Monday, July 29, 2013

"I did not hit you, I lightly slapped you." "You hit me."

Hey all,

Before I forget, I probably won't be able to write you next Monday because we need to travel to Quito for the leaders' council. Maybe I'll get permission to write another day, or I'll just wait to write in two weeks. But, when I don't write next week, don't freak out and think that I died. Although it could be possible that I do die.

This week was pretty good! We worked really hard and feel really great about how things are going in Lago. There is still a lot of work to be done with investigators and with the branch members, but progress is being made. It's like they say, "You can't make Jell-O in a matter of hours!" So, living by that motto, we know that great things are to come. We contact a lot here, it seems to be the best way to find people. Elder Burr has taught me a ton on how to contact well. He has the gift of establishing confidence with people quickly, something that I've tried to have as well as I learn from his example. It's been so great to be with him. I've learned tons and feel like I'm such a better missionary now thanks to him. He goes home in two weeks, I'm gonna miss that guy. We'll keep working hard until the end. That's another thing that we've learned together, something that the jungle teaches you. You just keep working, whether things are going as you want them to go or if they are not. You just keep on keeping on, and things will get where they should be. Optimism! Woo!

I read four talks by Elder Maxwell this week. What's up. I read his last couple talks as a member of the presidency of the Seventy, and his first two as an Apostle. The first talk was about the importance of the balance between the responsibilities of men and of women in the plan of God. I like how he starts off. Basically he says that our responsibilities as men and women were determined a long time ago in some other place. There is no one on earth right now who was in charge of our responsabilities, we just have to keep the ones that we have been given. So, in more modern words, "You go girls!"

The other talk I read was about how the Church has many members from many walks of life and that each member is equally important. He also talks about the different cultures, and how the Church enthusiastically supports the traditions of other cultures as long as they are good. In the world, people face a lot of rejection; in the Church, they should find none. A lot of times, those who believe are chastened by the world. He gives the example of imagining how Noah would be perceived in the world today on the 6 o'clock news if they did a daily report on him. I like this quote about how important new members are. He says, "They have been called to his vineyard not just to admire but to perspire--not to "ooh" and "aah" but to "hoe and saw." Let us make them friends--not celebrities;colleagues--not competitors." I like that. Good members will help new members to be good members. Man, do we need that here in the branch! "Whether old-timers, returnees, or recruits, we must all finally make that "mighty change" in our hearts, and this requires more than a slight change in our schedules." So, let's do better about accepting and helping new people in the Church.

Neal's first talk as an Apostle is killer. It's called, "O, Divine Redeemer," and he basically fulfills his calling just through this talk alone--he difinitely stands as a strong witness of Christ. The way he starts his talk is awesome. He just got called and sustained to the office of Apostle, and this is what he says, "I publicly express my deep gratitude...for my call to the Twelve--among whom I shall be the least, long after being the last so ordained." Nice, nailed it, Neal. I love that guy. This is the talk where he has this quote (one that you've sent a few times to me, that I love) "I testify that He is utterly incomparable in what He is, what He knows, what He has accomplished, and what He has experienced. Yet, movingly, He calls us His friends." It really is amazing all of the things that Christ has done for us, and we'll never be able to understand or thank Him enough. But, what we do know is that He loves us, and that He did it all because we are His friends. Neal says, "Indeed, we cannot teach (Christ) anything! But we can listen to Him. We can love Him, we can honor Him, we can worship Him! We can keep His commandments, and we can feast upon His scriptures! Yes, we who are so forgetful and even rebellious are nover forgotten by Him! We are His "work," and His, "glory," and He is never distracted!" Christ loves us, He did a lot for us, and asks for just a few things from us. What an unfair, but miraculous deal He made with us. We'd be pretty dumb not to take it.

I read one more, but forgot it at home, my bad. Right now, I have the new Tabernacle Choir page up, and was listening to music video things, and Christmas ones came up. I love Christmastime. Best time of the year!

