Monday, September 24, 2012

There is Power in the Book of Mormon

This week, we have focused so much more in teaching from the Book of Mormon. That book really is the key to gaining a testimony of this church. Our investigators are starting to realize that we are going to ask about their reading and assign them chapters to read EVERY visit. But we also need to remember that our job is more than just that. As I learned from the Da Silva family, that´s what preachers from other religions do with the Bible when they come to houses. We are here to love, support, pray for, encourage, and serve these people. I found a comparison, or maybe even a parable, this week that helps describe how we should use the Book of Mormon. Often we find people whose motorcycles or cars need help (like our investigator Carlos Ramirez, who arrived at church 20 minutes before it ended because he had to walk half the way after his motorcycle died :D what a guy). In those moments I have wished that I knew enough about engines to fix all their problems, and then they would say "Wow, these missionaries are great! We should listen to them and attend their church." But that is not the case. All we can do is help them push their car up the hill, or other similar service. And, if they want to listen to our message after, they will listen. It is the same with the Book of Mormon. At times people will tell us about their problems, and I freak out trying to think of the chapter that will solve that exact problem. But that is not what we do. Preach My Gospel chapter 5 explains a lot about how we should use the Book of Mormon. We testify and invite people to read it, focusing on the parts that will help them understand the doctrine and gain a testimony. Then, if they are willing to do that, the Spirit will help them find the answers to their own problems, and they will resolve their own concerns.

The difference when people read or not is usually pretty obvious. For example, Sergio and Blásida Herrera were pretty depressed last Sunday because he still isn´t receiving his salary, so they are not even sure how long they will have enough to eat. We promised them if they read and prayed every day, they would be blessed with the money they need. The first half of the week, they read every day, and they were so much happier. (Side note: They also loved my brownies...which were tough to make. I discovered that a stick of butter here is a lot bigger than in the US, so I had to remake the batter. Also, all we have to measure is half a cup, so I really don´t know how to measure tablespoons or teaspoons). However, by the end of the week they had gotten casual with reading and Sergio chose the faster way to deal with problems--drinking. We talked to them a while, and they realized that drinking will not help. We went and got them Sunday morning, and it was fun to bring them and all three little girls to church! Hopefully this week things will change for them.
Reinaldo and Rosillo, the investigators from Stake Conference, are very diligent about reading, but they did not attend church. I think they will next week, because their testimonies are making progress. José, the husband of Paola, a recent convert, is another tough situation. He reads the Book of Mormon with her, but he is very Catholic and refuses to come to church. We´ll see what we can do. Freddy and Antonia, on the other hand, did not read at all. They chose to attend another church with their uncle. They are so close to being baptized, and I really love them, but they have to make the decisions to keep progressing. I really am learning a lot of patience here. One more update: Aníbal has a strong testimony and is very ready to be baptized....except that he is living with a woman who is not his spouse. He has a wife who he left but never divorced because it is expensive and takes a long time. It looks like now he will have to do that, or maybe move out so he can be baptized. We really don´t know what to do. But Lucio Vargas, the newly reactivated member who has helped us teach him said something that really struck me: "If these Elders baptize you while you are not keeping the commandments of God, it means that this is not his true church." Wow.
Now, to answer a few of your questions. There are not sisters in this district. We see the other four elders in our ward often, because every monday we go to the same part of town to do our grocery shopping. We do have sufficient to eat, but we have to be smart about how we spend our money. That is about the only thing we do in the city, and every once in a while we get everyone together to play soccer. The gold tie was the one I gave away. Those white handkerchiefs you gave me have been awesome to help deal with the heat and sweat. On P-Day we do our shopping, clean, write letters, and..that´s about it. There never seems to be enough time to do everything. I´ll leave you with something a little more light-hearted, a Spanish conversation I hear sometimes that makes no sense in English.
"¿Y después?" (literally: And after? meaning: How´s it going?)
"¡Al pelo!" (literally: to the hair! meaing: So good!)
I love and pray for you all! Keep reading the Book of Mormon and praying to the Lord for help. If you do what He asks, he really will help you at all times and in all things.
-Elder Wesley Morgan

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Subject

*Editor's note: I always use the subject of Wesley's email as the blog post title, but he didn't include one and I didn't know what to put instead.

