Nov 26, 2011

last assignment: Fulton

Fulton, TN & KY... August-November 2011

"During our last few weeks of traveling, Sister Turner and I suggested to President McKee (our new mission president) that he put full-time missionaries in Fulton ward.  It was our busiest area while we were traveling, and we both felt like it needed more time and attention than we could give it.   We figured President would take our advice and send some elders to Fulton, and we told him they needed to be really good elders!  Well, he took our advice, but rather than sending elders.. he sent us!  We handed our traveling area book and phone over to the new traveling elders, and filled them in on everything that was happening.  We then took our car and drove to Fulton..without a phone, area book. or apartment. And thus began the final adventure.

"The past week has been pretty chaotic.  Fulton is about three hours away from the mission home, and we cover one of the largest areas in the mission. This ward covers six counties! We stayed with Mike and Lou Place in Sharon, TN for about ten days until we found our own apartment in Union City, TN.  As Sister Turner and I were riding bikes back from the library today, we passed some commercial landscapers working on a cemetary.  We waved as we passed, and a few minutes later I heard a lawn mower coming up behind me..and someone whistling from that lawn mower.  I didn't slow down until he was right beside me and he motioned for me to stop.  It was a guy who was close to my age, and he yelled over the sound of the mower, "Hey! Can I get your number?"  Haha.. I wasn't sure how to respond, so I just told him that I am a full-time missionary, and the only way I could give him my phone number was if he was willing to read the Book of Mormon and would let us teach him more about it.  He looked a little disappointed but he took the book and said he'd read it.  Only in Tennessee would a sister missionary riding a bike in a skirt and dorky helmet get chased down and picked up on on by a guy on a riding lawnmower.

"This is Sister Turner's last week in the field, and every day leading up to today has been pretty miserable.  Almost every one of our appointments have bonked; everyone has been sick,  experiencing tragedies, or simply not wanting to see us.  Its been 99 degrees outside, and flat out miserable.  But today was our "eleventh hour".. and thank heavens God came to our rescue.  First of all, it was rainy and dropped down to 80 degrees.. what a blessing.  Our meeting at church today was incredibly spiritual, and some people we've been teaching came to church for the first time.  While we were at church, we were asked by Sister Duke to come and teach her grandson Garrett in order to prepare him for baptism.  After years of coming to church with his grandma, Garretts parents finally consented to let him be baptized, and we have the opportunity to teach him.  After church we had some very spirit-led lessons and were asked by several different people if they could learn more about our church.  Miracle Sunday.

"I have been so busy that I didn't even mention the fact that I'm training again!  Her name is Sister Nalder and she is from Alberta, Canada.  Sister Nalder and I have had a great three days so far, and are getting along well.  Michael and Ginger, and couple who I've been teaching for a few months now, are ready to be baptized next weekend, and I am so excited!  I sure have grown to love this couple.  Unfortunately they moved to Tennessee right after we finished teaching them all of the lessons, but luckily they still want to have their baptism here in Fulton!  I am so thankful for how humble they are, and willingly they follow Jesus Christ.

"I am loving the people here more and more each day..especially the ones we are teaching.  This evening Sister Nalder, Sister Jasper (who is staying with us for a few weeks until she's assigned a new companion) and I went to our friend Mary's house to help her with her daughter's birthday party.  We didn't know most of the people there, but everyone was so welcoming and sweet to us.  The party was a success, and we had so much fun!  Mary is one of my favorite people we teach, and so far everyone we've met from her family just treats us like a part of the family.  They have such strong faith in Christ, and their foundation of the Bible has allowed them to accept and understand the Book of Mormon quite easily.  I feel very blessed to be able to share it with them.

"My life is moving much too quickly right now, and I really just wish I could slow it down!  The events of my last transfer as a full-time missionary have been simultaneously chaotic and wonderful.  We have done so much traveling, preparing, and teaching.  Every time things get a bit hard or frustrating, the Lord steps in and pours miracles and blessings into our laps. Two of the men we've tried to teach without much success have shared with us visions and promptings they've received from the spirit which have allowed them to listen to and accept the message we share.  Sometimes I feel so undeserving of the miracles, but they motivate me to continue working and serving the Master.  I know without a doubt that this is His work, His errand I've been on for the past year and a half of my life, and I wouldn't give any part of it back. He lives, He loves us, and this is His gospel I share."

Nov 15, 2011

assignment five: traveling

Tompkinsville, Morgantown, Whitehouse, Russelville, Elkton, Princeton, and Fulton... June-July 2011

"Now I am traveling the mission with Sister Turner, going to all the areas that don't have missionaries and teaching the people who need to be taught.  It is a program that President Hutchings started about six months ago and it has been very successful so far.  I am excited to be serving with Sister Turner again!  We had fun last time we served together.  We are living in Hopkinsville, KY with Sister Warwood and Sister McCall.  We don't get to see each other much because Sister Turner and I are never home, but when do see each other we have a blast!

