Sunday, February 23, 2014

From February 19, 2014: Phoe-nixed

Well, the day came.  The YSA (Young Single Adult) area split into two and they shipped me off to a new area, whitewashing in blind to the Riverview Ward in Mesa, Arizona.  It should be a fantastically interesting experience.  Everyone I've met so far has been really nice and there are members EVERYWHERE.  People just pull over to offer us rides and things.  A little different flavor of missionary work, that's for sure.  I've been a missionary for 7 months now.  How did that happen?!  

It was sad to leave Phoenix because I love, love, love that city.  I'll miss "J" and "S" and "K" and all of the people there who changed my life.   There are a lot of them.  A lot of times and a lot of stories and a lot of challenges and a lot of memories.  That seems to be a common theme in life, reality becoming memory before I'm ready, and then a new reality imposing itself on the one I just learned to love.  But I'm grateful for the opportunity to discover a new reality as well.

I learned so much from Phoenix.  The meaning of the word struggle, for sure.  I had a lot of experiences again in my last week in Phoenix with the homeless.  They've come to be among my favorite people.  We met a man who spoke of his struggles with addictions and his search for God.  At one point in the conversation, he asked, "Do you all eat well?"  To which one of my companions responded, "Not really...".  He pondered for a second and then said, "Be grateful to be eating."  It's easy to forget.  It's easy to forget what we have and what we have been given.  But when you meet people like "J" or "E", it's not as hard.  Not as hard when you're walking away grateful to be eating, grateful to have both legs, grateful to have had something to eat or drink that day.  Grateful to be able to pray.  That's what I'll miss most, I think.  The prayers.  The most sincere and grateful prayers you have ever heard are from those who have only what they are wearing and a new Book of Mormon.  

"J".  I keep saying that name but it's because he keeps popping into my head.  We prayed in turns with "J" behind Jack in the Box.  And his prayer was the prayer of a man who knows God.  Nearly crying in thanking Heavenly Father for His Son Jesus Christ, shaking because of all that he felt, humble and grateful before God, praying for protection to be upon me.  And then him turning to me and saying, "You're turn."  I've never heard a thank you like the one that came from his dry and cracked lips when we gave him the first water he had had in who knows how long, walking from shade to shade in the 93 degree heat.  And as we stood there, hand in hand, me, my companions, and "J", it was family prayer.  The Family of God, holding hands to pray and offer thanks for meeting each other, behind a Jack in the Box in central Phoenix.  It's easier to remember what's important in life when people are broken.  When they have nothing, when they are maimed and troubled and depressed and down and in total darkness and total despair and then turn to God and plead for forgiveness and say "thank you" and MEAN it, it's easier.  And so, I'll miss Phoenix.  I'll miss the ashes. I'll miss the un-missed and all that I learned from them.   Farewell Phoenix.  As always, it's from the ashes that beauty is born.

Be grateful everyone.  Next time you eat, be thankful to be eating.  Next time you walk, be thankful to have a leg.  Next time you're down on your luck, remember "J".  And then remember Christ.  

. . . Mesa seems like it'll be great, too!  Just haven't done that much here yet so I have nothing all too poetic to say haha.  I am going to miss working in YSA, it was a whole different kind of work but really great to see. They have a good framework to work within now too so I expect some big things to happen there :)

My new ward is probably like 1/65 the size of my old ward, if that.  I'm loving the challenge of it though. Definitely calls for new solutions that I haven't used before.  Miracles are supposed to happen here though, so we'll hit it hard and see if we can make some of those miracles happen.  Maybe I'll get to teach a family!!!! That'll be exciting :)

On Monday we went contacting with a bunch of the new missionaries in central Phoenix.  That's always a blast. My new companion's name is Elder "C".  He's been out 4 and a half months and seems great!
It was super sad to leave Elder Sw. and Elder Sh., but they'll do great things in YSA.  And we all have matching purple ties, so we're basically still together.  haha!

I got the Valentine's Day box and loved it, thank you so, so much.  Grandma and Grandpa and Grandma J., I got all your stuff, too.  You're the best, thank you so much for sending me jokes and laughs and cards and treats!  

I love you all.  Happy transfers week and I'll E you on Monday.  Consider, between now and then, what it would take to make you disbelieve that the Book of Mormon is true.  Write the answer down on that.
Love you all,
Elder Molinaro

Elder Molinaro and Elder C helping a member family in their new area!

From February 10, 2014: "...Don't Lose"

So, fascinating week this week.  There sure were some miracles though, as there always are.  I guess we can start with the earliest days of the week.  So we go on splits or splinters (semi-splits where one of us goes visiting people with a member and the other two stick together) almost every night because there are too many appointments to cover and they are in different quadrants of our rather large area so we have to in order to keep up with everyone.  It's tiring but also a lot of fun. 
And in the course of 2 hours one night Elder Sw. and I got asked the same question by two separate people in two entirely different situations.  One was a less-active girl in college at downtown ASU and one was a guy we met at Little Caesar's.  Both are wonderful people and both are from mind-numbingly different backgrounds and traditions and circumstances.  Anyway, the question itself was what really caught my attention.  It was: "Do you know the gospel/church is true, or do you just believe it with all your heart?  Don't you just hope it and then you really find out after you're dead?"

Ponder for a second on how you would respond.  Do you know the gospel/church is true?  Or do you believe it with all your heart?  Or with even a tiny part of your heart?  There's no wrong answer, as we can always be gaining further conviction and light and knowledge.  But it's a very personal answer.  How can we know though?  How can we know?  We know by experience.  We know by the Spirit.  And we know by the joy that fills us when we live the gospel and keep the commandments.
And I know it.  I know it because I have seen too much, and heard too much, and felt too much, and experienced too much to ever deny that Jesus is the Christ and that miracles happen and that prayer is real, that the priesthood is restored, and that Christ's Church is back on Earth today.  I know it because I helped ordain "W" to that priesthood this week.  I know because of the man who passed me the sacrament this week, who a month ago sat before us smoking a cigarette while we re-taught him the gospel.  I know because of the work and the glory, and the pain, and the phenomenon of being a part of the other side of the Atonement.  I know because of the Spirit and the words that are given you and the protection I am afforded and the healing in the eyes of those who come to Christ.  I know by the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  And that's enough.

We also went to the Gilbert temple open house this week with "W".  And let me just say, it is perfect.  It's a perfect building.  And even though it hasn't been dedicated yet, it's amazing the hush that falls over the people --members and nonmembers alike -- as they walk into the temple.  It is gorgeous and HUGE, for sure in the top 5 most amazing temples I've ever seen.  "W" loved it and it was a great experience to go through with him, even though I was "crutching" all the way. 
We also found one of the most prepared people I've ever met before.  Her name is "R" and she found us more than we found her.  She's just ready and she's keeping all her commitments and she's just an overall all star.  She sang in the choir on Sunday.  We also had to drop an investigator this Sunday because he has no intentions of quitting smoking.  It was sad, but necessary. 
What else happened this week.  OH.  My watch broke.  One of the larger blessings of my life though, because now that I don't know what time it is ever, I'm not nearly as stressed!  I never know if we are on time or not!  At the same time, I'm on the prowl for a new watch.  Ya' know, because it's impossible to be on time without it!  haha. 
So we think they are splitting the area.  That would be super useful because there is a lot to keep track of. 
Oh yeah, and I'm gonna start a quote of the week segment because we have some investigators who say SUPER profound or legitimately hilarious things and I want you to be able to share in them with me.
First up:profound-- "Use things; love people."-- "J"
This same man had another profound moment this week, but in an entirely different way.  He wants with all his heart to follow what God wants him to do.  In his own words, he wants to "adventure with Christ."  And in that pursuit, he had this exchange with us:
Him: "I feel like I need to sacrifice something.......... ya' know?  Like I just need to sacrifice."  His voice trailed off to a whisper.  He contemplated and suddenly had a light bulb moment. 
"I have a little, black.............................donkey........."
Silence.  Cricket noise.
Me: " 'J,' you've been reading in Exodus, haven't you?"
Him: "I have."
Fear not, we got that all cleared up.
Another week, another black donkey saved.  All in a day's work.  Haha! I love you guys.  Have a great week and happy Valentine's Day to all.  Be happy.  Satan is a jerk; don't let him win. 
And ask yourselves, "If the Book of Mormon is true, what am I going to do about it?"

Elder Molinaro

Elder S, Elder Molinaro and Elder Sw

The trio with one of their YSA ward member friends

From February 3, 2014: Brace Yourselves

Soooooooooooooooo.  Hi everyone!
'Twas a good week, strong and brave and true.  And yet, I figured out my new favorite word of the week.  And that word is "crutching."  Now crutching is more of an art form than a sport, but it can be considered both.  I did a lot of crutching this week.  It all started on Tuesday.  We were on splits (where the missionary companionship "splits" up for the evening and each of those Elders goes to teach with another set of missionaries who also split up for a few hours.  In that way, they learn from a new companion and can meet additional people) and we had Elder Sw. and I with a member and Elder Sh. and another Elder with him. 
Elder Sw. and I got home first.  We realized we did not have keys.  And then, as the intelligent people we are, we set about problem solving.  Noting the open door into our apartment which opens onto the balcony of our apartment on the second floor, we determined that Elder Sw. could hoist me up and, using my newly found arm strength, I could pull myself onto the balcony and from there have access to the apartment.  He hoisted.  For a glorious moment I ascended, reaching up as towards the clouds that I might grasp the balcony and win admittance into the glorious home above.  I'm not as tall as I thought, and I did not reach the balcony.  I began to descend.  Gravity, having taken hold on me, next took it's revenge.  The Trainer became the "Sprainer."  Groaning and laughing at the same time, we sat there for a second.  We then looked at each other and got the spare key from it's place, letting ourselves into the apartment.  Face palm.
So that's how I sprained my ankle this week.  Luckily, it didn't slow us down too much, and I've been crutching ever since.  It's healing up really well.  All your prayers are helping, so thank you!  We've taught almost 100 lessons in the past 3 weeks combined so it's going pretty well here.  Getting people to church is always the hard part but the most rewarding part, too.

What to say about this week.  I thought a lot this week about personal relationships with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and how that relationship a lot of the time is a measure of our happiness.  We all chose to put one relationship above all others in our lives.  The most oft-misprioritized relationship is that with the self.  If you are doing everything to serve yourself, you will never ever, ever be happy worlds without end because all your efforts will be misdirected.  When you put your relationship with others first, you have happiness for a season, but eventually someone lets you down or something happens and that happiness is gone.  When you put your trust, though, in God and choose to have a relationship with Christ, you are choosing to focus on and put trust in someone who will never ever, ever let you down. 
People are fallible.  We all mess up.  So why not put your trust in the Being who will never ever, ever fail you?  Deut 31:6 instructs us that He will never fail or forsake us, and I have a personal testimony that that is true.  Other people let us down.  Sometimes we are scared to let them get to close to us.  But with Christ we have the assurance that we will never be left alone. 
A thought question for you: what do you think Christ thinks of you? 

Ponder on that for a moment.  Do you think He thinks of you at all?  He does.  We find in the Book of Mormon discourses on how we will never be forgotten of Him because He has engraven us upon the very palms of His hands.  We are His.  And the sooner we accept and begin to try to live up to that fact, the better.  He does think of us.  And it's fondly.
I'll leave you to ponder on that question, but if you're having trouble answering it, look at a picture of Christ for a minute and think about what He would say to you if it was really Him looking at you and being with you.  What would you say to Him?  And is that how you want it to be?
That relationship is more formative and eternal than anything else.  Develop it.  Work at it.  If you haven't yet, start it.  Because it will make a world of difference in the end. 
I'm doing well.  I love Arizona.  I love the people and the craziness.   I love the ups and the downs and the paperwork and the sweat from crutching down 36th street, and the people who drive up to jeer and end up giving us their phone number and address.  I love the taunts and the people who find 18 year olds in a shirts and ties threatening enough to invite us to stay away from their families.  It's the scriptures, it's the fulfilled and fulfilling prophecies, it's the underlying plan, and it's the slowly removing the scales of darkness from my own eyes.  It's the work, it's the glory.   And it's only the beginning.

Elder Molinaro

From January 27, 2014: Quiver

"W" got baptized and confirmed this week!!!  It was a miracle!  There was some excitement about having to find earplugs at the last second and wondering if they had to be white but it totally worked out!  We are busy, busy with honestly almost too much to keep track of.  We have seen a lot of blessings recently and it's easy to get caught up in all that goes on and look beyond the mark. 
This week I studied a lot about the Holy Ghost and then about the history of the Bible, ruffling through the Bible dictionary to understand better.  And by the way, let me just say that there is nothing better than learning as you speak.  There was a particular instance yesterday where I got asked a question I had never thought about before (this happens a LOT.  I hear things and I'm either like "how in the world did you get that?" or like "WHY HAVE I NEVER WONDERED THAT??"  Just goes to show that there is so much left to learn and you are never done learning the gospel).  So anyway I got this question and my companions look at me like "we're not giving this a shot and we know you have theories about all these things so go for it."  So I did.  And I totally learned so much as I spoke because the Spirit answered this lady's question and I got to sit back and observe.  I love witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy as we walk around and talk to people.  I took no thought before hand and it truly did come out the way it was supposed to.  
This stream of consciousness leads me also to thoughts of negativity.  I have a challenge for each of you.  Next time before you go to sacrament meeting or church or an activity, pray for the gift of discernment to know who you can lift or fellowship when you are there.  People come and walk into church all the time, people who are struggling with burdens we can't fully understand.  People who haven't walked into a church in decades.  I invite some of them to do that.  And there is nothing worse than having that person, who has been promised God's love shown to them by others at church, sit alone and not be welcomed, not be spoken to, not be offered a hand up. 
There is never a good reason to speak negatively about anyone.  Ever.  Yes, it's unfortunate that people sometimes deny themselves the blessings of the temple or of eternal families because someone said something offensive or looked at them sideways, but it's even more sad to me that any of that would happen in the first place.  Look and love so that they may look and live.  Seek OUT who at church is a visitor or hasn't been there in a while.  Find them.  Welcome them.  Love them.  Understand them.  Because that's all people want, to be understood and to feel loved.
But it's more than that.  It's not about what you say.  It's about who you are, and if who you are is worthy of who you're meant to be.  It's the same with missionaries as it is with members of the church.  You're either a salesman or a disciple of Christ and, just as in everything else, there's really no middle ground.  The difference comes in underlying motive and true desire, but the manifestation of that desire is in attitude above all else.  There just isn't a reason to treat other people badly, to look down on them, to be mean or hurtful or unkind or belittling or unwelcoming.  That makes you a salesman.  A disciple, on the other hand, is all about being active.  Being loving.  Being real.  WANTING to serve.  Be that disciple!
I love my missionary job.  Not much more to it.
Elder Molinaro

From January 20, 2014: Whhhowwww

What an amazing and incredible week.  Miracles are truly happening in the ward and in the work.  Elder S., Elder Sw., and I are having a blast.  We are happy and busy, trying to keep track of everyone and run the area as efficiently as we can.   We met our goal of 30 lessons this week, seeing so many, many miracles along the way. 
One of the first miracles came as we were on splits.  I went with our assistant ward mission leader to go see a less-active young woman we have been working with named "M."  On the way there, I received an odd impression to go see another less-active young man, "A," with whom we have been working.  I asked our assistant ward mission leader to turn around so that we could go see "A."  We knocked on his door several times but he didn't answer.  Somewhat puzzled, we walked down the stairs and started back towards the car.  A young couple emerged from a laundry room we were walking by, so we paused to talk to them.  We ended up teaching the about the Restoration of the gospel to the couple and leaving a Book of Mormon with them.  More striking, though, was that man's admission that he had prayed a couple days before for a sign from God and that he believes meeting us was it.  So clearly we're like "So, when you getting baptized?" and he replied "Welllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll, it's gotta be true before all that" and we say "Well then it's a good thing it really is true" and so on.  And all because of a still small voice. . .So that was pretty rockin'.

The second miracle was of even greater magnitude.  W, is a Brazilian exchange student who has gone up and down and in and out with missionaries over the course of the last four months.  He recently returned from a trip around the United States.  On the trip he met a Brazilian woman who spoke out against the Church and essentially convinced him not to be baptized.  We went in prepared and spent the better part of 30 minutes bearing testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, me in the best Portuguese I could muster, feeble and halting as it was.  Afterwards we invited him to kneel with us and pray to know right then if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  He did so.  We waited.  And waited.  And he finally looked up and said, "I feel nothing."  We invited him to be baptized.  He said, "No."  We walked away from the lesson heartbroken.  What more was there to do?  That all occurred on Tuesday.  Then, on Saturday, we texted to ask if he needed a ride to church.  His response set us all cheering and high fiving.  "I know the Church is true.  I want to prepare to be baptized on the 25th of January."
And ohhhhhhhhhhhh the joy.  Answers to prayers, indeed!

Oh, we also helped two people successfully get off smoking in a week!!  They're coming back really well. 

And then there was the Book of Mormon rescue.  Sigh.  Ok, so let us be clear.  This was not on purpose but Elder S. totally left a Book of Mormon on top of the car by accident and it flew off into the road.  He felt badly about it.  So two days later, during lunch, we saw a ruffled mess in the middle of the road.  We  conferred.  We decided. Elder S. drove like a champ.  The book was snatched.  The word of God was retrieved.  It's torn and battered, but it's still true.  We checked.
Phoenix is the best place ever.  Pretty sure I never want to leave. 
And now for my preaching to you.  'Cause like what else would I do with my life?  haha
The Atonement. is. real. I've learned a lot about covenants and about names and the Atonement and how they're all interwoven.  How we partake of the Atonement through covenants and by living those covenants we take upon ourselves Christ's NAME and therefore His character so that He can take upon Himself our names and the stain that is attached to them, that through His perfection we may be made clean and be called by His name in the last day.  I would recommend Alma 5 (in the Book of Mormon) to your consideration.  Prayer, as well.  Whatsoever we ask in the name of Christ, which implies His character and will, and pray in the mind of Christ, will be given to us.  We don't DESERVE to have prayers answered, but He DOES answer them.  And He is praying for you.  So chin up and walk a little further into the mist that ye may behold the Light, which Light He is. 
It's all real.  It's all true.  Why don't you see and if you do see, why don't you live it?  Those who trifle with eternity will be but a trifle in the scheme of eternity. 
I've been out on my mission for 6 months.  It's already been 6 months.  Now THAT is ridiculous.  It flies.
Well, much love to you all.  Be good.  Be happy.  Choose the right.  Keep your covenants. 
Elder Molinaro

From January 13, 2014: Swolinarly

Hello my people!  How's it going in your dispersed states?? 

This was a short week, obviously, and it was supposed to be highlighted and headlined by Elder Holland (one of the 12 Apostles in the church).  But, alas, he was unable to attend and was sent on emergency business elsewhere.  The life of an apostle, right?  But, seeing as how they already had 3 full missions assembled from the distant lands, we proceeded with an epic conference on Saturday with Elder Wright of the Seventy there.  His wife introduced him by telling the story of trying to relate to their non-member friends what this assignment meant.  She said "Picture you've driven a long, long way to see the Beatles and you're super excited, and then when you get there you find out that the Dixie Chicks are actually the band playing."  Haha!   It actually was super good though, the Spirit was there and then for the first time in the history of the mission we all got to be together!  And we had a mission testimony meeting, which was basically the neatest thing ever.  
May I just say that President and Sister Sweeney (the Scottsdale, Arizona Mission President and his wife) are the coolest people in the world?  Just saying though. 

So let's see.  Thursday was an epic night.  There is this less-active group we are working with and they decided that it was time to quit smoking.  So we used this super-great "stop smoking" program to help them quit.  And long story short one of the steps is to DESTROY everything related to smoking. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnndddddd we ended up burning it all.  Kind of the coolest thing in the world 'cause they had like a 5 pound bag of straight tobacco.  It was awesome.  Lot's of smoke though....Probably should have foreseen that.
It's kind of been the most fun week of my mission thus far.  Being in a trio of teaching companions is super fun.  Elder Sw. is great, too...he likes puns...we're friends. And together we are Swolinarly. (As we combine all three of our last names  haha!) 
So like the scriptures are awesome.  There's this thing that happens all the time where I'll have a question and decide not to study it because it's inessential and then the answer comes as I study something else.  Try it!
Dear family . . . I'm just reminded of how much you all mean to me and how much you have taught me:  the value of prayer and the power of family prayer, how the family is a priesthood organization, how the best moments are the unplanned ones, how "family adventures" can be the best things ever, how to travel, how to live, how to love, how to work, how to serve, and that happily ever after is a family affair that goes through the portal of Christ and the temple and no other way.  It's all real.  It's all true. 
The Book of Mormon is the word of God and the convincing evidence that the gift of the Holy Ghost is back on the earth.  Healings are real. Faith moves molehills, as well as mountains.  God lives, and more than us wanting a relationship with Him, He begs for a relationship with us.   If only we would awake unto God.  If only we would open our eyes to truly see and our hearts to truly understand.  You all have such potential and such divinity.  Think about who you are in God's eyes and then be true to that person.  Submit.  Consecrate.  Make and keep covenants.  It really is all about covenants --  the ones we know of and the ones we don't.  Covenants of the spirit, of the body, and of the soul.  Covenants of Christ. 
Oh, the grandeur of who we are supposed to be, of who we will be, of who we are.  If you had any idea who you are supposed to be.  There is no good enough, there is always better.  We can always be better.  One of the most precious gifts we have, actually, is infinite potential.  There is ALWAYS better.  More.  Make use of the time you have because once it's gone it's gone.  As Thoreau said, "As if we could kill time without injuring eternity."  We can't.  So we need to wisely use our time.  

As for me now. . . I live, I learn, I grow, I teach, I learn Portuguese from time to time.  I appreciate your notes and your love and your examples.  All of it is meaningful. 
I love you!
Elder Molinaro

The Arizona Scottsdale Mission Conference


From January 8, 2014: Trainsfer Week

Well my friends, two landmark moments happened yesterday.  First of all, I got a missionary name tag in English (his first one was in Portuguese as he was headed for Brazil; not sure if that will come to be or not, but he's loving the work in Phoenix), accompanied by chants of "One of us, one of us, one of us" from my zone.  Apparently this makes my "adoption" (into the Scottsdale, Arizona mission even though he's still waiting for his Brazilian visa) more official or something!  haha.  Secondly, I am now training!!  I'm super excited.  My trainee's name is Elder Sw. and the kid is awesome.  Ready to learn and work and we are loving the heck out of him.  I am still in the YSA (Young Single Adult) ward and still with Elder Sh.   We are tripanionship training and it's going be really cool.  I'm super excited because I never taught I was going to be able to train with the whole visa situation and all.  It makes me really happy. 
Anyway, so this week.  There were a bushel and a half of super interesting experiences and miracles and also just plain fun stuff with devastation mixed in because that's just how mission life works.  So first things first.  Sunday is either the best day or worst day in the world.  And let's be real, when people don't show up to church you just want to be like "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE ATONEMENT."  Because otherwise we would all keep our covenants and march on into eternity and be happy about the mountain of blessings we receive.  But anyway.  So we are working with a bunch of less-active members right now.  As in 29 of them who we are teaching or working with.  And some of them are really coming back strong.  I think we had upwards of 10 of our people at church on Sunday. Like no investigators and all but hey, I'll take people working towards covenants of exaltation as well as salvation.   
So we are sitting there all joyous because J. and D. and Ja. and A. and M. and C. and some others came to church for the first time in forever and I hear a voice say, "Can we sit here?"  and I look over and say, "Why yes, President Swe. (the Mission President), feel free to sit by me."  We then proceeded to experience the most gratifying sacrament meeting in existence, wherein A. got up and said he will be working on going on a mission and that this was his first time back to church in a couple years, M. got up and said that he, too, has decided to go on a mission, and J. (wearing flip flops, shorts, and a T-shirt) got up and said the same, all of them giving us shout outs for dragging them back to the gospel.  Probably the coolest thing ever, made all the more special by President being like, "Well done...we have an extra suit at the mission office if any of them need one." 
We were seriously blessed and it's amazing to see people start to change their lives and their desires.  All people need is to be lovingly home taught and brought back.  Reading the scriptures will change your desires.  
Let's see what else.  Ohhhhh!  So on Monday we got invited to take some Elders out and teach them how to contact. Which basically means observing while they take on the people of Phoenix.  So we ended up going to central Phoenix and the first people my new Elder ever talked to were two swearing, homeless men who said, "What are you going to teach me about Christ that I don't already know?  I was hunkered down in rice paddies in Vietnam before you were a twinkle in your father's eye."  Welcome to Phoenix haha.  Best.  Day.  Ever.  It actually ended up being really cool though.  We talked with them for about twenty minutes and I think it was an eye-opening experience to be exposed to what real life is for many of the people in our mission and to come to love people for who they are and who they can become.  It was a good reminder to me as well.
Then transfer meeting was yesterday and we got Elder Sw.  So excited.  We are going to have so much fun and do so much work.  Can't wait. 
Love you all.  Thinking of you! 
Elder Molinaro

From December 30, 2013: Such Language

Hello all.  I loved, loved, loved talking to you guys.  I loved family prayer.  I love you all.  I am so grateful for all you do and for the many thoughtful gifts and notes I received from you.  You guys are awesome.  Today's letter is a dive into my head.  So be forewarned, not sure it makes sense.    Love to all!  Had a good week.  People are still out of town.  30-40 people total at sacrament meeting haha  It's pretty funny.  

Reflections for the new year. . . 

Well Everyone, hello.  I wonder how many people read these.  It's a fascinating experience, sending the thoughts, ponderings, and meanderings of my head out into an abyss full of unknown spectators.  Some of you may be very close to me and some more distant.  Who knows why you read.  Perhaps out of loyalty to our past selves and perhaps out of some desire to have a meeting of the minds across the broad expanse of a world wide web that somehow does not extend to this world in which I find myself.  For assuredly we live in different worlds.  
But follow me, for a moment, as I expose you to the tiniest moment of my world, a world that I am only beginning to understand.  

I am beginning to believe that worlds are the summations of language.  And language is the best reflection we have of our SELVES.  Each person has their own unique language.  There are seriously scientists and mathematicians who get together and do word print analysis that shows that each person's written language is different.  Their flow of language, their diction, the very structure in which they form communication differs as much as one fingerprint differs from another.
Language has become one of the most fascinating subjects to me.  The more I study the scriptures, the more Portuguese I try to take in, and the more fluent I become in the language of the Spirit, the more I come to understand that the very world in which I live is constructed of language that I have, before now, been entirely unaware of.  Names, for instance.  We are given a name when we are born and it sticks with us throughout our lives.  It is an inherent part of our identity, a piece of the very fabric of who we are, and a piece of identity that is shared on almost everything we do.  At the top of every homework assignment, every official document, every license and passport and plate and contract, we affix a seal of our self.  And why?  Because it's a designation, an identifier, a mark.  And also because it makes that THING a part of who we are, claims it as part of our world. 
The same, too, with titles we assume.  Last names tell us where we came from and titles tell us what we have achieved.  Names are part of our language and therefore part of ourselves.  And what we choose to do with our names is a reflection of who we are and who we can potentially become.  This thinking bleeds over into the baptismal covenant, which we make again and again and again when we partake of the sacrament, in which we promise that we are willing to take the NAME of Christ and always remember Him.  This means that we attach His name to us and partake of His identity and therefore make ourselves a part of His world, include ourselves in the effects of His atonement, and thereby become clean. 
In my world, I have no name.  I have only a title and a lineage.  Fascinating, isn't it?  Elder.  Molinaro.  It is a cause for reflection that we keep our last names and substitute a title for our first name so that we may more fully take upon ourselves the name, and therefore the world and character, of Christ. 
But I was actually going to talk about language, not names, though names clearly are an essential part of our individual language.  When we meet a new person, we get to know them through speech.  We mirror and repeat and as we talk we get to know them.  One because of what they are saying, but also because of how they are saying it.  The people who we are closest to actually begin to change our lexicon and patterns of speech as we are around them.  And we become language as our language becomes us.  Let's examine, for a moment, what we should be doing in terms of language then.  
We should be striving for fluency in the best forms of language.  Hence Doctrine and Covenants (a book of modern-day revelations to the prophets) tells us to seek learning out of the best books.  These best books are such because of the language in which they speak and not necessarily their content.  Now do not misunderstand.  I am not saying we should all read things with elevated language and thereby become better disciples of Christ.  What I am saying is that seeking out of the best books, which are almost always the scriptures, teaches us fluency in the only language that matters in the end -- the language of the Spirit.  If we can become fully fluent in that language (the language of the Spirit), then we recognize promptings, understand their importance, follow those promptings, and therefore receive more.  We also are instructed as to what to say, how to say it, what to pray for, and how to fully reconcile the name, identity, and character of Christ with our selves.  
There are two extremes in language presented in the scriptures.  First, the Adamic language, which the bible dictionary informs us was perfect, pure, and uncorrupted. which I tend to think has something to do with the sinless state in which Adam and eve lived for so long (feel free to edit this part out guys haha) If you are looking for it in the book of Mormon, you will find themes (threads I call them) of language, which are just about ALWAYS related to the keeping and reading of records, which then become scriptures.  It is a thread that begins on the first page of the book of Mormon, with Nephi talking of the language he was instructed in and mentioning that that is the way whereby he can even begin to write on the plates.  Mosiah 1:2 also talks of language and it's importance in enabling people to understand spiritual things.  but perhaps the most striking example of how language affects everything is found in Omni 1:17, wherein it talks about a people discovered who have no records and therefore no language and therefore deny the existence of their creator and cannot be understood.  
That was a very roundabout way to get to the point.  Read the scriptures!  Scriptures introduce into our personal lexicons the language of the Spirit, which allows us to:

1. Be understood of God in prayer as we pray by the Spirit
2. See with spiritual eyes
3. Organize our priorities
4. Receive and follow promptings.
So in the new year, make it a goal to understand and speak the language of the Spirit, which you can do by searching the scriptures, which have been prepared for you by those who ARE fluent in the language of the Spirit.  Make yourself their student that you may speak and be heard and hear and therefore understand.  Heed Christ's invitation: he who hath ears to hear, let him hear.  Oh.  And there's also the matter of praying IN the name of Christ, which means in the attitude, identity, and world of Christ, for which you must  speak the language of the Spirit.  
Sorry if that was abstract but I had to write it down in some form.  Search, ponder, and pray all.  It makes such a difference it makes in what you see.  
Love and Happy New Year!
Elder Molinaro

From December 23, 2013: White Christmas

First things first.  S. got baptized!  Oh, the joy.  It was super cool and really special and I'm so grateful I got to be there!  I remember when we found her on the stairs of an apartment complex and when she first came for conference and talked the whole time and wouldn't pay attention and when she was more concerned about if we would all come back as zombies and when she was an atheist and how she finally started progressing and it took 3 months or thereabouts but by golly she was sitting there dressed in white super excited when the bishop gave her a quad.  And by the way let's hear it for our church bishops, men who will get to church in the wee hours of the morning to boil water on the stove so the water isn't too cold for the girl getting baptized.  Stud.  Now that's commitment.  What a change and what a gospel.  The church is true.

So I think that was the highlight of the week!  Much of the situation is the same, with the 3 people set to be baptized out of town and much of the work being with less-active members.  We had a whole bunch of people we are working with come to church this week for the first time, so that was exciting.  Thursday was pretty crazy, too.  We ended up teaching 9 lessons on Thursday by weird turns of events.  Yea for new Brazilian investigators!  All in the same apartment.  We also went to the Mesa Temple lights for the 3rd or 4th time, taking a group of less-actives we are working with.  The temple is so gorgeous.  GO TO THE TEMPLE.  I know I've said it before but I'm so jealous that all of you get to go to the temple.  Go, go, go and drink it in.  It's God's gift to His children.

Other highlights of the week:  We stopped by bishop's house to offer him some service and he wasn't home so we went across the street to talk to their neighbors, who were chilling outside.  So we went and started talking and they said "Hey, sit down!"  So we did and it turned out that he was super prepared.  I mean he lives in Glendale but hey, who doesn't?!  Hahaha!  That's just how it goes.  We also found some more less- actives to teach and had a zone conference. 
A word on less-active members.  You have to understand that everyone you see is less-active.  We can always be further converted, can always develop more faith, can always come closer to the Savior.  And many of the things that cause people to fall away are petty and small and they just need love to come back.  Imagine if we all just picked one person in our wards and decided to love them and do everything that we could to make sure their testimonies grow and that they feel secure in the arms of the Savior.  Now imagine that God, through our church leaders, picked those people for us and made it an actual thing in the church!  OH WAIT! THEY TOTALLY DID AND IT'S CALLED HOME TEACHING - SO DO IT!  Seriously do it though, you have no idea what a difference it makes.

Another thing to consider.  I have met so many people both active and not, people who are either super knowledgeable about the gospel and overall just happy, and people for which the opposite is true.  Oftentimes people in both categories went on missions.  The difference is the attention they gave to the scriptures when they came home.

The scriptures teach us how we are to live and who we are to serve, instill in us the sides of moral absolutes that define our existence. They teach us how to be happy.  2 Nephi 5:27 (in the Book of Mormon) tells us that they lived after the manner of happiness.

Some observations for around Christmas time:
Christ came into the world and was born into a manger, a feeder of sheep, prefiguring the mission of His life and the mission of ours, if we claim to follow His example.

The annunciations both took place in temples: Zacharias received an angelic ministration announcing the birth of John, while Mary likely received the annunciation in her home.  Which, as I have cited before, is the only place which can compare with the temple in sacredness.
As Christmas comes this year, I am reminded of all the songs, the stories, the lights, the marshmallows, the hot chocolate, the fire, the trips, the trees, the cookies, the ornaments, the pajamas, the laughs, and the love.  You are the best family anyone could ask for and I am more and more grateful for you each and every day. 
Remember what you have.  Remember what you've been given.  Remember the responsibility it comes with.

And remember Christ.  Make His sacrifice mean something.

Talk to you all on Wednesday! 

With love,

The Nativity that Elder Molinaro and Elder S made for their apartment out of spoons, toilet paper rolls, cardboard, etc.