Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oct 29: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Transfers, Stephen Covey, Funeral, Baptism, Conference Thing

All: 64.93KM (83252 steps).
Pictures: 1687 is from the "funeral"/farewell party for the Elders going home. The people are (from left to right): Elder Andrus, Elder Markle, in back by E. Markle is E. Brimley, then E. Lindhart, and I don't know the name of the Elder in the far back. By Lindhart is Sister Knight, Sister Kelley (in back), Sister Hagen, Sister Morley (behind me), me, and against the wall in front is Sister Wilson. In front is Elder Eddington, E. Racker, and E. Black. Yeah, it was a pretty good turnout. For dessert, we all had a snickers bar, and we happened to find candles there, so for no good reason, we put the two together.

1703 is myself, H. (who baptized), A. (who was baptized), and E. Black. More on this in a moment.

1695 is out of order, sorry. Sister Knight drew these two pictures, so I thought it'd be fun to photograph the portraitees next to their portraits. I thought she did quite a fantastic job!

OK, so the first question all have asked has been: "What happened with transfers?" So, here you go: my companion went home to America. So did E. Racker. I got Elder Brown's trainee (named Elder Weideman--I'll probably misspell it in the future, but it is correct in this instance), which makes me a senior companion. Who has no clue what he's doing. I don't know where anything is, all our investigators are gone, and the only thing the same is that I am in the same apartment. So...yeah. My district: Sisters Knight and Hagen, Me and E. Weideman, and E. Brown with a new trainee. So, our entire MTC group is together again. This is quite exciting for me, because E. Brown told me our focus is going to be on unity, and I couldn't imagine anybody easier to build that unity (as a district) with than them. Sister Morley and Kelley are staying in Imanta. Morley is training, and Kelley has Wilson. It will be rather interesting: there's only Elder Payne and a trainee in Imanta as far as Elders go (Latvian...I really didn't pay attention to what happened with the Russians). So, yeah.

Stephen Covey arrived for a seminar here. He decided to give a presentation to the missionaries. He actually gave some amazingly good ideas, and I had four pages full of notes (as his presentation was also laced with a great deal of doctrine and scripture). And a lot of good ideas for working with other people which I certainly will be using.

The "funeral" was a rousing success. It was amazing fun: with darts, food, an amazing song, and a fantastic (though hastily written) eulogy for the pair of them, rather than individualized eulogies. We had quite a few attendees, as well. We held this in the Āgenskalns apartment, and it almost had the feel of a clubhouse, because there were currently no missionaries living there. So it was our private place to go hang out. Anyway, it was great fun for our preparation day.

Now for the climax of the week and the transfer: we lost all our investigators. There was one that listened for quite a long time, prayed with real intent, and felt the spirit of the Lord tell him to be baptized. Yes, A. was baptized. There's a picture of us after the event. H. was the one to actually do the baptism. The turnout was a lot less than I hoped, but that's probably because A. decided to be baptized the day before the baptism was actually held. He is still glowing.

Two conferences. District conference and another one this morning (and the reason I'm so late getting this off). District conference was for the district of Latvia--all church members Latvia over. Elder Black decided to be very sick that morning, so we barely made it for the last half hour to fifteen minutes (just like last time, when the bus broke down. I seem to be shooting 0 for 2 so far on getting to those). This one was at the Imanta church, because Thomas S. Monson spoke directly to the members from Eastern Europe (as well as several from the Eastern European presidency). I hear it was amazing (this time, I can get copies of the talks written and study them). I also had the opportunity to see many of the amazing members from Beautiful Liepāja, which I liked a great deal! And, Ainārs was confirmed shortly after conference ended. All in all, it was a beautiful Sunday for me.

The other conference thing: there's a three day seminar for all religions not based in Latvia that work in Latvia. The thing is designed to aquaint the religious organizations with the laws, personality, and methods of work for Latvia and her people. Elder and Sister Boehm will attend all three days; Elder Payne and Grey attended yesterday, Elder Weideman and I attended today, and President and Sister Dance will attend tomorrow. It was very different from what I expected. And all were very respectful to everybody else. There were not too many people there, so it was quite easy to become friendly with each other. I was even able to help set up the projector for it! It was pretty cool, and a good experience for me.

