Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas package and the Nativity

Hi guys!!! I am so happy my package made it safely home :) I just threw a bunch of stuff I couldn't pack in there last second - did you like the Christmas video? Please send me pictures of the hounds on those blankets, I guess they can be for Lily and Vito. Wow, I am impressed Henry wore the T-shirt, that is rare that makes me happy. Before we left to email today I got your treat package and was jumping around like a sister missionary. Thank you! You spoil me mom ;) Who did the Aggies play in the Bowl game?

I will probably call you guys and then you call back real quick or something, just like Mothers' day. Training is really fun, my son is from Draper, Utah. He is 22 years old and not very green because he's lived on his own  He is a techy and really smart with technology, he built his own computer back home. So far so good. Sometimes I catch myself like "wow, I'm getting near 1/2 way of my mission." It is bitter-sweet. My absolute greatest fear is to return home the same as I left. So everyday of these two years is absolutely crucial to me.

I absolutely love the Nativity and would like to touch on that a little bit again, after studying it some more I never really took much thought as to the character of Joseph and Mary (I think sometimes we just read the Nativity story and think "Oh that was cute, time to forget it until next year") but my goodness, after Joseph found out Mary was pregnant she would have faced stoning if he accused her of adultery, or if he chose to accept the child as his own he would be looked at as a commandment breaker (because once you were betrothed you were supposed to wait a year to start a family so he would have broken that if he claimed the child) For him to claim the child as his own was very courageous and both him and Mary were very obedient to the angels visitations. They were also very strong. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem is not easy, it is about a 100 mile journey, and remember Mary was "Great with child..." Those Hebrew women were tough I tell ya. And then she had the child in a stable! And then to flee to Egypt from Bethlehem? I looked on my Bible map and it looks to be like a 200+ journey! Incredible!
Now after a year or so the wise men showed up after following the star in the East and gave the child three gifts that are of great importance. Gold: because gold is for kings and Christ is the King of Kings, Frankincense: Incense used during sacrificial purposes by the priests fitting because Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and the Priest of priests, and Mrryh: used for embalming and anointing the dead, fit for the small child that would meet his fate upon the cross and be put in a tomb. Let us ponder the Nativity and really think about all the small things that occur at it. Examples:
Why were shepherds told?
Who was Herod? His background?
What would Mary's parents have thought to find out she was pregnant and Joseph wasn't the father? or the people of Nazareth?
What was the journey like from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
How did they have kids back then? What were the complications with birth?
What is the significance of swaddling clothes? or a manger?
Anyways I love to study the scriptures and understand why events happened the way they did.
have a wonderful week!
Love,
Elder Blackburn

 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Staying and Training

Hello Family,
"So transfer calls came and I am.....STAYING! Can you believe it by the end of these transfers I will have been in this ward 9 months which is just going to make it even harder to say goodbye at the end of it. I will also be training a greenie! Woohoo! I am excited because Elders that come out of the MTC are always pumped up. I'm glad you like the picture that was sent to you - I love that family, we have taught his nephew and brother. They are super fun. My Christmas package should arrive tomorrow!---At least that's what the post office lady said last week. I wish I had more time to type but I don't so this is going to be really quick. I have been emailing my friends. I am just so proud of all my friends that are serving. I wish we could all get together after and have a big reunion party and sit and chat, so I could tell them how much I admire each of them. Gosh....*sniff* I .... just ...love my friends... ha ha"
Love, Elder Blackburn
501 E. Centerton Blvd. Unit 533
Centerton, AR 72719

Hayden and his buds

On Wednesday of last week, we received the following email that was sent to the parents of Elder Blackburn and his companion from a great family in their area -


We just wanted to send you this photo of your awesome boys. I can't tell you what a blessing they have been in our lives. They come over almost every day after school to spend time with our kids. Although they like to play a friendly game of football (or soccer) the games are jam packed with life lessons and spiritual lessons. We LOVE these boys. They could not be better examples of service, compassion and charity. We will miss them dearly when they have to go. But we know they will be absolute blessings to every family the come into contact with. So, be proud of your boys and know they are making a huge impact on the lives they serve.

Love to you all!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thoughts of Christmas and other things...

Well, transfers are the 13th of December so we find out this Saturday if I will be leaving. Pretty exciting a week from this Thursday I will have been in this area 6 months and my, how the time has flown by! This has definitely been the area of most growth thus far and I have seen such a change in myself and others. It has been so wonderful to serve in this ward and I'm probably going to cry like a baby when I have to leave because these guys are my home ward now! My ward mission leader is the nicest guy and has been so awesome to work with, and the bishop and counselors and just everybody and everyone has little kids so I have loved teasing them and saying hi to them etc. 

The Lord really knows where we need to be as missionaries, I think we as Elders learn a lot knowledge-wise, but we grow to love people and learn to love others as Christ does. The hard part won't be returning home at the end of two years but leaving all of the friends you have made and the people you have grown to love that you might never see again, that is what's hard. 

Lately, my studying has been on my Patriarchal Blessing, I think we ought to all study that blessing more regularly and pray about it more. It is pretty amazing that we each get a blessing directly from Heavenly Father through a Patriarch that directly states certain blessings we have, certain abilities, warnings, etc. It is like a church talk absolutely 100% for you. 

This last week we had a Christmas zone conference and it was so good :) We learned a lot about the Atonement and The Shumways are so amazing, he is such a great mission president. He shared with us his family's Christmas traditions and read to us a book about a woodcarver, Mr. Toomey that put all of us to tears. He read it to us like we were his kids, it was really something. (my 2 cents: You should look up that book and read it, it's a tear jerker) He shared to us how in 3 Nephi 1:13 it says "for on the morrow come I into the World..." and Isaiah 9:6 says "For unto us a child is born..." and then in Luke 2:11 it says "For unto you is born this day..." showing us how the Atonement is both universal and individual, it covers the world it covers us and it covers you and me. What a great time of year is Christmas time! We can reflect on the Savior's birth, life, and mission. What humble beginnings,
Below is from Elder Holland's 1977 Ensign article entitled, "Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come from the Store." I encourage you to look it up on LDS.org

"One impression which has persisted with me recently is that this is a story—in profound paradox with our own times—that this is a story of intense poverty. I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not “there was no room in the inn” but specifically that “there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7; italics added.) We cannot be certain, but it is my guess that money could talk in those days as well as in our own. I think if Joseph and Mary had been people of influence or means, they would have found lodging even at that busy time of year.

I have wondered if the Inspired Version also was suggesting they did not know the “right people” in saying, “There was none to give room for them in the inns.” (JST, Luke 2:7.)
We cannot be certain what the historian intended, but we do know these two were desperately poor. At the purification offering which the parents made after the child’s birth, a turtledove was substituted for the required lamb, a substitution the Lord had allowed in the Law of Moses to ease the burden of the truly impoverished. (See Lev. 12:8.) "I wonder what emotions Joseph might have had as he cleared away the dung and debris. I wonder if he felt the sting of tears as he hurriedly tried to find the cleanest straw and hold the animals back. I wonder if he wondered: “Could there be a more unhealthy, a more disease-ridden, a more despicable circumstance in which a child could be born? Is this a place fit for a king? Should the mother of the Son of God be asked to enter the valley of the shadow of death in such a foul and unfamiliar place as this? Is it wrong to wish her some comfort? Is it right He should be born here?”

Pretty deep...I love to sing the words of Away in a Manger, it about makes me cry everytime. I also like to ponder what gift I would have given baby Jesus, what gift can I possibly give to the Son of God? The answer is always my love and my will, the best gift we can all give to the Saviour is submitting to their will and giving them our agency which is the only thing we really have that is our own. I hope we can all bring the Spirit of Christmas (which is really just the Spirit of Christ) into our homes this Holiday Season and always remember him.

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the heavens looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

Oh, what it would have been like to hold Heavenly Father's little boy...his perfect gift to the world. Just like how Elder Uchtdorf talked about being good receivers toChristmas gifts this season let us be good receivers to Heavenly Father's gifts to us and good receivers to of his most important gift, his perfect little boy who came down from heaven to save us and redeem us.

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, November 26, 2012

A memorable Thanksgiving

"So this was a really fun Thanksgiving! We done had a great week. (Arkansas accent) We played in our wards Turkey Bowl and had a lot of fun with that. I love the ward I'm in it has been such a fun couple of transfers here! It is hard to believe that by Dec. 20 I will have been in this ward for 6 months! But hold off on the Christmas stuff because I probably will get transferred but maybe not, who knows. We will know a week from this Saturday, I will keep ya'll posted on that. 

