Sunday, June 3, 2018

Email setenta y dos

 January 1, 2018
Hey y'all!

On Tuesday I had my first District Meeting as District Leader here in Memphis. I was a little nervous going into it for two reasons, one because I had never conducted a District Meeting in Spanish before, and two because I was supposed to instruct on making plans, something that I personally struggle with because it's been hard for me to know exactly how to plan effectively.

We as a mission no longer use chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel, instead we have a document called How Do I Fulfill My Purpose? It really simplifies the planning process, basically there are five steps:

Pray for inspiration of the Holy Ghost
Review progress
Set goals
Make plans
Pray again for confirmation of the Holy Ghost
So my job was to teach about step number four. When Elder Robbins visited, he said something pretty profound:

Imagine that you are stranded out in the middle of the ocean, in a small rowboat with two paddles.
All you can see on the horizon is water in every direction. How much motivation are you going to have to paddle? Maybe a little for a time, until hour after hour, all you can see is still water in every direction. You give up, believing that it is a hopeless cause and pointless to even try, as you may very well be paddling yourself further out to sea. Now imagine that you can see an island in the distance: how much motivation do you have to paddle now? You will paddle relentlessly until you reach that island, because you now have a reason why to paddle.

Elder Robbins said that this represents our vision, we have to have a why, we have to have an island that we can see, something that we can work towards. The goal is the what. The plan is the how. And the vision is the why. Then he taught about Heavenly Father's vision, goal, and plan.

His goal is outlined in a scripture with which most of y'all are familiar: Moses 1:39 "For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." What is His plan as to how to accomplish this goal? The Plan of Salvation. What is his vision? His perfect love for us.

What? The eternal life of man. How? Through the Great Plan of Happiness. Why? Because he loves us.

So I based my instruction off of this principle, of how plans are a means, or specific actions we will take to accomplish our goal. I said that Christ-like Charity should always be our vision. My instruction turned out alright I think. I'm nervous for tomorrow because the Zone Leaders sent out the material I'm supposed to instruct on Saturday night, so I haven't had any time to prepare so far. I really dislike having to throw District Meeting together the morning of, but it seems that's what always ends up happening. It's all good, my procrastination skills I learned from high school have prepared me to be able throw something decent together last minute and still have it turn out alright.

So this week I got another flat tire on my bike. It made me reflect on how when I was serving with Elder Merrill, I popped three brand new tubes while trying to change the tube. I then remembered that Dad had written three pages of notes with tips on tuning up the bike. Until over a year into the mission, I had never bothered to read any of it. It turned out that Dad wrote some very helpful advice about removed and putting on tubes that have saved me from wasting three brand new ones. I likened this experience to the scriptures. We have been given the greatest instruction manual of all time, written specifically for our day and the unique circumstances and struggles of the world in which we live. We have been so blessed that this instruction manual is literally at our finger tips, and the best teachers are constantly explaining what it says and how it applies to our lives. We have the agency to ignore it and face the consequences of ignorance, or we can be blessed with a flood of newfound understanding and purpose.

In his new Christmas "jammies"
So since I've been out, I've learned a lot about self control. There is a common frase of "losing" one's temper. Elder Robbins said it best: "A cunning part of his [Satan’s] strategy is to dissociate anger from agency, making us believe that we are victims of an emotion that we cannot control. We hear, ‘I lost my temper.’ Losing one’s temper is an interesting choice of words that has become a widely used idiom. To ‘lose something’ implies ‘not meaning to,’ ‘accidental,’ ‘involuntary,’ ‘not responsible’--careless perhaps but ‘not responsible.’

“‘He made me mad.’ This is another phrase we hear, also implying lack of control or agency. This is a myth that must be debunked. No one makes us mad. Others don’t make us angry. There is no force involved. Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose!" This is absolutely true. There have been a few times with Elder Diaz where he might do something that might be considered obnoxious, and I find myself almost automatically reacting with anger. As I do so, I find myself asking "why am I allowing myself to get angry right now?" I think it's just second nature to get upset at every little thing that we don't understand why people do them. If we take the time to try and understand where people are coming from, and understand that our circumstances do not determine our reactions, nothing can upset us.