Other things of interest: the food I'm eating is about the same. Elder Black and I were out saying goodbye to members Monday, and we left an appointment at 5, finding it dark as night outside. And rainy. Woo. Uh...There will be more later. I...kind of have a little emergency right now. We had two Estonian elders (who came to pick up trainees) stay at our place yesterday. And now Elder Black cannot find his passport (somewhat important to getting home). He called in a panic and asked us to come help him. So, I will be cutting this short. One thing really quickly: I saw Elder Fitzgerald (who's here for a trainee also), and we were able to chat it up a bit. I love that kid. And I remembered how amazing life is talking with him! That means I'll also be talking about the Fall next week. Sorry! I hate postponing so much! Loves and such to all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oct 22: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Lovely Rīga, Crazy Days, My Home, Newspaper

All: 67.82KM (86054)
First the pictures:

1624 is a picture of Stockmann and the Stockmann Blob, the Crazy Days mascot. A little odd, but whatever. I hope that you enjoy.

1627 is a shot of an ad. Īsts means real. On Jackson's face it reads, "Not real." Under Reaton it reads "Real." Then, the text off to the side reads, "Because we all miss the real thing." I just thought it was funny.

1642 is a shot of Rīga from a church tower. It, I have come to realize, is quite a pretty city.

1648 is a shot from the tower above towards our church. Behind the big hotel (Hotel Latvia -- that skyscraper behind the Provaslov church building) you'll see a green tower. That's the spire to an old Lutheran church. Our church is in the building right by that Lutheran one (not visible, for it's behind Hotel Latvia). We have the whole second floor to ourselves. We are currently looking for a place to build a new building, like in Imanta, but the cost of land is absurd.

1673 Here is the explanation for this picture: About three weeks ago, Inara (our public relations person for Riga) got a call requesting an interview for the newspaper. She accepted, and she asked any missionaries who would like to to come to the interview. Well, only Elder Black and I showed up, so we answered all the questions. And...last Saturday, we were published in the paper. So, I took a shot and sent it to you all. There I am, in Latvijas Avise. Cool, huh? They only mention me in the caption under the picture (and they spelled my name wrong, besides). But, that's nothing, really. It is still cool for me that I am in the newspaper! And, the article had no negative spin or anything. He simply presented the facts. The author even sent the rough draft to Inara so that she could check it for errors. I was quite impressed with his integrity.

So, a few things. First, where I live. I live in a wooden building. The only apartment with a toilet is ours. So, everyone else has to use the public ones. Ew. So, there's often a faint poop smell wafting through the building. Speaking of poop, we cannot flush our toilet paper down the toilet (because the pipe is too small for anything like that). And, if we do get the toilet all clogged, we actually cannot plunge the toilet. So, our best bet is to flush the toilet, turn the sink on in the adjacent shower closet, and then plunge the shower. It's been quite entertaining, let me tell ya. Other than that (and the swarms of odi (mosquitoes)(ods=one of them) that seem to be able to survive here even in the chillier weather) it's a great place! The mosquitoes actually are all disappearing, so it's quite nice.

Transfers are this Wednesday (the 29th). As my comp "dies" (finishes his mission and goes home to the U.S.), I'll be attending a seminar where Franklin Covey will be (it's apparently also about government in Latvia and such...I'm a little confused, to be honest), but I'll let ya know how that went. And the "funeral" (the "farewell party") (today) I will inform you about next week.

General Conference: we watched it in English (as was our encouragement, because it's important that we fully understand what they say).

One more thing: the longer I'm here, the more beautiful Rīga looks. As you can see from my not-so-good pictures, it's a lovely city. And I find more and more charm in the place each day.

Investigators: Well, things in this field have been...odd recently. So...after the majority of our investigators at the beginning of this transfer have either vanished or are no longer keeping commitments (and therefore, we had to drop them), we only have one investigator really plugging along. We also have a few new people, but I don't know how they'll do. So, I'll just talk about the one we know for sure right now.
A.: This guy is 20. Amazing. He has been teaching his family for the past while (who are Seventh Day Adventists) who were all introduced to that faith by his brother. He has built on that, and now his family is quite interested. He's not sure about a baptismal date, because he wants his family to be present, and so he's thinking about postponing it. But, whenever investigators in the past have done that, it's proven not good, because then Satan really starts working hard on them, and they fall. So, we're all about him not letting Satan kick him down.

Anyway, I wanted this time to talk a little about the plan that our Father in Heaven has for us, including the major events leading to that. More specifically, I want to teach about what happened before this life, our purpose in this life, and the challenges in this life.

