I am so sorry to hear about the state of Grandpa Thomas right now. He's been in all of my prayers, and I hope that everything goes well with the situation. I send my love to everyone and hope that we can all feel the peace that the Gospel gives us in tough times.
This week, we finally had a day without any travels. Just one day though, Tuesday. We took the day to plan and to do a lot of good stuff that we had neglected for a long time. It was a very weird experience for me. We planned a lot of stuff and I won't even be here for most of it. This coming week we have meetings every day, but the next week, President is in Lima for a mission president seminar, so we don't have meetings there. The majority of the stuff happens after I leave, which is very weird to think about. I'm planning stuff that I'll never even do. Weird stuff.
We're going to be focusing in June about how to retain better and how to find better. In the mission council on Tuesday, the focus will be retaining, and in the zone conferences in June will be training and practicing on finding new people to teach. We're seeing a problem in the mission that too many missionaries think that when we say that they need to find people, the only way to do that is to knock on doors. But, there are tons of awesome ways to find people. Chapter 9 is full of awesome ways to find people, and few of them talk about knocking on doors. And, as the chapter teaches, the best way to find people is through the members.
A lot of times the members don't even realize that they have references until they are asked the right question. For example, a lot of times if the missionaries ask, "Who do you know that could benefit from the message of the Gospel?" a mental block is put into play because the question they hear is, "who do you know that could be baptized?" And no one thinks that their friends would be baptized. Better questions to ask are, "Who do you know that has recently had a birth/death/accident in the family" "Who do you know that seems to be lost in life?" "Who do you know that is struggling with a sin/addiction?" Questions like that don't shut the mind off, they actually open them up. When we ask like that, the members don't think of the word "baptism," they just think of people that need help. And the people that need help are 90% of the time ready for the Gospel. So, that's one thing that we'll be training on, well, that the other missionaries will be training on, in June.
There are other great ideas for finding, many that get invented as you go. A great way that I have found that works for me is to just offer to sing someone a hymn. We knock on their door, and mention that we are missionaries, and we offer right away to sing them a hymn. That has gotten us into a lot of different houses, and some of the people that let us in have gotten baptized. The trick is to find a good balance between finding through the members and finding on our own. If we try to do just one, it's not very effective.
Another good way for all of us to find people to teach is to talk about the family. No one gets mad talking about their family, unless you are the Kardashians. We contact a lot of taxi drivers in our travels around Quito, and the fastest way to get to a Gospel discussion is to talk about the family. Always, always, always, something comes up that you can tie to the Gospel. A common line here is, "My son is a chump. He drinks all day and is a bum." Well, we've got good news, we can fix that. But, they all live in the other mission so we never get to teach them. There are just so many excellent ways to find people, we just really have to have the desires to do so. Chapter 9 is a bomb chapter, you should read it.
Wednesday through Friday, we were in beautiful Otavalo for my last time as a missionary, I think. It was a great trip, there are tons of missionaries there, around 80. Poor President, that's a lot of interviews. But, they were good meetings. Like I've explained, we talk about the Book of Mormon the whole time. We've done the training around 20 times in the month, so we had it down pretty good for these last meetings. We just keep talking about the Book of Mormon and we watch various videos until President finishes all of the interviews. Depending on how the interviews go, that can be a long time or not too long, and we had a good mix of both in Otavalo.
The last one, I changed it up a bit to not get too bored and busted out a fun analysis of Mormon 7. I think that it is one of the best chapters for missionary work, and we hardly ever use it. It's the last chapter that Mormon actually writes himself, what he would consider to be the end of the book. He busts it out big time, and it is in that chapter that Mormon himself explains what he would consider to be the purpose of the book he put together. He explains a few key things in just a few short verses:
The Lamanites (and many others reading the book) are part of the house of Israel.
We have to repent if we want to be saved.
We have to abandon our weapons of war, or submit ourselves to the will of the Father.
We have to both learn of and follow Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we can return to live with God again.
The Book of Mormon was written to support the Bible, and the Bible was written to support the Book of Mormon.
We must live the doctrine of Christ, or His Gospel (Faith, Repentence, Baptism, Holy Ghost, Endure to the End)
It's pretty much everything that we need people to know to follow Christ, all in 10 verses. Pretty dope, it's like he's a prophet or something. We talked about the chapter for various minutes with the missionaries in the last group, and hopefully they will use it more in their teachings, because it is a power chapter, much like Mosiah 4 or Moroni 10.
