Monday, June 28, 2010

There's Always Service!

Dang C. that's some serious road rash! Last time I saw some that bad was when Kevin Turner hit a dog going like 30 on his bike and it launched him over his handle bars. I'm glad that you were wearing your helmet though! Just remember... keep the Sabbath day holy! HaHaHa. But seriously I'm glad you are alive and still in one piece.

Other thing is was it your right or your left elbow that took the beating? I sure hope it was your left... You did the right thing by getting a Priesthood blessing though. Amazing things happen when you get Priesthood blessings because you are opening up the path for Heavenly Father to bless you! Seriously though the Lord must have something awesome planned for you on your mission because you are still alive! I love you little bro so don't go dieing or maiming yourself before we have the chance to go snowboarding again!

Well Family and Friends, this week was a good one! We had a baptism on Tuesday, and we have been doing tons of service! As far as teaching goes it's been pretty slow, but that's just how it goes here in Alaska! Tons of service is good though. Every time we do service it reminds me of the missionaries who used to come over and help us work on our house. I always loved it when they came over! The spirit was just always so intense!

Other news... well I gave another talk this Sunday! That brings the total to 3 or 4 now in Valdez!  HaHaHa. I spoke about charity! I wont tell you what all I said, cause I don't want to deprive anyone of learning about it for themselves! Start in Moroni 7:45 and Preach my Gospel Chapter 6.

Well I love you all and miss you!

God be with you!

*****Note from Mom: I wondered why his letter this week was so short, but figured he was off to do something fun! I guess I was right - I just got an email from a family vacationing in Valdez. They wrote:

"We are RV travelers in Alaska and visiting Valdez. We were on the dock and talked to two nice young men and they told us that they were on a mission. So I asked them if they would like me to take a photo and send it to their moms...and of course the rest of the family.

Don't they look happy and having fun fishing? They had been fishing all day and came to the dock to clean them. Those fish are Dolly Vardens. Enjoy the photos.

Thanks to the Seaman Family for the photos!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Awesome Atonement

I'M SO EXCITED FOR AUNT DINNY!!! That is so amazing that she has been able to make those changes to her life and to qualify to enter the temple! I can't even imagine the blessings that are going to come to her life as she strives to live righteously!

Making those kind of life changes can be so difficult because of the expectations placed upon them by others. People have the tendency to make a judgment, often a just judgment, and to hold people to it. Anyone who has tried to change something about themselves has faced this problem - thank goodness for the atonement.

Sometimes it is hard to let people change, but that is our duty. As followers of Christ we are blessed by his atonement. He will take our sins from us and place them upon Himself. Often I have struggled as one who was offended by another, who hasn't been? We are all subject to the injustice of the agency of others. I have found myself at times struggling to forgive others, but because of the knowledge that Christ takes their sins upon Himself, I have learned that I am not forgiving them, but forgiving Christ. And that makes it so much easier! Understanding that If I act like Jonah, and try to hold the Lord to correct this justice, then I myself forsake my own mercy that is brought to me by the merits of the Savior. If I refuse to forgive Christ, then he will return my sins to me.

It is so important that we allow others the right to exercise their agency and change their lives through the power of the atonement. This is one of the biggest things that I notice members struggling to apply to their lives. Perhaps it is only amplified here in Valdez because it is such a small town that everyone's reputation precedes them, but looking back on my own life it is apparent that I have struggled with it as well. Many people have been turned away from the church only because the people of the wards they were trying to join had previously hardened their hearts towards them. Hardening our hearts is a defense mechanism that is sometimes necessary to prevent us from allowing others to hurt us, but it is important to understand that as useful as it is here in this mortal existence to preserve our joy, it is not an attribute of Christ. Christ's heart was open always, constantly filled with charity towards everyone. He allowed others to change. I feel that it is important to protect ourselves and our emotions, but it is our Christ-like calling to forgive and allow others to change. Most of all, I know that if Christ will help anyone who desires to change. But we must allow them to change. We must not be the burden of additional adversity upon our Brothers and Sisters as they go thru the delicate process of the Atonement. We must seek their desires and support one another as we work together to become one thru Christ. I am so happy for Aunt Dinny! The blessings of the gospel in its fullness and the blessings that the temple brings to the lives of those who live worthy to enter are beyond comprehension. Frequent temple attendance is one of the things I miss most about being on the mission. Alas, it is my duty at this time to work to share the gospel with those who are living and in due time I will be back home in the temple. I love this work! I love Valdez! I'm so happy I didn't get transferred! I'm sure that the Lord has a lot more in store for this area and for me.

