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