Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dec 31: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Christmas, Singing, BoM, Faith


All: First, the random: I traveled about 78.02KM in 100,033 steps. Good to know, vai nē? Vai jā!

Ladna. Then, pictures:
First is my baby burlap-bottomed Christmas tree sent to me from my folks! This is after the trimmings (we left ornaments off, this time, because we got to help Erna Rotberga, an amazing member here (about 78 or so years old) decorate hers). Just thought you would all like to see our holiday festivities.

Next is an example of what we eat. This is called Baltic Tacos. The stuff in the pot is rice, potato chunks, carrots, a can of kidney beans, can of white beans, can of corn, and a half kilo of beef, seasoned with taco bell taco seasoning and a squeeze of lime. Mmm, yeah. This lasts us about two days, usually. But this one lasted us three. Yeah!

Next is me, lighting Sister Rotberga's tree. It's pretty sweet, methinks. All that decorating and such we did with her a half an hour before.

The last one shows a few Ķeketnieki out and dancing at the Brivdabas muzējs. We spent some time here with Helvijs, Maija, and Helvijs's mother. It was pretty fun. This is only one of the fun things from there. Culture: people going out trick or treating, kinda. Same idea, but it's called "iet ķeketās," which literally translates to, "to go in costume." But they go from house to house, asking that people let them in. And usually they dress up as animals and such. This is not the most wide-spread tradition anymore, but people used to do it all the time around Christmas.

And answers to questions:
For Christmas we had branch parties called home (or rather, had home call us), and then chilled in. As far as I know, nobody got wolluped, because we got in before night fell (so far...night still starts at 3:30 p.m.), so it turned out well. We also had a missionary party held at one of the missionary сouple's home. And Elder Weideman and I ate pancakes for breakfast. Yeah. It was good.

The next day was a normal work day, as was Christmas day (almost), but very few people were out, and even fewer agreed to meet. We did, however, still teach people. And when we visited members, they had friends and family and stuff over, so we got to teach them, too!
Singing seemed to be the most effective on Christmas. So, we did a lot of caroling in domes (mājas...uh...those huge concrete apartment buildings with some 30-175 appartments in them) while knocking on doors. The 26th here is the second Christmas. It seemed pretty much like a normal day. Helvijs made it sound like it was going to be a bigger party than Christmas. Anyway...we'll be pouring our limites tonight, probably, so we'll have pictures of those next week.
Funny story. I have a yummy sweet and sour recipe. We gave it to Elder Brown and crew. Basically, it's equal parts water, vinegar, ketchup, and sugar. Well...they called to tell us that it was WAY to vinegar-y, and that we led them astray. They later apologized; they had used "essence of vinegar," which directed a mixture of 20:1 with water. We had to chuckle. And speaking of food, we made the most amazing dish. Uh...I don't know if you have the ingredients in America, now that I think about it...I'll take pictures of the necessary things and tell you about it next week.

Now, quick thing. This is incredible! We have been comissioned, as a mission, to all read the Book of Mormon together. Each of us are marking, in that book, each time we see the name of Jesus Christ, one of His titles (Holy One of Israel, Redeemer, living water) and pronouns that reference Him. We then are marking each time we see an attribute of Him described (marked in red), each time Christ speaks (directly or a prophet speaks in His name, usually with, "the Lord sayeth" or similar) we mark in blue, and each time one of the points from the Gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) is mentioned, we mark it in green. It's been very cool. I finished 1 Nephi this week. Here's what I found:
In 22 chapters, on 52 1/3 pages, there are 618 verses. In that 618 verses, you'll find the Lord mentioned 774 times (with another 22 that I wasn't sure of...it was either God the Father or Jesus Christ, and since I wasn't sure that it was Christ I didn't count them in). There were also 40 different titles for the Savior. I would invite all of you, in this new year, to try this. Get a free copy of the Book of Mormon here: http://www.mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/ and click the link reading "Free media." Then just click "Request a copy," and follow the instructions. It's really just that easy. And then, when you get it, follow this. Read three or so chapters a day, if you can. If not, then read at least one. Mark it up. Write your thoughts on the side. This has really helped me to understand what is going on, as I have to read it more carefully to know what to mark. I have loved this, and I have several pages of personal revelation and verses to use while teaching. And my testimony that this book comes from God and is about the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been strengthened remarkably! And I only finished the first of the 15 books found within the Book of Mormon! Start at the very beginning, with the title page, then move on from there. Read everything, and mark it up. I promise you that you will feel the divinity of that book as you do this and pray about it. Because you can't do that without honestly thinking about the book and thinking about what you read. I also recommend that you pray before reading each day, and ask for inspiration and the Spirit.

I will now finish my thoughts on faith. Due to the Book of Mormon reading, I likely will not have the time I desire to truly focus my thoughts and deeply research a particular topic (such as the other four points of the Gospel of Christ). So, I will continue when I can, but it may not be until after my birthday (March 9...you're all welcome to send me gifts and letters at:
Elder Jordan Argyle
Baltic Mission
P.O. Box 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

OR

Elder Jordan Argyle
Baltic Mission
Melnsila 3-1
LV 1046
Rīga
LATVIA

I would love to hear from you. Especially those who I knew before my mission who have been rather quiet since I left. I hear there are weddings and all kinds of things that nobody has bothered to send to me. I'd love to hear about them, friends!

Sorry. One of the sisters here received nothing for Christmas from friends (similar to me, except I did hear from a few), and she sent out an e-mail to everyone telling them...basically that she was quite disappointed that she had been forgotten. She received a lot of responses. So, I figured I'd give it a try!

Sorry, sorry. Moving on.

Faith (assurance and action based on trust in correct principals and true promises rooted in hope) is the key to accessing the many blessings God has promised us. God only will act with us according to our faith (1 Nephi 7: 12, 2 Nephi 26: 13, D&C 63: 10). God has worked incredible miracles whenever people have had faith in Him (Moroni 7: 35-38) at any and every time in history. Noah, Moses, Joseph Smith, and all the other prophets, along with those healed by Christ are examples of people who have received "according to their faith." Note they all acted - Noah built the ark after he preached to no avail; Moses called plagues and lead the stiff-necked Israelites from Egypt; those desiring healing from Christ came to Him (Mark 10: 46-52 is only one example); and Joseph Smith searched earnestly, and prayed "in faith, nothing doubting," "believing that he should receive" (James 1: 6, Mark 11: 24).

More examples of faith include the following. Carefully examine these for how the people involved demonstrated faith. For references to stories mentioned in the quoted text, the footnotes may be helpful (those little letters by some words in verses--you can click on those for more references to specific principles). That will be necessary in the Hebrews 11 and Ether 12 verses. Also, for instances within the story, you may need to read the whole chapter to see how they exercised faith. Here they are: Hebrews 11: 2-5, 7-9, 11, 17, 20-21, 24, 27-35; Ether 12: 7, 10-16, 19-22; Mosiah 5: 7 (you may want to read from chapter 2 through to this point to understand what caused the change of heart); Enos 1: 2-8; Matthew 8: 5-10, 13; Mark 5: 25-34; Luke 7: 37-50; Alma 57: 19-26 (note especially verses 21 and 26); 3 Nephi 17: 5-9; 1 Nephi 3: 7 (that story is told from the beginning of that chapter); Mosiah 27: 2-14; Alma 14: 26 (that tale begins in chapter 9 and goes through to that point--you could just read the chapter headings to chapters 9-13 to get the basic idea); D&C 10: 45-52. This is only a few that you can study; there are countless it seems.

Next we'll look at the benefits of faith. We also know it is 100% impossible to do anything without faith (D&C 8: 10). We must, therefore, concern ourselves with how to develop it. The most beautiful explanation I have seen for this are these: Alma 32: 28-43; Moroni 7: 25-39. Read these, noting trust, confidence, and hope. Note also that we do receive witnesses to support our faith (Alma 32: 28; 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5), and we can perfectly know of aspects about which we had faith before (Alma 32: 34). But we still hope for other things, and have faith in other things (Alma 32: 35-36). We, then, can grow in faith. The more we know, the more confidence we will have in God, and the more surely we can trust Him (Hebrews 11: 11). In this manner we grow our faith. If we fail to continue to seek Him, our faith will wither (Alma 32: 37-39).

