Monday, March 28, 2011

Give Ear

Monday, March 28, 2011 0
Over this last transfer there are many things that I have learned about things that I want to do with my life, things about life, and things that help me have a better life. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve as a missionary for the Lord, there are so many blessings that I have seen come into my life and the lives of others. I know that it isn't possible to serve for more time but if I could I would make the sacrifice of doing so, even with all the difficult times that are encompassed in this missionary experience. I hope that all of you are looking at life in such a way that the positive is brought forth and when the difficult times come that all of you dig deeper into the basics that we have already applied in our lives: prayer, scripture study, and church attendance. There are so many blessings in store to those who are willing to obey and serve the Lord and I hope someday I will be humble enough to do everything that He asks us to do. Not much has happened this week since my companion is going home. He wanted to spend time with the people that he liked to most and it was a wonderful time getting to know the members more and getting to serve them. We had the wonderful opportunity to help the Kellers with the baptism of their oldest son, Grant. If there was anyone who is more outgoing than anyone it would be him. He prepared and gave a talk at his own baptism and it was very well done. The spirit was strong throughout the baptism and it was amazing to see how, despite being young in life and young in the gospel, the gospel can change lives and mold them for the better. It reminded me of my baptism and how I know that through the priesthood power that has been restored to the earth again, we have the ability to perform a baptism under God's name. I have been thinking a lot about that and thinking how great of a responsibility is to honor the priesthood and to obey the commandments that we may bless the lives of others. Also, it has made me think of how important it is to know that the priesthood power is true. This reminded me of a story that I read in the New Testament, as I am reading the entire thing before my mission ends. The story is of Jesus Christ as he is casting out the unclean spirits from lost souls. At this point in time Jesus wasn't very well liked by the Pharisees because of all the things that he had preached by none the less their amazement at the miracles that they had performed pushed their hatred aside. But on one occurrence this wasn't so. As he cast out the unclean spirit they asked themselves,"Is not this the son of David?" In other words they doubted where this power came from. Then it was the Pharisees time to doubt, said they, "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." And this is one lesson of how I know that the priesthood power that is in this Church is true. Jesus taught, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." (Matt. 12:24-30). Yes it is a manner of faith but I know, because I have prayed, that this church is the church of God, and I know that I have received an answer that it is true. Because this faith stands for good, whether people would admit it or not, it cannot be of the devil, for that would go against the very purpose of his being. Just as Jesus stated, I state that the devil cannot be against itself. Over this last transfer I have come to know in greater degree that the things of God are not necessarily understood by us, especially through the scriptures. But I do know that when we pray and seek after the things that are righteous, which seeking to know if the priesthood power is true would be one of them, that God will tell us if it is true or not. I know, not just believe, that He is a Being of mercy, of grace, and of knowledge far beyond our own, which would make Him by default the irrefutable Master that guides us all. It is a great leap of faith to gather ones things and go on a limb after something that you cannot explain how you know is true but you know without a shadow of a doubt it is true, but I know that with that faith can bring mighty miracles into the lives as many. That is why there is no greater calling than that of serving as a missionary for the Lord. Seeing people's lives cahnge for the greater, or in better terms, for good; brings no greater joy and I'm so thankful to partake of this Heavenly gift. I have only glimpsed to happiness that I know our Heavenly Father feels for His children when they come unto Him and obey His commandments. As missionaries we stand as witnesses that truth is the daughter of time, just as Gamaliel, a Pharisee said unto the council, "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." (Acts 5:34-39). As far as people who we are teaching, they are doing well. Ruth is still reading her scriptures and her kids are still energetic as always. Got to play with some bouncy balls with them haha. She has such a great spirit and I know that one day she will come back to church. Hopefully in my time as a missionary. There is also some great news with Annemarie Brown. We went to go visit her and it was an amazing lesson. When we knocked on the door the coolest thing happend, she said, "I have been thinking about you." Right before we got there she was going through all the hymns that she knew for about 2 hours and was thinking about how important the gospel has been in her life. She said that she hadn't read much of the Book of Mormon but was doing a lot with the hymns. It was so awesome to see her light up when she was talking about the hymns and all the things that she remembered. But it doesn't end there. Right before the prayer we invited her to church and she said that she would try her best to this Sunday (didn't make it this Sunday) to make it but she didn't know if it would work with her schedule. The miracle was that she was seriously considering coming. She promised us that next month, seeing that General Conference is next weekend, she would rearrange her schedule so she could come to church. It was great to see the power of the gospel in action. From not wanting to go to now wanting to go. It's awesome! Chino is doing alright. Hasn't been reading but I think after the lesson we had on Sunday with him, he will hopefully read. Sort of had to crack the whip but it is good for him since he doesn't do anything. Brother Beck was out of town this week and so we didn't get the chance to meet with him. We should be meeting up with him on Tuesday. Well I hope that all of you are doing well and are enjoying what you are doing as much as I am. Miss and love you all. Elder Leavell

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflecting on the Past

Monday, March 21, 2011 0
Another week in the Boo doesn't get any better. I can't believe that somehow I was privileged to come to this area with all these awesome members. It makes me grateful for members and for the opportunity to work with them. I don't know how the early missionaries did it back in the day when there was no one: they were the members. Glad to be living in times where we are not the only ones, there is always a member to support us in any time of need. I hope that all of you are doing well.

Since my companion is going home in the next week and a half it has caused me to think about my mission and things that I have witnessed be accomplished. But something that I have been thinking about a lot is my testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was a talk given in the Pacific Palisades ward talking about the importance of the Book of Mormon and its central role being Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Over my mission I have read through its pages and prayed to know that it is true and without a doubt it has been a constant, yes. In the talk he mentioned that out of the 6607 verses, 3925 mention Christ. That is about 25% more than the New Testament or, in other words, every 1.7 verses mentions Christ. Now I'm not trying to compare or hinder the power that the Bible has, because I know that it is holy writ, but it amazes me how many think that the Book of Mormon is something about Joseph Smith or someone else, other than our Savior, Jesus Christ. I'm so thankful for being humble enough to read, ponder, and pray of its pages for that is the only way that we can know that these things are true. But more importantly I'm thankful for the guidance that we have received to study everything out and then to ask the Master through prayer. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founds itself on the Savior and by so doing, founds itself on the revelations that we, and our leaders, receive from Him, not solely from His Holy Writ. It's a wonderful message that we as His messengers bare: the Almighty still speaks just as He did in days of old through His scriptures and His spirit. I know of no other Church that teaches, prophesies, and conveys both of these ways of communication with our Father in Heaven who despite having creations without measure still desires to speak with us. Later on during Priesthood one of the brethren, Brother Brazier, spoke of one of the return missionaries that gave a class and bore his testimony of the scriptures. He said that as the return missionary gave the lesson he stopped and spoke of a specific chapter that to him conveyed the divinity of the Book of Mormon. He said, "I promise you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that when you read the seventh chapter in the Book of Mormon and pray to know that its precepts are true that you will feel the spirit every single time." Even when Brother Brazier spoke of that testimony that brother had you could feel the power and the spirit backing every word that he said. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. If anyone wants to learn more about Christ I invite and encourage all of you to read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament and focus on the feelings that you have when reading of its pages. Elder Holland once said of the Book of Mormon, "Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him' (Moroni 10:32)." This is our message, this is our foundation, that the Lord Jesus Christ pleads with us to come unto Him through faith in things that we cannot understand or see but are true so that "All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue [faithfully]."

This week we didn't get a lot of progress with anyone. Ruth wasn't home, even though we tried several times by her house, so we hope and pray that she is continuing to read her scriptures so that one of these days, which will occur soon, she will come back to Church. Chino hasn't been reading at all. We met with him about 4 times this week and had lessons about reading and he still hasn't read. I don't know what happened but I hope that he feels the spirit so that he can come closer unto Christ. He was doing so well. Its not like he is busy because he doesn't do anything all day, so I don't know what's up with that. We did find a new investigator! His name is Silvio. I don't know if I mentioned him before but last fast and testimony meeting he went up to the pulpit and bore his testimony on the example of his roommate who is a member. I have never seen anyone who isn't a member do that but he has guts. Anyways we met with him last Monday and it went great. He doesn't know if he believes in God all the way but he knows that there is someone there. He said that he went to a Catholic and Christian school growing up and has family in all different directions but that he has talked with the missionaries over in Holland with his mom. He is way cool and way funny. So we are hopeful for him. It was a cool experience because he gave some reasons why he hadn't prayed in a long time but as we talked with him he said that he would try. But it wasn't a "I mean it try." Then we went through the steps of prayer, which aren't really steps but whatever and he said "well I already knew those..." Haha he shouldn't have said that. Haha. We then asked him to give a kneeling prayer and he said "uhh..." but that is when the member and us got on our knees and bowed our heads. He then prayed. It was awesome. It was a great prayer if I say so myself. It's great seeing miracles on the mission. There is no place that I would rather be. For reals. I'm so scared to go back home. Luckily I don't have too much time to think about all that stuff. I hope that all of you are doing great. Keep doing what you are doing and choose the right and everything will be ok. I know that blessings do occur more frequently when we are obedient to the commandments of our Heavenly Father.

One last experience this week. We got a call from the Visitor Center to go give a blessing at the Veteran's Hospital and we met the Shaws. They are way cool. The husband has leukemia but surprisingly he is doing just fine, even with the chemotherapy. They said that the nurses were checking up on him very frequently because he isn't reacting to it at all. He was over in Vietnam and interacted with agent orange but has stayed dormant for almost 40 years, when usually it gives problems to people when they are in their 40s, he is in his 60s and hasn't been affected. He believes that it is because his obedience to the Word of Wisdom. I would have to agree. I know that when the Lord commands us to do something that we should do it and not worry about why, but do it. Even if you don't believe in the teachings of the Church, do it anyway and I promise you that you will see blessings like you wouldn't believe.

I love you all and miss you too. Over and out.

Elder Leavell

Monday, March 14, 2011

Out in The Wild

Monday, March 14, 2011 0
Can't believe that I have less than 100 days. It's scary to think that I'm in the double digits, never thought this day would come and I actually wish that it hadn't come. There are some many things that I still want to finish and/or do before the end, so hopefully I will be able to do all of them. Hope that all of you are doing well and are having a great time wherever you may be.
This week was an interesting week because there was a lot of things planned and most of them fell through or they partially fell through. Starting with Monday. On Sunday we called the Relief Society President from the UCLA Ward about dinner for the next day and she told us that there wasn't anybody signed up. So we called the Riveras, since they had mentioned that they wanted to have us over for dinner, and got a dinner for Monday. Turns up that we were doubled booked. Right when we were about to walk into the Riveras home, the Johnsons called us and said that they were worried that we didn't remember we were having dinner with them and to give them a call back. Once again we had the wonderful opportunity to eat two dinners and do a little service for a non-member. It was awesome. Don't think I have been that full in awhile but it brought back some memories when I was in Latin areas and everyone fed us, even if it was to have a lesson with them. Good times. Ruth is doing ok. She hadn't read the story of Captain Moroni when we got there so we read it with her. She was pretty amazed at how good of a person he was and said that she would like to be the same. Haha. We broke down the couple verses about his characteristics and commited her to find one that she could work on. She agreed and said that she wanted us to talk about why Captain Moroni kept his covenants to the point that he did, which will be great because Ruth got baptized and has made one already. It will be good. Brother Beck is still thinking about that date for baptism. I hope that he goes with it. But at least he is thinking. Anyways I have some of the best news yet. It's about Chino. HE FINALLY PRAYED! On Tuesday we went over to Tania Tucker's house to have a lesson with them and I found a story out of the Ensign that sounded just like him. I hadn't really thought about it until the middle of the lesson but we decided to read the story with him and share some of the experiences that we have had with people who have been investigating the church. Anyways, as we were sharing experiences, Chino shared one of his. He told us about how he was stuck outside, because Tania was home and she doesn't know entirely that he is living there, and he couldn't come in the house. He got pretty scared (won't admit it) and started praying that he would be able to go inside through the front door, something that hadn't ever happened before, because the back way is even more dark compared to everything else. Right when he finished his prayer he told us that he got a call from Iliana saying that he could walk in the front door but to do it fast. He said that he hadn't had one of those experiences and found it weird that he would be answered for something so small. As we continued to teach the importance of prayer we promised him that, just as he received an answer to his prayer from something that didn't mean a lot, he would receive an answer about the church. He seemed more excited to read more of the Ensign and pray about the church. The next day, Wednesday, we had temple service and the Sanchez came over to help out. Chino and Karen came at a later time because of school but when he pulled up he had the biggest smile on his face. We talked for a bit and then said, "I prayed and I know that it is true." He was so happy that he had received an answer to know that the church is true and I know that he will forever be blessed for the courage to ask our Heavenly Father about something so important as this. After they left Elder Hodell and I started talking about how cool of an experience it was to see his conversion occur and see how happy he has become. It got us talking about something that I hadn't really thought of that I'll share. He said, "Even if Joseph Smith was a fake, I'd be honored to be fooled by him because 'he' somehow came up with all the answers that everyone has been looking for." For me, there is no other explanation than Joseph Smith was a prophet from our Heavenly Father because I don't know how something that produces good, preaches of Jesus Christ and His ministry here on the earth, and when people pray to know that it is true, they receive a confirmation of people, of joy, of clarity, of good. If he did make all of this up I think he had to have made a contract with our Heavenly Father because He is the only Being that produces light, good, and joy. Satan, on the other hand, is the the total opposite. He cannot produce a form of lasting joy, yes it may be temporary but it is always through a form of sin. The opposite is true with this gospel. The more and more I serve as a missionary and study the scriptures it gives me joy to know that I know His plan and it makes me grateful for the things that I know are true because He has told me. Ralph W. Emerson put it best, "Teach that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake."

The other great experience that we had during the week was that we had the opportunity to participate in the Santa Monica Mini Mission. We had a kid named Jeffrey. He only stayed with us Friday night and Sunday, so we didn't have a bunch of time with him but it's better than nothing. He is a way cool kid, trying to figure out if he wants to go on a mission. I don't think that we made a huge impression on him because he went to dinner with us at Souplantation with the Tylers and went to church with us. So yeah hopefully he got something out of it. We tried solving some of his concerns but I think that it is going to be whether he takes the step or not. Everything works like that, especially spiritual things. Joshua 3 is a prime example of that. The Jews had to first walk in the water before the river Jordan parted. I imagine the same will happen with ou boy, Jeffrey. I hope that he goes on a mission because it really has been the best two years of my life. It is a great investment.

Some other random news is that we had a new family move in. They are the Andersons from Provo, Utah. Coolest thing is that they own the Utah Flash, a minor league basketball team.

Well I hope that all of you are doing well and enjoying everything that you do. It helps a bunch when everything is going "wrong." I love you all and miss you too but I'll be back soon enough! Promise. I hope to hear from you soon. Over and out.

Elder Leavell

Went on a hike today in the Palisades.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week Full of Surprises

Monday, March 7, 2011 0
Where do I begin? There are so many interesting things that have happened it's crazy. Normally they happen every once in awhile but I think that something crazy happened every day this week; I like it, keeps things interesting. I hope that all of you are having a great week and I hope to hear from you soon. Crazy to think that Cameron is back, I remember when he got his call. Nuts. Glad to hear that he is well and served well. I'm sure he knows Spanish better than I do. I'll probably be the one asking him how to say things in Spanish from now on.

I want to first start off with something that happened to us on Sunday. After the Pacific Palisades Ward we went off to the UCLA Ward on Pacific Coast Highway and for some reason there is always traffic. Anyways as we were stuck in traffic, waiting, all of the sudden a green car flies past us, probably going around 60, in the divider lane. The person almost hit another car that was turning but everything seemed to be OK. As we pulled up to the second light, Elder Hodell said that he thought he saw smoke but I blew it off because there is a lot of fog there during that time of the day because the ocean water is getting hotter. Never hot. We started driving again and got stuck because all of the cars were switching over to our lane. Elder Hodell made the joke that it was probably that guy who flew past us. He ended up being right. The car was flipped over and he hit 3 other cars and there was parts of the cars everywhere. It was crazy. The weird thing was that we didn't hear it when we were so close. It didn't seem that anyone got hurt but it was still crazy to see how crazy things can get over here. Moving on Monday we had dinner with some members from the UCLA Ward, the Aldens. They are some of the coolest members that I have met on my mission. Let me first start off with a story that goes along with meeting up with them. For Elder Hodells birthday, most of the Elders in the Zone (which are few) and us went to Fatburger and tried the XXXL Burger challenge because my companion is a health nerd. Its cool with me because I have gotten in better shape and am moving forward instead of backwards. Anyways we all did it and finished it. By the end of the burger it started getting gross, despite it being way good, probably because it was a 2 pound burger. We finished none the less but we did not want to eat the rest of the day. Going back to the Aldens, my companion had the bright idea to jynx us by saying "I bet you that the Aldens are going to make us burgers." I wish that he wasn't right at that time. I think for the first time in my entire mission I didn't want to eat something that the members had prepared for us. Luckily they were vegi burgers but still it took a lot to eat it. As we were talking Sister Alden mentioned that her Mom lives over in the Palisades but that she was inactive and so we probably didn't know her. Turns out that she is the daughter of one of the less actives that we have been trying to contact. She was excited, just as we were because her Mom had mentioned that she wanted to go back to Church since her trip to Taiwan. Then as we started talking they mentioned that they were in a band, that in my opinion is a pretty good band. Their band name is Flying Paper Figures. Look them up on YouTube and watch their music video, way tight. So it turned out to be a good dinner and I'm grateful that we got to meet them. We met up with Cedric again this last week and sadly he is for sure going back to China. He said that he read everything that we gave him and was excited to learn more. We talked about the Book of Mormon and answered a bunch of his questions, he is so cool. It's too bad that he is moving because he would have been a great addition to the UCLA Ward. When we finished the lesson we ran to the mission home and got him a Book of Mormon in Chinese and ran back to give it to him. I jumped out of the car to give to him and right when I handed it to him, he opened it and started reading. Gosh dangit I wish he wasn't moving. The next day I had the opportunity to go on splits with Elder Muir and also took Elder Uribe with me. It was definitely a different experience, not my favorite but it goes with the job description. Haha. We visited Ruth that day and she was a little turned off by the two new guys but we had a good, short lesson on Captain Moroni. She is still reading her scriptures and said that she had been praying, so it's only a manner of time that she will be coming back to Church. We are both praying really hard for that day to come soon. She is such an amazing lady and her kids are way cool. The husband is shy but I know that when he meets some members that he will be more than OK because there are a lot of members who do the same thing that he does. Alright, now for Chino/Jonathan. He hasn't really progressed that much. He is still interested but he is having some minor bumps in the road, especially with prayer. I think that we have found some of the consequences of the families divorce. He hasn't really said it but it is obvious when we talked about how we have a loving Heavenly Father. I feel for the kid, since he hasn't ever had a Father figure in his life, and now we are trying to help him have a spiritual one. It won't be easy for him but I know that he has enough faith to pray to know that he is there. He is such a humble kid willing to listen and to do the things that the Lord has commanded us. There is also another fear that he has and that is commitment, probably a side affect of the divorce as well. This part he did mention. He said that he is scared to pray because he knows when he receives an answer that he will have to follow through and do the things that he asks. It's a little comical because since he already knows that he needs to do them, he is now accountable for the things that he isn't doing. He ended up going to the Spanish ward this Sunday, so hopefully he enjoyed it over there. We are debating on giving him to the missionaries who cover our area in Spanish since he doesn't speak much English but since his family goes to the English one, and aren't planning on switching, it makes things a little difficult. It's really amazing to see how the Lord prepares His children to receive the gospel that He has established here on the earth. Of course, He didn't say that it would be easy, but He said that it would be worth it. There are so many blessings in store for everyone that is willing to accept the things that the Lord asks of us but we got to do something about it, can't wait and expect Him to give it to us because that would interrupt our agency. I have learned and witnessed that so much on my mission.

The other person that I want to talk about is Alan Beck. He has been investigating the Church for about 5 years now and been going more consistently than some of the members. I probably have mentioned him before but it still surprises me that he has had callings. Haha. It's crazy. He is way solid and I can't believe he hasn't gotten baptized. We had dinner with them yesterday and it was great. He made us some great steak and we helped him move some things in the house. Before we left we decided to talk about something that I had been reading about in the scriptures: simplicity. It all started because I read the scripture in 1 Nephi 17 where it talks about Moses and the gold serpant and how the Isrealites didn't look etc. Anyways we talked about how simple the gospel, obey and receive. Of course, obey is where the test lies but the concept is easy. Plus we have the atonement which makes up for everything that we mess up on and repent. He expressed some concerns about how he didn't feel that he was ready but as we continued to discuss how important it was for him and his family, he finally commited to pray about a date! We are so excited for him. The whole ward will be so excited for him, we just can't tell anyone. I know that this will the best decision that he will ever make. I'm so thankful that I was able to share some experiences that I had, as well as my companion, that helped him get to the point where he is right now.

I hope that all of you remember that the Lord is always on our side and that He loves us, as well as our Heavenly Father. There is no greater knowledge that needs to be known expect for that. I love you all and hope to hear from you soon. Till next week.
Elder Leavell

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