elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

This week was pretty mixed.

We had a lot of good things happen, but quite a few setback as well.

Most of the people that we found last week are super awesome! The two highlights are definitely a Chinese girl named Y and F, a German girl. Y has heard almost nothing about God, so it was really interesting teaching her and breaking it down to really simple concepts. We just explained to her who God is. We broke it down like this:

  • God is our Father.
  • This means we are His children and he loves us.
  • He has plan for us.
  • This plan is how we can be most happy here and after this life also.

F came to Institute on Thursday, because we ran out of time to meet with her at another time. We were talking about the Restoration. I’m not exaggerating when I say that in the first 20 minutes, such things as golden plates, Urim and Thummim, how Joseph Smith translated by putting his face in a hat a using a seerstone he found, which we have today in our church history vault, and angelic visitations. We counted how many times Joseph Smith saw angels. You know, to make it sound more nuts.

Elder Weber and I were freaking out, because this was F’s first ever exposure to the church, and she wasn’t even religious. So we (pretty artfully, honestly) moved the conversation from “what do we believe that would make someone new freak out” to “how can faith help me?”

It was hands down the best Institute class I have ever had after that.

The teacher asked the question “What are the benefits of faith over knowledge?” Pretty much stumped all of us.

So he gave the example of Christopher Columbus. He couldn’t have know there was something on the other side. He put his life on the line, and those of his crew, because he believed something. And that brought him to action. Then he compared that with traffic laws and speed cameras, and also smoking. We know that smoking is bad , but how many people still do it? Clearly a perfect knowledge has no power to move to action. It was really cool, especially considering it wasn’t at all planned. F was loving it, connected well with the members, and participated a ton.

The bad news is, both of those people are out of town for the next month. GRRR.

Another great thing that happened this week though:

There is this really sweet Romanian lady that begs in front of our church. The senior couple missionaries here started inviting her to activities. Sometimes we walk in, and they are all sitting together doing water colors. It’s the cutest thing. Anyway, all the members talk to her through Google translate whenever they see her, and she will use the bathroom and stuff when we are in the church, etc. This Sunday, she brought her husband and 2 kids to church! She said she felt like God had led her to this church and to the senior couple, and it proved to her that He loves her! They loved church, and were super happy to be there.

One of my new favorite scriptures to finish off:

Isaiah 59:17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

I love that last part. I think I always want to be clad with a cloak of zeal.

I love my mission so much. I make mistakes, but I keep trying. Thanks for everything guys! Have a great week! I love you!


Leave a comment

This week was… eh. Not terrible.

Hey Guys! I hope everyone is doing well, including Ginger!

This week was… eh. Not terrible. Actually, good things happened, but just not enough to be satisfied.

I’ve talked before about how we are working really hard to collaborate our efforts with the Neumünster ward.

We’ve started meeting with this awesome retired guy named K, who is the husband of a member. He’s been married to her for 30 years. It’s so interesting to see how he learns. His wife is super awesome, and is not afraid to talk about the church, but I think the phrase “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house” applies here. 🙂

We met him during an eating appointment, where our ability to talk soccer and 60’s music came in handy.

(Sidenote, one of the best things you can do to prepare for your mission, after you have read your scriptures, is learn how to talk to people and develop your interests. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I knew more about music or movies or professional soccer so that I could have a good conversation with someone.)

interests

We gave a “quick” spiritual thought, which lasted about an hour, because he started asking a ton of questions. He was super frustrated because he hasn’t been able to understand anything his wife has been saying about the church for the last 30 years. But as we explained it, it clicked, and he got really excited. He said he didn’t want the lessons, but we asked later at church if we could come by for another spiritual thought, thinking we were being sneaky, but the member wife just said,

“Hmm. Sure. You might be able to help him.”

Busted.

