Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The weather has taken a turn for the better...

Dear Family,

The weather has taken a turn for the better and it is getting a little warmer. It is funny that when I was preparing to come on my mission I didn't even think I needed to bring a coat. Oh boy was I wrong haha I have been wearing that big one almost everyday and I am very grateful to Mom for it. That is crazy that Portland has shut down from the snowpocalypse and I know how you feel Haley from feeling cooped up. It is a little stanky. But life keeps moving forward.

I really like that idea about comparing the worldly apps that appeal to the impulsive part of our brain to the gospel apps that will develop and strengthen our ability to think and ponder. I have noticed that on my mission when we create shorter lessons that our fun and interesting, the spirit is stronger and the rate of retention and understanding goes up. You also have to visit more frequently. I think a lot of people are really used to instant gratification and sometimes it gets in the way of us focusing in on the spirit, so you have to try your best to make it short enough to keep their attention and long enough to exercise their brain and invite the Holy Ghost. It is a lot of trial and error. Satan knows what he is doing, our attention spans are being lowered by the media and probably one of the biggest things that effects is reading for extended periods of time. You said in one of your previous letters hat the best source of spiritual protection is reading your scriptures. That is true. If we are diligent in reading our scriptures each day we will grow spiritually  and we will grow closer to our Heavenly Father. Little by little our focus is being lowered and it makes it difficult for us to study and ponder the scriptures. Sneaky. I saw that this week. We were so busy with meetings, funerals and travel that our time to read the scriptures was pushed away. I noticed that I had a more difficult time recognizing the spirit and it was easier to make small justifications. We weren't doing anything bad, but we didn't do as much good as we could have. It is scary how that works. I am really looking forward to having a more solid schedule this week and building up spiritually again.

I really like your idea about forgetfulness for your talk Dad. You are definitely right to say that if we aren't actively engaged in the gospel it is easy to revert to the ways of the world. To be doers of the word means that we are engaged in the conversion process. Being converted really is a process and it means to become something, to become something or someone better than we were. That can happen everyday.  I heard once that the conversion process goes like this. Hear, remember, understand, act, become. Those who simply hear the word never internalize it and get the chance to truly understand its meaning. If you never understand why, you will have a hard time acting or being a doer of the word. It is cool that the scripture talks about forgetting because one of the steps is actually remember or rembering or remebering. That seems to be something that comes up in the Book of Mormon pretty often. There are so many times in the scriptures that prophets tell the people to remember, to remember our Savior, to remember their ancestors, to remember the scriptures etc.. It's even in the sacrament prayers. We must always remember Him. The man in the scripture passively heard the word and forgot it and eventually forgot who he was. If you never remember what is said, it will be really hard to do it.  You could even use some lyrics from Michael Jacksons Man in the Mirror 

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And then Make A Change
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na, Na Nah
You've Got To Move! Come On! Come On!
You Got To . . .Stand Up! Stand Up! Stand Up!
Make That Change.

You could even sing a little bit of it if you wanted haha. I think probably the most relevant part is the Hoo Hoo Na Na Na Na Na. Haha but I really do think that it has a good message that we do have to stand up and do something about it, we have to be anxiously engaged in a good cause. To be a doer of the word is to make a change (have a change of heart). 

I am glad you guys asked me some good questions to think about because it is making the email longer haha. This week has been really busy with meetings and we haven't had much time to go out and work. But we still did have some good experiences. This last Monday we had dinner with a part member family, the Ds, and it was a lot of fun. We went with the Sisters and they made us one of my favorite dishes, Crawfish Etouffee. It is deliciouso and I am going to learn how to make it. We spent the time just talking and getting to know them. You could definitely feel the spirit and we all grew closer together to each other and our Savior. It was a cool experience. Speaking of food, we went to this hole in the wall shack in Lafayette called Steven's Chicken and man is it good. I spent 5 dollars and I got 3 chicken "fingers" with fried rice. Well this chicken fingers must have been the size of goliaths fingers cause they were huge. I could hardly finish it. We will have to got there when we come to visit. We have also been with the Freebairns a lot since he is the Branch Mission Leader. They are such a good family and I always feel loved and strengthened when I go to their house. We had a cool experience with a recent convert this week. His name is Eurick and he struggles with homosexual feelings. It is a situation that I have never dealt with before, but it builds my testimony to see the Atonement work in his life. Eurick more than anything wants to be doing the right thing and it is cool to see him strive to become better and make those changes in his life that will bring him closer to his Father in Heaven.

I had the chance to go to this mission leadership meeting in Baton Rouge this week with all of the Zone Leaders, District Leaders and Sister Training Leaders in the Mission. We talked a lot about the why of mission work and it all boils down to our purpose to invite others to receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. I also love what President Wall put at the start of our purpose, the words "Have fun." Our missions are supposed to be an enjoyable experience and we can have a lot of fun and be happy while we are inviting others to come closer to Christ. It was a good meeting. We also had the Funeral this week for Brother Prescott. It is always tough to say goodbye to someone, but it is comforting to know that they are happy. We also had Stake conference this week and that was good. It was pretty far away, but it was worth it.

Elder Bracken is a really good missionary. One thing that makes him a good missionary is that he loves the people. He has a big heart and accepts people for who they are. It is a very Christlike and childlike charity. His mission has been really good for him so far and you can tell that he has learned so much about himself and his testimony is growing rapidly everyday. He understands relationships with people really well, but the logistics and protocol of life are still pretty new to him. I love being his companion though because it has been good for me to focus more on the why we do what we do rather than how we do it. In the end the important thing isn't what we do but why we do it. He loves to have fun and sometimes both he and I will go a little too far, but we are learning to find a good balance. He is growing in his maturity and his mission will help him learn how to be a leader. 

We had interviews with President Wall this week and I am just grateful to have him as a mission president. He definitely knows the language of the spirit and I think that is because he loves his missionaries so much. I am looking forward to learning more this transfer and coming closer to our Savior.

I love you guys so much. Have a great week!

Prayers and Thougts Always


Elder Soper

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