Anyways I learned at midnight this morning that people in Memphis celebrate the New Year by firing shots into the air. This city is crazy haha.

Anyways I'm out of time! Right now our investigator Jose Calderon is progressing nicely, he loves the Book of Mormon, so keep him in your prayers please! Other than that the rest of the people we are working with have started being difficult to contact, which is tough because I love them so much and want them to know the joy of the Gospel, but all should be according to their agency and the will of the Father.

I love all y'all, have a wonderful week!
Elder Jonathan Spencer Smalley
Arkansas Little Rock Mission

Email setenta y uno: ¡Feliz Navidad!

December 25, 2017
Merry Christmas y'all!
I can't believe Christmas is already here again. This last year sure has gone by so fast, and that's such a typical missionary thing to say, but it's true.

This email won't be long, but I wanted to take the time to share a few things with y'all.
For the first time in my life, I thought profoundly about why we celebrate Christmas. A few denominations down here choose not to celebrate it, due to the proof that Christ wasn't born on the 25th of December, and the tradition of a Christmas tree comes from pagan worship of wood spirits.
So why do we celebrate Christmas? People make the argument that we should always remember God's perfect gift of His perfect son, which is a very good point.

I offer this as my personal opinion, not as doctrine by any means. Most of the United States, and a large portion of the world celebrates Christmas today. This winter holiday slowly evolved from a pagan tradition into a Christian custom to commemorate the birth of Christ. In the last century however, Christmas is once again deteriorating into a holiday that has almost nothing to do with Christ to the majority of the world. I believe the restored Church celebrates Christmas in order to help the world remember the way Christmas should be: about Christ. It tries to help the world think in it's Savior instead of the worldly, materialistic, and and selfish characteristics that are now associated with Christmas. The world uses Christmas as an excuse to focus on what we as individuals want, whereas Christmas really should point us to the most precious gift of all, our Savior Jesus Christ.
I testify that Jesus Christ is the most precious gift of all. We can partake of this gift by living what he taught. I have seen this in my own life. For this reason, we must come to know what His teachings are. This is why the Book of Mormon tells us to feast upon the words of Christ (2 Nephi 31:20).

I testify that this is the truth. I love my mission, I'm so grateful to be here, and for the time I have left to serve the Lord full time. I'm so grateful for my family and that I was able to Skype them today. And most of all I'm grateful for my Savior, and for his Gospel, and my life has been blessed from coming to know Him and His teachings. To know Him truly is to know all that is good!

Merry Christmas y'all!

Email setenta: The Pure Love of Christ

December 18, 2017
Hey y'all! As promised here is my email bright and early.

I don't think I ever went into to detail on this, but on December 1st a couple weeks ago, Elder Lynn G. Robbins from the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy visited our mission. In preparation for his visit, President invited each missionary to read his talk titled Be 100 Percent Responsible, given at a BYU devotional. Wow. Honestly one of the the most impactful and insightful talks I have ever read. And one of the most applicable to myself. I absolutely recommend it to anyone, especially to Dad because I know that of all the people who I invite, he'll be the one to actually read it, and will actually email me with his thoughts about it, which I'm very much looking forward to. I would love the rest of the family to read, not that I'm saying y'all need to be more responsable or anything, I would just love to hear y'alls input on it as well.

It's a fascinating talk that delves on the doctrines of agency and accountability, and mercy and justice, and the role the Atonement plays in all four. It talks about how Satan tries to divide agency from accountability, meaning to make us believe we are free to choose but do no not have to be accountable for our choices, and he also tries to divide mercy from justice, meaning that that mercy can "rob justice".

Anyways while Elder Robbins was with us, he instructed on the doctrine of high love and high expectation. Perfect love, godlike charity, is having high love and high expectations for others. If we have high love but low expectations, then we have a buddy mentality, a sorority type of relationship, where nothing of any importance is accomplished. When we have low love and low expectations, we are basically like King Noah, and we used coercion and manipulation to get what we want from others. When we have low love and high expectations, we used anger and try to force our will on others, which only separates us from others and creates feelings of resentment. He compared this to parenthood, and shared how usually when a child rebels, the parents reaction is to get angry and yell, which only pushes the child further away from them. Having high love and high expectations puts us in the category of the Savior. He loved us enough to suffer and die for us, yet He commands us to be even as He is.

During personal study this week I loved another profound lesson about charity. In 1 Nephi chapter 15, directly after having seen an incredible vision, in which he saw the coming of Christ down to our day, Nephi finds his brothers arguing of over the teachings of Lehi:

"2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.

3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.

4 And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.

5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall."

I thought it was incredible that at this point, Nephi still cared enough about his brothers to feel sincere sorrow for their wickedness, and not judge them, shun them, and gossip about them behind their back like the majority of us do to Laman and Lemuel like people.

When we truly love someone, it hurts. Having true charity can be painful, because it puts us in a vulnerable situation. When we care for someone sincerely, it breaks our heart when they make wrong choices. It puts our heart on the line so to speak. For this reason, loving others is choosing the hard way, while selfishness and indifference are the path of least resistance. Choosing love is the road less traveled, as in our world today it's far more popular to be vain and selfish and carnal. The world views true charity as a weakness, as something that slows us down from fulfilling our own desires. In reality, it is selfishness that prevents us from being truly happy. With this worldly attitude, we will never be content with what we have, we will measure our value by comparing ourselves to others, and we will be miserable.

Nephi truly loved his brothers. Despite the nearly constant murmuring, and the fact that they had tried multiple times to physically harm him, and had even threatened to take his life, Nephi genuinely cared for Laman and Lemuel's immediate and eternal welfare. It says that he was overcome because of the pain their wickedness caused him. Despite his pain, the rest of chapter 15, he works to resolve their concerns, until in chapter 16, Laman and Lemuel humble themselves and repent.

The point I'm trying to make is that, like all things associated with being a disciple of Christ, having love like Christ is not easy, it is much harder than simply living for yourself in many ways. It requieres patience, discipline, and selflessness, all opposites to the natural man. We are to put "off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord." Be the Fourth Missionary says that "Every  challenge you face, every  hard thing  you confront, every  bad thing that happens to  you, every  unfairness, every  conflict, every sadness, tragedy,  every  disappointment and heartache, every temptation and every opposition happens  for one purpose only:  to  give  you  opportunity  to  respond  by applying in  your life the teachings of Jesus. As you do so  you are changed to  become  more like Him." Every single thing that happens to us in an opportunity to put off the natural man and choose to be like the Savior

 The world follows what seems to be the path of resistance. In reality, the path of discipleship is far more easy in the long run, considering the blessings of eternal value and importance that we receive from choosing the initially harder path.

Now, for those of you who read all that, I am impressed. It might be more interesting to tell you stories from my week, but to me, nothing is more precious than sharing the incredible truths we can learn from the scriptures.

As far as the week, the area, and how the mission is going, everything is going very well. A lot of people cancelled appointments this week, but we were able to find a couple really cool people. One is a man named José Calderón. We met him from English class, and he loved the Book of Mormon. He just talks a lot. And has a ton of questions. But it's okay.

An appointment fell through with our investigators M&C, so we knocked there neighbor's door. This white guy, with black hair and earrings, who looked kind of emo, opens door. I asked him if he knows any Hispanics in the area, and in perfect English says: "Yeah, I'm actually Hispanic." Then he starts speaking in Spanish and tells us he's from Guatemala. He let us in, and we started teaching him about the Book of Mormon. The funny thing is the night before, I told Elder Díaz about Quetzalcóatl. Quetzalcóatl is a God that is worshiped among the natives of Central America. This God resembled a white man who opposed human sacrifice, was associated with death and resurrection, was born of a virgin mother, and promised to return. Well, who does that sound like?

Elder Díaz had always grown up in Guatemala hearing about Quetzalcóatl, but never really knew what it meant. I told him that LDS scholars believe that Quetzalcóatl is a result of Jesus Christ's visit to the Americas. After hundreds of years, native traditions adapted the story of that visit into the story of Quetzalcóatl. So during the lesson, with this guy, E, Elder Díaz says: "Have you heard of Quetzalcóatl?" E said yes, because pretty much everyone in south Mexico and Guatemala have heard of this ancient myth. Then Elder Díaz says: "A lot of people don't know who is or where he comes from. Quetzalcóatl is actually Jesus Christ, because Jesus came and visited the people in the American continent after His resurrection. The Book of Mormon tells of when Christ came and visited the ancient inhabitants of America." It was pretty funny, I never though that Elder Díaz would whip that out in a lesson. E was pretty fascinated by it though, so who knows, maybe it was inspired, even if it's not 100% doctrinal.

Anyways, things here on the mission are going really well. So grateful to be here. I know Christ is our Savior, and He did in fact visit the Americas. That much I know. I know that he is the source of peace, healing, and eternal life. I love this time of year to remember His glorious entry into mortality. Family, I can't wait to talk to y'all a week from today!

I love y'all, have a wonderful week!

Email sesenta y nueve, pienso...

December 11, 2017
Hey folks! Once again I have been very irresponsible with my time and am writing my email way too late. Next week my goal is to have it all typed and send it right at 8. We'll see how hat goes.

 I don't know if I mentioned it or not, but Elder Toomer is my new Zone Leader! He replaced Elder Murdoch. Boy has it been fun being around him again! I've missed that guy. He's such a good missionary and he taught me so much when we served together.

 We actually went on an exchange this week and I went with Elder Garn and Elder Díaz went with Elder Toomer. Elder Toomer showed him the ropes and they talked to a ton of people! Elder Garn and I went and knocked doors in a neighborhood were they had never gone to before, and it was all white people, which is not common in this part of Memphis! It was kind of weird to be honest, but also we had lots of fun. We talked to this one guy who was working on a house, and he was the kindest man I've ever met. He was interested but said he's never at home.

 We spent a lot of the week working to set up a Nativity festival at the church. Basically it was like a nativity set show, with all different kinds of nativities all over the place. Some of you might have seen pictures on Facebook.

 Don't have much time, but I'd like to share something I learned from studying first Nephi chapter 11 that really built my testimony of Jesus Christ: In verse 31 it says:

 "And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out."

Of all the stories of the New Testament, all the diseases that Christ healed, all the devils cast out, all the mighty miracles worked, are we supposed to believe that all that is meant to teach us that if we follow Christ we will be able to do the same? That is such mighty miracles do not happen in our day, it is because we are not good enough Priesthood holders, or our faith is not strong enough?

Each and every one of those miracles was recorded and preserved throughout history to emphatically testify that there is not a single thing in this world that cannot be overcome by Jesus Christ. If he can raise a man from the dead, he can awaken our spiritual deadness. If he can restore a man's sight, he can take away our spiritual blindness. If he can cast out devils, he can cast out our demons of the past. Only He can do this. There is none other means by which man should look for their Salvation and spiritual healing. If a miracle is worked through a man by the power of the Priesthood, it is because that is His power. He is the great healer.

I testify that there is absolutely nothing in this world that Christ cannot overcome. He "descended below them all" and therefore has risen above all.

 I love all y'all! Have a wonderful week! Sorry no pictures this week!
 Elder Jonathan Spencer Smalley Arkansas Little Rock Mission

Email sesenta y ocho: Homeless for a weekend

December 4, 2017
So you would think that after 60 P-days in the mission field, I would know how to better manage my time on Preparation Day, but no. Here I am, again, writing my email home at 5:30. Sorry guys. I will repent. We learned a lot about responsibility this week, so I need to start living that principle a little better.

This weeks headliner is true: we were indeed homeless this weekend, or shall I say, we were locked out of our apartment for the weekend, but thankfully we have some loving Zone Leaders who took us in. I'll explain that further on.

First: we had a baptism this week. It was actually a huge tender mercy because at the the beginning of
the transfer I prayed that Elder Diaz and I would be able to baptize his first transfer. If someone doesn't attend church twice, they can't be baptized. As we entered week five of the transfer, I was feeling a little down that we hadn't baptized, and that it appeared that we weren't going to baptize this transfer. How ever, a week ago, a member in the Branch, Hermano Gámez, gave us a call and said that his daughters baptismal record had been lost and that she needed to be baptized again. After verifying that her record really was lost, we began teaching her, starting Monday night. I called President Hansen, and asked if she could be baptized this Saturday, and he was all for. Since she already comes to church, she didn't have to come two more times to be baptized. So we taught her all five lessons Monday through Friday, and had her baptismal interview, all in time for Saturday.

Almost everything went smoothly with the baptism. Elder Díaz had to baptize her seven times because I hadn't filled the font super deep, and he couldn't quite get her all the way under, but hey, as they say, seventh time's the charm.

Also, somewhere in all the mayhem during the baptism, I lost my keys. Yup, they were gonzo. I searched that church building up and down, still have no idea where those keys ran off to. So I spent the last 60 hours wearing the same socks and garments, (don't worry, you better believe I took a 30 minute shower when we finally got to our comlex's housing office today and got a spare key). And wore the same suit, white shirt, and tie for 4 days straight. Good times.

We slept with the Zone Leaders Saturday and Sunday night. Saturday night I took the couch, and Elder Díaz slept between two padded chairs. I felt bad because I knew he didn't sleep well, so I swapped him places Sunday night. Except my enormous body was not going to fit comfortably in those two chairs. So I slept on the hardwood floor. Tender mercy: I've learned how to sleep anywhere on the mission. Insight on the Book of Mormon: so I've read the story of Nephi and his brothers who knows how many times. But what blows me away as I'm reading 1 Nephi right now, is how much I see Laman and Lemuel in myself. I think we grow up in the church believing that Laman and Lemuel were "the most vilest of sinners". But really the more I study them, I think they were just ordinary guys who gave into the natural man. It's scary to think about. But that's we must "pray always, lest (we) enter into temptation."

The Church is 100% true. Love y'all. Have a wonderful week!

Email sesenta y siete

November 27, 2017
I may have been more excited for Pday than I ever been before, and that's saying a lot. Last Monday we didn't really get a Pday, because pretty much the whole day was spent either driving back from Jacksonville, or emailing. The one thing I wanted to do was take a nice nap, because Elder Diaz and I were exhausted last week from biking so much. Well I never got my Pday nap, so this whole week I was pretty grouchy. It's all good though, because you better believe I took a nice 3 hour nap this morning. Glorious. A lot of missionaries say that sleeping just wastes precious Pday time, I on the contrary, say that anything else is a waste of time. It's called preparation day for a reason. Nothing can prepare me for the week better than some extra rest. Case closed.

The one thing that kept me going this week though, was personal

On Wednesday we had a lesson with A at the church again, and he had read! I was really pumped that he kept that commitment, because like I said last week, the Book of Mormon is the great seive. Those who read it truly want to know the truth. So I was really glad that A had taken the time to read it. He read the introduction and the testimony of the three witnesses, so we read the testimony of the eight witnesses with him and also chapter 1 of 1 Nephi. It went well, we were able to clarify some understanding of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. He doesn't want to come to church yet, he says he wants to learn more about the Book of Mormon before he comes to church. We told him that church is a place where we all learn, but he said he just wants to read it first and make sure that this is something he wants to pursue. He said he doesn't feel comfortable coming to church quite yet. We will have to introduce him to some members, hopefully that will help him warm up to the idea of attending church.

Thanksgiving was a wonderful day. President Hansen invited us to bake cookies for investigators and members, and deliver them to them and to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. So we did that. Hermano Tirado gave us a ride, so we went to R's house to drop off some cookies first. I never fully explained what happened to R. So his watch broke, and he couldn't figure out how to get his printer worker. Elder Merrill was really good at fixing things, so he would work on his watch and printer when we would go over. While Elder Merrill would do that, R would usually cook food for us. I would usually just sit there twiddling my thumbs (doesn't that saying make me sound like dad lol). Anyways one day R noticed I was tired, so he told me to lay down and get some rest, so I did. I slept at an investigators house. I really was super tired and didn't know what else to do. Pretty soon this would happen anytime Elder Merrill would fix R's stuff. Over time, I guess R's mode of thinking was: "this missionary who always fixes my things is awesome, the other one is super lazy, he just sleeps every time, and then eats my food." Unintentionally, I guess I acted super inconsiderate for all he was doing for me. So much that he got super offended. He doesn't have a problem with the church, he just doesn't want me to come back to visit him again. The emergency room also charged him $1,200 for the night we took him there for his kidney stone, so he blames me for taking him there. All in all, it was a huge misunderstanding. I feel bad, I definitely could've handled things differently. He would probably be baptized now if I would have. However, that wasn't the Lord's plan, this was definitely a learning experience for sure. I told Elder Diaz he has to go visit him when I get transferred.

Anyways, R never answered the door. So we left the cookies and a gallon of juice on the door step, with a note that said "God bless, love the missionaries." Then we went and visited some less actives.

Anyways Thanksgiving was fun. We went with Elder Sotomarino and Elder Short to have dinner at the Dunn's house. Brother Dunn's wife is actually from Tijuana! So I had fun telling her about Joel and his mission. Brother Dunn met her while her was on base in the Navy in San Diego. They are a really cool family. Their son, K, is less active and our age, so we hung out with him and watched some football. He is seriously hilarious, we had a good time. The food was great, I ate wayyyy too much. The embarrassing thing was I wore a pair of dress pants that I had forgotten I had ripped from falling off my bike. (I was just riding along and the seat snapped off, that made me feel fat). Anyways K saw the tear so he started teasing me a little, and then everyone else started joining in. Elder Sotomarino told me I was sinning because the garments were showing haha. It wasn't even that bad though I swear, just a hole the size of my thumb on the right cheek. Memories.

Anyways I gotta go. I want to leave y'all with my testimony that I know Jesus Christ is our Savior. I'm amazed with His beautiful teachings from the New Testament, and the testimonies of Him in the Book of Mormon. Personal study truly has become sacred time for me to read the word of God. I'm absolutely in love with the scriptures. I love my Savior. I love this Gospel. I love all y'all! Have a wonderful week!

Here's a pic of the District

Email sesenta y seis

November 20, 2017
The first noteworthy thing that happened this week was Zone Conference. President instructed on studying using technology. He had invited me personally a few weeks ago to study the scriptures exclusively using my iPad. At first I was reluctant to do it because I was almost finished reading the Book of Mormon in my paper scriptures, but as a couple days went by I became more and more frustrated at how difficult it was to focus and have a good study. So I decided to make the switch and it has made a world of a difference. All the footnotes can be read with just a touch, and marking and writing notes is so much easier. I've noticed that as I read, certain phrases from some scripture or talk that I've read before will come into my mind, and I can't remember the reference. So I just search the
key words and boom; it pops up. You can link scriptures to others scriptures just like that. Personal study really is something I look forward to now. I'm super fortunate to be in a mission that uses the technology that we when so many missionaries are still walking everywhere, reading paper scriptures they brought from home, writing their plans down in a paper planner, and their area book is an enormous binder instead of an application. I really am blessed to be serving in an area of the world where this technology is authorized for missionaries to use. It really does further the work. Some of you may remember my earlier emails from when I first arrived in the field where I complained about having to plan on an iPad. Thankfully, I've been able to learn how much of a blessing this technology is.

Zone Conference was really fun, we spent a whole hour being chastised for not eating well enough. All in all in was very spiritual. We really focused on the Book of Mormon. Did you know that a nickname for the Book of Mormon is THE GREAT SEIVE? (Pronounced siv). Why? What even is a seive? A seive is basically a strainer that is used to clean water, especially for agricultural purposes. A seive cleans out all the dirt and contaminants and leaves behind clean water, so it's like a filter. The Book of Mormon is a seive because we can use it to find the elect. We teach and come in contact with a lot of people on the mission. Unfortunately, not all the people that are willing to meet with us are actually willing to accept the Gospel, in fact the majority aren't. But those who are pure and sincere in heart, and elect of God, will read the Book of Mormon and apply its teachings to their lives. Just like that, we can use the Book of Mormon to filter out those who aren't truly interested, and find those that are honestly seeking the truth. For that reason, the Book of Mormon needs to be the focus of EVERYTHING we do. What a powerful tool God has given us! So many people have relentlessly attack a book that has simple and beautiful teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ, because they understand the importance of
the validity of the Book of Mormon. We discussed Elder Tad R Callister's talk from this last General Conference, God's Compelling Witness: The Book of Mormon. "While someone might choose to believe the critics’ line of reasoning, it is, for me, an intellectual and spiritual dead end. To believe such, I would have to accept one unproven assumption after another. In addition, I would have to disregard the testimony of every one of the 11 witnesses, even though each remained true to his testimony to the very end; I would have to reject the divine doctrine that fills page after page of this sacred book with its supernal truths; I would have to ignore the fact that multitudes, including myself, have come closer to God by reading this book than any other; and above all, I would have to deny the confirming whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This would be contrary to everything I know to be true." Despite all the false accusations, this book stands as a witness that all that this church stands for is of God, because it is.

On Friday we had weekly planning, then right after we had another exchange with the Spanish East Elders, I went with Elder Sotomarino to his area. I got to drive for the first time in 3 months. We went to go visit a family in Walnut Grove, but they told us to come back in 2 hours, so we we spent the next hour and a half knocking doors. It was kinda rough, not a lot of people answered their doors, and we didn't find any Hispanics. Knocking doors isn't really something I like to do, for me it doesn't seem effective, I prefer to talk to people outside, but since winter is well on it's way, not a whole lot of people are outside. I decided to keep a good attitude about it, on the drive over we had listened to Missions are Forever by Elder Holland, an address he gave in the MTC years ago. That is probably the most inspirational talk on missionary work I have ever heard. Elder Holland's words kept me going that night. Then we came back and visited with the
D family. They are from Lima, Peru, so it's pretty cool that Elder Sotomarino is able to teach people from his own country. We taught them the Restoration, and it was an amazing, very long lesson. The husband had always questioned why there are so many different religious beliefs, and why some churches don't seem to live what they preach. We were able to teach him about the first vision and organization of the church, and he was fascinated by it. Hopefully Elder Sotomarino will be able to continue having success.

During weekly planning we had set a goal to find one family and make them new investigators. We were able to find two families this last weekend. Elder Díaz and Elder Short contacted a family that Elder Merrill and I had talked to a while ago, and they taught them a lesson. They said we can come over anytime and they really want to know more about the Book of Mormon. Then on Saturday we taught S, and his wife R. S is from Guatemala, but lived in Salt Lake City for a time. Since all his friends there where Mormon, he started attending Sacrament meeting. He started to be interested in the church, but moved to Atlanta and lost contact with the church. He really wants to come this next Sunday, and we are super excited for him!

Yesterday Elder Díaz and I rode down to Jacksonville, Arkansas, so that Elder Díaz could take part in the last musical tribute of the years. It was really fun, and guess who I saw? None other than the one and only Freddie Green! I was so happy to see him!

I am so grateful for this time to serve. I know the Book of Mormon is God's gift to us so that we can know the truth. I love y'all, have a wonderful week!