice little beater guitar that I don't have to worry about too much and it sounds good.

So the next transfers are on the 18 of September, so about 2 weeks away. Crazy to think that I turn 20 next transfer and I still don't look a day over 16 haha. Maybe miraculously on the night of 9th of October I will grow a ton of facial hair, I will grow about 2 inches and bulk up about 20 pounds... Just kidding haha that would be really frightening , and I am actually pretty happy with where I am. I will do my best to stay in shape and just take care of my body. By the way I am on an exchange with Elder Herbert down in Houma for the next couple days and it is a bike area down here. I have never been so appreciative of a car in my life haha. It turns out that biking+heat+humidity= Elder Soper being really really really sweaty. It was about a 7 mile bike ride back from the church and Elder Herbert is in a lot better shape than I am. He is 26, originally from Mexico, is still learning english and is probably the most humble, charitable and genuine guy that I know. He was baptized 3 years ago and he just has such a strong and powerful testimony of the gospel.

I forgot your paper letters so I can't quite remember what to write about that I just know that I really liked them haha. But I really enjoyed looking at those pictures and that is cool about the plein air paintings. If somebody bought it for 200 dollars than it was probably really good and I would love to see the final pictures of all yalls paintings. And Stan and Gwen's barn looks like it is coming along really good. When will it be finished?

I recently learned about the difference of being light-hearted and light-minded and I think that is a good comparison. Being light-minded is being condescending and maybe a little harsh in your joking. I don't think people understand that sometimes and they think they are being funny, but sometimes it really does hurt. Light-hearted is a not taking yourself or life to seriously and being able to laugh at the inevitable foibles that life brings. I think it is the differences of laughing at someone rather than laughing with them. Haha sorry I elaborated on that so much, but that is something that I always want to look out for and thank you guys for being such a good example of being light-hearted and humble.

This has been an interesting week to say the least. I am not sure why I am going through so many up and down weeks recently, but in the moment sometimes it is hard to shake it off. I learned something about this in one of my personal studies, but I will share that a little later in the letter. Sorry to keep you waiting... We had a really cool opportunity to go to the Temple with a fellow who was recently baptized and that was a miracle in of itself. That whole day things were falling apart and people were dropping out of the temple trip left and right. For awhile the only people that we were sure were going was the Elders quorum president and us. About 30 minutes before we were supposed to leave a member in our ward said he was able to get off work early (This is a man who had been unemployed for about a month and had recently found this job) and he also told us that he would be able to go and pick up this new member. We couldn't believe that it worked out. We later came to find out that this man, Bro. T., hadn't been to the temple in 15 years. This was his first time going back since he was sealed to his wife. It is hard for me not to grin and get really excited when I talk about this because both the new member and Bro. T. have become some of my best friends. We have grown closer to the Savior with them and thus we have grown closer to them. It was just an awesome experience and you really can't beat the spirit that the Temple brings into your life. One cool thing too is that it was the new member's 19th birthday and what he wanted was to go to the temple. He said that he is thinking about serving a mission after high school as well. It is fun to see the growth and the changes that the gospel brings into our life.

It is strange since we had that amazing experience at the temple that for much of the week I was feeling somewhat lackluster and anxious. I am still not sure why I was feeling that way, but as I was reading in Alma and he is talking to the people of Ammonihah with Amulek about how much God truly loves us and he always reveals his gospel. There wasn't any specific verse that stood out to me, but I realized that even though Heavenly Father always prepares a way and always reveals it to us, sometimes we need to step a little ways into the darkness to exercise our faith. I began to think about my mission and especially this past week. I was reminded of the times that I did take those steps into the darkness and although I was hesitant, when I relied on Christ, I was never afraid. But I think for a little while I haven't been taking those leaps of faith and have settled into the "status quo." I have heard a quote once that says: "If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you've always got." This gospel is a gospel of change, growth and progress. Every major discovery has always started with someone taking a plunge into the unknown and that is where the progress has come from. Like Alma said to the people, The Lord will always prepare a way and he will always help us, but he also knows that as we exercise our faith we will grow the most. I have decided to work on diligence this month and follow President Benson's advice from Preach my Gospel, "work, work, work." I am grateful for the lessons that I am learning on my mission and I will do my best to make the short time I have here count.