I'm glad you got that email from Sis. C.! We had dinner over there on Sunday and right before desert we saw a bear!! No less than 20 feet below us on the hill below the deck that we were standing on! It was pretty cool! Just a little black bear cub! It was pretty cute!

Well I love and miss you guys! I'm gonna be shipping some stuff home that I don't think I need.

I love you guys, talk to you later!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Baptism Coming Up!

Dear Family and Friends,
Well this week is going all right! Last week felt pretty lame because we haven't had anyone to teach and this week was starting to look like it was going to be the same, no one to teach but members. Then out of the blue we got a phone call from a part-member family and they told us that they're son was saying that he wanted to get baptized! So, we've started teaching him and he has selected a date!!! The 22nd of June! Whoot! He is such a good kid, he even reads his Book of Mormon! It's amazing though, because I was totally convinced that we were gonna be pulling zeros for the next month or so and then out of the blue the Lord provides us with someone to teach. I know it is because we have been working hard to do what is right! I love missionary work!

BUT, I am a little bit sad that I'm missing the summer back home!!!! I figure M. is finally starting to get to his 5'9" height like me and C! It's gonna be so stinking weird to come home right before the end of his Junior year and see how he has changed. Same with poot. C., on the other hand, better not be at home when I get back! Hahah.

My companion and I received a few invitations to go dip-netting this week! Dip-netting is where you use a big 'ole net on a long pole and you stick it out into the middle of the river and harvest a bunch of salmon. We were thinking about going today but we decided that it just wasn't really a wise choice. We both just got the feeling that we shouldn't go, so we followed that prompting and stayed back. Talk about tough decisions though, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than go and net 15 salmon and send some home for Father's Day! Oh well! Going out on boats has been really tempting too.. but I haven't!

We've been working hard and the work here is going well! Well family and friends. Not a whole lot to say today! But I love and miss you all! Talk to you next week!

Elder Winterrose

PS - To answer your clothing question - I have been wearing that rain gear that we got from CTR clothing and it's just not waterproof enough for the torrential rains that are starting to pick up around here in Valdez, I'm gonna keep my eyes open for some real rain gear, like heavy-duty sea-going people stuff, at garage sales around here. It really is a necessity. As far as outerwear goes I'm doing alright. I inherited a parka when I arrived to Valdez (a really nice one in fact!). The last missionary who left for home from here must have left it! The rain coat is the only thing I really need, but there are a few things that I would like, such as a pair of cross trainer shoes that are good for running.

Things I'm using often are: My soft shell jacket (that black one i got from Costco), the washable slacks, both types of shirts, the hush puppies, rubber boots (I picked up a pair of them for 15 bucks from the store out here), I like my ties, my camera, the electric shaver, the gold toe and heavy socks...

I'm not using or have yet to use often: the outrageously-dashing black overcoat I bought (just because I couldn't bare getting it grimy), I rarely wear my suits (I only use them on Sundays and zone conference and I have yet to get either of them dry cleaned) and wear the washable slacks and soft-shell jacket instead, I like the suitcases, but I think it may have been easier just using duffel bags and maybe a garment bag (like one of those handy ones with wheels), I don't foresee myself swapping over though, oh and my long johns.

Guess he got the rain gear - got this picture 8/9/10
Anyways, those are just some thoughts that were on my mind. I'll keep an eye out for rain gear (the legit Helly Hansen style pvc kind), if I pass by any yard sales.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Exactly Obedient, Really?

Oh yeah, Really!
Dear Mom, Dad, C, M, and D!

