The Greatest Gift

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We had a lot of snow for Christmas.

 

 

December 26, 2016

Christmas has come and it has gone. What a wonderful time of year.  I really love Christmas. Too bad it went by so quick this year. Thank everyone for all the kind gifts and cards, I really appreciate them.  

And with today I would like to reflect on something I have learned on my mission.  I’m torn between talking my experience with charity, or talking about what I learned about Christ this Christmas. But due to the time of the year I’ll talk about Jesus Christ.  And you can expect me to talk about charity sometime soon. 

I wish to talk about many aspects of Christ’s life here, why he was born, and what is our relation to Christ.  So, expect me to talk about this a while. Anyways I’ll start with talking about one tradition that most people have on Christmas, which is the giving of gifts to loved ones. We all do it, and it takes up a lot of our minds thinking about what we are going to get, or what we “need” to get people. 

These gifts we give are symbols of something that happened a long time ago, when our Savior was born—not the gifts of the wise men; no, even those are symbols of a greater gift, the greatest gift.—The gift Heavenly Father gave to all of us.  The Prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 9:6 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace

The gift God gave us is his son, Jesus Christ, to come into the world for us.  This is one of the most amazing thing about Christmas. Jesus was sent to be perfect a perfect example for us and to open the way to return to Heavenly Father. This was his mission.

To further illustrate how amazing his task was let me share a scriptural story from the Book of Mormon. A little context: a group of recent converts to Christ, called the Anti-Nephi-Lehites (or the people of Ammon), had just broken off from a nation called the Lamanites, who wanted to kill them. The Anti-Nephi-Lehites had no way to defeat the Lamanites; they would be annihilated.  The Anti-Nephi-Lehites fled to the people of Nephi, who worshiped Christ as well.  The people of Nephi are asked what they will do with the people of Ammon, this is their response (Alma 27:22-24):

And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful; and this land Jershon is the land which we will give unto our brethren for an inheritance. And behold, we will set our armies between the land Jershon and the land Nephi, that we may protect our brethren in the land Jershon; and this we do for our brethren, on account of their fear to take up arms against their brethren lest they should commit sin; and this their great fear came because of their sore repentance which they had, on account of their many murders and their awful wickedness. And now behold, this will we do unto our brethren, that they may inherit the land Jershon; and we will guard them from their enemies with our armies, on condition that they will give us a portion of their substance to assist us that we may maintain our armies.

The response of the Nephites is amazing.  They not only welcome those foreigners, but they gave up an entire land to them.  And not just any land, the land they gave up was their best land. And not only did they give the people of Ammon the best land but they also put guards around the Anti-Nephi-Lehites to protect them, from an enemy that the Anti-Nephi-Lehites could not defeat.  And all they asked of the people of Ammon was for them to give part of their food to be guards, so the guards could better protect them.  

If that is not a completely selfless offer I don’t know what is.  

Those Nephites protected their new refugees.  As recorded in the next chapter (Alma 28:1-6):

 [B]ehold the armies of the Lamanites had followed their brethren into the wilderness. And thus there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad. Yea, and also there was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi; nevertheless, the Lamanites were driven and scattered, and the people of Nephi returned again to their land. And now this was a time that there was a great mourning and lamentation heard throughout all the land, among all the people of Nephi– Yea, the cry of widows mourning for their husbands, and also of fathers mourning for their sons, and the daughter for the brother, yea, the brother for the father; and thus the cry of mourning was heard among all of them, mourning for their kindred who had been slain. And now surely this was a sorrowful day; yea, a time of solemnity, and a time of much fasting and prayer.

What price did the people of Nephi pay to protect the people of Ammon!  How terrible, how destructive, how sad!  Those people paid a huge almost uncountable loss, and a great day of mourning!  And they suffered that loss for others, not for themselves!  

This is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us. Like the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, we face a challenge that we cannot defeat, that will destroy us. Our only hope is to ask for help, and we ask Jesus Christ, as he is the only one who is capable.  He is the only one who can make the offer, and protect us and keep us safe.  And not only does he offer to protect us, but he gives the best blessing that he has, and the inheritance of living with Heavenly Father again.  

And what does he ask of us? Follow him, keep his commandments, honor our covenants.  And here is the kicker, all of the things he asks us to do is for our good.  

He alone paid the price needed to defeat that which would destroy us; he atoned for us; he sacrificed himself for us.  The world itself mourned his death. Heaven and Angels wept as he suffered on the cross, his disciples cried at the loss, and perhaps nobody felt more sorrow than Heavenly Father who saw perfectly the pain and suffering of his son; yet, had to allow it to happen so that we all could be saved.  

We owe a great deal of gratitude for Christ, for the gift Heavenly Father gave us. For the inheritance we have been given. And we must remember that the gift of Christ is open to all who accept it.  Let us accept this gift, and strive to honor the great sacrifice of him who died for us.  

In the sacred name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 Regards from Elder Alex Brown

 

Snow and Ice

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Elder Brown and Elder Richardson at a dinner appointment.

 

December 19, 2016

Well, this week has had the most random weather I have ever seen in my life. First it snowed, and that was great because I like snow. Then it rained. Normally I like rain; however, when there is snow on the ground and then it rains, that is a different matter. A huge amount of water gets dumped into the system all at once.

So much water.

Later in the week it snowed, rained, hailed, dropped sleet, got foggy, and much more. I believe that in one day I experienced ever kind of precipitation that there is (and being outside a lot doing missionary work I had a much more personal appreciation for precipitation than I have ever had before).

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Deer in the fields.

 

One funny thing is that Utah has a bunch of water retention ponds all around. Usually they fill with snow or water, draining too quickly to freeze into ice. But this week the weather was so crazy that the water in the retaining ponds froze.  Elder Richardson and I had a ton of fun with that. (See Videos)

Ice Experiments, Part 1

Ice Experiments, Part 2

We also have a new investigator named Eddie. He is awesome! We found him through street contacting. Street contacting is when we stand outside with church literature and try and start conversations with people as they pass by. Funny thing is that basically nobody in the entire ward even knew he lived in the ward. And the ward he lives in is super small, so I’m really surprised by that.

The lesson we gave him really helped him understand about how he can know what we are teaching him is true. It involves prayer. (See Moroni 10:3-5). Honestly, he learned exactly what he needed to learn, but he has a hard time getting to church. We will help get him to church, so he can learn the truth for himself.  Then we will help him receive the ordinance of baptism.

Regards from Elder Brown.

 

Obedience

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Elder Brown and Brown. Me and another missionary at our zone sports P-day game.

 

December 12, 2016

Hello, as many of your may have heard, I had a hard time last week.  But this week has been very good.  I relearned the importance of obedience this week, and from that I have found great power and great joy.

Today I also want to fulfill the #LIGHTtheWORLD challenge, which is about teaching. Since I learned so much about obedience this last week I would like to focus on that.

First I would like to start with a question.  Why does God have rules and commandments?  Here is a scripture that gives me an answer. It is Alma 42:16-24 and it says:

Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul.

Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?

Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.

Now, if there was no law given–if a man murdered he should die–would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?

And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.

And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

What this scripture means to me is that if there was no law then we would not be motivated.  We would be so confused and we would not be able to tell what was harmful to us or not. And I bet we would want some guidelines on what to do.

So basically, the commandments are for our good.

But as a missionary we have far more than the commandments; we have the mission rules as well.  And there are a lot more mission rules than commandments.  One might ask, “why do we have mission rules? Shouldn’t the commandments cover all that?”  The reason is simple, missionaries are expected to represent the Savior, and thus they need to be as the Savior was and that is to be obedient.

Jesus Christ did everything Heavenly Father asked him to do. Even when he was afraid he submitted to his Father’s will. He literally underwent the most painful experience ever, because he was asked to do it.

As missionaries we are not asked to do things that are remotely as hard and painful as what Jesus did. The things we are asked to do are not difficult. In actuality, the things we are asked to do are really good for us. And if we can’t do those really easy and simple things, that literally only benefit us, how can God trust us to help others and do something that is selfless? He can’t.

I truly believe that missions are made not only so that we can bring others unto Christ; but also for us to build trust in God and do whatever he asks. And if we can do that, if we can put our full trust in God, and do what He asks of us, then we will be prepared for anything.

Regards from Elder Brown.

Pics:

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Ben Lomond Mountain (view from our apartment)

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Mule Deer. We were just on the other side of the fence and they didn’t budge.

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This “lake” is a soccer field during the summer. We call it Lake Torres after a Spanish Elder who just completed his mission are returned home.

#Light the World

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Me, covered in snow

 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Transfers Next Week.

Transfers are fast approaching, and I have no idea what is going to happen next week.  Yay.

I got a chance to do some service is week, in Brigham City. We had an opportunity to take part in a service project, putting food baskets together for needy families. Here is a sped-up video of us working.

Thanksgiving Service Project

This week our investigator decided not to get baptized. Basically, we found out our investigator did not actually want to meet with us any more but he was too shy to speak up about it.  That’s okay. It is good that he was able to tell us what he wanted. And now we have more time to find new people to teach.

This area is getting crazy busy in the evening. Today we could not plan at all because all our time was taken up. Good problem to have. And because transfers are coming up I didn’t buy any food this week so I could deplete what I already have.  Also because I didn’t  cook anything last week, I needed to cook my food before it went bad. And I finally figured out how to make burgers. They are delicious. Who knew that letting the patty stay on one side instead of flipping constantly works better. Not me!

And finally, today it SNOWED!!!!!!

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Snow!!!

🌨. 🌨🌨 🌨.  🌨🌨🌨 ❄️❄️❄️❄️☃❄️❄️❄️❄️ 🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫🌫

Our entire zone got into a huge snowball fight today.  It was a lot of fun.  I really love winter, it is my favorite season. There is so much to love, the snow, New Years, my birthday, and of course Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas I encourage everybody to check out the church’s new Christmas initiative, #LIGHTtheWORLD. You can find it at Mormon.org. It is really awesome I really love what they are doing.

Regards from Elder Brown.