"Traveling is very exhausting so far.  We drive at least four hours every day; its like a never ending roadtrip!  I am constantly praying for an alert mind and eyes so that I don't fall asleep on the road.  It is really cool though because almost all of the people we teach are progressing towards baptism.   Yesterday we had a baptism in Fulton and today we had a baptism in Morgantown.   Sister Larsen taught both of them and was able to come to both baptisms with her parents.. its been a spiritual high all weekend.

"Last night we stayed with the Gallatin sisters (because it was closer to where we were going than our apartment) and we drove out to Tompkinsville this morning.  Tompkinsville is beautiful-so green and forested-but everything is so spread out and hard to find!  While trying to find one particular family, our trusty (or not so trusty) GPS took us on this little gravel road that went straight into someone's private farm.  Sister Turner followed the GPS without giving it second thought, and as we got deeper and deeper into this farm the road became less and less of a road.  We thought it continued, but the barbed wire fence ahead of us (which we may or may not have run straight into) told us otherwise.  It just so happened that the owner of this farm we were driving through was standing twenty yards behind us wondering what in the world we were doing.  Thankfully, he didn't shoot us.. he just shook his head and pointed us in the right direction.  Adventures!

"Things are going so well right now.. we see miracles almost daily in the wonderful world of traveling. We are teaching  many wonderful people and preparing several for baptism in the upcoming weeks.  One of them is Jaret-the younger brother of Jailyn who was baptized in June. Jaret is fifteen and is so easy to teach, he is completely willing to listen and do what it takes to follow the example of Jesus Christ.  We are also teaching a man named Tony, who has been coming to church for months and now feels ready to make the sacred covenant at baptism.  His wife Nancy has been right beside him all the way encouraging him, and every time we are in their home the spirit almost overpowers us.  Such sweet and humble people.. I feel very lucky to know them.

"Tonight was definitely a night to remember.  We are teaching a woman named Phylecia who came to church on Sunday for the first time and absolutely loved it.  She told us that when she walked into the church building "it felt like coming home".  She has been to several different churches throughout her life but never felt like she was where God wanted her to be.  She said while she was attending a certain church, she actually started crying because she knew that truth was not being taught.  We taught her about the Holy Ghost and how it testifies of truth, and she recognizes that what we are teaching is true because she feels the spirit.  She said each time she opens the Book of Mormon it talks about repentance and baptism, and she knows that God is speaking directly to her through its pages.

"One year ago today I left the missionary training center to come to this beautiful  land of Tennessee.  I was anxious and excited but I felt like a foreigner to this place and lifestyle.  Its strange to think that I've been here in Tennessee for a year.  It has been the hardest/craziest/strangest/most interesting and most rewarding year of my life.  I never knew how hard a mission would be, but I would never take it back for anything in the world.  Sacrifice brings blessings, refinement, character, love, and appreciation for all the things God has given me.  It is interesting to look back and recognize the changes that have taken place within myself.  Its hard, but worth it.  Speaking of opposition and changes that are worth it, my friend Emily has been on my mind a lot lately because she is experiencing so much of this.  Her baptism is this Saturday, and it seems like everyone she knows is trying to prevent her from making this step in the right direction.  I feel so bad that she has to go through all of this, but I know the blessings she gets in return will be completely worth it."

Nov 8, 2011

assignment four: Gallatin

Gallatin, TN...May-June 2011

"I'm not exactly sure what is going on in my life right now.  Sister Koford and I are both new to this area, and as of right now we are homeless.  We have been trying to find a permanent place to live, but until then we are staying with members of the Gallatin ward.  Bishop and Sister Wade have been kind enough to let us stay with them until we have an apartment of our own!  Their home is beautiful and they remind me so much of Mom and Dad.  Today we had our weekly planning session out on the patio by their beautiful!

"What a great day. We are teaching a lady named Angelyn who owns a horse barn out towards Bethpage, and for our service hours this week we asked if we could come help her around the farm.  It was so much fun!  We spent a few hours watering and feeding, cleaning stables, and brushing the beautiful horses.  It feels good to wear jeans for a short period of time and get to do physical work.  Its actually less exhausting than teaching the gospel!  Its fun seeing Angelyn each week because she teaches us about horses, and then in turn we teach her about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing is better than seeing her eyes tear up as we teach her the principles of the restoration.  She feels the spirit so strongly when we teach her, and so do we!

"Tonight we were teaching a lady who told me I have "Jesus in my face."  She said she can tell because I am always smiling.  The elders can't take me seriously when I teach because they say I smirk and it makes them want to laugh. Haha.  I guess the smiling comes off in different ways to different people. 

"Saturday was the best part of last week.  We had a zone conference where President and Sister Hutchings talked about receiving revelation.  A lot of times God wants to reveal things to us through the spirit, but we hold ourselves back from blessings because we neglect to ask.  Had Joseph Smith not asked, he never would have seen the first vision.  Had he never asked, the gospel of Jesus Christ would not have been restored through him.  Each of us are entitled to personal revelation, and God wants to give it to us.  After zone conference we were able to go to Madison where the Nashville Tribute Band was playing.  Jason Deere is the singer/songwriter and he joins with other Mormon musicians to play about the restoration.  It is so spiritual and uplifting; I love it!

