Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24 Letter

Oh... hey there :)

First, who needs Logan Canyon?? My whole mission looks like the Spectrum right now!! I'm just going to be pretty sad when we go from the crazy green from a month ago, to the million colors around now, to the complete barren, snow-covered wasteland that is to come... 

Well, one of the major focuses of my last email is completely voided now, because we didn't end up making it to Palmyra this weekend. BUT, we had a crazy past half week, so you're in for a good one today!

Before I get to the super spiritual stuff, I want to share a quick story that will make you laugh. I tried cooking! Hahaha you are probably already laughing... Well, as soon as I started, I found out we do not have any tablespoons in the house, so I had to go on a crazy chase to find someone who knew how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. Thank goodness for Sister missionaries! Haha I ended up having to call up Sister Schank and Sister Brown from up in Buffalo, and they were there to save me. Before I go on, whoever decided to make three teaspoons in a tablespoon is an idiot! What a random number! Anyways, I kept going, using three teaspoons for a tablespoon. Well.... as time went on I had a sudden flashback to kindergarten where I learned all this measurement stuff.... sigh...... a little "t" is a teaspoon, not a tablespoon... three times too much salt ends up being noticeable.... I didn't know a mission would be this hard!!!

On Thursday, we went on splits with the Owens brothers again. I don't know why we always seem so significantly more successful on exchanges, but we both came back with some awesome stories! First, for Elder Inkley's story:

He and Ryan Owens went over to Justin's house. We had planned on Justin being baptized this past Saturday, but had figured that probably wasn't going to happen because he was still smoking ten cigarettes a day, hadn't been to church in over a month, and had only actually met with us once since I've been here. Honestly, I'll admit I wasn't especially optimistic about him, and was nervous that this was going to end like the other three times he'd taken the discussions. But Elder Inkley made some ridiculous ground with him last week. Justin had been reading the pamphlets, and he'd just asked Elder Inkley a simple question about how the Spirit World was going to work or something. I don't know the whole story, but somehow one thing led to another and they were in a full conversation about the entire Plan of Salvation, especially aiming at eternal families. Somehow, no one had really explained to him what it meant to have a family for all eternity in the past few times of teaching him, so that really opened him up. 

Then, they started talking about his smoking. He talked about how hard it was to quit smoking, and this is where Elder Inkley was able to work his magic. Elder Inkley told him about his own conversion story. Even though he'd been raised LDS, he stopped caring or going to church in high school, and got into a lot of undesirable crap. He then told Justin about what it was like for him to give up his old lifestyle, and that he knows it takes a lot of work. This really hit Justin hard, because he said that all the other missionaries who had taught him before hadn't ever really been addicted to anything and would cry repentance to him without any understanding of where he was coming from. We don't know Justin's full background, but we do know that he used to smoke weed as well, has a couple "thug life" tattoos, and came from Buffalo in high school and was known as one of the rougher kids in the area back then. But according to Elder Inkley, Justin didn't stop smiling from the time Elder Inkley shared his own story on, and you'd have to know Justin's personality to understand how amazing that is haha.

Even more incredible, when talking with Justin and his wife, Tanya, who is a member, she started talking about her mom. Apparently she is now looking into the church, and--get this--Justin has been the main missionary for her!According to Tanya, her mom really hates change and is afraid of having to quit smoking, but last week, she said Justin told her mom, "You know, I hate change too. But I will quit smoking, and I will be a Mormon!" Who'd have thought!?

Then, while Elder Inkley and Ryan were over with Justin, Nate and I went over to Matt's house. Remember, this is probably my favorite family I've met since coming out here (if I'm allowed to pick favorites...?). Matt is currently in China on a work trip, but we wondered if it would be easier to bluntly bring up the gospel with his wife, Krissa. We went over and just talked to her for a little while, when out of nowhere, Nate said, "So, what do you know about Mormons?" Krissa answered that she really didn't know very much about any religions. Even though she definitely believes in God and even in Jesus Christ, she only knew vague aspects of what that entailed. Now here's the start of the crazy part! She then continued to say that when she'd heard us talking to Matt about the Church before, she started doing a little bit of her own research, and was starting to learn a little more about Joseph Smith and temples, in particular. 

