To the family,
I have less time this week than I have had in all the mission, except for the MTC, to write to you. Because of this, my message will be shorter than usual, but I don't love you any less. In fact, my love for you all grows with each passing day.
I don't know how many days I have completed in the mission, but people always ask how long we've been out, so I know that I've been in Argentina for 10 weeks now and I was in the MTC for 9, so I have a total of 19 weeks, equal to about four months and a week. The time has flown by. As I hear about news at home, I marvel at how fast the time keeps passing. For example, Mom and Dad both mentioned to me in their letters this week that Joseph had to the Montana State Thespian Festival last weekend. I remember going to those, and they seem forever ago, and yet yesterday. I think I've mentioned this before, but Lehi talks about how the days of man were lengthened in 2 Nephi 2. If our days have been lengthened, it feels like they're getting shorter all the time.
Work here in the field has been slow this week. We have few investigators and those we do have have not been progressing, so much so to the point that we have been discussing dropping a few of them. That is something that I don't want to do, but I realize that in some cases the people just aren't ready. I'm just scared that someone is and all we have to do is put in one more visit past the point when we drop them. I've been in Lopez Camelo for a full month now, and I love the people. And I know there are more people that the Lord has prepared for us to reach, but we're having a hard time finding them.
I don't remember where I was in my personal studies last Monday, but I've now made it through 3 Nephi 6. The people once again are ripening in their wickedness. It seems that after the people are so faithful, it takes only a year or two of relative to abundant prosperity for the people to become puffed up in pride. I've found that as I think about different things in my own life, I have been a little (or perhaps more than a little) prideful in a few (or several) areas. For that I'd like to apologize if I have been overbearing, arrogant, snobbish, and for all intents and purposes, a jerk. I've been looking a little further into the Christlike attributes of humility and meekness. While these traits mean to be submissive and patient, walking in the ways of the Lord, they do not mean that we have to deny our gifts, talents, and abilities when complimented by others. But then neither should we go on and begin boasting about it. I recognize that often I have done both, and I'm sorry. When complimented, the right thing to do is accept it with a simple thank you and continue forward in gratitude to God for having blessed you for that. It's something that I am continuing to learn, and will likely be learning for a lot longer before it finally sinks in in my own life.
Last night, we were in the house of a member who is of mission age and is struggling with the decision to serve. He's been researching a lot into different things, but he accompanies the missionaries (that is, us) a lot during the week. The thing that he's not doing very much of is reading the scriptures. This is why he has begun to doubt. There are certain things that everyone must do in order to keep building their testimony. They are: read the scriptures, pray, and go to church. In prayer we ask God for the strength and help to keep going. In the scriptures and with the members we find and receive revelation and strength to do it. But not simply read, pray, and go; study, converse, and be. We need to study the words, which means to ponder them and cross reference, finding connections. We need to converse with our Father, for that is what prayer is, a conversation. Quick side note, Dad, in his email to me either last week or the week previous, mentioned Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof." We need to have a relationship with God, not just rote phrases, but an actual, spiritual connection with the Being who created our spirits. Tevye often talked openly with God in the street, to and from visits, and even as asides while with his family and guests. Last, we need to be in church. Not just present at the meetings, but also mentally and spiritually, paying attention to the promptings and feelings we receive through the Spirit. The sacrament speaker could be relating something about carpentry, but because the Spirit is present, we receive an answer to a question about our child, or about how to approach that friend we've been wanting to share the Gospel with. Things happen that way. I've seen it.
Things here will progress and continue as we pray, fast, and work. That is all that missionary work is: work, with a lot of the Spirit. Preach My Gospel says faith leads to action, or as Dad teaches, faith is action based on belief. When we pray, we exercise faith that God will listen. When we study and attend church, we show that we are willing to listen to Him. But the important thing is then to act on the revelation we receive, because revelation doesn't do anything for us if we don't decide to act on it.
Well, I've carried on more than I intended in a direction that I hadn't planned, but the message is true. Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, the Prophet called to restore His church upon the earth again. God lives, and He loves us, individually, profoundly deeply, and beyond our comprehension. Spencer W. Kimball once said, "Nothing will surprise us more when we pass through the veil that to realize how well we know our Father, and how familiar His face is to us." Oh, how I look forward to that day when I can kneel before my Maker and look up into His face, knowing perfectly who He is. I hope and pray that I will be found worthy to be with Him again. A pray the same for you and for all the people I teach. May God in His mercy open our hearts to receive His love, for He is willing to give it. The only thing that stops Him is our own action.
I love you all,
Elder Matthew Dewsnup