I'm doing pretty good. The weather has been great here. It was 71 degrees yesterday with blue skies. I have really lucked out on my mission. I served during the two mildest winters that Pennsylvania has had in the last 10 years. Then again, we're only half way through January, so I'll have to wait and see if it will get icy and cold. I feel bad for Harrison and Jenni not having any heat. I think their heat got redirected to the Dormont Elders' apartment. Their building is so hot all the time! It was 80 degrees in there the other day. They have 4 fans and all of their windows open. It is terrible.
Michelle hasn't gotten baptized yet. We hadn't been able to go see her for about 2 weeks until yesterday. Everything got crazy with the holidays.
What're some of the tweets that Harrison has put on the air? Please thank him for sending me that package. I really liked the pictures he sent. It looks like he and Jenni are happy and doing well! I'm so proud of them. =) Has attendance at the musical been good? Do you think Jonny will ever do one?
Alrighty, so here is how my week went:
Monday feels like a million years ago. I can't even believe that it was just last week. We emailed in the morning and did our usual thing, but then we had to go to the office and hook up the trailer and get the van ready and stuff. We picked up the new missionaries at 4:30 PM. Only 9 came in this time but we have 23 coming in February (we have to open 11 new areas.) It was weird picking up a sister missionary that was younger than me, but I think the weirdest thing was having 18 year old elders. I'm becoming an old missionary. I drove the van without any difficulty, though this guy was riding my tail and we had to stop at a light on a really steep hill. When I let off the break I had to floor it to keep the van from rolling backwards and smashing into his car. He quit riding me after that. We took the missionaries to the West End Overlook to see Pittsburgh. The lights were all on in the city and it was beautiful. Then we went back to president's home for dinner. After that Elder Bartlett and I had to do this monster of a report for the end of the year. We had to submit it to the Mission Presidency, the Area Authority, and all of the Stake Presidents in our mission. We were SUPER tired by the end of the night, and we still had to host 3 missionaries in our apartment and prepare our training for the next day. Elder Harrison, Elder Low, and Elder Alsop stayed with us. They're all good missionaries.
Monday night I had an incredible dream that has carried me through this week. I was at church in the Greentree Chapel, sitting with Nick and Jess and other ward members. Sacrament meeting was about to start, when suddenly a hush fell over the congregation. Everyone turned around and looked at the door to the chapel. That's when Resurrected Gordon B. Hinckley walked in! He was wearing a temple suit - all white - and he walked over and sat down. Sacrament meeting went on as usual, but afterwards he came to our Gospel Principles Class. This one guy had decided to come to church, not because he was interested in hearing the gospel but because he wanted to poke holes in it. He went head to head with Resurrected Gordon B. Hinckley. This guy would ask seemingly impossible questions, but every time Resurrected Gordon B. Hinckley would have a perfect answer and would confound him. In the end the guy got desparate, and he blurted out, "Okay, so maybe we are supposed to have blind faith in God. But what if he tells you to do something stupid that you know you shouldn't do, like throw yourself into a pit of spikes and die?" Gordon B. Hinckley got a solemn look on his face. He did that thing that Gandalf does in Fellowship of the Ring where he suddenly looks like he's getting taller and more powerful (the part where Frodo offers him the ring). It was epic. He looked that guy straight in the eye and said:
"Faith in God is never blind. You take the spikes, and don't complain. God hates complaints."
The guy looked scared and got up and left. Then I woke up. It was epic! Tuesday was absolutely nuts. Elder Bartlett had never been in charge of a transfer meeting before, so it was all on me. There were times when I almost got overwhelmed, but every time I'd start feeling that way, I'd hear the words of Resurrected Gordon B. Hinckley: "You take the spikes, and don't complain. God hates complaints." So I took my spikes without complaint, and the transfer meeting turned out fine. This group of new missionaries that arrived are stellar. They are well prepared. Usually you have one or two elders in the group that are shy or homesick or what have you, but there weren't any weak missionaries this time. They are all going to fulfill leadership roles in the future. I was really impressed.
We had to say goodbye to Elder Jones this week. He got transferred from Dormont to Chambersburg. Elder Nelson, who used to be the Pittsburgh Zone Leader, took his place. I messed up on some logistics, and the Huntingdon car had too many people with too much luggage in it. But I used my Tetris Skills and got it to work. They were packed like sardines in there. But they made it home safe. After that we took the Dormont Elders home, dropped off the trailer, and wrapped everything up. Then we picked up the Dormont Elders again for our dinner appointment at the Hoskins. It was delicious. They made chicken pot pie. I love the Hoskins. They are fantastic people. Elder Bartlett and I had to leave a bit early though because we had an appointment with Tori and TJ on the other side of our area. We went and read 1st Nephi 11 with them. TJ is so smart! He really picks up on symbolism and can explain things really well. Their great dane, Duke, is as tall as me when I'm sitting in a chair. Half way through the lesson he came and put his head on my shoulder and slobberred all down the arm of my suit jacket, so I've gotta take that to the cleaner's today.