Nate, a freaking all-star, moved right into talking about the Book of Mormon. I asked her if it made sense to her that God would only give His gospel to one small region of the world, she was like, "I always wondered about that!" Hahaha I almost couldn't respond I was so happy about that answer haha. But we started talking about what the Book of Mormon really was, and that it gave Christ's same gospel, only to the people of the Americas. Then, I realized I completely failed, and didn't have any Book of Mormons on me to leave with her, so instead we left a Restoration pamphlet and said we would come back to talk about it and give her a Book of Mormon on Saturday night.

Well, obviously we did. She had read the whole pamphlet and was just loaded with questions! But, I can't even describe how well the conversation flowed. A lot of times, even when the discussion goes well, I feel myself getting into unnatural-missionary-mode. This was just like a normal conversation, though! We kept on going, and everything was just falling into place. Then, she made the perfect comment: "You know what I really liked about the booklet? The 'How to Pray' section. It's embarrassing, but I never really learned how to pray. Also... I think you are the only church that I've heard of who asks you to pray to know if what they are teaching is true. Why is that?" Ha... we couldn't really come up with an answer about why it was. But, we showed her Moroni's promise in the back of the Book of Mormon that we'd given her, and she agreed that she would read the Book and pray to know if it was true! Holy crap I am so excited to see what happens with them!!

Oh shoot, and I almost forgot this part: KRISSA IS ALSO WORKING AS A MISSIONARY! Haha, some lady at her work was talking about looking for a church, and apparently Krissa started talking to her about the two Mormon boys who keep coming by her house and how much she and Matt have come to like us. Haha now that lady is looking into the Church!

Next story.

Earlier Saturday, we got a call from Sister Duncan. Patti, a convert of about a year, had just broken her ankle, and was in the Olean hospital. She specifically requested us to come and give her a blessing. Now, Olean is actually outside our mission, but President Christianson gave us special permission to leave the mission to visit her. As the results of the X-rays came in, we found out she'd broken both her Tibia and her Fibula. She would need surgery in a week, and would almost definitely need pins in it. What was incredible to see was the way the Freedom Branch worked together to make everything work out. Sister Duncan had driven with her in the ambulance to Olean; Sister Forster came to pick her up; Sister Becker opened up her house to take care of Patti while she's so immobile; the Branch Presidency rushed to figure out how to help her while she is out of work, especially because her insurance ran out yesterday. What an incredible place I'm in!

I know I've shared this in letters to a couple of you, but if you are one of those and you actually end up reading this, just know you were special enough to get it first. Really, though, it's too fitting for this past half week to not share with everyone. First, go read Luke 24:13-32. Really, go read it, or this whole thing is going to make zero sense. Now think about that statement: "Did not our hearts burn within us?" The Spirit felt at so many of these experience I've talked about, and numerous ones I haven't shared was SO ridiculously strong. Whether it was the way Elder Inkley and I, or either of the Owens boys felt, or the way that the people we are talking to felt, there is no way to say that our hearts weren't burning within us. There have been real miracles. The people we've come in contact with, the conversations we've had, the questions we've asked and the stories we've shared could NOT be coincidental. There's just no way. I still doubt myself all the time, but I love this scripture because it's such a slap in the face at the end. Did not my heart burn within me? There is one thing God can NOT do: lie. My heart as burned within me, and my prayers have been answered, and this could not be the case if this wasn't where I was supposed to be.

I have been signing "I love you, but I don't miss you" the whole time, with varied levels of sincerity. This time, no question about it:

I love you, but I don't miss you,
Elder Allen

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 19 Letter

Hey friends!

Sorry that it is Wednesday before I get to you, but on Monday we had a mission tour by Elder Perkins of the Quorum of the Seventy… and I decided that took precedence over writing to you. I still love you all lots, though!

