Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 5 Letter


This week I decided I was going to eat healthier so I would be less fat. The fact that 2 liter Dr Pepper was on sale for a dollar didn't help that, but that is beside the point. All I wanted to emphasize is that I decided I was going to try oatmeal for three reasons:

1) It's dirt cheap.
2) It's healthier (I think) than Lucky Charms
3) I like it little enough that I wouldn't eat bowl after bowl of it.

So, I bought a box of assorted fruit and cream instant oatmeal, and decided to brave it. I started with Peaches n cream... and it was awful. I was distraught because peaches are one of my favorite fruits, and if that didn't cut it, nothing would. But the next morning, I tried again,this time with strawberries n cream. But this time, I made an important discovery!! It's SOOOOO much better not cooked! I don't like oatmeal; I like oats and milk and flavored powder! 

Now, as far as missionary work goes, I suppose I could talk about some stuff there too. We actually had a good week again, so it shouldn't be too hard to come up with stuff.

On Tuesday we had a meeting at the Peter Whitmer Farm. That should be super cool. How many missionaries get trained at the location of the first sacrament meeting since the original Apostles? So, parts of it were really cool, but then they spent the greater part teaching about random things like how to cook, how to shine your shoes, why we need to exercise, all sorts of weird stuff haha. None of it was bad, but a) it was a weird use of time and b) it was a REALLY weird use of the Peter Whitmer Farm. Oh well, so be it, I suppose.

So, we taught Debbie again! She's the less active who we have met with a few times who knows her Bible really well and has asked questions about the historicity or writing on metal plates and the like. Anyways, she is seriously one of my favorite people to teach, and it just drives me bonkers how rarely she can meet with us. But really, she understands scriptures well enough that teaching her is a blast. Last time we were over, she'd mentioned that she wanted to know more about how we know not only that Joseph was a prophet, but his successors as well, since we obviously don't believe the Catholic line of authority worked out too well. Well, what it really turned into was the most in-depth Restoration lesson in history! We talked about old time prophets, and how often they got rejected, cast out, and stoned. Ultimately, it was just about always the people who go astray and reject the prophets, not the prophets getting too haughty and warping God's word. We then talked about the faith crisis that occurred when Moses died and the authority fell to Joshua, when the calling went from Elijah to Elisha, and even from Jesus to the apostles. But as we were talking, I mentioned the apostasy, only to have her (thankfully) say that she really didn't know what we meant when we referenced the Apostasy. So we went through the New Testament and read all sorts of verses about the Apostasy, be them prophecies (e.g. Acts 20:28-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 2 Timothy 4:2-4) or occurrences of the start of apostasy (e.g. Galatians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:15). We then talked about the corruption of the early church, the rejection of the Apostles, the rise of unbaptized Constantine proclaiming himself Pope, and the detriment here. We bounced ahead then to the Reformation, emphasizing that they realized something was wrong, but kind of played the role of the scribes in between the Old and New Testaments; they recognized the absence of revelation, so they relied on learned exegesis instead. But what was coolest of all was how we were able to really dig deep into Joseph Smith's story, really reading the first half of Joseph Smith-History with commentary throughout. We were really able to show the conflict and dilemma that Joseph was facing and show how human he was in his search for truth. We then made sure to not make the mistake that we often make of acting like the First Vision was the Restoration. We talked about the abuse and persecution he went through after first attempting to explain his vision. We talked about Moroni's visits, and how Joseph had to be instructed for four years from the time Moroni first came to Joseph until Joseph could receive the plates. We then went through the persecution that forced the saints from state-to-state, culminating in Joseph's martyrdom. Then, luckily I did my homework, because I showed her some quotes from multiple people who were at the meeting trying to figure out who was now to lead the Church, where person after person testified of how much Brigham just sounded like Joseph. Debbie offered an insight there that had never occurred to me on how similar that is to the Day of Pentecost. Haha so I know I just rambled freaking forever about that... but it was just SUCH a fun lesson. I put things together in my head that I don't think I have ever put together before, and certainly read more of JS-H with anyone out here than I've ever done before. Really, it was just a blast!

We were also able to meet with Dan again! His health has been AWFUL the past month or two, and so it's been tough, but last night he was easily the most lively I've seen him in quite some time. He'd earlier messaged me on Facebook saying, "I miss you and a Elder Holt. When do you good night to let me make you dinner?" Haha he's just the nicest guy. But we'd talked about wanting to share from 1 Nephi 2 about the difference in how Lehi and his sons responded to God putting them through a hard time, really emphasizing that Nephi was only better off than Laman and Lemuel because he asked a God to unfold his mysteries. Well after dinner we just naturally got into a conversation about trials and overcoming them faithfully and what faith really is and the need for free will and opposition and all sorts of things and our planned chapter just fit wonderfully. So, that was exciting too!

Oh, guess what?! I finally figured out the difference in i.e., e.g., and viz.!! Yayyyy! Did you know viz is pronounced, "namely"? Haha makes sense, right?

We also did a bunch of tracting this week. And by a bunch, I really mean about four or five hours of it... but that's a lot out here. But we met the coolest guy! He was another one who just really understood the Bible and was willing to talk about what he knew and didn't know. He said he had an easier time accepting the miracles and visions that took place in the Bible than some that took place 200 years ago, but it was funny because he was the first one to admit that that was silly and illogical. At one point he asked if we considered him saved, and he didn't like our "well... kinda" answer, which lead into a discussion on the Kingdoms of Glory. At first he really didn't like it, but after we talked about "in my Father's house are many mansions," "some received an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold," and the whole sun, moon, stars deal, he acknowledged that there was some credibility to the idea. We then somehow got on the conversation of how do works play a role in our salvation in we are just saved by grace, and after discussing a number of scriptures, he admitted that we had some good points there, too. It was just cool to have real questions from someone who was willing to accept answers. Unfortunately, he didn't want us to drop by again sometime, but did willingly and almost eagerly accept our invitation to read Alma 32 and call us if it touches him. Ha, I hope it does, because I'd really like to talk to him again!

I also got to teach Sunday School yesterday! I didn't find out until 3 minutes before Sacrament Meeting, but it was still (in my opinion, at least) one of the better lessons that I've taught. It was on charity, and we were able to do the whole class without opening the manual. (I have developed a loathing for reading from the manual here in New York. I can't tell you how many lessons I've been in where the teacher's role is nothing more and nothing less than choosing who will start reading first, and we just read in a clockwise circle paragraph by paragraph. Blech...) But really, the lesson was fun. We were just able to read all sorts of stories about Christ's love, tying it into Ether 12:34where it says that the love Jesus has is charity. And so we talked about how Jesus never let anything get in the way of helping someone, no matter how much of a nuisance they might be, no matter their race or background, he just loved them and helped them. Megan saved the day with the book she sent me, because as it introduces hope (which the book is about), it first discusses faith and charity. I love these two quotes that I used in the lesson:

“When we say that charity is the pure love of Christ, most of us immediately think of His love for others, but let us not forget that He also loved God. And didn't he also love truth? Justice? Purity? Service? Should we not seek to follow His example in those things as well?”


“I believe that the gifts of faith, hope, and charity provide us with ‘spiritual triangulation,’ an SPS, or spiritual positioning system, if you will. Working like satellites in the sky, faith, hope, and charity help us chart our spiritual position, determine our speed and direction, and indicate how much distance there is between us and our final destination. We might even say we can us faith, hope, and charity to measure our ‘elevation’ -, our position on the upward path to exaltation.”

But I really liked the idea of triangulation with faith, hope, and charity. For the lesson's sake, I really emphasized that "the greatest of these is charity" and that "without charity we are nothing." Finally we just rounded it all in to talk about how we really start feeling charity when we develop a strong enough relationship with God that we realize just how much He lives all of us. We eventually get to the point where we don't just remember that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son and we even go past that God love meenough that He sent His Son; soon we get to where God loved Jim and Sarah and Jacob and every single individual so much that He sent His Son. We end up loving people for who they are, and who are they? Sons and daughters of God. 

I dunno if my thoughts are making sense here... And I've just rambled about a bunch of to random lessons over the past bit..... So hopefully you aren't bored. Long story short, I guess what I'm getting at is I like teaching haha.

Oh, one thing not just lesson related! Today in Sacrament Brendan got up and bore his testimony! Haha it was pretty cool. He talked about the power of forgiveness and love and all sorts of things. He even called himself a member of the church! Haha and he brought a friend to church... And said he stayed up late Saturday night watching Jon Bytheway... And all sorts of stuff. He's a funny guy.

Haha buuuut, I guess I should let you go.

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

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