Well, I was all excited to start off this email by saying, "Surprise! We had a baptism!" We have been trying to get Chilo baptized for a few weeks now, because he has attended church the required 3 times. He works and travels a lot, so it is difficult to find him. But on Friday we met with him and went over the baptismal interview questions. He didn´t understand everything perfectly, but it sounded like he was willing to follow Christ however he could. Unfortunately, when we brought the Zone Leaders to his house for the interview, he was not there. We had lunch with his mom Ursula, a recent convert. She called him and found out he had been drinking the night before. No go on the baptism. I guess it will be good to have more time to explain the doctrine better to him.

One more piece of sad news. Junior and Perla (yes, he is the often drunk Brazilian), have decided they don´t want to visit us anymore. That happens a lot; we are often changing who we visit depending on who is progressing and how much time we have. One of our biggest challenges is teaching and planning so we can meet with as many people as possible. But Junior and Perla were possibly my favorite people to visit with. They were really fun and very smart. The thing is, they didn´t do their part to read and attend church in order to receive an answer to their prayers. He gave us a 20 minute talk about why he thinks all churches have the same doctrine but different customs, and that Joseph Smith could not be a prophet. Pretty sad, but we are not going to give up completely on them. I really feel like they will get baptized, it is just a matter of time.

Now to answer some of your questions. A bit about my companion. He is 24, and he has a girlfriend who is serving in the mission in Argentina right next to ours. He loves video games, so we talk about things like that a lot. He also loves singing bass. He is pretty-laid back, but he is a good missionary. He has not always been completely active--he read the Book of Mormon cover to cover for the first time on his mission--but he knows a lot about the gospel. He hasn´t gotten to baptize anyone yet, but we will change that soon! Transfers are every six weeks, so that will be this Tuesday. (That is why I have the picture of the new, fresh planner). But it is almost certain that he will stay with me to finish my training.

I have not gotten to do much more cooking than what I have told you about, just basic pasta, rice, etc. But with the members and those basic meals, we definitely get by. I did buy some peanut butter, but it is more like peanut frosting. I am going to try to make some brownies with it today to bring to FHE with the Herrera family, Sergio and Blasida. They have three little girls who are almost exactly like the daughters in Full House.

The cards in the picture are what we made to help prepare Daisy, the oldest, for the baptismal interview. They know the church is true, but they have had some job issues recently--he hasn´t received his pay in about a month, and they were not very well off in the first place. For that reason, they have not come to church, and he drinks sometimes. We are really trying to work them a lot this week to strengthen their faith that if they sacrifice the Lord will bless them. We might even baptize them this Saturday if they are ready. We have so many people who I know could be baptized with just a little more time and effort on their part to read, pray, and attend church.

One miracle this Sunday--2 investigators unexpectedly attended the Stake Conference! We sat in the hall (because it was so packed) and listened to a broadcast from Salt Lake of several General Authorities, including Neil L. Anderson, who did not use a translator because he served in France and lived in Brazil (which was obvious in his accent). President Monson also spoke. The investigators were Reinaldo and Rosillo, the niece of a less-active family that lives about 40 minutes away from us. Right now most of the people we are teaching live in two groups, each 30 or 40 minutes walking from the main highway, where we live. Last Monday, we walked 40 minutes in the mud, and you can see in the picture what that did to my shoe.

I also must have eaten something bad, because I threw up before, during, and after the one lesson we had time for. Not a fun day.

I´ll do a quick clothes inventory, so you know how things are holding up. I gave away one tie to the Vargas (less-active) family, but I got two from the Baez family, the family of Reinaldo and Rosillo! (As you can see from the of them is really weird).

I opened up all the short-sleeve shirts, because it has gotten so hot that long-sleeves are not bearable. (It´s about 97 and huuuumid right now). My shoes and suit are doing very well, though they are getting a bit dirty. I´ll work on that today during P-Day. Pants are also doing fine, and I have no choice but to wash the dry-clean ones. Those are actually much more comfortable than the black ones from Missionary Mall, which are thicker and a bit too small (but, as you may have discerned from the pictures...I am losing quite a bit of weight). I don´t like the Missionary Mall mesh socks, and I don´t know if the belts will hold up for two years. I do use the jacket without the liner when it rains, along with the boots. I don´t know if I will ever use the liner. It is so hot down here. But I love it!

I don´t have time to write that much, but I sure am receiving a lot of letters. Glad to know people are thinking about me, and know that I pray for you all often, too. Love you, Mom!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Weirdest Experience of My Life

This week´s Paraguayan culture lesson: never complain about how early you have to get up for school. Many of the schools here start at 6 am! Just about everything here is earlier. Church is at 8:00, but sacrament meeting is last. We meet in a regular chapel, and there are about 100-150 active members in the ward, though with the rain not many people came to church. It has rained a lot today and yesterday. Anyway, to answer your other questions, I only spoke once to introduce myself to the ward, but I play the piano every other week (which is sometimes rather interesting). I have not dreamed in Spanish yet. There are 10 missionaries in our district, making it one of the largest. In my apartment, the only rooms we have are the ones I showed you, but that was about half of each. We share a bedroom (as is required by the Missionary Handbook). We have a stove, oven, pots, pans, and some measuring cups in metric and English measurements. 

Well, as I said, with the rain, not many people came to church. We have also been doing a lot of baptismal interviews (that is what the District Leader does), so there has not been much time to teach our own investigators. Aníbal finally came back to church, so it looks like he is well on his way to baptism. We are hoping to see more progress this week, especially with Chilo, the Herrera Family, the Aguinaga family, and Junior and Perla. We also have found a lot of new investigators, some with a lot of potential, like Zunilda, whose husband is very inactive. Then there is Francisco. He is the reason for the title of this email. He was a reference from a member, and the lesson started off great because he had already read a bit of the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, we could not get him to understand that this book means that we are the only true church of Jesus Christ; he was stuck in the mindset that all you need is Jesus. We testified and taught the best we could, but we had to get to an interview, so we asked him if he would offer a prayer before we left. Lesson learned: even if you are in a hurry, take the time to teach your investigators to´s worth it. He stood up and went back and forth between recited prayers (which his family would say with him), and dramatic prayers, which were not all just to God the Father. This lasted for about 15 minutes. It was so hard not to laugh when he started to SING to the Holy Ghost in a weird melody he made up as he went. I still laugh when I tell other missionaries about it, and now every time they see us they sing "Espiiiiiiiritu, Espiritu Saaantoooo." Yeah, the mission is an adventure.

To close, I want to share an experience in Spanish I had during companion exchanges that meant so much to me. *Estábamos enseñando la Familia Da Silva, nuevos investigadores. Intentábamos a enseñar la primera lección, pero ellos estaban hablando sobre lo que ellos creyeron en su iglesia. Éso es un problema que he tenido varias veces en la misión, pero sabemos que hemos sido llamado para enseñar, no para ser enseñado (DyC 43:15). Finalmente, cuando la madre dijo que pensó que solo estábamos allá para decirles cuales partes de la Biblia ellos deben leer, yo dijo,"No, estamos aquí para mucho mas de éso. Estamos aquí porque hemos sido llamado por un profeta de Dios." Expliqué mas de nuestro propósito, y testifiqué la historia de José Smith. Ella preguntó como podía saber si es la verdad, y leímos Moroni 10:4-5. Ella lloró un poco, y sabíamos que, finalmente, el Espíritu ha testificado de este mensaje de la Restauración. 

Little by little, I am becoming the missionary I know I can be. I love you all and thank you for your support. It means so much to me. :) 

Elder Wesley Morgan 

*We were teaching the Silva Family, new investigators.  We had planned to teach the first lesson, but they had been talking about what they believe in their church.  That is a problem that I have had several times on the mission, but we know that we have been called to teach, not to be taught.  (D&C 43:15).  Finally, when the mother said that she thought that we were only there to tell them which parts of the Bible they should read, I said, "No, we are here for much more than that.  We are here because we have been called by a prophet of God."  I explained more about our purpose, and I testified of the story of Joseph Smith.  She asked how she could know if it is true, and I read Moroni 10:4-5.  She cried a little, and we knew that, finally, the Spirit had testified of the message of the restoration.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beautiful Paraguay

Well, here are some pictures. There is one of our kitchen, which is a million times better now than it was when I got here.

Our shelves of food and pamphlets.

My bedroom--Ken Kenworthy will be happy to know everyone thinks his map is awesome.

My desk, along with our chart of investigators and how they are progressing towards baptism.

There are also two of the view from our apartment.

Unfortunately we cannot take pictures while proselyting, so that may be the best you get for now. Just know that this country is beautiful. The ground is red and full of hills. The trees are green, and there are hundreds of different kinds. That street you see in the picture is the biggest highway in Paraguay--it goes from here to Asunción. And that is about the only named street in our area. Other addresses are just general distances and landmarks, which has made it a little hard to learn the area. We are doing a lot of searching for less-active members in our ward right now. There are about 600 on record. We are trying to work with ward leaders to get home teaching and other programs going to help that. One great family is the Vargas family. Lucio, the dad, is pretty much a younger John Lisonbee. They were less-active when we got here, but they love having us over to teach investigators, and they attend almost every week.

People in Paraguay are so inviting, which is a contrast from Buenos Aires. Sometimes we will just say hi and they will pull out chairs so we can teach a lesson. Part of that may be because there are missionaries of other religions who often stop by and share scriptures. These people are very religious. Sometimes we ask if they believe in Jesus Christ and they look at us like we asked if they drink water. They have a lot of faith, and many people have vivid dreams, some of which have helped them be converted. One thing we have been working on is helping people say real prayers. They are so used to reciting prayers that they don´t understand the concept. This is part of the 8 Fundamentals, which we studied in the CCM and now during our training program. Those fundamentals are great ways to apply the principles of Preach My Gospel to make our teaching effective. They are:
  • The Doctrine of Christ--The Missionary Purpose (More simply: love them and baptize them)
  • The Role of the Holy Ghost in Converstion
  • Revelation through Prayer
  • Revelation through the Book of Mormon
  • Revelation through Church Attendance
  • Teach People, Not Lessons
  • We Invite, They Commit, We Follow Up
  • How to Begin Teaching
Well, I am going to do a bit in Spanish again. Maybe I will do this every week. *El principio de ésta semana fue muy bien. Estamos trabajando MUCHO con los miembros, y es obvio que hay una diferencia en las lecciones. Junior Ramos, un joven en nuestro barrio, nos acompaña mucho. El va a ser un buen misionero. Tambien, estamos intentando a trabajar más con el líder misional de barrio, Elio Martinez, y los otros lideres. Hno Martinez es un converso reciente, pero tieno demasiado energia y testimonio.

Unfortunately, the end of the week was not as successful as we had hoped. We had one investigator at church, Chilo. That was a miracle. He is the son of Ursula, a recent convert (she is pretty much Grandmother Willow). He may even be ready to be baptized this week! We´ll see. The Aguinaga family, Freddy, Antonia, and Selva, did not attend, which is frustrating because they are so close to being ready. They know it is true, they just have to accept it. We have made progress with Junior and Perla, and he has been drinking less after we taught the word of wisdom**. He also told us he turned down a $50,000 offer to deliver drugs to Brazil because of our lessons. That´s exciting. Anibal missed church again. We really have to find out why. We also could not meet with Alejandra this week. I am going to try to keep you updated on these people, especially those who I think will be baptized, but if I ever forget to tell you about anything, feel free to ask. (Like Miguel, who has succumbed to pressure from his neighbors and does not want to visit with us anymore).

Utah is called the factory because that is where all the missionaries come from. Guarani is hard to learn, but I am picking it up little by little. Glad to hear about Romney, BYU football, and Daniel´s internship. I am so excited for him! Things are going well, overall. Last P-Day I tried to make Sopa Paraguaya. I have a lot to learn about cooking. But it was surprisingly edible. I also made no-bake cookies with some Peanut Butter that the last missionary left. Everyone in our district loved those. (Luckily those are hard to ruin). The fondo is pretty far away. I would guess about a mile. We do a lot of walking, which I enjoy. Fasting made it tough, as did the heat, which is back. But, to paraphrase a slogan from some sports company that I cannot remember, Pain is temporary but Conversion is forever. Yeah, that didn´t sound as cool as I was expecting. Pretty much we are doing all we can to help these people come to Jesus Christ, and that is what is most important. I love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

*The beginning of this week was very good.  We are working A LOT with the members, and it's obvious that there is a difference in the lessons.  Junior Ramos, a young man in our ward, is accompanying us a lot.  He will be a good missionary.  Also, we are planning to work more with the ward mission leader, Elio Martinez, and the other leaders.  Brother Martinez is a recent convert, but he has a lot of energy and testimony.

**The Word of Wisdom is a law of health that was revealed to Joseph Smith by the Lord that Latter-day Saints live by.  We are promised physical and spiritual strength if we follow it.  To learn more about it, visit here.