The problem now is that I have to report on an extra three days of goings-on, and absolutely nothing is coming to me…

Oh! This is big! I don’t know if I’ve talked about Jacob at all, but he is an investigator of about a year. A while back, he randomly showed up to church, and has been coming every couple weeks ever since. He got really close with Elder Tanner, who left the area about seven transfers ago (each transfer is six weeks… I’m too lazy to do the math), but really has never progressed. Sometimes he’d read the Book of Mormon, sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes he’d come to church, sometimes he wouldn’t. Even more, he has a really rough personality. He definitely wants to be a better father… but he has a lot of stuff to get over. To add to it, he might be going to jail for four months in a few weeks.

For the past few weeks, Elder Inkley and I have been trying to figure out what our purpose was in going over there. We have gotten really close to his four and five year old daughters, though, and we couldn’t handle just bailing on them. Plus, we hoped maybe even if Jacob never progressed that maybe his fiancĂ©, Amanda, would. But… it was slow, seemingly helpless work.

But of course, Heavenly Father had some plan for us that wouldn’t let us leave! On Thursday, we went on splits with two ward missionaries. I told Nate Owens, who I was with, that it was his job to try to bring up the gospel; Elder Inkley and I had essentially gotten to the point of a normal friendship, and gospel talks were hard to come by. Luckily, Nate is a beast. He started just throwing stuff out there about eternal families, marriage, and all sorts of stuff (pretty brave for a 19-year-old single guy, eh?). Then, out of nowhere, the older lady who lives in the other apartment of Jacob’s house said, “You know, I’d go to church if Daniel would take me.” Daniel is that lady’s 18-year-old grandson who lives with them.

Now, this story has rambled on a long time… but I just want to show you the mysterious way that God works!

Daniel, out of nowhere, got super excited. When we asked him if he would drive his grandma, his answer was, “Should I wear a tie?” Haha, we hooked him up with a tie, and suddenly were in a super deep religious conversation with him! We were talking all about agency and repentance and it went on and on. I left him a Book of Mormon and asked him to read 2 Nephi 31. That night, we got a call from him, where he explained that not only did he read it, but he prayed about it and was told that the path in the chapter (the Doctrine of Christ) was the path he was supposed to go on.

Well, long story short, he’s getting baptized a week from Friday!! He came to church, we’ve met with him two more times, one of those times with Brother Jordan from the branch. Brother Jordan really latched onto him, it was incredible. Now, on Saturday, Brother Jordan is taking all of us to Palmyra. Basically, Saturday is going to be incredible, and the next Friday will just one-up it!

Now, for less exciting (but still exciting) news….

We met with a referral for the first time yesterday. We had just tracted for about three hours, so were kind of worn out. But, we went there, explained who we were, and when we said we were Mormons, she was like, “Oh, like Brian McCown?” “Ha… yes ma’am, he’s actually the one who recommended we come talk to you.” Now, I won’t say the conversation was anything that is a step from baptism, but there are two statements she made that contrast beautifully with each other and I’m very excited to see where we end up going with this family.

At the beginning, she kind of precluded the whole conversation with, “Brian told me about the church a little bit… and it’s kind of weird. I’m a Catholic, but really it isn’t much different than Lutherans, Methodists, and Baptists. Mormonism seems pretty different, though.” Interesting start… but we talked for literally two hours. In that time, we read the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, about four scriptures in it, about half of Doctrine and Covenants 137, and the entire Proclamation to the Family. We talked about families, especially eternal families, grace “after all that you can do,” baptism, the Apostasy and the Restoration, and who knows what else.

As we were about to leave, I invited her to pray to know if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Roman Catholics were true. Now keep in mind the quote from the last paragraph before you read this one: “You know… maybe they’re both true.” She then made some comment about how she really disagrees with Born-Again Christians. Now, look at the difference in those two statements! Hopefully she’ll keep reading the Book of Mormon like she said she would and continue to be touched!

Unfortunately, it’s not looking like Justin will be baptized this week like we’d planned on… It’s ridiculously frustrating. He texted us about two months ago saying he wanted to get baptized and wanted a refresher on the lessons so that he could before Summer was over (he’s taken the lessons three times, so there’s only so much more we need to flat out teach him). But, he’s only met with us twice since then. He’s still smoking ten cigarettes a day. He hasn’t come to church once in those two months. It’s the never-ending frustration, because he has some clear issues to overcome—smoking is the big one—but he won’t even meet with us to allow us to help him. It’s so irritating some days.

