August 18, 2008

The other day my companion and I were walking from one appointment to another and we went up the wrong street because I was on the phone with a lady from the Ward and not paying attention. When I hung up and realized we were going the wrong way we stopped and turned around and started walking up a different street. We passed a house where there was a woman outside talking on the phone. She said to the person on the phone "Oh the missionaries are passing by right now". We immediately stopped to talk to her. She hid her face like she'd made an awful mistake. I've learned to just give a REALLY big smile with these kinds of people. She started talking to us and she mentioned that she was a member and had just moved to Vila Planalto. Karina is her name. She started explaining to me in English that she used to live in the US and met her husband there and they were married in the Mount Timpanogos Temple and then moved to Brasilia.
Her husband is a returned missionary. They have two little kids. He's since left the Church and is living in Atlanta while she is here. He has a goatee. They're not divorced but "just kind of separated for now", as she says. Her own faith has been dwindling since her husband decide that Joseph Smith wasn't really a Prophet and wanted to go back to the US to work. She hadn't had much contact with the missionaries or the members of the Church where she was living before moving to Vila Planalto. The day we passed by her house was a Friday and she said that up until she saw us and started talking to us she wasn't planning on going to Church on Sunday. She did go. We've since gone over to her house several times to answer questions for her and help her faith start growing again. She says it has been.
She had me read her patriarchal blessing. Almost all of it talks about marriage and family. Several things had already been fulfilled, but certain blessings she considers revoked or impossible now because her husband left the Church and seems to be entirely uninterested in coming back. This made me remember once again of the importance of family in regards to receiving exalted blessings. It also made me really mad at her husband. We told Karina that now is the time in her life that her faith needs to be at it's highest and her prayers at their most meaningful, so that her husband can come back and her little kids can grow up in the right way. We reminded her that the plan of salvation is perfect and makes it possible for her to still receive all the blessings promised her even if her husband never comes back. But her obvious preference is him. As it would be with anyone I imagine. She wants to be with the one she's been sealed to in the Temple and had her kids with. I left with an even greater resolve to be a good husband and father someday. And that means being a husband and father that lives the Gospel of Jesus of Christ. You can be someone who decides that there is no such thing, or someone who just doesn't take it seriously, and destroy your family's happiness. Or you can be committed and remember that whatever blessings apply to you, apply to your wife and kids.
We baptized a 15 year-old boy named Irivaldo yesterday. He's so great. When we were changing clothes after the baptism he started talking to me about Arizona and how he doesn't want to go there because it's too close to Israel and Iraq and he's afraid he'll die. I'm gonna give him a tie. The baptismal service was really good apparently, according to the three or four people who said so. So I'm happy. The mission is baptizing a lot less these days though. President Pizzirani wants quality and that means families. We just don't seem to have the faith. The mission baptized 17 this week. A sharp difference from 104 per week this time a year ago. Things will get better though. President is burning everyone. He's sending missionaries home like crazy, having meeting after meeting with the leaders, challenging everyone. I'm glad we baptized this week.
Family, send pictures. I miss pictures! I'll send some next week I PROMISE.
I love love LOVE you.

