Well for starters this week, it's been better than I thought it would be. My new companion is Elder Soelberg from Ogden Utah. He's awesome and in so many ways like Elder Buxton. We've hit it off quite well. I was gonna attach a picture of him ain this email, but I'm still trying to catch up from so much time of not having a card reader, so it'll probably come next week, hopefully with another baptism picture as well. So, things are moving right along. Elder Soelberg actually started his mission in Oregon, waiting for his visa to come through. So when he got here, he'd already had three months field experience. His Spanish is great, even though he has a Mexican accent, which is which is making it hard for him to understand the Castellano spoken here. But we keep practicing and we're moving forward.
Our studies have actually been moving us more in the direction of connecting the Doctrine of Christ with Love. So this next section should be interesting. We know from the first general epistle of John, chapter 4, that God is Love. As Dad has taught us, that means that the power of the God, or the priesthood, is the power of Love. Therefore, the priesthood is the power of love. Continuing with that thread, we know that all ordinances that are required for the salvation of souls can only be brought to pass by someone who has the proper authority from God to do so, or someone who holds the power of the priesthood (love).
We read in other places in the scriptures that Charity is "the pure love of Christ" and that if a man hath not charity, he is nothing (Moroni 7). And, we also know that the doctrine of Christ, as explained in 2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11, include the steps of Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentence, Baptism by immersion, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. It is also interesting to note that when Christ came to the Americas, the first thing he did, after inviting all to come unto him, was ordain disciples and give them the power to baptize in His name and explaining how to do so.
So, since we know that the Power of God is Love, which is the priesthood, and that that power is requisite for someone to truly be baptized and receive forgiveness for their sins, we can understand that the doctrine of Christ is also the doctrine of love. The reason that the doctrine is love is found in a few key experiences recounted in the scriptures. We know through the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants that one cannot receive the ordinance of baptism validly without that ordinance being performed by someone who holds the priesthood authority from God, not from a diploma given by man. For instance, in Acts, we read of an instance in which many are baptized, but have not yet received the Holy Ghost. So two of the Apostles go immediately to that city to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them. Later, Simon sees them doing this and offers to pay the Apostles for the right to have such a power bestowed upon him, and is denied and rebuked by Peter. Such a power (the power of love) cannot be bought, nor given out freely, rather bestowed through worthiness and calling from God. We learn further that whoever excercises unrighteous dominion through virtue of the priesthood loses the same (D&C 121). Thus in order for one to hold and use the power of the priesthood, which is the power of love, he must also understand that that same power required he love others.
Now to really relate the doctrine of Christ to love, knowing that ordinances cannot be received but by the priesthood, given by worthiness and calling from God, we can see that love is required to perform these saving ordinances. We can further understand through the commandments that God has given us to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 11; and others) that He and His Son love us so much that they demand we receive these ordinances. They understand and have explained to us that if a man "believeth not in me, and is not baptized, the same shall be damned" (3 Nephi 11:34). Harsh, maybe. But it is the Word of God, which cannot be changed, but "must all be fulfilled." To expound a little, we need to understand that the Greek word for damned literally means stopped. This applies to the eternal condition of the souls who choose, through our divine gift of agency, not to accept the good news of Christ. By choosing to reject that message and by not receiving the ordinance of baptism, such persons are refusing eternal progress in the Celestial Kingdom of God.
There's a whole lot more that I could have included in here that I chose not to because of time and lack of space in the letter, but the who point of it is that without being baptized, even though our Father and Elder Brother love us completely, we cannot enter into Their kingdom. We will be stopped, or damned, never to progress further. We will not live with Them. We will not live with our families. Those wonderful blessings are only possible by following the commandments, and those include Baptism and Confirmation. "It is written" and it cannot be changed. Justice must be fulfilled. Mercy can only be extended to those willing to accept it, in other words, those willing to repent, be baptized, and follow the path Christ has set before us for the remainder of our lives.
I don't have enough time to add it here or I would, but there is a story in the Gospel Principles book in the chapter on Repentence that shares President Packer's parable on Justice and Mercy. It's a story that I have used several times out here to help people uderstand that principle. There are some who refuse the gift Christ has given us to pay our debts to the Father. But we need to make sure that the knowledge of that gift is shared with everyone.
This is just a part of what I have been learning. There are so many blessings that we know about as Latter-Day Saints. Our other brothers and sisters don't even know what they're missing. That is why we have been charged as a people to dedicate time (as I am, and many others as well) to the spreading of this glorious news. It is a churchwide duty that I did not understand before I got here to the mission field, or even until recently.
I love you all! I can't say it enough, and these words in an electronically simulated message don't do them justice. Please know you are in my prayers and that I am also praying for you to have missionary experiences.
Elder Matthew Dewsnup
P.S. The pics are of Nahuel, Roni, and Alejo's baptisms, then of Eusebio's with his son, who baptised him, and also Juan. That catches us up to date on the baptisms, other pictures next week
P.S.S Meg and Sarah, say hi to Minion and Sharkbait for me!! Marvin and Brandon, give 'em a hug from me!!