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

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!"

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 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 ( 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!

Elder Blackburn