Monday, April 7, 2014

"Infamous? What's infamous?" "It means the he's so famous, that he is IN famous!" Three Amigos

Hey all,

How awesome is General Conference? I loved it so much. It's a great opportunity to be around many other missionaries to listen to Conference together. It is a miracle that we have such easy access to watching each session of Conference. In one room, we had it perfectly streamed in English, in another room in real time Spanish. Pretty amazing stuff.

Well, I'll start off with my General Conference comments then I'll take you through my not too bad week.

First off, I thought the flowers and stuff behind the speakers were really pretty. Nailed it.

I thought it was very interesting how a good number of the talks, especially on Saturday, focused on the increasing need to defend our faith. That story of the sister missionary by Elder Holland was a great example, I've had many times where I, too, have wanted to beat people in the face. I just throw a rock at their dog instead. Elder Holland gave a great talk, firm as always. I loved his statements about not having a "comfortable" God who is always happy with what we do, but a God of commandments and high expectations.

Sister Reeves gave a great talk, as well. She, too talked a lot about standing up for what is right, even when the world says else wise. She spoke in a very effective way about the dangers of pornography and in contrast the happiness that a strong, clean, united family can bring to us. We should have daily desires to change.

Elder Anderson talked about the trails we will face, I like how he said that the best defense is reading the Book of Mormon--it gives us strength to fight against temptation.

I love President Eyring. He's a great speaker and a great leader. I loved his statement that every day, we can choose to make or keep covenants and our covenants leave an inheritance of hope for those who follow us. Mom and Dad have done a great job of keeping their covenants and giving us hope for our future. I thought of their example a lot during the talk. He talked about how many of the prophets have the attitude, "Oh, things will work out," an optimism that we should strive to have as well.

Elder Nelson and Elder Scott both did a good job talking about staying on the right path and preparing ourselves for the opposition that we will surely face in the near future. They both stressed that popularity doesn't affect God's commandments, wrong will always be wrong.

Poor Elder Hales, he was looking so weak. It is a such a tender thing to see men in such difficult stages of life still dedicating their time to the work of the Lord. As weak as they are, they still give great, great talks. His testimony of obedience was so great, I hope that all of the missionaries were listening. He talked about two kinds of disobedience to avoid--"natural man" disobedience and "selective" obedience. Any missionary who serves right should leave free of those traps of disobedience, but many times that doesn't happen. The obedient missionaries are always the happiest missionaries.

Elder Cook did a great job of reminding us how important it is to have temples today and the importance of the work we do there. I miss the temple so much, I am very anxious to be able to go there again. Poor President Richardson, he won't be able to go for three years.

Elder Oaks gave a great talk, one every member should read and study, especially the sisters in the Church. He explained perfectly how things are organized in the priesthood and how we all are part of the duties that the priesthood entails. He is a master speaker. I also liked how he talked about how there is not "up" or "down" in the Church, only forwards or backwards.

Elder Uchtdorf gave a great talk about not sleeping through the Restoration. I'm sure that was a comical time throughout the talk as many men prodding their seat partner awake to listen to the talk. The three things that make us sleepy are selfishness, addiction, and wrong priorities. Great talk. Didn't even doze off during it.

President Eyring gave a great talk, I think the one that touched me the most, the one that made me want to act the most on what was being said. I have a bad habit of praying kneeling down in my bed. That leads to half-awake prayers, often falling asleep right in the middle of it. I need to get a lot better about praying, and Elder Eyring talked about how to do that. Very great talk about our heroes and how they influence our lives. It's weird, having Batman as a hero, you'd think I wouldn't have problems about falling asleep at night.

President Monson's talk about being courageous was outstanding and just what a lot of people needed to hear as we enter difficult times. He said that if we ever find ourselves where we shouldn't ought to be, get out! I liked what he quoted about Jabari Parker, too. As President Monson talked about the importance of being the same person wherever we are and whoever we're with, he threw in the quote by Jabari, saying basically that we should be the same person in the dark and in the light. Great advice, great council that we will need as we face more and more opposition in the coming days.

President Uchtdorf gave a great talk on being grateful. I like how he said that instead of having gratitude for things, we should be grateful in every situation that we are in. He talked about how we think too much about the end of things, but, as children of God, no end exists, only small interruptions. We can always choose to be grateful. Good stuff, it's like he's a prophet or something.

Elder Ballard gave a talk that I hope you all listened to about missionary work. I hope you all do what he asked and buy a Preach My Gospel and share your studies with me and the missionaries in the ward. I'll do better about talking about it, too. Be sure to follow up, too, and to invite someone at least once a quarter to listen to the missionaries.

Bishop Stevenson gave a cool talk, but I felt totally out of the loop since I had no idea what happened in the Olympics. Girls do the snowboard half pipe?

