Thursday, August 29, 2013

From August 26, 2013: A Juicy Two Days

Hello from Arizona!  It hasn't been all that hot thus far, or so I'm told.  90's and it's a celebration.

Clearly my P-day is Monday.  I'm in Phoenix and I'm on a bike.  Field work is... well, I'm not sure.  It's been a bizarre couple of days.  It's great, but it's somehow far different than I expected. I'll try to put my finger on it for the next couple of days. 
I hope you got the Email of me with the President of the mission.  The man is great.  I didn't get to see him for too long but what I did see was very impressive.  My companion is Elder W., though with transfers coming up this week, who knows who my companion may be next.  He's a good guy with a good heart and a desire to do well.  He says he's not my trainer because I'm a visa waiter so my trainer is somewhere in Brazil. But he may as well be because I'm learning a lot. 
The field is bringing back the identity crisis that is inevitable in missionary work in finding who you are as a missionary but still as yourself.  Fear not though, I'm adjusting.  As you know, I love situations in which I know nothing.  And this is certainly one of them.  I have none of the information or means by which to get around, I don't know the people, and I don't know how TO know these things.  But I'm trying and learning, so hopefully it will come with time. 

We had a great experience with a less active family a couple nights back where we started teaching and then the patriarch of the home took over and started bearing his testimony and teaching his children in front of us.  It was a great experience, great to watch this father bear testimony to his children.  It's striking me how important it is to teach the children.  For each parent to know how to teach and be committed to teaching their children and for each child to know what their parents know and think about the gospel.  I know it's so important that your children know you have a testimony of Christ and His gospel and  hear it often, that they are taught how to develop a testimony for themselves and recognize that they NEED their own testimony, as well as to know how to recognize the Spirit.

That's another thing I've been realizing.  How everyone NEEDS this gospel.  How it's not a fanciful thing we pass around and would be happy if people found.  It's something everyone NEEDS.  And I have the opportunity to bring it to them.  Such a blessing.

Leaving the MTC (Missionary Training Center in Provo) was difficult in some ways.  I do miss my District because I had just grown so close to all of them.  We had a final testimony meeting that was among the most spiritual experiences of my life.  But I was also grateful for the opportunity to come here and apply some of what I learned.  

But more than anything today, I want to talk about worth.  As always, I apologize for how scattered this letter is.  Maybe if any of you see a Waffle House Restaurant, you can get it "smothered and chunked" as well. ha!

More than anything, what we do in this life is determined by how we define ourselves and thus what we choose to build our self-worth on.  I guess you could see our self-worth as our personal foundation.  If our self-worth is based on personal accomplishment, being the smartest person in the room, being better at something, how much money we have, how much power, what our title is, etc., it's all worthless in the end.  There will always be someone smarter, always someone better, always someone with a better title and more money.  Or, if by some miracle we do make it to the top, then what?  Then we jealously guard it and despise others, losing charity and humility and all other Christ-like attributes. 

If, however, we decide that our self worth is based on being a child of God and following the example of Jesus Christ, we can rise to heights we never dreamed of before.  When we see that as our worth, we recognize the worth of others at the same time.  Since we are worth it because we are children of God, that means they are worth it too, no matter who they are.  And charity isn't just an act, then, it becomes instead a way of being and becoming, a way of seeing others, which way is the same way as God sees them.  

And seeing them that way takes nothing away from us.  In fact, it reaffirms our own position as children of God when we see all others in that same context--the context of the plan of salvation and the children of a loving Heavenly Father.

Life is hard.  It just is. People can be annoying and frustrating and everything else.  But when we see them as children of God--something perhaps they do not see themselves as--everything changes for the better. 

So this week,  change your perspective and try to see everyone in the context of the plan of salvation and as the children of God that they are.  Your worth is exactly the same as everyone else's and that worth comes from God.  You ARE worth it BECAUSE HE says you are. 

I'd also recommend PMG (Preach My Gospel book) chapter 6 to all of you.  Pick a Christ-like attribute to work on this week and hit it hard.  I promise you it will change your life if you let it. 
I love you all.  Be good and work hard, I'm trying to do the same.

Elder Molinaro   

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Elder Molinaro Arrives in Scottsdale!

Elder Molinaro with his new Mission President and his wife President and Sister Sweeney
Elder Molinaro made it to Scottsdale, Arizona yesterday safe and sound. He was able to call home and sounds so happy and ready to serve the people of Scottsdale!

At this point we aren't sure how long Tyler will be in Arizona but as of now, he is still on a Visa Waiting List for Brazil. Check back here for updates!

To find out more about the Arizona Scottsdale Mission (a brand new mission as of July 1, 2013), check out the mission blog!

From August 23, 2013: This is legal, I swear... (Tyler's Reassignment!)

I have permission to email for a couple minutes because I have been reassigned to the.....

IDAHO, Boise North mission!!!!!!!!!!!!              

haha psych.
Where's a map?
Drumroll please...

ARIZONA SCOTTSDALE MISSION!!!!!!!!!  For real!!  Super stoked about it and oh yeah I LEAVE THE MTC AT 4:30 AM tomorrow.  So like I guess today is P-day?  Estou confused and a bit overwhelmed at the moment but super excited!  It's been quite the week.  But yes I think I get to call(?) tomorrow at some point.... It would be helpful if they told us these things but I'm sure the administrivia will be worked out.  The flight leaves at 8:37 and arrives at 9:14 (the times they gave me, I have not adjusted at all for any time zones at all, I merely give you the data I have been given) and that's the information I have so I trust your travel experience to figure out the time zone differences and all.  I'm picturing the process in my mind and loving it.  So I will call the home phone whenever I'm allowed to.  So like be home if you want to hear from me I guess haha if I get no pick-up I will leave a sweet message you can hear when you miss my voice and then I will proceed to call mom's cell phone, then dad's cell phone.  We will not be able to communicate before then so I trust you all to figure out the logistics.  Happy planning.  Meanwhile, I shall accomplish all I need to with the frenetic pace to which I have grown accustomed over the past several weeks.  I shall miss the MTC.  Wake up tomorrow for my call I suppose.  I'm on flight DL 1616 Delta Air Lines to Phoenix so track to your heart's content.  

