April 14, 2013

General Conference is a Miracle

Dear Mom,

I love prophets and apostles. Talking with my comp over the weekend, I really have come to think that the mission changes the way that you see and attend general Conference. We come to understand why it's so important that we have prophets because we teach it everyday. and then, every word of that conference stops being just good advice from old men, but rather a message from God prepared specifically for this time period and for these people. It's also amazing experiencing General conference in another country. The Church is a lot different down here. Not the teaching or the organization or the ordinances, which are sacred things that you cannot change, but rather the way the members carry out the church is different. The bishops do not have time to do be like American bishops because they work Monday-Saturday from 7am to 8:30pm in order to support their son who is on a mission. Members do not have cars to go do their home teaching visits. And then there are the cultural barriers which "prevent" the members from truly understanding the importance or significance of several church doctrines. So it's very different. But one of the things that I love about General Conference is that it breaks all cultural barriers. Everybody "gets it." The prophets truly are inspired by God to preach to the world. Their messages are addressed to everyone and everyone can apply the principles learned in General Conference, regardless of their situation.

I mention this because we had a really cool experience yesterday (actually several, but more on that later). We have this family in our ward. It's a single mother of two daughters, one who's about 20 and the other of 10. The twenty year old has her own baby who's already six, lovingly deemed the GĂ»era. They are a great family, active and caring members of the ward. They LOVE the missionaries. In fact, most missionaries practically live in that house. We don't go so much because we don't have that much time, but we try to visit them consistently because we love them and dang it, they need the gospel too. So, on Sunday, we went to visit them and we decided to do a review of General Conference (duh). As the mother began to share with us her favorite conference talk, I believe it was the D. Todd Christofferson talk about redemption, the daughter said "NO, shh, that's the one I wanted to share." They both had been touched by the same talk and at the same time, they realized that it was revelation specific to the problems they are experiencing in the family. We honestly didn't teach anything in this visit. They taught, the spirit taught, and the prophets kept talking. They told us about their challenges . THey have had and have a lot of them. Much more than our family. But both mom and daughter already wanted to set goals to get better and to begin truly forgiving the people that have hurt them. It was a touching example of how the Spirit touches the hearts of people and causes them to be more Christlike.

My other cool Sunday experience was that I got my first Mormon.org reference! So the Church launched this website a LONG time ago with the intention of using it to share the gospel more efficiently. With the time I've been giving to explore, I had come to realize that it is a rather effective online missionary. Problem is, I had never, ever seen nor heard of results of this website. It looked great and contained great resources for investigators, but I had never seen an investigator actually begin to talk to the missionaries because of this site. Yesterday changed all that. AS I was finishing a lesson with a less active member of the ward, I received a phone call from an unknown number. I answered. It was a girl named Haley, speaking English. It didn't sound like very good English, so I assumed that it was what it normally is, somebody who just wants to practice their English with the missionaries. And when that is the case, it means that the pseudo-English speakers will not understand my English because I speak quickly. So I continued speaking in Spanish and she continued in English. After about a minute and a half of not understanding each other, she finally said, "I'm sorry, I really don't understand much Spanish." That's when I finally learned that she had contacted us through mormon.org and was actually interested in listening to the Gospel. Fifteen minutes later, we were in a nearby park, talking with her and she pretty much told me that she loves the Church and that she wants to know more. She's already read up to Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon. She seems super pilas.

So Sunday was a good day, essentially, what with Conference and all. I, personally, loved Elder L. Tom Perry's talk. Oh, I should mention that I had to watch this entire conference in Spanish. In my previous three conferences during the mission, I watched in ENglish, in a special little room filled with English missionaries. This time, I stayed in my ward instead of going to Oaxaca in order to save time and money. So I was consigned to Spanish, but it was still good. I just missed a good part of Elder Holland's emotion. But back to L. Tom Perry. It was a wonderful talk on Obedience and lIberty. I love that he said that liberty is happiness and eternal life. Those are the two things we want more than anything and the only way to get them is through obedience to God's laws. Essentially, L. Tom Perry said that true liberty is the ability to choose whatever consequences we want and not what the world thinks, which is choose whatever actions we want. You couple this talk with the Prophets talk on obedience and it's a powerful one two punch of truth against the youth culture of today.

Also, and this makes me feel old and disconnected from the world, I was alarmed by how many authorities told us to disconnect from our electronic devices. Maybe I was blind to it, maybe it was because I lived without a laptop and an Iphone, but I didn't think the world was so lost in virtual reality 20 months ago. Obviously, it's a major problem now. It's a big enough dilemma that God felt He had to repeat this counsel many times in general conference. And now that I think about it, I just taught a lesson with a less active family and while they weren't reading scriptures or answering question, the two oldest children were glued to their phones. It's a shame that they didn't go to conference. It makes me glad that Dad is such a wise man. I specifically remember an instance when we were coming back from some family outing and all of us kids plugged in our headphones immediately and Dad got a little angry because we didn't want to talk about what we had just done or at the very least listen to music with the rest of the family. I remember that he told me that when I plug in to my ipod, I was denying myself opportunities to reflect, meditate, and grow from the experiences I have. It's very good advice that I didn't understand then, but that I think I understand a little better now.

Anyways, just so you know (this is a long email) =========== got baptized last monday! Yay! And her dad went and her two brothers and now we just have to get her confirmed this Sunday. I will be waiting patiently for my last box of the mission and, well, I hope you are all great. I'll see you in two!

Elder Johnson

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