Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 28 Letter

Well, transfer weeks are always fun. You are severely limited in time because you really don't start 'til halfway through the week, but then you visit all of the coolest people all in a row. So, while I don't have lots of stories, I do have some cool ones!

First, Stephen. We went over and had a really good lesson with him on Wednesday. We have struggled to help him see the urgency in knowing truth for himself, but then realized that we never really have taught him the Restoration from our perspective. Granted, he essentially taught it to us when we tracted into him, but it kind of became "There should be a prophet, there should be the priesthood, there should be order, etc." and us saying, "Yes! Joseph Smith!" This week, we went into, "There needs to be and is a prophet, there needs to be and is the priesthood, thereneeds to be and is order, etc." It went great! It's funny to teach him because he has such a deep background knowledge of everything religious. You almost get hesitant to say some things, knowing that he knows enough about history and religion to call you out if you are wrong. But, he didn't call us out! And he told us that he'd actually read up through 1 Nephi 17 and was loving it! And then he came to church on Sunday, despite not getting home from West Virginia until almost2:00 Sunday morning! He's doing wonderfully.

We also taught Draga, who is the mother-in-law of a less active lady up in the Sisters' area. Lori, Draga's daughter-in-law, always has us go up there for random things, Wednesday being one of those days. We were up there to mow the lawn, but it started raining instead. She wanted to feed us lunch, so we stayed another two hours for lunch to be ready and eaten haha. But, the Sisters were there and afterwards we had an incredible lesson with Draga. Lori said she thinks Draga is finally realizing that there have always been Latter-day Saints around her and that maybe it means something, plus she is going through a really hard time with a number of things right now so maybe she'd be humbled enough to give it a chance.

So, the Sisters started by having us all read Alma 34. I feel slightly bad, because I kind of took over the lesson... but it turned out pretty cool! I pointed out that Amulek is talking to a group of people who had been cast out of their synagogues. They thought it was a bad thing and were pretty depressed, not realizing that those synagogues were really participating in apostate worship, anyways. I pointed out to Draga that here were a group of people that at any other point wouldn't have accepted the gospel, but God had them in the perfect situation of humility right then. 

I then pointed out that Amulek himself at one point resisted the truth. In Alma 10:5-6, he says, "Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people. Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know." So, this whole chapter is about a teacher who was at one point very hardened to the truth, teaching an audience who at one point was very hardened to the truth.
As we read, we talked about the meaning of "faith unto repentance," and how Christ demands discipleship, not just passive belief. This idea is echoed throughout the chapter. Really, faith unto repentance is the only way of making the "great and last sacrifice" matter to us at all and allow the laws of mercy to take effect. Right after the whole series of "faith unto repentance" verses, Amulek discourses on prayer. We discussed how prayer is how we gain faith in God and also how we really gain the strength and ability to fully repent. Draga shared with all sorts of stories with us on how she knows God is there and is mindful of her. The Spirit got super strong, and it was all incredible.
Then we got to verse 30, which talks about bringing fruit meet for repentance. I cross-referenced this over to Moroni 8:25 for her, which reads: And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins."
By this point, we'd been talking forever, so we couldn't go through all of the avoiding procrastination verses and whatnot. But I jumped ahead to verse 38, which tells us to "contend no more against the Holy Ghost." I asked her if she'd ever prayed to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. She hadn't! She's taken the discussions who knows how many times, and has never prayed to know if Joseph Smith's claims had any legitimacy or not. She definitely trusts God's answers enough, I don't know why she hasn't prayed. But, she promised that she would, and that she wouldn't contend against the Holy Ghost, and that, if God so willed it, she would bring forth fruit meet for repentance (aka baptism!)!

Then, of course the Asians. We went over to Jerry and Andrea at just after 6:00 on Friday. We didn't leave until really late. Actually, later than we were technically allowed to be out. Based on our conversation, though, I think/hope the Lord will forgive us! After we had dinner (I'm finally getting chop sticks down, although I feel I made a very good case for forks when I was able to pick up more beans with a fork than Andrea could with chop sticks, albeit in more time than it took her) we finally had a lesson. We started off by talking about Alma 32:26-27 and the importance of at least experimenting on the gospel. We emphasized that we really wanted them to not just learn about the gospel, but really apply it. We proceeded to really talk about the power of the Atonement and how it allows us to feel comforted, especially through prayer to the Father, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It wasn't much different than our very first lesson with them, but I think went a little deeper and was more impactful.