As for how I'm feeling, I get two mission calls when most of the world gets 0.  Lucky me, right!!!  Maybe I'll speak Spanish after all. D&C 80 and all that.   I'm ready to get to it and the Lord has sent me to Arizona.  Let the games begin.  Keep your commitments to pray.  I sure will be.  Love to all of you and if you have any questions, good luck figuring it out on your own haha.  

Peace and Blessings,
Scotts and Dales,
Chips and Dales,
But mostly Scotts and Dales,

Elder Molinaro

From August 20, 2013: Great Scott

Hello my loves! How are you doing?  Again you made my Monday excellent, what with the 9 letters and the package of Moleskine books.  You outdo yourselves.  Yeah you're awesome.  But on such a topic as that I could blab for eternity, which I found out in personal study or something is a really, really long time.  But anyway.

You may have noticed this email is called great scott.  Good observation.

Elder Scott came and spoke to us right after I ended the last email.  You know, the APOSTLE one.  So that was pretty cool.  Especially when he left us with an apostles blessing that we would receive the gift of tongues according to our diligence and faith in Christ.  Which leads us to our gospel discourse of the week, courtesy of a week of special and interesting experiences.

But of course that would give to much structure to an email from me.  So I'll get distracted for a while and then return to all that.  On wednesday I was a host for the new incoming missionaries!  That means I picked them up from the curb, acted like I knew what I was doing for a while, and dropped them off to their classes. 

So there were 835 new missionaries who came into the MTC on wednesday and I birthed three of them.  And I watched a whole bunch of families drop off their children.  Such a uniquely Mormon experience to participate in, so that was really cool.  And you have a new missionary following you around and you get to rejoice with him in watching missionaries kiss a tree just as I began a soliloquy in telling him how normal and nice everyone was! (Some sort of tradition I guess?  Freaked me and my new elder out.  Still trying to figure this one out.  Anyone have any idea?)  

I get my reassignment on Friday so that's when I know.  Aaaaaaand who knows when I'll leave!  Could be chilling here for a while or maybe not.  

Moroni 7:33-34
We must be baptized in HIS name.  Now consider this not as an authority for a second, though that's obviously a first meaning, but consider it as a call to IMMERSE OURSELVES in His name and therefore in his gospel and His words.  Read it again.  It's not just that baptism is by immersion.  Repentance is by immersion as well.  Repentance is coming unto Christ and developing a new view of the world, ourselves, and of God.  Repentance is not a dip our toes thing.  It is an immersion thing.  The gospel is a gospel of immersion because from the time we are immersed we are called to remain immersed in his name and in the process and pattern of becoming better, part of which occurs by being immersed and therefore baptized IN his name and not just BY his name.  Consider that and also reference washing our garments in his blood that they become white.  

Ok deep swimmers, now for you.  Consider that there is only one sin, which can be stated either as "denying our own identity and heritage," or 2, "denying the law and substituting our own law for Eternal law, which is wielded by God."  now consider that this sin is bondage.  Now read Bible Dictionary "Atonement."  Now consider that Christ was left alone to choose to do one thing, and because he was in no bondage because he committed no sin, he could choose to act and make that choice to atone.  Now consider the Fall under the same definition of sin.  Also consider the alternative meanings of "shed" when it comes to Christ shedding his blood. Ok that's a start for you.  Swim deeply my friends.

Now on to Hebrews 11.  
This is basically my favorite chapter right now.  I've read and reread it and it's basically the best thing ever.  check out verses 6, 16, 25, and 33-40 especially. (38 in particular).  After reading that last part, if you don't want to go to the temple, read the footnotes and then reread the chapter.  I mean wow. 

I love it because  It's so much about faith and I've been trying to develop more of that.  Verse 16 is especially dear to me.  Because it says that God is not ashamed to be our God.  and before reading that, it had never occured to me that He should be.  We are all so imperfect, so small.  We see mountains we are climbing and He understands that those mountains are mere pebbles.  We plead for help and then don't accept it, we thank him for blessings and then act like we earned them, we have weaknesses and worry over things that don't really matter.  We disobey and fail and start over and repeat.  And we grow.  And still, he is not ashamed of us.  Still Christ lengthens out His arm to us.  Still I hear the words, " Tyler my son.  Come here.  come home.  And maybe one day he'll look down and say, "Tyler, my son.  Welcome home.  I missed you.  Welcome home.  I'm proud of you."  

And I'll look up from my knees and say, "My God, my God, My Father, My friend.  I tried.  I tried to make thee proud with what I did with thy name, but I know I fell short.  I'm so very ashmaed.  
And wiping away my tears he'll say, "I am not ashamed to be your God.  Welcome home.  welcome home."  
And the truth is, I'm not ashamed to be His son.  As verse 25 points out, it is better to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season."  
As I said in my fareewell talk, eventually we all have to pick sides completely.  Who are you WITH?  The people of God?  You should be.  Because in the end, through persecutions and all of the wind and rain Satan can muster, we willl win.  It's not easy, but I'm finding that nothing worth doing ever is.  Check out verse 26 too.  

And it was by faith that all of the mitacles the chapter were wrought.  By faith, the weak were made strong.  I've found this week that I am weak.  The work I've been called to can't be done by me.  I've always based my slef-worth on trivial things, past accomplishments or I don't even know.  But this week something special happened.  I began to base my self worth only on the fact that I am a child of God and I am not here through accident.  God WILL through me.  I must only have the faith to be made strong in my weakness.  Have a great week everyone.

My challenge for you is to say a 30 minute prayer on your knees this week.  Don't time it necessarily, it's more for the sake of pouring your soul out to God.  Ask for faith and foundations and for those things to be made one and the same.  I love you, I pray for you in a foreign language.  Peace and blessings.

Elder Molinaro

From August 13, 2013: Trocadilhos, Wrestlings, and Spiritual Hashtags

Well, hello all.  It's me again.  First off allow me to say that you are all the best.  How do I know this?  Well, for one thing I got 9 letters yesterday.  So like, there's that.  Thank you for giving of your time and selves to support me; I really do appreciate it.  As you know I said goodbye to Justin yesterday.  It was hard and yet I didn't feel the wave of sadness I was expecting because I know we are both going where we are supposed to go.  Love you bud.  Stud.

So you may be wondering about the title (Trocadilhos, Wrestlings, and Spiritual Hashtags).  I figured if I had to sum up my experiences this week, I would call it that.  So I did.  But first, let's get to the quote of the week, which is translated into English for your convenience.  First, the back story.
So we teach our teachers at the MTC as they play investigators based on people they know or taught on their own missions.  We had a sub this week named I.R..  Picture the smiliest ray of Portuguese sunshine you've ever met and then make him about 6' 5"  and you've got him nailed.  So we are teaching this particular ray of sunshine, who is playing the role of "Paulo."  We're roughly 5 minutes in to our discussion.  I'm talking about how the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ.  Naturally, this is all going down in Portuguese.  So I'm talking and suddenly the fire alarm begins to sound.  This perturbs me.  I sit there for a moment unsure of what to do about this strange and unplanned development.  Paulo pauses for a moment and then, says in Portuguese without breaking character, smiling while he says it: "I'm sorry Elders.  My house is on fire.  We need to leave now." Picture it and perhaps you may understand the hilarity of it all.  
But you know, on to things of eternal importance.
Elder L. is District Leader and he has been doing a great job.  Our district is in shape and moving forward.  The great thing about the MTC is that you're constantly surrounded by people who lift you up and bear testimony in ways you've never thought of.  There truly is something to learn from everyone you meet.  You just have to care enough about them to find out what it is.
So I suppose I'll start with the language first.  It struck me this week how much learning another language is not about learning another way to communicate.  Portuguese is another mode of existence.  That tree is NOT a tree in Portuguese.  That it has a different word means it has a different meaning.  It IS a different thing.  It's another mode of thinking and another way of becoming.  Consider the parallels that has with the gospel.  I have not the time to pen all of my thoughts on the matter so I will leave it up to you to study out in your minds the parallels that do exist.
It also strikes me how vocabulary and the way we speak defines our world and who we are.  The language we fill our minds with defines the extent to which and the subjects that we have the ability to think about.  Consider the language you hear and choose to listen to and how that influences your life.  Consider how some inventions exist and some ideas are created BECAUSE of the language to which the creator of that invention or idea has exposed him or her self.  It's not just that some things and ideas only exist in one language or culture because they've only been dreamed up there, they exist there BECAUSE of the structure that language imposes on the brains and worlds of the people who speak and understand it.  
Now with that hypothesis, consider the gospel not as a religion, but as a language.  And consider how that changes your perception of EVERYTHING about the gospel.  We must have the correct gospel vocabulary and understanding in order to be fluent in the language of the Spirit.  I won't pursue this line of logic further but I leave it to you brave souls to attempt to continue the metaphor and the shift in perception that it leads to.  Swim deeply my friends.
Ok, so more on to things I've studied and experienced this week.  Had some great devotionals and classes as always.  But the thing that has stuck out to me more than anything else was prayer. So what is prayer? There are tons of definitions and they are all fairly valid.  Or most.  It is communication with God.  Check.  But my favorite definition is found in the Bible Dictionary, which says, "Prayer is a form of work."  Now my philosophy since I've been here has been, "The answer to most questions and problems is ' solution through meaningful work' ."  And prayer is a major component of this meaningful work.  I have prayed more fervently and desperately here than anywhere else.  And reflecting on my prayer record from before, I am slightly disgusted with myself.  Perhaps a portion of my reflections on Enos 1: 1-12 (in the Book of Mormon) might serve to express my ideas on the matter.  Open up Enos now if you please, and follow along with me.  If you're willing to work, we might both learn something.  All right, so Enos.
I love the book of Enos.  More so today than ever before.  It occurs to me that the answer to most of our struggles IS to struggle.  To struggle with our spirit.  Not Against it, mind you, but with it.  We find purpose and relief more on our knees than anywhere else.  Prayer must not be a checklist item.  'Well, I read and prayed, nothing happened, what's next?'  No.  Prayer is work.  If your prayers aren't a little difficult for you, if you don't come out feeling like you've unloaded things, if you don't feel humbled, if you don't feel like "wow, there's so much I need to improve and I have been blessed with so much anyway," you might want to give it a try.  
Someone here compared the ordinary nature of prayers (something I was oh so guilty of before my mission) to ordering a pizza.  You get on the phone and order what you want and then sit around going, "Where's my pizza?"  That's not how it should be but unfortunately for me and maybe for you, that's far too often how it ends up going.  I didn't realize before how amazing a gift prayer is to us.  We are given the opportunity to speak with God, to express our hopes and fears and sadness and weaknesses and trials and to ask for help and strength.  And it's so, so necessary because the truth is we are all called to go through things and get through trials that we can't obtain on our own.  We all have questions of the soul that will never be answered without earnest study, serious pondering, and fervent prayer.  
The two main keys to prayer are openness and honesty.  Those imply humility and seeking for forgiveness.  Express your sorrows, doubts, fears.  Pray for others.  Demonstrate faith, which includes closing your prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.  Prayer SHOULD be a struggle to find out for ourselves the most important answers we will ever seek for.  
Look at Enos: 
* verse 4 He wrestles, his soul hungered.  
Does your soul hunger?  What does it hunger for?  
* He kneeled before his Maker.  Look at the implied humility there.  He recognizes the relationship and the disparity that accompanies it.
* He CRIES in MIGHTY prayer.  What makes prayer mighty?  
* And he prays, as Ashley would say, "All day, all night, no sleep." (a quote from her first Primary talk at 4 years old).
* His FAITH, the faith with which he seeks for the welfare of his soul, is what makes him whole. He is made more than he can be alone through prayer.  
* He pours out his WHOLE soul.  Not just the pretty parts.  He gives an accounting of everything.  He STRUGGLES in the spirit.  And he receives more blessings, receiving revelation and being brought PEACE.
Who doesn't want those things?  Then he prays again, with many long STRUGGLINGS for his enemies, whom he calls his brethren.  He then receives another blessing: his desires are given to him AFTER he labors with all diligence.  

