Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 30: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Slow week, Baltic Party, and...viss

All: 101,52 KM (126,958 steps). Tragic news: I just discovered that I have been 2CM off with the length of my stride this whole time!! But, that's now corrected, and I will be more accurate from now on. (Jordan's parents say we hope he's kidding--I mean, 2 centimeters??? Come ON)

Pioneer Day: we had sašliki (sash-leekee, for you English speakers), which is the same thing as shishkabobs. We danced in the chapel (without the chairs in it), and talked. That was it. No hand carts, no real out-door activity, but those who came loved it! I don't know who all was involved (if it was celebrated by more than just Liepāja), but it was fun! I spent most of my time outside with J. (our investigator), and the other Elders (my companions). I snuck in to grab some pictures, then was back outside. The Baltic Beach Party sold 102,000+ tickets this year, meaning that 40-50 thousand people came. I grossly underestimated! And the Liepājans grossly overreacted to the effects caused by the Party. But, it was way fun, and several members attended. That was the 24-25 of July (meaning it was going on at the same time as our party for Pioneer Day).

For sports (thanks to the crazy situation on the beach, which is right by Jurmalas Park), we simply played cards and hand games at the church. One of the favorites involved random noises, and A. F. (name translated), made about the funniest cow noise I've ever heard. Several players were unable to play because they were laughing so hard!

Since my English class has dwindled away to nothing (maybe a student every now and again), I have been teaching Sister Kelley's class, which is first level. I do this because she has had to translate or go on errands during English class. That has proved very difficult for me. It turns out my brain fries when I teach English from Latvian, speaking only Latvian for 45 minutes to an hour. And I'm not exactly sure how to say some things, so it comes out being very awkward. But, it's been good for building my abilities in Latvian, though...

We...don't have any progressing investigators. All of the people we've been teaching have vanished, no longer want to meet with us and so make excuses, or are moving away. So....nothing really to report there.

For my spiritual thought: the prophet Joseph Smith, in addition to translating the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, also received other revelations from God. He recorded these revelations just like Moses and other prophets of old did. These revelations are recorded in a volume of scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants. There are 138 sections in this volume. God is speaking with Joseph Smith, and he says some of the following about the Book of Mormon:

D&C (Doctrine and Covenants) 10:52, 57-64 - God states very simply that the reason for the Book of Mormon is to prove the truths recorded in the Bible, especially about the nature of Jesus Christ and our relationship to Him, to reduce contention on doctrinal points (clarify truths and provide additional revelation to help us understand what is going on in matters of religion--especially about Christ's gospel for us), and to glorify God.

Again, in D&C 11:22 it is written that we must study the Bible and the Book of Mormon. In 11:24-5, it commands all to build on Christ's gospel, and to deny not revelation nor prophecy. God has always worked that way, and always will, as God never changes. He does not confer all power to man and let them do whatever--he guides them in the use of the power he has given them, and if they use it contrary to what was given them through revelation, then they no longer have that power. Any person who goes against he will of God cannot and will not have any power or authority to act in God's name.
Interestingly enough, D&C 17:6 is where Christ Himself testifies to the truth and divinity of the Book of Mormon.

Anyway, the point is this: no matter how much more I learn, I have affirmed to me again and again that God speaks today, and that He waits with open arms for all of His children to come to Him. We do this through covenants (two-way promises) with God. Our first one is baptism. It is necessary that we are baptized by one having the authority to act in the name of God, for anything done without His authorization is void after this life ends, and will be profitless by the receiver. I firmly attest that that authority was lost after the death of the Apostles of the Lamb in New Testament times. And that authority has again been restored through apostles and prophets, just like Christ Himself did when He was on the earth. I testify that the place truth's fullness can be found is in this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I testify that only in this church can the fullness of truth be found. And only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds the authority to act in God's name, binding on earth and in heaven, and loosing on earth an in heaven (see Matthew 16:17-19, D&C 124:91-96). But don't just take my word for it. Pray about it. I'm pretty sure that God knows. I'm confident He will answer you as He has me.
Elder Argyle

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 23: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: More Parties Upcoming, More Drunks, Truth

Dear All: 69.09KM (86402 steps). That's the least distance of any week of my mission so far (except maybe in the MTC).

