Konnichiwa, mina san! O-genki desu ka? Watashi wa subarashi desu! I am doing quite well here in the Provo MTC.
This week has been super! Richard I. Heaton (Administrative Director, Provo MTC) spoke at the fireside on Sunday. It was wonderful. He taught us from a verse in D&C 20:37, which says, "___." In order for them to have true and lasting conversion, the people we teach must develop their own desire to be baptized. They have to actually want it for themselves (not just because the missionaries said, "please,"); if they do not genuinely want it they will not be able to remain faithful after joining the church, and our baptizing them will be detrimental rather than helpful for their salvation. This is a simple doctrine, but I think missionaries can often overlook it, especially when they are not seeing the number of baptisms that they think they should have. To help us empathize with an investigator’s point-of-view, Brother Heaton asked, "If you were not currently a member of the church (but, hypothetically speaking, you still had your current knowledge and testimony), would you want to be baptized and why?" The important question for we missionaries in the MTC is not necessarily whether we would want to be baptized, but rather why would we want to be baptized? What is it about this church that we would want to join ourselves with it? That is what we want our investigators to experience. They need to know that this is the only true Church of Jesus Christ. That does not mean they will not have questions. Everybody has questions (I am fairly certain that the longer you are a member the more questions you have). However, we come to realize that the answers (or lack thereof) to those questions do not affect our testimony of the truth. We know despite the questions that we may have.
As a side note (kind of), when he asked that question Brother Heaton asked a few groups of people to stand (if they so desired) and answer the question. Brother Heaton had his son with him (who is autistic, by the way), and had him pass a portable microphone to whoever he wanted to select to answer the question. The three groups Brother Heaton selected were life-long members, converts, and re-activated members. When he had the re-activated group stand, Brother Heaton paused for a moment to point at that the number of people in that group was a clear declaration that the Lord is hastening His work, and we are already seeing results. The group that stood represented at least 10% of the missionaries in the MTC, and that amount was only those who wanted to stand and share their experience, so the percentage is likely much higher than that. The Lord is hastening His work, and as He hastens the work more people will join or be re-activated and catch the spirit of missionary work.
There is a lot more that I could type about that fireside, but I also want to talk about the devotional on Tuesday, which was also amazing. Elder Steven E. Snow (of the Seventy; he is also currently the Church historian) and his wife spoke. Sister Snow taught about the Primary song "I will go, I will do," (see 1 Nephi 3:7), and she invited each of us to commit to be an "I will" missionary.
Elder Snow taught about how we establish/strengthen the church (branch/ward/area) where we serve. He gave three points for how we do that:
1. Literally fulfill our purpose
2. Strengthen, support, and edify active members
3. Work with less-active members
Unsurprisingly, much of what he taught is very well related to that which Brother Heaton taught. Like Brother Heaton, Elder Snow pointed out that new members must be so converted that they never fall away (see Alma 23:6). Regarding strengthening, supporting, and edifying the active members, Elder Snow advised that the members will trust you according to your willingness and obedience. A thought that just came to me is that as members we are often told to be the best example that we can be all the time, because we never know who may be watching. An interesting thing about being a missionary is that even the members place you under a microscope. They will be watching you when you do not realize it, and their trust in you will stem from what they see, just as with the people we teach. It is extremely taisetsu (important) that we as missionaries be the best missionaries – the best examples as representatives of Christ – that we can be. Because we are representatives of Christ, we should always do those things which would represent Him. We must be the missionaries that the members believe we are; be the example they can trust and admire.
Elder Snow also focused a lot on those who have fallen away from the church. He quoted the three "lost" parables (Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Prodigal Son) found in Luke 15. He pointed out that in two of those three parables, the thing that was lost was not necessarily at fault for having been lost: the sheep wandered away to seemingly greener pastures until it had become separated from the flock, while the coin had been lost due to unfortunate negligence. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son was lost because he chose to go against that which he knew to be true. However, as Elder Snow pointed out concerning those whose situation is similar to that of the prodigal son, "Just as they chose to leave, they can chose to return. It is our responsibility to seek them out and invite them back." They still have their agency, but we can – and should – be the influence that will draw them back to Christ. How do we do that? As we reviewed this subject in our district meeting following devotional, somebody (I don’t remember who) commented that we simply need to love them as much as possible, and always be the best example that we can be. If we truly love them, we will be in a much better position to draw them back to Christ.
At the beginning of his talk, Elder Snow also had a group of missionaries stand – the senior missionaries. He then had them sit down according to how many missions they have served (he began counted, and if that is how many missions they had served they sat down). When he reached six there were two men standing. One of them was beginning his seventh mission, the other his eleventh. That is true dedication to the Savior.
In my personal study this past week I decided to follow Elder Bednar’s suggestion, which is to acquire a new Book of Mormon (they have tiny blue paperback copies here) and begin studying with a focus on a certain subject. After many years of doing so I will end up with many, many, many copies of the Book of Mormon, each with scriptures marked according to different subjects. My current focus is faith. One scripture that I found concerning faith is 1 Nephi 2:17. From this scripture I learned that as we testify we can build the faith of those around us. Therefore, we should seek as many opportunities as possible to testify so that we can be an instrument in building the faith of those around us.
I also am still studying through the New Testament. I just finished Romans and am now in 1 Corinthians. I really love the New Testament. There is great power in its teachings. Some of my favorite verses from my recent study are in Romans 14:10-13, in which Paul teaches about not judging unrighteously. I really like verse 13: "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way." We should not judge other people. We should help them, and as we help them we can help them overcome their trials instead of placing more stumblingblocks in their path through our unrighteous judgment.
Dad, that is quite unfortunate that you were feeling so terrible. I will continue to pray for your recovery. I am grateful for the scriptures that you share, and just like Kyle I too continue to find great strength in the scriptures. I am so grateful for my daily study, and always wish that I had more time. Thank you for your example. I love you very much.
Mom, the snow has been gone from Provo (or the MTC, at least) for a few weeks. It has actually been quite sunny and warm! It is raining today, which I actually enjoy very much (my companion, Chung choro, does not because it is cold rain). Everybody in my district and zone is really excited to be going to Japan in the spring. The cherry blossoms will be in bloom, and it will be beautiful! I will be sure to take pictures. Also, thank you for sharing the messages about fasting from the Stake Presidency. I love you!
Lacey, I think that is really cool that you and Michael are considering adoption! I have actually developed a greater testimony about raising children in a righteous home since I have come into the MTC. Gappmayer shimai (one of the sisters in my district) is actually adopted, and she has mentioned a few stories about her birth parents that are quite saddening. However, her adopted parents raised her in a righteous home, and now she is in the MTC! Also, life is going so quickly! Sometimes it is muzukashi (difficult) to catch up!
Ryan, that is really cool that you were able to hear from Elder Holland in Hong Kong. Like you said, it truly is a testament that this is a worldwide church when an apostle is able to speak in Provo one day and then Hong Kong the next. It is also awesome that you were go to Taiwan and attend church there.
I am grateful for the gospel. I know where I would be without it, and that is not a place that I would ever want to be. I know that through Jesus Christ we can overcome all things. I know that this is His work, and I am grateful to be His representative at such a great time! Like Ryan said in his email, this is the time when the Lord no longer asks his people to physically flee from Babylon. He has asked us to take a stand wherever we are and stand firm in the faith. I know that, as difficult as it may be, we can and will stand firm as long as our faith remains rooted in the Savior. I know that He is my redeemer, and I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me, just as Heavenly Father loves all of his children.
There is so much more that I would like to say, but I have not the time!
Ai shite masu! (I love you!)