Monday, March 14, 2016

DC Temple with Amy, finding people, Michelle, Stay By the Tree!

This week we decided we would be in "full-finding mode." So whenever we weren't at a scheduled lesson or appointment, we were out talking to people on the streets and knocking doors. The weather has warmed up quite a bit this week it reminded me of California! I'm just not looking forward to the imminent humidity that will start up soon.  Because it's been nice outside, there's finally a lot of people out and about, so it's easy for us to contact people! On Tuesday, after hours of rejection and uninterest, we were about to head towards our dinner appointment, but decided to talk to one more person that we saw walking through his neighborhood. A 13 year old kid named Eric! We thought he was about 16 or 17, but found out his actual age later on. We shared a brief message with him on the street, and gave him our card and number, but he was in a rush to go (because of an angry mother yelling from a car about 30 yards away for him to get in the car). We were sad that he had to leave so quickly because he was a nice kid and seemed interested in learning, and we weren't able to get any of his contact info. Later that night, to our surprise, he texted our number and said he wanted to meet with us soon to talk more! So a couple days later we went over and taught him! He had a lot of interesting and unexpected questions prepared for us and was really smart for only being 13 years old. His parents didn't really even acknowledge us when we were at their house, but we will go back again in the next few days and teach him some more. We've been doing a lot of tracting and street contacting recently, which I hadn't done much of last transfer, but we have a good time doing it!\

On Wednesday, we had the privilege of going with Amy, along with a lot of the ward members, to the Washington DC Temple! I was super excited to be able to see and go to this temple for the first time, but I was more excited for Amy to be able to go inside! She had a wonderful experience there and shared her testimony to some of the ward members about how much she appreciates temple work and what it's doing for her family. She was able to participate in baptisms on behalf of her two grandmothers! I was able to help her with doing two of her male ancestors. The temple is extremely beautiful and the spirit is so strong there! Afterwards, we were able to spend about 2 hours at the visitors Center. The sister missionaries there did a great job of showing us around and explaining more to Amy about the temple. We were able to watch a couple different films while we were here. First we watched an awesome film about families! It was a great film that teaches us the importance of families, how we can strengthen families, and the eternal nature of families. While watching it, I couldn't help but think of my own family and how amazing it is! I'm so blessed to have 2 incredible parents who do so much for our family and great examples of love and sacrifice! I'm also thankful to have 6 wonderful siblings who are great examples to me! I am so glad that I know that I will be able to live with my family forever! We also watched "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" inside the huge theater that they have there at the visitors center. We were the only ones in the entire theater but it was cool that they let us watch that film in there! Amy loved the films and is going to bring Omar and Kadija back sometime soon to show them around the visitors center and walk around the temple!

We met with Michelle and her daughter twice this week! Once at our Ward Mission leaders house (Brother Goehring) and once at the Bishops house. At the first one we taught her about faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. She started to open up more during this lesson and asked more questions than she has in the past, so that's a good sign! Her original baptismal date was scheduled for March 19th, but we still have some important visits with her and don't want her to feel rushed into it, so she decided that April 2nd will be a better date to work towards. She has been nervous to pray vocally, but she started saying personal prayers. By the time we taught her on Sunday, she finally prayed out loud at the conclusion of our lesson. It was great! Her daughter Kaylie is excited for her mom to be baptized just like she was last year. On Sunday we taught her about obedience to commandments, and specifically about the Word of Wisdom. She had a few concerns regarding the Word of Wisdom, but is willing to strive to do her best to live it! We were bold in asking her why she wants to be baptized. We wanted to make sure she wasn't just doing it for her daughter, but for herself. She opened up and explained how she likes all the good that has come into her life as she's been learning and growing over the last month. She stated how much she has loved all of the kindness and love that's been expressed from the members of the ward. And most importantly, she recognized that something has been missing in her life, and realizes that this is it! It was sweet to hear her say all of this! We are glad that she is continuing to grow closer to Christ as she applies the things that she's learning in her life. We will be meeting with her two more times this week!

There were a few other cool lessons we taught this week to random people that we met out on the streets. In one neighborhood alone, we met someone from Morocco, Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, Philippines, Guatemala, Argentina, Thailand, and Vietnam, and a couple more that I can't remember right now, so that was pretty cool!

As far as a spiritual thought goes, I'm super excited for General Conference coming up in a few weeks so I decided to start looking through some past conference talks and I came across "Stay By the Tree" by Kevin W. Pearson from last April. I was reminded of a family home evening I a few months ago at home where we discussed this talk. I love all of the counsel he gives in the talk, but particularly liked the following portions of his talk. In the Book of Mormon, 1st Nephi chapters 8 and 11, we read about Lehi's vision of the tree of life. In his talk, Kevin W Pearson explains that "The tree of life is the central focus in Lehi’s dream. Everything points to the tree of life. The tree represents Christ, who is the clear manifestation of the love of God. The fruit is His infinite Atonement and is great evidence of God’s love. Eternal life with our loved ones is sweeter and more desirable than any other thing. To realize this gift, we must “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” We can fill our lives with accomplishment and well-doing, but in the end, if we do not enter into sacred covenants to follow Christ and faithfully keep them, we will have utterly and completely missed the mark."
This is so true! There is no greater gift than Christ's Atonement, and if we don't utilize it and "become perfected in Him" than what are we doing?! We are slowly drifting off the path that leads to him. Later on in his talk, he states that "Once we enter into covenants with God, there is no going back. Giving in, giving up, and giving out are not options. In the kingdom of God, there is a standard of excellence for exaltation. It requires valiant discipleship! There is no room for average or complacent disciples. Average is the enemy of excellence, and average commitment will prevent you from enduring to the end.

 If you are struggling, confused, or spiritually lost, I urge you to do the one thing I know will get you back on track. Begin again to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon and live its teachings every day, every day, every day! I testify of the profound power in the Book of Mormon that will change your life and strengthen your resolve to follow Christ. The Holy Ghost will change your heart and help you see “things as they really are.”

I love this! The message is simple. We can't accept being 'average or complacent' on a daily basis, but rather we need to endure to the end by keeping ALL of God's commandments throughout our lives. Nobody is going to be perfect and we all screw up at times! But that's what is so amazing about His plan for us. Through Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we can get back on the 'straight and narrow path' that leads us to eternal life! I'm so grateful for my loving parents and their example to my family and I! I remember my Dad emphasizing the phrase "every day, every day, every day!" We won't be able to faithfully endure towards eternal life if we aren't praying, studying our scriptures and applying its teachings into our lives, and striving to do our best "EVERY DAY, EVERY DAY, EVERY DAY." We know what we have to do. Sometimes we just need to swallow our pride, and make a leap of faith and make the changes that we know we need to make in our lives. I know that if we can do that, we will be much happier and will be on the path towards eternal life with our Father in Heaven and our families. Make the choice now! It's never too late. We can either remain being 'average and complacent' or we can take a leap of faith and start doing the things that will not only get us back onto the path, but will keep us on the path!

Kevin W Pearson's concludes his talk by saying that "enduring to the end is the great test of discipleship. Our daily discipleship will determine our eternal destiny. Awaken unto God, cling to truth, [make and] keep your sacred temple covenants, and stay by the tree!"

Love you all and hope you have a great week! :) Stay by the tree, and if you're not by it, get by it!

Elder Duvall

Here are some pictures from our trip to the Temple and the Visitors Center with Amy! She had a wonderful experience there and is excited to go back soon!

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