Reasons for this: we had people come over to do some repairs and such on the church, so we lost some hours there (we have all the electricity working again, though! That's good. Somebody blew a few circuits a while back, and we've been without for about a month). We also had zone conference. It was quite the conference!! It all started with missing the train to Rīga, so we had to buy a bus ticket (and remember the date was changed, so we also missed our flight. This means we paid about 15 lats just to get to this conference!). The actual conference was longer than any other so far, as well. Policy changes, good discussion, excellent lessons, and an amazing teaching practice. I actually want to talk about that a little later. So, stay tuned!

Sports was way fun! We played volleyball on the beach, right? Well, a random drunk came by, and asked to play with us. My team only had 4, the other team had five, so we picked up the drunk. He was actually a pretty good player, even wasted drunk! It definitely made the last hour of the game more interesting than the first. He was civil (except, I hear, for his Russian mouth when something ungood happened). He spoke in a mix of Russian, Latvian, Italian, and English. He would probably be a really good guy sober. He was too drunk to remember his name or any contact information (number, address), otherwise we might have talked to him again. Kinda funny though, eh?

Sunday, J. (our investigator) and I took my camera apart. This is the one that fell in the sand. We were going to clean it, but we couldn't get it apart all the way, so we just wound up breaking it more. But, it was fun! And I was finding little screws on that table and around that table on the floor up until yesterday evening! Monday, we attended a soccer game. We have that soccer-playing investigator, and he played, so we went to support him. He's really good. He's fast, and has perfect headers (hitting the ball with his head) every time. Consequently, we won. 2-0.

For upcoming: the Baltic Beach Party is coming up. There will be 100 bands from 30 countries, I believe. They have 8 stages set up, and it's expected to draw about 25,000 people here (remember this city only has 83 K people in it!). We will be having our pioneer celebration this Friday, so that should all be good, too. We've made contact with a lot of people that haven't been to church in a long time, and they may be there. We hope to see them again.

I was also asked how Jana and Rita are doing. Rita is actually in Estonia right now at a camp. I don't exactly know what that means, but she'll be there until about August's end. Jana is doing incredibly well. She's been called as a branch missionary, and she is reading her scriptures and has a powerful testimony burning within her. She leaves for college in Russia at the end of August, and I will say that Liepājas branch will miss her.

O.'s name we got out of our area book. We taught him once before, and so we called to see if he'd like to talk again. He did. Anyway, we're still waiting for a free moment to talk more.
The random family has been in the country, so nothing there yet.
U. is doing well. He is having some problems with his health still, but he is enjoying the peace that comes from reading the Book of Mormon (I highly recommend to all to read at least one chapter from that book each day). It's very hard for him to read, but he is doing it anyway. He's a good man. I'm not sure what will happen when he goes back to Saldus...
J. is doing well. I'm not sure exactly how much he is committed to applying what we teach, but he is a good guy. He'll be leaving mid-August, as well, so...we'll not have too much to do with familiar people by August's end.
M. is new. He is currently quite solid in his belief that people are re-incarnated and that all is about feeling. So, once we get the Holy Ghost in there strongly, he should glide right along. He is an interesting fellow, but has a very good heart. Pray for him, K?

Then, my closing remarks are for all who love God and desire to feel of His love more and stronger. More specifically, it's about a tool to accomplish this. The Book of Mormon. If you do not accept that there can be any more scripture beyond the Bible, or that the Book of Mormon is not scripture, I would invite you to read this talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a living Apostle of Jesus Christ: I testify that the Book of Mormon is scripture, and that its purpose is to bring us closer to Christ. By reading this book, we come to understand Christ more fully, and (most importantly), we learn more of His infinite Atonement for us. We learn why He conquered sin for us, and how we can be declared clean through His blood. We learn how He conquered death. And we learn exactly who God and His Son are, and our relationship to them. The Book of Mormon is pure testimony of Christ from beginning to end. Everything therein contained exists for the sole purpose of bringing us to a knowledge of Christ. But, that is what I know. If you do not know this, then I, by talking to you about it, cannot convince you of it. That is why I invite all who read these words to read the book. Think about it. Chew on it a while, and try to understand the doctrine in it. Then, pray to God about it. Ask Him if it is true. I promise you that you will feel of its truth if you but ask in faith. From the introduction of the Book of Mormon we read:

"We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)" Stop. Click that link. Read those three verses. What does that mean? To you, specifically? That means that you can know anything through the power of the Holy Ghost. How? Through a prayer of faith. I want to invite you all to read Enos (a book in the Book of Mormon). It's only one chapter. But I don't really care if you read the whole thing. Focus on verses 2-8 ( He describes his prayer as a wrestle before God. The word "sunk deep into [his] heart." That's why thinking about the message in the book is so important. It helps you to hunger more for truth. You will note that he did not just say in his heart, "Lord, forgive me! I accept you as my savior!" No. He "cried unto [God] in mighty prayer." He didn't just do that once, either. He continued to pray until he got an answer. This doesn't mean that you need to pray all day and night. What is means is God does not always answer immediately. You must remain where you can hear His gentle answer.

And it only comes by faith. You have to truly believe that God will answer you. You have to expect it. You don't have to expect Him to confirm or deny the truth of the Book of Mormon. You have to expect that He will answer. Then be willing to accept AND ACT upon whatever answer He gives you. That's part of faith: action. I promise you that if you do this, then you will know if what I have been saying is true. If the Book of Mormon is true. I can tell you I have done this. I have received my own witness that the book indeed is true. Jana didn't think much about spiritual things at first. She began to read this book, and then came her desire to find God. Then came a love for the scriptures, and a willingness to follow Christ, whatever he should ask her to do. I testify that this book is true. I testify that it has the power to change lives: to fortify against sin, addiction, against the hardships in life. It has power to comfort the soul. It has power to open the mysteries of God to you.

My challenge? Start reading the book. From the very beginning. Read the title page and the introduction. Then begin the book on page 1. Just start. What can you lose? Read through first and second Nephi (chapters 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 in 2nd Nephi. are from Isaiah, and might be hard to understand). But read the rest, all the way up until 2nd Nephi ends. You can even read them online: Pray before you read, that God will help you to understand it. Do this while you read. Then, when you feel you should, pray to know of the truth of the book. I promise that more peace, more joy, and more happiness with come into your life when you do this than you have ever felt before. Those who already know that the book it true: start reading it again in your personal study. Remember, that's only one chapter a day. Not a lot. If you already study it every day, then add this one chapter a day in there. And never forget to pray. I will do this, as well. Share insights, feelings, and such while you read. I promise that God will answer you concerning the truth of the Book of Mormon, and you can know of yourself, for "what greater witness can you have, than from God?"

Es jūs milu.
Elder Argyle

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

July 16: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Juras Svetki, Return of Pavil the Spider, and Playing with Bones

All: 93.94 KM (117,459 steps).
Čili Pica is pronounced "Chilly Pizza." And Čili is chilies, like peppers, and pica is Pizza. It's a pizza place. I guess that might have been confusing without any pronunciation help. This week was rather eventful:

It turns out that Liepāja is the place to be during the summer. There was yet another party this week--the Juras Svetki (sea holiday). There was a carnival with an art show, a circus, and several performances. This was at Fontain again (that place is GREAT!), and lasted all day (and all night for the adults). There were people from Taiwan (that also spoke fluent Japanese...I had some fun talking to them a little bit), as well as random Germans on a 3000 KM bike ride through multiple countries, as well as a host of people from at least six countries. It was a party! There was also a guy who was trying to claim he was a native American playing the panpipes and guitar on the street corner in front of Kurzeme (a big mall). Random.

Also, we had quite a rush ourselves. We were walking back from a meeting at the edge of town, and we hear much pounding on a window. We figured it was going to be somebody who would wave at us or something, so we looked over with only half interest. We saw the face of Pavil the Spider in the window. He opened the window and yelled (in Russian, of course), "Wait! Wait! I want to talk to you! That one! He speaks!!" Meaning E. Bodily spoke Russian. Anyway, he rushed us into his house, and showed us the mountain of religious books he has. He actually had them marked up a great deal, and then went through talking to E. Bodily for half an hour. The atmosphere there was crazy, but we came out alive (I don't think Pavil kills people anymore), for which we were grateful. And we have another meeting with him, so technically, he is now our investigator. Cool! He told one of the women in his house that he invited us over some time ago, and even though it took a long time, we finally made it over!

In other news: we have two new investigators besides Pavil.
O.: he's a soccer player for the Metalurgs team here. He's really good, and very focused on his family. He, however, is amazingly busy, so we don't know how often he can meet.
U.: this is a man here for a few months for medical reasons. He is very humble, and very willing to listen. He was at church last Sunday, and meets with us whenever he can. He also attends our English classes.
J. missed church again, so no baptism date any more. He's still an investigator, but he cannot be baptized this transfer.
But, I did invite a random family to church, and the husband and wife came. They invited us over this week, and I feel they are genuinely good people. I'll keep you posted on them.
A. has a busy week this week, but this weekend we have a meeting with him again. No idea how that will go.

Emily, I want you to know that I played FARKLE with the branch here during FHE (family home evening). Dice are called kauliņi (little bones), which I found humorous. Anyway, a few of the members really got into the game, and I felt the heat while playing! It was great!

Viss (All.). Es jūs milu is I love you, in the plural form (meaning all of you).
Elder Argyle

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 9: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Summer's Here, tongues

All: 92.37KM (115,456 steps).
Oddest thing I ate? "Chinese" at the Fontaine Delisnaks place (where we usually get burgers). Not so good, actually. It had corn(?), peas (?!), and misc other veggies in it. Conclusion: not Chinese.

Yeah. so, there was the Fontaine Festival here (that's 43 bands from some 8 or so countries playing for three days -- July 3,4,5), which attracted a good number of people. There was a rally here. Yes, a car rally. It shows up every year. Well, we didn't realize the tram and buses would all be down, so we had to reschedule some meetings, as there was really no way to get across the river. Summer here also means tourists. Lots of them. So, when I'm out on the street, it's hard to find natives to talk to. We have talked to people from: Germany, Finland, England, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Israel, the USA, somewhere in the middle east, and a random Asian from an unspecified location. It's been a little crazy!

Summer also means random, hard rain showers, so I have seen that on and off for the past while. That also means massive humidity, which is less than comfortable. Oh, and there are beach parties here. There's the big "Baltic Beach Party" that comes once a year and fills Liepāja with people for two days. U., who worked at the last one, said the line for his workplace (Čili Pica) had a line that stretched about two blocks from opening time until past midnight. And that's expected to be even more busy at his new workplace this year! You can't even get onto the beach when this party hits (so I'm told). It'll be in two weeks, so I'll let you know after it hits. Final fun notes: randomly, our water or electricity will turn off, only to be on again in a few hours or by the days end. Ah, good ol' Commie engineering.

Yes. Our meetings. We have J., who will only meet with us in the park. He is very cool, a computer programmer, and speaks very good English. He also accepted a baptismal date, and has been meeting with us for the past while. We don't know when he is free (he works a lot and is looking for a job that actually has something to do with his specialty), but things have been going well.
A. and G. have had phone problems, so we can't call to set up meetings with them (they can't hear us when we call), so we just have to try a shoot-and-miss by randomly visiting them. Keep in mind, it's about 30 minutes by mikriņš or by bus (it's in Karosta), so we can't go out there overly often.
A. and I. have been doing all right. He is still pretty closed to our message, but fairly willing to keep meeting. We'll see what happens.
A. is a new man. We helped him move out of his place by where we live, and then he met with us in his new place in Karosta. Our first meeting was good--he told us his conversion story. Fortunately, it was a correct kind of conversion: one to the Lord. Not to a church. So, I do believe that he will accept Christ's church in the furthering of his conversion to Christ. I actually felt the spirit very strongly in our first and second meetings. The second one was interesting. After, while he was saying the closing prayer, he began to shout his prayer, and even broke into "tongues" during it. I have heard people pray in "tongues" before. I have never felt the spirit before when they have done it, and that has lead me to believe that isn't how the gift of tongues works. Especially because I have been working on that gift my whole mission, and have seen a great deal of fruition from it. But, this time, I did feel the spirit. That leads me to believe this man is very sincere, and has been lead to believe that's the way prayer should work, so he does it that way. He is honest and sincere, and I think all will be well.

That, I believe, is it for this week. I know God lives and that he loves us all. He wants to reach out to us (if you ever doubt, read Luke 15, especially the parable about the Prodigal Son, and remember that the Father is our Heavenly Father, and the wayward son is each of us. Note how He meets His son, and what He does for him). Viss. Es jūs milu.

Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July 2: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Jam, New Mission President, Airplanes, and 22

All: 95.06 km (118866 steps).
Letters received: Rachel (2 June or somewhere around there), Ashley (from May 20 or so), G+G A (May, and three from June), and G+G J. Ah, and a postcard from EUROPE from Robyn! Thanks to all!

This week, several things happened. One of our English students (J., by name), is a professional hairdresser. She was kind enough to chop my hair for a hefty discount (on account that we teach free English and she likes us), which was cool! But then, during English class the next day, she brought a a bucket of home-made strawberry jam (that she blended, made, and grew herself)! It was...probably the tastiest thing I have put into my mouth since arriving here (and I've had some rather tasty things). She then dropped by Saturday to give us a little more, this time with ice cream and waffles! She's absolutely fantastic!

Our "sports" this week was pretty much us standing in circles playing random games or playing catch, or kickball...but nothing was played for more than 20 minutes. We had our new investigator, J., there. I apologized that we weren't playing volleyball or some kind of sport (as we had planned to play volleyball, but all the nets were taken in a league), and he told me that it was OK, because, "While this isn't sports, it is fun!" So, that was good. Right before sports, Sister Kelly's 22nd birthday was celebrated by the missionaries, Jana, and Inese (Jana and Inese really planned it all, but we did help out a little by blowing up balloons and writing on them). To make the fun last longer, when we were at TGI Friday's in Rīga yesterday, we sang her happy birthday again, and she was given a monstrous sundae for free.'s little adventures...

Speaking of, President Watterson is gone. He's back at home now, having completed his three years as the mission president of the Baltic Mission. And the new mission president has moved in. President Dance. So, we flew from Liepāja to Rīga to meet him on July 1 (yesterday). I do believe that he's going to be good. And yes, we flew in an airplane. The prices for train, and bus between cities just went up (according to the news we saw in the airport, from turns out flying is the least expensive option...and the travel time was 30 minutes or so as opposed to 3+ hours). President Dance studied Latvian and Russian (as well as Japanese and a few others), so I'm excited to see where it all goes! Anyway, that's about it for the news from last week.

Two things from my study I wanted to pass along this week. James E Talmage made a profound statement in his book Jesus the Christ. It reads thusly, "The human mind is loath to search deeply into anything it desires not to believe." This is especially true in the religious sphere. I have found many that will not listen to anything because we are not of "their faith." "Do you believe in God?" I ask. "Yes," they reply. "Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior from sin?" "Yes." "I am here to talk about Jesus Christ, and how we can feel his love more in our lives." "What church are you from?...oh, not 'my church.' I won't listen to you." Because their family has been Provaslov (Russian Orthodox), or Lutheran, or Catholic, or whatever it may be for the past 4 generations, 6 generations, uz mužiem (for eternity), and they cannot betray the family tradition, they won't even listen to us talking about what they already believe. But, they do not believe as they do necessarily because they believe it, but because that has been the way things have been in their family for generations. It's probably the most frustrating thing to me when people "believe" something for tradition's sake alone. Now, if they have looked at the traditional religion, and studied the doctrines therein taught, and they themselves agree with it, and they believe it because they have chosen so to do, then I commend them. But to not want to believe or even consider that it could be true because it is not what their fathers believed is, in my opinion, one of Satan's most powerful stumbling blocks. He binds people to the dead in a way that I cannot fully understand so that the choices of the now dead govern the choices of their living ancestors. I believe that it is best to approach anything with the truth in mind: that you do not know everything about it. No person ever can know everything about something. They could know a lot, but not all. Every person could know just a little bit more, or something different than I. That is fact. And this is starting to sound like a soap box. Sorry about that. My point is that if people already close themselves off to new ideas simply because they fear their currently-held traditions may change if this new thing is able to persuade them, then they have just limited their ability to grow. If you enter no new territory, you cannot increase your boarders.

The other thing is this (and one that I am going to be working on this week and next, laikam): mercy comes to the merciful. Follow this scripture chain, to see what my line of thought was on this subject:
Matthew 7:1-2. God is a just God. He will return to us what we gave to people in this life. It is important to remember what He said in His perfect example of prayer, from Matthew 6:12. We are forgiven as we forgive. We are not forgiven if we do not forgive others. This is clearly taught from Matthew 18:23-35. Interesting tidbit--10,000 talents was a little more than $9,250,000 (1976 USD), and 100 pence was about $15 (1976 USD). Is there a difference? Uh...yeah. And we need to remember that our guilt against God is very large (as we break his commandments all the time, even when we try to do our best). Anything anybody could possibly do against us is much, much smaller. And if we cannot find it in ourselves to forgive them, God will not find it in agreement with justice to forgive us our larger debts. But, if we strive to follow him, and forgive others, we will be forgiven. That is a promise. Because, "9: Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10: I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (Doctrine and Covenants 64: 9-10). I will let you know that I have had a very hard time letting some things go. But, the wonderful thing about Christ's Atonement is that He felt everything we will ever feel: all sin, temptation, sicknesses, and the rest. He has power to take any of our negative feelings to Him. I have done so through sincere prayer, and I testify that the liberation has stood unparalleled in my life. The contrast was more striking than anything else I have yet experienced. And you, too, and feel that great liberation. I testify that it is possible, and I bear witness to the reality of its occurance.

I love you all. God bless!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )