North Carolina Charlotte Mission

Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are your brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. -Alma 31:35

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Homecoming

Elder Fisher will be returning home to us, tomorrow, July 23rd, after serving a beautiful and wonderful mission. We are so proud of him and his love and dedication over the last two years. We have been blessed as a family by his example of faith and charity and have grown from the pure testimony that he has shared with us weekly through his emails. Thank you to all of you who have supported him through prayers, letters, emails, packages, fasting, and so many other ways. 

Elder Fisher will be released from his missionary service tomorrow night. Daniel will be speaking during the sacrament meeting service of the Oak Hills Ward in the Bountiful Utah Central Stake this upcoming Sunday, July 27th, 2014. The service starts at 10:50 and the address of the chapel is 455 South 1200 East, Bountiful UT  84010 for all those who would like to join us in listening to his sermon. Afterwards, there will be a small open house at Daniel's home. Please contact the family for details.

7/21/14 "Always"

"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." - Matthew 28:20


This Sunday we saw the baptism of Alan. It was a very special experience for me. He was the first person on my mission that I found purely from finding, taught, and whose baptism I was present for. He asked me to baptize him, and afterwards bore his testimony. He talked about how he was so glad that Elder Dedrick and I had stopped to talk to him that rainy night back in April when he was stacking wood. It was amazing for me to see how people can change, and by what small means a person's entire life can change.

Not only did we see a baptism this week, we also met or exceeded the Standards of Excellence in every single key indicator. What a great way to finish things off!

***

We were teaching a woman the Restoration on Saturday. After I shared the First Vision with her, I asked her what she thought. She responded, "That's way better than Google."

...A curious response.

***

At my very first transfer meeting back when I was assigned to be with my trainer ElderMolina, a departing elder performed a song that he had composed that had become a sort of unofficial theme song. The words of the chorus meant greatly to me then and mean much more to me now:

I'm just a fisherman;
Left all I know behind
To serve my Heavenly Father
With my whole heart and mind.

I can't save the world;
Just some souls along the way.
This is my chance to sacrifice;
These are my days.

In a few days the name tag will go off, but the mission is not over. The things I have learned are today, tomorrow, and forever principles. I will always be a missionary. These are my days.

***

I've thought long about what I wanted to share in this final email, and many grand and glorious thoughts came to me. However, I feel like I do not want to burden you with any of them.

I know that God is our Heavenly Father. The ultimate beginning of every story can be traced back to a sentence somewhere along these lines: "Once upon a time there was a Being who wanted there to be other things like Him." 

That is the start of it all. And also the end purpose of it all. It provides the answer for why the Savior had to die, and then live again. The answer is eternal families. That is the reason for the earth we live on and everything that has transpired upon it. God wants us to be like Him, and with Him. He wants us to have a fullness of joy.

I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet. I am grateful that he had the courage to ask God for truth. I know that God will answer our prayers.

I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that President Monson is a prophet. I know that temple ordinances allow families to be sealed for time and all eternity.

And as for the Savior. When I was set apart to be a missionary, the promise was made that the Savior would be the third member of my companionship. This has been fulfilled, completely and beautifully. When I felt down, He was there. When I didn't think all that much of myself, He was there. There has never been a moment when He has not been by my side, and He always will.

After all, that was what He promised the apostles; His very last words to them. "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher


7/14/14 "Again unto Thee"

"Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee." - Alma 31:35


While on exchange with Elder Jorgensen this past Friday I witnessed my fifth car accident since coming to Newton. A car ran right into the back of a van on the road and got totaled, so we rode up to the scene to see how we could help. I was still in the "offer to provide assistance" mode when Elder Jorgensen, who had more presence of mind than I did, quickly jumped in the road and started directing traffic around the crash. Turns out no one is going to question what a man in a shirt and tie is telling them to do. I went and helped him at the other end and that was what we did for over a half hour while the 911 people cleared up the wreckage.

Saturday we stopped to talk to two young women walking along the side of the road. We asked if there was a time that we could come by and teach them. The taller of the two, Kena, said, "I don't want to lie to you. I don't want to say a time and then not be there."

"Then just say a time and be there!" I said.

She paused for a moment, then slowly stuck out her fist so that I could give it a pound with my own.

And that's missionary work for you. You talk to strange people and see weird churches that are called, I kid you not, "Rose of Sharon Church of the Firstborn in Christ's Name." Thankfully we got five different people from five different households to church this Sunday, including Allen, who is recovered from his kidney stones and on date for the 20th.

***

To preface an experience that I had recently, I would like to share a story.

My father once had a dream. In this dream, he was in a great white room that he understood to be where people waited before they entered the Celestial Kingdom. An attendant in white gave him a piece of paper and asked him to write on it why he felt that he should be allowed to go in. Hastily my father began to write down everything he could think of that might justify his worthiness: sealed in the temple to a wonderful woman, father of five children, return missionary, bishop, stake president, all sorts of things. 

At this point my grandfather came into the room. As he sat down my father began to explain to him what he needed to do. "Here, Dad, you have to write on this paper why you think you should be allowed to enter, you can use both sides--" and so on. My grandpa quietly thanked him, and then on his paper wrote down a single sentence and handed it to the waiting attendant. The attendant looked at what he had written, and said with a smile, "That is enough. You may go in." And then my grandfather entered into the other door.

My father told me that he never saw what it was that my grandpa had written down. But he did realize that what our Father in heaven is looking for from our mortal existence is not necessarily what he had thought He would be. What He was seeking was apparently something that could be expressed in a single sentence.

***

A little while ago in my Book of Mormon reading I came across my mission plaque scripture, Alma 31:35. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I had gone into my mission with the thought in mind that I would bring souls again unto Him. The horrible thought entered into my head: have I done this?

A host of negative and depressing thoughts flooded into my head. I took out a pen and paper and for 40 minutes wrote them down. I felt that I had not used my time the way I could have. I felt that I had done a poor job in serving the Lord. I finished the page and started on another that was blank, and there I stopped. Instead of continuing to write more negative thoughts, I wrote, "And therefore, Daniel, what?"

I stopped and considered the question, and then I quietly left my companions and went to the bedroom. Closing the door behind me, I knelt down in prayer and asked the Lord if my offering had been acceptable to Him. I needed the reassurance that the time I had spent in His service was something He was pleased with. I prayed and prayed, but after several minutes no answer had come. I got my patriarchal blessing and read through it and prayed again, but there was still no response.

I took my little alarm clock CD player and turned off the lights and shut myself into the closet and listened to This is the Christ, hoping that somehow it would help me. I heard the words of the song, "With saints of old, in joyful cry, I too can testify: this is the Christ!"

A question came into my head, unmistakably clear, like I've never experienced before in my life: "Can you at least say this?"

My response was an immediate "Yes!"

And then came the reply, "Then your mission has been acceptable."

Instantly the negative feelings and self-doubt were driven away and I felt complete peace fill my soul. In tears I thanked my Heavenly Father for all He had done for me as I sat in that tiny closet, and I came out feeling overwhelming joy and gratitude. I crumpled up the paper of negative thoughts and rejoined my companions in the other room.

