Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sept 23: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Last Week's Tales, New Tales, Exciting Tales of All Kinds, Randomness, And Trials

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 6:32 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Last Week's Tales, New Tales, Exciting Tales of All Kinds, Randomness, and Trials

All: Whew! So, we're 108,641 steps (84.73KM) farther than last week.

We'll start with the catch-up from last week: We were walking out to an area called "Satiksmes." We, naturally, were talking to everybody that we met on the way. And one guy, a "čigān" (gypsy-man) invited us to their "place." He walked about a block with us to a little camp, wherein were a bunch of čigāni. They had built themselves a bathhouse (sauna) (pirts in Latvian), and the guy there invited us into the sauna for a little bit, and it was a lot nicer than any sauna that I've been in before. Diemžēl, we can't go back and use it again. But he said that we're all welcome, any time, to come and share in the word of God, for they are all religious there. We haven't yet taken him up on that, but we will, no worries. It was just so random...
Then, I think that same night, we knocked into an old lady who invited us in. She was in tears as she told us that her dēliņš (little son--son in diminutive) was dead. He was found dead some time ago. She's still really sad about it. Her name was Anasta.. There was also a lady named Mar. there, who was interested in a Book of Mormon in Russian. So, while I taught the more 'with-it' Mar., my comp talked with Anasta.. She wound up loving him so much that she pulled out a bunch of silver spoons and gave him three, then realized that he had a friend with him, and gave me one. She also gave him a spring-scale for up to 10KG that she made with her dear son. So, probably one of the last keep-sakes of her deceased son she gave to my comp. It was, overall, one of the most interesting lessons I have ever taught: one lady who's a little tipsy, but still thinkin' alright sitting on the bed, another lady bursting into random tears and giving us all kinds of keepsakes, telling my comp how much he looked like her son. Way interesting.
Then, the day that the Čakstes party was going on, we went out to find people to teach. Now, I want to use this story to testify to the power of prayer, and especially the prayer of faith. We were knocking, and hadn't had any success or even nice people for a few floors (not unusual), but I was starting to feel a little hopeless. So, I, in prayer, told my Heavenly Father that I knew there was somebody in this stairwell waiting for us, because we had felt prompted to knock in that building. So, we kept going. I told the Lord that I needed help focusing, so that when we found that person, I'd be ready to teach. And, as soon as I finished my prayer, Ines. opened the door. She cheerfully invited us in. She pacienāja us with cookies and tea and was spiritually minded, and ready to accept that there may be a prophet today. She told us that she'd pray about it. She's way nice, and looks as though she will prove to be a great strength to the church here. She's tough to meet with, though, since she's a cop (like Viesturs), but we'll work something out.

So...that's from last week. Q+A from this week: We're moving because I'm the assistant group leader, and our current apartment is actually quite scary in the dark (since there are no lights in the back and there are often drunks), so we'll be moving to the basically-safer area wherein the new church is located. I'm not too happy to tell the nice landlady of ours that we'll have to leave, but we'll try to work out a compromise so that she still doesn't get hosed.

4713: From the bridge going into Aizupes (just a little farther than Ozolnieki). It was a gorgeous day, and the river was calm and the scene unbelievably quaint.
4740: The same view, but that night as we walked back to the bus stop (we decided to walk to the stop across the river, hoping that another bus would come by there. We wound up having to take a taxi, but had a very good conversation with a nice lady who is interested in English and probably in the Gospel--I couldn't tell...)
4761: This is a funny ad hanging up at bus stops. We couldn't help ourselves...
4767: We found this behind a bunch of domes (mājas), and again, we couldn't help ourselves.
Then, we found a very interesting person this week. Mār., by name. He's 100% sure that the Book of Mormon is authentic, citing about eight other cases where metal plates have been found containing ancient writings. He talked also of Hebrew carvings that were found in South America, and it's obvious from some other half-dozen factors that they were a holy, God-fearing people. He, when we showed him the Book of Mormon, and he opened it to check its spiritual value, he was surprised. He said, "It doesn't matter to which page I open, when I put my hand over it, it burns my hand! I don't want to blaspheme, but I believe this book is more powerful than the Bible!" He then told us how large its spiritual aura was, and how large our auras were. It was quite interesting, because he also said that there is a feeling about our churches (meaning the people in the church) and church buildings that he has not felt anywhere else before. And that he verily believes that we have the most powerful force out of anything he has ever encountered. He's a seeker of spiritual knowledge and a hunter of spiritual artifacts, by the way, so he knows far more about more churches than I ever thought anybody would know.
P.S. he LOVED the Doctrine and Covenants, too.

