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
( >/°¥< )

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