Picture from mission council after going to the John Johnson Farm. The finger pointing is an inside joke. My favorite part of the picture is how President justpopped in! I love President Sorensen, he's amazing!
We all came to Ohio together and are all Zone Leaders and Assistants to the President. It's cool and we are all the best of friends.
A text message we got during mission council that made us crack up. We run a tight ship here in the Kirkland Stake!
Me still in sock about being 21!
Had a great past week! A quick summary of it all...
Tuesday we drove to Hiram, Ohio to the John Johnson Farm. This is where D&C 76 along with 16 other revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants. All of us Zone Leaders and President Sorensen took a tour given by one of our senior missionary couples and we ended our tour in Joseph Smith's Translation Room (it was in this room he would receive revelation for the Bible and correct some of the misinterpretations/translations). There were as many revelations received there as at the Kirtland Historical Sites and there was definitely a spirit of place there. What was really cool is that Section 76 was received on February 16th, 1832 - so we sat in the room 180 years later (plus a couple of weeks) and read the restored truths concerning the Plan of Salvation. There are 6 visions in the section: first that of the Father and the Son, then of the pride and rebellion of the devil, next the sons of perdition, Celestial Kingdom, Terrestial Kingdom, and then the Telestial Kingdom. It concludes with a summary-like explanation. It was an incredible experience. I had the privilege of doing this last year (the day after my Birthday) and remember having a like-experience. The Spirit was so strong and we all read and discussed those things that we had questions about or feelings we had about the scripture. What I kept noticing over and over again was the incredible evidence of God's love, the damning effects of pride, and the sorrow our Heavenly Father must feel when one is so blinded and destroyed by pride (which it just so happens I read all about in my personal study this morning in Alma 1-4!). In verse 32 it says that, speaking of the sons of perdition, "I say that it had been better for them never to have been born." I used to read the phrase and think, "Wow...God is pretty upset with those individuals" but as we sat in that room and read, I realized that my perception of the attitude of God was all wrong! He isn't saying "I wish I never brought you into existence" as much as he is saying "You don't realize the eternal pain and agony you will have to suffer because of your choices, and I wish that you hadn't of been born so that you wouldn't have to suffer this unquenchable pain." He doesn't want us to suffer; nothing that our Heavenly Father requires of us or wishes for us brings us to misery or pain. He loves His children unconditionally, and he loves them all equally. It was just very revelatory for me and others in the room.
What else happened Tuesday... Oh yeah, my Birthday :) Thanks for the cake and presents and cards! I am so spoiled! I'd say it was probably the best thing I could have done on my 21st Birthday, other than my family being there with me. I will never forget it!
The rest of the week was pretty routine. We dropped a couple of investigators and continue to seek after more people whom we can share the restored truth to. Pam is doing really well!! We called her to confirm an appointment we had on Thursday and she canceled on us and so I asked her if she wanted us to keep trying to come over or if she wasn't interested anymore. I think it scared her, the thought of us not teaching her anymore, and she said that the next day would definitely work. We went on exchanges that day so Elder Hansen and Elder McMillan went and taught her. She said that she has overcome the trials that she was experiencing and understands that she just needs to be patient (and stop smoking - it's what caused her to have a stroke in the first place!). So next week she should start coming to church every week and we are so excited for her! Her baptismal date is for March 3rd.
On Friday we went on exchanges with the missionaries we live with. They cover the East Cleveland area - probably the most dangerous area in our whole mission. We drove the bus and tracks (like the metro) and then walked everywhere else. We taught a lot of people and talked to even MORE people while we traveled (via bus, etc.). There are a lot of...interesting people in Cleveland. A lot of poverty and people just searching for hope. Come 6pm, we were traveling towards the heart of the ghetto to teach a couple of their investigators. As we walked through some neighborhoods we were told 4 times to "be safe" (we would say hello to everyone we passed and they were usually friendly and would tell us something like that) and one time a lady pulled over in her car and said "what are you two doing here?! It is NOT safe for you to be here at night! You need to get out of here!" We assured her we were safe and would be cautious of our surroundings. Elder Stevens (who I was on the exchange with) and I then had a great conversation about the very real protection we receive as missionaries. That as we are obedient to the commandments and missionary work, and ultimately as we carry the Spirit with us, we have nothing to fear. We knew that if there was any danger around us, that we would be warned and as we heeded to the promptings of the Holy Ghost that we would be delivered. And to top it, we have the Priesthood, so we would be okay. That night we walked past 11 bullet shells (one being a shotgun and another a pistachio shell...). It was fun to be in a walking area for a day though. Sometimes driving everywhere makes you feel lazy. I slept well that night! What am I saying...I sleep well EVERY night! :)
But overall it was a great week. We faced some opposition with investigators being dropped but we aren't going to let that hinder the work here in Cleveland! I love my mission and love the people who I've met so far. I just talked to an older lady for like 10 minutes about genealogy here at the library. I overheard her on the computer across from me asking one of the librarians for help and he didn't really know what he was talking about. So as she was getting ready to leave I asked if she was doing some Family History work and she said "No! I'm doing Genealogy work!" and told me how she's been to Salt Lake (which made me get a huge grin) and has collected ALL this info and I started talking about our Family History Libraries and referred her to ours in Kirtland. She was SO excited that she didn't even have to use her cane! (just kidding...but seriously).
I'm grateful for the love that our Heavenly Father has for us. I have been enveloped in this 90-day Book of Mormon reading challenge and am filled every single morning with the Spirit and greater understanding/clarity. Like I previously mentioned, I read Alma 1-4 today and felt so sad for the pride that just ate away at those nations. Elder Hansen and I experienced the effects of Pride this last week as a recent convert (part-member family) chewed us and the Bishop out for the craziest things. It was heart-wrenching to see how his pride had destroyed his faith and testimony. I know that as we pray for charity, the pure love of Christ, that we can overcome our own pride and raise ourselves to a new standard. I know that through Jesus Christ all is possible! And I know that as we change our habits and opinions to be aligned with that of our Father's, we find real happiness.
Love, Elder D