Friday, December 13, 2013

Hiking Pictures

Elder Molinaro loved hiking with his district on P-day! He even placed that Book of Mormon on the way down!

From December 2, 2013: Mental Wanderings

Dear family,
 Well, the bad news and the good news.  "S" didn't end up getting baptized on Saturday, but she'll just be more ready in a couple weeks.  Yea for her!!!!
Ummmmm so Thanksgiving was the day after I wrote you last.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  So on Thanksgiving day we were not to go see people who weren't expecting us. Oh, and everyone in our ward is single, so they went to see their families... Soooooooooooooooooooo we ended up eating at our ward mission leader's house for Thanksgiving, which was actually really fun.  I taught all of them how to make our Oreo cookie turkeys and they thought it was great.  I got pictures and there were some really good ones made.  We also did lists from A to Z on what we are thankful for.  I did one for the gospel and one for everything else. 
I was reminded again and again how truly thankful I am for my family and for all of the abundance and blessings that we have.  I never really realized what it is we have until I've come to Phoenix and seen what basic things some people don't have.  I'm so grateful to have been raised in the gospel.  Thank you Mom and Dad.  You guys are more awesome than you know.  I'm also grateful for how united our family is. 
After Thanksgiving dinner we went to teach a lesson to one of our investigators and he told us that his Thanksgiving dinner consisted of tortillas that he heated up in the microwave and put some cheese on.  His family un-invited him from Thanksgiving dinner because of some things going on with him.  He had a couple of rolls laying around though, so we  heated them up and had a Thanksgiving meal of rolls together -- him and his only friends.  It was simplicity but it was love, and it's all any of us needed.  Two or three gathered in His name, and as promised, there was He also.  It was the most touching and humbling Thanksgiving dinner I've ever experienced.  

We also saw a few miracles this week.  Yesterday we had a less-active man who hasn't been to church in six weeks walk in, get up to bear his testimony, and say he wants to come back, then asked if we can come teach him.  Then there was a nonmember who looked up what time church started and came on down.  Fasting and prayer really does work.  
Elder S. and I read a talk on consecration this morning and it kind of blew my mind.  Consecration really is the only way to do it right.  If we live our lives as consecrated people, asking always if our decisions are what God wants for us and laying our time and talents on the altar of sacrifice, we become so removed from sin that we start to become perfected.  It's a thought worth considering.

On Thanksgiving we played in a turkey bowl and I had a couple catches that made me feel like Justin for a was a good feeling haha.  I really do look up to you so much Justin.  Ashley, I am utterly convinced that you are a fantastic mother.  Chris, I'm sure you're acing school.  I pick on you but you're so smart and you love your family.  Momma, I find new significance in everything you taught me every single day.  Dad, you are a great example for me and have been a great dad.  I'm so grateful for each and every one of you and the blessings you are in my life.  Grandparents, you guys are awesome -- so strong in the gospel and so willing to sacrifice for your families.  I look up to each of you.  

It's not that there's nothing to report, it is just that abnormality has become the normality for me.  I have all I need, minus perhaps some instructions on how to cook, a skill which somehow in the years of basking in the glow of my parent's cooking I failed to develop.  Haha time means more to me now and yet I can't believe how it flies.  Living life one day at a time will do that to you.  I don't feel like the person I was before.  Maybe it's just the hair and the glasses that do it, or the fact that I've put on a few pounds, perhaps it's in the simplicity of the life of a mission or the inevitability of the unexpected that I have come to expect.  But now when I look in the mirror I see someone else, someone different.  I don't know if it's someone more than before yet, but someone different for sure.  Shades of myself appear every once in a while, but my own name sounds unfamiliar to me now.  Luckily, I don't even have to confront questions of self for another year and a half.  I am simply "Elder" now.  Introspectiveness has left me.  I'm rambling.  I guess that makes me a rambling man.  But there I go again with a Babylon reference.  Ha!
Missionary work is a fancy word for love.  And I'm trying to develop more of that love.  Share your testimony.  Turn outward.  Make choices.  Learn from mistakes.  Be happy.  think, dream, pray, be, become.  Live  pursuant to becoming perfected through consecration.

As for Brazil, it feels like an ethereal idea for the distant future rather than a reality.  One day they'll call me and say go to Brazil and I'll say "make me."  :)  Arizona is great.  

I've wandered into mists of obscurity, and so here, at the turn, I leave you.  Find your own prestige.  I'll keep looking for mine.
Elder Molinaro

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

From November 27, 2013: Nice to Know You

Prepare yourselves.
Unrelenting fits of insanity of circumstances marked the past week.  It was fascinating to say the least. "B," our most solid investigator, was passed on to missionaries in a ward nearer to her home so that they may finish teaching and baptize her.  We taught a practicing gay couple the law of chastity in their home.  Our investigator who was to be baptized this Saturday confessed to us that he is on probation.  Therefore... no baptism.  On Sunday, a less-active member and an investigator texted to say that the church isn't for them.  Another investigator did the same yesterday.  And, despite or perhaps because of all of this, it was a great week.  The work is steadily increasing and investigators are beginning to be more solid.  The ward council trusts us now and bishop asks for our advice when it is needed, trusting that we will make the right decision and provide "boots-on-the-ground" input.  Whenever we lose an investigator to outside pressure or dwindling interest, another one falls from the sky.  Truly we are seeing miracles.

