Monday, January 31, 2011

West Coast Represent

Monday, January 31, 2011 0
As we say here in the West Coast, How ya doin?! Haha. Think that might have been from the 80s but I'm not too sure. Malibu is still rad like always. It's always nice to see the sunset driving down Pacific Coast Highway (not that we are not on the road all the time...cough cough). There wasn't too much that has happened this week. Had lots of meetings, once of which Elder Clayton had to do something with. It's always nice to have a general authority of the Church come to speak to us and guide on some of the things that they would have us do. Hope you are doing well as always and I hope I don't bore you this week around. Haha.

I still can't believe that another week has gone by. I think it's crazy to say but I think that I'm starting to agree more and more with the older "whipper snappers" (Sister Hall always says that), in the sense that time flies by faster when you get older. For reals. It's been another humbling week though. Wish we didn't always have to go through hard experiences to become more humble but instead we humble ourselves. Guess that is the whole progression thing that everyone talks about haha. Oh well. Any who... I don't think I have mentioned Mike in awhile so I'll update all of you on him. He moved even farther away (he was already outside the mission) and he didn't get into the class that he wanted to take at UCLA, which means we have to hand him over. We met with him on Wednesday at the Institute building where he told us the news and so we discussed his options and found the number of the Singles Ward Bishop where he now lives. He was a little sad but said he would continue trying to go to church over there. He then had a funny request and that was to walk to the Visitors Center so he could go one last time, since he wouldn't be coming as often. It took about 45 minutes to walk there but it was worth it. We talked about what he does for work and how his schooling applies to his work, how he sees the Church, which lead to the Book of Mormon. He hadn't been reading, said he had been skimming, and that he still had some concerns. What made things more rad was that the conversation turned to Joseph Smith and he then asked about it. It lead perfectly to the movie Joseph Smith: Prophet of The Restoration. After the movie the most epic moment happened. He said he felt good and that he could see why we believe what we believe! I know it doesn't sound like much but it's a lot for him. It was epic. I know Heavenly Father softens hearts on a daily basis for us. Yes it's difficult at times being the tool-piece of the Lord to soften the hearts of His children but boy is it worth it. President Hinckley put it this way, "It is not a sacrifice to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is never a sacrifice when you get back more than you put into it. It's an investment." The other person I would like to talk about is a lady named Renate. She is the coolest person ever. If she can't make you laugh I don't know who can, it's great being over there for that reason. Anyways, after all the fun and games that always happen when we go over there we taught about the commandments of our Heavenly Father and why they are so important in our lives. She said she is a pretty good person and that of course she could improve but is complacent with where she is at. Since she had some bad experiences with the Catholic nuns when she was going to school church has always been a daunting task for her to obey; therefore, she doesn't believe in it. After trying to resolve her concerns she said "I know why you are here. You are here to convert me and I doubt it's going to happen but I'm always happy when you read from that Book you have." We stopped talking and listened. She told some more insights that helped us resolve her concerns about church but it's going to take awhile. We resolved in the sense that the Book of Mormon, along with the Bible (for they are all scripture) will give her the answer and the motivation to take the leap of faith. She has already made much progress even though it has taken time and I know she will enter the waters of baptism someday in her life, I trust the spirit that it will testify to her that the Book of Mormon is true and that the steps that have been laid out in the plan of salvation are true because they are from our Heavenly Father. I'm so thankful for the Book of Mormon, for the ability to touch and read from its pages so we can gain a stronger testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Every time I have read it, it has caused that I have a stronger will to become more like Him in keeping the commandments diligently. The Bible does this as well but to have two witnesses is greater than one and because of the millions of interpretations that man creates, it causes me to be more thankful for the Book of Mormon because of beacon of light that spreads throughout the world. Elder Hodell shared this quote with me that is from President Ezra Taft Benson, "The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrine of the Devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God with His infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time." I know that promises from our Eternal Father are true, even that of James "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering..." Millions have people have discovered it, if that has any pull to this great cause but more importantly you all can find out if you but lay down your weapons and humble yourself to something greater. That is why I'm here because I was sufficiently humble AND received an answer from on High. There have been many things that I regret but this will not be one, nor in the eternities to come.

