A Perfectly Erik Lengthy Swan Song

thumbnail_dsc_9608Sweden did not simply get under my skin. It went deeper. It has become a key part of my identity and always will be. You can serve a mission in a foreign country for two years and return as the same old American Joe who will remain in America and be quite American till the day you die. But, Sweden had different plans for me. I’ll always be American, for 18 years in America does that to you…. but I can’t simply let go of my two years of being in Sweden as if it did not change me…. because it did. Sweden changed me.

I’m not going to go as far as to call myself a Swede, because if anything I’m genetically Norwegian/British, but I do not feel simply just American anymore. There is too much of Sweden inside of me. This has put me in a wee bit of an identity crisis. What am I? Two years is not enough to say you’re entirely something else… but I’m certainly not the same as I when I came out. Maybe I should just scrap the whole struggle and move to Scotland or be one of those bearded ramblers with just one backpack and an alpaca haired jumper who spends his winters in India and summers in Iceland and calls myself a “citizen of the world” . Then again, I want to have a family and deodorant….so I probably shouldn’t go that route.

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But, while where I want to be a part of becomes less and less one place or nation, my spiritual identity of who I am and what I believe has become more and more steadfast.  Missions do that to you,or at least mine did. It loosened my binding to one physical place and strengthen my conviction and dedication to one spiritual belief: The belief that Jesus is the Christ, who atoned for our sins, that through faith in Him, sincere repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, all might have JOY. That such joy is found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith.

For nearly two years I’ve been presenting that message every single day to someone, whether in their home, in their camp, in our church, or on the street. For 24 months I’ve studied the message, delivered the message and testified of the truthfulness of the message….

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Gabbie, Jakob and Lexie- the younger siblings i never had.

Just the other day I was in a temporary tripanionship, meaning three of us were together while the fourth was at a meeting in Stockholm. Contacting people on the street in threes is awkward so the other two branched off and started talking to people on the other side, leaving me quite alone, with just a bag full of copies of the Book of Mormon and my own free agency to motivate me.  When you do missionary work the way it should be done, with a companion, you have the pressure to contact, to teach and to testify because your companion expects you too. In turn, you expect your companion to, making you both accountable to the other. But when I no longer had someone on my side expecting me to work, and with literally less than a week left before I finish, there seemed to be absolutely zero pressure to do anything. No one was expecting me to. It was purely dependent upon my own free will.

I began talking to people and after a few minutes I was sitting on a bench teaching a man. Teaching alone felt odd. I was used to a companion’s support and pressure to direct me…. but this time it was purely myself teaching out of my own intuition; not because I was forced to or expected to.  As I began to share the story of how we received the Book of Mormon, I distinctly felt in my soul that I sincerely believed every word I was saying. With a companion you teach about the Book of Mormon because you are supposed to. By myself, I could’ve talked about anything I wanted or say or nothing at all if I so pleased, but I really wanted to teach and bear testimony of the joy and light found in the book I placed in that man’s hands. The realisation that I was purely acting on my own will and not for any social pressure or gain gave me an energy to teach as many people as I could on the street that day about the message that I was giving purely from my own free will.

thumbnail_img_67201I have foolishly struggled with missionary work done for ulterior motives on my mission. I would get so caught up in the amount of pride and competition involved in the culture of the mission, that I would fight against anything that would appear prideful. Though pride can very well be a great stumbling block for some, my stick-it-to-them attitude in response was just as much a stumbling block for me. It simply was just another form of pride. What I should’ve done the whole time, and what I would suggest every current and future missionary to do is instead of letting others’ pride interfere, let your desire to give the message, purely from sincere desire, enliven you and perchance enliven them.

So, that odd little solo contacting hour made me ask, “if there was no one to account to, no companion to work with, no expectations to meet, what sort of missionary would I be?” Would I still get up every morning and work the whole day through? Would I still be finding and teaching and serving and loving every day? Virtue is essentially determined by what you do when you think no one is watching.