Starting from the beginning, then. Before this life, we lived with God. He was and is our Father in Heaven. We are His spirit children. We, before this life, only had bodies of spirit--we didn't have flesh and bone bodies. But, our Heavenly Father did (D&C 130: 22--recall that this was given in 1843. That's after Christ's resurrection). And, as we wanted to become like our Father, He provided a plan for us to become more like him. This plan included us coming to an earth, where we would have parents of our flesh and bone bodies. We would them have the opportunity to grow and develop outside the physical presence of our Father in Heaven. It is, therefore, necessary for us to live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7). That way, we are able to grow the most, and to allow ourselves to become the most we can--with our Father's help.
Acts 17: 29, Hebrews 12: 9, Psalms 82: 6, Romans 8: 16, Ephesians 4: 6, D&C 93: 29, D&C 121: 7 (here, God is speaking to the prophet Joseph Smith, who is in prison at the time. Note the form of address). There are dozens of such scriptures throughout the Doctrine of Covenents, and in the Book of Mormon. I'll leave it at this for now.
Note that the Lord God states His purpose thusly: "For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1: 39). Thus we see that God will not leave us alone.

Then, as we all know, God created this earth. He did this through his Son, Jesus Christ (D&C 14: 9). He created Adam and Eve. They were given the freedom to choose. They were then given commandments (including a command not to eat from a certain tree in the garden). They were tempted by the devil and transgressed. They chose to eat of the fruit of that tree. Then they were cast out of the garden into the world. It is imperative to understand this event--called "the Fall of Adam and Eve," "the Fall of Man," or just "the Fall." All of God's plan rests on three evens. The first is the creation. The second is the Fall. The third is the atonement. None of these three events would mean anything without the other two. Because of the significance of the Fall, I want to spend all of next time just on that one subject. Some verses about the creation, first:
Genesis 1: 1-31, Gen. 2: 1-5 (a good account. We know enough about the creation from this account to suit our current purposes), D&C 14: 9 (please read the footnotes--there's cross refrences to the Bible that support this truth, also, including), John 1: 3, 1 Nephi 17: 36.

Then, we'll talk about the fall next time. If you'd like, you can read 2 Nephi 2 to prepare for that note. Until then, I love you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 15: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Trakās Dienas, Investigators Change Lots, The Restoration

All: 55.76 (71484). We had General Conference and a lot of bus sitting time, so we didn't walk too much. Anyway...

Today marks the beginning of Trakās Dienas (The Crazy Days) at Stockmann shopping center. They have ridiculously good sales on a few items, decent sales on a large number of things, and minor sales on most of the rest. Then, they just have their usual stuff buried in the mess of people. It's absolutely insane! But, very enjoyable. I got myself an 8GB thumb drive (for 18 Lats) and 4GB in 2 SD cards (for cameras) for 7 lats. It was quite the sale of goodies. I would have a picture, but the computer I have this time doesn't have a card reader. Next week, I'll send you the "crazy days" ghost, and what the place looks like at night. It's quite crazy, indeed.

Beyond that, conference was amazing! My favorite talks were the last talks of the first and second sessions. One was about how faith, hope, and charity work together (that's the first session's one) given by President Uchdorf. It was amazing, especially because I've been trying to think of how those work together and I've been studying them quite extensively recently. So, it was most helpful. Another was by Elder Bednar about how we can make our prayers more effective (which went well with his last talk on the same topic), and I immediately tried it. The power of my prayers has changed a good deal already. I can feel it. And it came from applying the thankfulness principle. It's amazing! Anyway, you can read them here if you want to! I loved them! (

Investigators: We just picked up some new ones. I don't know how they'll do, and I want all the time I can get for this next section, so I'll fill you in next week.

And now, I wanted to finish some thoughts about the foundation of the belief for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I spoke about the first part two weeks ago (Oct 1). Now, from the death of the apostles of Jesus Christ:

As people were not listening to the apostles, and even killing them, God retracted that leadership and the authority and power the apostles had. With no authorized leadership on the earth to receive revelation from God, the world fell into a great apostasy. Plain and precious truths were taken from the Bible, through erroneous translations and transcriptions as well as intentional removal by people who listened to Satan. What better way for Satan to keep the children of God from progressing than to make the truths of God hard to understand? Thus, mankind thought through religious questions and important matters (such as the very nature of God) through councils and after the thoughts of man, rather than seeking divine revelation from the Almighty. This resulted in much false doctrine being taught as truth, in ordinances (such as baptism) being changed, and the organization of the Church of Christ was changed. Twelve apostles and quorums of seventy were no longer found. And, most importantly, that authority to act in God's name was lost. For a long time, mankind searched for truth, but were unable to find it.

The apostles knew that a great apostasy was in the future, and warned the faithful saints of the Church of Christ to beware of it (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3, 1 Timothy 4: 1-4, 2 Timothy 4: 3-4). They even forsaw the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His church: Acts 3: 19-21. And this is nothing new, for even during Old Testiment times, they knew about it. Amos taught about it in Amos 8: 11-12. There is an abundance of information concerning this found in the writings of Nephi, a prophet of the Book of Mormon. He wrote slightly less than 600 years before the coming of Jesus Christ about all the problems that would arise in the latter days (our days), concerning the Bible's corruption and the false teachings that man would propagate: 1 Nephi 13: 24-26, 29, 1 Nephi 13: 38-41, 2 Nephi 26: 20-21, 2 Nephi 28: 3-6, 2 Nephi 27, 2 Nephi 28, 2 Nephi 29. The last three are entire chapters that very clearly describe what happened. Included in the last chapter (2 Nephi 29) is a little about the coming forth of the proofs God provides of the restoration, and people's rejection to it. I will talk more on that in a moment.

So, for years (more than 1000 of them) mankind was in a spiritual darkness. Many good souls saw that churches had strayed from the truth (people like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin and others), and tried to reform the church they saw to conform with the teaching of Christ as seen in the Bible. This created a scene where religion was more thought about, and where people recognized the need for a reform. However, a reform could not return the fullness. A restoration was required. Restore means to return to the state it was in originally. It was necessary that God restore His authority, to restore the fullness of truth, and to re-establish His church.

In America, in 1820, there lived a boy who was seeking the truth. He saw the religious confusion in the world at the time, and wanted to know where God's full truth could be found. He attended many meetings of different churches, but did not feel that anything felt correct. He studied the Bible often, for he know that truth could be found in the Bible. One day, he was reading in the Epistle of James. This is what he read: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering" (James 1: 5-6). He said when he read these verses, they entered into his heart with great force. He thought about them again and again, and finally came to the conclusion that he needed to ask God, or remain in confusion.

He went out to a secluded location in the woods by his home, so as not to be interrupted in his prayer. He knelt, and began to pray aloud. What happened next is a miracle, and I wish to use his own words. He said, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" Think for a moment. Re-read what Joseph said happened as he prayed. This is the most important thing to have happened in the history of the world since Christ's resurrection. "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. In that vision, Joseph Smith learned that Christ's church was no longer on the earth, and that false doctrines abounded. He was then told that through him, the fullness of truth would be restored, and that all would be restored. Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet in these, the latter days.

I testify that through Joseph Smith, all that was in the church established by Jesus Christ Himself when he walked the earth is again on earth. All the authority, power, teachings, doctrines, and knowledge is available. If we were to talk about the difference between the LDS church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and other churches, I would tell you that only the LDS church has the full power and authority of God to govern the church on the earth. It is the only living church that receives direct revelation through a living prophet.

God, through Joseph Smith, provided convincing evidence of the divinity of Joseph's calling. That evidence is in a book. This book is the Book of Mormon. God, knowing that confusion and misinformation would abound after 1000+ years of darkness, provided another witness of Christ. The Book of Mormon, Another Testiment of Jesus Christ, is that evidence. Joseph Smith translated this book from ancient records buried in the ground. In its pages, we learn the fullness of the gospel, and we gain ever more convincing evidence that Jesus is the Christ. I do not want you to take my word for it. I know that these things are true because I followed the council of James. I have prayed to the Almighty God and asked if these things were true. I have received a witness that they are. I have not seen angels, nor have I beheld God the Father or Jesus Christ. I have had no marvelous visions. But the power of the Holy Ghost bore record so powerfully, that I cannot deny the truth of what I know. During the introduction of the Book of Mormon, the purpose of the book is made clear, as well as the requirements for one to gain a witness of that book: "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). Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah."
This, I have tried, and know it to be true. This is why I want so much for all who read the words I type to begin reading the Book of Mormon. Either specific chapters or just from the beginning. You can begin reading it online here: I testify to you that your faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, will grow and expand as you read this book. And through it, you can truly know all that was promised. Knowing that the book is true, you will know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. That means all that was restored through him truly comes from God. That means God's church, the one He leads through revelation, is again on the earth, with all the authority, power, and teachings thereof. I testify again that it truly is on the earth.

Again, prophets and scripture writers knew this was going to happen, and told us about it in the scriptures. There are many scriptures concerning this. I will simply list a few, and you can see how these scriptures support the truth of the restoration. First, however, I wish to start with this pair of scriptures:
Ephesians 1: 10. This is literally fulfilled. Doctrine and Covenants (the scripture that was recorded by latter-day prophets--they wrote the revelations they received just as Moses and Amos and all the rest of the prophets did) briefly summerized what was gathered together: D&C 128: 18-21. Now, for the other verses. Please read these carefully and prayerfully:
Isaiah 29: 13-14, Ezekiel 37: 15-19, Isaiah 29: 4 CR 2 Nephi 26: 14-17, Isaiah 29: 11 (CR Joseph Smith History 1: 63-65, 2 Nephi 27: 1-26), 2 Nephi 3: 11-15, 1 Nephi 15: 13, 2 Nephi 27, 2 Nephi 29, Mormon 8: 16, Revelation 14: 6 (about Moroni): all speak of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration.

As for scriptural support of the Book of Mormon, please read the introduction of the Book of Mormon, then see the following references:
Concerning the people in the story: Genesis 11: 9 CR Ether 1: 33; Genesis 49: 22 refers to the family of the tribe of Joseph that traveled to the Americas. John 10: 16 CR 3 Nephi 15: 21-24 shows that Christ knew about the people in the Book of Mormon. The importance of a second witness are these: 2 Nephi 29: 7-11, 2 Nephi 28: 29-30.

And, because I want all to feel the joy and peace that I have felt from these truths, I would like to discuss prayer. Prayer is a true communication with God. Therefore, we pray in our own words. We begin prayer by addressing our Father in Heaven. Something as simple as saying "Dear Heavenly Father" or "Father in Heaven." We then speak the feelings of our heart. This includes thanking Him for our blessings, asking for help, asking if the Book of Mormon is true, etc. It's important to ask in faith, and truly be ready to receive any answer from God. We then end our prayers with the phrase, "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." Christ is our mediator with the Father, and therefore our prayers go through Him. Therefore, we do it in His name. There are many references to prayer and how the Holy Ghost answers our prayers in the scriptures. I site only a few: James 1: 5-6, John 14: 26, Matthew 6: 6-8, Matthew 7: 7-8, Matthew 21: 22, Galatians 5: 22, Alma 5: 45-46, 3 Nephi 18: 20, Moroni 7: 26-27, 29, D&C 8: 2-3, D&C 9: 8, Moroni 10: 3-5.

You may also want to read the entirety of Joseph Smith's testimony, called Joseph Smith History. These are his own words as to what happened and his testimony of those things.

Now, if you so feel to, please read all those references and truly search for truth. I know that God does answer all sincere prayers. He loves us, and wants us to be happy. He, therefore, has given us all the knowledge we need to trust in Him, to love Him, and to know what we must do. I will share some of the doctrines that have brought such joy and peace to me in the coming weeks. Please study everything I say for yourselves, and pray to Him who knows all truth, even God the Eternal Father.

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oct 8: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Trip to Tallinn, and a Wonderful Investigator

All: 65.29 (83706). So, pics are these: A glimpse of the gorgeous countryside on the way to Tallinn! It turns out it's hard to take pictures out of dirty bus windows, especially when said bus is cruising down the highway! So, the country is actually a lot better looking than that picture, but that's one of few that actually turned out. So...yeah.
Then, a shot just outside the Prism (basically the same idea as Rimi--it's a huge supermarket with everything you could ever want in it) looking towards Tallinn. It's a gorgeous city! And, it has free wireless internet that you can use anywhere in the city. G3, too. Good on them!
Then, if any of you start to think gas is expensive where you live, this is a glimpse at the price per liter here. I saw this sign and thought you all would like to know that it could always be worse.
The final image is just one that I shot for fun. It was way gorgeous, and I couldn't help myself. It's very pretty here in the fall. I would recommend to all who wish to travel here to do it about this time of year. It's chillier, but much, much prettier. But, if you wait two more weeks, all the leaves will be gone (autumn is very short here), so you'll have to plan for the first week or so in October.

