Last P-Day, after I emailed you, my District went to the temple. Sister Young and Sister Ruiz and I decided to do temple sealings. None of us had ever done them before, so it was an amazing experience for all three of us. Throughout the week, as I have reflected on the beautiful experience we had last Friday, I have realized that although baptism is a big step that we want our investigators to take, it is not the end goal, but actually one of the initial steps in a long series of steps concentrated on enduring to the end. Getting our investigators to the temple and getting them sealed to their family for time and all eternity is a larger goal that we as missionaries should have in mind as we invite other children of God to come unto Christ.
General Conference this weekend was amazing. I cannot believe that there are presently 15 million members of the Church and 80,333 full-time LDS missionaries serving in the world. As our beloved prophet stated at the beginning of conference, "Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together." I exhort each of you to think about someone in your life that you think could use some support and love. It doesn't matter if you are or they are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Think about this individual and ask yourself, "What could I do to help him or her feel the love of Christ?" In a devotional given by Elder David A. Bednar titled, "The Character of Christ," Elder Bednar reminds us that in the midst of His trials, Jesus turned outward in compassion towards others. The "Natural Man" is self-absorbed and selfish. However, when the natural man would turn in, the character of Christ turns outwards. I promise you that, despite your own trials and challenges, when you try to take on the Character of Christ and turn outwards in compassion in an effort to serve others when you would naturally want to turn inwards in self-pity, you will find true happiness and Christ-like love.
As I watched conference this weekend, my testimony that we have living prophets, seers, and revelators today grew so much stronger. The talks given were each so unique and directed at specific audiences (both members and nonmembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). I knew that these General Authorities were called of God and knew through revelation what people needed to hear over the two days of Conference. I especially loved Elder Uchtdorf's talk that seemed to be directed at less active members or nonmembers of the Church and elaborated on why some people join the Church and others leave it. At the end of his talk, he stated, "We are all hypocrites. None of us is as Christlike as we know we should be. However, we must strive to press forward and come unto Christ by serving God and our fellow men."
On Monday of this week, Sister Ruiz and Sister Young and I taught a lesson to our investigator Irmao Santos. After much prayer, we felt that he needed to hear about the Word of Wisdom. Due to his past addiction to drugs and past work as a drug dealer, we felt that he definitely needed to learn about this important Gospel principle sooner rather than later, seeing that he has committed to being baptized this Sunday. What started off as a simple lesson regarding Gospel standards turned into so much more as we sat with Irmao Santos for the next 25 minutes. When we asked our investigator how his week had gone, he related an experience he had while working at his new job painting in a building that secretly houses a black market drug dealership. He told us that the other day at work, he had suddenly felt a strong need to leave the building. Although he had no idea why he would need to do this, he decided to leave. Soon afterwards, a police force arrived on site and began searching the building for drugs. Many people were arrested. However, because Irmao Santos chose to leave when prompted to do so, he did not receive any trouble from the police. He described his experience as a blessing from God and, as we explained to Irmao Santos that the prompting he had received to leave the building was from the Holy Ghost, our perspective of our investigator changed. We realized even more that God really did love him and saw the good in him. He was preserving and preparing him for baptism, which he has already committed to.
As we continued to speak with Irmao Santos, the direction of our discussion changed and we began talking about the Atonement of Christ. Our investigator could not believe that Christ would forgive him after all the sins he had committed. He asked us how God could forgive him after he had destroyed hundreds of lives by selling drugs. As we listened to our investigator describe the pain and guilt he felt, both of my companions and I could feel the burden of his sins. Irmao Santos continued by saying that even if he was baptized, he would still remember his past transgressions and feel bad about his sins. My beloved companion Sister Young then surprised him by saying that the fact that we can remember and feel bad about our past transgressions is a blessing from God, because as we remember the pain and guilt we felt after committing sins in the past, we will be so much more motivated to use our agency wisely when making future decisions and to not make the same mistakes we made before. She told Irmao Santos that although he would still remember his sins, after he repented and was baptized, his once scarlet sins would be made white and God would no longer remember them. When we asked Irmao Santos if he would still be baptized this Sunday, the shock, joy, and hope that washed over his face when he realized that we, as representatives of Christ, still believed and saw good in him, brought tears to our eyes. Before we left, I was prompted to ask our investigator if he would read 2 Nephi 4 (the Psalm of Nephi). He told us he would. After our lesson, as Sister Ruiz and Sister Young and I kneeled in prayer, tears streamed down all of our cheeks as we thanked our Father in Heaven and asked him to bless Irmao Santos.
That day, I realized the hope that the Gospel brings to lives. I am so grateful for its presence in my life and for the opportunity I have to share it with others. I am so grateful for the Atonement of Christ. I have a testimony of its healing power. Like Nephi, there have been times in my life when I have thought, "Oh wretched (wo)man that I am" and my heart and soul have grieved because of my iniquities. However, through these times, my God has been my support and, like Nephi, I have realized that despite my afflictions, the Lord continues to bless me as I strive to do His will and keep His commandments, and I see my own foolishness. Why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow? Why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of my enemy? And rather than slacken my strength because of my afflictions, my heart rejoices in my God, who is the rock of my salvation. (2 Nephi 4)
On Tuesday, I got "transferred" when a new Sister, who has stayed behind due to a knee injury while playing softball, joined our District. I am now companions with Sister Ruiz and Sister Young has become Sister Eddington's companion. It was really hard for me when I found out that Sister Ruiz and I would no longer be able to teach Irmao Santos and would receive a new investigator
However, I knew that Sister Young and Sister Eddington would do a great job helping him prepare for baptism. After Sister Young and Sister Eddington taught our beloved investigator yesterday, Sister Ruiz and I were so excited to hear about his progress and were even more excited when we heard about how anxious and excited he was to be baptized this Sunday and all the questions he was asking about what it would be like. Even though Irmao Santos is not a real investigator and is actually our teacher Irmao Hodson, who I believe creates investigators based on those he himself met in the field, my heart swelled with excitement and joy and I was soon begging for the chance to go to the baptism on Sunday.
Well, I can't believe how time is flying here at the MTC. I have less than two weeks left and will get my reassignment next Thursday! If the Lord needs me to serve in two different places, I am more than happy to go where he wants me to go!
Love you so much!!!