Many who have served honourable missions, unfortunately fall away from the truth when they re-nter normal life. For each and every case is a specific story with specific circumstances but I believe that a great portion of the circumstances are at least in part because after the mission you suddenly are handed free agency back. You do not have a schedule to follow for scripture reading. You do not have a companion always within sight and sound expecting you to follow a white handbook of rules. You do not have to report how many times you taught someone about the gospel each day. Scripture study, obedience to commandments, and being a missionary are suddenly dependent on your free agency and desire alone. You are no longer compelled to do the right by the expectations that are in full time missionary service. Social media, Netflix and a million other great things you never had as a missionary are suddenly available, which though can be nice, also have a habit of distracting you from spiritual matters.

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I’m returning back to normal life in just a few short days and therefore it is as important as ever for me to capture the spirit of that solo contacting hour and apply it to my real life. The spirit of doing out of desire, and not simply duty.
If I only read my scriptures out of duty, what will I do if it is no longer a duty? If I only open my mouth to share the gospel because I’ve been called to do so, what will I do when I’m released? Discipleship and missionary work are two things we are never truly released from…. so I cannot forsake either as soon as no one is standing over me.  True conversion is tested when we are left to our own devices.

I’m facing the crossroads in my life where I cannot simply blow with the wind anymore. My childhood is long gone, my mission is coming to a close, and I’ll be living away from parents with absolute open free agency. If all the gospel practices and beliefs I’ve upheld and followed all my life were only out of duty or expectation, this is where I’ll be falling away into the darkness of misused agency.
But. …I believe this gospel, and want to live it the best I can, because I sincerely have the deepest desire to. It is truth. It is life. It is happiness, more than any happiness obtained on earth.

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Jämtland

When I return home, I promise to continue living it, even if no one watches over me or cares what I do, I will stay fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ because these “are the words of eternal life.” Admittedly, I’m scared of the ominous future. I want to do and be quite a lot in life that is off the standard route of average RMs. Money, university education, marriage, and occupation now will be real oncoming mountains to climb and not just distant peaks on the horizon as they seemed a few months ago.

On Monday, we were visiting the breathtakingly beautiful mountains of Jämtland, the western half of our area. This is secretly the most gorgeous corner of all of Sweden. The entire land just feels, smells, looks and sounds like adventure…. anyways…. on top of one particularly snow capped fjäll, overlooking the mist draped valley below, the reality of my mission ending hit me. Nature sometimes has a habit of doing that. I stood there on the silent snow, looking over the preciously dear country I had come to love so fondly, and I just panicked in my head.  I’ll have to face the “real world” where I have to pay for my own food and housing and education and hope somehow in all the chaos I can grab hold of some foundation and live my dreams. This will not come with a reboot button. It isn’t a demo where if I fail, I can just restart. It won’t be like the mission where if I run out of MSF money for the month, I can just wait for the automatic 200 dollars to be put in my account the next month. If I’m out of money, I’m out of money. If I can’t get hired, I won’t get paid. All the material matters I never had to worry about as a missionary will suddenly be very worrisome.  It’s easy to freak out over the future and want to hold onto the mission life for as long as possible. But all things must pass and sooner or later I will have face life. Embrace life.

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At the Norwegian border

I believe one of the keys for my temporal well being will be finding strength in my spiritual well being. If my spirit is strong, if my relationship with the Saviour is alive, if my priority is the gospel, then everything will be okay. Maybe I’ll be broke and considered crazy for going after wild dreams in the creative industry rather than forfeiting for a safe desk job….. but when Christ is the centre of your life, life has a habit of turning out…. not exactly your way maybe… but the right way.

So “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! ” (King Lear. Act II, sc.ii)

I’m ready. My mission is closing, and that hurts, but my mission has given me the needed spiritual tools to withstand whatever incoming storm that may be brewing. Life is going to be wonderful. Life is going to be beautiful. Life is going to be joyful….. and a great deal of that wonder, beauty and joy is thanks to my mission.
They may have been the hardest two years, but they were absolutely the best two years. I loved my mission. I loved it more than words can say. I love every human soul I worked with.

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A traditional missionary send off- A funeral for Elder Scott

I do not have the time here to write  a proper swan song to it, and perhaps I can never truly give my mission justice with any string of words, but I really did love it. I loved my mission. I love the gospel. I love Jesus Christ. I love our Heavenly Father. If two years of missionary service taught me anything, it’s He loves each and everyone of us more than we can ever comprehend.

Thank you everyone that has read my letters, written me letters, supported me, financially, spiritually, and emotionally through these last two years. Thank you for your wonderful words of love. (And sorry for the times I’ve been rubbish at writing back)
I love you all as much as I love Sweden, which is a great deal.

 

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One Week More:

This is it. The final week. I gave my last talk in church, did my last weekly planning, and oooooooooh……….I’m certainly going to love life after the mission but I must say, I’m going to miss the mission a great deal. The luxury of an hour every morning just for personal study of the gospel, the joy of seeing the gospel change others’ lives, and the happiness that burns within you when you share the message of the restored gospel is incredible. This isn’t my final farewell letter, for I still have one week left, but I’d just want to quickly reflect on one aspect of my work I’m going to miss like mad….

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Teaching Persian Sunday School

The Refugee Camps:
I’m going to miss them terribly. I’m going to miss the wonderful people who have filled them, and in turn, filled my heart. They have shaped me and changed who I am and what I want to become. I cannot simply return home and say the work is finished. My heart will be yearning to be among Syrians, Afghans, Iranians, and every other refugee until I return to them once again. Though I’ll be returning to my physical home soon, I’ll be leaving  this home. I love these beautiful souls in it. Whatever I do in life, it needs to be, in some way, for them. To do contrary would be tearing my heart in two.

This week I want to share a typical experience that happens often on the mission. We contacted a Syrian man on street and immediately he wanted us to come to his house, even though we weren’t near his home. We entered his humble Ottoman carpet lined apartment to be greeted with Syrian pistachio rice pudding from his lovely wife. He had two young paralysed sons playing on the floor and a three month old baby boy who couldn’t stop laughing and cooing at us. We shared the message of the gospel and he shared his story. After the treacherous voyage in a rubber raft across the sea, he walked by foot, from Greece to to Malmö (the southern tip of sweden.) which is roughly 2,500 km. (about 1,600miles) ..a 20 plus day trip, carry his paralysed son on his shoulder the entire way. They were not just runnning from the fear of danger. They came from the midst of it. He and one of his sons were face to face, at gun point, with ISIS. His house literally was destroyed… and now, more than a year later, he has not much to offer, but what he has he will freely give everyone. That is just one of 1,000s I’ve met just like him
Before the mission I thought being an actor would be the greatest career, but I need to do more than present a story, I need to create stories…. more particularly, I need to re-create theirs. One soul at a time….banishing fear with the light of truth.
I highly encourage you to do what you can to help wherever you are. Maybe there are not the endless possibilities to serve war-torn asylum seekers where you live as there are in Sweden, but there is always something to be done, anywhere.
For ideas take a look at my Church’s suggestions:

Plot Twist

thumbnail_img_63191The days are dark. My feet are wet. The Swedes put on their black. The small dogs put on their coats.  Personally, I think if a dog has to wear a coat in October, they probably shouldn’t live in northern Sweden…… but I don’t want to sound like a bigoted dog breedist….
All dog breeds should have an equal right to live wherever they wish and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…. they should just consider the weather versus the thickness of their fur before settling in the northern wasteland.  I’m the least breedist person you’ve met. Nobody has more respect for chihuahuas than me.