We, then, grow in faith by learning of God (Moroni 7: 25 cf D&C 1: 38; Alma 32: 28-29), then by acting according to what we've learned (Galatians 2: 20 cf 2 Nephi 25: 24-25). God gives us enough to trust Him, while still being able to work our faith (3 Nephi 26: 6-10).

Faith is also a gift of the Spirit, for which we seek (1 Cor. 12: 31 (footnote a); Moroni 10: 30; D&C 88: 118; D&C 109: 7).

Through our faith, we qualify (by our works and desires--D&C 137: 9) for mercy (Alma 34: 15-16).

Now, last letter I asked you to consider choosing a way to show your faith. Perhaps some of you could not come up with one. Perhaps you did. I now have a specific one for you all to try. Here's the reference: Moroni 10: 3-5. I challenge every one of you without a knowledge that this book is true to pray about the Book of Mormon. Show your faith in God by continuing to study the book, even while you ask about it. Trust in God's promise, given through the prophet Moroni, that you can receive. If Moroni's witness alone is not enough, then here are a few more: Mormon 9: 21; Matt. 7: 7; Luke 11: 9; 3 Ne. 14: 7; 3 Ne. 27: 29; D&C 4: 7; D&C 75: 27; D&C 88: 63. Do as I have done, as Ainārs (the young man we recently baptized) has done, as Enos did, as Joseph did. You will receive, through the power of the Holy Ghost. That is recognizable in this manner: Gal. 5: 22-23. I know this is true. Amen.

I love you all. Keep studying!
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
(-----)
( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dec 24: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Chistmas+All that, Faith


All: So, it's the end of a year (almost). Wait...never mind. I'll still have one more write before the year ends. I'll be able to write a very little next week (you're warned), so don't get too excited for anything. 91,064 steps is about 71.03KM, by the way.

About pictures now:
026 - This was the baptism. These two girls are incredible. They are twins, yes, named Santa and Sanita. They were taught by the sister missionaries, and E. Weideman baptized one of them. They are incredible, and I very strongly felt the spirit during their baptism.

042 - This is what I helped make for the branch party. That's fruit on a kabab stick, stabbed in a head of lettuce. That party was amazing! We had investigators and members from our English class helping out in the kitchen! It was fantastic! And everybody talked openly with each other. There was no awkwardness or anything else from the party. I was very relieved. And Santa Claus (we now have a member named Santa, too) was Brother Vaselevskis. He was perfect, booming appropriately Santa-like things to the kids.

033 - This is us singing. We have had 3 singing times, and we still have 3 ahead of us. They like us a lot. And it's very nice talking to people if I'm not singing--it's very easy to be casual and get the conversation turned to the gospel. I like it!

Random extra: There is this smart young returned missionary LDS boy that has applied to BYU.. He just faces one challenge: Money. There have been others from Latvia who have gone to BYU because they found some sponsors, but he isn't quite sure where to start! I had no idea where he could go, so I thought I'd ask you all to see if by chance you knew of who he could ask, or where he could search? I will attest that this fellow is incredible and uses all opportunities to their fullest as they come. I have worked with him quite a bit. So, let me know if you have ideas, names, suggestions. Thanks!

No questions to answer. So...all the stuff for the week is up above...uh...yeah. The topic of faith.

Recap: Jesus Christ is our mediator. It is only through his mercy and grace that we can return to live with God again after this life. In this life, Christ offers us the way to be cleansed from sin - spiritually healed (3 Nephi 9: 13; 18: 32). This will bring us peace and joy in this life.

Because of Christ's atonement, we can all be brought before God to be judged. We will be judged according to our works and desires (2 Nephi 9: 10-16; D&C 137: 9; Helaman 14: 15-18; 3 Nephi 27: 14-18).

3 Nephi 27: 17: Justice: an unchanging law, bringing consequences for actions. This means blessings for obedience and penalties for disobedience. Since we are all unclean, we, according to justice, cannot return home to God (1 Nephi 10: 21). Christ satisfied justice's demands for all who keep his commandments (Alma 11: 40; 2 Nephi 2: 6-8; 2 Ne. 9: 21-22). He suffered the penalty for us through his atonement. Because of this, he is our advocate with God (D&C 45: 3-5). We receive mercy when our mistakes and sins are forgiven. Through Christ, God can withhold penalty from as, and welcome us into His presence (John 3: 16-17; Alma 34: 14-16).

To qualify for His grace and mercy, we must follow Christ's commandments (2 Nephi 9: 23-24; from Christ Himself: 3 Nephi 27: 19-21). There are five basic principals of Christ's gospel. Each of them requires work, sincerity, and a desire to change ourselves and become more as God is in thought, behavior, and attitude. I would like to explore each point fairly deeply, and share with you what I have learned and am learning. And if any of you learn more, or make more connections, send them my way, because I sure don't fully understand these doctrines and principles still.

We'll start with the beginning: faith. Specifically, if we are seeking the faith that brings salvation and blessings in this life, it will be faith in Jesus Christ. Faith includes a firm belief that Christ is the Son of God, and our Savior and Redeemer. Also necessary is a correct idea of his attributes (Hebrews 11: 6). We will acknowledge that only through Him can we be made clean. Faith is, then, a trust in Christ and a trust that He will keep His promises. It is upheld by hope (Alma 32: 21), and feeds off of hope (Hebrews 11: 1 noting here that substance is better translated as assurance, and evidence translated as proof). Faith is a trust upheld by evidences that have come from God. It isn't a blind trust. It is founded on real evidences of things not seen. Just as wind cannot be seen without the aid of instruments or dust, we can also detect faith by tangible things. We can also know with a surety that wind exists because we can feel it; it is the same with faith (Alma 32: 35).

But faith also requires action, or it is not faith. This truth is clearly set forth in the Bible (Ephesians 2: 8 CR James 2: 17 (JST James 2: 14-21), or even James 2: 14-22). Add to that clarity a second witness: Alma 34: 17 (note that true faith compells to action), 26-28. Faith, then, is applying the teachings of Christ through our actions. One of those actions is true repentance. True repentance is work, and will be discussed later. We seek to learn of Him (Romans 10: 14-17),. We show our love for and faith in Christ by striving to avoid sin. In so doing, we gain confidence in our trust, for we know we have done our part. God is required, by his own decree, to do His part when we do ours (D&C 82: 9-10). This confidence and knowledge that we are striving to do what God has asked and asks is an essential component of faith also (Hebrews 11: 5-6).

There is more. I have no time to share it. I will contine next time. Until then, think about this, and, if you'd like, think of ways that you can show your faith. Choose a specific way to show your faith, and then take that way to the Lord through prayer. Ask His help. He will help you to build your faith in Him.

I love you all!
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
(-----)
( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dec 17: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Caroling, Amazing Lessons, Christmas, Stats

All: Well...I have now been out a year. Rather than tell you how far I walked this week, I thought I'd give you the whole years' worth of numbers for various things. I hope that you like it. This will also make it easier to see my progress from year one to year two. And keep in mind that these are estimated numbers (mostly):
  • 27,100 min (451 hours 40 minutes) spent reading the holy scriptures.
  • 8,969 min (149 hours 29 minutes) spent doing that in Latvian.
  • 4415 min ( 73 hours 35 minutes) spent writing in my journal
  • 238 pages (front and back) pages written in my journal
  • 8,435 min (140 hours 35 minutes) spent planning.
  • 9,876 min (164 hours 36 minutes) spent in prayer. This one is a total guesstimate.
  • 4,500 people contacted on the street.
  • 3,500 additional people contacted elsewhere (like homes and such)
  • 475 lessons with people (investigators, members)
  • 4,086,572 steps (3,187.526 KM / 1,992.204 mi, for you in America): total distance.
  • 160 other meetings (that's district meetings, zone conference, and the like), probably grossly underestimating the number of meetings from the MTC.
And there you go. I want to say first off, right now, that I do not time anything. Especially not prayers, as those are sacred moments between a person and the Lord. Lessons with people are more than just lessons to teach statistics. All of those numbers are attached to people. The times are pretty much just estimates of about how long I spent doing something. I just thought that you might be interested in how I'm spending my time out here, and what I have accomplished. Now you know.:)

Pictures:
2157 is me building a Christmas tree before district meeting. The finished tree is seen in

2167 with Sisters Hagen and Largey, the new sister in our district. This tree is huge!

