Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Life is good... Spaghetti batidas??! - Dec 15, 2015

With regard to the Christmas call, I know zip, save that it will probably be done from a ward member´s house. I will keep you posted. As for the Christmas cards, (we sent him some cut out nativity cards that we thought could be a conversation starter) they have sat in the house because we have been focusing on the Church´s A Savior is Born initiative, and because I keep forgetting to bring them out with me. The mission as a whole has a goal of having 2000 distinct investigators attend church at least once this December, and we have yet to have even one (with the exception of the P**** family we baptized last Saturday).

What can I say? Life in the DR is pretty good right now. We´ve been hitting the gym (almost) every morning, been making batidas from spaghetti (yeah; spaghetti cooked, then blended with sweetened condensed milk, sugar, banana, vanilla, and cinnamon) every other morning, and everything temporally has been quite alright. The last few weeks, although a lot has happened and I am grateful that I see the Lord´s hand so much in my life, have been a little bit discouraging when looking at the numbers. We have had days where we´ve only had two or three lessons, because in the mornings we´ve had to go somewhere or help another companionship or go to the mission office or go get my green card (that was hectic) or lo que sea, and in the afternoons half of our investigators are NEVER home, and the other half are a little frío. Not cold in that they don´t like us; cold in that they don´t keep commitments. We are within the first lesson still with almost all of our investigators, because they never read. We haven´t even been assigning scripture to some, just a paragraph or two from a pamphlet, but in two days they somehow forget. 

However, despite how bad that sounds, I really don´t feel discouraged day-to-day. We have to walk a lot between appointments anyway, so the extra walking when one falls through feels like nothing new. We have big plans for the coming weeks, though. We met with the ward council, as well as the Bishop individually, to help the ward leaders recognize that missionary work is their charge, and that as missionaries we´re just here to visit people who they can´t always be visiting, and to be a 2nd and 3rd witness of the truth that they´re sharing with friends and family. We have plans to go out with members every day, with at least 5 different members every week. We have names and times set. We have plans to visit 3 members a week, one from each organization (Young Women, Elders and Relief Society one week, Young Men, High Priests, and Primary the next, rotating as the month progresses), teach them simply the first lesson, practice teaching with them, ask them for a reference, and invite them to set a time when they can accompany us to visit that reference. The ward is even going to have a missionary night, where the members are going to go out in groups contacting friends and family, marking addresses, sharing Christmas messages, and turning the info over to us, this coming Saturday, which should be amazing. I posted the ward goals, the zone goals, companionship goals, and investigator goals on the wall above our table, so we keep them in mind when planning. I am really excited to see how many lives we can touch this week, members and nonmembers alike.

I don´t know that there´s much else new out here. The day-to-day is interesting and funny, but mostly in the moment. Elder M***** and I are really getting along. We´re a lot alike, in tastes in music, what we were studying in college, our sense of humor, etc. The only thing we´re super different with is tastes in food. He likes salty stuff more than sweet, and whenever I make pancakes he is flabbergasted by how much syrup I add (and I don´t pour on all that much, by our family´s standards *cough* Elijah *cough*). When he tried that candy cane bark, he couldn't eat it. He took one bite and said "oooh wow, ¡dulcísimo!" Funny story real quick, and then I´m done. Thursday, after the zone meeting, i was going to transpose I Know That My Redeemer Lives down a key so Hermana P**** (Brasilian professional singer who left her career to serve a mission, BTW) could play guitar along with for a special musical number for the Noche Blanca. I would need about an hour to write down the transposition, and then we would practice all together (all the zone would sing). We needed to leave at 8 to get there on time, so after going to the gym Elder Martinez and I were laying on our beds with fans cooling off and doing stretches for a few minutes when we get a call from the mission office at 7:15, saying we´d needed to be at the office at 7. WHAAAT!?! We scrambled over there late to find out that I was getting sent over to immigration to get my green card (apparently they do it in the MTC here, but I didn´t go here, so I needed it). That took up the whole day. Lots of sitting. That was Thursday, and the Noche Blanca was saturdayFriday (can´t believe this slipped my mind until now) we got to go to the temple with three other zones, and actually got to have a meeting in the only Solemn Assembly room in Latinoamerica besides the one in Mexico City, DF, Mexico. Also, that was my first time through the temple here, and because it was dedicated only a year before the Columbia River temple, it has some similarities in color and design inside. Suffice it to say, that took all day, and I spent an hour (from 8 to 9 pm) that night in our chapel plunking out a transposition on a cheapy electric keyboard so we could practice the hour before the Noche Blanca. It all worked out, but it was a little crazy. Also my zone is awesome. They´re all light and funny when it´s appropriate, and *most* know when to be serious. Also also we got to go to Sambil (a mall chain--look it up) for P-Day, and I got to have my first (and second, and third) dulce de leche-filled Krispy Kreme (WOW).

I hope everything continues to be well back home, and I´ll keep ya posted on the Christmas call thing.
Hasta Luego, 
Élder Rowe

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Interrupted... Dec 8, 2015

Hi there everyone,
I feel the love! Thank you for the stories and thoughts you share, and for the thoughts and prayers you all continue to send my way. 
So, before I talk about anything else, I need to mention the miracle I´ve been living the past few days. My first Sunday here in the Los Tres Brazos ward, we met a guy named Fr*** who had been investigating the Church a bit on his own, and even attended Gospel Principles. He asked us to stop by his house that night, and we obliged. The first question he asked after the opening prayer was "What do I need to do to be baptized?" --FOOM-- Elder M**** and I were stunned. We had been struggling all that week (and Elder M****, apparently, much of last transfer) to find investigators, old or new, who were showing enough interest and progressing enough to be prepared to be baptized for the Noche Blanca this coming Saturday (12th). The Lord really relieved us there. However, the trial and the stress were not to end there. Fr*** wanted nothing more than to be baptized, but had to marry his "wife" that he was living with (number one problem here in the DR). He lacked the money to do so, which is not uncommon, but his wife was another thing. They had never had contact with the missionaries, but Fr***´s wife, C***, is the sister of the past bishop of the ward, Hermano E***. However, she had been attending another church, where another of her brothers was a pastor (I think it´s an Evangelical church, but I´m not sure). As we taught Fr***, we tried to involve C*** as much as possible, and she would sit amicably and listen, but didn´t want to attend church for fear of upsetting her brother (who always looks for her in his congregation), didn´t want to get married (because she thought it would mean she would be obligated to be baptized), and at first didn´t want to be baptized, again for fear of her brother and for complacency in her (Evangelical?) church. However, once we told her that baptism is not obligatory, but is rather up to the individual to decide when, she seemed to loosen up and listen more intently. We showed up to the third lesson with them, only to discover that they, of their own free will and accord, had been FASTING about the decision to be married, and about whether or not C*** should be baptized. We kept teaching, and they have joined us, together with their kids, the last two Sundays. Despite a few "fire and brimstone" visits from her brother the pastor, C*** has sincerely developed, for herself, the desire to be baptized. Anyway, back to the first lesson: Elder M****, upon hearing that they were not married, felt prompted to invite them to be married in a week. They were shocked, what with all the paperwork and planning, but after explaining that it would just be the formal paper signage (and that they could plan out a more formal boda fiesta), and after laying out a specific plan of how it would go down, they accepted. They actually had all the paperwork they needed, except Fr***´s birth certificate. We sent the word to the Mission Office, where the APs have legal connections, and after two days of stress (because Fr*** couldn´t remember what hospital he was born in) the APs informed us that yes, they had found it. Unfortunately, his second last name had one letter different from his ID. The odd thing was, it had never been that way the last 3 times he´d pulled out birth certificates AND the last 2 times he´d lost and received another ID. When they digitized the books at his hospital sometime in the last year or two, they used a copy of a copy of the books for transcription, and the cross in the T in the middle of his second last name disappeared between copies and became an L in the computer system. On top of that, because he didn't have any prior correct copies of his birth certificate (the last one was in his wallet when it got stolen), and because his mother was Haitian and had absolutely NO documents to correct the second last name (since that name comes from the person´s mother), Fr*** couldn´t correct it unless he wanted to spend months searching for proof. On top of that, the birth certificates of his daughters all had the old, correct second last name. GAAH! What we had to do was have Fr*** change his ID to match his birth certificate, then get all the documents for his wife and kids, then turn them in. The marriage is set for Wednesday, yesterday they had their interviews, and they and their oldest daughter N*** will be baptized the 12th. 
What kind of Internet shop closes in the middle of the day? What the heck? Gotta go.
Love you all, 
Elder Rowe

