Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nov 26: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Happy Thanksgiving!

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 3:11 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Happy Thanksgiving!

All: I now know that my step counter is off. I took 60 steps, and it only counted 47. So...anyway, it shows 75,870 (59.17 KM), but I'm sure we did more that 100,000, because we did a TON of walking this week. But, whatever.

Random thing: I had my last Christmas of my mission. Every 25th I have a little Christmas celebration. And the last one was yesterday. One of the most amazing missionaries in the world gave me a call and sang a modified version of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, missionary style: "...then how the missionaries loved him, and they shouted out with glee 'Amen!'..." It was awesome. Really made my day. And then we taught a bunch of lessons that evening. Score.

Q+A: It really is dark at 4 p.m.. We sometimes use flashlights after that. Usually we just use ambient lighting (street lights and such) or walk in the dark, but when it's muddy then we often will use our flashlights. And we are currently on a winter proselyting schedule: we are out working until 8:30 p.m., and we slide our language study around (half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening). It's been really good.

Elder Reid: He's a Utahn who is very into sports. He would definitely kick my trash in ping pong, basketball, football (both American and regular), and anything else (since I'm not too sporty a person). He's a good cook. I'm not sure exactly what else to say--after being with 16 companions, it's kinda hard to really pick out things about people. They are my companion. We teach well together, and we have been having really good lessons recently. We understand how we teach, and we have much the same focus when we teach, so it's easy to just jump in during lessons when the people speak both languages. It's been good.
I understand differing amounts of Russian. If I can contribute in the lesson, then I usually understand more (thanks to the spirit) and I can participate better. If I can't help much (say, they don't understand Latvian), then I usually don't understand overly much, but I do know some phrases.
There are a few more Latvians than Russians in Jelgava, but the balance is about 55-45.

We visited our 50 some-odd people, but not much came of it, sadly. People are really resistant to change or to anything they are not used to. And with people as flaky as week-old pastries, it means it's hard to really meet with people. But, we did have two lessons from all those go-backs, so not too bad.

We have found several families, but none of them really look too promising right now. They meet with us because they like us, not because they want to learn the gospel, but becasue they are nice and like us. But, we'll keep working with them. Actually, the Z. family is moving along quite well. We had a very serious lesson with them, and the father agreed to work on specific commandments and Christlike attributes, and all the other family members also agreed to get crackin' on Christlike attributes. The father is not a member (yet). But they are probably the most promising for a family baptism right now. We'll see how things go. I think he will still take more time, though.

Church on Sunday was amazing! We contacted all the members, and had a pretty good showing. And all of the Z. family (except the oldest son, who lives elsewhere) came!! The talks were amazing, and everything seemed quite pointed at helping the branch. I think that was one of my best Sundays. And President Dance really gave a good talk, about the three parables in Luke 15. I will share that as my spiritual thought, so here goes:
In that chapter, you will find three parables. The first is Luke 15: 4-7, and it talks of 100 sheep and one lost. Then the shephėrd leaves the 99, and goes after the one. And when that sheep is found and brought back, the heavens rejoice over the one, and kinda ignore the 99. Then Luke 15: 8-10 talks about a woman with 10 coins. She loses one, hunts for it, and then the angels rejoice over the one, and again ignore the 9. Then President Dance asked a question: Which are you? Are you the 1 lost sheep, or one of the 99? Then: are you one of the 9 coins, or the 1 lost one? He then said: if you still don't understand which you are, then Christ gave another parable. Luke 15: 11-32 This is the tale of the Prodigal Son. There are two sons. One who does not leave his father, and the other who squanders his inheritance on wasteful things. That son then returns, and the father throws a huge party for him. The son who didn't leave then gets upset, and asks why he hasn't had a party. Again, there is rejoicing over the one, and not much attention paid to the other. Why is this?

President Dance then explained: I personally don't believe that the ninety and nine even exist. I don't think that the nine exist. I don't even think the one "good" son exists. Because we are all sinners. We are all lost. And if you think that you are one of the 99, or the 9, or even the one, then you are mistaken. There is only us and Christ. We are all fallen from the grace of God, and we are all sought after. Christ Himself seeks us, as in the story of the sheep. Servants of Christ seek us, as in the story of the coins, and we seek ourselves, as in the story of the Prodigal Son. It was really good, because there were several in attendance who have a hard time coming to church because they think that they are sinners and that the people at church are perfect, and so they will be looked down on and will feel uncomfortable. So, I think that pointing out that we really are all wanderers, and must always repent (change and improve and become closer to God) each day, really helped those people. "Because sinning is a part of our daily lives, then repentance must also be a part of our daily lives." Way good.

God lives. He does seek us, and will give us after our needs, but only if we seek and prepare to accept that help and those gifts. I know that Christ's arms of mercy are extended to us at all times, and He pleads that we access His mercy: 3 Nephi 9: 13. I love you all. Have a great week! Happy Thanksgiving!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nov 19: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Tele2, Jelgava Again, Neatkarības Diena, God's Glory

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thurs. Nov 19, 2009 at 7:18 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Tele2, Jelgava Again, Neatkarības Diena, God's Glory

All: Well, 90,776 steps (70.80KM). Woo.

Sorry for the delay in this letter. Usually I write on Wednesdays, but because yesterday (18 November) was both Elder Brown's birthday ") and Latvia's Independence Day, there were no internet places open here. So, it's a day late. Now on to other things. This week I found out much, both funny and serious. Funny first:

Remember how I told you that tele2 faked the meteorite? Well, they also ran a campaign this last month about heroes. They had ads everywhere that just said, "Pārāk Dārgi būt varonim?" ("Too expensive to be a hero?"). Then they only had a web I asked, and apparently that site only had a little game you played, where they call you often to tell you where to go next, and then they call you again. So, you do this for half an hour, and it turns out that the big secret they wanted to tell you is that they are tele2. Now they just released a plan that allows you to call any phone anywhere in Latvia for free--land, their line, another cell company--doesn't matter. I thought that it was remarkably genius marketing! They also have been pouring a lot of money into light shows and other attractions to keep people's minds off the economic crisis that everybody sees and hears about on the news daily. I really admire them for that, and it sure was a good way to advertise!
Another random thing: It's basically completely dark here by 4:00 p.m.. Funny, huh?

Top: These are the bonfires on the main street right across from the current church space.
Middle: This is one of my favorite shots of the fireworks. This is from the window of the church space looking out from the kitchen.
Last: Here are some of my favorite people in the world. The photographer didn't really warn us that he was going to take a shot, so we weren't overly ready, but it worked out anyway.

I'm settled in, yes. In the old apartment. Plans for the new one fell through for right now. The missionaries in Jelgava are Elders Thompson and Taylor (a new missionary--this is his second transfer), then Elder Reid and I. I have a crazy euphoria being back here! But, honestly speaking, I'd be cool with just about anywhere. About the people we are teaching, see the paragraph below. There are a ton in areas left to tract--I think that in my last time here, I used about 20% at the most of my area. There's still a lot more to do!
No, I am not a ZL any more. And Elder Brown is not an assistant. He's now the DL in Imanta. Elder Reid is a way awesome Russian-speaking missionary. I will tell you a little about him next time (if you remind me). We are tearing everything apart, because there is not a single person with whom we speak that cannot be spoken to. Latvian, Russian, English--every person speaks one of those three well. I love it!

Then, I am going through all the contacts of people that I have talked to and am really working with the members here to strengthen the branch and get a new building here before I go. Things all look good, and hopefully I can prepare one family for baptism before I leave. If you could all pray for that with me, I would really appreciate it (I've been searching for a family my whole mission who are ready to accept the gospel). We have a lot of good people to go back to, and I know that there are a lot of other good people with whom we haven't talked, so I am still hopeful. For them to be baptized before I leave, though, we need to find them this week. Please pray hard!

Yesterday was Latvijas Neatkarības Diena (Latvia's Independence Day), so there were no internet places open in Jelgava. There was a firework show, a million people all over the place, and big bonfires in the street. It was a pretty interesting day. We had hoped to be able to teach some people during the day, but a lot of people had gone to Rīga, so it didn't work out. We did talk to a lot of people, though.

And we had DISTRICT CONFERENCE last Sunday! I love district conf. We were treated to some of the most amazing talks, I got a lot of e-mail addresses of members that I love, and Paša from Jelgava received the Melchizedek priesthood!! That was way exciting!! I love seeing the members here, and many of them were very excited that I was in Jelgava again. I'm looking forward to this Sunday--we've made a big deal of a big deal. The mission president will be here, and so we just let all the members know and will remind them, and hopefully we'll have a full chapel. And tomorrow through Saturday we have a little over 50 people to drop by (people who have given us their addresses), as well as another 50 with just phone numbers, so we're thinking that we may be a little busy (if you lack perspective, that is a ridiculously huge number of people for a short period of time here). I'm thrilled again!

And I would like to share something that was discussed at that conference and at zone conference (we also had that, by the way). It was from Elder Senkāns, who is a Seventy here (the general priesthood authority "in charge" of Latvia and the other Baltic states). He thinks very logically, and he understands that all good things come from God. Therefore, all things he learns he turns to the gospel and tries to understand it in the light of eternal truth. He shared an article about how scientists have shown that to become a master at something (like sports or an instrument or a subject) it requires at least 10,000 hours. He then shared how the brain operates--all those neurons and such connect with others, and each neuron or synopsis or whatever it's called can connect with some thousands of others. As we learn and practice something, it literally becomes a part of our physical makeup, making verses like Alma 37: 6-7 or 1 Nephi 16: 29 even more powerful. The article also stated that we become what we think and do--so it is. Anyway, he took that further to state that if we only attend church once a week, then in a year we have 52 hours of that 10,000. If we live to be 80, then we're barely half-way there if we don't miss a single Sunday. If we're there for three hours a week, then that's 156 a year, times 80--still not there. And the article also stated that if it is not sustained, then the links are weakened, and it falls apart. So we need consistency also. It was quite a remarkable talk. It isn't even close to the power that he brought to it, and I don't have my notes, but I will probably flesh this thought out a little more later.

Another thing: he shared his favorite scripture. It defines the glory of God: D&C 93: 36. Very simple: it is light and truth. What are these? Truth was explained very clearly by God Himself: D&C 93: 24. It is simply the way things are. We need oxygen to live. We need to eat. The sun shines for us. Fire is hot. These are truths--just simply the way things are. There are also truths like God has a plan for us. He has a physical, perfected body of flesh and bone. We will all have the opportunity to be resurrected in glorified, perfected bodies. These, too, are truths. God wants us to know truth. This brings us to light: D&C 88: 7-13. Light, very simply, is the sustaining force by which God maintains order and influence in the world. There is both visible and invisible forms of light. The visible is fairly easy for us to understand at a simple level--it is what we see by, and it is what brings life to plants (among a host of other uses). Light is also the thing that allows us to understand truth (v. 11), and it gives God power and influence across all space (v 13). There is undoubtedly even more to light, but we have this for now. Elder Senkans helped us see how we can obtain this in our own lives.

Luke 11: 34 speaks of our light. Where we get it. This is both literal and figurative. Matthew 6: 22 is very similar, but helps us understand this a little better. If we are focused (on what, you may ask), then we can be filled with light, or, in other words, understanding, power and life. From the Doctrine and Covenants we read even more clearly: D&C 88: 67. Focused on what? On God and His glory--truth and understanding.

That is the purpose of Christ's church today. To help the children of God the Father obtain light and truth in their own lives, so that they are able to understand His purposes, and understand the way things are. Truth is not subjective--regardless of whether people believe it or not, it is still true. So Christ's church, or, more appropriately, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not concerned about proving things wrong, or forcing others to accept what we teach. We do not teach philosophy, or religion, or good morals. We teach truth. You could say that the Church of Jesus Christ today is as it has always been--a school of learning for the children of One who has all light and truth. For those children who are willing to learn. D&C 88: 118 is truly the beginning of all activities in the church. And, as we learn truth, we will act on it. This is what brings salvation and exaltation--acting on true principles as stated by the Lord. When we follow His gospel--starting with faith (trust) in Him and His counsel; using that faith to repent (change our lives) so that we live as directed; then applying our repentance into a promise with God through baptism with water from one holding true authority to act in God's name; receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands from one with that same power; and then continuing our whole lives long to learn and apply the truth we learn--then we obtain exaltation. I know that this is the true plan of our loving Father in Heaven.

I love you all! I invite you to keep reading and praying with the intent to learn truth.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nov 12: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Transfers and Such

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 4:54 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Transfers and Such

All: 125,420 steps (97.82KM).

Pictures: Top: This wafer made me laugh a lot! On the wrapper is written: "HYPER wafer for big people." Hee hee. I'm not really that fat, either, just a little photo magic.
Middle: Here's my district from Riga Center: Front row is E. Long and McLaren, and the back is me, Sisters Gomez and Rībere (I have no idea how to do that in English still), and Elder Clark.
Last: These are stairs at a place we knocked. See how worn they are? I thought that was crazy worn!

Q+A: One of the people who was writing the homework for the spiritual parts of the English class now has a baptismal date! That is way exciting to me! Another one is willing to meet and talk, but is very skeptical right now. He thinks that God is partially to blame for all the bad that happens, because He could stop it, but doesn't. What he doesn't realize is that God does all that we allow Him to, and he unendingly mudinās (encourages...kinda) to do good and not do those bad things. Take a look at Moroni 7: 5-13, 16-19, and you'll see what I mean. That's not even including all the work the Holy Ghost does to keep us from hurting others (John 14: 26). Anyway, search the scriptures, and you will see that God invites all to do good unendingly.

Otherwise: On 9 November,1989, the Berlin Wall fell. It was the 20th anniversary of that event only a few days ago. That may not seem that interesting to a lot of you, but for one who has seen the dreadful influence of the Soviet regime, and who always is left is amazement by the miracle of its fall, I was strongly touched when I realized that. If you want, research the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet Union a little, and you may understand a little better. I have had many a conversation with people who have told me of the influence of the Soviet Union in their lives. I am amazed that countries even survived. God truly is a God of miracles, and he supported those who followed and trusted Him, even under the suffocating influence of that evil regime.

A funny story: A meteorite landed in Latvia last week. Latvians were euphoric, because a meteorite had landed in Lietuva and Estonia, but never in Latvia. But after a day or so, it turned out that the meteorite here was all a marketing scam from a company called Tele 2 (a huge phone company). So, since that meteorite story went all over the world, that company now finds a lot of publicity globally. I thought it was ridiculous...and ridiculously funny.

Last week was pretty slow, and this week started off a lot faster! We had great lessons with people with whom we have been trying to meet for a long time!

Now, probably what you are all wanting to know: transfers. I'm headed back to Jelgaviņa!! I'm excited, and at the same time sad to be leaving here. But, all will be well. My new companion is Elder Reed, who is a Russian speaker. So, I finally get my dream of being in a mixed companionship (Latvian/Russian speaking). And, I am able to say that I have averaged one new companion every transfer (that's 16 companions in as many transfers, and if you want you can include the MTC, when I had a different companion).

That's probably all. I love you all! Have a great week, and never cease praying and reading to invite personal revelation from the Lord. He gives such to all who seek it with a pure intent.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nov 4: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: English, Feelin' Weird, Tā Daļas Rīgas, Graveyards, Beautiful Stuff

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 7:13 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: English, Feelin' Weird, Tā Daļas Rīgas, Graveyards, Beautiful Stuff

All: 76,166=59.40. I find the pedometer šķibs very often (slanted, crooked, or something like that), and so I don't think I'm getting accurate counts anymore. Oh well :)

Anyway, lots happened this week. First of all, there are several students in our English class who are new from the last time I was here, and during the spiritual portion of the class, there were several who took notes on the suggested reading to learn more, and I do believe that they read them. The sisters have taught two of them, and I had a lesson scheduled with another one, but he wasn't able to make it yesterday because of work. But, usually things don't go so well in English class as that. I'm way stoked!

Otherwise, I'm starting to feel way weird. I have a really strong desire to stay here, and at the same time I have those same feelings for home. It's a very odd sensation to long to be where you are while you are simultaneously longing to be elsewhere. I have a dread and excitement to leave, at the same time. I don't want to start living a "normal" life again, and I can't wait to get started. It basically is a very odd sensation, we'll say that.

On that note, I heard the following song a while back. I found a link for it. In the video it shows some places in Rīga--I've been to all of them, I think. Most of them are in Ķengarags and Maskavas Foršstate (all near the river just out of old town). So you can see what this area looks like. It's a gorgeous's the link...

Anyway, speaking of that area: We were down there on Halloween knocking, and we wound up walking through a graveyard to get there! It was perfect. Suddenly, Elder Long says, "Hey, we're walking through a dark graveyard...on Halloween!" I added that the moon was almost full. Anyway, it was perfect. I also carved my first ever Jack-o-lantern that night (never actually carved one from a pumpkin...and how many people can say that they've done that here in Rīga?:)). So, that's what those first two pictures are. The pumpkin would have been better, but I didn't actually want to spend much time on it, so I didn't. I made it in only a few minutes. And I accidentally burned the seeds, so they weren't so good to eat. But, whatever. It was fun.

Also, we found some basement doors open, so decided to go snooping. This one was perhaps the most amazing basement I have ever been in. It went completely under the house, and looked like people used to live in it. I chose my favorite shot to put in here. Hope you like it. Don't worry, we only spent a few minutes down there, then we got right back to work. Humerically enough, we came across a group of trick-or-treaters, who made so much noise that we had to leave. Basically, Halloween means nothing here for most people.

And I was able to go to Liepāja this week. Remember those pictures of the church I put up a while back? Those are basically nothing in comparison to the actual building. I will admit, that I cried when I first went in, it was so gorgeous. You basically just have to go yourself and feel it to understand. And on the way back, since we had to leave really early, we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise. The pictures, once again, don't even come close to the actual. Here's one I tried to get, though.

Oh, and add another odd thing to my food list: Persimmon. It tasted fairly good.

I finished the Book of Mormon this week. I read from 4th Nephi to the end, and some things stood out quite a bit for me. Here are some of those things:
Ether 4: 7-14)
All things that lead to do good and to believe in God are from from God, but anything that pulls us away from a faith in Christ comes from the devil. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ prepares us to enter heaven.

Ether 4: 15-19)
The Book of Mormon is a witness that God is fulfilling the covenant which he made to the house of Israel in the Old Testament, and that He remembers all of His children all over the Earth. This added witness strengthens our faith and belief.
The words of Moroni, son of Mormon who compiled the Book of Mormon, unto those who believe not in Christ (verses 1-6):

His words to those who believe, but deny the revelations of God (verses 7-15):
• • •
I will just say here that I have seen the miracles of God. I have received revelations through the Holy Ghost, helping me to know what to do to teach people the Gospel of Christ. I know that God is a God of miracles.
(Mormon 9: 26-30).
I love this. He knows that he's talking to us. He knows that he's writing to us. All they put in the Book of Mormon was done for us, by revelation. Observe what else he said:

35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. (Mormon 8: 35)

And this may have been my favorite part. Look at how strongly these ancient prophets testified of their mission and their role, and to the truth of the work they helped to do:
Moroni 7: 35-38)

And finally, in the last chapter of the whole book:
27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my awords unto you, which were written by this man, like as one bcrying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the cdust?
28 I declare these things unto the fulfilling of the prophecies. And behold, they shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the everlasting God; and his word shall ahiss forth from generation to generation.
29 And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is atrue.
30 And again I would exhort you that ye would acome unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good bgift, and ctouch not the evil gift, nor the dunclean thing. (Moroni 10: 27-30)

I know that the Book of Mormon is of divine origin, and that God truly has brought it forth in our day to witness to all the world that He is God, and that He truly does speak and lead His church in our day. This He does through His anointed servants. In the New Testament, Paul testified of the need of apostles (Ephesians 4: 11-15)? Are we in a unity of faith? Are we perfected? Then prophets and apostles are still needed.

Did not Christ Himself teach that all power in Heaven and in Earth belongs to Him (Matthew 28: 18-20)? He didn't say the power is given to books, or to man, but that it all rests with Him Himself. And he called His disciples to extend that throughout the world as He had authorized them to do so. It is the same today.

There are many references to priesthood. In the book of Acts, they call for the apostles to perform baptisms and to give the Holy Ghost. In other places in the scriptures they speak of priesthood offices (Hebrews 5: 6-10), and the need of the sealing power and revelation (Matthew 16: 17-19). The rock of Christ's church, as stated in the passage listed last before this, is revelation through the Holy Ghost. And because Peter listened and heeded that Spirit, and was called by the Lord, he was given the keys to, or authority to use the power of, the Kingdom of Heaven. That same power has been restored today.

I know that God has restored His church, and the Book of Mormon is the key to knowing that as well. It is something you can truly test. Pray about that book, and I again promise you that God will answer your prayers, if you pray in faith, with a desire to act.

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