Lessons from the street

IMG_1657This week started with an escape for the crazy, wild, busy world by running off to the beautiful archipelago just outside of the city. It was the perfect stress relief, as natural beauty always is. The ferry ride and hiking among the rocks needed to be soundtracked by Jose Gonzalez, which would’ve fit most perfectly seeing as he is a native to Göteborg. After the fresh breath of lovely Sweden, the sort of Sweden you see in coffee table books, we returned to missionary life to find that we were called on a special mission; to set up a brand new apartment from scratch. So three days of proselyting were spent entirely on creating a most fine apartment….my pride and joy which I pledge to keep spotlessly clean for the whole week that I probably stay in it until I transfer again.

IMG_1653The remainder of the week was mostly out on the streets talking to lovely people seeing as we have experienced a hard blow of investigators fading away for one heartbreaking reason or another. With all the time talking to people on the street, I started pondering on why so many will deny God and declare that the Book of Mormon is false but absolutely decline reading it to see for themselves. I suppose it is quite simply that it is much easier to deny something in ignorance. If furthering knowledge is offered, they do not want to make the changes required if the book may in fact be true.IMG_1659

You see, there is a certain power in ignorance. One man can lead many men to do the most monstrous of deeds with the cunning trick of ignorance. This principle has been applied time and time again through the bloody history of humanity. Ignorance hides sins from our own eyes. Often we can even knowledgeably choose to remain ignorant, knowing in ignorance we can do what moral awareness would disallow our conscience to do. Choosing what is morally right rarely is the most desirable action in the thick of it. The adversary has a habit of writing up a long list of all the benefits of the world we would be sacrificing for helping others- all the comforts we may lose. Charity is the pure love of Christ. Quality charity involves sacrifice.IMG_1662

Many say the Book of Mormon is a false book of rubbish, but have never bothered to actually read it for themselves- for ignorance is a safety they can hide behind. It is far easier to deny truth when you ensure that you never learn it. and so humanity keeps pressing on, choosing not to read the Book of Mormon so they will never have to bother deciding whether it is true or not, choosing not to learn about the world’s sufferings so they can continue ignoring them in peaceful decadence, choosing not to know the personal lives and hearts of the poor and inflicted so they can continue turning them away. IMG_1658

On a lighter note,  we are teaching a professional golfer now. Oscar Floren. Google him. He played against BYU golfers when he was in University in the US so was interested in learning about our church when we contacted him on the street. We’ve been teaching him this week and he just a wonderful, down to earth, humble guy, despite being a European champion golfer.

 

Free Agency

 

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Reunited with his old companion. 

This week was a tough one to be perfectly honest. Heartbreaking family tragedies happened in the lives of some of our dear investigators. Other investigators, after feeling the spirit strongly and having once had a desire, have decided to take another path, and Mohammed, who is supposed to be baptised in two weeks has fallen off the face of the earth. We are pretty certain his phone broke. It was a week of hard blows and little fruit but you need those weeks on the mission. It is these type of weeks that make the good ones extra sweet. We must have sorrow to know joy. The human soul is much like our muscles. It needs to experience pain and a little bit of tearing to be strengthened. But, anytime I compare my trials with the refiners fire of the early saints, the trials of Job, or the afflictions of countless others, I suppose my hardships are simply old granny shake weights that you take speed walking compared to the heavy weight bench presses those before me have lifted….. but regardless of how great or small your sorrows are, they build you and make you a better person.

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I do not have a single answer to why certain trials are handed to certain people, and other seem to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but I do know we have a loving and just God and all is meted out with equal blessings in the vision of eternity. It is hard to come to terms with the unfairness of the world. In the month of January alone, an average of three Syrian refugee children washed up dead on the shores of Greece a week. That breaks my heart to bits and pieces. I know Syrian children. I’ve played with Syrian children; played barefoot soccer with them in the slowly setting Swedish sunlit summer with a doozen of them grabbing onto my legs. I’ve taught their parents. and yet we can apathetically stand by as their corpses line the coasts because we value a dozen other trivial things over human life. Why? How can we possibly sit by and let this happen? The worth of every soul is great in the sight of God. I’m not here on earth to be comfortable. I’m here to serve God and my fellow man.

 

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Well, I’ll never see this Hawaiian again. It is quite a shame when missionaries go home. Mother Wendy is leaving us hopeless Lost Boys.  

Of course, the world does not see eye to eye with my view, and I do not expect them to, but  I serve the burning feeling inside me that aches to see them suffer. I serve Christ and his teachings. Politics, economy and the frivolous greed of man stands of little importance for me beside the sufferings of our siblings. Our freedom and comfort comes at that  price. Legions have fallen and refugees die at the foot of our iron curtains so we can continue on consuming our luxuries, so we can continue on living for ourselves. I’m thankful to my Heavenly Father for providing me with my mission to teach me what the gospel truly means, what love  is and what really matters. I wish I could wash away all the world’s sorrow….but that would involve taking away another’s free agency. The same free agency to do evil,  uncharitable, to take another’s life, or to let another’s life be taken, is the same free agency that allows us to do good, to be a selfless and charitable, and save another’s life. So,  instead of dwelling on those who misuse their free agency, we must exercise our free agency to combat theirs with goodness.

Love,

Erik

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Why we all ought to be Hufflepuffs

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Teaching  an investigator.

Well,  Anna, who I talked about last week, referred her friend to us, Mohammed.(and wow!) Never have I met an eighteen year old boy so spiritually in tune and mature. Mohammed is from Bosaso, Somalia and has been looking for the truth his entire life. He is the sort of person who is just naturally good. You can see his soul. It isn’t hidden under layers of worldly debris. It is right there in his eyes. He has had a life with more tragedies and hardships than I could ever empathise with, and yet, despite the miles he has walked, the suffering he has experienced, he is such a good human being; the definition of pure in heart.

The first time we met with him was at a lesson with Anna. We gave him the Book of Mormon and that night he read it for hours without stopping. He could not put it down. He was filled with a light and warmth he never knew could be felt. He has grown up with zero knowledge of Christian beliefs so we are starting with the absolute basics, and he just drinks it all up. He wants to be baptised on the 27th of this month and he has a lot to learn before then, but he can. He is sincere. He is addicted to praying. He cries in every lesson. He bears testimony of every principle we teach him. Honestly, he just fell in our lap….which got me thinking; how is this fair? There have been weeks I worked until I was grounded down to a stubble and could not find a single soul interested in our message, while this week we had four new investigators just come to us. Yes, we worked hard, but I know there are missionaries who are working just as hard and not getting the same miracles. My flaw in this questioning of God’s dealings with his missionaries is misunderstanding on the word success. We humans see success in the physical world, seeing as we can only comprehend physical things. We weigh success in numbers and positive reactions from others to our actions. “What fools these mortals be!”

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At my favorite Botanical Garden

Success in the eyes of God is not measured in statistics and appraisal. If that was the case, I am positive Jesus would not have been born in a stable, raised by a carpenter and proselyted for the most part in the small town of Galilee. I suppose the simplest way to explain it is we need to measure our worth as Hufflepuffs, not Slytherins.  (Harry Potter reference) You see, Hufflepuffs were not the top in the school simply because they valued more important things than world glory. They valued Kindness, Friendship, Humility far more than Ambition, Praise and Success of the world. Of course, there are plenty of Hufflepuffs who are very successful. The Tri-Wizard tournament was a tie between a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff. But, the difference is a Hufflepuff is driven to their success by far nobler and gospel centred means than self. It is fine to be a Slytherin as long as you do all you can to adopt this simple prospective from Hufflepuffs; measure value by something more than you can hold. C.S. Lewis, as always, put it perfectly when he simply said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

If, as a missionary, you view success as number of lessons taught, number of people contacted, number of baptisms, you will find it most frustrating when work ethic and desired numbers do not always correlate; for the most part they do. Most often hard work produces desired results but it is possible to work your heart out, to be the best missionary ever, and not find a single soul open to the gospel for months on end. Likewise, you can be lazy and disobedient and apathetic and have someone come to you and get baptised because they were ready for it, despite your inability to give your full self.

Ambition is a very dangerous word, the sort that can be good in the smallest, most contained of spaces. It is essential to bring good things, but one drop too much and you are falling into the perilous chasm of selfishness and pride. It is possible to do good things for the wrong reasons, you know. As Russell M. Nelson once said, “Some well-meaning Saints even do the right things for the wrong reasons, if they narrowly centre on the percentages they report rather than the precious people they save.” So, where ought we to find measure our success? I believe we can measure it by how we are growing in our Christlike attributes. A mastering of those is what makes a good missionary. One can work super hard, but your work can only be reckless shotgun fire if you lack love and charity. One can be the greatest people person ever, making everyone feel like they are worth the universe, but be rubbish at actually going out and working diligently.

IMG_1590The attributes given in Preach My Gospel are 1. Faith in Jesus Christ 2. Hope 3. Charity and Love  4. Virtue 5. Knowledge 6. Patience 7.Humility 8. Diligence 9. Obedience.  Growth in these nine attributes is the proper measurement of your success, not just one or two of them alone. We do not get to pick and choose which ones fit you from the smörgåsbord. We need to develop all of them, and that is success… that is the Hufflepuff view, the Christlike view…I could do with being a little more Hufflepuff. A little more Christlike. There are plenty of pros to being a Gryffindor but loads of cons as well. By the end of my life, I hope to have become a Hufflepuff. We should all want to be Hufflepuffs as J.K. Rowling said herself, and yes, Harry Potter does relate to the gospel very well.

Things here in Göteborg are just grand. I love this city. We have eight solid investigators that keep us very busy, several making their way towards baptism, hopefully a baptism in a few weeks, and most importantly, hopefully some growth in Christlike attributes.

Love you all to bits and pieces,

Erik

The beauty of Individuality and the worth of each individual‏

IMG_1386Through the course of this week, a series of miracles came from our last three months of labour and new investigators just started springing up out of the manholes. It was most lovely, and most busy and I could talk about it for eons but in the last several months I have become more and more weary of just updating on the physical actions of the week and so I will not go into too much depth and all I did but rather focus on something I learned this week: The beauty of our individuality.

