So, since it was Fast Sunday this week, we had a two-hour Mission Conference instead of our regular Priesthood meetings. One of the speakers, President Seamons, was talking about the worth of the Book of Mormon. To help emphasize his point, he shared a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, which is the epitome of awesomeness. Google "Calvin and Hobbes: There's treasure everywhere" and you'll find it. Really fun, and really true about the Book of Mormon. Every read through I do, I use a different color of crayon, which really allows me to see how much treasure I keep finding in there.
But time to get to the real stuff. There's so much to say, and so little time in which to say it. This is a VERY BIG LETTER, so I've tried to divide it up into little segments for you to peruse at your leisure.
1. Fun Stuff
2. Teaching Investigators
3. The Great Sealing Power Debate
4. Airport info
6. In Conclusion
Fun Stuff (for the short on time)
I mentioned in my last email that Elder Letalu and I had been made Zone Leaders, and one of our responsibilities has been to introduce the new group of missionaries, run through the rules, and take them on a tour. So, on Wednesday and Thursday, we did so. The only problem was that the Coordinating Sister, Sister Stegelmeier, who is supposed to sit in to help explain sisterly concerns, is one of those people. The lesson was essentially me trying to give the lesson, as I've been assigned to do, and Sister Stegelmeier jumping in to say what I was just about to bring up. Kind of frustrating. Elder Letalu was of the opinion that, since she'd been there a week longer, we should let her talk. I was of the opinion that, as the introduction is a Zone Leader responsibility, we needed to step up and do it. Anyway...Sister Stegelmeier's going to have an interesting time on a mission.Afterwards, we took the new district on a tour through the MTC, showing them the bookstore and such.
There is a tree outside of the Laundry that smells like cream soda. I'm not kidding. You walk up and sniff it, and it does. I don't know why. The missionaries have creatively named it The Cream Soda Tree. As there must be opposition in all things, outside the MTC Bookstore is the Porta-Potty Rock, and sadly, its power is far greater than the Tree's. It makes me want to throw up every time I walk by.
When Elder Letalu and I looked over the list of names for the new district, we saw all the companionships: Elders Johnson and Ellis, Elders Davis and Jones and...Elders Short and Lower. We thought that that was the most awesome coincidence of all time. We bet that they'd be super tall, and we were right. Elder Short is 6'4", and Elder Lower is 6'6". So, you might say, he's the higher one of the two.
Wednesday was my first opportunity to give a priesthood blessing. Elder Letalu and I were sitting in the classroom during Study Time, discussing Zone Leader stuff, when all of a sudden Elder Grey (the Wallball guy) calmly stands up, walks over to the trash bin, and starts throwing up. It was quite impressive. I gave him a priesthood blessing and then took him to the clinic. The poor kid's health has been bouncing all over the place the last week, but he had to go to the emergency room last night when he started throwing up blood...which made me feel very nervous, but we got together as a district at about 11 at night to say a prayer. Hope he's doing okay. He's one of those elders who came to the mission field with dormant health problems, and all the stress of mission life kinda brought those problems back. He's such a trooper for coming, though.
Sunday we had Fast and Testimony meeting. I shared my testimony about the Atonement. I've always loved the story of Dad talking to Grandma Zina about raising her family, and I shared that story. I think the gist of it was this: "Wasn't it hard, raising all those kids and giving up all those opportunities?"
Grandma: "Oh, I was happy to. I'd do it again."
And then, I remember Dad saying that he could imagine seeing the Savior and saying, "Wasn't it hard, going through the Atonement? All that pain?"
And then He would say, "Oh, I was happy to; I'd do it again."
I am so grateful for good parents, and I am so grateful for the Atonement.
Monday we did an activity for learning how to teach with the Spirit. Elder LEtalu and I both roleplayed as one of our investigators, asking them to commit to baptism, and we were not to listen until the Spirit told us what to say. We both tried it, and we could tell when we were speaking with the Spirit and when we were not. It was amazing. Both of us said some crazy awesome things when the Spirit got flowing. Elder Whitaker (Joseph Smith) and his companion, Elder Cross, tried a different approach: don't say ANYTHING unless you know it's the Spirit prompting you. It took Elder Cross ten minutes to figure out what to say, and apparently the experience gave him a migraine. I think I'll pass on that method of teaching.
Man, we have done so much roleplaying over the last week. Elder Letalu and I have been teaching quite a few people, but I'll only mention a few for the sake of time.
One of our investigators is Chantha, a Cambodian living in
He was not really responsive the first three times we taught him, and we tried
using very simple doctrine. Our latest lesson, though, on Monday night, we
really tried to focus on why he needed the Gospel. We started teaching him, not the
lesson. He opened up, and talked about how he'd gotten in bad with the mob, and
how he was fearing for his life and worried about his kids, and he wanted to
escape, and stuff. We got him to commit to baptism. (We're the first people in
the district to do so; we all teach Chantha) Thankfully Elder Letalu was
feeling the Spirit, and he really carried the lesson. In general, we do a good
job of passing off.
The other fun teaching story was a Less Active we taught, Wilda. She didn't want to go to church because she thought she'd be judged, and she felt bad for not knowing anything about the Gospel. I told her about how Mom dealt with moving into a new ward where she thought she was being judged by her background. Elder Letalu shared some experiences too. Between the two of us, we got the lady playing Wilda to cry, even though Wilda technically would not. We asked her if she'd come to church this Sunday, and she said she'd try.
At this point, Elder Letalu leaned forward, raised an eyebrow, and said, smiling, "That's not good enough for me, Wilda. Are you going to go or not?" And she said yes.
Man, I wish I had the Poly license to do stuff like that.
The Great Sealing Power Debate
The main thing Thursday was some of the elders in my district got in my argument with one of our teachers about the Sealing power. The teaching, Sister Knudsen, said that, essentially, the Sealing power sealed. Without it, you could still see your family in the
, but you couldn't really see them
as family. Elder Nelson, a guy from another district who had to stay behind due
to a health problem, started arguing with her. He said that the sealing power
allowed people in the Celestial Kingdom Celestial Kingdom to pull people up from lower kingdoms--so, if
your family was sealed, and one of you didn't make it, you could rescue them
from the or something. I
don't agree with either idea, but I didn't say anything. Terrestrial
However, Elder Nelson came into our room Thursday night to mouth off about Sister Knudsen teaching false doctrine, and then he asked me what I thought. And what I think is this:
1. Why do we need to get sealed? To reach the highest level of exaltation.
2. What is the highest level of exaltation? Becoming like God.
3. What can we do, sealed together as gods, that unsealed Celestial beings cannot? Have eternal increase. As we are all Heavenly Father's children, I am led to understand--and I definitely do not know if this is true or not--that if we and our spouse reach exaltation, we, too, can have a forever family. Not just forever in duration, but in size; the amount of children we can have is neverending. That is not possible if we're not sealed.
*BEEP* *DEEP DOCTRINE ALERT* *BEEP*
Alright, I apologize. But that's how I see it.
I tried to explain to Elder Nelson why I did not believe the Sealing power was used for a rescuing effect. The fact is, which kingdom we're placed in is dependent on whether or not we accept Christ's Atonement, and whether or not we do that is dependent on if we were willing to live a higher law. Elder Nelson's theory about sealing power means that someone's eternal salvation relies on whether or not a person has been sealed to a Celestial Being, NOT on if they've accepted the Atonement. And that, my friends, is getting saved by works. Which we know is wrong.
Secondly, people are put into the Terrestrial and
because that's where they'd be
happiest. Even when we don't live up to His standards, God still shows us
mercy. Terrestrial people would not be happy in a Celestial world, and forcing
them into it via the sealing power would be making them unhappy. Telestial Kingdoms
Anyway, Elder Nelson got after me for not agreeing with him, but I just calmly stated that A) the First Presidency has not openly addressed this issue, which means that it's deep doctrine and all we can do is pray about it, B) our goal should be "No Empty Seats" anyway, and C) we should just trust God to have worked this out perfectly, as he is God, after all.
I am flying out Monday, August 13, for
North Carolina, at around 7 in the morning.
I'll send the rest of the details to you shortly, Mom, but I want you to know
have heard that I get to make a phone call home at the airport! I
don't know when I'll get there, but if you are up sometime between 5:00-7:00,
I'll try and give you a call, provided I have the phone card...
Mom, I think it's so cool that you've finished The Dark Is Rising. I know that it can be a little hard to understand, and the level of writing's not at J.K. Rowling's level, but I still like it a lot. I think it's funny how you sent me John Rowland's speech about free will and choices; that's actually my favorite part of the whole series, and why I'm so fond of it. Susan Cooper's story is pretty unique in fantasy, in that she says the main conflict between good and evil is over free will, not necessarily between sin and virtue. (I think Tolkien and Lewis are the only others who make that conclusion.) Sin and virtue play a huge part in the real battle between good and evil, but only because they deal with the proper use of agency.
Another thing that I've always thought was interesting about the series was that, even when the Light won, they head off, because there is still work to be done. Makes me wonder what we will be doing in the
. I recall Dad saying that, even
though we think of this life as a test, who's to say that what's to come won't
be more difficult? Celestial Kingdom
To Joy and Joey - I absolutely LOVED getting your letter. You all had such nice counsel for me. Adam drew such lovely pictures--his world was great--and his handwriting is getting really good! And the picture from Clara was great. I just felt so much love from that letter, it made my day.
Mom, you've asked me, I think, what music I want when I get into the mission field. I'll generally trust your judgment, but I would really like a copy of Called to Serve. It has a lot of great songs on it, and two of my favorites, This Is the Christ and He Sent His Son.
I just want you all to know that I am having a great time. I'm feeling the Spirit and learning so much. The Church is true. I miss you, but I know that this is the Work of God. It's hard to think that my MTC time is almost over. My next email will be from
Carolina! And it will be a shorter letter...
I love you all. Write you later!