Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Sister Nelson and I attended Mission Presidents training meetings for three days at the end of October (more on the location later). The meetings were great. Elders Jay Jensen and Kevin Pearson of the Seventy and Tracy Watson of the Missionary Department were there. Sister Nelson and I learned a lot. One of the messages that touched me deeply was the simple fact that every person in our Mission geography and in the world knew the Plan of Salvation and Happiness. We all fought a battle to be able to participate in the Plan. Our role as missionaries is, through the Spirit, to touch the sprits of those we teach so that they are reminded of what they already knew. We can, and must, teach them the facts of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. But it is not until their spirits are touched that true, lasting conversion occurs, as Elder Ballard explains on page 93 of Preach My Gospel.
So, as we’ve discussed in the New Curriculum lessons, we must strive to teach with the power of the Spirit as well as the authority of our Calls. It is only when the spirit of an investigator is touched and their hearts softened and opened that we have magnified our callings.
In order to have the Spirit with us in sufficient strength to accomplish the Lord’s purposes, we must prepare by effectively studying and planning and practicing. We must strive to be obedient so that we merit an increase in faith and power. We must truly love the people we are teaching and listen to them and teach according to their needs. And, we must humbly pray for the guidance and presence of the Spirit after we have done all we can. In short, we must strive to be true Disciples of Christ. We must understand that we are not mortal beings having spiritual experiences, but spiritual, eternal beings involved in a mortal experience, and that our current callings are to awaken the knowledge and testimonies imbedded in our spirits and the spirits of those we teach. We are called and chosen Disciples of Christ blessed with this opportunity to bring true happiness and peace to those we serve.
Brooklyn Stake Conference
Synagogue. The Brooklyn Stake held its November Stake conference as usual. Elder Bruce Carlson of the Seventy was the visiting general authority. It turned out that the Stake has been expanding. The congregation didn’t fit in the combined chapel-cultural hall. To solve the problem, they rented a synagog for the day. It was a beautiful historic building that resembled a small tabernacle. In the Stake Conference, it was pointed out that the Brooklyn Stake began as a branch and Staten Island (now a ward) was a dependent branch. Also Brother Frank Miller, the Stake Patriarch, said that when he served as Stake President in the 1970s, Manhattan, Stanton Island, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx were all a part of one stake.
Theme. The theme of the conference, All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin, brings to mind that winter storms have begun. Are we gathered in?
Brooklyn Stake President and Sister Jeff and Janet Nelson live in a wonderful Brownstone built in in the late 1800’s. They have loved raising their family in New York. They love their neighborhood and the feeling of community that exists there. They know all the store owners nearby. For a number of years, Sister Nelson and a group of her neighbors have set aside every Tuesday for a work day. They take turns going to each others’ homes and working on projects—cleaning, reorganizing, remodeling, etc.
President Nelson is an attorney and Sister Nelson just returned to the “work force” as a 7th and 11th grade trigonometry teacher (if you can imagine). She taught in this same school over 20 years ago. It’s a public school. However, students need to apply there to attend. There are over 2000 applicants each year, with only 200 accepted. She said that half of the teachers that she knew twenty years ago are still there.
Note. Our missionaries serving in the Brooklyn Stake at the time of the Conference come from Arizona, Nevada, Sierra Leone, Hong Kong, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Korea (via Maryland), Russia (via Washington), Oregon, Idaho and Utah.
New Programs. The Church is putting a great deal of effort and research into developing programs in the areas of family history, geneology, and facilitating temple work at the ward and branch levels. Geneology has become a popular nation-wide hobby (the Church geneology website gets about 3 million hits a day. The Family History Center in the Plainview Stake is manned by all nonmembers. President and Sister Nelson thought it would be meaningful to get some of the missionaries together to see some of the directions that the Church is taking. We thought that sharing this with the sister missionaries would be a good place to start.
On November 11, 2010, from 1:00-3:00 p.m., an activity was held at the Rego Park Chapel in Queens. The family history specialists from the Queens Stake, Sister Zamora and Brother Mark Shelton were the speakers (they did a wonderful job-- especially relaying the spirit of th work).