Amy hasn’t been to church in a while either, but hers is for a VERY different reason. Apparently not only does she have a broken back, but she also has Crohn’s, which has acted up so bad that she’s had an in-home nurse the past two weeks. This Sunday, though, she invited us over to give her a blessing, and it was such an awesome experience! The Spirit was so incredible. I feel like she is definitely converted now, based on how much she talks about wanting to meet with us again and how badly she wants to go to church. We also talked to her son, Alex, about how his Book of Mormon reading was going—he was on page two hundred-freaking-fifty-one! We met with them the first time four weeks ago! He is a faster reader than I am, and I have four hours of studying every morning!

Shoooot, this letter is getting too long! I’ll try to quickly wrap things up!

First, I have an invitation for every one of you. Elder Perkins (the Seventy that came to visit us) talked about how to receive personal revelation during meetings like that. He had us all write down two questions we wanted answered, one of them a personal question (about family, staying focused, getting along better with our companion, etc.) and another about proselyting (having people follow commitments, finding people, etc.). He told us that expecting revelation without asking any questions was essentially daring God to help us; we bear no responsibility in that situation. Want to know the miracle of his invitation, though? At the end, he asked us to stand up if at least one of our questions were answered. Not a single missionary was left seated. 

Now, my invitation to you is to do the same in three weekends, for General Conference. We will have the ability to hear Heavenly Father speaking through dozens of people to us, personally. Don’t dare him to give you revelation! Write down 2-5 questions you really need answered, and be thinking about those answers. Revelation may not come by the mouth of the person speaking. My answer was RIDICULOUSLY roundabout. Elder Perkins’ wife had made one comment, which made me think about something at home from last year, which made me get really confused, and suddenly I realized that it was my answer! If I wasn’t looking for an answer, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Yes, we usually have a talk or two that hits us really hard in Conference. But, allow God to answer the questions you have by simply writing them down. Pleaaaaase :)

I love you, but I don’t miss you!
Elder Allen

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10 Letter

Hi All!

First and foremost, Go Aggies!! Of course this happens after I leave, but we finally figured out how to not lose in the last five minutes of a game!

Also, to any SigEps reading this, well done with the flag! I didn’t watch a single video of the game that showed the crowd that I couldn’t see the flag flying. For the first time, I felt actually homesick, especially since it was the end of recruitment week. I hope that went well for you guys! Someone needs to let me know how it all went. CJ? Sounds like a Communications job to me. Anyways, tell all my new brothers hi and give them a big, awkward hug for me. Also pertaining to all you guys, I found a scripture that just screams SigEp: Hebrews 13:1.

Well, onto the mission, I suppose….

I’m finding an interesting trend in my music tastes right now that I think is interesting. In Young Men, the songs always used are big mission pump up songs: “Army of Helaman,” “Ye Elders of Israel,” “Called to Serve,” etc. But what I’m finding is those aren’t the songs that are the most reassuring out here. Really quickly, songs like “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “I am a Child of God” are taking precedence, which is interesting to me. Ha, I guess I need a different kind of pumping up out here haha.

Anyways, that wasn’t very much of an update. Who cares about what music I listen to. So, anyways….

On Saturday, we had a branch temple trip to do baptisms for the dead. It was really cool for Elder Inkley and me, because the primary focus was on people who hadn’t been to the temple before, of which the vast majority were recent converts. The most exciting for us was that Kathy came, as well as Liz and Freddy.

Since Liz and Freddy aren’t yet baptized, they couldn’t go into the temple, but instead went to all the sites. Right before they went to the Sacred Grove, Elder Inkley told them, “I know you’ve already done this once, but when you get in there, kneel down and ask if this is all real.” They did, and said they had a really peaceful experience, and we’re about to head over there in about an hour to talk more about it. I’m stoked!