2179 is us, singing on a street corner of Old Rīga (Vēcrīga). Not too many listeners, but it was gorgeous. And it was last night.

2187 is Brivības Piemeneklis (Freedom Monument) last night. Love the snow!

Answers to questions: Latvian sign language is decently different from Russian sign language. Beyond the fact that they are different, the only specific I know is the word Āmen. In LZV, it's two fingers into the palm of the other hand. In RSL (no idea what letters that would be in the language...), it's a fist into the other palm (not like you're going to beat someone up, but like you just pounded a table or something like that). Otherwise, I have no idea how LZV and others differ.

Christmas in Latvia: just like anywhere else. Trees, lights (on the trees and streets...they're called lampiņi here...or little lamps. I laughed when I heard that), presents, singing...the only difference is that it's not so ridiculously overcomercialized, as I've seen it in other places. Oh, and a good percentage of the nation goes out to chop down their own trees. You're legally allowed a tree per family. I don't know of anything particularly Latvian as far as traditions go.

I have one exciting thing to tell: my blog had a response. A fellow who has connections to the movie that was being filmed here (Miss Irina's Children) wrote to me, to tell me what the movie is about. I was really excited to read that! The response came through DearElder.com (so anybody could go ahead and write me. It's not too bad!).

More excitement: we've been singing to people when we go knocking, and they've been loving it! Or thinking that we're trying to sell them something, and leaving all the sooner. :) But it's been really fun (even though it's not the most beautiful thing ever). We've been invited in to sing, and then left with the host sometimes in tears, and we've seen how singing has softened the hearts of people and brought joy to people, even if they weren't interested. I love Christmas.

We've also been caroling in the snow; we're scheduled to go singing this Saturday in a public square in Vēcrīga (old Rīga) on a stage and everything. We've also had several miraculous lessons with amazing people, and things are going quite well. We have none who have been able to set up a specific return meeting, so we must admit that we have no people progressing towards baptism, but we have taught (and learned) lessons from amazing people, where the Spirit was felt. That's quite important, I think.

Speaking of Christmas, I've got a little Christmas message for ya all. You can click on the links and read the verses specified if you like. Then I've got my narration . If you want, you could use this in your missionary efforts. That's actually one of the primary reasons I include these spiritual thoughts--to get you all fired up to share it! And now's the best time of the year to share this message with people! Ok, so here we go!

We start by asking: what is the point of Christmas? Why do we celebrate it? The goal of this message is to answer those questions!
John 3: 16. Christ's coming was not a surprise. Many knew about His coming long in advance. Alma 7: 7, 10, 13 is an example of a prophet named Alma, recording events he knows will come. v.13 is the reason why Christ's coming is "more important than they all."
Matthew 1: 18-24 is a record of Christ's birth. From it we learn several things: that personal revelation was had among just men before Christ (prophesies from prophets), and during Christ's time (Joseph). God communicates to His children. Other doctrines therein include the proof that what God causes to be spoken by his prophets, He also fulfulls. That prophesy is found in Isaiah 7: 14, and that was copied by Nephi in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 17: 14.
Another thing we learn is that when we receive an answer from the Lord, we follow what we were told. Note that Joseph rose and took to him Mary to wife. He didn't question what the Lord told him. Even though the situation could have lead to Mary's death, had Joseph so wished it, he chose to heed the Lord and trust in Him.

A companion to Matthew 1: 18-24 is 1 Nephi 11: 13, 18, 20-21. This is Nephi, in a dream, being shown a symbol from a vision his father had. He was trying to understand, and the angel in Nephi's dream showed him what it meant. The symbol was a tree, to which all were trying to go. And many were lead away before they got to it. It was the center of the vision, just as Christ is the center of our lives.

Just as people were striving to reach the tree in the vision, many searched out Christ after His birth. Matthew 2: 1-2, 4-5, 8-11 accounts the wise men, who traveled from the land east to Jerusalem. They took some years to reach Christ, and sought knowledge from those who would know where He was (Herod, in this case). They then checked what men said by receiving conformation from God (v.9). These men were holy men, and their band traveled, earnestly seeking the King. They knew a sign of his coming (a star), and they searched it out, leading them the the Christ child. All of them then rejoiced. They, too, received personal revelation concerning their return to Jerusalem, to Herod. These were holy men.

Others were helped in their search, for they knew not the signs of the child's birth (Luke 2: 7-17). These shepherds knew of Christ, but did not know the specifics. However, once they learned them, they went abroad, sharing this message. That is what we do. As missionaries. We share the glorious message of what we have received and know. And what is it that we make known? 2 Nephi 2: 6-8. We teach how to use the glorious power of Christ's Atonement.

1 John 4: 7, 9. God has done all necessary for us to believe in Him. We all can build our faith in Him, and ask Him ourselves. 3 Ne. 14: 9-11 is only one instance where the Lord promises answers to our prayers. God answers all prayers, asked in faith (James 1: 5). We can ask about all questions, including where to find the fullness of God's blessings. Joseph Smith did exacly that. When he prayed, his prayer was answered in a miraculous way. And because he had the courage to follow through with what the Lord instructed him to do, all has again been restored to the earth. We now have all the glorious truths of God in amazing simplicity, so that none can misunderstand. Does not your heart swell within you, knowing that God never will leave His children without guidance, as long as the world is ready and willing to heed it? I know that these things are true, and that Christ is the center point of all. The restoration is, so that we can know God and Christ, and use the gifts they have given us better.

I love you all!
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
(-----)
( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dec 11: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Sarežģīta Dzive

All: Yeah. The Title of this week translates to: "A Difficult Life." You'll see why in a minute. For now, know that 111, 856 steps equals 87.25 KM.

Pictures:

2070: We had pictures, food,
2071: music, and all kinds of funness (including two church members) at the farewell party for the missionaries going home.
2117: This is a cat that was following us around for an entire stairwell. We started on the top floor, and each time we would move down, this little guy would follow us. It was cute.

2126: We had a bunch of people heading out to Tallinn (Estonia) for their visa stuff, so we had Elder Brown with us (his comp was one of those who left).

I will answer questions, and then move on. The weather is COLD. A little more snow. As before, it disappears pretty quickly though. Rīga (like the rest of Latvia) is very flat, and there are almost no hills or mountains or anything. Nothing. Diemžel. Most people live in cement domes (uh...that's the Russian word for home, and that's pretty much what we all call them. Or Māja, the Latvian word). It's the big skyscrapers. They're usually 5 to 9 stories tall. And all cement. Some people live in wood homes (but there is usually more than one apartment in those homes), and the rich live in houses. Most people in Latvia have (or had, in the summer) a garden. Latvians love their gardens. And they often will miss church to go tend their gardens during the summer. The trees look the same as back home: some firs, some not firs. But there's nothing very exotic about vegetation here. Well...excepting some berries. There are some crazy berries. Way good, too.

My apartment is a koka māja (wood home) that does not have the best plumbing. But, the heating is incredible, and we are usually quite warm. We have a shared bedroom, a living room in the middle, a tiny kitchen, a bathroom (with a toilet), and a shower room. It's not that big. But it is rather expensive. We hang stuff on the walls. I don't have "an evil landlord who lurks about", but she is rather flirty sometimes. Most Latvians imagine that Americans are rich, yes. And lots of bums ask for money. Actually, some other people do, too. People are usually not very friendly. Especially here in the big city--they all like to imagine to themselves that they are too busy to talk to somebody for a minute or two. Some really are, but the vast majority isn't. And most people know who we are from the tags. It's almost funny--people will look at us when we talk to them, be all nice and everything, but as soon as they see our tags, they immediately say, "Oh, no no! I don't have time!" and go running off. It's kinda absurd. We have the city divided into areas, so that each companionship has a specific area to work in, so that people aren't knocking in the same place at the same time. However, all areas are double-covered: once by Latvian-speaking missionaries, then again by the Russian-speaking ones. So, sometimes we step on each other's toes. Not too often, though.

English classes are twice a week: Tuesday and Thursday. This week we have off, but we'll start again next week. A hundred people or so come the first few times. We have them divided into 7 classes: Russian or Latvian 1st, 2nd, and 3rd (depending on ability), and then a 4th that is all in English. Like that. These classes are taught at the church, yes.

Latvia is kinda known for their potatoes. They're actually as good or better than Idaho spuds, so we often have taters - mashed or fried.

Well, so here's my spiritual thought. This week has been very complicated. And there were many things that happened in rapid succession, many people I talked to or received letters from or something else that made me think. This will be a spiritual thought, but first it may be a little depressing. Here goes:

I was learning Latviešu Zimju Valodu (LZV -- Latvian Sign Language) for a member in the branch. His name is Edgars Bergmanis. We had a meeting with him last week, on Tuesday. He is deaf, had recently been robbed, and no longer had any money, any phone, and had some medical issues. But, he was happy, loved life, loved his family, and drew strength from the gospel. More strength than I could imagine! And his own drive is powerful. Well, two days after our meeting, this amazing saint was involved in a car wreck. He is now dead. His funeral was today (that's the last picture. Latvians cover their graves in flowers. The flowers usually remain for a few weeks, and then the relatives tend the grave from then on). So, there was that. And then some of my relatives and friends are having some fairly complicated, unpleasant health issues. I hear that they remain happy, cheerful, and as wonderful as ever. Several of our investigators are homeless--most of them just recently became such. Yet they remain happy in that they are at peace with themselves. All of these people draw strength and power from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A few more things: there was another death (a while ago) in my extended family. Some of the children of the deceased do not accept the gospel. The death is still very hard on them. The other members of the family who do accept the gospel, however, are at peace. That does not mean that they are ignorant of the passing or absence of their loved one. They simply have a hope in the future. And not a vague hope; but the kind of hope that breeds faith powerfully (see Moroni 7: 40-43).

There are also many a member here without work, without money, with health problems, with other concerns and issues. Life has been relentless. Some older members were mugged, and it took a miracle for them to be able to go on the temple trip. Some of our members need surgery. All of them (as far as I know) are suffering because of the economic crash in Latvia (the nation bankrupted, inflation has been enormously huge the past few years, and pay has been dropping). And in talking to them, all of them are overwhelmed with the enormous weight of the world, and of the adversary. But every single one of them remains cheerful, optimistic, and ready. Why? Because they have that hope. They have faith. And with that faith they have access to the reassuring power of the Atonement of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And through this faith they act. They are ready to do what needs to be done. They receive divine help. They are strengthened; they are enabled; they have doors opened to them where there was nothing but a wall; and they are comforted. They obtain peace. This is the most powerful force in the world. And all we need to do is believe. With that faith (which is more than a confession that we believe, but involves also action, trying to repent, live like we know how, and other things), we have claim on all these blessings.

I think of it this way: we have a gift. We first need to acknowledge that we have this gift. Then, we need to actually open it. That is very basic, but you get the idea. The faith of those here in Latvia is stronger than almost anything I have seen anywhere else. Those who still go to church do it in the face of opposition from friends, sometimes family, and society in general. And for all this they receive what was discussed above: help, power, peace.That, my friends, is the gospel.

And it leads me to a question: what faith have I? Is my faith of the level that I can endure all these things? What am I doing to actively increase my faith? Why? I invite you all to read Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon. This is an explanation of how to grow faith. As you read and ponder it, maybe you could think about your own level of faith. How can you nourish the seed of your faith so that it grows still stronger? What fruits of your faith have you already enjoyed? Do these not confirm your faith? What real evidences have you received of God in your own life?
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for your support and prayers.

God bless you all.
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
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( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Dec 3: Pics

Photos that go with the December 3 letter ")

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dec 3: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Movie, Snow, Turkeys, Deafness, and Last Bit of Plan of Salvation (for Now)

All: Well, 57.64KM (73,902) is nothing to sneeze at. A few exciting announcements, then I'll commence as usual:

I am now learning LZV: Latviešu Zimju Valodu--Latvian Sign Language. It's actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.

They just shot a movie here, not 2 minutes from my house. It's a WWII-time period film, and it will be in English. It's called Miss Irina's Children. If one of my many readers could look it up for me, and give me a brief summary of plot and such...and if you'd like to see it...it's on the street I live on, just one block over. I think it'll be good. They had the street blocked off for a while and everything.

The snow is all gone. This is a slightly less exciting announcement. It rained the next few days, causing large ice/slush chunks to fall from roofs all over the city. I'm pretty sure somebody, somewhere, got hit. We ourselves had a few narrow misses...life sure is interesting. It's been rainy and windy, and fairly cold since then. Woo. Turns out (for those who knew me before), that I like colder weather. Well, cold is a lot colder here with humidity. Āk vai!

OK, about Turkey Day. There are lots of pictures here that explain how that went. (insert from Jordan's mom--no pictures were sent with this e-mail. Aaugh!! I think he forgot to send them. But I'll leave what he wrote about the pictures in here and you can imagine the pictures in your mind ")
Starting with the first one: 2004. This one is my comp and Elder Milton choppin' up our bird. Turns out turkey (tītars) is really expensive here, so we had chicken of some kind. But, in the words of E. Brown, "I can't remember the difference!" So...there ya go.

2009: I was running all over, just snapping shots, so I caught people off-guard a lot. These are my "sisters" (they came out with me) making gravy. You can see on the left their pan of candied yams that they made. Turns out, this is the first year I remember eating those; they aren't bad! And the gravy was incredible!

2011 is a classic E. Brown. These are the potatoes that E. Weideman and I furbished. There's a lot of them. 6 KG to be exact. Pretty much everybody who was there said, at least once, "That's a lot of potatoes."

Yeah. In the defense of a few people, this was very quick, impromptu, and without warning. But, this is all of us, chowing down. We also had amazing, home-made rolls done by E. Brown and comp (McKleren....not sure about English spelling...). It, overall, was quite a good meal, and very fun.

We cooked it (well...the bird was cooked at Rimi...but in essence, we cooked it). We had no stuffing (nowhere to find it, and I don't know how to make that from scratch), but we had home-made cranberry sauce (thanks to the sister missionaries), and bird, rolls, potatoes, and amazing NUTELLA PIE!!!! That was good. Well...it was all gone. We were going to take Christmas card photos, but we ran out of time. So...anyway. It was a good day.

