elder caleb greaves

Holding to the Iron Rod in Germany


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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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Pretty European Street

2015 8 31 Pretty European Street

First, Mom, your blog post was awesome! I really liked it a lot. I don’t know why this text is red or how to change it.

This week has been really good – and pretty strange. It all started on Monday, when we found out that we had interviews with President on Tuesday in Berlin, which is 1 hour 45 minutes away. And our interview ended at 8. So we had to stay the night with the Marzahn elders, the elders in our district. So we had to cancel a few appointments and we headed on over there. We got there reeeeaaaallyy early, and we just happened to run into Elder Allen’s old MTC companion.

After talking for a while, we thought it would be fun for all three of us to go finding in Berlin. We did a few minutes of that, then went back to the mission home. Due to some problems, some missionaries right before us had really long interviews, and so Elder Allen and Germann and I jumped on the trampoline in the dark, which was way too much fun. Then Elder Allen interviewed sweatily with President, by which time it was about 11:30 p.m.. Don’t forget, missionaries are supposed to be home between 9:00 and 9:30, and should be in bed by 10:30. But it was honestly pretty fun to talk to Sister Fingerle and other missionaries. Then, to sweeten the deal, the office elders drove us home. At this point in my mission, I feel like I know just about everyone. This decreases over time, so that by the end, you knew less people than when you got here. But for that night, Elder Short, former Bernburg district leader, Elder Draper, my trainer, Elder Germann, former district buddy in Bernburg with Elder Short and I, and Elder Allen, my trainee, we’re all in one care driving through the dirtiest scariest parts of Berlin at midnight.

SO.

MUCH.

FUN.

goofy smile

So we stayed the night in Marzahn, and slept for 8 hours, under strict orders from President Fingerle (sir yes SIR).

Then we had district meeting, and then I stayed in Berlin for the second night on exchanges with elder Germann, which was also super fun. Finding in Berlin is a blast.

Then, we exchanged back, and Elder Allen and I tried to go get my broken iPad fixed, but we couldn’t find the place. We decided to head home, but I don’t know Berlin that well, and we took a very slow way back, so we missed a train, and we were sitting in the train station in Berlin at 9:30, so basically worse off than earlier in the week. So we had to stay the night in Marzahn AGAIN, and by that time it had lost its fun.

So we got up early Friday and went back to Frankfurt Oder, where I got to put on that change of clothes I forgot to bring.

Blech.

icky

In the mean time, Elder Allen and Elder Williams found a few people, so we met with a few of them the rest of the week.

One of them is super awesome! His name is Jacob, and he’s from Chad.

Chad

The first time we met with him, we tried teaching the Restoration, but w didn’t make it super clear and he didn’t get it. But we did get to know him. He ha a tough past, but he’s actually a civil engineer!

Of sorts.

I don’t think that’s quite the same in Africa as it is here or in America, but he did do drafting and built houses. Then on Sunday, we got up super early to get him to church, and he really liked it. The first hour is Sunday School, so we held an investigator class, and taught a much better Restoration lesson. He LOVED it!

He started reading the Book of Mormon as soon as I gave it to him, and every free minute during church and afterwards, he was reading it. We we’re with him this morning (he was helping us move furniture for a member) and he had read all of the book of Jacob and thought he was a pretty cool guy, considering they have the same name and all. 🙂

So anyway, we will definitely put him on baptismal date this week. If he had come to Germany 2 weeks earlier, I probably would have seen his baptism, but no joke, there would have to be some monumental screw up for him not to be baptized by the end of next transfer.

We also met with Frau F, the butt-kicking 87-year-old. We planned to teach her the Restoration, but only a part of it. She was so engaged and understood it all so clearly, we ended up teaching the whole thing. When we leave her house, we always just have the biggest smiles on our faces, because she’s probably the cutest old lady I’ve ever met. Sometimes, she just breaks down into giggles about some things and it’s so awesome. We invited her to church for example, which is a half hour away. She said she really wished she could, and then, barely able to get the words out she was laughing so hard, she said

“I can’t ride my bike all the way there!”

She was somewhat relieved to find out we could get her a ride. 🙂

We also met with a convinced Jehovah’s Witness, which was… Interesting. It’s kind of fun to meet with other people who are well-versed in their church, because you learn what things you have just taken for granted as truth, and at least for me, it just strengthens my testimony.

A few differences they have:

1. If it’s not in the Bible it is not true.

2. We aren’t a body and a spirit but just a body.

That may not sound like a big deal, but think about all the other doctrines that screws up: No premortal existence, they believe Jehovah to be Heavenly Father (Christ didn’t exist before his birth), the Holy Ghost is not a being but something like electricity, after we die, we are just sleeping until we are resurrected, so no spirit world and no salvation for the dead. All from one difference!

3. They have no concept of “receiving an answer”.

People are converted to their religion when they agree that their religion is the only religion that matches the Bible exactly. when we asked him how he knew the Bible was true, he said “Because it talks about Jesus.” If we asked him why he believed in Jesus, he would probably say “because he’s in the Bible.” I don’t want to attack any other religion, but that idea was so foreign to me that we barely even knew how to answer. Isn’t a spiritual confirmation the goal? Doesn’t the Holy Ghost support truth? How can you assume such things without just asking God? But I’m sure they have things about our religion that don’t make sense either.

We felt really good about this last week. I’m pretty bummed that i’ll almost definitely be leaving in about 2 weeks, right when things are looking awesome, but I’m excited that Elder Allen has another transfer to finish things up!

I hope everything is going well at home! I hope school went well.

I love you guys!

Elder Greaves


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Hello everyone!

Well. This week was definitely an upturn in little ol’ Frankfurt Oder.

There’s been this wonderful feeling lately that everything is going to just get nuts here in a week or two. Weird things are happening. These 2 members, (2 of 9) named O and A, are some of the coolest people I have ever met. They have been working with us like crazy. It has been a testimony-builder to me to see that member missionary work is starting to explode. They are incredibly spiritual, and they can feel the building excitement too.

As far as material, numbers progress, it’s just been kind of “meh” lately. Nothing exciting.

But there’s this incredible sense of building energy. It’s like everything we are doing is just setting the golf ball on the tee. Sometimes, I get really impatient, and just want to smack the ball, but the Lord knows what he’s doing, and He wants us to be able to go the whole distance. So we are taking time to put the ball on the tee. I’m excited to harvest. This week, we have seen some really great people come out of the wood works. We met with 2 referrals from members this week, both of whom are so prepared.

We basically spend all day yesterday at O and A’s, because they are friends with most of our investigators, and we just taught everyone all day. It was exhausting and kind of weird, but a ton of fun and it helped a lot of people. I think one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever gotten is when O said we remind her of “their missionaries.” Their missionaries baptized upwards of 6 people here, and those people are the foundation of this ward. I don’t know if we deserve that high of praise, but I’m willing to work to be worthy of it.

Elder Allen is so wonderful. Our teaching unity is off the charts. He is doing so great and he is exactly what I prayed for.

There are a few things that have really spiritually hit me this week.

Firstly, prayer.

Don’t worry, I knew prayer was a thing, but this week, I’ve felt my relationship deepen with my Heavenly Father as I took the time each night to do a kneeling, out-loud prayer. I’ve tried my best to make a solid conversation out of it.

Second is a lesson I’ve had reconfirmed to me.

Maybe because I’m stubborn and prideful and bull-headed. We had a lesson with one of my favorite investigators ever named J. He is 24, Brazilian, and absolutely is just the life of the party. But J has a problem. He is a Baptist born again Chirstian, a lawyer, and a Bible School graduate. In other words, he has been born, raised, and trained to bible bash. And it is SUCH AN EASY TRAP TO FALL INTO. I’m no expert, but I love the Bible, and I think it is honestly amazing to study through the lens of the Restoration. There is so much truth, and so many traces of the original teachings of the early Christian church in it. And there is just a balance between answering questions with scriptures and trying to shove the Gospel down someone’s unwilling throat. About 30 minutes into the lesson, I realized that no one was being edified in any way. The Spirit was not present. And so I did what I have had to do with J a dozen times. I apologized for being arrogant enough to try and “win” with the Bible. I assured him that the Bible is not our main source of truth – it is only a manifestation of it. Truth comes from God through the Holy Ghost. The rest of the time, we just bore pure testimony. It touched his heart. Our joint teach, a convert, pointed out to us that he is starting to care more. He is starting to get scared it’s true. In a weird way that’s progress. I repented, and I hope I have truly just learned my lesson this time.

Third, I learned that a mission is most fun when you think you can’t possibly do it all.

I love the feeling of everything just getting crazy, running around, weird stories, tons of energy, collapsing after 9:30, and starting all over again the next day. It is a blast. I think if I take a step back and realize that the Lord is just working through me, it is kind of a form of arrogance to try and save my strength. I’m not needed. I don’t need to make my self last. The faster I try everything and do everything I can, the faster the Lord can take over. What a wonderful gift.

Guys, I know this church is true. I love it. I love Christ. He is exactly what I want to be. I have big goals! 🙂 I know that He lived, suffered, died, and lived and ministered again all out of love. I know He felt our individual pain and suffering, weakness and frustration, for the express purpose of loving and nurturing us later. I know He accomplished the greatest missionary task this universe has ever seen, namely the Atonement. He braved scourging, smiting, and spitting, stripes and nails and spears – I know He rose above feelings of doubt and pain, heartache and even abandonment, because He knew EXACTLY why He came. And He did it. “This is the testimony that is in me.” (Alma 7:13)

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I hope this week is awesome for you, and I will be praying for you.

Love,

Elder Greaves

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