We had correlation meeting with Brother Hemmert that night. He made fun of Elder Rivas because Elder Rivas has a hard time saying his y's. He says them as j's sometimes. Elder Rivas was talking about York, Pennsylvania, but instead he said "Jork." Brother Hemmert said, "So did you take the Jello bus to Jork?" Elder Rivas slapped his forehead and said, "Yellow! I can say dat one." We all laughed. It was classic.
Wednesday morning we met with president and planned out the transfer and all of the exchanges we will be going on. Luckily this time he wants us to go to other people's areas, so it's not going to kill us like it did last time. 3 exchanges in your area in one week is never a good ide. We went and visited Nick after that. He's doing so well with his new calling. He is happier over all. It has given him a lot of confidence. He showed us this space simulation program that he had on his computer and then we had a lesson about how God communicates with us through the Holy Ghost. We explained the Light of Christ, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Power of the Holy Ghost - what the differences are, what each of them do, etc. He said, "Oh, okay! I was wondering about that just last night, because no one has ever really been able to explain it to me. So I'm really glad our lesson was on this today. I need to get baptized so I can get the gift of the holy ghost." It was pretty cool.
We met with Jamal after that. We read 1st Nephi 8 with him. He's so awesome. Elder Bartlett asked, "So, Jamal, what do you think the fruit of the tree represents?" He said, "Well, obviously it's the Love of God. What else would make you feel so happy? Plus, the bible says Christ was hung on a tree, or on a cross. And God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to do that. So the tree is the love of God and the gift of Christ because of his sacrifice." My mind exploded. He taught me. haha! It was so awesome. He also took the time to explain to us that "Jesus wasn't the Christ. The Christ was Jesus." Or in other words, Jesus was chosen before he was born to fulfill the role he had to play on earth as Jesus, when in reality, he was Jehova, the creator of the heavens and the earth. Jamal is a deep thinker! And he's been living the word of wisdom! He said, "It took me gettin dummied down before I could understan fo real" (it took him not getting high before he could really understand the scriptures haha). He comprehends so much more now and retains the information. It was a good lesson.
We followed up with some people that afternoon. Nothing particularly eventful. I'm getting really worn out and tired... I fell asleep during our dinner break at our apartment. Every day gets harder and harder to keep going. But somehow i'm doing it! I'm taking my spikes without complaint. =D Book of Mormon class was really good that night. William came. Elders Jones and Rivas baptized him a few months ago. Then he moved to the 6th ward. He's doing so well. He has the priesthood now and is driving all the 6th ward youth to their temple trip in March. He also got called to be a ward missionary! So exciting. Elders Nelson and Coleman taught a good lesson. We finally finished alma!
Thursday morning we had Zone Training. Coleman and Parker, our Zone Leaders, trained on the role of the Book of Mormon as a fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy regarding the gathering of Israel. It was really cool. We practiced teaching after that, and I was paired up with Elder Wright, one of the brand new missionaries. I lead off in teaching, and then I kicked it over to him and he picked it up and ran with it. He did so well! I'm really impressed with him. He is being trained by Elder Bowles (one of the first Elders I picked up from the airport) in Uniontown. Elder Wright is almost 7 feet tall. He's the tallest Elder in the mission.
After Zone Training we had lunch at Boston Market with some other elders. Then we went and helped Sue paint her duplex. She's getting ready to rent it out. We put the second coat of paint on all the rooms downstairs and then started the upstairs. It's coming together nicely. The Eves fed us dinner after that and we taught them about the 6 principles of Rescuing from Luke 15. Sister Eve made us pork enchilladas with Cafe Rio sauce. SO GOOD.
Justin had us over after that. We read Alma 58 with him. He hated the war chapters before, because he thought they were too boring and had no spiritual insights. But we felt impressed the night before that we had to read that chapter. We broke it down for him metaphorically and applied the chapter to our war with sin. We also compared Helaman's faith, his patience in affliction, and his importuning Zarahemla for help to his situation. He has been struggling quite a bit, but he always seems to get just what he needs to get him by, though sometimes he's frustrated with wondering why he doesn't receive more help. Justin said, "Whoa. I never thought I'd ever get anything out of a war chapter, but this is awesome." His favorite scripture was Alma 58:37. Referring to his trials and difficulties, Helaman delares, "But, behold, it mattereth not - we trust God will deliver us, notwithstanding the weakness of our armies, yea, and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies." Justin loved that. He said, "I like it because even though I have weaknesses, it doesn't matter. God's in control. Everything will work out if I keep trying." The Spirit was strong as we taught. I have had several experiences this week where it came to us what we needed to teach specifically, and it was just what needed for those we were visiting.
Friday we had weekly planning. Then we did some area book work because our area book has been sorely neglected for the past 6 months. We've been keeping accurate records, but man, it needed to be organized. We were able to work on it for 2 hours. Then we went and visited Brother Trout. He has been doing SO well since he came to church last week! He wasn't depressed for the first time since we've started teaching him! We shared a short thought with him, but halfway through he said, "Elders, I feel like I need to share something with you." He took us into a back room and he showed us Ronald Reagan's Beirut Bombing Speech. It had special significance to him because he was serving in the military at the time it was given. It was an incredible speech. He said, "Elders, that's what you do for me and for all those that you reach out to. Sometimes people will heckle you, but when they do just remember, there's thousands and millions of people clapping, cheering, and praying for you. We love you." He taught us a few more things. It was the first time I had heard him speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. He used to go out with the missionaries teaching all the time before his accident, and suddenly I knew why. He counseled us at the end of our meeting to stay optimistic. He said, "Always remember. You can walk through the gate or get drug through the gate, but God knows you're going through the gate. Keep your chin up, and go get 'em." It's funny, looking back with hindsight, because I needed that for what was coming the rest of the week. I love that the Gospel is of such a nature that it allows you to eventually be edified and blessed by those that you've edified and blessed.
The Kraft family had us over for dinner. Brother and Sister Kraft had to go a high priest group dinner, so we just ate with their kids who are all around our age. It was really fun. Their son came out with us after that to meet with Nick and Jess. We watched "On the Lord's Errand" with them and helped Jess prep her lesson for primary. Nick loved the documentary. He was really engaged - probably the most interested I've seen him in anything. He's blossoming. I'm so proud of him!
Saturday morning was really good. We talked to a really nice guy named Roger. He wasn't interested in meeting with us but we had a very nice conversation about the gospel. He referred us to his neighbor who was out of work and struggling with health problems. We went and visited his neighbor and he was really nice as well. Because of his circumstances, he didn't want to meet but we gave him our phone number and told him to call if he needed anything. He said, "Man, you guys are awesome. You met with my brother out in Ohio and really changed his life. I just want to thank you for that." It was cool. Then we went and visited another lady named Sue. She's the one I met with Elder Barker a few weeks ago. She came out and talked with us for an hour. We didn't have a lesson, but we were able to talk to her about some basic beliefs and answer some of her questions. She was really interested to find out that we didn't drink coffee. She had given up coffee several years ago after she read some health studies on it and she said, "I didn't know anyone else lived that, let alone believed it to be a religious principle. It sounds like Joseph Smith was a forward thinker." She loves Glen Beck, and she was really surprised to hear that he wasn't born a Mormon but that he and his family joined the church. I happened to have a copy of an audio recording of his conversion story on me (I'll be honest, it was the first time I'd ever given anyone ANYTHING Glen Beck related) and I gave it to her. She said, "I'm going to listen to this. I'll call you guys up and have you over!" It was a great exchange.
Nick and Jess took us to olive garden after that. While we were waiting in line, a young mom was explaining to her son how the computerized buzzer/alarm thing worked (you know, that square thing they give you that starts vibrating once its your turn to be seated? They've got them at Big Al's). Anyway, once the buzzer went off, the kid started screaming in excitement and running around. "IT'S DOING IT! IT'S DOING IT! WHAT DO WE DO? IT'S DOING IT!!!" He couldn't have been older than 3. It was the cutest thing I've ever seen. We had a great lunch.
Justin asked that we visit him again after lunch. We had a lesson on Grace, Mercy, and the Atonement. We read extensively from "Believing Christ" by Stephen E. Robinson. Highly reccommended. Justin realized that he wasn't relying enough on grace - in fact he was misunderstanding it all together. He came away feeling a lot better about things. He said, "Man, have I ever told you my boat analogy?" We said no. He said, "It came to me when I was praying one night. I've determined that the church and the commandments are like a boat. I'll ride it for a while, but as soon as it gets a little choppy or windy, I get scared and then I jump right off the boat and into the ocean, which is NEVER a good idea. Then Jesus just folds his arms and shakes his head at me and lets me flounder a bit until I've learned my lesson. But he always helps me back in the boat. I gotta stop jumping out of the boat." It was super funny! But so true. I really liked the analogy. Justin's doing so much better. I'm proud of him.
The rest of the day was awful. Everyone was mean.
