Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dec 27: My FIRST MTC Email

[Pics: The top image is my companion, a Salt Lake City-ite who considered himself a "gangstah". It was an interesting experience, because almost all my negative experiences in school were connected to people who acted like he did, so we got off to...a rough start. We're good friends, now, and just about as soon as we left the MTC, we loved seeing each other and serving together. Interesting, how serving together allowed me to see all his strengths.
The bottom image is of the two sisters also going to Latvia. I felt a stronger connection to the māsas (sisters) at first, because our personalities connected pretty quickly, and they were both older than either my companion or myself, so they also brought (no offense to my MTC comp) more maturity and experience to the table, which helped me get grounded.
I grew quite attached to all three of these people throughout the 9 weeks at the Missionary Training Center, and was strengthened and build by them immensely. As a missionary, it's very important to see and grow from the good of others, especially from other missionaries, because they have so much good. And where you're with these people all day, it's also a matter of sanity to focus on their positives, and let the negatives either roll off or be able to talk about them without anger and offense.]

Yeah. Title. Anyway, I wanted to share how Christmas went for me:

First off, we had a devotional by Elder L. Tom Perry. That was interesting. He invited his family to come up and share things, and he had his grandchildren read scripture passages. The main point of his message was the Christmas centers around Christ, and you can always learn more about Christ by prayerfully studying the accounts of his birth in the Bible.

After, we all received a package on the way out. This package had an 8-color scripture-marking pencil, candy, a MoTab (Mormon Tabernacle Choir) CD, some sticky notes, and a few other things. After the following meeting (to be better explained in a minute) we got sack lunches, a CD (in 8 languages), a Christmas card from a family in Utah to the missionaries in the MTC (thanks to them for that), a Christmas card from the first presidency, and a few more treats. Finally, in the last meeting, they popped kettle corn for all the 2100+ missionaries (everything else was also for this same number of missionaries) while we watched Mr. Kreuger's Christmas (an older film about the love that abounds during Christmastime). They let us know that the packages came from donated funds of several thousand people, usually with a heartfelt card or note saying something like, "Thank you for letting us show our appreciation for the missionaries!" Some things were donated by Deseret Book, as well. The kettle corn was purchased with these donated funds. One seminary class of 19 raised $1,200 by themselves--all of which really made me feel loved.

The second fireside was by far the best. No contest. That one started with a message on how to mark scriptures (using the 8-color pencil). After, though, we sang many, many songs. For anybody who knows me, they would know my favorite medium of communication is music. For those who don't know know now. Anyway, we sang continuously, bringing to me immense joy and the Spirit of God so strongly that I felt almost like I had to swim through a tangible substance comprised of Spirit when I left. The song list included: "What Child is This?", "The Holly and the Ivey", "O Come O Come Emanuel", "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", "O Little Town of Bethelehem", "Far, Far away on Judea's Plains", and others. Afterwords, I went home (to my residence hall) and prayed a good while in thanks. The MTC, I have noticed, focuses a good deal on music, which is the way the spirit communicates to me the strongest, so I like that.

Finally, for the last meeting, we came in and found chimes under our seats. Remember, there are over 2100 missionaries in these meetings. They had 59 sets of chimes, totaling over 1100 pipes, covering two octaves. These actually had them divided in two ways: red and black strings on the pipes, and then they were all numbered 1 to 20. The way the songs would go is they had a strip of numbers projected on the screen with a bouncing Christmas ornament marking where we were. When the ornament fell on the number, you whacked the pipe with the butter knife we had as strikers. We did "White Christmas" and "Chestnuts Roasting" for the first two in unison. Then we split: red did harmony, black did melody. We played "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Joy to the World", "Away in Manger", "Hark the Harald Angels Sing", "The First Noel", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," "Silent Night," "What Child is This?", "I heard the Bells of Christmas Day", "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Silver Bells," and "Oh Holy Night." We then had a playing of "We Wish you A Merry Chirstmas" from our MTC presidency, and finished with a chime rendition of "Called to Serve." It was super fantastic!!!!

I thought that the scripture marking thing was kinda funny, because I read the book that all that info came from right before comming out here, so it made me chuckle [chuckle because I had just been talking to the other missionaries about it, and sharing the ideas from that book, and now, here was a guy who was telling them the same thing. It was just ironic]. I also made a Christmas tree out of hangers, taping some green paper at angles on it and putting our presents underneath. I will send a picture of this a little later (I dont have time to upload it right now...transfer speeds are unknown). It has been requested of me to talk more about the language, so here goes.

The language uses an "s" after words that are masculine singular. The "i" is used for masculine plural. "A" for femenine singular, "as" for plural. There are six cases, including a Locative (for "in Latvia") and a vocative case, used for attracting attention. The alphabet is basically romainized, with a few goofy letters. AAAAA!! I only have 30 seconds left. you all! This work is good, and the Lord Jesus Christ Lives!! Never fear to write me!!!!

