Sunday, November 28, 2010

Engaging ourselves in the work.......week 19

The baptism of Guadalupe and Fabiola.

Dear Family,
I am glad to hear of your holiday adventures and as always, thanks for your stories, photos, and testimonies. I hope you realize that you have and continually influence lives here in Mexico and I believe it fair to say in Nicaragua as well. Thank you for being you family. I give my thanks for the Gospel in which we have as well as the wonderful family which He has blessed me. May you continue to be blessed as you go unto the Lord and rely upon Him.

This week, where to begin. Each week goes by faster and faster as we are engaging ourselves in this work. Each day brings its challenges and rewards which test, prove, joy, and bless. This week we had the baptisms of Guadalupe and Fabiola. They are stellar people who have already demonstrated that they are going to be amazing members of the church. I have thought a lot this week about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the importance of this work. I have thought of our baptisms to this point. Each has a story in particular which we are so grateful to be a part. However, I have thought a lot about helping the souls of men. Through the baptisms that we have had, we have felt in a grand degree the love of God for these people. When I allow these feelings to penetrate my soul, I find that I have so much still to learn and do. There is success as well as times of joy. Something that I read from I believe Elder M. Russell Ballard really impacted me. He said something along the lines of ¨I am going to tell you a secret about the work within the church as well as in the family. Many of you have already discovered it. It is that there is no such thing as I have completed my work.

There is never a time in our families nor in our service in the church that we can say that there is nothing more we could do.¨ This has struck me deeply. There is no limit to the excellence of our lives. Particularly with our families and our service in the church, there is nothing as ¨complete¨. As long as there are people are walking this earth, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will go forward. It will go forward until the Lord says that the work is done. It is my testimony that we are here in this world to have joy and prepare to live with God.

I believe central to that joy is missionary work as it is put into practice through the family. I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. As we come into the holiday season, may we think more poignantly about the relationships with our families and those who desperately need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and go forward and open your mouths. Give the greatest gift this holiday session by your testimony to anyone who needs to hear it. May the Lord bless you all in your efforts. I love you family and know that I am so proud to wear your name each day.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 22, 2010

There is NOTHING more important than the Salvation of the people of this World.......week 18

My Wonderful Family,

I send my best wishes across the miles and hope that everything will go well for the holiday. It sounds like everyone is doing well. I know that the Lord is constantly overseeing my family and it is a great comfort and consolation. Please send my concern and love to the Whitney family. May they find comfort in this time.

Elaine and Oliver as well as another woman named Marcela were baptized this week. Marcela was baptized Friday and we have seen how the family that participated with her as well as Marcela have changed tremendously. They are member missionaries with a load of desires. We married Elaine and Oliver in a pueblito because it was much easier for them as well as us. So Saturday we left at 9 in the morning and returned around 5 with a wedded couple. They were baptized Sunday after church. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is cool! Pictures of Elaine and Oliver. I have to get pictures of Marcela´s baptism so forgive me on that one.

I second what Grant has said about patience as well as faith. We receive line upon line and we are molded day by day. The majority of the time I believe we do not recognize it but as we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we come to understand in greater degrees what it truly means to be a child of God who is capable of divine help each and every day. I have thought a lot about repentance the past few weeks and I would like to comment about the significance of this topic for me. The purpose of our lives is to prepare to meet God. In order to do so, we stop doing what is wrong and we do what is right. We show our faith by ceasing to do what is wrong in order to do what is right. This process of repentance has hit me very strongly. How many things in my life are not in harmony with the commandments of God? It doesn´t matter what it is, if it does not allow me to do what the Lord has commanded then it is not worth my efforts. The purpose of our lives is to put our will in harmony with that of God through repentance. What an amazing principle!

