LAST LETTER FROM THE FIELD...
Dear Family and Friends,
Tender Mercies of The Lord
The Lord is good. He has been merciful in recently revealing some of the fruits from the work over the past 2 years. First off, I found out in the beginning of the week that a couple who returned the Church, who we were privileged to work with while I served in Erda (my 5th area), was going to be sealed in the Jordan River Temple (about 80 blocks out of our mission) this past Friday! I was able to get permission to go!! It was an incredible experience. Secondly, I also found out that a member who returned to the Church in my last area (YSA Stake) recently got his Temple Recommend again after years of inactivity! I'll be able to go to the Temple with him next week! Thirdly, I recently received news that an investigator I was blessed to work with in my fist area (over a year and a half ago!), is getting baptized this coming weekend! I'll be able to attend his service. Lastly, something else nothing short of a miracle..
I served in Bountiful over a year ago and was lucky enough to work with a young couple who had been inactive in the church for many years. On one of our visits, we had a great lesson and as we were about to leave, we asked if there was anything we could do anything for them. The wife immediately broke down bawling. The husband then told us that they have been having problems getting pregnant and said she could use a blessing. We gave the blessing and never really talked about the matter again in later visits. They progressed, took the discussions, and came to church 3 or so times before I was transferred. They continued to attend after I left. A few days ago, I got a call from the husband with some good news. First of all, she is now 3 months along! Second, he has received the Melchizedek Priesthood! And third, they are preparing to go to the Temple to be sealed before the baby is born!! I am so happy for them. This is what it's all about. A man and a woman, sealed in the Temple, happy at home.
The mission has been incredible.
I am without words when it comes to my thoughts and appreciation of the Lord and His tender mercies, which I have been so blessed to see and be made aware of, in abundance, over the past recent years (1 Nephi 1:20). His patience and ability in helping us learn, progress, grow, and mature line upon line and precept upon precept, but still exponentially, is incredible. I've experienced this miracle. He is there every step of the way (He is the Way), in teaching us how to live joyful, focused, successful, purpose-driven lives. He is forgiving of our faults and encourages us along the way as we stumble and fall at times, or when we just do stupid things (D&C 58:42). He is there, through the power the Atonement of His Son and His Spirit, to lift and edify us (Alma 7:12). I am a witness of this. He's changed me.
He has helped me to gain and solidify my simple testimony and has allowed me to start and continually strengthen my conversion unto Him. I've been blessed to have been humbled. He's taught me to live for something higher than myself. My learning and conversion has just begun, but I would like to highlight and share a small amount of the much light and truth He has mercifully revealed over the past months.
"Being humbled is a great blessing." -President Stephen W. Hansen
"And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer." (D&C 105:6)
The Lord Knows Best; Trust Him
Starting back on April 19th, 2013.. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening the mission call letter and reading out loud the words: "Dear Elder Carroll, you are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor... In the [Great] Utah Salt Lake City Mission." I will admit, it was surprising! But that surprise was shortly followed by a powerful confirmation of the Spirit that this mission was the right one. And oh, how true that has rung within my soul. Experience after experience has confirmed that for me, over and over again. Whether it's been during personal study or prayer, with the companions I've served with, the people I've met and worked with, or my Mission Presidents. I've made friendships here that I know will last beyond the veil (D&C 130:2). I wouldn't have been able to gain the testimony of this work or the Gospel in general, in a way that I have here, in any other mission.
"You never have to hang your head when you do what the Lord wants you to do." -Dave Schramm
When we can learn to trust in the Lord, He will direct us in a path leading to progression, happiness and ultimately joy (3 Nephi 13:31-33). When He can learn to trust us, He will use us as sharp tools and instruments in His great work. We must fear God more than man. He knows best. He will lovingly guide us away from those "spiritual crocodiles" that can and will ruin us. He is the Gardener. The Lord assigned this mission call, and the Lord doesn't make mistakes. It's been a life-changing experience, to say the least. A complete 180. An experience I never could have anticipated.
