Monday, August 31, 2009

Learning to listen

Thank you so much for your wonderful letters last week, I very much enjoyed reading them!

I think I have gotten taller since I left, but I'm not complaining about that. Heck, from looking at the picture of you at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, it looks like I'm not the only one! Man, Cal and Ellie are BIG!! They are making me feel old, even though I'll only be 21 this Saturday. Seems strange to think I've reached that age....and scary! Oh well, nothing I can do about it. Sounds like you had a good trip to Oregon (again!), but I'm wondering how much time it's going to take you all to recover from your "vacation month." Doesn't sound like things are slowing down, though, with school getting underway and various other things. And I'm looking forward to getting some much anticipated mail this week as well; I'll have to make sure Elder Remington and Elder Parker don't open them in any way! Our mail slot is in the door, so we know when it's come because we hear the mailman open and shut it. Last week, we were all sitting at the table planning for the next week when we heard him drop mail in. We pretty much tackled each other trying to get down the stairs to the door to see who the mail was for. This happened the day you sent your letters, which was the only piece of mail that day, so the other two were pretty upset. :) That's just one example of how valuable it is to hear from loved ones, so I want to thank you and everyone else that has taken time out to write me thus far.

Zone Conference was great last week! We really enjoyed having Elder Packer come and speak to us. I felt the Spirit as I listened to everyone that spoke. Pres. Robbins taught us what it really means to listen. I've seen how much it's helped in the short time since he presented it to us. All too often we've been guilty of having investigators present problems or challenges right to our faces, but we're so self-absorbed in what we planned on teaching that we pass it off as nothing....big mistake! I went back and studied about adjusting our teaching to meet needs as well as listening, both of which are in chapter 10 of Preach My Gospel. Those two teaching skills play a huge role in the amount of success we experience, so I'm committed to following them to the letter. The words of the Brethren in Preach My Gospel, combined with the words of ancient prophets in the scriptures, couldn't make the gospel any easier to understand! They don't beat around the bush, so why should we? If we'd just follow the Spirit every day, we'd be SO much more successful in our assigned areas.

Stake Conference was great as well, Pres. Robbins shared a wonderful testimony. I'm sure that Judy and Shawn, our progressing investigators, were able to feel the Spirit as he did so, as well as during all the other talks that were given. They came to the adult session the previous night as well, and afterwards informed us that they are 100% positive that September 19th is the day they are going to get baptized!! I know this is due to the fact that they have been doing everything we've asked of them and are therefore feeling the Spirit more and more. Judy has even payed fast offerings a couple of times!! The members are beginning to take them under their wings more as well, which takes quite a bit of stress off of us. Members ARE the key to success, I can testify of that for hours!

Pres. Robbins is thinking of sending every missionary given a copy of Pres. Hinckley's talk, "Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep." It is absolutely incredible!! I've studied it a lot and shared many things with him, so thank you for sending it to me. I believe that TRUE conversion to the gospel is the key to accelerating the work, something Elder Packer stressed a lot in his remarks. I'll close with a great quote from Pres. Kimball about this same subject:

"Our role as missionaries is not primarily to convince people of the truthfulness of the gospel. If the Lord were primarily interested in convincing people of the divine nature of this work, He could, and perhaps would, demonstrate His powers in such a way that large numbers of people could know the truth in a relatively brief period of time. He could speak if He chose, and all the people on earth could hear in their own language. Or He could emblazon His words in the sky, where all could read or see them. But if those persons thus convinced did not really change their lives for the better, repent of their sins, and turn to Him in righteousness, they would be worse off than before and would be more insensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. No, the Lord is not primarily interested in having His children only convinced of His work. He would like them to be converted to the gospel. Truly converted persons change their old sinful ways and turn to a new life in Christ; there is truly a 'converting' or a changing in their lives."

Kind of a lengthy quote, but it perfectly illustrates the need for each of us, member and missionary alike, to live and teach the first principles and ordinances of the gospel to everyone, and show personal examples of how much it blesses us. Doing so will not only aid in THEIR conversion process, but for ours as well. I think I've said enough, so I'll quit for this week. May God continue to bless you with the things you stand in need of is my prayer!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Else has Elder Livingston Been Doing??

In honor of ONE YEAR in the mission field (Yes, you read correctly, today is the 1 year anniversary for Isaac entering the MTC.) we thought it was time you saw what else Elder Livingston is up to. Although these do not represent his day-to-day work as a missionary, they are very typical of what missionaries do. Or so I've been told. Here is a synopsis in pictures:

EATING RIGHT- Or perhaps well is a better word.

Receiving Packages
Service Projects

Making New Friends

Getting Plenty of Exercise

Continuing to Fight the Dark Side
Avoiding Loud Music

Performing on Stage

Staying in Tandem with his Companion
Knocking on Every Door

Getting His Hair Done

Monday, August 17, 2009

I hope you enjoyed the time spent up in Idaho with extended family. I'm sure it was exciting to see Britney come home, but I still can't believe that her mission is actually finished! Heck, I'm the only one serving from the family right now! Oh well, no pressure at all. :) 

The Lord continues to bless me in Wilmington! What a great ending to a week that started out really slow! Sunday was an especially good day, which is always true because we get to attend Church and feel the Spirit even more. And when your investigators show up, it doesn't get much better than that! We had 5 there yesterday!! Jim and Mary along with their son, Randy; and Judy and Shawn Weatherford. They have been coming for a few weeks now and are very interested in the Church! Jim and Mary are being fellowshipped by the Fear's, who have been bringing them to Church even before we met them, so of course that's a bonus! We helped them move into a new home this past week, which greatly increased the level of trust. That is absolutely essential to successful missionary work, building a bond of trust with members and investigators. Pres. McKay said once," To be trusted is better than to be loved." 

Having the privilege of spending this much time in one area, I have seen the trust people have for us as time has gone on. It is indeed a tremendous advantage when working with members to build their confidence and courage to share the gospel with others. As for Judy and Shawn, they are receiving the message very well! We're looking at September 19th as a possible baptismal date, and they don't seem to have any problems that we know of. We had planned on teaching them the Plan of Salvation last time, but after listening to some minor concerns Shawn had, we felt impressed to watch the Restoration with them. The Spirit was there and we were able to resolve Shawn's problem, and they came to Church again and enjoyed it. The members have done a great job making our investigators feel welcome, we don't even have to tell them to go and say hello. They just do it! This is something I want more than anything for the members to grasp, and that is doing missionary work without our help. I know that members are the best source for finding new investigators, and as we help them integrate the principles found in Preach My Gospel, GREAT things will happen! Miracles continue to occur here in unforseen ways, and I'm confident the Lord will keep blessing us so long as we put our trust and strength in Him, and in Him alone! 

To think I will hit the one year mark this Thursday is just nuts, but it's only going to make me work harder because they say the second year is even faster!

Nothing I have is as valuable as you all, and what a tremendous thing to know that we belong to the only true church of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth! I pray that we can continue to share that testimony with a world that desperately needs it right now. I know that God lives and that He has given us living prophets and apostles to teach us and help us become more Christlike. I know Christ's Atonement is the only way by which we can become clean and qualify ourselves to live in His presence forever! I hope my prayers are with each of you daily! Have another excellent week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Transferred to...

I am grateful beyond measure to still be serving in Wilmington. Many people, mostly missionaries, assumed that I'd had enough of this area and was WANTING to be transferred. However, the Lord's will mandates that I stay here. What a privilege it is, I really am enjoying this area and am seeing God's promises fulfilled. I'm not in any hurry to leave!! For the first few months I was here, we struggled to see people attend Church even one time! Now, we have some solid investigators who are coming on a weekly basis, thanks in large part to the loving friendships provided by members. I can testify of the speed with which investigators can progress when they feel welcome and wanted. I know that our willingness to serve others unselfishly is a representation of our desire to do the will of the Lord. As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. once said, "In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how." To me, the spirit of service does not come by assignment, but rather as a feeling that accompanies a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I want with all my heart to serve the Lord continually by serving His children any chance I get. I know this will open doors for us to teach the gospel and invite others to come unto Christ and be forgiven of their sins.

This week in our area could be called "Plan of Salvation Week," since we are teaching it on at least 3 separate occasions to our progressing investigators. I know that our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, but we can't do that unless we cleanse ourselves, or in other words, repent. So perhaps the overarching purpose of all our missionary efforts is to warn people of the consequences of sin, and of the blessed gift called repentance. And we can't repent unless we have faith in the one who can forgive us, even the Lord Jesus Christ! Those are the first two fundamental principles of the gospel for a reason. To quote Pres. Packer, "Repentance is the escape clause in it all. Repentance is the key with which we can unlock the prison from inside. Had agency come to man without the Atonement, it would have been a fatal gift." As we prepare to teach these great eternal truths this week, I feel especially grateful for the knowledge and understanding I've gained about the Plan of Salvation and of the remarkable power of the Atonement. I know that if we rely on the Spirit to help us teach and testify, our investigators will see the need to repent now, and thus they will continue to progress towards eternal life....for that is the ultimate goal, not just baptism. I appreciate this opportunity to serve a mission, I can scarcely believe that it is halfway finished! There are many things I'd like to see happen before I go home(obviously), and if it's what the Lord wants, then I know it can be done.

I am glad to hear that your trip to Oregon was enjoyable and that you are all safe and sound. I send my prayers for Grandma McClellan as well. That is hard to believe that Caleb is already in second grade and that Ellie will be in preschool! They are going to be giants when I get home! And how in the world can Britney already be done with her mission? My goodness time flies by! This is going to be another great transfer, I can just feel it! It will also be Elder Remington's last one, so there's a good chance I could STILL be here next transfer! That's several weeks from now, though, so I'm not going to think about it. I pray for blessings to continue flowing in from on high. Seems like every week I get the privilege of feeling the Spirit as I read your letters. God loves us SO much!! Have a great week!