Monday, September 14, 2015

letter from Alyssa 9/14/15

I can certainly echo Elder Perry from this last conference when he thanks his family for making his life "so rich". Casan, your testimony is inspiring and has helped my testimony this week.  Kynsie, I'm so proud of your response with standing up for your choices! Dad, I have been reading the paper you wrote on the Book of Mormon and I love love love it! Thank you!Ty and Landon, you 2 are both absotively posolutely fantabularistic and magnarvelous. I wish the missionaries here knew you like I know you so they would know how blessed I am to be your sister. Aubrey, I love that you are most always the first to write in these letters, and the things you send make me smile. Mom, I am so excited for all these things you get to do with everyone.

Yes I love you. All of you.
The week was good. I am well.
My companion is fun.
No luck with the work, but better: blessings. Lots of them.
The hottest day I've had so far here is 115.
Japanese food was really good, a dish called curry rice.
My Sunday was incredible, I wrote about it later in this email.

Update on the work:
Wednesday Hermana Duncan and I were going to visit a potential investigator we tracted into the week before and a boy was walking down the side walk. We contacted him and asked him if he was interested in our message and he said sure so we talked to him and gave him a B of M and asked if he was interested in learning more sometime. He said yeah, we asked when would be good and he said, "well, does now work?" so we taught him the Restoration then and there. We were supposed to meet him yesterday again but it didn't work out, he's 17 (name is Sean) and one of his close friends is a brilliant young woman that we're closed to named Devoree. She's helping us get another chance to teach him. That night we taught the young women the Preach My Gospel class on the restoration. They were all very engaged in the discussion and we talked about how these principles were specifically foundational to our conversion and spiritual growth. Charlotte was there, she loved it and got the first lesson (finally!).
Thursday I was asked to play a musical number in church this coming sunday for 2 missionaries coming home on the same day (they're twins). That will be so cool, especially since I've been thinking a lot about Landon and Ty as I've been practicing this piece.
Friday we had lunch with 3 less-active members. It was really good food but I couldn't understand a word since my companion talked to and taught them the whole time in Spanish. It was great.
Saturday Leslie (woman with cancer and 7 kids) and her husband Doug came to the adult session of Stake Conference and loved it! One of our less-active members surprised us by showing up after weeks of not answering the door. Bishop had a warm visit with her after.
Sunday Charlotte and Matthew (Leslie's 13-year-old son and oldest child) attended the youth session of Stake Conference at 8am with Elder Christofferson there. Later at the general session, Charlotte, Mike Hinkle (non-member, his daughter is a member attending BYU and his wife is more interested but out of town. He's not interested but he still came on his own!), Sister Reeves (less-active), Lori Hume (our investigator that dropped us, we set another time to start teaching her again this week), Dennis Litton (Lori's brother, convert of 2 years but has been less active due to word of wisdom problems. He's coming back though and helping to fellowship Lori and be a missionary to her!) were all there.
Through tracting and contacting we have 7 potential investigators that we are planning on returning to see and teach. One is the minister of another Christian faith who has met with LDS missionaries before (about a year ago), we have an appt. with him next Monday.

BEST update so far (besides attending the temple). I copied and pasted it from what I typed up yesterday so some things may be repeated that I already said in my email above.

For the past month my companion and I have made a specific effort to spread the word about the upcoming Stake Conference for the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake. As missionaries serving in the Live Oak Canyon ward, we have worked hard to visit over twenty less-active members as well as giving this lesson in every dinner appointment: to show a 5-minute video of Elder David A. Bednar speaking in England about how to build the kingdom. After showing that video, we would discuss what stood out to people and draw it to extending the invitation for them to invite someone to Stake Conference. I have watched that video so many times, and I love it. What struck me was when Elder Bednar said, “We determine what an apostle will say. We can pull things out of him if we are prepared. Are you willing to prepare?” He was speaking to the leadership of the students at BYU-Idaho while he was President of the university Friday night before Elder Henry B. Eyring of The Quorum of the 12 Apostles was coming to BYU-Idaho to speak the following Tuesday. I have considered how to prepare myself as well and pondered over it often over these past few weeks in preparation for Elder D. Todd Christofferson to come speak at our Stake Conference. This topic was discussed and logistically well-prepared for by most all the members of the stake as the time drew nearer for him to come. With all the excitement, of course I wondered at the idea that he would possibly meet specifically with the missionaries, or that he would say something that was especially to me, or that I would have the chance to meet him. With this in mind, I decided I would not try or hope for something extra to happen to me and would not consider the event like a celebrity coming to visit, but a privilege to hear from a special witness of Jesus Christ. I remembered that he holds the same priesthood that my bishop and other leaders hold and that his message would be focused on the gospel just like my local priesthood leaders' messages would whether he were coming or not. As I watched all the plans unfold as I worked hard in the mission field to help others prepare as well, we planned to attend all three sessions (adult session Saturday night, youth session Sunday morning, and general session following the youth session) because we were able to bring our investigators to each one. We had five of them attend at least one session each along with a returning less-active recent convert and two other less-active members. Saturday I decided to fast for Elder Christofferson, that the Spirit would not restrain him from teaching anything due to my lack of preparation or lack of faith, though I did all I could to build my faith and prepare myself and those around me for his message and testimony. I opened this fast on Friday night after dinner with my Sister Training Leader, Sister Crane, who I was on an exchange with from then until just before dinner Saturday. She joined me in that fast. Before going on an exchange with a missionary leader, both the missionary and the Sister Training Leader/District Leader/Zone Leader/Assistant to the President (depending on the type of exchange, but basically missionary leader) come up with a goal for the exchange and share their goals with each other so they can help each other achieve those goals throughout that day. My goal was to come up with a question to bring to Stake Conference. I had studied this out and in Preach My Gospel on page 22 one of the questions it lists to apply and live what I learn is, “how should I change as a result of what I have learned?” I really liked this question and pondered over it all week. My goal was achieved in a loving way by an answer from Heavenly Father. After preparing for the day and studying, helping to clean the building that morning as a service, and attempting to visit some potential investigators and a referral that Saturday morning, Sister Crane and I went to the Stake Center so I could do an hour of music study. President Ellis has asked me to set aside 2-3 hours a week for music study for missionary purposes and I had been asked to play a few pieces for future proselyting opportunities coming up. As I was practicing in the Relief Society room between songs from my collection of music, at about five minutes 'til 1:00pm, the door opened and President Brennan (RSM Stake President) opened the door. I turned from playing to see and he said, “Oh, Sisters! Would you like to meet an apostle?” And then there stood Elder Christofferson with Elder Bragg of the Quorum of the 70. I was surprised to say the least, but stood when I saw him and shook his hand. He greeted me warmly as well as he did to my Sister Training Leader and companion for the time. So did Elder Bragg and President Brennan. I did not expect that at all, nor did I go seeking for the chance, I had no idea he was there. From the love that I felt from these three men and the love I felt from my Father in Heaven through the Spirit that was present, I wanted to show my love for them and for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as well, and the thought came to me as soon as the words came from my mouth as I asked Elder Christofferson if I could play the piano for him. I expressed that it was no problem if he didn't have the time, but he smiled and turned to see my music. He had a meeting in five minutes, so I took three to play an arrangement of “We Thank Thee O God for  a Prophet” after which he thanked me, said it was beautiful, and pulled me in and hugged me. He also hugged Sister Crane. Of course I wished he could stay but I did not want to keep him from what he was sent here to do for The Lord. After he left the room my companion and I were speechless, we didn't want to move and disturb the feeling. I walked to the piano by the bench, fell to my knees and expressed gratitude to Heavenly Father for the special reminder of His love for me. That was a hug straight from Him. I didn't need it, I wasn't searching for that kind of manifestation and would have still been so very happy had I not had any interaction with him aside from hearing the message that he came to deliver. But my faith and my testimony and conversion has grown from the feelings of confirmation from The Spirit I received that God is my loving Heavenly Father, and He has called prophets and leaders today to reveal His gospel so the my family and I can be blessed. Nothing is more valuable to me. Later and throughout the day, I continued to ponder and inquire of The Lord what more I could learn from this experience, and my thoughts were drawn to my question for Stake Conference. I realized that despite the thoughts I had of focusing on the message more that Elder Christofferson himself, I was not prepared to meet him in person before Stake Conference. Even though I rejoice in the memory and look back on it with gratitude and without regret, I thought that I should have asked him what his favorite hymn was in case I could play that instead. That doesn't take away from the experience of course, but I looked deeper into the thought and found that how I truly felt (rather than and more importantly than just which song) was that if I had prepared myself better, I would not have been more confident in his presence whether I was expecting it or not. Than I considered that if I was not as prepared as I could have been to be in the presence of an apostle, how could I possibly think that I would be prepared to be in The Lord's presence? Or even more applicable now, how could I expect the Spirit to be present if I was not ready to be confident in approaching The Lord? In the last few hours of my exchange with Sister Crane, I decided on a question to take with me. I wrote it on the “notes” page of my copy of Preach My Gospel just after the introduction: How will I change to become ready to be in the presence of an apostle of The Lord at any time? With that question and the purpose of my fast in mind, I attended Stake Conference prayerfully and received an answer to this question. The most prominent answer came from Elder Christofferson's testimony as well as from the message President Orgill (my mission president) shared, which was to throw all my energy into studying The Book of Mormon. I plan to do this everyday, no exceptions. There were many more things I recorded and by the end I felt that same confirmation from the Spirit of the things I know to be true and of most importance, but even stronger, which indicated that my faith had grown even more and could continue to grow on condition of my obedience to all aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is the way, the only way, to eternal life. His gospel provides lasting happiness and a remission of my sins, I have experienced it and I desire nothing more than to retain that and help others, especially my family and those closest to me, experience it for themselves. I am converted to His gospel and continue to deepen that conversion with all I am and who I want to become. My faith has been increased again and will continue to increase as I repent, obey the commandments, and keep my covenants in all things.