Going along with that, it is interesting to note the most important chapters in the Book of Mormon, as most of them are the final words of the prophet teaching. We can consider 2 Nephi 1-3 are the final words of Lehi, 2 Nephi 31-33 are the final words of Nephi, Mosiah 4 the final words of King Benjamin, Samuel the Lamanite, Mormon, Moroni, many of them were the authors of the power chapters, and those chapters were their final words. I feel like the prophets are at their strongest when they are physically weakest and know that the end is near. That may be one of the reasons why Mormon 7 is so powerful. Mormon knew what he wanted his last words to be, and he made them good. I love the Book of Mormon.
I set the goal to read all of Preach My Gospel one more time in my last change, and this coming week I should be finishing it up. I don't know how many times I've studied it but now, but even after two years of doing so, I am still learning from it. It's interesting going through it again. There are parts that I never remember having read, but things that I recognize that I do while I teach, kind of a natural development of a skill that Preach My Gospel says that I should have. But, there are also tons of things that I feel like they weren't there before that would have been so nice to have known during my mission. There is so much to learn in the book, and reading it again and again helps me to recognize how much more I need to improve to become a better missionary. There is always so much to get better at in life, always something to work on.
For example, in chapter 12 there is a section about filling out the baptismal record. I testify that I have never done anything that it suggests there, and they would have been great things to have done if I had known about it. Woops. Did you know that you're supposed to fill out the record in the baptismal interview? I sure didn't until two days ago. Also, did you know that it's a commandment to live the Word of Wisdom? Just kidding, I'm not that lost.
Preach My Gospel really is such a blessing to have today. We can be much better sharers of the Gospel with the things that it teaches us. It is so packed of so much good stuff, that everyone needs to study it as often as they can. I loved the invitation in Conference for everyone to have a copy and to study it. It's true--we're all missionaries and for that we all need to be studying how to be a better one. I'll keep up my study of it as well as I can so that I don't lose my missionary habits, diga.
I read a great talk this week by President Benson. He talked a lot about the Book of Mormon. His talks caught my attention after having used Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel so much in the interview trainings this month. The talk I read was called "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon." It is a great talk, and be summed up in a few words: "You losers, use the Book of Mormon more." The talk is not very long, but that really is what he wants to say. It is such an important key in everything we believe, and we have to rely on it more. There are a few quotes that I would like to attach:
“Few men on earth,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about. Few are they among men who know the part it has played and will yet play in preparing the way for the coming of Him of whom it is a new witness. … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. … There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?”
I do not know fully why God has preserved my life to this age, but I do know this: That for the present hour He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner. You must help with this burden and with this blessing which He has placed on the whole Church, even all the children of Zion.
It is a great talk that really inspired me to find more ways to use the Book of Mormon in everything that I do. We really do need to focus a lot more on our reading of and sharing of the Book of Mormon. He says a lot more about it, but we can get the picture with the two quotes I pasted on. So, you losers, use the Book of Mormon more.
You may ask, "Elder Thomas, you are always traveling and in meetings, how did you study so much this week?" Well, my friends, the answer is simple. We had about 20 meetings for interviews, saying the same things in each one. President and Sister Richardson each train for about an hour and a half in total, and after 5 times, we have what they say memorized. So, we discovered that we can sneak in to the back and take that time to study. Brilliant, we just jumped up 300% in study hours. Boo yah.
Well, that's about all that I studied this week and about all that went on. Tonight and tomorrow and Monday we'll be in the offices planning all of our trainings, it's a lot to do. We need to plan the leadership council on Tuesday, the zone conference trainings, and the leadership meeting training. Lots to do, but it's good to be busy. I'm excited to fast, although I am already hungry. Here we fast lunch to lunch instead of dinner to dinner. Dinner to dinner is better. Plus, hardly anybody actually fasts here. Yay, South America!
Anyways, I love you guys! I hope that all is good, and I hope that everyone can feel the peace of the Gospel as some tough things are probably going to be happening this week. I'll keep you all, especially Grandpa, in my prayers.
Also, I may not be able to write next Saturday. If all goes according to plan, I'll be going out to Lago next week with President to do interviews. If you don't hear from me, don't worry, I haven't died.