As far as Elder Clayton, we all got to shake his hand and listen to him speak for about 3 hours. It was more in a questions and answers format, none the less, it was a good meeting. He talked more about procedure and about how we can have a greater influence on the lives of the children of our Heavenly Father. To be honest there was nothing to exciting, I know that sounds bad but it is true. It was a good review of what we have to do as missionaries and it was a good meeting for the missionaries who were fairly new to the mission since it's really overwhelming at times things that can and can't do.

Well I love you all and miss you tons. Hope you like the pictures!
Elder Leavell





Mission Home is bye bye.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pictures

Monday, January 24, 2011 0








California Sun...Never Gets Old

Well I think that these short few days have been more filled with meeting new people, that some would say "are of great importance" than any other week in my entire mission. It was great to meet all these people and really get to see how their lives don't differ from anyone else, in fact, the only difference would be that they have a little more attention. I hope that all of you had a wonderful weekend. The weather out here is getting better and better since it is no longer winter over here or at least it doesn't seem that way.

Let's see there is not much to report for this week since we were on the computer last Wednesday...BUT there is some big news. We met the Schroder family on Friday. Now you probably don't know who they are but they are famous. Ricky, the Dad, has been in a bunch of TV shows like 24, Scrubs, and NYPD Blue. It's sick. I never thought that I would meet anybody famous on my mission but now I have. They are way legit. Not stuck up at all but are way down to earth. The best part is that they are members and are a big on family, which I would imagine is difficult being an actors. They are going through some struggles and haven't been going to church recently and the interesting thing was that their excuse wasn't time. Over my mission I have seen many who have been worn out, especially during these times because everyone is trying to frantically get things done and produce. President Uchtdorf said it this way, "Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives." I felt pretty helpless while they were laying it all out because I think we all get burnt out at times but that is were faith comes in. Faith that there is something more at the end of the tunnel. Faith that after this life we will have our reward. Would we study and learn if we did not believe we could obtain wisdom and knowledge? Would we work each day if we did not hope that by doing so we could accomplish something? Would a farmer plant if he did not expect to harvest? Each act we do is an act of faith and I think too many people fail to notice their works are great in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. As I have been reading the scriptures I've noticed how dramatic the events are and how rare they are in these days. Interestingly enough, I'm thankful. Thankful that our Heavenly Father doesn't show us direct forms of revelation as often as we ask, for that is how faith builds. Yes it is slow, difficult, dirty and so on but that is the only way we can become like Him. It's humbling but in the long run it's worth it. It gives us perspective to look toward the future where our knowledge will grow to the point where we can think on an eternal scale. I'm so excited to be able to serve them and hopefully we will find more opportunties to teach them even with their busy schedule. Another person that is of "great importance" is more Church orientated, President Uchtdorf came to the Westwood chapel where the UCLA Student Ward meets. He didn't come to our ward but he went to the ward right before us. Apparently he was on vacation or something of the sort, but it was awesome to hear him. It was funny, one of the members of our ward asked us a question as we were just getting to the chapel, he said "what did you do to get President Uchtdorf here?" I blew it off and chuckled but it wasn't until everyone was talking about him that I took it seriously. It was awesome. And for some more "famous people" we will have the blessed opportunity to hear from Elder Clayton, Of the Seventy. He will be here this week and he will talking to us as a mission this Saturday. I'm way excited to hear what he would have us do as individuals and as a mission. I know that he will have some good counsel for us that can help us on our quest to become more Christ-like and be able to serve others in a greater degree.

We ate with the Hall Family again this last Thursday and once again it was another comical experience. Sister Hall was sick, had been having some heart problems and so she couldn't go with us, but Ashley, her daughter, came with us. We had a good time and time flew by. It came time for dessert and she noticed that we had been there for awhile so she asked for hers to go and asked if we wanted some of our own. Of course we did, we are missionaries. We had the bright idea that sharing our desserts would be best and so we all ordered three different ones. Little did we know but the portions were huge! I got the Sizzling Apple Pie, Elder Hodell got the brownies with ice cream (it was in a goblet the size of a small ball), and Ashley got the Lemon bar. As they were bringing them out all of us were surprised like no other. The people next to us were laughing at us becuase we were sort of naive. It was fun. Never felt that full from dessert ever before. But boy was it good. Haha. Good thing I'm still young otherwise I would be in problems. Oh wait I already am. But along with that day and Sunday, we had the opportunity to give blessings to Sister Hall and this other member who called the Visitor Center who then gave us the info. Elder Hodell annointed and I blessed both times and the weirdest feelings came when I was performing that sacred act. It didn't feel like it was me but it was directly from the Lord who was blessing them. I hope that I never forget how I felt both of those times. They were sacred experiences that I'm thankful that I was worthy to receive and witness.

There isn't much more to say. I love you all. I hope that you all are doing well and that the Lord is blessing all of you. The tender mercies are upon all but only the meek and humble notice them. Till next week.

Elder Leavell

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm a Mormon

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 0
So to first start off I'm going to have to do a confession. I forgot my camera cable, again and so that means no pictures again. Sorry about that. We are always so busy, now, and it's crazy in the mornings running all over the place, but I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity to be busy. Sounds weird but it is true. Being busy, as a missionary, means you are very blessed, blessed to be able to teach the children of our Heavenly Father and I love it. The more and more I'm out on my mission the more and more I realize how grateful we should all be to be here and to be free to choose whatever our hearts desire, but as a caution, only the righteous decisions bring forth good fruit that can bring eternal joy. Obedience is key. Elder Scott said in the last General Conference, "An axiom we all understand is that you get what you pay for. That is true for spiritual matters as well. You get what you pay for in obedience, in faith in Jesus Christ, in diligent application of the truths you learn. What you get is the molding of character, the growth in capacity, and the successful completion of your mortal purpose to be proven and to have joy." I love that quote and I hope that I will be able to maintain that principle true till the end of mission. It's great to be guiding by the Lord's anointed who are in turn guide by the Almighty. I know that to be true. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying whatever you doing. I'm just in a good mood I guess. The temple does that every time (just went this morning).

After being in the Church for about 2 and a half years now (CRAZY!) I have seen and learned many things, many things that have helped my personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ grow and things that have helped me become a better person, in other words, Christ-like. But this last week I think I was more surprised to hear about a part member family who has integrated so much in the ward that the non-member husband has had callings in the Church. The Beck family is way awesome, down to earth and a typical family in Malibu. Brother Beck has been investigating the church for several years and throughout that time has been able to see the joy in serving in the church such as Primary Teacher, Gospel Principles Teacher, and now Elders Quorum Teacher. Interestingly enough he hasn't been baptized but what makes it more interesting is that he doesn't really know the reason why he isn't. All he can say is "it doesn't feel right yet." All the members in the ward treat him as a member, probably because they have forgotten that he isn't, but it is great to see how the Lord can bless everyone and is not exclusive. We had dinner with them last night to help him prepare for the upcoming talk that he will give during sacrament. It's way cool. While we were talking all of the sudden a question came to my head "what would be on the top of your priority list of things that you would like to learn?" He responded "I have never been asked that question. I have no idea." After talking things through he concluded that repentance and tithing would be at the top. Obviously there is a concern there that we will have to resolve but it is great to witness how our Heavenly Father can and does inspire us to help His children return to Him, I know that I couldn't do this work all by myself. That is for sure. So hopefully we will see a miracle in the upcoming future even that of baptism with Brother Beck. Mike, on the other hand, is doing pretty well. No really any major changes in his beliefs yet but he is still willing to come to church, meet with us, and the most important thing: he is still keeping his commitments. On Tuesday, he was about an hour late again (might of missed his bus again) but it was good since we got to meet a lot of the students at the Institute during that time. As we began the lesson and following up with his reading he said that he had skimmed it and that he didn't really understand much. As we were explaining how the Book of Mormon came about, in a very factual way I might add, we then explained why we needed to know that the Book of Mormon is indeed what it proclaims to be: scripture. His response was really funny. He said that true probably wasn't the right word and that he had been concluding that it was a good book with good stories. Mike has been the first person who has had no spirituality before and it has been a struggle for us to know how to teach to better help him. I have been getting way frustrated sometimes but that has led me to pray more. So I'm going to count it as a blessing. The lack of spirituality was made more evident when we took him to the Visitors Center on a temple tour. The Sisters were doing a great job at explaining the temple and the importance it has on our lives and the lives of the world. It didn't phase him at all. As we were looking across the valley there is a building under construction on the other side of Santa Monica Blvd he stopped the Sisters and asked what is that building? The Sisters were in shock. It was such a random question but that is how he is. He is still good in my book, he is just making me work harder to help him.

We also had the wonderful opportunity to participate in some service activities. We did the Service at the Senior Home and I saw Bob. He didn't want to go to the Farmer's Market. Elder Hodell have me a hard time and said that it was because of what happened last time, hopefully that is not true. His wheelchair was fixed though and he was just as chipper as last week. I had to opportunity to take this guy, Mohammad, he was obsessed with lemons. Every time we saw one we stopped to look at them and asked (with a thick accent) "are these sweet lemons?" Then grabbed a bunch and threw them back sometimes and said "these are not sweet lemons." It was embarrassing. He wanted to tip me at the end, very thoughtful. We also did some service in taking down Christmas lights for the mother of a member. It only took 20 minutes and they were surprised how quickly we got done. Pretty funny. We also helped a widow move. Really sad since she had to leave some things behind. Widows get me every time. I want to give them the world if I could.

I think the last thing that I can remember is that we went tracting yesterday. Not for too long. I wanted to see what it is was like and it wasn't that bad. Elder Hodell said it was a good street and normally they are not as nice. But it was fun. Nobody got mad but we literally only had about 2 minutes a door. That is all the time they gave us to talk to them and then they said not interested or I want nothing to do with you. I hadn't been tracting in a long time so it was sort of refreshing to tract some doors. A funny experience happened on Thursday (this experience shows how nice the members are here and how spoiled we are). Sister Hall always feeds us on Thursdays and after we got done with an appointment right before dinner she called us exasperated. She said that she had dropped the apple crisp pie and that she didn't want us to come over for dinner because it wasn't going to be a four course meal. She was panting on the message because she had just cleaned the floor and dropped the pie. We still went over and had a great time. She saved some pie and was really embarrassed to give it to us (we begged for it) and it was amazing. The people here know how to cook. For reals. We are so spoiled here. Luckily we are working out a lot, otherwise I would be a goner.

Well I hope that you are all doing well and are enjoying life. It's awesome over here. Don't want to leave. Love ya and miss ya too. Till next week.
Elder Leavell

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jolly January

Monday, January 10, 2011 0
How goes it friends and family? I think that this week has been one of the most eventful weeks in my mission, some good events related to missionary work but some are just me being myself: slow. I'm extremely grateful once to be serving in the area that I am in. It truly is one of the greatest tender mercies that I have seen on my mission. There are so many people that are, per say, "heroes" since their countenances have been made whole through living the gospel of Jesus Christ. They all are examples to me and I know they are examples to all those around them. I wish you all could meet these people but I know that there are people all over the world, members and non-members, who are as close Christ-like that any human can obtain. I only wish I could be such an example as they are. Over the last couple days I have had some really "slow" moments and my companion, Elder Hodell, has done well at rubbing it in. Haha. Before I get into the slow moments that I have had over the last week I want to share an experience that we had as a zone during Fundamentals training this last Friday. Elder Thiriot was giving a training on our purpose as missionaries and it was really good, the spirit could be felt, the normal missionary meeting. All of the sudden we see a hand, then another hand, then two more hands, coming through the curtain. We all freaked out and didn't know what to think. It ended up being two Sister missionaries who needed some keys and the whole building was locked so they had to go through the window. It was way freaky. The spirit died but it was ok, it was a little comic relief. Ok, onto me. The other day I thought that I saw a car with a Christmas tree standing vertical on top while driving. Naturally, I told my companion to look, he did and responded that he didn't see anything, but I told him to look again. Same response. I then responded once more, "How do you not see the Christmas tree that is standing vertical on the top of..." As I was going to finish the sentence we go the green light and the cars began to move. I then noticed I had a "slow" moment. There was a great big pine tree positioned perfectly behind us that made it appear that it was a Christmas tree on top of the car. It was a humbling experience. This is only the beginning of my experiences that have brought more humility in my life. On Wednesday, we had a service activity at a Senior home. We wheelchaired some Senior Citizens to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, which was only a block away. I met this guy named Bob, he was the only one with an electric wheelchair, it was sick. Apparently, as a zone, we go and do service for them so it was cool to see how many look forward to our visits (if only that happened with everyone). Bob was way cool, we talked a lot and had a good time just looking around, since he didn't want anything. On our way back he sped up his wheelchair to get across the crosswalk and then I slowed it down for him when we go to the sidewalk. Then the craziest and most embarrassing moment happened. I turned around for one second and then BOOM. I turned around and he hit the building that was on the corner. He ended up breaking his wheelchair and it was really embarrassing since I looked like a bad care taker. Luckily it was the wrong leg rest for the chair so he was getting a new one the very next day but still not cool. The final embarrassing experience was on Sunday. We were getting back home to get numbers from the Sisters for the week. We stopped the car three blocks from our house since some Sisters had called early. We were talking and then all of the sudden the car died. Out of all the things that could have happened to us it was that. Our battery died and we had to push the car for over a block since we were in the middle of the alley way and the cars couldn't get by. These two guys drove by and told us that one of us needed to be on the side with the window open. TOO BAD THAT THE WINDOWS ARE BATTERY OPERATED. They were totally smoking weed and we could smell it like crazy when they drove by. Got to love Los Angeles and all the people that smoke like crazy.

Onto some more serious notes. On Tuesday, we were going to have a lesson with Mike but he ended up cancelling due to some schooling challenges so we rescheduled for the next day. The lesson went great with him. Matt Boulsog, from the UCLA Student Ward, came with us and he was a great help for us during the lesson. As we were getting to know him we noticed that he didn't really believe that we have a loving Heavenly Father that is willing to do, literally, anything and everything for us during this mortal existence. He said that he had a clue that there was a God since science can't prove everything, creating a limit. It was really cool to see how his faith grew during the lesson, whether he felt it or not, and we are very hopeful for him. He wants to get baptized (kept asking during the lesson about how to join the church) but I felt like there was something strange so we asked him how he ended up meeting with us. It truly was inspired to ask such a question, if we hadn't we would have committed him to baptism and never known that it might be for the wrong reason. Mike has had a difficult life, partially because of the choices he has made. He got a really good job at an early age but noticed that he had been secluding himself from everyone and noticed that his friends were slipping away. That is why he came here to Los Angeles: for a new scene. He knew some members of the church before but didn't really think much about it but ended up going to the Visitor's Center because he wanted to see if he could meet some new friends. He said that is the reason why he wanted to come. Luckily we were able to discuss that our Heavenly Father expects a commitment out of us when we make that covenant of baptism but that the Church is there as a support. He has a lot of self confidence problems and so he wants something that can sustain him through all the trials of life. It really is a miracle that he decided to go to the Visitor's Center because he said it was just out of mere chance that he picked to go to this church. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ will give him that confidence because it gives us all confidence and hope for better things that are not seen. We look at trials in a new way, since we know that they are for refinement, which is ultimately for our own good. Mike came to church this last Sunday and he seemed to really enjoy it. On Sunday we had a baptism. Carlos finally got baptized. It was awesome. I could only stay for half of it because I had to go to the UCLA Student Ward but it was awesome to feel the spirit that way again. Elder Correa, Karen-sita (played the guitar), and I sung Teach Me to Walk in the Light. During the baptism it was awesome. The spirit was totally there. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to witness the baptism of another child of our Heavenly Father. I know that His joy exceeds ours since we don't fully comprehend the love and the total importance that it has on our lives. There are so many blessings that we would be without the gospel of Jesus Christ and there are so many things that we will receive after we follow in the foot steps of our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate Teacher and Master of all. I'm so grateful to be a member and to be able to partake of the sacrament weekly and to renew my baptismal covenant and to be made clean. I have taken it for granted a lot and after learning some more about it during priesthood two Sundays ago, I hope I will be able to maintain a drive to "always remember Him" so that I "can have His spirt to be with" me. It's crazy to see how slow I am sometimes. I wish that I would have known all the things I know now so that I would be able to avoid all the horrific things that the world has to offer. I have come to know more and more that the only way is the gospel way, which has been paved by our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Maybe I'm too hard on myself but it is true, I wish I would have known better or should have said lived better. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I hope that I will be able to maintain the drive and motivation to keep enduring to the end. I know it will be hard but it is so worth it in the long run, since there really is no other way.

I read this quote the other day that I really enjoyed. It's from President Erying, it says: "We cannot see the future with precision, but we can know what the Lord intends and what it will take [for] each of us to qualify personally to participate.” Thought that was a very wise remark and that it is definitely true in our lives. I hope that you all have a wonderful week full of tender mercies of the Lord. It truly is the greatest blessing to serve a mission for the Lord, I'm so grateful for this adventure, despite the downs that happen. I love you all and miss you too. I'll send some pictures next week: forgot the cable :)

Elder Leavell

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to Malibu

Monday, January 3, 2011 0
As you can tell from the title I got transferred. My goodness I hit the jackpot area. Malibu is where it is at. I have only been in the area for a couple of days but I think I can safely say that it is the best area that I have been so far. All the scenery and all the people are way cool. It really does remind of me of home: the people, the area, everything. I'm so thankful to our Heavenly Father for the opportunity to serve with these people and try to make a difference in their lives. The other cool thing is that we are serving in the UCLA Student Ward. I have never had the opportunity to serve in a ward like that so it was really cool to see, and I guess remember, how it felt to be at BYU. What amazes me the most is how strong their testimonies are, especially not being at a school where it is predominately members of the Church. All their testimonies were filled with passion and vigor for the gospel. I, as a missionary, am so blessed to be able to serve where I am serving and I hope that I don't lose my gratitude for it.

Even though I have only been in the area for a couple of days there have been many things that have happened. On the first day I arrived we went to the Visitor's Center with the Sanchez family. They are awesome! Sister Sanchez has a nephew who isn't a member of the church and has been investigating for a couple of weeks. In fact, he is going to be baptized this coming week, so it will be amazing to see progress right when I get here. They are from Guatemala and they clean houses for a living, so it is way sick to still have some contact with some Latins. The coolest thing about them, well it isn't really about them, is that they live with someone famous. Well for my era, not so famous but for my parents and their era she is famous. The Sanchez live with Tania Tucker. I don't know who she is but I've heard a lot about her and when I get back from the mission I'll have to listen to some of her tunes. For reals. They are a really cool family. Unfortunately, Carlos is going back to Guatemala at the end of the month since his visa is going to expire. Buzz kill I know but I do know that everything happens for a reason, so there is no need to fear. Man I'm so excited about this area. Everyone is so nice and is so much like the people back home and the dinners are DELICIOUS. They are true English food, of which I haven't had in forever. The other great news is that two days before Sunday we received a referral from the Visitor's Center Sisters for this guy named Mike. We didn't have any time to contact him throughout the week but we managed getting a hold of him on Saturday and he was excited to go to church the next day. We decided to meet at the Visitor's Center and walk over to the Westwood building which is on the same temple grounds. When we got there he was waiting for us, along with a Sister from the Visitor's Center. I think that was the first time that I have ever had someone come to church that easy and the cool thing was that the entire UCLA Student Ward was wanting to talk to them. After all, they are all return missionaries but it was amazing to see how fast they were to welcome him into the ward and make him feel comfortable. Mike, is not the hippest guy around the block; sort of geeky, and it was cool to witness how many were able to connect. It was really a testimony grower to see how strong the students in the ward were, in fellow shipping and in welcoming us as well, since we are both new in the ward. I love the area, for sure. I really hope that I die in this area (mission term) and am able to really serve at the best of my capabilities, even though they are not that influencing. On New Years we had a mission conference to start off the new year by reviewing Standards of Excellence that President Baker has established for the mission in the year to come. He was extremely excited, if I could say: a little too excited, about the year to come. The California Los Angeles Mission has been witnessing many miracles over the past year. We have witnessed 751 people come closer to our Heavenly Father through the ordinance of baptism, way more the Standards of Excellence had established for the past year. Thanks to our Heavenly Father our joy is full and we have put the cherry, which is meaningless, on the Hot Fudge Sunday. But I think the more important part of the New Years Conference was that of how we shared our testimonies of the Book of Mormon after accomplishing the goal that President Baker had asked us to do. I finished about 11PM the night before but I saved the best for last. The book of Moroni is such a powerful book when we think of what was going through his mind at the time he was writing such a Holy writ. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for him to come up with such powerful words to describe his desire to help those who would read upon its pages for generations to come. One of the scriptures that really impacted me was verses 32 and 33 from the last chapter in the Book of Mormon. It says:

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."

These scriptures have given me great hope to know that I can become the same as my Heavenly Father: unspotted. I know that his grace is sufficient for those who earnestly seek after the thing that God has established here on the earth. There is great difference between love and law as Elder Oaks explained with such precision. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know it and I know that God does know His holy words, and I know more importantly that I cannot deny it. I hope that we start this upcoming year that we can really focous on the things that matter most and apply them in our lives. There is no greater call and no greater joy found in serving the Lord in His kingdom here on the earth.

I miss you all and love you too. Till next week.
Elder Leavell
 
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