Other than that...we've started up visiting teaching here in Jelgava. There are two programs of immense importance in the church--we call them Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. Home teaching is done by the priesthood, and visiting teaching is done by the women. It's basically the same thing: two people from the congregation visit another family or two in the congregation and find out how they're doing, teach a spiritual lesson, and are available to help if the family ever needs anything. This is the way that the Lord has provided for the saints to care for one another and strengthen one another. We haven't enough priesthood to start home teaching, but we just started visiting teaching. So, since it is just beginning, my companion and I went with Māsa Šulca visiting teaching--yes, we were visiting teachers. Cool, huh? Overall, it went pretty well.

Another exciting tale: there is a tirdziņš (little store) just across from our apartment, and while looking at it quickly before we went in, I found something I've been searching for my whole mission: a Latvian-to-Latvian dictionary (like the ones in English that explain English words in English)!! I quickly bought it! And, I found a thesaurus, which is another thing that I've been hunting for for a long time.

I can also add Tīrkultūra to my list of interesting things I've put in my mouth. That translates to "pure culture," whatever that is. It's a milk based product that has fruit in it. It tasted a little bit like kefirs (rotted milk), but not as strong, and I actually liked it.

Now, on to my spiritual thought:
I am frequently asked a question similar to the following: "How can God exist if there is so much bad in the world?" The question is asked as though God, if He really existed and loved us, would never allow anything bad to ever happen to us. So, since bad happens, many narrowly think that means there is no God, which supposition is quite far from reality. I tell people asking/stating this that God does exist, and that He loves them as He loves me, and that He desires to help. They almost always make some gesture or sound that shows that they cannot believe such things about God. I hope that with the following explanation, it will be clearer.

First, Christ knows exactly how we feel. He has "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53: 3-5). He has literally felt all of those things--including physical, emotional, and spiritual pains and discomforts (Alma 7: 11). Why? So that He will know, physically, truly, how we feel. It allows Christ to be even more merciful--because He's not just sympathetic, but empathetic (Alma 7: 12). By "descend[ing] below all things" (D&C 88: 6), Christ gained power over all those things (Alma 7: 13) and understands all those things (D&C 88: 6). Thus, because of the atonement of Christ--His suffering for all our sins, weaknesses, temptations, and His overcoming death, as well--we all have the ability to repent, change, and improve (Mosiah 3: 19; Helaman 14: 15-17) if we will follow His will and repent (Helaman 14: 18; Helaman 5: 11; D&C 19: 16-19).

Now, from a God who would allow One of His children--Christ--to suffer so much for us, so that through Him we can overcome our weaknesses, we can expect nothing that is going to be for our ill. Everything God does, and all that happens to us, helps us learn and grow (2 Nephi 2: 2). But, people are not perfect (Romans 3: 23), and often cause others to suffer. And often, bad things just happen--we live in a world that is imperfect. We all have a lot of problems and unpleasant occurrences (in Latvian called nepatikšanas), but we don't need to worry--God is there to support us (Psalms 34: 19, 17; Exodus 3: 7-8). Remember, we have no reason to fear, for Christ has overcome the world (John 16: 33) . Knowing this, we can trust God, and He will deliver and support us(Alma 36: 3; 2 Nephi 4: 18-20).

These things (nepatikšanas) happen so we can learn, perfect ourselves, and grow. God uses such times to refine us. Gold and silver are heated in a furnace to very high temperatures when they are refined. This heat allows the impurities (dross) to be separated out, and then removed, leaving behind the pure metal. We are likened to precious metals, and God is the refiner (Malachi 3: 2-3). Sin and imperfection is the dross (Zechariah 13: 9). God can and will deliver us from that furnace, if we have faith in Him (Daniel 3: 17, 23-28, Mormon 8: 23-24). Thus, God uses moments when we can grow to improve us and refine us (Ezekiel 22: 17-22).