I realized that many of the things that I pause to think about or the things that occupy the minds of those whom we teach really are of little importance. I have seen people who will not open the door to their heart to hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because their work does not permit it. Or because they have to go to the store to buy new shoes. Or because they have studied the scriptures thoroughly and there is no way that two young missionaries are going to teach them anything. Sure, some may say that it is life. We live in an imperfect world. But this form of thinking never brought happiness to the human family nor salvation. I am amazed at the great pride of this world. I really appreciated what Grant said relative to the story of the tree and his investigators. For us to listen with open hearts, does the Lord have to take away everything that we have? Does the Lord have to bring us to the dust in order for us to notice how foolish we had been with the end that we will turn to Him? We speak to people everyday who for whatever reason, are too busy for the things of God. They are too busy to spend time with their families. They are not capable of change. How hard Satan works to hide the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It is the news that are lives are meant to be filled with joy. What is a job? The means to provide the basic necessities of life. The basic necessities of life. If this alone was implemented in the lives of people across the world, we would have a very different perspective of what is most important.

President Monson says in one of his talks that ¨we should never let a problem to be solved become more important than someone to be loved¨. When the prophet of God says never, I believe that it is an all encompassing word. There is nothing more important than the salvation of the people of this world. We are not working for the salvation of your car, house, dog, food, education, health, or anything else, but rather for your personal happiness and salvation alongside that of your family and the world. I reflect upon how often we truly contemplate the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Are we brought to our knees in great humility as we talk, walk, and live as He did? Do we consider the Atonement of the Savior of the world? Are we brought to a recognition of who we really are when we rise in the morning? For all these questions I respond that I want to be better. I will walk as He walked. I will do what He did. I will become as He is so that I will have the joy that I seek in my life and the eternal happiness in the world to come.

With my thoughts I ask the question to all that read this of ¨what is really most important in this world?¨ Be honest with yourself. Don´t excuse yourself or cast the blame on anyone else. Consider sincerely what is of most importance and if it is not your personal salvation, that of your family, and of the whole human race, you know what is needed. I say this with the greatest admonition of love for I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. I know that He was completely obedient the will of His Father. He was resurrected the third day and suffered for our sins so that we would have the ability to have happiness and joy here and in the world to come. The Savior of mankind did not suffer on the cross so that we would piddle away our time in things of little importance. He died to break the bands of death and sin so that we could be happy. He did not die to provide us with wealth, power, or prestige. He died to save us from death and sin. For Him I am eternally grateful.

I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. To bring us happiness, He gives us families and teaches them His Gospel through prophets. I know that if we hearken to what these prophets say, we will always have the peace of the Gospel in our lives. It is my testimony as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ that He lives and leads and guides His Church through Thomas S. Monson, His living prophet. May we always be more resolved today than yesterday to hearken to His counsels and receive the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer.

Elder Sean Russell

Elaine and Oliver's baptism Sunday, November 21, 2010.
They were married Saturday November 20, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Uniting families in the Gosple of Jesus Christ........week 17

The baptism of Giselle Cardenas Aquirre

My dear family,

Thank you so much for your past letter. I always think of the Mom and Dad when I read Mormon and Ether. With Moroni and his efforts with the Lamanites, I always think of Dad: It doesn´t matter if you have success or not, the Lord has called you to serve and thus you serve. There is very powerful doctrine within those books of scripture.

Before I forget, I have been taking out quite a bit of money from the checking account to purchase some things here in the mission. I´m not going to ruin the surprise but if you are wondering or have a question, here´s the answer.

First off, I this past week was absolutely amazing. We had our first baptism and I had the opportunity to baptize Giselle Cardenas Aquirre. The Cardenas family is a part member family with the parents who were inactive but their three daughters never had much contact with the Church. The mother and Giselle are stellar examples and through them, the family is becoming united under the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Giselle was baptized on Sunday after an amazing stake conference broadcasted from Salt Lake. Elder Christiansen, the Second Counselor in the Primary, Elder Bednar, and President Eyring spoke addressing I believe all of Mexico. Oh my goodness, it was awesome! Elder Bednar spoke of revelation and shared a scripture about as we live the Gospel through obedience to the commandments and keeping of convenants, we are enlightened by the Spirit, slowly, daily, but surely. He spoke about how we don´t recognize it but this type of revelation is very common. He shared a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants about Oliver Cowdry when he had desires to assist the prophet Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon. This school teacher did not feel like he had a great revelation but this is the response of the Lord in DC 6:14-15

14. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast ainquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

15. Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy amind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been benlightened by the cSpirit of truth;

The Lord told Oliver that his mind had been enlightened by the Lord through his prayers of faith. Enlightened. He had received revelation but didn´t even recognize it. Elder Bednar´s message, don´t fret if every moment is a great revelation. Through obedience to the Gospel you will be guided and directed. Sooo awesome! President Eyring spoke about claiming the heritage of the ancestors of this land through obedience to the Gospel. As well, sooo awesome!
But back to Giselle. She was baptized and was so emotional to have this direction in her live. It was so funny because she was so nervous the days before but it was such a privilege to see the Gospel in action con her. Elaine and Oliver came to the service as well as another investigator.

We have our baptism scheduled for I believe this Sunday for Elaine and Oliver.

We are helping them to stop smoking and drinking coffee. We have an appointment to marry them this Saturday. It is with this that I have been taking out money from the account. We have quite a few expenses with refreshments for baptisms, marriages, flyers / pamphlets for classes and baptisms, as well as the rides to and from Cuaulta and to help our investigators get to church. It is with these things that I have been taking from the account. Let me know if there are worries or questions about it. Nonetheless, we are very excited. The work is just beginning to explode here in Amilcingo. The ward is feeling more and more of the power of the work. We can´t wait.

Here are some photos of my first week as well as the baptism on Sunday. ¨how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that preach the Gospel¨.

Elder Russell

The heal of a new missionary. Walking in the paths of righteousness!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught to families through prophets. Joy comes through a home centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.......week 16

Dear My Wonderful Family,

Good to hear that everything is going well. I send my best wishes across the miles and thank you for all of your prayers in my behalf and for all the missionaries across the world. They are felt and through them we come in contact with those who are truly seeking the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Before I forget, I took out a bit of money from the checking account to buy a sweater and possibly a pancho in the next few weeks. I gets a bit chilly in the nights here. Just a heads up.

Well, where to start. We are working really hard with our investigators to be able to get them to church. We have had our ups and downs according to the responses of different investigators during different days. It is really funny actually. We had a lesson with Elaine and Oliver about marriage and going to church on Sunday. When they told us that they wanted to be married we were so excited. We have an appointment with them if I’m not mistaken this Saturday to be married. We are hoping and praying for their continual success. We have a baptism for one of our investigators this Saturday named Gisele and we cannot wait. She went to church with her mom yesterday and loved it. It is during these moments that we are just up in the clouds. Those that have such an energy and desire to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives truly emit to those around them.

Funny things this week. Well, I have to confess that I have never eaten so much bread in my life. The bread here is called pan dulce and it is the greatest thing in the whole world. I have tried different kinds but of everything I have tried, this morning with an authentic churro was by far the most angelic. The best part is that pan dulce costs more or less 25 cents. So good.

With our work, we are working hard to involve the members but it has been hard the past couple of weeks because there have been a bunch of conferences and special programs which don´t give us much time. Nevertheless we are plugging along and loving every ¨buenas tardes¨.

Something really struck me this week. It is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One simple truth that makes all the difference in the world is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught to families through prophets. This principle alone sets the stage for every truth and blessing of the Gospel. When we understand this model of teaching from God, everything makes perfect sense. How do learn of God? Through the words of the prophets found in scriptures as well the words that they speak to us in our time. Our understanding of God is through the prophets. Where would we be without prophets? There goes the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible. Try to draw near to God without prophets. You can´t and it is exactly for this reason that there is so much confusion and so many churches in the world. The pride of man too and his inability to hearken to the voices of the prophets. It is with this understanding that I am moved every time I have the opportunity to say that ¨my name is Elder Russell. I am a representative of Jesus Christ who has been called by a living prophet. We are here to share a very important message about how we can be happy.¨ The prophets are the guides for us in our lives. I know that without the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, I would not know of the true character of God and His plan for all mankind. It is through a prophet that I know anything about God. It is with this thought that I give my immense gratitude to the scriptures and the prophets.

I know that this is truly the Church of Jesus Christ in our times. We are not Mormons, we are not worshippers of Joseph Smith, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ. We honor and respect the prophets of God as they direct us in what we need to do in our lives. But first and foremost, we believe in God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I know that they live. We are guided by means of a living prophet today Thomas S. Monson who has the authority of God to lead and guide us. I know it and it is my grand priviledge to declare it. May we always hearken to the words of the prophets as they will never lead us astray.

Enjoy every moment of every day family. Know of my love and utmost gratitude for a home with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my grand priviledge to invite others to do the same. Remember that man is that he may have joy. This joy is through a home centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we continue to cherish the miracle of every day is my prayer.

Elder Russell

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Atonement of Jesus Christ........week 15

Dear Family,
Thank you so much for your letters. Thank you for your experiences and particularly the tender mercies of the Lord. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to bless you in all that you do.

Another week has flown by. I am amazed at what is taught, learned, and molded in a single week. I would like to talk briefly about that which Grant mentioned. The Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is a topic that has impacted me significantly this week as everything is centered around it. I was reading the account of King Noah the other day and the priests of his court. His priests questioned Abinadi that through their obedience to the law of Moses they are saved. Abinadi then gives his witness that it is only through Jesus Christ that we are saved. Because of His Resurrection, we will be judged of Him purely by our obedience to the law. By this alone, no one could receive eternal life as no one is perfect. Thus, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, particularly His suffering for our sins, we can be cleansed from our sins through obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel. Thus, we are not saved by the law. We are saved by our actions of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

I have thought much about this topic and I am impressed by the responses of different people relative to their definition of Christ. We ask people all the time, ¨who is Jesus Christ¨ and we get a wide variety of responses. Often, that He is the Savior. However, there are so few people who really understand why He is the Savior of the world and how do we apply His Atonement in our lives. Thus, the topics of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His Gospel have impacted me very much.

So we are continuing to work with Elaine and Oliver. They are progressing so well and we are really excited for them as they have committed to be married in the next couple of days. They are so desirous to learn about the Gospel. We have to cut our lessons each time because they just ask so many questions. I told Elder Arreola that though I have so much more that I am going to do during the course of my mission, if I could know for a fact that they would be married in the temple and sealed to their two children a year from now, everything that I have done to prepare for my mission would have been worth it. However, it is just the beginning. And with this family, they have been the fire for me personally. They have helped me to give everything I have so that perhaps I may find one more person, that I might invite one more soul to come unto Christ. They have taught me a very personal lesson. Oliver asked us a question during our last visit about prophets and he said, ¨they are like tools right, like you Elders¨. We responded, ¨exactly Oliver¨. It was simple and sincere but it left a deep impression. We are nothing more than the tools in the hands of the Master in His work. Like it is stated in Isaiah, does the tool lift itself up without the hand of the Master. No, it doesn’t. Each day is one more day in vineyard of the Lord. I wear His name. I declare His Gospel. I bear witness of His reality. Lives are touched not because of us, but because we carry His name. They are not acting upon our message. They are applying the eternal principles of the Great and Everlasting God. Our Savior Jesus Christ provided through His Resurrection and His Atonement, the way of happiness and exaltation through obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel. Study His words, ponder them in your hearts, and pray unto our Father in Heaven and He will answer you. It is true. I have done it and I see the happiness of those who do it every day. Lean upon Him and He will guide your path.

My dear family, I give you my deepest love. I pray that the Lord will continue to enlarge your vision and expand your joy. Your examples have already touched the lives of many people here. Happy Birthday Dad. I pray that the Lord will bless you with a deeper sense of the love of your family for you. I pray likewise at this time for you Grandma. As Aunt Teri counseled me before I left, ¨Elder Russell, don´t you ever forget where you come from.¨ I have not Mom, Dad, Grandma. And unto my Savior Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, I have not.

I send my best wishes across the miles my dear family. May God keep you in His hands always.

With all my love,
Elder Russell