And that is all we got.  Blehh!!!  It sounds like a wonderful experience full of miracles.  He apparently didn't get a chance to finish or answer any questions.  I am sooo looking forward to talking to him on Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Exact Obedience - Dec 1, 2015

Funny, how in the campo we had 5 internet centers, and in the city we have ONE, and it´s ALWAYS completely full from 5 to 6pm. Thus the emailing today.

I´ll start by streamlining the Q&A:
I wish I was in a 4-man house, but alas, I am not. It has been sweet to have a latin comp though.
By barrio I mean inner-city. There really is no such thing as suburb out here (unless by suburb you mean 2-story buildings instead of 3 or 4); you get campo towns (of varying sizes) or you get buildings and houses crammed into every square meter of space. There´s Gazcue, the city center, which is all nice and touristy and stuff, and about 30 mins in any direction that ends. If you look on a map, you´ll see that the river Ozama makes a sideways u in the middle of Santo Domingo-Everything within that U is my area.
Gua-guas are, as much in the campo as in the city, for transport to and from meetings only (along with occasional trips to Megacentro or Sambil (the two big malls here I have yet to visit formally) or to P-day activities). Within my area, we walk. It´s about 45 mins walking from our furthest investigator downhill on one half of the area (the perpetually alive, poorer half) to our furthest investigator in the upper half (closer to where we live, in the nicer, quieter part of Los Tres Brazos).
In the city I am still always wet, but with sweat. It hardly ever rains, and the sun is more potent.

Jessica, this week I have really gained a testimony of exact--and I mean EXACT--obedience, as well as the portion of the baptismal covenant relating to obedience. This week Elder M***** has been sick, and because we´ve started going to the gym daily (for the first time in my life), I have been über sore (elder M***** goes hard--he´s acting as my ¨trainer¨ as to how to develop a good workout and workout schedule). Thus, we´ve been 10-15 minutes late to begin study, haven´t gotten ready for the day until the end of study, and stuff like that. As a result, I have felt less clear in teaching, less able to keep my Spanish brain turned on, and so on. However, as I took the Sacrament Sunday and covenanted anew to "always remember Him," I decided to better turn my time over to the Lord. Even in just two days of doing so, I feel the Spirit having a much bigger influence in my teaching, and I feel much more energetic and focused despite having exercised and missed an extra half-hour of sleep to do so.

Good to hear that Thanksgiving was crazy as usual. I didn´t even notice anythign different Thursday until I thought about in the evening how much I missed spending the weekend of madness with everyone. I love you all!

We had a ¨Mission Tour¨ Friday with President Cornish (Area President of the Caribbean, member of the 70). Wow. We talked about developing a true love for our investigators and passion for conversion--both of ourselves and of others. He has a science brain like me, so when he started sharing about space and time and eternity and how we will outlast even the multibillion-year-lived stars in the cosmos, and how short our time here on Earth here really is, and how our time in the mission is even shorter, it really caught my attention, and keeping those kinds of marvelous and wondrous thoughts in mind has been helping me develop a sincere desire to help others develop, for themselves, a need to turn to Christ and a desire to be perfected in Him.
(also, president Cornish shared in his talk about his grandson, A****, who´s in the Mexico MTC. Funny enough, after seeing a picture of him I was reminded that he was one of my buddies at BYU this summer, and lived on my hall and was in my elders quorum--small world, eh?)

Que pasen una semana buena,
Elder Rowe

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Tuesday letter - Nov 24, 2015

Hello there,

I have an infinitely deep and wide well of things to say since last week, and a rather short half hour left in which to compose my thoughts. We´ll see how much I can summarize. 