One such miracle occurred on Monday.  We received a name from our bishop to go see a less-active member.  We walked up and, instead of finding one less-active member, we found four.  All of them want to come back to the gospel and love the doctrine but have had negative experiences in the past and are infected by the vitriol of an excommunicated older member who lives with them.  Their main complaints center around members not living up to what the gospel demands of them.  One man stopped coming to church because he had not been home taught in 8 years and figured he would come back when someone finally showed up.  They have forgotten that Christ's gospel is perfect, but that people are not.
So let me take a moment here to extol the virtues of home teaching.  DO THY HOME TEACHING.  In the words of Abinadi, "Yay, ye know I speak the truth, and ye ought to tremble before God."  There's just not an excuse and it's too important to neglect.  These people are God's children and when we stop home teaching them, we make them question if they really are valuable to God at all.  How dare we.  
We had some hilarious occurrences this week as well.  We went to contact a referral and found his mom home instead.  She proceeded to instruct us on how Mormons are Satanists and demanded that we read the Bible at some point in our lives.  We asked her if she would like us to bring her a Bible so she could have an extra.  She declined.  So we offered to serve her.  She said no.  So then later that day we went to the house of a less-active named Patricia.  We knocked on the door.  A shirtless man answered.  "Hi, is Patricia here?"  "Nooooooooooooooo."  "Does she live here?  "Noooooooo."  "Did she used to live here?"  "Nooooooooooooooooo." I glanced down in time to see "Patricia" tattooed across his chest.  He closed the door.  Further investigation required on that one.  
Finally, this Saturday is the baptism of an investigator in the Osborn Ward who I began teaching long ago.  We met her while she sat on a staircase and this Saturday she will make a covenant with a God to whose existence she was once opposed.  "S" is the name. She's the one I rapped the song to. I'm so excited.  
For Thanksgiving, I am going to have dinner at our ward mission leader's house.  The remainder of the day will likely be spent walking the streets of Phoenix, asking people what they are thankful for.  I'm excited.  

It is roughly 65 degrees here and people are wearing coats and gloves.  I think it's hilarious.

Thanksgiving kind of crept up fast, but I really must say that I am so thankful for all of you.  My family, my friends, my ward family, and strangers who find this blog.  I'm thankful for your kindness, your love, your patience, and your understanding.  For your mail, for your questions, and for the things I have learned from each and every one of you.  Man is the sum of the experiences he chooses and the people who choose him, so thank you all for choosing me.  I would choose you all as well. 
As you sit around your tables and spread your thanks, remember above all else to be thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing brings hope to the downtrodden and freedom to the captive than the assurance provided by communion with God through earnest prayer and sincere seeking.  Jesus was more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a worker of miracles, more than a statue, more than a role model, and more than a teacher.  He was the Christ, and because of that, we may all live pursuant to perfection.  And for that I give thanks.  
If only we understood.  If only we understood that everything, everything is pursuant to making the family of God an eternal family in all senses of the world.  If only we knew what we believed.  If only we believed what we knew.  If only we WANTED to follow the commandments.  If only we saw people as solutions rather than as problems.  If only we slowed down and stepped back.  The world is full of busy people, unkind people, uncaring people.  It takes courage to be humble, patient, grateful, and prioritized.  To live a life turned towards Christ and to be converted, from intelligence to a converter of intelligences, from needing grace to bestowing it, from imperfection to perfection.  Imagine.  Imagine.    
And then do.

Because there is nothing else.  Imagine perfection and then seek it.  Imagine divinity and then find it.  Imagine kindness and then give it.  Imagine a child of God.  And then be it.  

You all are loved.  In an eternal sense by the Eternal.  Ponder on the gift you are offered.
I will as well.
Love and thanks,

Elder Molinaro

From November 18, 2013: Dropstep

Dear All,
 Every week the same keyboard is before the same fingers of a missionary and a man not the same as the one who pounded out a message the week before.  Everything changes and nothing changes.  It's the life of a missionary and therefore the life of an attempted disciple.  The week of the past is not so relevant as the week of the future and yet there must needs be significance communicated through a weekly slapping of keys and racking of brain.  Significance.  What a fascinating term.  It's what missionary life is all about,  Is this effective?  Is this worthwhile?

It is about first finding the significant in your own life, grabbing hold of it and making it MEAN something.  I fear I'm not being clear though, so me permita tentar de novo.

 Missionary work is the continual struggle to gain and communicate meaning of significance.  It is communication at it's most basic form when done right, which is to say that it is communion.  It is first the struggle to obtain for yourself a witness, a significant communion with the spirit that changes the heart to the extent that we forsake the world and it's flashing lights and descend into the lone and dreary world, pursuant to communicating to others meaning of significance.

What then, are we to term significant.  All that is significant really flows from God.  Everything else is flavor.  Significance is that which edifies, uplifts, instructs, and, above all, CHANGES you.  Which is what the gospel is all about.

I found significance this week in studying the atonement and accepting imperfection.  Perfection is required, and the means of obtaining it is provided through Christ.  The part that is found lacking in most of us is effort.  The effort to partake.  That's really all that life is: an effort to partake of the Atonement.  But to do that, we must recognize the person of Christ, His mortality as well as His rise to immortality while under the duress caused by our carnalities, and accept it as significant.  As something worth CHANGING for.  And that's where most of us disconnect from significance and wander into pursuits of insignificance.  Forget or never experience communion with the Spirit and therefore never prioritize our lives into things of significance and insignificance.  
We teach and continue to teach those who are willing to embrace significance.  Some aren't.  And that's all there is to say about it.  
The week was significant.  It is fascinating to speculate that the conversations you have with some people will be discussed at judgement day.  There's quite a burden that comes from the knowledge, which is why we must rely on the Spirit.  All things I'm trying to work on. 
Highlights of the week included asking several investigators how their lives would be negatively affected by following the example of Jesus Christ and being baptized.  We all concurred that it would indeed not be detrimental to their lives.  Action is the lacking element in their individual equations at the moment.  It is action that is the essential part, which makes the situation problematic.  Embracing significance and not merely observing that it exists.
It was a week of fascinating lessons.  Elder S. and I are clicking more than ever and we taught the gospel of Jesus Christ using Primary (the children's program of the Church) songs.  There's a lady who is the most solid investigator ever and she's has a baptism date of the 14th.  Then we were told to give her to other missionaries far away.  It's a story.  Facepalm.  J. is also progressing really well after this week.  L., too, is getting there.  We had a great and super spiritual lesson with her last night. 

We also went to the temple  visitor's center this week with C. and J.  It was a great experience and there's the temple and it's just so wonderful, those really are so much more than just buildings.  They truly are the houses of God.  

There is a great talk by Elder Holland called "Therefore What?"  That's the question I would have each of you ask this week as you go to your various pursuits of significance and lesser significance.  Ask yourself, "I believe _________________ (fill in the blank).  Therefore what?"  What actions come from your belief? 

Live life embracing significance.  