[So, a few corrections about the language: there are actually 6 declinations, 3 masculine, 3 feminine. There is no neuter. Masculine endings are -s or š, -is, -us, and feminine endings are -a, -e, -s. That last one is a pain sometimes.
In case-based languages like Latvian, the end of the word will change to match it's purpose in the sentence. There are actually 7 cases in Latvian (note that I will simplify things a lot here, but just so you can get a taste of the complexity, I go into some detail): Nominative (the subject), genitive (possession or in the place of "of", like a table of wood or the Book of Mormon), dative (to sometime or for something--for example, the dative of you is tev, meaning to you or for you. This is perhaps the most complicated case in Latvian. It has so many different uses, that it is crazy! Often used for the indirect object, like I gave the ball to you), accusative (used for the direct object, like I sold the car), instrumental (meaning basically "by the means of", like "I write the the means of a pencil." Also kinda tricky for English speakers, but instrumental is used with a preposition, so any time you can use the preposition "with" in English you use the instrumental prep. in Latvian), locative (meaning in, or at, like a location), vocative (used for addressing living things). You usually only find 6 listed anywhere, because vocative is a very small change to the end of the word, and instrumental acts the same as an accusative preposition, so usually one or the other is left out (poor things).

Also, every preposition commands a certain case, so the noun used in the prepositional phrase is in that case. For example, "we talked about you", the you would be in accusative, because about is an acc. prep. Anyway, that's probably enough about the language for now. Just know that the declination was by far the hardest part of learning Latvian for me. Start memorizing the charts now if you are going to try to learn it! Check out the Wikipedia page about it, or this page in Latvian, but you'll have to do some translating for the latter to be super helpful, but I really like knowing how Latvians think about their own grammar. They love when you ask about grammar using their own words for it.]

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Final Newsletter From Home

It occurred to me that I have no time left here in the states. It's a kinda abrupt feeling for me. I guess it happens to everyone, but you don't realize how close you are until *wham!* there you are. I leave for Utah this Tuesday (18 December 2007) in the morning (or so I hear). From there I will be at my brother's house that night, then report to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) early afternoon the day after, on Wednesday. I should be in the MTC for about two months, then it's on to Latvia. Yay!

Due to popular request, I feel it advisable to include a copy of my talk here. Not just for those who asked for it, but also for those who were unable to make it. I think it might be helpful for those reading this blog, as well, so here it is. I have added to the notes I used to give it, so that you could see more what I was aiming for. Here we go:

Blatheration talk given 16 December 2007:
My favorite analogy from all scripturedom is that of the armies of the Lord fighting against the armies of sin. I wanted to put that in perspective, to allow all to know why I have chosen to leave home, school, work, my family, the love of my life, my friends, and my home for two entire years of my life.

First, we know that before this life, we lived with God as spirits. While in heaven, God presented a plan for how we could be more like him. We all wanted to be like our Heavenly Father, so we listened to the plan. First, we couldn't advance any farther without having flesh and bone bodies, like our Heavenly Father has (Luke 24:36-43, DC 129:2). Second, we needed some means to experience hardship, difficulties, problems, and challenges so that we could grow, both in the Lord and in ourselves. We would gain these bodies, come to an earth, and pass through a veil, so that we could not remember our Heavenly Father. That way, we could mess up, learn from those mistakes, grow, and progress. We would need help to return, as we would mess up. Nothing imperfect can dwell with God, therefore we needed somebody to take our imperfections and make up for them. The idea of coming to the earth to become like God, and to share in his glory and power is summarized quickly and well in Romans 8:16-17:

"16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."

Two volunteered for the task of leading us on this earth towards that goal, both children of God in high standing (we know that Christ is the firstborn of the Father in spirit as well as physically on earth; Isaiah 14:12, DC 76:25-29 for Lucifer). One was Lucifer, also called Satan, who proposed to make it so everyone would return to live with God again. The catch was that he would make us obey, even to the point of ensuring nobody had any laws given them (for if no laws are given, one cannot be held responsible, therefore they cannot sin). Lucifer also demanded that all the glory for the operation be given to him, since he was making sure we all returned.
The other volunteer was Jehovah, also known as Jesus Christ, who said he would provide a way for all of us to repent of our evils, and be made clean through him. This would enable us to make it back if we wanted to, allowing us to maintain our agency. It provided more growth for us, as we would require faith (essentially trust in the power of a being we cannot see, and only feel the presence of intermittently) and work to learn of His commandments, and to follow them. Jehovah also told us that the glory would be to our Father, and that He would help us make it back if we wanted to.
The battle for freedom to choose turned from a discussion to what the scriptures call a "war in heaven" (Revelation 12:7). Lucifer and those who followed his plan fought against Michael the Archangel (under Jehovah's leadership) and the angels that followed them. Christ's plan, endorsed by our Father, gained more supporters. But many still followed after Lucifer's plan, even "one third part of the hosts of heaven" (Revelation 12:4, DC 29:36-38). We all know which side was victorious. Lucifer and his supporters were cast out of heaven for their rebellion, and we proceeded with Christ's plan. Lucifer and the third that followed him became those to drive us away from God, and to cause us to grow (DC 29:39). To quote the book of Revelation 12:7-12:

"7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (See also Pearl of Great Price--Abraham 4:1-4).