"Speaking of music, tonight the wonderful Gallatin ward had a memorial day celebration picnic with a live band of talented members of the church!  It was great.  I really do love these people, and am thankful we were able to make it to the picnic.  It was so hot though!  Not only was it hot, but there was a loud background noise of screaming cicadas.. these nasty little bugs that only come out of the ground every thirteen years to reproduce.  Well, this year they are out and reproducing by the millions!  They are everywhere and cling to everything. It is pretty disgusting but interesting at the same time.

"Tender mercies.. so many tender mercies.  It seems like almost every day we see unexpected blessings. Not just for us, but for the wonderful people we teach.  Sister Koford and I have focused a lot lately on "The Things that Matter Most".. a talk by Elder Uchtdorf.  I know the things that matter most in this life are my relationship with God, my relationship with my family, my relationship with everyone else around me, and my relationship with myself.  The more I focus on my relationship with God, the more everything else falls into place."

Nov 1, 2011

assignment three: Burgess Falls

I don't even know where to begin with this area.  I was there for six months, loved almost every second of it, and saw miracle after miracle take place.  I will do my best to condense some of my favorite journal entries from that time period into a post that I hope will not be too long or tiresome!  Here's to serving with the Burgess Falls ward in Cookeville, TN.

Cookeville, TN...November 2010-May 2011

"I am in Cookeville!  And what a glorious place Cookeville is so far.  We live in a really old apartment on the square, but its cute and I really love it.  Everyone we've met so far has been awesome-so helpful and spiritual.  The second day we were here we had about twelve people from the ward call us saying, "we are SO excited to have Sisters back!  What can we do for you?  Let us know if there's anything you want or need!"  They are so awesome.  They are also really excited about missionary work and want to do everything in their power to help us out.  We feel like we are being extremely spoiled, but we're not complaining!  So far Sister Larsen and I have been invited to seven thanksgiving dinners.. we only said yes to four of them before we started realizing that our stomachs might explode if we accept any more.

"Saturday was really cool. We have been trying extra hard to be obedient and faithful so that we can have the spirit with us more fully and be led to the people God wants us to find. Saturday we saw some results.  After a morning of teaching some former investigators, we were driving past a street where Sister Larsen noticed a lady sitting on a couch on the side of the road.  She felt prompted to turn around and go talk to her.  As we pulled up, we noticed she was crying.  I rolled down the window and told her we were missionaries and asked if we could do anything for her.  She just broke down in sobs and couldn't even talk, so we pulled over and went and sat with her.  Through her sobs she told us that she has just prayed for the first time in ten years she had just prayed asking God if He really was there.  She asked God if he could show her some sign that someone cared about her, and then we pulled up to comfort her and help her get the place she needed to be.  She told us that we were the fastest answer to her prayers she'd ever gotten.  We gave her a Book of Mormon and prayed with her before she left and she said that when we prayed she felt something she'd never felt before in her life.  She was blown away by the miracle that had just taken place.

"Yesterday our friend Wendy came to church for the first time with her cute little boys, and they loved it!  We have been teaching her for about a month, and her faith is really growing.  She loves the Book of Mormon and the things the church teaches, despite the different doctrines she's been taught her whole life.  Damon is another person we're teaching, and basically we met him by a pure miracle.  We prayed and felt very strongly that we needed to be in a certain neighborhood, and the Spirit literally led us straight to his house.  He opened the door with a huge smile on his face and welcomed us in, and since then we have taught him 2-3 times, invited him to come to the Christmas party and to church on Sunday, and he is loving every minute of it.  He called last night just to say thank you and that "this church is bringing the light back into his life"  He loves the Book of Mormon and everything else so far.. its amazing.  I've never met someone so prepared.

"I think the Lord knows that I need an extra boost being away from home at Christmastime.  He has also blessed me by allowing me to help decorate 5 different homes for Christmas ( lights, trees, ornaments, all of my favorite things) and by giving me tons of chocolate from every direction. On Christmas Eve, Sister Larsen and I had our first baptisms here.  Two boys we have been teaching, Dylan and Zach, were baptized in the river behind their house!  Yes, they were baptized in a river on Christmas Eve.  It was freezing cold and we were a little nervous they would get hypothermia from the experience, but they both came out smiling and the ordinance was done beautifully!  What a wonderful Christmas present.

     I love it here.. I don't know if i have mentioned that. This week was kind of crazy but so incredible.  Because Damon, James, Wendy, and Nikki are all getting baptized soon, we had to teach a lot of important (and kind of stressful)  lessons this past week.  We talked a lot about the importance of the covenants they are making, and also taught them all the word of wisdom. All of them love their coffee (or tea or tobacco), and we were worried about asking them to give it up. But miracles are real..we have been praying like crazy for them, have gotten them all priesthood blessings, and lo and behold they have all three been keeping the word of wisdom since we asked them to!  If that's not a miracle I don't know what is.  They all have such strong faith and devotion because they have felt the spirit of this gospel and know that it is true and worth it.  I can't wait to show you pictures of their baptisms next week!    Nothing is better than watching these people who we've worked with and spent countless hours praying for finally take this step to come closer to Jesus Christ.  They are so strong and I admire them so much.