But we came over, had a super awesome talk, and then offered to build some Ikea furniture for them on Saturday. Then we had another spiritual thought. You get the drift. He’s so great. He’s this super German crotchety old man that likes his soccer, but he has a best friend and when his wife is out of the house, they put on records, blast he music, and start jumping around playing air guitar. O love that image. 🙂

He’s super happy whenever something makes sense to him. We shared Alma 32 with him, where it talks about faith being like a seed and not being a perfect knowledge, which he didn’t get.

So we compared it to love. You can’t see love, but you can feel it. No one can prove that you love someone, but you know it just the same, and it really can’t be explained away as merely chemicals in your body causing you to feel that way.

Another good teaching moment is when we were with this less active couple. He used to be in he Bishopric, but eventually fell away. He makes lots of excuses, but it basically just comes down to pride and laziness.

That sounds really harsh, but what I mean is, it could happen to anyone. He missed one week, then two, then before you know it, he was gone.

They brought up this time how they could come back to church, but then it is just one meeting after another and before you know it you are drowning. That is legitimate. I think we can all agree we are strangely addicted to meetings in this church, considering no one likes them anyway. We empathized and asked how difficult it must have been when they had 4 kids at home. The wife spoke up for the first time, and for the next 20 minutes they detailed their schedules, how they were always tired, how she had had to run kids everywhere and it was all too much, it was super stressful, on and on, all real feelings they had. Then, when they finished, we just asked,

“But was it worth it?”

It got quiet. They slowly nodded their heads. We moved on.

This church asks a lot of its members. In the form of showing faith and obedience, that is a very good thing. In the form of keeping families apart, it is a necessary but potentially dangerous trait. Apostles and prophets have warned us about this. One said we needed to remember not to ask for too much time. Another reminded us that it wasn’t about Mutual, or campouts, scouts or Relief Society activities. It’s about Christ. The rest is just an appendage, a tool to help us come closer and stay near to Him. Let’s not forget the order of things.

David A. Bednar asked us missionaries when he was here, how we would respond if the church started building church buildings without a gym, without pews, if it got rid of the youth program, Primary, etc. It’s weird to think about it, and I don’t think it will ever happen, considering that they are too useful, but if it were to happen, the church would still be true.

Let’s not forget that.

All in all, I’m a little disappointed so far with the progress of Neumünster. It’s going better than it has in a long time, but I honestly expect more. I can see the Lord helping us, I just hope I’m not somehow slowing Him down. I feel mostly good, but I want to feel all the way good. Neumünster is a good area with a bad reputation, so we need to see a lllooot of success so that missionaries stop knowing it as a hard area. That’s actually a problem in our whole zone, which the zone leaders are working on. It’s fun working together with them, and I really like them both a lot. It’s fun taking them on exchanges and trying to kill them with work. 🙂 I think Elder Bretzieng had to walk about 10 miles with me on Thursday, not exaggerating (at a very missionary-like pace, of course). Not something that happens in big cities, or so I heard through the snail mail we just got from the pony express out here in BOONIES. 🙂

I love you guys.

Mom, that’s so cool about your law firm. I hope everything goes well.

Love you!

Elder Greaves


Leave a comment

We had a ton of fun this week!

All the fun things:

1.  We had burritos (my first in 14 months)

2.  Went on a forest hike with Uwe our adventure pal (and had an awesome lesson) (pictures about this below)

Silk Road 1

This nondescript little road through the forest IS NONE OTHER THAN THE FREAKING SILK ROAD! This thing was the largest connecting road between Europe and Asia back in the day. As in, Napoleon the Great, who was truly dynamite, [HAHA] actually walked on this road, right here, according to Uwe, who is a hard core traveler and worked in this forest as a guide for like 15 years!

Silk Road 2

3. Talked to a violent Nazi, who’s a big fan (more on that later).

4.  We went to a second hand store in Poland, which is approximately 1.7 billion times cheaper than Germany. 6 very cool ties, an 80’s windbreaker, and 3 sweaters, one of which is cashmere that when worn, basically feels like being hugged by capitalism, for a whopping 23 Euro. In contrast, I bought a pack of socks in Germany today for 8 Euro.