2026: I was asked to highlight a few members. So, here they are, from left to right: Zane, Aivārs, Maija, Helvijs. Zane is a member on the other side of the river. I know little about her conversion story. I do know, however, that she is a lot like me: a little hyper, random, fun, and flirty. Aivārs was baptized in February of this year. He wasn't sure if he should be baptized, but a prayer asking about it changed his mind. He's very humble, loves the spirit he feels at church and with members, and works as a security guard. I love him to death. He helped us a lot with Ainārs, and what he said helped Ainārs pray concerning baptism as well. He (well, both of them) have rock-solid testimonies. Maija is very fun. I know less about her, but I know that she joined the church because she began to hang out with the other youth of the church. She is now a very strong member, and she's all smiles. She, also, is an Inanta (other side of the river)member. Aivārs is the only one from this side of the river in that photo, I just realized. Helvijs is incredible. I've had the most dealings with him, so I know just how awesome he is. Love him to death!! His testimony is solid, he's a return missionary (to Lietuva...uh...Lithuania), and he was the keystone of the youth. His parents really didn't want him to be baptized, but his parents could see how much it meant to him, so they (crying) signed the permission slip (he was 17). Now, they like him being a member, and they love the people he associates with from the church. I love these four youth! All of them are so incredibly strong is the gospel (as are all members who still come to church. It would be kinda lonely, I think, to be a member here), and they are tightly knit together (especially the youth). That's something I envy here, that I didn't have back home: a tightly-knit group of friends in the youth of the church.
I was asked for a funny me-speaking-Latvian moment. Well...there's lots. But, we did service helping teach a class (yes, in school. We knocked on the door of a teacher) on English accents. The students were really shy, and we kept it mostly in English. But, at the very end, we were asked to say a little something in Latvian. So, we did, and the entire class's eyes got real big, and they all were quite impressed! I thought it was just hilarious!

Investigators, we don't have any right now--well, any with definite things happening. I'll keep you posted. We have a good number of people we're teaching though, finally.

Now for some more of the Gospel plan:

So we are now on this earth. We are fallen. Though obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, or to Christ's commandments, we can access his grace and be made pure through Him. That is our goal here in this life. But, what happens after this life?

Though Christ conquered death, we all still must die, as death is part of the process of becoming immortal. When we physically die, our bodies and spirits separate. Our body remains here on this earth. Our spirits go to a place called the spirit world. Our personality and desires do not change with death (Alma 34: 34). Those who followed Christ live in a state of joy, peace, and rest from worry; those who did not follow Christ's gospel live in worry and unhappiness (Alma 40: 11-14). The state of the righteous is called paradise; the state of the wicked is called prison. In the spirit world, the gospel is preached to all who did not obey or were not able to hear the gospel when they lived on the earth. This is only briefly mentioned in the Bible. Part of Christ's ministry was in the world of spirits, including organizing missionary work there (1 Peter 3: 19-20, 1 Peter 4: 6). In a revelation received by Joseph F. Smith (6th president of the Church in our days), we learn much more, including how Christ was received in the spirit world after His death, and how the gospel is taught there (D&C 138: 11-12, 15-19, 28-37). Other verses: Ecclesiastes 12: 7, Isaiah 24: 22 CR Isaiah 61: 1, D&C 76: 73-74.

We remain in the spirit world until we are resurrected. Resurrection is the reuniting of the body and the spirit, never to again be separated. The body will be perfect. All will be resurrected, regardless of their righteousness (Alma 11: 42-45). However, there are both different times (D&C 43: 18) and different glories to which we can be resurrected (D&C 76: 17, John 5: 29). There is a difference between being raised from the dead, as in Mark 5: 22-24, 35-43, Luke 7: 12-16, John 11, and 3 Nephi 7: 17 (17-20). These people all died again. Christ was the first to resurrect (Acts 26: 23, Colossians 1: 18, Revelation 1: 5). After His resurrection, others resurrected (3 Nephi 23: 9, Matthew 27: 52-53). In the final resurrection, the righteous will have precedence over the wicked (D&C 43: 18). Once resurrected, the body and spirit never separate again. Our knowledge raises with us (D&C 130: 18), and we are brought to be judged according to our desires and our works (1 Nephi 15: 32, D&C 137: 9). If we follow the gospel of Christ, we will have access to His mercy, and He will plead on our behalf (Romans 8: 27, D&C 45: 2-5). But, if we do not qualify for His mercy, then we are left unsheltered to justice (Mosiah 16: 12).
Other verses: 2 Nephi 9: 11-15, Revelation 20: 12-15, Romans 3: 27 CR James 2: 17 (14-24), Titus 1: 16, Alma 5: 15-21.

There are three kingdoms of glory to which we can go after this life. For time's sake, I'll summarize: the highest is the Celestial. There, we live with God and can live with our families forever. We qualify to live here by repenting, accepting Christ (meaning we follow His gospel--commandments), and we keep the covenants (two-way promises) we make with God. There we achieve our goal, are perfected, and receive a fullness of joy.
Those who live good lives, but do not follow Christ's gospel, obtain the terrestial kingdom. Those who died in sins and did not repent or try to live after the light they received live in the third kingdom - the telestial. The glory of these are compared to the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.

I invite you to read all of Doctrine & Covenants 76, including the introduction. This is incredibly informative.

That's it for now. Thank you for your love and support. I send my love and prayers your way. Have a great week!

Elder Argyle
@..@
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( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nov 27: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Snow, Turkey Day, Packages, Edgars, Exchanges, TEACHING!!

All: This week has been epic: walking 55+ miles in blizzards, snow, slush, blackness, city centers. We looked Death in the face--we stomped through puddles of icy coldness. Yes, my friends--we took 114585 steps through every possible kind of weather here. 89.38KM of talking to people through snow, wind, rain, sun (not much of that one...) and everything else. It's been...quite the week.

So, before I disambiguate a little, I think I'll talk about some pictures!

1863: my Lutheran church reflection picture won some praise, so I figured I'd also send this one! This is a poem just outside of our place. And, due to the weather, it has a nice wetness to it. I like this shot quite a lot (except the focus is a little soft...sorry about that).

1876: Just an idea how much snow we got! This is a shot from the building in which our church is. This is through the window in the stairwell between the first and second floors.

1878: Yeah, this is what that church looks like a little more fully. You should have seen the cars sliding around the circle of road surrounding that church!

1882: Couldn't help it. This is right outside the back door to our place. Gorgeous, vai nē?

Ok, as for the celebration here: one place I found the firework salute is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKDurAe3Gu8. I didn't watch it (obviously, I'm on a mission), but here is a quick glimpse at it! The thing is called a salute, firework show, or light show (depending on who you talk to).

Answering questions: English is an onging thing. We teach it each transfer. We usually have (here in Riga center, where I am now) about 100 people who come to both the Latvian and Russian classes. It is easier for me to talk to grown-ups here...well...no. Kids, too. In Rīga, most people speak very clearly, so it really doesn't matter who I talk to. The younger they are, the less rude they are...I love kids, though, because they sound so cute speaking in Latvian and Russian! Makes me smile! Our branch here in Center is pure Latvian-speaking. In Rīga, there are enough members for the Russians to have a branch on both sides of the Daugava River, and Latvians to have their own on each side. So, no, I have no pure Russian-speakers in my branch. But, very many can speak Russian. Most of them.

Funny missionary moment: well, I was asked to meet with a member of the branch with the mission president, so that the member could get his temple recommend. But, this member is deaf, so it was quite...interesting. He found out that I was trying to learn Latvian sign language, and so he brought me his 1976 Latvian Sign Language dictionary! It's huge!! I guess I'm going to have to learn it. But, the funny thing is that during the interview, he would read the question, and then sign it to us, so that we could learn the signs. I love that guy!

Spiritual missionary moment? I've shifted the focus of my approach to people on the streets--I now tell them that I am here for two years to share something very dear to me, and that I know has helped me in my life. And then, I continue. The results have been quite impressive to me! And it has gone well. Well....better than normal. And I've had some powerful talks on the street!

"What are three things you like about Elder Weideman?" I like his spirit. He is very focused, and wants to get work done, so he helps me stay focused. He knows how to study, as well, so we have had very good companionship studies that go quite deep. And, his personality is hilarious! We are also able to just talk about everything else from cartoons to guitar to...well, lots of stuff. He's fun when it's time to be fun, focused when it's time to be focused. He's not too much on either side, and knows when to do one or the other. That's quite admirable.

We get together as a district usually only for district meetings. I went on exchanges (meaning I was with Elder Brown) yesterday. It was way fun to be with my MTC companion! We were already able to just roll with each other's quirks, and teach together quite unifiedly. I hope you understood that last word "). Today we're having a thanksgiving feast as a district! I'm pretty stoked for that!! That's why preparation day was moved to today (sorry...I realized I failed to mention that last week...). Also, I have a package. I don't know who it's from, or anything other than I have one. So...fill you in next week.

Yeah, as for the weather...it was very wet. We got a lot of snow. The best day was when it snowed about 5 inches the day before, then about 1 that day, then it rained all night. Crazy weather is my favorite!

INVESTIGATORS!!!!!
We've been doing everything possible to find new people to teach. We have just found a few, and it's been very rewarding! Not many are able to meet again (because they are leaving town or something soon), but we have been teaching new people. It's one of the best feelings, and the best way to get me excited to go out and teach more!

I have only five minutes left of computer time, so Happy Thanksgiving and I'll write next week! Love you all!
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
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( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nov 19: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Celebrations, Finding People, Weather, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

All: 75.35 KM (that's 96604 steps, folks).

Pictures: 1776 is by the presidential palace. Here, during Lačpēša diena, people came and put a candle in the nooks of this wall, to commemorate those who have died fighting in wars on Latvia's side. It was a cool evening--both in temperature and in actions.

1811 is one of the times I decided that Rīga is beautiful, indeed. We were knocking this 12 story dome, and this site met our gaze. Gorgeous!

1833 is the parade. More later.

1820 is a young kid at the bus station Monday. He was feeding the birds popcorn from a bag he had, and it was very cute. I had some much better composed shots, but my little point and shoot camera cannot handle that bright sun, and so I got a big white blob where the bench is in the picture. So...this is the only one that really turned out. Tik žel...And, only a few moments after, it began to snow/hail. That's where you get those little balls of snow falling everywhere. So, from sun to pouring that in only 20 minutes!

Sorry!! Yes, I've received several letters from Grandparents (both sets), and one from Rachel. I failed to mention them earlier. I'm sorry!! Thank you so much for the letters! It is so great to hear from you!! Thanks for taking the time to write me!!
Question about Jana from Liepāja: last I heard, she's schooling in Koliningrad (in Baltkrievija...I have no idea what that place is called in English...), and is doing fairly well. Internet is very expensive, so she doesn't often have a chance to e-mail anybody but her family, so even the sister missionaries know little about what's going on with her.

We had our first official snow storm last night. It is all over the place (but melting fast).

OK, so I'm going to try to hurry as much as possible (for we have a very busy day). First off, one really neat thing I learned was that Rīga is mostly powered by hydroelectric power. They've got all these dams on the Daugava River, and they have turbines that are pushed by the force of the water to bring a great deal of power into this large city. My respect for Latvia rose even more when I learned that this week, and my love of this monstrously large city increased. Just a bit.:)

So, as far as finding new people to teach: we have spent this whole week adjusting our finding methods, praying very hard about places to go to knock. We have received a great number of contact information, but with the holidays and all, very few were able to actually meet with us now. And those who wanted to meet were Russians, so we gave several names to the Russian missionaries, so they can start teaching them. Latvians, though, are apparently trickier to get interested in the gospel. That may be because I don't talk to any of the uninterested Russians, so I don't know, but that's what it felt like. We did have quite a few people who loved hearing from us, and with whom we have appointments this week, so those should all be good.

Now, really quickly, the celebrations: there was a big to-do on Lačplēša Diena, including a rally of sorts in front of the Brivības Piemeneklis (Freedom Monument), candle lighting at the Presidential Palace, and lots of excitement in general. As for Latvias Neatkarības Diena...well. That was completely packed. We had a meeting set up around 14.00, but he couldn't make it because of parades and things all over town. So, we decided to head out and just go knocking. Well, no buses came by for about 15 minutes (that's not usual). We then saw two cop cars puttering down the street with lights blazing. Yup, we accidentally got to see the armed forces parade. I can't say that it was undesirable, but I can't say we planned on it. We saw that there were a lot of families home yesterday, and we wanted to get in teaching one of those more than watching a parade, but...oh well. We picked a mostly Russian area to knock anyway, so...oh well. The Russian missionaries have at least one investigator from that (she asked that the sister missionaries come over and teach her), and potentially two more. We'll see.

It was quite an ordeal. If you poke around youtube, you should be able to find the firework show for Latvias Neatkarības Diena Ugunošs Šovs (copy and paste, if you need: it means Latvia's Independence Day Firework Show). It was quite impressive--you could hear it from our apartment (some kilometer away)! Anyway, photos look gorgeous!

That's about it. Now, for the spiritual thought:

Recap: Christ came into the world to redeem mankind from the Fall. We have a way, through Christ, to repent of our sins. This redemption also includes our resurrection and return to God's presence to be judged (2 Nephi 9: 10-22, D&C 137: 9). We will be judged according to the laws of justice and mercy. Justice does not change. We are blessed for obedience to God's commandments, and we suffer the negative consequences for disobedience. Because we all are sinners (Romans 3: 23, 1 John 1: 8), we cannot enter God's kingdom (3 Nephi 27: 19) according to justice. But through Christ's mercy, we can. We must, however, qualify for that by following His gospel, or, in other words, keeping His commandments.
It begins with faith. Specifically, faith in Christ. Put most simply, faith in Christ is a trust in Christ - that He can and will uphold His promises. This trust leads us to action. Specifically, actions that are in accordance with His will. We pray, trusting that we will receive answers to our prayers. We do our best to avoid sin, and we truly repent when we do sin. Working our faith brings us power and strength, and increases our faith (Moroni 7: 33, Romans 10: 17). Just one additional thought on faith: Alma 32: 21. To learn how to develop faith, read Alma 32: 21-43. And then do it.

The second principal of Christ's Gospel is repentance. Repentance is changing our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors not in line with God's will. Through repentance, we change to be more like God. It is the central purpose of our lives, and is how we grow. It is through repentance that we qualify for Christ's mercy, which is our only hope of return to God. We stop doing things that are not in accordance with God's will and continue doing things that are in accordance. This brings great, lasting peace into our lives, our guilt is swept away, we have a strong joy, and the Spirit is more strongly with us. Because we are human, however, we will continue to sin. Therefore, repentance is a daily thing, as we continually strive to overcome our sins. Our faith brings us to repent (Alma 34: 15). D&C 58: 42-43, 2 Corinthians 7: 9-10. We will never run out of things to improve in ourselves. But God never runs out of help or support or love for us.

As we repent, we prepare ourselves to follow the Lord. Repenting builds our faith. When we have truly sought to repent and follow the Lord, we will desire more. The third step in the Gospel, the third principal, is also the first ordinance - baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. An ordinance is a sacred ceremony or rite that shows we have entered a covenant with God. God has always required covenants. We promise to obey, and God promises us blessings. Ordinances must be performed with God's authority - with His priesthood power. Baptism is the essential first ordinance in Christ's gospel (Mosiah 5: 8-10). We promise to obey all of His commandments the rest of our lives. He promises us the gift of the Holy Ghost, forgiveness of sins, and that will be born again in Him (John 3: 5) - changed in our hearts. Moroni 8: 25-26.

Baptism of water is only half a baptism. The other half is the baptism of fire - the Holy Ghost (John 3: 5), the fourth principal of Christ's gospel. The confirming of the Holy Ghost is done by a laying on of hands by one with priesthood authority. The Holy Ghost does a great many things for us. He testifies unto us of truth and teaches us truth (Moroni 10: 4-5, 3 Nephi 28: 11, John 15: 26), he leads us (2 Nephi 31: 17, 2 Nephi 32: 5), and many more things. Before baptism, all can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. However, this influence is fleeting. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the promise that He will always be with us, and we can always have the blessings that come from him. This is far more powerful that the influence of the Holy Ghost.

The last basic step is very, well, basic - we continue learning, repenting, growing in faith, renewing our baptismal covenant, and heeding the Holy Ghost our whole lives long.

Living the gospel (following these five points) enables us to receive Christ's mercy, and we have access to His grace and salvation. We are more prepared to enter into God's presence, and are greatly blessed in this life. All of this comes from Christ Himself. Here are his words: 3 Nephi 27: 14-22.

