Alma 31:5

Last week Elder McConkie took his letter writing time to send some personal notes to our family. One thing to mention from last week’s letters home was that he was so excited two of the people he teaches (we call them Paul and Linda) came to church. He has been teaching these two for quite awhile and loves them so much! Of course, he loves all with whom he gets to meet. Nevertheless for Paul and Linda to come to church made his whole week!

Here is an excerpt from his letter home last week:

I love 2 Nephi 29:5 : “for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.” There’s so much peace in the windows of heaven being promised to be open. God promises they will be opened. What joyful news! That means that even if we don’t see the blessings right away that we need not fear, for they will come!

When things get tough out here and I am not feeling the promised joy and peace, I sit back and ask myself, “What lack I yet?” That has grown my faith so much in the Lord’s promises, for the greatest blessings that come from this are inward virtue and outward charity. And I know I have pure intentions when I ask this question when instead of feeling “Wow, how am I back here again, on the chopping block? I am so weak” Instead, my thought is “What must I do to feel that joyous warmth of his love?” πŸ™‚ These are thoughts from my own experience. πŸ™‚ 

This week he was able to spend more time on his group letter. He is feeling the pressures of righteous desire, responsibility and hard work.

     Being District Leader is a little overwhelming. When I was asked to fulfill this assignment, I didn’t really understand what it would entail. However, it has been interesting to see the Spirit help me fulfill what the Lord has asked of me. Tuesdays are usually our District Meetings, so this last one was no different. Per President Reynold’s request, we asked all our District members to show up 15 minutes early. Often times these meetings can become distracted and disorderly, so the purpose of showing up 15 minutes early is to provide a time for missionaries to prepare spiritually. And it made all the difference. We spent 15 minutes studying the invitations and study materials given to the missionaries at our last Zone Training meeting and when we started, the Spirit was there and ready to edify. We were very productive the entire time.

     Tuesday night we were planning on having dinner at the Martino’s with *Paul and *Linda, however they had a close friend pass away and were going to spend some time with family and friends that evening. We met up with them for a few minutes and expressed how sorry we were for their loss. Elder Asplund and I have had these two in our prayers for the longest time.

     Since we had planned on having dinner with Paul and Linda, we’d skipped our mealtime. The Martino’s were so kind as to invite us over for a brief meal – such a blessing! While we were there, I asked Elder Martino for a blessing. To explain, being on a mission can be difficult when you are trying to constantly focus. We give up so many things: our music tastes, our pastimes, our hobbies, our time. Also, when the Lord gives you responsibility for an area and it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere, it can also feeling frustrating. Our success as a missionary is not determined by the number of people we baptize or the number of people we bring back to church, but rather by how hard we try and how converted WE are.

     However, it can be difficult when you see the Spanish missionaries in your area experience much visible success. It can get little stressful when you see Spanish investigators come to church and hardly any English – you hope that the members understand that you are learning and trying. πŸ™‚ This is the reason why I asked Elder Martino for a blessing. I needed more focus, more comfort. The words he shared were both comforting and inspired.

     I am truly humbled by the trust the Lord has placed in me; I echo Ammon’s words when he says, “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak” (Alma 26:12). I am learning (ever so slowly because of my own pride) that “in his strength I can do all things” (Alma 26:12).

     I’ve been taught a lot about grace these past few weeks. Truly it is by grace that we are saved – there is nothing we can do to earn it. However, that does not mean that our works do not matter, after all faith without works is dead (see James 2:17-26). We understand from the scriptures and from modern day prophets that all mankind has been redeemed from death, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

     His grace has saved us all from physical death! And his grace is sufficient to save us from Spiritual death if we follow him. And how do we follow him? By caring for the sick and the afflicted, by listening to words of his prophets, by being baptized in his name by someone whom God has given the authority to do so.

     Many say what we teach is blasphemous because our works cannot save us. And they’re right, in part. What they do not understand is that while our works don’t earn Christ’s grace, they do qualify us for it. “What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God” (Alma 42:25).

     Because God is our Father and we are His children, grace can be understood better when we liken it to a [supportive] family setting. A child can do nothing to earn anything their parents give them. However, parents still love their children with all their hearts. They provide the basic necessities of life, like clothing, shelter, love, and food. These are necessary for their child to experience success. They also provide tools and goals in the form of advice, education, etc. for their children, which – if used and applied – will bring them greater happiness and success. If the child does not use these tools, they will not achieve their goals. It is only through their hard work and diligence that they can experience the joy and growth that comes from achieving their goals.