***

Someday, when we are called before the Master to give an accounting of how we have used our time and He asks us why we think our offering should be considered acceptable to Him, what will we say? I don't think He will be much concerned about the number of lessons we had taught, or in what positions we had served, or the places we had gone. The answer He is looking for, I imagine, is something that you will be able to give in a single sentence. It is the reason why missionaries are sent out on missions. It is central to why we have been sent here to this earth.

I am thankful, so thankful, to my Father in Heaven that He has allowed me to come out and offer myself in His service. What could I ever do to repay Him? What could I ever do to adequately show my thanks? I am grateful for the testimony I have come to have that the Work is true.

I love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


7/7/14 "The windows of heaven"

"I will...open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." - Malachi 3:10



This was one of the least productive weeks of my whole mission for various reasons:
1) Elder Mastin came down with a stomach virus and was laid out for a day
2) Elder Arnold came down with the same stomach virus the next day and was similarly laid out
3) With my superior constitution I never came down with the stomach virus
4) On the subject of Constitutions, the 4th of July was an ineffective proselyting day
5) We had two all-day missionary meetings this past week
6) Our baptismal date was smitten with kidney stones and had to have his baptism pushed back

Though a benefit of one of the all-day meetings was getting to see President Craven's dad, emeritus Seventy Elder Rulon Craven, speak about our potential as children of God. I can definitely see where President got his character from.

While out proselyting on Thursday we got a call from a member asking if we could please open up the church for them at 5. We thus began the long bike-ride back home from Newton to Conover. While pedaling, I saw an enormous mass of grey clouds advancing towards us and we raced it towards the church. Before we could reach our destination, however, the Lord had opened up the windows of heaven and poured us out a blessing that there was not room enough to receive it.

Once we had dried off from the Lord's abundant blessings, from the safety of the church building we got to enjoy watching 40 minutes of the most pounding rain and lightning I have ever seen since that tropical storm Elder Molina and I had been in way back in August 2012. It was quite the light show.

And life is good.

I have had such abundant witness that the Gospel is true. This time has been of so much worth to me. I am excited for Elder Mastin, for he's in for the time of his life these next two years.

I really truly do love all of you. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

6/29/14 "Days never to be forgotten"

"These were days never to be forgotten." 
- Oliver Cowdery, JSH.


Every Saturday in our mission is a "car fast." This is when everyone in the whole mission (except for the Assistants, who are too important) foregoes using their car for the entire day. The reasoning behind this was as follows:

1. Missionary work is much more effective when we involve members.
2. Members, among other things, give missionaries rides to appointments.
3. Missionaries often don't need rides to appointments when they have a car to use.
4. Missionaries don't work that hard to call members to help them when they have a car.
5. Missionaries hate biking and will go to great lengths to avoid doing it.
Therefore, if missionaries were deprived of their vehicles on Saturday, which is the day when many members do not have to work, then they would have a greater incentive to get their help.

...So we were out biking on Saturday, having utterly failed to get any members whatsoever to help us, and went to go see our investigator Jeremy for our appointment. He had been enlisted to be chef for a neighborhood birthday party and sadly couldn't meet with us, but he encouraged us to go to the party and ask for something to drink due to the heat. So we went, and one of the guys there kindly offered us some nice cold beer to cool us off.

"Sorry," we said. "We don't need a BUI today. We don't like biking under the influence."

***

One advantage of having a tripanionship is that, if you get the members out to help you, you can cover three different appointments at once. This makes us in high demand, now. On Sunday we taught Gospel Principles second hour because the teacher was sick, and then I taught sharing time in senior primary, afterwards being the pianist, while ElderArnold and Mastin taught the Young Men.

It was a crazy Sunday anyway. One of the speakers had been asked to speak on both the life of Christ and Independence Day. Instead of somehow meshing the two topics together like a lot of people would have done, this brother gave a talk on the Savior, closed "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen" and then started into his second talk on July 4th. Interesting technique.

Just the night before we had committed Allen, the man who I met in the rain many months ago, to come to church, and when sacrament meeting had rolled around he had not shown up. He had missed the week before, granted for a very justifiable reason, but if he didn't come to church this Sunday he would not make his baptism date for July 6th and we probably would have to drop him.

So I sat there with my eyes closed in sacrament meeting, very unhappy, playing in my head the "drop talk" we would undoubtedly have with him in the near future and honestly not focusing all that much on the Savior. I was quite sad, because I loved Allen and I was disappointed that he had failed to come. I then felt a hand on my shoulder. I opened my eyes and looked up and there was Allen, a big crooked smile on his scruffy face.

Elder Mastin, from where he was sitting up at the sacrament table helping the priests, noticed my expression when I looked up and saw Allen there. He told me later that it was quite hilarious. 

It turns out that poor Allen had run out of gas, so he got the gasoline out of his lawnmower and used that so he could come to church. What a guy! We are hoping to see his baptism this Sunday, on the 6th.

I will never forget the joy I felt seeing Allen standing there on that Sunday. These truly are days never to be forgotten. Blessings unmeasured, a fullness of joy. This work most certainly is true. Hurrah for Israel!




Elder Fisher

6/23/14 "There is a god"

"All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it...and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.  - Alma 30:44

We were all driving in the car this last Thursday when the area got hit by a MASSIVE storm. Lightning struck the ground not 30 feet from us, and the vibrations from the impact shook the car. Scared the living daylights out of us. I was surprised to see that the thunderbolt was strangely orange, not the white-yellow we see in movies.

Also this week I did the baptismal interview of one Sister Sifford. Later on she asked me to actually perform her baptism this past Sunday, so I had the great pleasure of performing that ordinance for her. It was an unexpected blessing that I was dearly grateful for.



***

We had a lesson with a few college students this past week. We were talking to them about the Book of Mormon and they were having trouble accepting it. "Jesus appearing to people in the Americas?" they said. "That's ridiculous! That's impossible!"

"Do you believe the Bible?" I asked them.

They responded that yes, they did.

"In that case, you believe that 1) man was literally made from dust, that 2) the entire earth was literally covered with water at one point, and that 3) there was a man who could not only walk on water but actually rose from the dead, something that no one else in the history of the world has ever done before or since. Is it that hard to believe, then, that God could speak to people in America?"

They couldn't really argue with that one. 

I followed up with another question: "How do you know if God is real?" My purpose in asking them that question was to see how they'd gotten a testimony in the past and thus compare that to how they'd get a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Their response was a halfhearted "Oh, well, just look at the earth around us. Obviously a God had to have made it."

"See, you look at the earth and you see that it is evidence there is a God. But an atheist looks at the very same earth and says that it's evidence that there is no God. With every piece of evidence that we see, there is always a faithful explanation for it and a doubtful explanation. It's the same with the Book of Mormon."

They still did not seem to get it, so we left them with that.

***

Later on, Elder Arnold asked E. Mastin and I the same question in companion study. "How do you know if the Church is true? How do you know if God is real?" It was interesting to see the different answers we gave. Mine was more based on logic, while E. Mastin's was more based on feelings and E. Arnold's was based on evidences he has seen for it to be true. I'll include a little bit of the main points of my testimony for you to consider:

1. The life of Jesus Christ. While I may indeed cry watching Sam carry Frodo up the mountain in Return of the King, the power of that story does not have the life-changing power of the story of Christ. There is something else there that motivates men to believe and to change. 
2. The story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Would a liar have put up with so much persecution? Could any person have written the Book of Mormon on his own?
3. The story of the Church. Would something that was a fraud have survived under such conditions and flourished for so long as the Church has done?
4. The improbability of it all being false. Could all the modern-day prophets from Joseph to President Monson have been false? They testified of Jesus Christ; was He false, or just made up? He testified of Old Testament prophets; were they just made up? The improbability of so many good men being liars seems ridiculous to me.
5. My birth. Why am I the person I am? Why was I born Daniel Fisher in '93, and not in 493 or 1301 or 1967? There is no other explanation besides the Gospel as to why I am who I am: a loving Heavenly Father sent me at this time to my family.

Those are just main parts of my testimony that God is real and that the Church is true. I love you all. Hurrah of Israel!


Elder Fisher

6/16/14 "Day of miracles"

"Has the day of miracles ceased?" - Moroni 7:35

Elder Arnold and I's new trainee is Elder Mastin, a 24-year old cook from Pleasant Grove, Utah. We are quite happy to have him! He is very prepared, very mature, and very teachable. The three of us will have a fun transfer together.

The fireflies have come back again, coming out at sunset every day and staying for only a few short minutes. The days themselves are hot but the work is good. For example, this past Sunday I got to participate in the confirmations of Faith and Madison, whose father performed the blessing. Another powerful, wonderful experience for me.

***

I want to talk today about miracles.

About two months ago Elder Dedrick and I had had a long day. It was rainy, a lot of appointments had cancelled and at 8:45 at night one of our investigators had dropped us and didn't want to meet anymore. Tired, discouraged, wet and in the rain, we easily could have turned to go home. But instead, we prayed. I took off my helmet and held it in my hands during the prayer, feeling every raindrop plunking down on it as fervently we asked the Lord to please, please lead us to someone that we could talk to that night. I put my wet helmet back on and we sat on our bikes and started pedaling through the night.

Within ten seconds we saw a man stacking wood on his porch and we went to talk to him. His name was Allen, and he let us talk to him. Now he's come to church, has a baptismal date, has been living the Word of Wisdom, and wants to baptize his wife. It was a marvel to me that the Lord answered the prayer of two wet missionaries standing in the dark at 9:45 on a rainy night. 

***

Three months ago we met a man named David and gave him a Book of Mormon. When we came back we asked if he had read, and David responded that he and a friend had gotten in a conversation about the Church. His friend has asked for the Book of Mormon and Dave gave it to him. Like good missionaries, my companion and I invited him to ask his friend to sit in on our next meeting. We ended up losing contact with Dave.

Last Friday while finding I saw a man watching his kids play in his yard. I went to go up and talk to him. His name was Jeremy, and he knew that we were Mormons. He said that a friend had given him a Book of Mormon a long time ago and he had read a bit from Alma. I asked who the friend was and it turned out that it had been Dave! I was blown away that months later that plotline had showed up again.

The next day we brought Brother Arndt with us for the second appointment with Jeremy. Jeremy said, "Hey, I went to school with some Arndts way back in 2000. Do you know So-and-So?"

"Hmm, I think I do," Brother Arndt said. "They're my kids!"

I was a bit frightened at this point. Literally the only member in the world who could have had that connection with Jeremy was the one who had come with us. Two miracles had played off with this man.

***

I would like to close by sharing two scriptures that I have come to chain together. The first of these is the scripture that first gave me my testimony that the Book of Mormon is true:

"And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

"Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

"Behold I say unto you, Nay;

"For my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever."
(Moroni 7:35-37 and 2 Nephi 29:9)

The day of miracles has not ceased, for as long as there is just one man left upon the earth who can be saved, God's work is not yet finished. Miracles are everywhere, if only we will have eyes to see them.

This is the Lord's work, and it is true. I love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

6/9/14 "The Gate"

"And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate." - 2 Nephi 31:18



This week I witnessed my fourth car crash in this area. A car backed into a street pole. Something is seriously wrong with these people.

It has again entered that time of year when the birds go crazy and start fighting each other. The mockingbirds are out, though, and I enjoy listening to them.

The South is indeed very religious, but one thing I have noticed is that there are no youth going to the churches here -- only middle-aged and up. By and large the youth of the South are either agnostic, spiritual but nonreligious, or else attend the rock-concert churches such as Elevation, the Cove, etc. Not too many go to the traditional meetings anymore. You know, the ones that require devotion and standards and such.

One of the greatest weapons of the Church's missionaries is our character. People may not know much about us and regard us with suspicion, but they generally trust us to be honest, dependable, and kind. That is a great advantage. They may not know anything about our doctrine but they still regard us as upright individuals.

On Sunday was the baptism of Faith and Madison. This was the first time in my whole mission, 23 months in, where I was able to report at the end of the week that our area had seen a baptism. It was truly a wonderful, ecstatic feeling. When their father was performing the baptism for his younger daughter Madison he got choked up, which got everyone in the room teary. I have never felt the Spirit so strong at a baptismal service.

Elder Arnold and I got a call this past Saturday from President Craven asking us if we would train a new missionary! This is extremely exciting. It'll be the fifth time Elder Arnold has been a trainer and the fourth time for me. I take this as a sign from the Lord to ensure that I continue to work hard during my last transfer. I am excited to meet him tomorrow.

There's no time to write more, unfortunately. I love you all! Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

6/2/14 "The gift of God"

"But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." - Acts 8:20


Few things can impress an investigator more quickly than a solid fast and testimony meeting at church.
Few things can turn off an investigator more quickly than a bad fast and testimony meeting at church.
We all want our fast and testimony meetings to be solid, of course, but being a missionary and having an investigator there sort of puts you into double jeopardy. 

Thankfully, this past Sunday went just fine. The Newton-Conover ward excels at having short, powerful testimonies so that 20+ people can participate. Though we did have a sweet older brother go off on evolution this past Sunday.

"Atheists say that horses evolved from grasshoppers!" this defender of the faith boldly proclaimed from the pulpit. "That can't possibly be true! For one thing, their knees bend the opposite way!"

***

Last week Elder Arnold and I both ate a Hmong pepper at a member home. This gallant feat of daring led us to be rewarded with a Hmong name by the family. Elder Arnold's Hmong name is "Vaj Vwj," which translates to "Elder King Leader." I, on the other hand, was given the name "Choj Vwj," which translates to "Elder Bridge." 

I'm not sure quite what to think about all this. Apparently, when Hmong people are asked to determine what name would best define Elder Arnold, they see "King Leader." When they see me, they think "bridge." I guess I just radiate a lot of bridge-like qualities, I suppose.

***

There is a man we are teaching who missed an appointment last week. When we asked why, he responded that he is an ordained minister and was off performing a marriage. This was highly surprising, since as he is an auto mechanic he didn't seem like the type of man who would have gone through a seminary to become a pastor.

It turns out that our friend had been on the Internet one day and had seen an ad that said "Become an ordained minister!" Following the link, he saw a button that said "Ordain me now!" and one credit card number and eight bucks later, he's an ordained minister, able to legally perform marriages and baptisms. Our investigator friend's line of authority is probably the only one in the world that boasts an "https://" in front of it.

Some people may balk at this modern method of ordination but it is clearly in perfect harmony with scriptural accounts of biblical priesthood practices, and anyone who says otherwise is clearly an ignorant and close-minded simpleton.

Poor Simon Magus. If only you'd waited 2,000 more years, my friend, your money would've been worth something.

***

Back a few weeks ago, when Elder Dedrick and I talked to the preacher, he asked us what we, as Mormons, believed about grace. He shared an analogy to explain his view of it, and I shared President David O. McKay's analogy to explain our view of it, and since both of them are similar, I'll share both of them to you.

Pastor: Grace is like a drowning man. Jesus is the lifeguard. He swims out to you in the water and rescues you. You just have to go limp in His arms and let Him get you to shore safely.
President McKay: Grace is like a drowning man. Jesus is the lifeguard. He throws out a line for you to grab. You just have to hold on and let Him pull you to shore safely.

Note the difference?

Suffice it to say that the pastor flatly rejected President McKay's analogy. However, thinking back on these two parables, there is one question I want to bring up that perhaps my friend the pastor had not considered: why was the man drowning in the first place?

The point is, we are indeed saved by grace; it is the gift of God. However, if you keep jumping into the water after Jesus has saved you, you won't be saved! Ultimately, there also has to be repentance -- an acknowledgement that the water can hurt you and that you shouldn't go swimming in it. We can only be saved through grace, but we cannot be saved without repentance, either. Jesus will indeed get you to heaven through His grace, whether you want Him to or not, but only repentance, made possible by the restored Gospel and its ordinances, will cause you to stay there.

I am excited for another great week of missionary work with my wonderful companionElder Arnold. The Church is true, and the priesthood of God cannot actually be transmitted via the Internet, despite what modern-day apostasy would have us think. 

Love you all. Hurrah for Israel! 


Elder Fisher

5/27/14 "Cheerfully do all things"

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." - D&C 123:17


So, everything cancelled this week. 90% of our appointments fell through, many investigators fell off the map, and even the baptism we'd planned for this past Sunday didn't happen at the last minute.

But, of course, life goes on, in a fruitful and happy way. 

While doing service for a recent convert we noted that there was a stray kitten hiding in her bushes, and the sister we were helping asked us to catch it for her. We never would have been able to find it in there except that, whenever we said "Meow," it would meow back at us. It was like some kind of inter-species game of Marco Polo. 

Elder Fisher was the one who caught the kitten when it lost its cool and made a break for it. He soon discovered that it had claws and hurriedly passed it off to Elder Arnold, who was wearing the gloves. The kitten is now living happily with its new family.

We had just barely sat down in a lesson with a less-active last week when all of a sudden he got a knock on his door. He answered it and then, turning to us with a slightly puzzled expression on his face, he said, "It's for you."

I went out and talked to the man standing outside. His name was Guillermo, a member of the Church from Matagalpa, Nicaragua, who has been in the United States only a month. He had been wondering where the local church unit was and he was driving down the street when all of a sudden he saw two missionaries walk into a house. He immediately stopped his car in the middle of the road and left it with the emergency flashers going so that he could come and knock on the door of that house and catch us.

It was a good lesson for me in devotion. Guillermo stopped the very instant he saw us so that he could talk to us. Shows that the Lord needs us to respond quickly to things He sends our way.

I guess I'm at a loss as to what to say more. It's just been one of those weeks. But the Church is still true! And the work is still wonderful!

Love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher 

5/18/14 "God gave the increase"

"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." - 1 Corinthians 3:5-6


It is a sad fact of missionary work that if you are working hard, staying obedient, and generally doing your job, the members are probably not going to remember your name.

This realization came to me a long while ago but came back again this past week.

Elder Arnold is a singer. He was Javert in Riverton High School's production of Les Miserables and has quite a good voice. This Sunday the Sister training leaders had a baptism for one of their investigators, a young man, and they asked us to sing, so we did a duet of "How Great Thou Art." It went very well. It also helps that both of the sisters have around 13+ years of piano experience so they are both amazingly good and do piano duets for meetings and such. All four of us have enough musical experience that we can through something together at a minute's notice if need be.

After the baptism we participated in the confirmation of this young man. He is Hmong, so one of our Hmong members did the confirmation in that language. It was a great experience for me. I had absolutely no idea was he was saying, but the Spirit indicated to me that although he was speaking in a different language, it was still the same priesthood.

This upcoming Sunday we are planning to have the baptisms of Faith and Madison, the daughters of convert parents. Their father will be performing the baptisms. If they meet the date, this will be the first time in my entire mission that a baptism will have taken place in my area while I was there. A lot of people I found and taught got baptized very shortly after I left the area, and I had the immense privilege and honor of performing the baptism for Rosita, but this will be the first time in 22 months that a baptism has happened on my watch.

Suffice it to say, I'm very excited.

But with this also comes a realization. Many many missionaries have tried over the years to visit Faith and Madi's parents and get them back to church. I am certain that I am no more obedient than they were, or any more diligent that they were, or any more sanctified in my calling than they were. Yet, for some reason none of them ever got in the door of this family's home. Elder Dedrick and I had just so happened to show up on a day and at a time when the mom was outside and we were able to talk with her and set up a return appointment. Now, jumping forward over a month, the daughters are preparing for baptism.

What changed? It was not our individual skills that got us in the door. It was the Spirit, who softened the hearts of the people involved. If Elder Dedrick and I can really claim anything, it is that we acted on the prompting to stop by their home at that right moment, which was able to get the ball rolling. We cannot say that this upcoming baptism came about because we were better missionaries or more spiritual or anything. God simply allowed us to participate in this story.

I am loving being with Elder Arnold. He is an excellent missionary and we get along well. Hopefully this week will be full of miracles.

Love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher 

5/12/14 "The Meaning of the Tree"

"Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
"And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men." - 1 Nephi 11:21-22


This week Elder Dedrick and I witnessed our third car crash together. We had just knocked on a less-active's door and were waiting for them to answer when some guy just drove off the road into a ditch. He eventually maneuvered his wrecked car out and back onto the road and drove off. I have no idea what is wrong with the people here.

Even up to ten years ago, missionaries still taught people using memorized discussions. They were supposed to commit every word of the lessons to memory and recite it exactly when they taught someone. There were several lessons, and all the lessons had to be taught in order, and there were specific commitments for each lesson; for example, people were often invited to be baptized when teaching about priesthood authority. For those of you who have seen The Best Two Years, this was the teaching method still in use back then.

Now things are very different. Preach My Gospel presents lesson material that missionaries are supposed to study and gain a testimony of, but we are given the freedom to present the doctrine in our own words, as directed by the Spirit. We can teach someone about the Plan of Salvation before we teach them about the Restoration if we feel that that is what they need, or we can teach part of the Gospel of Christ in the first lesson, or we can put in a few points of the Word of Wisdom if we feel that's necessary. It's all a lot more inspired.

Over the course of my mission, I've realized that most of the time it is simply best to teach things in the order Preach My Gospel puts them. For a person to understand why they need to be baptized, they need to understand the Restoration. For them to see the need for a Restoration, they need to understand the Great Apostasy, which requires an understanding of the Savior's original church, which requires understanding dispensation cycles, etc. Things make more sense if people already understand the principles behind them.