These problems we have come from our choices, what life gives us, and what people do against us. If we keep our faith--or trust--that God will help us, and if we do all we can, then God can bless us and delivers us (Alma 4: 12-14). During hardships, we can pray for help to endure them. Note in the following prayer that the prophet Alma doesn't pray that he'll have no trials, but for strength to endure trials WHEN they come (Alma 31: 33, 35, 37-38). We will have afflictions (D&C 24: 8), but our loving Father is with us; if we do not forget Him and remain constant in our actions, He helps us palpably (Jacob 3: 1-2).

How many of us have prayed like Joseph Smith did in prison (D&C 121: 1-6)? That is, prayed that God would change everything for us or for others. The Lord's response is very instructive (D&C 121: 7-15). "Afflictions shall be but a short moment." And the persecutors will receive justice (D&C 121: 24-25).

Two stories to illustrate how this works. First, from the Bible:
Acts 12: 1-11; Acts 16: 22-26. Granted, these are two stories, but they are very similar. Note their feeling. Note the displays of faith from the church and from the Apostles themselves (remember faith in=confidence and trust in). God delivers them. They still have some unpleasant things that happen to them (like getting beaten with many stripes or guarded by 16 men), but because of their faith and steadiness, God delivers them.

The second is a little more illustrative, so there is a lot more detail in it. These people strongly believed in God. They had already fled from a wicked king who would have had them all killed. But still, bad things happened to these people.
Mosiah 24: 9-24. I want to point out that God did not free them immediately--but He did visit them in their afflictions, and strengthened them. And because they never lost their trust and continued strong, God delivered them.

I end with the following from God to the prophet Joseph Smith, while he was in prison: D&C 122: 5-7. Wow! Those are horrible, horrible things. But they will be consecrated for his good (2 Nephi 2: 2). Then follows this powerful statement: D&C 122: 8. Again, wow! And God comforts His son: D&C 122: 9.

I know that we will have afflictions and trials, and that we all have weaknesses. I also know, that God knows this. If we allow Him to use these opportunities to help us grow, then we will become more godlike with each affliction. That is why Paul gloried in affliction (2 Corinthians 12: 8-10). I know that God will strengthen us and support us. And I know that He does. Faith really does call forth miracles. I have seen that in just the last week or so plentifully, and I know it to be true. And I have felt His patience and love while I struggle with weaknesses, addictions, and problems. He does help us overcome.

Keep reading, working your faith, and growing. God lives. If you don't know that for sure yet, you can find out!
Ar mīlestību (With love),
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sept 16: Baltic Chŗonīcļe:

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 5:42 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe:

Faith's way neat, isn't it? I've been exercising a lot more faith recently in finding people to teach. Usually, I kinda hope that we'll find somebody in a dome (māja...building complex--er apartments. Whatever. The things in the pictures), and I'm not really confident that there are people there. But recently, I've been praying while we're in a place, and telling God that I feel there is somebody here--and a plea to guide me to them. The past two times in a row when I've done that, almost as soon as I told the Lord I had that confidence, and ended my prayer, a door opened and the person let us in. It's been amazing to see that just having that confidence in the unseen can lead to such occurrences. I love it!

All: 94,122 (73.41KM).

First: Pictures:
Top--Knocking on the edge of Satiskmes mikrorajons. See the rainbow?
Next--Knocking on the other edge of Satiskmes mikrorajons, facing the direction of where the first picture was taken. You can see the evening light bathing Satiksmes mikrorajona most dense spot. These are the domes (Russian: Доме. It's māja in Latvian. It means home), and there are usually some 72-120 apartments (dzivoklis is one in Latvian) in each one. How interesting is it that this urban scene, which before would not have been too wonderful to me, now is remarkably beautiful to me? Anyway, here are a few views of gorgeous Latvia.
Third--It was the 150th birthday of Jānis Čakste (the first president of Latvia). So, the current president came down, and there was a big hubbub by the statue of Jānis. Here's a scene from it--we only took a few pictures, then left to go knocking before the real show started, so...whatev. But we taught an amazing lesson...More on that, later.