Born in the campo (country) to an American (a Utahn, to be specific), raised in the deep city by a Panamanian (I say deep city because it is very much city, but not nearly as nice as the city center). What a whirlwind. It still feels odd to be teaching lots of lessons after dark, since out in the campo most of the night appointments tended to be longer or to fall through because of a lack of power. We are very much in the city though--it´s super rare to see a building that isn´t at least 2 stories tall, and there are a lot of neighborhoods and houses crammed into the cracks between big buildings. I haven´t taken any pictures yet, but I couldn´t get them to you anyway because when we went to La Sirena (Walmart of the DR) I forgot to look for an SD reader, and we spent nearly all of our apoyo so we could have food, because ELDER M***** CAN COOK! I´ve been learning by watching a bit about cooking without measurements and such, since it is much easier to just buy fresh veggies and fruit, frozen meat, and pre-mixed seasoning than to try to keep flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. always in stock.
Anyhow, I can always add more about our physical status later. As for spiritually, I have felt a lot of things this week. Elder M***** is a MACHINE with the New Testament, from which we´ve been teaching most of our introductory and foundational lessons (at least, before introducing the Book of Mormon). His proficiency actually inspired me to start studying, not just reading, the New Testament and marking the heck out of it. To answer Jessica´s question, having been a dedicated student and learning good study/note-taking habits, as well as praying for general emptiness and clarity of mind before every study session (and praying after that I can remember everything I´ve studied) has massively contributed to my effectiveness as a missionary, and our unity as a companionship. As we´re teaching, maybe Elder M***** remembers a New Testament scripture that illustrates our point. The Spirit reminds me of a BoM scripture that affirms and/or clarifies said point. We can then not only testify to the truth of what we´re teaching, but also to the truth of the Book of Mormon, that it is another testament of Jesus Christ, and that it is written ¨unto the convincing of both Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God¨ (at least, I´m pretty sure that´s how Mormon words it in his explanation at the front--I´m translating from Spanish here, so bear with me). See, like that. I had no plans nor thought that I would think to mention nor remember that bit of the portada of the Book of Mormon, but the Spirit is bearing testimony through me. There´s another scripture I was just studying in Matthew 10 that goes something like that: basically, that ye are not they who speak unto thine accusers, but the Spirit of God which beareth testimony through you (again, I have that ringing in my ears in Spanish, but I don´t remember the english form, so the errors are ¨the errors of men; wherefore judge not the things of God¨ (again in the part before the introduction)).
Today we talked again with H****, who has apparently been an investigator for a median length of time. He goes to some kind of Metaphysical-Spiritual-Revivalist something-or-other church, which has led to some interesting and rather deep conversations. Unfortunately, as we´ve tried to teach about the Book of Mormon, although he´s been willing to read it, I don´t think he´s been truly understanding the significance thereof. You see, H**** is of the persuasion of the literal interpretation of the first line of 2 Timothy 16, or in other words that basically anyone can claim to have seen an angel or had writings miraculously appear on a desk overnight and affirm that it must be from God and is therefore scripture. Thus, while he´s been open to reading the Book of Mormon, he has also been rather obstinate in his declarations about other books of scripture being true (like the Book of Life, the Revelation of George Washington, and many others). After he explained to us how Jesus never died and spent time in India recuperating before reappearing to his disciples, how Paul and Mary the mother of Jesus attained a perfection like unto Christ in this life and were thus translated, and how there were three human races on this Earth that lived perfectly before the imperfect race of Adam and Eve, we figured we needed to share about authority and prophets. After an hour and a half of discussion, we realized we were getting nowhere and ended the lesson. It saddens me to see how much confusion there is out in the world because of Satan´s continual game of ¨Two Truths and a Lie¨ amidst religious theory. Be ye warned. Christ set up his Church the way he did and made sure the Book of Mormon could testify and support the Bible so that we would not be ¨carried about by every wind of doctrine by the sleight of man, and cunning craftinesss, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.¨ (Eph. 4:14). But, He does not intend to give us all knowledge without trials of our faith. That is why the Bible is imperfect (or at least partially) and why there is so much withheld from us in the Book of Mormon as well as with regard to so many things in this world which have happened, which will happen, and which need not yet be known: TO TRY OUR FAITH. Without a foundation of faith, (not as a belief, but as a principle of ACTION (James 2:17-18) we cannot come to know anything, nor can we become any better or more perfect, whole, or complete than we already are.
Love you all, and hope you´re all healthy in body as well as in Spirit,
Elder Rowe

He sent an additional email a couple minutes later...

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving! Because that isn´t a thing out here, either. :( 

I saw this email 3 minutes after it was sent so I took a chance an emailed him back with a few questions.  One was why he was writing on Tuesday as opposed to Monday and the other was about a package I recently sent him. Here is his response...

I got the package Friday; we had a surprise meeting for trainers and trainees, and I got it then. THANK YOU for EVERYTHING! Also, the Candy Cane Bark was a nice touch :) I wrote today because yesterday we had someone come by to see about buying the house we´re renting, and so we had to stay in extra, and then we went to the ONLY internet center in our area (or at least the closest--20 mins walking from the house), then waited 20 minutes for a computer to open up just so we could send in our weekly numbers and hurry out the door to our first appointment. Thus I wrote today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

1st Transfer: Out of el campo and into el barrio - Nov 16,2015

¿Qué tal?
(Soo....I tried to load pics on with my cord, but.... the computer couldn´t recognize it. I guess I need an SD card reader. I will let you know if I can´t find one out here.)
How goes the life? We had a wild week. After getting back from Salto Socoa, Elder Fr***** felt just AWFUL. He had a fever of 39° C (you do the math), and Sister Corbitt advised us to stay inside ALL DAY Wednesday. I was mildly sick too, but by the end of the day and after 7 hours total of personal study, I started to go a bit stir-crazy. But, it was what Elder Fr***** needed, and now all is well. Also, with his heart thing, the doctors in the capitol were saying at first sight that they thought he had ventricular hypertrophy and a complete right valve failure, but they were over-exaggerating and over-assuming. All that happened was that Elder Fr***** was a HUGE energy drink drinker before the mission, and drank at least a couple of cokes a day along with a zipfizz water bottle every day (crystal light with more vitamins and a bunch of caffeine), and has recently been trying to quit. For some reason, over a few days the last of the caffeine in his body wasn´t processing correctly, and it all got released at once, causing the crazy blood pressure, fever, and heart rate. He said that Dr. Regan (the mission doctor) told him the specific medical name of what happened, but that he couldn´t hear very well and so just went with the explanation. 
I was hoping to get to stay out here for Hainamosa Stake´s Noche Blanca and to finish my training and to enjoy Christmas here, but... I´ve been transferred! (er, I will be transferring Tuesday). I will be in Los Tres Brazos, Ozama (which is a barrio of Santo Domingo)...Out of the campo straight into the heart of the city. My new companion will be Elder M*****: he´s Panamanian (like my bro Elder Ch***** who came out the same transfer as me and who has become a great friend since he´s been in my district), he´s a district leader, and he likes to work out (he has permission from President Corbitt to get up a half hour early to go to the gym). I´m excited to be in the city to finish my training, and to hopefully be in a house with more than just the two of us (most of the city houses are for 4 elders). I´m definitely going to miss Elder Fr*****, though; through our adventures we´ve become pretty good friends.
On Friday we were in companion study and I was feeling pretty down. Even though our zone meeting the day prior had been with President Corbitt and I got to do a role play with him to answer a question I asked, I was feeling kind of rough looking at how little (seemingly) we´d accomplished with spending Monday at the clinic, Tuesday as P-day, Wednesday as a sick-day, and Thursday in the capitol. I had felt all week like I was missing something, and that the Lord was trying to teach me what that was (and I wasn´t being a good listener). We studied about prayer, and read about the meaning of praying with real intent. In the little "The First Twelve Weeks" guidebook thingy (that is intended to guide the additional hour of daily companionship study during my two training transfers, with the intent that thereafter I´d be ready to train someone if the Spirit so desired) it notes that praying with real intent involves "being willing to act on and accept the answer [I] receive." That struck me. I had been praying as missionaries normally do (immediately upon getting up, before and after both personal and companionship study, before leaving the house, beginning and ending lessons, before meals, before going to bed, and at any other time I need or want some help or guidance), but my vocal prayers had been more focused on not saying the same things twice but still saying what I meant, and during silent prayers my thoughts were easily distracted. However, I have taken that counsel to heart, and already I feel ALIVE. Every prayer has meaning, besides just doing it because I´m supposed to. I am receiving more direct revelation as to how to help our investigators and less actives. I feel truly blessed to have a companion who helped point that out to me.
Anyway, gotta go. Love you all
Elder Rowe
(the gringo who´s not a gringo)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov 10, 2015 - Busy Busy...

By Monday at 7pm I had pretty much accepted we wouldn't be getting a letter this week. Then on Tuesday late afternoon this arrived in my inbox...  I did receive a text from a Utah # saying they in the DR doing humanitarian aid and had picts of Elder Rowe and wanted to FB message them to me.  They wanted to make sure they knew my full FB name. I haven't seen any picts yet but maybe they are waiting until they are back in the US before sending them.  I hope that is the reason...