NewFamilySearch.org was reviewed. This is a newly improved program designed to simplify gathering family data and getting it ready to submit for temple work. Church members may access this site by entering their church membership number (available through the ward or branch as well as located on the temple recommend). With this information you may print your own family history sheets, complete with a bar code, that enable a you to take the information to the temple directly and do the work. Also, additional assistance is available from the family history specialists called in each ward and branch.
“I Am a Mormon.” Also covered was the Church’s “I Am A Mormon” series, available through the site, mormon.org. The Church is currently using its resources researching how to more effectively reach people who may be interested in the Church. Pilot programs are being run in different parts of the US.
Research has shown that in our society, people are leery of large institutions, but receptive to new ideas and individuals. This series feature clips of members of the church in different family situations, occupations, etc. sharing their stories. These clips have been aired in some areas of the country. They have been found to very effective in getting rid of some of stereotypes people have of Mormons.
Journals. Brother Shelton also covered journaling on line. While on their missions, missionaries are encouraged to write in their journals, another important form of family history work.
Note. Missionaries are not allowed to access the internet while on their missions except to email home on Mondays. The purpose of the activity was to increase their awareness of what is “out there” enabling them to pass the information and direction along to the members and investigators. They were also given family group sheets and pedigree charts to distribute.
(as in Apartments)
The Church gave our mission permission to increase the number of apartments or “pads” as they are referred to (we have no idea when or where that terminology originated, but nobody ever calls them “apartments”).
Elder & Sister Brownell, one of our great Senior missionary couples, are in charge of locating new places for the missionaries. They have been visiting the “pads” and evaluating each one. They are in the process of securing new leases and terminating old ones.
Companionships. The Church feels that Missionary work is much more effective if there can be one companionship per apartment. It’s easier to focus on the work—there is more concentration and fewer distractions. It enables missionaries to follow their morning study schedule more easily. Also it simplifies sharing kitchen, bathroom facilities, etc. There is a saying in missions:
2 companionships in an apartment is a party
3 companionships in an apartment is a riot
4 companionships in an apartment is a fraternity house
In Midwood, Brooklyn. the Church owns a home next to the chapel. In addition to housing a Bishop’s Storehouse pantry, it housed four and sometimes as many as five companionships. All the missionaries were moved to other locations. To date, the Brownells have found over 25 apartments for relocating the missionaries.
Couples Inspection. Senior Couples also have the responsibility of inspecting the “pads” making sure that they are deep cleaned regularly and departing missionaries don’t leave behind any of their old “outfits” or “treasures.”
Mission Presidents’ Seminar
North America Northeast Area
Seminar. This fall’s Mission Presidents Seminar was held in Kirtland, Ohio in October, 2010. It was attended by Mission Presidents and their wives from 24 missions in the Northeastern part of the US including Canada. Six Area Seventies were present. Also the Area Medical Advisors, as well as other officers also attended. It was presided over by the General Authorities, Elder Jay E. Jensen and Kevin W. Pearson. Much time was spent talking about the New MTC Curriculum and its far-reaching significance. Also, time was dedicated to covering the roll that the Kirkland Temple played in the founding of the Church.
Brother Karl Anderson, who has lived in the Kirtland area for over 40 years, an authority on Kirtland Church history, accompanied us to the sites around Kirtland. He and his wife have raised their family in Kirtland and have been instruments in building relationships between our Church and the Community of Christ Church--formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Our Church and Community of Christ Church have had some shared activities on occasion. The Community of Christ Church is the owner of the Kirtland Temple. They have been responsible for caring and preserving the Temple since the early 1800s. We owe them a great dept of gratitude.
*The Kirtland Temple is one of the best kept “secrets” of the Church--it is considered one of its crown jewels. The roll that the Kirtland Temple has played is of more significance than even the Nauvoo or Salt Lake Temples. Before the Church could go any farther in its progression, it was imperative that the Keys and authority be restored to the earth (up to this point, only the Prophet Joseph Smith and a few Elders were in place). This had to be done in a Temple of the Lord—thus the Kirtland Temple was built for that specific purpose.
*Gathering Place. Kirtland was never designed to be a permanent gathering place for the Saints. Joseph Smith had had several visions of the Rocky Mountains their significance and knew that the Saints would be moving on once the Lord’s purposes had been accomplished.