The battle did not end there. As it says in verse 12, Satan was wrathful and came with a vengeance, continuing the battle on earth against those who chose Christ's plan. It began in the Garden of Eden, where he persuaded eve to take of the forbidden fruit. Then continued with turning Cain against Abel. From then on, it has only been a war: Satan against God; those who hearken to the devil and his angels against the Saints of God. This battle is not only a good analogy. It is very literal. There is a being who wants nothing more that for you to be miserable. This being only wants to see you fail, and will do everything he possibly can to make this happen. This being is Satan, a very literal, real being, with real power with his army of hellish angels working without rest to cripple and destroy all who oppose them. Their opposition is any righteous and holy thing. In order to render the forces of God useless, all Satan's host must do is immobilize them. This is easier than you might imagine for them to do: if they can get someone addicted to the television or video games or the internet, or anything else that consumes the vast majority of that individual's spare time to such a degree that they will do that thing instead of other, worthier pursuits, then Satan has succeeded. And its not that these activities are bad in themselves--perhaps somebody has been consumed with learning a language or learning a musical instrument, or even with schoolwork. These are good things. But if they dominate their life, and replace activities such as time with family, studying scriptures, praying, going to church, or making it so that person does not serve his neighbors, it becomes a tool of Satan.
Thus the battle becomes very, very real in all our lives. This brings me to my missionary work in the very near future. This war rages, with many unaware of it. Those who choose not to involve religion in their lives are largely left out of the war, for they are not threats to Satan's power on the earth. A quick story illustrates this: A man known by my father was criticizing the LDS church, commenting on how hypocritical many were. He could see that they preached that a certain thing was unfit for members of the faith, yet they could occasionally be seen indulging themselves in that thing. It wasn't until later, when he became interested in the church for various reasons and began to pursue it did he realize why some fell short. He told my father that he saw a big difference between his life before pursuing God and his life now. Now that he was seeking God, and trying to follow Him, Satan was working much more fiercely against him, and he was finding it difficult to remain on the path. He noted that he felt a tangible power trying to draw him away from the Lord, and that this power, he knew, was Satan's.
Each year, active troops are lost from God's army as they fall to disease, old age, accidents, sloth, sin, ease of mind, contentment, an other vices of the devil (2 Nephi 28:24-27). Those ranks must be replenished. They must be kept strong. I suppose you could think of me as a recruiter, as I am trying to draw all men towards God, and towards the light. I am inviting men everywhere, of all faiths, to fight against Satan and his forces with all they possess, and to create safe zones the globe over, starting in each individual home and extending from there. I possess a further light and knowledge, which I will share will all who desire the strength it provides, and the power it commands. For those who do not want it, I will extend my hand in service, rejoice in the truths we share together, and let them know that there is more if they desire to find it.
That is my mission. I join the ranks of those ever on active duty, armed with the most powerful weapons against the foe ever devised. These weapons are contained on these pages [holds up the Holy Bible and the triple (containing the BoM, DC, and Pearl of Great Price)]. As it states in Alma 31:5.

"5 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God" (Alma is the prophet at the time, and had a people hard in heart, and full of wickedness that he desired to return to God).

My deployment in the Baltic States will have been successful if the enemy is forced to retreat upon my advancement, and if the ground gained is held, both while I'm there and after I have left. We all are of this army. Never sheath your sword, never loosen your armor--the war is not yet ended. We must remain faithful, and endure to the battle's conclusion:

"10 [Therefore] strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel" Ephesians 6:10-19 (See also DC 27:15-18).

I want to thank all of you for your support, for without all of you, I could not go in the full armor of God, nor would my weapons be sharp. I love you all, and want to remind you that not only I will be thankful for all the help you have spent preparing me. I know that this church has the full truth of God. I know that I have the power of God to command angels, to heal the sick, to move mountains. I know God is my Father, who loves me. I know Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, and that He loves us. These things I say in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Commander, our Salvation, amen.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just a Few Quotes to Think About

I found a few quotes that make you think a little bit. Here they are:

1) Sir Ambrose Flemming, in his Origin of Mankind, wrote: "The ultimate cause of things and events is a self-conscious and personal living Being. . . . Life can only proceed from already living matter. It cannot be derived spontaneously from non-living matter. We can obtain energy only from some source or body already possessing it. It cannot arise spontaneously from nothing. . . . Accordingly we can infer that the Cause which gave rise to our self-consciousness and powers of thought, must have been itself self-conscious and intelligent, or a Thinker. Hence we may infer that the thought of the Intelligent First Cause was not identical with ours, and therefore this separateness constitutes that First Cause a Person."

2) Dr. Compton, writing for This Week magazine, said:
"Few scientific men today defend the atheistic attitude. Design in the Universe presumes an intelligence. Evidence points to a Beginner, a Creator of the Universe. A physicist's studies lead him to believe this Creator to be an Intelligent Being. The intelligent God has an interest in and relation to man, and it is reasonable to assume that He would be interested in creating a being intelligent like himself."

[One thing that bothers me greatly is people's seeming inability to look at religious topics as they do other topics. The same principles of hard work, studying, trial and proof, gradual development, and relationships exist in religion as in real life: if we don't study or try in school, we fail school; if we don't study and apply the scriptures and our own impressions from the Lord, we will not develop in this life as we wanted to. If we try something in science, we can see if it works or not. If we try something in religion, we also have a concrete response from the Lord--the response, however, is different for different people, but some sort of response is sure if that is a true principle being applied. We don't learn martial arts or to paint or play guitar in a day, week, or even a few months. We learn a little at a time, and we will not understand more complex things until we get the basics. Same in religion. We cannot expect our parents to give us anything anytime we ask, and shelter us from anything bad that is going to happen to us. Especially if we do not talk to them regularly, and have a good relationship with them. Same with our Heavenly Father (God). If we only pray when we "need help", and wait for immediate answers, we are terribly misjudging God's nature, and our expectations will not be met. I feel it important to look at religion more like other subjects. Truth is, after all, stronger than fact. Gospel truths are laws that govern all natural laws we discover. Science enhances my understand of religion, and vice versa.]
3) Albert Einstein, in his book The World as I See It, says on pages 267-68: "The harmony of natural law reveals an Intelligence of such superiority that compared with it, all the scientific thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

