Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20 Letter

Well, another week has come and gone. This one went by super quickly! It's weird...

This Saturday, we have a baptism for--brace for it--the mom of the fiance of the son of a recent convert family. Haha, the son, Freddy, and his fiance, Liz, are both planning on getting baptized a few weeks down the road, though, so it's not quite so weird. But Kathy, the one who's getting baptized this week, is an incredible lady. She has a lot of back problems, so sometimes it's been hard to meet up with her and she isn't able to make it to church some weeks. Normally, that'd be a big red flag that we'd be worried about. But, instead of it being a sign of her unenthusiasm, we just found out that she usually spends from about 10:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon reading the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets we gave her about each of the lessons. If that's not preparation, I don't know what is!

Freddy and Liz are making some incredible progress, too. Freddy for a while had been struggling picking up on the concepts. But, we've been figuring out that he is VERY visual with his learning. When we went over the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we drew him a circle with arrows going from faith to repentance and on and on, until it reached faith again. Liz didn't make it to that lesson, so we went back to teach it to her, with Freddy there. When we asked what faith was, all he could remember was the circle haha. We're definitely figuring out how to teach him, though, and the changes that he's been making are awesome. A member of the ward even talked to us about seeing him in the store earlier in the week and the completely different way he treated her compared to months past.

We also set a baptismal date for a man named Justin for the 22nd of September, which is incredible. He's what we call an eternigator--someone who investigates for what seems like an eternity. Luckily, he's only been a couple years where some go for more than a decade. His wife, Tanya, was actually baptized when he started taking discussions a long while back, and he's taken them completely through three times before now, but he just couldn't quit smoking. (In New York, everyone  smokes. My clothes are starting to smell like cigarettes already.) But, he's gone from two packs a day to about twelve cigarettes a day in a couple weeks, is planning on being down to five cigarettes by the start of September, then just cut himself off completely. What I think is really going to push him is we talked about the opportunity he'll have to baptize his 9-year-old daughter, Savannah, who goes to church every week in just a month or so after his baptism, as well as the chance to go through the temple with his family a year after his baptism. It made it so that baptism was just one step along the way to a much bigger goal, and I think made it a lot less intimidating of a step, plus it will give him a reason to stay strong on not smoking.

With Andrew (the man who we helped clean up his fallen tree) and Matt (his friend, who asked us if we were the same people who had helped Andrew with his tree), we have found a golden way to make sure we don't lose contact with them. Every week, their sons Owen and Marcus, agreed to come play soccer at the park with Elder Inkley and me and a few others. Right now, there is only one member of our branch's Young Men's program, and we got him on board with coming and playing with us. What we're hoping to do is eventually transition from a fun pick-up 3v3 soccer game to having them all go to Young Men's activities together. It's great, because it guarantees that we see Andrew and Matt (or their wives) at least once a week as they pick up and drop off their sons, it makes it so Dougie (the solo Young Man, who is actually a recent convert of about 7 months) is actively involved in missionary work, and it gives us the chance to meet a whole bunch of the youth in the Delevan area.

I experienced a depressing thing on Friday, though.... I stepped on a scale. I've been gone for only 6 (maybe 7? I don't know) weeks now... and I've put on 10 freaking pounds! What the?! Haha I was really stunned by it... then I got home and saw this and it all made sense:

And that doesn't even include the bottles that are in a different recycling bag... or the Fudge Round wrappers.... Ladies, don't get too hopeful for when I come home: I may be a nice young RM, but I'll be a nice young 240 pound RM...

So, I finally had my economics know-how come in handy! I was able to finally explain my big confusion of the past few months: the relationship between faith and works. The Bible makes it very clear that we are saved based on faith, and that the law of works will never get us saved. That seemed contrary to almost everything I'd learned since Sunbeams. We always sang "Keep the Commandments" and learned about repentance. If the law of works didn't matter, then why repent? Why keep the commandments? Well! I think I figured it out, by using econ.

In economics, we measure a thing called "utility." Utility is essentially how happy an action (usually a purchase) makes you. Even while we use a unit called "utils" to measure utility, it is pretty much an arbitrary measurement. Saying four utils is like saying four happies. What the heck is a happy? However, what we can do, is measure what you are willing to give up for that happiness. We are willing to give up $2 for a piece of pizza, but we aren't willing to give up $2 for a small pebble. So, reasonably the utility of purchasing pizza is higher than purchasing pebbles, because we are willing to give up more for it.

In life, Heavenly Father has to measure our faith. Just like utility, it is pretty much impossible to put a concrete measurement on our faith and our love for Him. What we can do, though, is measure what we are willing to give up for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The commandments are all about sacrifice. Elder Inkley and I were talking about this, and both agreed it would be absurd for us to sacrifice two years for a mission if we didn't have faith that 1) we were called on a mission by a living prophet and 2) our message could actually benefit people's lives.

I read Hebrews 11 this week, and it skyrocketed to one of my favorite chapters in all the scriptures. Everyone should go read it. It talks about how prophet after prophet does incredible actsbecause of their faith. Then, we realized that all throughout the Book of Mormon, it talks about us being judged according to our works. Not necessarily judging our works, but using our works to judge our faith. In James 2, it has the "faith without works is dead" line. Notice that it doesn't say "faith is dead, so just have good works"? It is faith that matters, and Romans 3 does an excellent job explaining that we will be judged by our faith, but our works are how we can show our faith.

Well, that's about all that's coming to my mind to tell you about.... just keep the letters coming! I love to hear from people in the real world!!

I love you, but I don't miss you!

Elder Allen

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