I also have been reading in the New Testament about Jesus Christ's atonement.  There is nothing of more significance, nothing of more worth, nothing of more beauty and simplicity and love than a God kneeling and praying to His Father, paying a price of spiritual torment so great that His flesh bore witness of the agony.  What does the atonement mean to you individually?  If you don't know, find out.  For all else is insignificance.

The mission is great and President is an all star.  The work moves forward, the Lord looks onward.  All is becoming.
Elder Molinaro

From November 11, 2013: Joy to the Ward

Drum roll please!  So I totally went to a baptism this week!  "J" GOT BAPTIZED.  She's from my old area --  a 9-year-old who I only got to teach once but I put her on baptismal date and then she actually came and got baptized and I got to take an investigator and see it!  Yea for the perks of having your old area be a small subsection of your new area!  So that was really special.   And apparently "S," who I also found and taught in my last area is progressing really well and should be baptized soon.  Huzzah for postponed success!  
It was quite an interesting week, as it always is.  The work is picking up, which is nice.  You could put "miracle" in the description of basically everyone we are teaching.  Or "boyfriend/girlfriend of ward member" in all of them, too.  Haha!  Singles ward for life!   (A "singles ward" is different than a traditional, "family" ward because it is made up of young adults between the ages of  21-30 years of age who are not married.  Such wards have older adult leaders and are typically located around a college campus.  That's the kind of ward where Tyler is serving now).
Let's hear it for McDonalds restaurant, by the way.  We have a miracle lesson just about every week there and usually it has to do with McDonalds.  In fact, there has never been a time that we went into a McDonalds that we DIDN'T end up teaching a lesson.
So this week's miracle is brought to you by a guy we met in a Subway Restaurant one day. He said he was interested in our message, but he was working so he couldn't talk right then.  And then we met him THE NEXT DAY ABOUT 20 miles from where we met him the first time when we walked into a McDonalds.  And he sat down with us and basically said "If I run into you guys again, I'll read the whole Book of Mormon in a day!"  We are handing him off to other Elders because of his location, but it was crazy!  Stuff just happens and it's all for the best. 
Also crazy this week is how many investigators of ours have really started to understand that the church is true.  Now we just have to get them to understand that they need to be baptized.  There were investigators lost, ones found, people brought closer to Christ, experience gained, forms filled out.  The most meaningful routine of existence.
This week, something that has come up again and again is being perfect.  It's a commandment.  The scriptures even tell us so, that it is a commandment and as such must be followed.  "Be ye therefore perfect."  This is devastating if it is not understood.  We think:  "Perfect?!  How can I be perfect?!  I'm so far from that."  And so we all curl up in a little ball and despair for a while because perfection is something we think of as unattainable.  People shout their condolences at us.  It means "Uhhh... be perfect later!" they think.  But no, we can be this small facet of life.   The fact is, we are to be perfect.  And we are to be perfected NOW.  This is the source of the despair of the world.  If we can't be perfect, we can't come to live with God, because He is perfect and we must be clean to live with Him.  We are to be perfect.  Once we live that commandment on our own, we can truly begin to be like Him.  Until then, we have been given Christ, who promises us that we can be PERFECTED through Him.  He helps us live up to the commandment until we can finally live up to it on our own.

Let's talk about something else quickly, too.  We are to live our lives pursuant to a purpose.  People agree on this, but most choose to ignore it and live their lives day-to-day with no clear direction.  What's the point of that?!  The disagreement emerges when we begin to discuss what we are to live our lives pursuant TO.  But that's the easy part.  We are to live our lives pursuant to growth, which is pursuant to perfection, which is pursuant to Godhood.  Think of that before you make a decision.  Think about that as your purpose.  And slowly, each action will be brought in line with a purpose: living pursuant to becoming like God.
I love you all.  Thank you for all of your support, encouragement, and love.
With Hope,
Elder Molinaro

From November 4, 2013: Lucky 7

 Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi!
Well this week was quite a week.  I'll hit some highlights for you:

Found a new investigator last night who we challenged to be baptized and he said, "Well, sure if I'm not doing anything."  We are working on that.

Had interviews with the mission president.  I requested in one of my last letters that we have a training on how to better our weekly planning.  He requested that I train my zone on weekly planning.  See, it's funny because it's ironic.  ha!
Found this former investigator named J. at a Taco Bell.  He's so cool!  He's investigating again.  What a stud!  His address pin balled around a bit but it turns out he is on the very edge of our area!
We quite literally crushed evil with the word of wisdom. The Lord's timing is a real thing.
Timing.  Let's discuss timing.  The Lord's timing.  All right, let's start at the beginning.  So Halloween. We were trying really hard to  plan by the Spirit  because I thought "So, since President thinks we can plan, maybe we should prove him right."  Which is probably what he was going for.  But anyway.  It felt like it really was not working out all.  And then we got to the house of a less-active member and he opened up and said "Come in, come in" and we did and it turned out he was going to an addiction recovery facility in 15 minutes.  We committed him to read the whole Book of Mormon while there and he was in tears talking about his past spiritual experiences and he's totally going to come back and it was PERFECT timing.
 That was the BEGINNING.  So then we really had to go to the bathroom so we are walking through a McDonalds to get to one and this group of high school students said the word "Mormons" -- so clearly we sat down and started teaching them.  For an hour and a half.  9 of them.  And one of them was a member and they all listened and participated and 3 were "atheists" and so we talked truth with them and they believe in absolute truth and so I said "So you believe in God!" and it was great.   We totally had an impromptu lesson in McDonalds.  And they thought it was a Halloween prank for a solid 20 minutes but what else is new?  ha!

We also had the most guided lesson of all time the other day.  T. is the man.  It's like he teaches us the principle through what he's experienced in the past few days and then we slap a name on it and say "Yup, that's called tithing."  "Yup, that's called the word of wisdom."  "Yup, that's called blessings for reading scriptures daily."  He's an absolute all-star.  And our lesson was about the plan of salvation and it could have been in "The District" (a missionary training video).  It was that cool.  

The work is for sure picking up here.  There's still much travel time and it's hard and frustrating sometimes but I have come to know that the Spirit really guides you when you let Him.

A word on studies.  If we aren't studying every day from the scriptures, we need to go to a quiet place and repent.  It's a commandment. And I'm finding the most effective study comes from writing a question at the beginning and searching for an answer.  And I PROMISE you that if you sincerely seek an answer, you will get it.  You WILL get your answer.  And it will build your faith.  Everyone wants more faith.  I figured out this week as I looked at all my study journals that those were all my revelations on my  question and answer sessions with the Spirit.  That's what study and that's what church is supposed to be: a revelatory experience.  But if you don't go with questions, you will never get the answers you crave or the faith you need.

IMMERSE yourself in the NAME of Christ.  Read Mosiah 5 and D&C 130 and figure out the judgement.  Study the topics of blood, study knowing, study truth, study, study, study.  Don't you realize what you have when you hold the Book of Mormon in your hands?  You have the very word of God.   Time flows forward with or without us.  Let it be with us.  

Will you all have a question and answer session with the Spirit this week?  In the words of flight attendants gone by, "I need a verbal 'Yes'."  ;)
I love you all.  I pray for you.  I feel your prayers as well.  Ask the right questions.
Elder Molinaro

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Few Pictures

Elder Molinaro with Elder S.

Elder Molinaro's group with visiting Elder Teh

From October 28, 2013

Hello dear friends.  Guess what? Guess what?  Guess what?!!  Beatrice got baptized!!!!!!!  Who is Beatrice?! Well I'll tell you. One of my investigators?  No.  One of my old investigators?!  Also no. She was a woman who got baptized into the Spanish branch on Saturday.  I found out about it this morning and that's why I'm all bouncy about it.  'Cause I do have a connection to her.  I totally randomly knocked on her door when we were looking for a less-active member on the records who apparently had moved.  Beatrice said "Not only am I not that person, but I totally don't speak English either!"  I replied "Well, we're missionaries and I'll try to speak Portuguese which I really don't speak well enough for you to understand.  Here's what's going to happen--other guys in white shirts and worse ties are going to show up at your door and save your soul."  And then that actually happened! I referred her to the Spanish Elders and presto, 7 weeks later she entered into the covenant of baptism by the proper priesthood authority of God.  Moral of the story: you never know who is going to accept the gospel so try to talk to everyone, even when you are linguistically incapable of doing so! 
So that's my fun, exciting, fact/news/thing pre-blurb  Email.  Enjoy.
And then the rest of my letter . . .
First, a gospel insight on divinity, carnality, and mortality as they relate to the fall and the Atonement.  That's right: personal study yesterday was a blast.  Basically, the price of divinity for mortality was the mortality of divinity.  I could go on for days.  It's something worth studying. It's like the coolest thing ever!  Oh my goodness like I can't even explain it to you but for the 5th time on my mission I finally think I understand more about the Atonement.  Which means I really probably don't but I'm getting closer!  And if you really want a deep swim, study "blood" and what its significance is.  Wow.  
Okay so here's what's up.  The end of Joseph Smith history, where Oliver Cowdery has his little blurb is the coolest blurb of scripture ever!  Page 59 in the Book of Mormon. He talks about seeing while others rest upon uncertainty, he speaks of fiction and deception fleeing, of doubt sinking no more to rise.  It's truly inspiring.  And it comes back to a simple and fundamental attribute that too often we dismiss or misunderstand: reverence.  It is easy to get caught up in the mundane things we do as missionaries.  Knocking on empty doors, even teaching lessons.  It's easy to lose the vision of the grandeur and majesty of God.  Because truly, it is so glorious and so important.
We are children of a loving Heavenly Father and heirs of divinity if we will give up carnality by embracing our internal potential for divinity.  And there is so much glory to be had, so much power and miracles to be seen.  They are everywhere.  And they are real.  And when we recognize our smallness and fall to our knees in humility, we come to understand that the work and the glory is worthy of reverence and that everything we do should be done in worthiness and in reverence.  Something to consider.  Think covenants.
The week was one of some real ups and downs.  Tuesday was basically the worst day ever.  Our planning died and our time was ineffective.  And that is the worst feeling in the world: feeling ineffective and like you are wasting time.  And we went contacting on a college campus.  Which let me just say is SUPER WEIRD.  It's like... I don't even know.  They're all your age and it just feels like college and there's no reverence and it's a fascinating experience.  But ya' just have to talk to them.  Ya' just do.  And when you do, it all turns out all right.  Tuesday was bad with all the appointments falling through and stuff.  Then on Wednesday we had a mission tour from Elder Teh of the 70.  What a stud.  That was a spiritual feast. 
And then we met T.  He is amazing.  He was a referral.  And he's a miracle.  We knock on the door and he's like "Yeah, come in" and we go in and he loves hockey and he's turning his life around and we're like "Hey, want to be baptized?" and he says "Yeah, I really do" and we say "Great!  Let's do that!" and he just GETS it.  So he's fantastic.  And loves hockey. 
Our investigators all started progressing this week though so that's awesome.  Not all of them are ready to accept a baptismal date but they are sincerely seeking and it's amazing to watch.  We also had a lesson with a man, C, who has been investigating for a very long time.  And I felt like I needed to promise him an answer THAT NIGHT if he did a few simple steps.  No word yet on if he did them but we are praying for him. 
We've also had lessons this week where people have decided to live the word of wisdom.  Gone with the coffee, gone with the tobacco, gone with it all.  It's truly humbling to see people change their lives pursuant to following Jesus Christ. 
We have met a lot of really prepared people and we are just trying to help them see how prepared they are.  I'm grateful for all of you and I'm grateful to be here.  The church really is true.  There is no way to get around it, whichever way you try.  And if you haven't sincerely checked it out, you're missing the purpose of your life.  So, you know, get on that.  Live the gospel.  Share the gospel.  Be reverent.  And seek to understand.  As Hebrews 11 tells us, through FAITH we understand.  So try to understand, read your scriptures, and recognize that God wants a relationship with you even more than you want a relationship with Him.  Don't deny Him or short him on that.

Every happiness to you all.