¿Qué lo que? Díganme a ver.
Bueno, ya me han dicho mucho. I feel like I could never respond to everyone and everything I´m receiving. For those of you who shall read this and are awaiting a personal response from me, it will be sparse and come in spurts. We are just so busy! Also, P-Day always seems to put us far enough from home that we´re scrambling to get to start emailing in time...
(also that means no photos this week, I don´t think; let me finish this and then I´ll see)
I can´t believe I´m almost at the end of my first transfer already! This thursday is my last district/zone meeting this transfer, and next sunday I find out whether I´m getting transferred or not (I think). Time has really begun to fly out here: at least, as long as we´re occupied. We worked really hard this week, but we didn´t have much success. Over 3/4 of our appts. fell through, and both Elder Fr***** and I fell sick (minor tropical gripe (cold) -- don´t worry about it). He had it worse, but I really admire his leading by example and his desire to work even when in pain or exhausted. We did a LOT of walking this week: with stuff falling through, we´d try to visit other less actives or investigators nearby, only to find them not at home, or to find a houseful of women we couldn´t enter, and would then either move on to others or try contacting references or new people. I feel sometimes like we´re in over our heads a bit. Up until 2 transfers ago, this area had 4 missionaries--that seems more reasonable. The area is huge, and for having average sacrament attendance of 50 it has 250 members on record. Ya know what, I need to stop complaining. I really have no need. I recognize that this week the Lord has been teaching me something, as well as the companionship I´m a part of. As companions, we have recognized the need to study together less of the training stuff and more of specific scriptures and topics for our lessons, and that we need to set more firm appointments (and remind people of them, even if we have to go to the point of annoyance a little bit). As for what I´ve needed to learn, I need to respect the missionary schedule more. I never thought I´d say that, but not exercising in the morning (because Elder Fr***** hasn´t) has allowed me extra study time. Thus, I dig into my later personal study time by showering, getting ready, and ironing as late as possible. As I work on this, I have received an answer that not only will I find more success, but that my study will be much more effective.
Yesterday we had a group of 50 US doctors (mostly Utahns and all LDS) come down to Bayaguana (about 2hrs away by gua-gua (bus)) to do a free medical clinic, and we got permission to have P-Day moved to today so we could go translate for them all day. It was amazing to get to help people out like that. I was with a doctor who was just doing general prescriptions for colds and stuff, but I had no free time. I had a 15 minute break to cram down a sandwich and chug some water, and then we were back to seeing patients. It was about six hours of translating total. They´re gonna be here all week, but other elders and hermanas from our zone are taking turns going down and helping out.
Today we went to a waterfall called Salto Socoa (The Socoa Leap or Jump). It was a good 30 ft or so tall. It rained. A lot. We were all completely drenched from when we got there at 11 to when I just got home and changed. It would be really cool to go back sin placa to swim there--they even had ropes to help shorter people get closer to the falls without getting sucked under at the base. We ate cookies and took a ton of pics.
OH! Our zone is having a Noche de Blanca December 19th, which will be something of a mass baptism of people who are READY to be baptized and who have CHOSEN FOR THEMSELVES to do so. It will be up in Hainamosa (one of the outer barrios of Santo Domingo) at the stake center, and our stake president has set the goal of 30 baptisms. That´s 2 (or more, if we like) per companionship. We have two dates set. One is C****, Y**** (recent convert)´s cousin (but raised as her brother), who is super excited but super shy. He has 11 years (er... is 11 years old), and is really receptive and retentive of everything we´ve taught him. S***** (Ch***) is Y****´s father (but she´s been raised as though he´s her uncle--their family story is really complicated and I still have no idea what any of it means), and he´s a different story. Every morning (except sundays, thankfully) he goes out super early to the sugarcane fields. He gets back around 2, goes home to eat, shower, and rest, and then sells chorizo on a street corner from 4 to 10 every night. Thus, while he is receptive to eveything we´ve been teaching (although he cannot read or write), it has been difficult to find when he´s open to have a lesson or to pull him away from his chorizo stand to do so. We have high hopes for them both, and with an eye of faith, we see both of them with Y**** in the white garb of the Temple in the future, and as such we will do everything in our power to help S***** see the value of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want so dearly for him to recognize the joy which is to be found therein.
Alright, I gotta go. No pics for now. (also I don´t trust the internet cafes out in the campo--I really dont want to get a virus on my camera memory card) I love you guys. Study the scriptures, pray SINCERELY, and the Lord will work miracles through you. I know that.
Elder Rowe

Monday, November 2, 2015

Still No Pictures - Nov 2, 2015

I´m in Megacentro (a mall in the Capitol) for P-Day, so I dont have my camera with me. Dropboxing of photos will begin next week, then.

Wow, this week went by way too fast. We were in the capitol most of monday and all of tuesday finishing up medical testing of Elder Fr***** (who´s from Farmington, UT BTW), and then we had activities and full schedules to speed up the passage of time like crazy. Our zone (Hainamosa Stake) is having a Noche de Blanca the 19th of November (a big baptism night where we want to have 30 PREPARED people be baptized together), and we already put one of our investigators up to being baptized that night (two per companionship in the zone is the goal). Church attendance has been stable around 50 for the last couple of weeks, but there are 250-something members on record in Sabana Grande... We have our less-and-inactive reactivation work cut out for us. We also had an investigator attend both the Noche de Amistad activity wednesday night and sacrament meeting Sunday in the second week that we´ve known her: her name is R*****, she is actively involved and interested in religion, and loves to ask questions for us to answer (YES!). I have really developed a love for all our investigators and less actives here, and it pains me when they don´t make it to church or don't keep up with their reading assignments. They all have so much potential, and I am saddened that sometimes they don´t see the happiness they´re missing--especially the less active members.

We finally had time to deep-clean our house, and I feel much better about living there now. It was more than kinda bad in some areas--Elder Fr*****´s past companion , Elder S**** (who´s from El Salvador, BTW) was in his words ¨an animal¨ in some of his living and cleaning habits (ha!). But all in all, life has been amazing out here. We seem to have new investigators every day, and I feel like we could fill each day´s schedule twice over with people to visit and still not get to everyone each week. I just wish more of the lessons out here were interactive--we´re trying our best to ask inspired questions, but we´re not getting many responses beyond general assertions of belief in God and keeping His commandments. One of the lessons we´ve been teaching most out here is what faith is, because so many people here claim to have faith but they sit on it instead of letting it grow and refine them. At least most people out here are religious and active in their religions--I´ve heard stories from the capitol of how hard it can be to show people the negative influence of the nightlife and its activities on the soul, or even that people have any relation with God at all.

The fruit here is all amazing. Zapote, 3 types of Guayaba (guava), Guanabana (I don´t even know, but its delicious in a batida (think smootie - fruit with sweetened condensed milk)), Lechosa(papaya), tamarindo, carambola (starfruit), and goodness knows how much more--ALL FRESH! One of the youth we go out with a lot, E****, is trying to set me up for a day when he can have all of the fruits available here at his house for me to see and try. I swear I´ve had a batida every day--they may be somewhat sugary, but at least I´m getting my fruit!

I got to have Taco Bell today. Doesn´t taste much different than in the US, and for how little it cost I felt like a king compared to the tostadas and empanadas out in the campo (but both of those are good too). I love you all, and hope you continue to let the Spirit guide you. As you turn to the Lord and promise to give Him the glory for what you achieve, I promise you will do great things--I´ve been studying and working on humility the last week, and even in so short a time I´ve seen incredible changes in the Spirit that has accompanied our lessons.

Hasta ver,
Elder Rowe

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 26, 2015 - Intercambios and Craziness

Hey hey hey,

To answer your questions mom: (I asked if he was in a ward or branch and if he had had an opportunity to use his piano skills.) Yeah, I am our branch´s accompanist (two birds with one stone, eh?). (I asked where he met for church.) We meet in a mini-chapel: one hallway, with an exit at one end and the chapel on the other, with bathrooms, Relief Society room (with attached baptismal font), Primary room, kitchen, and two classrooms in between. It has its own power plant, because electricity issues, YAY! (I asked if he had issues with the power going out.  I have heard that is a problem there in the DR.)  Well, the power goes in and out a lot, but the church has its own power generation and the apartment has a huge battery array with an inverter/charger thing, so power outages aren't a problem for us (another two-for-one!). (I asked if he had to do his laundry by hand.. another thing I have heard about serving in the DR.)  We do our laundry semi-auto: we fill the washing half of the machine, add detergent, and set it to agitate. We then move it into the spin-drying half (they´re Daewoo brand machines, and a lot of people have them--maybe you can find a pic). (I asked if he had warm water for showers.)  We don´t have warm water, all we´ve got is ice-cold; I miss my warm showers, regardless of the humidity. We have fans in the apartment to keep us cool, and we move them around to wherever we are in the house, but at night it does cool down--I´ve woken up cold a couple of times, so I´ve started turning it off before I go to sleep. (I asked if he had a CD player to play the music he brought with him.)  We have DVD players (for showing stuff to investigators and less-actives, which work fine as CD players. Elder Fr**** and I trade off. (I asked where he went to send his emails.)  We have to go to internet cafes to email here, yes. I will make a dropbox and send pics soon, but stuff went down this weekend so for sake of time (and lack of camera cord) I can't right now.

Wow, what a week! I kinda forgot somehow (in my exuberance) to mention in last week´s letter that I had my first baptism: hermana Y**** (Elder Fr***** actually did the baptizing, but still). She referred us to her father and brother, who we´ve begun teaching. I had my first intercambio (exchange) this week--I went out to Bayaguana with Elder Ch**** for Wednesday into thursday (Elder Ch**** is a newbie like me--3 weeks in the field) while his companion, our District Leader Elder Da*** came to Sabana Grande with Elder Fr****. It was a good experience to have to start over new, and to be forced to be outgoing despite my greenness. I haven´t had too much trouble with being shy though--the Spirit has been helping me there, for sure. While I was on intercambios, we had our first lesson with Y****´s dad and brother, but I wasn't there and don't know much about how it went. Every monday night, though, we try to go to at least one Noche de Hogar (FHE), and last monday night they came to one at a member´s house.This saturday, our branch´s endowed members went on a temple trip, and we got permission to go along with, bringing Y**** and her dad and brother, as well as a longtime investigator D**** (an elderly, golden-hearted man with Parkinsons who has been ready to be baptized for some time, but we thought we needed a special interview since he killed a man in self defense in his years as a security guard. However, he wasn't prosecuted and thus needs no interview, so we will be placing a date with him this week). We taught a lesson on the temple grounds, and the Spirit was incredible. We talked about the Restoration, specifically the First Vision, and also shared the significance of the temple. We then took the four out for McDonalds (there is one a few blocks from the temple) -- oh man that felt like the food of kings-- and when we got back we watched the hour-long Restoration in the temple waiting room. Both D*** and C**** (Y****´s father) bore sincere testimonies, even though I don't know if C**** knew he was testifying! Again, the Spirit there was amazing.

That night, we got back home and started planning. I left to go to the bathroom (which requires manual bucket-flushing, BTW), and Elder Fr**** called me back in. His shirt was shaking, and he said he needed to lay back. I lightly laid a finger in the middle of his chest, and I could feel his heart beating about 3 times faster and stronger than seemed healthy for someone in the middle of exercise, let alone one who was resting and had been at rest all day. I gave him a priesthood blessing, and sat him in front of a fan with a wet towel over his head. Our phone was out of minutes, so we went to a members house down the street and called Sis. Corbitt and Dr. Reagan, the mission doctor. Elder Fr**** started feeling feverish, developed a headache, felt tingly in his hands and legs, and continued to have a ridiculous heart rate (160 bpm) and blood pressure. We had the branch first counselor, N**** (the only guy we know with a car instead of a motorbike) take us to the mini-hospital in Sabana Grande. In the 10 minutes between the phone call and the arrival at the hospital, however, Elder Fr****´s heart rate, blood pressure, and everything else calmed down, and they only got him tylenol for the fever. The next day we went to a hospital in the capitol to do a blood test, and because the only open doctor consultation appt was in the morning we stayed the night with the office elders (APs). We went on exchanges with them sunday night, which was cool; Elder Ve**** and I didn't get to teach any lessons, though. We spent all day in the capitol because of the length of the wait and consultation, got back just now, and are headed back in the morning for more testing to figure out what the heck happened to Elder Fr***** and why. 

GAAH! This is frustrating! There goes my hour (well, I did understandably take longer writing Pres. Corbitt today, but still), and I haven´t shared even the half of the Spiritual experiences and the temporal awesomeness (and a bit of madness) that has been happening this week. Best regards to all of you; I love you guys!

Elder Rowe

(PS-pardon the awful typing--the keyboards in these internet cafes are not only the spanish keyboards, but are also REALLY worn, with stuck keys and stuff.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Elder Rowe's First Day - With Pres and Sister Corbitt

Displaying E Rowe.JPG

Oct 19, 2015 - Pesos and Gua-guas

(I noticed that he had taken money from his home account and was wondering if he was stocking up or if there were things that he was supposed to have that we didn't get.  Sounds like it was a bit of both.)  We went shopping at La Sirena (Costco) this week for non-perishable, lasting stuff (like cereal, instant oatmeal and instant pancakes) where I spent 700 pesos of my 15-day apoyo (we get money every 15 days-4500 pesos, since we´re in the campo and have to take the gua-guas ("wa-was"; buses) to leave for district meetings weekly and zone mtgs twice per transfer, and they charge 50-130 pesos one-way), then spent 1500 more of my apoyo to have a ward member cook lunch for us for the next 10 days (she charges 300/day--Elder Fr**** and I split the cost), and then lost like 500 of it somehow between the colmado and the apartment 1 block away. Thus, not realizing how much I´d spent, and because last week i got used to snacking a lot since we didn't have stuff for breakfast or dinner, and we´d buy lunch, I ran a bit low on money and pulled some out. I pulled money out the first time, though, to get a bedspread set (i need one out here) and a new umbrella (because I HAVE NO IDEA HOW, but my brand-new spring-loaded umbrella of awesomeness broke after a week and a half. GRRRR!). Funny story about La Sirena: so on the way back (it´s in the capitol´s outskirts) Elder Fr**** and I each had like 4 bags of stuff on top of two packages from home for Elder Fr**** and an extra backpack on me, not to mention our pamphlet and BoM restock. We made it home without losing anything or getting robbed: a logistical miracle (keeping it together on the gua-gua) and a faith builder (I was afraid we´d be robbed, I prayed, felt peace, and nothing happened). ALSO also, if you send me packages, be aware that I´ll be carrying it on two gua-guas back from the stake center in Hainamosa, so please don´t make them too wide or long or heavy (i felt bad for Elder D***, my district leader: he had a 19 pound package as big as his torso to carry with all of his shopping goods).

Life is good out here. One can live on 250 pesos a day out here (40 pesos to a dollar--you do the math); (I did -- that is $6.25/day.) A half liter of soda is 15 pesos. 15! Good thing I´m not a heavy soda drinker: thanks mom and dad! Saved my teeth and my body from that one. The food here (if you get it fresh) is AMAZING. All of it: tostadas (ghetto Quizno´s style sandwiches), empanadas (fried dough stuffed with eggs, ham, cheese, or whatever else seems prudent), all the local rice-and-bean meals and soups. Also fresh mangos and fresh bananas and fresh lechosa (papaya?). Last night we went on splits with the 1st and second counselors of the branch, and afterward reunited for batidas (think orange julius). Into a blender we threw three bananas, half a mango, a third of a lechosa, 4 big ice cubes, and an entire can of Carnation sweet & condensed milk (they use it in every and any local beverage out here--I mean EVERYTHING. it is as much a staple as are rice, beans, and chicken), then blended it up and split it four ways. Best smoothie/shake thing I´ve ever had in my life. 
The people here are all amazing. Humble, generous, inviting, open to proselyting, you name it. We talk to anyone on the street in front of their house and if they´re not leaving to go anywhere we get a lesson. We do our best to keep the Spirit with us, and the Spirit touches their hearts. The only thing that really needs to change out here, other than a little bit of new information being given, is the whole final judgment thing: the general conception seems to be that they will cry "Lord, I believe" and be saved without works. Speaking of the good word of God and personal prayer seem to be "good enough" out here, and the only thing Elder Fr**** and I are really doing is showing them the spiritual power that lies in going to church and paying tithing.
The rain here is endless. Morning sun, early afternoon death ray, evening waterfall (when it rains, it DUMPS), nightly shower. Repeat. The humidity still kills, but I´m getting more used to it. Still, I get 15 minutes a day when
I´m not covered in sweat: the 15 minutes after I shower.
I don´t know that I have much more to add. I love you all, keep on keeping on, and I can´t wait to share some more next week.
Elder Rowe

Monday, October 12, 2015

First Area - Oct 12, 2015

Sorry, this one´s gonna be quick; we got back late from a cave out by Gonzalo, so I don´t have long to write. Otherwise, believe me I would answer all the questions asked in the letter. I just need to brain dump.

Soooo.... I stayed in the MTC in the DR monday night, then tuesday went to the mission office, also in Santo Domingo. We had our brains overfilled with specifics about the mission: cleanliness, what to/not to eat, schedule changes, emergency plans, etc. Then I met my companion, Elder Fr****. He has 11 months in the mission, and Sabana Grande de Boya, our area, is his third. He is really cool. His confidence is staggering, and the Spirit supports him for it. Although he can´t speak the language very well, he expresses all he does know as often as possible, speaking slowly and reexplaining himself as necessary. (Oh BTW, pictures won´t be coming until next week; like I said, we got back late). 

We took a gua-gua (improv bus) out to Sabana Grande Tuesday afternoon, got here tuesday evening, and have taught 21 lessons between Wednesday and last night. The branch here is small (<50), but the people have hearts of gold. Our Branch Pres. is in the capitol, and has been for 2-3 weeks, because of a blood sugar problem, but the Second Counselor N*** is the coolest guy ever. He´s under 30, so he has a lot of energy. On sunday he went out with us for 3 hours in the evening (where at the home of the Familia A*** we had dumplings with egg centers and plantaines as a side, which was delicious.), and he is one of the few members who doesn't go inactive if they´re not visited during the week. A lot of the members here need to be visited during the week and reminded about church, or they wont come. The biggest issue here is not that people don't want to listen; its that they don't want to do anything about it. They feel that in the last day they will cry Lord, Lord and be saved. We do our best, but we don´t have many investigators because we´re so focused on reactivating less actives and keeping members from going inactive. The people here, though, are amazing like I said. They all have hearts of gold, and while their circumstances are not always the best they are always very inviting, humble, and hospitable; the A*** family didn't appear to have much more than the house they lived in and the random assortment of furniture they´d bought and scavenged over the years.

I´ve been eating a lot of Tostadas from the local colmados (because Elder Fr**** is in love with them), but we haven't eaten much the past few days because the member who would otherwise make lunch for us couldn't start until tomorrow. This morning we had fresh egg-filled empanadas (which were the BOMB, and the size of my face), and at noon we met another district at our chapel to head over to gonzalo, where the two elders there were waiting. After a 30 min hike into the jungle (I´ll send pics eventually) we came upon a cave, which was pretty deep, rather dark, and there was a point where we had to improv a ladder with rope and logs to get to the lowest part. Only one of our member guides and one of the elders from the other district went down there, but it took us like 2 hours to get them both out, because the member found crabs down there and decided he wanted to harvest a bunch into his backpack for dinner. The place where the crabs were was of course out of the hearing range of the people on the ledge (which was still deep into the cave). Thus, having met at the church at noon, we didn't get back until six, and thus here I am. I wrote down more stuff to write about in my journal, but I dotn have it with me and its already 45 minutes later than we were supposed to get back to the house. AAA, I forgot to talk about the house! oh well, another time.

Love you all, and my prayers are with you back home,
Elder Rowe

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1st letter from the Dominican Republic - Oct 5,2015

So... Here comes the full email.

Hola todos! This is my email to confirm that I have safely made it to the DR MTC and, Mom and Dad, that my mission president won't be calling to say I'm here because he's not here today. As for why I'm at the DR MTC, I'll get to that later. This last week has been a whirlwind. Where the first few days of the MTC were eternal, the last few have been lightning fast. What with teaching two investigators 4/5 days this week, having a giant field orientation seminar Thursday, and General Conference Saturday and Sunday, everything has really been a blur.

One thing that particularly stands out, though, was my lesson with one of our investigators (J***) on Wednesday. It was really a perspective-altering, life-changing lesson. I was asked a question I've always had difficulty answering, that being why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Jose spoke of countless relatives and associates with disabilities, illnesses, and deaths, and could not see a reason for any of them. Trusting in the Lord, I opened my mouth, and I learned more than one thing about the Gift of Tongues, as spoken of in the scriptures. First, IT IS REAL. As I began to speak, the brokenness often accompanying my Spanish when I'm trying to respond carefully faded, and the Spirit filled the room. Second, the Gift of Tongues won't just help you speak well, but it will give a power to your words. Third, it means the Lord will literally put words in your mouth. I don't remember a word I said, but I remember the sweet Spirit that was there and the tears that came to the eyes of J***, as well as those of Elder R*** and I. Finally, it takes complete faith, not just a hope you'll be able to figure out what to say. I spoke literally "not knowing beforehand the things which I should [say]," and spoke without giving myself time to think and analyze what I was saying. The Spirit just led me along the way.