Each and every one of us is a separate soul and a scripted lesson on the restoration of the Gospel will not fully help each person truly find Christ. We all find Christ in our own way. This week,  we went off the beaten path with one of our Investigators, Anna. With Anna, things have always been very tailored and not so generic. She believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and this Church to be the true church of Jesus Christ, but the step to baptism has been hindered by a series of obstacles that initially were hidden from our view. If we just taught as robots we would never of reached down to the core and she would’ve fallen by the wayside as we abound on our valueless quest for key indicators.

So. this Thursday, instead of teaching another lesson to check off on our teaching record, we asked her what she wanted us to prepare for to teach her. I sincerely believe that every investigator deserves at least one lesson put aside just to attend to their needs; just for them. Just an hour where nothing else exists in the universe but them and their needs.

IMG_1389Anna asked us to prepare a lesson on how we can find self worth……and oh what a gift that was to be able to study. We cannot really comprehend just how great worth a soul is in the sight of God. Why are we so great? You see, you are a son/daughter of our Heavenly Father. We say that, but does that really mean? It means you are an heir to his kingdom and are his precious child who he loves PERSONALLY. You mean the universe to Him. He created you in his own image. Not in the image of some lower life form, literally in his own image. Our flesh is but mortal but one day it will be raised immortal. This will be possible because Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, conquered both physical and spiritual death through the Atonement. If ever you question your worth, I invite you to study the Atonement a little deeper. Understanding the Atonement, even a sliver of it, destroys all doubt of self worth.  You see, as mortals we are mentally confined to the concept of earthly time and cannot comprehend God’s ability to give infinite attention to us all at the same time.

The Atonement is very personal. Perhaps the most personal act ever performed on the earth. As C.S. Lewis said “God has infinite attention to spare for each of us. He does not have to deal with us in mass. You are just as much alone with him as if you were the only being he had created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man or woman in the world.” Just think of that. Ponder that. Christ took on every pain, sorrow, sickness, heartbreak and despair that you have ever and will ever feel. He took on all of it, as it is, without a filter of modification. Not a single drop was spilt over. He took on all of you. For you. In this moment, disregard the rest of humanity and just think of Jesus Christ and you in the garden. Not another soul in the expanse of space. Now tell me you are of no worth. Why would Jesus Christ atone for you, unless you meant everything to him? Unless you were of infinite worth? He loves you more than you can ever find words, knowing how precious you are and how great you will become. The ultimate sacrifice was for you, because Jesus loves you,because he believes in you. and he is asking for you to believe in yourself.

IMG_1400But perhaps you may say “okay that shows I am of worth but I still can’t see what about me makes me of worth.” Being made in God’s own image is not limited to mere physical appearance. You posses attributes of your Heavenly Father. You possess gifts form God. Just like how you may share your mortal mother and mortal father’s personality traits, you share traits gifts and talents with your heavenly parents. You share traits gifts and talents with your elder Brother, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ atoned for you, Heavenly Father gave Jesus Christ for you, created you and has given you heavenly gifts. As we search with faith, hold on with hope and give ourselves to others in love and Charity, we will find the gifts *God has given us. Sometimes, we have covered them up accidentally with the debris of the world but the atonement is here for us to sweep the dust and dry leaves away so can see the gifts God has given us. There is something beautiful in serving others that heals our souls better than any other means I know. We discover one of our gifts, a gift God gives to everyone if we but exercise our faith into action-  and Charity. All can have this gift. It is the greatest of all attributes. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels and have not Charity I am become as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and though I have faith, so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)

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Not sure how I got on that rant but my purpose of the letter was to express the importance of teaching people, not lessons. So I guess I should finish the story. We taught Anna, this personalised lesson. We poured our souls into it, and we discovered, through this lesson, that what was holding her back was feeling like she was unworthy of God, of forgiveness and of baptism. Oh it just breaks your heart when people believe that. It is one of the cruelest lies ever spread on this earth. We all are of infinite worth to God, are always worthy of forgiveness through proper repentance, because the love God and Jesus Christ possess is infinite.

So, the next lesson we dedicated to the story of Alma the younger and his redemption from the vile sinner to one of the greatest prophets to ever walk the planet. It was through the atonement he went from the lowest of sinners to the highest of saints. And that was not all, he forgave himself. He was filled with joy greater than his guilt.  “oh what joy and what marvelous light I did behold, yes, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as my pain!” (Alma 36:20)

The lesson was not from us, nor the member present, nor from Anna. The lesson was from the spirit, and it taught all of us. That night, Anna sent us the sweetest text message that meant the world to us. Nothing felt better than receiving her text, in her wonderful broken English, thanked us for the lesson and sharing her lovely testimony.

I now believe in teaching to the needs of the investigator, even if that means taking a road less traveled to meet them and their needs.

Anyhow, apologies for the long winded letter.

much love,

Äldste Scott