Thursday, October 4, 2012

Letter from September 17th, 2012

Well, what a week this has been. We have finally been able to get back to full-time missionary work on a consistent basis, and it has been a strange adjustment going back to wearing a shirt and tie every day again haha. But, it has been interesting because a lot of our longtime investigators have dropped us and a lot of people who had no potential before have sparked an interest. However, we unfortunately had to drop our cajun investigator because she wasn't progressing and had flat out begun to ignore us. That is what it means to truly feel disappointed because of the actions of another - where there was once potential for her to bring happiness, joy, and salvation to her soul there is now emptiness and, seemingly, bitterness. I only pray that her heart is softened and she finds opportunity to accept the gospel again in the future.
And, I'm getting transferred  Well, kinda haha. Transfers for the whole mission are this week, but because I have a couple of important doctor appointments here in Slidell, I will be staying here for an extra week or so to get things sorted out, after which I should be moving to my new area, Coushatta, LA. When people talk about a rural town, this is what they are talking about - I'll be going from a city of 70,000 to a town of 3,000. Slidell will truly be missed and has had an immeasurable impact on my growth as an individual, but nonetheless, it is time for a change. My new companion will be Elder Green, an experienced missionary that likes to work hard, so hopefully we will be able to work well together.
An interesting experience for me was yet another one tied to Hurricane Issac. Because we had spent a significant amount of hours in the past weeks contacting in affected areas searching for those who needed assistance, we amassed a work load large enough that the Church called upon members in Georgia to come and help in Slidell. They were given a few days notice, and had a full crew of a hundred people present - talk about consecration in action. A true testament of ordinary members doing all they can to live up to and fulifll their covenants. The stake called upon me to play the piano for a special sacrament meeting we were holding for them early Sunday morning. When we arrived, there were only 5 people in standard church-going attire (counting ourselves), and instead we faced a sea of yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" shirts. It was truly humbling to watch these men, dressed to go to work, unshaven, and lacking sleep, passing the sacrament to one another. The spirit was so strong in the meeting, and the Holy Ghost testified to me of the importance of the sacrament, service, and humility. It was a uniquely spiritual experience that I hope to never forget.
Also, you might find it funny to know how we have attempted to find people to teach this week - Mitt Romney. True, missionaries are told to avoid politics, but the opportunity that we found before us was too good to pass up; the Romney/Ryan campaign recently opened up a campaign headquarters here in Slidell, and at the same time we heard a statistic that interest in 'mormonism' was at its highest because of him. So we grabbed a stack a pass-along cards and headed in. Through talking to the lovely ladies there, we were able to leave the cards right in plain sight next to the merchandise, and they even took down our phone number and said they would put it in the county Republican newsletter, along with a link Talk about a golden opportunity. Even if we don't find a hundred new investigators from it, I feel confident that at least a few people will follow the link and learn something about our faith and beliefs. If that's all that comes from it, it was a success. 
Lastly, I finished the Book of Mormon today!! I started two days after entering the MTC and read consistently over the past three transfers, and what an experience it has been. My testimony of Christ has been strengthened by studying the testimony given of him therein, and I have learned how Christ himself would have us live. As a result of my efforts to study it, I have become a better person and a better missionary. To quote the Prophet Joseph Smith, "the Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” This became clearly evident in my experience over the past months, and the same opportunity is present for all who are willing to do their part and prayerfully seek to know of its truthfulness. If the evidence of the Savior's divinity and existence is available for each of us to read, ponder, and pray over, why wouldn't we do so? Heavenly Father is a God of promises, and he has always and will always keep his promise to provide a witness of the authenticity and truthfulness of the book to all who diligently seek it. The promise is clear - "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." If it's that simple then, once again, why wouldn't we do so?
Elder Jeffery R. Holland has said, "one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject [the Book of Mormon] . . . then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: 'a stone of stumbling, … a rock of offence,' a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work." We must gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon if we are to fully believe in this latter-day work. It is the keystone of our religion, and as such, all depends on it. Our claim to divine authority, modern day prophets, and all other beliefs, hang on the validity of one book. So to gain a testimony, we must read it, and I would encourage all of you to do so - as President Spencer W. Kimball would say, "Just do it." There is no truer saying than this - the Church is true and the book is blue!!
Elder Thomas
PS - sorry to hear about the Holy War.... but I did hear rumor that Bronco Mendenhall stood up to a Utah fan heckling him. Atta boy Bronco, atta boy. Those "classless" Utah fans ;P (Hey, Max Hall said it, not me hahaha)

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