WHAT the Garbage! No letter? What’s with that!!! Haha, well now I guess I know how you would feel if I didn't write you guys! No worries though. This last week was good, but not really great. See, were kinda in a weird place now with the missionary work here because we have NO NEW INVESTIGATORS TO TEACH and we have dropped all of our non progressing investigators over the past week... and the less active members that we have been trying to contact and teach are either avoiding us, busy, or don't want anything to do with us... In short we haven't taught any lessons that count toward our numbers this week... Now, as much as I understand that sometimes we will hit a slow point and we just need to work thru it, I was getting pretty frustrated with the whole thing. I really want this area to blossom and provide fruit. Luckily we had zone conference this week and they addressed my concerns. Then I talked about it with Pres. Dance and he showed me the part in Preach My Gospel in Chapter One that talks about how you can know you are a good missionary and one of the things he pointed out to me was the part that talked about feeling the Spirit testify to others through me...And it was like a DUHHH moment! The slowness of the work just comes with the territory of being among a people who are some of the most independent in the U.S. These are the people of the Alaskan Bush! I know the work will start to pick up soon though; I have faith in the Lord and I know that he wouldn't send missionaries to a place unless there was someone to baptize there! SO in the mean time we are just striving to find them; that person who is looking for the truth and just doesn't know where to find it!

We have really been working hard to strengthen our relationship with the branch, to earn the trust of the members, show them that we are serious about our teaching and that we'll give anyone that they introduce us to the best investigating experience possible. We have a goal to teach a minimum of two lessons per day and if we can’t fill our two evening lesson slots with less actives/recent converts or investigators we are teaching a member family. We have started at the top of the Branch list and are starting to work our way down, one family at a time, until we have shared the Spirit with all of them! And while we are doing it, we are asking for referrals and striving to inspire each of them to get excited about missionary work. I am confident that as we earn their trust, many baptisms will follow and soon we will have plenty of work on our hands!

I was stressing about the work but I know it’s gonna work out! Proverbs 3:5-6 Baby! That really is one of the only Scripture Mastery from Seminary that I remember, but it has been so critical throughout this entrance into my adult life. Trust in the Lord!!

So, the first few months in the mission field were challenging. Coming into the field, I was really blindsided with the level of peer pressure towards justifying disobedience. It seems like most of my discussions in church and zone conference have been about NOT justifying. I remember a quote, "Justification is the grease on the pole to Hell," or something along those lines. BUT IT IS SO TRUE!! I was flabbergasted by the number of missionaries who were or are disobedient in this mission and at first it really just filled me with a rage towards their unrighteous actions. It hasn't been easy for me to makeover myself to who I am now, but I’ve come so far--yet I’m far from perfect, and I understand that. That was part of why, initially, I had a hard time telling people (especially other missionaries) Stop, NO!, Don't do that, or We don’t do that.  Initially I thought, I’m not perfect; who am I to correct? But slowly I began to realize that no one is. Even the prophet falls short of perfection, but his desire is to be the best he can possibly be. And that is my desire.

At first other missionaries thought that I was just trying to be a goody-two-shoes, but as I strive to live up to my desire of being exactly obedient, and testify of that desire, the Spirit has testified to them that I truly just want the best for myself and for those around me. The key was to make my desires known! That’s not always easy, but when I finally did that, then they really began to respect my decision to be exactly obedient (as obedient as I can possibly be) and in turn, they began to respect me. They no longer look at me as a hypocrite if I slip-up and then later correct myself or someone else on that same mistake -- they know my intentions are good. The other day when we were down at zone conference one of the missionaries said "Winterrose, Dude you're so obedient!" It was such a relief to know that other people can see my desires, look past my faults, and not condemn me. Not to mention, it felt awesome to have my efforts acknowledged and embraced!

I guess the other thing I’ve been learning is that everyone is on a different level both spiritually and in their diligence. Some people can be awesome missionaries even when they aren't being exactly obedient, because they are still doing their best. I know that the Lord expects more of me though. I’ve found it’s much easier to explain to them that the only way I can be the best Missionary the Lord wants me to be is by being exactly obedient.

That phrase, "Exactly obedient", is one that is often uttered but frequently overlooked in its simplicity. We all understand what obedience is, but it’s that little word - exact - that changes the emphasis. Many times in my life I’ve been mostly or partially obedient. But being exactly obedient means doing exactly what Our rules say! One of the biggest problems Missionaries (and everyone else) face is the degradation of obedience through justification. I think back on my life and my downward spiral and it’s easy to see that it was caused by this justification; bending the rules, like bending a wire, till they became so soft I could break them easily. None of my decisions or any of my sins seemed serious...

My journey into my own personal apostasy occurred mostly the same way that the Great Apostasy after the death of the apostles occurred. It wasn't like people could just go and say, "Well we aren't going to baptize by immersion any more, a sprinkling of water will work.” First they had to go through a ton of justification to get it to the point where people were like, "Well it’s just a symbol, let’s just use this other symbol, it’s simpler, quicker, and it will probably make more people get baptized!" In every case of apostasy there is the same problem; someone has to put their knowledge and wisdom above that given to us by Heavenly Father. Many times it’s us using justification to make Heavenly Father's LAWS fit our lifestyle. It’s tragic, and we see it everywhere.

The other night we talked with a recent convert about obedience, she was basically telling me to loosen up. So I started talking to her about why I am obedient, and how if I'm not obedient I don't have the Spirit in the volume that I want it, and am hence not as effective a servant. She said, "Yeah but you know, the two missionaries who started my conversion process shouldn't have even been teaching me, because they didn't have another person of the opposite sex present." I agreed with her initially, thinking that was a fine decision on the side of the missionaries… that the missionary handbook of guidelines was there to help us as missionaries, not hinder our work.

Later on though as I was reading through that Little White Book again, I saw the part that emphasized we should never place ourselves in a situation like those missionaries did. I was caught up in a turmoil of the conflict between two seemingly good things; thinking that new Sister would have never been baptized had they not broke that "little" rule, and the fact that I am on a crusade against justification. (I love the Spirit, it’s amazing how in a critical moment of pondering it can bring the answer right to your head!) So as I sat there pondering this little conundrum, the testimony of Nephi entered my mind through the Primary song, Nephi's Courage. It was with the most amazing resolve that the verse entered my mind...
"The Lord commanded Nephi to go and build a boat. Nephi's older brothers believed it would not float. Laughing and mocking they said he should not try, Nephi was courageous this was his reply: I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands. I know the lord provides a way, he wants me to obey!"
And I began to reflect on 1Nephi 3:7
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
And that was my answer! The Lord would have provided a way for those missionaries to contact that Sister, even if they were being perfectly obedient! He will always provide a way. It’s easy to see from the rest of Nephi's story that He will provide. So in turn I have come to this conclusion:
 As missionaries, the Lord will work through us because he knows everything about us and our capability, however, we gain mighty blessings if we are exactly obedient and the Lord will trust us with more of his very important work. He, in His infinite wisdom, will utilize us all to do his work, regardless of where we are, because His work is important. Even so, when we are not obedient, we must be wary, for we are frustrating the Lord's work - making it harder for Him to use us to help His children. When we are obedient we’re like a sharp and light sickle in the His hands, able to move with quickness and exactness for long periods of time - allowing Him to reap in great gains. When we are disobedient, we are like a dull and heavy sickle - harder to move through the field, ineffective at harvesting, making for slow, short, tedious, and backbreaking work - with little to show for it. It is my Testimony, that as I live righteously, repent oft, and press forward with diligence that I will be the sharpest tool in the hands of The Carpenter that I can possibly be. I can help Christ do His work, and so can you. I promise you this, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I'm Glad I got your email! I just got it like half way through writing this email.... it kinda went from being a story and now I think with a little work I could even use it as a talk. Anyways! Everything is good now and I miss and love you guys so much! When I saw the pictures of C. I almost started crying! I can’t even believe that he’s graduated! And I feel the exact same way as you were saying, Mom; I wish I was there, but I know that I am in the right place!

I am proud of Poot. When you get that feeling, D., that you're doing something and it just doesn't feel right... that’s the Spirit. It’s the last little warning it gives you right before it gets ready to leave. Remember that feeling, and if you get it again, then stop whatever you are doing and listen to it. If it tells you to speak up, speak up! If it tells you to call home, call home! If it tells you to get away, RUN AWAY! Just drop what you are doing. You don't have to explain yourself to anyone! Just run. Always be courageous like Nephi!

M., I'm jealous I don’t get to play the new map pack for a long while! And when I get home you and D. will probably stomp me every game. Grizz it up for me a few games... Rebuke some foos.

Well I love you guys and miss you tons! I was afraid I wasn't going to get a email! Then Mom sent me one!! Whew!


Elder Britton Winterrose