On Saturday Elder Dedrick and I were teaching a man named Reeon. We were teaching him the Restoration but he kept pressing us to get to the point.

"I feel that you're trying to sell me something," he said, cutting through our explanation of the Savior's earthly ministry. "You're building and building up to something. Just skip to whatever that something is. Skip to the end." 

He wouldn't let us explain what we were trying to get to, so I eventually said, "If I told you that there was a man, a convicted felon, who was executed for trying to stir up rebellion against the government, and didn't tell you any of what had happened before that, then you would never have known that that man was Jesus Christ."

There was a long pause as we all thought about that. Reeon stopped bothering us to skip to the end after that.

A different man asked me about a week or so ago if I had ever doubted that Joseph Smith was actually a prophet. My thoughts are a bit more collected now, but the thought I expressed to him was around these lines:

"I have doubted if Joseph Smith was really a prophet because I have previously doubted the existence of God. But I have no doubt that if there is a God, that Joseph Smith is His Prophet."

***

At around 9:45 PM on Sunday night Elder Dedrick and I got a call from President Craven, telling Elder Dedrick to pack his bags because he was getting transferred! So today we drove down to Charlotte to meet with President. Elder Dedrick got assigned to be my zone leader in Hickory, 15 minutes up the road, and I was paired up with my 17th companion, seasoned zone leader Elder Arnold. Though I've been out two transfers longer than he has, Elder Arnold is a year older than I am, and I am excited to be with him. He is from Riverton, Utah.

Another item of note is that President asked me to take over Elder Dedrick's place as district leader. This will be the first time in my mission that I've had a leadership assignment, so I will be relying a lot on Elder Arnold's experience to help me out the first few weeks.

***

On Sunday I finished reading the Book of Mormon backwards. I had started reading at Moroni 10 and proceeded all the way to the title page. I'm not sure why I decided to do this, but I got a lot of good insights out of it. It also made for some ironic twists to familiar stories. For example, 3 and 4 Nephi now tell the story of a very righteous people, in continual peace for 200 years, who got visited by Jesus, and then afterward there was a bunch of natural disasters where everybody died.

It was powerful, however, that in this backwards readthrough the "end" of the Book of Mormon was the story of the Tree of Life. For whatever reasons it had a much stronger effect on me this time around.

Have you ever wished sometimes that our earthly existence was just the Tree of Life experience? It would be so much easier, I would think, to simply have to find that iron rod somewhere in those mists of darkness and just hold on unto you reached the Tree, than to have to deal with all the confusion and uncertainty of this life. There are so many different paths, so many distractions, that it is difficult to know if you've found the Rod or arrived at the Tree.

I noticed that, although Lehi's dream portrays most of the types of people and situations of life, one thing that is not found in the dream is any sort of method for those people who are at the Tree to go and find and rescue those others who are lost in the mists of darkness. 

As I pondered this, there came to mind the words of the song "Heaven's at Hand," played for a cartoon video portrayal of the Tree of Life dream. Like so many other things, the chorus of this song has come to have much greater significance to me now that I am a missionary:

Don't give up! Don't fall away!
I'm here to help you up again! 
I'm here to help you up and then
Don't look down! Don't look back!
We're here to help each other stay
To help each other every day
Every way!

The Savior is the Tree, the love of God. We, as missionaries or as members, are the ones He assigns to go and find those lost in the mists and bring them to Him. Because He cannot be there Himself, He entrusts us with the great privilege and duty to go and find His family and bring them to safety and eternal life. We are there to help them when they stumble, to encourage them if they fail. We are to do whatever it takes to keep them moving along the path so that they will finally get there to the Tree.

All of the people you meet are either holding onto the Rod, at the Tree, or lost somewhere in those mists of darkness. It does not matter to the Lord if any of us stumble along the way as long as we get to the destination in the end! It is our job tohelp each other back up when we fall. He cannot physically be present to do so, so He needs us to be there. It is through us that the Savior can help these people back up. 

Among the most powerful moments of my mission have been when I have been able to echo those words of the song to a child of God who has stumbled: "Don't give up! I'm here to help you up again!"

What a great calling, that Christ would call you to go and bring those people to Him. 

I know that this Church is true. I love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

5/5/14 "If there is a god"

"O God...if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee..." - Alma 22:18


I was biking on the street this Sunday when I hit a crack in the road and crashed. My front wheel got bent into a lovely figure-8 due to the effect of 240 pounds of Elder Fisherlanding on it. I was surprisingly unharmed but the impact tore a hole right through my shirt. I guess God misinterpreted what I was asking for when I had been praying for Him to make me more...holy.

The crash wasn't really caused by a lack of skill on my part; I just hit a crack. So, when E. Dedrick asked me "What made you crash?" I could honestly reply, "It was the street'sfault."

But where to start about this last week? We spent several hours helping a nonmember stack wood on Wednesday and several more helping a member shovel mulch on Saturday.Elder Dedrick forgot his iPad at the post office last Monday, but the very postal worker we'd talked to on that day bumped into Spanish elders later on in the week and told them to inform us that the iPad was still at the office. The postal worker had figured that all Mormon elders know each other, and by golly, we do. Miracle? Oh yes.

What could I tell you about my mission? I could tell you about the helicopters that we always see flying around, searching for dope. Or how everyone smokes here and not one person has a full set of teeth, or how I'm getting really tired of the smell of marijuana. 

Or how the little daughter of one of the people we're teaching stopped me after a lesson once and said, "You know who you remind me of?"
"Who?"
"Joey Gladstone from Full House."

Or when we were teaching a 50-year old man and his elderly aunt walked in the room and he started loudly cussing her out while she patiently ignored him. It was entirely unprovoked on her part -- he was just holding some ill feelings about something that had happened years ago. We took him outside and talked to him about it, then marched him back inside so that he could apologize. It was quite the sight, seeing this gigantic 50-year old man say that he was sorry, looking for all the world like a 5-year old who was being forced by his mother to apologize for calling someone a bad name.

In the middle of a lesson with our investigator Charles, as I was sitting in a lawn chair under the trees behind his beaten-down trailer, I was listening to his gentle, raspy voice talk about what he'd read in the Book of Mormon recently, regarding his beaten baseball cap and the Hitler-esque mustache on his wrinkled face, when all of a sudden the powerful thought came to me: 

"The Savior died for this person."

...

I could only call it a revelation. 

I find it both amazing and slightly worrisome that this idea had never really occurred to me before. But ever since, I have tried to recapture this thought for every person I see. For it's true, isn't it? Missionaries wear the mantle of Christ, which means that we represent Him, but also that we are entitled to receive any gift or quality we need to represent Him accurately. Included among that is receiving the vision of Christ: being able to see people as He sees them; being able to see them as who they can become.

The Savior died for Charles. And for Allen, the man we're meeting with who's worried about how his adult children are going down dark and painful paths despite all of his best efforts to raise them as Christians, and is torn with guilt, thinking that he's a bad father. To which I replied, "God's children disobey Him all the time. But we would never call Him a bad parent."

The Savior died for Allen. And for Joseph, the man we taught who is not sure if there really is a God, and who, when we invited him to pray, offered up a prayer remarkably similar to the one offered by Lamoni's father in the book of Alma. Or Cedric, the cool gangsta recent convert who taught me how to do a gangsta handshake -- which is, to this day, one of the greatest accomplishments of my mission -- and for countless other people that I do not have the time or the means to tell you about, people who I love with all my heart.

