From: Ethan Cade Brimhall [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 17, 2017 2:05 PM
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ (how my branch president always addresses us in his closing remarks every Sunday),
- I took inventory as apartment leader and found out we are totally suffering.
- I stepped on a lizard accidentally (hard to do cause they’re so fast) and its tail came off.
- I took the case completely off my pillow as I was sleeping. Not really sure how that happened.
My companion did a lot of really good planning this week and it all pretty much didn’t happen. Maybe that was the Spirit, I don’t know, but most of our plans were changed. We had a lot of fun though, and we met some super cool people in the process.
We went to Bo, my beloved second city! I absolutely love that place. I got to see my friends who haven’t been transferred, and even some other Zone Leaders from MLC (including my Mission Training Companion, Elder Badoo)! Here are some things that I learned during Zone Conference:
- Learn to be independently righteous. Start now and set habits.
- Pray for direction on how to improve yourself and help others.
- Remember why you are here and remember your testimony to stay strong and have the Spirit with you.
- Alma was not converted by seeing an angel, but through the repentance process. Read Alma 36.
- Something different pushes each missionary to serve a mission, but every one of us is here for the same reason. Start with the end in mind.
- Never stop your obedience. Keep the mission rules continually to obtain exaltation.
- Be honest. Don’t say maybe, but yes or no.
- Patience is actively waiting, it is effort.
- Don’t play the game of pride. Don’t throw anger back and it will stop. 1 Peter 3:9
- Comparison/fear of man is paralyzing. Fear God, the most intelligent. Focus on who you are and who you can become. You can do it through the Atonement.
- God doesn’t need anything but you. You are the only thing He can’t control (or promised not to). Your will, your heart, and your mind, are the only true gifts you can give to Him.
- It is easier to obey because peace comes from righteous doing. If you focus on loving your God and making that your motivation for obedience, relationships will improve and exaltation will come into view. What you give up to God, and only that, will be yours in eternity.
- Make uncomfortable improvements.
- Forget about time. Focus on people.
Wow! What a list of spiritual impressions. I was furiously writing down promptings on how I can change. Definitely an answer to prayers. We were also told to focus on growing districts to stakes and building/strengthening/converting families. We are to pick one family and focus on helping them for the next few weeks (aka reteach lessons, hold FHE, etc.). President Clawson announced two totally wonderful things: he would be interviewing every missionary every transfer (yes! not sure how he will accomplish that with us spread all over the country) and MISSION TOUR! Our area president, Elder Vinson, will be visiting us in June. Sweet!
One big thing that goes on each April is what they call “sport” where each big school has four houses and they compete internally against each other in track events. The LDS Kenema District also does it and invited/forced the missionaries to attend. I was “balloted” into blue house. My comp cheated and took the same paper I did so we were both in the same house. No biggie cause our house was dead last, but we had a ton of fun.
Another bullet list of things that happened:
- I ran two events. Dead last in one and lost a massive lead in a relay in the other because I am so dang slow. People said I look funny when I run.
- As per Ghanaian tradition, we drenched Sister Abeka-Quansah because her birthday is very soon. I think I’ll adopt that on my companion’s birthday this Saturday. She totally fought us.
- Some foolish missionaries dressed me as Sister Modisenyane, a new sister from South Africa. Picture attached.
- Free food.
- We saw a guy that bleaches (lightens skin). Before, I had only seen women who do that. Now I have seen a man do it.
- Played leapfrog and saw Elder Frempong eat it. He sprained his wrist and scraped up his knee. Red cross was there to save his life, don’t worry.
We went to a wedding for a couple in Kpayama that I know. Some interesting stuff happened:
- Playboy necklace on one of the bridesmaids (an investigator of mine). Ha-ha. I’m sure she had no idea what the symbol represents.
- It was in a sacrament hall, and as a member of the district presidency was reiterating the no-picture/video-taking rule, a woman was taking a video. Right in front of him. The whole time. She never stopped. HE WAS SPEAKING IN KRIO. HOW DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND HIM?
- Lots of clapping in the chapel
- Saw a non-church member wearing upper garments out in the open. We convinced him to take it off (with 15,000 Le) and we disposed of it properly.
- At the reception (now in a school assembly hall), there were these young men doing some well-choreographed and super intense break-dancing moves up front. It was pretty incredible.
- Also at the reception, many child groomsmen and bridemaids that danced together. They’re like 5-7 years old. It was so cute.
- Dumb kids slashed my finger with wooden boards as I was on an okada going to the reception. They were like halfway out in the road and my driver was very foolish. I am still in pain.
