Hey everyone! I had a great experience on my mission; it was everything I thought it would be as far as refining me spiritually, but some unexpected medical issues came up recently and it was decided I wouldn't be able to continue my mission at this time. So I'm home in Maryland again, at the least for six months to recuperate and get the treatment I need, so I won't be posting on this blog for a long time. Thank you for all the support!
Posted by Michael Pierce at 7:25 AM
Conference was amazing of course, being a missionary and all. I loved parts of all the talks, though I was writing so much revelation on things that I don't think I paid attention to any of them all the way through EXCEPT Elder Corbridge's, the seventy who visited our mission several months ago. He is an incredible speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed his testifying talk. He's just so UMPH in the way he presents it. He's so weary and laborious but it works. I also really liked the focus on Family History, and the idea that we cannot have eternal life without our ancestors, but eternal life IS to live with our entire family for eternity, all those who through their agency choose it. I loved the comment that those who learn about the stories of their ancestors will make much wiser decisions, and I've found that for some reason the stories and lessons learned by the members of the Rawle line (being the only stories I know well) stick more to me and have a more profound effect on me than if those same stories were from another's lineage or just told in Conference. They stick with me. I felt in Conference a very strong connection with Richard Simmons Rawle who I looked up on FamilySearch.org when I was getting some training on how to show investigators familysearch. I felt that connection in conference, as well as for all my ancestors. So I understood at least then very clearly the full Spirit of Elijah for finding these people, because we knew them very well before and have a duty towards them as their friends.
Anyway, there's a pair of senior missionaries out here who are working primarily on how to incorporate family history more into missionary work, because they feel very very strongly that the work of salvation is FOR family history work, because the reason we have the Gospel in this Dispensation is so that we can offer it to all our ancestors who lived in Apostasy. So an investigators main motive for joining should be out of duty to their ancestors, which they will start to feel as they do their family history work. So I really want to use that with pretty much everyone on the street: do your work, study the people. They're still alive.
So I thoroughly enjoyed that. I really enjoyed Elder Utchdorf's comments on gratitude, Elder Oaks' clarification, and several others that were really good, I'd have to check my notes. And Elder Holland's at the beginning.
So as far as missionary work this week, the most exciting thing was talking with A.N., the nonmember in a part member family who is willing to sit in the discussions with T.N. the wife. He's very active in the discussions and has a lot of great questions. We promised him as representatives of Jesus Christ that if he reads the Book of Mormon every day this next week and prays every day that he will know with assurance that the Book of Mormon is true, and all the implications of that towards Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He committed to be baptized when he finds out it is true. Yea!!! And he and his wife watched general conference this weekend at her mother's home, so hopefully he paid attention to the talks about baptism or Elder Corbridge's.
I'm feeling very well since General Conference. There's been a great outpouring of the Spirit between my companion and I and the whole missionary district. We're having a really great time actually.
Note from Mom:
General Conference is held by our Church twice a year over a weekend. We are blessed to hear addresses from various leaders of the Church, including a living prophet of God. Michael has asked that I add a link to Conference for any who would like to listen or read these addresses. See the side bar for the new link.
I'm doing really well actually, I was having a bit of trouble last week but I've been strengthened again, so I'm learning all the things the Lord wants me to learn, so its good. My companion was sick for a few days so I had to stay in, which was actually relaxing, but he's better so we're out working again. A lot of good stuff has happened.
So the boyfriend of one of the ladies we've been teaching is apparently an former church member who regained his testimony at some point before dating her and wants to come back, but didn't tell us until we brought bishop along. So miracles are totally possible. Alma the Younger.
I haven't told you about the M family have I? Man you would have an interesting time with the them. They're a recent convert family, husband and wife, grown up kids are still thinking about it. Hawaiian. They're a hoot. I'm not sure how to describe why though.
Okay, miracle for this week.... we met another Hawaiin less active who wants to come back to church, and he has some family living with him that may be interested in taking the discussions again, so it sounds like there's some promise there to help people.
So here's my week: we've been over visiting the P. family a lot, particularly the member wife. She is a fireball. Very strong spirit. Has blond reddish hair, wavy, a face very very weathered by a very very hard life and bad decisions. She's far too old for her age. A real tough woman. But I love her to death, I'm pretty sure she thinks of us as her sons in a way. She reminds me of a hardened Scottish lady. Taken it upon herself to mother us a little. Not in a weird way at all, but she likes to make us desert and talks with us a lot and tells us to be safe. We knock on her door and her four beagles that she rescued from various bad situations all raise a devilish chorus and she comes shouting and hollering at them and opens the door and all tired she says "Hey come in guys (huff puff)". We gave her a priesthood blessing one of our first meetings with her, for her health, because I was given the authority to do that from my Dad who received it from a line back to Peter restored to Joseph Smith. When I was done the room was peaceful and the husband and son and one of the teenage tennants there especially could sense it and came into the room seeking the light and they were all just glowing with peace and didn't want us to go, just talking with us. We go back by frequently. We're trying to teach our message to M. and gave him a Book of Mormon, but we haven't been able to see him recently.
