Monday, April 27, 2015

I have seen, heard, and shaken the hand of a true Apostle

I really don't know where to begin.  Such a good week!

Unfortunately, we lost a lot of investigatores, but we finally found a family -- the Romeros -- that is listening to us. A family! We've taught them about 4 times now. The parents are married, and they have 4 kids. They like what we teach and everything, but they live super far from the church :p So that is the hard part; we now have to get them to go to church. :p

Tender Mercies
Tender Mercies bag
We had 2 tender mercies happen to us yesterday and today. Because of the visit of Elder Oaks, the office has basically stopped fulfilling its normal responsibilities and is preparing for his visit. So because of this we haven't been reimbursed for all of the church expenses we pay with our personal money.  And so, we're broke ...hard core broke. I have at this moment $4 pesos in my pocket :-(  So we have been trying to ration ourselves on rice this week ...and we've been starving as a result.

But last night we went to visit a member to ask for some references, and obviously seeing the hunger in our eyes, she gave us a cake and some media lunas (bread things).  We ate everything ...literally everything (I think we may have eaten the plastic bag). It was a feast of pure joy. I was really happy.

And then today, out of nowhere a member sent us a message saying that she was outside of our apartment. When we opened the door, she had a giant bag full of food!!! FOOD!!! I was so happy! It had milanesas, a bag of cookies, fruits, potatoes, etc. The Lord understands :) We have been so hungry this week!

Apostle Dallin H Oaks
So now the best part......ELDER OAKS CAME TO VISIT US THIS WEEK!!!! BAHHH!!!  The entire mission came together for this unique opportunity.  It was incredible!  Sooo spiritual ...and also hilarious; he's a funny guy!

I've still got a part of my heart in Mexico from the beginning
of my mission. Elder Sibaja (left) and Elder De La Peña.
As he started out his talk, he was telling us about his wife, Kristen, and how she was a single adult for a long time. He was like "Now when we got married, Kristen was a single adult...she was an OLD single adult  ...she was a VERY OLD single adult." Just the way he said it was hilarious, haha. She was like 50 something when they got married.

My 2 sons!!! Elder Conway y Elder Caceres
Also, as he was presenting his wife, he complimented her a lot. So she got up and took the mic and said "Elder Oaks is being really nice today ...he isn't always this nice!" We all started dying of laughter at that 'cause she made it sound like he wasn't always so nice.  And then he said "In English, there is a saying: 'condemn with kindness'. I believe that is what just happened. It seems to Kristen that I am not always that nice to her." Bahahahaha, that was just one of the best!

At one point during his talk, his wife got up and gave him a note saying that some volcanoes in Chile had erupted, and that flights through Buenos Aires had been cancelled.  Her note said the church needed their passports and money "now." He then chuckled, turned to us, and said "Elders, when you're married, you're going to understand that when your wife asks you for money, she's going to want it now!" Hahaha, just so funny! At that point, his assistant got up to get the money and passports, and take care of things.  And as he was walking out of the room, Elder Oaks pointed to him and said "And when your wife wants money 'now,' sometimes you're going to have to visit a banker to get that money." Bahaha sooo funny!!!

I can well imagine that just reading about his jokes doesn't make them sound too funny.  But trust me, he was hilarious the entire time. Simply hilarious.

Elder León goes home this Wednesday :-(

But besides being funny, it was also an incredibly spiritual talk. He started off like this, "I am full of truth and light. I could talk to you for hours, but I am limited to only 45 minutes and must depend on the Spirit to prioritize what I say." When he said that, we all buckled up and prepared for his important words.

He started out by talking about the Sabbath Day. He said that it was the center of our worship as Latter-day Saints. That it was a principle of Eternal importance, and that no one can be faithful to the church and God if they can't sanctify this day.

He then shared with us, Alma 26:22:

Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

He pointed out that this scripture says thousands would be converted to the Lord, but nothing about baptizing thousands. He suggested the first message we should share with our investigators is that of repentance, baptism is 2nd. He acknowledged that we probably can't each baptize thousands of people, but we can certainly proclaim the message of repentance to thousands. And that is the success of a missionary.

This was the point when his wife interrupted him with the note about the cancelled flights. Then he continued saying "In life, there will always be interruptions. One of these is death. It is always with us, and at any moment it can take us."  He continued, "Death is just that, an interruption. It is not an end, but a gateway to continue our eternal lives." He bore powerful testimony of the resurrection and how all of us will see our loved ones again. This was a powerful moment. His words were clear and powerful ...piercing to our minds and soul. Without any doubt, with all the confidence in the world, "We will see them again."  So simple.  But when I heard it, in person, from an Apostle of the Lord, it became so real and simple to me.  Death is just an interruption, and we will see our loved ones again.

Elder Oaks left us with a "Spirit Hand" to help us teach about the Holy Ghost.
He then moved onto personal revelation. He talked about what we can do to receive it. He said it clearly helps to be in the temple. Revelation often comes in the morning before things get too busy, when we are physically and spiritually alert, when we are studying the scriptures, when we follow the advice of our leaders, and when we believe that we will receive it.

Ways to recognize it are when we feel happy and joyous, or when the inspiration received invites us to do something that we don't want to do. As an example, if we are tired but wake up at 4am and receive the inspiration to stay in bed, that is probably our own thoughts. But if we receive the inspiration to get up out of bed to check on something, then that is probably from the Lord, and we would be wise to follow it. Elder Oaks said it is very common to receive a strong feeling to not do something, or to do something that we haven't done before.

Revelation can come in many forms; for example, in a dream. We can tell if a dream is revelation if it is clear, not confusing, and we receive the interpretation of it. It there is no interpretation, it is just a dream.

For people with a northern-American culture, Elder Oaks explained that revelation often comes in the form of words written on the backboard of our minds ...we see and read the words rather than have visions or dreams.

In all cases, the Lord will communicate to us (assuming we're listening) in ways that are familiar to us. He gave the example of a native American Indian who was called to be a patriarch. When he gave blessings, he would see simple events in his mind and interpret them into English. This patriarch gave a blessing during the time of the Iron Curtain in which he told the young man receiving the blessing that he was as a plant growing up on one side of a fence, and that a strong wind would blow over the seeds of the plant to land on the other side of the fence, and sprout and also grow to be strong plants. As this young man got older, he had opportunity to cross the Iron Curtain and preach the gospel, and had much success.

The bottom line is revelation comes in forms that are simple and familiar to our culture. Really cool and profound doctrine.

Personal Witness
As he was leaving the sacrament room, I had a really powerful experience that I won't ever forget. As is customary, we stand when a Prophet or Apostle of the Lord enters or leaves the room. And so, as he was leaving, we stood as a sign of respect. He turned back to wave goodbye. At this instant, I had the words "There is a man of God" strongly pierce my mind ...just as he explained sometimes happens. I saw the words written on the back of my mind, and they spoke strongly to me. I read them in my mind's eye, and then softly spoke them to myself, "There is a man of God." As I said the words, the spirit warmly testified to me that it was true. I felt so much joy and was so sure at that moment. I have never had an experience like this before.  Those words came so clearly and powerfully to my mind. He is a man of God are the other 11 and the First Presidency.

I know even more now than ever before that we have true prophets and apostles here on the earth today. I have always believed this, but I have now seen one face to face, and was able to feel his strong spiritual influence. I testify that God loves us, and for this reason sends us prophets and apostles to guide us. My experience with Elder Oaks really fortified my testimony of the church and the importance of the work that we are doing.

It also really strengthened my relationship with God. I know He loves me, and that I am his son. I really felt His love for me during this opportunity to meet a true Apostle of the Lord. I am so grateful for the privilege to have seen, heard, and shaken the hand of an Apostle.

God Loves us, and humbly, we are members of His true church. I know it.

Love you all!!

Elder Clemons

Subway sandwiches after the mission conference with Elder Dallin H Oaks !!!