Sunday, July 31, 2016

I love VA!

~Elder Caleb Gibbons
Yes this week was a strange one. I'll hurry it up because I wrote in some thoughts on faith. Sorry this one is long winded!

I just got to say real quick, I totally am in love with Virginia. In my opinion, it is among the most prettiest places on the face of the earth! I'm serving near the blueridge mountains, which is on the eastern side of the Shenandoah valley. It is so pretty here. And when we get a thunderstorm it is so cool. This last week we had a couple come through and the sky is just a giant flickering lightbulb. The thunder rolls all night long and is so soothing to me haha. I took a time lapse and threw it in here so you could somewhat experience it! Anyway...
-Monday started with a bunch of sports with the Elders from the Zone. We ended the day being schooled by brother Allred in some 'deep thinking exercises' haha.
-Tuesday is that day when I had a Peanut Butter and Cheese sandwich. Yep, not a typo, I ate that thinking that it basically went against everything I've ever lived for. I'm a huge PB&J fan, especially on a tight budget, so when I heard about it, I jumped right into denial. Haha but our investigator (Curtis) made us one and the grieving stages immediately went away. It was so good! If you ever get an opportunity to eat one, it's now officially endorsed by Elder Gibbons. Afterwards we did some service and put up a fence for him.
-Wednesday was the usual midweek day for us. We did service for a member (Brother Creasy) and helped him with his horses. Afterwards he took us out for ice cream and we went and visited his cousin, one of our investigators.
-Thursday we did more service! So much service this week I love it! We helped spread some mulch/fertilizer stuff on a members garden and yard (Brother Foepple). Afterwards we warshed his car and he took us out for ice cream again haha.
-Friday we had interviews with President Smith. I love our new mission president so much! He is such a down to earth kind of guy. He really wants what is best for the missionaries. Something interesting he said to me in my interview is that Hope is a Christ-like attribute that we routinely sort of forget about. It is something that we do to increase our own spiritual faith in the gospel. Also he said that charity is a Christ-like attribute that we exercise to help others in their journey. These two things work very close together to further the faith of everyone on the earth! We also popped a tire again so we had to go get that fixed. After the interview we went back and we helped cut some grass for a member (Brother Creasy). By the way, Brother Creasy calls us his sons, because we help him so much. He has some back problems and he really appreciates the help. I love going over there and helping him because he is such a humble man and he really needs a couple hands. 
-Saturday I needed a hair cut so I asked Brother Allred to cut it. He cuts his own hair regularly but has never cut anyone else's. He actually did a good job! Afterwards he cooked us some spam and eggs. We had it with rice and banana ketchup and it was sooo good! We also had a self referral on Saturday! A guy called and said that he was interested in the Mormon faith and wanted to meet with us! He basically said that he wanted to know because he needed some sort of religion, or a relationship with God, in his life. So that was really cool. Also we had a sweet discussion with one of our investigators (Curtis). He made us a pizza and we talked about church stuff. He really opened up about his feelings towards God. It was an interesting lesson!
-Sunday we had a great day at church. We had one investigator there named Logan. We've been trying to get him interested in Baptism, but I think he is scared of what his friends in school would think of him. So hopefully he will continue to strengthen his faith and decide to be baptized!

So I gave a talk about two weeks ago in church about building faith in Christ. I kinda swayed the subject a little bit and talked about how faith is so crucial for every single person on this earth. I thought I would throw it in my email this week because I'm nearing my 8th month mark (nooo its going soo fast!). I hope you like it!

    I've been reflecting on the last couple months of my mission and thinking about how many times the Lord has swayed my thoughts and led me to children of God. It unreal how manifested his hand is in your life while on the mission. If I had as much faith as the Brother of Jared, I could probably see it. But while I have been pondering, if you will, I've been thinking about the people whom I've made initial contact with. The area before Rivanna, we did a lot of tracting. Although sometimes I was dragging my feet, it's always at that moment when our faith is getting weak when we should push forward. I have had several miracles happen to my companion and me when we are about ready to stop knocking. Only when we show our faith, we are able to meet someone ready to hear the gospel. It's funny because thinking back on my mission so far, tracting has been my least favorite way to find. But... I know the Lord sees our faith. That is why when we push forward he will reward us because of our faith. Joseph Smith said in the Lectures on faith,
     "As  we  receive  by  faith,  all  temporal  blessings  that  we  do  receive,  so  we,  in  like  manner,  receive  by  faith all  spiritual  blessings  that  we  do  receive.    But  faith  is  not  only  the  principle  of  actions,  but  of  power  also, in  all  intelligent  beings,  whether  in  heaven  or  on  earth.  .  .  .   "
      Wait.. Did he just say that faith is a power? My interpretation and my experiences confirm this truth. Faith (in a way) is a superpower! I've been looking at faith all wrong. I always thought that faith was just a strong belief. Well it is, but why couldn't we just say "Yeah, I have a strong belief in Christ"? Because there is no power in that statement!
      I digress back to the Brother of Jared, a perfect example of this statement. In Ether 3, though out the chapter, we read about the Brother of Jared's Faith. Now this wasn't the first communion with the Lord that he had. Earlier the Lord asked the Brother of Jared how he proposed to light the barges. So imagine Jehovah, the son of God, the savior and redeemer of the world, asking you what you think you should do to light up the barges. Quite a loaded question! Or is it? I submit to you that this was the ultimate test of the Brother of Jared's faith. Reason being that the Lord already diminished two of the only known light sources back in the day: the sun and fire.
      So this was quite the task for the Brother of Jared. In Ether 3 it reads: (included the entire scripture in the email)

      1 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared . . . went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem . . . and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
      2 O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.
      3 Behold, O Lord, thou hast smitten us because of our iniquity, and hast driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness; nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.
      4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
      5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.

      That is probably the most humbling prayer I have ever read. But it is what happened next that really showed the temporal and spiritual blessings of faith.

      6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
      7 And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?
      8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.
      9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
     10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
     11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
     12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
     13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, . . .

      So let's recap, Brother of Jared's faith was tried and tested through the Lord himself. The Lord did indeed reveal Himself to the Brother of Jared, only after he had showed his faith and humbled himself in front of the Lord. I think in a way the Lord was surprised at the strength of faith that the Brother of Jared had. But this example is the perfect example of explaining the power of faith! Oh what a magnificent power! If we use this in the right way we will receive these gifts and blessings that we are promised. This was is following the gospel and rooting our faith in the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ.
      So I admit to you I never understood the difference of faith and belief until my mission. Some people think they are synonymous.  Ehhh, they are in a way. But now I see it as comparing a body of water to the raging waters of a river. There is such force and power in faith! It is such a concept that had been standing for eternities and eternities before us! It is the basis of the gospel and the first step to becoming like our Father in Heaven. There is so much more on faith that I want to talk about because it is such a God-like attribute. We are all born with faith and all are able to exercise faith if we choose to.
      Love God and move mountains with this vigorous and meaningful word.

Your Elder in Virginia,
 ~Elder Caleb Gibbons

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