EASTER SUNDAY! I was determined to make this a great day. I listened to my favorite hymns. I studied my favorite scriptures. I ate my favorite foods. To make things so much better, I gave a talk. It was fun to prepare because I learned a lot about how I can improve myself and help people around me. As I prepared, the Lord told me he was pleased with my progress thus far and my desire to continue following Him. In delivering my talk, only a few people seemed to pay much attention (maybe because I did it all in English), but I definitely benefited. I included it in the attachments if you want to look at it.
A recent convert, Alieu, was supposed to be interviewed to receive the Aaronic priesthood on Saturday, but he didn’t come. I was determined to ask him why this Sunday, but before I could say anything, he handed me a letter he had written the day before talking about how hard Satan is tempting him right now and how he doesn’t feel loved or appreciated or good enough. That’s why he hadn’t come. Because he didn’t feel worthy to receive the priesthood. After church, Elder Kabosha and I commended him for his desire to be good and we assured him that he is doing all the right things. Satan is giving him those thoughts of inadequacy and is trying to prevent him from holding God’s power to bless the lives of him and those he comes in contact with. He is one of the most worthy people I know. He just needs the Atonement to help him overcome challenges.
I went to Relief Society on Sunday and there were three present. They asked me to teach the class on the priesthood and the questions they shared were enlightening: how can the priesthood benefit us women? why do women not hold the priesthood? what can we do to help the men fulfill their priesthood duties? what should we do if we have no support from the priesthood brethren? We talked a lot about the role of men and women in the church, what the priesthood is used for, personal and spousal salvation, and other things like that. We learned a lot about it and I felt impressed to work more closely with the Relief Society sisters over the next few weeks. They are really struggling right now.
We went to a baby naming celebration for a recent convert in Kpayama again. I interviewed and was the baptist for Brother Kemokai. He is a stalwart and powerful man who is very honest with himself, others, and God. I felt privileged to be invited to this ceremony. While there, as I saw him, his wife;. and their newborn baby daughter, born into the covenant and blessed by the priesthood, dancing up the aisle toward the cake, I felt a great love for them. In some small way I think I comprehended the love that Heavenly Father has for this man and his soon-to-be-baptized wife and children. I thank God for that manifestation of His love for us, His children. They were broken before by adultery and drinking, but because of the gospel and the Atonement, they have been healed with the binding glue of God’s love.
Today we had an activity with the Relief Society. We got a few referrals and talked about how we missionaries can help the branch. They blessed us with their well-prepared food. I ate some of the best peppe soup I’ve ever tasted. I got super fat. Full enjoyment. It was way up in the mountains where we tried to visit that less-active returned missionary some weeks ago. Nice place, hard to hike to. My comp and I wore matching shirts we got tailored from some cloth for the activity. Oh, and I totally ate it and ripped my pants super bad; karma for laughing at Elder Frempong when he sprained his wrist. Luckily, I had my adjustable hat that could wrap around my leg and cover the rip on the way back. I am very good at two things: forgetting, and ripping pants.
I love this gospel and I love being a missionary. Have a great week everyone. I hope you had a nice Easter!
Ethan’s Easter Sacrament Meeting talk that was referenced in the above letter…
“I am grateful for the privilege to speak to my wonderful branch today. It’s Easter Sunday today. This is a time when we remember Jesus Christ’s death and, more happily, His resurrection. We live in a broken world full of war, poverty, sickness, and death, but through His infinite Atonement, none of that must be permanent. Because He suffered, we don’t have to. Because He lives, so shall we all live again. We have the chance to enter our Father’s kingdom again in greater glory. All Christ asks is for us to follow Him! Sadly, many choose not to follow the Master. Or maybe they do at first, but as things get hard, they leave Him and go down another seemingly easier path. I pray that my message today inspires those of you who are struggling to follow Him and energizes those who maybe have strayed off the path.
To begin, let’s look at a contrast between those who leave and those who follow. We can find one in the gospel of John 6:60-71.
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
As the Savior was teaching the nature of the Kingdom of God, people became offended because they were unwilling to make necessary, soul-saving changes in themselves. Because of their hard-heartedness, they no longer walked with the Redeemer of all mankind. You may think to yourself, “What fools! How could they leave the Son of God? How could they reject such powerful doctrine?” We’ll get to that soon. Let’s continue with the succeeding verses.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus Christ asked His Apostles, His chosen and anointed few who were to carry on the work after His death, if they would leave Him too. Simon Peter, who would go on to become the presiding authority after the Lord’s ascension, responded with the heartfelt and personal testimony that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the only one who taught the true doctrines that lead to eternal life. However, we know that one apostle would fall far short of the glory of eternal life.
