Covenants and the Gospel

 

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Hadley on her baptism day–with Elders Brown and Passee. 

May 8, 2017

You might be wondering why I picked this title–it is really simple; we had a baptism this week and I’ve been thinking a lot about the sacrament. So, I’m going to talk a bit about both.

First off the most important thing.  Somebody was baptized!  Her name is Hadley (Hadlee?) Christensen and she is awesome.  She is 9 years old and couldn’t be baptized at 8, so we got to teach her.  After the baptism, the bishop got up and announced that they were going to confirm her (which means she’ll be made a member of her church and receive the Holy Ghost) right then and there.  Which out of the norm.  Normally, converts to the church are confirmed during Sacrament Meeting. For it to happen right afterwards requires permission from a general authority of our church. The bishop asked for permission and got it.  (He did not tell us, so we were a bit freaked out for a while.) It all turned out for the best. The next day was our monthly Fast and Testimony Sacrament meeting (Members fast for twenty-four hours and donate the money they would have spent on food to help the hungry and needy. And instead of speakers, members who feel moved by the Spirit bear extemporaneous testimonies. Hadley bore her testimony.

As missionaries (and to an extent members of the church), we always get excited for baptisms. It’s more than just a social event (as it is sometimes seen as here in Utah). I is a covenant.  And more importantly it is the covenant that makes salvation possible and just as importantly, gives us access to the pure joy of Christ.

Jesus said in 3 Nephi 27: 15-16:

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works. And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

This is Jesus saying that those who repent and are baptized are promised the gift of the Holy Ghost, and if they endure to the end they will live with Heavenly Father again, and be free of sin.

No other covenant, no commandment, no other way is prepared for salvation.  The Only by the way of repentance unto baptism, and baptism unto the Holy Ghost, then endure with the Holy Ghost unto the end.

There are many people who understand this–we need to be baptized to be “saved.” But many forget that once baptized we now have access to the greatest joy, which I don’t even know how to express in words. That joy comes from the Holy Ghost, and has honestly it is the reason I wanted to write this.  It is a feeling of being clean, and a feeling of limitless potential.  It has made new members of the church weep with joy, and men stand upon their feet and prophesy (JSH 1:73).  It has made those who have traveled across deserts be calm in affliction (Oct 2015 General Conference, Joy and Spiritual Survival), and those who are lost feel found (Luke 15).  It has filled a soul so much that there is no more room for hatred (Oct 2013 General Conference, Wilt Thou Be Made Whole), and has lifted those depressed from the depths of sadness to the heights of joy.  It is the joy of Christ.

When we take the sacrament we make the same covenant we made at baptism.  And we can experience that same joy if we are prepared for sacrament.  It is not just simply eating and drinking the sacrament; it is being willing (and perhaps even already making steps) to forsake our sins and to repent.  We often just take the sacrament ; but do we actually partake the sacrament.  Do we let Jesus wash away our sins?  Do we let the Holy Ghost fill us with the joy of Christ?  Or do we rush by it all, and forget our Savior?

I have a challenge this week: do whatever is necessary to be prepared for the sacrament, and meet the requirements Jesus Christ has set to be forgiven and receive the Holy Ghost.  If you follow this course then you will come to be filled by the Joy of Christ.

I leave is with you in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Regards from Elder Brown.

A Busy Week

May 1, 2016

We had a very packed week this week; but it didn’t start that way.  The beginning of the week was fairly normal–we had meetings and were looking for work (people to teach or serve). But as the week progressed things got hectic. The District leaders wanted to go on exchanges with us (which means one of us goes to their area, and one of them comes to our area).  But the day they wanted to do the exchange was the day the Zone leaders also wanted to do an exchange with us.  So, we pushed back the Zone leaders to Saturday and went on exchange with the district leader.

Afterwards, we taught a lesson with a young girl named Hadley who is going to be baptized soon.  We found out they are quite booked as well, and we scheduled the rest of the lessons we were going to teach that day.  But something came up in their family so we have no idea when we are going to be able to teach those lessons.

Also this week a recent convert named Trinity got back into town so we were able to teach her  We set up a lesson; but we thought it was with Hadley.  Fortunately, the grandfather caught us as we were working that day, and told us we had the lesson setup with Trinity.  We taught her a lesson on the plan of salvation.

We also had three parties this week.  We could only get to two parties, and I was exchanged away for one of them, but it was a way to meet people and get to know our community.

Sunday was insane.  We gave two talks, one presentation, and attended one of the parties.  And everything was on opposite sides of the stake.  We had to drive so much on Sunday, which looking back on it was really ironic.

But that was my week.

Regards from Elder Brown

Fielding 9

El Doggo Tres

 

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Me and El Doggo Tres

 

April 24, 2017

Hello from Fielding,

This week not a lot has happened in terms of missionary work, but things are moving along.

It rained a lot this week; and everywhere we go you can almost hear the internal screams of all the people, as they scream “we don’t need any more rain!”  What makes it worse is that the it is a really cold rain.  So, when we work out in it we get wet and we get cold.

I have a funny story this week.  We get followed by dogs a lot out here. One of the in-jokes Elder Passey and I have when this happens is that we call this random missionary-following dog El Doggo (because who wouldn’t name a dog El Doggo).  This week we had another El Doggo follow us; but, this one was a bit different. This El Doggo only had three legs. It sort of bunny hopped after us. Naturally, we named this dog El Doggo Tres.  When we knocked on the first house on that street, we asked if the dog was theirs and they said yes. Great! We found El Doggo Tres’ home. That would be the end of Tres’ following us. But no! After we left that house the dog still followed us, house after house, mile after mile.  We even went back home and guess what El Doggo Tres doggedly followed us there as well.  We left it outside our place, figuring that the dog would be able to find its way. Well he next morning we awoke and we found El Doggo Tres still waiting outside where we’d left him. For the next half hour we struggled to lure it back home before giving up on that idea. Instead, we put him in our car and drove him home. (Thankfully, we knew where that was).

That’s all this week.

Regards from Elder Brown.

Conference, Floods and Farm Animals

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At the Utah-Idaho border

 

April 3, 2017

This week has been very hectic.  I have a lot on my mind now, and there many things I could talk about.  But instead of talking about one things…I will talk about a bunch of things!

First, LDS General Conference was this week. Twice a year, our church has a church-wide conference where we receive guidelines from to our prophet and apostles and other leaders speak. This conference was exactly what I was hoping it would be. What I got out of this conference are two things:  The necessity of having the Holy Ghost into my life more (and how to go about doing that), and how to be a righteous Christ-like leader.  In almost every talk that really connected with me, I learned about those two things

Next off, #PrinceOfPeace.  (Elder Brown is using pound signs *gasp*). If y’all remember back to Christmas you might recall that our church had a Christmas initiative called #LightTheWorld. Well, it’s almost Easter, and now our church has an Easter one. It is called #PrinceofPeace.   And I couldn’t be happier with it.  As missionaries, we get to see this video a lot and I still never get sick of it.  I’ll post the video, but check out Mormon.org, there is a lot to this Easter celebration.  Feel free to share the video, and everything else on Mormon.org.  I don’t think anybody will regret checking this out.

Prince of Peace Video

Okay so what has been happing in my life.  Well, not much I can talk about.  But I’ll share what I can.

There have been a bunch of floods around here, though not as much lately. All the snow turned into water really, really, really, really, really, really, really quickly!  The Bear River is over twice its width, and looks like it still might get more water in it.

There are a bunch of farm animals here now (I have no idea how they got here, they just kinda appeared) and so we get to pet the animals sometimes.  I like to play around with the goats, because they are funny.  But occasionally we get followed by dogs, which reminds me if I ever get a dog, I’m going to name it El Doggo.

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*Insert cowboy pun here*

 

Everything is muddy now, and warm.  So, my winter gear isn’t helpful right now. And I have to constantly clean my shoes.  But one day the mud will dry.

That’s everything I can think about going on here in Fielding.  But outside of my mission…

…UNC made it to finals!  Carolina blue represent! Duke lost like it always should’ve.  Nothing can stop UNC now!!!

Also the TerrorBytes won states!!!!!!!  I can’t even explain how excited I am.  4561 TerrorBytes top tier! First states, and then THE WORLD!!!

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Victory for TerrorBytes! 4561 Represent!

 

Also, like nobody in Utah actually knows about FRC (FIRST Robotics Competiton) and only a few missionaries actually participated in an FRC team, but they all dropped out of it before competition. So, nobody else in this entire state is excited for this total victory except me.