Love from across the globe,
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
(-----)
( >/°¥< )
^^‾\/‾^^

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nov 11: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Holidays, Latvian History, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

All: Well, we have zone conference tomorrow, so I have to send this off today. Therefore, my steps look a little weak. It's 65.77KM (84,320 steps). So, yeah.

The only picture for this week is from the grocery store. Look carefully. Do you see something...odd? I thought it was hilarious, and couldn't not send it. (p.s. from Jordan's mom. It is a yellow creature on the top of the left hand shelf, which was one of Jordan's favorite Pokemon creatures ") (But look at the food, too--it's cool to see what they have!)

Culturally, I have something fun to inform you all of. Today is Lāčplēša Diena – The Day of the Soldier, if I understand correctly. Anyway, they honor all people who died for Latvia's freedom today. I'm not exactly sure how, but it'll be big. And Latvia's Neatkarības Diena (The Day of Latvia's Freedom), which is the first time that a portion of Latvia was recognized as an independent, free nation, will be the 18th of this month, also. Celebrations for that will be huge. This is when Latvia was first freed from Russia's rule after the Russian revolutions and such in 1918. By the next year, all of what is now Latvia was recognized as Latvia—a separate, free nation. They then got smashed by Germany and such. Then Russia came back in. And these poor people have been fighting to keep their independence and have somehow (miraculously) preserved their language. About every century they were conquered anew by another land:

Before 13th Century: they were a bunch of tribal groups.
13th C-16th C: They were called Livonija, and were founded by Germany.
16th C: Polish
17th C: Sweedish
18th C: Russian
20th C: Freed from Russian rule 1918.
Taken over again 1941 by Germany
1945 by Russia
1991 they became independent Latvia again.

Each time there was a change in power, there were a great many people killed. Our Latvian teacher told us that it was a miracle that Latvia survived as a language. The four districts of Latvia are: Kurzeme (divided into two areas: Kurzemes and Zemgale), Vidzeme, and Latgale. Latgale is where Daugavpils is (on the eastern side, and the Latvian they speak there is really weird), Vidzeme is in the middle, and Kurzeme is the western side (Liepāja is in Kurzeme). I do believe that is all correct. Anyway, moving on now.

This week, as far as missionary work goes, was very slow, rough, and forced E. Weideman and I to figure out what we could do to be more effective and better at what we were doing. It took a little work, but the spirit is quite strongly with us, and I feel we will do good from here on.

Now, as I promised: a discussion on the Atonement of Christ the Lord. A small recap: Because of the Fall, all mankind are subject to both physical and spiritual death. By ourselves, we are powerless against those deaths (Alma 34: 9). But, God knew that it must be that way, and to preserve our freedom to choose, he sent His Son to open to us a path to return to Him (John 3: 16-17).

Now, our scriptural record of the actual Atonement is quite brief: Matthew. 26: 36, 39, 42, 44 (36-44), 27: 46, 50 (35-50), 28: 5-7; Mark 14: 33-36, 39 (32-41), 15: 34, 37 (25-37), 16: 6; The most informative of the four gospels is found in Luke 22: 41-44, Luke 23: 46 (33-46), 24: 5-6, 36-39; John has no record of the events that transpired in the Garden, but he does record John 19: 30 (18-30), 20: 9, 13-17. And such is our scriptural record for the most important event in the life of mankind. Luke is the most detailed of all the four accounts. Then, we have multiple prophesies and visions of this event, but these are the first-hand witnesses. The Atonement of Jesus Christ consists of his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, his sufferings again on the cross, His death, and His resurrection.

That he was resurrected is put beyond doubt from the following (and many other sources): When he appeared to his eleven apostles and others in Jerusalem (Luke 24: 36-47), and when he appeared as a resurrected being to the inhabitants in the Americas. Note that the first verse here listed is the Father introducing the Son. (3 Nephi 11: 7-17). All of these witnesses handled His body. Note that he reclaimed His body, as they "saw [Him] have."

Resurrection is the joining of the physical body together with the spiritual body of a person, never again to separated (Alma 11: 43). Because Christ was resurrected, He has power over death (Alma 11: 42), and so we all, too, will be resurrected, regardless of how we lived (Alma 11: 44-45, 1 Corinthians 15: 20-22). Because we will be resurrected, we will stand again in God's presence for the judgment (Heleman 14: 15), and it will be possible for us to receive an eternal reward (2 Nephi 9: 6-12). The Resurrection is a free gift to all. Men, therefore, are unconditionally saved from physical death through the power of Christ's resurrection, and through His grace.

Note, however, that the atonement is conditional as to salvation from spiritual death. We must act here, and follow the gospel of Christ to receive a forgiveness of sins, be cleansed, and return to God physical presence once more (Helaman 14: 15-18 -- Note especially verse 18). Christ sets the conditions of repentance. If we do not observe His conditions, then it is for us as if there had been no redemption made (Mosiah 16: 5-8--note v 5; and as Christ Himself has said in these Latter days: D&C 19: 15-19). If this is unclear to you as to why this would be the way God would work concerning sinners, let me share a parable with you, similar to one I heard when I was growing up.

There was once a certain farmer. He wanted land, a home, a car, etc. He took out a large loan to be able to purchase all he desired. The farmer signed a contract, took the money, and obtained his desires. He worked hard, and repaid the creditor as he could, but as time went on, he began to be more slothful in his work, and did not do all that he should have done. Besides, he thought, the deadline is so far away. What do I have to worry about? Well, the deadline arrived, and he was unprepared. The creditor arrived, and demanded his money. The man was unable to pay. According to the law of justice, the man was shackled, and was to be cast into prison and all his possesions sold to pay the creditor. But along came a friend of this poor man, who was very wealthy. The friend offered to pay the creditor that which was his due, according to justice, and set the farmer free. The friend, however, required the farmer to pay him back. But he reset the terms of the contract between the two of them so that the farmer, through work and effort, would be able to pay it back. It would be possible. It would still be work, and lots of it, but the farmer could do it. With that parable in mind, I invite you to read the following verses from the Book of Mormon, Alma chapter 42:

12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;
13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence

Here, we see that we are lost. We cannot pay according to the law of justice, that which is due of us. But:

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
• • •
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. (Alma 42: 12-15, 22-25). So what we have is that we now are indebted to Christ. We must follow His requirements, if we are to be given the mercy that He has promised. I would encourage you all to read that entire chapter, for it is incredibly powerful in explaining the atonement and why we must repent.

The Atonement is an enabling power in this life for us. Christ did not suffer only for our sins. He also felt every sorrow, weakness, pain, temptation, sickness, worry...in short, all things we feel and experience (Alma 7: 11-13). He knows how we feel, and He knows how to best help. We can pray for His help, and He will be willing to offer it. We must remember, however, that we are greatly indebted to our loving Friend, and we must still do all we can to help ourselves. When we do that, Christ will offer us all the additional help we need. But if we do nothing, then Christ cannot help us. We must ACT. That is the main point here.

As for the conditions of the new contract, I will discuss them next week. They are known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are very straightforward. This is where everything comes together.

Additional verses: well, this is a little tricky, because there are literally thousands of verses throughout the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants I could use. I will grab some of the most poignant ones:
Explanation of Justice and Mercy, and how the two laws are connected to the atonement: Alma 42: 1-2, 6-28.
Christ, explaning his role in the Judgement: D&C 45: 3-5.
In the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ, number 3, note the conditions.
Ephesians 1: 7, Colossians 1: 14, Mosiah 13: 28; 2 Nephi 2: 6-9.

I invite you to study these, and search out more. This is what you must know in this life. I bear my testimony that these things are true. I know that Christ in reality did suffer and atone for all our sins. The word for "Atonement" in Latvian translates to "the complete purchasement of sins." In reality, we are bought with a price, and we must now do what is in our contract. There is nothing more powerful than feeling the cleansing power of the atonement in your soul. That I know without doubt. And I have felt its power continue to build me up.
I love you all. Until next week.
--
Elder Argyle
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nov 5: Baltic Chŗonīcļe:

All: 79.95 KM (102,503 steps). We've spent a lot of time contacting so far...
Pictures:

1733 is a shot of a huge building that we found and knocked doors at. Just about everybody (only one door excluded) was Latvian (which is almost a miracle in and of itself).

1734 is a reflection Sunday, after the rain, of the big Lutheran church directly outside the door of our church building. I liked the way the reflection looked.

1748 is a sign I saw driving by while contacting. I hope you math people can solve this and tell me what the IP is--I don't have time right now to solve it! But, I thought it was a pretty cool idea, and I've always wanted to do something like that. Someone else just beat me to it this time.

Alright! There were a ton of questions both last time and this! So, here are your answers:
Foods: I'm eating about the same things. I've learned some fast and tasty recipes for sweet and sour chicken, teriyaki chicken, pizza, and several casserole-style things. As far as Latvian foods go, though, I don't really have any recipes right now. But, I decided to learn some recipe vocab, so that I can get some. I'll keep you posted.
Next Q: Yes, E. Black found his passport. It was in a DVD case in his suitcase, where he'd "remember where it was." Yeah. So, he got home all safe and sound. No worries.

Yes, Latvia is one of seven countries that now has bezvisas travel (visa-less...what is that in English?). That means that travelers from those countries can stay in the USA for three months without requiring them to register. And Americans can travel to those countries and stay three months without a visa, as well. It's actually really neat, and I'm quite excited for it (since I want to come back, and I want to invite some of my dear friends here to my place for a week or something).

About A.'s baptism: no, his family was unable to make it. He decided on Friday to be baptized on Saturday, so...they didn't have enough warning. Helvijs is a member here who recently returned from his own mission in Lithuania (Lietuva is more correct...that's what the country calls itself).

There are about 70 people in our Latvian Center Branch who regularly attend. There are not enough youth for there to be a full young men/young women program, but we do offer those things for those who come. We have quite a full Primary (some 10 children), which is fun. Church lasts for three hours, just like everywhere else I know of. Sacrament meeting is first. The missionaries don't often have to speak in sacrament meeting, but we do sing once a month with the members as a special musical number. We always teach the investigator class (for Sunday school--that's just a very basic class that focuses on the core doctrines as simply as possible). And yes, that building where I had my picture taken in the niche looking like a statue is our church building in Rīgā.

Ah, yes. That religious conference actually had almost nothing to do with religious beliefs (at least, not the part I attended). It was a discussion on the legal system of Latvia and how the laws apply to religious organizations. It was more to enable all religious organizations to participate legally and know what they can do. And for us to know our rights, so that nobody tries to take advantage of us as a religion. That was the idea for the portion where I was.

I was asked a bunch of odd questions, so I will answer them for those wondering these things about Latvia.

Do you guys have washers and dryers? Washers, yes. Dryers are terrible, so we just hang dry, normally. There are also dry cleaners here. Missionaries have a washer in their apartments (that's one of the criteria for apartments we can rent, if I recall correctly).
Do they have something called Nutella there in the Baltic states? Yes, they have Nutella. I absolutely love that stuff! Is there Nutella in America? If not, I may be spending a lot of money at import stores...it's a sweet hazelnut cream, usually with chocolate swirled in it, too. It's amazing on bread, cookies, ice cream, or about anything, really.

Are there usually ovens in the apartments? Usually. But half the time they don't work. Surprise...usually you'll have a toaster oven or roaster oven also. I hear that because Estonian missionaries have so much extra money (because the cost of living is so low and the economy is good), they all have fat fryers there. Our fat fryer is a pan full of oil. It works...
You have branches, not wards, right? Yes. You cannot have a ward without a stake. You need 1900 members for a stake. That's 5 wards, with 15 active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek priesthood holders in each. And then, in addition to that, you need an extra 24 of those somewhere within the stake boundaries. Latvia is about half-way there.

Any hints from missionaries who've been there awhile on how to stay warm in the winter? Long underwear. Get a nice palto (heavy coat) here, because the ones from the states are sissy stuff.

Anyway, I do believe that is all for news. Investigators, we don't have any (right now), because we've been spending all our time hunting for new ones. We will have some good, solid investigators next week. A. is doing very well.
OK, as promised: some discussion about the Fall. This will be a lot more detailed than the explanation I offered before. It won't, however, be comprehensive. This is just a detailed overview of this important doctrine. You may search out more for yourselves later if you'd like, in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

After the creation, God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and there gave them commandments, including a commandment not to eat of the fruit of one of the trees therein. He gave them agency. Genesis 2: 16-17 is one account. Another account, revealed in our days, is a little more clear: Moses 3: 16-17. Note that the Lord says, "Nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee." It is clearly established that Adam and Eve could choose in the garden.

Then, enter opposition. This is necessary for God's plan to continue for the wellfare of His children (2 Nephi 2: 11, 15-16). Thus Satan tempted mankind. Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit. Having thus transgressed the commandment of God, they were cast out into the world. But, this is not a problem. In fact, it was necessary to happen. God's plan could not continue until mankind had fallen. 2 Nephi 2: 22-25 (15-26) clearly explains this point. Note verse 25: "Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy."

The scriptural account of the Fall is located in Genesis 2: 7-9, 15-17; 3: 1-19, 22-24. In that account, we see that mankind now knew good from evil, and that Adam and Eve were physically cut off from the presence of God.

Their transgression caused the Fall--man became subject to the devil because they yielded to his temptations (D&C 29: 40). Adam's fall brought two kinds of death into the world: physical and spiritual. Physical death is easy to understand: we all will die. Our bodies here will become lifeless, and our spirit will leave it. Spiritual death is a separation from God; a separation from things pertaining unto righteousness. In order for mankind to obtain this joy for which they were created, there must be a way to recover from the effects of the Fall (Alma 42: 9). This life, then, is the incredible opportunity to grow, learn, progress, and prepare to return to God's presence--spiritually, at least. If we work out our redemption from spiritual death, then we qualify to be in God's physical presence after this life (Alma 12: 24).

God has given us the knowledge of these things, that we might know them. He revealed these truths to Adam and Eve, who then taught redemption and how to be redeemed to their children (Alma 12: 28-29, 32). Ever since then, the knowledge of God, His plan of redemption, and the means of salvation has been had, in part or in full, for mankind to read. The central figure in this plan is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Alma 12: 33-34).

Thus we see that without the Fall, we would not have the opportunity to progress or even to be here. The Fall was an integral step in God's plan. It allowed for sin and opposition, thus allowing mankind the ability to learn, develop, and progress. More references for this powerful doctrine are found here:
D&C 20: 17-20, D&C 29: 34-35, 39-41, Articles of Faith 1: 2 (the latter is from the 13 Articles of Faith for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, found at the end of the Pearl of Great Price, after the Joseph Smith History). The other references are embedded in the text (concerning the Fall directly). As to this life and agency: Matthew 26: 39, 2 Nephi 2: 11, 2 Nephi 2: 27, D&C 101: 78, D&C 104: 17, Alma 42: 2-15 (this will be mentioned far more later--this is the crux of the Atonement of Jesus Christ). Then, as to our purpose in this life, and our work: D&C 29: 39-45, Mosiah 3: 19, Alma 12: 20-34, Alma 34: 32, Helaman 14: 30.

If you think that you are saved already and your work is done, please keep this in mind: Mosiah 2: 21-24, Romans 3: 23. Our work never ends. We must continually be striving forward. God gives us commandments to help us know good from evil, and we also are given the spirit of Christ to help us know good from evil. Here are the guidelines, the test of good, as provided by the prophet Moroni: Moroni 7: 15-18.

Next week, I will talk about the most important doctrine, truth, and event to ever exist for us. It is the enabling power and force for God's entire plan. That is, of course, the holy Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Atonement is the means provided to overcome the effects of the Fall.

I love you all! Keep reading the Bible, and the Book of Mormon!
--
Elder Argyle
@..@
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