* The tiny apartment in the church will be for only one companionship. It's a small bedroom (with two beds (couches)) and a wardrobe; it'll have not much room to roam. The apartment is actually a wing of the church--it's maybe 60 m^2 or less, I would guess, with most of that being a corridor and kitchen. We will be the caretakers of it. We do have a great apartment now, because the lady has been so good to us. I'm a little nervous to find out what will happen when I have to tell her that we're moving out. This one will be a little more expensive than the one I'm in now, but it's part of the church building, which is a lot better quality for our money. We would be moving in in 3.5 weeks (if all works out).
* Yes. Mission president. He does a lot. He visits the branches of the three different countries of the mission (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), and speaks in each when he's there (there's seven of those in Latvia alone). Since there isn't a stake here, he also does everything that a stake president would do. Plus he coordinates all activities between missionaries and the members through the district presidency. And then he still has all kinds of other things to worry about--oh, and he is responsible to lead all the missionaries in the Baltics to find and baptize and retain worthy investigators. Add all of that together, and he's a pretty busy guy.
* We returned to the lady with the open heart. Her name was "Well," as in a well of water. We gave her a Russian Book of Mormon. She had a guy in her dzivoklis who was Latvian, but they both agreed to read it. They were not comfortable with us going back very soon to talk about it, or calling her, so I'll make note of her in our area book and missionaries in half a year or so will visit her.
* The guy in Aizupes sang to us in Russian, Italian, Latvian, and English. It was quite a song.
* Zone Conference was way good in that it answered a lot of my questions. I have been especially wondering how I can make my prayers better. More uplifting, a more real connection to God. A prayer that truly comes from my heart. And Sister Dance talked about that, specifically. And many other things.

Random note: my comp, Elder Johnson, contacted Igors Kaljejs (guessing on how to spell his name), who is a musician in Latvia. Quite a famous one, too. I've heard his stuff on the radio. And maybe we'll have a lesson with him sometime. That'd be rad--baptize a nationally famous musician.

Andy was baptized also. That's the fourth picture there. The one who performed the baptism is Verners, who was baptized not very long ago. Andy is amazing! He has spoken with us before, but never really was overly interested. We gave him a Book of Mormon a few weeks ago, and in five days he read 1st and 2nd Nephi, and part of Jacob. He understood almost all of it, because he listened to the Spirit, and allowed Him to teach him. We tried to teach the plan of salvation, from the pre-earth life to this life and the fall, but he taught us (because it's all in 1st and 2nd Nephi). It was really cool. Anyway, he's so much fun to see. The only bummer? He's moving to a far-off country for work this week. But we conferred the Aaronic priesthood (the priesthood of Aaron (Hebrews 7: 5, 11-12, 14, 24 (also talks about Christ, who was raised to a higher priesthood), JS-H 1: 68-71). The priesthood is something very hard to understand from just the Bible. Study it--it's there (Nehemiah 13: 29, Exodus 40: 15, ). But most of the details about it were removed by people before it was canonized. If you wish to know about the priesthood, feel free to see what has been revealed about it today:
Our Most Distinguishing Feature, Alma 13: 6-8, 10, 14, 18, D&C 84: 6, 14, 16-19, 21, 25-26, 29-30, 33, 35, 39-40, 42, 107, D&C 107: 1-20. Remember--the priesthood is what makes a church the Church of Jesus Christ. Literally Jesus Christ's church. This is an important point--one reads the Book of Mormon to feel the influence of the authority granted to Joseph Smith to translate it. It's proof that Joseph Smith received the authority and this priesthood, which is so vital to the use of God's power on the earth.

In fact, there's a great verse in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C, the recordings of the revelations given to Joseph Smith. Therefore, in English, they are in the original language with no translation at all--straight from the mouth of Jehovah Himself). Read these verses: D&C 84: 18-22. Now, A., one of our investigators, has not admitted to feeling the Holy Ghost in the whole three or four months we've been meeting with him. But when he saw the priesthood used as we confirmed Andy (confirmed him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost), and when we ordained him to the Aaronic priesthood, A. felt it. And he admitted that it was unlike anything he's ever felt before. It was amazing, because I've been trying everything I could imagine to get him to feel the Spirit, but he's been fighting it. It was still another answer to prayers. And, I believe that Andy was the first person upon whom I have conferred the priesthood. It was amazing--I felt the Spirit speaking through me. I didn't think of what to say--the Holy Ghost basically just spoke through me. I don't know if I've felt that guided before in a blessing.

Two random funny stories. Erm...well, I have no time. Next week, I have two funny stories. Remind me: gypsies' bathhouse; old lady with the dead son and silver spoons.