August 11, 2008

I ate a double whopper today, in Brazil, R$17. Amazing. I'm so full right now. I've been doing exercises in the morning that help me feel healthy, but I've definitely gained a little weight this transfer. I think I'm back up to the weight I was at the time I left home. I need to go off to Palmas and the jungle where it's 100 degrees and humid. Elder Tenorio is being transferred there tomorrow. We only spent three weeks together. Strange. My last three companions I've stayed with for less than one transfer. Not since Planaltina have I had a companion for a full transfer. I still think about Planaltina all the time and I wish I could go back there. It's my favorite area. We'll have to go there when you guys come with me to visit after the mission. Although I don't think you'll find it very beautiful. It's nothing really. I love it. But there's nothing to see besides people.
LET'S DO THIS: I'll come home normally, you guys will pick me up at the airport in AZ, and I'll come home and see everyone, Dad and Gpa Hoon and I will take a picture together (if possible), I'll sleep for a while, maybe we'll be cliche' and eat some Brazillian food. I don't know. Then LATER we can come back and see Rio and Sao Paulo and Brasilia and all that. Sound good? You guys can meet President Pizzirani. It'll be fun. I wish you guys could meet President Aidukaitis. Maybe in Utah at Conference but I don't really know how that works.
My new companion will be Elder A. Nascimento. Another Brazilian. I'm excited. I know him a little. He's a good missionary. It's only his second transfer but he's apparently got some major missionary style already. I hope I can teach him some things. I'll probably end up learning more from him. If you guys have ever been at all curious as to where I'm at in regards to the hierachy of the mission, I'm just a normal senior companion. I haven't been made a leader of any kind. Only Elder Day from our group has become a leader.
The mission needs the phone numbers and addresses of Bishop Boyer and President Gulbrandsen. I also need Mom and Dad's cell phone numbers because I've forgoten them:/ so please send those in the email next week.
Other than that I have nothing to request this week. My companion however would like someone to please look and see how much something called a "playstation PSP slim" is in American dollars.
I'm trying my best to be good and be a good example. And I'm trying to do so humbly, not just in a way that people will notice. I don't want anyone to be like the people I teach who think God is really great but they don't ever DO anything. It's so pathetic. I know I am very weak and need to improve all the time. Families have eternal destinies, but if they don't ACT like it they fall short. President Pizzirani taught me that Satan is powerless to do anything so long as you have no desire to sin. So we need to DO good things so that we don't fall into a mess of sinful desires and ruin our lives and allow Satan to lead us by the hand into some false peace. We'll be judged by the desires of our hearts. If the Terestrial Kingdom is the desire of our hearts, and our works prove it, that is where we'll go.
I don't say this to sound like I'm the next apostle or anything, but I really do want so badly to be pure. The pure in heart will see God. The last talk given by President Aidukaitis here was about how to see Jesus Christ in this lifetime. Ever since then I've been trying to purify myself. I hope this doesn't mean I'll come home weird. I don't think so. But I am, nevertheless, trying to be good.
I hope everyone is happy and safe back home, because I certainly pray for it everyday. I love you guys so much and miss you. Send pictures. Lots of pictures.