The branch is doing well. We had 50 people at church on Sunday, about 10 were investigators. We're getting there. When I got here in April, I think something like 25 people were coming to Church. There is always so much to do here, and it is hard to remember to have patience with everything sometimes. The branch has a temple trip this week, and we really wish that we could go with them this week, but oh, well. There should be about 30 people going to do baptisms, which is great. A few non-members are going too, so we hope that they have a good chance to feel the Spirit of the temple. President Richardson told us that something like 85% of people who go to the temple within 6 months of their baptism are still active in the Church 2 years later, and pretty much everyone who has been baptized in the past 6 months in going on the trip, which should be really great for the branch. Elder Burr leaves soon, and we don't know what will happen leadership wise in the branch. It's been so great for the branch to have him here, we'll have to really help whoever it is keep the momentum going in the branch.

We still really struggle to find good men. Why are there no good men here? Just kidding, there are, but they are really good at hide and go seek. We are thinking of training monkies to find men and repeatedly hit them on the head until they come to church and give up drinking. As soon as we catch the monkies, we'll start phase 2 on Project Monk-Converted. Monk family members are also invited to join.

I was really sick on Friday/Saturday, not sure what happened. Thursday was oddly cold here, like I wanted a sweater cold. It was weird, then Friday I woke up with a bad fever and Saturday was even worse. I still worked though, I want Elder Burr to work hard every day before he leaves and to find lots of people before going home. I thought for sure that since I was sacrificing and working while dying inside, the Lord would bless us big time. Well, every appointment fell, but that is okay. I guess the Lord just wanted to teach me a good lesson on diligence. This week will be a great week. I've gone back a little on the Trix diet, because we ate it all and haven't bought any more. Now we're on the "scrambled egg" diet.

I think that's about all that happened this week in my life. I am forgetting something. And not really able to remember it. You guys all look great and it looks like you had a great time together this last week...

I love you guys so much. The babies are really cute. Thanks for your love and support. Keep working hard in whatever you're doing, go to the temple a lot, and send me things!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Stand up on you desk, all of you. Your whole life, people have told you not to stand on desks. Why?" desks breaks, girl falls, breaks her ankle

Hey fam,

Well, if there was one lesson learned this week, it was that if you leave garbage in the garbage can for too long, maggots come.

On that note, what a great week! We worked very hard. We had the most lessons in a week that I've had in a long time, maybe in my whole mission. We really need to find new people, so we're working very hard to do so. It's hard sometimes. In the wards in Quito, when we're really struggling to find, we just go to a member's house and they would usually have a reference for us to visit. Here, for lack of members, a lot of it falls on us. We work very hard every day, but in the end, no one came to church. Ugh. It's not that hard, people, you come to a building and learn about God. You don't even need to worry about your kids, we just throw them in a room alone and see who comes out alive. In the words of a frustrated sister missionary from training videos that we watch, "Just come to church!"

Last week, the printer wasn't working, so I couldn't read a Maxwell talk. Boo.

We went to a park today, Parque Perla, where we could supposedly have seen a lot of monkies. After an hour of so of looking for monkies, I saw a surprising 0, Elder Burr claims to have seen 3, but I'm hesitant on that. But, I've seen monkies before, so I wasn't too disappointed. Cost me a dollar to listen to mosquitos. Awesome. But, I took some pretty pictures. It was really funny when we were leaving, though. We talked to the people at the desk about how we could see the monkies. The guy said something like, "Oh, you just missed them, they come out at 12 and leave at 12:15." He must have seen the disappointment on our faces, then said, "But here, have this!" And he pulled an opossum out of nowhere. He just reached under the desk and had an OPOSSUM there (are there two p's in oppossum?). Who puts an opossum on a desk. My initial thought was, well, that's not a monkey and will give me a tapeworm, but Elder Burr grabbed it without hesitation. It's his birthday by the way, he's 21. Woo! We laughed really hard, but that was totally unexpected. "Oh, you wanted to see a monkey? Here, let me summon an uglier thing for you to play with." We may have been at Hogwarts.

I've been on a new diet lately called "Eat lots of Trix." It's going great, and I am completing my goal every day without problems. They just released the Econo-pack, which is them just realized that Trix was way overpriced here for a long time. Gotta love it.

I was studying Alma 5 this last week, what a great chapeter. Alma is the man. I loved Elder Cook's talk a few months back about the verse, "And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a achange of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the bsong of redeeming love, I would ask, ccan ye feel so now?" What a great question. The whole chapter is basically, "Remember how things were when you first decided to join the Church? Why aren't you doing that now?" And he just macheties everyone. He does it so well. If you left, come back. If you need to fix something, fix it. If you haven't come into the fold yet, come back.
 41 Therefore, if a man bringeth forth agood works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a bchild of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.

 42 And whosoever doeth this must receive his awages of him; therefore, for his bwages he receiveth cdeath, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works.

If you want to be good, do good! Alma was dealing with a whole people that were living stupidly and expected to be happy. Do good things! Serve in the Church, help other to do the same. Obviously, not everyone in Zarahemla was guilty of scorn, they were doing great, but too many people were prideful. It was a big deal for Alma to quit being the judge. That would be like George Washington quitting after a few years of being president, wishing the government well, and never having anything to with it again. Alma was the first chief judge ever, probably a hero to many people, and he just left to do better, more important things. That's what we need to get better at. There was nothing wrong with Alma being the chief judge, he did so righteously, but he saw that they better thing to do would be to leave all that behind and to serve the Lord, to help His people. We need to be more willing to leave other things behind to better serve the Lord. Of course, that's easy for me to say since that's what I did, but there are smaller, more everyday ways to do that as well. We could skip doing some work to go play with our family, we could miss the game that night to go visit someone, anything simple. Go Alma, go us. Remember why you are a member of the Church, and use that rememberance to help out other people to do the same. We can do better. As we do so, we will receive the wages we deserve from the best employer that there is, the Lord.

"Killing" missionaries has been interesting for me. This is the second missionary in a row that I have "killed." Elder Tuckett thought about home a lot, he got pretty trunky. Elder Burr isn't trunky at all. It's interesting to see the difference in the missionary, and it makes me think about how I want to end my mission in my last change. If I am correct, when the split happened, I am the only missionary from my group in the North mission, or the only one who will be going home in the whole mission during my last change. I think that I want to try to have it that no one knows when I'm going home, not even my companion. That would be awesome if I could do that, just work as hard as I can to the last day, then tell my companion, "By the way, I'm going home tomorrow." That'd be awesome, but it all depends on if there is someone else in my group in my mission. If there is, it is too hard to contain unless I were to kill the other missionaries in my group..... But, killing missionaries does make me feel like I have way less time than I really do. They talk about home all the time and future plans, and I feel like I should be, too, but I still have a long time left. It's great to have a lot of time left, I want to have a lot of time left, but it is weird to see people who are actually going home soon.

I came up with an idea to help out the guys progress here. The branch basically has no priesthood, and finding good men that can progress is very, very, very hard. Impossible. The hardest thing is the work schedule of a lot of people here. Many men work for the oil companies, so their work schedule is wacko. They work for 3 to 4 weeks straight, no days off, and go way deep into the jungle where the oil wells are. They are out there the whole time pretty much, and unable to come to church or to listen to our lessons. Their families progress without them, but the Dads don't, which is a problem. After working for a month, they have one week off. One week. Then they're back to to oil wells. How stupid is that? So, we were basically thinking about how it stunk that none of the guys would be able to progress with that schedule. One day as we were walking, I realized that that was the wrong attitude to have. We shouldn't be thinking in how they can't, but how they can. The idea came to my mind to make some kind of kit thing, a folder with talks, scriptures, and assignments that the men could take with them to the fields. It would be a brief study assignment, a program designed for their month away. That way, they could still learn and progress and gain testimonies, although they aren't present with their families for our lessons. The only problem would be that the men have to be very determined and motivated to do this, because if they don't have the motivation, there is no one there to push them to do it. We're still in the developing phase, but hopefully we can come up with something that works!

I am jealous that you are all together this week and that you get to go to the Dells and eat at Paul Bunyans. Just the idea of a buffet makes me so happy, especially when that buffet has a lumberjack theme to it. Remeber the lumberjack club in high school? Thanks, Even Stevens. Have fun without me. While you're eating buttermilk pancakes, I will be eating worms from decaying trees. Live it up, take a few pictures, and Dad, eat 2 donuts for me. Someone take a picture of that, as well, I want proof.

