The highlight of our week was on Saturday night, a special night for the D.C. South Mission! On Saturday morning, one of our mission President's daughter's was married in the Washington D.C. temple. Elder Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, along with President Huntsman's Mom and Dad, Jon Huntsman Sr., were all out here this weekend to be here for the wedding. Elder Rasband has been close friends with the Huntsman family for most of his adult life, and decided to do a fireside with our mission on the night before Easter. This time was different than the one in January. The one in January was missionaries from our mission and the D.C. North Mission. This fireside was just the D.C. south missionaries, but this time we were allowed to invite investigators, recent converts, and other members to attend. It was incredible! I don't think it's possible to describe in words how special this meeting was, but I'll try.
Michael Heaney, a recent convert I taught in Alexandria drove Elder Ostendorf and I to the fireside. Traffic was super light and we ended up getting there really early, so we had front row seats, just a few feet away from the pulpit where we were able to listen to some amazing talks. Jon Huntsman Sr. and his wife both spoke, then President and Sister Huntsman, then Sister Rasband, then Elder Rasband. They all spoke very highly of one another and it was cool to hear stories and experiences from their past they've had with one another throughout their lives. If you don't know the connection- Jon Huntsman Sr. gave Elder Rasband a job in his company when they first started many many years ago, when at the time Elder Rasband was a young Elders Quorum president. Then President Huntsman eventually worked under and alongside Elder Rasband for many years as well, up until Elder Rasband was called to serve full-time as a general authority in the church. Jon Huntsman Sr. served as Mission president over the D.C. Mission many years ago, when President Huntsman was a young teenager and now President Huntsman is serving as the mission president in the same mission, 35 or so years later, with young kids of his own.
It was fun running into Jake and Kelli Seely from Warrenton,
What a great way to spend Easter weekend, listening to all of these servants of the Lord and great men and women of faith testify of Jesus Christ- His life and mission, His Atonement, and His resurrection. This meeting and all of the thoughts/impressions associated with it will be in my memory for a long time. Coming out of this meeting, I definitely felt an increased sense of desire, motivation, and commitment to continue working hard throughout my mission. After being here on my mission for some time now, I've caught myself in certain moments "just going through the motions" forgetting what an incredible opportunity this is to be here at this time of my life, with the sole purpose of helping people come unto Christ. Thankfully those moments haven't persisted. But the spirit leaving this meaning couldn't have been more timely!
Anyways, I'll share some thoughts from the meeting in future emails, but in this one I'll just share briefly what Elder Rasband spoke about. He focused his talk on what he called "the greatest message of all history. The power of life over death in the resurrection." He referred to Job, who asked a simple question "if a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14). Not too long later in the scriptures, Job powerfully answers his own question "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:25-26) Elder Rasband mentioned different people dear to him that have had untimely deaths, or people he knew with children that passed away at young ages, and to these people he will simply say- they're not dead, but their spirits live on, and will live on forever. You will see them again. He shared 2 Nephi 25:13, a verse of scripture written nearly 600 years before the event of the resurrection "Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name." It's such a great message of hope, knowing that the Savior still lives, and he still has 'healing in His wings' that we can access in our lives. Elder Rasband talked about the resurrection in a few other contexts as well, but as he finished up his talk he shared John 11:25- "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."
After sharing this scripture he bore one of the most powerful testimonies of the Savior I've ever heard. This may not be exactly word for word, but these are a few words I wrote down from his concluding testimony, he said- "This weekend, we pay tribute to, we honor, and we magnify the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, 'the resurrection and the life.' As one of His servants, I bear you my witness tonight, that Jesus Christ lives! This is His true and living church on the face of the earth! Those are not my words, those are His words. He is at the head of it. He is "well pleased" with His church and he continues to guide and direct it. I know that His voice is no stranger to the leaders of this church."
Those last words were so powerful. I believe it.
I'm so grateful to have been able to be part of that special day in our mission. What made it even better was seeing Katie, a convert from Centreville, sitting just a couple rows from us listening to the speakers intently the entire time, feeling the spirit. After the meeting she insisted on giving an Easter basket full of goodies to 9 different missionaries that taught her over the span of 8 months leading up to her baptism, Elder Shelley and I were the first ones she met.
Aside from the fireside, we had a great rest of the week!
We found an awesome new investigator! Her name is Margaret, and she is a single mother of FIVE kids from Nairobi, Kenya (where the Church just recently announced a temple is going to be built). They are 13, 9 (two twin girls), 5, and 2- two boys and three girls. The first time we taught her this week we just knocked on her door and had a good 20 minute discussion about the gospel, the Restoration, and the Book of Mormon. She was super willing to listen and seemed really interested in having us come back. The first time teaching her at the door I was amazed by how well behaved her children were. They were so respectful and quiet as we were talking with their mother. We came back a few days later and had a great lesson reviewing what we taught her the first time. She speaks English pretty well, but is still learning, so we have to teach really simply. One thing I've definitely been able to learn and see on my mission is the power of simplicity. People can often get so caught up in over-complicating things unnecessarily. There's so much power in teaching the simple truths of the gospel. I'm excited to start teaching this family! So far, we've only been able to teach Margaret, but we hope to start teaching her 13 year old son, and twin girls as well! She has strong faith in God and in Christ, but doesn't attend any specific church and is excited for us to come back!
We had a good lesson with Tim a recent convert in the ward, and his wife Adelaide. She is from Brazil and was baptized when she was 18 and Tim just married her a little over a year ago. A few months after they got married, Tim got baptized, and now he is approaching the 1-year mark since his baptism. So we taught them a lesson about temple work, with an emphasis on the temple sealing. The spirit in that lesson was super strong as we testified of eternal marriage! They will start taking temple preparation lessons in the next couple weeks and they will hopefully be getting sealed to each other within the next couple of months.
Surprise! We also put an investigator on date for baptism for just a couple weeks from now! Her name is Kristina. I haven't mentioned her before. She actually first started learning about the church in September of last year, but hadn't been progressing for a long time. So she hadn't been meeting with missionaries for the past few months because she wasn't progressing towards baptism. She was constantly reading anti-Mormon stuff online and had tons of concerns with joining the church, however she would continue to come to church and has made good friends in the ward. She approached us as we were walking through her neighborhood and said she wanted to schedule a time to meet and talk about baptism. So we met with her and our ward mission leader and discussed the requirements for baptism, how she can prepare for it, and what we need to do for her, and she's all in! It's a pretty crazy situation apparently considering her past experiences with the church over the last 8 months or so. She said she finally felt the spirit tell her that's what she needs to do, while listening to a member bear testimony at church about his conversion story despite opposition from his family. More details to come next week. Things may change, they may not, we'll see. Stay tuned.
We did teach Swati again yesterday as well. Our lesson was mainly focused on prayer, faith, and repentance. We brought Brother and Sister Hillstead with us, a young couple in the ward. (My brother Zach was actually her teacher years ago when she was in the MTC preparing to go on her mission to Berlin, Germany!) They did a great job assisting us in teaching that lesson and connected really well with her.
I'll close with a quote from Elder Nelson's talk about the Savior.
He said, "Under the Father’s great eternal plan, it is the Savior who suffered. It is the Savior who broke the bands of death. It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance. It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death.
There is no amorphous entity called “the Atonement” upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come. The Savior’s atoning sacrifice--the central act of all human history--is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him."
I'm grateful for my Savior and this special weekend that we could more earnestly focus on Him. I love you all! Have a great week!
Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission
My second time on the mission going to Great Falls today. Last time was in August- today was a pretty nice day with Elders Leishman, Simpson, Ostendorf, Nielsen, and Chu.