"I am so thankful for Sister Larsen and Sister Warwood.  They are so awesome.  I think the three of us are perfect together, we are a good balance.  Every lesson we've taught lately has been so powerful, and the spirit of God is constantly confirming that this gospel we share is true.  I have been struggling lately with some things from home, but my companions have helped me out so much.  Every time I feel lousy, all I have to do is talk to my companions or teach the gospel, and suddenly I feel at peace again.  Today they found another way to lift my spirits.  As we were driving home from Sparta for our lunch break, Sister Larsen told me she had a surprise for me.  She turned away from our usual route home and stopped at the Burgess Falls trailhead.  We spent our lunch break hiking (yes in our skirts) to the beautiful namesake of our ward.  Only a true friend would know that there was nothing that could bring me more joy than hiking to a waterfall in my skirt!

"Well, I am training again!  Sister Warwood and I will be staying here in Cookeville together, and we are training Sister Jasper from Alaska.  I am so thankful I get another transfer here! I have been out for nine months now, and can't believe how fast time is flying.  Our little trio is working out quite well so far!  I attribute it all to Heavenly Father; he knows I can only handle so much at one time so he's decided to step in and take over for a bit.  He truly is carrying me.  We have been working a lot with less active families in the church lately, trying to help renew their testimonies and bring them back to church.  I love seeing the light reignited as we share basic principles of the gospel, and then see the renewed motivation that accompanies that. We were also able to go to the temple for the first time with Wendy, James, Nikki, and Cordell.. and that was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  How I love to see and be in and feel the power of the temple. 'From small and simple things are great things brought to pass.'

"Basically here is what I have learned in the past few months: God definitely answers prayers and miracles do happen!  You just have to ask, have faith, work hard, and He will take care of the rest!"

Oct 25, 2011

assignment two: Clarksville

Clarksville, TN...October-November 2010

"I was so sad when President Hutchings called and said I'd be leaving Murray.  He told me I'd be white-washing into Clarksville, which I was a little nervous about.  Since transfers, however, I have barely even stopped to think about Murray-we've been so overwhelmed!  I'm with Sister Turner, who is really cool, and neither of us know a thing about Clarksville!  We are relying on the members of the church a lot so far because we have no car, and don't know where anything is.  The past few days here have been fun, but stressful. 

"Sister Turner and I have done a lot of walking on the sides of busy highways, and we have met a fair amount of people. Things are picking up for us here in Clarksville.  We are carless again this week, but it hasn't been as bad as last time because we have more appointments, and we know more people who can give us rides. For some reason I have been really nervous to talk to people recently, and I'm not sure why.  Contacting people is definitely one of my weaknesses, but the scripture in Ether 12:27 gives me hope.. "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble... for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." I hope my weaknesses can become my strengths.

"Sunday night was a lot of fun.  Gladys Knight came and put on a fireside for our mission and we got to go see it! Gladys directs a choir called Saints Unified Voices, which is basically a bunch of Mormons of all ethnicities singing in a southern gospel style.  It was different than what we're used to, but she helped show that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is for everyone.  She also invited everyone in the audience to meet with the Mormon missionaries!  I loved it.

"We found someone golden! Her name is Kim, and the way we met her was really cool.  She was having a yard sale and we were talking to her neighbors for a long time, but Kim was ignoring us.  We gave her neighbors a Book of Mormon and continued on our way, but soon realized we'd left our map back on the table at the yard sale.  When we went back she was much more friendly, and when we gave her a Book of Mormon she said she'd read it.  Since we met her we've gone back a few times and each time we teach her she seems more and more prepared for the gospel.  She tells us she's been in and out of churches her whole life..searching for truth.  She still hasn't found what she's looking for.  After everything we've taught her so far she nods her head and says that she agrees! 

"Tonight we team-taught a couple with the elders.  Tracy has been meeting with the missionaries for a few weeks and has a baptismal date, but tonight was the first time Steve has been officially taught.  After the lesson we asked Steve if he would like to be baptized with Tracy and he said that he would!  The spirit was so strong and they were both smiling from ear to ear.  They are an awesome couple, I am so thankful I get to help teach them.  Their kids are so cute too, which is always a bonus.  We are planning their wedding and baptism right now, but unfortunately Sister Turner and I found out we will both be transferred before that day comes!  Neither of us expected that call, and neither of us wants to leave, but I suppose we'll go where the Lord wants us to go."

Oct 20, 2011

assignment one

If there is one thing I have learned as a missionary, it is how to find joy in the simple pleasures of every day and recognize the tender mercies the Lord provides for me.  Sister Turner, my last companion, is one of the many people who have shown me how to do this.  In order to commemorate her mission, she decided to highlight each of her previous areas throughout the Tennessee Nashville mission and celebrate the experiences she had and lessons she learned.  I thought that was a lovely idea, and in honor of her, I think I shall do the same, using exerpts from my old jounal entries.  Here's to my first area as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

Murray, KY.. July-September, 2010

"I just said goodbye to Utah for 18 months.  The longest I've ever gone without seeing my family, friends, or beautiful mountains is one month.  The scenery in Tennessee is beautiful though.  Almost everything is green and naturally forested, with big red barns and farms almost everywhere we go.  I love the rainstorms.

"First full day on the job!  It has been so busy since we first arrived here in Murray, and I have so much to write about, but no time.  My trainers are Sister Fear and Sister Fluckiger, and we've been so busy that I haven't even had time to unpack my suitcases!  Most of the day is hot, sweaty, exhausting, and headachy, but those moments when we get to sit down with people and share Christ's beautiful gospel make it all worth it.  I love to hear about these people's lives and beliefs, and then share with them the fundamental truths that have come from the restoration of Christ's church.  Everyone here is religious.  There really is a diferent Christian church on every corner.  Something I've realized, however, is how many people are still searching for truth and happiness! I am here to bring it to them.

"Since arriving here I've eaten a squirrel, seen a zebra in a horse pasture, painted a trailer in 110 degree weather, been proposed to by an ex-convict, and sung a solo Mormon hymn in front of an entire Baptist congregation.  I never know what a day in this live will bring, but every day is an adventure.  I am learning how to take the Savior's advice and 'lose [my] life for [his] sake'.. in order to really find my life.  The more I serve these strangers, the less strange they become, and the more I love them.  I find people, situations, and places to laugh about every day.  I have found more joy in reading and teaching the scriptures than I ever have before.  I am also coming to know myself in a better and deeper way.

"Although being a missionary can be very trying and discouraging at times, I know that this experience is good for me.  I know that I have been given things in my life that most people live without: The Book of Mormon and the fulness of Christ's gospel, a family who loves me, friends with high standards, a quality education, good health, and a clean, consistent place to call home.  I know that 'Because I have been given much I too must give' and serving the Lord for eighteen months is the least I can do to make it up to him."

Oct 11, 2011

the motive

There's a little saying I have written down in the front of my "Preach My Gospel".. you may have heard it before:

Obedience is the price,
Faith is the power,
Love is the motive,
The Spirit is the key,
Christ is the reason.

"And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God" -Moroni 8:26

Love for dear people like my motive.
And the people I have come to love throughout my mission...make all the hard things about my mission worth it.

Oct 4, 2011

the bridge between God and man

As I drove through Land Between the Lakes on my way to Nashville last year, I felt as though this bridge was taking me directly to Heaven.  I think Heaven is a lot closer to us than we realize.   God is really not that far away.  Even though we cannot see Him, he has given us many ways to speak to Him, and to hear Him speak with us.  When we speak to God, it is usually through prayer.  When God speaks to us, it is through revelation

Revelation can come in many different forms. For me, it comes most frequently as I am on my knees in prayer, studying the scriptures, or listening to the current prophets and apostles (as we had the opportunity to do last weekend).  Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke about two different forms of revelation: the personal line, and the priesthood line.  As I pray directly to my Heavenly Father and receive answers from Him, I am using the personal line of communication.  As I listen to God's apostles and prophets teach me the things He wants me to know, I am using the priesthood line.  Both are necessary for me to really understand God's will.

While listening to our dear prophet Thomas S. Monson and the apostles over the weekend, I came to understand revelation more fully.  These inspired leaders revealed things that all of God's children need, and as I listened, the spirit taught me personally the things that God wants me, Sister Elizabeth Cosper to know. 

"It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that God speaks, not spoke" -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

If you missed General Conference, dont worry.. you can watch it HERE!

Sep 27, 2011

forget not

With General Conference coming up this weekend (you might remember me posting about the last one in April) we have the opportunity to hear from the living Prophet of God, along with the twelve apostles.  I have always loved General Conference weekends (when I was little that meant watching church from home in my pajamas and eating a lot of good food with the family) but I love them even more as a missionary.  Last Saturday was the Relief Society General Broadcast, and we were able to hear from three amazing women, along with President Uchtdorf.  The spirit strongly testified as they spoke, and it motivated me to be a better missionary and disciple of Jesus Christ.  I stole from these tidbits from President Uchtdorf's talk.. enjoy!

Forget not to be patient with yourself:

President Uchtdorf reminded women that everyone has strengths and weaknesses—that no one is perfect, even those who may seem so.
“God wants to help us eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal,” President Uchtdorf said. “It is OK that you are not quite there yet. Keep working on it but stop punishing yourself. “
“Dear sisters, many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others,” he added. “Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.”
Forget not the difference between a good sacrifice and a foolish sacrifice:

President Uchtdorf defined an acceptable sacrifice as giving up “something good for something of far greater worth.”
“Dedicating some of our time to studying the scriptures or preparing to teach a lesson is a good sacrifice. Spending many hours stitching the title of the lesson into homemade potholders for each member of your class may not be.”
President Uchtdorf noted that every situation is different, and suggested asking, “Am I committing my time and energies to the things that matter most?” in order to distinguish between good and foolish sacrifices.
Forget not to be happy now:

Using an example from the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, President Uchtdorf described how one of the characters, Willy Wonka, hid golden tickets within chocolate bars, promising to reveal wonders to five people who discovered the tickets.
“In their anxiousness, people began to forget the simple joy they used to find in a candy bar. The candy bar itself becomes an utter disappointment if it does not contain a golden ticket,” President Uchtdorf said. Whatever a “golden ticket” may represent to each person, President Uchtdorf warned Relief Society sisters to not put their happiness on hold as they wait for a future event, or golden ticket, to appear.
“The lesson here,” he said,” is that if we spend our days waiting for fabulous roses, we could miss the beauty and wonder of the tiny forget-me-nots that are all around us.”
Forget not the “why” of the gospel:

President Uchtdorf said that sometimes, in the routines of daily life, the vital aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ are unintentionally overlooked. “We sometimes see the gospel as a long list of tasks that we must add to our already impossibly long “to do” lists. We focus on what the Lord wants us to do and how we might do it, but we sometimes forget why.”
President Uchtdorf reminded the sisters that the gospel is not an obligation, but a pathway leading to happiness and peace in this life and “glory and inexpressible fulfillment” in the life to come
Forget not that the Lord loves you:

In closing, President Uchtdorf said, “Just think of it: You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time.”

“You may at times feel a little like the forget-me-not—insignificant, small, or tiny in comparison with others,” he said, noting: “I hope (the forget-me-not) will be a symbol of the little things that make your lives joyful and sweet.”

I loved this so much, and hope you do too. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the speakers this Saturday and Sunday!

Sep 17, 2011

prepare to meet thy God

Yes I'm aware that I look like a nerd.
There are just some things about Tennessee that I don't want to forget.
It is not uncommon to see a sign like this in Tennessee. In someone's front lawn, near a church, or next to the highway.. it is something I have almost come to expect. These folks are very aware that we all need to be prepared to meet our God.  But what the signs don't tell us is how to prepare to meet our God.

In order to be prepared to meet our God, we must first know a little about Him. I've never seen God in person, but here is what I have learned.  Genesis 1 tells us that we are created in His image, therefore we know that God has a body of flesh and bone like ours.  God is our loving Heavenly Father, and he is not far from us (Acts 17:27-19).  He is all knowing, all powerful, and perfect.  The scriptures also teach us that "no unclean thing can enter into His kingdom" (3 Nephi 27:19).  Thankfully, God has provided a way for us to receive eternal life through his son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). 

Then what can we do to be prepared?  We can first have faith in God's only begotten son, Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 2:6-8).  If we truly believe in Him, we will repent of our sins (Hel. 5:10-11). Full repentance is complete with baptism by immersion for a remission of those sins (Acts 2:38).  God promises us that if we are baptized by proper authority, we can be given the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will lead us and help us to continue living a Christlike life!  

Why is this significant anyhow?  Why do we want to meet our God and live with him someday?   "And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7)  From what I gather, this is what most of us are hoping for, and the Lord has shown us how we can. 

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Sep 13, 2011

Elda Cospa

Sometimes I get sick of writing about me and my experiences (imagine that) so today.. I am going to write a little more about my brother in Ghana.  I posted about him a few months back; about how much I admire him and look up to him and get overexcited to read his letters and emails every week.  Today I want to share a few tidbits from those emails of his.  Hopefully he doesn't mind. Every time he used to make himself a big delicious meal in the kitchen (he's a much better chef than I am) I would wait until he turned his back and sneak a few bites..or a lot of bites. He always got upset at me for that. Now I am going to sneak a few bites from his emails which I think are more interesting than my own.  I think you'll agree. 

September 12th

"Remember Kingsley?  We baptized him in Mamponse right before i was transferred.  Well now two of his sons have been baptized and his daughter and wife will be baptized on the 24th!!!!  All of that just because of one contact Elder Thom and I made one Sunday afternoon.  I can't describe how happy i am about that.  Seeing an individual change is amazing, but seeing an entire family change is even better."

September 5th 

"I'm rocking out to some awesome gospel rock here in this internet cafe.  Gotta love Ghana (and Tennessee)!  This week we've been prospering work-wise but suffering physically.  We've been without electricity probably 5 out of the 7 days this week.  Here they call it "light off."  The three worst things about having no electricity are: 1. Our water pump doesn't work, which is as good as not having any water at all.  2. Our fridge doesn't work and all the food inside starts to spoil (I have 5 KGs of chicken in our freezer that's going to be completely defrosted by the end of today if the power doesn't come back on) and 3. Our fans don't work!  Which makes for hot sweaty nights.  It's not fun!  Ghana really needs to figure out this electricity business.  Luckily this internet cafe is really nice and has a generator.  Something we missionaries don't have."

August 29th

"One cool experience we had this week, we contacted and taught this guy named Sammuel B on Saturday.  We committed him to come to church and he said he would, but after doing this work for this long i've kind of lost faith in people when they say they'll come to church.  But then Sunday came and he showed up during sacrament meeting!  After sacrament meeting we were taking him to the gospel essentials class and one of the members walked up to him with a big smile on his face and gave him a big hug.  It turns out this guy is Sammuel's uncle!  After church Sammuel told us how much he loved the service and said that he'll definitely be coming back next week.  Experiences like that keep me going, missionary work is so sweet.  I have the strongest testimony about following the promptings of the spirit."

Ok, that's all for now.  I sure do love my little bro. Miss him like crazy but I know the sacrifice is worth it. He is blessing so many lives out there. 

Sep 3, 2011

a poem for Wendy

This post is long overdue, considering I met this lovely lady in 2010 and started this poem quite a while ago, but hey...better late than never.

A loving daughter of Heavenly Father,
You showed His kindness without falter,
But yet you did not know Him;
As you walked your path the light seemed dim.
You were content but not complete,
Still searching for that something
That could answer all your questions.

The Elders met a Baptist,
Who directed them toward your house;
You sat out on the porch with them,
Polite, but not about to give in.
"I'll listen for a while" you thought,
"But will not change my lifestyle",
(Little did you know what lay ahead).

It was then that we moved in,
Just two weeks after you'd met them,
You welcomed my companion and I,
As if we'd known you all our lives.
The dog became my biggest fan,
And little Eli preferred Larsen,
Even your husband let us come.

We asked you about what you'd learned,
Your face lit up, the spirit burned,
Our teachings were so new to you,
The premortal world and afterlife too.
We taught that Christ is your Redeemer,
Jehovah, Savior, stain remover;
We recognized the spark inside your soul.

Soon Thursday nights became our favorite,
Each week reserved for just the Bakers;
We'd say our prayers and answer questions,
Play with the boys and all their Nerf guns.
But nothing made us smile inside,
Quite like the tears welled in your eyes
Each time we testified.

Finally the day arrived,
When you agreed to be baptized,
The excitement was so evident,
Behind your nervous smile that moment.
We got to welcome Heaven's daughter,
As you ascended from the water,
In the whites you'd made us iron the night before.

You still continue learning,
And you have the tools for searching,
As we all keep pressing forward,
In this gospel of our Lord.
He loved you and your family,
Enough to send His missionaries
To the ones who were prepared.

To the recently called primary leader,
Whose son now calls himself "Brother Skyler"
And tells us he'll serve his own mission someday;
Thank you for letting us in dear Wendy.
I've been able to share my testimony,
This message so sacred and pure and holy,
With one of my very best friends.

Sep 1, 2011

the power of one

Because of one who partook of the fruit
We each can live and die too.
(1 Cor. 15:22, 2 Nephi 2:22-25)

Because of one who spilt His blood,
We can all be lifted up.
(2 Nephi 2:6-8, 3 Nephi 27:14-26, John 3:16)

Because of one who decided to pray,
We have God's word alive today.
(Joseph Smith History 1:16-17, Eph. 1:10, 2 Nephi 3:11)

When I feel weak because I am just one,
I think of all these ones have done.
(D&C 35:13-14, 2 Cor. 12:9, 2 Nephi 4:20)

Aug 25, 2011

women of God

"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."

-Margaret D. Nadauld

(I feel like the "We Can Do It" poster from the fifties would be an appropriate picture to go along with this post, but the public computers here in Union City, TN won't let me save photos from you can just imagine the photo). 

Aug 18, 2011

faith vs fear

It took a lot of faith for me to trust the owner of this chicken when he told me I could hold it without getting pecked to death.  This was my first experience with holding a chicken.

Faith is a principle of power and action.  Faith is more than just a belief.  If we have faith, we will do something about it.  If we have faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, that faith will lead us to repent of our sins, be obedient to His commandments, and serve him until the end.  This is what I have gathered from my studies about faith:

-Faith leads to action. (James 1:22)
-Faith is manifest through obedience, diligence, and work.  (John 14:15)
-Faith comes before miracles. (Ether 12:6
-Faith is opposed by doubt and fear. ( 2 Tim 1:7)
-Faith can be increased through study, prayer, service, and obedience. (Alma 32:27)

Faith in Jesus Christ is the motivating factor behind what I do as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is the reason I left home for a year and a half to serve without monetary compensation.  It is the reason I keep the sabbath day holy, the word of wisdom, the law of tithing, and the law of chastity even when most of the world tells me to do otherwise.  Faith is why I get up at 6:30 each morning, study the scriptures for two hours, and spend all day inviting others to come unto Christ, hoping that someone will listen. 

Faith is a gift from God, and something He wants each of us to develop. I am so thankful for my faith.

Aug 13, 2011


Every time I think about the life of Joseph Smith or his wife Emma, I am reminded of how easy my life is comparatively! They did everything they could to serve the Lord and follow the guidance he gave them, and they were constantly persecuted for it. Emma Smith had to watch as her husband was taken from her in the middle of the night, beaten, and eventually killed. As the prophet of the restoration, He sealed his testimony with his blood as did so many prophets before him.

" Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" -D&C 135

I love this video because it reminds me of the sacrifice not only of Joseph, but of his sweet wife Emma. I am so thankful for her faith and selflessnesss.

Aug 9, 2011

he knows

I started this post a week or two ago but was unsure of how to finish it. It seemed incomplete.  Then on Wednesday I received a letter from my friend Mandy that was exactly what I needed.  I love how my friends who are thousands of miles away can answer my prayers simply by listening to and following the promptings God gives them.  I want to share the quote she sent me, because I love it:

"The gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It's our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism. Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that. He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief. You know that people who live above a certain latitude experience very long winter nights can become depressed and even suicidal, because something in our bodies requires whole spectrum light for a certain number of hours a day. Our spiritual requirement for light is just as desperate and as deep as our physical need for light. Jesus is the light of the world. We know that this world is a dark place sometimes, but we need not walk in darkness. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and the people who walk in darkness can have a bright companion. We need him, and He is ready to come to us, if we'll open the door and let him.
(Chieko N. Okazaki, Lighten Up, Preface; p. 174)
I love this in depth examination of the atonement of our Savior.  I know that he did suffer not only for our sins, but for "the pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sickness of his people."  (Alma 7:11)    I know that he's there, and  I know that he knows.

Aug 4, 2011


I am not normally much of a dog person. I feel like most of the time they just make houses messy and smelly and make visitors feel unwelcome. A pit bull even tried to kill my companion once, and since then I've been a bit traumatized. But Blackie.. is different. While staying with the Place's for the past week and a half, I must admit I became quite attached to this little dog. My favorite thing about Blackie (as you can see from this video) is how excited she gets when you give her a treat.  She acts like every dog bone you give her is the most exciting thing in the world, and she dances all around it and makes sure you know how much she appreciates it before she eats it.  I love it so much I always just want to give her another one when she finally finishes.

Alright, what does this have to do with missionary work or the gospel?  Well, let me tell you.  I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately and to me, Blackie is the perfect examlple of a gracious receiver.  When you give her a good gift, she will be sure to let you know how thankful she is..without even using words!  How often do we show that kind of appreciation for the things that we receive?  Every day we are given gifts.. if not from those around us, from the Lord.  When we show our gratitude for the things we are given, God is more willing to give us more.  Psalms 92:1 says it simply: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, o most high".  Alma 37:37 states, "..and when thou risest in the morning, let thy heart be full of thanks unto they God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day."    I love that promise.

I know we each have so much to be thankful for.  I find that when I express gratitude for all that I've been given, I recognize even more blessings throughout each day, and I am happier!  Let us all be a little more like Blackie.

Aug 1, 2011


Ask me about the new release;
I've never heard of it,
Ask me about the greatest hits;
My radio's collecting dust.

Ask me about my best friend's wedding;
I didn't get to go,
Ask me about my baby niece;
I've never seen her smile.

Ask me about my graduation;
I was 2,000 miles away,
Ask me about my Italy trip
My classmates took without me.

Ask me about my Mom and Dad;
I hear their voices twice a year,
Ask me about my boyfriend
Who is kissing another girl.

Now ask me about the scriptures
And I'll tell you how to find,
The peace and comfort you are searching for
I know just where to turn.

Ask me about sacrifice;
I'll tell you a thing or two,
Ask me about my Savior;
I've walked a few steps in His shoes.

Jul 29, 2011

on the road again

"And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" -Matthew 8:20

Saying goodbye to Nyla.. our favorite 93 year old Mormon in Morgantown

For some reason this scripture keeps popping into my head as I think about the adventures Sister Turner and I have been having.  For the past 6 weeks we have been traveling throughout the mission, and we have just been transferred to Fulton.. the very Southwestern corner of our mission.  There are a lot of corn and soybean fields here.  We are currently looking for an apartment and for a phone.  Our area is very large, and we are probably getting terrible gas mileage because our car is still full of suitcases!  Life is just a bit chaotic these days, but the work of the Lord moves forward!  And along the way, are learning a lot about patience and flexibility.  We have so many wonderful people from the church who are taking care of us as well.

A few weeks ago we were teaching a woman who had joined us for one of our church services for the very first time.  As we asked her about her experience, she told us that as soon as she walked through the chapel doors "it felt just like coming home".  She has been in and out of different churches her entire life, and has been searching for a place that felt right; a place that felt like God's house.  She was overjoyed to finally have found the place. 

I know that no matter where we are living or how chaotic our lives get, there is always a home for us nearby.  I love being a part of a church that is worldwide.  I love knowing that I can trust members of the church who I've never even met before.  I love knowing that this is Christ's church, that His spirit dwells there, and that I always have a home (even if I don't have an apartment or a  phone).
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