I do not have time to write out the rest of my thoughts, so I'll just save it for next week. What a precious time this is! How I love to be a missionary. This work is true.

Love you all! Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

4/28/14 "Nourish the tree"

"Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof." - Alma 32:39
This was a week of many strange occurrences. Elder Dedrick and I survived transfers, for one thing, so he will be my fourth companion to last for more than a transfer. We will remain together in Newton-Conover.

One such strange occurrence was Elder Dedrick and I doing service for a nonmember lady. There was a MOUNTAIN of soda cans in her backyard, the acquired Sundrops of ages piled up as a monument to the glory of caffeine, that we had the great pleasure of bagging so that it could be taken to the recycling place and handed over in exchange for a nice green Ben Franklin in the hand. Afterwards we taught her about the Restoration.

Or the zone conference on Tuesday with President Craven. Last zone conference he told all of the zone to prepare a talk on Moroni 10:32 so that he could call on a few of us at random to speak. He got me to speak at that conference, so when we were told to prepare another talk for this meeting, this time on a General Conference talk, I prepared one but was fairly certain that I would be safe. Not so. President called me to speak again.

I used President Uchtdorf's priesthood session talk, "Sleeping through the Restoration," but instead twisted it to talk about "Sleeping through your mission." I originally spelled out a ton of do's and don'ts while preparing it, but I decided instead to just ask the zone a lot of questions to consider: In what ways am I selfish? In what ways do I try to avoid being obedient, or diligent, or selfless? What competing priorities do I have? 

Usually for zone conferences President gives a training the last few hours or so on some practical principle, like finding or something. Not so with this one. In front of the assembled Hickory zone he went into some deep doctrine about grace and resurrection. Partway through, he asks the audience, "When you are resurrected, what age will you be resurrected to?"

A timid voice replies, "Your prime?"

"Your prime?" President says. He rotates on his heels to look at me and says, "ElderFisher, you just barely turned 21 today; is that your prime?"

I paused and said, "Well, I had been hoping that my prime would be a bit thinner."

***

We have seen many highs and lows this week and much activity. I accompanied a musical number at zone conference ("Lead Thou Me On") another musical number at a baptism ("Beautiful Savior") and sang a solo of "This is the Christ" in sacrament meeting. It was hard for me, because I wish I had the kind of voice that could fully express my testimony through that song, but hopefully the effort I showed sufficed.

We see all different kinds of levels of faith here. This week a learned man we had taught for weeks told us that he had to stop meeting with us. Why? Because instead of reading the Book of Mormon to get his answers like we had invited him to do -- and like he'd promised he would do -- he instead looked up a whole bunch of anti-Mormon rubbish and believed it. On the other hand, we had a powerful experience with another man, Charles, because he actually had read when we asked him to, reciting to us the story of Alma and Korihor, Helaman 13:37-39 and quoting Moroni 7:11.

There are so many people and so many stories I could share, because this week seemed to be crammed full of more events and happenings than should be possible with a regular timeline. But I can't tell you about all of them.

Let me just say that it is so important to have faith. I have complete, 100% certainty that if people will read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, they WILL know that it is true. It is a spiritual constant. Reading + Prayer = Answer of Truth. If people do not get that answer, it is not because the Book of Mormon is not true or that the seed was bad; it was because they would not nourish the tree.

How important it is to even just try. Jesus told the Pharisee that if they would onlytry what he taught, they would know for themselves if what he taught was true.

I've only got three months left. I have no intention of sleeping through my mission. Now is the time to work harder than ever before and be even more sanctified than I've ever been. The day is drawing to a close. It's time to go and harvest!

Love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher


4/21/14 "On a golden springtime"

One of the people we are teaching here is a Jamaican Canadian lady. Her accent is a lot of fun. For example, if she were to say the phrase "Beer can" it would sound like "Bacon."

It is always amazing how we find investigators. One of the people we got to church this Sunday was a man we met at Walmart on a Friday night because E. Dedrick had to go get a replacement tire tube for his bike. It is so easy to start conversations as a missionary.

***

This last Saturday we took a moment to get off our bikes out of the rain and actually met with our good friend the Baptist pastor, who spoke to us two Sundays ago after we witnessed the car accident. He let us into his office -- the first time I've been in another faith's church my whole mission -- and we sat down and talked for a good while. He is pretty young for a pastor, only 30, and was very polite. Despite our best efforts the subject inevitably turned to the subject of how we are saved, with the pastor being of the "Confess with thy mouth" school of thought, but thankfully he was quite cordial so the Spirit stayed in the room. When we finally departed, it was on good and friendly terms. 

He mentioned to us afterward that he'd never met Mormon elders who were so knowledgeable. He was also impressed with my ability to write upside-down on my whiteboard. People always mention how I can write upside-down.

Later that day we got a text from him saying that E. Dedrick had forgotten his gloves. "Do you want me to save them or eBay them?" the pastor asked us.

My brilliant idea was that we should text back, "You cannot save those gloves. They can only be saved if they confess Christ." Sadly, E. Dedrick vetoed this.

***

A few other things about North Carolina. The Newton-Conover area is apparently religious enough that kids get school out here for Good Friday. I don't recall that ever happening for me in Washington, Texas, or even Utah.

Most people here have a Bible, even if they don't ever read it. One nice touch about these Bibles is that the words of Christ are in red ink. That way, if you are reading the New Testament you can easily tell what is being said by Jesus and what is not. I actually like this a lot, and I wish that we could do something similar with our own LDS scriptures. I would love to see it in the Book of Mormon in particular.

***

I was asked to be one of the speakers on Easter Sunday, me and one of the stake high counselors. Immediately after my talk I went and sang in the choir. Next Sunday I'm scheduled to sing "This is the Christ" because the choir director volunteered me for it. And I enjoy all of it.

While preparing for the talk was quite a fun experience, the real spiritual climax of the week came on Thursday. I realized that, if Easter is the anniversary of the Resurrection, then Thursday night would be the anniversary of the Garden of Gethsemane. On Thursday night, after I had said my prayer, I turned out the lights and lay in bed and, in honor of the Savior, listened to the song "Not My Will" in the LDS musical "The Garden" by Michael McLean. As far as I know, this song is the only musical attempt to depict what happened in Gethsemane on that night, and it is amazing. The Savior's sacrifice felt so much more real and powerful to me knowing that it was the anniversary of that great event.

Easter is a grand time of year. A few weeks beforehand all the Christian churches start putting purple cloths around the central cross of three in front of their church. As for my Easter thoughts, I don't have the time and you don't have the patience for me to express all that I want to say. The love involved behind Easter is unfathomable, both on the Savior's part and on our Heavenly Father's part. 

I will just point out how agonizing it must have been for Him, our Father, to have to watch it all. There was no ram in the thicket for His Son, no last second rescues. He had to watch it play out to the very end. How grateful I am that He was willing to put us, His not-so-obedient children, above that of His Well-Beloved.

I will close with the words of the Primary song, On a Golden Springtime. Like so many other things on my mission, this has taken on a whole new meaning to me since I have come on a mission. I would encourage you to look it up if you can and listen to the whole song if possible -- it all makes me get choked up now. But I will just share the second verse, and my testimony of it:

On a golden springtime, Jesus Christ awoke,
And left the tomb where He had lain; the bands of death He broke.
Awake, awake, o sleeping world!
Look upward to the light!
For now all men may live again,
Look upward to the light!

The Savior did live again. I know this with all my heart. 

I love you all. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

4/14/14 "Man must hope"

"Wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared."
 - Ether 12:32

Another interesting thing you should know about the Newton-Conover area is that there are a lot of wild onions here. Elder Dedrick stooped down once to pull one out of the ground, took it home, washed it off and ate it. He kindly offered to share with me but I didn't go for it.

This last week has been very surreal. We stopped to make a phone call on Sunday and witnessed another crazy man crash into a street pole, though this time the car's rear-right wheel got bent horizontally and he started driving his devastated car down the street. This occurred right outside a Baptist church, so as Elder Dedrick called 911 and I ran to survey the wreckage strewn all over the street, a ton of church-goers filed out to see what had happened. We talked with them briefly, but I decided it was time to go once the pastor started asking us, "So do you think you're going to heaven when you die?" Instead we set a return appointment with him, when hopefully he would not be surrounded by his congregation and have a point to prove.

Anyway, I don't know what it is with Elder Dedrick and I witnessing people crash all over the place.

***

There was something I read in an email from my dear friend Elder Ward that hit me very powerfully. I paraphrase his conclusion:

Faith is a belief that determines our actions.
Hope is a belief that determines our attitude.

And I got Spirit-slapped in the face. I think that my whole mission I've had quite a lot offaith, because I have always gone out and worked all day, every day, following all the rules and making all the invitations and doing everything as best as I possibly can. However, I realized that I haven't had a lot of hope. I put the work in, but need to have hope that people actually will keep the commitments and actually can get baptized.

One great thing about Elder Dedrick is that he has a ton of hope. Every prayer he says he asks for Heavenly Father to lead us to somebody we can baptize in April. I've never had a companion do that. I try to keep that attitude of his going and learn to emulate it. This last week was the second time in my mission that I've met the Standard of Excellence for total lessons in the week, and that was even with two days getting taken up by ID-card stuff.

***

The last thing I will mention is something our bishop said in his sacrament talk on Sunday. He told us that his wife frequently says to him, "If you love me, show love to my children." He continued by saying that Heavenly Father probably thinks the same way: "If you love Me, show love to My children."

I think it important that the prophet's address this last conference, during the Sunday morning session when the most people would be watching, was about having love for people. Only the Gospel will save the world, and that because it teaches us to love as the Savior did.

I love my mission. The Church is so true. Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

4/7/14 "Pray for them that persecute you"

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." - Matthew 5:44
How about General Conference, huh? I don't know about you, but I think that there were a few central themes.
1) The end is coming, so
2) Get ready, by
3) Strengthening your families, through
4) Teaching them the doctrines, because they'll have to
5) Endure persecution, and do so by
6) Loving others.

What greatly caught my attention was President Monson's extremely unusual statement that no new temples were going to be announced for the time being. It seemed quite unprecedented. The message I got was: "We'll get you more temples when you start using them!"

As a missionary I generally keep my ears open for any references to missionary work, but in this conference, besides Elder Ballard, no one else really talked about it. The theme of this conference all seemed about preparation, as there was so much advice on topics like protecting the family, setting priorities, making wise choices, and abandoning sin. But how to do this? I have never seen a Conference where explanations and testimonies of such basic things like the Savior's life, Atonement, and resurrection were shared. It is clear that the key to making all these preparations for the end rely on understanding and emulating Him. More than I can ever recall it was emphasized that we are Christian, and only two talks really mentioned Joseph Smith.

When people ask you what your favorite talk was and you respond, "Jeffrey R. Holland," they tend to assume that you hadn't really listened to anyone else. Truth be told, I loved a lot of them. But Elder Holland's talk about persecution really stood out to me.

On my mission I have been yelled at, cussed at, mocked, ignored, threatened, flipped off, and waved away. I've had beer cans and other things thrown at me. I've been called a devil worshiper and frequently told that I'm going to hell. I've had my most cherished beliefs reviled -- some of the comments people have made deal with sensitive and sacred things that cannot be talked about here. I can honestly say that I have done nothing of myself to provoke these things. I once heard that North Carolina is the most anti-Mormon state, and I know that there are churches that deliberately teach their members, especially their youth, anti-Mormon material that is blatantly a bunch of hateful lies.

And how do we deal with it, as missionaries and as members of the Church? The answer is found in the words of the Savior: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." The correct response is to love them anyway. And I do. It makes me sad to see how so many people respond to us, but we love them.

Just last night we met a man on his porch. He told us that his wife was going in for brain surgery the next morning -- today. I asked if we could say a prayer for her and ask that everything would go well. She refused because we were Mormon. So when we went home, we prayed for her anyway.

I could give much more commentary on Conference talks but I'll tell you some stories instead.

***

Elder Dedrick's bike has been given him much trouble this past week. We were out working between conference sessions when all of a sudden his tire exploded, leaving us many miles from anywhere we needed to be. We started to call a member for help, when all of a sudden a blue Land-Rover came down the street and hit a telephone pole. The impact knocked its front right wheel off entirely, but the driver kept going, the car lurching down the street on only three wheels and its tireless axle throwing out sparks, Lightning McQueen from Cars-style. If he was trying to not get caught, I think he was completely unaware that his axle was leaving a nasty scratch mark in the pavement behind him that told the entire world where he was going.

So we did what any sensible people would do and took pictures next to the whistling tire. (Photo attached.) After that we walked over to the nearby police station and informed them of what had happened.

***


On Friday we had sawed some logs for an older single sister in the ward. After the final session of conference she asked us if we could give her a blessing of comfort and counsel. I ended up doing it. After the blessing she wiped away some tears trickling down her face and told me that some of the things I had said in the blessing were also lines that were in her patriarchal blessing. It was one of those powerful, warming moments when the Spirit reassures that the priesthood is real.


I love all of you and I am grateful that I've gotten to listen to modern-day prophets. The Church is most definitely true. Hurrah for Israel!

3/31/14 "That evil may be done away"

This past week has been quite the whirlwind. It has been nonstop action from start to finish.

Let me tell you a bit about Elder Dedrick. I've had 16 companions, so I've had a wide variety of personalities, interests, testimonies, and work ethics. Elder Dedrick is probablythe hardest working that I've ever had. He is unbelievably diligent, bold, and full of faith. We have seen so many miracles because of his desire to work. He is a very effective missionary, and obedient, too. I have taken him to be an answer to prayer from Heavenly Father: I want to work as hard as I possibly can for the remainder of my mission, so He's paired me with Elder Dedrick so that I can relearn what it means to have faith, work hard, and serve well. I am so grateful for him.

Last Monday Elder Dedrick had put his iPad on the shopping cart at Walmart and forget it there when we took off. When we realized this an hour later we rushed back to the store and went to Customer's Service. Thankfully some honest employee had found the iPad while retrieving carts and turned it in. When we asked for it, the bored-looking worker went into the back room and brought it out.
"What's the background picture?" he asked.
"Jesus Christ, sir," Elder Dedrick replied. The other people waiting in line cheered.

And it was one of those moments when it's amazing being a missionary.

***

I could tell you more about what I did this week, but I would rather share my testimony as a result of something that happened. You may consider it overly dramatic, but such are the thoughts that came to my heart.

As our very last stop of the night before going home one day, Elder Dedrick and I went to go visit a certain household. As we pulled up near to the door, we heard two people screaming at each other at the top of their lungs. Literally every other word was an obscenity. We stood there for a minute or two, listening, and I must admit that it made me afraid to listen to it. For whatever reasons, we didn't knock on the door, and after a while we pulled away from the house. 

Elder Dedrick was ready to go home, but I could not. I had a bad feeling in my heart and I couldn't end the night on that note. I motioned him to follow me and I walked over to a nearby streetlamp. There, inside its little circle of light, I opened up my scriptures and read a verse from the eighth chapter of Ether.

Before I share them, I want to say that they are the words of Moroni. There is perhaps no other scriptural figure who has captured my imagination as much as he has, which is probably why I talk about him so often. He witnessed the society he grew up in grow ever more wicked and depraved. He saw his family, friends, and fellow church members get killed and his entire civilization get destroyed. On the run for his life because he would not deny the Christ, he watched as the Lamanites turned inward to war against themselves in an endless cycle of violence.

And I can see him, all alone, trying his best to finish the monumental and difficult work before him of completing the Book of Mormon, with all of these horrible things still fresh in his mind, writing these incredible words:

"Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved." - Ether 8:26

Maybe in his day, the bad guys had won. But far in the future, there would be a time that the good guys would win, and evil would be done away with, forever.

Elder Dedrick showed me a video one of our first days together. I'd seen one like it before, so it was nothing new, but it still brought me to tears. Here's the link for it:


When the Church was first founded, no one could have possibly thought that it would have survived. But it did. Despite the persecution and the death of the Prophet, it did. And led by living prophets, it has spread, and will continue to spread, to cover the whole earth.

As I read that scripture to Elder Dedrick in the light of the streetlamp, having just walked away from the terrible argument and darkness going on inside the house, we had it brought to our hearts that it is to get rid of things like that that the Lord has sent out missionaries in this, the last dispensation. The Book of Mormon was written and protected so that, thousands of years later, it could be our weapon in the great battle for the happiness of mankind. No longer are the members of the Church on the run; now they are advancing. No longer is the Church dwindling; now it is growing. This is the day when the good guys will win. This is the time when the filth, the war, and the broken families will finally be gone. This is the age when the Master will return and evil will be defeated forever. And we get to be a part of it.

The Work is true. It is my honor to be serve, so that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may come unto Christ and be saved.

Hurrah for Israel!


Elder Fisher

3/23/14 "A mighty change of heart"


Elder Fisher #85, 3/23/14:
 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?...Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
 - Alma 5:14


I looked out the window, and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on ornamental pear trees!
Spring has brought me such a nice surprise:
Popcorn popping right before my eyes!

Yes indeed, it's that time of year when all the trees go crazy in North Carolina and sprout popcorn. It's beautiful. Right now it's the white popcorn, and in a few weeks we'll get the pink popcorn. After that is will be time for the airborne waves of yellow pollen that cover everything and make poor Elder Fisher have allergies. But this time I will be prepared for them.


E. Mickelson had to go to transfers early because he was going to be a trainer. As I sat down at the little luncheon they'd set up for trainers and their companions, I sat next to one E. Dedrick. His companion was going to be a trainer.
"Oh, so are you staying or are you going?" I asked.
"Staying."
"Oh, well in that case, we might just end up being companions!" I said.
About thirty minutes later in the transfer meeting, President Craven announced over the pulpit, "And Elder Fisher will be serving in the Newton-Conover ward with Elder Dedrick -- he's now served in every zone in the mission."

I got a good laugh out of that. I have now indeed served in every stake in the mission. One of the many blessings of serving in so many places is that I've been able to see how nine different bishops approach missionary work. There's been a wide variety in how they involve themselves in it.

As for E. Dedrick, he is from Anaheim, California, has been out 10 months, and is serving as our district leader. He is always smiling and one of the most amazingly diligent missionaries I've ever met. An investigator family of his got baptized just this Sunday -- pictures attached.

We share the Newton-Conover ward with the sister-training leaders. This is a new leadership position developed because of the increase in number of sister missionaries mainly due to the age change. They are kind of like zone leaders in that there's one companionship of them in every stake and that they go on exchanges with other sisters missionaries. However, unlike district or zone leaders, missionaries do not report to them each week on how their efforts. It's a useful position because the sister-training-leaders are able to talk to sisters about female things, which no district or zone leader, however mature, is able to do.

Now, some mission info:
-Our mission is roughly shaped like the corner-stone of an arch, the top of the stone being the Virginia border and the bottom being the border with South Carolina.
-There are 7 stakes in our mission: Charlotte Central, which is where the mission office is located; Charlotte South, extending about a 40-minute drive south of Charlotte; Gastonia, which is up to 40-minutes west of Charlotte; High Point, which is about 45 minutes northeast of Charlotte; Greensboro, an hour and a half northeast; Winston-Salem, an hour and a half north; and Hickory, an hour and a half northwest.

Some Newton-Conover info:
-The Newton-Conover ward building is the stake center of the Hickory stake and is right across the street from a Protestant church. The chapel in our building is quite unusual -- it slopes downward so the people in the front are lower than the people in the back.
-This is the first area I've ever been in where I've been able to see mountains. The Appalachians are just to the west of us.
-This area has a lot of Mong people. They're from Laos, I believe, and most of them say their religious background is "shaman." We keep Mong Book of Mormon copies and Mong pamphlets with us when we go out looking for people to teach.
-There's also Catawba Indians here. One of their old chieftains from years ago, Chief Blue (spelling?) is a bit of a legend because he joined the Church, along with much of his tribe.

Some North Carolina info:
-As missionaries -- to use North Carolina speak -- sometimes we ax people on the skreet questions about faif while we's conversatin' with them. Or we ax them how they eat their Ree-see's cups. (But only if they live in the Apple-aah-chin mountains.)
-It was once suggested that missionaries get little mopeds to ride around instead of bikes. A member told us that that would not be a good idea. In North Carolina, if you get too many DUI's you get your driver's license taken away, but you don't need one to drive a moped. Thus, mopeds are often referred to as "liquorcycles." Were missionaries to ride mopeds people would assume we were all drunkards.
-Every time it rains here, a bright red-orange clay comes out of the ground. If it gets in your clothes it becomes indestructible.
-There is a fast-food restaurant here in North Carolina called Cook Out. It is THE BEST fast-food I've ever had. For $4.40 you get an enormous and delicious main dish (like a big fat double burger) and your choice of two sides, like a bacon wrap, chicken wrap, hush puppies, and so forth. The first time I ever got a "Cook Out Tray" back in 2012, I got completely filled up. For just a dollar more you can get a shake that's bigger than a DQ Blizzard and tastes better. I will greatly miss Cook Out when I go home.

I would include a funny story from this last week but I'll save it for next Monday.

Not surprisingly, the Church is still true. Love you all! Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher