Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 25 Letter


Well, I guess I'll just start with this - I'm headed to Warsaw! Haha really, I don't know what to think of the transfer. I mean, it's rough to get transferred, period... but Warsaw is probably the area most demographically similar to Freedom. It's great in a way, because I've loved it out here. It's tough, though, because it makes it that much easier to compare everything head-to-head... and Freedom is the fastest moving area right now. I feel like if I'd gone to downtown Rochester or something, the two wouldn't even be comparable. Haha oh well... I guess I'll just have to make do and get Warsaw up to par with Freedom!

Before I forget, my new address is

Elder Bracken Allen
12-A Empire Street
Warsaw, NY 14569

The Bracken part is especially important, too, if you're going to be sending anything to the mission office (the one in Pittsford), because there's a new Elder Allen coming out tomorrow!

Now I'll give a quick rundown of the week, because we did some cool stuff.

We went to Palmyra TWICE with two different groups! On Sunday night, Patti kind of jokingly suggested she and Debbie take Friday off and we make a site trip. I didn't think they were serious until they asked us on Wednesday what time we wanted to leave on Friday. Haha but it was great! We had an especially cool tour of the Grandin Building, where the first copy of the Book of Mormon was printed and published. While there, it really hit me hard the difference between that and the Sacred Grove or the Hill Cumorah. The latter two are very spiritual in an almost mystical way. They involve visions and clearly divine guidance. The Grandin Building is particularly interesting, though, because it's so... normal. It wasn't that God said, "Let there be copies of the Book of Mormon, and there were copies." It took some legitimate work. They walk you through the whole process, and it was painstaking! I love it, because it's all so practical! The printing press had to get there, E.B. Grandin had to agree to the contract, Martin Harris had to mortgage his farm, the list goes on. Everything had to fit together. It wasn't a big, miraculous appearance, but a series of small, tender mercies. It's really cool! I think Debbie really enjoyed it too!

Patti, Debbie, and Ryan at the Grandin Building
What made me even more excited was the second trip! We went on Saturday with Krissa and Matt and Marcus!! That was phenomenal! We didn't have time for the Grandin Building that time around, but we had some very cool experiences at the Hill and Grove. What was really neat was the tour of the Cumorah Visitor's Center. We didn't really do much introduction to the sister missionary giving the tour aside from names and whatnot, but she NAILED it! She almost instantly started just talking about how important Joseph Smith's family was to him and how the family is so crucial to the gospel. I was so stoked! THEN, they have these little cards that people there can fill out so the missionaries can contact them with the person's thoughts. That was a lot of pronouns... So say I filled out a card, I could write my thoughts on it and have a missionary call my friend back home and tell my friend everything I am thinking while at the sites. Get it? Gooood. Well, Krissa actually filled one out for her mom to be contacted! In the comments, she started talking about how much the gospel has helped her faith and helped her understand the importance of families and everything. WOO HOO!!!! I was freaking stoked!!! Such a great experience! It's awesome to be able to teach the Restoration right where it happened!

Hopkins family at the Hill Cumorah
Well, that was really the bulk of the week. We obviously did other stuff, but that's what stands out the most. Now, I want to talk about some things I learned while here in Freedom from each of those who I have taught and baptized.

Cora was baptized within a week of me getting here. Unfortunately, she's fallen away since then. But, what I learned from watching her is the importance of befriending anyone at church who is new! She was a strong, active member right up until the Neilsons, the senior couple who used to be out here, moved away. Then she didn't have anyone who kept her coming. When I am home, that is going to stand out to me forever. If someone is new, BE THEIR FRIEND!

Then came Kathy. Kathy really taught me that God really rewards us for doing all that we can. She has a skeletal system that is just falling apart, so getting to and staying through church is very hard for her. But I have never met someone who reads the Book of Mormon so in depth as she does. She puts in soooo much effort in understanding the gospel, it is incredible, and she is definitely blessed for it! It's incredible to watch her!

Next was Freddie and Liz. They got married just before their baptism, and have really shown how important the gospel is in our relationships. They are pretty young to be married, and have definitely had their share of feuds, but they always been able to work through it, often by simply reading the scriptures and praying together. 

Up next was Justin. Justin took YEARS to get baptized, largely because of word of wisdom issues. But he, yet again, taught me a lot about the importance of the Book of Mormon. He was struggling quitting smoking, but then he started reading the Book of Mormon every night. The transformation was incredible! He completely changed. Really quickly he went from "I want to get baptized someday," to "I am ready to get baptized next week."

Then was Amanda. This one is similar to Kathy, only in a different way. She really showed how living the gospel blesses you, even if you don't really know why. Like I said, leading up to her baptism, I don't know if she really understood what it even meant to have a living prophet, but she definitely understood that she felt the most at peace when she read the scriptures and prayed everyday. The blessings came even if she didn't understand all the details. I struggle with that a lot of times, and really admire her faith in keeping on pressing forward. She's currently about halfway through the Book of Mormon - for her second time through.

Next was Debbie. Debbie was positive she would never be baptized. What she really showed me was that we can argue every point of the gospel, and she definitely did, but what really matters is if it is true. Once she gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, none of the small points really made much of a difference anymore. She would still argue them, sure. But she understood that if she would just pray about them, her answer was legitimate. She gained a testimony of revelation, both personal and from the mouth of a living prophet. It was awesome.

Really, I think I've learned more about the Savior and His gospel in the eight months I've spent in Freedom than I did in the 19 years leading up to it. No offense to any of my Sunday School teachers... you helped too. But it's been a heck of a run out here!

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

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