"This is not about us!" -President Stephen W. Hansen
"You don't need training. All you need is practical revelation!" -President Henry B. Eyering
"The journey is long, but it's sweet." -President Allred, Stansbury Park South Stake President
Divine Laws and Empowering Principles
Because our loving Father in Heaven cares for us so deeply, He reveals laws for us to abide by for our physical, mental, and spiritual benefit. They are a protection. By living strictly these divine laws and principles, we can and will obtain maximum amounts of happiness in this life and joy in the life to come. Disobeying the counsels our Father has given to us will ultimately only lead to sadness, regret, and misery (Alma 41:10). We will obtain joy when we give our will to Him. Our will is the only thing of ours we truly have to put on the sacrificial altar. We are here in this life for a much grander purpose than to just live and die. We are here to learn, grow, and progress (Alma 34:32). If we wish to live where He does, we must first learn to live how He does (D&C 88:22).
"And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you." (Mosiah 2:22)
"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." (Mosiah 2:41)
The Power of Daily Disciplines; Becoming; The Internal And Eternal; Priorities
Included in the Fathers advice to us in living a joyful life, is the reminder of the importance of daily spiritual nourishment. "Daily Bread", if you will (Matt. 6:11). These small and simple practices are meant to bring us knowledge, strength, comfort, and power. As we partake in these disciplines regularly, our nature will slowly, and almost imperceptibly, change from our natural carnal state, to a Christ-like state (Mosiah 3:19; Alma 37:6-7). This life is about change. It's about becoming. It's about incorporating the qualities of His character into our character.
"You are right now the sum total of what you have thought, said, seen, heard and done. What you think, say, do, hear and see will cause you to change; to change for good or evil. To become either stronger or weaker; to either internalize the qualities of light or the qualities of darkness. You are responsible for who you are and you are responsible for who you will become. Do you know what kind of person you want to become? Do you see in your mind who you want to be? Do you know?" -Lawrence E. Corbridge
As we are diligent in daily individual and family prayer and scripture study (CPR!), paying tithing, donating a generous fast offering, magnifying our calling, hosting/attending Family Home Evening, home/visiting teaching (which is the Lord's program, by the way), regular Temple attendance if at all possible, etc., not only will our natures slowly change in the positive, but the Spirit be abundant within us, and our relationship with our family and with our God will be incredibly increased. But we must do these things for the right reason. We must hear the "music" of the Gospel, not just follow the dance moves. I didn't have much of a relationship with God before coming out here to the field, but that has completely changed, simply through diligent prayer and scripture study. Through learning, and understanding the doctrine. I know He's there, by confirmation and revelation of the Spirit (Alma 5:45-46).
"There is no substitute for experience." -John Pennington
The power of prayer is magnificent. We are able to aline our will with the will of the Father through prayer and obtain the highest of all blessings. (BD Prayer; Matt. 26:39,42).
"Pray as an agent, not an object." -Elder David A. Bednar
The clarity of life that comes with a consistent study of His words is empowering (Mosiah 1:7). We must keep in mind that none of the scriptures will make much difference to us unless it gets inside us. The scriptures would only be marks on pieces of paper bound together by leather and have no essential value unless it becomes us. It never once, before the mission, even crossed my mind of the impact that the scriptures and modern-day writings and revelations of the Prophets would have on me. There isn't enough time in the day to study.
"Life is about doing things consistently." -Matt Landheim
"It takes work and faith to continue growing.. No cutting corners." -Jon Asay
We must never let our light in Him grow dim. We must cultivate our faith everyday. No matter how big our Grand Oak Tree of faith is, it will shrivel and waste away if we fail to nourish it daily (Matt. 24:24; Alma 32:38-40). I have seen this happen to many individuals. We must gain a spiritual witness that this is the truth. Nothing else will suffice.
"Fear damns our souls." -President Allred, Stansbury Park South Stake President
"Salvation is personal and individual." -President Stephen W. Hansen
We must prioritize our many to do's in our busy lives. It's all about the principle. Because daily choices we make have Eternal consequences, all decisions in life must be made according to the principle, not the circumstance. We will discover ultimate joy as we learn to prioritize the things which matter most in life. The things that last. The things we are able take with us beyond physical death (Alma 34:34). The internal and eternal. Our faith, knowledge, testimony, conversion, character, and relationships with God and our families. A question me might ask ourselves: Will our internal and eternals be strong enough to sustain us when the times comes that we stand alone before the judgement bar? What are we doing to strengthen those qualities daily? As we put Him first, He will do the same. Priorities, Priorities, Priorities!
"True success is knowing what really matters. It is knowing what has lasting value. It is pursuing the things that endure." -Paul H. Dunn, "Success Is..."