Alright, here's the scoop! The full blown scoop! I'm in Lake Tapps, that's a lake in the Puyallup stake, I'm not sure about how many miles around but it takes about four hours to bike around the whole thing or so. Maybe less. And there are two islands in the middle, Tapps island and Snagg island, where the rich and hte richest live, respectfully. Our bishop lives on the very tippy tip of Snagg island. To get to either island we have to pass through security, so I always feel like I'm in a heist movie of some kind when I do it. The rest of the area is pretty rural. There's another island, inlet island. For the middle class ish. Sort of of. All the rich people live on the lake access and all the less rich people live across the street from them.
My companion is Elder G, about five foot seven and stocky and cool and calculating as James Bond as I've said. He's great. We do well. I'm actually follow-up training him but he's very very good so its not really training at all. He's taught me cool tricks like how to use a lighter to burn all the lint off my socks. You go "snap" at the bottom of your heel and the flames leap up all around your foot burning off all the lint and leaving your foot nice and toasty. Thats pretty neato and cool looking and I promise I won't do it in front of Mom.
The best thing has been whats happened at the P. home. The young man did sit in with us, and we explained about the Spirit that he felt and how He works and talks to us. He had one experience where he was praying that other people wouldn't suffer the same illness he was suffering at that time, and he suddenly felt warmth and peace over him and felt tingling all over. That's the Spirit. It comes in different forms at different times to say different things, but once you come to recognize it you know what is really the Spirit and what's not. Anyway we talked about that and we offered him a Book of Mormon to review and to pray about and to see if the Spirit testifies of it and he gets those same feelings telling him its true. So we hope he does it. I've never met a person who has said they've both honestly read and honestly prayed about the Book of Mormon and not gotten an answer. If you really want to know and are willing to change your life if you were to find out it was true, you will feel the Spirit.
We did a service project chopping up a tree. Used a logsplitter. Had some good memories there.
A lot of missionary work is driving around looking for people these days. I don't like those days. We're trying to help the members learn how to share the gospel in natural ways so eventually we only have to teach and baptize.
Why are individuals baptized? I've wondered about this immensely: its because God, knowing everything, has never told His children to do whatever they wanted. He's always asked they make a promise to Him to keep those commandments He gives them for their benefit. He does not give a commandment unless it betters us and protects us. So He asks us to give up our own wisdom in favor of His wisdom and promise to keep His commandments. Does this brainwash us? Of course not. The commandments don't dictate much at all about your hobbies, interests, style of dress, personality at all. Just watch the I'm a Mormon videos. You shouldn't have a hobby of drinking on Saturday nights obviously, but you could have a hobby of drinking root beer on Saturday nights if you really wanted to. Anyway. God requires covenants for certain things.
Anyway, I'm trying to talk about my week but I'm not very good at it. Details. Bleh. Stuff happened.
Sorry, I'm going to make sure I send you a meaty email about whats actually happening over here next time. I've been good though. Just figuring stuff out. I have so much to tell you though about Family History as a teaching tool and stuff: listen, you ask about their family, you get them to realize that their ancestors may not have had the knowledge they've had, that their ancestors depend on them for work to be done, they don't even have to understand what you mean necessarily, the Spirit of Elijah will begin to testify to them that they have a responsibility to their ancestors, and then they start looking in the church to find out what they can do, and then they get baptized with the Temple already as the ultimate goal. We're still working on it but its the new training starting to go around along with other things. Yes. So things are working out. We're figuring it out.
Note from Michael's Mom:
Michael was moved to a new area last week.
My new area is not much different from my last area actually, in fact it seems quieter than the last area and yet missionary wise its hoppin'. We've got several hopeful baptisms lined up this month and EVERYONE keeps telling me about how wonderful the ward is.
My companion is cool and collected and has been out for one transfer. I'm actually follow-up training him -- but he has to run the area basically because I don't know anyone. But he's very good, very cool-headed and able. Thank heavens.
Praying with faith. It works: my last district leader told a story about how they were doing office work and needed a dresser, so first they prayed that they'd be able to find one at the stores, because they were having no luck. Finally they got to a store and they said "Oh yes we have one" and brought it out, but it was way too small. So they prayed again and asked very specifically for a dresser with this size and this many doors, and they found one to the precise specifications. It was much better when they told it though. The principle I think is to pray specifically so that you know what you're looking for, because if you pray for general vague things Heavenly Father doesn't know where to put His energy because you yourself don't know what you really want.
The training we've received has been extremely enlightening. People are not converted by the message; they are converted by having spiritual witnesses or experiences regarding the message. 1 Cor 2:1-5, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." We cannot answer all their questions. I don't believe this Gospel because I know it perfectly. I believe it because the Spirit continues to tell me that it is true. That's the only way that they will know, because they received a spiritual witness. And throughout the whole Bible and Book of Mormon we see evidence after evidence of the Spirit being the primary resource of knowledge and direction for people. But this aspect is thoroughly ignored by Christendom. I aim to change that.
To receive a spiritual witness, one must have a desire to receive one. The best way to give someone a desire to receive one is to describe the blessings of it, within the Bible and in your own life. It's really refocused the way that we teach.
The most interesting thing that's happened has been talking with the Jewish father of the part member family. I've talked a lot about them. We went over to practice teaching their family, but they had it in their heads that they were feeding us dinner, and we had just come from our dinner appointment with the another family, who fed us tamalies, which were really good, and I had eaten three of them with refried beans. And then the next family graciously fed us a really really good lasagna and salad. But it was good, we had a long gospel discussion afterwards, where we covered everything that we wanted to teach anyway. He's had a bad experience with missionaries in the past, so the fact that he truly opens up the way he does to us is really good. But he doesn't want to be converted, so we just told him of course we'd love him to convert, but we really love him and his family. No sneakiness. And I told him if he reads the Book of Mormon and prays to know if its true then he will receive a spiritual witness.
Yeah, I've been hearing about the awful weather out there! Washington has been pretty sunny this whole winter because of it so thank you for your endurance on my behalf!Super bowl miracle! We had nothing we could do except tract for the last bit of the super bowl, but it was actually a blessing to do that because the Seahawks blew out the Broncos 43 - 8 so a) people were in a good mood b) not really paying attention to the game. So I was surprised how many people talked to us for a bit before closing the door. And they'd always tell us how the Seahawks were winning. And there was this one house that closed the door, but as we walked away they called out after us if we wanted anything to eat, and of course we did, so we ended up teaching them the Restoration and leaving a Book of Mormon, and they said we could drop by again in a few weeks. So we're not sure about their interest level but it should skyrocket if they actually do what we said and read and pray.
For some horrible reason we can only go once a year. It's because its out of our mission, but its only 30 minutes away. So this was quite the event. But because of the trip P-day is cut short so I don't have much time to email.
Lynsey wrote me and told me that she loved reading my blog and would love it more if there were more to read. So apologize to her that this week will be even scarcer than the others, but next week I will do my best to give a sweeping Tolkien landscape of my mission area and three pages of the background on each investigator and cool member. Something like that.
From Michael's Mom:
For those who want to learn more about our temples - why we have them, what their purpose is, etc. - you can learn more at mormon.org here's a link to the FAQ section about temples. It has a short summary, links to other temple questions and links to what real Mormons have to say about our temples.
I had another great week! Found a fellow, a former investigator. He was investigating pretty extensively according to the record. We're still not sure why he was dropped, but when we went by his trailer he stepped right out and said he had been thinking about us and wanted to continue investigating, and ultimately wanted to join our church. So we invited him to a baptismal service later that week and church, and got the recent convert up the street from him to give him a ride. Getting to know him better we've found he's a solid investigator, 90% sure the church is true, wants to change his life and start a new leaf at the age of 50. So we gave him a baptismal date to work towards and will begin reteaching him the lessons and commitments to make sure everything's ship shape! Its a miracle!
And apparently, the lady we committed to baptism a few weeks ago, was the first person in Maple Valley zone to be committed to baptism in quite some time. Like, for a year. So there was quite a bit of fanfare about it and after people found out we saw an explosion of morale, and all these people are being found who were willing to commit to baptism. So that's pretty neato. Actually that's stupendous!!!!!! The Lord has used us to bless Maple Valley zone!
This has been a stupendous week! Stupendous stupendous. My new companion is excellent: Elder B! We are taking Cedar River by storm!
We began with a lesson with T. the one who was brought to church by her member daughter and had a great experience so she called us up to meet with us. We've taught two lessons with our recent convert, and the most recent one with Elder B. was at a members' home, where we committed her to baptism on Feb 8th on condition that she find out these things are true. And she came to church this week! And while here she found out the relief society president was an old friend from high school! So we have female fellowship now for our next lesson tomorrow!