Elder Bednar is a stud, his talks are always great. We always need loads to give us spiritual traction or we will be stuck wherever we presently are. His explanation of being yoked with Christ was excellent, gotta love it. His testimony at the end of this being the day of Christ's birth was very touching.

President Monson gave a great talk on love. It is something that we all have to do better at, and very prophetic for him to talk about it. With the problems that we unavoidably face with things like gay marriage, many will be tempted to get angry at those who support it, but we cannot do that as disciples of Christ. We must all love and respect everyone's agency and hope that they do the same for us. He said that we may forget the acts of kindness that we perform, but the recipient never will.

Sweet Elder Packer, like Elder Hales, is such a great example of enduring to the end. He, too, looked so very weak, but he still gave a powerful talk as an Apostle of the Lord. A great instruction on knowledge and intelligence and various other things that he has learned throughout his life. His testimony at the end was so powerful, where he basically testified that he has seen the Savior and knows that He lives. Elder Packer is a spiritual giant, and I love hearing his great advice and his great testimony.

Elder Perry gave a great parable of a horse with the driver and the bit. I had no idea that a scripture existed that talked about that. Pretty cool. I think we all need to do better about being sensitive to the tugs and pulls of the Spirit.

Elder Christofferson's talk on the Resurrection was wonderful, as well. He said something along the lines of, "For having redeemed us from the Fall, our lives are essentially His." He quoted Elder Maxwell, and the quote went something like, "The Atonement eliminated the human predicament, now there are only personal predicaments." Nailed it, Neal.

What a wonderful conference. I am excited to be able to study it again when the Liahona comes. Hopefully it gets here before I leave, sometimes it takes awhile to get here. I have two big resolves after this conference: to pray better and to make conference a bigger part of my life. I study the talks every now and again, but never as I should. I want to avoid any tendency of listening to it, remembering it for a week or two, and then not thinking about it again until the week before the next conference. I want my study of the General Conference talks to go hand in hand in my study of the Book of Mormon-- it should be a daily thing. I need to get better at that. I know that it will make me happier. I also don't want to fall asleep as I pray.

Also, a quick side note, Elder Zivic and Elder Aidukaitis gave excellent talks, and the whole time I was thinking, "They speak English just like the bat from Anastasia." I hope someone else thought that same thing.

I love conference. I am ready to keep working hard, it is a good dose of spiritual vitamins that kick us back into gear and remind us just how much work their is to do, and that we so easily fall into a routine that doesn't demand too much from us. We are reminded in conference that we should spend time every day helping the work to progress. I am excited to work hard and to help the other missionaries in the mission to do the same.

Alright, so my week really quick.

Tuesday, we had our leaders' council and it went very well. We talked about how to commit people to do something and how to follow up, just what Elder Perry was talking about. March was the best month that the mission has had so far, it went really well for us and we are very happy for the work of the missionaries. April will be tough because the first week is General Conference (no confirmations) and the third week we have an Area broadcast for the Stake Conferences here. But, we'll still work hard. It was a good council.

Wednesday and Thursday, we had time to plan and to work in our sector. We got just about everything set for April. This month, we have specialized trainings, and Elder Ospina and I are going to train about how to teach the Great Apostasy better. President is going to train about how to teach the Restoration better. We read in Preach My Gospel that if people don't understand the Apostasy, they will see no need to listen to it. The compare it to a diamond on black velvet. The black velvet is the Apostasy, and the diamond, the Restoration. When they understand the Great Apostasy, the message of the Restoration will shine in their eyes, minds, and hearts. It should be fun. We're talking about super apostate things, basically the history of the Apostasy. When we finish the slide show, I'll send it so you can see.

Friday, we had a leaders' council, but not like Tuesday's. This one was with district leaders, zone leaders and sister leaders. We have a bunch of new leaders again, especially district leaders, that have no idea what they are doing. We prepared a leader's booklet for them, outlining everything that they should be doing as leaders. We spent a lot of time practicing, and they all left more confident in their abilities to lead. It was a great meeting.

And, yesterday and today was General Conference. It's the best "holiday" in the mission. I think I've said that before, but it's true. On days like Christmas, you spend all day picturing the delicious food at home and stuff like that. With Conference, we get time to rest, but leave super pumped to work hard and serve the Lord. Game time, baby.

I got to study more this week, but this letter is already really long since I talked about the conference talks. Next week, we can talk more about my studies. Plus, you should now be talking to me about your studies, especially in Preach My Gospel. Get on that!

Anyways, love you guys tons! I hope you enjoyed conference and set your own goals on things that you want to get better at. I hope you all have a great week, and I hope the same for me! Also, I haven't taken pictures in a week or too, sorry for not sending more.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

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