Monday, July 29, 2013

Missions are the best!

As you saw from the picture, we had a wonderful, wonderful baptism this last Saturday. What made it even more special is that we had it at the Prairie Grove building (so it would be closer for everyone instead of going to the Stake Center) and Prairie Grove is Elder Porter's area so he was able to stay at the baptism and him and his companion were the witnesses for it. (Not too many people showed up because the whole ward is out of town vacationing before school starts...) So it felt like in the old days what a baptism would of been like when the church only had a few members , but it was just so neat to have Elder Porter there to be a witness for one of the baptisms on my mission. How cool/wonderful/amazing is that? That a friend from home could come out here to Arkansas and serve right by me and be a witness for one of my baptisms and share with me in that wonderful experience! I was so happy, we gave each other a big hug afterwards. It was such a joyful moment. Pure joy. He is such a good Elder, man he has grown so much, he has always been a good kid but he is really shining out here. I am so grateful Heavenly Father sent him out here with me. It was the icing on the cake. The spirit was so strong and ... I can't try to describe it...I know I would not be able to do justice. Just know that it was a most wonderful experience.
The morning of the baptism the Palmer's had there annual Pioneer Party at their house which consists of petting their donkey's, big pioneer stilts made out of boards of wood, standing on a stump tug of war where you try and get the other person to lose their balance and fall off by tugging and releasing the rope, stick pull, high jump (where you see who can jump the highest), and just fun little games like that. So the rest of the week doesn't hold a candle to Saturday's events...

Elder Blackburn

Missions are the best!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thoughts on Faith and the Future...

First off the baptism had to be postponed to this Saturday the 27th...It will work out, I know it will. This week has been pretty eventful I had to go on exchanges with some Elders from my district and then go on exchanges with the Zone Leaders. While I was on exchanges with the Elders from my district we went and visited a returning less active and I had such a heartwarming experience. I didn't know the guy and so we went into the lesson with the idea just to read some Preach My Gospel with him. (---because he is 23 and wants to prepare to go on a mission) but as we were visiting with him I got the thought to show a Mormon Message with him...(I have a DVD of Mormon Messages and I love to use it while teaching to get a point across, they are great visual aids) I showed the one where Elder Bowen talks about how in Idaho Falls a landfill was reclaimed into a beautiful park and how Heavenly Father can help us reclaim our souls. He talks about how he has lived in Idaho Falls his whole life and how it would be absurd to go and try to dig up the trash that he's contributed, it would be a sad sight to tear up this beautiful park just to dig up some old garbage. He compares it with ourselves and says there is no need to go back into the past and dig up old garbage when the Atonement has healed us. I then testified to the young man that no matter what we have done in the past if we have truly repented there is no need to hurt ourselves or discourage ourselves by digging up old garbage or dwelling on mistakes that we made in the past. I told him that we can change and we can become the child of God he wants us to become. After that he started to get tears in his eyes and thanked me for coming today because that's exactly what he needed to hear. He explained how he had made many mistakes in his life and was often depressed because he was constantly being reminding himself about them and could not let them go or believe he could change. After coming out of that visit I was just so happy to have been a clean vessel for the Holy Ghost to whisper to me what this young man needed, I love those moments when you realize you had been following a prompting.

But I love that concept of the Gospel that we can as individuals change and repent and become a new creature born again of God. I am so grateful for the Atonement that allows me to become the Son of God I was designed to be. So, with that thought I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead.

From Elder Holland's talk "Remember Lot's Wife" He makes so many good points on this:

"we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought—fatally, as it turned out—that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind"

To yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now; to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances and have only dismal views of the future; to miss the here-and-now-and-tomorrow because we are so trapped in the there-and-then-and-yesterday—these are some of the sins, if we may call them that, of Lot’s wife.

One of my favorite books of the New Testament is Paul’s too-seldom-read letter to the Philippians. After reviewing the very privileged and rewarding life of his early years—his birthright, his education, his standing in the Jewish community—Paul says that all of that was nothing (“dung” he calls it) compared to his conversion to Christianity. He says, and I paraphrase: “I have stopped rhapsodizing about ‘the good old days’ and now eagerly look toward the future ‘that I may apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me.’” Then comes this verse:

This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:13–14]

No Lot’s wife here. No looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah here. Paul knows it is out there in the future, up ahead wherever heaven is taking us where we will win “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

At this point, let me pause and add a lesson that applies both in your own life and also in the lives of others. There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.That happens in marriages, too, and in other relationships we have. I can’t tell you the number of couples I have counseled who, when they are deeply hurt or even just deeply stressed, reach farther and farther into the past to find yet a bigger brick to throw through the window “pain” of their marriage. When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.

Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, “Hey! Do you remember this?” Splat"

I encourage you to read all of that talk.

I LOVE this talk. Because as a missionary I have struggled with my past mistakes and wonder a lot if I'm worthy to be the Lord's representative and if I'm worthy to follow promptings or perform miracles but I know that through repentance I have been changed and reclaimed and I don't need to dig up old garbage and destroy what is beautiful, I can focus my energy and strength towards becoming the priesthood man I want to become. Lately I have started feeling the spirit stronger because I am trying harder to press forward and not back. That is why I have loved my mission it has been a real "refiner's fire" for me and I have been able to overcome many obstacles and challenges. I have truly been awakened to the sense of my own "nothingness" and I like King Lamoni's father wish to give up "all my sins" to know my Heavenly Father better and realize the blessings I have taken for granted, the wonderful circumstances in which I have been born and raised, and the many marvelous experiences and opportunities I have been able to have. And because of the Atonement and repentance I can press forward and forget my past self and immerse myself in the task of becoming a true disciple of Christ. The restored gospel allows not just me but all of us to enjoy this! Isn't that remarkable? Doesn't that make you happy? To know that you can be forgiven of mistakes that you have made and move on. I thank Heavenly Father for my testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Because it is true and it makes me happy. It gives me joy amidst this world of chaos, uncertainty, terror, wickedness, etc. because my foundation is anchored upon the rock of my Redeemer, which is Christ the Lord.


Elder Blackburn

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another Arkansas Adventure

So this week was pretty eventful...Our mission president just sent an email that said we can't change our dress standards until he reviews them but I have not heard anything on the dress standards changing yet...Any who, we got a flat tire in our car this week and had to change that, which was exciting...we also biked 23 miles down (Oh my heck it was hot...) to the little town of Winslow to teach our golden investigator. He had his baptismal interview yesterday and is good to go for this Saturday! I am so excited this is my first golden investigator and first person taught - and baptized in 3 weeks. Pretty incredible. We had a lesson the other day with him and he said the closing prayer and thanked Heavenly Father for "...sending these messengers to teach me the truth..." and my heart just wanted to burn through my shirt...Oh what joy fills a missionary's heart when words like those are said. Man I love this job!

I'll let you know how it all goes.

Sorry this email is short and sweet.

Elder Blackburn

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Picture from a recent Zone Conference

You can all probably find Hayden - the other missionary from our Ward, Jacob Porter is now in the same Zone...he is pictured fourth from the right on the second row.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A message from the youth in the south...

Howdy Ya'll.....

This week started off a little rough---we had to drop a lot of our "non-progressing investigators" so that we could focus more on finding new ones to fill our time with. We proceeded to tract and stop by less-actives but for some reason no one was really receptive to us. So after a couple of days of what I call "Cranberry days" (---because our fruits are small) we decided to just go do some good ol' farm work down at the Palmer's in Winslow. Nothing makes you feel better then a good long day spent visiting people and working on the farm. Service for us missionaries is vital, I think it is vital because it rejuvenates us from the "regular routine" that can sometimes dull the senses and dampen ones spirits if ones efforts seem small. Our Golden investigator is still doing amazing, he has a baptism set for the 20th of this month! I am so excited! Such a blessing. We had testimony meeting yesterday as you know, and the youth of this ward are so amazing. One of them talked about how they went to EFY at Mizzou (University of Missouri) and the kids that went were all kind of the "heroes" of their towns (because these kids were the only Mormons in their school and stuff like that, because in the south there aren't very many members and the kids that went to this were from the southern states) and so they were thrilled to see how many mormons there are! And how at night his group would just stay up for hours talking about how much they love the gospel and how amazing the Book of Mormon is. After his testimony I just wanted to go and give him my missionary tag and be like, "You got this bro." because these youth just amaze me. They don't take any priesthood duty for granted or think it is a "chore" to read the Book of Mormon. They do it because they LOVE it. After looking back on my experience as a deacon, teacher, priest and going to seminary in Utah the youth could really learn from these youth what it means to be an example, what it means to stand alone, what it means to do your duty, what it means to serve. Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a really good talk entitled, "Carry your cross." and he speaks about how one of those crosses we might be asked to bear is "the cross of living amongst many mormons", many people in the audience laughed but he told them how it really is a challenge. It saddens me how that is true...I know his statement is true because I've seen it myself. Be that example, in Utah you have the unique opportunity of being an example to other mormons and standing alone although you are surrounded by other members of the same faith, show them what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the true church of God on Earth. What a privilege! What a miraculous thing it is! We live in the time that all the ancient prophets sacrificed their lives for! We live in the time that gave them all the hope to continue! Don't let them down and don't take it for granted.
After hearing this youth's testimony it made me realize that happiness is a state of mind and it is all about your attitude...just as we choose eternal life or eternal damnation we choose to be happy or sad or mad, Just as God gave us the muscles to smile, he gave us the muscles to frown So choose to be happy!

Elder Blackburn

Elder B's "scripture"

Chapter 1

Elder Blackburn looks back on hardships and realizes that he has witnessed many great miracles - he finds a golden investigator and rejoices in the goodness of God. He is happy to still have a good 8 months left to continue the work of the Lord.

1. At the commencement of the 16th month of the mission of Elder Blackburn, it came to pass that there had been much hardships and much trials, and my soul was weighed down with much sorrow. But these things ought not to be, for I had also been shown the mysteries of God and received many blessings that brought my soul great joy, for I knew that my hope was in his redeemer.

2. And it came to pass that I remembered the promises made unto me that if I would serve God with all his heart, might, mind and strength I would be able to stand blameless at the last day and layeth up salvation unto my soul. For behold, the promises are true and the Lord hath blessed me and given me strength and given me knowledge. For I have studied the scriptures diligently and fasted and prayed many days that I might help my fellow brethren in the land of Arkansas come unto a knowledge of the Gospel and not hearken unto the traditions of their fathers, and behold, when I speaketh, I speaketh with power and authority given unto me from the Lord.

3. And it came to pass that I was pondering my mission and it seemeth unto me that serving in Kansas was many ages ago and that it hath been many years since that time, but it hath been only a year, I feel I have grown so much and learned so much that behold, my heart is full with joy and with the promises of Eternal Life and the mercy and grace of our Lord.

4. And it came to pass that as I pondered these things I was carried away in the thoughts of all the wonderful people I have thus far met and what joy brings these memories to my soul that my heart burneth within me. For I have met many wonderful members that have shown much love unto me. For in my days of affliction they have lifted my arms that hang low and also the Spirit of the Lord for he truly is the great Comforter. And I have also I have seen many come unto the Lord and witnessed many miracles and been convinced of my nothingness I have let the Lord lead me and held his hand and followed as a child doth follow their parent.

5. And it came to pass that I had a great experience...

Ha ha that was fun... so the "great experience" was that this past week a member told us he had a neighbor that would like to take the discussions so we went down, met the guy, and taught him the first lesson and it went perfectly. He had good questions, the spirit was strong, the member that referred him was there and bore a strong testimony, it was perfect. Later that week we did some service which was fun, gotta get in some grubs and do some good work (seriously missionaries love service) and we got to mow and saw some old limbs off trees...just some good 'ol yard work. Afterwards, we taught him the Plan of Salvation and you want to know what he said after we taught him it? Well, I tell you, he said the best words ever, "I have wondered since I was 9 or 10 why I am here on Earth and what my purpose is...and now I know." I couldn't believe I was actually having that "perfect missionary discussion" it was like right out of a script! It couldn't have been more perfect. He also came to church yesterday. We are so excited to continue to teach him.

Well, that's all I got this week, until next time...

Elder Blackburn