I love you guys tons! Dad, Mom, Erica, Andrew, Eliza, Natalie, Alex, Jack, Heather, Trevor, Nikki, Amber and Dash, have a great week together and enjoy it. Watch the Dark Knight Rises for me. Eat well, swim well. Live long and prosper.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, July 15, 2013

"I'll do your laundry for a month...a year!" Dwight Schrute

Hey all,

What a great week this week! We have been working very hard, and were so happy to see the results, finally! I feel like that scene in that movie where that guy did that one thing. You know what I mean?

So, on Friday, President and Sister Richardson, and their kids, Steven and Andrea, came out to the orient for their "get to know the Richardsons" meeting. It was great! Steven is going on his mission to Chile and leaves in like 2 weeks, so he's excited for that. Their daughter, Andrea, is 13 if I remember right, and doesn't speak a word of Spanish. President and Sister Richardson are awesome. We told them about the activity and the baptisms that we were going to have, and it happened to be the weekend that they were coming out. They changed their plans just for us, and they ended up traveling 7 hours in bus with us to get to the places we needed to be in (2 hours to Lago, 1.5 to the baptisms, 1.5 back, 2 to Coca), and they were so happy about it. I'm so excited to work with them. They are very open and mellow people, I feel very comfortable around them. They're just great!

On Friday night, we celebrated the 2 year anniversary of the branch. It was a fun activity. We taught people how to have a family night and how to pray as a family, and it went really well. The members put together food and decorated the chapel, and it all looked great. We played some games, then called it a night. Side note. The mom of one family we are teaching is unreal. She is ready to be baptized, but wants to wait to have her baptism with her husband, which is fantastic. Her kids got baptized this weekend. She is better than the members. She comes to clean the chapels, makes us lunch on Sundays, is at church early, decorated the whole chapel, she's awesome. Back to the history. Saturday morning, we left at 8:30 to go the the manantiales. The bus was way longer than I thought, and I was starting to get a little stressed out because the President was there with his family and I was nervous about my first impression. We got there though, and it was absolutely beautiful. We had a great, spiritual service, the water was crystal clear, and everyone was happy. I felt so happy in the service, and the members and the investigators were totally pumped after it. We had a lot of people at church the next day because of the excitement.

On the bus ride home, I was talking to President, and he said it went awesome, which made me feel way better. We apologized for it taking longer than we had planned, and he said that it was totally worth it, so that made me feel good. We were just happy that no one was eaten alive by river parasites.

The confirmations at church were great. They took forever. We finished taking the sacrament at 9:45, pretty nuts. But a very spiritual meeting. Everyone felt good, especially the people that we confirmed. It was a great experience. Later that day, we passed by the Miranda family to see what they thought about the baptismal service. They've been progressing, but have been a little indecisive about getting baptized. We talked to them, and they said they felt the Spirit so strongly in the serivice, and they know that they should all be baptized. The only difficulty is the Dad. 4 of the 5 want to be baptized. The Dad has a work schedule where he works 14 days straight, then rests a week. So, he hasn't heard us teach in two weeks. They say that if they're gonna get baptized, they want to be baptized all 5 together, which is great. Tomorrow the Dad starts his week of vacation, and depending on how it goes and how he feels, they may be getting baptized this weekend. Keep them in your prayers.

So if you remember, before we had a change that was only four weeks, and I was going to come home two weeks earlier than planned. Well, that changed, and I will still be going home on the originally planned day. They gave President two weeks to get to know the mission, and today we had changes. Elder Burr and I are still together, but there were a few changes in our zone. I'll be here for awhile. I have no problem with that. But, Elder Burr isn't a zone leader anymore, just the branch president. What happened is that the other zone leader is Elder Murphy, who is in our zone but lives in Coca, two hours away. So, not sure how that's going to work out. We're thinking that since Elder Burr leaves during the transfer, when he goes Elder Murphy will just come here with me. Not sure. Did any of you have something like that in your mission? Anyways, I'm excited to keep working with Elder Burr. And if you're counting, the transfer cycle starts today, 6 weeks we have changes again.