What was the coolest part of the lesson, though, was a statement from each of them. When we were leaving, Andrea started talking about a whole slew of exams that she had coming up this week. We encouraged her to pray for help, which she didn't think made much sense. Why would God care about her tests? We explained a bit about how much God wants us to succeed and especially not feel too overwhelmed, and eventually she conceded. "All right, I will pray. I like to experiment."
Earlier, we were talking to them about church, trying to help them understand the Holy Ghost. I then asked Jerry why he kept coming back to church, and about how he feels there. He probably gave the coolest answer I've ever heard, especially given that we would never have described it to him this way so it's not like he's just repeating how we told him the Spirit would feel. He said, "I feel like there is pure water running through my heart."

Well, hopefully that quenches your thirst for hearing my words ;) haha hope all is well back home!
I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Quick appendage: On Saturday, it was about 40 degrees, raining, with 50 mph wind gusts. Bike areas are not made for Buffalo winters.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 21 Letter

I like to pride myself in writing good, thorough emails each week. Well... It's not that Iwon't do that this week, but there's just minimal things to report.

See, last p-day, right after I sent my email, I went out into the gym where we were playing soccer. Elder Hirschi kicked the ball and instantly fell to the ground. He said his knee often pops a little, and he's able to pop it right back, but this time it wasn't repopping. He kind of hobbled out to the car, and we went home, staying there the rest of the night. It wasn't weight-bearing and it wasn't able to straighten past about 150 degrees.

Well, day by day it's gotten a little better. There was definitely some fluid buildup in it that has since mostly gone down. That's made it so he can straighten it to about 170-175 degrees and in the past few days finally put some weight on it and even walk around the apartment a little bit!

He'll be seeing a doctor this week. He's had it looked at by a missionary who did three years of athletic training in high school who says there's a decent chance of a meniscus tear, and then looked at again by a member of the church who is an academic surgeon at UB (though, admittedly not an orthopedic specialist) who was the one who emphasized the fluid buildup and said to watch that and see what happens, while not ruling out a meniscus tear. So, we've given it a week, he's still on crutches, ANNNND now he's being transferred to Rochester tomorrow! Haha transfer calls came last night, which I'll talk more about in a bit, but yeah, President figured he might as well wait until he gets to a new area before seeing a doctor. Hopefully all turns out all right!

But, as I said, our week has been slow moving. We've been busing rather than biking, and then crutching from wherever the bus drops us off at. Additionally, we got cancelled on a lot. Sooo.... not too exciting of a week haha. 

We did get to help Stephen move on Friday! That was good to show our "real" side. Unfortunately, he cancelled on our normal teaching appointment, so we didn't really teach him anything. What was cool, though, was that he brought up church. Although he said he wouldn't be able to make it since he was going down to West Virginia to pick up his brother, that was his reason for not coming - not that he had been bored last time. Hopefully he comes again either this week, or if he ends up going back to West Virginia next Saturday night, the week following!

We did have quite a bummer with Zach this week. It's frustrating beyond belief, and needs a lot of background. So, he was getting ready to get baptized, and came to church with us three weeks in a row, then was baptized on the fourth. He came again the next week to get confirmed, but had to take off with his family for something or other. He came to a couple other sacrament meetings on and off with his family. Then, it became a constant battle because he wanted to come to church, his mom promised to drive him to church, so we wouldn't arrange another ride for him, then she wouldn't come to church therefore HE wouldn't come to church. This went on for a while. Then we finally started arranging rides, and the most bizarre things kept on happening, from people putting in the wrong addresses to who knows what else. Well, over the past few weeks, things have been getting reallllllly tough out at his house. Like, real bad. We are often there for the worst of it, too. Without getting into that, though, we told him that he needed to come to church and we would find him a ride. He agreed... until about four hours later when we texted his mom saying he had a ride, she said he didn't want to go. We called him, and he gave every excuse from "I have to do laundry" to "Church is all about praying, and I feel like I pray enough at home" to "I just hate how early it is." It is so aggravating. Really, retention has been my most frustrating thing of my whole mission. A lot of baptisms in comparison to other NYRM missionaries? Sure. How many of them are still involved in the Church? Let's not even go there. It's really depressing.

Jerry and Andrea did come to church, though! Sadly, we didn't really get to teach them, either... Haha but we did have a birthday cake for Andrea! The first time I've ever eaten cake with chop sticks. To be honest, I probably never will again. It's pretty inefficient. But I love those guys! I just hate that they are so studious! They are probably the only people I have ever taught who I actually believe when they say they can't meet because they are studying too much.

Haha well, like I said, this is REALLY not a good email. Haha hopefully this week goes better. On the bright side, us and the sisters in our district are going to a pumpkin patch today! That's always a good thing!

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 14 Letter

Another week come and gone, eh? Time is an odd thing. It's bizarre to think that I am almost 2/3 done... Ridiculous.

Haha so my companion just told me that his mom reads my letters to learn more about our investigators, so HI SISTER HIRSCHI!! Haha I'm taking good care of your son, don't worry!

Geez. I started writing this about 2 hours ago, got caught up reading things online, and now really need to buckle down. I'm sorry if it's short now!

So, the most exciting part of the week, even if it has nothing to do with my area, was a baptism that the Spanish Elders in the ward had this Saturday. Angel and Amy Santiago have been a miracle-in-progress for some seven years, now. Amy worked with a member of a nearby ward who just a year or so ago moved to Utah. When they went to visit him back west last month, he took them to Temple Square and then to church. They haven't missed aSunday since, and are one of the most incredible couples I've ever met.

I was lucky enough to do their baptismal interview, and I don't think I've ever been more touched by any two testimonies than theirs. Amy could have been quoting from Doctrine and Covenants as she talked about how desperately she wanted the truth, but just had no idea where to find it. (She was in tears as I read her D&C 123:12.) She talked about how much she loved Sabbath Day observance, and how they'd already made a no-TV rule on Sundays. She told me about how much her relationship with Angel had grown, and how much the gospel had completed their family. She even talked about how excited she was to do missionary work with some of the less-active members of the ward! Haha obviously I can't share the whole baptismal interview, but it was just incredible!

Then in Angel's interview, he started talking about how God pretty straight-forwardly answered his prayers three times. The first was through a testimony of someone in Utah which reassured him that he should at least try the Church out for his family. The second was through another testimony, only this time in Buffalo, answering whether the Church was a place for Hispanics. The third was a quite miraculous occurrence confirming his baptismal date. Okay, that one is too cool not to share. He had been thinking a lot about whether to be baptized on October 12th. Eventually, as he was thinking about it, he felt prompted to go to the dog park. But, because of a whole series of odd occurrences, he ended up not leaving for about 20 minutes. That is important to remember. As he was driving, he prayed yet again, asking if Oct. 12th was his date. When he finished praying, he looked at the clock and it was10:10. He chuckled to me that he thought maybe Jesus would come down in two minutes or something, but just listened intently. He said 10:11 came and then, right as the clock turned to10:12, a truck drove by which license plate had a couple of letters, followed by 1012. That's pretty legit.

But, just like Amy pretty much quoted Doctrine and Covenants, Angel just about quoted Joseph Smith History 1:29, saying that he didn't think he would need any blatant answers to special prayers anymore because of what he had already received, but was relieved to know that he could get answers since he had already got answers before.

It was definitely one of the most spiritual baptisms I've been to, second probably only to Jimmy's. They are going to be HUGE for this ward. Most people here are graduate students who have no intention or at least no means of staying in Buffalo for more than 2-5 years. The next biggest chunk are old people who have lived in Buffalo for 65 years. So, it will be fantastic to have a permanent family here!

Then, the other exciting news of the week is that Stephen and his kids came to church yesterday! Unfortunately, his wife didn't, but we were thrilled to see him! It's really hard to gauge things with him sometimes because he thinks of himself as quite an intellectual. Not that he isn't smart, for he is unquestionably well-learned in world religion. It is just really tough sometimes because you'll ask him how he liked it, intending somewhat of a spiritual answer, and he'll answer with something along the lines of "It was good, but I knew it all already." Haha it would irritate me more if he didn't seem more intently focused the whole time, so I think it's more just his personality. He was contributing during Sunday school and everything, though, which was great! And really, kids are the best fellowshippers. Adults see someone they don't know with the missionaries and have no idea how to befriend them. Kids run around with the new kid and play tag in the gym. Haha that might be the most exciting part about Stephen coming is that he came WITH his kids. They'll keep him coming for sure!

Hahaha but I seriously believe I should have been called to an Asian mission. They are my favorite people God's ever made. Haha that might be over the top, but they are great. We went over to Jerry and Andrea's this week, and I don't think I've left laughed so hard in months. We first watched President Monson's talk and discussed it for a while. We meant to use that to get into the plan of salvation, but that deviated as soon as one of their roommates got there. Instead, we sat for 15 minutes going over tongue twisters with them. I don't think most college kids do tongue twisters with their friends... but they love it. The funniest is that apparently "g" is a pretty hard sound for them to say, so "thin things" really throws them for a loop. Haha so funny.

They are both definitely progressing, though. Jerry is becoming a prayer-master. Not too bad for someone who never prayed until a week or so ago. Andrea is tougher to judge her progress. She believes in a "divine" overseeing things, but can't really put a name to it, like God. Praying, she says, has important purpose, but she really can't tell if she is talking to someone or talking to her inner self. It is an interesting thing to try to help her through.

Well... I'm going to go play hockey now.

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7 Letter

There is nothing better than General Conference on a mission. But there is nothing worse than having Conference END on a mission... I was thinking that since we call one of the sessions semi-annual and the other one annual, that it seems we should have one of those be twice a year, the other once a year, equaling three conferences a year! I'll try to bring it up with the Quorum of the Twelve next chance I get.

Anyways, first I'll talk about General Conference and then I'll follow up with how this week went. I know that seems a little backward, but aside from Stephen and his family coming to Conference with us (unfortunately, to the fifth most powerful session), not too much thrilling happened haha.

On Friday night, President Francis called all of us asking to write down three questions and prayerfully seek their answers during Conference. As is evidenced by my last email, I was already planning on it, but it was nice to have recent reinforcement to my plan, plus to have a number given of how many questions to ask. So, were my three questions:

1) Why do we need the church structure? It's abundantly clear in the scriptures that organization has always existed, but why? It seems like a "personal relationship with my Savior" (the go-to goal of Born Again Christians out here) would work just as well, perhaps without as much stress and conflict. 

2) How do I know where promptings are coming from? They could be from God, me, or Satan disguised as an "angel of light." How do I differentiate, and how do I help others differentiate?

3) How do I acknowledge and seek answers to gospel-related questions without getting frustrated or damaging the faith I already have built up?

I'll go ahead and give the answers I came up for each of these first, then go into some of my other insights. I'm pretty excited to talk about some of my thoughts in a less missionary-ish setting, because there are some things (Ordain Women's campaign) that I couldn't really talk about too much in the real world out here.

So, answers:

1) We need a church for unity, obviously. Ephesians makes it clear that apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, etc are for the "unity of the faith" and the "perfecting of the saints." But still, why? We'll all be unified eventually, right? And none of us are perfect yet, so we'll all need correction eventually. Bishop Gérald Caussé made a comment that had nothing to do with this, but really got me thinking and eventually lead to a little bit of an answer for me! In the Millennium, Christ will reign as "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." That means there will be one government. There won't be a handful of nondenominational governments. The Church, lead by revelation, helps prepare not just for heaven, but for the Second Coming of the Messiah!

Also, a "personal relationship" is living far beneath our privileges and obligations as disciples of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is based on commitment to action, not just a firmness of belief. James makes it clear that even the devils believe in Jesus Christ. The Church provides the means and opportunities to build up the Lord's Kingdom. It doesn't just prove our willingness to actively participate in God's work; it strengthens our resolve to do so! It gives us the chance to serve, and it surrounds us with others who are willing and eager to do so. As a Church, we can build off of each others' strength.

Really, a personal relationship is just that: Personal. Name one time that Jesus ever said, "Just sit alone in a corner and believe me." Granted, that is an unfair way of painting the Born Again picture, but clearly God wants us to be together in a group, working together and growing together.

2) This was the question that was probably answered the least, although it was indirectly touch on. Really, I got two things concerning it;

First, judge a work by its fruits. Satan cannot father goodness. If a prompting leads you to do good, at the very least you can count out it coming from the devil. 

Second, a more thoroughly taught principle than the first, is to act and see. At least two speakers said the Holy Ghost has the capacity to testify of the humble listener's actions. I believe both quoted Ether 12 about a witness coming only after a trial of faith. Sometimes we have to pray first, but if we don't get a stupor of thought, we just have to act and see. Elder Hales especially emphasized the importance of working something out in your mind first then taking the idea to the Lord. So, how do you get direction? Ponder it out in your mind. Take your idea to Heavenly Father. If you don't get told "no," then go forward, constantly listening and seeking direction from the Holy Ghost. He can testify if what you are doing is true, not just if what you are believing is true.

3) This one I think was covered more than anything but missionary work - even beating out women's role in relation to the priesthood and the necessity of protecting families. Here's the gist of what I got out of it all.

First off, "Doubt your doubts more than you doubt your faith." There have been enough changes in archaelology, science, etc. to trust God over much of academia. Not that pursuing deeper learning is bad, and anyone who knows me knows I do NOT advocate that. But, God reveals truth to prophets. Any truth a researcher learns is something God already understood, and could have (and often already has) revealed it to His prophets. Really, why do we like to cling onto the darkness of doubt over the light of faith? We are just as likely to be wrong in our doubts as we are in our faith, even if revelation from a perfect being weren't in play.

Second, live worthy of having the Holy Ghost with you ALWAYS. That will point you in the direction of truth. Repent whenever and however necessary so that you are not seeking God's truth without God's power. No matter how many times you have fallen, trust that this time you will stand back up.

Third, recognize that trials of faith are under the same umbrella as other trials. They are given to us to strengthen us and our resolve to serve God for eternity. I loved what Elder Bednar said about getting blessings that aren't quite what we had in mind when we asked for the blessing. One example was to pray to resolve spiritual concerns, and receiving the perseverance to stay strong throughout our search.

This brings up another point taught by Elder Holland. If the cup does not pas, drink it. If every answer you've ever asked about the gospel or the church isn't handed right to you, prayerfully search for the answer, or set it aside for now and pay attention to more important things. Even more important is to recognize that you are not alone or forgotten or being ignored or overlooked.

Ultimately, the idea I got on this is to trust God and be worthy. Read the scriptures, keep commandments, repent. You NEED the Holy Ghost to discern anything.

(I touched a little more on this in my blog earlier this week.

So, there you go. Now for the more (at times politically incorrect) ideas I had:

- FINALLY the women leaders of the church talked to the entire church! I feel like about 95% of the time (that might even be generous) the women speakers speak to the women. The only time they talk to males are when they talk to males under the age of 12 or maybe males who are raising or married to women. This time? They talked to everyone. Sister Stephens' talk was the first time a Sister's talk has been in my top five. Well done, Sisters!

- Also having to do with women, I sure hope the ladies waiting in the standby line at priesthood session also attended the General Relief Society Broadcast and at least one other Conference Session. If not, they had better have stood in the standby line for all the other sessions until they got in. If they want Priesthood Session to be like the rest, why such an emphasis on getting in? 

- As a sidenote, I thought a lot about women and the priesthood. Essentially what I got to was, if the Apostles said they could have it, cool. If the Apostles said they couldn't, all right. I trusted their decision even before I knew it had been made. I hope Ordain Women meant, "Please pray to know if women can receive the priesthood" like they said, on not just "Please pray to know that women can receive the priesthood." We'll see in the coming months, I suppose.

- I like this line from Middle-aged Mormon Man (a blogger): "I'll bet the devil has a dartboard with President Packer's picture on it in his game room." What a beast.

- I think Dallin H. Oaks probably really scares anti-Mormons. They hate it when people are not just more spiritual than they are, but clearly more intelligent.

- I am super stoked that President Monson decided the #1 thing that the Priesthood needed to hear is: DO YOUR HOME TEACHING. In Preach My Gospel, Harold B Lee is quoted as saying home teaching is nothing more and nothing less than missionary work for members of the church. As a missionary, if people would just do their home teaching, our work with less active members would be cut in half, if we even had that much left anymore.

- I loved what David M. McConkie taught. What a stud. It really caught my attention what he said about knowing you are teaching by the power of the Holy Ghost when you learn something from what you said.

- Elder Andersen's talk should just be titled "Answers to random questions in Mormon culture."

- Sometimes - don't hate me until I explain - I used to get a little bored with President Monson's talks. Here were are in the latter days, Elder Oaks and President Packer are out and about calling repentance, Elder Holland is teaching us everything there is to know about the Bible, and President Uchtdorf just loves you more than anyone other than your grandparents. But President Monson was always so level. But it hit me just a week or so ago: How interesting is it that in the midst of some crazy times, we have a prophet who just wants us to simply be obedient, come back to the fold, and stay calm. When it would be incredibly easy to be uncalm, our prophet is calmer than ever. 

- That said, it was quite touching to see President Monson really hit on the fact that HE HAS TRIALS TOO! It's one of those things that seems so obvious, until you try to think of something that troubles him. But guess what? Things do! It is really hard to picture Moses or Noah or Samuel the Lamanite as anything more than fairy tale characters sometimes. I can't think of any role I would have President Monson play in a fairy tale, which is what is so cool. God uses real men. Moses probably was equally normal. Same with Moroni and Peter and Joseph Smith. The beauty of living prophets are how tangible, connectable, and real they are.

Now, for a little about missionary work this week. I'll make it quick, especially because I would be amazed if anyone is actually still reading by now.

So, like I said, Stephen came to the Hendry's house for Conference yesterday afternoon. He was probably a little confused by Elder Andersen's talk, but it is all good. Probably the real highlight was that he was there with his whole family, who really clicked well with the Hendry family. He told us on Wednesday that weekends are his family time, so if they don't come to church then he won't come to church. Hopefully this new connection gets somewhere.

Zach has been struggling a little. He went back to school, back with old friends who realllly aren't good influences on him. So, without getting into details, he's taken a lot of renewed emphasis. The good news? He came to priesthood session and seemed to really enjoy it! I was a little nervous about his first time at a church activity in a month being two hours in a dark room (remember, he's twelve), but he really seemed to like it!

It's really fun to talk about conference with investigators in past areas. There were a handful of investigators I was texting with or am now talking to on Facebook. Technology makes missionary work fun, and technology combined with Conference is just great!

Well, I should probably call this to an end.

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

September 30 Letter

Hello everyone!

Before I forget, Mom, I talked to Elder Olsson (he's actually one of our AP's, plus was my first Zone Leader and I went on a number of exchanges with him), and he said that you should make sure you feed her dinner haha.

Well.... I haven't really pondered what I would talk about this week, so let me think a bit to gather my thoughts haha.

Oh! First, before you go on, you should watch this video! It's incredible!

Now, for real stories... 

First, I have noticed I am teaching more families here than the previous 13 months of my mission. We have Demetri and Dani who I talked about last week. Then there is Marie and Marthe who I've talked about a few times. Now we have Cory and Chelsie!

Chelsie is Sister Strang's niece. Sister Strang was a new member from Warsaw, and when she found out I was coming to Kenmore, she asked me to stop by Chelsie's and see how she was doing. At first, when we met her at the door, she was definitely not into it. But then her husband, Cory, came to the door and we had a great conversation from church to USU football. Eventually, I asked him if we could come over sometime and talk about our beliefs, respecting the fact that he'd already told us he and Chelsie were "strong protestants." He agreed, so we went by with Brother Smith this Wednesday.

First, the visit started much different than our first. They invited us right in, had us sit on the couch, and grabbed us some water. We ended up having an awesome conversation about the Restoration and families and the whole structure of the Church. What really caught us off guard was when halfway through, they mentioned they were planning on coming to church with us sometime because they were actually looking for a church! He is a police officer for the army, and she was recently just activated from the Reserves for a little while, so they are super busy, but they said they would read 3 Nephi 11 together, pray about it, and are planning on coming to church with us on the 13th!

Okay, I've been writing on and off for about an hour now. I really need to focus! Geez... ADHD at its finest.

We started teaching about a hundred Chinese people this week! Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but it's tough to say how many were really there. About a month ago, Guo Jian, a member of about four months, was called as a ward missionary. The next week, he brought two of his Chinese friends who live across the street from him. They came two weeks in a row, and we asked them if we could teach them. So, Wednesday night, we went over, expecting it to be Jerry and Andrea (no clue how to say their Chinese names... but to be fair, they often forget their American names haha) and Guo Jian. But, one by one, random other Chinese people kept coming into the room. At one point, I think there were nine of them. (When we were talking about this at dinner with a member last night, they suggested next time we just bring a gong to summon all of them hahahaha.) But, all in all, it was awesome. They really have minimal Christian background, so we simply taught "God." We covered the three members of the Godhead and their roles. 

At one point, we asked Jerry if he knew anything about Jesus Christ, which he didn't, but then he said he knew about Adam. He said, "Adam was the first man, and he ate an apple." Then, pointing to his throat, he said, "so, Adam's apple." Haha that was probably the most advanced understanding of Christian theology that anybody participating had. To be fair to him, at one point, Le Fu asked why we all sin, and Jerry chimed in, again pointing at his throat, "Adam's apple."

But really it was a cool conversation. I definitely learned why Jesus had to teach in parables. When people don't have a Biblical base, it is really hard to build off of anything. Really, we had to build off of what they already understood, even if it was completely non-religious. We talked about how they couldn't go to another student to ask for help paying their student debt, because that student probably had student loans of their own to pay off as our explanation for why we needed the Son of God to atone for our sins. We talked about their family relationships, and how much their fathers want them to grow up to become as well off, if not better off, than he is. Really, in every single principle, we had to come up with an analogy. 

In the middle, Le Fu got a phone call from his mom so he left the room, coming back right as we were about to go home. "Wait, are you guys coming back?" he asked. When we told him we were, he gave the most enthusiastic, "GREAT!" I have ever heard haha.

We also had a hilarious lesson with Stephen. We read 1 Nephi 1 with him, doing the classic missionary-style reading where we really pick apart every verse. So, I read the first verse and explained it. Elder Hirschi read verse two and explained it. What really caught us off guard was when Stephen not only read verse three, but explained it to us! Eventually, he would say things like, "Well, let's look back at verse eight real quick. There was something I wanted to say about that one." It was kind of bizarre, especially since it was so spot on. He even started talking about the symbolism found in the chapter and all sorts of things, it was incredible! We showed him how the chapter teaches all about receiving revelation through whole-hearted prayer, pondering, and scripture study, emphasizing Lehi's resulting action as "he went forth." We then turned to Moroni's Promise and talked about how it also suggests reading, pondering, and praying to understand a good direction, but again it requires praying with real intent. He then committed to reading 1 Nephi 2 and praying with "real intent." 

Unfortunately, he didn't make it to church. He said he will only go if his wife will go with him, which she has so far resisted. Luckily, we now have an appointment with both of them for Wednesday afternoon, which is very exciting!

Finally, on Saturday we had craft day! We and the sisters made these posters (admittedly, I stole the idea from some random missionaries in some random mission), printed out pictures with us holding them, stuck magnets to the back of these pictures. Finally, we delivered them to all of the people we've been working with who had committed to coming to church. Hopefully some sort of a reminder helps them!

Well, get stoked for General Conference. I always remember what Elder Perkins of the Seventy told us when he came to our mission: If you don't think up of questions you hope to have answered, you are just daring Heavenly Father to give you revelation. So, think up some good questions, and get ready for the prophets!

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