Monday, March 3, 2014

February 3, 2014

Mom, Dad and Family,

It's so good to hear from you!  Sounds like a lot is going on back home with the ward.  Tell Val and Stu congrats for me.  Milo will be four when I get home.  That kid and Malachi crack me up.  That's awesome that he came along okay.  I hope everyone keeps on the up.  Give everyone my best.

The work is moving on here in Ontario.  There is so much progress being made.  Ward council yesterday was stellar!  Our WML is a little bashful in ward council so missionary work isn't typically addressed a lot in ward council unless someone else brings it up.  But guess what, we fasted for the ward yesterday, and our WML spoke up and assignments were made and missionary work was taken care of.  It was great.  We also fasted for a new investigator and we met David on the way to a member's house.  David is the set manager for television shows like Monk and The Mentalist.  He's Christian but he wants to know more about our church.  He knew a guy he worked with who served a mission in South Africa.  So we asked him if he wanted to know what his friend taught.  He said yeah and we taught him a lot of the restoration.  We had a member with us and the member bore his testimony and the spirit was there.  We asked if we could come back, David said yeah, but he's super busy and wasn't able to make time.  Keep him in your prayers so he can make time for the missionaries.  His wife is also a staunch Baptist, so pray for her to let David take the lessons.

We had a joint Zone Conference last Thursday and we got introduced to a new way of working with ward missionaries that I am so pumped for.  I wonder if it's going on in Utah.  It's a way that allows the ward missionaries be the ward.  They meet with ward members and ask about their non-member friends and make decisions concerning what they can do for fellowshipping those friends; then they make commitments and follow up.  That way members have people to help them follow through on missionary work and get their friends ready for the gospel.  It's super cool.  There's a ward area book and the WML acts as a district leader and everything.  It's just awesome.  We found out about it in Zone Conference but it will probably catch on in a month or so in our stake.

This week is the last week of my first transfer.  It's been a blast.  There have been a lot of struggles but the miracles have been amazing.  Yesterday alone.  My testimony of fasting has grown a ton since I've been here.  Last month, we fasted for rain (all of California did, actually.  Apparently it was under direction of the first presidency or something,) that night, it started raining.  Saturday it poured and we actually had some flash flooding.  Stellar stuff.  This week we fasted for the ward and a new investigator.  The ward council went great and we got a new investigator. 

I was reading Jesus the Christ this week and I read about Matthew 4, when Christ begins his ministry with temptations.  I find it interesting what the Adversary tempted Jesus with.  The first one (after fasting for days) is food.  "If thou be the Son of God, command these stones be made bread."  Talmage points out that men have killed other men because of hunger.  Brothers have turned on each other.  Esau sold his birthright for a mere meal.  But Christ resisted and turned away from that temptation that most (if not all) would have given into.  The Devil that takes him to the top of the temple and tells Him "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."  This one is interesting.  Jesus gets His power and authority from the Father, and the Father loves Him.  If Christ were to fall, His Father would save him.  This temptation is for Jesus to tempt God.  Of course, He didn't.  Satan then takes Him to a mountain and shows Christ all the kingdoms of the world and offers Christ all of the power and glory of them "if thou wilt fall down and worship me."  Talmage reminds us here that people have sold their souls for eternity to only possess a portion of what was just offered.  Christ again resists.  Now the most interesting thing happens here.  Whether or not the Devil could have actually given Jesus what he had offered Him is a matter all to its own.  The thing that I find interesting here is that the Adversary tempted with the very thing he tempted us with when he was Lucifer in the pre-existence--what he led a third of the host of heaven a way with.  Lucifer's plan to have us all inherit a glorious kingdom, but he wanted us to worship him.  That's exactly what he had just tempted the Savior with.  Satan failed and was then cast out of Christ's presence.

Now I think there is a temptation that I think is often overlooked when we read this story.  That temptation was the word "if."  This temptation was present in all three of the others.  In all of the temptations there was the word "if."  What the Devil was really trying to do is get Christ to question His identity.  The Adversary wanted Christ to forget He was of divine right and authority.  He wanted Jesus to misuse His power for self gain.  But Christ realized something that I think we often forget; Christ didn't have to prove His divine identity to Satan.  So often when we're tempted, we feel as though we have to prove to the Enemy something.  But we don't have to prove anything to him.  He knows, but he tries to get us to forget.  He wants us to prove our agency by showing we can choose that contrary to the will of the Father.  He says "if thou be" a child of God before everything he tempts us with.  Praying on our pride, telling us to misuse ourselves.

God knows us, and He wants us to use our agency for what's best for us and others.  Satan knows that, and so that's what he attacks.  God knows, the Adversary knows, it's important that we also know.  God loves us.  Don't every forget who you are.

Thank you all for your examples to me.  I love being out here knowing what I know because you helped me.  I want to do what's right.  Pray for our ward, David, those we come in contact with and Rita.

Oh Rita!  She's doing a lot better and we made this Book of Mormon for her with scriptures we studied and prayed about that we believe will be relevant to her.  It took hours.  But hopefully it'll be good for her.  Her friend (a ward member) is the one giving it to her so hopefully it'll go over well.

Elder Russell

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