Wednesday, February 10, 2016

10 February 2016

Dear All, 

This week was incredible. It was extremely difficult and trying, but incredible nonetheless.

My Zone
So in my personal studies from the Book of Mormon I am currently in Mosiah. At the beginning of the week I was struggling a little bit, and I had been depending on the scriptures and prayer for strength. I felt beat from the weeks prior and I was just depending on our Heavenly Father. Let me testify of something real quick: The Book of Mormon is where we can get true revelation and answers to everything. I know I've said that before, but it's just so true. I can't get over how amazing it is that God communicates with us as we show Him efforts in our studies or just our lives in general. One thing that popped out to me was in Mosiah 4:11 - we must remember "the greatness of God, and (our) own nothingness and his goodness and long-suffering toward (us), unworthy creatures, and humble (our)selves even in the depths of humility". This scripture comes off a little bit blunt, but it gets the point across. He is all-powerful and we are nothing without Him. We owe Him everything. When we're struggling or just not feeling satisfied, the best thing to do is just pray and show God that we need Him. Depend on the Lord, not on your own strength. Proverbs 3:5-6 has got it right. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." My goodness, the scriptures are so true.

Is there some kind of drug that makes you fall asleep super-fast? Another guy seemed to be in a similar situation on the train this week as the guy last week. He kept on dropping his phone but he was sitting down this time, whereas the guy last week was standing up. I would watch this guy wake up and check his phone, turn it on, and then fall asleep as he was doing something on it. He didn't seem all the way there, so that's why I ask about the drug thing. Yeah, he was definitely on something...he kept on saying random stuff out loud and responding to random people's conversations. He continued doing his falling-asleep thing, and this Dominican guy next to him would chuckle every now and then. We'd make eye contact, and he'd laugh a little bit too. At some point the Dominican guy tells the other guy he should probably put his phone in his pocket (just trying to help out.) The other guy just slurred his words back and looked super confused. The Dominican guy suggested it again, hoping he'd understand, but the other guy was still confused, kinda like an "I'm too high to understand you" kind of confused. The other guy looks and is like, "OH!" and answers his phone (it wasn't ringing) and just goes, "HELLO!?" and continues to have a jibberish conversation while also yelling, "Hello!" every now and then. The Dominican guy and I exchanged chuckles a few times. Eventually the other guy just puts down his phone and thanks the Dominican guy, and then proceeds to fall asleep. Ah, the New York moments just keep rolling in.

You know, it's funny. You can pretty much always tell when people don't belong in the Bronx. I just see some people and am like, "What are you doing here?" Their clothes are too nice, or maybe they're white and seem too happy. Idk what exact things make it obvious, just general stuff. We walk by someone and I just think, "Yeah, you don't live here. I wonder why you're here." It's funny that I think that because I wonder if people think the same thing about me and other missionaries: two young guys or girls in nice clothing, smiling and happy, usually white. Although I will say, it's pretty legit how many people recognize that we're "Men of God". A lot of people will mention something about us being just that. They generally respect religion, and it's really nice. That makes it a little it easier to talk to people about stuff related to the gospel. 

One of the miracles for this week: We went to visit a less-active member of the Church, which went well. The cool thing is that afterwards, when Elder Holloway and I were walking down the stairs on our way out, Elder Holloway just stops, turns around and walks into the 4th floor. I was thinking, "Oh he's got some prompting, probably." I asked him what we were doing, and then voila, we walked right into a door with a deaf bell! Deaf bells are semi-hard to come by. If you go into a projects building your chances of running into a deaf bell (they just look like cheap door-bells attached to the door frame, and instead of making noise they flash a light in the house) are slim-to-none. Out of every 100 doors you might run into one bell, and even that's unlikely. So yeah, he just stopped, turned around, and walked to a door he felt prompted to walk to and boom, it's a deaf bell, dang. Nothing came of the lesson but it was super cool to see that happen. Straight up miracle. He just listened to the s
Spirit and started walking, I'm not too sure why we were lead to that door, but there must be some reason.

Sacrament meeting was Testimony meeting, and there were a couple interesting "testimonies". One sister explained an experience she had where she had to call 911 or something and eventually related it to how hearing people are less than deaf people because this hearing person couldn't or didn't call 911 or something like that. She then bore her "testimony" about how blessed she is. It made me kinda sad that those are the things she chooses to say in the name of Jesus Christ. This just occurred to me as I was typing this; our testimonies are in Christ's name, that's kind of a big deal. Knowing that, we need to make sure that our testimonies are solid and have a firm foundation "whereon if (we) build (we) cannot fall". So our testimonies should be based on Jesus Christ, not on an experience we had once, nor should they be built on something negative. Sometimes people will dwell on negative experiences they've had and make it their testimony about how Satan is real and that he's ruining the world. Although these things may be true, why would you want that to be the focus of your testimony? It seems to me that our testimonies should be built on positivity and love, and just Jesus Christ in general. Kind of a strange comment from Elder West, but it's just something that stood out to me this week.

