Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Homecoming Talk

Effectively sharing the gospel in the West Indies Mission

I served in the West Indies mission which is in the Caribbean. It is chain of islands and also includes 3 countries in South America. I had the opportunity to serve in four areas on three Islands Barbados ,Trinidad and, St. Lucia. I had 12 companions (one of them twice). I had lots of new food like chicken foot, mook, pig snout, cow stomach, conch, turtle, shark, and octopus. I got thousands of mosquito bites and had the opportunity to feel what having chickungunya was like. If I had a baptism for every cockroach I smashed all of St. Lucia would be baptized by now.I met a lot of great people and saw a lot of miracles.

My topic is effectively sharing the gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Heavenly Father’s plan for us to become like him. It contains vital principles and ordinances we must follow to receive salvation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what allows us to fully access the power of the Atonement. It is only through sacred covenants and ordinances performed by the proper priesthood authority that we can be cleansed from our sins and be made perfect. The priesthood authority is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As baptized members of this church we have covenanted to share the gospel.

 I love how Elder Bednar described our role in this last general conference. He said “Devoted disciples of Jesus Christ always have been and always will be valiant missionaries. A missionary is a follower of Christ who testifies of Him as the Redeemer and proclaims the truths of His gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ always has been and always will be a missionary church. The individual members of the Savior’s Church have accepted the solemn obligation to assist in fulfilling the divine commission given by the Lord to His Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Latter-day Saints take seriously this responsibility to teach all people in all nations about the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. We believe the same Church founded by the Savior anciently has been reestablished on the earth by Him in the latter days. The doctrine, principles, priesthood authority, ordinances, and covenants of His gospel are found today in His Church. We are not seeking simply to increase the numerical size of the Church. And most importantly, we are not attempting to coerce others to believe as we do. We are inviting them to hear the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ so they can study, ponder, pray, and come to know for themselves if the things we are sharing with them are true. Our desire to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with you is a reflection of how important these truths are to us.”

As a missionary I had the opportunity to share the gospel all day every day. I learned a lot about how to share the gospel effectively. I chose four things that really helped me share the gospel: Fasting, learning doctrine, using the Book of Mormon, and the Temple.

When I started my mission the mission president emphasized teaching members the law of the fast and inviting them to join with us to fast for missionary work. When I was serving in Chaguanas, Trinidad we were working with a returning less active family who was doing great. We had been working on getting the boys the priesthood and they had been coming for a few weeks. Fast Sunday was coming up and we felt like we should teach them the law of the fast and missionary work. The dad was doing a great job helping us find people to teach and we wanted to get the whole family involved. We went up on a Saturday and fasted with them for missionary opportunities. A few weeks later we were teaching two nieces and a nephew several times a week. We worked with them for several months and a few weeks after I was transferred they were baptized. It was a miracle story.

Alma 6:6 says “Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft to join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God.” Every month we have the opportunity to fast and missionary opportunities is a great thing to fast for.

Elder Pratt from the seventy gave a talk on fasting and in it he said  “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6). If the purpose of our fast is to be more effective in teaching the gospel and serving others in our Church callings, we are surely striving to “undo the heavy burdens” of others. If we are fasting and praying for the Lord’s help in our missionary efforts, aren’t we desiring to “let the oppressed go free”?” The Lord grants the desires of our hearts and if we truly desire to share the gospel he will help us.

Doctrine and Covenants 11:21 says “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” As a missionary and member it is important to study the gospel daily and use that study time effectively. As a missionary we devote two hours a day to preparing to teach. That time is spent studying from the scriptures and preach my gospel, memorizing scriptures, and practicing our teaching skills. My mission president always gave us assignments to memorize things. He gave the mission an assignment to memorize at least two scriptures per heading in Preach my Gospel. I love memorizing and studying so I really enjoyed it. As we all worked on our memorizing and studying a miracle happened. Baptisms increased. Interestingly enough when missionaries stopped memorizing baptisms decreased. I discovered that memorizing scriptures helped me learn doctrine and I was a more effective teacher. The scriptures were in my mind so the spirit could bring it to my remembrance. It helped a lot when we were contacting and needed to teach on the spot.

In the October 2013 General Conference David M. Mckonkie said “As you dedicate yourself to living the gospel with greater purpose than ever before and search the scriptures, treasuring them up in your heart, the same Holy Ghost, who revealed these words to apostles and prophets anciently, will testify to you of their truthfulness. In essence, the Holy Ghost will reveal them anew to you. When this happens, the words that you read are no longer only the words of Nephi or Paul or Alma, but they become your words. Then, as you teach, the Holy Ghost will be able to bring all things to your remembrance. Indeed, “it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.”

We have been given a remarkable tool to help us in our study and our efforts in sharing the gospel. The Book of Mormon. Preach my Gospel says” The Book of Mormon combined with the spirit is your most powerful resource in conversion”. We focused a lot on the Book of Mormon because it is very powerful. We were teaching a man who couldn't read or write and he had been an alcoholic for many years which caused his brain not to function well. We started sharing Book of Mormon stories with him and we gave him a copy even though he couldn't read it. I remember he brought it with him to church and he loved it. We would bring the picture book and teach him stories from the Book of Mormon and it helped him learn the principles and doctrines of the gospel in a way he could understand. 

A little before I was transferred to St. Lucia we had a zone conference on flooding the West Indies with the Book of Mormon. When I got to St. Lucia my companion and I were determined to do just that. It was probably one of the most effective contacting time on my mission. We would drive to an area and park the car. Then we would each grab four copies of the Book of Mormon each and go contacting. We usually did this in town. A lot of people in St. Lucia are catholic. When they saw us they would ask for one of our “Bibles”. We would then get the opportunity to explain what the Book of Mormon was and a lot of people were very interested in reading it. I’m not saying you need to walk around with four copies of the Book of Mormon in your hand every day but be ready to explain what you know and believe.

I went to Barbados for a week on exchanges and I had a cool opportunity to teach about the Book of Mormon. We were in a van that was pretty empty and I was sitting next to a guy and we started talking. The other sisters were a few seats behind me. Quickly we got to the topic of religion because he saw my tag and he wanted to know what happened after we die. I got really excited because it was the perfect opportunity to share about the Book of Mormon and how it answers questions of the soul. He explained how his month old son had just died a few days ago and they still didn’t have a cause of death. I was able to share about the Book of Mormon, read a little with him and I left him a copy with a favorite chapter for him to read. He was very grateful for it. I love how the Book of Mormon can help us no matter what we are going through.

Elder Benson taught about flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon. He said ” The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way. The time is now! My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved.

“Few men on earth,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about. Few are they among men who know the part it has played and will yet play in preparing the way for the coming of Him of whom it is a new witness. … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. (Millennial Messiah pp. 159, 170, 179.) We testify that it is.
Now, my good Saints, we have a great work to perform in a very short time. We must flood the earth with the Book of Mormon—and get out from under God’s condemnation for having treated it lightly. (See D&C 84:54–58.)

I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with hundreds of passages memorized from the Book of Mormon so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.

I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon.”

As we share the Book of Mormon with our friends and family members we can give them something that will bless their lives forever. My mission president explained why it is we focus so much on the Book of Mormon. He said that “In order to be exalted we must have an intimate testimony of Christ. The Book of Mormon is key to knowing Christ like we need to know him.” If we want our brothers and sisters to be exalted we need to share the Book of Mormon.

 If you are unsure how to give away a copy of the Book of Mormon, follow the counsel from Elder Nelson “Ask the Missionaries. They can help you”. Missionaries are called to share the gospel and they have some great ideas. They are happy to help. There was a member in St. Lucia who would ask for five copies of the Book of Mormon every few weeks and he would give them to people at work or in the neighborhood. He understood the power of the Book of Mormon in conversion and every day challenges.

Our goal of sharing the gospel is not just baptizing a bunch of people. We want to help them on the covenant pathway.  As my mission president would say we don’t just want celestial beings, we want exalted ones. We focused on helping people see the big picture. As members of Jesus Christ’s church that has his authority, we can make sacred covenants that allow us to be exalted if we keep them. Families can be bound for eternity if covenants are kept. As we help our family and friends understand the blessings they can have,  they will have a greater desire to learn how and will be motivated to make changes to receive them.

It was interesting teaching about the temple in a place where the closest temple is a plane ride away and in a different country. The people in the West Indies really want to go to the temple but it is expensive and hard to get the right visas and papers. There was one family in St. Lucia who gave up almost all they had (including their wedding rings) to get to the temple. In Chaguanas we were working with a less active family who working to come back to church. We had a lesson on the temple with them which was amazing. They almost made it a few years ago but things happened. They also needed to save a lot of money. We decided to make them a temple jar and we brought it to our next lesson. They were very excited when they got it. The dad told everyone to quiet down and said he had something important to tell the family. He reached his hand in his pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and threw them on the floor. He said he was done smoking and committed to put the money he would have spent on cigarettes into the temple jar. It was important to him to have his family sealed in the temple.

Helping others see the blessings of covenants and the temple will soften hearts to our message.

As a missionary I had the opportunity to see the Savior change many lives. As members of the church we have the opportunity to share the glorious message that Jesus Christ’s church is on the Earth today and we invite all to come and see. One of my favorite scriptures is in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88. It says “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” The Lord is with us and is opening hearts to the message. We just need to go out and share it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Home at Last

This is Sister Shirts here. I made it home safely and all is well. Things are going great.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve in the West Indies. It was the best eighteen months of my life. I am grateful for all the wonderful people I worked with and the spirit that was felt.

What next? I am taking a CNA class and will be starting school in January. I am excited to keep moving forward and working hard.

Thanks for reading the blog. It was fun writing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Last Post From The West Indies

Good Afternoon,

Well... my mission is coming to an end.  We had a fantastic week with a lot of miracles.

Transfer calls:  Sister Worthington is staying in St. Lucia with Sister Aitiria and will be training Sister Walsh as well.  Sister Hodge is going to Barbados and will be training too.  I am so proud of them.  They are great missionaries.

Thanksgiving was great.  They don't celebrate their Thanksgiving in November they did it in October.  We had a random dinner with Kim.  We made lobster, bakes, peanut punch, and pumpkin pie.

I am grateful for the time I spent on my mission.  I have learned so much about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I love my Savior and I have come to know him more.  I am grateful for the Book of Mormon and the knowledge I have gained.  I love the Book of Mormon and I will study it every day when I get home for the rest of my life.  It is interesting how a mission is made up of amazing experiences and challenging experiences but the ones that stand out the most are the ones when the spirit is felt the most.  The things I remember most are the miracles.  They may seem small to some but to me they are great.

Miracle of the Week:  Valence.  We met him at the beginning of the transfer at the beach on P day.  We have been working with him since then.  He was hesitant about a baptism date at first but he has come to church three times and said he is looking forward to it.  He also wants to go to the temple.

Well I will see you all (or some of you) soon.


Sister Shirts