So the other day one of the older members of the ward grabbed hold of me and said, "You march to the beat of a different drummer, Sweetheart. Just enjoy it and let it go!!"
I have no idea what she was talking about. But I think she was telling me to own my insanity.
Spring has sprung!! Spring in Tennessee is absolutely gorgeous. All the trees have exploded with white, pink, and purple blossoms. It's gorgeous! We have had a lot of heavy rain this week too, which has replaced the blossoms with thick, green leaves. It's so nice to see some color! It's beautiful! Woohoo!
AND . . .do you know what's great about spring in Tennessee except not really? It's the allergy capital of the United States. So for those of us who have escaped the evil grasp of allergies in Utah, we fall prey to it in Tennessee. But. It's worth it. 'Cuz Spring is still the best season ever.
So this week was one of feasting but not much feeding. That happens. I do love feasting though. we had MLC all day, and sadly it was probably my last one. It's a bittersweet feeling, really. I have loved being a Sister Training Leader, but my introverted personality tends to tire out quickly in the process of conducting 5-7 exchanges every 6 weeks. President Irion made it sound like I would be released at the end of this transfer and spend my last 2 transfers as a regular missionary. Certainly can't complain. It has been a fantastic calling, but I am super tired. I've been in this position for half my mission. It rocks. And I'm tired. But anyway. I'm going to miss MLC. 5 hours of pure feasting. We received some amazing trainings on the principles of leadership and having the vision to baptize. My favorite part, as always, was the legendary dinner we had at the mission home. Sister Irion certainly knows how to cook delicious things! And I got to see Sister Schwab! I love and miss that girl. She's the best.
we had a pretty fantastic exchange with Signal Mountain. With MLC immediately following P-day, it was hard to plan out an effective exchange. We saw a lot of tender mercies during our exchange; we ended up having plenty of people to teach. I was with Sister Rindlisbacher (say that 10 times fast) in Hixson for the day. The best part about exchanges is learning from the sisters you work with. She is a firecracker, and it was so fun to see her enthusiasm and her love for missionary work. Good times.
we had Zone Conference. I guess this is where most of the "feeding" occurred during the week, because Sister Day and I gave a training. It was one of my favorites, though. We trained on how to prepare investigators for baptism, inspired by the 1st principle listed in chapter 12 of Preach My Gospel. Speaking of, one of the speakers in Conference talked about every member of the church obtaining a Preach My Gospel. And said that missionaries would love to hear insights about Preach My Gospel from family members and friends. I can testify to that! That would be. So legit. Just sayin'.
As missionaries we run into the same problem all the time with less actives and recent converts. They struggle with activity in the church because they do not understand the covenant they made at baptism. Using the inspirational story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's, we talked about the amazing conversion that occurs when people truly understand their promise to God at baptism, as well as God's promise to them. I read it through carefully and was amazed at the faith and devotion of these converts in the Book of Mormon. I didn't realize that they chose to bury their weapons of war after they already knew the Lamanites were upon them. We hear excuses every day about why people don't come to church. Too early. Too much time. Too far. Going back to the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, I would think that their lives being in danger would look like a pretty legitimate excuse. But they chose to die rather than break their covenant to God, because they knew that they had become clean, they knew that if they broke their covenant they would come under condemnation, and they knew that if they kept their covenant they would receive eternal life. I love, love, LOVE this story. What lengths are we willing to go through to keep our covenants? Granted, we're not perfect, and we will make mistakes, which are made up through our efforts to access Christ's Atonement. But are we willing to sacrifice everything in order to keep our promises with God? Food for thought. Addressed a couple times in Conference, I noticed.
Conference. Conference, Conference. I LOVED General Conference this weekend. It really is Christmas time for a missionary! Favorite talk? You guessed it. Elder Holland. I don't know if it's okay to have favorites, but he has been my favorite apostle for years, and is one of the many people who influenced my decision to serve a mission in the first place. I loved how he talked about the price of discipleship. I felt for that sister missionary. Thankfully I have never been pelted by mashed potatoes. And if something like that were to happen, I would never write home about it. It's never gotten that bad. Mostly we are pelted with verbal attacks, but the effect is the same. You wanna just turn around and say, "Excuse ME??" But you just take it. This is the price of discipleship. There will be times when we will be called upon to stand alone. We will have to take verbal abuse, suffer acts of the greatest hypocrisy, and pay the price of discipleship, but it is all worth it. When we do, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the One who suffered every act of injustice so that we may go free. It truly is a privilege to stand as a witness of Jesus Christ, especially in the face of opposition.
One of the themes I noticed about General Conference was how to respond to opposition. An increase of love, courtesy, and compassion is critical during those times when we will be targeted for our beliefs. It's easy as missionaries to respond in a courteous manner because we have the name of Jesus Christ showing on our badges for the world to see. For those who don't, it is still necessary to show love and courtesy. You may not be an official representative of the Church, but you did promise at baptism to stand as a witness of God no matter the circumstances. I feel that the opportunity to stand as a witness of Christ will come to each of us individually. Will we be ready to show our discipleship? Another theme: defend your faith while loving others in the process. You don't have to get into an argument or start ridiculing others, but you shouldn't be silent, either. Elder Nelson: Let your faith show! Richard G. Scott: love people enough to share your conviction and let them work out the details on their own. Elder Hales: be motivated by the love of God. Elder Zwick: Never speak in anger, doubt, or blame; own the truth and use compassion. President Monson: we cannot fully love God without loving our fellow man. So good. It's time to be courageous and it's time to increase our love for others. Only that will pull us through the spiritual whirlwinds that are going to rip through this world.
I guess if I were to sum up General Conference in one phrase, I would say that it was a call to the world, especially to members of the church, to become more Christlike.
And this call was sorely needed this week. Sister Day and I have been struggling with a lot of things these past couple weeks. Investigators continue to drop left and right, people keep feeding us excuses, and we are watching our work slip through our fingers yet again. Every question and concern that I had this week was addressed in some way through General Conference. I know that this Church is true and that God still speaks to us through His living prophet. I loved Elder Holland's conviction as He testified of the restoration of priesthood keys. I wish my investigators had been there to see it. Only one investigator pulled through from the dozens that we invited to conference. She came to the afternoon session, and all her questions were answered by Elder Corbridge's fantastic talk on Joseph Smith. But she didn't feel the Spirit and dropped us. We lost two more investigators this week for the same reasons: they feel comfortable where they are at and do not believe in the divinity of this church.
Like I said earlier, I feel for that sister missionary Elder Holland mentioned. Sometimes being a missionary is really kinda hard. We pay the price of discipleship every single day. It is tiring. Excuses push you to the edge of your patience. You pour out your whole heart and soul into helping these investigators embrace the Gospel, constantly battling the adversary in the process, and they still fall right through the cracks. But, echoing the words of Elder Holland, it is worth it. It is worth every minute. Like Elder Anderson's tree analogy, the more opposition you see adds to your strength of character. Making sacrifices for the Savior, who sacrificed everything for me, has helped me grow closer to Him. And when success comes, I feel the sweetest and most exquisite joy. I have learned so many things that have changed my life for the better. It is the best decision I have ever made.
We saw a lot of good things this week, too. We finally saw Nina again and recommitted her for baptism. We saw Ethan twice, and he has been making excellent progress. His mom's heart softens more and more each day. Ronnie is growing more and more excited for his baptism. We watched a movie about the temple with the Smiths and they feel excited to attend someday. And I'm best friends with my incredible companion. That is always a plus at the end of the day, no matter how hard or easy it has been. :)
So, there ya have it. The Church is true. I know it is. Now more than ever. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God, and President Thomas S. Monson is now God's chosen mouthpiece for the world we live in today. No matter how hard it will get, if we yoke ourselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through keeping our covenants we will not succumb to the weight of the evils in this world. We will not fall as long as Jesus Christ is our foundation. I love this Gospel with all of my heart, and I will keep declaring it until my time in Tennessee will draw to an end. Because it is worth it. :)
I love you all! Thank you so much for your emails, letters, prayers, and overall support. I love you all so much and hope you have an incredible week full of miracles!!