I'm aware that was somewhat incoherent, but that was a partial sampling of the study I invite you to make of Enos 1:1-12, which is a study of how we should pray, why we should pray, and how we can receive answers to our prayers.  Just go through and take note of the activeness with which Enos prays.  Look at the active verbs he uses and the sequence of when he receives answers, personal revelation, and blessings.  As Ether 12:6 notes, it comes after the trial of his faith.  In Enos's case, this faith is expressed through struggling in the spirit for the things his soul hungered for.
I have a testimony of prayer.  I have seen the hand of God in my life at the MTC.  In words I don't know that I've been given, in comfort I've been given, in priesthood blessings I've had the opportunity to give, and in lessons I've taught and questions I've asked.  I know Christ lives and that through meaningful work, which must include prayer, we can come unto Him.  I invite you all to do that.

Additional thoughts to ponder:
* For whom are you laboring and why?
* How can you improve your prayers?  Where has God's hand been visible in your life recently?  Are you doing your part to receive the answers you desire?  Are you searching for the right answers and asking the right questions?
* How can you become more fluent in the language of the Spirit?

I love you all.  You are the best and I am proud to know each of you.  I hope you will continue to grow with me.  Thank you for the support and love.

Love, Elder Molinaro

From August 6, 2013: Questions of the Soul

So first off I want to say, "I'm adjusted, I eat 3 meals a day...And get disciplined?...Yeah, they discipline me real good.  With dictionaries.  In a pillowcase."  Cheers to whoever instantly knows the quote. 

I will get to your questions shortly but before that I want to share a few thoughts that I put together this morning in poetry form.  It felt inspired as I was writing it so hopefully this means something to some of you.  Adjust the typing as the meter requires.  Here goes.

Questions of the Soul

For every man, in every land
For every part of Earth.
There comes a question ringing clear,
"What is, WHY is, my worth?"

We ponder glancing face to face,
Is this OUR thought alone?
And then move on to lesser things,
"Oh look! things I could own."

Ashamed we bury this--our hope--
beneath the flashing lights
Move on to talking politics
or cheap and short delights

But still the human soul yearns on
wanting to search for truth.
Once more the spirit asks the heart,
"remember dreams of youth?"

Remember when we--long ago--
Could tell what's good and true?
Remember when I asked you
if there's something more for you?

We searched sometimes, young you and I,
for reason, purpose, light.
I saw a flicker here and there,
fulfillment, joy, and right

But life is hard, the struggle long,
the flickers fleeting, dim
To follow light, realize our worth,
means going on a limb.

"Too far," yells brain,"Not sure," says heart. 
"You can," whispers the soul.
Once more the whisper comes to you:
"please do; you must; our goal!"

"Remember now! Think back!" it pleads,
"Remember, find the will!" 
"A child of God," the heart recalls,
"Who guides and loves me still."

The answer rings with truth confirmed,
conviction blossoms now.
"Where am I from, where do I go?
This changes things, but how?"

"Turn to Christ," the soul provides,
"Yes, turn to Christ and live!"
"Give up your sins to know your God;
stop taking, start to give."

"It's change!" whines brain; "It's change, nods heart,
Change for the better, Child."
"Your purpose was before this world,
extends after you've died."

 "I KNOW you're scared, I KNOW it's hard,
I KNOW you feel alone."
The Savior felt the weight of this,
for YOU He heaved a groan."

 "The emptiness, the missing piece,
how you've felt you're not quite whole.
Your origin and destiny,
the questions of your soul."

"I offer you my outstretched hand,
all that I ask is knock.
The sands of man shift mightily,
Come build upon the rock."

"I offer peace, I offer hope,
I offer answers too.
Just kneel and follow me my Child,
For what I want is YOU."

But herein lies the tragedy,
The common fall of man.
"It's nothing," says our pride to us,
"There IS no outstretched hand."

"And if there was I'm too far gone,
Or too old now to change.
I need no more, I have enough,
besides, Mormons are strange."

"With all their talk of prophets, plates,
The Book of Mormon, ha!
More scripture? Well, I need no more,
And rules? They drop the jaw."

"You're right!" beams head, "but faith," cries heart,
"NO PLEASE!" the anguished soul.
"You can't quit now, we were so close!
But pride our victory stole."

And Christ our Lord begins to weep
hand still outstretched, his task.
"I am the answer, don't you see?!
Just read and pray!  Just ask!"

"I've given you my words again,
through prophets, follow me!
I suffered everything for you,
oh please, please, won't you see?"

"I came to Earth, I found my path,
For YOU I came to die.
And sitting there, receiving this
Why won't you even try?"

We turn from them, our Savior's tears,
and call behind our backs
"I'm sorry, it's just not for me,
It's not YOU that I lack."

"MAybe you came and maybe not,
it's not for me to know.
Lord YOU are not enough for ME,
So on with life I go."

Leaving Him there, hand still outstretched,
in tear's 'cause you won't try,
"The next," he looks up hopefully,
"perhaps won't make me cry."

 But men are weak and will not change,
And so He cries again.
For each of us who will not be
disciples, women, men.

And souls cry out to hearts and minds,
"I want to know what's true!"
:Quiet," we hiss with anger back,
"Forget your questions, too."

"I like my life just how it is,
don't bother me again!"
"I know that we had questions once
but that was way back when."

And on we go, on with our lives,
The soul grows quiet now.
We silence questions of the soul,
Questions of why and how.

 We put our stock in other things,
find worth in things of naught,
Dismiss the questions of the soul,
Dismiss what Jesus taught.

Success and wealth may come to us,
we may be happy now.
But one day we'll face answers to
questions of why and how.

I suppose that Christ will weep for you
And I think I will too.
And when you look at me in shame,
I'll say "I DID tell you."

I tell you now that this Church and this Gospel are true. Jesus is the Christ and if we will turn to him and search for answers to the questions of our soul we can find them through Christ and His gospel.  There is nothing that brings more happiness in this life or the next than the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Who you are in the above poem, the Child of God causing the Savior to weep, or the one who wishes to bring with him to the right hand of God, where his friend cannot go, you must realize that the poem and it's message are for you.  Come unto Christ and build on Him as your foundation.  You're never too far gone and His hand is always stretched out to you.  Take it now.  Follow the questions of the soul.  And help those you know to follow Christ as well. 

One of the great things about missionary work is that it's not up to us to decide who is ready.  The book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for Everyone you have ever and will ever know because everyone in that group is a Child of God of infinite worth.  I don't know everything about Christ or the Gospel.  But I try to learn more every day.  You are either closer to or farther away from God every day, and what you do with your time determines that. 

So ask yourselves today, right now, who you are and why.  Who built your foundation.  What are the questions of your soul?  And what have you done to answer them.  Most of us live partial lives.  Even in the gospel, we give a part of ourselves.  Imagine if the Savior was willing to only give a part of Himself.  Giving part of ourselves is an exercise in futility and misunderstanding.  I learned a lot this week and talked a lot this week about GETTING it.  About understanding our purpose.  Not just as missionaries, but as people.  As a missionary, I am a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, to say what He would say and Do what He would do.  So right now I stand in His place and invite you to come unto him.  Just as he pleads I plead.  Don't you understand? Don't you get it?  This is IT.  This is the missing piece!  The answers to the questions of the soul?  How can you read this and say, oh what a nice young man?  How can you see the truth and gloss over it nd return to your lives?  How can you be IN the true church and not give your whole selves to the effort?  Don't you get it?? 

But this is not a rant or a rave, the delusions of some boy you know.  This is simply a plea from one who wears the name of Christ on my heart each day.  Come to Christ, and live.  Read the book of mormon and pray to your God with a sincere heart, asking for truth, asking for answers, asking how you can give your whole self to him, asking what you need to change about your life and yourself to come unto Him.  He will show you through the missionaries.  For goodness sakes, find out for yourself!  Don't you get it?  Won't you at least try to understand?  I hope you will.  I have.  I know.  That's why I'm here.  It's not for an adventure and it's not for a language.  It's to give all I can for as long as I can.  I commit to doing all I can at this moment, now.  I challenge you to evaluate your life and see what you can change to make that commitment too.

I testify that the Book of Mormon is true and that the true Church of Christ with all of it's authority and keys was restored to the Earth through Joseph Smith, a prophet of God.  Deny these things as you will.  I know of there veracity of myself and I will not have statements of relative truth or hiding from testimony stand in the way of saying to you , now, that I know these things and if you search truly, you will too.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and yours, amen.

It was a good week this week.  Plenty of inspiration and spiritual edification.  2 of my district members (there were 8 elders and 6 sisters; now 6 and 6) left for Brazil this morning.  Visas do happen! Thank all of you for the letters!  You're all wonderful and I love you.  My companion Elder L. is the new District Leader.  He'll make a great one, he's a super solid guy.  I'm loving your random facts and news and quote tidbits by the way.  Dear Elder is always coming through as far as I know. Consider whether you are living through applications or DOCTRINES of the gospel and what the difference is. I love you all and challenge to evaluate how you can give all of yourself to Christ.  Study hard and keep the faith.  This is all true and worth it. 
That is all. 
Paz fora!
Elder Molinaro

From July 30, 2013: Of Men and Mais

Of Men and Mais. . . Why yes, I did think of that title, like all week.  And I'm really pretty proud of it.  I should probably read that book someday if I use it as my joke......... Well, that'll come later.  But you know, back to matters of eternal salvation. 
Hello Family :)  I still don't know which addresses to send things to Email wise.  Send me Ashley and Justin's and Chris's Emails so I can get them in on this whole me writing letters deal.  So yeah, I'm alive.  Or I'm "athrive."  Yeah, cut me some slack; my English abilities and my ability to pun are slowly dying in the Portuguese hole I am attempting to dig for them.  Tudo bem!
I'm not exactly sure what all you want to know.  I picture Mom yelling incomprehensible syllables that likely mean something in Portuguese at the screen because she has so many questions, but really I now feel Justin's pain from his mission.  If you have questions, send them in an Email to me the night before and I will work through them.  It's impossible to keep them all straight otherwise.  I mean of course there's a lot to tell but the thing is there is so much to tell that there is no way to tell it in any form that would be comprehensible or effective or really do it justice. 
The MTC is awesome.  Yeah, it has its down moments but it's a great place.  I have fantastic teacher and I'm trying my hardest to learn Portuguese with the constraints that I have.  You know, time, ability, sanity, all of that.  I'm trying to get more away from English but it is nigh unto impossible, for I and my wayfaring soul are addicted to the grammatical and structural mess that is our language.  That is one thing trying to learn another language has taught me: that English is a mess.  A glorious, disgusting, fantastic pile of wrongness and disorder that makes it so quirky and endearing.  But enough about my soliloquy in favor of the melting pot mess that is English and on to the important things. 
The language is crawling along at the speed of smell.  Which isn't to say it's not coming so much as it is to say that I lack the patience to suck at something so very badly.  Yes, I'm just starting to learn but I expect more of myself than I have, up to this point, been able to meet.  Minhas expetativas sao muitos altos e minha habilidade esta muito pequeno.  E triste mas estou aprendendo. So yeah, I'm trying.  Progressing as best I can.  And I know I talk about the language first but you have to understand that the language is a secondary factor in what we learn here.  Or at least I have decided that it is. 
The MTC exists to give you enough words so that you can stand and bear witness, but not all that much else language-wise.  Instead, it trains you to rely on the Lord, obey wholeheartedly, learn to love your investigators and those you serve with, and maybe, just maybe, catch a glimpse of what missionary work should be.  So though sometimes I lose sight of that purpose in the whirlwind of trying desperately to remember the word for despair (yeah I get the irony), I try to keep that top of mind. I'm called to bear witness and if that's all I can do right now, that is fine.  As long as I catch the vision of missionary work.  And, oh, how there is such a vision. 
The quote I am living by right now is from Elder Bednar, who said a while back that "Who you are and what you are will make a much bigger difference than what you say."  I know that's true.  I have sat in lessons and seen inspiration work already.  And even though they are pretend investigators, they were real to someone at some time, and that makes them oh so important.  iT'S HARD TO TEACH IN pORTUGUESE, BUT THEN AGAIN, IT'S SO MUCH EASIER THAN YOU WOULD THINK, AND i THINK SOMETIMES THAT IT BRINGS THE sPIRIT MORE FULLY THAN (<------- yeah go caps lock)
it would be brought in English merely because of the simplicity with which we teach. 
I have decided that teaching with a language you don't speak fluently or anywhere close is like a game of good old Bananagrams.  You must take the words you have (tiles) and place them and rearrange them to make a coherent sentence, paragraph, or lesson.  Your other time can be spent either grabbing as many more tiles as you can, or grabbing a new tense every now and then (which is like getting to be able to place tiles in a different direction -- up down, side to side) -- and there's constantly someone (another missionary or a teacher) yelling "PEEL!" "PEEL!" "PEEL!" so that you have to grab more tiles and figure out how to incorporate them.  Try to get the gist of the metaphor because let me tell you it is so true, but I promise no one here gets it. 
But anyway.  Never being alone is a trial for me because that's kind of my thing. But I'm getting used to it and it's not all that bad.  Just different.  I'm sleeping well and enjoying the spirit of the place.  Other questions uhhhhhh my tooth socket holes are fine but I still have to rinse the food out of them every once in a while; I'm healthy; the food is fine; and yes, seeing Justin the other day was fantastic.  The man is an inspiration to us all, and every time I'm faced with a tough decision of what to do as a missionary I think about what Justin did and would do when he was a missionary.  Look up to you so much Bud; you're the best. 
Thank all of you for the letters and love you keep sending.  Everyone in the District is jealous. They should be because you guys rock.  I got two boxes and five letters in the mail the other day.  There are few things more satisfying in life than walking back to the residence hauling such a treasure trove of words and boxes.  So thank you. 
But on to the main event!  Story time!  So a few things.  Justin send Hailey the missionary's number on Facebook.  Please and thank you.  Ok, now really story time.
We had several lessons with Vanderlei, our investigator, this last week.  The man was golden and we taught him and committed him to baptism and even though we knew he was our soon-to-be second teacher, it was super exciting.  Great lesson.  Now, we have two new investigators and are done with Vanderlei.  One is named Dalase and he is recently married but doesn't have a church.  We meet with him for the first time tomorrow.  The other we street contacted (still our teacher but getting a feel for how it would go) a man named Edgar with a very sad life story.  It's impossible to describe how much I feel for him especially.  I've met fake him once and already I feel so bonded with real him.  He's so special.  So low right now but with the potential to be so much more.  Our contact with him yesterday was one of the most heart-wrenching and also inspiring moments of my time here so far.  Heart-wrenching because I didn't have the requisite Bananagram tiles to make him feel what I felt for him and because language, which used to be my strong thing, is now my weak thing.  Being in a position to look at someone and not understand and not be able to communicate your feelings for them is difficult.  So that was the hard part. 
 We walked up to him and introduced ourselves as missionaries and got to talking to him about what he needs and wants and everything.  I was feeling down because I didn't know exactly what to say but suddenly I was able to look him in the eye and testify to him that through Christ we never have to feel alone, no matter what our trials are.  I know that's true.  And he looked at Elder L. and said in Portuguese "And what do you know?  What do you believe?"  The whiteness of Blitzen's fur cannot compare with the moon-like, white-shaded, petrified look on Elder L's face.  Blankness.  No recognition of what was being said.  I recognized this face because I had been wearing it about 1 minute before.  "Repita por favor?" he asked.  "Has everyone you love been killed or taken from you, have you lost everything in your life?" Edgar pressed on.  Still no recognition.  But then I saw something.  A jaw set, a faint light come into my companion's eyes.  I saw inspiration come to him in that moment of need, and he said "I don't know the pain you feel, but I do know that through Jesus Christ our pain can be taken away."  And it was perfect. 
 It was inspiration.  Later, Elder L. confessed to me that he hadn't had any idea what Edgar had asked him, but he felt impressed to say those words to him.  It was just one of the tiny miracles we see every day here at the MTC.  I know that he was inspired.  Even though these teaching experiences are practice with people who are already members of our church, even though it's not real, we are still God's servants here on Earth, set apart from the world and given the power and authority and necessary inspiration to testify to the world of Christ, of the Restoration, and of the truth.  And we are given what we need in the moment we need it, not because of what we say, but because of who we are and what we are, just like Elder Bednar said. 
In my personal study, everything clicked this week about truth and its importance.  I'm trying to write it all down but as all of you search the scriptures this week (which you better be doing or we may as well send missionaries to you as well) see 2 Nephi 28: 25-31 in the context of studying scriptures continually instead of receiving the Book of Mormon at all.  Look at it from the perspective of what truth is, what it does, what God's glory is, how that is accomplished, and what our ORIGINAL origin is and our ultimate destiny is, and why Satan was cast out and you should have some mind-popping personal revelations.  I sure have.  Also, the Bible dictionary is a gold mine.  It's amazing to me how much of a different way you see the scriptures when you study them to teach someone else.  I am finding so much I never saw before. 
My last note to you is about foundations.  Foundations are the essence of progression.  In 3 Nephi 14 or Matthew 7, whichever you like, it tells the parable of the wise man and the foolish man and what the difference in their foundations was.  The difference is rock versus sand.  And why is sand a bad foundation?  Because it never stays in the same place for long.  It is bits of rock and other solid materials stacked on top of each other in a mismatched, imbalanced, and constantly shifting mass of ugliness and instability.  It is the philosophies of men.  It is the bits of truth of the gospel scattered and deconstructed to the point of instability. 
We can choose to build ourselves on the foundation of majority opinion or the foundation of Christ, the rock (Matt 16 15:19 see footnotes).  That rock is truth and it never changes.  It is the same yesterday, today and forever.  If we build on that rock, when trials come we will never fall.  And how great a promise is that?  But let us consider it a little more broadly.  Why is a strong foundation important?  Because think how much better and bigger and more balanced and more stable a building you can build on bedrock.  The possibilities are as endless as your imagination and the foundation of your testimony.  And what is built on sand?  Shacks.  And not even good shacks, shacks that are often torn up by storms. 
So I guess that is my challenge to you this week, since I'm about out of time.  Ask yourself and those around you who they want to be -- a skyscraper, a majestic, awe-inspiring edifice from which you can see so much, or a temporary, unstable shack?  That shack may be easier to build and you might like the view for a while, but eventually the rains will come tumbling down and you with it.  Be a skyscraper family.  It's hard to build but worth it in the end.  I told you about the man, now this is the mais. 
I love you all.  Happy week.
Elder Molinaro

Thursday, August 22, 2013

From July 23, 2013

Oi!! Bom dia a minha familia!

How goes the life everyone?   I don't really know where to start because there is simply so much to tell and so little time in which to say it.  They say about 1 out of every 5 people are getting their travel visas before they leave the MTC so pray for me haha! Everyone else is getting reassigned to various places.  It seems like they are all going in the States and waiting for their visas.   

Portuguese is difficult.  It's super frustrating to have so much to say when you are teaching an investigator but not be able to say all of it because of your limits within the language.  My companion, Elder L., made the rather salient comment that it is like being confined to a wheelchair.  All you want to do is get up and run, but you can't.  You can only make limited progress.  But I am trying my very best to pick it up fast and it occurs to me that it is making me simplify my testimony and my beliefs so that I can teach, because there is really nothing else I can do.  I believe it is 2 Nephi 31:5 that talks about delighting in plainness because that is the way the Lord communicates with people, in their language by way of simple words.  Well, that is all I have right now, extremely simple and oft mispronounced words.  But I am absolutely loving it.

The MTC is a pressure cooker because we all want to work so fast and hard that sometimes it seems as if we will all burst.  I have taught three lessons in Portuguese to date.  One was with notes, which was rather dull, uninteresting, and somewhat heartbreaking because we were teaching the lesson, not the person, and there was no inspiration at all while we were speaking.  We basically read the whole thing to our "investigator," Vanderlei.  Wasn't happy with it at all.   The second time was “no notes allowed” on our third or fourth day here (the days blur like no one's business) and that was probably worse haha.  We had no idea what we were doing with the language and even less idea how to teach.  I was not happy after that lesson.  But I realized later it was because we weren't teaching by the Spirit at all. I feel like we have come a long way since then though.

Yesterday we taught our third lesson and, after having a very emotional heart to heart with each other, Elder L. and I decided we weren't going to teach a lesson at all.  We were going to teach Vanderlei as a person.  We would find out who he was and what he needed to know and we would teach him with pure testimony and pure faith that the things we had taught and would teach were true.  We would step up without fear, knowing that the Lord would loose our tongues and we would be inspired to teach what our investigator needed to hear.  We prayed together.  We resolved to let the Spirit guide, and we just went for it.  We knocked on the door, looked each other in the eyes, and I said "Juntos podemos."   “Together we can.”  With each other and with the Lord, we had fe que.  It was possible.  And it was awesome. 

Sure we jumped around a little and sure we struggled to find words from time to time, but the Spirit was with us and testified of the truthfulness of the simple testimony we bore about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the truthfulness of the gospel.  Sure, I accidentally asked how he feels on His Son instead of how he feels about His Son and sure I took moments of silence to pray and ask again and again that I would be able to find the words I needed, but it happened.

I felt the joy of teaching by the Spirit and of asking inspired questions in a language that it is not possible for me to have learned on my own.  I know that it is not possible for me to have learned this language to the extent that I could have any degree of facility of language within it.  I know that some of the sentences and tenses I used are not ones I know.  I know that I was inspired to make up words that might have sounded plausible but that I have never seen or heard before, words that turned out to be what I meant them to be.

For one of the first times in my life, I felt the Spirit speak through me. And I can't tell you the gratitude and humility that comes with such an experience.  I was very blessed yesterday during that lesson   I am very blessed to be here serving with so many excellent people who want so badly to serve the Lord.  I am on a never-ending Spiritual high and I know I am where I am supposed to be.  Digo estas coises em nome de Jesus Cristo, amem. 

Haaaaaaaaaa like that would be all I would write in the only time I have to speak English.

Everyone check out Doctrine &Covenants 93.   Read my talk and then read verses like 23 through the end of that page in the spirit of that talk.  It should blow your mind if you think about it enough.  I've come to the conclusion that Satan was cast out because he was a relativist, trying to exalt himself by making up his own sets of truth, which cannot be because truth is independent of all things -- it is, in fact, the glory of God, which glory Satan will never have because he rejects truth.  That is the glory Christ received in its entirety because He was perfectly obedient.  Read the chapter folks. 

Truth also ACTS and cannot be acted upon.  You should read some of the things I've been finding in my personal study.  My study has been guided and my mind is nigh unto exploding.  That should be enough to get you started though, that and the idea that we can obtain a fullness of truth if we will be perfectly obedient.  Please, please read it.  It's sweet.  But more than reading, ponder.  I am gaining a testimony of pondering.  The scriptures are so packed with insight that if we will merely ponder, we will be able to obtain.  Prometo que if you will read and ponder them, you can find insight into any problem, worry, or fear. 

The first few days here might have been the longest of my life.  I was the first missionary dropped off! NO JOKE!!  And so much went on that day.  I can't even describe right now because I don't have the time.  Suffice it to say that I felt the Spirit so strongly, especially when all the new missionaries stood and sang "And we ARE NOW the Lord's missionaries to bring the world his truth."  Wow. Simply wow.  I have a great district. Several pessoas sao de Georgia! One is from a Georgia that does not intersect with ours.  He is a great guy, one of the funniest I've ever met. The quote of the week is from him.  "I'm more scared than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs."  I'm sure I'd heard it before but I thought it was hilarical. 

The temple walks are great!  There were protesters there, which had to be one of the funniest and most inspiring sights I've ever seen.  You have literally thousands of elders and sisters called to serve Christ by a prophet of God being yelled at that they should receive Christ and accept him as their Savior and everyone calmly nodding and thanking them and telling them to have a good afternoon.  It was inspiring to see the restraint and respect afforded the preachers by 19 year olds. 

I also got to see Elder Bednar's talk on the Character of Christ.  Pretty sure it changed my whole outlook on life.  And I couldn't help but think of Justin as he described the characteristics of an ideal missionary and what true conversion is.  You're such an example to me in so many ways and you'll never know how much I look up to you, Bud.  I love you. Thank you for everything.  All of you should watch the talk.  It's about how everything must be turned outwards and how that love for others is the character of Christ.

Well, I have about ten minutes left.  I'll try to learn to type faster but what I want to say most is that I love you all and I love this Gospel.  There is not any doubt in my mind that there is but one true church and that this is it.  Truth is something we have been so blessed to receive and it is our responsibility to share it.  That's why I'm here. 

I have a testimony of Joseph Smith.  One day a boy looking for direction in life, looking for answers to life's biggest questions, knelt before his maker and in simple prayer asked his Father in Heaven for answers.  Because of that faith, because of prayer, because of the action taken by a simple boy of 14, the world shook and the earth changed forever. 

Christ is our Savior.  I know it.  I know of His love for me and for you and for all of us, individually and collectively.  We are His children.  There are hard things in this life.  Sometimes we are asked to do things that are harder than we think we can bear, things we can't do on our own. 

I have been humbled by my need for help from my teachers and my God to learn a new language and to know what to teach and how to teach.  But I testify with absolute conviction that the Lord is willing to help us if we will but ask.  Com Deus, podemos.  I expect you to work and to testify and to grow with me.  I have a testimony of truth.  I have found it.  I know it.  And I am so blessed to now be called of God to teach it.  This is the gospel of the restored gospel of our Heavenly Father, with Christ at its head.  Somos missionarios da igrja de Jesus Christo dos Santos dos Ultimos dias.  Of these things I testify, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Elder Molinaro