Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Search of Understanding

These past few weeks have been astounding.

Elder Goodwin and I have been opening up a new area up in Portland Tennessee, a process that involves a lot of finding and working with the members of the local congregation. It’s been a blast talking with as many people as we possibly can about the gospel, and it’s absolutely refreshing to be somewhere missionaries haven't been in awhile.

Deserted Island, Anyone?

Often times when we talk with people, their previous encounters with missionaries come up. While they can (usually) never remember what they talked about, it most always is a positive experience. The only problem is that sometimes people feel like they have nothing new to learn from the missionaries or that they already gave it a chance and it’s not something they are interested in doing again. Really though, every missionary offers something new in the way that they present or teach, through their own personal experiences and understanding of the gospel, and even something as simple as the way they approach a prayer.

Though the gospel never changes and the principles and doctrines contained are eternal truths, I have never stopped learning and don't plan on that changing any time soon. It is so full and there is so much contained that it is only line upon line, one little brick on top of another, that we ever build up our knowledge and understanding. As with all things, the gospel cannot be learned all at once, and it sometimes takes even more time to actually understand it to the point where blessings are effective in our own lives.

Case in point... I knew Jesus Christ was my personal Savior and Redeemer long ago. I could tell you a textbook type definition and description of the event and a shallow understanding of what it meant to me, but it didn't really hit home until just a little while ago. I was struggling trying to change things in my life, but I always found a sneaky little voice in the back of my head that told me that, "These faults are just a part of who you are and you're never going to really change".

It made me lose hope for a long time, and with that I stopped putting effort into doing what I knew to be right and trying to change things around. I knew the atonement was real and mattered and was the reason any of us could become something better then what we have been, but I still didn't understand it. If I had, I never would have given up.

I was lucky and blessed enough to have someone help me understand not too long ago.

Though I've spent at least a solid fifteen out of twenty years of my life growing strong in the gospel, I still needed help to understand the Savior and what His atonement meant personally to me. It now means to me that I can change, and that also means that everyone else can change as well. It means to me that we don't have to be defined by those things we once were, and that despite our imperfections and shortcomings that there is a reason for hope. That hope gives me courage.

If I had been unwilling to listen to the person who taught me this, I wouldn't know how much more there was then what I understood. I am grateful that there are missionaries all over the world who are doing exactly what was done for me by helping others have a deeper faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. It makes me think of how much more important it is for me personally to do everything I can to do the exact same for the people in this new area that I am serving in, even if they don't think we have anything new to teach them.

There is more, there is always more. The peace and happiness are real, and the blessings that come from the message we share is too good for me to keep a secret. I’m going to go out and try to share it now!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Step

For some reason, this struck a chord with me when I watched a brief part of it at a member from our congregations house the other day. Hopefully this is the right version with the English voiceover, if not then still look for it elsewhere! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Feeling The Spirit, Getting Answers

I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life last night.

As we were teaching one of our investigators who has slowly but surely been progressing, I had the prompting that we needed to do something completely off script. As he was telling Elder Goodwin and I about how he wanted so desperately to get back to his happy self and to get back in touch with his Heavenly Father, I felt that we needed to go straight to the source to ask exactly step by step what God had in store for this man.

Serious Times Need Serious To-Do Lists... More Serious Then This One Anyways

The Holy Spirit had testified to me as this man was talking that he was ready to receive personal revelation.

As we kneeled in prayer, each of us offering a prayer for inspiration and guidance with our investigator speaking last, I learned so much in how I personally feel the Spirit. I can tell when the Spirit is present and when it is not, but sometimes I have trouble recognizing exactly what is going on or what is being whispered to me. This time, I got one of the most profound answers I've ever received through the absolute peace and stillness by which these answers were conveyed.

It took me back to the Missionary Training Center when I first started out as a missionary, a time when I things were still very rough. I had felt that I was somehow stalled in my progression and hit a plateau that I couldn't quite overcome. I had been beating myself up over it and it had been getting in the way of everything else, but then one of my instructors talked me down and told me I needed to go into an unused classroom to talk to my Heavenly Father.

In that brief moment of time, everything dissolved away. I had expected to feel the burning or tingle that I often associate with the Spirit. However, as I prayed and pleaded for help and an understanding of what was going on with me, that complete and total feeling of peace came upon me. It was so absolute that I couldn't help but feel everything would be alright.

I felt that same calm again last night as we talked and pleaded for help and guidance. We asked in faith, and I know that we all received inspired individual steps to help one of Gods children get his life in order. The Spirit testified this to me...

Where it goes from here with this story, I don't know yet. I just know that this man felt the Spirit just as strongly as I did, and I know that as he acts upon those things that he received that he will obtain all that his Father in Heaven has for him. I offer my solemn testimony that God lives and loves each of us and that He sent His Son to redeem all mankind because He loves us, and I know He loves us enough to hear every prayer we have ever had. Keep speaking, He hears you.

Time For A Cookie :]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Caught in the Middle of a Crossfire

Believe what you want about missionaries, we have feelings too.

Its hard sometimes, I wont lie... you get to be friends with some of the best people in the world and you have no doubt that you could just talk with them for hours on end. But you always keep your purpose in the back of your mind... you as a missionary are there to share the gospel. You are there in the first place because you have felt these things in your life and seen the positive change and you want to bring that same joy and happiness to those around you. Whatever reasons you had for coming out in the firstplace are void and null once tested... but the reason you stay is because you love the people.

It his the hardest thing to do when you know that there is a good chance that whatever friendly relationship you had will end as soon as you mention the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People don't like to be preached at... people don't like to be told that what they are doing isn't living up to what they could be... people don't like to change.

But we all must change. We all want and need to become something better. All of us fall short, but all of us gotta keep pushing. Our job as missionaries is to invite people to make those changes. My pride and joy is seeing somebody know for themselves that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and then do something about it.

On the flip side... it breaks my heart when there is nothing I can do. Sometimes you just gotta let it go, because whatever happens is up to them. We can only help facilitate and provide whatever tools we can to help the person feel the Spirit... we can't do it for them.

But the reason why I do this, the reason why I risk losing friends, is because I care.