I just enjoyed looking at a whole bunch of pictures of my little Cutest Niece Annie-Bug. And I got the Birthday package two days before my birthday, along with cards from Grandma and Grandpa R. and Mary. I've enjoyed immensely the ability to have PB&J sandwiches for the first time in 8 months. Mom, I've already gone through one and a half jars of jam, the largest still remains unopened. I'm putting the socks to good use, have already consumed the Butterfingers and Snickers, and am now downloading some pictures to put attach to this email with my new card reader. Mom mentioned a "few surprises" as well, which included a wonderful picture of two missionaries preparing to leave their appartment, while in the mirror, Christ is placing a helmet on one's head, his Book of Mormon reflects as a sword, and he is wearing armor as well. It's a pretty sweet picture!! And speaking of sweet, I highly enjoyed and recommend the new Cheerios flavor "Dulce de Leche." It does a good job at immitating the flavor, but when I come home, I'm still bringing a few jars of Dulce de Leche.
Moving forward, thanks to you who sent me messages. It was cool to read 'em! And a hearty hug to each of you!! Most people didn't know it was my Birthday, and I preferred it that way. But at one house we went to, they fed us some sweets and sang the Argentine Birthday song. I'll try to fit a picture of them in the message, but it may take a week or two (or perhaps more) before I get all the images sent to you that I want to send.
The week was spent in trying to keep in contact daily with all of our investigators, which was a hard task a few of the days (more in a mo'). We have been working really, really hard to get Juan to church again so he can be confirmed, but for the second week in a row, he didn't come. When we went to visit him yesterday after church, he told us why, after which we talked more about the process of the Gospel and the importance in our lives of receiving the Holy Ghost. We'll be working with him again all this week to make sure that he can make it this week. It's been a fight to keep in touch with our other investigators and we've had to begin deciding if we should keep visiting some of them who just aren't progressing for one reason or another.
Two of the four women we contacted the other week came to church on Sunday and said that they really liked the meeting. They're still not all that sure about the doctrines, but we keep teaching them about the importance of readnig from the Book of Mormon, praying about it's truth, and coming to church. Clara and Mirta are progressing, and Yeni and Carmen, though they didn't come to church, are sincere in their desire for a change in their lives. They both expressed to us yesterday that they've passed through some rough moments in their lives that they want to be able to forget; pain felt or dealt, physical infirmities that they are finding dificult to accept, etc. We listened to their concerns and, through the Spirit, promised them specific blessings if they continue to investigate and progress.
One thing this week that made things difficult to make a contact daily with our investigators had to do with a really special invitation, which was that we had the opportunity to go to the Buenos Aires Temple to help at least a little with the renovations and set up for the Open House in August. We were mainly in the new MTC buildings--putting things into the appartments, organizing furniture, etc.--but we had the opportunity to go all around the grounds placing locks on the electrical and utility boxes and got some great pictures of the exterior of the Temple. I've included one with the email. After we finished the service, we were taken on a tour of the interior and got to see some of the happenings that go into renovating and preparing a Temple for use. It is GORGEOUS! They took us into the Celestial room and turned the light on in the chandelier, which had just been hung. It was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in my life. Few places or views in this world compare to the beauty and peace of a Temple of God.
Changing topic a little, there is one big theme within all of the things that I've seen this last week that has come to mind, and that is a focus on forgiveness. When someone hurts us, physically or emotionally, the reprucissions, though sometimes fleeting, are often felt for a long time. Being able to forgive them is not easy in some cases. But extending forgiveness is necessary and ultimately more healing personally than if we continually held a grudge or hate against them. It is a lesson I have learned a few times, and will probably have to learn many more times in my life. If I had more time, I'd go to a few scriptures, but for now I'll just direct you to the topical guide and Bible Dictionary. One of my favorite stories is in the New Testament, about the servant who was forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents and wouldn't forgive his fellowservant a debt of 100 pence (the difference between several million dollars in comparison to perhaps $50 dollars or less). Others are given and I've been reading many of them.
The second is in receiving forgiveness, and this one is perhaps harder to understand and yet covetted so highly. The scriptures teach us that to be forgiven of sins we must follow the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel (Article of Faith 1:4; 2 Nephi 31). First we must have faith and believe that we can be forgiven of our wrongdoings, then repent and change our attitudes towards God and the world. We must be willing to change ourselves to conform and submit to the will of the Father. Moroni tells us that the "firstfruits of repentance is baptism" (Moroni 8:25) and Nephi explains further that we only recieve a remission of sins through a "baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost" (2 Nephi 31:17). Later on we are told that in order to remain clean and unspotted from the world, we must endure to the end. If we endure to the end, we will have eternal life (2 Nephi 31:28? towards the end). Those who don't endure to the end wil not receive this precious gift, which Christ Himself decrees is the "greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7). Part of enduring to the end lies in returning weekly to the Lord's church to partake of the Holy Sacrament, which we can only partake of in a Sacrament meeting in the chapel, or as directed by the Bishop. Elder Oaks in 2008 described Sacrament meeting as the most important meeting of the church. It is through partaking of the sacrament that we can receive a weekly cleansing from sin in a renewed self-commitment to live the covenants we have made with our Father in Heaven. I have never been as concious as I am now of how important the Sacrament is. It is so important that Jesus Christ teaches us that "he who partaketh of my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul" (3 Nephi, not sure which chapter). At the same time, we are helping those who partake worthily to receive the forgiveness necessary for eternal salvation and exaltation.
My studies of the Doctrine of Christ (as taught in 2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11) have lead me repeatedly to this theme. It is a theme that I have seen take effect in the lives of our investigators. It is a theme I have seen affect entire families and all those who really understand its significance. Forgiveness is so central to everything that it was the reason Christ suffered for us. He knew we would sin and that by doing so we could not, by divine law, ever return to live with our Father. Through His eternal sacrifice, we are able to receive a forgiveness and sanctification that can last forever, as long as we are worthy to receive it.
I hadn't planned to go on for so long about that, but it is something that has been on my mind a lot. I love you all and sincerely hope that you can forgive me for the things I have done wrong to you. I also want you all to know that I forgive you of any thing that you desire forgiveness from me for, even though I cannot personally think of a one of you who would have a reason for it. I love you so much!!! I miss and pray for you. I hope that we can all think more carefully on this marvelous gift of forgiveness in our life. As President Kimball has said, it truly is a miracle.
P.S. The pictures are of Elder Verges and I after the largest rainstorm I've been in in Argentina, we got thouroughy drenched. Then the baptisms of: 1) Nicolás, Kevin, and Jónatan; 2) Marina Alegre; and 3) Belen and Zulma. More to come next time!!