Possibly cooler, though, was to watch Kathy just light up as she came into the temple. Because of her back, she wasn’t able to do baptisms, but still did confirmations and watched the baptisms being done. For someone who has the worst back I’ve ever seen to drive two hours on a bumpy road and still look as peaceful as she did is just incredible. We also know she had a very good experience, because as soon as we were out, she started asking us about what she needs to do to have her brother’s work done, since he died just over a year ago. Right now, the plan is for Freddy to do Kathy’s brother’s work his first time to the temple after his baptism!

We also made some really surprising progress with an investigator named Jacob this week. Jacob randomly showed up to church about a year ago without much of an explanation. The missionaries have been meeting with him here and there, but the progress was minimal, at best. He mostly seemed to just want to come to our church for the sake of a church, not thinking anything special of it. Still, the missionaries have stopped in here and there for some time.

A couple of weeks ago, though, we offered to help him tear down a big trailer. He hasn’t been formally employed for some time now, but has been making a decent living off of tearing down trailers. Between the pay he gets from the trailers’ owners and scrapping the metal, he’s been able to at least have a living wage. So, Elder Inkley and I went over to help him one day, and the conversation seemed to be nothing more than our usual conversation. What was surprising, though, was that that Sunday, he asked, “So, are you two going to come over to the house on Wednesday to talk?” He’d never asked us to come before. 

One of the most difficult parts of talking to him is his daughters. One is 6, the other is 4, and they are both crazy. Elder Inkley and I have worked out a system, though! What we’ve been doing is having him play with the girls — their favorite game is for him to put a stuffed animal on his head and run around the yard while they chase after him…— while I talk with Jacob or his fiancĂ©, Amanda. By actually getting into a conversation with them, you wouldn’t believe the progress we’ve made with each of them! We’ve learned all about how much Jacob wants to do what it takes to be a good father, yet a lot of his serious struggles in life. Amanda, we’d never really even talked to, but one day she started talking about how much she’d like to come to church without us even probing her about it. Then, for the climax, we were talking to Jacob one day, and I just flat out asked him, “So, have you ever thought about baptism?” “Yeah, Elder Tanner talked about it a little,” he said. “Well, are you planning on being baptized?” After a little bit of thought, he finally responded, “Yeah… I am. I just need a little more time.” Now, I know that is a bit of a cop out answer, but that is HUGE progress if you knew Jacob!

We also are having some awesome progress with Matt. It’s funny to meet with him, because it is about nine parts friendship building, one part church. But still, it’s progress! The past couple weeks, we’ve gone over for dinner at his house twice, have done a few little service projects here and there, and have played quite a bit of basketball. He and I have talked about hunting and politics for hours by now. 

Meanwhile, we have talked about his own baptism and confirmation in the Lutheran Church, the Plan of Salvation, the Word of Wisdom and especially how it relates to other churches’ standards, Joseph Smith, missionary work, temples, and who knows what else, almost without him realizing what we are doing. It’s funny, because he said yesterday that he really likes the two of us because we don’t try to force religious conversations, but I really don’t think he realizes how much we’ve talked about and how much he really understands about our beliefs. 

Haha, but the best part about our visit with Matt, yesterday? We told him that we were both here for at least six more weeks, but that Elder Inkley would probably be transferred after that. “Well, can I write a note to someone saying that you two need to stay here for me?” was his response hahaha. I freaking love Matt.

We’re also having a lot more success tracting now than is usual. Last week we went tracting and were able to set up about four follow up appointments with people. One of them that I’m most excited to see develop had invited us into her house almost as soon as we knocked. She was an older lady, and was with her grandson. We were able to kick it off really quick, because she was planning her upcoming Cub Scout Den Meeting. Perfect! We talked about scouts for a good 15 minutes, then eased into the Restoration. She said that it would make a lot of sense that we would still have prophets on the Earth, because like she said, “The world has bad things now that we didn’t even have when I was a kid!” She also said it made a lot of sense that Christ would have visited more than just those in Jerusalem. We left her the Book of Mormon, and she said she would read it with her grandson and talk about it with us on Tuesday. I’m stoked!

