November 09, 2015

Email No. 43

Hello! Hello! Hello! 

Greetings from Maine! A little update on the weather here ... I have never experienced fall before in my life and after experiencing all four seasons I now have the ability to say that fall (with winter as a close second) is my favorite season. Filled with soul-warming soup, glowing fires, crispy nights and falling leaves. Summed up in a word: yes. Yes to Fall! I love it. The leaves are gorgeous, the feeling is amazing and believe it or not, I love the wind that is here. It's awesome. And after experiencing a Maine winter I feel like I have the right to say that I also love winter. Even though it is "freeze-your-rear-end-off" cold (literally and figuratively), I love it. It's a lot different than Arizona and I can't say that is is a bad different. For those who know me, know that I do not like the heat and really don't do that well in it (#fairskinnedfolyfe). So now that the leaves have all fallen off the trees and they are, as Sister Hoopes say, "naked", I'm ready to see them sprinkled with that awesome white stuff, more commonly known as "snow". We can now see the street from our study room window because all the leaves are gone. You would have never guessed we lived in the city (by New England definition) before the leaves were gone. But, alas we do. Now bring on the snow. 

I am happy to report that after a whole week (again) of being sick, Sister Hoopes and I have both finally recovered from the Black Plague. It was a close one, but we made it. The majority of the comments that were made from the members involved, "Wow! You sisters are back from the dead!" It was pretty bad. Now, we are trying to get back in the groove of things, I'm trying to not beat myself up for being up "bad trainer", and Sister Hoopes has now spent 2 of her 5 weeks out in the mission field on her death bed. Whoops. And unfortunately, since I am better I had to get a flu shot at the flu shot clinic that the mission nurse had for the missionaries at zone conference on Friday. Even though I am legally an adult (and almost not a teenager. what.) and I can sign all my own legal papers and stuff, I have finally felt like an adult when I got the flu shot without tears and with out my mom. Go me. Look mom! I'm a big girl now! So I took a picture of the moment that I became an adult. I called the sheet they gave me to say that I got my flu shot my "I'm an Adult Certificate". Pictures to follow. 

Again, not a whole ton happened this week because, again, we were both sick. But, we did gather up enough energy to go out and teach a couple lessons to Keri. They both went really super well. She is learning a lot and is just getting things. We are so proud of her. But then we texted her on Saturday to see if she was coming to stake conference. She said that she wouldn't be able to due to her sister coming into town and she also said that she had a couple of questions. She asked them and the questions themselves don't matter, but what matters is that on Facebook someone had thrown some pretty serious anti-Mormon things at her and due to Keri's delicate nature, it really shook her up. We asked if we could meet with her so we set up a time to meet today (Monday) and talk about some things. But Sister Hoopes felt like we needed to address her questions via email so we can send her to links, videos, etc. So we used our very convenient emails and sent her an email answering all her questions. She still felt a little uneasy after reading the email so we ask that you pray for her. She is still planning on getting baptized on Saturday, so we will talk things out with her and make sure she is okay. 

I have to say that this past weekend was "General Conference status" spiritually up lifting. First, all day Friday, we were trained by Elder Nielson (member of the Quorum of the Seventy) and then on Saturday we had the Adult Session of Stake Conference and then Sunday was, well, the Sabbath and there General Session of Stake Conference, but I also had a really amazing experience that I will tell after all this. The reason why this weekend was so amazing was beck I drew closer to my Savior. I learned more about the Atonement and it just made me feel really super happy. 

I guess I'll start with Friday. We were given travel plans by our zone leaders to leave our apartment Friday morning at 4:50 a.m. and drive to Brewer (hour away), pick up the Brewer sisters and then drive to Portland (2 hours away) and arrive there at 7:40. Thursday night, Sister Hoopes and I went to bed at about 10 and we planned to wake up at 4. We showered the night before so we didn't have to worry about all that jazz. When it was still dark out, my body immediately woke up. I thought to myself, Oh, it must almost be time to wake up! So I looked at the clock.  2:45 a.m. 2:45 a.m.  2:45 a.m. !!!!!!! I was upset. So my fury just kept me awake until the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. 
and then we commenced on our journey to Portland, Maine.