Quick note on zone conference: zone confereces are held in each country of the mission. Each country is divided into two zones: the language of that country, and Russian. So, all people cluster together in the country's mission's center. So, Estonia: Tallinn. Latvia: Rīga. Lithuania: uh...don't know. Terrible, huh? So, the missionaries who speak the two languages gather together in the city and we chat. So, for me, it's in Rīga. And, of course, they happen in English (as it'd be impossible to do Latvian and Russian at the same time!). We do practices and roleplays and such in our language, but the rest is in English. And that is zone conferences.

Now, I'll quickly tell my Tallinn tale, and then go through investigators and be done. I'm kinda short on time (we just finished zone conference and I need to go quickly to get to a meeting soon), so you'll have to wait until next week for the rest of my discussion on the foundation for our church.

Tallinn. So, once upon a time, I went to Tallinn. I got a stamp in my passport, paid a lot of Euros, and returned to Rīga. That was quite a long time ago. I then came from Beautiful Liepāja to Rīga to actually get the living permit. I was rushed leaving, so my suit coat jacket was left home. It wasn't until I was in Rīga that I realized my passport was in my suit coat. So...back to Beautiful Liepāja I went. I returned only a few days afterwords and got all my stuff alone. So, I had a valid living permit, good until May. Well, part-way through last transfer (so, probably 4-5 weeks ago) I get a call saying that my x-ray papers were lost (those are required to get a visa idea why). So, I got those again. Then, about two weeks ago I get a call saying, "Hey, some of your papers for your visa are lost, so you need to go apply for it again." So, I signed everything and headed up to Tallinn yesterday (it's a 4+ hour bus ride there...5+ back (because of traffic, it took us 45 minutes just to leave the Tallinn...uh...rajons). (station?) I was with three other Elders: Widamin (who is Elder Brown's comp), Barnes, and Northrupe. We ate at a pizza place, then went to the agency. Anyway, Barnes had the responsibility for everything there. We got to the embassy, and he tosses all four of our packets down on the thing, and the lady takes them into the back to look them over. There's a line of other people getting their living permits who are serviced while she's looking through our stuff. It's down to two people and us. The lady comes back, calls over E. Widaman (no idea how to spell his name...sorry), and has him sign in the right place. He pays. He's good. Next up: E. Northrupe. Same thing. E. Barnes. No problem. Then me. "I have a question for you," says the lady working there.

"Why exactly do you want to extend?" I tell her I was told my papers were lost and I had to redo them so that all was well. Her: "Who told you that?" Our mission office told me. I could give them a call. I do. Actually, I call Valaris, who is our middle-man with the government. He tells me to call S. Harper (who works in the office), because she knows all of that stuff. I then call her. She tells me Valaris called and told her I had to do it again. She wasn't told more than that. So, I return to Valaris. He asks me to call tomorrow, when he can figure out exactly what's going on. By this time, the lady has checked all the records and comes back. "You have a valid permit in your passport. It's good through May. I don't see that it was rejected or canceled. What did you hear?" Well, I know no more than before. She tells me I'm probably good then, and I have no reason to be there. I get all my stuff back, and we'll see what happens and, as they say in Latvian, "Tieši kas par lietu." So, yeah. I returned with 10 (which magically became 9 on the bus ride home) boxes of the famed Alma Jogurt, baked apple flavor (which pretty much tastes like a liquid, creamy apple pie...way scrumptious!). These I sold today. And I didn't even break even! Curses! Oh well. So, basically, I spent 9 hours on a hot bus yesterday to read some 7 chapters of the Book of Mormon (in Latvian), a chapter in Lauva, Ragana, un Drebju Skapis (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Latvian), and write a lengthy letter to some good friends. Oh, and carry back a lot of liters of jogurt. Whatever. I'm not overly concerned about it. The only bummer is that I missed our meeting with an amazing investigator.

Which brings us to: investigators!
A.: He's the amazing one. He's understood everything we've taught him. He reads. He prays. He fasts. He already has done all those things. He understands how to get answers to prayers. He's amazing! He went to visit his family last week. They are 7th Day Adventists. 7th Days are known for knowing their Bibles very well. The majority of them actually know what they believe, study the scriptures avidly, and strive to live the teachings of Christ. I have great respect for them. The only concern: will his family be ok with him joining another church? Well, from what I heard, he left several pamphlets with his family and they want some Books of Mormon, as they want to read from them. A. also wants to arrange a time when we can meet with his whole family to teach them. They live a good distance from Rīga, so it will be interesting to see when they can meet. But, I must say, I had re-affirmed to me that people who truly seek for the truth exist here, and are waiting for us to find them.
J.: This family is doing well. The daughter understands pretty much everything. The father understands things very clearly as well. The mother knows what she must do, but doesn't quite understand the doctrine as clearly. But, they are keeping commitments and doing quite well. I love them to death.
H.: Doing well. Haven't been able to get a hold of him this week. We're thinking it's work related. Or, maybe a letdown. We'll see.
J.: This is the older gentleman. He's doing well. He's reading, praying, and growing in faith. Good guy.
M.: This guy likes to sin, hates his life, and refuses to change. So, our meetings are basically teaching him how to use the atonement to lose the sin so that he can find happiness. Because "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). He's a good guy, though!

So, lots of good people!!! I'm way excited to see what lies on the horizon this week! Until then.
Es jūs mīlu!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oct 1: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Sigulda, Birthday Parties, and Microsoft Chicken

For All: 62.62KM (80285 steps).
Sigulda. It was way fun. The view is gorgeous from the castle tower (IMG_0727), from the gondola (a suspended car above the valley that travels probably about .5KM across--way fun!) (IMG_0779), and everywhere else! I loved it! I also went strolling around Rīga a little, and found it's not as terrible a city as I thought! I actually found that it can be quite beautiful (IMG_1309). Please forgive the terrible quality of the shots: I only have a cheap point and shoot camera from a pawn shop!

Random humor: All who know me know I can't stand Microsoft, especially Windows. Windows Vista, humerically enough, translates into "Windows [foreign word, no change] chicken." So, who wants chicken running a-muck on their computer? Not I!

Elder Black is feeling quite better. Thank you all for your concern and care! He appreciated it. We both still have a little bit of something that bites occasionally, but it's not too bad normally.
Many asked about general conference. We'll be watching it one week late, but watch it we will. I will probably be able to understand it this time (I got almost nothing out of the last one!), so I'll have some inspiration from that. Everyone else, you can watch our general conference online (in your pick of languages: I recommend it. Here, several members have already received talks that general authorities will be giving, and have been in the process of translating it for the past little while. It will then be dubbed, and we'll watch it next week for that reason.

Another thing: Elder Racker had a little birthday shindig at TGI Friday's (the restaurant...yes, we have it here, too). We all went to enjoy that, and in Sigulda, we had a little party for him with our group at lunch time! I am currently planning the going-home "funeral" for Racker and Black (as they go home at the same time), so there are more zany festivals on the way!

There have also been some changes in the mission since President Dance came in. Here are a few of them:
We no longer count contacts. Our focus has shifted to working with members.
Culture days are no more, so we take field-trips on preparation days when occasion permits. Unfortunately, we can no longer go very far, as we must be back in town at 18:00 to keep working! Mission leadership changed a lot. We are focusing very heavily on getting 15 lessons a week. I am proud to say Black and I did that last week! And some other minor things....I think that covers all the major changes.

I think that, with that little bit of update, it's time for what I've promised. This is a little background information that we know to be true. It's important for all to know this background info, so that they know how God works a little better, and to know what and who God is. Here we go:

God is our loving Father in heaven. This is literal. God loves us. He knows us. He wants us to be happy in this life and return to live with Him again after this life. He wants to talk with us now. That's possible through sincere prayer. It's very important to understand this simple fact: God is not some unknowable thing controlling the universe. He is knowable, understandable, and personable. He feels love towards us, for He has thoughts, passions, and feelings. He has a plan for us that comes from His love for us. This plan allows us to grow and develop here.

God, as our Father, desires that we are successful in this life. He has given us several aids to do this. One of these helps is a family here. This gives us the opportunity to grow in a loving environment, and to support each other in all things. Families were designed by God to be eternal units, in which we grow to love one another, and then after this life, we have the opportunity to live together forever. Families also help us to grow in the gospel together. I also personally believe that as we live in a family, we come to understand God more. We feel those strong feelings of love towards our family members, our children, and we can understand how He feels towards us. It allows us to feel more confident in calling upon Him (Matthew 7: 9-11).