Sunday we had studies in the morning and then I exchanged with the Dormont Elders. Elders Bartlett and Rivas went to ward council while Elder Nelson and I went and taught Michelle. She'd been having problems similar to the ones Justin had been having. She felt inadequate. She didn't feel like she was able to keep all the commandments and do everything perfectly, and it had really been bothering her. We had planned a completely different lesson entirely, but the Spirit really worked through us and allowed us to understand and resolve her fears and concerns. We were also able to put things in context and help her see clearly. We don't have to be perfect in order to obtain forgiveness or grace. That's like needing to cure yourself before you can call the doctor. It doesn't make sense. You need to work closely with the Great Physician - he counsels you, works with you, heals you. It takes time to be cured of sin - in fact, it takes our whole lives. But choosing to do the things he perscribes aids the process. Elder Nelson said something truly inspired. He said, "The commandments are simple, and there are no commandments that are impossible to keep. God will always provide a way for us to do what he commands. If he made some commandments impossible to keep for one person and easy for another, God would be a respecter of persons. He would no longer be just, and he would cease to be a righteous God. But he is not a respecter of persons. He loves you, and you can do it." Michelle told him to write that down because it was brilliant. haha. It was a good lesson. She said, "Okay, Elders. I'll keep at it. Because I want to. I want to live the commandments. I love the Book of Mormon. I love meeting with you. I'll just need time and I'll need to go at my own speed. Just bear with me." We promised her we would. She is such a wonderful lady. So full of faith.
We had church after that. Justin came! And he got called to be a home teaching coordinator. He was set apart in Elder's Quorum. Sue also got called to something, but I don't know what. She hasn't told us haha. She an appointment with the bishop after church. Guille and Luis and Esthela were there as well. Nick, being the new Audio Visual Supervisor, was running around the church delivering TV's and stuff. He even has a key to the elevator. No one has keys to the elevator except him and the Bishopric! He let me ride in the elevator with him. It was my first time. Nick was feeling really good about himself. He got a lot of compliments. If this were 6 months ago he would have had a panic attack just being in the church without Jess. But now he's taking orders and giving orders and functioning independently. I wish I could paint the picture so that you could understand perfectly how much of a miracle that is. Jess is so proud of him. She's doing great as well! She had CTR buttons made for all of the primary kids and was teaching the plan of salvation. =) She did a great job. I love coming to church and seeing my friends growing in the gospel.
I ran into the Sumeys and the Bolens at church as well. The Bolens are from the Brookville ward and were just visiting. I walked up to them and said, "Hey, troublemakers!" They looked at me and then did a double take and both went, "OH MY GOSH! ELDER COLLIER! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!" It was so good to see them. They might be moving into the ward. The Sumeys were around after church was over for a stake missionary meeting. Brother and Sister Sumey got sealed last september! I'm so proud of them. Brother Sumey has been a member for 2 years now. He has done a wonderful job as branch mission leader in Uniontown. They had 8 baptisms last year. They also let me know some good news: Robin's grandson, Brody, who was 7 when I was teaching his siblings Brian and Kara, got baptized and confirmed this weekend! =) I was so happy!
Brother Crossley and Sister Crossley had us over for dinner after that. He was in the mission presidency here for 10 years. He worked with Bishop Hansen and Brother Siebach, guys I knew from my first area. Brother Crossley is a spiritual giant. He was baptized by his friend Neil in college when he was going to BYU. You might be familiar with his friend Neil. He's in the quorum of the twelve. Anyway, he asked us some pretty deep, searching questions about how we're going to stay active and engaged after our missions. It was a wonderful conversation. Very helpful.
After dinner people were really mean to us as we went out trying to find people to teach. I kind of threw in the towel and went back to the car and pouted. Okay, I didn't kind of do that. That's exactly what I did. haha. Elder Bartlett helped me out quite a bit. We had a good talk. I'm just getting tired. It's hard when you see the gospel working miracles for people like Nick and Jess and Brother Trout. When you see people's lives become so beautiful and vibrant. When you talk to guys like Brother Crossley and he fills your soul with hope. When you know that the gospel principles could solve everyone's problems, and yet they not only reject it, they turn and rend you. It got to me, and it really hurt. I'm grateful for Elder Bartlett. He's a good friend, and I'm glad he was there for me. The rest of the night went well.
Well, that brings us up to speed. We have to go buy garbage bags today because we are out.
My only suggestions for teaching the first vision are these:
- The greatest restored truth we have in the Church is a correct knowledge of the nature of the Godhead.
- Joseph Smith learned more about God the Father and Jesus Christ in 18 seconds than the whole world did through 1800 years of apostasy, voting, and rampant speculation.
- "It is the first principle of the gospel to know of a certainty of the character, attributes, and perfections of God." - Joseph Smith. Without this you cannot have life eternal, for "this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent." If you don't have any idea who you pray to, why you pray to them, what they are like, etc. it is impossible for you to obtain eternal life. A man is only saved as fast as he gains knowledge.
I would just teach the nature of the Godhead and focus on that. Read the Bible Dictionary about the nature of God, and study Lesson 1 in Preach My Gospel.