*“Pentecostal” Period for the Church. Unparalleled spiritual manifestations were granted in Kirtland. Key manifestations include; Visions of the Father and Son (this was in addition to manifestation that Joseph Smith had in the Sacred Grove). In Kirtland there were multiple visions of the Savior, appearances of prophets of each dispensation--Adam, Elias, Abraham, Elijah, Moses, Peter, James and John, etc.
Organization. Kirtland was also the site of almost all of the organization of the Church--the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, First Quorum of Seventy, Patriarch, High Priests, Seventies, first Stake in Church, etc. Kirtland served as Church Headquarters longer than anywhere except Salt Lake City. (1831—1838). The Saints lived in Kirtland even longer than in Nauvoo. They were eventually driven out by mobs.
Amish Dinner. Brother and Sister Karl Anderson have established a wonderful relationship with the Amish people. They are his friends—they invite them to their weddings, open their homes to him. One of the highlights of the trip was a dinner hosted by an Amish family in their home. Brother Anderson said that there would be a question and answer period after their dinner, which was very enlightening.
About the Amish People
*Origens. The Amish originally came from Switzerland in the 1600s to find somewhere where they could worship in peace (they share many of the values we do).
*Beliefs. They believe in the Father, Son and The Holy Ghost, etc. They do not worship in churches, but take turns going to each others homes
*Photographs. You may take photographs of their homes, etc. but not of them personally.
*Electricity. They have no electricity in their homes--you can recognize an Amish home by the absence of telephone wires going from the power poles into the homes. For example they convert old refrigerators into ice boxes—taking out the motors.
*Buggies. Their vehicles are buggies—no cars. An unusual sight is that occasionally you will see a buggy pulling a fishing boat to the lake or a canoe strapped on top for river running.
*Decisions. When their children reach the age of around 16, they are given exposure to the “things” of the world—music, phones, computers, Ipods, etc. so they can experience them. Then they make a decision as whether they will follow the ways of the world or stay with their families and follow their values.
*Gathering. The theme of gathering--the gathering of Israel—was one of the topics emphasized in the Mission President seminar. There are unique numerous cultures and peoples who have gathered and have been able to retain their identity in the mist of a chaotic world. The Amish are one of these groups. It was a delightful experience.
The December “Arrivals” from the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah are as follows:
Sister Marisol Alvarado-- Spanish
Sister Elizabeth Lambert-- Spanish
Elder Cesar Cortes--Spanish
Elder Brayden Gramse--English
Elder Taim Howard--English
Elder James Jacobs--Chinese, Mandarin
Elder Wonhee Lee--Korean
Elder Catriel Lopez--Spanish
Elder Joseph Patchett--Spanish
Elder Bret Phillips--English
Elder Steven Roberts--Spanish
Elder Jonathan Warren--English
The December “Departures” from the mission are as follows:
Snowstorm. The first major snowstorm of the winter which hit the east coast right after Christmas was recorded as one of the worst in history. All the airports on the East coast from Washington DC up the coast were shut down—over 4,000 flights were cancelled. We are happy to report that all the missionaries were safely and warmly gathered in and there were no missionary car accidents..
And More. Two more missionaries who finished their missionaries in Italy and England were also rerouted to NY because of snow storms in England that closed the airports there. They stayed overnight with our December “Departures.” They left for home the next day.
As mentioned before, earlier this year an elder who had been serving in Utah ended up spending almost two weeks in our mission on his way home to Germany because of all the airport closures in Europe due to the volcano eruption in Iceland.
Missionary Christmas Program
Christmas Eve. A notable event in December was the annual Christmas Conference. The program began at 10:00 am and lasted into the afternoon. It included wonderful talks and fabulous musical performances by all the missionaries. Lunch was served. The program was held at the Rego Park Chapel in Queens.
Elders Swain and Call were in charge of coordinating the program. Efforts were made to feature the many varied talents the missionaries have but often are not shared-- namely the “soloist” voices. The program was spectacular. On Christmas day, after making their Christmas call home, they visited the members.
D&C 78:17-18 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.