Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trials of our Faith

There are thousands of examples and stories in the scriptures of faith. Often God tests our faith to see how much we love him and how willing we are to show that we really believe he knows best. We know that we´re here on earth to be tested and lately I´ve been thinking about how often we´re given chances to pass those tests. There are different types of test but with every test we pass--no matter how small--our faith grows. I think the trials of our faith always test weather or not we´re obedient to the commandments of God but they can come from different circumstances. Often our faith is tested and we "pass" only with the help of others. This is usually the case when kids in the church are small and largely depend on their parents´ testimony as the motivation to keep the commandments. I doubt I would have gone to church very much as a kid if my parents wouldn´t have helped. Often with those who are just starting to investigate the church have similar circumstances. The missionaries need to constantly remind them to pray and read and often have to call to wake them up on Sunday morning. When our faith is just starting to bud it´ll start to bloom as we pass these "group tests"--because we have the help of others to pass. These are the easiest kinds of tests but they´re necessary to build the kind of faith we need to pass the other tests we´ll face. Naaman was a leper. He sought to be healed by a prophet of God (2 Kings 5:1-9). The prophet told him, "Go and awash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." However, "Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (2 Kings 5:10-14). Naaman probably wouldn´t have passed the test if his servants wouldn´t have helped him. However, because of their help he passed, and his faith grew "now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel" (2 Kings 5:15). On another note, it´s interesting how the simplicity of the commandment became a trial of his faith in itself. He didn´t understand why the prophet would send him to a river instead of "call[ing] on the name of the Lord his God, and strik[ing] his hand" to cover the leper. And on top of that he didn´t understand why the prophet wouldn´t send him to a better river, "Are not Abana and Pharpar...better than all the waters of Israel". I think often we have similar doubts, often we don´t understand a commandment or even think the counsel of the Lord should be something different. Luckily Naaman had his friends to help him out, but maybe for us it won´t always be that way. "Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works" (Jacob 4:10). Often our faith is tested and we don´t have the help of others. Abraham had probably one of the hardest tests of his faith when the Lord asked him to sacrifice his only son. The story takes a new light if we consider the fact that Abraham was almost sacrificed as a kid by his father and by wicked priests who "had turned from their righteousness" (Abraham 1:5-7) and that the son he was about to sacrifice came after he and his wife thought they couldn´t have any more kids. Abraham nonetheless, obeyed and had raised his hand when an angel came and stopped him (Genesis 22:9-11). But, for his faith and for passing the test he recieved the promise that "I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:17-18). Often our faith is tested when not only we don´t have any help, but when those are around us are against us choosing the right. To me these are probably the hardest tests of our faith, but if we pass them our faith will grow and we will be blessed maybe even more than when we pass the other tests. Nephi experienced this opposition after partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. "And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not" (1 Nephi 8:33). I love that phrase so much. Do we love God more than we love fitting in? Unfortunately, people often fail these tests. In the story of the tree of life Nephi´s father notes that, "as many as heeded them, had fallen away" (1 Nephi 8:34). The wicked king Noah was about to release Abinadi "for he feared his word; for he feared that the judgments of God would come upon him. But the priests lifted up their voices..." and the king, in spite of his better judgment, "delivered him up that he might be slain" (Mosiah 17:11-12). I hope we´ll always be like Nephi and not give heed to those who oppose us, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16). With all the love of a passed test, Elder Lounsbury

Monday, July 23, 2012

Faith and Fear

As the bus left the terminal in San Rafael and started winding it´s way to Mendoza a million things ran through my head. Like any area, I was a bit sad to leave behind all of the members and investigators I had enjoyed getting to know. Questions of how my new area and companion would be interrupted my thought pattern and finally I began evaluating my transfers in El Cerrito. I thought about when I first got there and how my companion told me that "the people don´t want to listen to us." I thought about training my new companion and his attitute of "we´re going to teach everyone." And finally I thought about the diference in success that I had in those transfers, and what made the difference. Was it the people? I don´t think so... What we taught? No... Then what? I started asking myself, "in what way does our perspective (aka our faith or doubt) affect our reality?". I think often what we hope is going to happen, or what we fear is going to happen, will happen. In Alma 57 we find the story of the 2000 stripling warriors, kids my age or less who were about to fight a bunch of giantly manly men to perserve their liberty and freedom. They were taught by their moms that if they had faith in God and didn´t doubt, then God would perserve and protect them. That´s a really interesting promise for me. If they trusted in God, he would protect them--so what they believed would happen, would happen--but if they started to doubt, if they started to think "maybe God won´t protect me" then they didn´t have the promise, and maybe one of them would have died. But, they kept their faith and were perserved by God--not one of them died. Their faith brought about what they had hoped for. I remember one time dad told me a story about a group of people that feared the government. I have no idea if they story is true or not but It goes something like this: the people though they government was going to take away their freedom, so because of their fear they went and bought a large amount of illegal weapons. So even though the government really didn´t care about them before, once they found out a group of people was buying illegal weapons they starting caring a little more. And in they end they "took away their freedom" (aka they went to jail for owning those weapons) and basically everything this group of people fear was going to happen--happened. In Matthew 14:25-31 we find the story of when Jesus walks on water. At first his disciples are afraid but Jesus tells them, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." Then Peter gets a little courageous and says, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." I think he just wanted to try walking on water as well haha. Jesus tells him to come and then "when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." Woah! I mean we can believe that Jesus walked on water because he was the Son of God, but Peter? An ordinary man? What faith, no? But, the winds were strong and "he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, say, Lord, save me." In the moment he began to fear in the very moment he began to doubt, he began to sink. His fear brought about the very thing he fear. Verse 31 states, "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and unto him, O though of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" It´s not always easy to have a positive perspective or to always have the greatest faith. We all have our own "strong winds". We all have our own trials and we all begin to doubt or fear at least a little bit. But it´s comforting for me to know that the Savior will always be there to "stretch forth his hand" and catch us. A father once went to Jesus so that he healed his son who had a "foul spirit". Jesus tells the father, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (that´s a pretty awesome promise by the way) to which the father cries out, "I believe". If any of you have seen the movie How To Find Faith In Christ when the father says that Jesus kinds gives him a look as if asking, "Are you sure?" and then the father responds, "help thou mine unbelief." Even though this man might not have had the sufficient faith, at least he recognized he could call upon divinity to help him. Frequently we talk with people who are trying to gain a testimony about the Book of Mormon or about the church in general and if have to help them get to this point. We have to help them muster up enough faith to at least believe that God can help them gain the faith they need. James states, "If any of 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. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." (James 1:5-6). We find a similar promise in the Book of Mormon. If we ask in doubt, or if we ask without the intention to follow the answer we receive, we don´t have the promise, and it´s probable our doubts are going to bring about what we doubted. If we don´t think we´ll recieve an answer, we won´t, and if we believe we´ll recieve an answer, we will. It´s actually all pretty simple. I think the difference in the success we had in El Cerrito basically all stemmed from this idea. In my first transfer I think it would safe to say my mentality was something like, "God could do it, but I don´t think he will." Sometimes we think like that don´t we? "God could work a miracle with my friend, but I kinda doubt it´ll happen." Of course if we think like that we´re not going to see his blessing in our lives, our faith doesn´t deserve it. But, "Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall power to do whatsoever thing..." (Moroni 7:33). With all the love of a little hill, Elder Lounsbury

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why (only) give in December?

The other day I bought a delicious sleeve of Quaker oatmeal cookies (the apple and honey kind). Zone Conference had lasted almost the entire day and when we left I had to think twice if we had actually ever eaten. I carefully examined the third one as if asking, "how is it possible that cookies can be so good?" when out of the corner of my eye I saw an old hiking backpack--the kind with metal poles as supports--on the corner of an entrance to a bank. In the split second that I had to think before looking up the thought crossed my mind, "poor guy, that´s probably all he owns". Then I looked up and saw the backpack´s owner, and without a moments hesitance I heard, "do you have two pesos?" What had before been pity somehow turned to annoyance and I casually told him I had nothing and kept walking. As we stepped into the intersection I heard him say something like, "oh come on, you have food!" I realized in the middle of the street what an awful mistake I had just made. We waited on the other corner for the lights to change and I embarrassingly walked back to face him. I gave him the sleeve of cookies and apologized and made my way back across the intersection to wait for the bus. I started asking myself, why was my first reaction to just ignore him? What would have happened if he wouldn´t have said anything back? How can I call myself a representative of Jesus Christ? I know you all might think I´m a terrible person now haha, but I think we often find ourselves in similar situations. These are my thoughts: Why give? Mosiah states it pretty clearly, "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the begger putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish" (Mosiah 4:16). I don´t think it gets much more clear than that. It´s actually necessary if we wish to retain a remission of our sins, "For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God--I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor...both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 4:26). Johns says, "But whoso hath this world´s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18). My thoughts were practically the same. Do we profess to be followers of Jesus Christ in word, or do our deeds reflect our faith? The folly of judging Matthew says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again"(Matthew 7:1-2). Mosiah talks about it specifically about how we judge those who are less fortunate than us, "Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just-- But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth his the same hath great cause to repent..." (Mosiah 4:17-18). I think sometimes the idea given by Mosiah of "the man has brough upon himself his misery" can also be something like "the man will bring upon himself more misery if I give him what I have." Both of the judgements are pretty similar. I´ve asked myself, "why are we willing to give to a white-bearded man outside of Walmart at the sound of a bell while hesitant to help an untrimmed man under a bridge or sitting at a street corner?" I think our judgements are the only reason we would give in one situation and hold back what we have in the other. Mosiah makes a great point, "For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have?" (Mosiah 4:19). Give of your love That is what Christ´s whole message is, is it not? Like Mosiah says, we do this by administering to their temporal AND spiritual needs. I´m running out of time but I think we all can think of ways to better give of our love. Paul asks, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35). Let´s give our love to those around us lest we become the broken link in helping someone else feel the love of Christ. With all the love of a sleeve of cookies, Elder Lounsbury

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Freedom Week

Hey family, this week was pretty crazy. I hope you all had a great fourth of July! We started off the day in style with some pretty great Freedom Toast, hash browns and orange juice. We had some great plans to make burgers with BBQ and fries but they had to get postponed until the next day because of some emergence exchanges we had to do soooo it wasn´t the perfect fourth of july but we spent it in the cause of justice so I figured it couldn´t have been too much more American. On the 5th we made our BBQ burgers and pretty much failed at making a fire and cooking them over a grill so we ate some pretty raw meat hahah. But we learned how to do better next time and that´s all the matters. And to finish it all off on the 7th we made banana splits that were absolutely wonderful. Other than that things have been pretty calm this week. We´ve been working with Agustin´s mom and dad (the dad is less active and the mom isn´t a member) and they both came to church this week so that´s been pretty great. They need to get married so she can´t get baptized quite yet but I´m sure it´ll happen in the future so that´s wonderful. There´s nothing quite like seeing a whole family sitting there on the pews that weren´t there before you started working with them. Teodora couldn´t come to church again because she was doing something with her granddaughter who is visiting her for a while from Africa, so we´re a little bummed about that but she already passed her baptismal interview and now pretty much just needs to go to church again. We committed her to going next week but I´m afraid she´s going to be something with her granddaughter again. She´s mentioned a couple times, "I´ll go again when my granddaughter leaves" which kinda makes me nervous because I don´t think that´s going to be anytime soon. The other two people we were working with who had baptismal dates for this week left....One of them comes back from Buenos Aires today so we can start working with her again but the other one left to a southern city and I think it´s pretty much for good...so that´s kinda annoying. The good news is we´re still working with a couple of people that know members and we´re still waiting to teach another one who we haven´t met yet. The slight problem that we have is that this one family who is just sharing like the gospel like bosses with all their friends lives kinda far away....so we have to bug the members and get them to take us there and it doesn´t always work out like we want. But, we´re getting along anyways. One of the girls from this family we´re teaching that just lives out in the middle of nowhere was committed to going to church on Saturday night. We had to call like everyone in the ward who has a car to figure out how we were going to get her there because there aren´t any busses on Sunday. Anddd after calling people for like maybe more than half an hour, we get a text in the morning that says her parents wouldn´t let her go. So that was also kind of a bummer but we´re going to start working more with getting the parents a testimony because as of now they´ve been listening and everything but I don´t think they´ve felt it as much as she has. Welp, other than that, everythings been pretty normal over here. I´m kinda getting ready to go to a new area, so hopefully in one week I´ll be telling you guys where I´m going. I hope you all have another great week! With all the love of a banana split, Elder Lounsbury

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July Brings Winter

Hello earthlings!! This week was pretty delicious! We´ve been teaching mostly the same people that we were teaching last week, so almost all of the lessons we taught this week were with members, which is really helping the investigators progress. We were a little disappointed because one of our investigators that had a baptismal date for this Saturday is going to Buenos Aires for like a week....so that baptism fell through for right now. We also have an investigator who might be moving back to another city in Argentina this week (as of now she has a tentative baptismal date for this Saturday) so....we´re going to see how that goes as well. Andddd the last baptism we had scheduled for this week couldn´t make it to church this week because she had family over, so unless the bishop makes an exception we´re probably have to move it to the 14. We were a little disappointed that out of the three baptisms we could have had this week none are looking very certain, but we should at least have one before I leave this area. We were also hoping that one of the families we are teaching would come to church this week but they don´t really feel comfortable yet and they said that for now they´re working on building a house for someone in their family in the morning on Sunday, so we´re hoping to go by this week on Saturday to help them out so that they can go next week. They´re progressing pretty well but it´s hard to teach to all of their needs because some of them understand a lot faster than others. But I have high hopes they´ll get baptized in the future. The great news this week is that we found two other small families to teach. Both of them are related to one of the recent converts in our area. Before apparently one of the family members wasn´t too friendly with the missionaries but now there doesn´t seem to be a problem so we´re excited to be finding people even though we´re teaching a pretty decent amount of people. I think if we teach them with a member this week and have that member pick them up Sunday morning that we can get those two families to church pretty easily so that´ll be great. Even though I´m probably leaving the area in two more weeks it´s cool to see how better off the area is than when I first got here and to know that we´ve found a couple people who are going to get baptized in the future. Other than that, it snowed this morning! It kinda came out of nowhere, yesterday I was walking around with a short sleeve shirt and today it´s back to coats and scarfs. But even then it´s not very cold. Oh yeah, and our shower still isn´t fixed (it´s been like 2 weeks since only cold water comes out) so I think I´ll be welcoming transfers because warm-water-bucket showers some days and straight up cold showers other days are not my favorite things to do in winter. But it´s all for the experience right? Well family, I hope you all have a fantastic week, With all the love of a cold shower, Elder Lounsbury