Before the general meeting began, we had a "sisters meeting". In this meeting, Sister Nielson talked to us about something none of us were expecting: marriage. What. It was actually really beautiful the way she talked about it. She applied it directly to us as sisters who are serving missions. She gave us some advice, and one of the one-liners that she gave us was, "Don't marry a project." We can't change people. She emphasized the importance of marrying someone who is as spiritually mature as we are. Which I greatly appreciated. She also spoke about the importance of being a team with your eternal companion and that the core of the gospel is to create an eternal family. She said that on our missions, if we are humble enough, we will learn how to be a better mothers and wives and we will learn how to create an eternal, Christ-centered home. It was beautiful. 

Next we were trained by President and Sister Stoker, and Sister Nielson. And then for the next about 5 hours, we were trained by Elder Nielson. For the first about 2 1/2 we talked about the Atonement, which was incredible. We first spent the first part of that time talking about how the Atonement applies to us as individuals and then we spent the next part talking about how we can help our investigators access the Atonement and what our role in that is. After a wee bit of a lunch break we spent the next about hour and a half talking about finding new investigators through less-actives and then had a Q&A with Elder Nielson. I have to say that two of my favorite experiences as a missionary is have a Q&A with a General Authority. Once with Elder Hallstrom and then another with Elder Nielson. It was beautiful and I don't think I cold replicate everything that was said and felt. 

On Saturday and Sunday we had stake conference and it was beautiful. The Spirit was so strong and an added bonus was that I got to see a ton of people from Dover. Serving in the same stake your whole mission has its definite perks. Tiny tangent real quick... Before my mission I dreaded spending more that 3 months in an area. My worst nightmare was spending my whole mission in the same state, not even thinking that serving in the same stake my whole mission was a possibility. But then at the beginning, I was told that that does happen sometimes and I was so scared that that was going to happen to me. Ten months later, I can say that I never want to leave Maine and I never want to leave the Bangor Stake. I love the people here so much. I know every missionary everywhere says that, but I really mean it. My brethren and sisters here residing in Maine have become some of the dearest people that I know. 

Yesterday, Sister Hoopes and I had a day that was very.... Strange. We were really feeling Satan work on us and we both felt the very strong impression that we needed priesthood blessings. We received them and all I can say is that I have such a strong testimony of priesthood blessings. They are truly the words that God wants His children to hear and I will cherish the blessing that I received yesterday forever. 

Again, I don't think that I could replicate or explain everything that I learned and felt and I don't think that that is Heavenly Father's intention for me to share with you. What I can and do share is my testimony with you all that I know that my Savior lives. I know that so clearly. I have seen His hand in my life. But what has really grown my testimony of His reality is watching the Atonement work in others' lives. I've seen the sick be healed. I have seen the weary become strengthened. I have seen the hopeless come to have hope and the guilty-stricken find relief. The common theme in all of the miracles I've seen is Christ. He is the One. He is the One who can heal, succor, uplift, strengthen. There is no other man. There is no other person. There truly is "no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord" (Mosiah 3:17). He is the Christ. He is the Savior. He is the One who the prophets have testified would lift our burdens and carry our sorrows. He really truly did say, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The eternal invitation is "Come unto Christ."  "I believe in Christ. So come what may!" I know that my Savior lives and I know that it is Him that I represent. 

Right now, I have no other desire than to have everyone that I know to know that as well. There is peace. There is hope. It's not all dreary. It's not all dark. My heart, right now, as I am writing this, is bursting. It is almost bringing me to tears. I just want everyone to know. And I am sorrowing with the original apostles, with Alma and Amulek, with Ammon and all the sons of Mosiah, with Moroni and Mormon. Why am I sorrowing? "For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure." I see this and I sorrow. "And from this time the disciples began to sorrow for the sins of the world."   "Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble." 

But the "glad tidings of great joy" is that we have it. We have what everyone is looking for. It's here! In the fullness! Let us toss aside our fears. Let us rise above who we are and become who we were intended to be. Let us become faithful servants of the Lord filled with faith, hope, and charity. I would like to close with the words of Joseph Smith:

"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.

"Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

"Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

"Brethren, I have many things to say to you on the subject; but shall now close for the present, and continue the subject another time. I am, as ever, your humble servant and never deviating friend,"

Sister Grace Sewell 

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