Archive for May, 2011

And Jesus beholding him loved him

May 30, 2011

The hymn for this week is “God be with you till we meet again” http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=152&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=152&searchsubs eqend=ZZZand the scripture passage is Philippians 4… or Mark 1… read both of them.http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/philip/4?lang=eng , http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/mark/1?lang=eng

I’m back in Hyderabad, staying in the same apartment I stayed in my first two months in India, serving in the same branch as I served then, but now with more experience and more responsibility. In the next branch over is a brand new elder who’s adjusting to everything in India for the first time. The names are new, the faces are new, the streets are very different, and on top of that he has a call to preach the everlasting gospel. And he’s stepping forward in a marvelous way, but it takes me back a long way to see just how much he has to learn. Yesterday, I was on exchange with him, and he complained that he couldn’t understand anyone on the phone… “They all sound muffled.” Then I saw that he was holding the phone backwards, because in a lot of Indian models the speaker is on the back… that helped him a lot.

Ah, life.

We were reading on Saturday from the Book of Mormon with a brother named V. I taught him when I was first here, and his wife was baptized a month ago, but he’s had some concerns about how the church services are different than in other churches. But he decided this week that he wanted to read the Book of Mormon that we gave him six months ago, and so we went and started it with him. We read three chapters. And while we were talking a little bit about the brass plates Nephi and his brothers go to get, he said “I have a question and I don’t know if it’s pertinent right now, but as I’ve read the Bible I’ve always wondered why it says so little about Joseph’s descendants, because Joseph is the chosen son, but the Bible talks so much about Judah and his descendants.” And we sat there for a moment to get over the shock, and then said “Well, if you’ll turn with us for a moment to chapter six, you’ll find out that the Book of Mormon is the record of Joseph’s descendants.”

I can never expect the questions people ask.

Love you all,
Elder Westwood

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and a time to every purpose under heaven

May 23, 2011

I didn’t plan a scripture passage and hymn for this week. My rough thoughts are Alma 17 http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/17?lang=eng and “Guide Me to Thee” http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=101&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=101&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

It’s been a beautiful week. Occasionally I get these shocks at how quickly time is passing, and this week was one of them. This is a beautiful time of my life, it will end, and there will be another purpose to turn my focus to. But now is the time to work with all my heart, might, mind at strength at the purpose the Lord has put before me.

And what a mighty purpose.

I’m starting to get a greater sense for the richness of each life in the eyes of God. For the richness of every experience. I’ve been trying to really think about the experiences people have had with God, with Christ, with religion, long before I met them, and how those interactions impact the way they respond to me and my companion. I’ve been amazed, everywhere I’ve gone, by how prepared some people are to listen to us, to take our words to heart.

And others aren’t prepared. And that’s okay. Because it’s God’s time, and not ours, that matters. And as my elementary school teacher reminded me, in a message he sent to my mother after she sent him my news about learning to read music: “I guess we’re fortunate to have a good and merciful God with enough patience to last an eternity.”

So fortunate!

More on that: Mr. W. has spent years trying to get kids to love music, to learn to play the keyboard. And I was one of those kids who enjoyed the class but maybe never seemed to learn much, and I would say I certainly didn’t have much hope in my musical talents. But what he taught bore fruit… in the time of the Lord.

So those are my thoughts for this week!

I love you all, and I’m learning little by little, line by line, precept by precept, that God fulfills all His words. And that is a wonderful thing.

I hope your hearts are as full of joy as mine is, and if they’re not, don’t worry, because they will be.

In other news, I’ll be going back to Hyderabad tomorrow, for as long as God wants me to be there. I’ll be in the same branch I was in before! And there’s a purpose in that as well.

Love you,
Elder Westwood

Growing Wings

May 16, 2011

Mom editor’s note: In Elder Westwood’s Mother’s Day call last week we learned a few things. First, Matt has an Indian intonation to his English now. Not too strong, but definitely noticeable. Second, he said that it has not been too hot where he is because Karnataka is one of the most temperate areas in India. He had worried about the heat and feels blessed to have had his first hot season in Karnataka. It is mango season now, which he is enjoying very much. He said mornings are going a little better because he’s learned to get moving right away. The people of India love to discuss religion, so they are busy teaching all day. They take a quick half hour for lunch and then teach until they head back to the apartment about 9:00 or 9:30. Then they plan the next day and eat a light meal and go to bed. Most people in India eat “dinner” after 9 p.m. so no dinner appointments with families like he had in California. He said most religious discussions are very respectful and wide-ranging, but occasionally someone wants to dispute this or that point. Matt said it’s wonderful to be able to say, “We don’t need to debate this. We can just pray about it and God will let us know what is right.” That’s quite a statement coming from Matt the debater!!
Love, Vilo (Matt’s mom)

The hymn for this week is “Now Let Us Rejoice”. http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=3&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=3&searchsubseqen d=ZZZ When I was a child (and thought as a child) I didn’t like this hymn because the chorus says “And none will molest them” and I thought “molest” was a bad word to have in a hymn. But now that I know more about what it means, I like it quite a lot. I especially like it this week, because I learned to play it on the keyboard! But more about that later. The scripture passage for this week is D&C 121, especially verse 45: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and 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.” http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/121?lang=eng

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence. The church here has table tennis. Now, I’ll my life I’ve avoided playing table tennis, because I was really bad at it. I was generally uncoordinated, and table tennis, I could see, required special coordination and concentration. And so I would usually sit out when any of my friends were playing, because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. On my mission I also sat out, until a couple of weeks ago Elder G. asked me to play. And I decided to try. And I had confidence, for the first time in my life, that I could learn. And I’m still bad, but not nearly as bad as I was before.

We’ve also been going to the church twice a week so Elder G. can practice keyboard, because he’s trying to learn. And on Wednesday, I was sitting and watching him play, and looking at the notes… and suddenly I realized that I was able to read the music! I sang in a church choir for 4 years, and played trombone 4 years, and I could never read music. I was always very ashamed of that. It’s actually most of why I quit trombone. But there I was, reading the music. I remembered my elementary school music teacher teaching me the notes on the staff. I could never remember the notes before, but now I could. And so I asked Elder G. if I could try, and he let me, and then he said “You told me you don’t know how to play!” and I said “Really, I didn’t know, until now”

I don’t think he believes me.

A similar thing happened this week with D., who we’ve been teaching for about a month now. He went out of station (away from home) for a couple of weeks, so he wasn’t able to see us. And the first time we saw him, we reviewed some of what we’d taught before, and then we invited him to pray. And he said no. He was honestly terrified. He said “I’ll pray next time” and then I started saying something, which he knew was going to be a question about why he was nervous, and he said “Next time next time next time.”

And I took a deep breath and said a prayer of my own in my heart, and then shared with him a few thoughts about prayer. And as I spoke I saw the fear go out of him, and then he prayed, and it was a beautiful and heartfelt prayer.

Many of the people we teach don’t have confidence they can do what we ask them to do, whether it’s to pray or to read out loud or to stop smoking or to ask their boss for Sunday leave. But if there is one thing I have learned by preaching the Gospel, it is that we will never get confidence, or faith, or a testimony, until we try to do what God tells us we can do. We can go on saying “next time” or “no” or “it’s too hard for me” or we can take a deep breath, and try it, and see God lift us up beyond our own capabilities.

This is a great lesson, and one I’m just beginning to learn, and still frequently fail to act on.

I know God lives, that his promises are sure, and that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. Sometimes, with my all-too-human eyes, I doubt my ability to do what God asks… but I am reminded time and time again that it is ultimately not my abilities that matter, but His, and that in Him all things are possible.

I love you all, and pray that you may conquer fear with faith and find the joy that comes in doing what you did not believe you could do.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Light Through The Darkness

May 2, 2011

The scripture passage for this week is Joseph Smith History, in particular verses 1-20. http://http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng The hymn is “Come, come ye Saints” http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=30&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=30&searchsubseq end=ZZZ

I spent three days this week on exchange with Elder N. http://visakhapatnam.nic.in/ He joined the Church four years ago. He says before he was a Hindu atheist who disliked Christians. His mom went to Church sometimes, but he stopped her, and said “We’re Hindu, what are you doing?” Well, then he needed a job, and got one… but the boss told him it was as maintenance man for a local church. He wasn’t happy. But when he started working there, he noticed how people really treated him with respect. Elders started teaching him. He didn’t want to listen. But every set of elders who came wanted to teach him. Finally, he decided the church was true, and he got baptized. But he didn’t want to tell his mom, not because he thought she’d be angry, but because he thought she’d go telling everyone what a miracle God had done in changing her son.

So he just pretended that on Sunday he was going for work, not for Church. But some Elders got his address and went and told his mom that he’d been baptized. And just as he’d expected, she was very happy, and soon his mom and brother were baptized too. He thought he wouldn’t be able to serve a mission, because he was head of household since his father died. But his brother started working alongside his studies so that Elder N. could serve.

He’s a really good missionary. He told me he knows the Gospel is true because he’s felt it change his heart and he sees God answering his prayers every day.

One of the people we visited together is a woman whose brother was baptized a month ago, but she wasn’t interested. We shared the Book of Mormon with her, and we’d ask whenever we visited if she’d been reading, but she never did… until last week. Her family has been going through some really, really hard times, and she said that when she started reading the Book of Mormon, all her tension went away, she just felt free.

It’s an amazing thing to see someone suddenly get that testimony.

Another sister we were visiting told us last night that she hadn’t asked God whether our message was true, because we were talking about Jesus, and isn’t anyone who talks about Jesus telling the truth? Then her uncle, who’s a pastor, started saying that there are no prophets on the earth today, that all prophecy ended with the apostles, and that if we say there are prophets then we’re liars… so we think she understands now why she need to pray, that there really is a difference in doctrine and if God is there, then certainly God is the one to tell us the truth, to shine through the confusion.

That’s one of the things I love about Joseph Smith’s First Vision. The Father and the Son are a light cutting through the darkness. Men contend but God does not.

I love you all.

Elder Westwood