elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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Baptismal Date!

Hey guys!

This week was really pretty good.

We found a cool investigator, so Elder Weber helps us out on Skype teaching him since he speaks a different language. I got to go on exchange with Elder Oliphant one last time, which was fun. That exchange though, I was just pooped. I went to bed at 8. I could barely keep my eyes open. Exhaustion is coming more and more frequently, which is great! That means I’m still workin’!

We had Zone Conference with Elder Adler, an area seventy, which was great. I really liked it.

I’ve been trying to make a new plan of consecration for before and after the mission, so I’ve been studying that a lot. And that was roughly the topic of ZoCo as well.

Also, a missionary had been really struggling with feelings of worthiness about things he had already repented off and as far as I know, weren’t actually that big of a deal anyway, but he was just really beating himself up about it. We had been trying to help him. And then Elder Adler started his talk by saying “I hadn’t planned to say this, but I feel I need to tell you all that..” and then went on to explain that we just need to move on when we’ve made a mistake, and not dwell on it anymore, and the only one that wants us to do that is the adversary. It was crazy how fitting what he said was. That missionary really needed to hear that. I thought that was really neat, and I want to be that in tune with the Spirit in the future so that I can help people more.

Probably the most exciting news of the week is that we put R on baptismal date! He is this Chinese guy that came to church with some BYU students a few weeks ago. I haven’t talked much about him, because we always taught him when I was on exchanges, so I didn’t really know him that well. But we had a fantastic lesson with him, and he is just the nicest guy. He doesn’t have much of a Christian background, which means we have to clarify everything. We set the date for June 19, which is really soon. We decided to do it that soon because we have to do a tough balancing act. He is going back to China in 4-5 months. You are not allowed to get baptized in China. So his only chance to be a member is here. They have wards there, you just can’t join them unless you come back to China a member. So, that means that we want to give him as much experience being a member here as possible, so he is as strong as possible when he goes back. So of course, we want to make sure he understands his covenants as well, but we are going a little faster than usual. Hopefully it works out. He already is socially converted, because he loves the BYU students, who are really awesome. They all live in the same building, and they pray with him and read the scriptures with him, and have him over for dinner and everything, so he’s really solid that way.

Sorry, I have no more time… 😦

Love you guys!

Elder Greaves


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Medal 1 medal 3 Medal 2

Most of what I’m writing today is a spiritual thought, but real quick, the story of those medals. So there was a flea market here in Jena on Saturday. We decided to use a little bit of lunch time to look around for cool German stuff. Right towards the end, I noticed this black crosses that I thought were WW1 badges, but I wasn’t sure. Anyway, I asked how much one cost, and the man kinda looked at me for a few seconds, than told me to come to the other side of the table. He then pulled this cloth off of this box with a bunch of cool badges in it, all the same stuff, the black crosses from ww1 and the gold ones from ww2. Well, the gold ones had swords, so I was sold. He turned it over, and just to show me it wasn’t damaged, pulled off this little orange sticker to reveal a swastika. I thought “Oh, how sweet. They are so embarrassed about swastikas that they cover it up just so no one get’s offended.” So I was telling a member about it, and he was all sketched out, so I asked what was wrong. Turns out, it’s TOTALLY illegal to buy that sort of thing! Any Nazi paraphernalia is super against the law. I already knew you can’t have Mein Kampf or anything like that of course, but some cool war medals? Yeah, super illegal. The best way to describe their attitude towards Hitler is like Voldemort. They literally won’t even say his name. Once, Brd. S from Bernburg made the Hitler salute thing, and everyone gasped. He is actually pretty similar to Dumbledore in a lot of ways, but that definitely helped that symbolism. So yeah. No big deal.

So the spiritual thought:

An executive synopsis of this really long thought I had about agency:
* Agency is accountability
* We try to avoid pure decision making by allowing external sources to make the decisions for us
* That is exactly what we are doing when we seek for a sign
* We try to force God to force us to do it, rather than just deciding ourselves
* This way, we try to avoid accountability – we can then blame the sign or God for not sending us one
* We can face those baldfaced bold decisions proudly, refuse to let external circumstances control and do what we feel is right no matter the circumstances.
* Implications of leadership by example: we have to let others decide themselves.

The full version:

It was always astounding to me that anyone, anyone at all, could be so dumb as to want their Agency, their literal god-given right to decision making and accountability taken away, let alone 1/3 of all human Spirits in the Spirit world. I’ve never understood either, why it was that it was so important to God that we have it. As I started thinking and studying about this, I started getting partial answers here and there.
I learned:
– Agency is an eternal principle, which God could not ignore and remain God.
– Agency is not just the ability to make choices, but an accountability for the outcome, according to an article sent by my dad.
– Brd. S, Institute teacher, gave a wonderful extemporaneous lesson on faith vs. knowledge. He pointed out that although knowledge is something we all desire, a knowledge of the verity of the Gospel, for example, knowledge is not connected to movement. For example, most everyone has the knowledge that smoking, alcohol, and drugs are terrible for them, but that doesn’t stop very many from doing it. But the faith that there was land on the other side got Columbus to sail across the world.

But it wasn’t until I watched 2 investigators, both receiving new light and knowledge, both enjoying this experience, both start to ask God tentatively to let them know the truth – it wasn’t until I saw both of them blame outside circumstances for choosing to not follow this path, and then not until I discussed it with one of my best friends, a member from Frankfurt Oder, that I really understood the stark beauty of agency.

It occurred to me how often we actually do everything we can to destroy our own agency. This can be as innocent as a girl unendingly claiming she “doesn’t care” where you go for dinner on a date (p.s. That is super annoying. Please stop doing that) to someone succumbing to the allure of the comatose, blind, out of control numbness of drugs and alcohol, just to not have to think anymore about tomorrow.

When it comes to religion, we’ve heard over and over that the reason God doesn’t send us constant manifestations and visions and angels, is he doesn’t want to take away our agency. I’ve always thought “Hmm, well that’s sure nice of the Him, but now that I want it, now that I’ve followed the path, and have a testimony, what about just sending that angel now? That’d be great.”

Why is it that General Authorities consistently insist on the fact that inspiration from the Holy Ghost is even better than seeing things with our eyes? And why is it, then when they are done talking, I still want something like that to happen? This has always been a point of confusion for me, because I was looking at it from the wrong point of view. If God were to give us a sign, and then we weren’t ready to follow it, of course, we would be acting contrary to the knowledge that we have, and that would be pretty condemnable. That’s the reason I’ve heard most often, or at least how I’ve always understood it. But
that’s the very reason why I want a sign! It would be so much easier to do everything with faith if I were to see a vision or something! This seemed to me to be a contradiction. Why, if it wouldn’t help us, is there almost a universal desire for such a thing to happen?

I honestly don’t think the main reason that we have these types of manifestations more often is not because God doesn’t want us to fall away afterwards, but rather, we have to learn to make spiritual decisions based purely on what we and God want.

When we get to the point where there is nothing left to do but to decide, when we stand in a great flat expanse, with no hint of what any direction holds, and we just have to decide – those moments are agony. In books, when 2 doors are put before a hero, often he will throw some dice, or close his eyes and point, etc. The purely internal decision is something that man does his best to avoid. Of course, leaving decision up to chance doesn’t actually help in any way. You cannot be more likely wrong, than when we do that. We can’t have worse chances!

So why do we do it?

The weight of accountability for a decision, that’s why. We can’t stand that mountainous burden, that responsibility. So when there is nothing left but us, we’ll try to at least call in luck to blame a path wrongly taken on a coin flip or a lost rock paper scissors game.

That’s the longing for a sign. If we get a sign, we no longer have to choose and choose and choose, we can just follow. We and our conscience are no longer responsible for what we do – no more decisions, just blind action. What could actually be more humiliating? What could be more emasculating? What could rob us more of our godly, divine abilities to learn righteousness?

It appears that to God, doing the right is not even close to being as important as choosing the right.

Which brings us back to my investigators. How were they feeling? Both of them were positively suffering. They had gospel truths, but following them meant leaving the path they were on, the path they had traveled with everyone else they knew – for them, the path of least resistance. To join our church, you have to abandon culture, family, politics, hobbies, and essential opinions you’ve always thought were
“you”. We, as the missionaries, showed them the other path. Indecision gripped them. Anxiety about the future and problems with change loomed around them. One of them attempted to walk both paths, only to feel them pulling away, farther and farther apart from each other.

