A Merry Christmas From Elder Pierce

Michael asked that I post a link to a series of online videos.  It is an ongoing series (meaning every week or so another is added to the series) on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  It is titled Bible Videos.  I have posted the main link on the side bar - but for this week of Christmas - here is The Nativity.

The Nativity

Praying to Know

First - I hope that the new blog template will make it easier to post and to read. I was having problems with copying/pasting from Michael's letters - it would bring over odd formatting that changed the way the post would look.

Second - If you're looking for a great Christmas tradition - check out the Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple Visitor's Center.  http://dctemplelights.lds.org/  Jessica and I were there this week and seeing all the missionaries there made me think of our missionary.  The lights are amazing and there are musical performances every night.

Third - We had a great letter from Elder Pierce this week:

"I have been trying to focus all my study attention on the Book of Mormon. As a missionary I remember the statement by Joseph Smith where he said all the preachers understood the same passage of scripture so differently so to make an appeal to the Bible useless. But now we have the Book of Mormon. An appeal to the Bible alone is completely useless. An appeal to the Bible with the Book of Mormon doctrines supporting it is profound. Only with the Book of Mormon can the Bible be interpreted correctly. Well anyway the point is I've been reading from the Book of Mormon and once again had a new layer of respect for it. I've found beautiful meaning in passages and chapters I had previously trudged over without gleaning any fruits. Now I can finally recognize the fruit. And that happens throughout a person's whole life. There is never an end to the fruit you find in the Book of Mormon. There is always more. There is always another layer to explore.

What does 'praying to know' mean? It means that God speaks to us today; his work did not end with the New Testament contrary to popular belief because He's a hard working fellow and can't stand to sit around while people perish like some corrupt government official. So he called a new prophet just like in the old testament, Joseph Smith, and brought forth new scripture just like with prophets in the Bible: the most important of which was the Book of Mormon. If you want to know whether or not this stuff is baloney or if its the most important thing you ever heard, then read the Book of Mormon , ponder its message, and ask God whether or not its really His word along with the Bible. He'll tell you.

And now to let Jessica know how my week has been: it has been great! We had two appointments with member referrals: one with a 50 year old single mother who loves horses and the other with a 60 year old retired divorced patriotic engineer. The one with the single mother went a bit better than the engineer one. But it was super good to sit down with a member and teach a discussion to a person who person who knows why we're there and wants to listen to Gospel stuff. So that was a blessing. We'll see where it goes. We invited them both to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it to know whether it is true. Also, I've had two opportunities to set up Christmas decorations, so I get double the traditional fun! One at a less active house where we set up the tree and struggled with the little toy train to get it to stay on the track. And one at a potential investigator's house. So it was really cool! Just super relaxing and a good opportunity. We also attended something big the stake has been working on: "Come to the Nativity", where they arrange over 600 little nativity scenes in the cultural hall, with live music in the chapel from different performers: it runs like an open house from 2 - 9 pm on Friday Saturday and Sunday. We were ushers on Friday for the art walk, where they have this hallway draped with curtains and hanging on the walls are all these pictures depicting the Savior's earthly ministry, and at the end of the hallway there's a separate room with a stone table cracked down the middle and a cloth folded neatly at one end. The Tomb. It was incredibly spiritual in there and we had a marvelous experience. We got a lot of people at that event. We were out handing out the invitations and inviting all of our investigators to it. It was a big community thing. Great missionary opportunity."

Scripture Testifies of Jesus Christ

Michael is doing well.  His time for letter writing is limited, but he wanted everyone to know that he is happy.  He asked that I post a particular scripture about Christ as we move into the Christmas Season.  It is from The Book of Mormon:  Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Mosiah 3:1-11 reads:

And again my brethren, I would call your attention, for I have somewhat more to speak unto you; for behold, I have things to tell you concerning that which is to come.
 And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angell from God. And he said unto me:  Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.
 And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.
 For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.
 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.
And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.
 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
 10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.
 11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.

