|Oh yeah, Really!|
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