Monday, November 10, 2014

Sweet November Air

Dear Family,

I am loving the cooler weather here. It's still only like 80 degrees, but I am busting out the scarves and sweaters! This morning while doing some shopping, Christmas music was playing over the radio... YIKES, it's still way too early for that, but I'm still giddy about the holiday season! What are y'alls plans for Thanksgiving? We'll have our big feast of the day at the Hauck's. Sister Hauck is an amazing cook, so I'm excited. 

I got the letter you sent in the mail, Mom. I can't tell you how happy handwritten letters make me! I'm writing you and Borgs back today. 

We had quite the week. 9 investigators dropped us and more than half of our appointments fell through. It would have been incredibly discouraging, except we knew that we'd done the best we could, so all we could do was continue to look forward. A midst those occasional setbacks, I feel the Spirit move the work (and me) along all of the time. It truly is miraculous. 


Dear Family,

This weekend we had stake conference. It was by far the best stake conference I've ever attended... We had a broadcast from Salt Lake to 96 stakes in Arizona, and my two favorite speakers from this past general conference addressed us - Elder Christofferson and President Uchtdorf (as well as 2 other speakers)! I was THRILLED, to say the least. It was like general conference, but more specifically addressed to just US in Arizona. For some reason I don't remember stake conference being quite so powerful in the past. 

At the Ward Halloween event
Elder Christofferson was the 3rd speaker, and he began by sharing a story of a man he knew and loved well, who came to him many years ago in confession of a sin he'd committed (I believe it was when Elder Christofferson was serving as a stake president, but I can't quite remember the details). The man was grieved, remorseful, and repentant of what he'd done, but he was also surprised by his actions. Elder Christofferson confessed he was surprised, too. This man had served in high leadership positions in the church, he was well known and well loved in the church... what had caused him to committ such a serious and grievous sin? Elder Christofferson said this experience led him to contemplate the subject of conversion, and explained that such thoughts were the ones he wanted to share with us. Immediately when he said that I knew that his message would be an answer to my prayers, as I have been thinking heavily on the same subject lately. This week I read the talk "Converted to His Gospel through His Church" by Elder Donald L. Hallstron from the May 2012 Conference Ensign. In it, he says:

"Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed.
By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but they are of greater eternal importance. For example, how much faith do we really have? How repentant are we? How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?
I repeat: we need the gospel and the Church. In fact, the purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel. We often wonder: How can someone be fully active in the Church as a youth and then not be when they are older? How can an adult who has regularly attended and served stop coming? How can a person who was disappointed by a leader or another member allow that to end their Church participation?  Perhaps the reason is they were not sufficiently converted to the gospel—the things of eternity."
I struggle knowing that there are millions of members of the church that are active in the church (and even more millions who aren't), but aren't actually converted to the Gospel. Yesterday as Elder Christofferson went on, he explained that there are 4 levels of conversion in the church. I'll try to review them as past as I can from my notes (it was so frustrating because his talk was so good and my hand would NOT write fast enough!). 

Level 1: This consists of members of the church who know the Gospel, but do not follow it. 

Level 2: These members follow the outward performances of the Church, but to whom the spirit of the Gospel is not known. They lack understanding. They show outward forms of devotion only.

Level 3: Many members of the Church fall under this level. Their conversion extends beyond outward manifestations.. they read the scriptures and pray regularly. They are active in their callings. They feel the Spirit of the Gospel. But they are like the apostle Peter when he denied Christ 3 times before His crucifixion: They love the Lord and the Gospel, but perhaps are not strong enough to withstand persecution. This is where the man from the story was. These saints fail to overcome when the going gets tough. The law of God governs their actions, but they will not follow it at all costs

Level 4: These members are those like the converted Peter, who was martyred rejoicing that he'd been found worthy to suffer in Christ's name. They have a clear understanding of the Gospel plan and they can teach it to others powerfully and simply. They are bold in declaring the word. They are persistent in the faith until death. Their fear of man is washed away. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just something they practice, it is part of their very NATURE. 

Elder Christofferson's thoughts were spot on. He put the feelings and observations I have made into words, and outlined this trouble within the church clearly. Though it is discouraging to know that many members are not quite truly converted, he offered a word of hope: "Your mighty change of heart may not yet be complete... continued faithfulness will bring real conversion. Do not become discouraged if becoming Christlike is slow and at times imperceptible. For every Paul, Enos, and King Lamoni" (who experienced a change of heart in a powerful, single experience) "there are hundreds and even thousands of people for whom the process of conversion takes a lifetime. We must not give up hope." 

He shared this scriptures from Proverbs 7: 

 Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
 Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.
And in closing he said: "May the law of God be written on our hearts." It was so good. 

He was followed by President Uchtdorf, who spoke of the lessons we learn from temple covenants, as Arizona is preparing to dedicate the Phoenix temple in just a few weeks (I am so excited to attend a temple dedication!!!). If I had more time, I'd go into detail about his talk too! 

I love you so much.
Sister Robinson

Ultimate Truth

Dear Family, 

This week was full of events. The biggest news is that transfers are tomorrow, and Sister Arnold got transferred early (on Wednesday)... we weren't allowed to know why until Saturday. FINALLY we're in the know... She's spending her last transfer on her mission as one of the Nevada Last Vegas mission's first sister assistants to the president! She is so perfect for the job and we're all thrilled for her, but we'll really miss her out here. I love her so much. Sister Lowry is staying here for another transfer (she's been here as long as me!), and Sister Walton and I are too - surprise! Also, Sister Browning (my MTC companion) is getting transferred out to Kingman, AZ - which is in our zone! I'm so excited to serve by her!!! 

As for the work... Tom (our miracle) is doing well. We had an awesome lesson with him at Bro. Deru's house this week. The church put him in a hotel here in town for 7 days, and now he's working to get his life back on his feet. He came to church yesterday and has been progressing well. We are so excited about him! Yolanda dropped us yesterday. It was tough because we love her so much, but she wasn't keeping any of her commitments, so ultimately it was a blessing. I sure hope someday she'll pick up the Book of Mormon and read it cover to cover and have a change of heart. We're teaching a good number of other solid people - they're keeping us busy. 


Dear Family,

It has been such a good week for Sister Walton and I. We have been working so hard. I am so proud of her - She is an excellent missionary and is so much more bold than I ever feel! We push each other and help each other every day. We have gotten to be so much more comfortable with each other, too, so we're bonding well - which I am so grateful for! One of the perks of being her companion is that she's a commercial fisher AND a '49 Chevy truck owner - which means she has something in common with 95% of Havasu. It sure makes for a great conversation starter with street contacts, haha! I have no doubt that she was called to Havasu because she can connect with so many of the retirees here. It is so awesome. 

One huge lesson I have learned thus far on my mission is that I can't force anything to happen... all I can do is work hard, be obedient, continually pray for guidance and strength, and then TRUST that the Lord will make things happen. In my head, I've known that that's the way it works from the get-go. But actually feeling and applying it daily has been a struggle. I've been my own stumbling block because (as I've said before), I've been relying too much on my own grit and abilities. It's taken some time, but I finally feel I'm shoving that stumbling block to the side and increasing my diligence and faith, and everything is falling into place. We have seen so much success these past few weeks, and our efforts have nearly doubled our key indicators (numbered measurements of the progress of the work)! We have quality contacts each day, strictly stick to the schedule we plan out each night, and pray and pray and pray some more for miracles. One of the biggest miracles I have yet to see yet happened yesterday:

Emma Aston's baptism was held in the chapel right after church (the chapel because so many ward members came to support her and we couldn't all fit in the Relief Society room, where baptismal services are usually held! Another reason I LOVE Crossman Peak Ward). It was such a beautiful service. All her family was in town, and the room was filled with so much love and JOY. I was really touched. When we migrated to the room with the baptismal font, Bishop Hansen tapped me on the shoulder and said, "There's a man named Tom sitting in the back of the room - I just met him. I want you to go speak to him after the service." We caught a glimpse of him before heading over to speak to him afterwards - a man in his 50s, blue Tshirt, cargo shorts, old sandals, crying. We went up and introduced ourselves to him, and he began crying harder. One of the first words out of his mouth: "I have been to 8 or 9 different churches in this town, and every single one of them, without fail, has depicted you Mormons as the most evil, corrupt, devil-worshipping church in the world. It makes me sick thinking about it, now that I've been here and witnessed this. I cannot believe how wrong people are about you guys. This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!" He was just weeping. "I'm telling you, you have NO IDEA what other congregations are saying about you! And they're all wrong!" We were speechless. I asked him what brought him to join us, and he said he just kind of wandered in. "I'm at the end of my rope... as of tomorrow at 4:00 I'll be homeless. I've got no where else to go. Someone told me I could find help here, so I came to see your Bishop, and I found myself sitting in on this service. It is so beautiful. There is so much love here." He stopped talking because he couldn't get the words out past his tears. Finally, "I'm sorry I'm crying, I'm so embarrassed! I just - I don't know..." I told him we were so glad to have him there, and then I asked if he was interested in learning more about the church. "Yes!" He exclaimed. "Yes, yes! I have never felt this way before!" A miracle! Sister Walton pulled a Book of Mormon out of her bag, handed it to him, and said: "Tom, this is where it begins. This is what we're all about, and I promise that if you read it, along with your Bible, you will find all the guidance and direction and clarity you need." She began to cry. "THIS is what we do as missionaries, and THIS is why we've left our families for 18 months. I know this book is true, and you, too, can know for yourself." He kept crying and nodding his head. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing! We got his information, and as we led him to the Bishop's office, he said this: "I have a question for you two. I was baptized before, in a river. I accepted Christ as my Savior, but as I was baptized, I didn't feel anything. The commitment to Him was there, but there was a complete lack of feelingWhy?" Sister Walton and I looked at each other in shock... he was asking all the right questions! Sister Walton said in reply, "Tom, we believe in a power called the Priesthood. The Priesthood is the authority given to man to act in God's name in behalf of His children. One must be baptized by a man holding the Priesthood authority of God in order for his or her baptism to be fully accepted before the Lord. The Priesthood seals promises and covenants man makes with God on Earth and in Heaven." Tom listened closely and said, "So, the man who baptized me didn't really have the Priesthood?" Sister Walton: "No, he did not." (pause) "Tom, if you read the Book of Mormon, and came to know that this church is true, would you be baptized by someone who holds the Priesthood authority?" Tom: "Yes, yes I would!" He continued to cry. "I most definitely would." Sister Walton: "Well, we're holding a baptismal service on November 15th - will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that day?" Tom: "Yes! I can tell you right now, I will accept it all." 

....can you imagine our shock and awe?? Who was this man? Where did he come from? What brought him here? Why had he just fallen right into our laps? As we left the church building a few minutes later, Sister Walton began to weep. "Sister, I have never, ever felt that way before." She paused because she couldn't speak. "I...I literally felt God's love for that man run through ME" (she motioned up and down her body) "I was overwhelmed. It was a power bigger than me. And I couldn't NOT give him a Book of Mormon; I couldn't NOT invite him to baptism. This is the truth! This is HIS work!" 

This words from Mormon 9 in the Book of Mormon are powerful:

"15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.
 16 Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?
 17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?
 18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
 19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
 20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
 21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth."
The Bible Dictionary defines "Miracles" in this way:
"An important element in the work of Jesus Christ, being not only divine acts, but forming also a part of the divine teaching. Christianity is founded on the greatest of all miracles, the Resurrection of our Lord. If that be admitted, other miracles cease to be improbableMiracles should not be regarded as deviations from the ordinary course of nature so much as manifestations of divine or spiritual power. Some lower law was in each case superseded by the action of a higher.They were intended to be a proof to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Matt. 11:4–5John 2:11;10:2520:30–31). Many of them were also symbolic, teaching such divine truths as the result of sin and the cure of sin; the value of faith; the curse of impurity; and the law of love. The miracles of healing also show how the law of love is to deal with the actual facts of life. Miracles were and are a response to faith and its best encouragement. They were never wrought without prayer, felt need, and faith."
Miracles are real, and come about, as taught in the scriptures, by true FAITH, sincere, heartfelt PRAYER, and NEED. I know I use the word "miracles" a lot, but it's because they are the most powerful manifestation of the reality of this great work, and they empower me daily. 

There's a book that Bishop Hansen uses to counsel all of us in our High Council meeting each week - it's called "Counseling with the Councils" by M. Russell Ballard. He says it stands 3rd in line next to his Bible and Book of Mormon in seeking inspiration and guidance from heaven. Mom and Dad, will you get a copy and study from it together? It sounds like one you'd like. I'm going to see if I can get a copy to study from on P-day. Another thing that I think you'd like in your personal study is Jesus the Christ  by James E. Talmage. The life and ministry of the Savior is brought to light in a whole new dimension as I read from it - I LOVE it. 

Thanks for the emails and updates. Love y'all forever.

Love always,
Sister Robinson