If you didn't notice, this is an exerpt from my presidents letter. Haha I realized that I write a little differently to him, so I couldn't quite mask it. But going to the temple this week was awesome and made me really excited to do a lot of temple work later in my life. We have also been working really closely with E. and his brothers I. and F. They are really some of the most polite and insightful people I have met on my mission. We are also working with C. and L. L. is a returning member and C. is 14 and not a member. He is a really good kid and he is searching for the truth. We have become really good friends with them lately. Things are going pretty good I would say. I have a lot to work on, but I am happy with the progress that I am making and it really is satisfying in the long run. They say that you get more out of your missions than you end up giving and looking back I would say that is true. I will end by sending a picture of me and the Lafonts, an authentic French Cajun couple. I love you guys.

Prayers and thoughts always,

Also have a good week,

and have fun at school,

good luck fixing up the house Haley and Jordan,

Also I hope you are doing good Olive,

Love you guys,

Elder Devin Soper

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Everyday we were able to see miracles, but first came an obstacle that challenged us to exercise our faith...

Dear Ma familia,

It sounds to me like things are falling into a pretty good routine back home. School is starting, Haley and Jordan are working on their house, soccer is coming in full swing, BYU is starting up again etc etc... It really is nice to have a daily routine and have some structure to everyday life. I really enjoy hearing how everything is going smoothly and just the fun things that are happening. I really look forward to your letters and emails everyweek, they mean a lot to me. I am glad that emma and Taylor are doing so well. It is crazy to think that Taylor is already a junior. I remember really well when I was a junior and man it doesn't feel like it was three years ago.  A couple of the people that we have been working with said they looked Taylor up and gave him a call this last week. Haha how did that go? I wish you luck with finding a venue for Prom as well, I didn't realize that he was in charge of doing all that stuff as well. I am glad that Emma is enjoying junior high so far, man I was looking at that picture that you sent and she seems so much taller and older. It really caught me off guard haha. And I am excited to hear about your new house Haley and it was cool to hear about the crazy number of black berries which is 15 haha. I really enjoyed getting your letter this week. And that sounds pretty crazy with all of the girls at girls camp. I have met people like that as well, and it shows me the importance of having a mother and father and founding your family on righteousness. I think we were all really blessed as kids to be raised in such a great family.

I guess I will start with an exerpt from my president's letter this week:

"This has been one of those up and down weeks. It seems like everyday we were able to see miracles, but first came an obstacle that challenged us to exercise our faith. Sometimes it was hard to gather the excitement and enthusiasm that we regularly have, but I did learn a valuable lesson. I realized that I didn't fail because I fell, but I did succeed when I got back up. It reminds me of a quote from one of the Batman movies. Bruce's father asks him, "Bruce why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick oursleves up." Also what comes to mind is President Uchtdorf's talk from this last conference where he compares all of us to waddling toddlers that are taking our first steps. Just like our earthly parents, Heavenly Father doesn't chastise us for falling down when we try to walk, but he encourages us for trying. We had a lesson with a new family in our ward, the Pattens, and we were able to share with them a lesson in which I get to play the guitar. We then asked one of their daughters how she felt and she said, "happy." I think that is the best answer ever. I knew that the spirit was there and at its core, the spirit makes us feel happy. The gospel really is plain and simple and sometimes I need to take a step back from the chaos of everyday life and just appreciate the simplicty. Pretty much what President Eyring said in his article in the Ensign this month. But that experience made me change my mindset this week from, "There are a lot of things I could be doing better" to "I am so happy that I am trying my best." You really do learn a lot on your mission haha.

I read in Mosiah today where King Benjamin talks about the journey we take through gospel.King Benjamin explains it as follows in Mosiah 3:19: We "putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Elder Bednar describes it as going from "bad to good and good to better." And I feel that is the process that happens as we work on Christlike attributes and really try our best to be disciples of Christ. We become more like a child, appreciating the plain and precious truths of the gospel and thus we become more like our Savior. Pretty cool."

Haha another funny thing that happened at the Pattens is that after we finished the song that same little girl with a look of disbelief said, "Wow, that was amazing..." That made me feel pretty good, probably did more for my self-esteem than she probably realized haha. But this really was kind of an up and down week and it really tried my patience and love. We have talked about it before where it is much easier to be understanding and patient when you feel good and are rested and happy...but when you are a little anxious, tired and stressed it is a completely different story. Looking back it is hard to think of all the little things that put me into the funk, but I can remember the feeling of general uneasiness. I think that is why I enjoy your letters and emails so much each week, becasue they are a good reminder of the blessings that I have and help me to focus on the things that are really important.

A couple highlights from the week:

We went to the a nice sister's this week, because she requested a blessing and while we were there they made us lunch and each gave us a box of cereal (honey Bunches of oats).  I had a cool experience giving her a blessing; I had this prompting to tell her something in the blessing and it seemed to me something pretty big and I wasn't sure if I should say it or not, but it just kept coming to my mind, so I said it. She told me after the blessing that what I had said has been something that she has been thinking about for awhile and helped her answer and understand more about what is going on. I felt very humbled to be an instrument in the Lord's hands.

We were having a pretty down day on wednesday and we were running low on miles so we decided to bike. We knew it was probably going to rain soon, but we did it anyway. After we got out of an appointment the Heaven's opened and it began to pour and pour. It was awesome! I really loved biking in the rain and we just said, "well we are going to get wet, so we might as well enjoy it." It must have been very odd for people driving by seeing two guys in shirts in ties, soaked, biking in the rain, with large goofy smiles on their faces waving to everybody. That is an experience that I will remember and I just felt really happy. I haven't gotten a flat tire on my mission yet until this last week and it was right in the middle of that rainstorm haha. I got a little pinch flat and so we walked to somebodies house we knew nearby and I just patched it up real quick and it is good as new. It is interesting that we could have had pretty bad attitudes because of our circumstances, but we made the decision to be happy and we were. I loved it haha and I can still picture the disturbed and sympathtic looks that we got as we were biking down the road. That same day we were able to go see E. and his brothers and that went really well. They are the most polite people I have ever met and they call me and Elder Stratford "Sir." That makes you feel pretty important. But we gave them each a Book of Mormon and they told us that they would read it. They want us to come back each week and I am just grateful to be able to teach them because in return they teach me a lot by their example.

We went to Walmart one night and when we got out our car had died. We called a member to come help us out and as he was on his way the guy parked in front of us came out and was so willing to help us with a jump. His name was AJ and he was really nice. We left him with a Book of Mormon and our number. I don't know if he will call, but I hope that he knows that he was an answer to prayer. It made me think of the concept in that book the Power of Everday missionaries that people to want to help. That when they feel like the church, or the missionaries, need them they jump at the chance. And in reality we do need their help, everybody has something to offer. That book is pretty amazing, I finished it this last week andI think it will be something that I read again and again on my mission. The stories are so cool.

We went to this little restaurant in Thibodaux called Bubba's II Po-boy's. It looks like this little hole in the wall place and when you walk inside it has all of this memorabillia from sports and other things. It reminded me of a place that you would see on diners drive-ins and dives. I got a shrimp and oyster po-boy and it was actually pretty good. Suprisingly I enjoyed the oyster more than the shrimp. It was expensive, but I enjoyed the experience and I will send you guys some pictures. Later that day we went to Bro Tabors and he had gone fishing earlier and caught a few catfish. He said that he could fry some up for us and so he showed us how to fillet them and prepare them. He uses a mixture of milk egg and mustard to soak them and then he puts them in the fish fry with a little extra salt and pepper, season-all and some Zatarains (or that Slap Ya Mama's). That was the best catfish that I have had on my mission and real southern food comes from good home cookin'. I am excited to cook for you guys when I get home.

I love you guys so much and I really appreciate all of the support and help that you offer me. I couldn't have asked for a better family. And last night I got to just sit on our porch, play guitar and watch the Louisiana sunset. That was a good memory and it helped me just ponder on everything that Heavenly Father has given me, you guys are the best thing he has given me. Thank you guys.

Prayers and thoughts always

Elder "Debunhamms" Soper