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Even our car is celebrating! TerrorBytes Top Tier!

 

Until we meet again

Regards from Elder Brown

Hard Times and Hope

 

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Me holding a kid.

March 20, 2017

This has been a very up and down week for me.  I have had some struggles this week, and the week that proceeded it, that really brought me quite down. The work in the area got really disrupted, and we were unable to meet with basically anybody this week. Many of our goals were just dashed this week. And honestly, I felt abandoned.

But fortunately, I learned from this experience. I learned that God never abandons us. He’ll stay with us through the good and the bad.

I also learned—surprisingly—humility.  I didn’t expect to learn this kind of lesson from this but I did. During many parts of the past two weeks I was angry; angry that the disruption never seemed to end, angry that nothing was happening, and angry for other reasons which I won’t state.  But God ended up showing me that getting angry wasn’t going to help. In fact, being angry only made me feel worse. God showed me that by letting go of things that were not in my control and focusing on what I needed to do and could do, life becomes much easier and much happier.

I also learned to stop focusing on the negative.  It is so easy to just go on and on with negatives: negatives about the area, negatives about living conditions, negatives about ourselves. Yet God taught me that drowning ourselves in misery is, unsurprisingly, not the way to happiness.  (It turns out to be the way to misery).  In other words, be patient, and try to find the good things along the long slog ahead, because there are always good things. Do the everyday little things: say your prayers, read your scriptures, and be prepared to take the sacrament, it really makes all the difference.

And I also learned that things will always get better. At the end of this past week, real miracles happened that really helped pick me up. We found a new person to teach who knows next to nothing about Mormons (which is difficult here in Utah.)  So, we are super excited to work with her.  Things started to fall back in place.

Here is to hoping! And Guess what? Somebody fed us Spanakopita!!!

Regards from Elder Alex Brown

Moving, Not Moving

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February 27, 2017

We just got the transfer roster today. After careful review I  discovered that I am still in Fielding!!!

Yes!!!

I am so glad for still be here. I love the Fielding stake the members are really great and there are a bunch of potential here in this stake.  It has been a bit of a change from North Ogden East’s tiny one square mile area, and the huge mountain to mountain area of fielding, but I have truly enjoyed it so  much here.  I have huge hopes for this area, and really want to give my all to help this area.

I will have a new companion. His name is Elder Passey. I don’t know much about him, but I’m excited to get to work with him.  Hopefully we can both work together on making fielding a great area.

In other news, we are moving apartments again.  If you remember I moved last week, so it is very odd to me that I am moving apartments again, without moving areas.

Regards from Elder Brown.

Tender Mercies

 

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What am I thinking?

Well I’m about to turn 19.  One year older and wiser too.

 

Today I would like to share something completely unrelated to my birthday.  It was a cool experience that happened last month. One evening, we went over to a LDS church member’s home for dinner while I was still in North Ogden area. During dinner, we started talking a lot about heritage and the subject quickly moved into me telling this whole family about my grandfather Kepas who is from Greece.

We talked about this for most of the dinner.  It was wonderful to talk about how awesome my grandfather was. Anyways latter that Monday I learned that the dinner on that day was exactly on the anniversary of my Grandfather’s passing.  I was astonished that God gave me such a tender mercy as to remember him on that day, even if I was unaware. Regards from Elder Brown.

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Panorama picture of my new area.

 

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My Zone at the Temple.

Fielding, Utah

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No, that is not my car; and yes, it looks like it tried to jump the snow bank.

 

January 30, 2017

Hello. I figure that many people have been wondering what Fielding is like, as I haven’t spoken about since I was sent here. I decided to let myself grow into the area without talking about it first so I could figure out my bearings and learn more about this place.

First off, Fielding itself is a tiny part of my area. There are many towns in my area: Riverside, Collinston, Beaver Dam, Plymouth, Portage, part of Garland, and yes Fielding. What is odd is that all the towns are on the same grid system, expect for Fielding; it has its own grid for some reason.

[Editor’s Note: Unlike towns and cities in North Carolina, towns and cities in the Utah are plotted on a grid system, with each location having North/South coordinates and East/West coordinates. Consequently, once you get oriented it is fairly easy to find any address.]

Instead of Ben Lomund, we have Plymouth Peak (which I don’t have a picture of—yet).  It is a very distinct mountain, and it sits north of the entire valley so it makes navigation a breeze.

Unlike North Ogden East area, which was only 1 square mile, the Fielding Stake is massive. It is one of the largest mission areas in Northern Utah. We go all way from Garland to the border of Idaho. Which means I have a car.  And since I’m finishing Elder Whitby’s training, I’m doing all the driving. In the snow.  I have determined that I like walking areas better. It can get really stressful worrying about miles, and about icy roads and fog.  But I’m pretty much used to it already.

As I mentioned I am finishing the training of Elder Whitby.  Which means a lot more work, because he doesn’t know everything that he is doing yet.  So, I really have to take lead on a bunch of things, and still allow him room to grow. It’s a hard job; but it’s also a ton of fun. That is my report of this transfer so far.

Regards from Elder Brown.

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I spy with my little eye…a car!

Let Your Light Shine

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Elder Brown, Brother Adams, the Adams dog, and Elder Brown’s new companion at Bishop Adams home.

 

January 23, 2017

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

Today I would like to talk about this scripture, and more importantly the personally significant it has in my life.

This is a very famous scripture.  It is directly from the lips of the Savior himself, spoken during his sermon on the mount.  In this scripture light is used as a symbol (as it often is) to describe how we as followers of Christ are examples.

The nature of light strike me as wondrous. When light enters a room, it fills the darkness which allows us to see. Darkness doesn’t overpower light. Yet there is a limitation to light—it cannot travel beyond an object.  No matter if it be a wall, or a covering, or us—light simply cannot move past something that is in the way. A bushel, as used in this scripture, simply means something that covers or blocks the light.

What Christ is saying is that we need to let the light which we have shine, so that darkness can be chased away, and we can see. And just in case you didn’t know this, that light is the Gospel, or a testimony of the Gospel, depending on how you look at it.

Yet in my own life I struggled with this.  Growing up in areas that are not predominantly LDS made me feel like I stood out, or a Christ put it, it made me feel as if I was set on a hill.

And for me as a nerdy little kid growing up, I did not want to be the center of attention, I wanted to enjoy my life and be happy; and I believed that being in some kind of spotlight would shatter the happiness I had.  So, I hid my light.

Since I was little I always had a testimony of the Gospel: I believed in Jesus Christ, I knew I had a Heavenly Father, and I even had a pretty good witness that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. That testimony—that light, which I had was precious to me—in fact it was sacred to me.  Yet I was afraid that if I shared it, it would be cast aside and that nobody would see how truly important it was to me.  So I hid my light.

As time went on and I grew up that light which I hid  was definitely fading.  My testimony was fading.  I still believed, but not with the same heart I did when I was younger. To me, the Gospel made sense intellectually and I  basically I decided that if I had to bet on if God was real or not, I would bet on him being real, as I didn’t have much to lose if I was wrong.  Reflecting on this time it amazes me to see that when a light is hid, it does not stay the same—it shrinks.

Perhaps Christ thought of this when he used a candlestick as the source of the light, or, to be more plain, fire.  Fire is symbolic in so many ways, but in this case I see the importance of fire in two different ways.  First, fire gives off light.  Second, fire will go out if it doesn’t have oxygen. If you cover a flame it will use up all of its oxygen and die. Therefore,  in the case of this scripture it is possible to lose that light, or testimony, but only if you keep it covered.

Which I did.

So, that testimony suffered, and probably the only thing that keep it going at all was attending church.  But I soon found that a dim light covered by fear doesn’t help much.

In high school I went through a really rough spot in my life, that as far as I know nobody knows about.  I don’t wish to go into detail about it here, but I’ll just say I didn’t have much hope in myself at all. My light was on the verge of going out, and it scares me, I didn’t know what to do.

But God knows what to do.  And as it happens, one day in AP United States history, near the end of the year we had a project in which we could research any part of American History in depth and make a presentation on it. Earlier that year we spent about ten minutes covering Mormon history, and since I am a Mormon it made me really excited to study that.  So when it came time to pick a project, I picked a project about the Mormon pioneers.

