Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oct. 6, 2014

Buenos Dias!

That was one of my favorite parts of conference, when Elder Christopherson said that. Hilarious!
This had to be one of the best conferences ever! My absolute favorite part was probably just the entire first session. It was so powerful and beautiful. What a wonderful blessing it is to have prophets and apostles on the earth today. I like to imagine us like the people of King Benjamin who all gathered together to hear the word of God through a prophet in their day. We have that same opportunity in our day! I just think that's so cool. God blesses us with prophets in every dispensation.
While my thoughts are still in the book of Mosiah I think I'll share something I learned in my studies earlier this week.
In Mosiah chapter 24, the people of Alma are under the authority Amulon, who is not a very friendly guy to Alma or his people but Amulon can't just destroy them because he is technically not in charge; Laman, king of the lamanites gave Amulon authority over them, nothing else. So Amulon begins exercising authority over them by putting tasks on them and task masters over them. "so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God" for help. Soon Amulon demanded that they stop doing that, and whoever wouldn't stop praying would be put to death.
So the people stopped praying out loud but instead they "did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts."
God did counsel them to be of good comfort because He would deliver them. He truly did help them; this is the account of what happened:
13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
These people were in distress and under heavy persecution. Their faith was being tried. Because of their faith, God did visit them in their afflictions and they were given the strength to endure. They were not taken out of their afflictions; they were given the ability to persevere. This is the enabling power of the atonement. God will not take away the opportunities to grow spiritually and strengthen our testimonies and faith. Instead He will visit us in these times and show us what we are capable of doing in the hard times- what we are capable of doing despite the hard times, all possible of the power of the infinite atonement.
But notice that in the midst of persecution and heavy burdens, the people were blessed with this strength because they had such faith that they would "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." It was important to these people that God's will was done, not their own. They gave their own will up, having faith that whatever God's will would be it would be what is best for them.
I like what the Lord says to them in verse 14, "I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." He said He visits us in afflictions, not takes us from afflictions. In His infinite wisdom and mercy, our Savior Jesus Christ, comes to us in difficult circumstances and offers us His help. Much like a home teacher will come for a visit and see if there is any need of ours in which he can be of help. Except the Lord knows exactly how to help us. He makes the visit, then if we are willing to give up our will and submit to His, He will give us the assistance we need and we will grow in strength as well as in our relationship with Him as we allow ourselves to work side by side with Him. Is this not a perfect example of the Lords plea to us to take His yoke upon us, for it is easy and His burden is light. He offers us rest from our afflictions as we take our load to Him and take what He has for us instead. By doing this we are given the strength to do things beyond our finite capabilities. He enables us to do what we normally would not be able to do. This is His grace in work. This is the truth of the atonement, that it changes people, not situations. I testify to that truth. As we faithfully and willingly give our hearts to Him, He builds us. He strengthens us. He enables us. I think we can all allow ourselves to be changed more by the grace of His atonement. We just received counsel from God's called and divinely chosen servants on how we can do this.

In other news, we got transfer calls:
I am going to Urbana, Illinois. That's way over by the Indiana border and not too far of a drive from Chicago. I will be followup training an Elder Logero. He is from Spain! I'm not entirely sure he knows English... It's fine. I will be a district leader up there as well. I will send the address in next weeks email.
I am really going to miss Waterloo. I think this will be the hardest area to leave. I love the people and the area so much!! Plus Urbana is really really cold; it gets wind from Lake Michigan in the winter. I know Brandon knows what that's like. I am really excited though too.
This week was a big testimony builder to me of the principle that the gospel blesses families. Allow me to share:
Back in July we baptized a young woman named Tiffany. Tiffany investigated for a very long time (about three and a half years) because she wasn't allowed to get baptized until she was 18. Through the process of Tiffany investigating the church, the missionaries invited her mom, Connie and Connie's boyfriend, Dwayne to investigate as well. They did for a few weeks but quickly turned it down. Just before Tiffany's baptism, Elder Bowen and I talked to Connie and Dwayne about why they turned it down when they could see how much it was blessing the life of her daughter. Basically what they told us is they didn't want to give up all the worldly things and socialites that he word of wisdom prohibits, and that was the end of that.
Well a few weeks ago Elder Johnson and I went on exchanges with the zone leaders. While Elder Johnson was in the zone leaders area they contacted a man who said he knew someone who just joined our church. Come to find out it was Tiffany and this man is her uncle, Connie's brother. He willingly let them in because he knew how happy his niece is because of her church and he flat out said he wanted to be happy like that and is ready for a change in his life.
A couple of days later we got a call from our branch mission leader inviting over to his house that evening. We arrived to find Connie and Dwayne there as well. They had come to the McCann's (our branch mission leader) in tears explaining to them that they were tired of the sorrow and grief, the drama and ignorance they were living in. They told us they were ready to make the change in their life to truly follow Christ and be free of all of the grief the lack of the gospel brings. They humbled themselves and talked about it together. They believe that this is the only true way to Christ and they want it. They have made a complete 180 and are so golden now. It is amazing to me to see this very dysfunctional and broken family come together through this gospel. The gospel truly does bless families. We are in the process of teaching Connie and Dwayne and they are progressing very well. Connie's brother has a baptismal date and is working hard to make it happen. What a marvelous work this is!
I am so grateful to have this gospel and to be sharing its truths to God's children here. I love having these experiences so much! I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ and that this gospel is our guide to lasting, true happiness and a fullness of it. May we all strive to live the gospel more fully, that we may experience the joy of the atonement and have God's spirit with us always. I pray that God will be with all of you. I love all of you so much; family, friends and all.

Love, Elder Aaron Curtis

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