Thursday, January 2, 2014

I really loved talking to you guys...

Dear family,

I am having a tough time figuring out where to start... How bout with a TANK YOU!!!  I just wanted to thank you for the presents again. I really loved everything that you got and it was all so thoughtful.  

I really loved talking to you guys. It was so much to see your faces and just to hear your voices. That was enough to make me happy, but I got the bonus of having a lot of fun laughing, reflecting and spending time with you guys. Thanks so much for spending time with me on Christmas and just joking around with me. It was such a boost and it made me so happy. I love you guys so much and that will be a something that I always remember. 

I got your guys letters a day or two after that and those were awesome. I loved your insights on Maslows theory of "Self-Actualized" people Mom. I remember learning about that in my psychology class and we have to meet all of our other basic needs before we can become self-actualized. We have to take care of ourselves before we can learn to look outside ourselves. It makes me appreciate how Heavenly Father has set up the Missionary program. For 2 years we can devote all of our time, attention and energy to becoming better and helping those around us. I loved how you compared his idea about "Peak Experiences" with the Spirit. I think you are definitely right in saying that these peak experiences are when we are feeling the spirit. Galations 5 :22 and 23  "But the afruit ofthe bSpirit is clovedjoyepeacelongsuffering,gentleness, goodness, faithameeknessbtemperance: against such there is no law."  Those are all adjectives of peak experiences and you are right we can attain all of those things through the love that our Savior and our Heavenly Father. 

Hey Dad, could you send me the link to the churches announcement about the priesthood? I really enjoyed your insight on "faith unto repentance." It seems that today faith has a different meaning  and there is a wide spread attitude that faith is passive and requires little effort. I have heard the word "saved" a lot and I think your explanation of faith, repentance and hope describe the real meaning of being "saved." Conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ is what will lead us to eventually be saved in the Kingdom of God. Conversion is "faith unto repentance."

I also loved your views on this new announcement and I agree with you guys 100 percent. I remember when we had that long talk about it a couple days before my mission when we were waiting in the good old Geo prism outside the church to play soccer. That conversation helped to deepen my faith in God and I don't think I realized it. It helped to understand that we as humans, like President Uchtdorf said, make mistakes. We are not perfect, but God is. His work can not be stopped. He is perfectly loving and although sometimes we hinder our own progression, that will not stop Him from helping us move forward. Them disavowing any racists and  radical views about blacks and the priesthood answers many questions and clarifies misunderstandings. Now we can just simply say that it was a mistake, we aren't perfect, but we are moving forward unified and happy. You know I think that this will make a difference down here among the humble.There are going to be a couple tough cultural hurdles to jump over for many, but there are just as many people who are prepared and I think for them that this might be the thing will help. 

I think it is interesting about peoples testimonies being challenged and your guy's view on that. I agree wholeheartedly. I stay really quiet when people talk about politics, radical views about our theology and other things like that. I just can't imagine that Heavenly Father wants us to be extremist in any of our views. The thing I love so much about our gospel is like you put it "there is an inherent flexibility of Mormon theology." There is room for thought, there is room to ponder and wonder about the many mysteries of God. That is fun and it allows for many revelatory experiences. I mean wasn't President Joseph F. Smith pondering on the meaning and interpretations of some certain scriptures when he received the revelation and vision about the spirit world. We would have never had that information if he wasn't open minded. Take Joseph Smith too. The doctrine of the Restoration rests on a question that a young boy asked. If he wasn't open minded what might have happened. The ability to be open-minded and curious is helps us to progress. We talked to a lady this week and she was having such a hard time with the concept that we believe in continual revelation. She is having a hard time accepting that God could call more prophets and continue to give scripture. As members of the church we have all been blessed with the Holy Ghost and one of his jobs is to testify of truth. We have no need to worry about being open-minded  because the spirit will let us know if we are going the wrong way. As missionaries we ask people to be open-minded and so that wouldn't really be fair if once they get baptized to tell them that they now have to close that door of curiosity and quest for knowledge. Science and Religion makes so much sense together. Sorry I went on a bit of a rant too, but it is good to talk to somebody who shares similar views. I have had to keep it to myself for quite awhile haha. I am also glad that we have such great leaders of this church and their counsel continually strengthens my testimony. Also thank you Mom and Dad for your examples in the Gospel. It has been such a great experience and I have to attribute who I am to you guys and your Christlike example. 

We had a really good week today and despite it being the holiday season we were able to get a lot done! We had a great lesson with J. this week. We watched  The prophet of the Restoration with him and invited him to pray and ask if Joseph Smith really was a prophet. The spirit was invited into his home as we watch that movie and it made a big impact not only on Jimmy, but us as well. Jimmy has such a big heart and he really is a great guy. I am grateful for his humble, unconditionally loving example. And he came to church on yesterday! Are there some people that you would like for me to talk about a little bit more? or tell you more about them? A couple other things:

- We were able to share the Book of Mormon and bear our testimony to one of the workers at the Salvation Army. That was such a cool experience to see a relationship blossom in such an effortless way over time. 

- The bishop is having us focus on getting members to have family mission plans and so we have started doing that. We are starting to see some miracles from that as well.

I probably better get going, but I just want to let you guys know how much I love you...This is how much (Imagine my hands about 4 feet across). I am so grateful that I have such a fun family. I am also grateful that things are still going well with Emma's recovery. Emma you are a good sport and I am continually praying for you. I will leave you with an excerpt from my Presidents letter. Elder Bennett and I calculated a bunch of numbers and came up with some cool facts.

Prayers and thoughts Always :)

Elder Devin Soper

I came across my favorite scripture this week in my study (or I guess one of my favorites) in Alma 37. In verses 6 and 7 Alma is talking to his son Helaman and he says:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.

"By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." Baby steps. Line upon line. Here a little, there a little. Doing the little things everyday will really make the difference and I decided to look at our 2 years as a missionary and add up the small and simple things.

If we take advantage of our personal studies that adds up to 730 hours of meaningful, spirit-filled, uninterrupted studies of the scriptures.

If we are diligent in companion study that adds up to 850 more hours of gospel discussion and enlightenment with our companions over the two years. (including 12 week).

Add those together we have been blessed with the chance to have 1580 hours devoted to studying the gospel over the course of our two years.

If we read just only 1 chapter of the Book of Mormon each day...we will finish the Book of Mormon approximately 3 times on our mission. Now if we read two we will read it over 6 times. 

Now on average a missionary will say about 3 personal prayers a day and that adds up to 2190 personal conversations with our Heavenly Father on our mission. 

These are all things pertaining to us but this doesn't include the good that we do each day and the little acts of service that happen. We are each giving 17, 520 hours of our lives or (it sounds bigger when you put it in minutes) 1,051,200 minutes of devoted service to the Lord. If we add all the missionaries time together in our mission ( I am saying there is about 180 missionaries) over the course of all of our missions there are 189,216,000 minutes where we can make a difference every minute. Now lets take all 80,000 missionaries that are out right now. 84,096,000,000... that is a lot!!!! Imagine all the miracles that are being done! We can do small and simple acts of good every minute of our mission. Heavenly Father works through us, as his children and so when Alma says, "And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls" he is talking about us as instruments in the hands of the Lord. Now this scripture could be related to a multitude of other things as well, but pertaining to us as missionaries I now know that the small and simple things that we do make a difference. No effort is wasted and we can all make a difference in the lives of those around us. How cool is that?!

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