Archive for August, 2011

How Great the Wisdom and the Love

August 15, 2011

Happy Indian Independence Day! This morning I went to church for the flag-hoisting and breakfast. They were starting a volleyball game when we left to go and e-mail our families.

The scripture passage for this week is Exodus 35:4-36:7. I found it Friday morning during my personal scripture study… I don’t want to say how I ended up moving from reading about the sacrament to reading Exodus 33-36… suffice it to say that I’m far too easily distracted by patterns in the word of God. But what I noticed in these chapters is the beauty of the desire of the people to participate in building the tabernacle, a desire that I think came in part from the Lord’s commandment that the offering should be brought only by those with a willing heart… in this case, those given such a choice overwhelmingly chose to contribute, to participate, to give in gratitude to the Lord. I’d also like to note the role of the Spirit in providing certain people (women and men) with wisdom to do the work of God.

The hymn is “For the Beauty of the Earth”, which is my sister Elisabeth’s favorite. ion=1&searchseqstart=92&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=92&searchsubseq end=ZZZ

I’ve gained a much greater respect, since I started my mission, for the films produced by the Church. I guess I used to look at them largely from an artistic or entertainment perspective, and so I liked them but some seemed a little cheesy and some just not very well done… and then I started watching “Finding Faith in Christ” (one of the ones I was most embarrassed by) on a fairly regular basis with people who are either know very little about Christ or who know a variety of things about him but have questions like “How can we have faith in someone we haven’t seen? Why should we have faith in the face of tragedy? Why Christ in particular?”

And cheesy as it might seem, this movie helps them. A lot. In many cases, watching the film and seeing moments from the life of Christ touches their heart in a way the words I say have not. It helps people feel peace, make decisions, and feel the word of God start to grow in their hearts as they get a sense for who Jesus Christ really is. This week I watched it twice, once with a man who was totally amazed by it, and who kept asking questions about the stories, who wanted to know more about everything, and once with a man who turned to me almost halfway through, a man who has had no strong connection to any religion at any point in his life, and said to me “Trusting Jesus Christ is the most important thing.”

The form matters much less to them than the substance, and the substance is Christ and his message.

The form matters less than the substance, and the substance is Christ and his message…. I want to think about that a lot more this week. May it be true for all of us.

Love you all,
Elder Mattathias Westwood


Loud Your Anthems Raise

August 9, 2011

The scripture for this week is 2 Timothy.

The hymn for this week is “Onward Christian Soldiers”. ion=1&searchseqstart=246&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=246&searchsubs eqend=ZZZ When I was six, I loved this hymn because I thought it was about fighting. Now I love it because it’s not about fighting. It’s about singing. When we sang it yesterday in elder’s quorum, I felt the joy and unity that comes from being brothers in the gospel fill the room. I felt the faith and optimism that come from declaring Christ’s Atonement and victory. I felt the power in the invitation that begins the fourth verse: “Onward, then, ye people; Join our happy throng. Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song!”

I’ve become a little famous in the mission for singing. Mostly for singing loud. I love the power of a good hymn.

This has been a beautiful week.

I started on Monday by flying between the clouds as we went to Bangalore for a training meeting. That’s right. Clouds above, clouds beneath, and the sun shining through, dazzling. I listened for a while to the man sitting next to me. He said it was disorienting to come back to India after 14 years in the US and to see that the country he grew up in is gone. The tv he didn’t even know in his childhood is now everywhere, as is the mobile phone he didn’t buy until 2005. He’s hopeful, but frightened at times by a country in which $1000 dollar per night hotel rooms now fill up on a regular basis, but so many people are still without proper food and shelter. He knew Latter-day Saints in America, talked about what good friends they were, and how he and his wife enjoyed visiting their home at Christmas. He’s surprised to know that there are over 9000 Latter-day Saints in the southern half of India, that there’s a chapel thirty minutes from his new home. But while he’s curious about how the community has grown, he isn’t interested in visiting.

Tuesday, we talked about being better shepherds to the Lord’s sheep and about turning to him in every thought, and then I went our to walk on water, a miracle facilitated by those who in the past thirty years had turned a lake into a neighborhood, covering what had become a dumping ground for trash with concrete and with homes to fit the thousands and hundreds of thousands who came pouring into Bangalore to make a living, to feed their families, to be sheltered by the warmth of other humans. We took a member who was surprised to find that the appointment he’d agreed to go to was within 500 meters of his birthplace, taking him back across decades.

Wednesday, I flew back and met a movie star who’s trying to figure out to balance her career with the commitment she feels to her parents. I taught a brother who says he wants nothing but peace in his life, and he felt that peace the first time he walked into the church. I thought about how important it is to keep that peace, how easily it can be lost from our own thoughts and hearts as we turn our faces away from the Savior or as we contend one with another and deny our brothers, the least of whom is still Christ.

Thursday, I stood on an Indian highway, inviting everyone who walked past me to take ten minutes to come into the Church and to learn of Christ, to give away their hurry and their worry for a second to take a step away from the noise, the blur of colors, the multitude, to think about what matters most. And many came. I could see the wonder in the face of a few as they stepped into the chapel. I could see the hope in the face of one, a father of two and an electrician, as he told us that he speaks to his children only in the English that he learned as he studied and not in the language he speaks every day on the street as he goes from job to job, that he’s enrolled them in an English school because he wants their future to be brighter than his. When we first stopped him on the road, he thought we were offering him work, and not a tour, but he was happier walking out of the church than he was walking in.

Friday, I found myself walking a narrow path beside a small stream, again walking away from the noise and back, past the houses and through a field, to a small masjid tucked away from the street, to join the humble worshippers breaking their fast their. I washed my hands and feet and face and ate with them, joining in a circle where everyone had brought something and where eager hands reached out to offer guests half a banana, spicy chickpeas, a few pomegranate seeds. We thanked them and slipped away as their prayers began to rise to God.

Saturday, I was on exchange with a missionary going home after 27 months devoted to the Lord. We rejoiced in each others faith as we discussed how to keep moving, how to get better and to reach higher as we each go on in this oh-so-vital work. I could see how he had become, in two years, more and more consecrated and converted to the work of Christ, and I saw in the center of his being an unquenchable flame. I pondered what I can do is the next year to finish so boldly, so nobly, so well.

Sunday, I turned myself once more to Him as I dedicated all I’d done that week, and renewed my covenants with bread and water that were blessed and sanctified to make me remember all that He has done for me. I listened as other shared their conviction and told of the path they’ve walked thus far towards God. I stood with them and sang.

I love you all,
Elder Westwood