Another thing that stands out this week was saying goodbye to the rest of the zone Sunday night. Who would've thought I'd make so many great friends in just 10.5 days? It was hard to say goodbyes, and I'm going to miss them all dearly. I have everyone's emails, and we're going to be keeping in touch and sharing experiences via a group email.

As for our travel day, we showed up at the Salt Lake airport at ~9PM to fly out at 1AM. The flight was three hours, but the time change meant we arrived in Atlanta at ~6AM. Nobody slept all too well; there was a fair bit of turbulence, and it was an Airbus, so the engine noise insulation wasn't all to great, either. The five of us (Myself, Elder R***, Elder C***, Elder A***, and Hermana G***) had breakfast, then froze in the Atlanta terminal (they had the AC on like crazy despite the overcast weather) until ~10AM. The flight to Santo Domingo was also rather turbulent, but otherwise uneventful. It took us about an hour to actually get out of the airport, because although we practically walked straight through Immigration and Customs with our straighforward VISAs, the huge line of others getting off the plane, more often than not, had not arranged for all their paperwork to be done or had to dig for money for travel VISAs or whatever. Once we got out, we piled the five of us and all our gear into a van, and drove to the MTC. We're at the MTC because the transfer of missionaries leaving here next leave tomorrow morning, so we are scheduled to go with them. We got to have a Dominican late lunch (which was AMAZING, and was like Mom's mustard pork chops except in a soupier form with plantains substituted for rice--it was called sancocho or something), played some soccer out in the parking lot, and now here we are writing emails. Hermana G*** has breakfast at 6 and leaves at 6:30 for the West mission, while the other four of us have breakfast at 7 and leave at 7:30.

The jet lag is bad right now, though. The time change overnight was brutal, and meant that until about 3-4 hours ago all five of us were so drowsy we didn't even bother talking in anything more than short, simple sentences. I couldn't sleep on the planes, so last night all the sleep I got was a 20-minute power nap in the Atlanta airport that I hardly even remember having.
Thus, I need to get going and get some sleep here soon.

Pero, antes de hacer eso quiero darles mi testimonio de que yo s*e que Dios vive, y que su Hijo Unig*enito, Jesucristo, vive. Yo s*e que el Don de las Lenguas es una bedici*on y un poder real, efectivo, y maravilloso. Yo s*e que Dios es nuestro amoroso Padre Celestial, y que solamente quiere que nosotros vengamos a *El para vivir con *El para siempre. De esto testifico en el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

Translation:  (I did my best...)
But before doing that I want to share my testimony that I know that God lives, and his only begotten son Jesus Christ lives.  I know the gift of tongues is a real power, effective and marvelous.  I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father and that He only wants us to come to Him to live with Him forever I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Best wishes to you all, and I love and miss ya,
Elder Rowe

Monday, October 5, 2015

First Letter from the MTC - Sept 28,2015

Pues, adonde debo empezar?

My oh my, it has been a crazy week. One of my teachers, Hermano A***, told us that if we survived the first four days in the MTC the hardest part would be over. At first I didn't believe him, but after being named Zone Leader (with my companion, Elder R***) over our whole branch (30 elderes y hermanas, but 16 left today or leave tomorrow, and we get 25 greenies on Wed.) AND becoming senior companion AND reading the missionary handbook twice AND memorizing both the missionary purpose and the First Vision in Spanish, I kind of see what he meant.

Thankfully, I have felt the gift of tongues working in me already. I feel at ease with Spanish, and what I lacked in Gospel vocabulary, I have attained through study, prayer, and the help of my district. Speaking of which, my district and branch are AMAZING. No other word suits them. Elder R**** is my companion; he's quiet, kind of like I was before junior year. When he does speak, though, the Spirit is with him intensely, and in the practice lessons we've been teaching the Spirit has nearly brought one of our "investigators" to tears. Elder V**** is our District Leader, and he's from Honduras. He has an incredible gift for knowing when to joke around and when to refocus us. His companion, Elder S****, is one of the funniest guys (*ahem, Elders) I've met. He has a light in his eyes that draws people to him, and will be a great aid to him on his mission. The rest of our district consists of a trio, Elders M***, G****, and R****. All are from the US, but all have parents from elsewhere (Elders M*** and G*** from Mexico, and Elder R*** from Argentina). Elder M*** is a lot like me, but he's also already an EMT, so... yeah. Elder G*** is also funny, and like Elder S*** has a continual happiness that draws others in. Elder R*** knows a lot; he can be a little prideful at times (it's an Argentine thing) but he has overcome that for the most part in his time here.

I've also gotten close to the other district, but I'll only name a few. Elder M*** is an amazing artist, and actually uses some of what he draws for his lessons. Elder S*** is from Peru, and is kind of a combination of Elders V*** and R***. Hermana G*** is "solo," in that she's the only sister missionary in our advanced language, 2-week branch until Wednesday (so yeah, 2-week MTC time is common enough for Spanish speakers that they have two entire branches dedicated to it, so I'm very much not alone).

I went to see the Character of Christ talk by Elder Bednar, which was beyond incredible. He talked very boldly about how the character of Christ was to ALWAYS turn outwards, even in moments of despair, pain, loneliness, or whatever else. I have set a few goals in that regard. After that, I went and took pictures with Rick, Juliana, and Elder Rowe, because the Metcalfs were conducting the meeting surrounding the movie. I've bumped into Elder Rowe around six times since I've been here, but I've only seen Andrew once (on the first day) and I have yet to see Jackson.

I have lost myself in scripture study; I've even come to love it more that I ever have. I speak almost nothing but Spanish everywhere, and I read 15 pages in Spanish from the Libro de Mormon daily. I love you guys, and I miss you. I look forward to (hopefully) being able to send you some pictures and stuff before I leave the MTC.

Que les vaya muy bien, y que el Espiritu Santo les guie,
Elder Rowe

Oh, and while I am thinking of it, I want to bear my testimony in Spanish each week, kind of as a log for what's up with me. (stars mark where accents belong until I can figure out the hotkeys for them)

Quiero compartir, pues, mi testimonio de que yo se* que Jesucristo vive hoy, y que su Expiacio*n nos puede dar la fuerza y el corage que necesitamos para hacer cualquiera cosa. Yo se que Dios es nuestro Senor y Padre Celestial, y tambien que E*l nos ama. Yo se que si oramos a Dios con intento de corazo*n y un deseo de obtener ayuda o saber algo, El nos contestara* y nos ayudara* a mejorarnos. Yo se* que Jose* Smith es un profeta de Dios, y que fue visitado por Dios y su Hijo Unige*nito. Yo he sentido el poder del Espi*ritu Santo, y deseo que todos pueden tener un companero en E*l. Y digo todo esto en el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

It Begins...

Jacob has been called to serve in the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East Mission.  On his last opportunity to speak to ward family he talked about obedience.  Here is a copy of his talk.He said he added a few things as he went but you get the idea...

            Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. Today I would like to address the life-changing and essential power of obedience. Now before you all go back to napping because you’ve “heard it all before,” I’ve been obedient in preparing this talk, so the least you could do is be obedient in hearing me out.
            Obedience is the very root of our existence. I say this because our mortal existence began as a result of our decision to be obedient. Our Eternal Father laid out a plan for us to grow, to flourish, and to become like Him. Ever our perfect example, our Savior chose first to be obedient by volunteering to be our Savior, and to follow the plan our Father had laid out. His obedience wouldn’t have been obedience, however, if there had been no other choice. Lucifer also came forth, desiring to be our Savior, but instead fashioning his own plan which would rob us of agency, and thus of the opportunity to choose between obedience and sin. We were left with a choice, and the decision-making escalated into a war in heaven. The Savior’s followers argued that agency and obedience were essential to growth. Lucifer’s followers declared that saving everyone was more important than saving their ability to choose, since they could choose incorrectly. This was not right, and thus Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven.
            If there was an entire war in heaven over whether or not we’d have obedience, it must be important. For one thing, as stated in Doctrine and Covenants 130:21, “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to the law upon which it is predicated.” Also, in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, it says that “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” While these scriptures speak for themselves, allow me to elaborate. The Lord is ready and waiting to bless us. He wants nothing more than to give us strength, power, support, and guidance. However, all these things are dependent upon our obedience to His laws. This is not just some rule of His, nor is it because his opinion of us changes. No, obedience is an eternal principle, an everlasting law, which binds even the omnipotent God.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” What an incredible promise! Obedience is a focusing lens, which can and will funnel the power and light of God into our daily lives. By our choice to follow His will, we show the Lord that we are prepared to receive greater light and knowledge. In John 7:17, John declares that “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak for myself. Obedience is the only true way we learn. However, if we choose only to obey some of the Lord’s commandments, we receive only some of that knowledge and power.
            Concerning selective obedience, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “At times we may be tempted to practice what I call ‘natural man’s obedience,’ in which we disobediently reject part of God’s law in favor of our wisdom or our desires or even popularity.” He later said: “Some obey selectively because they cannot perceive all the reasons for a commandment.” Obedience, then is faith-founded. If we cannot trust that the Lord in His infinite wisdom knows better than we do, or if we are unwilling to do everything He asks, then He is unable to give us everything He has to offer. However, when our obedience becomes more mature, we come to know that obedience to God’s law provides the ultimate liberty. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes. Sin will always be sin. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws. As Alma counseled his errant son Corianton, ‘Wickedness never was happiness.’” As we seek to understand the moral absolutes of the universe through God, we come to understand the necessity of our ability to choose, and of the importance of consequence.
Consequences are an essential, natural part of the Lord’s plan; every decision leads somewhere. Obedience, then, is a tool in the hand of the Lord in accomplishing His work and glory: namely, leading us back into His presence. As we come to understand the relationships between faith, obedience, and consequence, our love of righteousness and of the Lord will increase. This then increases our desire to obey His word, and the spiral continues upward. When we choose to ignore the consequences of our decisions, on the other hand, it comes back to bite us. Doctrine and Covenants 105:6 reads: “And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things they suffer.” Our Heavenly Father is not saying here that He will beat us into submission. No, not at all. He is rather warning us that the consequences of our decisions, if disobedient to His laws, will chasten us and will lead only to further suffering. While He does not wish it upon us, living with consequences is an eternal part of existence.
As we seek to obey the word of the Lord, we are not just doing so for a mortal time before we attain some ‘true freedom.’ As aforementioned, obedience is an eternal principle. However, obedience in the eternities will not seem like a chore, as it can sometimes seem now. When we seek to gain a perfect knowledge of obedience, we will obey always the Lord’s commands, even if we do not understand the ‘why,’ because we will understand that all power and blessings depend on it. I am under the impression that the degrees of glory, rather than being measurements of mortal achievement, will be more related to our understanding of being obedient, and our willingness to do so.
Willingness is an important thing to discuss, though. If we cannot say, like Nephi, that “[we] will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” for the right reasons, our willingness is not true willingness. In Doctrine and Covenants 58:27, the Lord commands that “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” If we obey the commandments of the Lord in the streets “to be seen of men,” we receive the glory of men rather than the glory of God, because our obedience, when motivated by something other than a love of the Lord, was not true. We often say to ourselves, “who would give up God’s glory for the fleeting approval of peers or strangers,” yet too often make exceptions for ourselves. When we are obedient because of our love of the Lord and of all things good, our desires bear the fruits of righteousness: an increase in love for God and in our emulation of Christlike attributes.
The scriptures contain countless examples of people who obeyed the Lord for the right reasons. Adam, our mortal forefather, made sacrifices unto the Lord on commandment, but did not even understand what they meant or why he offered them. His faith led to the revelation that a Savior would come to redeem him and all of his posterity from his fall and from further sin. What joy his obedience must have brought him!
Abraham is another, much more poignant example. After having his only son in old age, he was commanded of the Lord to sacrifice that son. Isaac was a gift from God in the first place, and I’m sure every parent listening can feel the anguish Abraham must have felt at the thought of losing his son. However, he obediently gathered the materials, built an altar, tied his son thereon, and raised the sacrificial knife before an angel of the Lord stopped him. His willingness to go so far indicated a love of God over all else, even a love for his family. After the Lord tested his obedience, He blessed Abraham with posterity “as the sands of the sea,” and with a sacred covenant which is still in force today. If the Prophet can be willing to sacrifice his own son for the Lord, can’t we at least be willing to sacrifice another hour of ‘phone time,’ or that movie that looked ‘mostly okay,’ or even that habit we secretly love but know we shouldn’t?
President Thomas S. Monson has said that “there are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety, so that we might . . . return eventually to our Heavenly Father.” Obedience, on top of everything else, is a safety railing, which if we cling to will never fail us. My dad, when speaking of obedience, always shares a simple story from when I was very young and we were living in Oklahoma City. One day, upon arriving home, he went to park his Jeep on the sidewalk where he usually did, so he could leave easily and so my mom’s car was accessible. However, he had the distinct impression to park the car in the driveway, behind my mother’s car. He moved the Jeep and didn’t think much of it. Later that day, a tornado went by the house, damaging the massive tree in our neighbors’ yard. A piece of that tree landed right where the Jeep would normally be parked. Many thanks were given to the Lord that day. Even though my father didn’t understand at the time why the Jeep needed to be elsewhere, his willingness to obey an impression, a commandment, from the Lord has always been a great example to me. I learned of obedience and its blessings mostly through the piano. Though I hated it so, my mother, in her wisdom, asked that I continue to study and practice the piano. Until I was 13 or 14, I HATED it. However, I slowly began to see the blessings of being obedient. I could learn to play hymns. I could play that one song I heard that one time, if I had the sheet music. I felt like I could learn anything, and I am ever grateful that my mother ‘commanded’ me to play the piano.
I am now readying myself to leave for the Dominican Republic to serve a mission for the Lord for two years. In being obedient to His call to serve, I know that I and my family will be blessed, and I am honored to have such an opportunity. Brothers and sisters, I want to bear to you my solemn witness that I know that Jesus Christ is our Lord, our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He lives, that He loves us, and that He stands at the head of His Church. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is led by a living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who cannot lead us astray. I know that our obedience, in combination with the Atonement, will allow us to return to live with our Father again. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.