Monday, September 9, 2013

September 2nd, 2013

I think by this point I'm about as Mexican as Benito Juarez, because I don't get nearly as excited about BYU football as I did a year ago.  I totally forgot that their first game was going to be this week until about 10 minutes ago when I read your letters.  But thanks for the updates.  ¡Arriba, pumas!

Well, the big news of the week.  Friday at about 9:30 at night we got a call from the zone leaders telling us that Elder D had special transfers and had to be in the offices at 10 am the next day.  Just like that.  He's in another ward in the city, but in a different zone.  (For your information, zone means stake in missionary language.  There are 6 stakes in Guadalajara, 3 belong to our mission, and 3 to the Guadalajara East mission.  I started in I, and now I'm in U, and Elder D got transferred to the other one, L.) He wasn't too sad to leave, but it definitely is not the same without him.  Everything's more...quiet.  Funny guy.  

Elder V and I are both senior companion.  It's basically like being zone leaders but without the extra responsibilities.  It's nice being with a companion who also has a lot of experience and is excited to work hard and have success.  We get along really well, we have a lot of fun together.  It's going to be a good transfer.  

Did I mention the new rule we got from the Quorum of the 12 apostles last week?  Now all the investigators have to go to church 5 times before they can be baptized.  Basically, they have to go every week for a whole transfer and then get baptized and confirmed the last weekend.  I think that means that we'll all be staying a very, very long time in every area to help out all the investigators in this process.  Also, all the converts from here on out are going to be a lot stronger and  it'll be a lot less likely that they go inactive.  It really has been a historic time to be part of missionary work in Mexico.  Everything has changed completely since I got here.  

Details about the activity.  It went something like this:

We started out with everyone in the cultural hall.  Once we were ready for the first group (each group consisted of about 25 people), Elder M went in and told them their flight to Hawaii was ready.  He gave them their tickets and told them they would first pass through the "market" where they could pick up 5 free items for their flight.  In the market, there were 2 tables: one full of missionary materials like Books of Mormon, pamphlets, posters, pictures of Christ, etc., and the other was full of snacks.  After selecting their 5 items, they passed by the cashier (Elder D) who marked on their ticket what they had bought.  Elder C, one of the assistants, filmed this whole process.  Then they boarded the plane (the relief society room).  When they first got on, the flight attendants (the sisters) asked them if they wanted water or wine (grape juice) to drink.  The Pilots (Elder T and Elder S, the assistant) collected their tickets.  We had made an awesome audio recording for the plane, and we played it on big, powerful speakers that made it seem pretty real.  Or so they tell me, I never actually saw.  Basically, it included take off, a warning of turbulence (during the turbulence, the flight attendants were turning the lights on and off. it was pretty intense), and the crash.  The lights stayed off and since the blinds were down, it was pretty dark.  Suddenly, a door opened and an angel, dressed in all white, walked in (Elder R from the other ward).  He announced to all the passengers that they had just died and pulled up the blinds to show them their dead bodies (Elder D, Elder C, Sister B and Sister A playing dead in the grass outside).  Then, he led them to the Spirit world (the hallway).  A curtain separated prison from paradise.  Those who had chosen water went to paradise, and those who had chosen wine went to prison.  Elder R stayed in prison and his companion Elder K was in paradise, where they explained briefly what happens in the spirit world.  The Spirit prison had the lights turned out and was full of garbage strewn all over the floor.  Paradise was bright and full of fluff (clouds).  Then they went into the next room to be judged.  Elder V was there waiting for them and explained that they had just been resurrected and that they would all be judged for their works.  Meanwhile, the pilots had put all their tickets into three piles--those who chose 4 or 5 spiritual things in the market went to the celestial kingdom, those who had chosen 2 or 3 went the the terrestrial kingdom, and those who chose 0 or 1 to the telestial.  After explaining the doctrine of judgment, Elder V showed them on a little TV screen the video of them in the market that Elder C had filmed.  Pretty genius, right?  And then three different angels (the ward mission leaders from our ward and the M ward) took them to their corresponding kingdom of glory and taught them about each one.  The ward mission leader from M had asked me to help him in the Celestial Kingdom.  The Celestial Kingdom was in the chapel, and he had me play hymns while they were walking in, and then at one other point in the presentation when he asked them to think for a minute about what is most important in their lives.  So I was there for the whole activity.  It was a great experience and everyone loved it.  Afterwards, we served them all Hawaiian pizza.  Our ward mission leader, J, was in charge of the Terrestrial kingdom, and he said that in one of the rounds a little girl started crying and asked "Why did they separate me from my family?!"  He said everyone in there started crying!  It was a very real experience for everyone who came, and a lot of them really felt a little bit of what it would be like to not end up living in an eternal family.  Overall it was a huge success, and we are going to try and do it again but as a whole stake in a few months.  Now that all the members from our ward and from M know how awesome it was, we're pretty sure they'll bring a ton of investigators if we do it again.  

What else?  We had zone conference this week on Tuesday.  It was great, as always.  President Wagner put a lot of emphasis in teaching the Restoration more centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We use the word "gospel" a lot as missionaries because it's an easy, pretty word that all the investigators have heard in the Catholic Church.  But everything is more effective when we explain to them time after time throughout the whole lesson that the Gospel is having faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  We've been applying it and it just works better that way.  Explaining to them from the beginning that God is their Father, he loves them and wants them to return to live with him, which is why he has sent us to their home so that they can have faith, repent of their sins, be baptized by someone who has the authority, and receive the Holy Ghost.  If they learn to have faith and repent, and if they are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, they are going to have a happier family and be able to live together for eternity.  God has always taught these principles to the family of all the earth since the beginning.  He called the first man, Adam, as a prophet and gave him authority to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his children (Moses 6:55-62).  But Adam's children eventually rejected the Gospel and fell into apostasy.  So God called Enoch and gave him authority to teach about faith and repentance and to baptize and give the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  But the majority of the people rejected Enoch also and God took him and his people to heaven with him.  Then He called Noah and gave him authority (Moses 8:19) to warn the people that if they didn't have faith, repent, get baptized, and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, they would be destroyed in the flood (Moses 8:24).  But they rejected Noah also. The same thing happened with Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and all the prophets until Christ, who came and suffered for our sins so that we can be clean through faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  He gave his authority to his apostles to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, but the people rejected and killed them also.  They fell into apostasy, and the doctrines of faith, repentance, and baptism were changed or forgotten.  The authority to baptize and give the gift of the Holy Ghost were no longer on the earth.  But in 1820, God called another prophet named Joseph Smith and restored His Gospel through him.   Joseph Smith received the authority to baptize from John the Baptist and the authority to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost from Peter, James and John.  The Book of Mormon was given as evidence that the Gospel had been restored and that through faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost we can be cleansed from sin and return to live with God.  When you invite the investigator to get baptized after this lesson, they are not going to be surprised.  We always talk about "finding the investigator's need" as missionaries, but really, their biggest need is to be clean from their sins.  If we explain to them through the whole lesson how to do that and that the authority to help them to that has been restored, it all just makes more sense.  Just a thought.  

We had a nice lesson on Wednesday with C.  We taught him the second half of the plan salvation, in other words, what happens after death.  We found out at the beginning of the lesson that he is a widower; his wife died 10 years ago.  So we focused the whole lesson on that and it was a really beautiful experience.  At the end of the lesson, he told us "I've always asked God that if there's a resurrection, why can't he show me my loved ones who have died or let me be with them again.  But you guys helped me answer that question today and now I know I'll be able to see them again."  I about cried at that point.  He's still super willing to get baptized, but we're going to have to move his baptismal date because he didn't make it to church this week. We went by Sunday afternoon and explained him about keeping the Sabbath day holy and he is committed to do it from here on out.  Love that guy.  

We had another cool lesson with a guy named J this week.  If you don't remember him, see my letter from July 22.  Basically, our first lesson with him was a complete disaster and he just wanted to fight, but we left him a Book of Mormon and as we all know that book does wonders.  We hadn't gone back to visit him since the first time, but the other day he invited us back over to talk to him.  We knew he had been reading the Book of Mormon because his wife had told us, and as we had expected, he had gotten to the part where the Spirit command Nephi to kill Laban and he was a little upset and confused about it.  We got there and listened to all the apostasy he started to tell us, and after trying to reason with him for a little bit and convince him that God really can command people to kill other people (which didn't work) we changed our game plan.  Before the opening prayer, we had asked him if he would like us to ask God for anything special, and he said that he wanted to be illuminated to know the truth.  So I asked him why he had such a strong desire to know the truth, and explained to him that all the knowledge he wants is knowledge that God has, and since God loves him he is willing to give it to him.  We stopped talking about Nephi and Laban and started talking about J, and we learned a lot of things about his past that helped us to know where he was coming from.  The whole spirit of the lesson changed.  We invited him to pray to know that the Book of Mormon is true, and he said that if God responded his prayer, he would believe that Nephi was commanded to kill Laban.  He even told us that he was going to say his prayer in the mountains so he could be more alone and focused.  He also committed to go to church the next Sunday (this coming Sunday).  And thus we see that the spirit does miracles when we let him into the lesson with us.  This investigator who seemingly wanted nothing but contention is now one step closer to finding the truth.  I feel like even though I have almost 15 months in the mission, I´m just barely figuring out how to do this missionary work stuff.  I'm really starting to feel love for the people I teach, feel the Spirit tell me what to teach them and see the difference it makes in their lives.  I'm finally figuring out how to teach people, not lessons, and really do things the right way.  In my personal study this week, I had a thought come to my head.  Most people, when they get more knowledge, become more prideful.  But really, if we recognize that true knowledge comes from God, the more we get, the more we should realize how much knowledge He has and it should help us actually be more HUMBLE and trust more in what HE knows. I feel like that has happened in my mission.  The more time I have, the more I realize how much I don't know and how much farther I have to go.  But that's why I've got a whole life to live and improve.  This church is true and Christ is our Savior!

I love you all!  Thanks for the letters and your prayers.  I'll try to send pictures next week because now i'm out of time.  Adios!

Elder Pew
Photos from Zone Conference