こんにちは！ How is everybody doing in their various locations? I am doing quite well here in 清水、日本 (Shimizu, Japan)!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s something interesting about Japan: on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) the girls give gifts to the guys (chocolate, etc.), then a month later on "White Day" (March 14) the guys give gifts back to the girls. I’m not sure why it’s called White Day. Maybe I’ll find out in a month.
This week has been wonderful! Per President Gustafson’s (my Mission President’s) request, Elder Stump and I have been doing もぎ’s (practice lessons) every day, and it has been great! I have been able to learn so much from our daily もぎ, and I know that President Gustafson was inspired to ask us to commit to doing it. I was actually thinking about it the other day, and realized one reason I think the Lord wants us to practice teaching is because as we practice teaching and thereby become better teachers, then we will be able to actually teach the people that the Lord is preparing in Japan.
Just before leaving the MTC they teach missionaries about the power of expectations – probably especially those who are entering what is generally considered a so-called "difficult" mission because of historically low baptismal rates (Japan being one such mission). However, simply expecting is not enough – just like faith in and of itself is not enough. We cannot expect that the Lord will provide us with people to teach just because we expect him to. Faith without works is dead. We must act! And one great way to act is by preparing ourselves to teach as we practice teaching. In other missions – such as my younger brother’s mission in Brazil – missionaries have many different teaching opportunities, and through those experiences they are able to learn how to become better teachers. We in Japan currently do not necessarily have as many teaching opportunities – yet. However, as we practice teaching each other we will become better teachers, and the Lord will then trust us to be able to teach His children the gospel and help them come unto Him. I have no doubt that as we prepare ourselves to teach, the Lord will help us find those opportunities to teach, and I know that the promise in Alma 26:22 is true: "Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing…it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance."
We also had a Conference with Elder Whiting (of the First Quorum of the Seventy; also of the Asia North Area Presidency), and I learned so much from the conference. It was a wonderful experience; I learned much about how I can become a better missionary. Before he began Elder Whiting talked about receiving revelation unrelated to what is being said – oftentimes as we open the door to revelation we will receive something that may be completely unrelated to the subject that is being spoken on – and interestingly enough that happened for me during the conference. One of the primary things that I realized during the conference was regarding using the Bible in teaching. During the conference I remembered a part that I had recently read in chapter 5 (The Book of Mormon) of PMG regarding using the Book of Mormon to support what the Bible says. As I remembered that, I realized that in order to use the Book of Mormon to support the Bible, I need to be using the Bible. Up until now in my mission I have not really quoted from the Bible very much – partly because of another thing that it says in PMG (essentially, give preference to Book of Mormon scriptures since the truth of our message can be known through reading, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon), and partly because many people in Japan don’t really know the Bible anyway. However, I realized that if I share scriptures from the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon, and show how the Book of Mormon complements and supports the Bible’s teachings, I can help people come unto Christ through both testimonies of Him. We often share the analogy that, mathematically, through one point can be drawn an infinite number of lines but through two points only one line can be drawn, and we compare that analogy to the Bible (as one point through which many interpretations can be made) and the Book of Mormon (as an additional point by which only one interpretation – one truth – can be determined). As missionaries, if we share only the Book of Mormon and never mention the Bible, does that not also provide only one point of reference for our investigators to draw many inferences from? Certainly I don’t intend to start handing out copies of the Bible (unless somebody requests one, I suppose) as that would be unproductive, but I do intend to at least start sharing more scriptures from the Bible as I teach, and then support those scriptures with others from the Book of Mormon. There are many reasons that other Christian churches don’t believe that we are Christian, one of which is the great focus that we as missionaries place on the Book of Mormon – which certainly we should. However, I do not believe that it would be detrimental to teach from both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.
There were many things that I actually learned from Elder Whiting (the previous paragraph was something I realized while he was speaking, not really something he actually said) – about faith, improving our studies (especially companion study), and much more; unfortunately I don’t have time to write about all of it, but I am grateful for the leaders which the Lord has provided for me to learn from, and hope that I can apply at least some part of what I am taught. I am especially grateful that the Lord has provided me with such a wonderful mission president – number one, according to Elder Whiting! 🙂 (Sorry, Elder Madsen the Younger. I’m sure your President Dalton is also wonderful. Just not number one. We can all improve. )
I know that this is the Lord’s work. He is leading in, and it cannot be stopped. And, as long as we are continually striving to follow Him and do as He asks, despite our weaknesses we will be able to accomplish His great work.
I love being a missionary, and am so grateful for this opportunity!
Unfortunately, I am just about out of time. I love you all, and hope you have a wonderful day, a superb week, and a great year!
p.s. Mom, I did get my card (a few days before my birthday, I think). Also, that should be fine if you send the family book information in the mail. Thank you so much! I love you!
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