Elder Burr and I were laughing about how different it is to serve in a branch than a ward. In a ward, we bring people to church and present them to the leaders. "Hey, Bishop, this is Juan and his family. They're new and want to learn more about the Church. Could you present them to the other leaders and members?" And it's all happy and lots of people greeting them. Here, it goes more like this:" Hey, Juan, thanks for coming to church. We don't have a Gospel Principles teacher, could you help us out? And how good is your wife with kids? Could she come teach the primary? Hope you have a great experience at church!" It's funny to see the difference between a strengthening process and growing process. We love it, though. The branch has grown stronger since Elder Burr got here. A good leader makes a big difference. We have branch council every week, and it's a lot easier to keep people working on their assignments. Little by little, the members are becoming better members. We still have a lot to teach them, but we love the work that we are doing. We love working hard.

I read in Elder Maxwell's, "Notwithstanding My Weaknesses," some great stuff. Basically, don't be sad because you aren't perfect. As Tony Horton says, "Do your best and forget the rest!" I think Dr. Seuss probably said that, too. I forget how to write some words in English. He gives 14 ideas of what we can do to improve--how to appropriately recognize and view our faults, then how to appropriately fix them, and they key to that is, of course, our Savior. Every time I write the word "Savior," I type, "Saviour." What am I, British? Here's just one of his points that I want to include. 10.  We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward—not backward!

So, keep going! You can do it!

That's enough from me, I hope you've enjoyed my letter. You guys really are the best, and I love you tons. Find people to help out this week, and go on a visit or two with the missionaries. We love working with the members. Pray lots, laugh lots, and eat lots, and I'll do the same. I love you guys!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"What is a plethora?" Three Amigos

Hey all,

How goes it? I'm doing great.

On Thursday, we went to Quito in the bus. It was a long bus ride. It was not a very fun bus ride. But we arrived. We got to the city and we stayed in the assistant's apartment, which was unbelievably nice. I ate Subway, Burger King, and felt cold for the first time in a month. It was wonderful! So, we got there Thursday and just enjoyed the night, then Friday we had our mission leaders' council. I don't remember if I mentioned this in a previous letter, but there are sister missionaries that serve as leaders now, 4 for the whole mission, so they were there, too. They gave a great training, but it got unbearably long. They had 30 minutes, and it lasted over an hour. The assistants wanted to stop them, but they were afraid that the sisters would get mad at them. Do girls like to talk a lot or something? But they did a good job overall.

President and Sister Richardson are great, great people. Sister Richardson reminds me a ton of Mom, a ton. They both speak "I served a Spanish speaking mission many years ago" Spanish, but they're speaking really well for not using their Spanish for a few years. President Richardson is a great man. He gave some great advice on how to use the Book of Mormon more in our teaching and how to use the pamphlets more in the lessons. It was a great reunion. We focused mainly on the needs of the mission in the council, things we did well last month and the things that we need to do better, so we didn't get to know them personally too well. They are coming out on Thursday for their "get to know you" meeting. They'll come out with their two kids that are here with them, and we'll have time to get to know them better then. Their son is leaving in August to serve a mission in Chile, and their other daughter is only 13. They are both adopted from South American countries, but apparantly don't speak a lick of Spanish. I'm excited for them to come out. I'm really excited to get to know them better over the next year or so.

This Friday in the branch, we are having a big fiesta to celebrate the branch's two year anniversary. The leaders are planning it all, so we hope that we don't show up to the activity with apostasy abounding. The members are really excited for the activity, and we hope that they bring a lot of friends to come and see the church. It looks like President and Sister Richardson may be attending, too, which would be really fun. On Saturday, we are going to the Manantiales to have some baptisms. The branch is really excited for that, too. We had 13 people come to church yesterday, which was awesome, and the members are just as excited about it as we are. So next week, we'll have some really pretty pictures with some really happy faces.

Elder Burr and I are focusing a lot now on training the members on how to be members. We've brainstormed a list of the things that they need to learn how to do, and now we need to find the time to do it all. Some simple things, like how to bear your testimony on fast Sunday or how to give a prayer, to bigger things, like Family Home Evening, are all things that they need to learn. I love this type of work. It feels a lot more satisfying than what we do in a ward. In a ward, people get excited about baptisms, but not that excited. They often have the mentality of, "Oh, cool, another baptism," and don't do too much more. The wards have their leaders and plenty of people, and the new people many times go forgotten by the members. It's sad, but true in the wards that I've seen. Don't get me wrong, I loved working in wards and understand how great of a blessing it is to have a well developed congregation. But here, I just love the work so much more. It's not just working and thinking that everyone needs to hear the Gospel, but we walk around thinking, "We need an Elder´s Quorum President...let's go find him!" And every baptism is so important to the members. I just love the Spirit that is here. Woo, Lago Agrio!

I studied by good old Neal this week a talk that is called, "Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King." Basically he talks about how important it is to remember how important Jesus Christ is in the lives of each of us. In many religions, Jesus really has lost his importance. Now, I love every person from every religion, but I will now make some observations about this that I've seen living among people from all sects of religions. For example, here, in the Catholic church, I hear more people talk about the Virgin than Jesus Christ. People seem to think that the Virgin has a more important role than Jesus Himself, which makes me sad to see. Others don't even view him as our Savior, just as a great man. And, of course, others don't believe in Him at all. That is one of the hardest things for me to see, people undervaluing our Savior. He lived and died for us, suffering in a way that we cannot comprehend, enduring things that no other man could, and loving us when we least deserve it. I love my Savior, and I hope to better understand His role in my life as I progress in His Gospel. He is the most important person that has ever lived, and we must never think otherwise. He is the Savior of all mankind. Here is just one paragraph from the talk that I loved, I testify that his intelligence is vastly superior in every field to the very brightest mortals in those fields and that his intellect in scope and truth far exceeds all human intellects. I thank him for encapsulating that exquisite mind in both perfect love and perfect humility. His brilliance is not the “catch-me-if-you-can” kind, but a pleading and patient, “Come, follow me.”Never has anyone offered so much to so many in so few words as when Jesus said, “Here am I, send me." I love my Savior. Don't forget what He is.

We have some great people progressing, and next week I'll send some pictures of them. We are very excited for the change that we're seeing here. I feel like I got here in the middle of WWII, Hitler was defeated, and Abraham Lincoln was put in his place. Elder Burr is a total stud in all that he does, and I hope that I can keep helping him out with his responsabilities.

I love you guys, thanks for all you do. You are the best. You have a Savior, and that makes all the difference.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"You're like a fun vampire, because you don't suck blood, you just suck." Troy Barnes

Sorry I'm super lame and didn't post this earlier! This is Josh's letter from July 1st:

Hey all,

We had another good week this week. The problema? It poured rain all morning yesterday, super hard. When it rains, no one leaves their house because none of the poorer people have a car and there are no buses here to take. So, we worked hard, and few people showed up to church. We're trying to figure out what we can do to help people get to church when it rains like that, because it happens at least once a month. Last week, we had 52 people show up, this week, 33. It was a little sad, but at least it wasn't because they didn't want to come. So, we'll keep working hard to see what we can do to get people in the church even when it's raining. Any ideas? Just in case, we already thought of training monkeys to go to their houses and hold umbrellas for them. It's still a work in progress. So any ideas other than that one would be much appreciated.

We called President Richardson last night to get to know him over the phone and fill him in a little bit on the branch. On Friday, Elder Burr and I are going to Quito for the Leader's Council, so we'll meet him in person there. But, he seems great. He has a very happy voice, and I'm excited to get to know him a little better over the next year. I don't know too much more about him other than today was his first day in the offices and he has a very happy voice. I'll let you know more next Monday after I meet him, but I'm really excited to work with him.

Elder Tuckett ya se fue. It was a little triste, gotta admit, but it was time for him to go. He didn't want to leave, he just wanted to keep working. I'm sure that that's how it is for most of the missionaries that go home. I'll have him hook up with the Thomas' in Utah so you can talk to someone that has been with me recently. He lives in Lehi and will probably be in the Provo Bakery a lot because his dad owns it. So, bye Elder Tuckett. Now it's time to kill Elder Burr.

Today I was studying about the importance of the Church. I mean the importance of actually going to one. Here, people say something that they never would say in Quito. Tons of people say something along the lines of, "The Church is not a building. It is our individual bodies. We have no need to go to a building, because we are the Church. We are the cuerpo de Cristo." When they first said stuff like that, I would think, "Okay, that's not right, but bless their hearts, they are trying so hard." And now when they say it I just get mad. They get all up in my face and try to say that by saying that we need to go to a church, we don't believe in Christ. Wanna bet? One hour of study was all I needed to destroy anyone who says that. Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and common sense are my allies. I am very excited for the next time someone says that, it is game time. 1 Corintios 12:12-22 or something like that is all I need. Sidenote. The book of 1 Corinthians basically destroys all apostasy in the world today. I love it.

Neal A. Maxwell continues to be awesome, no surprises there. This week I read about being a "man of Christ," as Helaman describes the person. very great talk, speaking on how we need to act to be considered a true disciple of Christ. Here is a great paragraph from his talk: “The man of Christ” knows that a loving, living, and revealing God did not, as some imply, suddenly lose interest in mankind about A.D. 100, grow bored, and wander off into space. The disciple worships an unchanging God, and proclaims that the good tidings are brought anew; for the gospel is not merely a gospel for one age, for one people, or for one place—it is a gospel for the galaxies!" I like how he says that a man of Christ understands the importance of the Gospel and understanding our relationship with God, essential because Christ Himself understood that perfectly, and if we want to be more like Him, we must do the same. He is talking to the priesthood here, and says that the guys need to be good fathers if they want to be men of Christ. They must focus more on their family and the things that they can do to help their family to be happy. "He sees that those who do too much for their children will soon find they can do nothing with their children. So many children have been so much done for they are almost done in." I love that, too. We have to be the right kind of parent, and not just give and give all of the time, we must spend time with those that we love. We must also learn to love what we have. What he says here kind of goes along the lines of being content with that which hath been alotted unto us, he says, "He is a realist and will not succumb to the narcotic of nostalgia, but will lean enrichingly into the present. He knows he cannot enjoy the quietude of one age and the technology of another; he will not, therefore, as some do, demand to have “the Victorian age, but with penicillin.” It really doesn't do well to dwell in life, if you think about it. I like his quote here for that reason--we must avoid regret and just look towards the things that today holds. This is a big paragraph, sorry, but he gives great talks and paraphrasing what he says doesn't quite do the trick. As men of Christ, we must always be willing to do what we are called to do, whatever the calling may be. "(The man of Christ) expects a variety of assignments in the Church; some carry the thrills of making a beachhead landing deep in enemy territory, and others involve “minding the store” back home. When he sings, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord” (Hymns, no. 75), it is not only a promise to go to a Nineveh, but it is also a pledge to stay at his present post." So, whatever you calling is, do it! So, let's do a better job at being like Christ, eh?

I love this Gospel, I love this Church, I love my mission. This is the best time in my whole life, and I look forward to every day of these two years. We finally have people progressing here, which is great, but doesn't determine my happiness. I love my family, I just love everything. I encourage you all to remember how important the Gospel is, and how important it is that other people know how important it is. This week for 5th Sunday, we watched segments from the broadcast from last week. It was really successful. We watched to song/video segments, and everyone got really excited to invite their friends to get to know us and to come to Church. When members give us references, it makes us so happy. It can be a simple invitation just to listen to the missionaries to learn more about our beliefs. We also hand out cards that say "Venid y Ved," (come and see) that we give to tons of people, because that is our only invitation. Just come and see, and if you want to know more, we can help you with that. Invitations as simple as that can make a big difference. There are ways to share the Gospel with everyone we know, we just need to work to find out how.

Next week, I'll write a better letter. I usually have things in front of me to use as I write, but I'm washing my backpack today and had nothing to bring the stuff in, so sorry if this letter was all over the place. I love you all tons, I'll work hard this week, and we'll talk in a week!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas