Friday, March 14, 2014

March 10 Letter

This week has been a weird shift in focus. What I've always been best at on my mission is finding someone through tracting or just happening to be at the same house as them visiting someone else, or something. Then we teach them. Then they get baptized. Less-active work, though, has never been my thing... I think I need more patience/charity, but I get really irritated by most of their excuses for not coming to church. However, this week, we had 5 lessons with investigators and 13 with less actives or recent converts. It's been interesting.
Luckily, I feel like I'm finally building actual friendships out here! Whether with members of the Church or investigators or anything. We are finally getting to where we aren't just there to pray, teach a lesson, pray, and say goodbye. It definitely makes the day more fun!
One of them that we are getting really close to is Jenn. I think I've explained a little about her... She's the one who is living with her LDS mom as she works through a divorce. She came to church my first week here, and now for the past three weeks we've been teaching her every Wednesday. She's always really attentive, just hasn't really gotten excited about it yet. However, she has prayed everyday and promised to read at least one chapter of the Book of Mormon this week! Really, though, it's just been nice to get to know her and grow close with both her and her mom. This week, we read through 1 Nephi 8, about Lehi's Dream. We read through it, then kind of walked through the symbolism with her. After showing in the opening of John where John gives Christ the name "The Word," we talked about how the Iron Rod is Jesus, and that it is through the gospel that we reach out and grab hold of him. Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost - that is how we take hold of Jesus and allow Him to guide us. He's always there; we just need to grab on. It went pretty well, I feel... but still no dramatic enthusiasm. Ha, she has a lot on her plate, so hopefully she'll just really enjoy the Book of Mormon this week haha.
We also had a cool lesson with Debbie. She's a less-active member who really, if the Church still used the term, would be called an inactive member. She got baptized a decade or two ago, but she admits she didn't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon or of Joseph Smith's calling. She figured that she needed to go forward with faith and God would reveal the rest to her when it was necessary. After a while, I guess she gave up trying. Still, she is extremely spiritual and actually volunteers at a different church's missionary department. She knows her Bible remarkably well. The best, though, is how much she is willing to learn. We had an awesome conversation about Ephesians 4 on Saturday. She said she'd always read the "one faith, one Lord, one baptism" part and wondered how that would even be possible, not linking it to the part a little after about apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers for the "perfecting of the saints" and the "unity of the faith." It turned into quite a conversation! But, she struggles with some odd things with the Book of Mormon. She really doesn't like that it's written in Jacobean English. She thinks that some parts that are written in an Old Testament era are too New Testament-ish. Just things like that... But, she is reading a little and quite readily said we could come back this week!
Probably one of the coolest parts of the week, though, was at the adult session of stake conference on Saturday night. Bridgette, who lives in our area and was baptized in January, gave a talk on her conversion. It was great! But the highlight for us - in our little missionary perspective - was that her mom came! Granted, she spoke first, and her mom didn't get there until almost the end (don't worry, she knew that she'd missed the talk before she even left), but she did get to hear President Francis and the stake president, President Jensen, speak. It was very exciting, because she'd always been very stand-offish with the church. Progress!
Ha, we also went tracting in student housing this week. DEFINITELY the most fun form of tracting. First, there are a few easy, obvious casual conversations. What they are studying, where they are from, how long they've been here, what their plans are, it all comes really easily. Then, they are here to learn and grow and challenge themselves anyways, so they are MUCH more open to talking. It's just a nice casual conversation where at the very worst they want to talk and be friendly, usually. Even the least interested of people were really nice! It was a lot of fun.
Finally, at stake conference, President Jensen gave a really interesting talk. He talked about how the only way to keep a boat safe on rough water near a rocky shore is a good, firm anchor. He then compared this to the Church to the boat, being tossed around with the different social norms with some dangerous rocks that we could be bashed against. But then he took an interesting turn. Instead of talking about moral relativism and the Proclamation to the Family, as is the normal route lately, he emphasized an interesting different point: How do we respond to those who view or act differently than our views? How do we avoid crashing into the rocks of bigotry and hate while still maintaining our views on the family. To help, he gave this "Anchor":
Agency - We need to allow others to have the same agency that we cherish. We also need to remember that ostracism is one of the strongest forms of compulsion.
Namaste - While a Hindu idea, it is powerful. Literally, it means, "I bow to the divine in you." We need to recognize that we are all children of God and that we each have divinity within us, no matter our choices.
Connect - We need to share our stories and invite others to share their stories with us.
Higher laws - We need to remember that some commandments are higher than others. Loving our neighbor will always trump any commandment that neighbor might be breaking.
Revelation - Combine those last two. (I guess he couldn't come up with a unique R haha.) We need to look to our leaders to understand how to live and grow and function as a Church following the revealed doctrine in a changing world, and accept that ongoing revelation can allow us to grow and function in society.
I thought it was pretty interesting advice.
Well, that is pretty much my week!
I love you but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

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