Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This has been an awesome week!

Dear Family,

This has been an awesome week! We have had a lot of meetings, but we were still able to get a lot done despite it all. I will talk about it soon.

Lizard Earring

Our district

Elder Allred, Shepherd of Sheep

Edward Crawfish Hands

My Dirty Shirt

First I have to say CONGRATULATIONS to Alex. That is so cool that he will be going to Peru, I know he is going to come to love those people, the food, the culture and the gospel. I am really excited for him. I was a little sad when I saw he would be leaving July 29, so we won't be able to see each other for about 3 and a half years, but that is okay because what better thing to be doing than serving the Lord. 

Dad, I know how you feel when it comes to trying to find a balance for everything in your life and it just feels like somethings get neglected. It is either everything gets a little neglected and a full effort isn't put in, or you focus on a few things and put the others on the back burner completely. I am still not sure how to deal with this haha It reminds of Elder Bednar's talk from this last conference about assessing our load. There are somethings that are necessary (and some of our hobbies can fit into that category  because they are gifts and talents from God) and then there are the superficial and hollow loads that don't help us with our traction. I guess the key is to find out what Heavenly Father wants us to do. Oh and that Bednar Challenge you do read through the whole Book of Mormon. 

Well I will give a report on this week. It really has been awesome. Elder Allred and I are finding a good groove with the work now and we are seeing a lot of miracles happen everyday. For example on Wednesday we were up in Opelousas and decided to walk some to save a few miles. We walked to a couple houses but to no avail until we decided to go visit a media referral that we had received...but that didn't work out either, no one was home. But, we did see this family sitting on their porch and Elder Allred was prompted to go and talk to them, so we did! They are the P. family and we were able to share a little about what we believe. They invited us back and we were able to go over there with with Brother Freebairn on Saturday. We had an awesome discussion on the Restoration, the spirit was there and everyone could feel it. They agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon (or as they say "The Book of Norman") and said they wanted to come to church. Well they didn't come to church, but we have faith that they will! It was a testimony to me to see how easy it really is to share the Gospel. Sometimes you just have to hit the streets and walk a little bit, I promise that you will have opportunities to share the gospel. It is cool to see also how even though we weren't able to see that media referral, there was a family on a few doors down that was prepared to hear the gospel. Tender mercy. 

That same day we were able to go with Brother Freebairn and see a lot of cool miracles as we went out with the intent to help people. We were able to help E. switch out his fridge (his had been broken for weeks and all that was in there was a small portion of spoiled meat) We. also had the opportunity to go with him to Walmart and just supply him with what he needs. My testimony built so much in the love that God has for us and how much he cares not only for our spiritual needs, but our temporal needs as well. He loves us a lot. I also gained even more respect for Bro. Freebairn, he is very Christlike in his genuine concern for the well being and happiness of others. He is willing to go above and beyond and to totally forget himself in the service of the Lord. I hope I can be like that someday. We saw the C's a less-active family, and had a cool experience. We just went over to see how they were doing and they started  telling us how they had a change of heart and they wanted to start doing it the Lords way. And they told us they were going to come to church. 

Yesterday was awesome as well. The C's ended up coming to church and so did there Son, A. with his girlfriend K. It was so cool to have them all there. And then the part that will make your mouth water. The Nations invited all the missionaries and the Freebairns over for a Crawfish was so good. They bought three sacks of Crawfish, which is a lot, the boil them in a big pot with tons of seasonings, they pour them all over a table and then everyone just goes to town. I had to wear a T shirt over my white shirt and I am glad that I did because I got really messy haha. The food was awesome, but the company was even better. It was one of those ideal sudnay afternoons that you are able to spend with those that you love and relax. You just remind your self that everything is going to be alright. 

Well I will end with a little exerpt. 

I have been studying our purpose not only as missionaries but as sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. I remember watching an I'm a Mormon video about a physicist and he explains that they know they are coming to a correct and accurate answer when the solution starts to become more simple. Well I feel like the answer and solution is becoming more plain and precious to me, so maybe that means we are on the right track. In 1 Nephi 11, Nephi desires to see what his father saw in the vision of the Tree of Life. He believes his father, but he wants to understand for himself. That is something we all desire, to know for our self. The Spirit of the Lord begins to show him this amazing vision and there comes a point where he asks him a question, he says " Knowest thou the condescension of God?" Nephi then answers "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." Although we may not know some of the answers , somethings just don't make sense to us right now, we do have the most important knowledge that we can hold onto; We have a Heavenly Father who loves us. They begin to discuss the meaning of the tree of life and The Lord asks him another question, "Knowest thou the meaning of the dtree which thy father saw?" Nephi answers "Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things." The most desirable of all things, the thing that can fill every heart and give them purpose and meaning. The Lord's response to this is very profound and makes the reason for our missionary purpose (and our individual purposes) very clear "Yea, and the MOST joyous to the soul." That sounds pretty certain, the Love of God is the most joyous thing for our soul, it will bring us the most happiness and it is something that we can share and lead people to every day. That is a blessing. Our purpose is to help people feel th
e Love of God through faith, repentance, baptism, the holy ghost and enduring to the end.

