Archive for June, 2011

Loving God

June 29, 2011

The scripture passage is Alma 32. Again (I think I used it last in October) http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/32?lang=eng

A couple of months ago, I picked up a French copy of the Book of Mormon that had been sitting in the mission office. Since I’m quite probably the only person in the mission right now who reads French, President Funk recommended I take it back to my apartment.

I read it once or twice, and noticed that reading in French made me pay a lot more attention to the details because I had to think more about each word, and frequently had to stop and make sure I knew the meaning of a phrase. Frequently, reading in French brought out new meaning.

Yesterday, I started reading in French during my personal study, and turned to Alma 32. The chapter talks a lot about worshipping God. I took a start while reading it, because in French, “worship” is translated as “adorer” which also means simply “to love”.

Which provided a whole new take on these verses:
“I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye. Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot love our God. Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot love God save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not love God only once in a week?”

These were good questions for me. Do I think I can love God only while I’m at church? Do I think I only need to love God once a week? Once a day?

How well do I understand what it is to really love and worship God? The scripture says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” And I probably don’t do that. How well do I love God? How is that love expressed in the way I pray, in how I act at Church, in how I treat others? How often do I contemplate that love, and the love and grace of God in my direction.

After all, “We love him because he first loved us.”

So I want to improve my worship, to love God in word and deed, and to really let it be my whole heart.

The time I’ve spent as a missionary has helped me better understand how the time we spend praying, reading the scriptures, and coming to church can not only demonstrate but also increase the love that we have towards God, and pull us away from things which might otherwise crowd God out of our hearts and minds. But it’s in my hands how well I use these chances to love God and to learn from Him.

Yesterday at church, I was taking care of two or three concerns when a church member approached me and said “Elder, the water is out.” I knew what he really meant was “Elder, will you go and get a new bottle for the water cooler” but I wasn’t really ready to do that right then, especially since he wasn’t asking directly. When I didn’t respond, he asked again. I said “The security guard knows how to take care of it” and kept working on my other business. The member kept standing there, and after another thirty seconds said “Can you go and tell the security guard that the bottle is empty”. I pointed to the security guards desk a hundred feet away, and said “I’m a little busy, but you can ask him” and started looking for the next person I needed to talk to. The member looked at me in shock and said “You are not humble. As an Elder, you are not humble” and then walked away. And he was right, I had forgotten in that moment to be humble.

When we look for them, we will see these moments where we can correct and improve our behavior every day. The correction may come (and will mostly come) from others who we know are flawed, and we will be tempted to stubbornly ignore their counsel. But as we heed wise correction from every source, we will show our love for God and we will grow from grace to grace.

I know the Gospel is true, and it is an increasingly great joy to proclaim it and to live it. I know that through the Atonement of Christ and the promptings of the Holy Ghost, I can lay hold of faith, hope, charity, humility, diligence and every good gift. As I turn to God and serve Him with all my heart, I will be made perfect in Christ. I know these promises are true as I live them, and I know they are true for all of us.

Love,
Elder Westwood

We want to pray, but we don’t know how

June 21, 2011

The scripture for this week is Alma 34.http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/34?lang=eng The hymn is “O My Father” http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=292&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=292&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ

Yesterday, I was on exchange with a new elder. I was feeling a little sick, and so instead of eating at a restaurant, Elder B. and I went back to the apartment for lunch. Then I planned to take a twenty minute nap, but ended up sleeping for an hour, because he also fell asleep. We hurried back to the church to meet our next appointment, but they were running late. So I just sat down in one of the classrooms and turned the AC on while he went to get a glass of water.

Then I saw someone in the hallway. It’s not unusual for people to just walk into the church during the day, in fact that’s one of the main ways that we start teaching people. By the time I came into the hall, Elder B. was already there talking with them. It was two teenagers, S. and D. I asked why they’d come to the church. They told me they wanted to pray but they didn’t know how. Elder B. said we would be happy to help them. They told us that they’d come to pray for their friend S., who’d been in an accident.

They told us he was in a coma. They wanted to pray for him, they had faith he could be healed. Both were Hindu, but they’d come to the church because S. was Christian and he’d shared his belief that Christ could heal. They came to the church because they had faith in God and a desperate need to ask for his help, not for themselves but for another. They were worried about S., and about his parents. S. is an only child.

So we shared with them how to pray, and we shared our testimonies that God will care for S., that Christ does have power to heal him, and that their prayers will be heard, and whatever happens will be God’s will. We placed our faith in God. And we prayed with them. They felt peace and comfort.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again. But I think we helped them at that moment, and I know they helped me. I remembered again just how much need I have of God, and how vital he is to each of us, no matter where or who we are. I’ve been praying for S.

I love you all.

Elder Westwood

Peace through prayer

June 15, 2011

(editor mom’s note:) Matt’s Aunt Sunitha was able to visit him and his companion during a recent visit to Hyderabad. She says he is well and doing well. She also says the Hyderabad biryani Matt referred to in another letter is truly delicious.
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The scripture passage for this week is Alma 27 http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/27?lang=eng. I think the People of Ammon are the greatest success story in the Book of Mormon. They accept the gospel. They repent and stay faithful at great personal cost. They remain faithful through two resettlements, both caused by war. They teach their children so well that their children become synonymous with righteousness, faith and diligence. They keep their covenants despite temptation. They are successful in resisting the influence of Korihor and of the Gadianton robbers. Throughout all of this they show great charity and hospitality, first to the Zoramite refugees, then to released Lamanite prisoners of war. Imagine the effort and love that was involved in integrating those groups. Think of the trauma they went through, and then the trauma they helped others overcome. We don’t know their names. They were a quiet family-focused people, and they did God’s work. We can learn from them.

The hymn is “Come, Rejoice”. That’s how I feel this week. http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollect ion=1&searchseqstart=9&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=9&searchsubseqen d=ZZZ

In her weekly e-mail to me, my mom includes summaries of the sacrament meeting talks from that Sunday. (For anyone who’s confused, sacrament meeting is the main part of an LDS church service. We partake of the sacrament, or Lord’s Supper, and then three or four members of the congregation present messages which they’ve been called on to prepare during the week. There is no pastor.)

This week, in the sacrament meeting here, I was called to speak. I’ve never been too worried about giving a talk, but this time I forgot about it completely until Sunday morning, when we were going out the door and Elder Tewari said “Do you have your talk ready?”

This was not as bad as it sounds, because we were leaving our apartment at 9am to greet people coming to church for the morning service, but the congregation we serve in meets in the afternoon. So I would have some time to prepare. But when I opened up my scriptures to start my planning, I couldn’t focus on making a plan. Different worries and concerns kept crowding into my thoughts. I flipped pages and read parts of different stories, but wasn’t getting any closer to having a talk prepared. I was becoming increasingly worried and frustrated.

Then I prayed. I prayed for peace, for the ability to focus on making a plan, and for the guidance to know what God would want me to say. The peace came. I turned to Matthew 18:11 http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/18?lang=eng, which has been coming into my mind a lot over the past several months, and from there the rest came together quickly. I spoke on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, how it has changed my life, how it can change all of us. I talked about the joy God has and we have every time we repent.

I know I would not have been able to give that talk without prayer.

Then Brother Kalakanda told the story of Balaam, from Numbers 22 http://lds.org/scriptures/ot/num/22?lang=eng. It’s a great story. How often does God upset our plans in order to save us, and we stand there beating on the donkey?

I’m trying to be like Jesus. I don’t always do so well at it. But when I do, I feel so much joy. It’s in the small things, like choosing not to say something sarcastic after you think of it, like showing extra gratitude to someone, like sitting next to someone new at Church and taking a few moments to really care about their life, and learn about them. Being like Jesus is, without a doubt, the best way to be. I’ve felt it every time I come to him.

Love,
Elder Westwood

Glad tidings from Cumorah… and Hyderabad

June 6, 2011

Editor mom’s note: Once a month, usually the first Sunday of the month, we fast 2 meals and pay a fast offering–suggested as the price of those meals or a more generous offering if possible. That money is used by the bishop to help anyone in need in our local ward. If there is extra, it goes to the church offices to help with needs in other places. In our sacrament meeting on fast and testimony day any who wish to express their testimonies can speak instead of assigned speakers as is usual.

From: Mattathias Westwood
Sent: Mon, June 6, 2011 3:43:08 AM
Subject: Glad tidings from Cumorah… and Hyderabad

And so how speedily another week has passed. The passage for the week is Matthew 7. http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/7?lang=eng

Now June has started. Which means yesterday was Fast and Testimony Sunday. I used to think the purpose of fasting was to lift us to a higher spiritual state, but I think now that we fast to realize our dependance on God, to stretch us and to help us recognize where we need to improve. I realized this yesterday when I thought about how much harder it is for me to keep my patience when I’m fasting. How much harder it is to remember my plans. Fasting yesterday made me aware of where I need to improve, and just how much my mood is dependent on three square meals a day.

To illustrate: At 11:30 am, Elder T. and I were sitting down to watch a DVD with two of our investigators. Now, there are 2 TVs in the church, one of which is for missionary use and one for church use… but the church use A/V cord was lost, and no one got a new one. One of the classes decided at the last moment that they also wanted to watch a DVD during their class… a teacher came down and asked us if we could adjust our plans to let them use the DVD player.

I was not happy. The DVD player was rightfully ours, as was the A/V cord, and we had already started. I went into the hall and told him this. I told him if they wanted to watch a DVD, they should have planned in advance and made sure everything was in order. I told him we had already started our class, and that we would be done in 30 minutes.

He went back upstairs.

Two minutes later, the twenty members of the class filed in to the room and started watching the DVD along with our investigators.

That was definitely not my plan. I wanted to shout at someone. I wanted to know who was responsible for this outrage. Then I took a deep breath and realized that this was the best solution possible, and that while my plans were going to be turned upside down, my plans had not been perfect to begin with, and this was no worse. I had to go into the hall again, this time to laugh at myself for being so fed up over something so small.

I learn to bend, but slowly… especially when I haven’t eaten in 14 hours.

And so I love a gospel which teaches us how to repent, to reevaluate our behavior and see where we have acted rudely, unjustly, foolishly. I love a gospel of forgiveness from a glorious loving God who looks at our foibles and smiles, and weeps, and calls us to be healed. I love a gospel which teaches us to stop looking at the mote in our neighbors eye and focus on the beam in our own. This is a gospel of joy, a gospel of peace, a gospel which humbles us enough to see how great our worth is in the eyes of God.

Love you all,
Elder Westwood