Excerpts 11/16/13

I've received a lot of spiritual support from the Lord this week from others and from personal revelation, so I've been very blessed. I apparently have continued to earn my reputation as the greatest missionary trainee ever, so that helps me feel really good! The best experience we've had this week was with John, a truck driver with a nice house -- he's very friendly and we've met with him a lot to do a lot of service, and he's had us play fuzzball with him and loved it. But he also has a really powerful drive to learn about this church, which is difficult because he has a history of heavy drinking, so I think his mind is a bit fuzzled and its incredibly hard to reason in a straight line with him, but he's driven to learn. We've been reading the Book of Mormon with him and he really enjoys it, and there's an old girlfriend who visited him one of the visits who he wants to get back together with who we also gave a Book of Mormon and read with. So that was all pretty cool. There have been some beautiful moments this week that have strengthened me, but not really related to the work so much as the Lord comforting me.

Excerpts - 11/7/13

From Michael this week:
It's been a regular week -- just visiting a lot of people. The most exciting thing was yesterday. We were driving down to church when we passed a larger fellow on the side of the road in a big camouflage coat, a backpack and a black lab on a leash. He looked like he was having the most miserable day of his life. Elder I. suddenly flipped a U-turn at the next light and we parked down the road from him, jogged up, and asked if there was anything we could do for him. His head had been bowed, and he looked up and saw us and said "Well, let me tell you..." and explained he'd had a job taking care of a military man's house, which provided him with room and board. But he got notice that his services wouldn't be required anymore, so he asked if he could have enough time to apply to another job. He finally got a promising one that required some extra time for paperwork, but the military man's wife didn't like him and refused the time so he got kicked out on the street. This was two days ago, and he had walked from where he was up to Maple Valley, getting a bit of assistance as a hitchhiker, till he sat down absolutely sore and just prayed that something could help him out here. And we showed up just as he finished praying. So. We gave him $30, and after calling the Ward Mission Leader got permission to take him to church with us so he could get someplace warm for 3 hours while we tried to figure something out. He was trying to figure out a way to get to Indiana where he has family. Normally he could get a bus, but they don't allow dogs on any of the buses around here. At church one of the brothers said he had a lot of flight miles saved up and he could arrange for a plane ticket to Indiana within the week. The Bishopric then started making some phone calls to see about shelter during that week. Anyway, things haven't quite come together perfectly, but the bishopric has taken over right now apparently and he'll be able to get out of here within the week. But church was fast and testimony meeting and it was such a powerful meeting, and each testimony seemed to build on the one before it about listening to the spirit, and it all seemed to be very instructive to this fellow. Same with the other two hours. We did give him a Book of Mormon when we first met him on the side of the road and encouraged him to read it. He says he's not all that religious but sure. And we'd said a prayer with him on the roadside and I was crying, and he keeps saying how thankful he is and talking about his life story. Anyway that narrative is a little mixed up but you get the idea. I really do love that man.
Oh by the way the weather has been surprisingly wonderful -- we are supposed to get rain by now but we've had rain only in the night and the days have more often than not been partly cloudy with a beautiful sunshine blazing through. Often you can see Mt. Rainier over the Autumn treetops. And the wet world sparkles in the sunlight. Yeah. It's getting cold though.

Excerpts for week of 10/28/13

Sorry - I'm running a few days behind!  But here's a bit from Michael's most recent letter:

We had exchanges this week, where Elder I and I split -- I went with an Elder P.  Great guy.  Great missionary. And we were out tracting, and his approach was to start by asking if we could do service (rather like Ammon among the Lamanites) and then to bring up if they'd ever met missionaries before, gauge what they thought of Mormons, and then with most of them simply hand them a mormon.org card and encourage them to look up the chat feature on there to ask missionaries church questions. But one house actually let us in as soon as they saw us: a young lady who acts as caretaker to an a woman in her 30s who had a stroke and is currently confined to a wheelchair. They let us in and we chatted and I thought for a bit "are these two members?" But knew they couldn't be because the caretaker was in a tank top and the other woman was drinking wine. But we shared the Restoration with them and handed them a Book of Mormon and it was the smoothest lesson I've had so far.

We've done a LOT of service, especially for an inactive member in a wheelchair whose had a medical history that could fill a bestselling book. He knows doctors; he knows how to tell a good doctor from a bad doctor by looking at them. He apparently was baptized without really a testimony, so we're trying to figure out how to teach him because he doesn't understand much about this church he still considers himself a member of. But he really likes us and the service we do for him -- so we're working on it.

I mean, we have a lot of investigators. It'd take me a while to got through them all. They're all more potential investigators really -- we're still getting to the point where they'd be interested or willing to actually take the discussions instead of just snippets of them and service.

And there was a baptism this Sunday evening!! Elder I and his last companion taught this one man and his two kids: a firefighter. And they were essentially a golden contact and were ready for baptism in two months. But I've met him for two lessons to help further prepare him and he asked me to baptize him and his two kids. So that was wonderful! And then we had permission to confirm them that same night so Elder I did that. It was a great experience and several non-members came and some less actives and the mission president! So a lot of support, and apparently the ward hasn't had a baptism for years now (even though they are super supportive of missionary work) so this was a great confidence booster for them.

Oh! And there's the ex-convict! He's like my favorite person ever! I love all my investigators, but something with him just clicked. He was a potential from Elder I and his last companion who really likes the church and is trying to change his life. He was once a drug dealer who would tell his clients not to take his stuff because it would kill them and Jesus didn't like it. So he's kind of an interesting person. He really, really wants to do what Jesus wants him to, so we're praying that as he prays and (eventually) comes to church he'll start to see that what Jesus wants him to do is join with this church. But he's a fascinating guy. Very nice. Calls our Bishop the "pastor" and knows him pretty well now. And we're his spiritual advisers at the moment.


We have received 3 letters over the weekend from Michael!  He is officially in the "mission field" now - meaning he has arrived at his assigned mission in Washington State.  There was a group of missionaries that flew together from Utah to Seattle and were met at the airport by the mission president and his wife.  They were taken to the mission home (which is the headquarters for the mission and where the mission president and his wife live).  From the mission home they met their new companions and each headed off to their areas of assignment.  Michael hasn't quite been there a week yet, but he sounds like he's jumped right in!

"Washington is treating me well!  My companion and I live in a member's home: she's a much older lady but rather wealthy, and her husband had this beautiful home built for them before he died.  So on  my first evening with my companion we return to the 'apartment' for the night and we drive up to this great big iron gate that my companion opens with a remote control and we drive up into this courtyard strewn with Autumn leaves and a couple statues and we go in through the garage into this guest apartment that's separate from the rest of the house.  The apartment isn't like magnificent or anything, but it's nice and homey and we have our own washer and dryer which is really nice.  And the beds are really comfortable.  So I feel a bit like Neil Caffrey (White Collar reference).

My companion is Elder I from Saint George, Utah.  He's taken care of most of the planning for this first week which is perfect for me because I just need to observe what's going on in the area.  The people here are very friendly, liberal, talkative, and it seems that missionary work up here will often need to be slow and steady and patient.  Elder I listens to the Spirit and often our plans change a lot each day depending on how long people talk -- so our days feel a bit like being a wind that you're not quite sure where it's blowing.  But everything has worked our miraculously so far so I trust him.

Apparently I already have a reputation as a really good missionary, but I've only been here for a week so I don't know how that happened.  I just try to talk to everyone..which is really hard for me but I'm working on it.  I bore my testimony to some fellow who had a lot of LDS friends but strongly didn't believe Joseph Smith what a prophet because 'you don't get revelation through a looking glass', so I told him I don't know much about looking glasses but I know Joseph Smith was as prophet.  He brushed me off of course.

And there was this one fellow that Elder I had met with before who had a bit of a drinking problem, so we came by one day to help clean out his garage, and we ended up spending most of the day with him hauling things out and rearranging them.  He was a really friendly guy.  It was very interesting to see all the stuff he had in there.  I was wondering if we ought to say: listen, we have other appointments, but I didn't feel that was the thing to do, but that with him (and most of these people) we needed to give a lot of time with them.  So we finally shared a message at the end where he mostly talked to us about how he really appreciated us coming over because we motivated him to do more productive things than sitting around drinking, and how for some reason the missionaries coming over last week got him to not drink all last week, and he said 'that was a really great week, thank you!'  and he's going to limit his drinking to weekends now.  And so I said a prayer where I blessed his home and asked that he be safe and felt I should ask that he have happiness and peace and love in his life.  And I finish and look at him and he's got this incredible look on his face: quizzical, like he was saying silently, 'Well who on earth are you? Nobody prays like that for me.  Nobody talks like that.  That was beautiful and really kind.  Who the heck are you being so kind like that?' And he shook my hand and we gave him a Book of Mormon.

That's how a lot of our lessons have been."

Elder Pierce with President and Sister Eaton


We received our first letter from Michael this week!  He sounds great.  I wanted to share a bit with all of you...

"Thank heavens for good companions.  They're all good people who are really trying.  We've completely bonded - whoa...we bonded in like a day.  Half a day actually.  Incredible.  You put a bunch of true Christians together...well, we had to create a lesson plan for an investigator and we had some initial trouble there because we're all rather opinionated on how best to teach people.  But Elder F. had us pray as a group and I said it and then our disagreements all cleared up...don't know how.  Miracle."

"I can only email or write letters once a week.  So if you could post that on my blog so people don't wonder why I'm not replying.  Also mention that I'll only have 30 minutes and my family takes email priority.  I will reply to everyone but may have to keep it short or combine emails."

Michael will be in the Missionary Training Center until this Wednesday (Oct 16) and then he's off to Federal Way.  When we have a mailing address for him I will post it....as I know that Elders love to get snail mail because they only get to check email weekly.

taken the morning he left

What are you doing, Michael?

I assume you all know that I'm Mormon, or a member of the LDS church. This mission is an opportunity recommended for members as young as 18 to preach the Gospel somewhere in the world. The Gospel we are preaching can be found at mormon.org, on the right sidebar! You should totally look around there!

Though I should tell you, that I am not the type to interrupt my education so I can run off to Washington State for two years, but I've prayed about it and I feel strongly that this is what God wants me to do. I can tell you that the LDS church is an integral part of my life, and I know the Gospel I will be preaching is true. It's real, and its good, and I know it will help other people who desire to live it.

Now for some interesting background, if you like:

Joseph Smith Jr., first Prophet of the LDS church
In a nutshell, the LDS church believes that the divine right to run the church that Jesus Christ established 2,000 years ago was lost, due to the martyrdom of the apostles, as well as corruption among the members. We believe that God and Jesus Christ officially restored this divine right to reestablish and run Their church in 1829 to Joseph Smith Jr. and Oliver Cowdery, with Joseph being called as the Prophet, or official head of the church. A Prophet, just as in  the Old Testament, serves as a "mouthpiece" for God, receiving direction as to how God wishes His church to be run, giving new guidance to adapt to changing times. God, through the Prophet, calls twelve apostles (as in the New Testament) and other church leaders, who are also given the priesthood in order to help run the church, thus organizing the church as it was in Christ's day, with the Prophet, apostles, seventies, bishops, priests, teachers, deacons and so forth. Also, when a Prophet dies, God inspires the twelve apostles to appoint another to the position. The current Prophet is Thomas S. Monson.

Thomas S. Monson, current Prophet of the LDS church.
The upshot of this is that I have applied, been accepted, and subsequently been officially called by the Prophet and assigned an area by one of the twelve apostles, to work as a representative of Christ in preaching the Gospel and providing service. Which is why I didn't know where I'd be called beforehand, because I believe that God inspired one of the twelve apostles to send me to Federal Way, Washington State because God knows there are people there who need Michael Pierce, specifically, to teach them.


If you have any questions, feel free to check mormon.org (link on right sidebar).