5.  And all that other spiritual stuff.

We met more with Jacob, the guy from Chad. He rocks. But he talks a lot. 🙂 We invited him to pray about he Book of Mormon, and he did, and he believes it’s the word of God!

I know the Lord works in mysterious ways, because we were were talking to a guy on the street when this guy I will nickname Gigantor stepped out of his car, all 6 feet 6 inches of him, and bellowed,

“Ya wanna talk about God, ya do it with me!”

The guy we were talking to hurriedly left, and Gigantor earthquaked over to us, which is when we recognized him as the violent Nazi we talked to a month ago.

Promising.

(When someone says they are a Nazi these days, they are veeeeeeerrrrryyy radical. Like, Germany has no national pride or culture because of fear of becoming too nationalistic. They no longer sing their national anthem or fly their flag. But a Nazi is someone who is very about white pride and hates immigrants. (Which we also are, but whatever).  I tried listening to what he was saying, but I was really distracted by the gigantic scar across his face. Could he be more stereotypical?

He talked to us for a long time about how he loves God and all, but there are so many Muslims coming to Europe, we have to get “militant” back or we will never survive. He proudly told us he was “militant”, and I shudder to think what that means. We just spent the whole time being really neutral.

“Don’t you think your church should get violent?”

Mmm.

“Don’t you think Muslims worship satan?”

Mmm.

“Isn’t the Aryan race wonderful?”

MmmMMm.

Apparently everyone knows this guy, and he’s surreally friendly. At one point he grabbed a lady’s baby and said,

“Yeees! This is the future of Germany! Blue hair and blond eyes!”

But the point is, this is when things got weird. He called this guy over, who is this history wizard, and knew everything about Mormons. Turns out he’s a real-life, true-blue, I-even-poked-him-to-make-sure FREEMASON.

There’s a Freemason TEMPLE in Frankfurt Oder I’ve walked past a bajillion times and never even knew it. And he’s down to meet with us.

Cool.

I’m gonna wrap this up with what I learned in personal study this week, which is, and this is only my opinion, but what I think is the relationship between faith and doubt. I think sometimes we assume that we need to smother all doubt to make room for faith.

But I consider questioning our faith a crucial part of testimony building.

Unfortunately, I talk to people every day that have never asked themselves any question with any real seriousness. We always ask questions such as

“What brings you joy?”

Or

“What is your purpose in life?”

And it is always the saddest thing when the answer is

“I’ve never even thought about that”.

Or as another example, so many people consider the existence of a God as an opinion. I really cannot understand that. Either He’s there or He’s not. There’s not really any room for bias.

I sincerely hope that no Latter Day Saint ever just “goes with the flow”.

I hope we are constantly questioning, testing, and doing our best to find answers to life’s biggest questions.

One of my old companions and I talked about this, and we discussed how it actually takes faith to allow yourself to it knowledge the doubt you do have, and thereby look for answers.

I give my testimony that I know any question in life can be answered through the Scriptures, the words of the prophets, or by personal revelation. Finding these answers can only make us stronger. I actually wrote a poem about this, which is kind of embarrassing, but it was also kind of fun. Don’t judge it too harshly!

paddleboatIt’s an infinite battle
For the soul
Day and night
Light and dark
Pushing shoving squeezing
Faith in, doubt out
Right?
Wrong.
All aboard PaddleboatBelief
Gracing UncertainPond
Always trundling on
Keeping you dry
But it’s no perfect craft
Riddled with cracks, seams, and holes
QuestionWater seeps in
So you mend, seal, and patch
And bail with your AnswerBucket
That’s hard work
But no flaws could be found
Laying lazily on land
Not in denial but by the voyage
Is the vessel perfected.

Anyway, I love all of you guys very much. Thanks so much for everything. Special things to Grandma Ann and Grandpa What’s-His-Name for sending me a letter. It helped me. Also, I’ve never said this, but I want to thank you, mom, for the letter you sent me a few weeks ago. It is really special to me and it really really helped me a lot. I think about the words you wrote a lot. Have an awesome week!

Elder Greaves


Leave a comment

Hey everyone!

This week was decent. I don’t have a ton of time to write because we are now writing our mission president in German. But I just wanted to tell you that I love you guys.

This week was decent, but nothing spectacular happened. We’re still struggling to meet with those darn students.

Dumb.

Anyway, probably the high point of this week is when we met with M. He just shot an elk last week and was way pumped about it, so he invited us over to eat some with him.

Moose_superior

German “Elk”

Yes, it was ridiculously tasty, and just after that, we finally broke through a barrier. We taught one whole entire lesson with M, and he understood everything! This is truly an achievement, and I think that he really is starting to get the hang of this whole “spiritual” thing. We taught the restoration; I think my favorite thing about teaching M is that he is always really engaged and thinking as hard as he can. That makes him sound dumb in a way.

No, M’s a stud.

He just literally no religious background, because he grew up in essentially a part of the USSR. But anyway, we gave him an analogy to explain the importance of priesthood authority. We asked him what he would say If an ice cream man pulled him over for speeding and gave him a ticket, how would he respond? Then how he’d respond if that was a policeman. He said,

“Yeah, but how could I tell if someone is a real policeman? What if they’re a fake?”

We said in real life, you could check papers or badge until more or something, but you would use your physical eyes. When we need to find out something spiritual, we need to use our spiritual eyes. He didn’t really understand that, so we compared it to love. Even if someone is trying to fake loving you, you can definitely pick up on that, but it has nothing to do with the senses. He liked that. It’ s kinda like a quote by Marion G. Romney:

“I always know when I am speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost because I always learn something from what I’ve said.”

In these next couple of weeks, Elder Allen and I will be trying for the impossible – we are going to try and change a bunch of Germans’ minds. Our ward starts at 9:30, a pretty typical time here, but completely unnecessary. It makes it hard to get college students to church, and there has been a recent grumbling, and so we have seized the opportunity, and the ward will hold a debate during ward council in a couple of weeks. I’m really excited. I’m considering making a PowerPoint.

One last thing:

Nephi and his brothers were trying to obtain their peoples records from the wicked Laban, and they failed.

Right before that (scripturally) Nephi said his famous:

“I will go and do the things God told me to do, because I know he would’t tell me to do them unless he was going to make it possible.”

But then he failed.

Laban said no, and tried to kill them.

1 Nephi 3:14 “But Laman fled out of his presence, and told the things which Laban had done, unto us. And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness.”

That’s the difference between a man of God a man of men.

So then Nephi thought, “Aha, it won’t be easy. But I just have to think of a better way. I’ll show the Lord I choose him over riches,” and they gave up all of their family heirlooms for the plates. And Laban tried to kill them and stole all of the treasure. His brothers were ticked and beat him with a rod. An angel came, and we always look at this from Laman and a Lemuel’s perspective, but think about Nephi. He has got to be thinking, “Well why isn’t this working? I’m obedient, I pay my tithing, I go to church, I hold family home evening, I pray and read my scriptures, God told me to do this, I knew he would help us, but twice now we’ve tried and nothing has worked.”

And to top it all off, his brothers were being little dweebs and whining about it.

Jeffrey R. Holland wonders if Nephi might’ve said here “Please – hit me again! I can still hear you!”

But then an angel came, and Nephi’s testimony was strengthened, that yes, this was the right path. And he just walked to Laban’s house, probably saying something like “you stay here, I’ll come back with those plates, even if it takes all night,” and, as we know, he did.

He gives one reason as to why he had the strength to go on:

1 Nephi 4:2 “Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.”

He remembered his scriptures. He tried to be like his scripture heroes. Little did he suspect at that time, that missionaries and members all across the world would one day say “let’s be like Nephi, strong and courageous and above all faithful.” He put obedience above comfort, dealt with trials of death from his family, wore himself out trying to help them remember God, and took his family across the ocean with his faith literally being the wind in their sails.

Have a great week!

Elder Greaves

I will go and do


Leave a comment

We are still moving forward.

This week saw a high point on Thursday, when we were able to meet with several people and found an investigator in our 20 minutes of finding time. We’ve had to start getting creative to meet with people often. Everyone in our teaching pool is very busy, and because of that, it is difficult for them to make appointments, no matter how bad they want to. Since several of them are masters and Ph.D students, we’ve started to say a prayer before we go out the door that we will be able to just run into them at the library, and so far it has worked 100% of the time. I guess the Lord wants it too! It just feels like everyone is still getting really excited and our investigators are starting to change inside. We are truly watching repentance happen before our eyes!

One investigator we are really excited about is M, a young polish doctor who is best friends with one of our favorite (not that we have favorites) members. He is intensely interested in the Plan of Salvation, and wants literally all of the facts. It felt a little strange at first to be outlining complex principles we don’t usually give investigators so early, but he loves it and as long as it is logically presented, he has no problem with it. What makes it extra fun is he wants scriptures for everything we say, not really to bash or anything, but just so we can outline it. It has been a testimony-builder to me to see how well the scriptures work together to explain and support the Plan of Salvation – if and only if you study it with the lens of the Restoration. Our member is also really enjoying it, and the Spirit is always very strong. It’s a very cerebral-type meeting , but a big development we have seen in M is he is willing to recognize now that it doesn’t have to be proved with science, that spiritual things are just a different area of truth. It has been fun, because he has a lot of the same questions I would have if I was investigating.

Tension is still mounting, and hopefully we will be getting some baptismal dates in the next few weeks with some of these awesome people.

Elder Allen is still progressing a lot – we have become very close. I really enjoy working with him. We make a good team.

It’s still annoying how difficult it is to have appointments, but every situation has it’s problems, and I’d rather have awesome investigators with very little time than the opposite.

This week in personal study, I really have found out for myself that the Plan of Salvation is true. (Okay, I’ve only studied the first half, but I’m just going on faith for the second half. 😉 ) It’s just amazing to see all the doctrine supporting exaltation, deification, a premortal existence, and the beautiful relationship between grace and works. Especially this last point has struck me lately as very poignant.

2 scriptures:

This one most Mormons know of:

James 2: 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith‍ by my works.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils‍ also believe, and tremble.

And this one:

2 Nephi 25: 23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Here is a less-known and apparently contradicting scripture:

Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace‍ are ye saved‍ through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is‍ the gift‍ of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Interesting. But actually, I think these scriptures work together beautifully when we look closely. We can unequivocally state that it is impossible to be saved on our own. We could not even make it to the telestial kingdom without the grace of Jesus Christ. (“Behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:16–18). After suffering for their sins, they will be allowed, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to inherit the lowest degree of glory, which is the telestial kingdom. (Gospel Principles))

Sometimes, I think we see the scripture in 2nd Nephi and think of grace like a booster rocket. But we know that Christ is actually with us always.

We can imagine it like riding a bike. Those who would believe that through works we are saved are comparable to someone claiming the ability to ride a bike up Mount Everest. It is impossible, will never happen, and is basically hopeless at the very beginning.

Those who believe works aren’t necessary are like those who just ride in a car everywhere. Sure, you’ll get there, but you’re gonna get fat along the way. Talk about terrestrial glory!

But if we truly want to become the best we can be, that is, equal to our Father, we need something of both.

Like… a hybrid bike. Something where you are still pedaling, but when the hill gets steep, the engine makes sure you get there.

One of my favorite talks about the Atonement says

“Sometimes Christians get so excited about being saved by grace that we forget to ask if we have been changed by grace.”

Sometimes, Mormons get so excited about doing works that we forget why. It’s not to earn a spot into heaven by collecting enough gold stars, it’s helping us better ourselves, which is the whole point of life.

Phew. Got that off my chest.

You have a good week!

Elder Greaves

mountain