Dad can attest that one of the absolutes you can count on in waste water management is that water always follows the path of least resistance. Water will never ever under any circumstances just spontaneously start flowing uphill. This principle can be used to control water. The Romans were able to make aqueducts to transport this water. At it’s most rudimentary, water would flow downhill. When they wanted to take it left or right, they would throw up a wall or bank in front of the water. The obedient water wasn’t about to leap over the wall shouting viva la revolucion and do it’s own thing. It followed the bank and went in the direction it was supposed to.

Watered-down disciples wish God would throw up a bank so they could both follow God’s plan and follow the path of least resistance. A sign from heaven is exactly that. Of course, if we are already following God’s plan, we wouldn’t stop because we saw a sign. But we would stop choosing , and that defeats our purpose every bit as much.

I think this has interesting implications as well when it comes to leadership. Leading by example is one style, whereas the other style is telling. Telling does not necessarily imply hypocrisy. We can tell people to do things and still do them ourselves. But according to this idea of agency, and from God’s example, leading by example is not only effective, not only more effective, it is the only effective way to lead others to do what is right.

This truth is easily seen in missionary work. A leader can either tell missionaries to start doing things, stop doing things, etc. Or they can just start doing it. The problem with most missionaries is, they are pretty polite. If someone tells them to go to bed on time, they will do it, begrudgingly, but they’ll do it. If you just go to bed on time and they see that, you may be going to bed alone. But more often than not, missionaries will also go get ready for bed with you. What’s the difference? When we lead by example, we allow those who look up to us to actively choose what they do. Instead of unwillingly being forced to do what is right one time, they feel the power of choosing the right, and they more likely to do it again. If they don’t follow you, forcing them to do it wouldn’t help them in the future anyway. Instead, we are worsening the situation. Now, in order to do what is right in the future, they have to admit to themselves that they were wrong in the first place, and we, whom they inwardly grumbled at, were right. This takes humility on our part, because we get no recognition. We get no points. Sometimes, people won’t even know why they are doing what we are doing. But it’s the example. There’s real power in agency.

So when it comes to spiritual decision-making, I’m going to try in the future to remember one very important principle. External happenings, pressures, or opinions literally have no bearing whatsoever on what I do. It’s not a question of balancing pros and cons. There is no scale. We do what is right. Period. I don’t worry about outcomes of that, because I can’t choose them and I can’t choose differently. As for signs, I reserve the right to follow my conscience. I don’t want to be watered-down disciple, who wavereth like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and is tossed. I no longer desire the easy way out, and I don’t want the choice taken away from me. Not because I would do anything different, but because it’s an honor to pick which team I’m playing on, and to choose Christ.

Have a great week!

Elder Greaves


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This week almost killed me.

Hey guys!

This week almost killed me. It was full of good things, with the emphasis on full. That’s a good problem to have, don’t get me wrong – but yeah, I almost died.

By the end of the week, my tongue was too tired to testify, and my eyes were better glazed than any 6th grade pottery project.

But maybe the best way to describe how tired I was would be to describe the recovery.

This morning, I told my companion in grunts that I was going to take a nap, and it would be for as long as I wanted, and if he woke me up, I would kill him on the spot and go back to sleep. Or something to that effect.

I left my whimpering companion in the corner and belly flopped onto the bed, already asleep midair. And I dreamed. All the normal dream stuff started happening, upside-down stairs, giving people Books of Mormon (gotta stay in practice), and watching a silverfish turn into a trashcan when I sprayed it with water. The yoosh.

But then, only a few minutes into my dream, I started feeling sleepy. And I fell asleep. In my dream. So I experienced literal inception. Then in that dream, I felt sleepy, and went to bed. This continued, on and on, down the ever-spiraling dream well, until my companion WOKE ME UP. I’m not sure if I killed him, but I was so tired, when I tried to open my eyes, the inside of my eyelids stuck to my eyeballs and I was blind. After squirting them with contact solution, I realized the fact that I wasn’t really panicking about this meant it was a dream, and I woke up. I got up, walked around, and noticed the stairs were upside down, and woke up again. Eventually, I had to wake up FIVE TIMES before I triumphantly burst through all those dream layers.

Who knows? Maybe I’m still dreaming. But I think it’s great that even in my dreams my brain was like, “Yeah, let’s use this time to sleep extra.” For all I know, if you add up all my sleep in that 2 hour nap, I maybe actually slept like 15 hours. Pretty nifty, brain.

A couple highlights of this week – We are teaching this Chinese girl named M. She’s dating a Chinese member named G. A couple of weeks ago, we focused on her more, because she said she didn’t believe in God yet. She’s met with the missionaries (only ever with G, and throughout his whole conversion) for about 8 months. We asked her what she knew about baptism. Chagrined, she admitted she had actually never listened to what the missionaries were saying… sigh. Classic. But the more she started paying attention, the more intensely she’s been looking into the church. This last week we talked about the Plan of Salvation. She loved it. We asked her at the end to summarize what she now thought the Plan of Salvation was, and she said all primly “To follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized and repent so we can go the celestial kingdom.”

That is. What. I. Am. Talking about!

Plus, we had this sister missionary there helping us who can speak Chinese, so told us later all the times than M was making fun of us in Chinese. I’ve never in met another sarcastic Asian person, but she’s hilarious. We have a lot of fun together, and she volunteered to be my big sister a couple weeks ago. 🙂

A, the 18 year old, is also seriously considering getting baptized, which is awesome. Everyone wants to baptize a kid who can go on a mission (it’ll happen).

I also wanted to show you guys a text I sent out to the zone. Every week, missionaries do weekly planning, in which they discuss all of their friends and how they can help them. They also set goals. We asked them to specifically pray about who to invite to baptism in the upcoming week. We send out a weekly reminder, and in our ongoing crusade against blah, and because missionaries should stop feeling guilty and assuming that everything that is fun is also disobedient, we always have a punny theme.

This is really tiring, honestly, but everyone loves it. Some classics we had was a Pokemon one (cake), a star wars one, which I didn’t think was that good, but everyone loved it because my companion at the time was named Weber – pronounced Vayber in German, and we signed it Darth Weber and General Grevious.

Ha.

This time we did a pretty extensive one – Princess Bride. I’d like to dedicate it to my cousins, who have watched this movie a lot more than I have. (A few explanations would be helpful: The first word is Errettung, which is German for salvation. The word tauschbag refers to the bag you use to go on exchanges overnight. Using a suitcase and overpacking is a total noob move, and usually only happens your first one. Totally did it myself. 🙂 DDR stands for Deutsche Demoktratische Repubublik – so East Germany behind the iron curtain. And, Elder Wiersdorf is my companion’s name. Okay, that should cover all the gaps.)

 

Here it is:

PB1

Ewwettung. Ewwettung is what bwings us togever tooday. And wuv, twue
wuv, nevew faiwif, and suffeweth wong, and is kind.

pb2

If you haven’t prayed yet about who to put on baptismal date this
week, you’ve just fell for one of the classic missionary blunders!
First is never use a suitcase as a tauschbag. The second, only
slightly less known, is never forget to seek for inspiration when
salvation is on the line! AHA! AHAHAHA! *dies*.

pb4

You may think that is “disrespectful” to invite people quickly to
baptism. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you
think it means. What could be more respectful than recognizing the
divine potential in your investigator, and then helping them see
the first step? Why wait?

There are prepared people! As we traverse the DDR swamp I ask you
about the R.O.U.S.’s.

pb5
Don’t say, “The Righteous Of Unusual Spirituality? I don’t think they
exist.” Or they’ll end up biting you in the shoulder and you’ll get
burned. Metaphorically of course. Usually.

Listen up Buttercup: it’s time to tell God “as you wish” and start
bringing Miracles to the Max!

pb6

Some of your investigators are not yet
completely converted, they’re only mostly converted. For All-bI-know, we
just need to give a little more, stop fighting with our left hand, and
make the forces of evil fear the name of the dread Elder/Sister YOU!
Believe in miracles! Set ridiculous goals, then go out and get them!
Be unreasonable, unstoppable, unwavering! Be INCONCEIVABLE! pb3
There’s no room for fear!
remember why you are here!
Missionaries! Are the baptisms ahead?
Yes – if we work until we’re dead!
You’re here for more than to just nab ties!
Anybody wanna baptize?!

Elder Wiersley and the Dread Pirate Greaves
P.S. Don’t dream of large women

pb7 pb8

Another cool thing that happened this week is the first BYU exchange students just arrived! That’s gonna be fun. There’s a BYU exchange program with the Uni here. These ones will all be back in school when I go, and some of them I’ll beat back to America. Yuck.

I’ll email later about Sunday Skype. When do you have church?

Have a great week!

Elder Greaves