But filthy miniature canine rats aside,some weeks you are brought low. Real low. The seemingly perfect family that you feel is grasping the gospel suddenly drops you when you thought they were going to feed you Nicaraguan food that night. The baptismal candidates disappear and cannot be found. Your new converts are forced to move camps. You sit down and think ” wow, it’s been nearly two years…” and the thought of the mission ending in just 17 days feels bittersweet.

 

The closing scenes of the final act of my mission admittedly are not finishing off as immature young greenie Elder Scott dreamed they would. He envisioned a significantly stronger, taller, more physically mature elder with fluent Swedish and a boatload of investigators filing into the baptismal font.  Somewhere, somehow, as a missionary you get this concept that the last wee bit of your mission is going to offer the greatest success.
Therefore, if you do not find your last weeks in the mission field to be your most successful,  you initially ask “what did I do wrong?” “Why do I not get the grand finale with a cherry on top like everyone talks about?”  Such thoughts are as relatively vain as my original vision of the ideal conclusion to my mission.  It is expecting payment for a service that should purely be voluntary. Faith is not the power to control God to our wants. It is the sweet bliss found when aligning our will to God’s will.

 
Really, if Heavenly Father gave me the magical swan song of the mission that I thought I deserved, with baptisms on my final Saturday, I would’ve missed out on the great blessing that comes when your last weeks in the field are on your knees with nothing to boast about.

 
This is the blessing that comes from one of my favourite poems, which has proven to be the theme of my mission:
‘Father, where shall I work today?’
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then he pointed out a tiny spot
And said, ‘Tend that for me.’
I answered quickly, ‘Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me.’
And the word he spoke, it was not stern
He answered me tenderly:
‘Ah, little one, search that heart of thine
Art thou working for them or for me?
‘Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.’

and whenever I get discouraged, I need to always remember this video snippet:

Apples After The First Frost

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The first frost

In this autumnally golden northern most Eden, apple trees are as common as mini vans in Utah. The streets are lined, the yards are filled and the fields are littered with apple trees. For the past several weeks,  we’ve taken advantage of this surplussed asset of fresh fruit…. but, though decent, the apples always seemed a wee bit off…. until this week. Suddenly,  every apple is significantly crispier. What brought about the sudden change? Well, every wise Norrland apple grower could tell you that you wait to pick your apples after the first frost, for the temporary freezing of the apple changes the apple’s interior texture to become crispier. As the cold rolls down from the western mountains, bringing with it chilly wind, freezing fog and icy rain, the seemingly unsuitable weather conditions actually improve the quality of the apples.
Yes, there is an object lesson in this.
Going into this week I was waltzing along happily, like an apple happily growing in the October sunlight…. and then Tuesday hit. Not only was it the first legitimately cold day of the season, but was a day that literally crashed and burned. We left in the early morning to travel to a lesson with a member to be present for, which fell through, and that was just the beginning. I will not go in depth, but everything on our schedule disintegrated to dust and not a soul seemed open to listen to our message. It was cold, dark, and yes, the apples on the trees were frozen.

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The next day, I took a bite of an apple from a tree and the difference and it’s taste was remarkable….. and along with it, the difference in the day was remarkable! We hardly had much time to knock on doors because it seemed like everyone was letting us in to teach them, we found some truly amazing people, an investigator received a firm spiritual impression that the Book of Mormon is true and wants to be baptised, and you know…. ending the day with a member meal is always nice. Just as it takes the first frost to improve the apples’ taste, it takes the horrible glum unsuccessful days to make the good days valued.
Anyhow, only three more of these blog posts left.