I love you all! Keep reading! And praying. And I would strongly recommend, if you don't understand something, then call the missionaries in your area or attend one of our meetings and ask a member. Use the following web site to do this:, and click on the "ask a question" link in the top-right corner, or click "worship with us" to search a church location by you.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sept 9: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Russian Blessings, Rīga, New Building

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 4:52 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Russian Blessings, Rīga, New Building

Visi: So, I'm lookin' at 99,338 steps (that's 77.48KM).

Pics: I can't get any of my new pictures right now, so here's (top) an older one of me in a hallway that I thought I matched fairly well....
Next--Here, we have the new church building (probably) for Jelgava. We have spent a good amount of time looking at this and negotiating this last week, and so here is what it looks like.

Answering questions:
* Something funny that happened today: we were walking along and waiting at a crosswalk. This old Russian lady comes up and starts saying something in Russian really fast and kinda muttering. I ask her, "Do you speak Latvian?" She replies, in Latvian, "It doesn't matter what language it's in--I'm blessing you." She then continues to rattle off something in Russian, and it sounds rather angry. All I understood was "in the name of Jesus Christ," said a few times. After a minute of that, she crosses herself (I think...maybe not. I forget), and says simply, "There. You are blessed." And she turns around and walks away. Odd? Yeah, a little. Then I realized that she has no authority to do that, and I was very grateful that the priesthood authority to do things like that has been restored to the earth again through a living prophet.
* Three interesting factoids about my new companion: Elder Johnson is from Burley, Idaho. He is amazingly talented with the language--he speaks now (on his second transfer) as well as I did when I was out some 4-6 months (that's 3-4 transfers). And he is "devilishly handsome," by his own words. He has six sisters (most of them younger, and his older one is on a mission in Norway).
* The weather here has been way interesting. I'm not exactly sure how to tell you...bipolar would be fairly accurate. But overall, it's been warm and windy.
* As for one of the most interesting people I talked with, see my little miracle below.
* The talks this Sunday were prepared and given by our mission president and his wife. They gave very excellent talks, as usual. President Dance talked about how prophets help us know what is coming in the future so that we can prepare. He did this in preparation for General Conference (the time when the prophet and all the apostles and some other authorities talk to members and all the world on what the Spirit prompts them to--the things God would have us know at this time). I'm way excited for that! It's coming up the first weekend in October.
* Ways I've changed? Well, I am very much more firmly rooted in the gospel. I know very much more powerfully that this is the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, and that the power of God works through it. I have absolutely no doubts at all. I have also learned how to understand the spirit a little better, and I think about things differently. I think of things with the eternal perspective in mind, rather than only narrowly looking at this life and the applications of something therein. Most of the other ways I don't even realize. I just read in my journal from long ago, and I'm amazed by how different I used to think--what used to be important, and what I stressed. I can't really give many specifics in that regard--better ask somebody who knew me. But I have also learned to cook many things, I am much more independent, I am even more motivated to go for my goals, I understand how to rent places, pay bills, and all that rot, and I really have a much better appreciation for my family. I really underappreciated them when I was living with them back home.

The Miracle-iņš:
The work is starting to pick up. We were out knocking on doors, and the whole time I was praying for a person who would have an open heart, and who would listen. We have had quite a dry spell of people with open hearts, so it was a stretch of faith. But I know that they're there. We actually left that building we were in (per my companion's suggestion), and went to another one. We just looked around, and both decided--that one. So, we went in, and on the second-to-the-top floor, a Russian lady cautiously opened her door. I told her who we were, and I just started to teach about prophets and whatever else I know how to say in Russian, and then (after about a minute), I ran out of words. So, I showed her the Book of Mormon. She said she understands Latvian, so I started to teach her about the Book. After a few minutes, she told us that she would want one to read, so she could test it herself. The Spirit was pretty strong during the conversation, and I know that she was touched. My prayer had been answered.
Then...ah. We had a drunk guy in Aizupes sing us a song in four languages. Much longer story there, but that will probably suffice for now.

We've been hunting for a new building to hold our church meetings in here in Jelgava, and we think we found it. The missionaries will actually be living in the church building (in an appartment that is attached), and it all seems pretty good. The Carsons (a senior missionary couple) and we Elders will be planning the interior sometime next week. Speaking of new buildings, the church in Leipaja was finished a long time ago. The bottom picture is the poster hanging in the church that has some examples of how gorgeous that building really is. It is far more beautiful than the church building or the stake center in my hometown!