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:12-13)
"Where we are today won't be good enough for tomorrow!" -President G. Scott Spendlove
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." -President Boyd K. Packer
We Are Covenant Keepers! -President Stephen W. Hansen
The Lord, in His infinite kindness, has made available to His children once again, the necessary ordinances and covenants required for eternal life, which can only be made in His Holy Temples (D&C 124:37-44; 131:2-4). As we attend the His Temples regularly, we will be not only enlightened, but strengthened and protected (Alma 26:5-7). We must. We will be endowed with power as we strive to keep the covenants we have made (Preach My Gospel pg. 11). The Temple is the Lord's University. Knowledge is eternal, priceless, and essential (D&C 131:6). The more knowledge we attain, the more fully we can engage ourselves in His Light. He can teach us in an exponential way as we faithfully partake in the fullness of His Gospel, which has truly been restored in its fullness to this earth by His Prophet, Joseph Smith.
"Since obedience is the first law of everything, and I remind you of your temple experience. Tell me how your obedience is, and I'll tell you right now how your [life] is going to be." -Elder Jeffery R. Holland
"Nothing can stop you besides yourself." -President Stephen W. Hansen
The Boy Joseph, The Restoration of the Gospel, The Book of Mormon
As a young, humble boy, Joseph Smith Jr. was called as a Prophet of God by divine choice. The power of a simple question changed the course of human existence forever forward. Joseph walked out of that Sacred Grove with at least 4 eternal truths, which he announced to the world:
1.) The Father and the Son are separate and distinct individuals.
2.) The cannoned scripture is not complete.
3.) Man was created in the image of God.
4.) Revelation, or the channel between the earth and the heaven, is open and is continuous.
Modern revelation is continuing to flow daily to His chosen servants and to all of His children, as they seek Him. I testify that this is true. I've had too many unexplainable instances and experiences to believe otherwise. Joseph was given the Priesthood authority and knowledge to help restore the fullness of the everlasting Gospel once again on the earth today. He translated he Book of Mormon and sealed his testimony with his own blood (Hebrews 9:16; D&C 135:1-7). The Book of Mormon is simply purposed to testify to the world that Jesus is the Christ. It is another witness that God truly does love His children, over the whole earth. By abiding by the precepts taught within, a man will grow closer to God than by any other book (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). It contains the fullness of Christ's Gospel (D&C 27:5). This Book is incredible. The doctrine it contains is incomparable to any other book. Especially the doctrines of the Atonement of Jesus Christ within. The Book of Mormon is true. I've read it over and over again. It's all true. The Spirit has confirmed it.
"The Book of Mormon is the springboard to testimony." -Unknown
“No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” -Elder Jeffery R. Holland
"I have noted within the Church the difference in discernment, in insight, conviction, and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. That book is a great sifter." -Ezra Taft Benson (1975)
Christ is currently continuing to lead us through a chosen Prophet of God, President Thomas Spencer Monson. He holds all Priesthood keys necessary at this time in the history of the earth, for the Salvation, Exaltation, and Eternal Life of mankind (D&C 27:12-13).
The Knowledge and Gift of Moral Agency
A war in Heaven was fought over the divine principle of Agency. Satan sought to "destroy" our agency (Moses 4:3). I believe Agency is one of the most important topics of study we can engage ourselves in. As we can come to more fully understand what agency is and why it's important, we can best utilize it to our advantage. It's like a computer. The more we know how to use it, the more things we can do with it, and the more it may benefit us. Agency is more than merely having the power to choose. Agency is having the gift of choosing between 2 or more choices, with different or opposite consequences deriving from those choices, and knowledge of those choices and consequences. It's accountability and responsibility (D&C 64:18; 82:3). We must act and not be acted upon.
Because Agency is incorporated into literally every aspect of our life, it's our offense and defense against the adversary. We must pay close attention as we attend the Temple, and as we learn of the plan of Salvation. We must observe how our Father in Heaven deals with His children in all situations (Moses 3:15-17; 4:15-27), and do our best to mimic that divine example in our own lives. We will obtain joy as we exercise our Agency righteously.
"When I do good, I feel good.
