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."