And, I've been in Rīga twice this last week--once for zone conference (it was a way good Z.C.), and again for exchanges. I was able to teach my second-level English class again, and I really enjoyed seeing all those familiar faces. And some new ones, too. After the spiritual thought (about prophets and the Book of Mormon), a girl came up and asked if she could have one (a Book of Mormon). She's read a lot of interesting things on the internet about it, and she really wants to read it. She told me, "I've been wondering for a long time where I could get my hands on one of those books." I told her, "Well, here it is. Read it prayerfully." She was very excited to read it, and she had the light of a person who honestly wants to believe in and follow God in her eye. I think there's a difference between those who believe in God, and those who believe in the Bible or a church. Those who honestly believe in God will also believe the Bible and a church that is authorized by God, and they will do what they can to draw closer to God. Those who believe in the Bible or a church will do all they can to stick only to those things. They seem to not have faith in God Himself, but in things God has given them, and they miss the point; they look beyond the mark. All things are given for our enlightenment, and to help us draw nearer to God, not to be contained in themselves (2 Timothy 3: 16, "My Words … Never Cease," from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles). That is why I stress so much the Book of Mormon. Those who will read it with the intent to understand if it's from God or not, believe in God. Those who do not believe very much in other things, for one who truly understands God will know that He will ever give to His children when they will receive (2 Nephi 28: 30). I know that it is true, that God will answer our prayers (Moroni 10: 3-5, James 1: 5, Matthew 7: 7, Luke 11: 9, 3 Nephi 27: 29, D&C 4: 7, James 4: 3, 1 Nephi 15: 11, 1 John 3: 22, Moroni 7: 26). It's clearly taught in the scriptures. This is only a very small sampling of the promise that if we pray in faith, nothing wavering, for that which is right, we will receive.

I love you all! Have a great week, and keep reading (you should be almost done by now! Who's been praying while they've been reading?)!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A better picture

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This is a better-quality photo of the missionaries. You could do this one instead of the other. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sept 2: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Mixin' it up! AMAZING Conference, Investigators, and the Kivadapapple

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 4:59 AM
Subject:Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Mixin' it up! AMAZING Conference, Investigators, and the Kivadapapple

All: 89,857 (70.08 KM).

So, I find that when I write a lot of emails, the longer I go, the less good they get. So, I wanted to start to everyone. This week was amazing. I'm struggling to know if I should go chronologically, or by order of impact......Impact. Here we go.

This Saturday, a prophet, seer, and revelator (karoče--in short, from Russian--an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ) was here. L. Tom Perry, by name. He was accompanied by President Rasband, who is the senior president of the 70 (just like in Christ's time, we now have quorums of 70. See Luke 10: 1, 17), and President Paul, who is the president of the East Europe area. That means that we had a lot of priesthood keys in Rīga this weekend. Add to that the mission president and several branch presidents, as well as Latvia's district president, and you had keys to preside over this part of the world in every single way (about keys: that's the authority to preside over the use of the priesthood. We know that apostles were given this power anciently--Matthew 16: 18-19--and we know that those powers have been restored today. For more info on the integral need for priesthood keys and how to know where they are, read this talk by Elder Holland, called Our Most Distinguishing Feature). The missionary meeting was amazing.

First, they had missionaries from every single country in this mission (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia). That means I saw all my MTC chums from a very long time ago. And I realized something: every single missionary who I have met here has very powerfully influenced me for good. Every one. I recall writing about Sister Wilson a few weeks ago. She indeed had a strong impact on me, for we spent a lot of time serving together. But I felt Saturday that every single missionary here has influenced me as well. In fact, I would say that they have all had almost as powerful an influence on me at one time or another. Starting from the MTC, I began to take the good from those amazing people around me, and that continued with each person with whom I served. The end result is that I am about 5% like I was before I entered the MTC. I have almost completely changed my thoughts, my actions. I still am the same person; I have just been improved to a degree I never thought possible before now. And it is in large measure because of the caliber of missionaries with me. Another very large part is due to the work that I am doing here. You cannot truly serve from your heart to teach people truths of eternity and not be impacted.

The actual talks that these priesthood leaders gave were inspired, and very powerful. I left my notes back home, so I'm just going off of memory (and my memory is a lot worse for who said what when than it used to be). President Paul explained how the Book of Mormon is a filter for missionary work. If somebody won't even consider the Book of Mormon as scripture, or be willing to honestly search it to know, then they are not open enough to the Spirit of God to be taught the gospel. He strongly suggested that we must use the Book of Mormon early and often to understand the readiness of people we teach.
President Rasband explained very nicely about finding people. He said a lot of missionaries have an elevator view of missionary work--they find somebody, teach them, and keep moving up as much as possible, then go back down and find another person. But he suggested an escalator view--we find somebody who is searching for truth, teach them, and while we are teaching them and they are progressing towards God, we still are adding more new people. That way, we always have people to teach. It was cool. Elder Perry talked about how missionary work hasn't really changed. He went through what he had as a missionary--the 13 Articles of Faith. He showed how those teach the same things that we now teach from Preach My Gospel, the missionary handbook. He also talked a lot about the importance of companions, and the power that is only found in a companionship. He spoke not only of missionary companionships, but also marriages, and organizational heads (like presidencies or bishoprics), and how it's critical that we have unity and companionship in those groups, because we are much more together as one than combined, but separate. He's a really good speaker, and was very fun to listen to. He also has really good humor.

Then we took a mission photo. That'll be the first picture. That is every missionary in the Baltics. What an amazing group! The last picture is one that I had taken of us all in the chapel in Rīga center. It's quite a view! But, some people aren't in the pic. Sorry...I've got a cheap, old camera. And some people still hadn't gotten there yet, so...moving on.

Then, we rushed to Jelgava, ate with the other elders here, and then drove back up with four people--three investigators and a member. We were joined later by a few more members in Rīga. We went to the World Trade Center, (yes, there's one of those here too) to the conference room, and we arrived about two minutes ahead of the general authorities there. So, we greeted them and invited them in at the doors.

When I walked in, I had a very, very sacred experience. I will share it in part with you. I ask that you do not taint it in any way. That hall seats about 450-500. Every seat was full before the meeting started. And there were still people for whom there was no seat. That means that there was from 450 to 550 people there. There were almost 200 from Estonia and Lithuania. That means that they traveled more than 12 hours to get here. I could feel their faith when I entered. And seeing the hundreds of Latvians who I have grown to love with all my heart in my short time here, I was again overpowered by emotions of love and joy. I have never been so carried away by emotions before in my life. Especially when I saw many members who used to not come to church, and told me that they won't be coming back, or those who had problems keeping them from enjoying full activity in the church. There were many such at this meeting. That caused my aforementioned emotions and spirit to soar still higher. I have had powerful spiritual or emotional experiences like that before, but never to this magnitude. I didn't even know what to do, and the Spirit was burning inside of me like only twice before in my life that I can remember. If ever I had doubts about the truthfulness of this work--they were all obliterated, and were counted as an ice cube in the hypocenter of a thermonuclear blast. Karoče, they evaporated. I have never felt that much collective faith before, either. I would venture to say that the experience cannot be paralleled with anything I have lived through in my short life up to this point.

Furthermore, while these inspired men and their wives spoke, to my mind came concerns, questions, and problems that I know are brooding in the hearts of the members. I have spent a lot of time working with the members. I know those things, at least to a shallow degree. And I felt that what they were saying was led by the Spirit, for they answered every question or concern, and discussed every problem that I knew about. I knew without even the slightest doubt that those men are called of God, that this is truly Jesus Christ's church. It is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There's a reason that the Lord called His church that in these days. It truly is His church, first of all. It was stressed more than once that He is the head, and He leads the church, not the apostles or other leaders. They are the instruments through which God works. Then, the members, if they truly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are saints (see Mosiah 3: 19 and cross-references from that verse). And these are, as the scriptures call them, the latter days, or the last days (Acts 2: 17 (I know people here who have dreamed dreams, and who have seen visions. This is truth, my friends), 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 (I have also seen all of this personally, first hand. cf. Joseph Smith History 1: 18-19. This is when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in answer to his prayer), and you can find many more through the Topical Guide under TG Last Days). Thus, it is His church, His saints, in the last days before His coming again unto the earth.

I will now move on to other things. Suffice it to say that Saturday was a good day.