Dang this letter is a little long haha. I hope you were able to get through it. I love you guys!


Elder Brother Bear Soper

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We had a fun Easter Weekend...

Good Afternoon Y'all!

Elder Bennett and I


We had a fun Easter Weekend. On Saturday we were able to help the Freebairns with their son, Izaks, 4th birthday party. They invited a bunch of the members of the branch, friends and family (who many were not members.) They BBQ'd a ton of chicken, they made tradition carne asada with fresh pico de gallo and to top it all off they had delicious Tres was so good.... I ate a lot...I mean a lot.... haha but it was so fun to be there. They rented this big bounce house (we didn't play on it) and they got Izak a  Spongebob pinata. There were so many AFV worthy moments with that pinata. One girl was swinging so hard and then sister freebairn was clapping and telling her good job and then all of the sudden she started walking towards her (she was blindfolded) and just swung right at her head. She barely missed haha it was crazy. She must have thought that she was telling her to come that way. Funny. I love that family so much and they have made such a huge impact on my life. I will tell you one more funny thing later in the letter. But then yesterday Sister Prescott, the sweetest, funniest older lady I have ever met, invited us over for Easter dinner. Her family was there and they made ham, rice dressing and crawfish fettuccine. It was a lot of fun. So all in all we had an awesome weekend. 

It sounds like you guys had an awesome easter too. I am excited to see what there new house looks like. Haha that Jello sounds so strange, but in a strange way I would have liked to try it... Maybe secretly we do want to be like Andrew Zimmerman. People down here would think that was so strange to have Jello, carrots, celery and olives in the same thing. It sounds like a green smoothie gone terribly wrong... That is cool about that image that Brother Tenney had everyone imagine. That really would have been a sacred and special experience to be a part of. What amazing knowledge it is to know that the Savior lives. They have that new Easter video called  "Because of Him" and it is awesome. It is short and powerful. It brings the message that Because of Him, Because of Christ we have everything that we do today. We are blessed spiritually and temporally because of what he did. It truly is because of him that we are able to be happy. What a blessing that is. 

I have been feeling pretty stressed out and anxious lately. There is just a lot of stuff going on and it is like I am spinning 10 plates, but in the end I don't even know how to really spin 10 plates haha. Yesterday was pretty tough and I was just feeling frustrated, but today hearing that just makes me realize that hard things will continue to happen in our lives and if we can take the experience with appreciation, gratitude and humor we will be much happier. I want to be kind, gentle and happy. Thanks so much for sending me that, it was what I needed. 

Alright I will tell you about the other funny thing with the Freebairns. So their son Izak is exactly the same way I was when I was his age. It is crazy because everytime that I see him, I see myself. He is always tearing off his pants or his shirt and running around the house or the neighborhood pretending to be a power ranger. He loves power rangers and for his birthday he got a zord and we were both equally enthralled with it haha. He loves to "fight" and beat people up and just has a lot of energy. Sounds familiar huh? I told them about the time I broke the window and we were all laughing pretty hard. We came back a couple hours after the party and just helped them clean up and Izak was still full of energy and I was telling them how much I was like him and then they gave me the best compliment I feel I have received. They told me that if Izak was then able to grow up like me they would be proud parents. I respect them so much and hearing that from them was just the best feeling. I love that family so much. 

Well I better get going. Here is a little excerpt.

This last general conference the two greatest commandments were brought up multiple times. Before anything we must love God, our Heavenly Father and our neighbor as our self. I was curious to understand more about how must love our self and how that is connected to our purpose. I came across a talk by Harold B. Lee called "Understanding who we are brings self respect." It is an awesome talk and he focuses on the plain and precious truths of the gospel that help us understand who we really are. It reminds me some of what the mission was focusing on about a year ago and that was not necessarily who we we are, but who we were in the pre-existence. Harold B. Lee quotes the scripture from Abraham 3: 22-23 which says:

2 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

We are those noble and great ones. When we understand that we are Heavenly Fathers children who are divine heirs to heavenly power we will receive "righteous self-respect that might be defined as "belief in one's own worth, worth to God and worth to Man." We have been foreordained to do this work and we have made this choices in this life to lead us to where we are right now and that is within the full time service of our Lord and Savior. We are literally one in a million. President Lee says," Who are you? You are all the sons and daughters of God." He then says later "What a difference it would make if we really sensed our divine relationship to God, our Heavenly Father, our relationship to Jesus Christ, our Savior and our elder brother and our relationship to each other." What a blessing it would be in our life if we could all be as close to our Father in Heaven and our Savior as we are to our own family. I can promise too that if we gain that relationship with them, we will grow closer to each other and be filled with love for everyone around us. We first love God because when we do it is a natural response to love others as our self because we begin to see them through His eyes. What a blessing that is. I like the quote that he uses from George Bernard Shaw which says "If we all realized that we were children of one father, we would stop shouting at each other as much as we do." If we keep the first two great commandments, we will just be a lot happier. 

I guess that wasn't too little... I love you guys so much and appreciate the many prayers that you send to me daily. HAPPY EASTER! looking forward to talking to you soon too.

Prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Soper

Monday, April 21, 2014

I feel optimistic about the future...

Dear Family, 

First I have to apologize about this last transfer. Everything got really busy and I wasn't able to get back to a lot of the questions that you guys had from letters past.  But I want you to know how much I appreciate your letters, they mean a lot to me and I want to answer all of your questions, so I am going to do a better job of that!  

You asked if we have had any eating strange experiences...and I have! Most are pretty good actually, but Louisiana hasn't gotten mexican food right. We went to this one place and I got a pork buritto and it was about 75 % was fat and the other 25% was dry shreds of meat...mmm haha I guess we are spoiled in Utah. But then on Friday we went to a Thai restaurant and the food was awesome! I got massuman and they did a really good job with it. The only bad thing was the price haha, Because our group was large they add the tip themselves and my bill was about 17 bucks. Some others were about 20; Haha oh well you live and you learn. But for the most part the food is awesome and the best experiences are at peoples homes. So I have restaurants I want to take yall to...but also some homes to get a good food experience when we come down. 

 Oh yeah, so this transfer Elder Allred and I will be staying together in Opelousas. I will admit that was pretty nervous and scared cause I knew that it is going to be hard with all of the different things added together.  I feel really good about staying now though. There is this new Easter video called Because of Him and it is awesome! Christ's sacrifice changed the world and gave us a way to become better, to improve everyday. His atonement is what makes it possible for us to be happy in the life and enjoy happiness in the eternities. He knew that it was going to be hard, but He did it because he loves us and that gives me a lot of courage. I also had a really cool experience praying last night and I know that Heavenly Father needs me here and I just feel really happy. I feel optimistic about the future and I know that everything is going to work out in such a way that we will all learn and grow. It is going to be awesome. I am really looking forward to this transfer!

It really helped to have all of your insights from your last letters about those talks. I reread both of them and I printed off the "Are you Sleeping through the Restoration?" just to dig a little deeper into it. I am so grateful that I had your letter about being grateful mom, because it helped me to be more grateful IN my circumstances. I love that line by James Taylor. We really do need to enjoy the little things. We have so much to be grateful and happy about that in the end we don't need to worry about the things that go wrong. Maybe it will slow things down, but it will not end. There are no ends, "we are not made for endings because we are made of the stuff for eternity."\

 I really liked in President Ucthdorf's other talk where he gives the remedy for selfishness. He says that we need to give our lives to God in service and acts of Charity can be as simple as a hug, a smile, a word of encouragement or even time spent listening. That is really cool. I think he is definitely right in saying that Selfishness, Addiction and competing priorities will make you "sleepy." There are the extremes of each of those and they are a shocking reality not only in life but within the church. But then within each of them are the more subtle parts that will make you "sleepy" too. I like how he says that if we remember to first and formost love God and our Neighbor as our self, that  our priorities will be in the right place. 

A couple other highlights from the week. We did a bike day on Saturday and we didn't drive one mile in our car. We ended up biking about 16 miles and we saw a ton of miracles. We got into R. and K's house, a part member family that we haven't been able to see. We just got to know them better and create a good foundation. We also were able to teach a few other lessons and one member ever made us PB and J sandwiches. It was so much fun. I finally got the new parts for my guitar and everything is in working order so that is good. The branch is really picking up on the work and we are starting to see some cool miracles from that as well. This sunday we are going on a rescue to visit some of the less-actives. We have about 70 active members and almost 400 on the roster. We got some work to do! And we were able to meet with S. and her family again and we came just at the right time...dinner time haha. They invited us right in. We had fried fish and crawfish etouffee. It was really good. We had a fun week and to top it off yesterday we did some service in the pouring Louisiana rain. Making mission memories. Well I will end with a little expert from my presidents letter

I just finished the Bednar challenge, studying the Book of Mormon looking for instances of the enabling power of the Atonement, this week and I wanted to share my thoughts about the whole thing. The Atonement influences and strengthens us beyond our natural capacity everyday and in everything that we do. When we are living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are striving to keep the commandments we have access to the power and grace that Christ's Atonement offers. It won't perfect us immediately, but it does perfect us little by little. That progression by small and simple things is through the grace of Christ. If we are improving day by day then naturally the Atonement is helping us become something we wouldn't be able to become on our own. Thus Christ's Atonement, the enabling power of the Atonement, "strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity" every moment of our lives if we allow it to. We have a loving Heavenly Father that wants us to be happy and he gave us His Son so that we can be.

I love yall!

Prayers and thoughts always,


Elder Devin Soper 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This week has been pretty hard...

Dear Family,

The babes love me

The process of revelation, stage 1

stage 2

stage 3

 I was wondering if you guys might have gone to a session of Conference this week and you did! That is really cool. I really enjoyed the Saturday Afternoon session and that would have been cool to be there in person. I guess it would be cool to be at any of them in person. It is definitely A spiritual recharge and it applies to everybody as a whole and individually at the same time. It is awesome. We watched it at the Church building and one of the members provided lunch for us and then we just brought some food up for the other meals. It all worked good. There were the 4 missionaries there and then probably 4 members. So we had a little party haha. Not quite the 21,00 that fit into the conference center, but still the same spirit. IT is true that General Conference as a missionary means just that much more. It is something that you look forward to and just can't wait to receive the guidance that Heavenly Father has prepared specifically for the time that you are here serving him full-time.  

I think some of my favorite talks were by President Uchtdorf on Gratitude and then also his on Not Sleeping through the Restoration. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I love how he said that "We can be grateful no matter what." It is no that we should be grateful for things, but be grateful in our circumstances. It is a way of life and a choice that we make. As always it is a treat to hear from Holland and especially because he came right out the gate. The very first one and it set a good tone for the whole conference. The one by Elder Zwick was really good as well and is very applicable to the situation that I am in right now. I am definitely learning how essential it is to communicate with love. It is hard but it makes a big difference. 

I also thought that Elder Bednar's talk on the load that we carry and how it helps us create spiritual traction was awesome. I feel like I have been trying to carry a heavy load this transfer and it was comforting to be reminded that I don't have to carry it alone and not only that, but that burden is helping me progress in the way that Heavenly Father wants me to. Pretty cool! Haha all of the talks were really good and I liked the common theme of loving God and your neighbor and striving to be a disciple of Christ. I am excited to hear about some of your insights.  Is a talk that you would like to discuss over a few emails or something? 

I am happy to hear that life is just moving along smoothly. It is always nice to know that everyone is happy. 

This week has been pretty hard and I guess in general this whole transfer has been a challenge. It has been a humbling experience, but I am grateful for it. Haha like President Uchtdorf said being grateful doesn't always mean enjoying it, but understanding the why behind it. It is so easy to get overwhelmed, frustrated and tired. It is so easy to get caught up with the little things of the world and of pride. It is easy to be complacent and self-centered. But like we learned from Elder Holland this conference, living the Gospel isn't meant to be "comfortable". It is easy to do those things because it doesn't take much effort. This transfer we haven't had the greatest numbers, but we have put in our effort, it hasn't been easy been easy to do that and so that means it has been worth it. This being the hardest transfer of my mission does not mean it was the worst (I don't think I have ever had a worst and I don't plan on it!), but it means the opposite, being the hardest means that it has promoted the most growth in both Elder Allred and I. I have been really stressed out the past couple days and it has had some negative effects on me physically and emotionally, but this morning made it all worth it. Elder Allred and I are good friends now. We were able to talk and figure out a situation with humor, humility and patience. The thing that made me the most happy is that he was the one helping me be humble and more patient. I feel like we have come a long way and maybe I had the thoughts that this transfer I was here to simply help him, but I was wrong, we are here to help each other. It has been a blessing. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we are on the right path.  (That was sort of a hybrid of something from my presidents letter.)

This week has been pretty good though, we have been able to do a lot of service for people and just be outside. We had to say bye to brother Freebairn this week again as he went off shore and so we took some pictures with him just because the transfer is almost over. Hard to believe that it came that fast, this is the last week. We also had a cool experience on Friday. Our zone meeting that we were supposed to have got canceled because of weather warnings and so we had no real plans for that day. Luckily the Spirit took over and prompted Elder Allred that we should go see a Less-active member, Sarah Deville. I have met her before, but didn't know her too well. We got to her house and she came right out and we had an awesome visit with her for about an hour. She is a photographer and she loves taking pictures of the things around her. She got this cool one of a country landscape near her house and it reminds of something that you might paint Dad. I'll try to get it to you sometime. I am glad that we were able to meet with her. Well I will end with a little expert from my Presidents letter.

This month I want to work on Charity and that was just reaffirmed in this last Conference. There were so many talks that told about how Love is what this world needs, that sometimes all the saints need is Prayer, Love and praise or that an act of charity can be as simple as listening or showing interest in someone elses activities. Elder Holland said, "Pure Christlike love will change the world." We know that great things come by small things added upon each other and so this makes me think that it first starts with the pure love of Christ changing us, then through us, changing those around us and then through them changing those around them and so on. Pure Christlike love changes individuals, it will change our districts, it will change our zones , it will change our Mission and  it really will change the world. Elder Bennett shared a quote with me about integrity and it goes like this "Without integrity, nothing else matters. With integrity, nothing else matters."  I really like that and I think that it can be used to describe Charity and so does Moroni. 

Moroni 7 :46-47

46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

 47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

"Without charity nothing else matters. With charity nothing else matters." It sounds really dramatic, but it does make a difference and it makes sense. When we love God and love our neighbor, the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion. It will lead us and purify us. We will begin to become true disciples of Christ and that is really cool. But like President Uchtdorf said "Gratitude is the catalyst to all Christlike attributes." I am grateful for my mission and the lessons that I am learning and I hope that I can continue to learn.

I love yall so much.

Prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

This has been a little bit of a slow week...

Dear Family,

This has been a little bit of a slow week and I don't have too much to report on. Sorry it won't be quite as newsy.
Man I am pretty exhausted... one thing comes up after another. But I am keeping my head above water. I went on an exchange with Elder Bennett this week and it was so much fun. He is the new Zone Leader in Lafayette and he is a really good missionary. I look up to him a lot. The day we started the exchange every single plan that we had just fell through haha. It was really weird, even the people who are regular and expect us to come where gone as well. But despite that, we still had a really successful day because we were able to become better friends. We went to Pizza Hut and we just ended up talking for awhile and I was able to talk to him about everything. He helped me understand the situation a little better and I realized some things that I could work on as well. It was really good, and I just appreciated him listening so much. That night we went to see our neighbor R. and we ended up sitting down with him and teaching the Restoration and we invited him to be baptized. Guess what he said? YES!!! He said that he wants to think about it more before setting a date. He wants to make sure that he will be committed and that he will follow through with it. That is a really good sign because Heavenly Father will definitely answer his prayers. That was a really cool experience.
The next day we did some service for the Freebairn's and that is always fun. We talked with them and had a cool discussion on the Work of Salvation. We are lucky to have them in our Branch. We ended the night by going to A. and D's and they are such a cool family. Elder Bennett really liked them and I think it is because they feel like family. It is hard to explain, they really remind me a lot of you guys, I think you would be really good friends with them. I can't wait for yall to meet them.
Come to think of it we have done a lot of service this week. We did some for the Longoria's and then we even did more for the Freebairns. It was fun this last saturday. We just spent the afternoon helping make their backyard good while singing songs and laughing. Elder Allred really does have a good singing voice and he treated us with the Queens Bohemian Rhapsody. Good times :)
Then last night we went to the Nations and had this huge BBQ. There was so much food and we had fasted yesterday so we ate a lot of food... But it was worth it. In the end I think it was a really good week. We are making it through. I might buy myself something fun this week just for a little pat on the back haha. Here I will end with a little blurb:

Today I asked the question before my study on what I can do to keep moving forward even when you feel drained physically, mentally and spiritually. I happened to be in Ether 12 and I got a lot of good insights. Moroni felt much the same way when he just felt weak in his writing, but the Lord told him "my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness." Essentially he told him not to worry because he recognizes his weakness that he will be made strong. The meek seek to improve day by day. They are humble and they allow Christ to strengthen them. Because we have weakness, because we have those times where we feel too tired to move on, because we have those gaps they can be filled in by the grace of God and we can become better than ourselves. If we didn't have those weakness there would be no room for Christ's Grace to improve us in a Heavenly way. 

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that afaith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

The way we move forward in those times is say a prayer, act in faith and rely on the grace of God to make us better. 

I really love yall so much. My patriarchal blessing talks about how I have been blessed with a wonderful family and that is so true. Yall are the best.
Prayers and thoughts always

Elder Brevin Soper