Even while we are getting better at tracting, we are finding it hard sometimes to boldly testify at the door without being super awkward. We are really good about talking about other people’s religious backgrounds, but it is hard to bear testimony in return without feeling abrasive. But never fear! President Christianson stopped by yesterday and we were talking to him, and casually said, “Hey, you should come tract with us sometime!” Haha, surprising to both of us, his answer was, “When?” Ha, hopefully it really happens! We would convert the whole area!!

But another interesting thing President talked to us about was how to avoid temptation, and I wanted to expand on it just a bit. He said that when we are ever tempted to do something, we should pray for charity. He said that when we pray to overcome any temptation, it just locks the idea in our mind, where really we need to get the idea out of our head entirely. 

As I’ve been looking, though, charity seems like the PERFECT thing to pray for in that situation. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Charity suffereth long… doth not behave itself unseemly… seeketh not her own… is not easily provoked… thinketh no evil… rejoiceth not in iniquity… [and] never faileth.”

Even more, James tells us in James 1 that all sin comes as a result of lust. Now, this makes a lot of sense too. Lust is putting what makes you feel good ahead of all else. In contrast, charity is putting what is best for others well ahead of yourself. It is really an interesting thing to consider. Oh, President. Really, every one of you should read one of his books or listen to one of his talks. He’s incredible!

Well, write me! Want to hear a good sob story? Aside from my mother and sister, it has been over two weeks since I’ve received a letter from anyone! When I come back as a little Mormon Missionary Robot with no personality, you are to blame for not writing me!

I love you, but I don’t miss you!
Elder Allen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sept. 4 Letter

Hello there!

Well, tomorrow hits my two month mark! If my mission were a year, I'm about to hit February! That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

This week wasn't the most exciting, but I definitely have some exciting stories to tell.

Two weeks ago, Elder Inkley and I helped the pastor of the Delevan Baptist Church pack up his moving truck. It was funny, because we were actually trying to invite his 7- and 9-year-old sons to play soccer with us in a few days, but they said they wouldn't be able to because they'd have "already" moved. (We didn't even know they were planning on moving.) They then went on to invite us to help, which we jumped on. Apparently they bragged to their parents about inviting the "guys in the white shirts and ties" to come help, because Pastor Taylor, while noticeably surprised that we actually showed up, said he heard we might be coming. It was a good time loading them up, and they even invited us for dinner that night. The coolest part of the whole story, though, is that we have had multiple people in the area ask us if we are the same two Mormon who helped Pastor Taylor out. Apparently not only did the younger boys mention we were coming, but Pastor Taylor actually told people that we came!

We had another really neat meeting with Amy on Sunday. After a very good experience in the Restoration and at President Christianson's fireside, we moved on the the Plan of Salvation with her. Again, there were about twelve people there, and so the name "discussion" became much more real. By the end, people were just bearing testimony left and right, ranging from what repentance has done for them to the importance of regular church attendance. It was really cool, because of the twelve of us there, only four had been raised in the church. Probably the most powerful testimony was from Derrick, who was just visiting from the Boston area, who had been baptized when he was 24 and went on to serve a mission at age 25, just a couple months before it would have been too late to go. His testimony of repentance was phenomenal! 

When we were talking to Amy about the purpose of life and the struggles of mortality, she talked about how much she thought her life was being ruined when she broke her back. She had career goals that were crushed. Raising children was going to be a new challenge. Everything was going to be different. However, she said as time has gone on, she realized that there are certain blessings that could have never occurred without her accident. She has now been able to spend more time with her kids--a necessity now that she is a single parent. She went on to name off multiple things that she looks at as her biggest blessings that came to be only because of one of the biggest tragedies of her life. As she was talking, I was reminded of this video, that many of you might have seen, but still brings even me to tears any time I watch it

(note from Megan - Tessa is actually from Cache Valley! You can read more about her story on her BLOG)

I showed it to Amy afterward, and it was a great cap to an already awesome discussion. She committed to really praying about the Book of Mormon this week, and I really think she'll probably commit to baptism in the next week or two. She's already been reading and praying, so it's only a matter of time until she really receives witness of the book's divinity, the church's truthfulness, and of the proper path she should go on from here.