And also we were able to practice teaching the L. family, that part member family I keep talking about where the father is Jewish and the mother wants to get back into the groove of regular church and scripture study and FHE. So that's an interesting situation, but we were able to teach them the Plan of Salvation and Gospel of Jesus Christ in one lesson Saturday, and their two oldest daughters were paying close attention and asking questions about repentance and how we repent and it was really just a great lesson and the father was asking questions just to clarify things...he obviously has hang ups on Jesus Christ, and his wife was almost argumentative at some points with him about the meaning on the sacrifices in the old testament, because WE know they were obviously symbolic of Jesus Christ but he doesn't believe there's a connection. Anyway we invited them all to pray with sincerity to ask God if Jesus is the Christ necessary for the Plan of Salvation. And we're returning next Saturday to continue teaching!
We also had some success Sunday with visiting former investigators: the first fellow was a gentle guy smoking on his porch. I followed the spirit and ended up telling him that his recently deceased father is being taught by spirit missionaries like us in the spirit world and that he is being taught here so that he can eventually be baptized in proxy for his father. Yeah, I thought it was crazy too. But we got into a discussion about how he had been baptized by four different churches and is confused about which one is valid, so we invited him to let us come back and teach him about Joseph Smith's situation. He said (and he said it earnestly) that we should come back early spring because then his friends will be gone and it would be a good time to make good on our offer to help him in the yard. We're going to come back earlier though I think. Anyway he said our coming by has encouraged him to get back into reading the Bible every day, so that's something.
And we met a former, a Physician's Assistant who has had a LOT of guidance from the spirit in her life, guiding her to different jobs where she is much happier and so she really recognizes his influence. She claims that she isn't ready to change her religion. Isn't ready to change it. Which is interesting. So we got talking and the spirit was very strong and she said she felt we'd been sent by God to uplift her, so we asked if there was another time we could visit and talk and she said 8:00 to 8:30 on weekdays, which is our HARDEST TIME TO FILL. So we're like Absolutely. So that was cool.
Yeah. And we've had dozens of experiences while tracting the streets, talking to people on the streets or on their doorsteps. It's been very good!
Transfers are today! Elder I is getting shipped out, but I'm holding the fort in Cedar River. My companion will be an Elder B, so we'll see how it goes!
On the subject of go-carts Brother G, our favorite and most difficult inactive member, made a go-cart. While in a wheelchair. So that's one crazy story for you. We went in with his son D to clean out his living room because it is TRASHED, and it is hard on his physical and spiritual health, so we went in and managed to clean out about a third of it. The other two thirds D is saying will be moved out soon. I hope so. But we uncovered a great looking pool table, and Brother G, among seventy other things, is a very good pool player, so he challenged us to a game one evening, and I almost made the winning shot, because he taught me how to do the geometry to do a proper bank shot, and I banked the cue ball and knocked the 8-ball beautifully into the corner pocket, and we were like YEAH! And cheering.........while the cue ball slowly ricocheted into the opposing corner pocket. So Brother G technically still won.
Then we had an excellent Gospel conversation with him and invited him to stop smoking. He said no. That's alright. He'll come eventually.
I think he'll come when we can finally sit down and teach his son D. Elders have taught his family before and he's still very interested, and while cleaning I taught him about the Atonement and Word of Wisdom and he understood and was really happy and said they'd already been trying to quit. I've had several lessons with him actually, just on the spot I start talking Gospel and he listens intently and asks questions. He WANTS to sit down and have another lesson.
We had a very good time at the F. for Christmas, they were very kind to us. I'd also forgotten to tell you that we were at the T. family for Christmas Eve, and a ward Santa Claus came visiting and so we got our pictures with him. And then we dressed up for nativity and Elder I., Ian T. and I were the (supposedly) three wise men bringing a gold box of chocolates, a cinnamon candle and a bottle of sparkling cider to baby Jesus (played very nicely by their new nephew/cousin). We popped sparkling cider corks, family. They went POP and they flew up in the air and banged off the dining room walls into the chandelier. SO THAT WAS FUN!!
We are actually hoping to teach a family through "practice teaching". This is the awesome part member family where the father is a Jew and likes us now because of the blessing we gave his wife for her pregnancy. Anyway. We asked if we would be able to practice teaching their family because we've been having trouble finding people to teach official discussions to which is absolutely true. And his wife is all for it so she can relearn all this stuff (she's been sort of less active) and he's willing to do it with her because he likes us. We've had conversations about Jesus Christ with him because he's never really understood what exactly the Christian viewpoint was on that. So I explained it to him that we're all climbing up this cliff, but none of us can possibly make it to the top without help, so Jesus Christ is the only one who made it to the top himself so he lowers a rope for us to climb. Just a basic idea that really helped him. So what we bump against is he doesn't believe we need that rope, but that we should take the responsibility ourselves. So we were explaining how the Jewish rituals in the Old Testament all pointed towards a Savior, so now we're just bumping up against whether they really were talking about the Christian Savior or even a Savior who lowers the rope down. Yeah. He's a great, great guy and a good father. He came to listen to my talk this Sunday.