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A big letdown

Choose You This Day Whom Ye Will Serve (Joshua 24:15)

Hello all:

This week has been the worst week of the best two years of my life.

Our triple baptismal service is canceled. It amazes me how quickly Satan can find chinks in the armor of otherwise strong people. I suppose it's true that when people set a baptismal date, a giant spiritual target immediately appears on them. It's the last chance the adversary has to throw everything he's got at them to try and scare them away from the best thing that they could ever do in their entire lives.

We've seen it happen yet again this past week. With both of our prepared, confident, earnest, sincere investigators, "that old serpent" has chosen to use his most powerful tactic to try and throw them from the path-- he uses the family.

Families are intended to be centers of spiritual strength, growth, encouragement, and support where members are bolstered and uplifted, but in the hands of Lucifer, they can be obstacles to God's work-- stumbling blocks to progress. When someone is standing at the gate of heaven (baptism), Satan loves to use the family. Family opposition is more potent than ridicule from friends and coworkers, anti-Mormon literature, and all the other forces of hell combined. How sinister to pervert the use of God's most sacred institution to discourage, demean, ridicule, terrify, and even threaten a sibling or spouse who has chosen to covenant to follow Christ!

More ironic still, such attempts at dissuasion are usually preceded by heart-wrenching statements to the extent of "If you really loved us, you wouldn't do this," and terminated with a cold, sneering "So which is it: Mormons? Or me?"

There's no easy way to answer such concerns. The closest I've heard is when two elders told an investigator facing complete disowning by his family, "You can not get baptized, and tell your family that you love them for this life, or you can make this decision and in reality tell them that you love them for eternity."

Well did Christ say: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." (Matt 10:34-35)

We truly have seen that here in our area. But we all have agency, and though our judgment is often clouded and our vision obscure, we must choose what we will do with our lives. Only on a mission have I ever come close to tasting the sorrow of others' decisions-- the sorrow of parents watching a son or daughter go down a "forbidden path" (1 Nephi 8:28), or even the sorrow of God Himself watching one of His precious children choose sorrow over happiness.

Well, I'm sure there's hope yet. God will still win the war, and the work must go forth "boldly, nobly, and independent." The designs of men and devils cannot frustrate the work of God. Next time I need a reminder of that, I'll take Joseph Smith's analogy to heart and try to dam a river with my own puny arm (D&C 121:33). Until then, I hope all goes well with all of you, and pray that as we each labor in our own parts of the Lord's vineyard, we will find success, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Watkins

Choose Joy

Hello all:

Hope all is going well all over the world. not a whole lot of time to write today, but that's OK because there's not too much to report today. A lot of tracting and not a lot of success. It's just been one of those weeks, I suppose. The Lord allows us to experience them every so often to remind us that we need Him. All we can do is do our best, and put on a happy smile. Then, no matter what, we can find joy in the journey.

That's really what it's all about, right? "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). So the work may be rough at times, and the weather my not be cooperative, and people may not have the slightest idea how important the message is that we're sharing, but we find the joy, and sometimes the joy comes when life is hardest. We are to have joy-- not have constant ease.

I love serving here. I love the people. I love Pres. Maynes. I love working until I feel like I just can't work anymore. When I come home tired, ragged, and completely void of energy, that's when I know I'm a missionary, and that the Lord has accepted what I have given-- my all. Some this makes missionaries get pretty trunky*, especially in harder areas. They daydream of going home, they find it harder and harder to maintain a cheerful outlook, and they start to strive less and less. Happiness becomes more and more fleeting.

But if there's anything I've learned from serving a year in one of the most difficult jobs on earth, it's that happiness is a choice! We can always choose joy. We can always choose to be pleasant. We can always choose to enjoy life. Without simply choosing happiness, we cannot muster through this life. As I always like to say [as does a certain someone else :) ], "You must be happy, do you understand?"

May we always choose happiness, I pray, even when times get rough, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

*trunky (n., miss. sl.): To be homesick or lazy, referring to packing a trunk or suitcase with the idea of leaving.

Triple Baptism

Hello all:

We now have 2 investigators with a baptismal date! The North elders also found someone out of the blue, and set them for date. So, if all goes well, we should be having a triple baptism on October 9th. This is what missionary work is all about-- watching people make changes in their lives and come closer to God. How wonderful it is to hear someone accept the commitment to be baptized for the remission of sins. Wow-- what miracles are taking place in the Orchard Ward! I'm so excited to be a part of that.

The mission is going well right now. Pre. Maynes has asked us to continue inviting members to pray for missionary opportunities and for peoples' hearts to be softened. Lots of times, we come up with our own plans, and fail miserably at our own member missionary work (or at least I do), because we forget Nephi's words that we "must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place [we] shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he may consecrate [our[ performance to the welfare of [our] soul[s]" ( 2 Ne. 32: 9). Missionary work definitely falls under the "any" category.

I issue the following invitation to everyone reading this: "Will you pray for missionary opportunities in every prayer you offer (including over meals and the quiet silent prayers of your hearts)? I promise that if you do, and quietly offer up petitions to the Lord for the opportunity to share the Gospel (which is simply the 'good news' of the Atonement) as a small part of every prayer, you will find that the Lord will place opportunities in your path that wouldn't have had otherwise."

But don't forget 2 N. 32:8, which reminds us that the devil "teacheth man that he must not pray," and if I can take a little bit of literary license, sometimes "teacheth man that prayer is not a must." You can be certain that when you commit to pray, the devil will do all he can to keep us from remembering, meaning, or seeming to have any time. Don't let him win.

That's where it all starts. If there's one thing I can ask, it would be that-- pray, pray, pray. Don't pray for us to find missionary opportunities so much as for yourself to find missionary opportunities. Hope all goes well-- keep up the good work and pray always.

One Year Anniversary

Hello all:

Well, Elder Chapman and I have reached our year mark. 6 days ago last year, we entered the Provo Missionary Training Center and began on this journey that seems to have passed in a the blink of an eye. To quote Jacob the Nephite prophet, "the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream" (Jacob 7:26). I've never seen time fly by so quickly as on a mission. There really is no experience that can quite compare with this "marvelous work and a wonder."

And boy are the days flying by now! With autumn setting in, the sun is starting to be much less willing to hang around and help us out. It sets probably around 8:00 PM now. That poses a problem because we're asked to be out working until 9:00. Back in summer when that hour was still dusk, this was no problem, but I've found that people judge time more by the sunlight than by their clocks. We can always expect some angry neighborhoods after sunset... "What do you mean you're sharing a message about Jesus Christ??? It's night time! Knocking doors, bugging neighbors, and Jesus Christ are not for the night time!! SLAM!"

In reality that's probably the most depressing thing. When we hit winter, the sun will start to disappear around 6, and we'll be facing angry parents for 3 solid hours each night. But as we go to tract our streets for the 4th time in 2 months (we have a really small area), although the majority of the people are just starting to get really irritated by us coming by every 2 weeks "in the middle of the night," we are still seeing small miracles; people are starting to know us by name, and even though they don't want to hear the Gospel, we're starting to become almost friends. Who knows what God will do with that? To those who are hostile towards us coming by after sunset, we can only respond to ourselves, "It's true isn't it-- Then what else matters?"

We may be annoying the palabrotas out of some people (and boy, do we hear about it sometimes), but we know that what we're doing is a good work, and that day or night, our message can bless the world. It doesn't matter what time it is, how light it is, or what they think, we know that what we're sharing is the most important news this world has ever heard. God speaks. He loves us. He had revealed additional Scripture. He has called a Prophet. He is coming (and soon-ish). He speaks to us individually. We can know His will. He loves us.

We as missionaries and as members are participating in the most important work in the universe, God Himself saying it is His work and His glory "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). We, in a concentrated, backbreaking way, get to participate in that-- how great a trust and how great a blessing to provide such service to our Heavenly Father. Call us fanatics, call us idiots, call us freaks, call us brainwashed, and call us weirdos (heck, we'd be glad if someone would just call us, period), but we know what we;re sharing is true, and though earth and heaven pass away, it will not. "The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly and independent," and we will do all we (legally) can to take that message to every creature under the sun... whether it has set or not!

I know that this Church is true. I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, and that God called him to do His work. I know that the Prophet today has called me to help for two years in that. I bear my witness of this to the world, and more especially to Colorado, and that, in the name Jesus Christ.

New Teaching Curriculum Announced

Hello all:

Hope everything is going OK. Got a few exciting tidbits to report:

My old companion who returned home for 9 months has come back to the mission field! We are all extremely excited to have him back (and I certainly do not begrudge him having left me to take over Willow Creek 2 weeks into it as a greenie and having no idea what's going on-- yeah, no resentment whatsoever☺).

President Maynes and the Assistants gave an awesome 2-day training to much of the mission all day Monday and Tuesday regarding the new "simplified curriculum" that is soon to be implemented in the MTC. It's designed to (hopefully) help us become better teachers. it involves the following 8 lessons:
  1. The Doctrine of Christ (Faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end)
  2. The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion
  3. Revelation through Prayer
  4. Revelation through the Book of Mormon
  5. Revelation through Church Attendance
  6. Teach People, not Lessons (this is the main focus and purpose of the entire curriculum)
  7. We Invite, They Commit, We Follow- Up
  8. How to Begin Teaching
For me, it really was one of the best experiences of my mission. I learned so much and felt the Spirit teach me so well. It was kind of like a missionary's EFY. The plan is to cycle everyone through the training over the course of several months. If we implement this, it could be the most revolutionary help to our teaching since Preach My Gospel was introduced! I set goals and made resolutions to be a better missionary, or as the book of Moses called Enoch a "wild man" (Moses: 6:38)

Here's your spiritual though for the day:

I wish everyone to take time to look once more at Moroni's promise-- the litmus test of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5). We've been working hard on helping investigators realize why they haven't yet received and answer to their prayers about the Book of Mormon. Almost without exception, the reason we don't receive answers when we want them is because we lack what Moroni calls "real intent." I liken it to asking your Dad for his credit card. Likely, a responsible father is at least going to ask what you intend to do with such a precious concession.

So it is with revelation. God is not going to give us an answer or a blessing until we make it clear to Him (and especially important, clear to ourselves) what we intend to do with what we would like Him to give/ tell us. When we have righteous intentions and a definite plan of action of how we will use that answer to our prayers, then He can trust us, and the gift is bestowed.

So with an answer to any prayer (especially regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon), God doesn't want us to ask simply out of curiosity-- we must ask with the mindset that we will act upon the answer we receive. We must plan that if we receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is true, then we will be baptized. Once we are willing to pray with real intent, then the blessings will come an no sooner.

And here's your bit of missionary life for the day:

As missionaries in various wards, we usually greet members and investigators at the door, passing out programs and saying hello. With that comes the inevitable handshakes. What we have learned is that most women wear hand lotion. Some wear a LOT of lotion. And we shake a LOT of hands. Hence, here in the high altitudes of Colorado, we are well-moisturized every Sunday morning.

It's very tempting not to comment on people's lotion habits. "Hi Sis. Wilkinson! Here's a program. Oh, I see we're using Johnson & Johnson with Aloe this morning!... Ah, Sis. Anderson, I notice you've changed to generic brand! Is everything OK finance-wise?... Well, hello Sis. Wikenhoffer-- soaked your fingers in Crisco again today, huh?

Well, that's enough from me for this week. Enjoy the day, and spread the Gospel!