Monday, April 26, 2010

Feed My Mormons!

Hey everyone! So yep, the newspaper article was printed and it's been hilarious. People recognize us all over now. The other day, we ran into HEB to buy some M&Ms to play a tithing game with our investigators, and all the workers totally were yelling our names and pointing to us like we were celebs. Ok, not really, it really hasn't been that big of a deal, but we frequently hear in door contacts now, "Hey, I saw you in the paper." Yep, you did. No real investigators have come from it and no one (other than members) came to the Open House and Movie Night we promoted, but that's ok. We have no idea what the effect will be, even if it just puts a positive perception of us in the minds of the people.
Bugs are crazy here. I put bug spray on every day. I think I have quite a few chigger bites too, which aren't the funnest, because they stay there forever! It'll just get worse as the summer draws on.
Quotes of the week:
"Nice Picture." --Random Guy (referring to the newspaper article and picture)
"We can tell people to stop having sex with no problem, but for some reason we can't tell people to stop saying bad words!" --Me
"We're coming back on Thursday at 6."
"I know, that's why I'm not going into work." --Us and our investigator, Matthew
"Feed my Mormons!" --the owner of The Boot Co., a local restaurant that feeds the missionaries for free, to one of the waitresses, 3 seconds after we walked in
After the baptism yesterday, we had a cool experience to serve. We knocked on a house and no one was there. But there was a neighbor in the next yard, so we started talking to him over the fence. As we were talking, the owners of the house--whose yard we were standing in---pulled up in a truck with a couch in the back. We introduced ourselves and they said that they saw us in the paper. They weren't really interested, but offered us water. We were both fasting yesterday, so I said, "No", but Sister Farr (not realizing the reason why she was so incredibly parched), said "Yes." They invited us in and we started talking. They mentioned that they were getting rid of the couches inside, for newer ones. Sister Farr piped in, "What are you doing with these couches? Do you have anyone for them?" I remembered then that a few weeks ago, in the crazy, drug trailers that we have--for some reason--always been teaching people in, that one of the newer families needed couches. This family said that we could have them, but were embarrassed by the state of them. I didn't think they were that bad, just a bit ripped on the side. They insisted that we wouldn't want them because they were in such a horrible state, but, we insisted that they'd work because the family who needed them didn't have anywhere to sit.
We left a note on the families door telling them that we found some couches. I peeked in the window and realized that STILL they were without anywhere to sit. We were at the church later in the afternoon (reason explain later) when the mom called us saying she wanted the couches. We then left with the Elders and the branch president. They came in, took the old couches out, put the new ones in, and left in a matter of minutes. The two couches were balanced one upon the other, as we were driving down the road. We pulled to the house and they family came out excited. The Elders helped put the couches inside and as we were leaving I heard one of the daughters say, "Wow mom, those are beautiful couches." They were really grateful. What is one families trash, is another families treasure. We are all blessed in different ways and in different amounts. This service actually provided us a chance to set up an appointment with the family. We've never taught them, but the mom stopped us in the street saying that she wanted to learn, but after they had moved in. We never really found a reason to go back until yesterday. The mom told us--straight up, without guile--that she is an alcoholic (which we knew when we saw her one Sunday morning with her "breakfast" aka bottle of vodka) and does drugs, but that she wants to change. So we'll be teaching them soon and we're excited.
So this week, Lucy was BAPTIZED! It went...well..we'll get to that. I'll start talking about the week that preceded the baptism. So, we went over there every single day (except for one), to teach, prep and pump her for the baptism. So never has had any doubts about anything--like I mentioned before, totally prepared. We were talking to her one day and she said that she was at work and a bunch of people were talking about religion and what churches they attended. She said, "Mormon" and instantly one of her coworkers said, "Oh, I don't like or believe in that church. They worship Joseph Smith." Instantly, without hesitation or fear, Lucy, "No we don't. We only worship Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith was just a prophet. We believe...." When she told me this story, my jaw completely dropped! I couldn't believe that she had such a strong testimony and courage to defend it. I loved that she kept saying "We believe" as if she already was a member and part of the church. I kept thinking of the "articles of faith" when she was talking. She has a super strong testimony; it's so amazing to see that because really, we did NOTHING. She retold this story in the Gospel Principles class (which is cool because she claims shes super shy and never likes talking in classes, giving prayers, or being called on...but over the course of just a few short weeks, she's completely changed and always makes comments. It's awesome!) when the Elder asked about the baptismal covenant and what it means to "stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places?" The other members were so impressed and this recent convert, Jo (who is incredibly STRONG himself), said, "Thank you for sharing that. You are an inspiration to me for what you did there." I know that it made Lucy feel good.
She was ready for the baptism after church and got in her clothes. Her little girl, Katrina, kept shouting, "MY mommy's getting baptized!" After the pictures, we proceeded. She got in the water to be baptized and I realized, "Oh no, we didn't go over the way you get baptized! Like bend your knees and plug your nose." I prayed that everything would be alright, I guess you can't be perfect, right? Well, she was baptized and Elder Arens put her under the water, and she wasn't plugging her nose and didn't really know what to do...oops. Turns out that her toe came out of the water and they had to do it again. BUMMER, it's not as cool when you have to re-baptize the person. We told her to plug her nose and bend her knees. As he asked her what her full name was, she said, "Lucy Salinas." I thought, "Hmm..I didn't think that that was her full name. Her name must be 'Lucille' or something." I know that this was a prompting from the Spirit, but I didn't say anything. "No, Lucy Salinas, must be her full name." She was baptized and it was all good. Katrina was so excited for her mom.
After the baptism, everyone had left (except for us, the Elders, and the branch president) and we were putting things away when Sister Farr came up to me and said, "I think Lucy has to be re-baptized." "What?" I said, "Why?" "Because they didn't use her full name." It hit me like a ton of bricks. I grabbed the baptismal record (which Sister Farr helped her fill out a few days earlier, while I was keeping Katrina in order), and noticed that it wasn't done right. I was so sad and embarrassed. "Great, we have to do it again. What if she says no? This isn't what we planned at all." Sister Farr and I sort of just sat there for a bit. Finally, we called her and explained and she was totally fine with it and said she'd come back in a few hours to redo it. The Elders ran to stop the font from re-draining. The water in this font only comes out cold, so we have to get these huge pots from members and heat up water ALL during church, so that the water is lukewarm.
Lucy came back and was happy. She didn't even complain. They baptized her again, but her hand came up. So they did it again and her hand came up again. Finally, on the fifth try, Elder Arens (who, this was his first baptism), pushed with all his might to get her all under. SUCCESS! After the 5th try, she was baptized. "That time it felt right," she said. And it was right. We need to be baptized the Lord's way, or nothing else. Doctrine and Covenants 22 says, "Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing." I gained a testimony even more about how true this church is. I don't really think that in any other church, they would have cared if they didn't say the full name; but rather, as long as they said the name, it'd be alright. Not in our church. The priesthood is order and perfection--just as our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are.
Sister Burt

Monday, April 19, 2010

Front Page News?

How's everyone doing today? Sounds like it was a busy weekend in Arizona. Thanks for the ipod delivery with the conference talks. We're already loving it! It's super excited about the Suns (I'm not going to lie, I used to ask around and find out how they were doing. I hope they do well and then SMASH the Lakers when it comes down to it!)
To answer your question about the Provo, UT mission about Nick Wallace (tell his family Congrats from me!). That is actually an AWESOME mission. It not only covers Provo, but I think all that is south of it. At first when I used to hear people get called to Utah, I would think, "Ew, lame. How boring." But it's actually so superb. Our mission president told us that the missionaries are SO busy there, that they hardly ever have to "knock doors." All of their lessons and investigators come from referrals from the members. The members are amazing and make a huge difference, they help in all ways that members should be involved in missionary work. It's actually the highest baptizing mission in the world. So, I'm sure he'll have lots to do.
Anyways, new alert!...actually, it's quite literal. Stop the Presses! The other day, I was just sitting around thinking about how we could think of some more creative contacting ideas--because, quite honestly, knocking doors is the least effective way to talk to people. So I was sitting and pondering what we could do and I was reminded of a part in chapter 9 of Preach My Gospel that lists some ideas. The one that said, "Go to the local newspaper to see if they can print an article about your missionary service." BINGO! I thought it was a great idea. I've read that part a ton of times before, but the timing was never right. What would make Sister Farr and I different than any other missionaries that have been riding around Raymondville over the years? Well, that's exactly it: we're Sister missionaries. Sisters haven't been here in town for a long time (if ever!), so one of the first things people say to us is, "Wow, I didn't know that there were girl missionaries. How long have they been doing that?" So, after proposing the idea to Sister Farr, we stopped by the Raymondville Chronicle to test the waters and see if we'd get a bite. And boy oh boy, did they bite. Actually, one of the first things they said was, "There are girl missionaries?" So that led us into the discussion about why we wanted to run the article. Well, he told us to write something up, so I brainstormed and got permission to go to a member's home on Sunday to type it up and email it to them. This morning, right before we emailed, we stopped by the office to go over the article. The editor/owner, Paul, loved it and, impressed by my writing, asked, "Do you want a job as a reporter?" It made me laugh. He said that he wasn't even going to change a thing about the article. So, come the Wednesday edition (the Raymondville Chronicle prints only weekly), our article--complete with our picture--will be printed! I can assume that one Wednesday, you can go to www.raymondvillechroniclenews(dot) com and you might be able to read it.See, good things come to those who do what the scriptures teach us. When we have a problem, we first need to: ask in faith, study it out in our mind, be prepared to receive and follow revelation, and then go ACT in faith. Just as Joseph Smith asked, "Which church should I JOIN?" (rather than just, "What church is true?") and then he went to "ask in faith" (meaning to go and do), was he able to receive an incredible answer that changed the history of the world. I'm not saying I'm expecting this article to be world-changing, but at least it will help get the word out about the church.
Well, I don't usually like to count my chickens before they hatch, but....we are having a baptism this week! We are very excited. Lucy is so prepared and ready to take this big step in her life. I mentioned Lucy in previous emails, but everything we have asked her to do, she has accepted everything we've taught her: word of wisdom, chastity, tithing. No problem. It's shocking at times about how prepared she is. So we'll be stopping by every day this week to continue to teach her and help her prepare for Sunday.
Last week, we were contacting in Lyford and we met a man who was one the way out. He was not really interested (how could he be when we didn't ever get a chance to explain who we were?), but we set up another appointment for him Sunday at 12:15 p.m. Now, church finishes at Noon and usually, it takes a while to leave because we have to talk to investigators, set up appointments with members, etc. I remember thinking that this would be a hard appointment to be on time. We never set up appointments in Lyford directly after church because around 1 or 1:30, we have to drive to Lasara (9 miles from Raymondville) in the opposite direction) to eat with the Lopez family.
As we were driving to the appointment, I was still thinking, "He's not even going to be there. I don't think he's going to remember. What a waste of gas and time to drive here when we could have just stayed in Raymondville and done some legitimate contacting." Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't "murmuring in my head," just mulling the situation over. We pulled up to the house on the other side of the road, right as he left in his car (we were late), but then again, so did about 2 other cars (Sunday's a big family day). We sat there and we decided to go knock the house (maybe that wasn't him). Right as we did, I turned to the left to see a man in an electric wheelchair, hidden under the shade of some trees. He was a little ways off, but I decided that I might as well, "talk to everyone." While I went to talk to the old man, Sister Farr ran across the street to knock the door. As I approached the man, I realized that he was stuck in the mud (we've had an incredible amount of rain this week and the ground is so muddy and gross). I asked him, in Spanish, how he was doing and if he needed help. He tried to move his wheelchair, but he was embedded in the mud and couldn't move. I looked around and it appeared that the house he was at, was abandoned and no body was around. I began to wonder how long he had been stranded there. I asked him and he replied, "A while" (I'm still not quite sure what that means). I tried to push the back of his chair, but it and him were so heavy, it wouldn't budge. Finally, it moved a bit forward, up and out of the mud, but then he moved it back on accident into another muddy area.
I called Sister Farr over and we both tried to push, yet still, no luck. I got down low and my head was right next to the bag of empty beer cans that he was carrying--I just about went ill from the smell. I looked at the controls of his wheelchair, which he kept punching every once in a while. As I watched him do this, I realized that the battery of the wheelchair was completely drained. How were we going to get him out of here? I said a prayer in my heart and the pushed the buttons myself. Finally, it started moving for a bit and we pushed it as far as we could. In order to prevent him falling back into a sticky (or rather, muddy) situation, we pushed him around the trees and onto the main highway road that we were parked on. He made it and started trekking off in another direction, without a backwards glance. We started walking to some other houses, when I looked back and noticed that he was at a standstill in the middle of the road. I ran up to him and, of course, the chair ran out of juice. Now really, what were we going to do? We can't give people rides in our cars. As I was talking to him, immediately after a suburban passed and then slowed to a stop. "Yay. Help!" I thought. A woman ran out and said, "Papa." Turns out it was her grandfather. They were able to help him and get him home. They thanked us for helping him and we went on our way.
As we were walking away, I realized then, why were were in that spot in Lyford, at that exact time: to help a man in need. I don't think if we would have come by, that anyone would have seen him as he was stranded a ways back on the lot and under a bunch of trees. He didn't accept the Gospel, but I've learned from Sister Farr, that sometimes God puts us in certain people's paths to help them in their moment of need. We are answers to prayers, even if we don't recognize it. God didn't put us in his path knowing that he'd be baptized, but God put us in his path to help him. I'm grateful for the Spirit and that by following it, we are always led to do good. It will never lead us astray.
This week made me wonder if maybe this is what Clark Kent feels like: full-time reporter, part-time life-saving superhero. It's a good feeling.
Sister Burt

Monday, April 12, 2010

Always an Adventure. Always.

Hey Family!
Well this was a great week this week. It's absolutely mind boggling to me how fast the weeks are going by now. Every week goes faster and fast. Yikes. Zone Conference was last week and it was amazing, as usual. It's always inspiring to hear from President Miller and receive personal revelation from the Spirit during those meetings. One thing that I'm grateful for is that on my mission, I have really learned how to recognize and follow the Spirit at all times. The more faithful, obedient, and diligent I am, the more I am able to feel it. Also, Sister Farr and I won the "cleanest car award." I was SO happy because I've never won it before (even though I thought my car was clean and we cleaned it every week). I always thought that the winners bribed the Car Elder or just did an incredible deep cleaning the day before (even though they probably hadn't cleaned or washed their car the whole transfer). But we kept our car clean, and detailed the inside and we won. I was so happy. Apparently the shape of the cars, as a whole, isn't that good because Sister Miller had to come up at Zone Conference and talk about how she is so displeased with the grungy interiors of the car (she did the car checks this time), and how if we don't shape up, the mission will lose a lot of the cars. Haha.
Quote of the week: "Do they have fresh coffee at church?" --The Dad of an Investigator. Um... no, no we don't.
We found of lot of new investigators this week and we even had one find us! We were going home at 8:55 at night and I really was craving a Dr. Pepper. So, since we needed to fill up on gas anyways, we dropped by the local Stripes to pick up a fountain drink. Now, Stripes is the local celebrity here in Texas. It's the local convenience store, there's really nothing special about it, except maybe that they all have "The Laredo Taco Company" inside them, which serves fresh tacos and Mexican food daily. It's kind of like the QT of Texas, but definitely not as nice and not as cool. Anyways, I was getting my drink when a lady came up to us. At first I thought she was this old investigator who kept avoiding us for weeks and moved away and didn't tell us where her new address was, so I was a bit confused why she was approaching us. This woman started talking and said, "You haven't come by for a long time. I haven't seen you." I realized (thanks to Sister Farr filling me in), that she wasn't Christina, but rather, PATTI, an investigator of the Elders from when we first got here. She wasn't progressing, or rather, doing much of ANYTHING. So we dropped her and told her that we couldn't come by anymore until she was ready. Well, she really wanted us to come back, so we set up an appointment for Saturday night.
We came by and she was excited to see us. We started asking her a lot of questions about why she wanted us back, what she wanted in her life, etc. We were committed at Zone Conference to share simple scriptures, to extend bold commitments and to ask more effective questions. The assistants talked about if we are teaching the same way, using the same scriptures, and asking the same questions that we did 2 months ago, then we need to repent. The Gospel is about constant growth and the minute we stop growing, we stop being effective. Those ideas really hit me and the thing that kept coming to my mind was, "We don't teach lessons, we teach people!" It's so true. How many times do I go into a lesson and think, "We're going to teach a first." Well first off, we don't teach a first, we teach about the Restoration, and secondly, what if that person doesn't need the Restoration right now? So we've been working on focusing on the PEOPLE and discovering their needs through effective question asking.
By doing this, Patti immediately opened up to us. She told us that she missed us coming over. That once we stopped coming over, the feeling we had with us stopped coming. She said she missed that and wanted it again. We told her that that feeling is the Spirit and that she could have it all the time with her if she was willing to do her part. We committed her to start repenting and making the changes in her life. She accepted to be baptized also. It was great. The next day we came back and watched, "Together Forever" and she was crying afterwards and said that she related to so many of the people in the video. I guess I really underestimate the effect the Spirit has on our investigators. We are just so used to having it with us all the time, that we don't even really realize it. It's just a part of life. But for the people we teach, it's new, exciting, and something they DESIRE.
We had had 4 people at church from 3 different homes. It was great. Church has always been the thing that I've struggled the most with, but during the past few weeks, the Lord has blessed us so much and people are coming. We had an investigator who came to Conference, but then he wasn't there for our appointment (he's a bit fickle), and so we didn't see him all week. We procured a ride for one of our other investigators who lives right by him, but David wasn't there. So we just told the member to go to church. But I remember that as I said it, I thought, "You should go visit Chano." I thought to myself, "Um...Chano's been MIA all week, I don't want to go pound on his door at 8:30 and wake him up if he doesn't want to go. He has his agency." Well, I should have followed that prompting, but I didn't... We talked to Chano no less than an hour after church and he said, "Where were you? This morning, I was all ready to go and even though I hadn't seen you all week, I still was waiting, hoping you'd come by." In that moment, I felt horrible for having ignored a prompting from the Spirit. I promised him that we'd come by every Sunday from now on, even if we see him or not.
So remember that woman, Mary, I told you about a few weeks ago? We had been visiting these trailers for a long time, until finally, she ran up to us wanting a "blue Bible?" Well, we started teaching her and set a baptismal date. We were excited, but then we came back to her trailer to find out that she had moved! She didn't have a phone so we couldn't find her. I remember her saying that she was moving somewhere on San Francisco street, into apartments that used to be an old store. Well, that wasn't too hard. We drove down the street and started checking off all the places she couldn't be living, "" Finally, we came to a place that is a 24/7 garage sale, inside this large building. We parked and realized that this was the place. Apparently, they don't like strangers there, so everyone kept coming up to us saying, "Um, can I help you?" They didn't know Mary, so we went to the Land Lord's office/home.
I started laughing as I knocked the door. There was a sign posted that said, "Knock. If I don't answer BANG real loud because I might be upstairs in the bath." Haha, it was just the most random sign. We knocked and the people shouted from the other room, "Come in." We came in and saw this old woman at the head of the table (Olga); her grown, real-estate agent Nondenominational daughter (Yolanda) and this random, sign painter (Juan). We asked if they knew a Mary and immediately Yolanda spouts off the address where she moved. Thanks. We were about to leave when Olga asked us if we wanted some Avocado Salad. Wow, I was surprised. That was the first time that I haven't been offered something that's not fried, made in lard, or smoked outside on the BBQ. This time it was a salad? And a healthy one? So we sat down in the cluttered room at an even more cluttered table. There was an overflowing glass of orange soda that apparently someone had forgotten about. As Sister Farr sat down and was moving some things around so that she had room, Yolanda saw a cockroach and swiped it off the table in one clean motion (according to Sister Farr, the cockroach was in the process of having babies...haha). We ate our salad, and then of course we were offered more food. Orange soda that they kept refilling anytime we got halfway done. And then Yolanda said, "You like Tamales? Here we have some frozen ones, I'll go heat them up for you." I didn't even get to say "Yes" or "No" before she had rushed into the kitchen. Of course, we ate bread (you always eat random white bread with every meal if they don't have tortillas). We each had a half of an avocado as well to add into our salad. Crackers. Then after the tamales, she brought out "Pan Dulce" which is just like donuts and such. It was crazy, but pretty typical.
We started sharing about what we do as missionaries and Yolanda wasn't listening, but Olga was. Juan was an incredible interrupted who claims to be a prophet. Apparently, he prophesied--in jail--that something was going to come and destroy the prison because of the way the black guys in jail were treating him. He got out and a few months later, Katrina happened. We would get 3 words in and then he'd butt in and start talking about something else he foretold. He sang us this song that he wrote in prison and I wish I had my camera out, because it was classic. We wanted to sing a song, and then Yolanda left to "clean up." She claimed to be super religious and goes 4 times a week, but now was too busy for us. After the song, Olga said, "You know, Yolanda. This reminds me in the Bible when Martha and Maria were with Jesus. Mary listened, but Martha was too busy doing chores and cleaning just like you are." It was actually pretty insightful by Olga. "Oh mother. If I don't do it, it won't get done." Olga then said, "Do you see these two women" (by the way, the whole time this conversation was in Spanish) "Do you see the LIGHT that they have that you don't? You claim to follow Jesus, but you don't have that light. I see darkness." I was shocked about how bold Olga was with her daughter. Before we left, we said a prayer and walked out with 2 oranges each in our hands. It was definitely a night to remember. We were directed to Mary, the ORIGINAL person we were searching for, and she was grateful that we had found her and so am I--even if we had a little crazy adventure along the way.
Always an Adventure. Always.
Sister Burt

Monday, April 5, 2010

Speed Reading

Hey Family!
Happy Easter! I know it's late, but still. Happy it was! Thank you for the little Easter package that you sent me! I loved it and the chocolate did not melt. YAY! And mom, how did you know I needed a new toothbrush! That package came just in time! :) Love the stationary and everything else! :)
It was a great week in the beginning and definitely as the weekend approached it slowed down. We were grateful that we were blessed with so many lessons at the beginning of the week, and we were expecting to reach all of our goals for lessons by Saturday, but--like I said--the holiday threw it off, unfortunately. Just like Christmas, no one wanted to listen. Here we were, messengers from God preaching about the Easter, the Atonement and Resurrection and people refuse. I don't think people even really care or KNOW what is the real reason for Easter. It's funny that yesterday was the day of Christ's resurrection--the crowning moment of the Atonement; it is the day that through belief on him, everyone could be saved from sin and death as they repent and obey the commandments. Yet despite this, I noticed that the majority of the world was actually breaking the commandments and making Christ suffer even more. As if they were throwing his suffering back in his face and mocking him just as the Jews did as he was trekking up to Golgatha.
Conference was AMAZING, wasn't it?! Wow. As the last session was coming to a close, I wanted to cry. I couldn't believe that it was over. I felt the Spirit speak to me so many times, witnessing to me of the divinity of the work, of Christ, of the speakers and of the message they so valiantly proclaimed over the pulpit. I loved every minute of it--even the hours where I didn't get really to hear the morning Session on Sunday because so many children were noisy and yelling. I loved those moments too. I learned a lot.
Last week we were back at the trailers that we seem to always be at. It seems that we have taught EVERYONE who lives there. No it's not a trailer park, just a random lot that has about 3 trailer homes parked on it. We started off with a referral, ended up teaching his sister, then him, then he moved away, then she moved away, then he moved back, then we taught his buddies, then he disapeared, then they all moved out, and it goes on and on. As we were leaving the trailer after finding that everyone had moved, I said hi to a random guy who is always there, but never was interested. He was just sitting his chair and I felt prompted to say hello. We hadn't really greeted him for a while, as he wasn't investigating and wasn't interested in us. After saying hi and turning to walk away, he said, "Hey, next time you come, I'll listen to you guys. I'm always here." Wow. We came back the day of the appointment, but a in the daytime (the appointment was at night). We talked to a different person and then saw David, sitting outside. "You'll be here tonight?" "Yep," he said. We were in our car with the keys in the ignition when I said, "We need to teach him now." I felt the Spirit prompt me to teach him now, while he was there and we saw him. So we did. It was a nice, short lesson. Later, 30 minutes before our appointment, we were on the other side of town and saw him pass. We went to the appointment with the guys and of course, they weren't there, but neither was he. I was really grateful that I followed the Spirit to teach him earlier when he was there--Heavenly Father knew that he would't be there at night, even though he's "always there." We left and as we were leaving the property, two little boys in red tshirts ran up to us from David's trailer and said, "HEY! Do you have a Bible?" And interesting thing to hear, let alone from two young boys that wouldn't be able to go on any of the rides at an amusement park due to their height. "Yeah, why?" I said. The mom walked out and said, "Do you have a Bible? One of the blue ones?" "Yes, let me go get it." I always carry around copies of the Book of Mormon with me, and I'm pretty sure she was referring to the Book of Mormon, but just in case, I went to the trunk of the car and got the Bible. I presented both to her and said, "Which one?" "Um.. this one," she said pointing to the Bible. But as I started fanning through the pictures of the Book of Mormon, she said, "NO, that one!" I gave it to her and explained that it was different from he Bible, "I know, I like this one better. I can actually understand it. I read it to my children at night but left mine in Georgia." Well, turns out that she is David's aunt who just moved here from Georgia where she was ALMOST baptized. She moved away a few days before her baptism. After we taught David, she came into town and he told her about our lesson. Then she sought us out to have us teach her. I know that by following that initial prompting to teach David earlier in the day, provided us with the opportunity to no only teach him, but to find his aunt. I'm grateful for the Spirit and that I am able to recognize its promptings so clear now and follow them.
I did something very interesting last week. An Elder in the district was carrying around a 1st edition replica of the Book of Mormon. I was intrigued as I have seen the image of that first printing many times on the Restoration DVD. I asked him if I could look at it and as I did, I was shocked to see that it had no verses. But rather it was like a novel: divided into the books of the authors, with a few chapters scattered about. I was especially intrigued by the forward at the beginning, where at the end, it says, "The Author." But Joseph Smith didn't write the Book of Mormon, I thought. I pondered the wording a bit and saw that on a few instances it mentioned him as the author, something that is different that the current version which clearly puts him as the translator. I gave it back to him giving thanks for letting me look through it. "What does it mean 'The Author.'" I asked. "Well, here's the thing Sister Burt, I don't care whether he wrote it or whether he simply translated it. All I know is that it's true and that's all that matters." I pondered it a bit in silence and soon after our district meeting started.
After the meeting, he came up to me and said, "Well, do you want to read it?" "What?" I said. "You can take it and read it if you want." "No, I'm ok. It'll take way to long to read it on the mission and it's yours anyway. You just got it, I dont' want to take it from you." He eventually convinced me to take it for the week. As I held it in my hands, I committed myself to read the whole Book of Mormon in a week. A task that I previously thought to be insurmountantable. I don't know if it was the competitive side in my that came out as he said, "Yeah, you can" or what. But as I was driving back to Raymondville, I started reading it's pages. I did some quick math in my head and determined that I would have to read about 84 pages a day to read all 588 by next District Meeting. So, off I went and I started reading. I read during breaks, I read during my personal study, I read in the car (my companion was driving), I read while I was cooking breakfast, and I read before I went to bed. After the first day, I thought, "Wow, this is going to be a lot of work." I apologized to my companion in advance for the silence that would emanate from me during the upcoming week. But, I read, read and read. And you know what? I finished it. I'm so happy and proud of myself. I remember when I was at BYU that a professor challenged us to read the first half of the Book of Mormon in two weeks. I remember that it was 20 pages a day and I struggled through the reading each night. Then before my mission, I wanted to read the whole thing in a month, but ended up reading it so quickly (as I had no job or anything really to do) that I finished it in 2 weeks. So I cut my time in half. A few transfers ago, I wanted to read the entire Book of Mormon in a transfer (6 weeks), but realized too soon that "missionaries don't have time to do that. We're just too busy." So I read half in a transfer. Well, I already had set myself up by saying, "It's impossible, it can't be done...ESPECIALLY as a missionary." But, turns out that if you REALLY desire something. You will find a way to do it--no matter what. The desires of our hearts are not reflected only in just thinking about wanting it, but actually DOING something about it. That's what showing our faith is: action. Upon reflecting on this event, I keep thinking of the quote from Utchdorf in October Conference:
"The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you."
That is true. I set my heart on it and completed my goal. I'm grateful that I was able to show faith, every day and in doing so was able to succeed. If I gave up one day, I would have really been out of luck and know that I would not have completed my goal because I barely finished in time as it was. That's faith, that's enduring to the end. I gained an incredible testimony of the Book of Mormon through this experience. I was able to see how the people, places and stories connect in ways that I never realized before. I know that it's true, for I have read it and followed Moroni's promise at the end. The Book of Mormon was written by prophets of God. I do know that there is no way that Joseph Smith could have written it, but either way, it is true and came from God. This I know.
Sister Burt