Archive for February, 2011

mango season is coming

February 28, 2011

[Editor mom says see note at the bottom of the letter if you’re interested in
the perfection thread started last week . . .]

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Mattathias Westwood
To: dave_westwood ; vilo_westwood
Sent: Mon, February 28, 2011 7:19:47 AM

The scripture passage this week is Job 5.
I found it this summer, and
I really love it as one of the most poetic descriptions of the justice
and grandeur of God…even if it is spoken by Eliphaz as part of his
rebuke of Job… that’s one of the interesting things about scripture
to me… it teaches us that we can find truth even in the words of
those who are ultimately wrong. As Christ taught, if you do what the
Pharisees teach, rather than what they do, you’ll be ok. The hymn,
because I haven’t used it yet and it just seems right, is “All
Creatures of our God and King” []

This week I noticed a lot more about the natural beauty of India…
For my birthday on Monday we went and had a traditional Indian
cake-cutting next to a lake called Betmangal. I’d send pictures, but
this computer won’t let me, so you’ll probably get them in a couple of
months. [Mom’s note: I’m not positive, but this seems to be the lake–notice the
gold fields on the map

Have you ever heard of a plant called touch-me-not? I don’t know
what’s in called in USA, or if it’s indigenous there as well… I just
know that if you touch the leaves, which are in clusters like a fern,
they shrink together. Goats like to eat it.

It’s the end of winter in India, which means mango season is coming…

I guess one of the main realizations I had this week was just to be
more aware of everything around me. It’s very nice.

I’ve been thinking more this week about how to show love for people.
It’s amazing how much can be done just by smiling at someone. I make
at least one person immeasurably happy each day by smiling at them.
Yet I still don’t smile at many of the people who I meet.

I’ve been thinking about spending more time asking people questions
about their lives. I’m used to asking pretty general questions: “How
are you?” “How many members are in your family?” “How was school
today?” but I’ve been thinking more about listening carefully for
people’s stories… It takes practice and attention, and I don’t do it
very often at all. There’s an auto driver here who was in the army,
was a kickboxing champion, and worked in the gold mines here until
they closed, twenty years back. Now he drives an auto, goes to the
gym every day for an hour… he must be over sixty, but he’s lean as a
jackrabbit. And his eyes smile all the time.

There is beauty all around me. But so much of the time I’m busy
worrying, instead of seeing it. And then I get a tap on the shoulder
from the Holy Ghost which says “Listen well. And see the Hand of

I’ve seen miracles in this work. But the greatest of all miracles are
the ones already there, the ones we forget are even miracles.

Elder Westwood

[I included my concerns about my original meaning that perfection in this
life is not required because God’s grace is there to help us when we have done
all we can do. This is Matt’s response: “I know and believe firmly in what
Bro. R. was talking about… I
originally set the goal with the expectation that I wouldn’t have the
perfect day any time but that setting the goal would make me work
harder at doing my part.

“Then the epiphany came, and I realized that this life is much more
perfect than we realize, we’re just in the habit of finding fault.”

Well, not even a mother can find fault with that! 🙂 Vilo Westwood]


O Joy

February 22, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is James 1. I remember early one morning shortly after his mission in Germany, my brother James went walking and talking with me, and while we talked he shared James 1:23-24, because of how beautiful the image is. Ever since I treasured that scripture. Today my brother Stephen sent it as part of his birthday present to me.

The hymn for this week is “There is Sunshine in my Soul Today.” I really like all the sunshine hymns, but I think this one is my favorite. And it’s true! The gospel of Jesus Christ is a light in my heart. ion=1&searchseqstart=227&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=227&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

I had a very good week. My mom shared with me recently about a brother who shared in Church about the goal he and his missionary companion had for 3 months running to have the perfect week. First they needed the perfect day, and in three months it never happened. They got close, but never perfect. I was thinking about that challenge this week, and Wednesday morning I wrote in my journal that I wanted to try it. And then I forgot about it until that night… but that night, when I looked back on the day, I realized that I’d been very happy all day long, that I’d accomplished everything I needed to do, and helped a lot of people out. And I couldn’t recall being frustrated or impatient all day long, which was very unusual… and I realized that almost without meaning to I had had a perfect day. It happened again Friday. Still it doesn’t happen every day, but I have a strong hope that as I keep doing this work, I’ll reach the point where I have the perfect week. Someday, I’ll have the perfect month. And my goal, before I die, is to have the perfect year. And I know that with God, all things are possible. [Editor Mom’s note: My point and the point of the brother who told his experience was that we are human and that’s what Christ’s atonement is for–that we do the best we can and He makes up the difference. However, Matt’s definition of perfection here is one which can probably be achieved on occasion–and worth seeking after.]

So with twenty years of my earthly life complete, I’m joyful, in love with God and with all his children. Thank you all.
Love one another, and let your joy be full!

Elder Mattathias Westwood

Pretty Pretty Pictures

February 20, 2011


February 20, 2011

They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick

February 20, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is Luke 5, which has a ton of my favorite stories about Jesus all in one chapter… I actually didn’t realize how many until I searched now, to find the quote that’s today’s subject line, and was surprised to see Luke 5… I’d been reading earlier in the chapter this week to talk about the men who lowered their friend through the roof to get him to Jesus, but I didn’t read the whole chapter, just that story.  And then I went to the top and saw that it also has the calling of Peter, which I was studying from Matthew just yesterday!  But I like the way Luke tells it better.  Especially this part:
“And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a adraught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have atoiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.  And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net abrake.  And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

And then instead Jesus calls them to follow him.

