Archive for December, 2010

Glory to God in the Highest (and on earth, peace, goodwill to men)

December 27, 2010

I forgot to include the hymns for last week (a double portion also.)
They are “Silent Night” and “Once in Royal David’s City”.  This week’s
hymn will be “We are Sowing”, #216 in the LDS hymnbook, because as an
excellent hymn about evaluating our actions, I think it’s appropriate
as we look towards the new year, and because, as one 11-year old boy
excitedly showed me in church yesterday, it’s set to a tune named
“Westwood” (The LDS hymnal has a handy section in the back for
organists listing all the tune names, but I think it’s most commonly
used by kids who are bored during sacrament meeting, because all those
names are strangely fascinating.)

(Editor’s note:  further back in Christian history hymnals had words to hymns and various tunes with names like Westwood.  Several hymns could be sung to the same tune and there were several tunes that could be chosen for any particular hymn)

The scripture passage for this week is Alma 7, which my brother
Stephen reminded me of a few weeks back by musing on John the
Baptist’s calling to “Make straight the ways of the Lord”, which is
also part of the instruction Alma gives here.  Here’s part of what
Stephen wrote:

“Can we make God’s path straight?  Not so much… except in our
hearts.  So that lead me to thinking, what is it we do to make God’s
path into our hearts not straight?  What defenses do we put up and how
do we fight against God coming into our lives?

It is a strange lens to think about, the little corners of our lives
where we try to keep God out, or the way we fight little guerrilla
wars with God whenever we feel treated badly or let down, demanding
our right to be offended or feel wronged.

So my new challenge for myself, and you may find people who like it as
well, is to take the moment (this is advent right, we’re all about
waiting for God right now) to wait for God’s Holy Spirit to show up
when I feel tired or overwhelmed instead of reacting immediately out
of my own turned-inwards sense of the world.”

I know this is a challenge I’ll be taking in the New Year, and I
invite you all to take it as well.  After all, I think it’s one of the
best ways to do our own part towards peace and goodwill in our little
corners of earth.

Christmas as a missionary is inarguably better than any other kind of
Christmas. I started my day by calling my family, and talking to my
parents and all of my siblings (3 were home and I talked to the fourth
by way of a laptop skype connection placed next to the speakerphone).
Then I went to the Church, greeted some people I’ve grown to love and
some complete strangers who I love already, listened to words of men
who I know are prophets of God, shook the hands of hundreds of Indians
who had come to celebrate Jesus Christ on the day of his birth, gave
some of them tours of the Church, took pictures with some good
friends, had an excellent biryani for lunch, and then travelled from
house to house of those I’ve grown closest to sharing Chistmas carols
and the story of his birth.  Also, everyone insisted on feeding us.

Of all the visits I made, my favorite visit was to Sister A.  I
thought that a month after baptism, her smile might have faded a
little, but I think it’s gotten bigger every time I’ve seen her since.
She has continually proved to me, through her faith, her growth, and
the joy and peace which I’ve seen come to her, that the gift of the
Holy Ghost is a true gift and a real power from God which can change
life in a breathtaking way.

We didn’t have a Christmas baptism, because we got onto a
super-crowded bus December 23rd, and our phone was stolen.  We had a
back-up phone, but we didn’t have B.’s number and he didn’t have
ours, so we weren’t able to coordinate his interview for the next day,
as we’d planned.  Then he ended up having to work Christmas also, so
he couldn’t even come to the Church for the Christmas service.  But
he’s as solid as ever, and will take baptism as soon as we can get him
and the zone leaders into the same room for an interview.  Which,
given that we’ve already spent three weeks trying to schedule it
between his busy schedule and theirs, may still take longer than I’d
like 😉

I wish you all a Merry Christmas past, and a good and sweet new year ahead.

Elder Mattathias Westwood


News from India

December 13, 2010
(Editor’s notes):  In another email Matt reported,
“It’s not particularly hot in Hyderabad right now, since it’s ‘winter’
here too.  So it’s probably like late spring/ early summer in
Columbus.  E. P. says I came at the best time of year,
weather-wise.  But I have to wait six months for mango season, so
there are trade offs :)”

He also said to thank Grandma, Liz and the Sakizzies for their letters.  His companion says about 2/3rds of his letters actually arrive, so Matt will try to let us know what arrives.

Also, in this email Matt refers to Hannukah.  Our family usually does something for Hanukkah and Passover to honor Grandpa Art Goldberg’s heritage.  Mattathias was the founder of the movement to resist the Syrians, and his sons were known as the Maccabees.


The scripture passage for this week is Acts 9 [note: Matt probably means Acts 8: 26-40], where the Ethiopian
eunuch asks the apostle Philip “What doth it hinder me to be
baptized?” I love that question.
The hymn is “With Wondering Awe”,
about the kings who visited the child they had heard was the son of
the King of Heaven… what did they think when the signs in the sky
led them to a stable instead of a palace?

My first missionary hanukkah was interesting.  I didn’t actually learn
it was Hannukah until the sixth day, since it snuck up early this
year.  I had my menorah, but I hadn’t had time to get candles, so I
didn’t know what to do.  I realized that this hannukah brought me
closer than ever before to the first hanukkah… I had a menorah but
didn’t know if I’d be able to find anything to light it for three
days, much less eight. I realized that while I didn’t have candles,
like Mattathias rededicating the temple, I did have oil.  I made some
wicks out of paper, but then realized I had no matches to light them
with.  The seventh day, while cooking breakfast, I realized that even
without matches I had the flame of our gas stove.  So the seventh
night I soaked the wicks in oil, put them in the menorah, and lit them
with a paper taper (dipped in water so the flame wouldn’t burn to my
fingers.  I also had ingredients for latkes, and thanks to my dad, a
good recipe which inspired me to add some plain yogurt and bread
crumbs in with the potato, egg and oil.

Being a missionary has taught me a lot about repentance, as I watch
those I teach repent and as I repent myself. Missionaries live by a
schedule.  We wake up at 6:30 and are dressed and ready for study at
8am.  This Thursday I was feeling behind… I didn’t get ready at 8
and instead folded laundry while reading talks from the last general
conference.  When Elder P. finished his study, he came out and
asked, in surprise and frustration “You’re not ready yet?”  My first
instinct was to make excuses.  My second instinct was to point out
that he hadn’t been out of bed on time.  But remembering my covenant
to repent, I went and got ready.  When I got to the table, Elder P. also apologized for the way he had framed his question.
Repentance and humility helped both of us avoid what quickly could
have become an argument.

The work is good.  The Gospel is true.

Elder Mattathias Westwood

A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven

December 7, 2010

The scripture passage for this week is John 3.  In the first half of
the chapter a man named Nicodemus comes to Christ one night, and says
to him “We know you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do
these miracles  that you do, except God be with him.”  And Jesus
responds to this statement by telling Nicodemus “Except a man be born
again, he cannot see  the kingdom of God.”

This is Jesus Christ’s message to all of us.  Follow me, be born
again, do the things you’ve seen me do.  It’s a powerful thing to
become immersed in his work, to share his words, to see people being
born again and their lives changed forever.

John 3 includes Jesus’ testimony of his own work in verses 3 through
21, and then John the Baptist’s testimony of him in verses 27-36.  I’d
like to add my own testimony.  I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
by the witness of the Holy Ghost.  I know he came to save the world,
and that we can have a fullness of joy by listening to his voice and
following his words.  I know this because my prayers to know were
answered, because I’ve seen it in my life and the lives of others who
follow this Galilean.

The hymn for this week is “The First Noel”.  The shepherds visit from
the angel appears in several carols, but this week the words of the
first Noel hit me as I imagined what it must have been like for those
shepherds, huddled in their field on a cold night, minds on their
sheep, when that angel came…

This has been an amazing week.  We had two days of training from the
Mission President, on how to teach by the Holy Spirit, how to study
the scriptures more effectively, and how to listen more to those we
teach.  Elder P. and I have been working hard to put those
trainings into practice, and it’s resulted in one of the most
spiritual weeks of my life.  Also,  this week we finally followed
through on our goal to start exercising together first thing in the
morning.  So today I jumped rope for the first time in seven years.

A.’s had a good week as well.  She received the gift of the Holy
Ghost on Sunday, and she’s smiling even more now than she was the day
of her baptism.  I.’s family has stayed solid, and I. got up
in Fast and Testimony meeting to share his testimony that God is
great.  They’re preparing to be baptized on Christmas Day.  B.’s
also doing well.  This Sunday he introduced his friend S. to us.
Fifteen minutes in to talking to S., we learned that B. had just
met him that morning walking in to Church, had learned that it was
S.’s first visit to the Church, sat next to him through the
sacrament meeting, learned that they’re from the same hometown, and
then introduced him to us before Sunday School.  This is all pretty
impressive considering that it was only B.’s fourth Sunday at

Happy Hannukah and Advent to everyone.  Have a good week.

Elder Mattathias Westwood