Archive for March, 2011

I Believe

March 29, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is 2nd Nephi 31, which I’ve probably read some part of every week since the start of my mission. http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/31?lang=eng The hymn is “When Jesus Christ was Baptized” from the LDS Children’s Songbook. http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=2&searchseqstart=102&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=102&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

When Jesus Christ was baptized
Down in the River Jordan,
Three members of the Godhead
Were present there in love.
The Father spoke from heaven
When Jesus Christ was baptized;
The Holy Ghost descended
As gently as a dove.

And now when I am baptized,
I’ll follow his example
Be baptized by immersion
Through sacred priesthood power.
Then I will be a member
Of Heavenly Father’s kingdom
And have the Holy Spirit
To guide me every hour.

I came on a mission to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Joseph Smith wrote, and as 2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, 27 and countless other scriptures in the Book of Mormon, New Testament and Doctrine and Covenants affirm, “the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

This week I baptized A. in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And I stood in the circle, with one hand on his head, as he was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Both of these ordinances were performed by authority which he and I believe comes not from men, but from God. And A. and I believe that through these ordinances and his faith, he will be saved, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

It was the first time I ever baptized anyone. And as he came up out of the water, I knew as surely as I ever will that baptism is everything I believe it is, just as clearly as if the Holy Ghost had come down as a dove instead of as a voice inside my heart.

This week I decided I had better explain why I’m on a mission, why I go into homes and teach, and invite people to be baptized and confirmed, to come to this Church, when I know full well that there are so many other Churches, temples and mosques that teach them to live good lives and have good families, to follow one god or another in a direction that is usually for the better.

It’s because I believe in a God who is the Eternal Father of us all, and who loves us. In His Son, Jesus Christ, sent to overcome our sins, our sorrows, our sicknesses, our afflictions, even death, to show us the road to walk back to our Heavenly Father. It’s because I believe in the Holy Ghost, the messenger of God who speaks to our hearts, who bears the quiet, gentle witness of the Father and the Son. I believe because I have felt this witness.

Because I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe what he taught when he said “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and when he sent his Apostles out to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe it is the way, the only way, to full and lasting happiness in this world and in the next. I believe the words of scripture which say the Father invites “all men, everywhere, to repent and believe” in his Son, and that “the first fruits of repentance is baptism”. And because I believe the words of living prophets and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ, I know that the Father prepared a way, even before the world was created, so that everyone could follow this Gospel, and that even those who are not baptized in this life will be baptized in the world to come.

But I don’t want to wait for the world to come. I don’t want to make anyone wait. This Gospel is a sound of rejoicing, and I want to go out and share like a man with a trumpet and the best song in the world. And so I’m here in India, teaching faith on the Lord, repentance, and baptism. I believe that the work I’m doing helps people not just to live better lives now, not just to give up drinking and smoking and to spend more time with their families, not just to tell the truth and to treat others kindly, but to be saved.

The first principle of the Gospel is faith. And it’s faith that’s led me to this work above any other work, and to this Church instead of any other Church, or society, or philosophy, as the way to live and be happy.

And I exhort you, if reading this (or any of my other messages) you have felt peace and joy in your heart, to go to a Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints near where you live and see whether you feel God’s Spirit saying it’s true, it’s all true. Or meet with missionaries with the same faith that I have, and listen to their words. And listen for that Spirit whispering. And when they invite you to read the Book of Mormon, to pray and ask God if it’s true, open your heart, and go and read and pray with faith that God will answer you if this is at all important to Him. And to all of you hearing this who already have that testimony in your hearts, feed it and share it.

I write these things in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mornings, and enduring

March 21, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is Mosiah 4. Especially verse 27.
http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/4?lang=eng

Mornings are getting better, partly because of the addition, this
Thursday and Saturday, of a morning run with Elder J. We ran from
our apartment to the main traffic signal, and then walk back. The
distance is about a mile each way. Elder J. has more endurance, and could easily run both ways, but runs much slower. I don’t have the endurance yet, but I can run fast. Which I think is actually a
characteristic of many things in my life. I learn and grasp things
pretty quickly, but I don’t always exercise the endurance or patience
to continue long enough to improve or to internalize or put in action
what I’ve learned.

But endurance is a central theme of the Gospel. Jesus Christ teaches
us to endure, to be patient, to be long-suffering. That’s how we
continue, how we change, how we nourish the seed in our hearts, how we run the race, how we win the prize.

I realized this week that I was still expecting to wake up one day and
suddenly know what I was doing, to be able to do just about everything right, but I realized yesterday that it’s never going to happen, at least not suddenly.

Because while I grasp quickly, the learning and becoming is a process,
a repetitive process of doing ordinary things. And that takes
endurance and patience, and a continuous reaching to be better.

It’s the endurance to brush my teeth in the morning, every morning.
To exercise. To press my shirt. It’s the endurance to smile and talk
to one more person every day. It’s the endurance to keep trying to do
things right even when I repeatedly fall short of what I know is the
goal. Endurance means not giving up, and it also means, as we learn
from King Benjamin, of having the wisdom and organization to know what we’re capable of now and what needs to wait for tomorrow.

And this endurance saves. I know it does. So I’m trying to have it.
And I encourage you to ponder it, and to try it out with something
that’s been frustrating you.

I don’t feel like this adequately expresses my thoughts, but my time is short.

Love God. Love your Neighbor. Love Yourself. Serve and Endure in
Hope and Faith.
Amen.

Elder Westwood

Planting and Harvest

March 14, 2011

It’s spring which means it’s planting time… and Easter and Passover and General Conference are quickly coming near. Jesus is teaching and preparing his Apostles to understand the Atonement and the Resurrection, Israel is about to be freed from Egypt, Moses will soon be standing before Pharaoh and we’ll be able to hear living prophets and apostles speak the words of Jesus Christ and testify that if we will follow him into the wilderness and stand beside the Cross we too will be freed from sorrow and sin, we too will enter the Promised Land in peace.

I’m grateful for their witness, and for the witness I have from the Holy Spirit that their words are true, that the scriptures are fulfilled and relived around me every day.

Behold there went out a sower to sow the seed:

The scripture passage for this week is Mark 4. I’ve been thinking a lot about this parable, about how I see it fulfilled in my own life and the lives of those I teach. The sower is sowing, and all he asks is “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/mark/4?lang=eng

After all, that’s what God made ears to do.

Thy hymn for this week is “Israel, Israel God is Calling”
http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=7&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=7&searchsubseqen d=ZZZ

Here in Kolar Gold Fields, life is good and the work of God goes forth. February 21st, I wrote about having the perfect day. I wrote about wanting to have that kind of day more often.

My sister Judith replied, “NOT every day has to be perfect for life to be good 🙂 And sometimes the best days are filled with hard bad seeming things, but then you realize how you grew through those things.”

And that’s kind of what Feb 28th to March 6th was like. I was frustrated. I was tired. But I kept going. I tried to learn, to see what I could do better. I got pretty discouraged for a few days. But I kept going, kept getting up, kept leaving the flat and working as hard as I could.

March 8th we had zone conference, with all the missionaries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. And Elder P. of the Seventy was there. When he met me, he said “How are your grandparents?” and let me know that my great-grandfather Daddy Joe was his branch president was he was a young boy in Arizona.

As it happens, he’s also my second cousin once removed.

He and his wife Karen trained us and encouraged us. And they teach and bear testimony with power and authority of God. And so I left feeling very good.

Then Wednesday morning I felt crummy again. But I made a decision to still work as hard as I could.

And it paid off. By the end of the day, I was happy and confident and knew what I wanted to accomplish. This week has been amazing. I’ve been able to have some awesome experiences with awesome people, chief among them my companion, Elder John. And we’ve learned a lot more about the Holy Spirit and how it works.

So go on in the Lord’s work, and remember that he promises to deliver us, in His time, from all our tribulations.
Elder Mattathias Westwood

Mornings

March 7, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is Matthew 6. http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/6?lang=eng The song is the children’s round “For Health and Strength” which I remembered as “For health and strength and daily bread” but which is actually “For health and strength and daily food we praise thy name,O Lord.” http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=2&searchseqstart=21&searchsubseqstart=a&searchseqend=21&searchsubseqen d=a [mom editor’s note: I may the source of the error–I thought it was bread too.]

The Sermon on the Mount is really amazing in terms of the way it tells us exactly the things we should start doing to live happier, more productive lives. But these are things that are hard to balance together.

I want to focus this week on “Taking no thought beforehand” mostly because I think it’s something I don’t do very well.

The biggest struggle I’ve had, since the beginning of my mission (and to be truthful, since I was about six years old) is being productive with my mornings. The missionary routine is very simple. Wake up at 6:30, pray, excercise, prepare for the day, eat breakfast. And yet in six months as a missionary, I’ve met one elder who actually manages to get all of those things done properly and fully in the ninety minutes before 8am, when personal scripture study is supposed to start. And that elder definitely is not me.

I’ve had very little trouble with getting up at 6:30. I even get out of bed right away most mornings… but the whole past month, I haven’t managed to do morning exercise. And for the past week and a half, all I’ve had for breakfast is milk, bananas, and the yolks from Elder John’s boiled eggs because he’s trying to cut cholesterol and I’m not. This morning, I had a packet of chocolate chip cookies.

I’ve realized that the core problem I have in the morning is that I spend about twenty minutes wandering around the flat thinking about taking a shower before I take one, then another ten or so thinking about the exercise I should be doing and the nutritious breakfast I should be making… and by the time all my thinking is done, there’s no time to do anything but stuff something quick in my mouth, get dressed, and run to my desk. So it’s all spent in taking thought beforehand, instead of doing what matters now.

I’ve made a couple of plans to change this, but so far I haven’t consistently followed through with any of them. But this is an area where I really want to improve, and I’m confident that I can, with God’s help, when I show some real dedication to it. I just haven’t put together the effort yet.

I’ve been telling people almost every day that learning about Jesus Christ and following his teachings can help them with all their problems, but as of yet, I haven’t brought that power to bear on this particular struggle of my own. So I’ll tell you how it goes.

Oh how close perfection seems some days, and how far the next! But all of this life together is after all things meant to make us humble, because it’s only when we’re humble that we can really have joy.

I know this is true, that God is our Father and that he wants us to have joy, and that he sent Jesus Christ so that we could have life, and live it more abundantly.

In Jesus name, Amen (which as my companion enjoyed learning, means “Truly”)

Elder Westwood