Before moving on to read more, perhaps you'd like to check in the scriptures where God's nature is described to us. Here you go:
Bible (only a few): Matthew 5: 48; John 3: 16-17; Acts 17: 27-29; Romans 8: 16; Hebrews 12: 9; 1 John 4: 7-9
Book of Mormon (again, only a few): 1 Nephi 17: 36; 2 Nephi 9: 6; Mosiah 4: 9; 3 Nephi 12: 48; 3 Nephi 14: 9-11; 3 Nephi 27: 13-22
Doctrine and Covenants (very few): D&C 38: 1-3; D&C 130: 22; (Pearl of Great Price) Moses 1: 39

God has given us another means of help in this life, so that we can clearly know and understand him. This is prophets. Prophets are people who are called by God. You'll remember Moses as an example of a prophet from the Old Testament. He was given power from God to lead the people of God from captivity. He was able to split the Red Sea with this power God gave him. God also gave His people commandments through Moses. Prophets have revealed to them God's will and commandments that they then give to God's people - those who have covenanted with Him, and therefore are His. Prophets are also given all the power and authority needed to do this: this includes the power and authority to to heal in Christ's name, baptize, and confirm the Holy Ghost (among other things). You'll recall from Acts in the Bible that the apostles had this power given to them from Jesus Christ (Matthew 10: 1 or Luke 9: 1). This is supported in the Book of Mormon, when Jesus Christ, then a resurrected Being, gave this same authority to his apostles that he had chosen on the American continent (Moroni 2: 2 (1-3)) This is again supported in Acts 8:18. In order to be a prophet for the world, one MUST be called of God and receive this power and authority from God by one authorized to give said power and authority (Hebrews 5: 4; John 15: 16). That is the key characteristic of a prophet. Through prophets, we know what we must do to know God, and to navigate through this perilous life. Prophets write their revelations and teachings down in what becomes scripture. These are available to us to learn from (Jacob 4: 4, 6). The Bible was written in this fashion, with some additional books of explanation, songs, and other writings to inspire and teach us. So was the Book of Mormon written. God has always worked through prophets (Amos 3: 7).

People, as we can see from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, don't always listen to prophets. How they reacted to Christ is the perfect example. One of His roles was to act as a prophet. He prophesied of things to come, He had the authority from God to heal and to do all that was necessary. People had fallen from the fullness of truth. Christ was there to restore it. He organized His church (Ephesians 4: 11-14). This was done so that the doctrine would stay pure and unchanged. Most importantly, however, He completed the atonement, allowing us to return to God again. This is the greatest of all gifts God has given us in this life. As Christ's atonement is at the core of the gospel in all things, I will talk about it again and again.

After Christ died, his apostles taught and continued Christ's church. But, people also rejected them, and eventually slew them. The power and authority of God to be a prophet, to give the Holy Ghost, to baptize--was lost. The world then fell into a great apostasy.
Terms: we are given two terms from scripture to describe time periods. A dispensation is a period of time when there is a prophet on the earth authorized to preach to the world. Apostasy is when an individual or group of people choose to disregard, distort, or disobey any gospel principal or ordinance, or when they reject the Lord's prophets. They fall from truth and are in a state of spiritual darkness. When apostasy is widespread and the larger group of people do those things, then God takes His prophets from the earth until the world is ready to hear and obey (thereby benefiting from this important aid God has given us).

But, as God has always done, when the world was ready to accept Him and His prophets again, we called another prophet. Next week (I hope), I will tell you how that happened in our days. I can tell you that I know we have a living prophet today. He has all the authority and power from God to do all that is required. He receives revelation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has 12 apostles, and we have the same organization as did the church during the times of Christ, for Christ Himself is at the head His church today.

Next week, there are two tricky situations making my writing a full letter questionable. We have preparation day on Tuesday (as our zone conference will be Wednesday), and I have to go to Tallinn, in Estonia. Latvia apparently (or someone between me and the office) lost my paperwork, and so Latvia has no proof that I have a visa. This means I need to go renew it (even though I registered in Liepāja with my valid visa and it's still good until May). Whatever. I'll let you know how that is. I will be doing that on Tuesday, so I will most likely e-mail on Wednesday quickly during lunch or something.

Es jūs milu! I pray for you all!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )