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