When I do bad, I feel bad." -Abraham Lincoln
"The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." -Preach My Gospel pg. 32
"Take care of home first." -Tim Bates
Only The Deeply Converted Will Survive -President Stephen W. Hansen
With the world we live in, especially in our times today, we must do all we can to stay close to the Lord in all things. We must live on a higher plane. We must stand in holy places (D&C 45:32). We must keep our thoughts, words, and actions pure. There are so many negative forces in the world that are trying to drag us down (2 Nephi 28:21). The adversary is just as real as God is. We must not be ignorant of his lies and deceptions which are so subtle (2 Nephi 28:22). He knows our weaknesses. He is the master of all sin. We must hold fast to the rod (1 Nephi 8:30), humble ourselves (Ether 12:27), and obey our Master (Hebrews 5:9). As we obey, our faith is increased. As our faith is increased, we obtain more of a desire to obey. It's a never-ending cycle that we must never fail to feed. We must become converted to Him.
"Rise up to the next level!" -President Stephen W. Hansen
The trials (even our individual Abrahamic trials) of life are ahead and we must be prepared. We would do well to love the challenges, and grow from them. We should not pray for trials to be taken from us, but the strength to overcome them. Someone who prays for trials to be taken from them does not understand the purpose of life. We did not come to earth to dwell in the Garden of Eden. There is no progression there. Our righteous characters will be built within our Daily Disciples and will be proven to the Lord at and through these times of tribulations. Our foundations must be build upon that Firm Foundation (Hel. 5:12).
Too often, I have seen members of the church allow others offend them, and by so doing, allow themselves to deny themselves the blessings of the Gospel. Some allow false doctrines to waver their faith. Their questions transform into doubts. The adversary feeds on doubts. Their testimonies and conversions are "weak and have gone out", as the 5 foolish virgins (Matt. 25:8). The strength of the Rock and conversion is essential if we wish to not only survive, but thrive. (Alma 23:6)
"Knowing the Gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the Gospel is the essence of conversion" -Elder David A. Bednar
"Conversion starts when we feeling something." -Elder M. Russell Ballard
"It all starts with a desire to change." -Elder Tember Skye Harward
Charity Must Possess
Charity must be our ultimate motivation. "All [other] things must fail" (Moroni 7:46). We must be "stripped of pride" (Alma 5:28). Christ had an ultimate compassion for each one of his brothers and sisters. He had the character and ability to see and help others pains, even when he was in his worst suffering. If we can obtain a Christlike character, that is, to turn outwards (focus on others needs) (JST Matt. 4:11-12) when the natural mans instinct is to turn inwards (focus on self needs/wants), we will succeed in this life, and through he eternities. We must serve others always. Allowing charity to posses us will provide us that divine ability, which will bring ultimate happiness (Moroni 7:47).
"The stronger our hope, the purer our Charity." -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"To those who wish, time is long.
To those who work, time is short.
To those who love, time is not." -Unknown
"Bitterness poisons mostly the one who harbors it in his heart." -President Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness
"Love is the great motivator." -President Stephen W. Hansen
"Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” -Joseph Smith Jr.
Eternal happiness is joy. Everything in the Gospel is related and woven back into the Eternal. "[We] are that we might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). I testify that if we wish to obtain this joy, we must be willing to pay the small price of obedience. We must sacrifice and be willing to consecrate ourselves completely.
Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things
never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”
We must have faith and allow our Father to guide us in our mortal lives. He knows what will bring us happiness, and what will bring us misery. If we would just trust Him enough to give up our will, we would be happy (2 Nephi 22:2). We have to work on it everyday, and repent when we disobey. As we obey, it becomes easier to obey over time. It almost becomes an instinct. We become stronger. We gain power by keeping our covenants (PMG pg. 11). We are able to give no heed to temptations of the flesh. This life is about gaining mastery over the flesh, the natural man. Through the Atonement of Christ, we can become true saints and devoted disciples of Him whom we love. (Mosiah 3:19)
"Obedience is the Price
Faith is the Power
Love is the Motive
The Spirit is the Key
Christ is the Reason" [Japan Fukuoka Mission,'91-'94]
We Will Reap What We Sow
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." (2 Corinthians 9:6)
You get what you put in. Into the mission, life, the Gospel, etc. When you put in for the Lord, you will reap an exponential amount. An investigator named Tim that we're working with once said:
It works the other way around too. We must continually digest spiritually uplifting and edifying sustenance. What we expose ourselves to hear, see, or do, will show through our thoughts, words, actions, and character, whether good or bad.
"An axiom we all understand is that you get what you pay for. That is true for spiritual matters as well. You get what you pay for in obedience, in faith in Jesus Christ, in diligent application of the truths you learn. What you get is the molding of character, the growth in capacity, and the successful completion of your mortal purpose to be proven and to have joy." -Elder Richard G. Scott
Devoted Disciples of Jesus Christ Always Have Been and Always Will Be Valiant Missionaries -Elder David A. Bednar
"After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.” -Joseph Smith Jr.
Elder Holland has proclaimed the vast importance of staying true to the course of Discipleship:
"The Savior [after Peter pronouncing his love for and to his resurrected Redeemer three times on the Sea of Tiberius] said, “Then feed my sheep! I have asked you before to leave your nets. And I'm asking you again, and I don't want to ask you a third time. When I said, 'Leave your nets,' it was forever. When I asked you to follow me, it was forever. When I asked you to be an apostle, it was forever. When I asked you to be a Missionary, it was forever. When I asked you to see this through to the end, it was because it's not over 'til it's over... We're in this 'til the end.
Now, can you understand why you must never and may never and can never come back? It will never be the same again. Peter, you can't go home. You can't go back to fish. You can't go back to Galilee. You can't go back to boats. It's over. It is a new life, a new day, a new time. This Mission marks that hour in your life. You cannot go back. And if you do, you will break my heart, and you will break the heart of God himself. If you turn your back on the gospel of Jesus Christ, which you have pledged your life, or at least these next two years or eighteen months, to teach. But my point is that it isn't just eighteen months, and it isn't just two years. And I stand here at 49 years and counting, and say, I pray that it's never ever ever over for me. And I pray that it's never ever over for you.
And if you are ever tempted on your Mission, or after, to leave this faith, or commit a transgression, or to walk away from the covenants you've made, and the honesty of your heart – not assuming that you're going to be perfect, and knowing that we're all going to have to repent every day of our lives about something – but you're coarse needs to be true. You need to stay the coarse. You need to see it through. You can't go back. You've left your nets, and you're going to feed sheep. You're going to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, for time and eternity." (Elder Jeffery R. Holland, Feed My Sheep, MTC 1/11)
This is it. If we truly love the Savior, we won't go back and we won't want to go back to our nets. He has called us forever. This mission marks that hour for me in my life. We will stay the course of being true followers of Christ. And He will endow us with power as we do so. It's not about us. It's a about Him.
"If you go home and you're obedient, you'll be happy." -President Stephen W. Hansen
"Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you." (D&C 62:3)
Bear testimony frequently. Pray for the opportunities to do so. Pray for the faith and courage to act upon those promptings you will receive. You will be blessed. Your testimony will be strengthened. You never have any idea of how much your simple testimony could effect someone's life entirely. Someone bearing simple but confident testimony is what allowed me to realize I had a testimony of my own, and is the reason I entered the mission field for the right reason.
"We've got a work to do and the Lord expects us to do it well." -President Stephen W. Hansen
"There is no better way to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the heart and minds of the young people than for each to be a missionary and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others." -Russell M. Nelson
Jesus the Christ
I haven't seen Christ, but I have heard His voice and know His words (D&C 18:34-36). The Spirit has confirmed. He walked the earth. He suffered the ultimate so that we would not have to, if we would repent (D&C 19:16-19). He allows us to access both His enabling and redemptive power through our obedience and faithfulness. We must always remember that we completely rely on Him. My testimony of our Savior echoes that of The Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. and Sydney Rigdon:
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!"
He lives! He is the Son of God. The Spirit has confirmed it. He knows us. He is involved in the details of the details of the details of our lives, as we allow Him. He loves us. He supports us. He heals us. He is the hope. He allows us to taste the fruit that is sweet above all that is sweet (Alma 32:43). He is our Savior and our Redeemer. He is the reason. He is the Light. He is the Truth. He is the only Way. I love Him for what He has done for me personally.
"Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (3 Nephi 14:13-14)
This is the Church of Jesus Christ. This is the Truth. I know that by accepting His pleading invitation to follow and serve Him forever, we will not only discover joy in this life, but in the next as well. Our families will not only be strengthened, but eternal. We will progress, grow, and expand our understanding exponentially. We will find peace, comfort, and lasting hope (Moroni 7:41). Death will have no sting, the grave no victory. (Alma 22:14)
He is the Christ.
Stay close to Him.
PS- See you soon!
"I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.
And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me." (Alma 29:9-10)
Hollie & Carl after their Sealing in the Jordan River Temple!
Tim and I at the Conference Center!