Konnichiwa, mina san! (Hello, everybody!)
This week has been spectacular. President Matthew Holland (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s son, who is President of Utah Valley University) spoke at the fireside on Sunday. I mentioned this in my email last week, and I also mentioned that it was rumored Elder Holland and his wife would be there. They were, and Elder Holland was able to introduce his son as the speaker. It was very nice, and Elder Holland said that he was grateful to be "just" the father of that night’s speaker. He also spoke a bit about marriage, and said that to find the right person you first need to be the right person.
President Matthew Holland spoke about the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it was amazing. It was a great motivator for me to study the life of Joseph Smith, since I did not know at least 3/4 of the history that President Holland talked about. This is my favorite event that President Holland talked about (actually, it’s really two events that happened in interestingly similar circumstances, probably about 20 years apart):
When Joseph was a young child, his family moved from Virginia (I think; apparently they moved many, many times, which I had not previously known) to New York. Joseph’s father had to leave a few months prior to the family to begin working his new farmland. When the rest of the family moved they hired a man to help them. The man was not very nice, and kicked Joseph out of the wagon sometime during the trip (Joseph was also still healing from his leg surgery). When the family finally made it to their new home, Joseph’s mother literally collapsed into her husband’s arms and they wept bitterly. However, they soon realized that somebody was missing…Joseph. A couple miles outside the town, Joseph had collapsed into the snow. However, as he was laying there a stranger picked him up and carried him the last few miles into town.
Many years later, Emma (Joseph’s wife) was pregnant with their child Don Carlos. At that time Joseph was away from home while he translated the Book of Mormon. He paused translation for a couple weeks to be with his wife for the delivery of their child. Unfortunately, Don Carlos did not live and Emma also nearly died. After burying their child, and as soon as Emma was healthy enough, Joseph had to leave again to finish translating the Book of Mormon. However, Joseph was also ill and could not quite make it. Exhausted, he collapsed just outside Palmyra (where his parents lived, which is where he was translating). Again, a stranger helped Joseph up and supported him as they walked the last few miles into Palmyra.
Joseph never discovered the identity of the stranger(s) that helped him, but whether they were mortal or angelic hands, this is a testimony to me that God watches over his children and supports his servants. Our Heavenly Father is there, and He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. There is so much more to Joseph’s story, and I definitely want to study his life more earnestly. There is much that I can learn from the life of Joseph Smith.
Elder Perkins, of the Seventy, spoke in the devotional on Tuesday. His wife spokae first and taught about building our testimonies on the firm foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She even had everybody sing the Primary song, The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock. It was very good.
Elder Perkins taught about developing Christ-like attributes. Throughout his talk he "built" the "staircase" toward heaven, meaning the steps we need to take to develop Christ-like attributes that will enable us to return to our Heavenly Father and become more like our Savior.
It was very good. One of the things that stuck out to me was when he talked about giving up our "nets" – or things that we could be dragging with us on our missions (or through our lives). As a missionary I have left many temporal things behind, but have I truly let go of those things, or am I still dragging them with me by thinking about them all the time and continually desiring those things which I have left behind? This does not only apply to missionaries, either. Everybody has something – it could be big or small – that is preventing them from drawing nearer to Christ. Sometimes we may not realize what things could be holding us back. Some of those things can even be good, but good things can become hindrances if we devote our time to them. For example, I have noticed some missionaries in the MTC that are constantly thinking about family and friends at home, and often spend their time writing letters to those people. Family and friends are not evil things to think about, but when they distract us from our purpose as missionaries that distraction becomes a net that we are dragging with us, which prevents us from becoming the missionary that we can – and should – become.
I know that as I strive each day to focus more on the Lord’s work in which I am laboring as His representative, and as I cast aside any nets which I may be dragging with me, I will become a better instrument in the Lord’s hands, and I will become more joyful. I know that my Redeemer lives, I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and that He loves all of His children. I know that the Atonement works; you can be cleansed from any sin and healed from any pain or sorrow through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. All you have to do is exercise faith, which (as Alma states in Alma chapter 32) begins with a simple desire to believe. If you do not yet believe, but sometimes wish that you did, I promise that you can believe. Read Alma 32, ponder the message taught in that scripture, and then act on the message. Pray with a real desire and intent to know whether God is there, whether Jesus Christ is your Savior, and/or anything else that you may have questions about. I promise that you will receive an answer – you may not necessarily receive it immediately or when you expect it, but God will answer your prayers if you are sincere in your desire to know. (Additional reading: "Lord, I Believe", a General Conference talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland).
There is so much more that I could write, but I am running out of time. Ai shite masu, mina san! (I love you, everybody!) Kazoku ga ai shite masu. Shosite Ten no Otosama to Iesu Kirisuto ga ai shite masu. Iesu Kirisuto ga Sukuinushi to Aganainushi to shitte imasu. Iesu Kirisuto no mina ni yotte o-akashi shimasu, amen. (I love my family. I love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.)
Lacey: no, they have not banned hand-shaking while I have been here. Perhaps they discovered that it had no measurable effect on decreasing the spread of disease (I don’t know, just guessing). I love you!
Kimball: That is unfortunate that the Lexus broke down. That is very fortunate (i.e. God is watching over you) that there were wonderful people available to assist you in your time of need. I love you, and hope your pregnancy continues to go well. Dad mentioned that you are pretty much over your sickness, so that’s good.
Lacey & Kimball: Sleep like a stone and rise like a loaf!
Kyle: Continue to be a great missionary!
Mom: We have not checked the mail yet, so I will see if the package arrived later today. Thank you!
Dad: Get well soon! I will pray for you.
Sorry if I didn’t respond to somebody who wanted a response. Unfortunately, I never have enough time to do everything I want to. Have a great week and a spectacular year!
p.p.s. If you send mail/packages, do not write "Tyler Madsen choro" (which means "Elder Tyler Madsen" in Japanese). The mail room will think my last name is "choro", which will be confusing (this already happened to one elder in our district, which is why I am mentioning it). Just remember to keep it in English ("Elder Tyler Madsen"). 🙂