Elder Molinaro

From October 21, 2013: It's Not College, It's Not College, It's Not College

Well, where to begin?  The question troubles me every time I sit to put ink to screen. There's so much that goes on in a week that it's impossible to describe everything.  First, the area.  If my first area is one way, this area is completely the other way.  Gone are the homeless interactions, the barbed wire and creative vocabulary of the streets, and here are the homes and the nicely-quaffed hair. 
The area is large.  Excessively large and spread out.   So I'm in a car.  That means planning and knowing what is going on is even more important... and so much harder.  My days are spent riding and planning and trying to organize and clean and teach occasionally.  All that travel time gives me ample time to work on the Christ-like attribute of patience.  It's still missionary work, it's just much slowed down from the last area.  My new companion is Elder S.  He is a stud.  We work nicely together.
The ward is really on top of it, which is wonderful.  We are focusing a lot on finding but the investigators we have are great. Aaaaaaaaand... I TAUGHT a LESSON IN PORTUGUESE!!!!WHOOOAOAOAOAOAOAAAAAA! Craziness, right?  He's Mr. W. and he was hesitant to speak it at first because he's working on English immersion but we had a really good chat about his concerns and what he needs to do to get baptized and it was terrific.  We may be seeing him again tonight.  He's an all-star.  That was the biggest high ever because I study the language each day but I never get to talk to anyone who speaks it and it turns out that I'm learning a language that actually exists.  Who knew? 
We are also teaching a few people who say they know all of these things are true, but they aren't quite ready to take the leap.  All of them are so special though; we love them.  The obstacles we face in such a large area are foreign to me.  Miles restrictions (missionary's are only allowed to drive a specific number of miles in a given time), planning difficulties because of how spread out everyone is... it is a different type of success than I came to expect, but I guess that is why Chapter 1 (entitled:  "What is my purpose as a missionary?") of our handbook, "Preach My Gospel," exists.  A lot of the people we work with have challenges coming into the church.  They'll live the gospel, but not be baptized.  We are working on pushing them over the edge and into the water and helping them to see the blessings that come from baptism.
Being in a singles ward is something akin to being "in the ward, but not of the ward."  It's so weird sometimes.  The people are awesome, it's just that there's this thing where when we go to someone's house for dinner it feels EXACTLY like I'm back at Justin's apartment at BYU and I have to curl into a ball in my head going "it's not college it's not college it's not college."  Haha  It's fun but you definitely have to be ready for anything.  Teaching people my own age is a strange experience, too.  But I suppose we just have to follow Paul's advice:  "To the Greeks I become as a Greek, to the Romans I become as a Roman..."

We've had some great lessons with great people this week.  I used my little whiteboard to teach the plan of salvation in terms of problems God faced and solutions He used to solve them.  An interesting point is that the Fall (of Adam) is a solution and not a problem in that presentation.  It was the first time I had ever tried teaching it that way but it makes so much sense in my mind.  God's plan really was a set of solutions to achieve His purpose of enabling His children to have all the blessings He himself enjoys.
There's something else I'm learning.  Think in terms of solutions, not in terms of problems.  Identifying a problem is not a solution.  We need to solve the problems, not wallow in them.  Languishing is no fun.  Progress instead! 

Prayer.  Major cool thing about prayer.  When we pray we are to represent the mind of Christ.  What does that mean?  It means that we are to pray to the Father in His name as if it were Him praying for us.  What He WOULD ask for us is what we SHOULD BE asking for for ourselves.  Cool, right?!  For some reason I think that's so amazing!  So try that out!  Pray as if you were someone who loved you praying for you.  What would they ask for or about?  What do they think you need? It's a great exercise to try and makes prayer more effective.

God works in small ways and by small means.  And the cool part is that we get to be those small means sometimes.  We texted Sis. L. to make sure she was coming to church and it turns out she had just had a really hard time and was wondering if the gospel was still true.  And getting our message cheered her up and got her back to her set position of being so extremely prepared.  Three investigators came to church this week.  It's an area with so much potential and so much to be done.  It's exciting and exhausting, which is how it should be. 
Some recent highlights:

* We went from 2 investigators to 22 in 3 weeks (yea for organization)!

The Word of Wisdom (doctrine regarding the latter-day saint health code) really makes a difference.  Alcohol ruins so many lives.

* Told a guy at a bus stop this was the most important moment of his life because our gospel message is true and asked if he was going to let God into his heart or blow us off.  He blew us off.
* Cried saying "bye" to Brother W., the most awesome and prepared Pentecostal ever to walk the face of the world.
* Said a tearful goodbye to a family who was too drunk to say "bye" or to understand I was leaving.  I love them very much and miss them.  They're gonna be so great one day.
Love to all!  Pray in the mind of Christ!  See the Bible dictionary's definition of prayer.  Don't be Laman and Lemuel and be past feeling.  Return, repent, and do it all over again.  CTR ("Choose The Right" - a latter-day saint acronym) backwards is "Return To Christ."  Something we all need to do.  

Elder Molinaro

Monday, October 21, 2013

From October 16, 2013: It wasn't so much that I ran into a cactus as that the cactus ran into me.

Well, my fellow children of God, what a week.  There really just aren't words.  I have been transferred to the young single adult ward, which means I cover 3 zones and am in a car.  My companion is Elder S. and he is truly awesome.  He's a track star and is really humble and just a great guy.  It was hard to say goodbye to Elder B. but he'll take really good care of the area and he's training now and I still see him pretty regularly at zone events because I've been inter-zoned.  I felt good about leaving the area because I feel like I did what I could with my limited experience and all for the ward and got pretty close with members and investigators. It was sad to go and I'll miss them.
So I'll give you highlights of this week/things I've learned.  Sound good?  Well you're reading it so yes, it does.

Found a new investigator, met with him twice, thought he was really cool, didn't show at church, went to check up on him, he'd been taken away by the cops after having a mental breakdown.  He'll probably be back though.  Great guy.

Hearing the stories of homeless people is amazing.  And I ran into the first homeless man I ever truly talked to IN THE HOUSE OF THAT INVESTIGATOR!  I'd say "what are the odds of that?" but there ARE NO ODDS of that happening.  I said I had to find him again before I left and then I found him and then the next day they told me I would be transferred.  Coincidence?  No such thing.

Went on exchanges with Elder Q., who is a sign language missionary.  He's awesome and sign language truly is special.  It is so cool as a way of communication and the gift of tongues extends there as well.  It was humbling and such a privilege.
We weren't getting through to one of our investigators and she told us she was into music so I converted the plan of salvation to a rap and rapped it for her.  She liked it and it was so much fun.  Haha!  Who ever said poetry would never come in handy?
Met an awesome lady cutting my hair who was like "Yeah, the Book of Mormon is true.  I received that witness and then never did much with it."  Talk to everyone.

You don't realize how much you love everyone you've come to know and teach or even the ground underneath your feet until you have to leave it.

So, it wasn't so much that I ran into a cactus as that the cactus ran into me.  I'm flying back home because we had like 6 minutes to go 15 blocks (we totally made it) and this lady is on the sidewalk.  There is a cactus on the other side of the sidewalk.  I yell "I'm on the left!  I'm on the left!"  So, naturally, she looks back and jumps to the left, where I am.  Swerve.  Cactus.  The tire took the most punishment.   I actually didn't even get spiked.  The tire looked like a pushpin though and popped real good.  Real good.  

Pretty sure there's a Brazilian investigator in the singles ward.  Yesssssssssssss Portuguese. 

I could go on and on.  There's just no such thing as a normal day, especially on a bike in Phoenix.  It's tears and then joy, wallowing in misery with a man consumed in darkness and drunkenness, knowing you can do no more for him because you've been called to serve elsewhere, and then joy and light with a boy who doesn't believe in God then begins to pray in earnest.  It's hopping on a bike and sweating, drowning out cuss words with scriptures, nodding in agreement and it's the change you hear in your voice when the Spirit takes over.  It's the sweat and the tiredness and the excitement for tomorrow and the overriding calm that tells you there IS nothing else, that all work is the work of salvation.  It's the shaking dirty hands and lightening heavy hearts.  It's pain and sorrow and work and change and growth.  It's fast it's slow, it's new, it's eternal.  And it's for all of us.  "Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto Him."

This is it.  It's getting it and realizing you still don't REALLY get it but it's trying to get it and it's understanding and knowledge and purpose and light and courage and for once participating in the other side of the atonement, seeing people from Christ's view, lifting where you can and bringing those who will come to a knowledge of their Savior.  

I saw miracles this week.  I'm sure you all did too.  God is real.  The Book of Mormon is true. Everyone is worth saving.

Elder Molinaro

From October 7, 2013: Conference in General

So like this cool thing happened this weekend where prophets and apostles of God stood before the world and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ in our church's televised General Conference.  Many of you missed part or all of it.  So go get caught up because it's like super important!    . . . So hello my loves. I am alive.  The talks from this weekend were just like a fire hose of fantasticness.  It's like they get up there and go GOSPEL and then press an "on" switch.  And I'm looking around at some congregation sleepers and thinking "HOW ARE YOU SLEEPING THROUGH THIS?!" Oh, people. 
So a couple of things I learned and have been thinking about:
If you ever wonder why you don't get all that much from General Conference, it's because you aren't reading your scriptures closely enough or you aren't spiritually prepared to be fed.  Let's take the thrice-repeated quote of the conference, for instance.  "Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls to Him."  Now go read Jacob 5 and tell me we aren't being pointed to fulfillment of prophecy.  Things specifically line up and they tell us exactly where we are on the timeline of Jacob 5.  This is serious stuff.  Hint I learned:  If they say it three times it's vastly important!
What else:  Elder Bednar's talk on paying our tithing.  Wow.  Subtle spiritual blessings while we are looking elsewhere.  So true.  And let's talk about the commandments for a second.  But no, let's first go to the talk about "No other first priorities."  I was bouncing up and down with that talk because it's what I've been trying to phrase right for forever and he just nailed it.  God has to be our first priority, and if He isn't we're just doing it wrong.  So few people actually get it.  Like get it, get it, get it.  Just try to understand what the atonement means and how every time you do something wrong, the longer you go before you repent, every time you upset your spouse or child or some such, you are driving the nails a little deeper into Christ's hands, giving a little more vinegar, demanding another drop of blood to fall.  And if you truly UNDERSTAND that, how can that not change everything you do and are and want to be?
Which brings us to the commandments.  What are the commandments?  Not a list of rules we should apologetically tell others about and haphazardly keep or break because, you know, it doesn't really matter.  No!  They are directions from a loving Heavenly Father who knows what's up and is attempting to mold us into something better and more worthy!  And we should be excited about them because they are directions on how to follow the path!  If we are truly committed to following Christ, commandments are not burdens or annoyances, they are signs telling us how to follow Christ.  The Sabbath day especially is worth tightening up on.  Nowhere in the commandments does it say, "when it's convenient."  Surely, we can do better.

Which brings us to what is truly tested while we are on earth?  Which I also believe to be the measure of a missionary and a man.  It can be summed up in one word.  Commitment.  We all accepted the plan before we came here, it's just whether we end up being committed to the truth we obtain, committed to the faith we have, committed to the path of Christ.  And true understanding brings commitment.  As Elder Holland said, our commitment to "the pursuit of godliness will be tested."  If you remain or get committed, I promise you blessings and purpose beyond what you can imagine.

As for me, I'm doing well.  I woke up feeling like myself a couple days ago, which you might not understand until you've been on a mission, but it was a strange feeling.  It took a while but here I am.  The church is so, so true.  Read the Book of Mormon.  No evil man could write such a book as that, and no good manwould write it --.  unless he was commanded of God.  See the talk "Safety for the Soul" by Elder Holland in 2009.

Read the commandments section of Preach My Gospel this week and tighten up.  Obedience brings blessings.  Exact obedience brings miracles. 

I love you all.  I pray for you.  I'm being watched over here and trying to become less of a blind guide.  Wish me luck.  
Elder Molinaro

Monday, October 7, 2013

From September 30, 2013: Bags, Ice Cream Trucks and Fruit

I'm glad everything is going well.  I love you all. 

People from my MTC district got their Brazilian visas and there's no rhyme or reason to it but honestly I would be pretty broken up if they made me leave Arizona right now.  Too many people here to save.

So let's review the week for a moment in my head. Ok.  Lessons learned:

* When people ask you what you think is in the bag, you just walk away.  Just walk away!  That's all.  You just hand them a Book of Mormon, testify, and walk away. 

* Being dropped over the phone is a sad experience, especially when you're at a point with the people you're teaching where you can say, "You're breaking up with me over the phone and not in person?!  That's just rude."  Yeah, that one actually was really sad.  I miss them.

* Cinnamon is powerful stuff

* Portuguese translates mostly into Spanish

* People have fascinating perspectives on/questions about the gospel

* You can get anyone to take a Book of Mormon if you try hard enough, including people who tell you you're going to hell.

* When people say they don't want to talk and you ask them why, they'll tell you their life story, which then translates into how the gospel can help them.

* If you're just yourself, people are more willing to listen.

* Miracles happen

* Bouncy balls change lives and days

* Alcohol ruins families and lives

* Coincidences really aren't a lot of the time, especially when we ride up to a member who is like "Why am I smoking?" and then throws it all away. 

* You have no idea who will listen to you and who won't so you just have to talk to everyone.

* We're pretty much all Laman and Lemuel (complaining, often un valiant men from the Book of Mormon), which is sad.

* Motorcycle accidents are just rough

* Prayer works

* Love your companion

* It's not a numbers game

* You can put up big numbers and have it mean absolutely nothing or vice versa.

* Go out with the missionaries.  Do it.  They need you.  And you need them.  Just go and see
how it goes. 

* When I'm at the pulpit speaking, I lose all track of time.

* You never know what you're gonna get when you ride up to a bus stop.

* Protein is essential

* Water really is essential

* There's such a thing as a "devout atheist." That one was fun.

* Pleasure does not equal happiness does not equal joy

* Lunch is overrated  

* Faith is power

* Just about no one in the world GETS it.  It's sad. 

* If you're not happy, you're just not doing it right.

* Perspective is everything

* People don't think they have time for Christ

* You make time for what's important to you

* Some of the scariest people you will ever see have the kindest hearts and the most open

* People are just lost and feel they have no purpose when they don't have or understand the gospel.  And it's really sad.

* True doctrine UNDERSTOOD changes attitudes and behaviors.  Do you UNDERSTAND?

They let me speak on Sunday and there wasn't really time to prepare so I just walked up to the pulpit with scriptures and my notebook and apparently I talked for like 25 minutes.  They told me to go for 20 so it wasn't all that awful but hey.  There was much to say and much I didn't get to, but I want to share a couple of things that stuck out to me as the Spirit spoke.

First, the church is true.  Second, what is the purpose of fruit?  To produce other trees.  The taste and look are all secondary to the seeds it plants and the trees that grow from that. 

Prepared soil is important.  "By their fruits ye shall know them" refers to that there should be other trees growing around you.  The Atonement, Fall, and Resurrection are all towards the purpose of allowing us to choose forever, because sin, (transgression of the law and substitution of our own law), subjects us to justice which restricts our ability to choose, for we can't choose consequences.  "What ye do unto one of the least of these. . ." is also to be taken literally.  If you want a pump-up consolation scripture, consider Romans 8: 38-39.  Oh, man. 

Figure out what's important and what is not because honestly most of it is just not.  Study the scriptures.  Every day.  Because it's a commandment.  Meaningless prayers are a mockery of God and of the gift of prayer.  Fast offerings aren't a suggestion.  If you actually believe it, you better be actually living it to the best of your ability, because this is it.  THIS IS IT.  I can say it all I want, but you really just have to figure it out on your own.  Focus on the essential and make every day one that brings you and others closer to your Savior.  Otherwise it is a wasted day.

Make today count.
Elder Molinaro

From September 23, 2013: PROposito

Well my friends, hello.
Guess what?  It's hot.  Except it's not today!  It's like in the 90's with a breeze, so it's cool!  You think I'm being sarcastic but seriously it feels a little cold today.  I'm told people wear coats and gloves when it hits 60 degrees here.  I guess we will see in a few months.
Elder B. (my companion) is awesome.  We pun together.  While we bike.  And then we laugh.  And then we find people to teach. Can you believe I've been out 2 months?  It's flown by in some ways and yet in other ways it seems so far away.  
It was a really good week this week.  Well let's take that back.  Every week and day is something of a roller coaster but it's all for the good.  I sent the dust storm picture from a while back so hopefully that got to you.
We found several new investigators this week.  But honestly I can't even say that.  They were given to us.  For serious.  It was awesome!
We are also teaching an investigator who quantifies happiness in terms of dopamine and seratonin and claims not to believe in moral truth.  IT'S LIKE HE WAS PREPARED FOR ME.  So we had a lesson on how joy, which is an internally, self-sufficient good that can be had by relying on and trusting in Jesus Christ and making covenants, can transcend "happiness", which I viewed from his perspective as searching for an unending string of external pleasures.  And I got to use economic forms of thought to show the value of the gospel.  It was... so different.  But cool. 
And it got me reflecting on the value of the gospel in our own lives. Let us consider, for a second, the possibilities of correctness.  Now either the man we taught is right, and there is no such thing as moral truth, goodness, or righteousness, no real right or wrong, and no reason to choose to do right, OR, there IS such a thing as moral right and wrong, the source of which must be a higher being, which is God.  If this is so, then we must follow the commandments of God and do the best we can to choose the moral right.  This also implies that there is purpose in life and something higher than just seeking after the next pleasure in life.

Imagine how sad life would be if there is nothing more than the next thing to bring us pleasure. Our life is then meaningless, and if there is more pain than pleasure, there is no point to being.  That's got to be the darkest, saddest view of life I've ever heard.  But that is how most people live, even if they don't recognize it.  They live life, looking to the next thing that might finally bring happiness.  The next girl, the next vacation, the next job, the next...fill in the blank.  And life is spent searching high and low for pleasure and to avoid pain.  How dismal and dreary is that? 

 There's so much more than that.  So much higher purpose than that.  So much more to live for than the next material thing. 

Let me tell you about purpose.  Let me tell you about REAL happiness, which we will call joy for our purposes.  Joy is something internal and self-sufficient, which persists and survives irrespective of what exists externally.  No external stimulus is required to make you happy.  You simply don't need it.  If that's what your life is about, do yourself a favor and come find out what real happiness comes from. 

So where does it come from?  And why is joy superior to happiness?  Joy is superior to happiness because it is:
1. enduring
2. foundational
3. involves purpose
People say that religious people live for a Heaven that they can't know exists.  Oh, children.  No. 

We can either live for today and get as much pleasure as we can today or waste our lives, or so I'm told constantly.  Ah, but how misguided such a view is.  If we spend life living for pleasure and not for purpose, we will NEVER have internal, self-sustaining joy, and happiness will always be confused with pleasure.  And that's just a sad way to live. 
So come and find joy, which is obtained by gaining the perspective and purpose of following Christ and striving to BECOME. 

That's your challenge for the week.  Don't be.  Become.  

Think about that!

Love you all,

Elder Molinaro

Saturday, September 28, 2013

From September 16, 2013: Too Many Nitrates

An Arizona Dust Storm
Dear All,
My companion, Elder B., is a super-great guy, and we are on the same page with getting everything to move forward in this area of Arizona.  More sweat is the answer to most of the problems we encounter.  Work harder, longer, faster, smarter, more efficiently, more boldly, and just BETTER.  And so that is what we are trying to do.  Justin's mobile area book idea was inspired, and I have taken that to heart.  You may never believe this, but I color code things now.  I raise other missionary's eyebrows with my dedication to color coding.  And as I am getting more sleep than ever before in my life, guess what is happening?!  I'm finding I remember names, addresses, locations, and happenings. Turns out I have a memory after all.

We went to the Mesa temple.  That was cool, seeing as how the temple is the best place ever.  You all gotta go.  Because I can't because I'm doing other things right now and I'd just spend all day every day there.  But you gotta go.  
Today let's talk about perspective.  Everyone take a deep breath and then let it out and examine your life this week with the filter of how God sees your life.  How does God see the bills and the paperwork and the distractions and the stresses and you running around trying to figure out how to get everything done?  Probably not with the frantic and frenetic eyes in which we see such things.  Probably with an eye to the gospel and how most of what consumes our time is distraction instead of significance.  So with a perspective of the gospel, go through your life and sift all your stresses into categories of distraction and significance.  Or all your activities, if you have the nerve for it.  You may be surprised to find that mostly everything is a distraction instead of a thing of eternal significance.

That's something I learned this week.  Our lives as missionaries revolve around these people who we meet and teach and talk to and bear testimony to.  That's who we are and what we do.  Their world does not revolve around us but ours revolves around them.  And there's an interesting concept: who we are and what we do.  What's the difference?  Well, who we are is children of God.  And what we do should be influenced by that divine identity and not vice versa.  As we UNDERSTAND that identity, we come to put what we do to match who we are and not define ourselves by what we do.  There's a big difference.  Perspective, perspective.
This week we witnessed some serious miracles.  Saturday was basically Christmas.  There was a lesson, a new investigator, a less-active who wanted to be taught, or a cool conversation around every corner.   We were talking to a guy on the street and another man walks up and says "Hi, are you the missionaries?"  And we said "Yeahhhhhhhhh" and he says, "Great, I'm looking for spiritual guidance and I thought the Mormons might be able to help me.  When can we meet?"  Then seriously around the next corner we met a woman who asked where the church is.  She thinks she is Mormon but has never been baptized. We knocked on the doors of less-active members and they let us in and we taught and invited and all the rest. Like not even fair.  It was that good.  There was another day this week where we were going to the doors of all less-actives in one of our quadrants, and we walk up to one and the man is outside and he inquires, "Are you looking for us?"  and we reply, "Yes..." and he says, "Good, we've been praying for you to come; we want to get back to church."  My companion and I just look at each other like "YOU'RE DREAMING HE JUST SAID THAT TOO?"  And then we proceeded to meet a part-member family who I've already grown to love.

So some very cool happenings this week.  Some disappointments and flaking and sweat and a neck injury for my companion and his healing and some slammed doors and asking people if they had time for Jesus Christ and them saying "No" and getting cussed at and thinking we had found a dead guy at the side of the road (he was fine just passed out drunk) and baptisms postponed and me inviting someone to be baptized and him completely ignoring it.  I have serious tan lines (think watch) and there's just like so much stuff and everything is a blur and gosh, your mail is awesome and I ramble in my letters but you say they are coherent so like there's that.

And now for the lesson, I guess.  First off, people focus on baptism way too much.  Focus on covenants because it's not like baptism is THE covenant, it's just the FIRST covenant.  Second, Preach my Gospel is the second most correct of any book on earth and a missionary can get closer to God and His purpose by reading it than by any other book.  Also, let us turn to 1 Nephi 12:18 -- What divides the righteous and the wicked?  A gulf, which is the justice of God.  It also references the Messiah (mercy) and the Holy Ghost (truth).  These three principles (justice, mercy, and truth) are the three components of the law.  So the law separates the righteous from the wicked.  This is logical, because as the Bible Dictionary tells us that "sin is lawlessness." 
But let's get back to my favorite point, which I beat to death, which is that in this war there is NO MIDDLE GROUND.  In this vision, there is literally no middle ground between the righteous and wicked, it's a gulf. An expanse without ground.  Quite literally, there is no middle ground.  There is the side of those who acknowledge the law and the side of those who do not.  And any who are seeking that middle ground find a rupture in the Earth because there literally is no ground there.  And this rupture is a gulf.  And what words are almost always associated with "gulf" in the scriptures?  Misery and endless woe.  See 1 Nephi 15:28-31.
You are either on the side of the Messiah or the world, and the law (think commandments, ALL OF THEM), divides the two.  Whether you believe in the law divides the two.  Because even those who have wandered from the straight and narrow path know there is law, they just choose not to follow it.  And who stays on the right side AND the right path?  Those who CLING to the word of God, which is what sets forth the law.  So the ones in the great and spacious building, without foundations, deny the very existence of the law (see relative morality).    Those on the other side know and recognize that there is a law.  Now, if after reading all these letters and the Book of Mormon, you still deny there is a law, I simply do not understand you.  But let's focus on being on the correct side of this gulf.  Those who seek middle ground from this side first let go of the law (stop studying scriptures, praying, going to church), and then they fall into forbidden paths (sin).

Seeking middle ground will NEVER bring happiness.  Study out the implications of what divides the righteous and wicked and what seeking middle ground leads to.  You might be enlightened by what you find.
Well my friends, I now leave you.    I am well and getting even happier every day.  Depending on how you look at things (see above musings on "paths and gulfs"), I'm either out here doing the best or most evil work in the world.  So for goodness sakes pick a side.  Amen.
Paz Fora,
Elder Molinaro