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Taking a photo of a selfie. Notice Erik in the photo, holding the camera. 🙂

 

 

The Gospel of Joy

imageAs this wild northern wilderness transforms into it’s briefly lived autumn before the fierce arctic winter rolls in, the hills turn to gold speckled blankets of swiftly shedding deciduous amidst the resilient evergreen. (that sentence sounds cheesy but that’s just how it came out.) The mornings are frost filled, the sunrises are increasingly slower and later, and the cold wind preludes the incoming snow fall. The Swedes cling to every last snatch of sun upon the pavement before they must enter the inevitable dark ages of winter.
Down in America, autumn was always a season of it’s own: a separate entity independent of summer or winter… but up here on the top of the world, where the North Star shines directly over your head, autumn’s prescience is but a few short weeks before howling winter takes over, making it more a simultaneous swan song to summer and a prophetic warning cry for winter.
In a matter of weeks, the sun will only be over the horizon for a couple hours. The darkness will beat down upon us as heavily as the snow that falls from it, and all plant life will be but corpses along the gray countryside. With such a grim future comes the uprise of depression and all inhabitants of Norrland will either have to fly south with the birds or endure through the darkness with the hope of a bright spring. This fall is really bringing home to me the fact that I really am living on the top of the world. Because the earth spins on an axis, for a portion of day we are literally further north than the North Pole. image

But with all the glum shared by the population on the doorstep to winter, President Nelson’s talk this last week in general conference could not of been a more perfect remedy. I positively loved his message. I loved all of conference (particularly Elder Renlund’s shout out to my old area Göteborg) but President Nelson’s talk seemed tailor fitted for me.  He spoke of finding joy in every circumstance. A skill I very much need to work on.  He taught that “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
I invite you to ponder upon that quotation for a wee bit. Ponder upon it’s meaning and then ponder upon your own life and think of how you can apply such a principle to your every day. The very essence of the concept makes such a practice exclusionary to literally no one. Anyone can gain from this.
I have seen this principle to be true on my mission. I know a refugee man with the most horrifying past and the most seemingly bleak future, who maintains a level of joy that would convince you that he is the most blessed and happiest person on the planet. On the other hand, on my mission I’ve also met a man with all the earthly possessions he could possibly desire, his dream job, dream inner city apartment and yet a inner discontent and sadness no amount of money could pacify. Clearly, though circumstances can influence happiness, it isn’t the circumstance that ultimately determines happiness. The most battered modern Job (biblical character Job…not the synonym to occupation) can have joy and the most pampered modern Solomon can have depression. What is it that gives my refugee friend joy that the other man lacked? President Nelson explained “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening–or not happening–in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.”

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As cheesy as it may sound to the casual outside listener, it’s true. This gospel gives you joy. Of course, troubles and trials keep coming in life, sometimes even more frequently when you are a disciple of Christ, and the gospel may not always relieve you of the tragedies, but it does supply joy through them. As President Nelson said “it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our ‘afflictions shall be but a small moment’ and be consecrated to our gain.”
One of my heroes is a woman we are currently teaching who is preparing to be baptised on my last week of the mission. She was raised in Iraq where she was forced to marry a man 10 years her senior at the age of thirteen. Her husband was abusive in every sense of the word. By age fourteen, she gave birth to her first of five children. In the same year, she was forced to flee her hometown, being made to leave her baby girl with her parents as she escaped on a dangerous raft across the Mediterranean. Now, she is twenty-six years old and single handedly raising four sweet and precious children, some with autism. She has just, in the last couple weeks, been able to be liberated from her husband, who would physically abuse her and her children, sleep around constantly with other women, and forcefully use all of her money to be wasted on gambling, alcohol and riotous living….. she has every justification to simply give up in life and face every day with a bad attitude. She has had constant suffering since childhood and now she is twenty-six, with severe medical problems as a result of having babies so young, with four kids to raise by herself, with no family in the country, a daughter still in Iraq, and the weight of providing for a family alone.

 

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Erik with 4 of his past companions.

What are most people doing at age twenty-six? Just getting married? Earning their Masters at university? Having their first baby? Or still wandering about aimlessly just to have a good time and avoid responsibility? And yet she, at the very same age, has lived through what most forty-six year olds have not. And she is HAPPY. She has JOY. She gives those around her joy. She does not complain about her problems. She looks for the way out of them. She truly is incredible to me. She is constantly positive…. and as she increases in knowledge of the gospel, so too does she increase in joy.

Her story, of course, is an extreme one. Neither I, nor most people reading this blog, can claim we come from war torn countries and were forced into marriage as 7th graders. But to quote another talk in this past conference, by elder Schmutz, I don’t want this to “cause many to think their own sorrows and sufferings are of little consequence in comparison. Please don’t compare, but seek to learn and apply eternal principles as you wade through the furnace of your own afflictions.”
We all have our trials, and we all have the ability, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, to have joy through the trials, regardless of their magnitude or our past history of pessimism.
It is all dependant upon our eternal perspective. If we look at life with the ante-mortal existence and post-mortal existence in mind, adding the atonement and gospel of Jesus Christ into the equation, we do truly find redemption, reward and JOY, promised to the true and faithful.
We are the gospel of “every little thing is going to be alright.”
President Nelson made a beautiful point regarding the very atonement that allows us to have joy, “In order for Him (Christ) to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!”

It was the joy of our possible redemption, repentance and ultimately our eternal salvation that enabled Jesus Christ to fully complete His sacrificial act upon the earth. Though He died of a broken heart, He atoned with a joyful one. It was JOY that held Him through the pain of the garden and the cross. It is JOY that will hold us through our individual portions of the garden and cross that He has already suffered for us… for the sake and hope of JOY.
“If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?”
With the joy of the gospel, we can endure everything. I’ve seen those who have suffered the greatest maintain the greatest joy…. those who you hear about in the news and in the Church’s pleas to aid. The Refugees, orphans, and widows…. with the right perspective, REGARDLESS of their circumstances, maintain eternal JOY.
Some may have the Christ given gift of easily emitting JOY. Cling to these people! They are sent from heaven.
If you are like me, however, you may need to work upon this attribute…. but I know that all of us, when we maintain proper eternal perspective and a love of God and of ALL man, can have JOY.
I’m here in Sweden to spread the message of joy.
“That is why our missionaries leave their homes to preach His gospel. Their goal is not to increase the number of Church members. Rather, our missionaries teach and baptize to bring joy to the people of the world!”
I have four weeks left to give my full-time service to preaching the message of joy, and I intend on doing so joyfully….right into the dark gaping jaws of winter.

Norrsken

This week I had my last zone conference, in which I gave my departing testimony; that was……….hard, extremely hard. I love this mission and it is frightening that I only have 6 weeks left……but “sunrise doesn’t last all morning, a cloudburst doesn’t last all day (…) All things must pass away.”

thumbnail_dsc_9448I suppose a great many other things happened this week which I could write about but it was all swallowed up with what I saw on my freezing rooftop last night at 22:00.  For the first time in my life,  I saw aurora borrelias in her fullness.  It was honestly, the second most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my entire life….very few times in life has anything taken my breath away quite like the Northern lights. It was not even the brightest or most spectacular performance by them….. if anything, they were but giving a early season “sneek peak”, but still, they made my heart stop. They rippled through the night sky like fabric. It gave me the overwhelming spiritual impression that God loves me. Nothing has ever spoken to me so boldly to communicate that fact. God loves me. He manifested his love to me last night with a natural phenomenon of dancing emerald green in the sky. It felt so personal……so sacred….

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This world and all the natural wonders in it are a manifestation of his love.  Up on that rooftop, bathed by the glow of the Northern lights, possibly singing some Pocahontas lyrics…. I really felt God’s overwhelming love for us. Maybe you may not have the breathtaking Northern lights in your night sky……….but you certainly have stars to look upon…..and I invite you to look deep into their vastness and just ponder upon God’s love for you. All those twinkling lanterns of distant fiery are set in their place so that we might be, and we are so that we might have joy. God loves us. I know He does. The Northern Lights told me so.

New Pioneers

imageThis week we had the wonderful opportunity to hold another sacrament meeting down in Hudiksvall where we are trying to start the new branch and we had 10 people in attendance! That is more than several branches here in Sweden have on a good week! The area is so ready to become a branch. I can feel it, like an electric energy. We just need an apartment and we can start the Hudiksvall branch! The excitement is contagious. It feels much like how the first school of the prophets must’ve felt…. a few humble people, meeting in a humble setting, with dreams and visions of the future bigger than deemed sound by the pessimism of shortsighted men.
A few weeks ago, a man who served his mission here back in the 1960s came and visited the ward. When he was here in Sundsvall there was only a handful of members. He baptised a family and doubled the branch membership. Now, today, as he was giving his testimony there was over 100 members in the sacrament meeting and 38 active members there who owe their membership to him. All the old Swedes in the ward were the “pioneers” for the Sundsvall branch….they built it from nothing…..so too will be the case for the budding Hudiksvall branch………and so too will be the case for the Sundsvall Persian branch. We currently have 10 active Persian members and their sunday school has an energy to it that is incredible!
We can look at the asylum seekers of this world as “refugees” or, as Elder Holland points out, as “pioneers.” (please please please watch his plea for the world’s help with the refugee crisis and religious freedom from the  Religious Persecution Conference at Windsor Castle here.  Miraculously, our newest convert made an observation in direct alignment with this video without even seeing it. He said “we could look at our situation as terrible and call ourselves refugees or we can realise it for what it really is; God’s way of leading us to the gospel and our opportunity to start the church for our people.”

The church is young for the Persian people. We’ve only had the Book of Mormon in it’s fullness in persian since December. They do not have D&C, the pearl of Great price, the missionary pamphlets or the Liahona in their language. They have to wait two weeks before general conference will be translated for them. Their fellow countrymen membership is few and scattered abroad….. but they are growing…. and as that same convert remarked “I am so thankful God gave me the blessing of being a part of the church today, when I get to help build.”
This man has been working, as practically a slave, since age seven. He never had the opportunity to attend school so he would learn how to read and write himself late at night after working all day every day. He has been stabbed, beaten, and forced from his homeland and faced rejection after rejection in this strange northern country….. and he thanks God for the blessing of the life he was given?

So too was it for many of the pioneers who were refugees of Jackson County, Missouri.  Read more here: They lost their lands and their loved ones and were beaten and chased out, just like the refugees of today……….but still they chose to thank God for the barren patch of desert land in the unsettled wilderness of Utah. They called themselves “pioners”. and so too are these refugees, pioneers of modern day.
I’m so blessed to be a part of this!

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A New Branch and The Parable of the Sower:

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A faint glimpse of the Northern Lights from town. 

This week, we will be really setting our heads down to try and accomplish the impossible task of building a new branch from scratch….which is harder than I initially thought. ( a branch is a small congregation )
At least,  it is giving me experience on how to shop for apartments and church service buildings and work with red tape and all the technical stuff missionaries never usually work with….. you’d be surprised what the mission teaches you…..
but all in all I’m doing well. I’ll provide a better letter next week.

imageThere were some things from this week that deserve more than just a mere summary……so I’ll give them justice in my next letter….
but to give you something to ponder upon this week.

You may recall Christ’s parable of the seed and the sower? I wrote about it before… (I think?)
anyhow,  a part of it that stood out to me this week when I was reading;
We focus on all the reasons why the seed does not grow……..the hard soil…the rocky soil….the thorny soil……..putting all of our attention on how the gospel does not take root in some people……..but then, we rather carelessly lump all the good soil into one category.
But if you read the text, Jesus separates the soil that is good into various grades of fertility.
as he said;
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
(Matt 13:23)
Some produce a great harvest of fruit, some produce more and some produce most….. meaning that even among those that receive the gospel into their hearts, there are grades.
These grades (or fruit, if we are to follow the parable) are manifest in one’s works…. the members that drive an hour out of there way to pick up new converts for you, (THANK YOU brother Nilsson) the youth that bring their friends to church, (THANK YOU Sundsvall youth) the members that do more than attend church, but help make the church grow… A thirty fold, compared to a hundred fold tree is the difference between one who joins the Kingdom of Heaven, and one who builds the kingdom of Heaven…..one who finds the treasure and sell all he hath and one who finds the treasure, sells all he hath and than shares the treasure…..one that is a candle and one that lights other candles…. The productivity of the tree is dependent upon the how much the tree gives.
So the question to leave you with is; if you have successfully allowed your seed to take root and become a tree, how can you increase from thirty fold to sixty fold, and sixty fold to a hundred fold? We may be free of thorns and thistles and rocks and hard soil….but our work is not finished.

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Strep Throat and Swedes

imageThe last few weeks of the mission have been interesting. First off, our car is still in the repair shop. First it was that the starter that was broken…..but after they repaired that it turns out that there more problems…..so the car is still in the shop, leaving us rendered useless with loads of investigators we cannot visit. And then, I’ve been sick for the past two weeks (strep throat) and that really brought me down to the dust because I cannot stand a day of not doing missionary work….. especially with so few days of the mission left.

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It would’ve been very easy with our circumstances to ask the question “why would God cut us down and prevent all of this work from going forth when it is going so well here?” But if the mission has taught me anything it is that the Lord always has a plan far better than we can conceive with our mere mortal eyes.

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My sad state every time I see a ski resort.

 

After a few not so lovely bedridden days I was able to venture out to do some light missionary work….(still sick, but couldn’t stand laying in bed all day)
We started started straight from square one and began knocking on doors in a very posh, entirely Swedish, wealth beach town just south of Sundsvall. Literally the last place you’d ever expect to find any investigators……but it felt so very right to travel out there and knock on the picture perfect IKEA mansions…. and now, from that wee paradisaical community we are teaching four 100% Swedish individuals including a shockingly prepared engaged couple.
They are jaw dropping perfect. When we knocked on their door we said words we never said at anyone’s doorstep every before, completely guided by the spirit and were shocked when they told us to step in and teach them. They just seemed so…..idealistic swedish, that I never could imagine, in all my mortal judgement, that they would ever be possibly interested…. but now they are on the third lesson, agree with what we teach them and have become our very good friends. (helps when they are the same age as you. They’re both 20)

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It life went how I wanted it to go we would’ve never ever found them.
So keep this wee little story in mind if ever your car breaks down and you get terribly sick……or something of that nature. It could very well just be God directing you to the right place.
much love,
Äldste Scott

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Lessons from Car Troubles

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Sounds like an exhausting week back home and an exhausting one to come!

It’s been an interesting week. Our car broke down on the way to a lesson and is in the shop and may be dead because of past elders’ neglect……which wouldn’t be too bad if we were zone leaders who do not use the car as often…….but we actually do.. we have 31 positive investigators who NEED us and live from 45 minutes to 2 hours away by car with zero means to get to most of them. but, I found the whole situation to be a great way to learn someone’s personality fast. It was interesting to analyse the different reactions when the car stopped. (all four of the elders were in the car) Elder 1 was laughing and maintaining optimism, Elder 2 silently kind of spaced out and avoided responsibility, and Elder 3 fumed. Elder 1 has matured a great deal .so we were able to handle the situation calmly and rationally and make the arrangements for a member to tow us to the shop.

The rest of the week, as a result, was a test of faith. My heart was hurt just thinking of all the people we can’t visit, and we had to start biking 20 km minimum a day to get to our closest investigators……..but I’m thankful for the experience. It will help me handle life’s dramas in the future. When a car breaks down, tempers and and murmurings accomplish nothing.

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