HOPE

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Easter is the prelude to spring, the bringer of new life, new light and new colour into the frozen landscape of Sweden. Everything about these first few timid weeks of long awaited Spring correlates all back to HOPE. and Birth. The flowers bloom anew, the leaves bud, the birds hatch and the lambs are born……. It is as if nature itself is teaching us the message of Easter. What C.S. Lewis taught us with the witch’s curse of winter being broken by the warm sunlight of Aslan’s return (from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)– All of this story is symbolic of the April morning almost 2000 years ago when Christ arose from the tomb, not only being resurrected for himself but promising us all resurrection, both of body and soul, if we follow Him. It was the greatest moment of human history and not only changed the Western world with the birth of Christianity, but changed our spiritual existence, allowing our souls to be saved and reborn through the miracle of Christ’s atonement. The greatest and most promising hope in the universe.

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On splits with Aldste Harrison.

Being Easter week, we have asked many on the street what they hope for. To the agnostic mind, it seems with the dark state of the world today, there is very little to have hope in. Another bomb was set off by ISIS this week in Brussels, sending Europe, including Sweden, into a state of frenzied fear. Hope is a fool’s mind trick according to some…..and honestly, I do not blame their pessimistic view of humanity in the slightest. Without the gospel, I would see very little light in this world myself. The good hearted Swedes can list off what is wrong with the world very easily. ISIS, Donald Trump, EU disintegration, economic catastrophes, suffering Syrian refugees, Donald Trump, increasing neo-nazis movement in Sweden, some more Donald Trump, and world poverty, to list a few of the answers given on the street.

So, what is there to hope for? Why are we not downhearted by the slings and arrows of the world? It isn’t that we possess any strong state of apathy. for the world sorrows do pain us and break our hearts and harrow us deep……..but it is HOPE that lifts us from the fall. It is HOPE that raises us from the dusty floor of bitterness and pain and fills our lungs with the energising light to stand up and start making the world a better, happier, more loving place, one person at a time. Hope in what? Hope for “a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4)

It is hope upon our faith that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that He loves each and every one of us personally and will make all right in the end. Life is hard, life is dark, evil is out there and big and scary, but oh so temporary. It is hard to see from this end of the tunnel…..but this darkness is but a short while, which we will look back on as but a sliver in comparison to the light we will receive on the other end. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of the terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the HOPE…” (1 Peter 3:14-15)  “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God….” (1 Peter 3:17-18) .

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a new friend 

This gospel gives us the beautiful gift of perspective. Yes- life is hard. Bad things happen to good people, the Devil is tearing the world apart……..but we know the ending to this story. When it would seem all hope is lost, when we will feel hopeless and outnumbered and facing the jaws of darkness….when all seems over……we know plot twist. We’ve read the story. You can read it in the Bible. You can also read it in The Lord of the Rings, so you know.  When King Theodin and the remaining riders of Rohan, worn, injured, hopeless, holding back the pounding force of their adversaries, Theodin asks “What can man do against such reckless hate?” The truth. Nothing. They literally had no feasible way of survival with the number of men and resources they had. We alone are powerless against the darkness, but we are not alone. Rohan was promised that Gandalf the White would return with the rising of the sun joined with the banished riders of Rohan to come to the rescue. What Theodin needed to do was hold onto that hope, have faith in the rising sun, and not forfeit. And so, with the power of HOPE the last of the little band of brothers rode out into the engulfing sea of evil at the rising of the sun. They were embarking into certain death if the reinforcements did not come…. but they would rather die holding on to HOPE than forfeit to evil. And upon the eastern hill with the sunrise came, most symbolically, Gandalf the White, the literally resurrected being, with his enumerable hosts of soldiers.

Had Theodin given up he would of perished in the siege mere minutes before the aid came to save the day…but because he held onto HOPE and ACTED on his hope he lived to see evil conquered by Gandalf the White and his army.

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Getting the chance to see his old, dear companion, Elder Burton.

We must be as Theodin. Theodin was not a perfect man. He had his sins. He was under the spell of Sauruman until Gandalf the White cleansed him (more symbolism) and even after his repentance he made more follies, such as not heeding Aragorn’s council and seeking refuge in Helm’s deep, because of his pride and confidence in the power of man. But, despite Theodin’s imperfections he in the end corrected his mistakes and held to hope in the sunrise. We cannot lose hope and let the enemy break down the doors of our fortress and devour us. We need to hold on to the last minute we can, when all seems lost, and then act on our HOPE….ride out into  the overwhelming darkness with faith that Christ and his army will come with the sunrise, destroying all evil and setting all right. Patience is needed….and no small measure of bravery….but blessings are promised. Our battle is but a small affliction in comparison to the battle Christ went through for us already.

This point was illustrated wonderfully for me this week when, while taking morning studies out on a frozen lake. I took a step too close to the unfrozen river and fell through the ice into the seemingly bottomless lake. I must sheepishly admit that I loved the sensation…. It was a delightful thrill of adventure I was in much need of……but the sensation afterwards of the long walk home was not so pleasant. I was completely drenched, which fast was fading feeling completely frozen solid. My companion for the day, Elder Harrison, my district leader, complained about getting a bit of water in his shoe and I just looked at him, inquiring how he could possibly be complaining about a little water in his shoe when I was soaked to the bone in frozen lake water…….then I realised how often that is us. We complain and cry and curse God for the little bit of water in our shoe disregarding the fact that Christ was fully immersed in the frozen lake for us….the difference between He and I being that He is far more patient with our complaining than I would be.

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Too much Easter candy.

HOPE became a brightly beaming theme of my week. HOPE that we can find the prepared in our hours of street contacting and door knocking. HOPE that we can help bless someone’s life. HOPE that I am doing the right thing the right way. HOPE powered me through the week, and it will power me through the next and the next, and onward till eternal life I expect.

Really, Dalarna, in it’s silent wild beauty has taught me the WHY to missionary work. It was so easy to be a missionary in Göteborg; so so very easy. It came with loads of bonuses. Friendships were formed, social events were always happening, places were always to be seen, people were always out to be talked to, the city was always alive and happy and you always could count on the dozen other missionaries and the dozens of YSA buddies to cheer you up and keep you laughing through the months of west coast mild winter…. The work was great, but in it’s temporal pleasure bonuses, did not have it’s full meaning. I needed to serve somewhere with no YSA, no peers to befriend, no social gatherings to attend, no other missionaries but my companion to talk to, no soul out on the street after 5 pm, essentially nothing but my companion, the Lord, the work and I to teach me the WHY. Because when you take out all the joy of Göteborg city life, and strip it down to simply the work and nothing else, you see if you are really here to serve or not. The WHY is LOVE. Love and Hope. It is LOVE for your God, your Saviour, your Gospel, and THE PEOPLE and HOPE for them that should be the real reason for your labour each day. The bonuses that came in other areas were nice but I needed an area with no bonuses, no alluring trophies of self ambition, no friends, no anything but the work, to give me the needed perspective for my work. Friends will fade and trophies will rust and ambition will lead you into the deathly snare of pride but LOVE AND HOPE will be the eternal fire to keep you burning for the whole two years, and the whole of eternity.

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Meeting old missionary friends from the Goteborg district at a conference.

It is when you do not get anything tangible out of the work that you see the real reason why you work. and if you love God, truly, you will give your everything every single day, in the times with the bonus joys or, more importantly, in the times without. Because John said it perfectly in the simplest of statements: “And this commandment we have from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)

I love Dalarna, and I am thankful for this lack of success to humble me and give me proper perspective. If I never had these times I’d return from my mission with an inflated ego, having learned nothing really of the gospel.

Much love and peace,

Äldste Erik Scott

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A Truly Short Letter

borlange 1First and foremost; one standard truth about missionary work; The key indicator numbers do not match up with the quality of work in an area. There have been times on my mission where my numbers were much lower than they are now but the quality of the work was far greater. Essentially you achieve high numbers when you do not have anything of real value to do, because you spend the entirety of your time out on the streets trying to find people. That is how it has been. You make the mission leaders happy but you feel empty inside because you aren’t really making a difference in anyone’s life. That lesson was evident this week. Numbers are hollow. They are not enough to drive a mission. They are not enough to keep me going. I need more. So much more than numbers. For REAL missionary work is not seen in numbers to be written or trophies to be held, but in the lives you help change and the heart you pour out. I’d rather be but a grain of difference in one person’s life than contact and teach a thousand street lessons for people who would really appreciate it if I stop talking and let them go on with their tranquil apartment to work back to apartment lives. borlange 4

But all that should change. The snow has melted, and there are rumours of Aslan in the east. Narnia is going to be freed from the Witch’s spell and with it we will find the prepared.
In the mean time there really is not much to report apart from we are working hard, hoping hard, and falling in love with the spirit that is alive in the scenery of Dalarna.
This is probably my shortest letter but it is a letter nonetheless and proof that I am alive and well and in good health and happy.
Much love and peace and peace and love,
Elder Scott
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Dalalalalalalalalalalalalarna

IMG_1904I wish I could capture Dalarna into words for you, or into a photograph, or anything. But I can’t. Dalarna is the Northern Eden. It is the heart of Sweden. The Brigadoon of Scandinavia….. it is a portal back into time to the time when time really did not matter. You feel a level of inexpressible peace on the edge of the Dalarna wilderness. It has the sort of spiritual energy I have only ever experienced before in solitude on the mist swept ridge of mount Snowdon the summer before my mission and on those late summer evenings in the forest behind my house, when the sunlight would illuminate the fairy-like insects in pillars of light through the trees.IMG_1903

Unfortunately, here I cannot  sit and soak in the peace, and I cannot venture further into it. There are ties to the world of humanity that hold me back on the pavement and prevent me from stepping into the wild. It call me every single day and it takes every fiber of my being in constant concentration to keep my feet from running into the forest. I’ve decided- Dalarna is Narnia. It is miles and miles of savage snow clad forests- forest with souls in every tree and animals that talk and it is always winter but never Christmas. This upcoming week I predict the White Witch’s spell will break and Aslan will return in the roaring sunlight of much needed Swedish spring. Dalarna has the Narnian magic to it and so often I feel like Prince Caspian, living in the world of men, being beckoned to enter the wild woods of Lantern waste— who knows, maybe I’ll baptise a couple of Dwarves and a Badger in there.IMG_2312

Needless to say I can write hundreds of love letters to Göteborg and write hundreds of sonnets to the natural beauties of Dalarna. As Göteborg works perfectly to the soundtrack of Göteborg native Jose Gonzalez, Dalarna works perfectly to the soundtrack of Dalarna native The Tallest Man on Earth. Of course, I cannot listen to either of them on my mission but every wild forest, frozen lake and gentle hill brings his songs to my memory. He really wrote out his native landscape….a piece of his music I never appreciated until I came to his home wilderness. IMG_2315

Dalarna is a sacred place. The nature here hits you at a spiritual level………..and the worst part of this area: I am surrounded by ski resorts. I am serving in a ski town. Everywhere I look, I see ski hills. We have a T-bar bunny hill a five minute walk from our apartment and a full fledged ski resort a short bus ride away. My dreams have become mostly skiing.
IMG_1902 To combat the constant temptation, we have knocked on doors and talked to every single person on the street frantically. We are determined to find the prepared. As of now, not much has come from our efforts apart from high yet HOLLOW key indicator numbers and blisters but if there was anything I learned in my first area, Karlstad, which is just like here, it is that the Lord sends you the prepared only after you put in your faith and work through the rejection. We are being tested. We are being pummeled to be perfectly honest. We work nonstop every day, and the fruits of our labour seem to be nonexistent……but this means good things are coming. It has to be a very big blessing around the corner for us to receive this much misfortune.
“The blue skies are coming.
and I know that it is hard.”
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Lovely Dalarna

IMG_1875This week, to be perfectly honest, was a hard change. My heart absolutely did not want to leave Göteborg at all.  My soul had settled into those streets so very comfortably, but change must always come. and we must embrace it. So, I had to cut the ties and jump the tracks, never to return…. and so on my birthday (thank you everyone for the birthday wishes!) I boarded a train heading north.

