Monday, August 15, 2016

August 8, 2016

From Mom:

Dear Joshy-Boy,

I was thinking that just over a year ago you were opening your mission call sitting around the fire at Koocanusa. When you came out of the outhouse the next day, one of the little cousins exclaimed, "Wow! Are you back from your mission?" Hahaha.
We're in Sparwood at the moment. Soon I will be driving Sam and Ben to LYR. Sam is frantically reading the last of his books, "And There Was Light," about a blind man who wanted to be involved with the French resistance during WWII. We read a chapter called, "The Cure For Blindness." Do you know what the cure for blindness is? ... It's to understand that blindness is a gift from God and can give a person a unique understanding of the world that creates a finely honed awareness that sighted people cannot understand. He talks about the danger of thinking that you are handicapped or incapable. ((So. Good.)) We already know that the Lord can take our weaknesses and make them into strengths. True principle, right there.
Grandpa taught us about his struggle with the Lithuanian language. He REALLY wanted to be able to speak to them in their native tongue, but it proved too great of a challenge. When he decided to give it up as a lost cause, he was pretty discouraged about it. As he prayed to know the best way to serve, the answer came, "focus on your strengths." After that, his English classes started to become more effective. He found that he had more confidence and boldness. Him and Mom both did a great work over there and proved to all of us, once again, that the weak things of the world can accomplish great things. (Not that I think they are weak at all, but the proof is that the Lord can take us as we are and magnify us.)
It was a great privilege to go to Lithuania and see their mission area. That little branch sure loved them. My heart strings were being pulled all day three Sundays ago as I watched all the members say good-bye. Little Dovydas, with tears in his eyes, begged Mom to stay, "Please, Sister Bruce, stay in Lithuania." She told him it was time to go back to her family. He said, "Convince your family to move to Lithuania, then we can all live here together." I just about lost it completely at that point.

As we travelled Europe, I was struck with the realization that we live in a spiritually starved world. People are trying to find that peace and purpose through whatever means are available to them. Some of that searching is manifested in destructive habits. We know and understand that particular brand of peace and purpose can only come through the merits of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Mom and Dad explained that the Lithuanian people are still struggling with the past years of Russian oppression. They've only been an independent country for 25 years. They don't trust very easily and don't really want to hear religious messages. It seems to me that the success my parents had came from humbly serving. Many people were suspicious of service with a smile. They wonder what the ulterior motive is, but as soon as it dawned upon them that the service offered was sincere without any thought of reciprocation, their hearts were softened and they could hear the message.

My favourite story was about enthusiastic Vytautas, who was taught by missionaries before Mom and Dad arrived. He said "no" to their message and was dropped. A year later, he saw my parents on a bus (incidentally, they were accidentally on the wrong bus). He told me when he saw their name tags and realized they were Mormon, all he knew was that he needed to be where they were and follow whatever they taught. He says there was something about them that he was drawn to (he now knows it was the Spirit). He was baptized and will be serving a mission in England in the fall. He admits he was spiritually starved, looking for Something. I can't help but think of the role those early missionaries played in his preparation to receive the truth. And those missionaries probably don't even realize the impact. I'm sure they were extremely disappointed when he dropped them. Again, it goes to show how you just never know. Serve. Love. Be humble. Study and improve yourself. Follow the Spirit. Do the Lord's will. And be happy. You will work miracles, known and unknown. My Dad's new motto is, "Life is good." And it really is.

We love you so much, my boy. You are definitely where you need to be at this time. You are making a difference. All things are working for your good. I hope you feel our prayers for you because we really pray all the time for your welfare and inspiration.

Life is good.

Love,
Mom

P.S. Simple habits...
Are you drinking lots of water?
Do you stop eating after 6-7 p.m.?
Are you limiting your sugar intake?
Keep trying to be healthy. Remember that your spirit and body are connected. The healthier choices you make (aka: self mastery), the easier it is for your Spirit to be master. I know it must be difficult when you are being fed copious amounts of food, so I think I'll keep asking you those questions. Maybe it will help if you're worrying about your weight. 🙂

Keep going. Keep trying. You're awesome.

From Josh:

The Lords definition of success... is completely oposite of the worlds.
Power, influence, ability, wealth, intelligence and leadership are the very epidimy of success in the worlds eyes... but what does the Lord say about it? 
In Ether 12:27 he speaks of weakness, and humility, relyance and belief in something you cannot see, (often called blind following by someone who caters to the worldly vision of the world) and after, only after all that he tells us that he will make our weaknesses become strong. 
Servitude was the saviors way, complete humility and penatence were in his character. To a rich young man he gave this council

"sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." 
And when he (Rich young merchant) heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
and so success in the Lords eyes is not measured by the strength of the world but by the strength of Character.
We have been teaching David Garibay the recent convert discussions, and a recurring theme that has come up and that has connected all the lessons we have been teaching him is "preparing for a celestial life now" while talking about the word of wisdom he posed the question "why?" and an easy answer would have been to say because it is to keep us healthy because a lot of it makes sense, but after thinking about it we simply said, it is to teach us self control and prepare us for a celestial life. Now this has been impressing upon my mind a lot since. Everything we do is leading to that life in which we live as Gods, Joseph Smith once said
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.”
another quote from Joseph Smith is this.

"you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God...namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; fromgrace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory..."
We are here on this earth to learn to be like God, that is our purpose, every commandment, every service, every call to repentance is preparing us to become. We must always strive to live a celestial life now, do not procrastinate the day of your repentance.

I have been really struggling in this area because I think I was holding on heavily to the worldly view of success, and I think that is what God has been trying to get me to learn, to move past my own worldly perception of success and become succesful in Gods eyes, though others may look to have so much success on the outside, God is looking for success on the inside, that is why I am here on a mission to not only help others gain that kind of success, but to gain it within myself as well, and if we can achieve the success of our character we need not ever see ourselves as a failure, we are here in life to experience everything we can to help us to grow up in the way of truth and soberness.
Looking back at David Garibay's life (I talk about him a lot because he is really cool) he grew up in not the best of ways, but through his life he has always desired to do good, and the more he has told me about everything he has experienced in life the more I can see Gods hand in it leading him to the restored Gospel, he married Jennifer his wife, who was a member of the church, and very early on missionaries would come and help them out, one time when they were trying to move he called all of his friends and relatives to come help and no one showed up and he was feeling really discouraged and just at the point where he was working on trying to move everything himself, two young men dressed in white came around the corner and offered to help, and this was even before he had ever taken any lessons by the missionaries, his wife was less active and had limited contact with the church.
by the time I came into the picture he had taken the lessons 4 times and already had a baptismal date for the week after I got there, and as soon as he got baptized he shot off like a rocket, I told him once that I felt he was one of the choice spirits of God and that he had been led towards the church very early on. I love being a missionary and being a district leader is a blast, It is overwhelming and super stressful at times but I am learning and growing so much, it is hard to believe it has been almost 8 months since I left home, there have been so many ups and downs, and let me tell you, there have been many times where I felt like caving, I was once so overwhelmed that I could not rise from my seat, I have seen much oposition, just yesterday we had call ins with my district where I get their numbers and see how they are doing, we got to the apartment at 8:00 because that is when we do call ins I spent about 2 hours straight trying to get the numbers and everything sorted out, and I still have to do some of it tonight, there have been people who have yelled at me and threatened to beat me up if I didn't get off their property, I have never been treated so much like a villain while trying to accomplish something good. But amidst the craziness of it all I can tell that this is a great work, I love it, I love the feeling when I say something so perfectly that I learn something I have never ever considered before and I can attribute that to the spirit, the feeling of giving a ten minute blessing to someone when you have no clue what you are going to say throughout the whole time, and forget what you said after, when someone opens up the door and says that we are filled with light, the sight of a person you found entering into the waters of baptism, that happened a little bit ago Elder Wilson sent me a picture of Erik a guy we were walking by on our way to get food from a member, we could have walked on by but decided to stop and talk to him, we ended up giving him a book of Mormon, and a couple weeks later after trying to meet with him everyday for two weeks we met and gave such a powerful spirit filled lesson, he was passed to a couple sisters and I moved out of the area, and now he is a member of the church and doing well! The sight of mail from a friend or family member makes my whole week, I am sorry that I have been struggling to send some of them back, I have been struggling with that for a bit.
It reminds me of our canoe trip with Grandpa and how he related it to life, I remember me and Sam paddling through the headwinds and big waves behind by about 500 metres from everyone else and we were miserable, the thought came into my head to sing hymns and even though I did not feel like it I started singing, pretty soon I was on top of the world, with a nice cool wind blowing in my face and a rollercoaster wave ride merrily paddling on through, discovering the secret to happiness in life sometimes is not a change of surounding but a change of attitude, this wonderful enlightening of my mind was such a contrast from my mood a moment before, and I quickly reached out to Sam wanting him to be as happy as I was, but the thing is when you are miserable it is human nature to want to stay miserable, trying to find happiness in thinking miserable thoughts, I know this because I was there just a few moments before I started singing on that canoe, you remember me telling you to try smiling sam? to sing with me? and that didn't work so I desided to try to make you laugh by singing a hilarious song that I made up on the spot that didn't even make sense, and by the time we got to the rock where everyone was we both were as happy as could be. Life is good in every situation, we just have to open our eyes to see it.
I love you guys so much and invite you to be all you can be, LYR is amazing! be leaders find your purpose and above all Start living a Celestial life NOW!
Love
Elder Joshua Smith


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