70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
Again we may ask ourselves: “How could an Apostle reject Jesus Christ and His perfect teachings?” The answer to this question is the same as the answer to the previous questions about the disciples who left. It is inside a parable from the Master Teacher Himself:
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
When you receive the matchless gift of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, exercise sufficient faith to repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and you neglect to fill your life with worthy thoughts and actions (a.k.a. to endure to the end), you rob yourself of protection against the Adversary.
Every baptized member has had the evil spirit of apostasy cast out of them! They are happy for a time, but soon, the glow of their baptism begins to fade, and they are left with their own testimony of the gospel fueled by their righteous thoughts and actions.
Those who have not begun to fill the house with good gospel items will find seven devils entering inside in addition to the original devil. At this point, you are heading back toward apostasy. It will be quiet, subtle, nearly imperceptible, but one day, you will look back and realize that you really messed up somewhere, and that the devil has a grip on you that is not easy to loose.
I realize that it’s not easy in the first place to follow Jesus Christ. I too have struggled to follow Him. Although I have two wonderful parents who did their best to teach me how to follow Christ, there came a time in my life when enjoying the things that the world offered seemed a lot more fun than “Church stuff.” I failed to keep my parents’ teachings in mind and forged my own path that seemed easier. In that process, I sinned. I put myself before God. Oh, what a task it has been to crawl back to my Heavenly Father! Of course, I still am not as close to Him as I want to be, but in my studies, I came across a beautiful scripture in the Book of Mormon. It reminds me that none of us can do it perfectly, not even the prophets! Nephi exclaimed:
17 …O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins…
Nephi just lamented how easily and often he fell prey to temptation. I am sure that he felt totally lost at times. However, he knows something that gives him great power. Nephi continues
…nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.
23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
What I love most about Nephi’s later statement concerning the mercy of God is the fact that in every one it either explicitly or implicitly declares that work is required before obtaining the grace of God. When we put into practice the principles of the Gospel, we begin to see, in some very small way, the infinite mercy of God.
We are blessed as we follow Christ and keep His commandments in two ways: natural blessings that come from living the gospel (like not worrying if someone is pregnant, healthy body, etc.); and added blessings from our Heavenly Father (like the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, personal revelation and direction, etc.). Thus, in order to have a happy and peaceful life, building a foundation upon Christ and His gospel is essential. Helaman 5:12 says it this way:
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
When we cease to obey the counsels and commandments of God, we lose His powerful protection. We become fully subject to the mighty storm of temptation and darkness which, as Nephi stated, encompasses even God’s prophets.
Some may think: “Is there another way to be protected from evil? I mean, the gospel is just too hard to live. So many rules… so many commandments… I just don’t think I can do it!” King Benjamin has the answer:
8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.
No other way but to follow all of God’s commandments. No other salvation but through the Atonement. No other name but that of Jesus Christ.
So, what did happen to Judas and those disciples? Did they slip up only a few times and Satan just tried extra hard to beat them down? No. They neglected to live the gospel when it was given to them. They looked for another way because the gospel way seemed too hard or not as enjoyable. Their fate is stated plainly several times in the scriptures: it would have been better if they did not know Him (that is, Christ).
None are exempt from temptation. None are free of sin. But all are offered the promise that if you build (action word) upon the rock of your Redeemer, you cannot fall. The Lord promises you that as you “[do] these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory (D&C 21:6). Concerning promised blessings, we are also told that the faithful “shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:30)
The final question is “How do I know if I am good enough?”
On our own merits, we are nothing. We have no hope if left to our own devices. However, Moroni tells us what hope we have, and how to access that hope.
“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.” (Moroni 6:4)
After you are baptized, you need to try, with all the power you possess, to follow the Savior. Rely on His Atonement to cleanse you from sin through the power of the Holy Ghost. Don’t just believe in Christ; believe Christ Himself! Believe he can save you. Build a relationship you can rely upon in times of crisis so that belief becomes faith. If you feel like your relationship with Christ is not as strong as it could be, start now to build it up by living gospel principles more closely. And if you feel it is strong enough, repent. You’re never too close to your Savior. Have family home evening! Visit a sick member! Make the Sabbath a truly holy day! I promise that as you do the things the prophets, speaking for God, have asked you to do, you will feel the love and presence of God (John 14:23).
It is my testimony…
Peace and hope in troubled world”