     This is very similar to what our Father in Heaven has done for us. He has provided us with the basic necessities for our eternal salvation and progression: a body, a redemption from the Fall of Adam, etc. He has given us tools through Prophets that – if we use – will bring us great happiness and growth. The greatest tool he has given us is the ability to be forgiven for our sins.  We cannot expect to experience the growth we have come here to experience unless we use the tools the Lord has given us. This requires active faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, which can in turn mean enduring to the temple. Sure, we will experience some happiness in the basic necessities provided to us, but never a fullness of joy if we don’t exercise active faith/works.

     I hope that all makes sense. This is the culmination of many experiences, much study, and a lot of pondering on the topic. I do not pretend that I understand perfectly, or even that my understanding isn’t flawed. Rather, I seek to bear my testimony that “only upon principles of righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36) will we experience eternal and everlasting joy. It is through saving ordinances performed by those who have authority from God that we will experience the greatest peace and strength we can in this life.

     On Wednesday we had a lesson with *Kari. She is honestly searching for the truth. We taught her the Plan of Salvation, to which she had a bit of distaste for. However, she said that she would like to think that she has an open mind so she would consider it. We left her some Book of Mormon reading and an invitation to pray about the truthfulness of our message and the Book of Mormon each time she reads. I think she is going to do it. πŸ™‚ She is super awesome.

     We had a nerve wracking lesson this last week with a man we are teaching. His family had left town for a couple days, so we decided it would be a good time to tackle a tough topic: his issue with pornography and such. Just a little background: some time ago, I felt that something was off about this man. I asked Elder Johnson if he had Law of Chastity issues, and he told me he did. Fast forward, we’re sitting in his living room this last week and he is going on his usual rant about [some things]. Did I mention this man is beyond buff? Like, ripped out of his mind? And he is not the man you want to back into a corner? Also, this guy had no idea I knew about this issue. Basically, my heart bounced out of my chest, I’d swallowed my tongue, and my eyes rolled into the back of my head before I could muster up the nerve to say anything. We ended up talking for 2 hours and it was a very interesting talk. To make a long story short, I don’t know if he hates us or is still cool with us (he did give us pizza before we left…). The blessing is that after that, I’m not sure it gets much tougher than that. Basically, I have no fear… I think. πŸ™‚

     We recently picked up a recent investigator named *Sam. You might remember him from a couple months back. And can I say, he is back with fire! This man–completely devoid of hope and light a few months ago–has been trying to turn his life around amidst working almost all day, every day. This last weekend, his family was in a car accident where the car was completely totaled and no. One. Was. Hurt. When he rushed to the wreck by taxicab, he saw the terrible condition of the car, but could not locate or find out any information on his family for over an hour. 

     In our lesson yesterday, without knowing it, he bore a strong testimony of the power of faith and prayer. He bore testimony of the power of the strength the word of God has had in his heart. We pointed out to him that he was bearing testimony and shared Alma 31:5. The spirit was strong. Peter Sullivan–one of our priests–was with us and he was floored by the change this man was going through. πŸ™‚

     Church was a FANTASTIC experience!! Our branch got a charter bus and all went to the Philadelphia Temple open house this past Saturday. It was an all day trip (missionaries didn’t go, obviously) and they loved it! Sacrament meeting was people sharing testimonies about how powerful it was. AND one of our recent converts whom we have been trying and trying to help prepare to  go to the temple was there. She was a little uncomfortable at first, but then I think the Spirit started testifying to her heart, especially after Sister Martino bore the most soul-stirring testimony of all time. It truly was a momentous sacrament meeting! In fact, because everyone got home so late, they were worried about sacrament meeting attendance. Guess what? We had 6 more people than last week! Yippee!!

The work is moving forward out here. πŸ™‚ I am grateful to be here.

     I’ve had a weird stomach bug the past 18 hours that kept me up last night, so hopefully that goes away before preparation day ends so we can do some good ‘ole missionary work. πŸ™‚ Keep praying for the missionaries in the world! We all need miracles to move the work forward. Truly, it is only in God’s hands that anything ever happens. Love you all and God bless!

Elder McConkie

Teaching

A lady and her daughter. We’ve been teaching her, but had a pass off lesson with the Spanish sisters. We’d originally been teaching in English to her, but then we transitioned to Spanish and Elder Asplund wasn’t able to understand and I can only speak so much, so we passed her off. πŸ™‚ We’re still working with them a bit. πŸ™‚ Sure love her and her family! Side note, this is a gazebo in the Rose Garden at the public library.

Junors

The Junors!! Brother Junor is a WWII veteran. Flora is from Brazil. They are incredible people. Flora’s granddaughter was in town for a bit and she was trying to tell her how great of husbands we make after the missions. At one point Flora asks us “Do you date while you are on your mission?” Haha! Love her. We’re grateful to Brother Junor who helped quiet that. πŸ™‚

southampton road

I always thought streets in New York would be busy. You can walk right down the middle of this one.

Hunting no hunting

Interesting: Parking for Hunters Only but no hunting allowed.

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