They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  And Peter needed to follow Jesus.  The scriptures teach that all of us are sick, all have gone astray, all needed to be healed… and all of us feel it sometimes… but just like when we’re sick, we’re stubborn, and the medicine doesn’t always taste good, and we sometimes forget to take it on time.

And we see others, who are even more in need of the doctor, and we judge them as too sick to know what they need, to sick to listen, to stubborn to change.  But usually it’s those that are furthest, not those closest to health, who see their need most strongly.

I’ve been learning this from a brother named Tangaraj.  He has a drinking problem, and everyone knows.  And mostly they think he’s beyond help.  But two weeks back Tangaraj asked us to come and pray with him, and to teach him… he came to another house we were visiting, waited until we finished, then asked.  He knows he needs the Physician.

But his neighbors don’t think he’s worth the help.  Even the Church members who live nearby asked “Why are you going to visit him?  He drinks every day, starting before breakfast.”  They that are whole need not a physician.   And I know I don’t know enough on my own to help Tangaraj overcome this, but I know that God does know.  So we visited Tangaraj, and prayed with him, and asked him to stop drinking, and helped him with some ways to do it… but we haven’t been able to follow up because of the second news this week from KGF.

The milk I drink has a label on the package “100% health 0% bacteria”.  It’s  very official.  But I guess I wasn’t drinking enough milk last week, because this week my health was below 100%.  Thursday to Saturday I spent mostly in bed.  And I drank lots of fluids and ate lots of bananas… and now I’m doing better, but still a little below 100%.  The side effect of that is that we didn’t visit a lot of people this week, but I did a lot of thinking, and a lot of reading, and Elder John took nice care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself.  And now that I’m on the mend we can start moving again.

So that’s all the news from KGF.  Love you all.  Be grateful for good health when you have it, and grateful for doctors when you’re sick.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Living Scriptures Presents: India

February 7, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is Isaiah 61.  I’ve been reading a lot of Isaiah recently, mostly in the Book of Mormon as I read through 2 Nephi.  I just finished the Isaiah chapters there this morning.  But I read Isaiah 61 a couple of weeks back, because of a reference to parallels between the first 3 verses and the Beatitudes.  And it’s an amazing chapter.

The hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” ion=1&searchseqstart=68&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=68&searchsubseq end=ZZZ
So I’ve been planning for a while to write about ways in which life in India has brought new meanings to the scriptures, but I kept putting other things first, until this week.  So here it goes:
“Gird up your loins”:  Although I knew, thanks to the Bible Dictionary entry on “Clothing,” that the phrase “gird up your loins” refers to the practice of pulling a floor length garment through a belt to make it knee length, I had never actually seen anyone gird up their loins until I came to India.  And then I didn’t notice it for about the first month.  It wasn’t until one day, when I saw an aunty with her sari skirt “girded up” into a pair of very colorful, baggy shorts so that she could clean her front steps without getting it wet, that I realized I was seeing one way the Bible is alive in India.
“Meats offered to idols”:  Reading Paul’s counsel about this, I never thought I would ever actually be asked “After I’m baptized, can I eat idol-food?”  And then it happened.
Speaking of which
“Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not”:  I already had gained probably a little more personal association with Romans 14 than most readers in the years since I became vegetarian. But in the US, vegetarianism is pretty much separate from religion… not so in India.  And because the divide between veg and non-veg is very much religious, Paul’s counsel probably has more meaning in India than anywhere else in the world… except that here it’s “pagan” (Hindu) converts who sometimes don’t eat meat, and “Israelite” (Christian) converts who do.  And it is a source of tension, although less, thanks to the Word of Wisdom (Those who eat place the emphasis on “eat meat” while those who don’t emphasize “sparingly” and everyone gets along.) 

[Editor’s note:  The Word of Wisdom is a modern day revelation on health (the reason Mormons don’t drink or smoke but which covers other things as well): The specific “sparingly” reference is in verse 12.  The mention of “conspiring men” in verse 4 is very interesting considering what we now know about the tobacco companies suppression of news about adverse health effects of their product.]

“He that regardeth the day” (also Romans 14): Another point of tension is that many Christian churches here teach that no one who is Christian should observe, recognize or even acknowledge any Hindu festival.  So the fact that our Church is fine with any observance that doesn’t involve actual idol-worship is fairly unusual.
Which brings us to
“God-fearers”: The New Testament refers in a couple of places to Gentiles who attended synagogues and believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but who chose not to be circumcised, because it meant giving up an ethnic identity and a place in society.  Here in India there are tons of Hindus who believe in, love, and worship Jesus Christ, who read the Bible and even sometimes attend a church weekly… but they haven’t been baptized because it means severing a connection to a culture, community, and identity that they want to keep.  Many of these are also confused and bewildered by the division of sects within Christianity, and get very strong answers from God when they pray about the Restoration.
“To the Jew First, and also to the Greek”:  As all of this may make you realize, the relationship in India between Hindus and Christians has many, many parallels to the scriptural relationship between Gentiles and Jews.  And just like the early Apostles and missionaries of Acts, I’m here preaching a message that in many ways is new to both, and that draws interest and opposition from all corners (Have you had a an elderly brahmin man call you a frog in a well?  I didn’t think so.)
Living in India has made me think a lot more about the living realities and cultural context of the scriptures, and will forever change how I read passages about the earliest gentile converts.  Most of all, it’s reinforced for me the truth and universality of the Gospel of Christ, and its message to “repent, and be baptized, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Spirit” (3 Ne 27:20?)
Peace be unto you,
Elder Mattathias Westwood