I didn´t take any pictures at all this week, but I´ll have some good ones next week. So this week you can imagine Elder S and I showing off our sweaters in the morning cold.
We had a fun activity this week in the church, based off of "Who Wants to Be a Millionair," but called "Who Wants to Gain Salvation." There were questions about the scriptures, about the church, and--my favorites--about the members of the ward (now I know the first name of the first counselor!) They only let he missionaries compete in one of the questions, and I lost a pretty epic race against Elder Nord. Learn from my mistakes, and remember that there are 66 books in the Bible, not 56.
The purpose of the activity was to welcome home R G, the newest return missionary from the ward who got home this Tuesday from Argentina. When we met her, she told us about her last few months in the mission. Like Elder S and I, she opened an area. But unlike our case, instead of arriving in a new area with a couple of missionaries who had already been there for a while, she and her companion were put in a ward where there had never been missionaries before. They had the name and address of the bishop of the ward, and absolutely nothing else. It sounded like quite a fun experience, also like she was a very dedicated and diligent missionary. During that first conversation, she also mentioned that she had a couple people in mind that she wanted to invite to church right away, good example of how to return home well from a mission.
These last few months, the entire mission had the goal to read the Book of Mormon in the same time that it was translated. So every day for the last few months, I´ve been reading 8-10 pages every day. This Wednesday, I finally finished. I decided to take Moroni´s promise for a try, and after I had finished, I knelt down and prayed asking to know the truth. After praying and asking to know, I started thinking about all the stories from this book. About Ammon standing for an hour in front of King Lamoni, who was to nervous to open his mouth and ask him how he had such miraculous power. About Nephi and Abinadi, both of whom told those who would have touched him that if they did they would be struck by the power of God which was in them. About an angel appearing to Alma the Younger on a lonely road, telling him to change his ways or be struck down. About Helaman going forth with 2000 young men, inexperienced and untrained in battle, who fought with such power and strength from God that they caused armies ten times larger to surrender their arms. About Christ coming down from heaven to the temple after His death and resurrection. About Mormon and Moroni watching their beloved people destroy itself with pride and secret combinations. And as I thought about all of these stories, an illuminating, clarifying light filled my heart, like cold chills but without the cold. Yet another witness that this book is true, that it contains God´s words, and that Joseph Smith really was a prophet and really did restore the true church.
R and A, a family that one of the members introduced us to, passed their baptisimal interviews this week. All week long we went over every step necessary, teaching and talking about all of the commandments and little details that we hadn´t talked about earlier. From time to time I would ask a question like, "will you commit to read the scriptures every day?" or "will you live the law of chastity?" and they would respond by saying "please, Elder Ray, thats obvious and of course we´re going to do it. Now get to the good stuff." It was a delightful experience. Everybody who meets them can tell how prepared and ready they are to be baptized, and how much of a blessing baptism will be for them. And I keep thinking about how, if it hadn´t been for the V family, we never would have met them. I am so glad that they decided to share their testimonies with their neighbors and invite them to learn about the gospel.
K, V, and T R also passed their interviews. When K (26) came out she tried to pretend like she failed the interview, but when V (13) left her smile was so gigantic that she couldn´t even try to say anything other then "I passed." But the biggest miracle was T. T R has smoked since she was 13 years old, and even though she had gone down from 15-20 cigarretes a day to 5-6, she still entered the interview feeling like she would never be able to stop smoking and like she would have to watch her daughters get baptized without her. She came out knowing that God would help her and that she would be able to do it, and is now planning to get baptized with her family. Last night she finished the day with 4 cigarretes--today we are going to pass by and help her figure out how to get down to 0.
Through this whole experience, teaching R and A and the R family, what I´ve learned is this: God has a plan for each and every one of His children, and it is through His power that His plan will be accomplished. The same is true not only for my investigators, but also for my own life. God has a plan for my life and for my mission, and it is through His power that it will be accomplished.
Love you all lots,
Elder Jason Ray