Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012

I've included a few pictures that Parker sent last week. He mentioned their investigator who had all the kittens, so here is a pic of them.

There are lots of cool signs on the buildings and this is one of them.

A beautiful cardinal

Parker with their 10 year old investigator, Kodie

April 2, 2012

So first thing I want to say this week is to my friends that are about to go on missions. Weston wrote me this week and asked what I would recommend to get ready for your mission. I have very little time to write letters today so I’m just going to reply right here. I hope that’s ok. So the first thing that pops into my head and my companions head is to read Preach my Gospel. And not just the lessons. Before you go on your mission you should read Preach my Gospel cover to cover. I haven’t even done that yet but man do i wish that I had. It has so much information in there that never knew about.

I also encourage you to set expectations for yourself. In the MTC everything will be way strict and you will pretty much have to follow the rules perfectly. But then when you get out into the field (at least in my mission) the rules are pretty much do whatever you feel right about. My mission president is totally a spirit of the law kind of guy. We can pretty much do anything that feels right to us. Some missionaries take that a little too far though. The example that comes to mind is music. My companion is awesome about music and has some way good church music we listen to. But then I went on exchanges and tons of people listen to stuff I would listen to back home. None of it was way bad or anything but it was just like normal music. So me and my companion talked about it and we decided that we will only listen to the very best music we have and we went through and tossed all the other CD's we have that didn’t feel right to us. So even before you come out set expectations for yourself and don’t set them based on what other missionaries are doing. Every time i ask Elder Jensen if i can do something he just says "Don’t ask me as the Lord" It’s mainly cause he doesn’t want to tell me what to do. But it has actually been way good advice.

I have a lot less time today than normal cause we have to drive to Springfield IL for zone P-day. We are playing games at some church or something but that makes my p day about 3 hours shorter. So I’ll try to be quick with everything. I can pretty much sum up the first 4 or 5 days of this week by saying they were awful. We lost 5 investigators this week cause they don’t want to turn their lives around. But we still love them of course, even if they won’t listen to us. It was just an awful few days and they went by sooo slow. Then on Saturday we got to watch conference which was amazing! But I’ll talk about that more in a second. After conference on Saturday we had transfer calls. We weren’t too worried cause me and Elder Jensen knew we are going to be together for another transfer. But the call had some bad news. Our best friends in the mission are the Beardstown elders. We see them like 3 or 4 times a week and Elder Barney is awesome. We always talk about all the cool stuff we are going to do at UVU after our missions haha. He is a way good friend. But the transfer calls told us that they are closing Beardstown. Elders Barney and Ward are opening a new area and our district is 2 missionaries smaller now. It was really hard to hear we are losing them and our area pretty much just doubled in size cause we now have to cover Beardstown too. So that kinda ruined our day a little bit.

So now that i said all the bad stuff there were some good things. We got to meet with Shelly and it was awesome. We learned a lot about her. She has had a way hard life and she used to be a pretty troubled person. She lives in the Ghetto of Jacksonville and has pretty poor living conditions. She told us about how she spent 10 years of her life in prison this week which was news to both of us. But that’s what’s so awesome about the gospel. Even though she has had a pretty awful life she is completely happy now. She has gone from being miserable to being thrilled with everything. It is awesome to see her change. We went over the baptismal interview questions with her and she seems to have the right answer to all of them for the right reason. Hopefully she will be getting baptised in 3 weeks or so.

I don’t know if this counts as good news, but the weather here is crazy. It has been over 90 these last few days and its unreal how hot it is already. It’s going to be a long summer.

The main thing I want to talk about today is conference. It was so awesome to get to watch it as a missionary! It was so much cooler because I was actually paying attention. I didn’t even fall asleep. For the first time in my life i actually cared about what was being said and it’s amazing what that will do haha. So real quick I wanted to talk about some of my favorite things. I loved that the subject of families was talked about so much. I counted 4 talks that were all about families and several others that talked about families at least briefly. It doesn’t really apply to me yet but i can’t wait to have a family of my own. I have a few years ahead of me but it got me way excited to have a wife and kids and get to raise them in the gospel. M Russell Ballard gave an awesome talk on families and how important they are. I have been extremely blessed to have an awesome, supportive family in my life and I can’t wait to try to do the same thing for my kids and wife.

A few other themes that I got out of conference were we are all on the Lord Errand, act don’t be acted upon, forgiveness, and they quoted/talked about my favorite section of scripture Section 121 from the doctrine and covenants. So some of my favorite talks were one of Elder Eyrings about trials and growing from our hard times. I’m not sure what it was actually about but Elder Holland’s talk made me want to change. Especially when he said "Don't delay, it's getting late". Surprisingly one of my favorite talks was by David S. Baxter about single parents. That really doesn’t apply to me at all but I loved what he said about it. Elder Barney told me that he only wrote down one thing of notes for that talk and it said "Never ever make a girl have to raise a child alone" and i thought that was really cool. Even the talks that don’t seem to apply to us at all can help us set goals and change ourselves. Quentin L. Cook told and awesome story about seeing his mom praying and I loved that talk. Richard G. Scott gave a talk on revelation and it was like the first talk of his i ever actually understood. And Dieter F Uchtdorfs talk on forgiveness with his awesome quote "stop it!" And i have another talk i really liked that I’ll talk about at the end. The song that they sang at the end Come Thou Fount is my favorite song and I could listen to the choir sing it all day every day. It made me so happy when they announced that is what they were going to sing.

But I have to say that my favorite part of the entire conference was the end of the Saturday morning session prayer. I have no idea who said it, but in it they said something like please help us all to get something from this conference and make a change. I loved that. Conference is nice no matter what. But by now i would bet that most of us have stopped thinking about it. We can’t constantly think about the talks that were given cause we have so much going on in our busy lives. So i set a page aside in my notes to write down everything that I wanted to change about myself because of what i heard in conference. I can’t constantly think about the talks but I can constantly think about making myself better. Using change as motivation and setting goals to be better is huge in missionary work. I know we can all work to be better.

So the talk i want to mention now is when David F Evans told everyone to write the missionaries. The 4 of us that were watching it together all just looked at each other and started laughing. Everything he said was so true. I got an awesome package this week from the Atkins on Monday and every time i looked at it for the entire week it made me happy. Every single time we open the mailbox and see a letter inside we get so much happier. And i don’t want to just turn this into me begging all of you for letters. Write all the missionaries you know. Not saying you have to write everyone every week but even just a small note that shows up in the mailbox makes a world of difference for our entire day. The few minutes you put into writing a letter makes us happy for hours, days, or even weeks sometimes. So just keep in mind letters are awesome.

We are already going to be late to zone P--day so i need to go. But real quick before I forget the MTC choir was awesome cause the sisters from my district are still in the MTC learning Russian so they were in it.

Oh and by the way mom my mornings go like this. We wake up at 6:30 and work out for half an hour then we get ready to study and have personal study for an hour and that is possibly my favorite part of the day. I read from the Book of Mormon and Preach my Gospel every day and I love it. I love the scriptures so much now. My goal is to read the Book of Mormon every transfer while I’m gone so that would be 16 times on my mission. Then we have companionship study and because I’m a new missionary still we have 2 hours of that. We watch Preach My Gospel movies and stuff like that. Just so everyone knows those videos are nothing like real missionary work. If my life was like theirs I would be hating it right now. Missionaries have way more fun than the people on those videos do. And we work just as hard haha. That’s pretty much it for the morning. Then we eat lunch and head out for the day and get back around 10:30. So it’s a long day every day but its way fulfilling.

I want to end by saying how thankful I am for the living prophet and how much he has blessed my life. We are in a unique church with blessings that most people can’t even imagine. Babies in our church are taught things that professors have been trying to figure out for centuries. We have the answers and it’s our job to share them. Everyone should be doing missionary work not just missionaries. It is a huge blessing and i couldn’t be more happy to be our here on my mission serving the people of Jacksonville. I love all of them and I love all of you. Have an awesome week!

-Elder Banks

PS Oh man i forgot to tell you Mom! Sister Clark texted me on Saturday telling me you met her daughter. She was pretty excited haha. That is so awesome that you met her and her husband.

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