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
( >/°¥< )

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