All the above quoted from Elder Mark E. Petersen, [LDS Church General] Conference Report [in the Ensign magazine], October 1968, General Priesthood Meeting, p.100.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Missionary Lessons

[There are 5 general lessons in PMG. The first deals with how God manages His truth and authority on the Earth. He always gives the authority to act in His name to one man, who may be allowed (depending on circumstances) to extend that power to others. Adam, Moses, AlmaIsaiah, Nephi, and others (Enoch, Noah, Samuel, Amos, Jeremiah, Mormon, Moroni, etc--find them yourselves) are examples of single holders of God's authority to act and speak on Earth. The 12 apostles all had authority from God to act--that's why they all taught. This authority from God extends to the people that are near those authorized or whom they can reach. For example, both Micah and Isaiah lived and prophesied around the same time. In fact, we know that they lived at the same time, but were called to different halves of the kingdom. Christ called 12 apostles in Jerusalem, and a different 12 in the Americas.

The role of these individuals is to administer the saving ordinances (see the like the the 12 in the Americas) such as baptism and giving the gift of the Holy Ghost. They also receive revelation for large groups of people, to ensure that people follow the Lord. This authority is lost from time to time, and the Lord must call a new prophet, grant him His authority, and teach him. This is one of the functions Christ played during His mortal ministry, as the Jews at the time had apostatized from the true meaning of the Law (see Hebrews for an explanation). This restoration by God Himself and losing of this authority and corrupting God's truths by man is a cycle that has been repeated many times in the history of our world. In fact, after Christ came, the new church eventually fell into apostasy again (see John's remarks about a church leader who would excommunicate any who tried to listen to the apostles). Revelation begins by threatening 5 of the 7 churches in the Roman providence of Asia (see Revelation 3 and 4). There are other things that show an apostasy happened, as well. But, in modern times, Christ has restored His church and clarified His doctrine!

He has done this through a prophet, named Joseph Smith. This man wanted to find truth, but all the different churches understood things so differently, that he was confused. Finally, after reading James 1:5-6, he decided to pray and see what God had to say. He received a vision because of the sincerity and pure intent of his prayer, and in this vision he was told that there was no church on earth at the time with the authority to act as God's organization for salvation, nor one that had pure doctrine. So, young Joseph was prepared over years, until he was ready for the responsibility of being the instrument in God's hands to restore the fullness of truth.

The Book of Mormon is one of the tools used by the Lord to clarify His doctrines. When used together with the Bible, doctrinal disputes are clarified and nullified, and clarity can reign. The best part of this message? We know for sure why were're here, where we will be going after death, what the purpose of life is, how to successfully navigate through life, and how to receive guidance from the Lord personally. That's actually my favorite part: we don't need to blindly believe anything. We clearly know how God will answer our prayers, and learn to understand the whisper of the Spirit, so that we have a direct, ever strengthening relationship with the Lord.

The rest of the lessons indulge on sub-points of that: what the Lord expects us to do, why He expects that, what we receive, what we must give, and how to farther progress in this life towards God. So, lessons include the Plan of Salvation (God's plan, proposed to and accepted by us before this world even existed which included our coming here to grow), the Gospel of Jesus Christ (what we need to do in this life to prepare to return to our Father in Heaven and to progress to the next stage of our eternal progression), as well as various commandments and laws of the Lord. I will discuss those more as time goes on.

My primary message is to investigate honestly what I claim and have to offer, and then pray to know for yourself. If it is, God will let you know in your mind and in your heart. Try what I will teach--you will feel it's effects, and eventually things in your life will even begin to change. That's a promise that has been given by multiple prophets, by the Lord Himself, and by countless missionaries for thousands of years. And, it's a promise that I personally can give, having tried it myself.]

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Purpose of My Blog

My blog is a public documentation of my experiences from my mission. It is designed to allow anybody interested in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the "Mormon Church," to read our beliefs from a member of that faith, as well as read about his experiences sharing his beliefs with the people of Latvia. The hope is that any interested party will see the effects my teaching had on individuals in Latvia [and myself], and feel a desire to learn more. If nothing else, our beliefs will be laid out truthfully and boldly, for any who wish to know them. This blog is a public posting of my letters home. As such, it may not be perfectly chronological, as a letter mailed home one week will arrive after an email sent the next week. Because of this, privacy becomes an issue. Therefore, names and possibly locations will be changed, but the stories remain the same.

First, an introduction. I am a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Or, will be come the 19th of this month. My job is to testify of Christ and invite all to come unto him, to repent, be baptized, and step onto the path that leads to Eternal Life. Missionaries are given the title of "Elder," and are known by that title followed by their last name. Thus, I am Elder Argyle. I am 19, though will be 20 shortly into next year. I have been a member of this church all my life. I have, however, spent a good deal of time researching other religions, and spend a lot of time with people of other faiths. I strive to find similarities, and build on those a relationship of trust. My philosophy right now for my mission is to find any similarities I can, build on those, and serve the people until I find people who wants to know what I have to tell them. I will not, however, stop testifying of the love of God, of Christ's great sacrifice for us, or of Their plan for us.

That said:

If you are seeking to familiarize yourself with the church, then I suggest you read the Book of Mormon, because in the BoM you will find the basis of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (shortened to the LDS church, often wrongly called the "Mormon" church, as "Mormon" is a prophet-historian who lived around 400AD and abridged most of the record that is now called the Book of Mormon, after him). In the Book of Mormon you will find not only the LDS core beliefs, but also a promise: after reading and seriously thinking about the book, if you pray to God, you will be told through the Spirit of the Lord whether the book is true or not. This promise can be found in the book of Moroni, the final book contained in the Book of Mormon. It's in Moroni chapter 10, verses 4 through 7. The notation that is commonly used to reference scripture is: Moroni 10: 4-7. I try to hyperlink these passages to the official website of the LDS church,, so they are easier to read in full.

Throughout the rest of my letters, I will use that notation, as well as several abbreviations, listed below (as I don't like typing long things when there's a perfectly good abbreviation out there). For these definitions, I will write the abbreviation, then the expansion, then a brief explanation of what the book is. The explanation will sound a little textbook-ish, but that's the fastest way for me to convey what the book is.

BoM: Book of Mormon - A book of scripture comparable to the bible. It discusses the dealings and interactions between God and the ancient inhabitants of the American contents. It was abridged by Mormon and his son, Moroni, and covers the timeframe of three peoples. One came from the aftermath of the Tower of Babel, discussed in the Bible [you'll note that in those verses, it specifically states that they were "scattered...upon the face of all the earth" (emph added)]. This group lived in the Americas from several years after the Tower through around 140BC. The other group came from Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah, king of Judah, through a little past 421 AD, and split into two peoples. The BoM was translated by Joseph Smith in the 19th century into English, and throughout the 20th and 21st century was/is translated into over 61 languages, with selections in another 38, allowing 99% of LDS members (and 87% of the world's total population) to read it in their native language ("Taking the Scriptures to the World"). The book's purpose is to bring people to Christ, by expounding His doctrine, teaching application of His laws, and living and growing in a relationship with Him. See the introduction of the BoM for more information.

DC: Doctrine and Covenants - A book of scripture that contains revelations directly given to the prophet Joseph Smith when he was alive, as well as a few revelations after him. These revelations are direct communication through authorized representatives in our era. These are invaluable tools for understanding more deeply the eternal laws of Heaven and the purposes of life. Much of the D&C concerns government of the church, and responsibilities of various offices of the church, though many powerful revelations concerning the kingdoms of God (after death and the resurrection), about salvation, and many other topics are also recorded in this book. I cannot explain it's purpose and origins better than do the introduction to the D&C and the Lord Himself. If that's too long for you, read the crux of matter in this selection.

OT: Old Testament - A well-known and widely accepted book of scripture, usually bundled with the New Testament in The Holy Bible, that contains the dealing of the Lord with the ancient Jews (His covenant people through Abraham), and follows their development from the creation through the prophets prior to Christ. Right before Christ came personally, there was a widespread rejection of the truths of God, which were restored, or brought back, through Jesus Christ during his lifetime. Prophesies of this general falling away from truth is smattered throughout the OT, including Isaiah and Amos [please search your own Bible for more as you read in the OT]. The OT covers up to about 300 years before that widespread rejection of truth right before Christ's coming.

NT: New Testament - Another well-known and widely accepted book of scripture, often bundled with the Old Testament in The Holy Bible, that contains four records of the life, miracles, and teachings of Christ, as best recalled by four individuals who served as leaders in the Ancient Church after Christ was crucified, resurrected, and returned to live with The Father again in the Heavens [He continued, however, to lead the newly founded church through revelation, best shown in the book of Acts]. These same four were involved in the ministry of Christ as he lived on the earth, and so each personally knew the Savior. After those four accounts, there is an account of the ministry of Christ through the twelve that He chose to lead the Ancient Church after He left Earth. There are also many letters from members of this group of twelve to various cities or individuals contained in the NT. The volume concludes with a revelation about the history of the world, including latter days (now, or this day and age).

NOTE: The version of the Holy Bible that is usually used by missionaries for the LDS church is the King James version. [However, as of July 2010, the LDS church has only released the Bible together with the church-produced Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide in two languages, so missionaries not speaking English or Spanish buy locally available translations in their chosen language. For example, I have a 1965 edition of the Bible in Latvian through the Latvian Bible Association (Latvijas Bībeles biedrība).]

PMG: Preach My Gospel - This is the instruction manual for missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It outlines the basic doctrines of the Church, guidelines for it's application in life, and suggestions for teaching those doctrines and instructions. It is a very valuable read, as are the scriptures listed above. PMG is very good at putting simply the truths of God, and making them very attainable at the most basic level. Some of the doctrines outlined in it will be briefly discussed in the next posting.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Friday, November 16, 2007

Actual News Update

This time I actually have some extra information! First off, yesterday I called Latvia and got a hold of the secretary, who let me know that Latvia is 9 hours ahead of us here in Idaho/Utah. I discovered it was alright for us to bring MP3 players on the mission. You just had to either disable the FM radio ability of find one without it. [Update: also nothing with WiFi. If your device reads radio at all, then you should leave it at home.] So, I ventured out to find a fairly inexpensive 4GB flash memory media player, and I found a rather amazing one! I even was able to wheel and deal me a discount on the accessories as well as pull a price drop on it (20 bucks!), which was exciting to me. It's got a 30 hour battery, supports many different audio and video formats, as well as data casts (not just podcasts)!

Theft is not common in my mission. The secretary I talked to had been there for a little over a year and a half, and there had only been one theft in the entire mission during that time, so I'm not worried about that happening. [This was statistics for muggings. I don't think anybody was mugged during my mission successfully, though two different guys, at two different times, tried to mug me. If you leave something lying around though, it will be taken. Everything valuable must be locked in somewhere when you aren't physically by it, even if you plan to just leave it for 15 minutes.]

He also informed me that Latvian, contrary to prior reports, is completely unconnected to any other language. It has minor similarities to a few (like Russian and a little bit to Middle Eastern languages (as it has roots in Sanskrit)), but no similarities worth noting. So there's nothing I can learn to help me there, although he did suggest that I read the Book of Mormon (BoM) in that language about 15 minutes a day, just to familiarize me with the words and such. He then suggested that the best way to prepare is simply to study Preach My Gospel (PMG ) to a point where I know everything it contains and can teach it comfortably. Preach My Gospel is the missionary study guide, that goes over the various topics of the gospel, as well as instruction missionaries (and members of the church in general) how to teach those things most effectively, as well as reminding missionaries of their purpose while they're gone. The book is one of the most amazing pieces of literature ever, and is a read I highly recommend for anybody interested in the Church, or who already are members.

This fellow in the office at Latvia also informed me that my stay in the MTC (Missionary Training Center) will last between 8-10 weeks. [It's pretty much set at 9 weeks.] Also, I discovered that the name on the nametags worn by missionaries changes. Usually, the spelling is changed so that it is properly pronounced in the country where you serve. It Latvia and Lithuania, it is also changed to match the gender (an 's' is placed at the end of the name to signify male, either an 'a' or 'e' for female), meaning my name will have to change at least to "Argyles," though I suspect it will change more than that due to the awkward pronunciation using this spelling in Latvian. This I found mildly amusing. And that is all I forgot to mention.

Next week, I will explain a few things about the church as well as cover some things:
  • The purpose of this blog
  • Some information about how I will work my blog (terms and such)
  • State some facts about the Church in an attempt to clear up some misconceptions about it
  • State some doctrine, so the those researching the church can find out what we, as a church, teach.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Critical Updates Available! (click here to download)

Yeah...just kidding about the downloading. But no joke about the critical update!!

When you write me letters using the Pouch system, you MUST adhere to these guidelines:
You can only send
Letters and documents
Paper copies of photographs (classified as documents)
International Reply Coupons (purchased at the post office, may be sent and then exchanged for stamps)

Also, starting just recently, you must use only a single sheet of paper, written on one side, then that must be folded into thirds and the address written on the blank side. You can have one piece of tape holding the top end shut.

I recommend writing me following the one sheet guideline above, and if you have personal things or pictures or anything else to send, try an envelope, and I'll inform you if it got through. If not, I will have to give you my actual address there, and you'll have to dump the extra postage, but you will rest assured that it gets to me. Otherwise, the Pouch address for me (after I leave the MTC) is:

Elder Jordan Argyle
Baltic Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

You can send the Provo Utah MTC address (to be provided in the near future) until about March (I would guess...exact date will be sent later with the address). Baltic Mission from then on. I will send my actual address through after I get to Latvia, so that real letters can be sent by those who wish to send me full letters. Everyone else, drop me a line via pouch.

A final option (sorry about this, folks. New topic coming soon, I promise) is to use . This website is a startup from a couple BYU students, and makes sending by Pouch easier. You don't have to actually soil your hands with real letter-writing equipment (which will be good for those of you who live much of your lives on a computer--you know who you are). You just type me a letter, send it with a click of a form button, and they take care of all the Pouch stuff for you.

K. Done with letter stuff. Here comes the promised new topic:
I am entering my final stages of preparation prior to leaving. I have acquired suits, shoes, shirts, and all the writing sticks I'll need while I'm gone. I'm looking for questions to ask the return missionary couple that I can contact. I have thought of nothing new to ask since last time, so if any  of you have questions, let me know. I am also, at this point, rushing to get everything else ready, so I haven't any new information to report. Sorry about that. I will do better next time!

Elder Argyle
( >__< )
^^ ~~ ^^

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Some More Mission Info

So Monday of this week, I got a call from my grandma on my mom's side, who informed me of a couple she new. Both of the members of said couple went to Latvia on their mission! She then passed their phone number to me, and I gave them a ring. I caught the wife at home, who was delighted to share some info with me. Some things were answers to my questions (bolded), and some of the information was volunteered (that's just by itself without a bold question before it.) Each piece of info is separated by a line break. Here's what I found out

What's food like there?
They eat potatoes, carrots, and "normal stuff." The kids have also gotten into potato chips and other American poiso--uhp, sorry, snack foods. So, mostly it's nothing too odd. They do, however, have some odd things. She told me there's lots of dried fish, and a clear gelatin thing with lots of meat in it [called Kholodets, or augsta gaļa in Latvian--absolutely disgusting]. She told me that looked really creepy, but she didn't ever eat it because the mission president asked that the missionaries stop eating and drinking anything the members offered. This was because the missionaries were getting sick all the time from what they ate. [Actually, missionaries were asked to not encourage food at the members more because they couldn't afford it. From what I heard, the getting of sick was usually from other things.] In Latvia they actually had the largest medical bills out of ANY mission in the church [not quite true...], so to save (lots) of money they just didn't eat anything offered them.

What are the living conditions there?

She also told me that pretty much everyone has a home, because during Latvia's Soviet occupation, the government built many enormous complexes for people to live in. [This is also changing, because prices for rent and home taxes are getting so high, that many are simply evicted from their homes, unable to pay.] Most people have running water and electricity, but not everyone. She also let me know that while most people have enough food, not very many have tons of food, and there is a sizable number of folks who have to stretch their food, so that they can eat regularly. [Most of the church members I visited had to stretch quite a bit, and grow their own food to have enough.] So, since the Church has a welfare program, there were a lot of welfare issues and requests.

She says a good number of folks speak Russian, but you have to be careful when speaking that. About 80% of the country can understand it, but only 30% want to/can fluently. The Soviet occupation left behind a lot of negative emotions, as well as a lot of untrust. This means several things: if you speak Russian to the wrong person, they may attempt to kill you (not likely, but it has happened before. The trying, not any missionary actually being killed). [When I went, things had changed. About 80% can understand it, but almost 50% are fine speaking it, and if you speak it to the wrong person, you just get yelled at. There's probably three people in the whole country who would try to get violent about it...unless they're drunk. Same goes the other way with Latvian to a Russian--most don't really like not-their-language spoken at them. They had to clearly distinguish themselves throughout the occupation and fight for independence, so many still hold to that.] Also, it takes a long time to before anybody trusts the elders enough to be baptized into the church. She said, "Expect to spend a few months with somebody [before they are ready to commit]." So...that'll be interesting.

The government controls the heating (and the hot water [actually, all heating is done with hot water]), which occasionally is turned off [or pipes break or's on and off throughout the winter]. Usually, there's a week or two leading into the winter where they leave it off, so there's about half a month where things are COLD inside. As for the hot water, that'll randomly be turned off, so you have to take bitterly cold showers (very fast), and hop out. When they turn the water back on [again, or fix the pipes or whatever], the water is all brown or red and sometimes clumpy. Her exact quote: "It comes out all brown,'s gross."

What're the biggest problems there (in teaching religious things)?

The primary religion is Atheism (Religion: "2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: as in the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion." With that definition of religion, atheism is a religion. Don't challenge me on this: I debated the religion status of atheism fora while in government class my senior year [which I realize makes me no expert, and doesn't alter your ability to challenge me...but, through other experience for about three years after my senior year, I debated that for a total of 6 hours minimum with various ministers, atheists, and other people]). And because of the Soviet occupation, it takes a while for people to trust you. So, you really do have to become friends with investigators before you teach anything. Reiteration: people don't convert in a matter of weeks. Several months is the earliest. Most people who have a religion (Lutheran is the dominant of these, with Roman Catholic closely behind [for Latvians...pravaslav (Russian Orthodox) is the main one for Russians. If you plan to teach religion here, understand what is taught in the pravaslav church decently well. Study it for a bit. I recommend study specifically for pravaslav because Lutheran and Catholic is very similar to what we already know, and most people there who belong to those religions don't really know what they believe anyway. Pravaslavnie (people who belong to the pravaslav church) often do know what they believe.]) only go to church Easter and Christmas. The most common reason people use to claim a religion is, "My family's always been Lutheran [or other religion]. How can I go against my family?" [Religion is almost purely a matter of tradition. Although, some fought through secret meetings, prayers, and so on during the Soviet occupation...there is some religiosity there.]

Also, you can classify most men in the nation as drunks. Holders of the priesthood are direly needed, and most men being drunks makes that hard. Also, older people are skeptical to new ideas (I say again), but the younger ones are pretty receptive. Thus, it's typically young families I'll find myself teaching. [The thing is, commitment is hard for these people, especially when it's is drastically life-altering, as is a commitment to live God's standards. But isn't that true for almost anybody? Be loving, patient, and persistent. Most will cave and try it out. Then, they'll have more empirical proof of the truth taught them. If they are willing to do anything, keep in touch with them.]

The Elders teach English classes weekly at a church building for service. The ones who frequent that class are most often young people, and are pretty open to both the language and friendshipping. [Most of my return customers in the lower levels were older folks. A lot of young people came, but they'd usually be there only a few classes (classes are 5 weeks long). The upper levels have a lot of frequent young people.] At first, they are very stand-offish. Once you become their friends, though, she said, "They will be your friends forever." She is actually still in contact with many of the people she friendshipped back when she taught there.

And that's all my new info. Oh! P-day is Wednesday (at lest until July, when mission presidents change), so all my letters and stuff will be sent then. I can email (especially in city areas), so you should hear from me each Wednesday. [As of July 2010, p-days are on Mondays.]

Elder Argyle
 ( >/O\< )
^^~\v/~ ^^
^ Its a frog in a tie!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Hey all! Good news!! In case you didn't read the title, stop reading now and do so.....all done? Good.

It's to the Baltic mission, and covers three countries: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. I think I will be starting in Latvia, as I am learning Latvian. Those that hop countries usually learn Russian, not a local dialect. Here is a picture of where it is so you can get an idea (Latvia's name didn't show up for some reason, so I drew some arrows to it so it can be found). The Capital is Riga.

19 December 2007 is when I go to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). My blatheration at church (we used to call them farewells, but have been asked to stop having farewells so a new term is needed...naturally I picked one unique to me...) will be 16 December 2007 at the 28th ward building  at 9 AM. If anybody needs better directions, I can get an address and get you directions or send a map from Google Earth or something. I will be speaking to the ward, letting them know where I'm headed, and sharing a gospel message and my testimony.

All I know about Latvian, my assigned language, is that the language is written using Roman characters, and the alphabet has 33 characters (the other 10 (as three are missing from the English alphabet) are Roman characters with accent marks on them). Google "*.lv" for Latvian web sites. You can see whole pages in Latvian, or go to to see and hear the alphabet.

To hear strings of Latvian sentences, you can listen to 10 minutes of a Latvian radio station by fallowing this link:
You will need Real player to hear it, as it is a streamed audio playlist that is compatible only with Real (a .rm or .wsx file). This is right on the top. You can also hear more clips below if you'd like (the language sounds pretty cool, actually).

You can also listen to their popular music radio channel, streamed online. That's at
You'll want to click on Latvijas Radio 2, any of the four links there. This plays as long as you let it.

Quality of Living and the Religious Scene:
I found this at Wikipedia ( ). The quality of life is actually very good (almost the same as the US). Income to the country is more evenly distributed among the people than it is here in America, so there are more people that are well-to-do (or rather, less filthy rich people and the wealth is spread throughout the population). There were over 2,300,000 people at the 2000 census, and over 40% of the nation claims to be unaffiliated with religion or are agnostic towards it. There are more than a million who claim to hold to a religion (60% of 2,300,000+), but only 7% go to church regularly. Alcoholism is the biggest problem missionaries need to help their investigators overcome (that I've heard of) because it's very much a part of life.
[Edit: Not as wealthy as America, lots of poverty, money is NOT evenly distributed, 7% actually care what religion means or do anything other than pray when they feel that they must, and alcoholism is the second biggest problem. "Vienaldzība," or "I totally don't care-ness" is the biggest problem.]

The weather there is very nice...the summers are in the mid 60s to mid 70s, and the winters are toasty: all the way up to -22 F. So, thermal underwear, sweaters, a US$175+ winter coat is needed, and equally pricey insulated, waterproof boots (both to be purchased in Latvia). (The minimum so far is -22. It's usually in the teens to low negatives.)
[Edit: Didn't buy boots--usually only the sisters buy those. It was -33 C, or -28F, the day that I left. That's without windchill, but for the rest of my winters there, it was pretty warm]

I checked on the currency, and when doing an exchange on, I was given something very interesting:
1 US Dollar = 0.49000 Latvian Lats
1 Latvian Lats (LVL) = 2.04082 US Dollar (USD)
This was interesting because I thought that the Euro was about the only currency worth more than the this is the currency from a small country that's only been in existence 16 years or so.

Mission Newsletter:
Every newsletter I write home from my mission will be posted to this blog, so that anybody reading this can keep up on the action in Latvia!

The way this works is that each P-Day (Preparation Day - once each week missionaries have a day that they can email home, read letters, do laundry, go shopping, etc. so they can spend all day the other six days doing churchy, missionary-ish things) I will either email or write home (depending on location in the country and availability of email). Usually you only have time to (e)mail family, so my fam will be forwarding it along to everyone else. Also, emails from non-immediate-family is discouraged, for focus and time reasons. Thus, only letters can get to me from all of you (as they can be read whenever, and don't have the same restrictions on time). Where do you send those you ask? I'll tell you.

Mailing Me Letters!!!!!:
The address you can mail me is what's called a Pouch address. It's a service that the LDS church does where you mail to Salt Lake your letter, and from there it's sent to me wherever I am. You save a bunch because you only pay for postage to SLC. And the address is (drum roll please...)

Elder J. Argyle
Baltic Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

You can also call this service on the phone at 371.761.2420. Note: this is good for any missionary. Change the mission and missionary name, and you're good to go (I think). This is their pouch address.

That's about it. I know more about the country than I'm telling (because otherwise this blog post would be long), so I hit just what I thought people would want to know immediately. I have already begun shopping for it, and for any who don't know, I am not paid for this. It is actually costing me several hundred a month to go, plus whatever supplies cost (so far I have two suits that usually sell for $500 each made of wool and very well made so I can wear them for two years...I didn't pay even that much for both of them, though--yay sales!), which isn't cheap. Why do it? Because of my conviction for my religion, my calling from God to preach His Gospel and bring others to Him through faith in His name, repentance, and baptism (important because it is the first two-way promise, or covenant, we make with God that will lead us to live with Him again. There are several others that are necessary, but missionaries are to lead people to the first. The members take it from there). I feel very strongly about my religion, and I know that it is the only one that has authority from God to perform the necessary covenants and services in a way that lasts this life and eternity. It is also the only religion that has the fullness of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, and the only path that will lead you fully into God's rest.

Because I know this (as the Spirit of God has testified to me, and made clear to me), I want to share it. So not only am I obligated, but I strongly desire to share it. As has been evidenced to those getting my Cali letter, I thrive on sharing good things with others. Nightwish, Lyon Lazare, and wondrous stories are only a few things I have shared. Now, I will share the Lord's light and mine with as many as will listen.

[Note: I have edited slightly almost every post as of 2010, when my mission ended. Additions will be in red, like this note, and other changes are for clarity's sake. It's hard to be clear and detailed in only an hour or two rapidly typing with all kinds of other distractions around.

Any thoughts or questions, please email to !]
Elder Argyle
 ( >__< ) 

^^ ~~ ^^