White Christmases

 

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(From left to right) Elder Brown (me), Elder Score, our investigator, and Elder Wood

 

November 27, 2017

We had an awesome miracle today. One of our investigators had an issue with the word of Wisdom and was afraid of committing to change but he had some spiritual experiences and was able to quit his addiction.  And he had some worries about tithing but he decided that he wanted to pay tithing the other day. We are finding prepared investigators, and other great things are happening.

I was thinking back on some small lessons my parents taught me that have been really helpful on my mission.  I’ll share one from each of my parents.

A lesson from my Mother:

The lesson my mother taught me was to be interested in the lives of other people.  For a long time I only wanted to talk about awesome things that I was doing.  But morning during the car ride to high school, as I was sharing something in my life with my mother, she kindly instructed me to learn what was important or interesting in the lives of other people—essentially, to turn outward instead of inward.  I heard her advice that day and that advice has helped me all throughout my mission. When I talk with investigators, members, and especially with my companion her advice has helped me foster trust and love in relationships with others.

A lesson from my Father:

My father was a bit more direct in how he taught me this lesson.  I had gained the habit of asking people in round about ways in ways to do stuff. I developed this habit since I was afraid on imposing on people. My wise father caught on. One time I asked him if he would like to help me do something in my usual round about way, to which he frankly responded “no.”  I was a bit taken aback, to which he explained, “I don’t “want” to help, but I am willing to help. Ask me again, but be direct.”  After that, every time I would ask in a round-about way he would respond similarly. Eventually he helped me break this habit and learn how to ask direct questions. This has been an essential skill. As a missionary we are inviting people to do things all the time. And we cannot be unsure or unclear in our invitations to repent, to change for the better. Firm and direct invitations give people the best chance to see the reason to repent and choose for themselves a better way. This has also helped me train other missionaries and work with others. I now use this skill every day.

My parents have taught me so much. There are a ton of other lessons I’ve learned from them, but these two lessons have really stand out to me. I love my parents!

Regards and Merry Christmas from Elder Brown!

 

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Snow! Have I told you how much I like snow? 

 

 

December 4, 2017

 

This week has been stellar.  I love December, and while on the mission it just gets better.  The Christmas session brings such a wonderful spirit into Cache valley. All the Christmas lights go up, the nativities start appearing and the snow starts to fall.  It is the happiest time of the year, a time of joy, anticipation, forgiveness, and peace all wrapped together in a wonderful session. Y’all know that I love snow—and snow really is the icing on the cake which can truly turn Christmas into a White Christmas.  Guess What???  It snowed this week, so we are starting December off awesomely.

And speaking of White Christmases, our mission president has a different idea on another way to have a white Christmas—to help children of God to dress in white and make the covenant of Baptism. Our mission has set a goal this December to help over 100 people make that covenant with our Heavenly Father. There is such a huge enthusiasm in the mission right now it is wonderful. And not only the missionaries, but the members are also excited.

One of our investigators got baptized this week. It was really miraculous how his baptism came together. He was struggling on a couple problems for a while and wasn’t progressing. But he started to go to church and suddenly he was able to get over all his problems and become really committed to the Gospel.  After that he was baptized in a week.  It really helped me see how powerful going to church really is and how being at church is a place for us to receive revelation and guidance for our lives. I was so happy when I saw our investigator receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. There is no better way to spend December.

Regards from Elder Brown.

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Why are the chickens roosting in a tree? Good question. At least they came to Church. 

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Meet “The Church Cat” that hangs out at our ward house.

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Thanksgivings

 

Thanksgivings

 

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Snow!!!

November 8, 2017

 

So, I was just called to be a district leader and a trainer. That is definitely a lot, and definitely exciting. In addition my area was spilt, so I’m now only serving in the YSA Stake and I’m not longer serving in the Providence South Stake.  In a sense I have been transferred but not transferred. I am moving apartments though—going to going to a 4 man apartment. Elder Lowe is staying in the Providence South Stake, and he is now a senior companion.

This last transfer (past six weeks) has been the best transfer of my mission. Elder Lowe is such a great missionary, and it’s been amazing to work with him. It has been cool to see Elder Lowe grow, he was already a really good missionary when he came out, but now he is an even better missionary. And I’ve learned a lot this transfer too.  I feel confident in my understanding of doctrine. I have been diving into the Book of Mormon these last transfers and as I was reading in 3 Nephi I could just feel the power of Jesus Christ’s words; I learned so much from it.

General Conference also made a huge difference in my life. Listening to the words of the modern prophets was amazing because I saw how what they said applies to me, and those I serve.  The things I learned in General Conference has still stuck with me and I can definitely say I am a changed man.

I’ve also seen the power of God in motion in my life this transfer.  I have seen so many prayers answered I can’t list them all.  I have seen the Holy Ghost fill my mouth and guide my thoughts.  I’ve seen people feel the Holy Ghost; I’ve seen changes in so many people around me. And I seen the Holy Ghost fill me and others with joy, despite the trials of this world.  I know that pure joy comes from the gospel. I can’t dispute it—it it is real.

And I’m a bit nervous about what lies ahead for my mission and my life. I not sure if I will ever not be nervous or worried about the future. But God had lead me in the past, so I know He can lead me in the future, and that knowledge brings me hope.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love y’all, have a great week,

Regards from Elder Brown.

 

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Sunset in Cache Valley

 

 

November 13, 2017

This has been the first week of a new transfer.  And despite not actually having moved areas so many things have changed and it feels totally different.  We have moved apartments and are now living with another set of missionaries. I have a new companion and I called to be a district leader.  But I’m still in YSA, I still have the same Zone leaders and I still got a car.  It’s like everything was recreated and made new again. Not much else to add this week.

Regards from Elder Brown.

 

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Me and President Monson

 

November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving is this week. That’s exciting, at least for me.  I absolutely love the food during thanksgiving.  But we are part of a YSA Stake so it will be interesting how Thanksgiving works for college students.  I’d imagine that many of them go back home for holiday.

It is also interesting to see how it effects the work in the area.  We have a bunch of lessons set up next week, since so many people are getting back in town next week.  After thanksgiving we will get an extra busy week, which is awesome.

Also, we got to watch the Face to Face with Elder Oaks and Elder Ballard. One of our recent converts actually got to go up to the event and watch it live.  I learned so much from that and felt the spirit strongly.

Regards from Elder Brown.

 

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At my battle station

 

Not So Scary–Answer, Invite, Serve

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October 30, 2017

A lot happened this week, but since most of it was works in development, so it’s hard to talk about without a milestone in these stories yet. One really cool thing is that Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to our mission. He spoke to us and gave us a lot of training.  So, I got a lot of great notes from that. He talked a bit about the sacrament and teaching. It was all really good.

He also talked about member missionary work. One thing he said is that members are often scared of doing missionary work, and that it is often because of misconceptions.  This of course is a classic trick from Satan, he lies to make missionary work seem harder than it is. Let me clear some stuff up. It is fairly simple and straight forward.

First—Answer. People worry that they have to teach people like missionaries do, as in they’ll have to teach them all the doctrine taught in the missionary lesson.  Or they’ll worry they can’t teach any gospel principle outside of the missionary lesson. While there are some sacred things which we don’t talk about all in great detail, all we really have to do is just answer their questions, whatever those questions might be and the best we know how. We don’t even have to knock in their door and say would you like to know more about my church.  Just answer questions leave the teaching to the full-time Missionaries

Second–Invite. God allows all people chose for themselves; but they can’t choose if they do not have a choice placed before them. Inviting people to church, or to have missionary lessons, or to a ward activity, or a family home evening gives them the ability to exercise their agency. They might say no, but that doesn’t matter. Respect their decision and keep answering questions.  If another opportunity arises, great.

Third–Serve.  Go out of your way to make the lives of others better. This means being an example and demonstrating what Christ-like love is. As people feel your love they’ll feel their saviors love, and feeling the love of Christ enables them to use their agency and make a choice. But service also helps us feel the Savior love, we feel our Heavenly Fathers appreciation for the service we do for his children, so if nothing else service draws us nearer to Christ and Heavenly Father.

This week I have been able to see the examples of many member missionaries going out of their way to answer friends questions, to invite others to come to church or take the discussion, and to serve their friends and family.  It has been Truly inspiring to see the courageous efforts of others. And guess what, people didn’t always say yes. And nobody lost any friends over it.  And they seemed a lot happier.

The Lord has promises us great joy and greater receptiveness to the Holy Ghost as we make efforts in missionary work.  I have seen them in my life.  Please seek after these blessings yourself, they have made a big difference in my life.

Regards from Elder Brown.

How Great Shall Be Your Joy

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October 23, 2017

This week has been a great week.  The work here has really picked up and we have a lot of things going really good for us.  This has been one of the best transfer of my mission, and has been one of the greatest moments of my life.  

 As such, I recently had a thought, it is this: “I am so grateful to be able to be able to serve the Lord”.  As I expressed this thought to my Heavenly Father I felt the spirit very strongly.  It is a amazing privilege to be able to serve, especially in missionary work.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

“We do not preach and teach in order to ‘bring people into the Church’ or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. … We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughters of God.”

That quote stirs me. When I meet somebody who is willing to meet with us I think of how I will be able to play a part in the greatest blessing somebody can receive in this life.  It is such a privilege and a responsibility, and it has brought me great joy.

Regards from Elder Brown.

 

Baptism and the Book of Mormon

 

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Baptism Day!

 

October 16, 2017

This week has been an amazing week.  And the main reason is we had a baptism this week!!!  And to make it better we’ve become good friends with the person who got baptized.  His service was really great, and he bore a powerful testimony on how powerful service and the Book of Mormon was in his conversion.

I’ve seen the power of the Book of Mormon this week.  In addition to the testimony our convert bore on the Book of Mormon I’ve seen other moments this week which are examples of the witness that comes from the Book of Mormon. I was able to acquire a reprint of the original printing of the Book of Mormon.  It’s cool to see how the Book of Mormon still has that witness no matter how it is written.

We found an investigator while tracting, he lived in Utah all his life but didn’t grow up a member.  What was interesting is he readily accepted to the challenge to read the Book of Mormon. When we check up on him, he told us that he thought it was good.  And he also just seemed happier the second time we met him.

Another person we tracted into grew up in North Carolina (#beststate), and was raised in the churches there.  But we invited her to read the Book of Mormon and she accepted the challenge. Later she told us how she has always been curious about the Book of Mormon.

Really, I wonder why more people aren’t curious about the Book of Mormon. It is claimed to be additional scriptures, additional clarifying instructions from God.  It has a promise that all who read it and ask God will gain a witness that the Book is true. And that by that simple truth we will know for sure that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus is the Christ, and that God has reestablished his kingdom on the earth today, which is the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Through the Book of Mormon we also learn the Gospel, or the things that we must do in this life in order to return to God in the next life.  We learn the Plan of Salvation, we learn in detail why Jesus Christ is savior, and why we need him in our life. We learn how we can overcome the devil. We learn that God loves all people on the earth.  We learn how we need to change our life for the better.

I love the Book of Mormon. I love the witness that I get each time I read it. I have learned for myself it is true, through the witness of the Holy Ghost which brings me peace, happiness and understanding. I would encourage y’all to read the Book of Mormon.  No matter who you are that Book of Mormon will bring blessings into your life.

In the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

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Me holding a reprint of the first edition of the Book of Mormon. Very Cool!

 

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At a teaching and dinner appointment

 

 

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New Haircut, same mug.

 

 

 

Winter Is Coming!

 

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In Logan Canyon

October 9, 2017

 

My favorite time of the year is coming, Winter!  The leaves are already starting to fall and the mountains are changing colors. We have already seen some snow on the mountains—it has been exciting! I just love how peaceful and calm things get in the winter time. Elder Lowe, who is from Florida where they do not have a Fall or Winter, is super excited, and he’s been amazed with everything going on so far.  

How amazing is this planet? Everything is amazing. The fact that that same planet houses both cold and warm, and how everything adapts and reacts to the changes of the weather, it just amazes me.  Even just the simplest tree is so sophisticated; it amazes me that each tree detects the change in the season and begins to shed its leaves. And not to mention how amazing each animal is: bears fatten themselves up and hibernate, insects go into hiding, and the birds fly south to warmer waters.

I’m reminded of President Uchtdorf’s talk this Conference: A Yearning for Home. In it, he spoke of how animals have an innate sense to find their way home. All of this wonderful world makes me feel like the prophet Alma who said:

Yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.  (Alma 30:44)

How loving is our creator for “not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s notice.”  (Elder Rasband paraphrasing Matthew 10:29 and By Divine DesignGod knows every single detail of this wonderful world. And He in his great love gave life to everything in this world, and He gave life to us also.  

In his amazing plan He not only gave us this life and beautiful world, He gave us a purpose as well—To learn and to grow, repent and improve, and be perfect as He, our Father in Heaven is perfect. And He provided a way for us: He sent his Son into this world, to bear the mistakes of all.  And if we have faith in Jesus Christ, repent, get baptized by water and by the Holy Ghost and endure to the end, Christ will make us perfect.  Be Ye Therefore Perfect–Eventually

 I just love my Heavenly Father, this world he has made for us, and his Son Jesus Christ who allows us to fulfill the purpose for which we were sent to this earth.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 Regards from Elder Brown.

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Logan Canyon

 

 

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Logan Canyon Part 2

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The leaves have already turned and fallen up Logan Canyon in preparation for winter

 

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Providence Utah on the Foothills

 

 

 

 

General Conference Musings

 

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October 2, 2017

This was a great General Conference, the third one on my mission. Recently I’ve found that I learn a lot from conference, more than I did before my mission. I feel like sharing a few of the insights I had during General Conference.

There were two major things I was impressed by:

First was just the reason for loving service.  I was very impressed by President Erying’s talk when he was talk about the Mormon Helping Hands disaster relief efforts. It is hard for me to put into words exactly what I want to say. Basically I was think of how important it is that we help take care of the temporal (physical) needs of God’s children.  Our bodies are precious and so anything we can do to help save people’s lives is huge. I just feel like I want to serve people, and make people’s lives better.

The other thing that struck me was how important the Book of Mormon is.  I realized that the Book of Mormon is the gateway to testimony, and testimony is the foundation for everything.  When we know the Book of Mormon is true then we know that the Holy Bible is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that we have a living prophet and living apostles, and that there is a God and he sent his son Jesus Christ to be our savior. But more than that I realized why we must use the Book of Mormon daily.  If we don’t feed our testimonies they will shrink, and possible even fade away.  But by reading the Book of Mormon every day, which is the great testimony builder of our dispensation, our testimonies will grow.

I believe that God expects us to use the Book of Mormon, he spent put a lot of diligent care into bringing the Book of Mormon forth in our day and age.  I believe that so many questions people ask in this day and age would be answered if they would just read the Book of Mormon. Reading the Book of Mormon might be a small task for us but behind that small task comes an exceptional amount of power.

It is an exciting time to be a missionary.

Regards from Elder Brown.

Mom’s Famous Seven Layer Dip

 

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Elder Brown (me) in front of the Logan Temple

 

September 27, 2017

Greetings,

We had transfers week (which is why this email is being sent on Wednesday not Monday).  I am still in the Providence YSA and Providence South Stakes, and I’m still with Elder Lowe. But this transfer has been crazy. We have twenty-eight new missionaries coming in today, and only four leaving. And we just found out that a ton of the missionaries coming in are sisters, so most of the sisters are training. There are also a ton of odd things happing with the leadership because there is such a need for trainers.

This week I met two returned missionaries who served in Chapel Hill (I don’t remember their names), so that was awesome. One of them actually remembered eating at our house, and she remembered Mom’s “Famous” 7-layer Dip.

And the work is going really well.  We just found somebody super prepared this week and we put him on date.  Interesting he has a super busy schedule so Facebook has been essential for working with him.

And I’m finally not driving again.  Yay!!!

Regards from Elder Brown.

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The Cache Valley South Zone

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What the Cache Valley South Zone is really like.

 

The Past Month

 

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Elder Lowe and I after sharing a gospel message. 

 

August 28, 2017

This week has been successful and we worked really hard. People just didn’t answer their doors.  But that’s okay, we’ll catch them eventually. Also Elder Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is coming to our YSA Stake. That is going to be awesome.

This is going to be a short email, so I’ll include something we are doing with our YSA Stake. The thing we are doing is Social Media. God has brought forth Social Media in this day in age.  And it has a lot of fantastic positives, and has been a good force in the world. It also has negative effects that should not be overlooked. A few examples are: wasting time, disconnections from reality, and comparisons.  But still there is a lot of good that comes from social media.

One of those good things is sharing the Gospel. We can share inspirational messages that can help people realize the goodness of the Gospel.  There are many ways we can share the Gospel, but I’ll just share one method. The Church has given us many sources of spiritual and educational inspiration: such as LDS.org, Gospel Library, mormon.org, the Scriptures and the social media accounts of the Church.  When we sincerely study these resources the Holy Ghost can impress us. Think of Joseph Smith, when he read James 1:5 he was struck by the passage and as he acted on it a miracle happened. What I’m getting at is that when we have impressions with the resources that I mentioned we should share what we experienced (unless they are super personal) on social media. As we share genuine experiences with the scriptures and other resources we will add more positivity to social media and we will help other people judge for themselves if the Gospel is good.

Regards from Elder Brown. 

Sept 4, 2017

How would I describe this week?  I would say it has been a full week, filled with a full spectrum of what life on Earth can offer. I’m saddened by the passing of my wonderful Grandmother Joyce Kepas. But I feel that she is in a better place now.

Elder Rasband came to our YSA Stake for stake conference, he still has one more meeting this next Sunday but being in the presence of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and being able to hear him speak has definitely strengthened my testimony of living prophets in these days. However, I’m now 2 for 2 in awkward experiences with members of the Quorum of the Twelve.  But I’ll save that story for after my mission.

One thing that Elder Rasband said was about all the evils in our day.  He said that we live in the last days, and there are many prophesied evils that are spoken of frequently in the scriptures about our day.  Many people ask in this day and age, how am I supposed to raise a family with all the evil around us? Elder Rasband’s answer really inspired me.  He said that there are a lot of promises for the Saints of our day as well.  And because we live in the last days all the promises God makes us will be fulfilled in our day.

All the bad things that happen is proof that the promises of God are near, that God is real and that he is mindful of us.  It also means that we have a tremendous responsibility in these days.

And the work in the YSA really took off this week.  I’m very happy with how things are going in the work.  I’m excited for the future of this area.

Regards from Elder Brown.

 Sept 11, 2017

So, a major change has happened with missionary work across the country.  Every mission is beginning to use online proselytizing—meaning we are going to use Facebook and messenger to communicate with converts.  One thing really cool is with our mission president’s permission we can teach friends and family, or (friends of family?) from over the internet.  Also, everybody can friend me on Facebook, so that’s awesome.

But we don’t have it yet, so next week I’ll tell you more. Also the prophets have begun to overhaul Preach My Gospel.  Chapter 8 was just replaced, and they are still working on more.  I don’t know exactly how it’ll change, but it excites me.  I love Preach My Gospel and I’m excited to see more revelation be added.

As for the work here things are going really good, we are finding people.  Elder Lowe is gaining a lot of experience really quickly.

Regards from Elder Brown.

 Sept 18, 2017

It’s a great day to be a missionary.  Well it’s always a been a great day to be a missionary, but today the Lord has done so much to advance the work of salvation: for example, Preach My Gospel, and Online proselytizing has dramatically changed missionary work.  These things have also dramatically changed Missionaries.

Sister Bednar just recently taught about being a strong link between the generations, and about how much good just one person who stays strong in the gospel will do for the children of Heavenly Father.  This talk alongside the new resources in Missionary Work has gotten me thinking about how my mission has really strengthen us.

Missions can be really hard, but they can be very fulfilling.  Many other things are that way, but missions are special because of two things: One, a high standard of obedience, in which success is absolutely conditional in obedience; and two, a purpose greater than ourselves. Missions also build discipline, which is an extremely useful skill in life. It builds unwavering faith, needed to overcome temptations.  It builds courage. And now because of online proselytizing it builds skills in controlling technology.

Missions are awesome.  I know that they are worth all the sweat and tears.

Regards from Elder Brown.

Of Talks and Trainee’s

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Meet Elder Lowe, fresh from the Mission Training Center. He is great!

 

August 21, 2017

My Trainee’s name is Elder Lowe.  He basically came pre-trained. He is an excellent teacher and he already invited an investigator to be baptized. His speaking skills are really great. He’ll go far on his mission.

Something kinda funny happened this week—I had a bishop pull me over and “rebuke” me for wearing super worn down shoes. (See photo below). Eventually I need to get new shoes. Man, I really blew apart a pair of shoes in just one year of my mission.  Hopefully I can make the rest last till the end. [Editor’s note: I ordered Alex a brand new pair of shoes.]

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My shoes have given their all for the Lord.

 

We also gave three talks this Sunday. Elder Lowe did fantastic. I saw a lot of people cry as he was speaking. He is a really good speaker, and had great messages.

I’ll put some notes from my talks in this letter:

First Talk: How to improve your repentance. Repenting might seem hard, but that is often because people forget what repentance really is.  Repentance is the second principle of the gospel and comes after faith.  It is a change of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that are not in harmony with God’s will. Note how repentance comes after faith; Elder Bednar in a recent broadcast to missionaries said that all the principles and ordinances of the gospel are inseparably connected.  Repentance without Faith in Jesus Christ is incomplete.

At the Martin Harris Pageant there was a cool part of the play that demonstrated this principle very well.  Martin Harris was commanded to repent and humble himself after he lost the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript. If he would do this, he would see the plates. But he struggled he didn’t know how he could repent (he couldn’t just bring the pages back).  When it was time to obtain the witness, Martin was unable at first to see it and departed to pray.  Joseph came to Martin and told him that he needed to have faith that the Savior’s atonement could heal him.  Martin prayed again thanking Heavenly Father for The Savior’s atonement; and then suddenly the angel appeared and showed him the plates in a stunning display.

Building our faith in Jesus Christ through scripture study, prayer, and service build enables us to fully repent.

Second Talk: Special Language of Prayer

When we pray we use more formal language in address God: Thee, Thy, Thine, and Thou.  Why? Because it shows respect and reverence to Heavenly Father. It is like in computer science. Syntax most of the time determines if a program will work or not.  As we improve the language of prayer we will feel closer to Heavenly Father, and we will feel more love and reference for him.

Third Talk: Always remember Christ.

The inn keeper who reject Joseph and Mary missed out on having the most important person ever born, be born in his Inn.  But he was too busy?  He didn’t have room for Christ?  Are we too busy for Christ? We covenant to always remember Christ.  Do we do this?  Do we have room for Christ?

Of us Christ has said:  “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

He has not forgotten us, nor will he ever.  Will we forget him? Here are some ways we can always remember Christ:

  1. Seek to do the will of Christ
  2. Be accountable to God
  3. Seek the aid of The Savior

Regards from Elder Brown.

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Elder Lowe and I at a member’s house for dinner

 

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The best food I have ever made–with Elder Lowe’s help, of course–on my mission.