For the Beauty of the Earth

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This week Göteborg was absolutely swallowed up in snow. The temperature went down to -27 (and in such a poor insulated bathroom as ours that meant our toothpaste shaving cream froze solid.) and every tree was coated in the finest of dry powder. I was positively overwhelmed by the level of beauty the snow storm brought to the Swedish landscape. My camera could hardly capture the surface of the beauty. I am yet to find poetry that properly describes or art that properly paints nature in it’s full measure of beauty. We haven’t the words, or paints or technology to capture it. We haven’t the ability to create it for ourselves. Appreciation of nature leads to a further appreciation of God. (and likewise ingratitude of nature leads to a undervaluing of God)  The gift of this earth and all the wondrous beauties it contains is a gift we can never fully repay God for by any act of love. Just take one flake of snow; have you ever noticed the unique design of each and every flake. How much artistic passion is poured into each flake God gives us? An,d then zoom out to a field of snow, whose brilliant whiteness is a piece of Heaven, and then zoom out to the landscape that blanket of snow covers. The trees and hills and lakes and aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………..We live in a beautiful world..yeah we do yeah we do.IMG_1393

My point? Spirituality includes connection to nature, for nature is one of our many connections to God. The first temples were mountaintops. There is no feeling quite like that of reaching a peak and looking at the miraculous world below. There is a level of spiritual peace that you find on the top of a mountain or in a silent forest or in any other patch of untouched nature. Why else did Joseph Smith chose to pray in a grove of trees? Enos decided to prayer in the forest? Jesus Christ fasted in the wilderness? The prophets of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon sought spiritual inspiration by separation from civilisation and seeking in the wilderness. Even latter-day Prophets do the same. President Joseph F. Smith particularly loved nature and claimed to receive his greatest spiritual enlightenment when in the untouched natural world. Being a gift from God, it is our duty to protect and preserve nature. It was one of the very first commandments ever given to us; to be stewards of the Earth. Not stewards like Denathor  (The Lord of The Rings) was the steward of Gondor, ruling selfishly and apathetically, letting his people perish because his pride prevented him from properly protecting his city. We are to be honourable stewards, loving and saving what we are given. Here is a strong statement: I believe that with the degradation of the world’s natural beauty will come a degradation of spiritual revelation from God. Our connection with him will be far fainter in the chaos and interference of our own built creations than can be acquired in the sanctuary of his creations.IMG_1388

Nature, preserving nature is not only a good thing to do. It is not only a social trend for girls with purposefully poorly clipped bangs and guys in Peruvian llama sweaters. It is a commandment from God. A commandment given in the genesis of human history. There was a time when the human race did not care for the earth, many many years ago, and in The Pearl of Great Price we not only learn that the earth has a soul, but that the earth was weeping for the wickedness of mankind, asking God to relieve it from the pain mankind was inflicting upon it; and so the earth was flooded. It was literally baptised and cleansed and restarted again in purity. Now, we are drawing nearer and nearer the second baptism of the earth I can imagine the Earth is in the same position as the last time. Weeping for the abuse mankind inflict upon it. The church asks us to be environmentally conscious and caring of the world.  https://www.lds.org/topics/environmental-stewardship-and-conservation?lang=eng

Please read their official statement. It straightforwardly states:

” The earth and all living things on were first spiritually created, were blessed by God as “good,” and are to fulfill the measure of creation that God has given them. In our care and preservation of the creation, we either accept or reject our accountability to God.”

Later suggests what we as members can do:

Check with your local utility company, local community groups, or on the Internet to find suggestions to conserve energy and to recycle. Support community recycling programs. Consider starting a community garden. Support local civic groups that promote stewardship and conservation. Be an involved citizen in government. Be informed, respect the views of others, and treat everyone with civility.”
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I love nature. It is one of the purest means I have found to finding God in my life. As we all consciously care for it, enjoy it and surround our lives with it, we grow in our relationships with our Heavenly Father. I am absolutely blessed for my opportunity to serve in the beautiful land of Sweden, so very very blessed. I am in love with this country. The islands and forests and lakes and every bit and piece of it. I sincerely want to dedicate the rest of my life to protecting this earth and serving every living thing on it, plant, animal and human.  Joseph f. Smith said “the domination the Lord gave man over his creations has been, to a very large extent, used selfishly, thoughtlessly and cruelly.” Lets change that. Today. Lets serve the Lord by serving our fellowman and serving our fellow creatures and creations on this earth

 

Love you all,
Äldste Scott

 

 

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Making blankets with my district

 

 

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Frozen Goteborg

 

