why do we stay?

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This isn’t my weekly email…it’s an extra. I’d like to share, with permission, a piece of an email from Thomas B. Griffith. He was my institute teacher a year and half ago.

During the last few years, I’ve been involved in a project that reaches out to members of the Church whose faith is wavering and whose commitment to the Restoration has weakened. Often these folks are troubled by their discovery that leaders of the Church are fallible or by the Church’s position on same-sex marriage or the role of women in the Church. Whatever their concern, my message is the same: Stay because the Church is true, you need the Church, and the Church needs you. Working with these people has caused me to think deeply about why I remain committed.

1. I believe the story of the Restoration. The more I learn about the story of the Restoration, especially the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the more convinced I am that what Joseph Smith said happened to him did happen to him. There were too many eye-witnesses to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to think that the story of its recovery and translation was made up. Even more compelling is the book itself. The only explanation of its origin that can account for its complexity, its literary sophistication, its links to the ancient world, and the power of its messages is the explanation Joseph Smith gave: It is an ancient book written by multiple authors that he received from an angel and translated miraculously “by the gift and power of God.” Because I cannot account for the Book of Mormon in any other way, my life must be lived with this fact in mind. The miracle of the Book of Mormon is a constant reminder to me that reality includes so much more than we can see, touch, feel, and measure. The real world is filled with heavenly beings and purpose. The material world is just a small part of the real world. And when I live with that in mind, I feel the Lord’s presence in my life. When I study the Book of Mormon, the other Restoration scriptures, the Bible, and the teachings of modern prophets with these realities in mind, I feel the Spirit.

 
2. The three most important reasons I go to Church.
a. The primary reason I go to Church is to take the sacrament, a weekly reminder to me of the real world, a world whose history turns on the life of Christ. I take of the sacrament because Christ commanded it, but He commanded it so that we would have a tangible way to always remember Him.
 
b. I believe that Elder Eyring is right when he teaches that one of the most important ways Heavenly Father speaks to us is through people at Church. I go to Church to try and hear Heavenly Father speaking to me through the words of the speakers, teachers, and class members. Sometimes His voice is hard to hear through flawed people, but often He speaks clearly and plainly.
 
c. I go to Church looking for ways to help other people. I assume that every person I meet is struggling with burdens (I know that I am!). If I go to Church looking for ways to help others, Heavenly Father always prompts me. 
 
3. What about things that bother me at Church?
a. When we lived in Charlotte, I home taught a family whose father was not active. After visiting the family for several months, the father remarked that I had never asked him why he didn’t come to Church. He asked me if I wanted to know why. I told him that I’d love to hear that, and so we scheduled a time to talk. The next week, I went to his house and listened for an hour while he listed all the things that bothered him about the Church. When he finished, I told him that I agreed with everything he said, but that I still went to Church. The question he had to answer, I said, was why I came but he didn’t. The point I was trying to make is that plenty of things bother me at Church. But the Lord didn’t consult me when deciding how best to organize the Church. Why should I expect that everything at Church would be to my liking and mypreferences? Instead, wouldn’t it be more likely that the Lord would create a Church experience that changed me into someone much better than I am naturally. It’s like the Sermon on the Mount. As C. S. Lewis taught, no one who has read it carefully, likes the Sermon on the Mount. It is a slap in the face to the natural man and woman. It is a call to change. I go to Church, not because it always makes me comfortable, but because there really were golden plates. (By the way, the father started attending Church again!)
 
b. I try and keep in mind that I may be wrong about the things that bother me. Perhaps I’m not seeing things from the Lord’s perspective. If I had greater understanding, perhaps I would see better why certain things are done the way they are.
 
c. For those things that I think need changing or improving, I stay and remain actively involved because I want to help the Church improve. We have a long way to go to be the Church the Lord wants us to be. The 9th Article of Faith reminds us that “He will yet reveal many great and important things.” Those “great and important things” will change the way we view things now. I want to be part of that exciting process of helping prepare the Church for its role in the world. And so I tell people who are bothered by this or that, don’t stay away! Come and help us get better.  In my experience, the leadership of the Church is committed to making the Church become all it can be. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the Church and are open to ideas that will help the Church fulfill its destiny and accomplish its mission. I want to be part of that discussion as we try to understand what we can do as a people to better represent the Savior in the world.

I am grateful for my own chance to help with the growth of the Church. We grow in strength as each member strengthens their own testimony of the Restored Gospel. Jerry taught me about “question unto understanding” rather than “question unto doubtful disputation.” One leads to light, peace, knowledge, understanding, confidence, and a fulfillment of our potential as children of a loving Heavenly Father. The other leads to frustration and discontent. Sometimes we may have to choose frustration and discontent for a season to figure things out. But as we strengthen our testimony of the basic truths of the Restoration, we can let go of a lot of that frustration and discontent. We all want to be at peace. I’m grateful that my peace is growing.

Once again, I love you all! Grow in peace! 🙂

January 26, 2015….GOSSIP

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Today I mostly want to quote a lot of people and maybe have time to write stuff myself but first I want to talk about gossip. Our mission president sent out an email entitled "GOSSIP is poison to our soul" and here is a snippet:

"Gossip is the worst form of of judging. The tongue is the most dangerous, destructive, and deadly weapon available to man. A vicious tongue can ruin the reputation and even the future of one attacked. These types of words and remarks are so stealthy and cowardly that one cannot guard against them. There are those who relish in the news of others weaknesses or untruths, those who redistribute or record and save such vile judgments….

I believe that each of us are guilty at some level of this prideful practice. Gossip is poison to our soul. The very poison that will drive the Spirit of the Lord from us. What a better mission it would be if we would put into practice what we have all heard and read so many times: "….whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." (Matt 7:12) Instead, we are all so inclined to judge others with our gossip by a standard different from the one by which we would wish or be willing to be judged. We will never reach our goals and potential growth as long as we allow this parasite within us. We have to be unified as one in purpose and diligence. Gossip is a dividing weapon that will fractionalize our efforts."

It has really sunken into me how careful we need to be with the way we talk about friends, family, and strangers. What is gossip? Evaluate your definition of "gossip" and evaluate the words that come out of your mouth this week. To what degree are each of us guilty of gossip?

We had a situation where a member called one of our investigators a "pothead" and we were in the circle and people laughed but it got around to said investigator’s mom, and since we were in the circle that those words were said and we didn’t stop it or say anything nice to turn it around, it was US who is saying he smokes pot by the time it got to his mom, and now she is really antagonistic towards us/we’re hypocrites/we’re a cult and she doesn’t want us on her property. We feel so bad! We are trying to fix things but you can’t un-say something or go back and make it right. I never want to let a negative word fly from my mouth…. or anyone I’m with without turning it around and pointing out the strengths of the individual being talked about. The way we can reach a higher standard of Christianity is by expecting the best and speaking the good about those around us. I remember a story that one of my YW leaders told me….she moved to Oakley and was in a group where someone said something negative about someone else, and Kristin Pickett turned it around by talking about that person’s strengths. Without turning it around, the new person would have had all these bad ideas about a person she hadn’t even met yet! That is sad that we do that to the people around us. And of course wonderful to have an example like Sis Pickett who turned it around. I wish I could have done that in our situation, now it has reflected badly on me and the Church. I’ll do better in the future!

oh oh oh! I want to share a paragraph from Sis Rindlisbacher’s email, she was my companion in La Follette and is still up there for her last transfer:

" Junebug’s been busy too. We saw him one time at McDonald’s though. We started sharing just one verse and it turned into a kind of scripture study. We showed him the restoration pamphlet with Peter James and John and it seemed like things are starting to click. He shared Jeremiah 23 with us and said he doesn’t believe anything a preacher says, even in his own church, unless he read it "in here" he said pointing to the bible, "or here" he pointed to the book of Mormon. Ahhhhhhhhh! I think he’s gaining a testimony of the book of Mormon! "
AHhhhhh!!! She also said "We also talked about eternal marriage and junebug looked like he was deep in thought when we left. I don’t know when, but he’s going to join the church."

I am so grateful we went to McDonald’s and found him. It feels good to see what has come from someone I helped find in La Follette. June-bug and Una are some of my favorite people!!!

I am also filled with joy about Anna Moritz that me and Sis Godlewski started teaching. From Sis Rindlisbacher again:

"Anna said we could come share a talk with her last Monday.. we had a long conversation AND SHE TOLD US SHE KNOWS THE CHURCH IS TRUE. "My husband had talked me out of it before, had me in tears, but I was laying in bed and a peace came over me, I saw the Bible and Book of Mormon by the window and I just knew." Apparently she was impressed every time she had a concern we would come back with an answer and other churches had ignored her questions. "You always show me where it is in the Bible and the Book of Mormon too. The apostasy is in the Bible but no one else talks about it." She said she thinks of the Mormon church whenever she’d take her kids to their church. She said she was just unsure of how to approach her husband. We had her on the prayer role this week. She called us today to tell us her husband is okay with us having bible studies and she can come to church again!!!!!!!!!!!!! My heart is so happy right now (: "

I am grateful for the good things happening in La Follette! There are good things happening in Athens too…kind of at a standstill with many of our investigators but we have high hopes that things will start moving!

We found out Elder Christopherson is coming in February…wooo!

Allrighty, I am sending another email this week so read them both! Love you all–

Sister Hale

January 20, 2015 I MADE IT 6 MONTHS!!!! be proud.

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This week was very eventful I think so I will try to write fast so I can share some good stories!

I forgot to mention that Kay Hebert was getting baptized on the 17th, but don’t worry it didn’t happen. BUT it will happen sometime in February! Her husband is a member and they are in their late 50s I think. I’ll keep ya updated on what happens there!

Kind of the highlight of my week was dropping in on Kathy Walters, a previous investigator from before I came. When we told her that the Elders are teaching her grandsons Zach and Seth, she just started weeping. She has been praying for Seth (he’s 13) because he’s been through a lot as a kid and is really struggling. She has been stressing over how he doesn’t have good father figures in his life. I asked her why she quit meeting with the Sisters and she said she was afraid to read something that wasn’t the Bible. We talked about that for a bit and we told her she needs to find out if the Book of Mormon is true, because if it is, it will change Seth’s life and hers and will be the answer to her prayers. So will she finally read and pray about it? Yes, she said. We asked if she got that answer, if she would be baptized with Seth, and she said yes. She kept crying and holding my hand and then we all prayed together. She prayed the most heartfelt and grateful prayer I think I’ve ever heard. She thanked God for answering her prayers and prayed that Seth could have the right people in his life who will tell him he’s worth something and that he’s a child of God. She said she was really touched we keep coming back, that no other people pay attention or get her address or check up on her when she stops going to church. It made me really grateful for the programs and outreach effort of the Church… home teaching, visiting teaching, missionary work, callings…we do our best to keep track of and love each other.

Friday night was an absolute blast. We have ward pie night every 3rd Friday of the month and this time Sister Mickelson and I performed together! She is a champ jump-roper so she did a routine to Georgia Porcupine on the piano. Afterwards she got the kids doing tricks and then I got a game of Pig going with basketball BUT Bishop Laing beat me so we need to rematch sometime.

We attended a little bit of an institute class this week and they were discussing "pondering"….that it is different from daydreaming, it’s a focused and deliberate choice, and goes along with having a prayer in your heart/praying always. What we are working towards is always acting/thinking in harmony with God’s will, to never think evil, to always seek good.

Yesterday we went up to Bald River Falls with Sister Duggan and the Elders! It was fun to go on a little hike.

We were in Vonore last night and both appointments fell through…we ended up finding an exmormon! I was really excited. Her name is Mary and we found that she’s been Baptist for 17 years. I left her with a Conference Ensign and showed her who the current prophet is (Thomas S Monson) and left her with a talk to look at. She didn’t open up too much to us but she let us right in and was very kind, so we’ll go back in a few weeks. I want to hear her story.

I have been studying Quakerism and it is just really neat. They have a very similar doctrine and history to us (George Fox is kinda their Joseph Smith?). We are teaching the Schaffer’s again tonight, they are the Quaker couple that we see every other week.

I really can’t believe I’ve been half a year in Tennessee. Blows. my. mind. Really don’t know what to think about that except that I’m grateful I’ve lived through it and I’m grateful for all the miracles that keep me going. "The bad days outnumber the good days but the good days outweigh the bad."….that’s from my super smart trainer Sister Godlewski and it’s true, but also true that there starts being more and more good days as you really strive to have a good attitude and love and serve wholeheartedly.

I love you all!! 🙂

– Sister Hale

Quote of the week! … Sister Mickelson to Jasper: "You’ll set up a date to get your tattoo but not to get baptized??"

January 12, 2015

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I will probably end up sending mostly pictures and less news this week!

I am really sad to hear about Uncle Kirby passing away. He was fun and friendly and funny whenever they were in town. I sure love aunt Lucille and hope all goes well with her coming back from Peru. Love love that family, wish I could hug her and all the cousins.
Last Monday was way fun, we were able to go to Harrison Bay to the church gym with the other missionaries! Got to play basketball!!!! It was so fun, best P-day since the last time I played basketball on a P-day. We rode up with the Elders, and Elder G Smith did something to his knees so we ended up in the ER till 9:30 that night. He’s okay, he has a brace and crutches for a couple weeks but he doesn’t have to go home or anything.
We have so many investigators who are so close to progressing, if they’d just come to church. Beecher came to church yesterday though!! He is 68 and is in Ether in the Book of Mormon, he reads like 100 pages between our lessons.
I also heard that June-bug and Una from La Follette (found them at McDonald’s) had a lesson with President Smith there. And they said they will come to church if he can find someone to teach his Sunday School class! I am way pumped to see what happens with them.
Love you all! everyone stay warm and drive safe!

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I look really sad that this possum is dead but mostly I was super grossed out

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January 5, 2015

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This week was pretty wonderful!

On Tuesday we had members with us all day, and the lessons went awesome. Well, there was also a lilbit of a situation that is hopefully under control. We were teaching this 60+ year old man, and things were going pretty good, we soft-committed him for baptism. He often has random questions about our beliefs, just has all these crazy things that people have told him about us, but we weren’t quite expecting this one…"All right now I have a question and you all have to answer straight up," so we told him to go for it, and then he gestures at ME and says "What if I wanted to take her out to dinner?" AHH hahaha. AWKWARD. We just panicked a little and then told them about our call as missionaries and the member Sis. Hansen said we don’t date, however, other women at the church do…haha. Sis Hansen is an awesome team-up. She will never let me live that down though.

Next we saw Jerry Ogle. He calls us "my Mormon Sisters". He is an older gentleman we found tracting and before we had taught anything, he said "I’ve always been fascinated about you guys. I mean, did it really happen? Did Joseph Smith really translate from gold plates?" Apparently he had a Book of Mormon 15 years ago and read from it but never met with missionaries. So we read 3 Nephi 11 with him and talked a lot about the Book of Mormon. He is a history guy so he had a lot of good questions about what was happening in different areas of the world at the same time. He stopped me in the middle of a sentence and said "Now wait a minute… How is it possible that anyone could say this was all made up? Does the world not realize how miraculous this is?" So he is really excited to read it but has eye problems. We prayed his eyes wouldn’t hurt. Before we left he said "One more thing…" and pulled out the cigarette pack that was in his shirt pocket. "I need help getting rid of this so that I’ll be able to do God’s will." Who is this guy? This only happens in the Ensign! We are so pumped for him.

One night we were with Sister Alexander in Sweetwater and our appointment fell through so we were kinda going places and nothing was working out but by then we only had 20 minutes left. So we prayed and Sis Mickelson said we could go to a previous investigator, Jasper. On the way she said "I know who we need to see! That family we met the first day you were here!" They live in the same housing so first we tried Jasper and he wasn’t home, so we went back toward our car, and that family, Katie and Casey, had just pulled up. We said hi and they invited us in and it was late so we only had a minute but they invited us back. We’ll see what comes of it!

We have so many members come out with us on team ups, we had 12 member-present lessons in one week! In LaFollette we were lucky to get over 5. I was sitting in Relief Society yesterday and just looking at everyone and I am amazed at what great characters we have in the Athens ward. Like, they are all hilarious and wonderful. I am amazed that so many of them are converts from within the last 10 or so years. I love that we get occasional "Amen!"s from Sister Youngsma during Sacrament Meeting and the excitement they have, combined from their Baptist/Pentecostal backgrounds and their love of learning the restored Gospel. I love hearing all the stories everyone has of finding the church. Because so many of them are converts, they have a real love of going out to teach with the missionaries because not too long ago, they were the ones being taught. I’ve gotten to know Bishop Laing a little better too…it is weird because we were so close to the Branch President/Smith family in LaFollette but I still hardly know members besides those that go out to teach with us. Since the Elders have the Athens are and we are in Madisonville, we don’t get in members’ homes as often as we’d like.

So I am a terrible human being/missionary. On New Year’s Eve we were supposed to be done proselyting at 5 unless families really wanted us to come teach them, so we didn’t cancel our appointments and worked all night and later realized we probably should have taken a break and had a little fun. As I was falling asleep it just made sense in my head that since we worked on New Year’s Eve "too much," that we deserved to not exercise and sleep til 7 that morning. Sis Mickelson had joked about us doing that earlier. So I changed the alarm in the middle of the night, thinking Sis Mickelson would love the New Year’s present I gave to her….and then we woke up and I felt really bad haha. I just took away her agency and made her sleep in on the first day of the new year! We’ve been laughing about it all week. (p.s. I repented.) On New Year’s Day we went to the Robinson’s and had black-eyed peas and hog-jaw (for good luck??).

Kay Hebert has set her baptismal date for the 17th of January. We feel really good about that, and Sister Hansen has invited her to her house and is taking it on herself to make sure Kay feels welcome and comfortable. If I never learn how to be a good missionary, at least I am learning how to be a good member when I get home. It is so easy to help out, I didn’t realize that before.

I feel like I leave out all the most important details, like how there are dead possums everywhere and also the general missionary day-by-day grind. We talk all day and that is weird. We talk and make phone calls and walk and drive. haha. We walk around and try to figure out non-awkward ways of getting people to stop and talk to us. Yesterday we had a lady take a picture of us while she was on a walk and then ended up speed walking a mile loop with her after a whole day of fasting so that we could get to know her and try to teach her. Whenever we try to teach high school boys they just look at us with a stupid grin on their face the whole time. what else…..oh! Sister Mickelson is teaching me how to do jump rope tricks in the mornings. She was on all these jump rope teams and I feel like an elephant when I try but I’m getting better!

This transfer has been really good to me. I have learned how important humility is. Proverbs 13:10, "Only by pride cometh contention." I think about all I have learned from my mission, and humility and prayer seem to be the most meaningful to me at this point. It takes humility to be a good companion. You always have different ideas and perspectives. I think about all the many times I hear people say pretty rude things about their spouses, and I hate that, it makes me so sad! People could be so much happier and enjoy their friends/family so much more if we could be more humble and let things go. It takes humility to pray. The invitation/commandment to "pray always" is actually how God wants us to live our entire lives, every day. That is how we change. That is how we remain constant, forgive easily, repent quickly, and learn to change our desires. "The purpose of the gospel is to change human nature."

Thanks for all the prayers! Love you all.

– Sister Hale