IMG_1877Sweden is so beautiful in the most subtle way. It does not try to dazzle you with high peaks or grand vistas, it just simply is beautiful. Of course, coming from the Northwest my ideal beauty is the mountains. The Cascades, Scotland, Norway…. but Sweden, in it’s subtlety, gets into you. Your jaw does not drop, and the essence of it’s beauty cannot be captured properly by any camera, but still you cannot get over it’s scenery; subtle and consistent. You can pass mile after mile of what seems to be the same exact red farm houses with white lining capped with snow on the edge of what you can very well believe to be a cloned forest speckled with thousands of frozen lakes. For hours the scenery outside is impressively the same…..not to be confused with the consistent stretch of nothingness that is the drive through southern Idaho.

The conclusion; Swedes are hobbits. Well, the traditional Swede that is. There are plenty of Baggins and Tooks in the lot, but so many of the elder generation particularly are hobbits, living their pleasant hobbit lives in their pleasant hobbit countryside, with their identical red painted farms stuffed with amateur oil paintings of reindeer and antique books of nature poetry by some old bearded Swedish hobbit who lived in practically the same oil painting and antique book stuffed house 100 years ago in the next valley over, which is essentially the same as every other valley for a hundred miles round, full of pretty much the same peaceful old farmer hobbits with their oil paintings and antique books and red houses with white lining. They do not need mountains. They do not need grand vistas. They just need their wild blueberries to pluck in the summer, their pears to pick in the autumn, their semlas to bake in the winter, and their potatoes to plant in the spring. They have gone hundreds of years undisturbed by the wars of the world, the newest fads and inventions, simply and happily living their hobbit lives in their hobbit countryside while the world of men keeps on changing and fighting beyond their safety bubble of forests and lakes. This is the heart of Sweden. This is Dalarna….my new area.

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Erik’s goodbye Birthday dinner at the ward missionary leader in  Goteborg.

I spent the last 4 and a half months in the wonderful, exciting, bustling city where the Swedes are living the IKEA dream, going on vacation to Thailand for 4 months at a time, volunteering for some humanitarian organisation, actively saving the environment, getting yet another University degree because why not, all the while taking sips of their fairtrade coffee as they bike frantically to their alternatively decorated offices. In short, I’m now where the city Swedes go to visit their dear old grandparents for some rhubarb pie and a step back into 1963…. and I love it. I love both Swedens. The Sweden of today and the Sweden of yesterday. Dalarna is a piece of the past……and it also is filled with loads and loads of refugees! I just love Syrians. You knock on their door and the let you in instantly and would give you every worldly possession they own if you asked because they never ever ever think of themselves. They have gone through so much and yet are such good humans down to the core.

The work here is on an upward slope.  We have found some lovely investigators. One in particular has left an impression on my soul. Robert. This is how one would describe Robert- Imagine 1990s Robbie Williams having never cleaned up his act. He looks like Robbie Williams, tattoos and all, he lives in a small bare apartment all alone, and he has had the roughest life. Borlänge is a mill town with not much going for it apart from natural beauty so it is rather like Kurt Kobain’s Aberdeen Washington in general atmosphere, and Robert is your classic product of such a town; rough childhood, very anti-religion father,  been through all the drugs, and prison, and left with nothing but hope. His life has been very dark but he has grasped onto hope, and that hope is developing into faith, and so faith will grow to knowledge and love and charity and the gospel of Jesus Christ will work upon him to change him into a happy, light filled saint. This is what the gospel does. This is why I am here. I am so happy to be here for this purpose. He believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.  Joseph Smith to be a true prophet and this church to be the one true church….and he wants to be baptised, and will be…………in June. . It will be a long path to get him there, with a lot of addictions to overcome and past barriers to overcome, but I know he can do it. I believe in him.  He smiled at the end of our last lesson with him and for the smallest fraction of a second, his inner light of Christ shone through. I love this work for people like Robert. At first, I was honestly depressed about having to leave Göteborg, but that was all selfishness. I am supposed to be here for the people here, like Robert. Not sure what exactly I am supposed to do, but we will see when the time comes.IMG_1869

Oh and yes, it should be mentioned I have a new companion -Elder Barnes. I am greenie breaking for the third time in a row since training, and he is wonderful. He is a musical genius and we get along perfectly well.
That is all from the heart of Sweden, where the grandmas are plenty and the forests are endless.
Peace and Love,
Äldste Scott

More Goodbye Photos from Goteborg:

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Goodbye to Göteborg and on to Borlänge:

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The fellowship is separated after three transfers.

The day came. The day of the transfer call. and alas, I must leave this beautiful city and move to Borlänge. Most of you have no idea where that is. It is the heart of Sweden, the old Sweden of days long gone. It is Dalarna land, the home of the dala horse, and where Carl Larson painted is lovely landscapes. I will be returning back to branch work, in solitary confinement, hours from the nearest missionaries, just like my greenie days all over again. And I love that. It is time to take the politics and social complexities of leadership and city work and place them in my suitcase for safe keeping and just take a breath of the wild Swedish air and get lost in the work. But, before I go let me write my love letter to Göteborg.

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My wonderful investigator, Cuong.

This week offered some cold winter sunshine. When the sun appears, on it’s rare visit to Göteborg in the winter, the Swedes stop everything they are doing and just soak the weak rays in. On one certain sunny day, we walked across just about the entire main city. and then…..oh my…..with phone battery dead and no cameras of course….. we took a ferry across to Eriksberg, the new part of town on the island of Hisingen. After some work there, we rode a ferry back to the city as the sun was going down under the Älvsborgbron bridge, illuminating the steeples of the city with golden light. The entire city was painted gold. I could just gaze out on Göteborg from my peacefully coasting boat and see all the streets I have walked, all the towers I’ve climbed, all the hills I did summit and I was filled with a wave of sadness because my heart has really fallen deeply in love with city and I will miss it so very much. Every cobblestone street and cozy cafe and lovely person in it. This was my favourite city to serve in by far. It won my heart. I wish I could stay here, but change must come, and adventures must be made. I have every intention of returning back to Göteborg as often as fiances allow for the rest of my life. We found some new investigators this week, including a wonderfully kind hearted Syrian man who I just love.

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Julien and Maria

I am terrible at goodbyes. I do not like them in the slightest. I already had to say quite a few and will be saying more in the next several days. But more importantly than saying goodbye, I must say thank you. Thank you to all those here that made my work in Göteborg unforgettable: For the members who helped us, for the companions that I served with, for the district that supported me,  to Julein Angelini for being the best Swedish friend you could ever find, and because I told him I’m going to include him in my blog. Julien, Anita raring, Jag spårar, på den….buben, jag vill ha en madraaaaaass….men vi ses snart på den. and to my loving Heavenly Father for letting me serve in this city.

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Dinner with the Felins-one of the most wonderful families.

This week I am reminded that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us and though we may not always understand in the moment why certain things happen, if we hold on with faith, we will ultimately see that the path he took you on was the best path, and the only path to salvation. Sometimes your efforts do not seem to be matched with the success you selfishly feel you deserve, but maybe that is because God wants you to become humbled. Maybe you need to relocate your desires before he will give you the blessings. Hard work alone is not enough to bring miracles. We often think we need to just work harder, while ignoring the possibility that it might be not how much work we are giving, but rather how we are working that is the problem. It is hard work with all the other attributes of Christ applied that brings the miracles.  We need to set ourselves aside. As Peter said, “be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Peace and Love and Love and Peace,

Elder Scott