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How I’ve Found JOY

IMG_1778-1It is truly incredible how greatly the mission changes you if you open yourself to be changed. It scares me to even think of what I would be without this mission. I have been able to grow so much and still have so much more distance to grow. There is no greater happiness, in my opinion, than the happiness of actively trying to increase in love and service to others and seeing their lives changed in return. No other work on this earth is worth more. No other work has a more lasting, or more far reaching affect, than the work of Christlike love. All joys on this earth are but temporary apart from the joy found in the family, the gospel and all the appendages of it. As C.S. Lewis said 

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

How many years to come could I have potentially wasted on mudpies? I am infinitely grateful for my mum and dad for teaching me where true joy is found, and my mission for letting me experience that joy. When I think of my core memories that make up my life they are either memories of my family, like sitting at the dinner table and talking about anything and everything and being banned from talking about the injustice of the tyrannical reign of the recess teachers. Other great memories are the countless roadtrips (like the one when Elizabeth ran away into the desert because she wanted to watch Pride and Prejudice and everyone else wanted to watch Indiana Jones hahaha….that is a core memory for some reason.)  Or, it is memories of things I’ve been able to do for others.

How absolutely silly it is then that all this time I’ve been trying to collect memories of things for myself when those memories I won’t even remember? They will never make the core memory list and yet they are the ones I have wasted the most time trying to get. I have been self centred in my life pursuits and so far from who I can be for so long. I have wasted so many days away. That pains me……but I can’t dwell on it. I can only be better.

IMG_1779On my mission, I have realised what it actually means to desire to be like Christ. I understood a fraction of it before, but now the desire, or rather the desperate need, is so much much much more. I am so far from being Christlike. Every night it is a long list that summarizes my shortcomings and opportunities I missed to do good for others. Unfortunately, the accounting has consumed me far more than the improving as of late and it took my mission president metaphorically smacking me across the face and telling me I’m too hard on myself and expect too much and don’t give myself a proper break to make me realise my folly.  (From his Mom: This is so true.) So, President ordered me to take a pause for once and just get an ice cream with my companion and not worry about baptising all of Göteborg. It was -17 degrees so we went out for Starbucks hot chocolate instead of ice cream…. but it was good…….and taught me you can’t improve upon Christlike attributes with stress. It does not work that way. I cannot stressfully increase my love for my fellow man. I need to just improve without worrying about where I am at on the scale. Just work up without looking back.

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People of Goteborg: Who I met: “I will not associate myself with any wars…. my advice to the world is do not do anything you could not see Jesus Christ doing.”

And, so I have entered into a state of Nirvana with my work. Not a state of apathy or laziness, for I am working just as hard as ever, but my mindset has matured. There is all this stress put upon Elder Mecham and I because we have four solid investigators that come to church weekly, have read the majority of the Book of Mormon, live the commandments and believe, and yet none of them have baptismal dates. There has been a push in the mission to get baptismal dates and so everyone is expecting them to have them. For the longest time I was going right along with it. I was stressing and trying every angle I knew how to get dates on them because I was expected to….but then I found my mission Nirvana. My realisation that this isn’t about me, and I do not control the speed of the Lord. I know all four can and will be baptised, but they do not get baptised when I say they do. They get baptised when they are ready. I may think they are ready but I am not God. Once I eliminated my desire to get a baptismal date on them and just served them for the sincere love of them, taught them because I love them, then, now, I find true conversion is taking place. I am a much better teacher and missionary for them when I am just serving them, with no ambition behind my actions. Competition is the soul of Pride, pride is the opposite of Humility and Humility is required for all Christlike attributes and the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost is required for conversion. When you subtract competition from the work, you find the REAL work. So, maybe they are not going to be baptised next week, but when they are baptised, which the spirit has testified to me that they will, they will be baptisms that will be worth more than anything I could ever create on my own. We need to be baptising eternal converts, not baptising numbers. Eternal converts require love, patience and every once of your soul. 

I’m not really sure how my rant ended here, but that is just what spilled out on this keyboard. Hope you got something from it.

Much love from snowy, freezing Göteborg,

Äldste Scott 

 

 

 

A Rather Short Letter (but lots of photos)

IMG_2252I am awfully afraid. You see, transfer calls come out this upcoming Saturday and never before have I wanted so very much to stay exactly where I am. I dread the prospect of possibly having to transfer from Göteborg. In the past 12 weeks, this city has become a piece of my soul.  I am in love with the people of this city, the loving members of this ward, every beautiful old building and park and cafe and spårvagn and just all of it. I have a wonderful companion. We have the perfect balance of fun and hard work, making the work enjoyable and productive. We found so many new wonderful investigators who I love and do not want to leave.

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Haga- old town Gothenburg

This Sunday at church, there were a total of eight investigators in our ward. It was craziness juggling all of them; a good type of craziness. The work here is just so fantastic. It’s hard…heartbreaking at times, but at the end of the day, absolutely unforgettable.

IMG_2260Snow has blanketed this city, making it look just like Christmas even though Christmas is past and we did not even have snow on Christmas. Göteborg looks most ravishing in the snow, making it all the more harder to leave. So, let us hope with all the hope in me that I can stay. The rest of Sweden is wonderful and all that, but Göteborg is where my heart will always be.

Much love,
Äldste Scott

Photos from the week:

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O Holy Night
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Top of a hill
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That bulging river

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Photos and a story from people met on the streets of Gothenburg:

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A 14 year old refugee:

My Father was head of police in our town in Afghanistan. Very good smart man. He also was a doctor. I could not go outside without two bodyguards. Then the Taliban put a bomb in our house and we ran. I lost my family. We were a very happy family. My father never shouted and he loved all of us. In Turkey I was alone so I got on a boat over to Greece…then Greece said the boat could not land so I jumped over and swam. I could not see the shore when I started swimming but after an hour I swam to the shore. They sent me here to Sweden. They won’t let me leave because I am only fourteen. I have a brother in Dubai who wants to have me live with him. I’d like that. He is my family. I’m going to learn Swedish every day and then become a doctor like my father and help people like my father did.”

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“I’m going to be an actor, like Marlon Brando. He’s my hero. I want to be the next Marlon Brando.

A Bonus Letter from Erik:

Because last Friday was New Year’s Day, and today is his Prep day (day off) he is able to write another letter for the blog. Enjoy! I love this one especially.  ~ Erik’s mom

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Eating Taiwanese food made by a member of the church from Taiwan/

This Sunday, the five investigators at church came from Vietnam, Bolivia, Nigeria, Iran and China and as I sat amidst them, I was overcome with an overwhelming gratitude for my mission. Not just for the fact that I am serving a mission, but for my specific mission, the Sweden Stockholm mission where I have this wonderful opportunity to teach, serve and befriend people from literally everywhere. It is quite a unique mission in that sense. I am just so thankful past any description of emotion yet created in the English or Swedish language, for this eye opening, heart opening, life changing experience. I’ve met the most sincerely kindest people from the furthermost edges of Asia, to the heart of Africa, to the southern tip of South America. I have someone from nearly every single continent as a close friend.

I want to dedicate the rest of my life seeing this world and meeting it’s lovely people. Humans are good. They genuinely are good. We can get hung up on the 5% who are evil, or the 25% that foolishly follow that 5%, or we can put that all aside and just appreciate the sheer light in the world. Why is it that humans are naturally good? It can’t simply come from nurturing and cultural expectation alone, because someone had to start being good in the first place to teach goodness to others. It has to be a transfusion of nurturing with our nature. Many people call it different things but I call it the light of Christ. I firmly believe that all of us has a fraction of Christ inside of us, an internal piece of his love and kindness that, when we allow our subconscious to be unhindered, gives us daily impressions to do good, to have charity, to have compassion, to serve others!  Sometimes, we fill our minds with trash that can cover up the portal of our inner light of Christ, but when we keep ourselves free from garbage, we have the potential to be disciples of Christ, in the sense of following his example of love, every single day.

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We change the messages weekly.
This is not a gift that is limited to any race, or social class or religion. You can be muslim, jewish, buddhist, christian, hindu, toaist, atheist, or any other belief under the beautiful moon, and have this inner desire to be like our Saviour, Jesus Christ, regardless of belief in him. The most sincerely selfless and giving collective group of people it has been my pleasure to fall in love with would have to be Persians. They will give you everything. Of course this is a stereotype, for there are plenty of ungenerous Persians, just as there might be  violent Buddhists and alcoholic mormons. But, as a generalization, these people are just good to the core.

It will be different when I have to return to predominately white America. Americans are wonderful, when they aren’t too loud, but cultural diversity is a fuel for your mind. When you are around too much of just one culture you are stagnant. When you learn and participate in many diverse cultures, you expand. We should not be all just one culture our entire lives; one viewpoint as it is like looking at the world through a key hole. We need to learn and absorb the gold from every culture. By doing this, our sight improves and eventually we can have a 360 degree view of the world.

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Sick day. 
Yes, there are flaws to every culture and every person but there also is something beautiful about every culture and nearly every person and something we can gain from them when we leave our hobbit holes and associate with the strange outside world. I can acquire the Swedish open mindedness and civil respect for others, the Persian generosity, the Syrian hospitality, the Ghanan unfailing optimism, the Jainist ahisma to improve my respect and care for all creatures of God’s creation, the Buddhist mindfulness to clearly look at life properly, and the Balkan devotion to family. All that is good comes from God. This is not limited to one religion or one group of people. This entire world has lessons to teach us and goodness to give. As we are open to absorb them, to let their lives touch us, step out of our safe suburbs and see the world beyond our cozy lives, we will be blessed.

The greatest example of love and goodness that ever lived was our older brother, the Saviour and redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ. As we follow him the best we can, we will find true everlasting peace and happiness….and just as I said earlier, there is a piece of him in all of us, so as we seek to find the Christ in others, learn from the goodness he has taught the world through inspiring others, from all four corners, our lives with be even further blessed and filled with more beautifully diverse colours than the canvas of our existence, should we remain closed to the world. I love my work here, I love all  those I serve with and get to serve.

Much much much love,
Erik

“All is quiet on New Year’s Day”

 

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So, I have been gone from the blog for an awfully long time now. Strange holiday scheduling and far more missionaries than computers has left me away for the last few weeks……but I do not mind for the holidays were unforgettable and even if there are way more missionaries than we have computers for they are all so wonderful and I would not want any of them not here.

So Christmas…… Here in Sweden, Christmas Eve is the biggest holiday of them all. The traditions are beautifully rich and we had the amazing opportunity of being able to spend it with our Bishop’s family.
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On the way en route to his house, we found an old drunk man with a paralyzed leg hobbling in the wild winter wind. He would walk a few feet and then fall over, get back up and try again only to fall again. It was a heartbreaking sight to see on Christmas eve. He was completely alone, with only a bottle of whisky to keep him company, stuck in a sort of wind vortex Bermuda Triangle  in the centre of the empty city.
IMG_2706[1].jpegWe proceeded to spend the good part of an hour parading him around central station on our arms to help him find a nonexistent train he was determined to take. The whole event was hilarious and at the same time heartbreaking. He was laughing, we were laughing, we were going in circles, carrying him like he just scored the winning goal, with an imaginary destination we all knew we could not find.  And yet, the moment my mind stole to what will become of him once we eventually set him down somewhere and left, was painfully frightening. As I was holding his arm, it felt as if all I was holding was his bone, with no flesh… He could hardly speak, certainly could not walk, and was not in any mental state to keep himself physically safe. What a terrible Christmas for him to have.
We eventually dropped him of with some station workers to hopefully attend to his safety and went on our way, but he stayed in my mind. How many souls would be out on the streets of Göteborg, and indeed anywhere on this earth, cold, starving, on the brink of death, with no family to embrace them, no warm house to sit in and enjoy the Christmas eve coziness. The story of the little match girl, by Hans Christen Andersen, the wonderful Danish author, enveloped my Christmas Eve. Even though Christmas is over,  please read the story. Next Christmas,  I want to do a little more to make sure others are having a happy Christmas. I think that would increase the value of the holiday.
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Anyhow, after this train of thought, we made it to Bishop Angelini’s home for Christmas eve. It was unforgettable. They are such a loving family having such a traditional Swedish Christmas made it a beautiful Christmas eve…. Our bishop even pulled out his guitar and performed some songs from his days as a lead singer in a 1980s French rock band. (yes, we do have the coolest bishop) The next several days were just a blur of our wonderful members of this ward having us over to watch Disney movies. (and we were able to watch It’s a Wonderful Life so that made me very happy) This really is a particularly loving ward. I scored lucky. as they are tight knit and generous. I got several Christmas presents from members this year! Not just dollar tree gifts, but really thoughtful gifts. Shirts and socks and pieces of Sweden.  I really have the greatest ward right here in Göteborg and I never want to transfer from it.
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And then I got terribly sick, as in throwing up my lefse and still kind of sick. For the first time in my entire mission, I had to take a day off and stay home. It felt weird in the sort of way I do not like, having to sit around and just watch The Testaments and read. Something is very off when you aren’t out working as a missionary. But at last my vomiting ceased and now I am able to be out working with a new energy for the new year!

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By the way, if you want to have a quality New year’s eve, spend it in Sweden. They do not have lame firework laws like back home so literally ever Swede and their husky shoots off full fledged aerial fireworks at midnight and the entire city is a 360 degree firework display for miles and miles and miles. We were able to spend New Years Eve with the Måttsson family and six missionaries with the funnest members this side of eternity  from 7:00 till midnight which was unforgettably fun.

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Anyhow, it is a new year believe it or not and as cliche as new year’s resolutions are, there is a mountain load of things for me to work on that I hope to improve in the upcoming 2016. This transfer for assigned topics to teach in district meetings is Christlike attributes. I love it sooo much. I get to teach about love and Charity and Faith and humility and Obedience and it is just the greatest month of topics yet.  My resolution is to dedicate this year (and my life, but to put extra focus now) into improving my self with Christlike attributes. Everyone needs to hold me accountable, okay? If I return home this fall the same little punk I was when I went to Sweden, slap me thrice across my face and send me right back on the plane until I improve.
Much love,
Erik 

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