Also with Amy at the discussions is a woman named Bernie. Bernie has been attending church for about fifteen years now, but is apparently afraid of making the lifestyle changes associated with baptism. She is the first to say she knows the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has Christ's true gospel, but I was surprised when she told me on Sunday that she has never actually prayed to know if it is true. I invited her to do so, and she did, in fact, accept. I was a little confused that she could know the Church was Christ's true church, but had never prayed about it. Then, Kelly (whose house we are holding the discussions at) told me after that Bernie had taken the discussions once before, but the missionaries then hadn't ever invited her to keep any commitments. That kind of threw me off guard, because that was one of the biggest focuses of the MTC. But, hopefully if she can receive a divine witness of the Church's truth, she will be more willing to make any lifestyle changes necessary.

Liz and Freddy are still progressing nicely. Since we have to wait for their wedding at the end of the month for them to be baptized, we are now just making up lessons to teach them. What we've found, though, is they absorb stuff best when they have to analyze scriptures and other resources and then write down their own understanding of principles like repentance and conversion. So, that is what we are doing: giving them assignments to do in our absence, then spending an hour or so talking with them about their previous assignment. The changes in each of them really are incredible.

Today we met a less-active man who is quite a character. No one knows 100% how much he says is true and how much he says isn't, but according to his story, he has a PhD in nuclear physics from Cambridge and another PhD in chemical engineering from Oxford. The reason he is unemployed, though, is because apparently espionage charges scare away most employers...... Hahaha I'm not sure how much I believe either, but he is certainly an exciting man to talk to! Haha

We are getting much better at tracting. On Thursday, the zone leaders came down and we blitzed our area where all four of us are in the same area, just tracting away. In just one afternoon, we picked up FIVE new investigators! My favorite door approach of Elder Teichart's was "Hello, we are just going around reading the Bible to people today. 'In the beginning...'" but apparently that didn't work too well. The one that did somehow work was "Hi, we're going around looking for people who would like to be baptized." The guy he said that one to actually agreed to a follow up visit to learn more about it! Ha, don't ask me how that approach worked... 

Today, we were reading the Bible with Dennis, a member of the branch who has some mental disabilities who we meet with about once a week. We are getting to the close of Exodus, where God is explaining how to go about the rituals in the tabernacle. Something about it really stood out to me today:

We always learn that the sacrifice of the lambs in the tabernacle represent the Atonement of Christ--Exodus even calls these sacrifices atonements. What really caught my attention today was that the Lord describes two purposes of the sacrifices. First, as a remission of sins--that one is obvious. The second, though, is to release fragrances from the entrails of the lamb that are pleasing to God. Now, I feel like God doesn't necessarily smell these fragrances, and even if he did, I don't think he really needs us to burn things for Him to have joy. However, what does give Heavenly Father joy? According to the Book of Moses, in the Pearl of Great Price, his "work and glory" is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man"--or to see us return to Him through obedience to the laws and the ordinances of the gospel. 

Now, let's think about this. The sacrifice of the lambs symbolizes Christ's Atonement. A purpose of this sacrifice is to make God happy. God is happy when we receive eternal life. We receive eternal life when we are obedient and keep His commandments. A primary purpose of the Atonement is to give us the Savior's grace--the power that enables us to continues growing and learning. As Elder Bednar put it, because of “the Atonement of Jesus Christ [we may] learn from our experience without being condemned by that experience.” We learn in Alma 7:11-12 that Christ suffered not only for our sins, but he felt all of our pains and afflictions.

I know I'm mostly rambling by now, but I hope you get my point. If we will truly rely on the Atonement of the Savior, we can grow and actually become obedient. Mosiah 3:7 tells us that it is only through the Atonement of Christ that we can put off the natural man. So, let's go out there and make Heavenly Father happy!

Well, that's all I've got for you today. Good luck everyone as school gets going! If anyone has Randy Simmons, Bill Shughart, Huiyun Feng, or Steve Sharp, be sure to tell them hi for me!

I love you all, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen