Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 9 Letter


Having two areas to cover is busy. We definitely didn't have a down moment all week, which is nice. It is definitely taking some adjusting, though. People are notoriously bad at setting and keeping appointments, so we usually spend a huge chunk of our time more or less driving in circles until someone answers the door. We might knock the same door two or three times on Tuesday, then try again on Friday if they weren't home. Now that we have two areas and a finite number of miles and a finite amount of time, that can't happen. In all reality, it might be a good way of weeding out those who aren't progressing, but it is definitely an interesting shift.

It's hard, too, because I think naturally etched into all of our minds (or at least in Elder Russon's and mine, since we've been in our respective areas a while) is a "my area, your area" mentality. I think especially for him, he's under the impression that the areas are going to go right back to where they were in a few weeks, which is looking less and less likely to be the case. It just makes things a little difficult that way.

But still, there are some people inherited into our area who have me pretty excited! Iliana in particular. She's the unbaptized 14-year-old daughter of a lady who just reactivated about a month ago. The Nunda elders have met her and talked with her on numerous occasions, but we had our first real lesson with her on Saturday, and it was excellent! We were talking about the Restoration, which was interesting because she has somewhat of an understanding of basic Christianity but not a fully congruent understanding. All that aside, though, she and her friend Maiya (who is a member, and was at the lesson) have some brilliant questions and insights. My absolute favorite line from Iliana that has really got me thinking came after we watched the Restoration movie, and we just asked what stood out to her. Iliana responded, "Well, he was trying to understand what he needed to do to be saved, and so he kept asking people and studying. Then the Holy Ghost came to him and explained what he needed to do." We'd talked about the Holy Ghost at the start of the lesson, so I was just pleased that she understood the Spirit's role. I figured we would just correct her a little bit and explain that it was more than the Holy Ghost hath at came, but Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. But then she totally caught me off guard and continued, "... the Holy Ghost came to him and explained what he needed to do. And so he went into the woods to pray, and God and Jesus came to him." I thought that was a pretty interesting insight! We often talk about all the searching and studying that Joseph did that lead him to the grove, but it's interesting to think about the Holy Ghost teaching him to go into the grove SO the First Vision could occur. I've pondered a lot on that over the weekend. She also said she would pray about when she wanted to get baptized, so we are all pretty excited about her.

We also got in with Randy again! It had been a month without getting any texts, calls, or anything from him. We would try to get ahold of him, but nothing. So on Thursday, we decided we were just going to stop over there. I'd definitely never done that with Randy before, so I wasn't sure how it would go. But not only was he home and let us in, he was really happy that we did stop by. He said for the past week or so he kept thinking about getting ahold of us, but could never get himself to do it. He said for the past few weeks, he'd been struggling to maintain his spirituality at all, and had been praying that God would give him the drive or a boost of some sort to read the scriptures or go to church or anything. He took our stopping by as the answer to those prayers! Hopefully we will get back on track with meeting every week, now.

Those were definitely our two more exciting lessons of the week. I also had a fun time on Wednesday, on exchanges in Warsaw. It's really weird, because that area is the one that I stayed the shortest time in, yet where I seem to have maintained the closest relationships. We mostly just bounced around to all sorts of people who I had worked with. The best of all, though, is that Grant told his aunt that I am his best friend, not her! Haha that made me pretty happy. Haha he remembered me right off the bat! Funny kid... Hahaha the funniest thing he said was when I asked him if he wanted to come live in Utah with me. He said, "Ummm.... Is it far away?" When I told him yes, it was pretty far, he said, "Ummm.... Well... Maybe we could go a different day? Then you could talk to your mom and I'll talk to my mom!" Hahaha he did a solid job of completely avoiding having to give a real answer haha.

I gave a talk in sacrament meeting yesterday! It's the first talk I've given in probably about a year. It was on helping people gain faith. I kind of based it around the First Vision, and lessons we can learn about helping people gain faith from that story. I narrowed it down to five major points:

1) Teach the basics first. In two accounts of the First Vision, Joseph writes that the first thing Jesus told him was that his sins were forgiven. Ultimately, that was why Joseph really went to the grove. God clearly had bigger things in mind, but He didn't jump to those. He started with the basics.
2) Don't judge someone's capability to grow. God trusted a 14-year-old illiterate farm boy.
3) Let the Spirit do the teaching. I explained Iliana's story from above, the gave this quote from Brigham Young: "I had only traveled a short time to testify to the people, before I learned this one fact, that you might prove doctrine from the Bible till doomsday, and it would merely convince a people, but would not convert them. You might read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and prove every iota that you advance, and that alone would have no converting influence upon the people. Nothing short of a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would bring light and knowledge to them--bring them in their hearts to repentance. Nothing short of that would ever do. You have frequently heard me say that I would rather hear an Elder, either here or in the world, speak only five words accompanied by the power of God, and they would do more good than to hear long sermons without the Spirit. That is true, and we know it."
4) Our spiritual experiences don't convert; theirs do. Joseph could recount his vision to all sorts of people, and it didn't do a world of difference until the hearer felt the Spirit witness of its truthfulness. The same can be said of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; it wasn't until the people were "pricked in their hearts" that they did anything about the Apostle's testimony. Our spiritual experiences fortify our own testimony, but we have to help others have their own experiences.
5) No efforts are wasted. James bore his testimony of personal revelation in the first chapter, fifth verse of his epistle almost 1800 years before Joseph read it. In that time, the church fell apart, and apostasy reigned for centuries. And yet, that testimony still changed the world.

Overall, it was pretty fun!

Oh, I think I have our schedule more or less worked out for when you guys are out here! I need to verify with a few more people that the days I planned on will work for them... but I think it'll work! Any last requests of things to do while here? Aside from visiting people, I figured the sites, Niagara, Letchworth, one of the Finger Lakes, touring downtown Buffalo a little bit, Lake Erie, lots of New York food.... anything else? Let me know!

And well... I do believe that's the bulk of my week! 

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

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