Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Joy Of Service

     Have you ever wondered how you could hold onto the wonderful feelings that we all feel around the Christmas season? This and many other things are thoughts that I have been pondering as we enter the post-Christmas time. First off we need to identify the source of all these wonderful feelings that we feel around this time of year. I feel like it is because people are going out of their way to help one another. They are willing to go the extra mile to help someone that may be in need. As a result, the recipient of the service feels loved and has joy. The giver feels the spirit that comes from giving needed service as well as being able to see the joy in the eyes of the recipient. In Matthew 25:40 it states, "Inasmuch as ye have adone it unto one of the bleast of these my cbrethren, ye have done it unto me". Now be pondering both sides of this service given, from the giver perspective to the recipients perspective.
   
    “An older boy and his young companion were walking along a road which led through a field. They saw an old coat and a badly worn pair of men’s shoes by the roadside, and in the distance they saw the owner working in the field.
    “The younger boy suggested that they hide the shoes, conceal themselves, and watch the perplexity on the owner’s face when he returned.
    “The older boy … thought that would not be so good. He said the owner must be a very poor man. So, after talking the matter over, at his suggestion, they concluded to try another experiment. Instead of hiding the shoes, they would put a silver dollar in each one and … see what the owner did when he discovered the money. So they did that.
    “Pretty soon the man returned from the field, put on his coat, slipped one foot into a shoe, felt something hard, took it out and found a silver dollar. Wonder and surprise [shone] upon his face. He looked at the dollar again and again, turned around and could see nobody, then proceeded to put on the other shoe; when to his great surprise he found another dollar. His feelings overcame him. … He knelt down and offered aloud a prayer of thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife being sick and helpless and his children without bread. … He fervently thanked the Lord for this bounty from unknown hands and evoked the blessing of heaven upon those who gave him this needed help.
    “The boys remained [hidden] until he had gone.” They had been touched by his prayer and felt something warm within their hearts. As they left to walk down the road, one said to the other, “Don’t you have a good feeling?” (Adapted from Bryant S. Hinckley, Not by Bread Alone, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955, p. 95.)

    Did you notice the joy that both parties felt? This story did not take place during Christmas. These boys went out of their way to help this poor man. We can have these wonderful feelings all year long. Just as these boys felt the joy of service, we can feel the joy of service all year long.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Unity of 'Christ'mas

    Have you ever heard the phrase, "There is power in numbers"? This is one of the things that I have really been thinking about as we quickly approach this Christmas. There has always been power in numbers when people unite or when they come together. Countries have been established as a result of people unifying together. Throughout the world and its history there are countless stories of people putting aside their differences and coming together as one. In 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul encourages the Corinthians to 'Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace' and the spirit of the Lord would be with them. The specific kind of Unity that I personally speak of today is that of Unity with Christ. The Bible and Book of Mormon teaches that we need to come in Unity of Christ. The closest I have ever personally seen that is during the time of Christmas when our thoughts turn to the birth of our Savior. We are celebrating together and are unified in that respect. Forget the presents, forget Santa Claus and the Reindeer and think of how wonderful this time of year is. Why is that? Its because we are celebrating Christ TOGETHER! I love my Savior Jesus Christ and I know that He Lives! Have a wonderful Christmas this year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the Road Together

     One of the most incredible experiences I have had on my mission was to be able to teach the most wonderful couple. Jeff and Angie Maurer. We met Angie in Napa while she was working at the In-n-Out there. As we pulled up she exclaimed with excitement, "Oh Hi Elders"! Being thrown off by the unexpected greeting, she told us that she was a member of the church but hadn't been to church for a while. She did tell us that she wanted us to come by her place because she wanted help getting back to church. The first time that we went over, Jeff who was not a member, was a little apprehensive about having us over. He later on said, "Whenever missionaries used to come by I would just ignore them or not even answer the door". We finally got a time to sit down with both Angie and Jeff. At first it was a visit full of 'stump the missionaries' questions. As we answered the questions he started to soften his heart a little bit. He asked, "Well what happens when we die"? The room went silent but the spirit came into the room. My companion, Elder Berry and I, proceeded to teach the Plan Of Salvation. As we taught, the spirit taught. It was so incredible. This was a question that Jeff had never previously been able to find an answer to that satisfied him. We taught about the Resurrection (Alma 11:43-44) and as we taught about it the spirit intensified. I believe that this is where things turned. He never knew that no matter the physical disabilities anyone may have in this life, at the resurrection your body will be perfected.
     Another one of the things that resonated with Jeff was that life is not a race but a journey and that we will be judged not by how far we get but upon the intent of our hearts and if we have repented of the things we have done that were wrong, no matter how bad they may be. It has helped Jeff develop patience more as he progresses towards his baptism. I have had many wonderful meetings with both of them that have been some of the most spiritual experiences of my entire mission. I love this couple.
     They have also sacrificed a lot to make the changes they have made and the Lord has provided a way for them to continually progress as individuals and as a couple. They even read scriptures and pray together. Both Jeff and Angie are excited about the Gospel and they are now working towards being sealed together for time and all eternity in the temple. It has been such a wonderful blessing to work with both of them and I know that they are sincere and that the Lord has truly touched both of their lives.
     Jeff also has such a strong testimony of His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His religious views used to be, "Whatever puts wind in your sails is fine with me". However, that has all changed. In his own words he said, "I believe in this church, that the Book of Mormon is the interpreted word of of God, that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins; I believe in the Atonement, in agency, and that all things glorious - including the love that Angie and I feel for each other -are possible through the love of God and Jesus Christ". How glorious it has been to play even a small part in such a wonderful conversion. He has undergone a 'mighty change of heart' and both him and Angie are on this road together.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Know That I Am Nothing

     First off, I just want to express my love and gratitude for my Mother. She is the most wonderful and amazing woman and I am so grateful for her for everything that she has done for me.
    When I was a child, my older brothers and sisters would always tell me that mom said that she didnt think I would be very tall when I grew up, and that I would be a really small person. She never thought that  I would make it above 6 feet tall. I was often times referred to as the Baby of the family.
    Whenever I play basketball with my brothers, I usually play the role as the rag doll out on the court because I was so skinny. I would easily get pushed around the court by my bigger brothers. I will have you know that I always stayed on the court though.
   
    When I played volleyball in high school I was never the strongest, the tallest, or the highest jumper but I was able to get by, especially with the help of all those around me. Everyday I would practice on my different skills such as passing, setting, and hitting. When it came down to playing games I would say a prayer to my Heavenly Father asking him to help me play to the best of my ability. I know because he helped me, I never left the court thinking that I slacked off. I always did my best.
     Since I have been on my mission I have recognized this principle even more so. I have worked as hard as I can to be the best missionary that I can. I study the scriptures, practice teaching, and actually do teach others the Gospel. Over time I have gotten better at being a missionary. At the end of the day, one thing is apparent, especially now that I have been out a while. I need to rely on the Lord to help me be the best I can be. No matter what I do I still need him, and he magnifies my abilities. I pray to my Heavenly Father everyday before I go out to work to help me, to guide me, and to be there for me to comfort me. I am here to let you all know that he has been there for me. I know that God is there, that he lives, and that without him I am nothing but with him I can do anything!
    In a Book of Mormon story, Alma 26. Alma and his Brother Ammon just had an extremely effective time among the Lamanite people and brought thousands to the knowledge of the Gospel. They were rejoicing over the many people that were now believers in Christ but after everything was said and done, Ammon says, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore i will not boast of myself, but i will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things". I know that I am nothing but that through Him I can do all things! I hope that we may all rely on the Lord and trust in Him because he will help you in everything you do that is right.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Change of Heart

     As a missionary, you see many changes in  peoples' hearts. It is a glorious experience when you can see the difference that is made in their lives, by simply teaching them the Gospel and them accepting that Gospel into their lives. I felt that I should post a story of someone that I have seen their life change every so often because these are truly amazing people and they have had so much joy brought into their lives because of the message that missionaries share on a daily basis. Keep in mind, it is these kind of experiences that make the hardships of serving a mission completely and totally worth it!

     I feel like I should share the story about Marlon Jones this time around. One night Elder Bevan and I were on an exchange together in Vallejo and a miracle happened. It was pretty late and was really dark and we decided to go see someone who said that they were interested previously. They were not home but upon turning around, we saw this guy across the street who was drugged up and smoking a joint. At first we were hesitant to talk to him but the Spirit told us that we needed to talk to him. Even though he wasn't totally all there he accepted a Book of Mormon and invited us to come back. Marlon began reading in the Book of Mormon and never turned back. He quit smoking, drinking and doing drugs. He felt the difference in his life. As he was trying to quit smoking it was very tough for him so he memorized a scripture that he would recite in his head every time he would get a craving, Jacob 3:11. Sure enough by his Baptism date, he had quit smoking and was ready to follow the example of his Savior and be baptized! It has changed his life. About 3 months later, he baptized his own son Marlon Jr. and today he is the Sunday School teacher in the Vallejo 2nd ward. All this came from proselyting on a dark night in the streets of Vallejo California!