Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009 -- [Opposition]

President Mendoza has taught us that there are three factors in a person’s decision to accept the gospel or not. They are the quality of our teaching (which in itself includes many factors), the person's agency, and opposition from the enemy of all righteousness. Missionary work is wonderful. It brings the greatest joy. But with the greatest joy comes the greatest pain. With the risk that today's letter might be a little depressing, I want to talk a little about the opposition I have seen lately.

About two weeks ago, I received a phone call from my "tutor," Elder Gonzalez. I was thrilled to hear from him. I was also thrilled because he was calling to give us "an excellent reference" of the daughter of one of his investigators. Our first lesson with Laura was a very special experience. She started to cry during the opening prayer and she listened attentively to everything we were saying. I felt very strongly that she would accept the gospel and become a faithful member of the church.

That Sunday she was going to come with us to church, and we had planned to stop by her house with a member [who would drive us] in his car. The brother who was going to help us with transportation that day, however, showed up at our house over an hour late, and so we no longer had time to [pick up] everyone whom we had scheduled and make it to church in time. To make a long story short, we called a member who lives in her neighborhood to stop by her house and invite her to church, but her husband was extremely offended that a man stopped by to invite his wife to church.

Several times this week we stopped by her house, but she didn't answer, even though the signs said that someone was home. Last Saturday when we knocked on her door, her husband answered. He obviously had been using drugs and he obviously wasn't very happy. He asked us to "stop bothering" his wife. He told us that he knew what "the Mormons" believe and that we were not welcome in his house. He said he didn't want us "brainwashing" him and his family. For me, the saddest part was when Laura came out and, crying, said "they said really bad things about you, really bad things. They say that it was your church that molested young girls in Texas."

As much as we tried to explain the truth, they wouldn't listen. I was devastated. Laura is such a good person, and we have the way to give her the happiness she seeks. But because of her husband and the lies of other people, her view of the church is such that it will impede her salvation.

For me, it is especially saddening when it is a family member that gets in the way of the happiness and salvation of another. For example, we have been teaching a 17-year-old in the house of a member family. But this week we had to stop because her mom said no. [The mother] said she didn't want her daughter to be a part of any religion.

There are a lot of hard things in missionary work, but for me the hardest part is having to stop teaching people even though they have, or once had, the desires to learn and receive the blessings.

But not everyone gives in to the opposition. For example, in the Montoya family (the family of 9 of my 10 most recent converts) there is an anti-Mormon. When she found out that her parents and siblings and nieces and nephews were joining the church, she brought her pastor and a bunch of anti-Mormon literature to try to destroy their testimonies. But it didn't work. Eddi stood up to the pastor and bore his simple testimony of the restored gospel, a simple testimony that the learned pastor could not defeat.

The other day in my studies I found a scripture that gave me courage when things get tough. It is part of a letter from Mormon to his son Moroni. They were the only two rightoues people left on the face of the earth, when all the rest were extremely hardened and wicked. Here is what he said, "nothwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whist in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God" (Moroni 9:6).

There will ever be opposition, but the glorious gospel truth will go forth until all have had the opportunity to hear and accept it.

P.S. I am very sorry to hear about Jennifer [Blaylock Carroll, who unexpectedly passed away last week at the age of 25]. I received a letter from her just last week. . . . Let us take comfort in the great plan of happiness.

[P.P.S.] Thanks to everyone who has sent me letters or money or packages. I no longer have time to reply to every letter (although I wish I could). But I have sent a thank you note for every package I have received. If someone didn't get a thank you note, either the note or the package got lost.

[P.P.P.S.] Transfers are this week. I am very nervous. I love this area and the people here with all my heart. But if the Lord sends me, I will go.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009 [Twenty Years Old]

Wow! I'm 20 years old! I can't believe it. Never again will I be a teenager (unless the perfect age is 18, then I'll be a teenager forever once I resurrect.)

My birthday was wonderful. Thank you very much everyone who sent me a card or a letter or a package. I really do appreciate the letters I receive from family and friends. President Mendoza has taught us that unless we are fasting, we cannot feel the Spirit if we are very hungry. In the same way, regularly feasting on news from home helps me focus on the work during the week. (Of course if I overstuffed myself it would distract me too.)

Way back in December I had told the Montoya family that my birthday was February 10 and they remembered. That day we were signed up to eat with Johanna and Jorge, and it ended up being a party with all the Montoya Family. There were balloons, crowns, and food. They sang me "Las Mañanitas," the traditional Mexican birthday song. The Mexican tradition of shoving the birthday boy's face in the cake was also observed. It was a great day. For me, the best part was being with my converts and investigators. The truth is we are only supposed to be at dinner appointments for 45 minutes, and we were there for about 2 hours, for which I feel bad. But I talked to my zone leaders about it and I won't do it again.