Without a doubt in my mind I can say that that was one of the most important decisions of my life.  For the first time in such a long time I was going to be open about my heritage as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My topic, Mormon pioneers, did not even touch really religious subjects like prophets or faith, but to me I was never more excited, or more scared to present anything.  It was the project that I researched the most for, the project that I read the most sources for, and most importantly it was the project I cared about the most.

I will never forget that project; not for the conversations that it opened up about religion—it didn’t lead to much discussion; not for the grade which I got—yes, I got an A; not even for what I learned from it—a deep admiration for Mormon pioneers. I will never forget this project because what it represented to me. This project was me casting the covering from off  of the fire and letting it breath.  This was me letting my light, no matter how dim or unkempt, shine.  This was me putting my faith in my savior and saying I want to return to live with my Father in Heaven again.

And I was amazed.  That light, which I had hid and covered, grew. And though it may have only affected me, I felt like I could finally see again.  I felt as if I had again a hundred witnesses that God lives, that the Church is true, that Jesus is my savior, that I am a son of God! That increase of light which I got from that project has grown since then.  It has only been fanned as of late.  To me the Gospel is real. To me it is real because I saw it change me, and I saw light come back into my life.

I want to finish this extremely long post by declaring my witness, that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world and Redeemer. That his scriptures contain the words of eternal life.  That Joseph was called to be a prophet and restore the light of Christ to the world.  That the greatest joy I have ever felt in my life came from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

And just because I want to take up even more of your time today.

Additional Resources: Scriptures:

– Luke 11:33-34

– 3 Nephi 18:24

– D&C 50:24

– John 3:16-21

see JST – D&C 88

General Conference:

“Joy and Spiritual Survival” By President Russell M. Nelson, Oct 2016

“Sharing your Light” By Neill F. Marriott, Oct 2014

“Converted unto the Lord” by Elder David A. Bednar, Oct 2012

Videos:

Patterns of Light: The Light of Christ

Patterns of Light: Discerning Light

Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation

Regards from Elder Brown.

Transfers

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My North Ogden East District Selfie. I have not mastered the art of looking into the lens while taking a selfie.

 

January 16, 2017

So, for the first time in forever, I actually got transferred. I will no longer be in North Ogden East area. Which makes me sad considering that this has been an awesome place, and a great place to serve in. But I am happy to leave and go to something else. I need change honestly.

Before I say where I am going, let me tell you my recap of this my time in the North Ogden East Area.

The Days of Short:

I remember first coming here to North Ogden East, still intimidated about being a missionary. I had no idea what to expect.  But I took one look at the suburbs and Ben Lomund mountain and I just knew I was going to have a great time. My trainer, Elder Short, was exactly what I needed, someone who was like me and who wanted me to be the best missionary I could be. We had a great time those three months. We baptized, found people, taught, walked, and we were missionaries.  Those summer and fall days helped me get used to Utah. The odd abundance of trees in this area also helped.  It felt like home the moment I got here.

New companion and New Work:

When Elder Richardson arrived things changed a lot. This was the first time I didn’t have my trainer here to guide me, and the first time I had to take charge of the area for myself.  During this time I learned to love this area and the people here. These last weeks were some of my most spiritual experiences that I have ever had.  I learned so much about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and very importantly I learned more about myself.  And after this past six weeks I know for a fact that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Holy Ghost is our guide, and that I have been called and prepared for everything that God put in my way.  I learned how to give support, how to care more about others than myself, how to teach people, how to put first things first, how to study scriptures, how to call upon God in my trials, and how to lift myself up.

Finally, without further ado, I am going to Fielding Utah.

I will be finishing the training of Elder Whitby. This will be a car area, because the Fielding Stake is huge. Also there are polygamists in my area so yeah, this will be fun.  The area is very rural and there are only seven companionships (fourteen missionaries) in the whole zone. But that is really all I know, so yeah.  It will be fun.

I have a lot to pack, and not much time to pack, so I won’t be able to message anybody else today sorry.

Regards from Elder Alexander Brown

P.S. My New Mailing Address is:

Elder Alex Brown

Box 95, 15307 N. 5475 W.

Riverside UT, 84334

More Pictures:

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My North Ogden District from left to right: Elder Bower (district leader), Elder Hansen, Me, Elder Richardson (otherwise known as my twin), Sister Ricketts, Sister Schultz.

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Snow drifts in North Ogden.

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