Virtue originates in your innermost thoughts and desires

     This last week has been a learning week, as they all are. I have sincerely been asking for a change of heart, a change of character, and I found that as an answer to those pleas the Lord has helped me better understand his doctrine. This is why the Spirit is so important in our teaching, in my studies, in everything. Why? Because the Spirit “give the light unto the understanding” and “speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).

     Study time in the morning is a time I treasure. It is essential preparation for the rest of our day. Most of the day we spend giving the word of God, sharing our testimony, planting seeds in people’s hearts, and doing service for others. We get a few precious hours a day to refuel, restock, and – often times for me – re-motivate.

      This past week, there were a few things that popped out to me as I studied for the lessons we were teaching that day. Most prominently, virtue stood out among the rest. I love what Preach My Gospel has to say about virtue: “Virtue originates in your innermost thoughts and desires. It is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards. Since the Holy Ghost does not dwell in unclean tabernacles, virtue is prerequisite to receiving the Spirit’s guidance.” (Pg. 118) In tandem with my study of charity, I have seen the relation between the Christlike attributes described in Preach My Gospel and the invitation in Doctrine and Covenants 4 to serve Him “with all your heart, might, mind and strength.” I have increasingly seen that these seemingly abstract qualities or characteristics that I have been taught all growing up are more simple, refined, and even understandable than I first thought: they are “plain and most precious” truths! (1 Nephi 13:26).

     As we grow our charity, those we serve will feel our love. As we become virtuous, they will see how real the promises we share are. As we seek to obtain knowledge and act in all diligence, pressing forward with hope and faith, the Spirit will work through us to help them understand our message. This all just requires our patience, humility, and obedience. 

     Last Monday we had an amazing lesson with *Paul and *Linda! We had dessert at the Martino’s house and shared a spiritual thought on The Book of Mormon, obedience, and how to know whether the message is true. Elder and Sister Martino were so inspired – they said exactly what needed to be said. Elder Asplund and I opened the scriptures to provide clear, powerful truths to support the principles being taught. I am so excited for Paul and Linda! That said, I am also a little nervous. I know how much this would benefit from them and this is a very deciding time—all it takes is asking God and accepting the answer He gives. Sure love these two!

     On Tuesday, we taught *Carol, a young mother who is so full of the spirit. We shared the message of why we came out as missionaries: the Restoration. After the lesson, because she hasn’t understood how important it is for her to read the Book of Mormon, we decided to text her every other day with a scripture and ask her how her reading was going. Yesterday, I think she got the message. 🙂 She replied that she would be reading and praying about what she read and would get back to us today or tomorrow. I had to smile. 🙂 Yes! This family is so powerful. Her husband – while he doesn’t readily talk about it – is definitely close with God; the Spirit that he carries is incredibly powerful. Also, he is the best example of being even-tempered and patient that I have ever met.

     That night, we taught *Ohad. Good ‘ole Ohad – such a good man! There was a point during the lesson that he mentioned as a side comment that he didn’t need direction from a prophet. While that wasn’t the main point of his comment, the Spirit whispered that is what we needed to address. So when he finished his thought, I said, “Let’s turn to Amos 3:7.” We asked him to read it. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” He started off reading with such passion, looking up every few seconds to stare at us. Finally, when he read the final word “prophets” he just sat there and stared at the verse for a good 30 to 45 seconds. We just sat there. He read the last part again. After this lesson, I think the message is really starting to take on meaning for him; he is beginning to understand. We meet with him tomorrow and we’re both excited. 🙂

     On Friday, Facebook was once again approved for use in our mission! The main use of this tool will be through messenger, as we hope to start group messages including those we teach and local members. This way, when they have questions, it’s not only us answering, but the local members as well. Missionaries are so transient and this tool, if used right, will help strengthen bonds with the members and those being taught. Also, with this new tool we will easily be able to share conference talks, video clips, pamphlets, and the likes.

Pioneer Day activity 2016     Saturday afternoon we had the Branch party. It was a Pioneer celebration! We had food and games combined with the Riverhead branch. It was so much fun! We showed up at 4:00 to set up and stayed until around 8:30 to clean up. Everyone had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it! Actually, because Elder Asplund and I helped clean up, we were able to take a bunch of food home with us – such a blessing! 

     We had a picnic in the church with Luanne, a Sister and her kids, and a friend of Luanne’s named *Chris. Chris is investigating the church, so it was super fun to talk with him about his experience on Mormon.org. He’s a native Long Islander and he has the BEST accent! My word. So awesome.

     Okay. So a little break from the normal letter. So guess where we are today? Guess guess. I’ll wait. Okay, we’re at a recording studio. Alright, ask me why…… Okay. Wow, my life was just made!!! I AM SO PUMPED!! Okay, so one of our members, Luanne Asta, is SUPER good at singing. A few months before I got here, she felt a prompting to make her own album of upbeat versions of the hymns. She’s been working hard at a recording studio and we’ve had the chance to here some of the stuff – it’s so good! A few weeks ago, she asked me if I would come in and record with her for one of the songs. So today, we went in and it was so awesome!!! She had already recorded her portion on “Nearer, My God, To Thee” and wanted me to sing a lower harmony. The whole process for me to record and Nick (the guy who’s recording studio it is) to put together a rough piece was about 2 hours and, let me say, it was a BLAST! I loved every second of it! Definitely so awesome!

Sister Martino and Elders Aug1 2016

(L to R) Elder Sirrine, Sister Martino, Elder Asplund, Elder Peña, Elder McConkie 🙂

     Elder Asplund is so cool! His humor is so much fun! It’s very intelligently sarcastic and makes me laugh all the time! Love this Elder. He works hard, he has a good sense of humor, he wants to participate. Just such a great man. 

     Also, I love driving in New York. Everyone was telling me how terrible driving is here, especially in the city. Truth is, I love it!! Also, everyone told me how brutally honest everyone is out here. Yep. I just love it! Long Islanders are my kind of people! 🙂 

From the Hamptons,

Elder McConkie

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