I still cannot believe how warm it is out here. I will admit it is a bit nice not having my toes freezing cold the whole night and defrosting them in the car heater.... not to mention being able to teach on someones doorstep in this nice weather (Like when it is a single man who's home we can't go into). But I do miss the perks of being allowed into someones home because of their pity on us caused by the cold weather. Manti, however, is in great need of snow on the mountains. So it's a struggle.
We had a wonderful weekend this past week and the weekend before. , we went with some of our investigators to see Elder John Groberg speak at snow college. He's the missionary portrayed on the "Other Side of Heaven" in Tonga. The neat part is that Sister Lasalosi's grandma knew him when he was a missionary there!! He spoke about trusting in the Lord (which was perfect for two of our investigators we brought with us, Pamela and Jessica who are overcoming some addiction) and showed some clips from the movie. He spoke and made some jokes in fluent Tongan - so of course none of us could understand except for Sister Lasalosi who was just cracking up at it! It was so funny! We were able to meet him and take a pic with him. Neat experience.
Then night Elder Bednar came for the adult session of stake conference (last, last weekend). Wow. I just love that man. I remember when he was first called as an apostle. His first few talks about being offended and the parable of the pickle I have never forgotten. He speaks specifically and boldly, yet lovingly. And it's fun to hear him outside of general conference because his personality is hilarious! He explained the reason of why his personality doesn't show all that much while on the stand in general conference. He said, "If you had 16 minutes to deliver a message from God to the world, you wouldn't let your personality get in the way either." The theme of night's session was "Individual and families are blessed and the Work of Salvation is strengthened by ministering though the ward council."
He spoke of councils in the ward, the family, and between husband and wife. He told us that holding a council is a setting for the means of receiving inspiration and revelation. He said that we begin this meeting with the end. "Don't get so caught up in the mechanics of the means, but the beauty of the end." He continued to explain that the end is our saving ordinances. In depth, he expounded upon our covenants and specifically defined agency. I think you might find this interesting, but agency, as he described it, is the ability to choose to make covenants with God. After you choose to make covenants, you can only choose to increase your obedience in keeping them or brake them. Once we make covenants and brake them we are not using our "agency" but are defying God and His laws. As we exercise our agency righteously, we are transformed. Our agency is enlarged.
And my goodness it is so frustrating at times to see those whom we love brake their covenants. We are teaching many ex-communicated members recently and it's clear to see Satan is really tactful at making them think they will never be worthy to make covenants with God again. At times I feel the way Jacob did when he described his feelings of soberness speaking to the Nephites. He notes that he was "weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of [their] souls." Sometimes I wonder if I'm a bit too sensitive with how I feel in regards to the welfare of the souls of those whom we're teaching. But I know that Heavenly Father loves them. I feel it when we teach them. I envision them in their full potential. I pray and plead that they will be able to recognize the gentle promptings of the spirit. And at times it seems as if not a single thing is changing. I need to increase my patience and reliance in the Lord and His timing.
We have three investigators on date (they're brothers - the Spendlove family) who were so very excited to meet Elder Bednar. They were studying his talks prior to his arrival here in Manti and even wrote out their testimonies to him. They were able to receive permission to meet him as a whole family. The Spendloves were SO excited. It was so cute!! We sat with them the whole time. Others that we're teaching that went to the stake conference texted us later telling us how much they loved it. Nothing made me happier that day than to look out into the audience and seeing our investigators sitting with their fellowshippers.
As our new stake presidency was assigned, there was no doubt that the hand of God was within the whole process. Elder Bednar explained how a new stake president is assigned. it was so interesting! When he got up to the stand he said, "We did not come down to Manti to pick a new stake president. We came to see who the Lord had chosen to be the new stake president." I highly respect the former and new stake presidencies. They do so much for us. It's fun working with a whole stake because you get to have a lot more coordination with the presidency.
Yesterday, Sister Lasalosi and I spoke in one of our wards and the theme was how the hymns of the church have influenced our missions. The whole sacrament meeting was about music. And Bishop arranged for me to have a viola to play!! I was SO excited. Yet a little nervous since I haven't played in awhile... But I got together with Sister Barclay - who was just called to serve alongside her husband as mission president in Bulgaria. Her picture should've been in the church news this month. Look out for their name and the Fifes! That's another in our stake that was just called. Both the Fifes and the Barclays are more than we could ask for here to help us with the missionary work. Both were the counselors in the former stake presidency. But ANYWAY Sister Barclay accompanied me on "O Divine Redeemer." My goodness she plays beautifully. I felt like I was playing with you all over again, Mom! When she played I felt like we had been playing together for years. Which was such a tender mercy because I was really worrying about playing with short notice and felt really rusty at first. I started to pray a lot for Heavenly Father to help strengthen my fingers and bring back to my remembrance different shifts, etc. My goodness He sure did answer that prayer. It felt good to worship through music, especially the viola. Since my instrument can't play out the text of the piece, I read it aloud. (And mom it made me realize how grateful I was that you had written it in before for me in my music!)
Ah! Turn me not away,
Receive me tho' unworthy;
Hear Thou my cry,
Behold, Lord, my distress!
Answer me from thy throne
Haste Thee, Lord to mine aid,
Thy pity shew in my deep anguish!
Let not the sword of vengeance smite me,
Though righteous thine anger,
O Lord! Shield me in danger, O regard me!
On Thee, Lord, alone will I call.
O Divine Redeemer!
I pray Thee, grant me pardon,
and remember not, remember not my sins!
Forgive me, O Divine Redeemer!
Night gathers round my soul;
Fearful, I cry to Thee;
Come to mine aid, O Lord!
Haste Thee, Lord, haste to help me!
Hear my cry! Save me Lord in Thy mercy;
Come and save me O Lord
Save, in the day of retribution,
From Death shield Thou me, O my God!
O Divine Redeemer, have mercy!
Help me, my Saviour!
As I pondered the message of the lyrics throughout the week my heart was softened by how often the Lord has come to mine aid. How often he has heard my cry. And how merciful he has been to me. In times of fear, temptation and uncertainty, He has been and always will be my rock. The words of Alma 34:15 come to mind, "Mercy... overpowereth justice." In a world with shifting values, this eternal truth provides an anchor in my soul. God's grace is sufficient for all.
To top off the weekend, we had the opportunity to hold a baptismal service for one of our investigators. I know for a fact that in the ordinances administered to us through the priesthood, the power of godliness surely is manifest. The spirit was strong, tears were shed, and lives were changed. I love the people of Manti and the marvelous work that God is allowing to come forth here.
Elder Holland came to Richfield recently and something he said in the leadership meeting really stood out to me. He said, "As saints of the latter-days we are unique. We are the ones that will prepare the church of Jesus Christ and hand it back to the Savior when he comes. What are we going to hand back? How is it going to look? Will he recognize it? Will he recognize you?"
I love you. Thank you for your examples, your prayers, and your love for our Savior.
Much love, Sister Martin