Lucy and Toño's wedding was great. It was a very special day for them. And because they got married, Lucy was able to get baptized yesterday (and Toño is on his way.) Also baptized yesterday was Christian, a 15 year old who lives in the Montoya Ranchito. Christian's is an interesting story. His interest in the church started when the anti-Mormon sister of the Montoyas passed out a page of "facts" about the LDS church to all their neighbors. Nothing that that page said was true, but it sparked a lot of interest.

Christian began to ask questions to his recent-convert neighbors, who referred him to the missionaries. We answered his questions and taught him the message of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. Christian has a difficult life because of his family situation and when we started to teach him he didn't believe in God, but in science. But he accepted our invitation to pray and he got his answer. We gave him a Book of Mormon that my friend Andrea sent me that included her testimony. It helped him.

In the few weeks that I have known Christian, he has changed a lot. He told us, for example, that in a situation where he would usually scream at his mom he frankly forgave her for losing his favorite outfit. I see in Christian a future missionary and righteous father in Zion.

Mom asked how I stay warm in a cold house without a heater. First of all, I don't think I'll have to worry much about a cold house again until next November. It is already starting to get hot here, and even though it is a rainy day today, it isn't cold. But when it is cold, thermals, sweats, a beanie, two pairs of socks and two blankets keep me comfy.

* * *

I miss the temple dearly. It has been almost six months since last I went, and I don't think I'll get to go until I complete a year in June. That's OK; I'm focused on proclaiming the gospel and perfecting the saints. When I get back I can worry more about redeeming the dead. But I do miss Salt Lake, where we were able to go every Preparation Day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009 -- Crisis

Attached is a picture of the baptism of Jeovany and Jorge. You will recognize Jorge from the pictures of his wedding and the baptism of his wife. You will also recognize Eddi, the father of Jeovany from the picture of his baptism. Eddi recieved the Aaronic priesthood a few weeks ago and last week preformed his first ordinances baptizing his nephew and his son.
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time this week either. After writing, I am going to help another couple of investigators get married. Lucy, the mother of the girl with cancer, and her husband Toño are going to get married today. She has been wanting to get married for a long time so that she can get baptized, but they haven't had the money. Her husband has been without a job for a while (as are many people in the current crisis.) But last week, Toño's uncle, Roberto Carlos, when he found out that the only obstacle was money, pulled 700 pesos out of his wallet and gave them to her. It was a miracle.

Congratulations to the Tyler Twins [who both just received calls to serve as missionaries in Brazil]. That brings my total of friends in Brazil on missions to four. It is incredible to think that I have friends in many different countries all engaged in the same work.

* * *
Everybody is talking about the [financial] crisis these days. It seems like half the people we talk to are unemployed. The dollar is at 15 pesos. And everybody blames President Bush and the United States. I really don't know much about it. But I know that the economic crisis is nothing compared to the spiritual crisis the world is facing today. For some people, the hard economic times will help them remeber God, as happened to the Nephites several times. I don't know what the solution to economic crisis is, but every day I share the solution to the spiritual crisis. And it works. I've seen it again and again. The solution: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, the gift ofthe Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

Thanks for the birthday greetings. It is hard to believe that tomorrow I will no longer be a teenager. It is harder to believe that 1/3 of my mission has gone by.

* * *
P.S. Elder Valenzuela is no longer in my zone, but he is still in the city, which means I see him once or twice a transfer. [Thanks to those of you who have been writing to Elder Valenzuela -- Eds.]

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009 -- As Much as I Can Write in 12 Minutes

I know how much you are all going to hate this, but my letter today is going to be very short . . . . I only have 25 minutes to write you and President Mendoza. Today we had special permision to go to Parque Fundidora in Monterrey (which was lots of fun) and we just got back in time for an abbreviated writing session, then off to the zone meeting.

* * *
That's wonderful that the Barois* were sealed. The temple is my favorite place on earth, I wish I could go there more often as a missionary. I'm looking forward to going to the temple with the families I have baptized here, and with my own family (and future wife) after the mission. . . .

Yesterday we had two baptisms (I'll send the pictures later). One was Jorge, the husband of Joana, and the other was Jeovany, the cousin of Jorge and the son of Eddi and Olga. It was a very special experience. At the end of the service, they both bore their testimonies. They talked about how the gospel had changed their lives and those of their families. They said what they knew to be true for themselves. And they thanked me and Elder Zamudio for teaching them. I cried. I can't wait to go to the temple with Jorge and Joana, as well as with Eddi and Olga and their family. Jeovani is 22 and single, and we are encouraging him to prepare for a mission. I think he will go. When I think about the future of these people, my heart is filled with joy. I love watching my investigators and recent converts learn, change, grow, and progress. I think it is something similar to the feelings that a father feels for his children. Truly the joy of missionary work is great.

Thank you for your prayers, your love, and your letters. They really help me.

* Editors' note: The Baroi family -- James and Juily and their 10-year-old son, Prangon -- are the first family from Bangladesh to be sealed in the temple. They were sealed last Friday, January 30, in the Redlands, California temple. They have lived in Redlands for the last few years and have become good friends with Elder Rowley and his family.