The Baptism went great on Saturday it was so special...Ah! Always a great experience. I must tell you though when I first arrived in this area and met this young man for the first time I got this distinct whispering from the spirit that told me that I was going to baptize him. I just felt that I was going to and that their family would become active...I don't know why but I just knew it. So it has been such an incredible journey to see this tale unfold, both parents have callings in the ward now. Truly a miracle and the Spirit really can change people. Yesterday was a great Sunday too, me and Elder Peterson gave talks on courage and went to Primary to teach the kids about missionary work. We did a 'Tracting Simulation' where I chose a companion from the kids and we knocked on the door and met Elder Peterson who was pretending to be an investigator. Then we had two girls try and two boys try, it was so darn cute me and Elder Peterson the rest of the day couldn't stop smiling. And that night was a missionary fireside where President Shumway came and spoke and he gave a great talk and he looked at the teenage boys and girls and said,"You young people have been in reserve for 6000 years for this special time. Do you know why it is so special so different from the other times? Because this time Satan Loses! (he said this pretty loudly) All the other times he's won but this time he loses! You make sure you are on the right side when that happens."
Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving blessings


"Time is going by and it's getting close to Thanksgiving! I like Holidays on your mission it makes it exciting but they don't really feel like holidays...ha this one will though. We are having Thanksgiving dinner with a family from Hawaii - their son is an all-star football player at a local high school that is ranked #5 in the nation - he will probably play for BYU when he is older. 

We have another baptism this Saturday so that will be fun, he asked me if I would baptize him and I said of course I will! We had interviews with President Shumway on Wednesday so those were good, he means business. It's like having a CEO for a Mission President, he is a super successful business man and knows so many high-up people....Friends in high places! But he is very spiritual and a great leader. 

So my favorite thing to do is listen to old church talks and so I just want to report on a couple of them...
 
First is the talk, "Ten Commandments of a Peculiar People." By Bruce R. McConkie
 
1. Thou shalt be morally clean and conform to every standard of virtue  (he says..."Immorality is the crying evil of our day.."
 
2. Thou shalt bridle thy passions and abstain from all lasciviousness    (..."True happiness is only found in righteous conduct...")
 
3. Thou shalt be modest in dress and appearance (...for the young men: "Long hair and grubby living opens the door to rebellion against the established order and to associations which lead away from the Church.." ---total Elder McConkie comment, he doesn't beat around the bush, that's why I love his talks he is so straightforward.)
 
4. Thou shalt be honest and manifest integrity in all thy doings (..."Neither a dishonest man nor a man lacking in integrity can be saved in the kingdom of God...")
 
5. Thou shalt pay thy tithes and offerings to the Lord (.."Money is the root of all evil.")
 
6. Thou shalt go to Sacrament meeting and keep the Sabbath day holy
 
7. Thou shalt keep the Word of Wisdom ("Now note what was involved in the promise in D&C Section 89: First, "walking in obedience to the commandments," for the World of Wisdom is more than a law of health; and second, those keeping it "shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures." These hidden treasures include such things as a testimony of the truth and divinity of the work, personal revelation to guide us in all our affairs and to provide us with the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. And the eternal decree is that the Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle.")
 
8. Thou shalt believe true doctrines and reject false educational theories of the world (.."We are saved or damned based upon what we believe.")
 
9. Thou shalt serve thy fellowmen and sacrifice for the building of the Kingdom of God (.."A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never produces the faith necessary for salvation..")
 
10. Thou Shalt pour out thy soul to the Lord in mighty prayer
 
What a glorious and wondrous thing it is to be a member of the church and kingdom of God on earth, to have the revelations of heaven, and to know what is meant by the prophetic utterances and the counsels written by prophets and apostles. We are so blessed. This Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom on earth. It is led by the spirit of inspiration. If we follow the counsel and direction that we receive, then these principles about which we have talked will live in our lives. They will live because they are true and because the Lord wants to operate by these standards. Out of that kind of a course we shall get the joy and the peace "that passeth all understanding" while we are here in mortality, and we'll have a guaranteed inheritance of glory, honor, immortality, and exaltation in the realms ahead.
 
The Second Talk, "Choose to Be Good." By Henry B. Eyring
 
His talk was about how choosing to be good before we come across a temptation is far wiser and allows us more safety. He says that the best people do good when no one watches or notices and so when we spot people like that and we do notice the thought goes through his mind, "Maybe what I thought was good enough when I get to the other side won't be. Maybe some humble people are living better than I thought I could." That statement is great food for thought and it woke me up and I thought wow, I want to be better. Better than I was, and never be satisfied with how good I can be. He continues to say how the best and truest guides to base our selves off of is those who are called of God and think what they would do if they had the situations we have. And to be guided to do good:
1. Read the scriptures
2. Pray, pray to know what Christ would do if he had my opportunities and ask, "What is there that thou would have me do?"
3. Have Charity
 
A good quote by President Benson is, "Obtaining a righteous and virtuous life is within the capability of anyone of us if we will earnestly seek for it. To know the Savior is to be like him."
 
After listening to both talks it gives me such hope that I can improve and my life can become so much better as I use that wonderful gift of the Atonement! Some of you are probably thinking what? I can't live all of those...or it isn't cool to live every single principle...Well I'm here to tell you it is possible and it is "cool" to God if we live every single one. The blessings we can receive from obeying with exactness are exponentionally large, we have a great challenge issued by Christ himself, "What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I am... Be ye perfect." So let's get to it! Eternal life and Exaltation awaits us if we but follow these standards here while we are in this mortal sliver of existence. Use the Atonement it is their for us to use. The Atonement is not just for the sinners. It is for anyone with afflictions, imperfections, depression, hopelessness, fear, loneliness, challenges, etc. Let the love of the Savior fill your heart as you more earnestly pray to become perfect. God did not place us here to fail and he will NEVER let us down. It is up to us to stay near him and ward off those doubts the adversary throws with our shield of Faith, let's not believe in our darkest hours that God has left us or that he has let us down or we have let him down. He is our Father and loves us and waits to hear from us, and waits to bless us. Christ waits to surround you with his love, so if you are in need get on your knees. Your probably thinking, "Elder Blackburn it is impossible to be perfect so why even try?" We can be perfect in our church attendance, our temple attendance, being chaste, our scripture reading, letting the ones we love know we love them. If ye keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land. God doesn't require perfection from us but he requires that we give it all we've got, when we were baptized we chose to obey God to take upon us Christ's name and to always remember him, we put our hand to the plough and we are to never look back at our old life in sin. Let's give it our all shall we? We can do it!  "I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
 
Love,
Elder Blackburn

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A quick note

"Wow, look at that snow! That is impressive! Sheesh it really poured over there in Utah! That's awesome, it is just a little chilly here no snow...I'm not a huge fan of snow except when it's on the ski resorts. We put up our Christmas decorations for our apartment yesterday ha ha. Yesterday we couldn't email (it was Veteran's Day)... but our zone got together and we played ultimate frisbee and football. Elder Asiata and I dominated ha ha He is way cool his older brother Matt Asiata is on the Minnesota Vikings right now. Pretty cool he chose to serve, he is a big boy ha. It was a ton of fun we came up with some pretty creative plays like there was one where we hiked the ball and then huddled in a circle and ran away all pretending to have the ball under our shirt and the other team would be confused and then I would have it and get their attention and drag them over to the side and then I would throw it back to Elder Urban who would then throw it into the End Zone where our whole team was open for a touchdown. It was awesome. Also, our week went pretty good, we are seeing good success. Tomorrow we have interviews with President Shumway so I am really excited. Interviews are such boosters, we Elders LOVE them. Lately, I have been studying "Time Vindicates the Prophet" by Hugh Nibley. Pretty good stuff, I just finished reading "Commentary on the Small Plates of Nephi" By George Reynolds and Janne M. Sojdahl. It is a very good book and was written in 1950. I don't have a whole lot of time today so I apologize...next weeks email will be larger!"

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Friday, November 9, 2012

A possible future companion is called...

In our email to Hayden, we told him the news that a friend who is one year younger and in our Ward was just called to serve in the Tulsa, OK mission.  Two guys that attended Priest's Quorum together and live less than a block apart could be companions in the mission field!
----------------
"Wow, I am so excited Jake is coming to this mission! Oh, wow! I am praying I get to train him! He will love it out here--this mission totally fits him: hardworkin' people, ranches, a little bit o' south. That is great news! I am so happy for him.
 
We spent a nice Halloween night at a member's house and helped hand out candy to the trick or treaters. I brought my camera to email some pictures but I forgot I replaced the memory card, so I will just send it home in a letter. It is full with good stuff. We had a rough week but in the midst of it we had a few lessons that were very spiritual so it boosted me through. One of them was a man we tracted into and we got talking and he suddenly got very adament about Christianity and all you need to do is confess Christ to be saved and me and Peterson started to get a little scared because he was pretty built physically and he was like yelling this at us and we thought he was going to start throwing punches or something but then something happened the spirit took over and we just discussed his concerns (he said he had met with elders before and had some problems with our beliefs) and it was amazing! His countenance changed. His heart softened and he started to listen and by the end he said things like, "Oh, I guess I didn't look in to it as much as I should of." or "I didn't know that, that makes more sense." and we ended up having a great discussion. I love those teaching moments. You study and study and fill up your spiritual well so that when the moment comes when you need the spirit to put words into your mind you are ready with a well full of teachings, scriptures, quotes, etc. I love that. Doctrine and Covenants 84:85 Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man."

Sincerely,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Baptism...and another six weeks in AR

"Well, transfer calls came on Saturday and I am here for another 6 weeks. No change in companion either so we are excited!  I think after this next transfer I will leave. So on Saturday we had another baptism! And I forgot to bring my camera here to the library so, I don't have the picture with me but it was so special. It was amazing and gosh, missionary work has it's ups and downs but this just made it all better. So the sister we baptized has had a long road to the font and I was just so darn proud of her. It just shows how the spirit and gospel takes time and it does change people. I will try to explain the story. She has a super less active husband and we met with them a lot my first transfer here in July and I thought wow, this might take longer than expected but overtime I've been able to watch the whole family progress and her son is being baptized in two weeks! At first the spirit in the home was of chaos, kids were being crazy, they were frustrated and it just seemed like a problem always arose to stop them from progressing. But after consistent lessons and never giving up, and suddenly their countenances started to change. The lessons started to sink in. It was nothing short of a miracle! Now the spirit in there home is calmer and loving. I told them, "Wow, the Spirit in your home is so nice! I love it!" Her son said the closing prayer at the Baptism and he was so nervous but he did such a great job and it was really special. These precious moments are the diamonds of the missionary mine I like to say. After tons and tons and tons of digging and coming up with nothing but a growing pile of dirt and rocks you finally come across a beautiful diamond. (It can go more in depth too because a diamond has to undergo a lot of time and pressure or in a spiritual sense trials or acts of faith first, so early missionaries start the process and some get to mine them up kind of a different spin on the sower analogy) I will always hold their family close to my heart and I am so happy I was here to see this whole experience. I don't have much to say today, just that no matter how low you think you are or how lost you think you may be the gospel and the Atonement of Christ can always find you and pull you back up or put you back on track. When I talk to people tracting or investigators I just picture in my head that they are already members! It makes it fun and replaces the doubts you have. I don't think I have ever been happier and sadder in my life then on my mission. At times you feel you have no one to teach and it seems all your investigators are falling away and you just throw yourself on your bed and cry because you love them and know that the gospel can change them but they just don't try or they don't listen or don't believe in what you are telling them. But when you see an investigator work through trials and enter those waters of baptism you can't be happier! Your heart is "brim with joy" as Ammon says of his own missionary experiences with the Lamanites. All these moments brought to us because of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for that sacrifice. I often ask myself why did he do it? Why? Why put yourself through so much for us? For me? He loves us. He loves me. He wants us to return. He knows our potential and wants us to reach it. He knew we had fallen but with his help we can rise! His experience was incredibly horrifying but he went through with it. He pleaded with the Father to take this cup from me. Please don't make me do it, find another way, please! But an angel came and probably told him you must go through with it but it is your choice, Heavenly Father knew you could do it and that's why he chose you and ordained you, if you don't everything you helped create will go back to outer chaos, you are the only one who can save your Father's children. So Jesus made that choice that he would go through with it and he did. Thy will be done and he took that bitter cup and drank it all. It wasn't a mere kneeling prayer, he threw himself across the ground and fell on his face, so much blood was going through his circulatory system that it was forced through his sweat glands and great drops of blood fell from his pores...That pure, innocent lamb, a harsh word never left his mouth, nor a bad thought enter into his mind and he went through so much and after that Atonement he then went through torture and was treated like a vile criminal...Heavenly Father's little boy, his Son, smitten, striped, slapped, spat on, and for what? He never fought back or spoke back, he took it all and after being striped by a cat of nine tails he was given his cross and forced to march. He was so kind, so gentle, he spent his days healing the blind, the sick, the diseased, the people no one wanted to be around or care about. Upon the cross, to make the total experience complete Heavenly Father had to with draw his presence from his Son to see if Jesus would finish the task. Christ asked in agony why have you forsaken me? But he took it and said it is finished. He had done it and he did do it, Christ has atoned for our sins. He won! Christ has won death and overcome the world! Believe it!"

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, October 22, 2012

Arkansas October

Hello Family and Friends,
"This week was...better. We have a baptism this Saturday which should be a great experience. I'm glad my words were able to touch the hearts of those in the ward. That means a lot due to most of the time I feel like my words reach no one...I have become even more determined in my studies, I love to sit in my little "office" desk I have with a notebook, my scriptures, and ensigns. I could spend the rest of my mission studying as I have developed a hunger for knowledge.
One of my absolute favorite talks is by Elder Boyd K. Packer, I'm sure you've heard it or heard references to it, it is his "Spiritual Crocodiles" talk. I think by now I can recite it by memory but I just love the way he tells it and the great message behind his story of traveling to Africa. He tells how he always dreamed of going on safaris as a kid as other boys played cowboy he was pretending to hunt wild safari animals. His dream of going on a safari came as he was assigned to dedicate 8 chapels in South Africa. One of the days spent there was September the 10, his birthday, and he was given the opportunity to tour a game preserve. (he says they are rather odd because the people are put in cages and the animals left to run free ha ha) He was with a ranger and came across some muddy elephant tracks that were filled with a little bit of water that animals were nervously trying to drink from. (it was a dry year and water was found mostly in muddy elephant tracks as they stepped in the mud water would sink in the depression left) He asked the ranger why the animals were so nervous and he responded "Crocodiles." Elder Packer knew he must be joking and said "No, really what is it?" the Ranger answered again "Crocodiles", "Nonsense" Elder Packer replied. Elder Packer was not uninformed he had read many books on the animals and besides everyone knows you can't hid a crocodile in an elephant track! The ranger saw he did not believe him so he drove up to an embankment and peered down and the muddy track. He didn't see any crocodile and then all of the sudden he could see the big reptile settled in the mud waiting for an unexpected gazelle or wildebeest to take a sip. Elder Packer explains the lesson he learned, around us are many spiritual crocodiles camouflaged even better than those reptiles of Africa and can hide in the smallest of things, and they are far more dangerous than real ones, they could mutilate or kill your soul. He says sometimes in life we must depend fully on the words of guides who have been around longer and who have probed the holes and can warn us of the danger. Although they don't go by "guides" they go by Mother, Father, Church Leader, and Bishop. His know-it-all attitude could have proved fateful had the ranger said "Go out and see for yourself!" He learned that yes, you can hide a crocodile in an elephant track and to trust those that know better. We too must listen and follow the counsel of those that know better. Often times the attitude I had at home was "I know better, in fact I think I know more than my parents and other leaders do." That attitude wasn't worthy of me, I hope you know better than I did. I since have learned that one of the safest and most simplest ways to make it back to Heavenly Father is to do what your parents tell you to do. Had I fully followed that I think I would have not been nipped and bit by a few crocodiles I stumbled into earlier in life. Luckily there is first aid in the Atonement of Christ and we can be healed from the injuries left by those celestial carnivores.