August 4, 2008

This Thursday I'll have a year in the field. So it's another one of those times of reflection for me. I think of the things that stand out the most. Some easy, some hard, all of which have ultimately been blessings. I've met a lot of people in the last year. Most of them (our investigators, I mean) are not married, but live together with someone. Several of them have been together for years. Some have children, some even grandchildren. They've passed generations together without ever taking the step of marriage. They're afraid of it for some reason. To help, we ask simple questions like "do you love her?" and "do you love him?" and "what would really change if you were married officially?" We promise blessings from God. If they still feel no desire to follow the commandments and get married or separate, we make it very simple for them and ask "if God Himself were to appear to you and tell you that this is a sin and you need to get married, what would you do?" You would be surprised how many of them merely say, "I wouldn't be able to change". We ask them if they understood the question and if they're absolutely sure of their response. Often we simply end the lesson then and there, depending on the person. Sometimes we ask if they feel at all ashamed to admit that they consider their own will to be of more importance than the will of their Father in Heaven. To those who respond "no" to this question, a deep sadness comes into the room. I don't know if they feel it, but we certainly do. On more than one occasion we've asked the investigator to kneel down with us and offer a prayer to God declaring that they are unwilling to comply with His commandments. They don't want to. "Brother, you said you weren't ashamed". The fear of God still dwells within them. It's interesting. When someone's life is being overcome by the inspiration of satan, whose face I've seen and whose voice I've heard, they still must recognize the authority of the Priesthood when it's in the room. Satan is not more than God, he's less. So when light pierces darkness, the darkness cannot deny it.
I get really sad over these people. They talk about God because that's what people do. They pray to be heard by others. They read certain parts of the Bible because they think that simply reading the Bible will save them. Yet they go about breaking several commandments everyday. So many people here don't see themselves as someone having divine potential. They show how truly desirable the Terrestrial Kingdom is to people. I, personally, will not be content with such glory. I know that the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms are places where I can't be with you guys, so I do what I can to keep myself from setting my course for either of them. It's my love for you guys that I have had, and have now-and will have in the future for my wife and my own children-that acts as a catalyst for obedience.
I recently re-read the talk "Salvation and Exaltation" from last Confrence by Elder Nelson. He states very clearly how and why "salvation is a personal matter, and exaltation is a family matter". As I said I'm not content with anything but the highest degree of glory, because it is there that I can not only live with God and with Christ, but we can also be together as a family. For this reason, I want you guys to examine your course, as I have, and prayerfully decide what can be changed and/or improved. For example, I was reading in the copy of the 2003 journal that Dad sent me. There is an entry that talks about tithing and how it's a difficult thing sometimes. Now I don't know if things are still the same way since 2003, but I'll speak as if they were. Here in Brasilia, part of the reason that the Church has yet to truly consider building a Temple here is because we lack TITHE-PAYING Melchizedek Priesthood holders. It's no small issue in our Ward and Stake, and in many of the Wards and Stakes around here. If the people would pay their tithes and offerings and do it from their hearts out of joy to have the chance to fulfill a commandment of God, without complaint, the Lord would abundantly bless this area. If anyone has any doubts in regard to tithing, I suggest reading the talk entitled "The Best Investment" from last Conference.
Before I could be ordained to the Melchizedik Priesthood, Bishop Boyer told me I needed to be up to date on my tithing. If you'll remember, my settlement came out to about $900. At the time I had about $1000 in the bank. I decided to pay the tithing, and almost immediately within that same week I got two speeding tickets and crashed my car. Instead of being grateful to have been blessed with a good father that has money and who is always more than willing to help when I'm short, I complained and felt robbed by the Church. I've since repented of that and have made a promise to the Lord that I will always pay an honest tithing. As a missionary I'm not allowed to pay tithing. You may not believe this, but one of the reasons I can't wait to get home is so I can pay my tithing! If you do what you can to live close to the Spirit you recognize every little thing you do that isn't in harmony with the will of the Lord. That's a wonderful blessing. And even though I'm not even allowed to pay tithing, God has given me the opportunity to feel bad that I'm not paying it! And, as I said, I've promised that once I can, I always will. If any one of us is in need of doing the same, I suggest you do it. The blessings of exaltation for each individual member of our family very well may be contingent on that. We need to be an eternal family, together forever. We can't settle for anything less.
I think of times in the past when we may have maybe been a little relaxed on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I've certainly been guilty of that. Anytime we do anything that maybe wouldn't be right with God, let's think of our exaltation as a family together. We can't let anything we do put our future together in the life to come at risk. WE NEED TO BE AN ETERNAL FAMILY!!! NOTHING LESS!!!
Considering it's the end of the transfer this week, send letters to the mission office. We might be moving next week to our real area. Our own house! No more catching four buses a day. Oh man! Maybe, we don't know for sure. When that happens, I'll let you know. I've been taking a lot of money out of my personal account to pay for our bus rides everyday. Elder Tenorio doesn't have any money at the moment. We're hoping this whole thing ends soon and we move to our house. I asked the Brazilians what they would want in a package from AMERICA. They would like (please): Oberto beef jerky, jelly bellies, pringles (any flavor besides original), and more peanut butter because we're running out. Oh and I told Elder de Sousa that peanut butter m&m's are the best and he doesn't believe they even exist, so please send a bag so he can see what's up. I hate asking for stuff.
I love you guys so so much and I can't wait to see you guys again. I'll be home Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 (since you asked). Go ahead and mark that!!!
Lot's of love,