This week was the simplest Christmas I've had in my whole life. Other than a spaghetti meal, the rest of the day is like any other for people in the Philippines. But it was nice to really focus on the meaning of Christmas, with none of the other things going on. It was really good for me and has helped me in making a lot of goals for the new year in how I want to improve.
Our area has a LOT of room for improvement. There are few investigators, and we don't know when the last time there was a baptism was. However, when we first got to the area, sacrament attendance was at an average of 70 each week and these last two months it's been 100! Which is a crazy increase! It means a lot more less actives have been remembering why they first joined the church.
The biggest thing I want to share with you this week is about Iglesia ni Kristo. Iglesia ni Kristo is a church that was started by a return missionary ex-mormon. The church does similar things that ours does, but there's a lot of the truth they omit and they are missing the priesthood authority of course as well. On top of that, unlike our church leaders, theirs make a lot of money off of the people who attend. The story here is that the return missionary who started the church is in retirement age right now, and has outwardly expressed that he made the whole thing up. That it's not true and he did it to make money. However, the leaders of each of his churches continue to grow their practice because...it makes them a lot of money. It's really sad. It's a perfect example of predictions from the Bible and the Book of Mormon of false churches arising in our day for the purpose of deception and for the leader's gain. On top of that, it's crazy to think that a previous member of our church started it! That just goes to show that there are deceitful people everywhere in this world. Our Heavenly Father is the only one who knows all things.
One of the practices in Iglesia ni Kristo is to baptize each person until they say that they "See an angel or a spirit". For the most part, everyone else, members of the Catholic church, our own, and other churches assume that all of these people finally give in and say it when they're sick of being dunked over and over again. I've often wondered if anyone thinks this same concept of the missionaries when we ask them to pray about the Book of Mormon to know if it's true. Or about Joseph Smith. Or anything for that matter. That we ask them to just do it over and over and over until they "see something" or "know something".
This is how it works. If you believe God is a loving Heavenly Father, you should know that He care's that you know the truthfulness of His gospel - because he loves you. He doesn't want you wandering about in uncertainty and doubt. Part of this life requires not knowing everything about the plan so that we can grow. But I testify to you that if you ask Him about the things in which you question authenticity, He will make these things known to you (James 1:5; Moroni 10:3-5). He will make it known to you if it is true or not, I testify from personal experience that I know it is true.
President Costa of the 70 met the missionaries early in his life. Immediately following the first lesson, he spend 14 hours that next day, reading a part of Joseph Smith's account of the first vision and his part in the restoration and then praying about it. 14 hours! Straight! He says he did it until he received an answer. And the answer affirmed the truthfulness of our previous prophet and his essential part in the restoration.
Unlike the specific number of licks it takes to get to the center of a lollypop, this number is not scientifically set. It is not applied to everyone or everything. It may take longer or it may take much less time, based on the condition of the person asking - their will and heart. Whatever your spiritual or religious question, if you still need an answer, are you putting in the effort required to know the truth of such a significant concept upon which everything in the world is centered on...our Heavenly Father's plan?
Being more Christlike - the Goal for 2016!
Who is our Savior? Before the mission, I had a very strong testimony. I believe it all to be true. However, through much prayer and study each day in which the mission requires, it has hit me how real it all is. The plan is real. Our Savior was a real person who walked this Earth. He went about doing good and setting examples for us all, and then became the sacrifice for us all, so that not only could we be cleansed of everything, but we could return to our Heavenly Father again. This had to be done because no unclean thing can enter Heavenly Presence. If you have questions or lack a testimony, read the Book of Mormon and Jesus the Christ with prayer and intent. Then follow all of the Biblical references in Jesus the Christ. There. Problem solved. Many of your questions will be answered I guarantee.
I read the other day a story of one of our previous prophets - President Ezra Taft Benson. The story was written by a woman who was in the airport one day, waiting in line trying to get a plane ticket. She was very pregnant, and holding a crying baby in her arms, along with trying to keep track of the luggage on the floor around her. Those in line were annoyed and frustrated with the crying and her inability to silence her child. A man suddenly came up to her and asked if there was anything he could do to help. She let him hold the crying baby, in which he was able to quiet through comforting it, and then he preceded to buy her ticket for her and get all her affairs in order for the flight. After talking a short time, he left and she never saw him in person again. The next day she did however, recognize his face in a newspaper article as the Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
That is what it means to be Christlike. There are many people in the world, and most of them have difficulties we are unaware of. A simple act can change someones day, someones week, someones life.
It doesn't matter who we are, what weaknesses we have. We have the ability to touch hearts through Christlike acts and that is an ability that needs to be exercised to be strenthened There is a much greater plan ongoing around us than the day to day things in our lives, but it is through those individual days that we must focus on the small and simple things in order to progress in the long run. Remember that few see growth while staying in their comfort zone.
Make worthwhile goals and follow them this year. Hahaha make 'sticking to your new year's resolution' your New Year's resolution:)
Heavenly Father loves you all and is very aware of you each moment of every day.
I LOVED the package! Aw! It was the absolute best! You guys are the best. I can't thank you enough!
I passed out all the bracelets that were for the kids. They absolutely loved them!\
Love you all more than I can say.