Yesterday I had a family in the ward call my family and tell them hello and that I love them for me. They are an awesome family that are always helping us out. They are converts and have been members for four years. After the phone call they said your father sounded so happy! And were impressed with his fluency in Espanol ;) on my way back to the apartment I reflected on how my father was probably beaming after that unexpected call. It struck me then how I am a son to a father. I have been studying so much about The Father and The Son that I forgot that I am a son to a father too! I felt a glimpse of what it must be like to have a son of my own, part of me in a little boy that resembles me and how hard it would be to send that little one on a mission. I felt the love I would have for that little one and suddenly felt not only how much love my Father in Heaven has for me but how much my Earthly father loves me. I believe I have the best parents in the world and am so grateful to be their son. How amazing it is that we as humans have the ability to make an earthly tabernacle for Heavenly Fathers spirit children and through those powers we can invite little boys and little girls to come and live with us, in the image of both Heavenly and Mortal parentage. I am proud to be who I am, and often times that fact alone helps me get through a lot. The sweet inspired words of the children's song "I am a Child of God" often is enough to pull tears out of this Missionary serving in Arkansas. The line "I am a Child of God and he has sent me here has given me an Earthly home with Parents kind and dear lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way, teach me all that I must do to live with him some day."

He has sent me to an Earthly home and to Parents kind a dear, he's leading me, he's guiding me, he is walking beside and showing me the way, he's teaching me all that I must do to live with him someday.

Heavenly Father loves us so much that he gave up his own little boy for our sake.
For that I am eternally grateful."

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Tender Mercy...

About 7PM this evening (Sunday) the phone rang, it was an odd area code so Todd went in the other room thinking it was a political ad or something.  The lady on the other end said "habla espaƱol" and mentioned she was calling from Arkansas.  Todd realized this was a family that Elder Blackburn has mentioned several times in his letters - they frequently take the Elders to fun places on p-day, feed them dinner and has them over for holiday's and other occasions.  It seems like in every mission there is a family that loves the Elders and becomes their "home away from home".  These are always special people, because they continue to give this service even though the missionaries come and go in and out of their lives.  It takes a commitment to the gospel and service that few of us obtain.  After brushing the rust off of his brain, Todd conversed in Spanish and could hear Hayden in the background...we learned that they are converts of about four years from El Salvador - the father grew up in the states.  Their two-year old daughter loves Hayden and they said we should be proud of him - he works hard, is engaged in the work and is very well behaved...needless to say, this makes us very proud.  Just today, Jonia gave a missionary report in Sacrament meeting, so to hear from his mission was a tender mercy on this nice beautiful fall day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A long week in the field

"Well, this week was a long one...but we taught a lot of lessons which is always a boost. I also went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders in Little Flock and had a good experience there. We taught a guy (around 20 yrs old) and he said he had some "notes" for us to look at. Upon seeing his notes me and the other Elder realized it was just Anti-Mormon media copy and pasted to a word document. We proceeded in answering all of the questions and one after another he deleted the questions by the end he just deleted the whole document and said, "Wow, it must be true." He promised he wouldn't look up any Anti anymore and to stay on Mormon.org and LDS.org, Anti just clouds peoples minds and puts doubts and bad seeds into their soul. It was a testimony builder for me because it just showed how true and correct our church and doctrine really is. We belong to Jesus Christ's Church, our doctrine is plain and precious and simple. It just makes sense! What I don't get is how people who profess to be well versed in scripture still believe in their way after a couple of 19 yr. old boys counter the attacks they throw and can explain hard doctrine so simply and purely that they can't but not understand what we teach. Our minds as missionaries are expanded and enlightened as we have modern day revelation to study as well as the Book of Mormon, our knowledge increases with the help of the Holy Ghost that we can have with us at all times to help bring things to our remembrance when we need it. (D&C 100:6) No one can stop this work from progressing! The true church can rely on 19 and now 18 year old boys because it is true! If it weren't the church would have crashed and burned many years ago. Isn't it remarkable and awe inspiring how 18-21 year olds are the ones who spread the Gospel around the world and put everything on hold to do it, and pay for it themselves? The growth of the Church rests upon the shoulders of teenagers? It does because it is true! And lead by a Prophet of God who receives revelation for the Church. Just by those facts someone should be able to sense something special about our Church. No other church can do that. 

Some days it can be really hard as a missionary, we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hold the knowledge of how to truly have a happy life and the real truth but often times people don't want to hear it and it is really difficult to see people turn down what you know can change their lives. We have a product that doesn't fail! It is free! Life Eternal is FREE! The only cost is our agency, that is, to turn over the one thing we can give to our Heavenly Father: our will. If we make His will our will we are promised amazing blessings and will have rewards waiting for us in the next life that are incomprehensible and unfathomably magnificent. We are promised to become "joint heirs with Christ"! You can realize how sad it truly is as a missionary when you knock on someone's door and someone answers who you know and can tell is having a hard time and tells us "Sorry, I am not interested." This man has no idea he can be sealed to his family for eternity, that he has a plethora of blessings waiting on command for him if he does but pray, read the Book of Mormon, get baptized and join himself with the Kingdom of God on Earth! All the questions he has asked himself that he can't find answers to, are found in our Church. We are so blessed. Never take for granted the knowledge, the blessings, the joy we have as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."

Elder Blackburn

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meet the newest member of the Church



Elder Blackburn is so good when working with younger kids, they simply seem drawn to his spirit.  Many of you may not remember, but Hayden baptized his little sister when he was a recently ordained Priest - so this is actually his second baptism.  We are very proud of his sister for making her choice and for the young man in this picture, who has an eternal buddy in Elder Blackburn.

A great weekend!

"Well, well, well, so they change the age! Oh, my goodness! I cannot believe sisters can leave so much earlier! That is pretty amazing...That was such a good conference, the sessions went by WAY too fast...my absolute favorite talk was by Elder Holland. I was surprised how many talks were around Peter's ministry, it is pretty coincidental because I just read all that in Jesus the Christ (only 70 pages left) Also, I had my very first baptism on Friday :) it was amazing, to work so hard and see him enter the waters of baptism was just icing on the cake. I was asked to confirm him. As I was confirming him the spirit manifested to me that one day I will be doing this for my own kids. We sang "When I am Baptized". The scripture in D&C 18:5 is so true. My joy is so great. On Saturday we watched the sessions at a member's house...we watched the talks while on comfy couches and they have a cute little dog named Sodie.  It has been really cold here, like 40 degrees as the high! So weird to go from so hot to so cold.

Lately I have been wondering why I have not seen a big change in who I am, my actions, etc. and so I did some studying. I came to the conclusion that although my knowledge was improving, knowledge alone can't change me, it has to be applied. I realized that I have merely been changing my behaviors while being out but my nature is still what I call the "old Hayden" well, the reason I loved Elder Holland's talk was because I saw Peter as me, after tarrying with the Lord and after his crucifixion he returned to being a fishermen, to what he knew best. I saw that if I just finished my mission and went home and wasn't truly converted I would do what I knew best which is being well... a bum basically (excuse the bluntness) When Elder Holland quoted the Savior asking, "Peter, do you love me?" I heard "Hayden, do you love me?".....I'd answer "Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee I am on a mission for thee."...."Hayden, do you love me?" After reflecting on the talk later during the day I knew that I have a lot to work on. If I really love the lord how am I showing it? Do my actions show that I love the lord? Do my thoughts reflect my love for the lord? Do I serve like I love the lord? I realized I must become converted or I will come home the same and I do NOT want that and either does Heavenly Father. I want them proud of who I became because I thrusted my sickle in with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I put it all on the table and grabbed that plough and pushed forward not looking back. How can I change my nature? Well, I must apply the principles the scriptures teach. I must have charity, I must have love, I must have patience, I must have humility, I must give my will over to the Father and give myself to His will. That is how I will change. I have embarked on a journey within a journey and this one is to become the person Heavenly Father knows I can become, the Priesthood holder he created me to become. I have ALL the tools I need and 17 months to get started on this journey that will never end, this time isn't just to change others lives it is to change my own. Perhaps that is why I was sent here, I hardly see successes, I don't have to learn a language, I don't see exotic things, I just needed hard work because I needed to be humbled. Heavenly Father is probably thinking, "Whoo, I thought he'd never get it." My goal is to make my will, his will."

Elder Blackburn
Alma 5:12

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another weeeeeeeeeek...

"Well, just another week down here in Arkansas... not much to report...let me see here. My companion and I have just been working like usual, but while tracting last week I was just like "Man, this stinks, I have been tracting for 6 1/2 months and haven't had any success!" I'm just so used to doors slammed in my face that it doesn't even phase me, I'm a seasoned tracter you could say... So that night we prayed hard that we could receive some success from all the hard work we've been doing. Surprisingly the next day a member from another ward called us and said they had someone to teach, we went to the address and sure enough there was a guy waiting for us and accepted all commitments and even asked when's the soonest him and his daughter could be baptized ha I was like whoa, whoa we gotta teach ya the doctrine a little first ha ha. We'll see if he is golden or not in our next visit with him. I sure hope so. We can't believe another Conference is here, as a missionary this is like our Superbowl. ha ha It's crazy that we were at the MTC to watch Conference and next week it will be 6 months and 3 weeks since that experience. Only two more sessions to go and I'll be back home. Weird, isn't it? 2 years, so short yet so long yet so short ha. 

I'm almost done with Jesus the Christ - man I love that book- I feel like I've come to know my Savior much more deeply than before. James E. Talmage does a tremendous job at informing you on the geography of his life, chronology of the events, and the circumstances leading up to his crucifixion and why the pharisees and Sadducees were so hostile towards him. I think my favorite months are March/April and September/October reasons for that: nice weather, and fun things are going on. (also conference ha ha) Seriously to a missionary Conference is the World Cup to us. Man, I'm excited. I'm giddy with excitement really. We have a baptism is this Friday so I will take lots of pics for you guys..he is like our little brother now. He is such a good kid. We've taught him so much that we are running out of things to teach him so we made up this really fun game for him. I'll have to take a picture of it because it will take forever to explain. Do you remember that John Tvednes guy I talked about a few emails ago? Well, he is coming to our District Meeting on Wednesday! Yahoo! So this week is just going to be awesome!"
Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, September 24, 2012

Arkansas Awesomeness

"Well, the last week of the transfer went well. We did some good work and I don't think I have been as tired as I am now. We probably biked 20+ miles last week. So I have been exhausted...which is good though. Lately my studies have been in "Jesus the Christ" Oh my gosh, I am addicted to reading it...I can't put it down. James E. Talmage was genius! I can't understand how he was able to put that book together! Definately an inspired book. If you want to get to know Christ and his character and his life better then pick up that book and start reading. This Sat/Sun was Stake Conference and it was really good, it was missionary themed and Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy really told the members that they are the full time finders and the missionaries are the teachers. It was perfect. If all members could understand that we as missionaries are not some other group that does all of the work bringing people into church and that as members it is their job and if we all could go out and talk to everyone about the gospel and then invite us to teach their newly found friend the work would exponentially take off. The members are not assistants to the Missionaries, we are the assistants to the members.
Last Monday after emailing we went to the new art museum "Crystal Bridges" it is huge and I guess is top 10 museums to see in the world! It was really cool we caught the last day of the Declaration Exhibit and saw one of the Declarations of Independence and Letters from King George III to General Howe, It was awesome. Then we looked at a lot of art from the 1800's to Present day. We were going to go to Pea Ridge Civil War battleground but our ride bailed so hopefully we will go next week. Usually on Pdays we email in the morning, shop, play BBall with the Bentonville Elders and then our day is over. 

My spiritual thought today is short and sweet:
Study the scriptures daily: even if you "don't have time" it is very important
Ponder what you read: really think about what you're reading
Keep a journal: Journal writing is a lost art, find a notebook and start writing your daily events as well as your spiritual thoughts and doctrine you are learning or interesting things you learned that day. It shows Heavenly Father you are serious about the gospel and that spiritual insights he gives you are important to you.
Share what you learn: Sharing gospel insights with others helps solidify your testimony
Apply: Learning is good but without application of doctrine it will profit you nothing.
"Therein lies happiness brother": quote from Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, September 17, 2012

Staying in AR six more weeks

Elder Blackburn wrote a couple of follow-up emails after sending the one below - he mentioned that transfers are this week, but that he and his current companion will be together another six weeks.  He is very grateful for that because they get along so well and are working hard together.


"This week was special to me. I have started becoming the missionary I want to be and am seeing a change in the way I act - this week we worked hard and tracted much and contacted much. My comp and I have decided to lead the zone both in achieving the zone goals and by example. On Friday we had a zone meeting and had some really cool guest speakers. One was John Tvedtnes, an expert and former archaeologist at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Book of Mormon archaeology, he said he would like to address on how to respond to criticisms of the Book of Mormon but first let us ask questions, we asked him tough ones - or so we thought - and without a seconds hesitation or the blink of an eye he answered them all with no problem, he was awesome. 

Afterwards a sister came in and told us her conversion story, she was in the lowest of low in her life and had been in and out of jail a bunch and didn't want to go back and decided she needed to know God, one day she had a vision where she and an innumerable amount of people were in a huge room raising our arms and cheering saying Yes! yes! and on the platform above saw a man and felt it was Jesus and we were cheering, she said she had an understanding that this was Pre-Earth life, Suddenly the vision moved her to an empty, cold, dark place she knew was Hell and she saw three kingdoms and people people giving each other light as the higher kingdoms taught the lower kingdoms. After this experience she thought she was the only one who knew the truth until one day two missionaries found her taught her and then she found out a whole religion knew and believed what she knew and believed. Her first Sunday at our church was fast and testimony meeting and as people were bearing their testimonies she said she was like Yes! I know it is true too. Pretty amazing story, she then encouraged us to go out there and work hard because there have to be more that have had similar experiences. 

Yesterday we were teaching one of our investigators and his dad and we were talking to him and he just broke down and told us how he wants to stop using drugs but can't and about this desire that is in him and that it catches him and won't let him go and makes him want to use all the time. I shared Alma 7: 11-13 and explained the enabling power of the atonement and how you must have faith that God and Christ will get you through this and if you show you are willing and break the cycle just once they will begin to change you and you will experience a mighty change of heart. Because he has used for so long I explained how that desire will always be there and how it will be very strong but as you continue to refuse it, it's not that the desire is gone but that your ability to overcome it has increased and is stronger then the desire but just right now the power to overcome and the desire are lopsided and that you must work to increase it through overcoming in order to make it lopsided on the overcoming side. we then proceeded to give him a blessing...I must say that this was the most spiritual experience yet, I knew exactly what to say with ease, it was amazing.  After I gave it, our investigator (the son who is 11 yrs old) tugged my shirt and said, "I felt him" and I said, "who?" he responded, "The Holy Ghost, I felt so warm inside." I said a prayer in my heart and thanked the Lord that I was able to be worthy to give a blessing and to be in tune with the spirit . There is power in the Priesthood, it is real and I am so happy God was able to bless one of his children through me and I knew then that, that is what missionary work is all about. To read how I felt check out D&C 42:16, 33:8-10, 68:3-4, 100:5-6. It explains it better then I ever could!"

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, September 10, 2012

Week of the 6 month mark -

Hey Family and Friends!

"This was a fast week! Wow! And yes I heard the news GO AGGIES! So proud of them. This week flew by...so we had to change the date of a baptism we have coming up to the 30th...and another family we have been teaching is scheduled for the 29th.  I hope I stay in the area another transfer (transfers are the 20th). This week a general authority visited us: Elder Choi. He is from South Korea and he shared many cool stories about how he was a bodyguard for the National President of Korea. He served a mission in Korea for a year but it is mandantory that all men serve in the army there so he got called out from his mission to serve in the army and after serving in the army for 3 years went straight back to the mission field so he was gone from home 5 years! He taught us a cool lesson on how faith is like kimchi. It takes effort for kimchi and faith to become delicious to us. Kimchi is a traditional Korean meal eaten almost at every meal time. At first it tastes gross but then becomes super delicious. I was able to sing at the meeting too..ha ha crazy..I know. 
This week a huge storm came in as we were teaching in a garage to one investigator (because that's where there are chairs for us and we have our lessons in there) all of the sudden these huge dark clouds came rolling in (it looked like the dust storm in the movie Hidalgo but in the sky) and before we knew it the clouds were right over us and the sky was green and it went from really humid and muggy to freezing cold: perfect storm for a tornado. We watched as the clouds slowly started to rotate and so we ducked for cover! No tornado formed but it rained cats and dogs for a good half of an hour. Storms back home are like sprinkles compared to storms out here.

(Hayden's little sister Hallie has been asked to talk at her cousin's baptism next month so Hayden sent along this advice)

Hallie needs a talk on baptism? Alright:
We are baptized because Christ was and we need to follow his example so that we can become clean. In John 3:5 we read how we must be baptized of water and of the spirit in order to inherit the kingdom of God. When we are baptized it represents how Christ died, was buried, and how he was resurrected. We symbolically get fall back and are buried with water and then come "straightway" out of the water represented resurrection. After we are baptized the second part is to be given to the holy ghost, the baptism washes away our sins and the Holy Ghost sanctifies us. Now we have made a covenant with our Heavenly Father. We can read about what we covenanted in the Book of Mormon (mosiah 18, 2 Nephi 31, 32,33) we honor that covenant by keeping our end of the deal and He promises to keep his end of the deal by giving us a remission of sins each Sunday as we partake of the Sacrament. We must be baptized by the Authority of God, the Priesthood, in order for it to be sealed in Heaven. Uncle Tim holds that priesthood and it can be traced back to Jesus. Joseph Smith while translating the Golden Plates wondered how we are to be baptized so he and Oliver Cowdery inquired of the Lord and John the Baptist came and gave them the keys to baptism. Needless to say, Baptism is a sacred gift from God and we should be grateful for the opportunity to live in a time where we can be baptized. Baptism is only the beginning to a path of discipleship that we promise to take and is the first step towards Eternal Life.



My spiritual thought for this week is:
Heavenly Father loves us and is aware of us and what we are going through. That is factual you see, "In the presence of God all things are manifest past, present, and future and are continually before the Lord." D&C 130:7. So the future you is before him now. He knows what it is we need in our lives to become that future self he sees now. He knows what needs to come and what kind of remodeling our lives need. This will require us to accept the truths that came to Joseph Smith in which he was reminded "that his suffering would be but for a small moment." The tests we face are real and they aren't things we can do with one hand tied behind our back. They are real and we will know they are real because we will have felt them and will battle through them.
We must learn the lessons taught in Gethsemane:
1. At times we may wonder if we have been forgotten or forsaken we must do as Christ did and acknowledge that God is still there and never doubt that reality.
2. At times we may try to pray away what seems like an impending tragedy but which, in reality, is an opportunity. We must surrender our will to God's will. It is because he loves us that at times he will not intercede as we may wish him to.

To endure, to be patient in the midst of affliction and suffering, that is real sainthood. When discouraged I like to think of Alma The Younger after he was rejected in the city of Ammonihah. As a missionary in the Bible Belt rejection is typical and very common, but this scripture always warms my heart "it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying: Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you. And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return." How wonderful, Heavenly Father knew what Alma was experiencing and sent the same angel that turned him to repentance, to tell him you are doing great! I am so proud of you, go get 'em! I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father and for his love and care to put customized challenges and trials in my path so that I can become the Son of God he would have me be."

Elder Blackburn

Monday, September 3, 2012



Hello Everyone! Happy Labor Day!

Well, it is hot and humid down here after much needed rainstorms for the past 2 weeks. So everything is nice and green again. So last week was pretty eventful, on Tuesday while at Helping Hands doing our regular service that we do for them a new old man was working the shift we were volunteering and he asked us who we are and what we are doing and we explained to him. He said, "Your buddy is Elder, so you must be Younger." ha ha we chuckled together. Later after working a while he came up and grabbed my arm and with tears in his eyes just said, "I think it is great what you and your buddy are doing, God bless you." He then told me many years ago he had, had the opportunity to go to Salt Lake and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the Tabernacle and he told me how marvelous it was. It was a tender moment and I needed this mans praise because recently it has been a rough time out here in the field, some days are just tough. But he felt that he needed to tell me that and for that I am grateful. We are all God's children and he must smile down when we listen to promptings to help one another out. That night we went and ate at "Jim's Razorback Pizza" a fun little pizza diner in town. Later we tracted a couple streets and on one a member was like "Hey, I'll come with you guys!" Because of that we were able to finally teach a lesson to some potentials and had a good discussion on the Restoration. That storm Hurricane Isaac hit us nicely Thursday night and it wasn't that bad just poured much needed moisture for a good day and a half and then had some more storms throughout the next couple of days. We helped a Recent Convert move this past weekend and while standing around after helping I talked with his fiancee about Temple marriage and gave her a pamphlet and gave her a condensed version of the first couple of lessons, it was another boost because the words just came to me with great clarity. I also didn't want to drive to the hospital to get my stitches out so I just took them out myself ha ha with nail clippers. My knee is in ship shape, now with a mission scar with a story. In Bentonville we went to the coolest little fish diner called, "The Flying Fish." You feel like you're on the coast of Seattle or something. Mmmmm... I had grilled Rainbow Trout and tried an oyster (yuck...it doesn't taste like anything and just slides down your throat)... The fish was delicious though. That night we had dinner with a Recent Convert and he recently just lost his son in a motorcycle crash and he bore powerful testimony it was inspiring. Anyways just trucking through the mission work and doing my best to stay positive. I hope you got my letter I sent out a while ago. Days when the mail doesn't come are sad for us Elders. ha ha Also in Bentonville is the 'Five and Dime' the first Walmart ever that is a cool vintage shop with a museum about Sam Walton. Pretty Interesting. Everyone down here loves Walmart. Love you guys lots and good luck with school starting!

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rainy Monday

To preface this entry - we sent Hayden some videos on a flash drive along with a slide show of what has become known as "The Bunny Video" that he recorded with some friends his senior year of high school.  We are glad he has been able to view them...


Hello Everyone! Good Morning!

Oh my gosh! The Bunny Video!!!Thank you Mom, Dad, family for the interviews and thank you for the funny slide show...Hilarious! Ha ha oh man... what can I say that is me in a nut shell! Thank you! I look so little! Wow, I have really grown up since then...physically that is, mentally though I am still the same ha ha Well this week has been pretty awesome. Yes, the knee is fine and the stitches will be taken out on Saturday, for those that care I will be taping them into my journal. (My journal is an amazing show and tell book with many little trinkets taped here and there) So last Sunday a member asked us if we would assist him in giving a blessing to a co-worker husband so we went and he is in bad shape, he was in a coma state. So I annointed and my companion sealed and afterwards the wife was crying, well guess what happened, on Friday the guy woke up! Miracles still happen. Also this week we were able to commit 4 people to baptismal dates one is Sep. 7 so we are excited! Also this week it has absolutely rained like crazy! While at Church it was just dumping down sheets of rain (our Stake fasted for rain last fast Sunday) So my companion goes "Huh, so this is what happens when you fast for rain." ha ha Even though we have 4 baptismal dates those are our only legitimate investigators. Most days are filled with countless hours of tracting...it is so discouraging to tract for like four hours and not be let in once...I don't get it! So mission life can be tough when we can't find people to teach. I don't really have a whole lot to say, just trucking along for the most part and enjoying the whole experience. I wish I had something to say to edify you all so I will just leave you with this poem that I love to read and ponder on:



My life is but a weaving
Between the Lord and me;
I may not choose the colors–
He knows what they should be.

For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side
While I can see it only
On this, the under side.

Sometimes He weaves in sorrow,
Which seems so strange to me;
But I will trust His judgment
And work on faithfully.

‘Tis He who fills the shuttle,
And He knows what is best;
So I shall weave in earnest,
And leave to Him the rest.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

Heavenly Father loves us so much :)




Elder Blackburn

Monday, August 20, 2012

A bike accident, stitches and back to work...


"Well, from the title I'm sure you're thinking what did he do now? Let me explain... So the other day (two days ago) we were riding home on our bikes on a rocky dirt road when I crashed on my bike. It was so weird I thought I was sticking my arms out but then they were under neath me and I slid on my left shoulder (which was protected by my backpack strap) and so then I just laid there as I went through a checklist in my head. Everything was good, I sat up and saw no tears, no bike problems just some raw palms. I stood up and put my bike up and then felt a pain in my knee, I lifted up my pant leg to see blood trickling down into my sock. "Elder, we gotta go."  We bike another 1/4 mile home and I observe the cut. It was a deep cut right at the bottom of the knee cap and I could see white fatty tissue and tendons. A member takes us to the Urgent Care only for them to say "Ya, you should probably go to the ER for that." So I jokingly say, "Alright guys, I guess it's bad." ha ha Imagine me with my white shirt and tie but with gym shorts on. We go over to the ER and get it stitched up...that was fun. Nothing like getting it pumped with anisthetic and then cleaned out and stiched up. 7 stiches in all. :) the doctor left a note and the nurse read it. She said, "Wow, the doctor left a note, that's odd it says: Tell the parents of this young man that they did a wonderful job in raising the finest young man I have ever met." The best was my companion's reaction as they were stiching me up and all... He said he stiched it up good so I can still run/walk/bike/etc. and nothing got torn besides some skin layers so I'm lucky :) so now I have a mission scar! Alright, check that off the list. At the same time I was there a lady in the other Elders' ward was there above us at the hospital, she was 8 months pregnant and during the night didn't feel the baby kick and so they rushed over to the ER during the night and they did an ultrasound and the doctors performed an emergency C-section and got the baby out, but the baby was still born...ward members were consoling her and her family the whole day.  The whole mood was solemn and the mother and family were just crying and crying.  At these moments you ask why? It was just a baby? But we must remember the Great Plan of Salvation. Some spirits are so valiant that all they need to do is gain a body and they are done. Some spirits so pure and clean that they don't need this worldly experience to become better they just need a body. Now that is easier said then done, because it is hard for us to accept that as we wonder what could have been. No doubt though that, that young mother will have her baby in the next life and raise it as her own. Can you imagine going through such a trial as this without the knowledge of the Restored Gospel? I can't... Why we can rest assured that, that little baby is back in our loving Heavenly Father's care. What a thought, what a truth. Babies are so perfect they need not baptism nor repentance they come into this world so pure and clean and perfect that if they leave unexpectadley they go right back to that God which gave them life. Just like my cousin Grant :) What a valiant spirit he must have been! I can't wait to meet him in the hereafter. My uncle Matt and aunt Kristie are so lucky to be the ones that brought him into the world and gave him the body he needed. It will be such a joyous reunion when they see their little boy again. All of these things made possible by the Atonement and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Alma 7: 11-12 reads: 11 "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will takeupon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

Isn't it great? Isn't it marvelous that we can know such plain and precious truths?"

Elder Blackburn

Monday, August 6, 2012

No unhallowed bacteria can stop the work from progressing

"Elder Blackburn has been under the weather - hence the title... On Wednesday I woke up just sick as can be, turns out I had bronchitis...Mission work is not fun at all when you are sick because all you can do is rest and think about the work you could be doing. Now mom, you're probably already worrying but let me first tell you that my awesome ward mission leader is a doctor and he was able to give me what I needed and I am feeling fantastic today. But I believe it was for a purpose because it cause me to engage myself in much scripture study and I feel I was opened up to new things (hidden treasures if you will) that hadn't presented themselves earlier. One of the questions I was wondering was 'why is it so easy to sin?' and why does it sometimes give you a false sense of feeling good?' As I was reading in 2 Nephi Chapter 2 I found my answer. I learned about the fall and the oppostion in ALL things, I had never noticed that it says ALL not just some things so every good has its counter bad. We are born in a fallen state and all have the natural man and woman default setting. We are "naturally" drawn to bad traits and naturally it feels good. So our job here in our probationary state is to choose the righteous side of things and by so doing we follow our savior more closely and start to become like him. It is a commandment to become like him "What manner of man ought ye to be? Even as I am." but our loving Heavenly Father has left it in our hands to choose (Mosiah 3:19) We also are commanded to deny ourselves immortality and to take up the cross DAILY we must not be lazy and take up the cross occasionally, we have to practice the righteous traits of Charity, obedience, selflessness, patience, humility, etc. daily or we will "naturally" fall to the default, the whole reason we have scriptures/church/gospel/prophets is so we can choose the path that leads to Eternal Life, we have not been left alone in this battle and need not to follow the worldly crowd! Hold to the faith! (1 Nephi 22:19)


When I first came out I thought that I would have amazing stories to tell, people saying they saw me in a dream or having a dream where I see a church history moment or see an ancestor or something miraculous along those lines...In my naivety I soon learned I am involved in a miracle in itself. I don't need grand visions or dreams because look around! We have a modern day living prophet, apostles, temples that dot the earth, the Book of Mormon, a successful Welfare program, the list goes on and on. For me to expect a sign is just selfish of me, I don't know God's will and his timing so I just need to learn to appreciate the miracles all around me. I am filled to the brim with joy when I reflect on how many missionaries are in the field, how many wards there are, how many temples, ward houses, etc. Past saints (especially the pioneers) would absolutely flip in their graves if they saw how much the church has and is and where it has gone. So don't take all that we have for granted. We have so much. And I am learning that, and it has made my mission that much better because now I rejoice over the little things like someone accepting a Book of Mormon or something along that line.


Also Transfer calls was Saturday and I am becoming the Senior Companion! I am a Sr. Comp at 5 Months! Pretty Amazing. My new companion is an Elder I came out with from the MTC!!! We are best buddies so this Transfer is going to be so fun. We are like the youngest companionship ha ha he will be joining me on Thursday."

Love you all,
Elder Blackburn

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Staying cool and working hard...

"Well I'm just getting this email after a looong day at Beaver Lake here in Arkansas...don't worry I wasn't swimming. Just enjoying the lake, exploring, skipping rocks, etc. We went with a family from the ward... Anyways we are teaching an awesome family right now,  they are getting ready to get baptized so if I stay in this area for another transfer I'll have a whole family :D how exciting! It has been extremely hot and the state is under like a 'heat advisory' from 1pm to 7pm every day until Thursday. Temperatures from 105 - 109. Bla.... we're staying cool though. I've just really been enjoying my time here in Arkansas, it has been a great transfer. Lots of good memories have been made here. We had interviews with the Mission President last Friday. Those were fun ha he told me that when he sees my face on the Transfer Board he feels a peace and I told him, "President, you can put me wherever and with whoever and I'll get the job done." He is a great guy. Not a whole lot of letters last week... :( Please find some time to write small notes here and there, I know it is boring to write missionaries but it really makes our day ha We don't have a whole lot to get excited over so letters are golden! Even if you don't have much to say, just something :) I lately have been pondering and researching about a lot of what the pioneers had to go through... it makes my duty seem menial, they gave up so much for the gospel-often times their lives-to get across the plains. If you want to watch a powerful pioneer movie watch "Legacy", so good. We did a lot of service on Saturday, picked corn at the church fields from 6 - 8, then helped a family move from 9-10, and then mowed a members lawn ha It is crazy how fast time goes by on your mission, to think I waited my whole life for this 2 year adventure and it is flying by so quickly... gosh gotta work harder! I don't have any time to waste. Well I don't really have any big spiritual stories to share but I will just speak briefly on the sacredness of the Book of Mormon. We are so lucky to have such a book for our time that gives us divine guidance and spiritual insight that takes us to a whole other plane than any other book. Sure the Bible is incredible also but the Book of Mormon was specifically put together for our time. Treat it like it came from God because it did. We need to study it's words everyday. And as we are reading we can ask the question, "Okay, why did Mormon choose to include this?" We can take something out of every chapter. Missionary work is rough sometimes but to know I belong to this Gospel makes up a lot of the difference. We are just so blessed. Well, that's about all I got fortoday, feel free to write me!
Love,
Elder Blackburn
James 1:5 + a Desire + a prayer is all it took :) We truly do have a Heavenly Father who is mindful of his children, how great is that!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Howdy from the hills of Arkansas!


"This week was long but we got a lot done and are doing well. We started off the week on a discouraging note, some of our investigators dropped us so we have a shallow teaching pool at the moment. We tracted...a lot in the hot blistering sun, this heat wave is crazy! I want some rain! ha We got some good news when this part member family we're teaching said they are ready to set baptismal dates! Yahoo!   Lately for studying I have been listening to a lot of talks by John Bytheway (so good!) and while you're on a mission little things really get you excited so I was looking through the apartments Ensigns and took all the conference addresses I could find and found one from 1988! What a treasure ha see? We get excited over little things like Ensigns. I like to go through the talks and find quotes and write them in my study journal that I call "my small plates"  I love reading Conference talks... :) I don't have my study material with me to relay some good spiritual insights so I'll do my best to remember one. That's cool about the 'Stripling Warriors' parade entry! I want to be in it! I actually wanted to talk about those valiant examples. It is so cool when Helaman asks them are you willing to fight right now against these Lamanites? And it says the stripling warriors had never fought yet they did not fear death. Why? because they were clean and prepared to meet God if they were to die. There mothers taught them that if they obeyed God would deliver them "We do not doubt our mothers knew it", such good examples of honoring their mothers. And because they obeyed every order with exactness not one soul perished. Another good example is when Nephi and his brothers are asked to return to Jerusalem to get the plates (200 mile journey back to Jerusalem) and his brothers murmur but reluctantly go with Nephi who doesn't question nor complain. I think we are more like Laman and Lemuel than we suppose, we might complain then go to seminary or we might complain and then go to mutual or we might complain and then have family prayer or family night. We've got to be like Nephi and just go and do the things that are commanded of us. Be valiant! He then later breaks his bow and his brothers and even Lehi murmurs! And once Nephi makes a bow out of wood and then asks his dad where to go in order to obtain food. (Even after his dad murmured Nephi asked his dad where to go to get food) He still trusted his dad and the lord because he knew he was a prophet and honored his mother and father. We can learn so much from the scriptures. Have a wonderful 24th of July! And study old Conference addresses, you just might learn something! "


Love,

Elder Blackburn

I do not doubt my mother knows it!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hayden a cowboy?

"Hello Everybody! Hope you are all doing well.


So this week has been pretty tough but enjoyable nonetheless! Living with two other Elders is pretty fun and we all get along, occasionally we have a little tussle when we need to decide who's turn it is for dishes/garbage take out/etc. I usually do them ;) I don't mind doing the dishes. It has cooled down a little bit thanks to the cloud cover that has rolled in. I miss the mountains and all but I love to look up and see the clouds go on and on and on ha it's like the Toy Story wallpaper, you know? And the clouds are really low too. Sometimes you even get clouds under clouds... When I get home for some reason I really want to go to a rodeo. I think being out here is really starting to turn me into a cowboy. It's fun I love it. Our apartment is loaded with old ensigns/new eras (so I was in heaven) I have been reading through them and cutting out cool informational articles and put them in my study binder. Those magazines are awesome! Always take time to look through them. On Tuesday we helped at Helping Hands like we usually do and that is always fun. Not a whole lot to report other than while we were tracting we ran into a couple of Jehovah's witnesses and one of them politely wanted to bash with us... seems like there are more bashers here in Arkansas... I think it is due to the many varieties of churches around here and a big influence of Southern Baptists that know their bible. Eating every night with members is so awesome ah! I love playing with their kids and learning their names. Absolute favorite part. So many cute lil' kids in this ward, I bet every family in our ward has a baby too! There are only like two old people in the ward ha it is crazy how young and big this ward is. So fun, I just love playing with the kids! Sacrament can sometimes get noisy with all the babies and toddlers but it's okay :) we made a cool missionary member board to help get referrals, I'll have to email ya'll a picture. That newsletter had a cool picture of Elder Brown! He's like next to a glacier! Wow. I'll take one...next to...a cow ha ha that's about as exciting it gets around here. I miss home but it is like a dream my home has moved to out here and my family has become the members and other elders...Gosh I miss family time. If you want to learn how awesome your family is and how much you love them: serve a mission. I just hope you all know that our Gospel is perfect and it works perfectly. We are apart of the Lord's True Church and have all of the tools to make it back to our Heavenly Father :) Wow we are so lucky! I just love being apart of the work and to know it is true. We are blessed."
Love,
Elder Blackburn

Some days are just tough out there...

"Let me first relay a sorrow I am unaccustomed to, when you serve as hard as you can and testify as much as you can and the people you teach and love will just not hearken unto your counsel. It breaks my heart, right now we have lost many investigators and are back to square one, we tract all day, seek referrals but to no avail. We plead with our sparse investigators to keep commitments and to taste of the fruit to see if it is indeed sweet and to step into the light of the Restored Gospel but instead they lounge in the shadows of false comfort and doubt. Tears build in my eyes as I testify of the truth to those I've grown to love but I see in theirs the hints of fear of the unknown and the fear of having to work for an answer. Why must it be so hard for people to read a book testifying of our Savior? Why must people put off their salvation and never think about the life to come? They have nothing to lose and Celestial Salvation to gain. If I go my whole mission not baptizing a soul, I am still a successful Missionary, indeed your joy shall be great if you bring souls unto our Father's kingdom but there are many good Elders that work hard and see no fruit of their labors, perhaps this is why I am here, maybe I am the lone sower planting seeds that will bloom later in the season. Sometimes in the darkest pit of discouragement after a long day of work I wish I could embrace the Savior and just let him assure me it's okay I would wet his shoulders with my tears and cry, "Oh Lord, I tried..." he would lovingly say, "I know Hayden, I know." Sometimes we are put down the road less traveled, for someone has to do it, You'll find me there along that road somewhere and spot a young brown boy marching proudly in his suit and tie with his name tag in place shining triumphantly:

ELDER BLACKBURN
THE CHURCH OF
JESUS CHRIST
OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS


I will bear his name proudly, I will take my cross and follow him.
Shall we not go on in so great a cause?"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

4th of July and a new Mission President

"Well, this week has been so packed with stuff! Tuesday was Zone Conference/Introduction of our new Mission President. He basically laid down the law. I guess it's pretty typical of new Presidents to come in aggressive to let all of us know who's boss. He is really cool though and really gun-ho about being obedient and doing our best so it was a good boost. He gave us a CD of music and was like "alright this is a guideline of music you should be listening to... It just has music all of us basically already have so we're like awesome thank you... I'll write you home about what he specifically talked about. The fourth of July was really fun, it says in the handbook that holidays are the best for contacting... ha ha no one wants to be bothered really. We tried anyway. That night we went over to a members home and had a little BBQ and two investigators were there that were invited also. We did some sparklers and then returned home. Fireworks were being shot near our apartment so we watched them from the stairs. On Friday an investigator who we've met with quite a bit and who my companion had been previously meeting with for four months before had a breakdown and told us how her parents had abandoned her and her siblings abused her and how her kids hate her and she has no idea why and she was just crying and crying because her kids won't talk to her and they tell her they don't love her. She told us how the last four months til now is the first time she has ever felt loved in her whole life - it was so sad. It really made me realize how much mothers care about their children and how mothers deserve respect and love. We gave her a blessing and I had the opportunity to give it and it was such a neat experience I felt the spirit literally pulse through me and felt the chills as I gave it. Afterwards I couldn't remember what I had even said and my companion said "That was the coolest blessing I've ever heard, man." It was a good experience to say the least... Saturday morning we woke up at good ol' 5:30AM to pick corn in a the Church's field for two hours and then helped a lady move for 7 hours. The moving was fun though because us, and the Rogers 1st Elders and the Spanish Elders and another set helped with us and so we had a lot of fun. ha ha Well, that's about it from Elder Blackburn :) hope you guys are all doing well and staying cool, It was 108 on Thursday... but it just rained and cooled down luckily."

Love,
Elder Blackburn

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hello from Arkansas

"Well, my first week in Arkansas has been awesome! The ward I am in is so cool!!! Our ward house is just like home so it is really weird ha. The ward helps out so much, we have a meal every night in July! Are you kidding me?! That is so awesome, I am so blessed :) I love Arkansas. I really do. But it is extremely hot temperatures ranging from 103 - 105 everyday... but I don't mind it to much. They banned fireworks because it is so dry. There must be a big heat wave goin' on across the U.S... I miss Pittsburg sometimes but I am happy for the change of scenery. Today we are going to go to an Indian Museum so I'm excited. We are right next to Bentonville so we have lots to do around here. Also, everyone works for Wal-mart out here ha ha we might go visit the "first" store. I hope you guys survive the heat in Utah and enjoy the 4th of July festivities... I sometimes find myself going "what? am I seriously in Arkansas on a mission right now?" ha I love it. It is so interesting to me how a mission just opens up your mind to the gospel and every point of the gospel just unfolds beautifully right before your eyes. I can't express my love for the Book of Mormon so I won't even try to right now, just know that it is true because it is true. The Plan of Salvation is so beautiful, to be able to rest assured that families can be together for eternity and that life continues when we die, how the Atonement works for everyone and is infinite "no one can sink lower than the light of Christ's atonement shines" the gospel is applicable to everyone of us because we are all sons and daughters of the most high God and that most high God gave us his son. His perfect son. For you. And for me. Because he loves us all and knows what we are worth and he sees us as his children and the sons and daughters he designed us to become. And he hopes that we will take that opportunity to do the small acts of faith he requires (repentance, baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, Endure to the End) so that we will live with him again. We have a Father in Heaven who loves you specifically and he sent his son to atone for you specifically. I can't comprehend the love he has for us nor will I try but it is unconditional and every synonym that goes with it. And it is free. All he asks is us to come to him with a "broken heart and a contrite spirit". There's a song by Paul Cardall I love that says "give up your sin and let him in, lose yourself and you'll find peace, take up the cross and follow him the one who died and with no sin he rose to give you life, the lord hears your prayers if you let him, God knows your name he is your kind friend, his love, runs deeper, than rivers, oceans calling you home" We see God's love in so many ways: a mother caring for her crying child, an elderly persons smile, the twinkle in a newborns eye, a father teaching his son, a toddler's prayer, etc. :)
Anyways I am grateful for my opportunity to serve :)
I love you all,
I love my family and am so blessed to be sealed to them for eternity,
An Elder trying to help the Lord's work move along."
Elder Hayden T. Blackburn