This week was super good. I really felt like the Spirit was guiding our work. On Tuesday, for some reason, the matter of homosexuality and same-sex marriage was weighing on my mind, and I decided to spend a personal study hour to study it. I found exactly what I was looking for, and was very intrigued by the results. I'm worried, but not for myself. I'm worried for people who support and advocate homosexuality. Punishment always follows unrepentant sin, and with a sexual sin, such as homosexuality, it will not be pretty. So it was with the Nephites, with Sodom and Gomorra, with the children of Israel at the feet of Mount Sinai. So it will be with the people of the world, I fear. I fear that they are ripe for destruction. I fear not for myself, because I am sure in my testimony, and do my best to repent for my mistakes and imperfections, but for those who don't have a knowledge of the gospel, I fear. Especially those who don't really understand Heavenly Father's plan for us, and how important the Law of Chastity is. Anyway, on Friday we taught this young single adult who asked a question about homosexuals, and why the church's stance is what it is. Guess who had the answers? Yours truly. We also went over Romans 1 with her. I recommend you all read it. In the end, I closed with a testimony that although there may be challenges some people have to deal with their whole lives, such as autism or being born without a limb, we have a promise from the Lord that we will never find a challenge or trial that we are incapable of overcoming through the atonement. When we finished, she said that it was exactly what she needed, and that feeling of 'this whole thing was guided by the Spirit, and it took me this long to notice it' settled on the room.
There were several lessons like that this week, where I truly felt like an instrument in the Lord's hands. For example, there's a Dominican guy we teach who I usually can barely understand, and I usually take a back seat during those lessons. This time, I could understand almost perfectly, but only those things that I needed to understand, and words were truly put into my mouth that came out in perfect Spanish. It was truly remarkable.
As far as 4th of July, we had a little picnic with a couple members, some investigators, and the Bushwick English and Spanish districts. We went to Highland Park, which is absolutely gorgeous... especially when there aren't a billion people there. I'll include a couple pictures from the event. I learned that playing volleyball using an Ecuaball (weird Ecuadorian variation on volleyball) is hard, because the net is three or four feet higher. It also started raining on us a ton, so we spent a lot of time huddled together under the beach umbrella and pavilion the members had brought. It was super fun, though, and we ended up going home at 4. After that we got one visit in, got on the train to go visit the Branch President, who lives off the Sutter stop, and then stopped to think about what a bad decision that would be. It was the fourth of July, with fireworks going off everywhere that sounded a little too much like guns, it was late, and Brownsville is super super super sketch, and we're just the Mormon missionaries carrying iPads, a phone, our credit cards, and wearing watches. We decided to turn in a little early. So, no, we did not get to see any fireworks, and I'm not too bummed out about it. The night before the 4th people were going crazy, and I'm absolutely sure that many of those fireworks... weren't fireworks at all. I was in the study, which has windows facing out onto the street, and I was like 'nopenopenpoenopenopenopenope,' and went to play a game of Go with my companion in the kitchen, on the opposite side of the pad. We stayed up until midnight, and I won.
I'm sorry to hear about President Packer's passing (can anyone say alliteration?). Change is on the wind, and I'm excited to see who gets called to be the new apostles in the next session of General Conference. That was a bad night, when we found out. One of our investigators may have attended the birthday party of one of the members with booze in tow and broken the law of chastity. His 'esposa' (this is a hispanic thing- they'll live in the same house and sleep together without being married, and call each other their husband or wife) now wants to go to a different branch, the investigator wants nothing to do with the church, and the member has a brother who has left the church now because of this. Just.... Please remember that even if you're 'just a peon' in the church, so to speak, your actions speak quite loudly, and there is absolutely no choice you can make that only effects yourself. Be righteous, and lead others on in righteousness. If you break a commandment... always remember that you can repent, but you must repent swiftly, and sincerely. The Lord will forgive you as many times as you sincerely repent. Yeah, that was a hard night. We went out and bought chocolate Oreos and chocolate milk to take the edge off of it.
The Lopez family is doing great. We've taught them pretty much everything. Just a couple commandments left. The only problem is that they don't go to church. The cause is the Hermano's job. He goes to work at a pizzeria at 4 every day, and works until 2. That means he gets home at around 3. Not a lot of time to be ready for 9:00 church. It's an issue we've had with a lot of our investigators and less actives. They accept what we teach readily, but when it comes to attending church, they say yes, but when it's time for church they flake out.
Oh, yeah, President Reynolds started as the new mission president this week! I absolutely love the Reynolds. I felt very connected to the Calderwoods, and had a very close, personal relationship with them- they have changed my life forever, but there's something about the Reynolds that just clicks. I love them immensely. They are my mission president and president's wife. Elder Pavon and many of the other missionaries feel exactly the same. I got the chance to talk to them personally and give them a hug before the meeting, because they were hanging out in the president's office when we got there an hour early. That was a really fun day.
As far as dad's 'complaint' about beer at the 4th of July fiesta, that's nothing. One time we went to knock on a members' door, and they weren't there. We were about to go (and super hungry, too), when their downstairs neighbors, who were having a barbecue, insisted that we eat something. Can someone say tender mercy? Literally everyone else was drinking beer, were talking about going to drink beer at a beer garden, and we even got offered beer. That was a little awkward. We knew it was time to leave when the hookah came out. Tangent: I'm so tired of people smoking. Its so gross, unhealthy, and just not smart. Everyone would be happy if everyone else stopped smoking. If you see a girl smoking, it doesn't matter how pretty she looks, I wouldn't even think about dating her (well, after my mission, of course). It's gotten to the point that I'm about ready to carry a water gun with me to put out the cigarettes, or just start swatting them out of peoples' hands and mouths. Just stop it, please! Ok, tangent over. Anyway, it's good that you guys went, to be an example to them. Honestly, that's one of the coolest things to see as a missionary, is when the members take the initiative to be a Christlike example and a member missionary. Absolutely love it.
I'm so glad that Spencer had such a good experience at EFY, both spiritually and socially. I remember what a good time I had, and I can still feel the effects of the session that I attended. I kinda do but also don't want to hear the Dominican guy singing. It's a general rule that by and large (although with some notable exceptions), Hispanics are tone-deaf, and don't quite grasp the concept of rhythm. They sure don't care, though, and make up for it by belting it out as loud as they can. It's great, and it makes me seem super cool :) Sounds like I'll have a lot to fast for on the 12th, though. Make sure Spencer knows how happy I am for him that he's preparing to receive his blessing, and that I bear my testimony to him of the comfort, counsel and guidance in Patriarchal Blessings, and that they truly are from the mouth of God.
Love you all- keep to the faith and fight the good fight. I know it's hard, but I know that the Lord is in the vineyard, and that He is at the head of this great army.
Elder Richard Brandt Hull 헐