These are my notes that I recorded:

Elder Bragg
·          I am so grateful for you.
·         Honoring the Sabbath Day and keeping it Holy will help you believe in God the Eternal Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ's Atonement faster and better than anything else.
·         Love and serve in light and truth.
·         What the Atonement fixes stays fixed.
·         Leviticus 26:12

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
·         Councils facilitate revelation. Most revelation comes as an answer to a question, and if you get the question right, you're more likely to get the answer.
·         In sharing we come to understand. We don't want to go forward until we know The Lord's will. If we're all in tune with The Lord's will He won't hide it, we will get it; sometimes He makes us work for it, but it comes.
·         The attack on The Prophet Joseph Smith is increasing. It suggests to me that something specifically good and very important is about to come.
·         Joseph Smith not only came to know of Jesus Christ but He came to know Him, He became His friend.
·         There is no reasonable explanation of the coming of The Book of Mormon than what Joseph Smith said, that it was by the power of God. There is where my conversion originated and continues to grow and deepen.
·         Joseph Smith fulfilled his mission, he fulfilled his commission, and he stands with Jesus Christ having given a good report of what he has done with what has been put into his hands.
·         There is no one here that is incapable of becoming a holy man or woman to return to the presence of God. This path in this life doesn't end until eternal life. Stay on the path, will ya?
·         We do need His grace. If you stay with Christ, you will overcome. Otherwise, you will be overcome. Bind yourself to jesus Christ, don't let anything come between you and Him.
·         If you have faith, you have everything. All things will be added unto you if it's a strong faith.
·         You are not a stranger to the person you're praying to, your Heavenly Father.
·         Assigning missionaries to their mission is a testimony to me of Heavenly Father's love and knowledge of each of His children, it is so certain to me.
·         I hop you pray for each other.
·         The Holy Ghost communicates so that you know by feeling. It becomes familiar.
·         Words you can misunderstand, but the Spirit you cannot misunderstand. I would hate to do what I am called to do without The Spirit because I know I would fail.
·         You stay strong and stay faithful no matter what.
·         We grow to love what we serve and who we serve.
·         It's possible to have complete forgiveness.
·         Christ's resurrection makes all the difference. You are His. He will guide you, you will come to know Him. Not only know of Him, but to know Him.
·         Faith comes by hearing the word of God from one having authority from God and being moved by The Spirit. Anyone saying anything other than the word of God claiming it by authority from God is taking His name in vain.
·         Faith is a gift of the Spirit.
·         There is a cycle of faith and knowledge until there is a fulness. Faith is the reward of obedience. Greater obedience makes greater faith, and perfect obedience makes lasting faith.
·         The sequence of faith and repentance is true, as well as the sequence of repentance and faith, both are true.
·         Sacrifice influences our endowment of faith.
·         The essence of Christ's sacrifice was that His will was swallowed up in the will of The Father. A sacrifice on our part in similitude of His is for us to, over the course of time, have our will consistent with His.
·         Your faith will be such that you can endure whatever you must, and do it well. Whatever your circumstances, your faith will see you through and many others. You will fulfill your mission and have joy in all of it.
·         After I was first sustained as one of the 12, I was uncomfortable at first because I felt I didn't belong. We were in the temple and I remember seeing President Packer staring at me. I told him he looked surprised to see me, and he replied, “This is not a look of surprise but a look of pleasure, I'm pleased to see you here.” This will be what Jesus Christ says to you as He looks at you when you see Him.

Some funny things they said:
·         As Elder Bragg began to speak he said, “Usually I'm the one standing between you and food. But tonight it's worse because I'm the one standing between you an apostle. I'll try to be brief.” Then as Elder Christofferson began to speak he said, “Now I'm the one standing between you and your food . . . and my food.”
·         In reading from the handbook when speaking a little about councils, Elder Christofferson read, “'Men often think differently than women.' (pause) . . . who wrote that? Duh! We need that in the handbook? That's so obvious. I don't understand.”
·         Elder Bragg bore testimony that we were about to hear from a living apostle, so did President Brennan. Elder Christofferson began that talk, “Elder Bragg and the Stake President have referred to me as a Living Apostle. That is good to hear. Sometimes I wonder and have to double check, so thanks for letting me know.”
·         Elder Christofferson showed us his traveling scriptures which have not study helps or maps or topical guide/bible dictionary, etc., just the text and it makes the book look so much smaller and lighter (for the purpose of traveling). He told us it was Elder Holland's idea so all of the 12 have their “Holland edition” of scripture.
·         In the youth session Elder Christofferson left some time for quesitons. There were a lot of great questions that reflected the youth's preparation, I was impressed. But one of the questions was asking him what his favorite scripture was. He said he didn't have one, he couldn't choose. But if he had to choose one then it would be John 8:29. As he was turning to it and searching for it though he said, “probably now I'd choose this one in John . . . give me a second to find it, I think it's in chapter 8 if it hasn't moved it's place, scriptures tend to move around sometimes. Especially when they know you're looking for them.”

These notes aren't quite word-for word, but I was careful to not lose the meaning and truth behind what he said. He also expounded on some things more that I couldn't quite write down, like what he said about the increasing attack on Joseph Smith indicating to him of something important and very good about to happen. He talked about the tendency Satan has to maximize his attacks on those things just before remarkable and essential things are about to be brought to pass. He also continued to speak on the foundational truth of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.
Two things that really impressed me were that after the general session, Elder Christofferson asked that the children be brought so he could shake their hands, because he wouldn't have time for everyone but at least for the children to be brought up and he could greet each of them. Another was that during the youth question/answer time, he would always clarify their question as he perceived what they were really asking and answer them, like when the youth asked for his favorite scripture and he clarified he didn't have one, but for the sake of that youth's purpose in asking he found one anyway. He answered each question this way, especially the ones more doctrinally based.

President Brennan spoke tenderly of repentance, it was inspiring. He also spoke of missionary work as a way (not the only of course though) to make restitution for our sins.
President Orgill spoke on the need to drink deeply and often from the Book of Mormon, as Elder Henry B. Eyring has said, and that we cannot survive without doing so.
One more thing from this conference I'll add: Sister Orgill (mission president's wife) said this: “If you rescue someone's lost one, you have the right to petition heaven for yours.”

Leslie Collins and her husband, Doug, attended the adult session Saturday night. She has cancer and they have 7 kids. We are teaching their family together Monday night with Holly Mauss, who is working on her missionary papers and babysits for the Collins regularly. Their son Matthew, age 13, attended the youth session Sunday morning and sat in the very front row.
Charlotte, age 16, attended the youth and general sessions on Sunday. She wants to be baptized and take the lessons but her parents won't allow her to. She comes to church every week and activities for the Young Women.
Dennis Litton is a returning less-active member and a convert of about 2 years. He is working on overcoming some issues with braking the word of wisdom.
Dennis' sister, Lori Hume, attended the general session of stake conference. She's not a member, has had missionaries over but dropped them because she would get anxious when lessons were focused on her, but Dennis is actively setting up opportunities for her to be taught in a member's home with him and the missionaries have picked her up again as an investigator due to his missionary efforts.
Mike Hinkle's teenage daughter is a member of the church, but he and his wife are not. He's not very interested but came to the general session, and his wife is interested but was out of town this weekend.
Elder Medina and Elder Forthman brought an investigator of theirs to the general session who, after it ended, leaned over to them and asked how to become a member.

Have an amazing week!
- Sister Shumway



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