I've noticed a problem I've been having recently, and in the MTC it's something that I'd worried I might struggle with. I seem to get caught up in having lessons with people, but not always for the best reasons. Sometimes the entire purpose would be so that we could report on having more lessons. One of the fundamentals of missionary work is, "We teach people, not lessons." I believe this is something I sent back in an email my very first week in the MTC. The point in me bringing this up is that I was getting caught up in teaching lessons, and oftentimes it was so that I could report high numbers. It's not because I want my leaders to think I'm a better missionary based on numbers, but because I just want to see my work and efforts pay off for myself. Part of the requirement for something to be classified as a lesson is you must teach a gospel principle. So in pretty much all my conversations I would try to involve a gospel principle, especially the Restoration. This is a very good thing, but I wasn't always doing it for the right reason. So I realized that I need to have the desire to teach more lessons simply because my purpose as a missionary is to help others come unto Christ, and helping people know about the Restoration will allow them the opportunity to do so. So my whole point in this is that I was making the mistake of just trying to teach teach teach, but I'm learning that I should teach. The thing is, I should teach to help the person, not to have high numbers.

Members are so very important to this work. Missionaries can do stuff, members can do stuff, but missionaries and members together can create miracles through the power of God. I'm serious, if we had a member for every single one of our lessons, I'm pretty sure we could baptize the whole state of New York. Okay maybe not the whole state, but a lot more people. To all you members at home, please please be willing to go along with the missionaries for lessons and refer them to your friends who might be interested in the Gospel. It's so amazing when members combine with missionaries, members add a whole new perspective that is commonly lost among missionaries. I love our members very much, but it's sometimes hard to get them interested in missionary work. Something from Adjusting to Missionary Life mentions this, "motivation generally follows action. If you lack motivation for something, just do it." Ah Nike, you've done it again. As members, I can promise you that you'll be more interested in missionary work if you just do it. Going to lessons and sharing your testimony strengthens it. If you've got the knowledge, you've got the responsibility to share it. The interesting thing is, this thought came to me on Monday. It was so obvious to me that I needed to show our members more love so that they would trust me more. If they don't trust me, and know that we missionaries love them, why would they want to help with the work? So our goal as a district is to involve the members more for many reasons. 

The Lord works so many miracles through our families. My sister, Rachel sent this to me on Monday, and I really needed it: 
"The other day I was doing my personal study. It hit me that we've had a lot of success lately. I started to wonder why that was. Have I become more obedient? Does God all of a sudden love us more? (ha, jk.) I feel that the Spirit whispered to me, 'It's because Daniel is working hard.'  Dan. Way to go! I know that as we give our all and do our best, our missions can bless each other's. So, keep going! Stay awesome! I promise to do my very best for you, too."
My companion and I have been working super hard but we're just not having success and I do not understand it. I just kinda accepted that we're doing what we can and other people are using the beautiful gift of their agency, but then my sister sent this to me. Is she just saying it to make me feel good? It's possible, but I'd like to think it was revelation. When I told Elder Holloway about it he was clearly touched in a similar way that I was. This happened the day right before the Zone Conference and this leads into my next thought.

We had a zone conference yesterday and it was pretty sweet, President Smith was talking about how we don't always know the results of our missionary work. He was giving examples of people who met with missionaries and then stopped, or didn't seem interested, but then down the road they'd remember that or want that feeling again and be baptized or whatever. It was awesome, especially because he just randomly threw my name in there and said, "Yeah, this one time Elder West came and said this thing". He just randomly threw in my name, but I'm pretty sure that was inspiration, which I know may seem silly, but I think it was because that's totally something I needed to hear. I don't see a ton of direct results from my work here, and I often wonder if there are results, and if I'm really doing any good. But I got the email from Rachel about feeling prompted that she was being blessed by my work, and then President Smith just happens to throw my name in there as an example. I believe the Lord is telling me that people will be blessed, and that good will come of my work, even if I don't see it. This can totally relate to all people. This concept of not seeing the results of my work and being disappointed is pretty much me wanting immediate gratification. If we can learn to be patient and learn to not always expect instant gratification, then we will be happier. 

So this week was full of miracles and just straight up joy. There's a poem that I don't have and can't remember the name of. But it's from a missionary and just mentions that a mission is so so much harder than he expected. Yet it was so much better, he learned so much more than he expected. Most importantly, he came to know his Savior and love him more than he possibly could've imagined. This is already accurate of my mission. Truly, I love my Savior so much. We had that question asked at our Branch Party for Valentines Day. "Why do you love Jesus Christ?" I thought about it and realized the reason I love Him is because He loves me. He loves each of us, enough that he gave His life for us. When someone shows that much love, how can we not return it? 

I hope everyone is still doing great.


"if we don't know what we've done, then we don't know where we're going."
"learn to love the Lord, then you will have a desire to serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength"
"others don't know. They need to know. They need to know this!"
"I don't care what your reasoning is for coming on a mission. You're here, so it was a good reason. But why you will stay here is up to you."

2 Nephi Chapter 31 - Amazing representation of the Doctrine of Christ.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Meeting the mission president and his wife

World Trade Center

World Trade Center Reflecting Pool

Empire State Building

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