|Look at the mission picture! I'm one seat to the left of Elder Oaks, in the row right behind. Elder Marshall is in the third row from the top, middle-right, and Elder Low is in the row below him, two people to the right.|
|This week we had another mission conference. Usually they're only once a year, at Christmas, but we've had two amazing general authorities come speak to us in the last couple of months. On Saturday we met Elder Dallin H. Oaks. He talked with us about making our aim the temple - as he said (and President Anderson quoted him from an earlier talk) "Baptism is essential. But it is not sufficient. If we're not baptizing them to get them to the temple, then why are we baptizing them?" The Fort Lauderdale Temple is very near the end of its construction. We drove by it on our way to the mission conference and it was thrilling! It looks done from the outside.|
Elder Oaks also talked about making the temple, and temple covenants, our aim as missionaries and members. After all, the mission ends eventually, but covenants don't. One funny quote from him about what many returned missionaries do: "doggone guys don't get married! They spend their time 'hanging out,' which if it's not a sin is pretty close to it!" (there was some pulpit-banging in there too :)
Then he talked about the process of gaining a testimony. Basically what it comes down to is that the Lord doesn't answer academic questions. He gives answers that will change lives. You have to have real intent - meaning that you ask for an answer in order to be able to act on it. If you ask to know if the church is true just to know, you're not guaranteed an answer. But if you ask in prayer; "If you give me this answer I will be baptized," or "if you give me the knowledge that the church is true then I will be a faithful, enduring-to-the-end member," then He will answer. It was a really great focus, for missionary work and for life.
So, things that happened this week. L and J are getting married!!! We called a bunch of courthouses and an embassy and now everything is set up so that they can get married this weekend, with just a little bit more effort with papers and interviews. Of course his sister now wants them to wait until the, when she and her family (her husband is a Bishop in New Orleans) can come. We're encouraging them to not wait to get legally married or baptized but have the actual wedding ceremony on the 16th... It will all turn out like Heavenly Father wants it to, since we're doing our part, so it's all good :) Oh, and they're already amazing member missionaries. L is working with some family friends to get them involved; her friend's daughter, the niece of a member, almost got baptized a while ago (probably a year+), but her mom pulled her back. Yesterday L brought the daughter and her sister to church. And J is talking with their neighbors who are less-active members, working to get them back. So great!
After church we had another wonderful experience (better than chocolate). That morning we had gone to round up some investigators. As we got out of the car we saw a man whom we had harvest blessed but hadn't been able to teach the next day because he'd had to go to work. We re-invited K to church, and he said he was going to come. When we left the neighborhood he was still outside his house, and said he was about to leave. He didn't show up for sacrament meeting. Then as we were going to Sunday school he walked in the door. He came with us to the other ward's sacrament and we left him in Priesthood meeting. After church we lost him talking to other people, and finally went back to the Priesthood room to see if we could find him. We did, and he was surrounded by five of the strongest Priesthood-holders in the ward, including our ward mission leader and Elder's Quorum president, and our amazing recent convert Jorge. They were teaching him about the Plan of Salvation. We jumped in on the lesson and bore testimony about Jesus Christ and His power in His church. He was crying, and said that he'd been needing this. He is getting baptized this Sunday!
Something that I really loved from the Book of Mormon had to do with developing the faith to drop people. Throughout my mission I've looked at it in different ways: prioritizing our sacred time to teach those who truly want to progress; leaving former investigators in the Lord's hands, trusting that they will have another chance to accept the gospel; planting seeds; questioning whether they were truly elect and my own discernment was off, or if they weren't elect from the beginning; trusting that the Lord has prepared people who are searching for the gospel; putting a focus on finding; knowing that we as missionaries do not have a veto power in the work of salvation, simply a sustaining power, and so the Lord's will, will be done... There are so many ways to see it. I really loved reading in the Book of Mormon this week about the Lord sending his representatives to the people they needed to teach, and knowing exactly where they were supposed to be. If we are doing our best to be receptive to the Spirit, and giving all we have to the work, the Lord will not let us drop permanently those people whom He would have us teach and baptize. He sent many of His prophets back a second time. Alma, Samuel, and Abinadi are just a few examples. They had the faith in the Lord, and in the fact that declaring repentance and bringing about salvation are His work, to move on, and He made sure they were where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.
I love you all! Do your best and pray for opportunities to be where the Lord needs you, and doing what He wants you to do and you will see miracles.