Monday, May 30, 2011

A Week to Remember

Monday, May 30, 2011 0
Well I hope that everything is going well with all of you. This week has been amazing. There have been so many cool things that have happened over the past week it's crazy! I'm so thankful to be on my mission and am thankful that these last weeks have been memorable. I don't think that I will ever forget these experiences. I hope that the Lord is blessing all of you equally.

Kasey is doing well. She got her answer this last week. It is awesome. She also came to see Elder Anderson and she shook his hand so it's for sure that she is going to get baptized. Those are the only real updates that I have. We got a lot of people to come to hear Elder Anderson so that was good.

I will always remember from my mission. One of the things that I will always remember happened on Sunday and I hope that you all can feel the spirit that I felt through this email. Yesterday we had the amazing privilege to have Elder Neil L. Anderson come to our ward and share with us his testimony. His son moved into the ward a couple of moths ago and he wanted to come and visit. It was amazing. He acted like nothing important was going on and that it was a normal day. As always we stand next to the door greeting everyone who is coming in and when he came in he acted just like everyone else. He talked to my companion and I for a couple of minutes saying, "we thank you for your service," and "if President Monson were here he would have thanked you personally for your service." He then, while his son talked about me, wrapped his arm around me and that he thanked me for the service I have offered. I will never forget that. His spirit is so strong and because of it, it is almost as if the spirit were telling me what the Savior would have me know. I have gained a stronger testimony of the necessity and the validity that the Lord Jesus Christ calls, in our days, living apostles to be his chosen servants. There is no question that Elder Anderson is one of those men that has been called and set apart to bear that special witness that He lives and that He is. It was a great privilege and tender mercy from the Lord for me. I know that this gospel is true and that there is no greater thing that I could ever want. His wife opened the sacrament meeting by speaking of her testimony of her husband. It was amazing to listen to her perspective. She brought the spirit into the meeting with ease and set up the stage for her husband perfectly. She told of an experience while she was raising her children with humble means and how grateful she is that she knows how important these men are. She said that when her all her children were able to read that she and her husband decided to read a talk from the prophet and apostles in the General Conference Ensign for Family Home Evening for several weeks. Like any good mother she decided to make copies of the articles for every child of hers and went to the copy center and started to make copies. She finally finished and went to the register to be surprised that it would be $50 for all the copies. She said she started crying and debated if it really worth having the words of the living apostles in her home. Thinking about this she concluded that yes it was. It was more important than anything else that she could give her children and she thanked her Heavenly Father for the means that the church is able, to now, offer the Ensign for $1.50 with all the talks from General Conference. She then bore her testimony that she knows that the apostles of today are chosen and that she has been an eye witness of the validity of these chosen men. The spirit came into the room so strong. No wonder the Lord calls both to the calling when they are called. Elder Anderson spoke of faith in the Savior of the world. He started by saying to all the members of the church by stating that "we share faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." He said that out of all the things that we could learn and do in this world there is one thing that we cannot do enough and that is think or speak enough about Christ. Speaking of us he shared the story of the Nephites when they were diligently waiting for the sign that Samuel the Lamanite had promised of the birth of the Savior. He shared what is found in 3 Nephi 1:8 that they prayed "that their faith had not be in vain." He paused and then said boldly, "Brothers and Sisters your faith will not be in vain." He then went on to describe some of the miracles that the Savior performed while here on the earth and all the things that he taught us when he was here. There was one that I really liked that he explained. He spoke of Jairus and how that can compare to our lives. When Jairus came to the Savior and Jesus followed him to help his faith was high. In fact, as high that it could be with the knowledge that he had. But as always there is always a trial of our faith and that came when they arrived to the place where his daughter was and the servants told that she was dead. Obviously Jairus' heart sank and his faith was no where to be found in comparison to where his faith was previously. Then some of the most calming words in all ofscripture arose when Jesus said, "Be not afraid, only believe." Elder Anderson compared that to us when we walk with the Savior so close that when the first instant of trial comes our way that he give up and our faith dwindles once more. He then shared a scripture found in the book of Acts 4:20, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" and another one found in 2 Nephi 25:26, "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." After sharing these scriptures and speaking of the importance of remembering the Savior he told us something that surprised me a lot. He said that even him and all members of the church cannot think, pray, and/or talk of him enough. Pondering about that throughout the rest of the day I was thinking about the sacrament and part of the sacramental prayer that we say is that we may always remember him that we may have his spirit to be with us. It is very clear that even the people who profess to be the most spiritual being have still plenty of improvement and I'm grateful that we as members of His church have known that progression during this life is part of the plan that our Heavenly Father has established. There is no way to come to know him than by doing everything that he asks us to do and practice and I'm grateful that we have a clear understanding that faith without works is dead, as the famous scripture says, but faith with works brings about life eternal because we come to know him be word and by action. Speaking of these scriptures, Elder Anderson commented that "we need to make no apology for the unseen because they are true. He lives! He is ever so mindful of all of us." He continued, "As evil grows on the earth there will be an added gift of revelation and the Holy Ghost to those that keep the commandments." Then some of the best lines that he explained, "faith is not a feeling, it is a decision, or choice, to follow." How perfect is that?! Here's another one: "The Book of Mormon will become a stronger anchor in the coming years. You will never loose your faith in Christ if you continually read the Book of Mormon." As a missionary and a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ I know that this principle is true. The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ and I know with complete certainty that anyone who reads of it's pages with real intent will come to know that his Savior lives. There is great power in that Book and combined with the spirit it "is [the] most powerful resource in conversion" to the Savior. If all of you who are not members of this church could stand in my shoes for one day I promise you that you would recognize that these principles are true and you all would notice, even more, how mindful our Father in Heaven is. It is amazing to me to see how the church started with a handful of members at the beginnings of it's development and now there is very few people in this world who don't know a member of this church and I know it is because we share faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of this faith that we are blessed and are able to go about doing the good that we do everyday. I know that for that is my motivation to continue on sharing this message with everyone, despite those who do not agree, and it is because I know that He lives and that his message is a message of hope that he wants everyone to receive. Elder Scott perfectly explained this point by stating, "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." Many people think that the Lord will come down with a sign professing to all in a tumultuous form before we take action. Never in the scriptures have I seen that occur. It is always after they took the initiative to follow the example of the Savior that the person has come to the realization of the blessings that are in store. Elder Anderson suggested that all of us should write down all the things we truthfully believe and to seek improvement on the things that we don't. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to interact with an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ up close and personal for a good amount of time. It is amazing to witness that these men are nothing out of the ordinary, in fact the only difference is that they have been called to be an apostle of the Almighty, to be His special witness that He is. He concluded the sacrament meeting with an apostolic blessing that I will remember and hope to continually apply to the rest of my life:

"As you study the words of Christ, as you think of Him, desire to be His disciple, you will have greater clarity in your faith, happiness in life, confirming sureness in His existence."

It is my prayer that this may be true in all of our lives. That we may receive the greater reward of having the Holy Ghost with us always and that we may be able to respond to it's call, Bo matter what it is. I'm thankful for this gospel. I'm thankful for this sacred opportunity to interact personally with an apostle of our Savior. I have gained astronger testimony that these are men called of God, not because they re better than us but because the Lord has a work for them to do.

Hope all is well. Love you all.
Elder Leavell

Monday, May 23, 2011

There Is Just Not Enough Time

Monday, May 23, 2011 0
I can't believe that I have less than a month now. I have been trying really hard not to think about it and continue working my hardest but I think it is starting to hit me. Doesn't help that my companion rubs it in sometimes. For example, there is a Dodgers billboard next to the temple (and we are always there) that says "It's time for going home" Elder Hough pointed it out to me when the Zone Leaders and us were driving home from soccer and everyone laughed. Haha. All in good fun for sure. This week was a great week. There is not enough time. We are starting to build the area back up with investigators that really want to investigate the church so we are extremely grateful that the Lord has blessed us with people that have been prepared. Throughout my mission I have really gained a testimony of how mindful our Heavenly Father is of all His children. There are countless miracles that He performs on their behalf, most of which go unnoticed. I wish that everyone would have the opportunity to stand in our shoes just for one day because I know they would notice that this is His work and they would notice the deep love that He has for everyone. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve as His missionary, His representative here in Los Angeles. So the best news of the week is that we have a baptismal date! I'm so excited! It's been awhile since the area has seen one but we are extremely hopeful that we will have at least one baptism at the end of this transfer. Kasey set a baptismal date of the 19th of June and it's amazing to see how different she is. It definitely wasn't us but it was the Lord who worked with her personally that has made this mighty change. We had a wonderful lesson with her after dinner with them and it was awesome to see how the spirit was working with her. We asked her straight up what we be holding her back from doing the things that the Lord would have her do and she started crying. So we left the restaurant and went to the temple, so it would be a more private setting, and she told us everything. She said that she was first, scared for her salvation because she wants to first make sure that this is the right thing, have that gut feeling that what she is doing is right, second, her family because they are strong Lutherans, and third, scared of what people would say because she is dating Scott who is a member of the church. What is amazing to me is to see her courage to continue with this. She said that if she felt that this was, without a shadow of doubt, the truth that she would do whatever it takes to follow it because it would be from the Lord. I'm so glad that she has been humbled by the Lord to at least listen to what the Lord has to offer. Of course, the decision will be hers and we don't have anything to do with it. All we do is invite others to live the principles of the restored gospel and to pray if these things are true. We are really excited for her and are excited to see how much her faith grows in the coming weeks.

Kasey reminds me of something that I learned at the Santa Monica Stake Conference that we had this past weekend. One of the counselors of the Stake Presidency spoke of when Nephi built the boat and how burdensome his brothers were when he told them that he was commanded of the Lord. He said that when we read of the account of Nephi that he saw the ship a little differently, he saw the ship as how the Lord was building up the people of God and as a way to provide them with a stronger faith in him. He then read 1 Nephi 18:1-4 as follows: "And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work...of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work (with the people). Now I, Nephi, did not work the (people) after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the (people) after the manner of men; but I did build (them) after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men. And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things. And it came to pass that after I had finished..., according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord." He continued to relay a message of how the Lord gives up daily experiences that we can choose to obey or not but that if we obey to the humble commands of the Lord we will be blessed to be an example to others. He said notice how after they finished according to the way the Lord wanted them to finish that the brothers of Nephi saw that it was good and did humble themselves. He continued, notice how Nephi went to the mount, which we know to be the temple, "oft" and how he prayed "oft" and the Lord showed him "great things" that pertained to the building up of the ship, or in our case the people. He continued to share a story of how he went with the Young Men in his ward to San Clemente Island for a Scouting trip and he found how the Lord provides means to build up the kingdom. He said he was a Bishop at the time and while they were on the island all the Bishops went out to examine the grounds to figure out where they were going to live. While looking for a spot to camp they found a building with two men from the Army sitting next to building smoking and he didn't say directly, but implied that they were drinking as well. He found a pay phone and decided to call his wife to tell her that they were fine and all is well. the pay phone didn't work and they had found a place to camp so they all started walking back to where the Young Men were. While they were leaving one of the men asked who they were with and he responded. After some curious questions, the man said that he would talk him up the hill to another pay phone so he could call. He kept insisting to take him but he didn't feel comfortable going with them. reluctantly he got in the car and they were on their way. The same man asked him what church he was with and he said from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He paused. He then asked another question, what is your role in the Church? He responded a Bishop. He paused again. They finally got up to the top of the hill and the guy took him inside and asked if he talk with him privately. He agreed to discover that this man from the military was a member of the Church who had lost his way for a very long time. He relayed to him that that morning he had prayed one of the most fervent prayers that he every gave asking Heavenly Father if He would send a Bishop to him so that he could receive counsel to know what actions he should take to change. Tears began to come down and he they had a wonderful conversation discussing and counseling on how he could do better. After the conversation they parted ways and he never heard from him but he was thankful that he knew the ways that our Heavenly Father has established to build up His children. He said that when we read the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, we will receive the promise that Nephi received and will be able to be a light in this world that cannot be hid, an example that everyone will see that the "workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine" and many will humble themselves before the Lord to come to accept this restored gospel.

Some unfortunate news. One of the Sisters got diagnosed with cancer again. She kicked it (think that is the term) a couple of months ago but it has come back. If you could all keep her in your prayers that would be great. She is an amazing sister and is a great example to many. In the time that I have been here she has strengthened my faith and has helped me look for the positives in life. Anyways, we are making some good progress with AnneMarie, she will probably be coming to church this next week so that is exciting news. Also the Brands said they would be coming in the coming weeks. I'm so excited. Unfortunately, Ruth asked us not come by for another month because she is really pregnant and she is always really tired. The ward said that they would continue stopping by and sending emails etc. The ward is awesome.

Well I hope all of you are doing great and are seeing the choicest blessings. I love you all.
Elder Leavell

Monday, May 16, 2011

Couldn't Ask for Anything More

Monday, May 16, 2011 0
This time during transfers I was worried like no other. I didn't want to leave Malibu and I was praying, wishing, and doing everything I could so that the Lord would side with me on this one. Haha. I'm so happy and thankful that he sided with me and gave me what I wanted. Malibu till the end! WOO HOO! Anyways there was a change. I got a new companion, Elder Hough, and I'll have the opportunity to greenie break him. It's a little different being with a companion so young since the last few have been just as old as I am. I still can't believe that I have about a month left. I don't ever want to leave, there is nothing that I would rather be doing. There is not enough time on this mission. I feel like I still have a ton to do. I hope that all of you are doing well.

This week has been a week of interesting experiences. From blessings to celebrities (sort of). I'll first start off with Wednesday. Got off to a good start on Wednesday and made a few contacts with some less actives that we haven't been able to get a hold of. Brother Hunt is now back on the radar, he fell away from us for a little but we wouldn't let him off the hook that easy haha. He is doing well. Been really busy with all the construction projects that his company is working on but we have an appointment with him tomorrow so we will see how he is doing. After that we went to go visit Ruth. She is doing well. I wish I could know exactly what is holding her back from doing the things that she needs to be doing, that "magic lesson" that helps motivate her to come to church but I have the feeling that it will never come because she hasn't been made humble yet. We watched the talk from President Uchtdorf "Of Things That Matter Most." She liked it and enjoyed thinking of things that would help her put her priorities straight. She acts like a Mormon, it's funny. Anyways after that we were asked to give a blessing to someone who was going to die at the UCLA hospital along with the family members. It was an awkward message. Never given a blessing to someone who was going to die that day so I was getting pretty nervous on the way there. Felt terrible. Traffic was like no other. Either way it was bad going on the freeway and going on Sunset. When we got there the nurses asked us who we were there to visit and when we told them they said that we should call the people that called us. We were a little confused but did as they told us but as we were leaving the curtain partially opened in the room and we caught a glimpse and there was a white sheet over the person. We got there too late. I wish there was something that we could have done, somehow gotten there before she had passed. The family members had left. So we called the office where we got the message to go give a blessing and the sisters said, "Oh sorry. They called about 5 minutes ago and told us that they had passed away." I feel terrible. I hope that the family has received some comfort through reading the scriptures or have received help in some other way. I wish there was something that I could do. Anyways this last week we had the opportunity to meet with the Brands and they are doing great. They are Jewish converts of about 15 years and they have been less active for the more part of those years. The husband is a very intellectual guy and likes to feel that he is doing everything to obtain a "release" as he says or in our terms spiritual confidence. There are so many things that could be taught throughout that lesson but I love the opportunity to listen to the spirit. Because he likes to over analyze things and has somewhat of a distorted idea of who God is and how the plan of salvation works, it forces us, especially me, to practice listening and waiting during to lesson to have the spirit guide. It is awesome. There is no way that answering all his questions with the principles of the gospel would help him come closer because he always seems to have an answer for everything. But what we have done, is wait, thinking of what we are going to say, and respond with another question that teaches a principle. I'm so thankful that the spirit is always with us so that we can listen to it's promptings so that we can help further the work of the Lord. There is nothing better than for the spirit to teach while the children of our Heavenly Father study, ponder, and pray about the gospel that he has established here on the earth. I know that our Heavenly Father has set up a way for us to receive spiritual truth through various means because He knows that there are various means that the adversary uses on us daily. I'm so thankful for prophets,for the scriptures, and more importantly the spirit because there is no way that I would be able to discern what is right and what is wrong the way that I do without those ways of communication with my Father in Heaven. On Friday we were asked to go to the UCLA hospital to give another blessing to a person who was in the ICU. I was a little more nervous because that is where the last person was when she passed away. We got there and thankfully the person was still alive. Never thought I would ever say that haha. The only thing was that there was tubes and screens all over him and so I was a little nervous to give the blessing. But we did it anyway. The nurses said that it would be fine. Right when we got done the nurse at the front desk said that the daughter had called and so the nurse inside the room so we asked her if we could talk with her after she got done. We didn't talk with her but the nurse told us that apparently we were not supposed to do it. The nurse said that it was probably the other sibling none the less it made things a little awkward. Enough with the downers haha. We had an awesome miracle happen to us this week! Casey Brown came back and she is prepared! She came to a Friday Forum at the UCLA Institute where Kurby from all the Mormon movies. She enjoyed it and it was awesome to see her. We talked for about half an hour and she seemed to be more open. Didn't think of anything because I didn't push the gospel subject. After we gave the second blessing (the one with all the tubes) we walked back and saw them walking out of the store. We invited her to the baptism that would be happening in the ward on Saturday and she said, "Oh yeah. I had already planned on going to that." To get her to come to a baptism a couple of months ago would have been trying to drag a cat into the water. I was so surprised and excited that she would be going to the baptism. At the baptism, Megan gave her testimony (the person who was getting baptized) after she got baptized and it was perfect. She told everyone that it wasn't until she let her walls down and humbled herself that that was when she received her answer. She told all the missionaries that were there sorry for being a hard investigator, jokingly of course, and sorry for bashing with them and giving them a hard of time. She laughed. She said that she was so happy that she made the decision to do the things that the missionaries had always asked her to do but with a sincere heart. Scott told us on Sunday, when Casey came to church, that she came to talk with Megan because he said that she felt like Megan was talking directly to her. I'm so thankful that the Lord is preparing people for us on a daily basis. I'm so thankful that he provides and taht we don't have to worry. I know that this is his work, the saving of all the children of our Heavenly Father. There is no question that this is his work. If only you could be in the same shoes as one of us you would notice that it is not us convincing but it is as Joseph Smith once said, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

I love you all and am so thankful for all of you. Hope all is well. I will see you all soon enough! Stop counting! Haha.

Elder Leavell

The Vargas family. lived with them in downtown.
Tru (one of Brother Anderson's kids)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blessing after Blessing even Mothers

Monday, May 9, 2011 0
This past week has been amazing. We have been extremely blessed, more than we can even handle. Thank you so much for your prayers on our behalf for the work of the Lord. We have received about 20 referrrals over the past two weeks and that is more than quadruple of the number that the area has seen in many months. It is awesome to see how the Lord has blessed us through our diligent efforts to expand His loving hand towards the children of our Father in Heaven. I can't believe how blessed we have are. We had the opportunity to teach Jason again. He is doing better from what we can observe. It is amazing to see how the Lord blesses His children through their obedience. As he has read his scriptures and been more diligent in his prayers it never gets old to see how countenances change. It's amazing to see how the light can come to those who are truly seeking it. If only you could be in my shoes for a day. If only anyone could be in my shoes for a day. I know if anyone has gone about doing His work will know and will be able to bear witness that this is the work of the Lord. There is no way that this couldn't be for it bears good and Satan could not do things. I know it and I'm so thankful that God knows it too. Anyways we had the wonderful opportunity to go to two FHEs with the UCLA Ward. They were both really awesome and really spiritual. We went to the Institute for one on Monday and have tried to continue to build trust with them. Then for the second one it was with the entire ward. It was awesome. Had a great lesson by Bishop Davis and had some fun games. We got two referrals from them so it was great. We then visited some Chinese referrals at Pepperdine and one of them accepted a baptismal date. This week has been great!

Out of the many lessons that I have learned from my Mom, there is one in particular that I'm extremely thankful for, to always keep my promises. I cannot remember a specific moment where my Mom taught me this great and powerful lesson but I do know that I was taught to do such. As I was thinking about this I thought about all the Mothers that are sharing the experience of sharing their child with the world and how difficult it is for many. This lead me to think of a Mother in the scriptures who has shown the world the importance of keeping promises no matter what. We learn from the Old Testament of a woman named Hannah, a righteous woman who sought after one thing in her life: to have a son, a son who she could teach to change the world. As the years went by, after relentless prayers still being barren she found herself at the bottom where no person could be found, without a child and without hope for the thing that she desired most. In her humble state she falls to her knees, shedding tears of sorrow to offer her last petition in the tabernacle of the Lord. Feeling all to familiar she changes her plea to compromise that would change the history of the world. She covenants that if her Father in Heaven would grant her the one wish of a baby boy she would give him up to the very service she was partaking of. As she offered this solemn covenants with her loving Father a priest in the tabernacle, hearing her petition, was guided to her. He didn't know what for, he didn't know who he needed to speak to but he answered the call, the call to act. Continuing her prayer, the man Eli asks her what prayer she was uttering. She answered, "I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit... But have poured out my soul before the Lord." Discerning the intent of this worthy patron the Father in the Heavens answered her prayers through Eli, who said, "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him." Her countenance changed with the new hope in life she traveled home to her dear husband who supported her plea for all these years. Time would tell if she would remember the Lord. The time came for her to conceive the pearl of great price, must rejoicing was offered on her behalf, preparations made for the new arrival, hoping the next minute would be the last minute of waiting. Overall they were grateful for the tender mercy that the had granted. At last the child was born. The preparations were set in place, the family gathered to discover this baby boy who would be named in the heavens as Samuel, for the Lord had remembered her prayer. Once again much celebration and rejoicing occurred bringing great joy to the new Mother and Father. The moral of the story could be patience is the greatest virtue of them all, humility to the will of the Lord brings life's choicest blessings, or even that prayer is the answer to all of our trials that may be set before us, but that would be short of the lesson that the Master would have us learn. Through those first blissful months of being a new Mother our Heavenly Father was waiting to see if she would answer the covenant that they made to bring this prophesied child into being. The months moved on, as if the were dragged on and on for her son and even those who watched the baby boy grow up, but for Hannah these months were nothing but the blink of an eye. Samuel came to the age of entering into the service of the Lord, he was accountable, but more importantly Hannah became accountable. Would she rise up and fulfill her covenant? Would she give up her dear child to the service of the Lord? Would she even remember? This valiant woman did. Hannah not only gave up her son to the humble service, but went above and beyond by taking him by herself, with three bullocks, flour, and a bottle of wine to the house of the Lord. She went up to Eli giving him the offering and her beloved child. No complaints, no regrets knowing that this was her humble duty to the Lord on High. May I express my gratitude to all the women in this world who do this very act when giving up their child to the service of the Lord. I applaud all of you who through your examples you have taught your children to follow the example of Jesus Christ through righteous doings and obedience to the commandments that He has set and because of this your children have followed after you. There are many kinds of righteous women in this beautiful world but there are none greater than those who make and keep their covenants that they have made with our Heavenly Father. I'm so thankful for all the Mothers who without regret or complaint, suppress their feelings of yearning to see their child, their tears that they cry every night, the empty hole that is in their heart and encourage their young man to be valiant representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ because they know this is their sacred duty and they know this is how they can aide in this work for it is already difficult enough. On this Mother's Day I'm extremely thankful to all these Mother's, who like Hannah, magnify their calling in life to be a Mother and raise their children to be sons and daughters of the Most High God, of which is no greater call and I'm thankful for Mother's who despite their displeasure of the plan of God teach their children to do likewise. You are amazing. You are the "regenerating force in the lives of God's children" as Elder Matthew Cowley once stated. My hope and desire is that all of you continue to do such. Continue obeying the covenants that you have made with your Father in Heaven to sustain the work of the Lord, for all of you, believers or not, are called to this great work. You make more of an impact than you can imagine and I pray that it is an impact that leads to good.

Elder Leavell

Monday, May 2, 2011

Flash from The Past

Monday, May 2, 2011 0
This week has been great. It is definitely not going to be the same when I get home. I can't imagine my life right now without these awesome experiences that I'm having at least on a weekly basis. There are so many things that I'm grateful for and there are so many things that I have learned. I don't know why I'm talking as if I were leaving tomorrow but still it is something that I have thought about a lot recently. I hope that all of you are doing well and are enjoying the same kind of weather we have been having over here. It's been about 80 everyday and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky. It's awesome. We are definitely spoiled in this mission.

Since I had the opportunity to talk with all of you on Wednesday there hasn't been a that has happened. We had a lot of meetings over this last week and so we didn't have the normal amount of time that we have in our area, since to get into our area it always is a daunting task because of traffic. But one of the meetings in specific was one that I probably will never forget. Elder L. Tom Perry came to our mission to speak to us and the Arcadia mission. I don't know what I was more excited for, whether it was to hear the counsel of an Apostle or it was to see one of my friends that was in the Arcadia mission. It ended up that I was super excited for both and I was so happy afterwards. Elder Stanford, from BYU is in the Arcaida mission and the cool things was that we always joked that we would see each other one of these days on our mission because we are so close of each other. Anyways Elder Clayton and Elder Perry came to speak to us and it was awesome. It was more of a pep talk now that I think of it. Elder Clayton spoke of how language study was something that we should always be working on even if we are native in the language (someone must have heard your prayers Mom). He counseled us that if we do our language study everyday we will be able to feel of the spirit more and we will become a better instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father. I'm excited to study a little more in Spanish since I'm not in a Spanish area. Onto the part that was my favorite: Elder Perry. He told of some amazing stories that he was heard and some experiences that he has had but they all had one thing in common: they spoke of becoming. There is one experiences that I would like to share with you. He said that when he was a missionary like us that he didn't have all the MTC training or preparation that we receive when we go on our mission, in fact, back in the day they had a house, where the Church Offices are, where all the missionaries would come for 5 days and receive training to be a missionary. He said, chuckling, that wasn't a very effective way so the Church changed the process of how we got trained. After the 5 days of training they were flown to their designated areas and started the work right away. No orientation, no dinner with the President, nothing. He said that when he got paired up with his companion that he was excited to be with a missionary full of experience, full of wisdom on how to help the people. He got the exact opposite. His trainer was 3 weeks into his mission. He laughed. They went to get some dry cleaning done and pick up some groceries and afterwords went straight to work. As they found the area that they want to knock doors in, they came upon their first door. Elder Perry asked, "what do we do now?" His trainer responded, "I don't know. I have never done this before." We all started laughing, he did too. He said that there has been much change to how missionary work is done but he said one thing has not and that is the message of what we are to become. It's awesome to see how simple to gospel is. That through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we can come to know through study, prayer, and church attendance, the fruit that He has to offer. He also shared the story of Martin Harris. It was awesome to hear that it from his perspective. He said that his Dad always took all the kids for the day one day of the week on a spiritual excursion where one time he went to a graveyard and found the headstone of Martin Harris. His Dad asked the graveyard worker to come over and tell his kids a story. It ended up being that of Martin Harris. I wish I could get you all the story but I'm sure it's on under Martin Harris. It's awesome. I'm so thankful that I'm a part of this Church. I think every week as I have been diligent in reading and praying about everything I have gained a stronger testimony of the things we believe. There is no way to explain how I know but I do know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah. Granted, there are many other churches that bring good into the world and bring light to all but I feel awful because they are missing out.

The one lesson that I would like to share with you that I found amazing was the one we had with Sister Montgomery. She is a nonmember who is married to a member who is coming back to the Church. She grew up in the United Church of Christ, at least that is what it is called now, and has a strong testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ. We talked for awhile trying to get to know her and what she believes and she told of us of something that reminded me of the Articles of Faith. She said that she wished she knew exactly what her church believes. It was a great blessing to be able to provide that for what we believe. We went over it with her and she loved it. She said that she wished every church had that. We then talked her about prophets and how that was the dividing line between us and her and explained that we believe that He literally speaks still through a prophet just as in times of old. That lead into the Book of Mormon. She said that she hadn't read it before but had seen her husband pick it up recently more often. We commited her to read the Book of Mormon and we have a follow up lesson with her this coming week. It was a miracle to find her and have her prepared to listen to what the Lord has to offer.

We also had the privilege of helping with the Mormon Helping Hands activity that the stakes here in Los Angeles planned. We planted a palm tree for it and it was good work out haha. We had the worst place to dig a hole. There were huge pieces of rock that we had to dig around and then pull out. We were the last ones to plant the palm tree and we felt like we were retarded haha. That was until everyone saw everything that we pulled out of the hole. It was a good time being in our yellow shirts. It was awesome to see about 200 yellow shirts along the beach planting trees and palms along the board walk. I know it will make a difference in the community and make the place look better. Plus it was awesome to see how people would stop and look at what we were doing. I think some of them came and joined us, not sure though. We got done in about 2 hours and I think as a whole we planted about 100 plants. This is an on going effort that is going on in Santa Monica but there were projects done by the members all over Los Angeles so there thousands of members doing work around the community. Got to love the church. There are so many things that I'm thankful for and that is one of them. The Church definitely encourages planned forms of service. There are countless reasons why but I think that the most important one is that the Lord would do it and we are His disciples. I love you all and am thankful for all of you. I hope all is well and hope to hear from you soon. Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers. You make a greater impact on the world than you imagine. I know that if it wasn't for my Mom who raised me the way she did that I would not be here on a mission. So thanks for everything that you have done, everything that you are doing, and everything that you will do for those whom you serve. You're the best!

Elder Leavell

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