So was Sunday. We taught about temples, and even though only one of the members I was planning to teach it to was there, she left saying that the class not only helped her understand, but totally explained why the temple was important! And some of our investigators are just FLYING forward. I have never seen people so willing to change their lives to accord with God's counsel. I was pleased.

We also lost Elder Gray to America. This means that Elder Brown and I are the oldest Latvians left in the mission. And our days are numbered. That's a little nerve-wracking. We got an amazing elder here in Jelgava to replace Gray--Elder Johnson. He came out with Elder Wendelboe, so this is his second transfer. But he speaks Latvian better than some in the group before him. He understands how to tear words apart to get their meaning, and he's ready to go! He also teaches quite well. He's now my companion. So, Elder Thompson, I loved our time together, short though it was! I'm really excited to serve with him! So, E. Thompson is with E. Wendelboe, and I'm with E. Johnson.

As an announcement: I am no longer group leader here in Jelgava. Elder Carson, a senior couple missionary here with his wife also in charge of the education stuff here, is the new group leader. I am his counselor! I'm way stoked to not have all that mess to worry about!!! I can just get out and work! It's great!

I feel very strongly that I should mention this. I don't really like to talk about things like this. But, as the Spirit directs, so shall I do. With powerful spiritual experiences comes the strength to face larger challenges. We had two meetings this week that left a great impression on me. One was with a pair of very sad, pitiful people who were so addicted to narcotics, alcohol, and crime that they could not break free. When we asked one not to drink or use drugs until the next morning (that would be some 16 hours) he told me that if he didn't use those things, he would die. He was very serious. And very convinced. He told us he wants more than anything to break free of those things. But when his dad handed him a bottle of beer shortly after his apgalvojums (affirmation), he could not stop himself from drinking from it. I knew for a fact that they were under the captive power of Satan, and they couldn't free themselves. They need the infinite power of deliverance through Christ (see Alma 7: 13), but they need to begin to repent to receive it (see Helaman 5: 10-12).
The other one was with an investigator. Remember the weight lifter? After a month, we finally were able to teach him again. When he opened his door to let us in, I...uh...nobijos. I was afraid. He was literally surrounded by a dark force that was dragging him down and destroying him. I could feel the corrosive power. And so does he. By the time we finished talking, the terrifying energy had left him, and he was visibly different. He had allowed the spirit to work on him. But I not only know that God's power surpasses anything else, but I know that man is not, by himself, strong enough to stand against the power of the enemy of all righteousness (Alma 34: 23). If you'd like, you may go read about Saturday again. That leaves a much better feeling.

In other news, I added another interesting fruit to my list. In Latvian, it's called a Pitaija. No idea what it is in English. We decided it was a pineapple crossed with a kiwi, and then the inner skin was like an avocado--really soft and slimy. So, we called it the Kivadapapple! You'll see what I mean when you look at the picture. It basically tasted like a kiwi, but less strong, so it really didn't have any flavor at all. I mashed it up, and added some sugar to make a jam-like thing. Then I had a peanut-butter and kivadapapple-jelly sandwich! It was really good.

We're also looking for a new, bigger building for church meetings in Jelgava. Wish us luck!

G.: Not quite serious, but he's going. I'm sure he's learning, but he's not really applying. Probably going to have to let him go soon. Sigh.
An.: Amazing! He changed his diet, and everything else. Elder Thompson now teaches him. He came to the conference, and he felt something as well. He also had really good thoughts and some things became clear to him during church on Sunday.
I and E.: Also came to the conference. They had a very good experience as well, and they are moving along quite well. E. is a little bored of spiritual things sometimes, but otherwise all is well. There may be some difficulties with I.'s boyfriend--let's pray for them, eh?
Ag.: Acting, but very slowly. I'm not sure how to help him progress. He's doing things, but I feel he's not really progressing. Odd, huh?
V.: He's the weight lifter. He feels he cannot overcome the negative influence of his workplace. We tried to help him see that he can. It's been a battle. Pray very hard for him, please.
Kids: So, we had several random meetings with kids who just walked up to us. It was really good! Hopefully, they'll be able to meet with us again later this week! There's more of a story here, but I've been here way too long typing what I feel I had to type.

I love you all! Have an amazing week, and keep reading! God will answer your inquiry about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )