MIRACLES!!

1. Bill is 51 and has gone through many difficult circumstances. He finds himself in a situation with innumerable health issues which have caused him to look for a relationship with God. We met him and he has willingly learned from the very beginning. He hungers. This week, there was a night when he couldn’t sleep. He got up and went to the Book of Mormon to read. We had previously taught him to pray, and he hungered for an answer. He got down on his knees and prayed. He said he prayed for an hour, “I had a lot of things to talk to him about.” He told us that he felt something. He felt God. He felt someone place a hand on his shoulder, and felt the feelings of the Spirit. Tears filled his eyes as he told us that he wanted more.

2. Brandon grew up Southern Baptist and has converted to agnostic/atheistic. He can’t deny the existence of a God flat out, but he leans more toward scientific explanations for things. Last time we met with him, we planned our lesson to help him have an experience with the light of Christ. As we talked, he did. We spoke true things that resonated in his mind and heart, and we helped him to recognize them. The truths he learned stuck with him, and when we went back last night, we discussed them. We told him that we want to help him have more experiences like that, to create evidences in his life that the Holy Ghost DOES speak to Him, and therefore does exist. We showed him a Mormon message of a Bishop in London who tells of his conversion story. He really liked that the Bishop said that everyone can get the same answer he did. We asked Brandon if he would be willing to experiment upon the word with that goal in mind, and he said he would, and promised give it an honest shot.

3. Stephen is 64 and has been investigating the church for about 1 year. His mother is an amazing woman who has health issues that cause her to be completely dependent on him. He lives with and cares for her full-time. He is reading through the Book of Mormon for the first time (quite rapidly) and is currently in 3 Nephi 24. A couple of weeks ago, he told us that he received a very straightforward answer that Baptism is what he needs, but that he is worried about not being able to attend every week. Whenever we bring up church attendance, he remains noncommittal. Well, on Saturday night, we visited him and attempted to teach the Plan of Salvation. Nothing seemed to be hitting, and it seemed that the lesson would be wasted. Finally, I began praying that the Spirit would teach him what we could not. He brought up some issues in the world today, and I spoke up and pointed the lesson back to him and asked, “Stephen, what does that mean for you? With everything going on in the world, what do YOU need to do to be prepared?” He paused for a moment and then said, “Well, it means that I need to be on the right side. It means I need to put my name on the records by being baptized, and so I need to get off my caboose and get to church!” About halfway through his answer I guess I closed my scriptures and started welling up with tears and shaking my head. I was grinning from ear to ear. We had no idea what to say. That night, he committed to take the steps necessary to prepare to get to church.

4. Edward is 24, married with an almost 2-year-old son, and fell into inactivity after joining the church 6 years ago. Edward’s wife Deborah was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and seems very disinterested in the church or its lifestyle. Last week when we met and taught Edward for the first time, we asked Edward if Deborah would be willing to participate in the lesson. He invited and she declined. When we returned two days ago, she again declined to join us in reading or in prayer. After we prayed, she came into the room and sat through the entire lesson. We read about Captain Moroni fortifying the cities of the Nephites and discussed how he could fortify his home and himself. At the end of the lesson, Edward chose daily prayer as his fortification for the week. Deborah had been lightly involved in the lesson, and we asked if she would pray daily as well and help him to remember. She said she would. We invited her to join us in our benediction, and she did, even encouraging her brother to join. When we set up the return appointment for this week, she agreed to be there!

5. Gertrude is 87, and a very intelligent, VERY opinionated, wonderful little woman. Normally in lessons, she has a tendency to trail onto different topics (certainly a trend in this part of the world!). In a culmination of past lessons, my companion and I may have spoken a mere 3% of the words during the lesson. Not good. Well, we were visiting with a member of our ward who we discovered had worked for Gertrude and her mother some 50 years prior. They had not seen each other since then! Knowing that there would be many things to catch up on, we prayed before we entered the lesson that Gertrude’s responses to questions would not exceed 5 minutes in length. After a (very) short reunion, Gertrude said “Now Tom, I don’t know if I can do this Mormon thing!” It caught us completely off-guard and my stomach churned a little as I waited to hear her reasons. She asked him questions she had never asked us before, and throughout it all she NEVER went over 5 minutes in a single statement. Being a convert to the church, he was able to answer her questions according to her needs, and was even the right person to answer in the ways she needed because of his careers. The Lord truly provided this reunion, and again we basically just sat back and watched the members meet the needs of this wonderful woman.

I have more, but I think that should be enough. =P That was fun though. As always, names have been changed. We are witnessing miracles, truly. We are learning incredible things. Today’s companion study was incredibly instructive in understanding why this 40-day fast from my natural tendencies is providing power in my life and in the lives of others. It all has to do with the principle of faith.

When we are disobedient, we lose the Lord’s promises. We are limited in the hope we can have for ourselves. There are two things this 40-day fast deals with: natural-man disobedience, and natural-man desires. Together Elder Stone and I have a collective list of about 60 items of obedience and sacrifice to enable the Lord to change and heal us, and in turn, to allow us to facilitate change and healing in others. It is happening, on both counts.

I have learned about 2 aspects of faith:
– Faith unto Hope

– Faith unto Power

I have come to understand that faith unto hope allows us to become, while faith unto power allows us to help others become. We realized this morning that our fast from obedience-related issues is strengthening our faith unto hope, while sacrificing some of our natural desires is filling us with faith unto power.

I often wonder if anyone reads these anymore. =P They are long. Perhaps I’ll start shortening.

I want you to know that I love the Lord. I love what we are experiencing here. I love seeing these changes in myself and particularly seeing these changes in others. We see the Lord’s hands daily, and we are becoming those hands.

I love this work, and it is work.

Elder Williams

“This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God”

These past two days have been miraculous and incredibly fulfilling. Last week our District Leader shared with us a talk on purification that he and his companion have put into practice. It was given by Elder Gene R. Cook. It outlines a plan to fast for 40 days from our “natural-man” tendencies. The instructions are to fast for 24 hours and, in the attitude of fasting and prayer, select a list of at least 10 things that “poke at your spirit”. These are things that pull you away from the Spirit.

Yesterday we fasted during our P-day hours. Throughout the day we each made personal lists. Last night, after companion prayer, I felt impressed to go back out to my desk and finalize my list. We are then instructed to kneel in prayer and covenant with the Lord to fast from those things. The whole process took until around 12:15 for me. It was a spirit-filled experience. As I knelt in prayer, I felt a very peaceful confirmation for each item. The last one on the list was a sacrifice I was afraid to make. I wrote it in faith, and as I reached it, I felt a powerful confirmation wash over me, that the sacrifice would not be what I had feared, and that I would be blessed for my willingness. I was overcome with gratitude.

How can I share these things with these people? How can I transmit this absolutely sure knowledge that I have that God does exist, and that he is mindful of every desire of our hearts and every need we have, and is absolutely willing to bless us if we turn to Him? What marvelous light I have beheld–throughout my life, and especially here on my mission! These experiences, like this one last night and the incredible Spirit I feel growing still today, have created evidence more tangible and more real to me that any physical evidence I have ever or COULD ever see or feel, that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son and that they BOTH know and love me. These are those things that man could never give or take away. These are the reason that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland can stand in General Conference and boldly proclaim “I am more certain that those keys have been restored and that those ordinances are once again available through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I am certain I stand before you at this pulpit and you sit before me in this conference.”

The purpose and promise of this 40-day fast is that we will become effective tools in the hand of the Lord. As I studied the talk, I found that what the first young missionary went through as he did this and what he experienced following the fast describes the promises made in D&C 121:45-46:

45 …let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

He experienced those things. I am beginning to, to a greater degree than I did even three days ago.

I cannot express with words my gratitude to my Father in Heaven for calling me to this sacred calling, for trusting me with this sacred responsibility. I will be forever grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ, in ALL of its facets, which I am still learning and experiencing.

I will never forget this period of my life, and pray to God that what I am now experiencing may continue throughout the remainder of it.

I love this work. I love the Lord Jesus Christ. I love my Father in Heaven. I pray that each of you may come to that knowledge and love for yourselves. It comes through prayer–real, sincere, prayer. It comes through studying the scriptures daily, with a thirst and a desire to learn.

I know it’s true, all of it. I bear testimony of that in the name of Jesus Christ.
Amen.
Elder Williams

19 May, 2014 16:24

I love being taught patience. =)

Last week was wonderful! I wasn’t left with much time to write because Elder Stone and I had been asked to help pour a concrete foundation at a private school here in Salem. It was awesome! The driver of the concrete truck was from Haiti and came to America 33 years ago. He said he’d been driving a cement truck for 29 years. This was my first time ever working with cement, and I loved it! I still haven’t gotten to go back and see the fruits of our labors, but they said it looked great.

Last weekend I was also very blesed to get to call my family for Mother’s day. =) It was great to have the whole family together and get to see everyone. Capri is so pretty! And Tatum is so tall!! And Josh has wicked facial hair! 13 months in the mission last week. =)

Elder Stone and I have had an amazing couple of weeks. We have learned to a greater degree the value of planning and accountability. Our priorities became a little confused last week, and we felt the results. Our work and the Spirit took a hit, and we recognized it quickly. At least twice a day now, we discuss what we can do better. When we identify something, we ask each other “Are we committed to this goal?” We then make plans and goals to change and write them in our planners and then we DO THEM! It’s been fantastic. This past week was the best week I have experienced in this area! The Lord is leading us to his sheep. We are becoming more worthy of His trust. =)

Last week, Elder Stone and I were led to the house of one of our former investigators *Brandon. We found him out back with his wife *Jessica. They welcomed us and we sat down and began to talk just like we were old friends. Our last interaction had been less than ideal, and I was surprised and grateful to be welcomed so warmly. Brandon told us that he and Jessica were working to quit tobacco and alcohol. We talked about everything they had been going through, and discussed the importance of the atonement in overcoming our weakness. We shared with them the pamphlet for the Word of Wisdom and taught them about the Priesthood. Jessica asked if we would give her a Priesthood blessing. Elder Stone anointed her and I began. The peace that I felt as I pronounced that blessing was so profound. The Lord told her of her potential, of her relationship to Him, of His love for her. After the blessing, Jessica said that she knew that it had been from God, that I had said things I couldn’t possibly have known about her. Brandon had been moved as well, and asked if we would bless him. Following the blessing he just said “Wow.” He told Jessica that he had felt a Spirit fill him that he hadn’t felt since 1997. We asked them to write down as much as they could remember. When we went back early this week, Brandon had memorized parts of his blessing that were important to him.

Another family we began teaching this week, we actually met two or three weeks ago. We met *Frank and *Holly when we were out walking and promised to stop by and drop off a Book of Mormon. When we went last week, they said they had been waiting and wondering when we would show up (good and bad to hear that! =/). We didn’t have much time to talk then, but promised we would come by again. Last Monday, during the short time we had to email, I was sitting next to a young girl named *Krystal who was really excited to talk to me about everything she was doing online. I smiled and talked with her as I typed. Before I left, I gave her a card to give to her mother. Then on Wednesday, Elder Stone and I were out with a member and stopped at a gas station. After a few minutes I walked toward the restroom and found our member talking to a young boy named *Harry who was asking him questions about religion. He told me we had given his dad a Book of Mormon, we found out that he was the son of Frank and Holly! He was super intelligent and we had quite a conversation. After a while, he asked us if he could be baptized and get the priesthood. We told him he could, but we would have to talk to his parents. He asked us to come over and talk with his dad, and we agreed to. When we did, we found that Krystal was his sister! We stood on the porch smiling and talking with his entire family: Father, mother, 2 boys, 1 girl, and granny, and they invited us to come over the next day to a birthday party they were having for their other son. I wished I could step out of myself and look at the scene. It was awesome. Yesterday, Harry and Krystal came to church, and loved every bit of it.

I wish I could share everything… I cannot write even the hundreth part of the things of this week.

I want to share one thing that I’ve learned in my studies recently. I came across the story of Alma’s people in the land of Helam shortly after his conversion.

Mosiah 23
26 Now it came to pass that the brethren of Alma fled from their fields, and gathered themselves together in the city of Helam; and they were much frightened because of the appearance of the Lamanites.
27 But Alma went forth and stood among them, and exhorted them that they should not be frightened, but that they should remember the Lord their God and he would deliver them.
28 Therefore they hushed their fears, and began to cry unto the Lord that he would soften the hearts of the Lamanites, that they would spare them, and their wives, and their children.
29 And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the hearts of the Lamanites. And Alma and his brethren went forth and delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam.

Mosiah 24
13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.

As I read their story, I wondered how Alma could have led an entire city of 450 people into this kind of humility and patience. Maybe I will leave you to ponder the same thing. =)

I am so grateful to be here, to be in Salem, the Salem ward, and this companionship.

I pray that all is well for each of you. I know that the Lord knows you, each of you. May I leave you with one of my favorite scriptures–parting words from Alma to his son Helaman:

Alma 37
32 …Teach them an everlasting hatred against sin and iniquity.
33 Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.
34 Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.

All my love,
Elder Williams

*As always, names changed. ; )

6 May, 2014 17:29

Well, this email will be short. =) I will be staying in Salem, Virginia AND will be staying with Elder Stone. Unexpected on both counts!

I am so happy. This ward is amazing, and we and this area have been growing substantially this transfer. This will be President Pitt’s last transfer, and that is a difficult thing for me, more because I will miss his counsel and presence. I am excited for the future. I have learned to love change. I found myself a little disappointed that there wouldn’t be any this transfer, but that’s ok. =) I love the Lord more than I love change.

Our ride for dinner is here.

Remember that the atonement is very, very real. It will heal you in an instant, even if the trial doesn’t leave. It can relieve pain and guilt and sorrow, if you will place your trust in Jesus Christ and seek for it. It’s real. I know it.

I love you,
Elder Williams