Of Persians and Loneliness

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Two of our dear Persian friends (who must remain nameless on this blog) passed their baptismal interviews yesterday and will be baptised this upcoming Sunday! Never before have I taught someone who has progressed in the gospel so rapidly as these two men. . After every lesson, I am simply left awestruck at how much spiritual power they have. It were as if I’m teaching apostles. It seems they teach me more about the gospel through their spirit inspired observations than I have taught them. It is the greatest of honours to say they are my friends, for they are not simply investigators getting baptised…. These men are my heroes.

This week, among the many Persians we are teaching, we have met with several other wonderful souls who have pressed upon my soul a topic that pains me to speak about, and is unimaginably painful to endure. It is loneliness.

Loneliness is a trial that is as vast as it is heart wracking. Exceeding in worldwide spread over all diseases of the body, this tumour to the soul brings with it a host of symptoms ranging from depression to premature death. It can attack the widow, the orphan, the single mother or father, the spinster, and even those with spouses and parents but whose emotional line between relationships has been cut. It carries on it’s back the life sucking parasites of hopelessness, fear, bitterness, apathy, mistrust, and faith deterioration. When left unattended, loneliness can eat away at it’s victim until they are but a sulky sullen shadow of a human, dementor stricken shell.

Humans, it has been proven countless times, are not meant to be alone. After Adam came Eve, as God’s most wondrously divine crowning act of creation, for “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18)

We need company on life’s journey. We need loved ones in our life, for love is not only the fuel to the universe but the fuel to our very souls.  But still, even though, in God’s plan, we are not to be left alone, it is evident from time to time he has us face a period of existence, ranging from a few miserable months to a long suffering lifetime, in which we are to endure loneliness.

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In my work here in Sundsvall, I have come to admire three wonderfully strong women who have had to face a degree of loneliness that pains the soul to even try to comprehend.  One is an investigator left to raise three young girls by herself in the wake of divorce. Another is a member who lives an hour from church with a husband leaving the church, children fading into inactivity, no means to visit church, and no one in her life to believe in her. The last is an investigator with a terribly abusive (in every degree) and unfaithful husband who robs her of her money, her self worth and her hope for life. All three are painstakingly alone, lacking those who are supposed to be the loving support and comfort in their lives. They are three truly remarkably special souls with incredible talents and hearts of gold, but the parasites that attend loneliness convince them otherwise.

I’m not writing to condemn those whose duty it was to love and cherish the now rendered lonely. Loneliness is not cured by vengeance. What I am here to write about is our duty to love and cherish the lonely. By “our duty” I do not mean simply the missionaries’ duty….. I mean everyone’s duty. Your duty.

Here is a truth; if everyone were to live the gospel of Jesus Christ there would be no lonely people. All of the Eleanor Rigbys and Father Mckenzies will not necessarily be promised spouses and children and a life of rainbows but they will never truly be alone because if we all loved the gospel of Jesus Christ we would follow the beautiful words of James;  “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

I do not believe when James said the fatherless and the widows he was referring to only those technically classified as widows and orphans. What is the common link between widows and orphans? They both are missing a key figure in their life that is meant to provide essential love and comfort. Therefore, we ought to visit all those who are missing a key figure, everyone who has a hole that needs filling with your love and company, anyone who is lonely. Our religious purity is dependant on our attendance to the lonely.

So any Latter Day Saint, Christian or indeed any decent person anywhere upon this globe, should not allow anyone within their circle of influence to face life alone. Life is already hard enough as it is…. No one deserves to face it alone. Not you and not your neighbour. Who is your neighbour? The widow, orphan, the single parent and  broken hearted. The despairing. The love lacking. The hurt and wounded. The lonely.

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Maybe the lonely in your sphere of influence require a little more than a charity basket of food and a lawn mowed for free. In fact, every lonesome soul needs much more. This is where the necessary gifts of the Holy Ghost, pure love of Christ and the ever important art of listening are required. As we listen to the lonely hearted, (and listening in and of itself can do a great deal of healing) pay close attention to the Holy Ghost’s guidance and than act with a sincere love for them, we can be miracle workers in their lives. (if you don’t feel you love them just yet I suggest listen a little longer, this time without thinking of what you’re going to say next.)

So can everyone this week who reads this, please think of someone who is lonely? You can just start by selecting one…. and pay them a visit. Do something for them. Lighten their week. Listen to their burdened soul. Love them.  This has been the command of Thomas S. Monson, the prophet who has truly dedicated his entire life to visiting the lonely. At times he even prevented suicides by visiting a lonesome ward member when the spirit inspired him to do so.  This has been the command of prophets of old including Alma whose disciples had “their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21)

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And this will always be the command of our Saviour Jesus Christ who, as Jeffrey R. Holland acknowledged in his brilliant conference address, None were with Him.

“For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.” He, who faced the greatest act of mankind, even the atonement, without disciples or friends beside him, and even temporarily without the very Spirit of His father, so very much knows exactly how your loneliness feels. Remember that He bore it for you. And “because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone,”we do not have to do so.

So for Christ’s lonely journey from Gethsemane to Calvary, for his perfect sacrifice in both locations, and for every lonely heart aching soul who has lived and died without hope and utterly alone, please make someone less lonely. They’re silently crying for some company. Please let God lovingly direct you to them.

By doing so,  I can promise that you will be blessed. I am blessed with multiple bonus grandmothers because of it.  Who can say no to a Swedish grandma who cooks you salmon and makes you pancakes every Thursday? They just want someone to love! And don’t we all love being loved….and getting free pancakes?

Please be the means by which “The Lord relieveth the fatherless and widow” Psalms 146:9Please love and serve the lonely around you.

They need you.

 

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This Week:

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Frolicking
The work here is coming to be more than we can fully take on as just two missionaries. We’ve had to hand off several of our investigators to other missionaries and even postpone lessons for a week because we are simply booked every single hour of every single day. We have zero time to sit around and think of what to do next.
The thing is, it isn’t as if we slaved away and earned all of this work from our blood and sweat and tears like back in Borlänge….. We just found a couple people and they opened Pandora’s box of many more to teach.  Sometimes you work your heart out and no tangible success is obtained, while other times it just falls on your lap and you are humbled by how little of it is actually due on you. 
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with my buddies
But anyhow, we are in a very interesting situation. A hard situation…. We have a great many Persians who want to be baptised but may have to wait a very long time due to increasingly tighter regulations on baptising former Muslims because of safety concerns. The last thing we would want to do is be the cause of someone’s harm or even death if they are deported back to their home country…… and by the way Sweden is turning politically, deportations are on the rise. (Swedish Parliament has declared that over 50% of the refugees from Afghanistan will be deported within a year…..) while declared Christianity once helped defend an asylum seeker’s case from being sent back to an Islamic state, now we are faced with an oncoming reaping with no regard to personal situation or life endangerment. (But enough about our moral compasses versus politics for now).
Two of the many Persians whose immigration situations are a little more promising will be able to be personally interviewed and have their situations analysed by the mission presidency this upcoming Sunday. If the mission presidency declares it safe, they can be baptised in two weeks time from now….. Which will fill me with both great joy for these two wonderful and dear friends of mine, but also give me a measure of guilt when I think about the others who have a desire to take the step of baptism, having sincerely become converted to the gospel, but will have to be temporarily denied at the gate of this wonderful blessing due to problems beyond their control.
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Beautiful baptism
I CANNOT EMPHASIS ENOUGH HOW GOOD THESE MEN ARE. How purely good they are. One in particular has love unrivalled. His face radiates love and he shows love through his actions. He is particularly sensitive to the impressions of the spirit, lives a life dedicated to good works and has a faith in God I marvel at. . He very smart and studious and had a great life that was absolutely destroyed. Running from war, he traveled by foot from Afghanistan to Turkey and then took one of the famous suicidal raft odysseys across the Mediterranean. He showed a video he took on the boat. It is probably the most horrifying video I’ve ever seen in my life. Crying babies and monstrous waves and people crashing against rocks and how real it all was because it was happening to someone I know and love dearly. I want to get the image of it out of me head. From first European soil until here in Sweden he has been tossed around and rejected…. And yet, and yet! He is so good. So good to the very core.  How can one who has been through so much be so good? Certainly, to be realistic, yes, there are some who have the same story as him who are bitter and angry and violent…. But he, like an unwavering Samwise Gamgee, remains (if not becomes more) good through it all. He just has the profoundest of gospel insights, the deepest of testimonies and the purest of hearts.
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Part of my zone
These bands of refugees scattered over Norrland are not charity cases we pity….. They are heroes whom I look up to and admire. They teach me more of what the gospel is than I teach them and they really teach me what love is. Every day I think I know what love is only to discover a whole other layer of it. My soul just swells with a warmth beyond words when these Persians pour their love (which is miles above mine) into words in their beautiful language to be translated for us to understand.
This is the gospel.
I’ve found it.
I’ve found what Christ gave us. It is here in these Persians, in these humble forlorn refugee camps swallowed in the northern sea of trees.
I found what love is.
Love, when felt, even in part, overwhelms me. I cannot take it all in.
These lessons, these Persian friends, this mission, give me such waves of love that I cannot hold.. Sometimes I think I’d be more like Ammon fainting all the time, while my companions can hold their physical strength like Alma. I can’t even express it. Can anyone? The scriptures and the words of prophets and wise men cannot capture the true heart and core of this gospel- love. They explained how to show it, how to recognise it, why to grow it, etc…. But words can’t capture love itself.
These Persian men have taught me how much of love is listening. Love isn’t constantly diagnosing the next clever thing to say to give an instantaneous solution to every concern.
Another investigator, a Swede, mentioned this week how one of the greatest acts of service she feels she can give is listening, for those who love, listen.
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As my love has improved the amount of “me spitting out gospel time” in the lesson has decreased and the amount of listening has increased. I firmly believe that a great measure of one’s love for his neighbour is found in how much he listens. Love begins with curiosity and leads to total wilful sacrifice for another….. Which is a manifestation of love the Persians perfectly exhibit, which can be a bit of a problem…. Because now that they have tasted of the fruit of the gospel, they, like that man “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:46) are fully willing to sacrifice everything to have the gospel. We explain the risks for them to be associated with a Christian church, but they shake their heads and say nothing matters more. . They constantly plead for baptism with sincere hearts, and it breaks my heart having to say they may have to wait…. They’d seriously endure anything for The gospel. Some of them even carry knife and burn scars they received in Afghanistan when previously they stood for the right amidst tribulation without fear.
I cannot help their their physical situation, but I can teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ and from it we read;
“3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
On this earth, the misuse of moral agency of some can hurt the welfare of others. In the case of these Persian men, thousands of years of abused free agency by unrighteous souls have warped and moulded a trial filled mortal life for them…but God does not judge us on the agency of others. Just as we do not carry with us the sin of Adam, we are not accountable for others’ impact in our life….. only in our use of free agency in the circumstances we are given. So, though the free agency of others may restrict the Persians from being able to obtain the full blessings of the gospel right here and now, they will be blessed beyond mortal comprehension for doing all they can in the situation they are given.  
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The Losers of the game!

The Gospel is Beautifully Simple

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Sorry for the lack of a letter last week. Hopefully from now on I’ll be able to send one off consistently.
So you should know, yes I am very much still alive and quite well. I only have a little over three months left of my mission and though I miss a great deal of family and friends and the Beatles and Doctor Who and the ability to swim and my goodness I am looooonging for SHAKESPEARE.  I am also sad that my time is so short. The opportunity of being a full time missionary is truly divine. I love it. I really love every day of this. When I return home I know I will struggle feeling like nothing I do will be quite as meaningful, because missionary service is the most meaningful thing a young adult could possibly do.
Anyhow, I am simply in love with Sundsvall. It has swiftly become my favourite area. I never thought anything could beat Göteborg, (and nothing can still quite beat the thrill of that city work) but it would seem Sundsvall was tailor made for me. We have mountains and the bright blue sea and sometimes you think you’re in Scotland and sometimes you think you’re on the Puget Sound and the branch is the tightest knit, most down to earth and helpful branch you can imagine.   Every hill has a ski lift. The city itself feels like a cross between Chamonix, mini Göteborg and Whistler, and I’ve never been so booked on my mission. We are running from one place to another preparing several people for baptism and don’t have any time to do the standard missionary finding work that I’ve done just about everyday since I came to this country. The work still is hard, and we are dealing with some difficult situations, and you finish the day with a heavy heart, as it ought to be, but it also is absolutely wonderful. I don’t understand why I’m being spoiled with this.
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We have several fantastic people preparing for baptism;
Åke and Kristina Lidström, who are easily the coolest old Swedes you could ever meet. Åke has had a successful career as a rockstar. His apartment is full of psychedelic photos of his Roger Daltry hair and magic mystery fashion back in the 60s, with famous rock musicians. He is in severe pain in his arm on account of his rockstar life and is getting surgery. As soon as that is recovered they’ll be jumping in the baptismal font and we hope he writes a rock opera about the plan of salvation. We extend to them commitments like “will you watch the New York doll Mormon documentary?” Which he is positively excited for, because he loves the New York dolls.
And then there is Luis from Guiné Bissau, an old wise African and six Persians and an Arab who I’m not allowed to talk about on the blog for safety reasons, but who I love with all of my heart, and hopefully some more this next week.
But something that has been on my mind that I wish to share;  Twice in the last two weeks I had two very special experiences that testified to me of the pure simplicity of the gospel.
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The first was on Saturday. Unfortunately, because of security concerns, I can not share 90% of my work on this blog because I am working for the most part with those formally of the Muslim faith. So with details excluded, we’ve been teaching loads of Persians, in various towns and various in quantities, leaving us wonderfully booked throughout the week. This story is of five particular Persian men we’ve been teaching at a refugee camp in the literal middle of nowhere. (We seem to always put the refugees out in the middle of nowhere with no mode of public transportation to the city.) As we were teaching these eagerly attentive faith seekers, all seven of us packed like sardines in a tiny bedroom no bigger than a coat closet, with the bunk bed taking up practically the entire room, sweating like a sauna, huddled around the swiftly dying phone to listen to the Persian translator translate our message, it hit me how beautifully simple this gospel is. There was no grand alter or combination of praises rehearsed. There was no chalk board drenched in deep study of the abrahamic covenant or impressively decadent centre piece display with refrigerator magnets to hand out. We were not meeting in a proud stain glassed cathedral or well furnished classroom. We were meeting in a closet converted to refugee bedroom in an asylum camp in the wild forests of Norrland…. And in that humble teaching setting, teaching those humble listeners the simple foundational principles of the gospel, the spirit was blazing stronger than any majestic church presentation has ever hit me before.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
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And truly, as firmly as I can tell you that I know that the sun is in the sky I can testify that I know that the Saviour was in our midst, by way of his messenger, the Holy Ghost.
It does not require more than two or three gathered in Christ’s name for the Holy Ghost to be present. The Holy Ghost does not judge whether he’ll be present or not based on how impressive the centrepiece display is or how deep the doctrine discussed is. In this circumstance, we were teaching the basic principles of faith, repentance and baptism in the simplest of terms…. And it were as if the dingy room was a temporary tabernacle for the space of the lesson.
The second experience was last Sunday when we had the unique opportunity to preside and conduct our own branch Sunday service.  In our area, we leave the large city of Sundsvall to the other four missionaries and, because we have the car, we cover everything else, in the largest area in the mission. Our crazy dream is to open up a branch in Hudiksvall, a city an hour to the south of Sundsvall. We are looking for an apartment to move there and really make this happen. Anyhow, we got special permission to have a Hudiksvall branch meeting on Sunday consisting of us and a few strong testimony old ladies. (It must start somewhere.) we met in an apartment complex rec room and used shot glasses for the sacrament. The missionaries presided, conducted, blessed and passed the sacrament, each gave a sacrament talk and taught Sunday school…..And never, ever, ever, not once in my life, have I had a more spiritual sacrament meeting. It was a Sunday to never be forgotten. We stripped down church to just the core emblems and simplified the gospel down to the heart…. And it was beautiful.
President Utchdorf once said; “sometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful and appropriate for a certain time and circumstance, but when they are laid on top of each other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly.”
For an awfully long time I was missing the beauty of the gospel’s simplicity without even noticing it. To an extent I understood the key of simplicity, but still I, at times, was letting church culture seep into church worship.
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Don’t we all do that?
We fuss over the deacons’ synchronised dance steps of passing out the sacrament, use Sunday school as a battle of wits, passive aggressively look down on the guy who grows his hair out and shows up to church in sneakers, (my old mission leader, one of the greatest members I know, wears sneakers to church) compare our church callings like trading cards, and then there is the never ceasing silent competitions of families battled out through grandiose musical performances in sacrament and the great race of earning Eagle Scouts and Personal Progress Young Women’s medallions before the kids even reach high school. The end product is a church of righteousness based off merits such as adherence to a specific code of dress and grooming.
Those that want to come to church to worship God and receive spiritual strength but do not fit into the cultural cookie cutter of Mormonism are made to feel like outcasts and black sheep, and if not reached out to, can leave the church with bitter feelings of not measuring up to the 4.0 cello players and utopian family bloggers.
It isn’t that the 4.0 cello players and family bloggers are wrong for playing the cello and blogging. We should very much invest our time in our talents and we can promote positive Christian family values through example on blogs. (As long as it does not come across as superficial or snobby of course.) BUT, we should also be cautious that 1. We are not making others feel less righteous in their discipleship because they don’t have a 4.0 or play the cello or have the perfectly dolled up blog family.  And 2. We are not letting the presentation of our Von Trapp family singers distract from the real purpose of church; the sacrament, life, ministry, atonement, resurrection, reality and gospel of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Maybe it is the almost 20 months of living in the culture of Sweden, or maybe it is teaching and baptising refugees with nothing but a few bags and a donated white shirt and no concept of Mormon culture but testimonies that could move mountains, or maybe it is serving in wards where high councilmen show up to church in pink chinos and three different languages are being translated for sacrament meeting…. But whatever it was that got me, (probably the combination of everything) this beautiful country and it’s wonderful members have taught me that Mormons can (and ought to) come in many shapes, sizes, colours, cultures, nationalities, social circles, political affiliations, fashion senses, and economic classes. The variation of walks of life enriches the church. Sundsvall branch perfectly proves the point that all the different Mormons can and must coexist in a ward family of love and friendship with zero ounce of judgement. The upper middle class Swede and the new to the country Persian are brothers. It isn’t like the righteous white Mormons are reaching out as if the Persians are some sort of charity case, but genuinely being their equal in the faith. They are all blended together in sacrament meeting- not separated into their own individual family dynasties in their designated rows (every ward has those) but all together as one, with no regard for age, race or anything else.  You could show up with whatever wild outfit you could think up and this branch would love and embrace you with open arms.
I interviewed a lady for baptism a few weeks ago with a flaming orange Mohawk. In the interview she said that in her branch she loved how no one has  ever seemed to have judged her for her particular hairstyle…. She felt uncomfortable in other churches in the past because she felt like everyone would look down on her based off her appearance, but in our church she felt like a part of a family. She said she could feel the love of Jesus through the love of the members.
If we are to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ as the title of our church we must strive to live like him, and flee from anything even slightly pharisaic. His gospel is simple and is for everyone, regardless of earthly circumstance.   I have found His gospel in it’s purest form in a tiny bedroom with humble refugees from Afghanistan and in an unconventional makeshift branch service of a few old ladies and a row of shot glasses for the sacrament water.
“and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” 2 Nephi 26:33

A Quick Letter from Norrland:

This will be a short letter, but hej på er! I’m in the Norrland wonderland of Sundsvall where the sun is always high in the sky and the nights never get dark and the terrain actually provides mountains and the blue baltic sea is around every corner and the mosquitoes are so many that they pick you up and drop you in the Baltic.

Seriously, I cannot write out my love for this nature. I can see ski lifts from my study desk window. I love it. This is Sweden. All that stuff down south was Northern Europe. Now I’m in real rugged Sweden, where the trees grow tall, where hills are many and the air smells like adventure.

The branch (which is a small congregation)  is my dream branch. I hope I stay here till the end of my mission for I already know this is the best branch I’ve had yet.  We have a great youth programme (that goes out contacting with the missionaries) and the never darkening Norrland summer nights are filled with trampoline games with the children and barbecues and echoes across the thousands of lakes.

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Just a stock photo of Sundsvall as Erik did not send photos this week…
We have a car, and it is absolutely terrifying to start driving after 20 months of not driving………but having a car is very nice. We can drive out to refugee camps in the middle of no where to teach the most wonderful investigators, just swaddled in Swedish nature. The camps are eerie. They are tucked away, miles from anyone, in silent paradise, with a spirit of heartbreak and despair looming over them….. but every time we visit, our investigators just light up to hear the gospel.

It is such a gift to be able to teach about the healing power of the atonement to those who have lost everything.  Jesus Christ lives, and through us he is reaching out to heal his precious sheep.  I don’t like thinking that I only have four more months of this.

I love this work. I love this gospel. I love the love Christ has for these people and I love that I am so blessed to give it to them through the message of the restored Gospel. Norrland has stolen my heart and probably will never give it back.

Much love

Äldste Erik Scott

Transferred to Sundsvall:

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With Christian, the flying Scot!
This week the Lord rather vividly illustrated the point that this is His work, not mine. Literally, within the very last week of my 18 week stay in Borlänge, we just seemed to bump into people asking to be baptised. I have worked and wept and worked some more to seemingly no avail these last four and a half months and in the very last week the rewards are reaped. One of those is a 6’6″ Ugandan who plays for the Swedish national basketball team and wants to be baptised at the end of the month…. Now it is Swedish basketball, so not like teaching Steve Nash (that is about as far as my basketball knowledge goes) but he really is quite a blessing to teach. And it feels great. It feels great to be able to hand these blessings off to another missionary and go off to another area to work some more.
.sweden_tcm124-42080…But I am off to Sundsvall, a wee little dot in a massive area in the gorgeous wilderness of northern Sweden. I’ll be leaving behind all the baptisms that will happen here in Borlänge, and entering back into normal missionary status. This is just about certainly my last area and I will not achieve any honourable rank of leadership to put on my dating resume for the remainder of my time here in this gorgeous country. But this isn’t a woeful swan song I’ll just quietly exit the public stage and get the opportunity to really, purely get down to proper raw missionary work.
Though leaders shouldn’t be viewed as above us according to the doctrines of Jesus Christ, (see Matthew 20:25-28) we are still quite mortal, even in a church mission organisation, and therefore subject to psychologically creating a pyramid of nobility.  It is part of the human condition. Place a random selection of mankind on an island and within weeks they’ll have produced some form of class system with a select few chosen to be a higher rank and higher power based off some certain skill they excel in. As the weeks progress into years, and the civilisation advances, the purpose to life for the people would no longer be mere survival physically as it was in the beginning weeks, but survival socially, by obtaining the top of the arranged chain of being.   Pride is competitive. Pride seeks gain. As C.S. Lewis said “pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…. It is the comparison that makes you proud the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
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District meetings are the best outside.
Competition that could begin as innocent motivation to work hard and have a bit of fun can derail even the kindest of hearts into a ravine of spiritual darkness if left uncorrected. Competition is not of God. It therefore has no place, even in the slightest sense, in the work of the Lord. To embrace missionary work in a spirit of competition is much like siding with terrorists to destroy your enemy. You may be going after the right gain but with the absolute wrong means. As Ezra Taft Benson questioned “would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?”
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With Moses and my “Grandma” .
So my advice to all missionaries all over the world set your vision higher than leadership. Never mind the Percys or even the Malfoys who somehow get leadership. If you get leadership, great! Use it wisely to teach that faith, hope and charity are what matter most.
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Lastly, an awesome story time: We were on a train that just stopped, literally shut down in the middle of literal nowhere…….at first I was pretty sure a dementor was going to come on the train in search of Sirius Black….We just sat there for two hours and then the train conductors pulled out all the food from the bistro so we got to snack on as much swedish chocolate and reindeer meat as we wanted. The whole experience was a great manifestation of the goodness of swedes…. Not a sinlge passenger complained, even though they were missing connecting trains. Everyone was very calm, considerate and took the opportunity to discuss how beautiful the nature was outside….so swedish… anyways….eventually we all had to climb out and carry everyone’s bags through the swedish forest until we came to a dirt road and got picked up by a bus that had to go in reverse for thirty minutes….quite the adventure.
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Omar, Happiness and Humor

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Lovely Sweden

This looks to be my last week is DALALALALALARNA. My tribute to this gorgeous corner of Eden will come next week. This week was Midsummer. We had literally two days of vacation essentially, and it felt so weird….to just be almost normal.

anyhow……

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With Omar
This is Omar. The happiest bus driver in the world. Seriously, you can not find a happier, friendlier, kinder bus driver on the planet. If he isn’t smiling, he is laughing. He becomes everyone’s friend and will remember everyone’s name next time they ride the bus. He was forced to leave his homeland of Somalia a few years back and start and new life here in strange new cold Sweden. His life has been far from easy. And here is the craziest part of the story, he has TEN CHILDREN. yes. TEN CHILDREN. All between the ages of 1 and 18 in one apartment…. All with the same wife who he will tell anyone and everyone that he loves dearly. Because he has to provide for TEN CHILDREN he works without rest. Every day he takes as many bus routes as he can…. From early in the morning to late at night….taking holidays and weekends just so there is good on the table. And through it all he is HAPPY. His life is a thousand times harder than mine. His past is a nightmare of war and starvation and poverty. His present is an endless whirlwind of work so his ten children and one wife can eat. His future will probably be many many more years of the same insane schedule so his children can have a future. Yet, he never complains, he never self pities, he just joyfully drives buses and loves every single person that rides with him, no matter how grumpy they are in return.
The other day I asked him as I was sitting up front chatting to him “Omar, how do you do it? How are you always so happy?” He gave his classic giant smile of white teeth and said “it is a blessing to always be able to make a new friend every day!”

What a brilliant perspective to maintain happiness! Omar wakes up every day determined to make a new friend. He does not dwell on the past malnutrition and death that was his childhood. He does not bemoan his endless work schedule to provide for his ginormous family. He smiles and makes new friends. He looks outward and chooses to be a light to others.

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These two women are my heros.
As I look at less than five months remaining of my (first) full time missionary service, I am starting to realise, like Omar, just how great a blessing it is to make a new friend every day. My whole day just about is dedicated to making new friends. True, a whole lot of people don’t want to be my friend, and can be quite shirty about it, (don’t you just love that word? Shirty) but then you meet one here and there who does, and it is wonderful; truly wonderful. What a blessing we have to meet new people every day. People are just brilliant. True, sometimes they choose to do rather bad or sad things or live rather depressingly boring Dursley lives, but behind the layer of worldly debris, we all are quite incredible creatures with unbelievably infinite potential. C.S. Lewis, as always, put it better than I can “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. … There are no ordinary people. … Your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
For most cases, the realisation of this truth can keep you energised in the work for weeks on end. For a great deal of my mission it has….. But every once and a while,  you get beat down a little deeper, slapped a little harder, and even when your heart is desperately wanting just to serve because it honestly loves serving, squaring up and carrying on is not enough to keep you afloat. It is very hard to explain the feeling. It is a bit like this sometimes you want nothing more than to push on and serve with your full self, but you physically are unable. Your body will not let you. You’ve neglected your own health so much that you are prevented from helping others. You want to be an Omar, and you pretend to be, but inside you disintegrate.
When those times hit, and they most certainly will, and honestly should, to benefit our spiritual growth.  We need to take care of ourselves before taking care of others. “Manning up” and ignoring it only makes it worse. (Don’t get me started on the stupidity of the modern male stereotype) Seeking help from loved ones, professionals and most importantly from our Heavenly Father, is required. It takes humility and honesty and a great deal of bravery, but it is the only way to fully heal. We cannot expect to be able to face it alone.
The recovery is so personal and so almost sacred, as you experience your own discovery of the healing power of the atonement, that I cannot teach the steps in a blog post.
They are so individual that it requires one on one help and personal revelation.

But there are few simple things anyone can do to be a little happier every day. These do not erase deep wounds. They are not promised cures. But they are good practices to lighten the load a wee bit.

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At Carl Larsson’s house.
One that I can share today is, as Joseph B. Wirthlin taught in the fantastic talk “come what may and love it” which I highly recommend reading. He says to simply laugh. Find humour in the day. As a missionary you always have something to laugh about. Last week we taught the full restoration lesson to a Sri Lankan lady and by the end of the lesson she thought my companion was Joseph Smith. She was greatly impressed that he came to her house to tell her that he himself saw God and Jesus Christ, started his own church of now over 15 million members, translated the Book of Mormon, and came to Sweden to teach people about it. There obviously was some key details lost when all of us were speaking to each other in our second languages….. And a few days before that,  as I was bearing my testimony of miracles to a man on the street a bird literally flew down and landed on my head. Unfortunately, it did not descend in the form of a dove, but it still was quite miraculous…. And on splits as we were teaching a man about the Book of Mormon he thought we were saying “mormors bok” which in Swedish means “grandma’s book” so he was under the belief that we were sharing a book written by my grandma. And this picture below is of a cat laying in the sun which we literally thought was dead for a good three minutes. We just stood there frozen on the sidewalk, looking at the presumed corpse that was completely lifeless, not sure what to do. The cat was fortunately alive. attach-2
There is something  every day worth laughing about. Even if it seems like the entire day was just terrible, that is a funny enough thought to laugh over. Laughter and humour can help ease many burdens and keep us sane…. Hence why the comedy industry always thrives in times of war and distress. It really is a gift from God. A bad hair day can be terrible or it can be hilarious. A string of misfortunes can give you much weeping and wailing or it can cause you to weep tears of laughter over how ridiculous the whole matter is. A political catastrophe can destroy a nation, or you could be British about the whole matter and boldly make comedy out of it…. Great Britain gives this world the best comedy partially due to understanding that principle…

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The Midsummer gang
A great deal of unhappy people in this world take themselves far too seriously. There is a great deal of danger in taking ourselves too seriously. The only things really worth taking seriously in life are the things which are perfect. We do not make light of sacred things because sacred things are perfect. We ought to take the gospel seriously because the gospel is perfect. We ought to take God seriously because God is perfect. We ought to take the attributes of Christ (faith, hope, charity, love, etc) seriously, because they are the means to perfection….. But we ought not to take ourselves seriously or else we will just be awfully upset with ourselves for the entirety of our days.

Of course, times will come were laughter is not enough or indeed, not even appropriate. The other night as I was unable to sleep I looked out my window and watched three hooded white boys beat up two Somalian boys. The whole event was so fast I hardly had time to react. The white boys stood on the sidewalk as the Somalians were walking towards them and then out of nowhere the white boys just started punching the Somalians to the ground and ran off into the midsummer never-dark night. That is not something one can just casually laugh over. That is just horrible, absolutely horrible. Heartbreaks like that will require a further understanding of the atonement and gospel of Jesus Christ to find solace in….. Understanding eternal compensation and God’s love for His children….. But that is for another discourse.

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Judi and Benjamin
When things are more trivial, and most especially, when they involve ourselves, laughter can elevate a great deal of potential bitterness and pain.

In short respect the eternal things and laugh over the temporal things. When life gets hard, laugh at it. In the Harry Potter series, the creature called the boggart is a shape shifter who transforms into your worst fear. The greatest means to destroy a boggart is not a great complex spell. It is quite simple. It is transforming it’s image to become humorous with the spell “ridikulous”. Ultimately, it is laughter that kills the boggart. You can conquer the form of your worst fear with laughter. I strongly believe that principle taught by J.K. Rowling is true. I can imagine the adversary getting rather frustrated and feeling quite foolish when we laugh at the slings and arrows he hurls at us. There truly is great power in humour.

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Midsummer at the  Sjokvists.

My Father

DSC_8501I would like to thank all of the wonderful people in my life who wrote me this past week. I wish there was time to write back to each and every one of you.  Thank you to my parents, my grandpa, my sisters, my great-Auntie Sue,   Kendal,  Bishop Johnnson, The Fields and the Smiths.  Words really cannot say how much your letters meant to me. Thank you. I’d like to take this time to thank one special person in particular, my father, in celebration of Father’s Day which was yesterday.

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My dad means the absolute universe to me. Both my mum and dad do…. but today let me tell you why my dad is the best father I could ever receive, because he has taught me how to be a man. When I say that I don’t mean “wrastle a steer to the ground and apply a fiery brand to his hindquarters.” (sorry comedic movie reference) sort of teaching…. I mean the much more deeper and truer meaning of the word man. The world today preaches a rather indecent vision of what a man ought to be which is in every way contrary to the way I was raised.

My dad taught me that a man respects nature and God’s creations. He does not destroy them. He loves them. From since ever really he would take me out backpacking and hiking and canoeing, as a family and often just the two of us. He truly taught me how to love nature, because he loves nature.

He is happiest sailing on the Columbia or climbing a mountain. He taught me the great importance of taking time to just sit in nature in silence. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really appreciated those summer nights out in the darkness under the big starry sky with my dad and his telescope. Whether it was in our backyard or out in the eastern Oregon wilderness with a bunch of other unwashed astronomers who smelled like lasagna, my dad taught me to fall in love with the universe. He taught me how to care for nature…. He would have me save spruce saplings in the forest from being swallowed by blackberries even if no one would really see the spruce tree…. and he taught me the spiritual enrichment one can get from nature.

My dad taught me that a man reads. The world says a man reads sports illustrated and maybe a few action paperbacks and that’s it. My dad taught me that a man reads all the classic boyhood books like Lord of the Rings and Call of the Wild but also the works of Jane Austen. He taught me that a man is well read in the classics and the wonderful practice of always having a book to read. My dad is always reading some great thick old novel. My absolute most cherished childhood memories were laying in my parents bed every night listening to my dad read me Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Treasure Island, and many more books that opened my imagination to worlds without end. I must attribute a great deal of who I am today from those hours in my parents’ bedroom as my dad read about Middle Earth and Narnia and Hogwarts.

One of the greatest gifts I can give me future children is the gift my father gave me a love for reading….. For if you teach a child how to love reading, they will keep on learning even when they leave the house….. And my dad taught me that the greatest book of all was his old worn quad of the scriptures. He taught me how to really love and sink deep into the scriptures, every day of your life. He never did it by force, but by example. (And he is the only person I know who actually understands the Isaiah chapters).

My dad taught me that a man is a gentleman. He taught me that violence is a weakness, not a strength. He taught me that as a man you communicate your feelings, even if it takes him an hour of waiting for you staring at the floor before you say anything, you must express your emotions and talk things out and humbly resolve everything in a peaceful and loving manner and never ever resort of violence. Not to a person. Not to the wall. Not to anything.

He taught me that a gentleman respects girls as their equals. He taught me what real love is by the way he loves my mother. He taught me that the best girls are the cleverest. He taught me how to honour and cherish my mother, because he does.

My father taught me that a man is always serving. He taught me that the man plays just as much of a role as the woman in raising the kids, cleaning the house and cooking dinner. He taught me that a man cooks,and  that a real man bakes bread. He taught me that what matters most is serving your fellow man, which he has always taught by example, never once wanting praise for anything.

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reunited for a day with his old mission companion, Elder Burton
My dad taught me that a man works hard and enjoys it. While most kids on Saturday got to sleep in, watch TV and go to the mall or whatever it is normal people do, Saturday was when we worked…. and enjoyed it. Saturday activities came only after chores and yard work. After the yard and fields and animals and house was satisfactory there was always wood to be chopped with my dad. We did not get paid because my dad taught us that the payment comes in the joy of the work. The lesson of work ethic from my dad has blessed my mission. And, even though I absolutely hated math with a burning passion and would cry over that awful subject, my dad would always patiently be there to help me through it….even though I was the worst student he could possibly teach. He would teach us how to do hard things to become better…. which included sending us down black diamonds ski runs before we were even baptised on how how to ski properly.

My taught me that a man puts his family first. He switched jobs to travel less so he could spend more time with us…. Everything he ever does is with us in mind. It does not matter how long of a day it was at work, he always has time for us. He always was there to play with us, whether it was playmobils at age 6 or some board game I would lose at age 16, my dad was never too busy or too “manly” to do the silliest things with his kids. He would be there for my soccer games, coach them even, and for every play performance, having built the set and programme the lights and sound.

My dad taught me that a man holds the gospel above all else and is converted to it. The gospel and his family meaning everything to him, and his example has given me a love for the gospel. He is steadfast and guards the right. He loves God, loves his fellowman and is one of the greatest examples of how to serve both.

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More reunions with his two past companions and mission couple all who served in Vasterhanige.
I love my dad. I don’t know why I have been blessed with such a wonderful father and mother. It seems unfair but hopefully I can use the blessing of my parents to help bless others. My dad is the greatest man I know, and one day I hope to be the father that he is. I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good of a skier as he is, I certainly will never even try to be as good at math and puzzles as he is, but I hope one day to be at least half the dad to my kids that he was to me. I really do love him. Loads.

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Help from Harry

IMG_2229[1]Hello!

This is Susan, Erik’s mom. The blog post is a bit different this week but felt like the right thing to share with everyone.

First, one thought from Erik this week as it continues to be on his mind:

“The refugee crisis is just one massive Good Samaritan experiment conducted by God. This is where we see where we really stand. Who loves in just word only, who loves not at all and who loves truly in deed and truth.”

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Back in lovely Stockholm for a day.
Books, and specifically literature are an important dynamic of our family. I’ve always used stories and characters as a way for my children to relate to others and see another perspective. Most people who know us, are aware we all love Harry Potter books a lot. Because of this, Harry Potter books have been used as a kind of Bibliotherapy with my kids. What is Bibliotherapy? It’s  therapy  based on the premise that people are greatly influenced by the characters they identify with in stories, and that through stories one can use these stories to get through difficult times. 

This week, instead of Erik’s letter, I’m posting my oldest daughter,  Elizabeth’s letter to Erik.  It says what I’ve tried to say to Erik, but couldn’t get across. But, his sister, who knows how Erik relates so well to Harry Potter took a different approach to help Erik; a kind of bibliotherapy.

Best,

Susan (Elder Scott’s Mom)

Here’s Elizabeth’s letter:

Erik,

I have thought a lot all week about your blog letter from last week.  I have thought a lot about how much it all hurts. It made me think of the 5th Harry Potter book when Harry is all mad and yelling at Dumbledore at the end of the book. Dumbledore mentions that Harry’s greatest strength is love and that Voldemort could not possess Harry because of it. He told Harry that feeling this pain (because of Sirius’ death) meant he was human. Harry then yells he does not want to be human and wants the pain to stop, wants out, wants it to end, etc. There is a long talk in between about everything about that night and the prophesy etc. and the power that Harry has. Dumbledore says love is the most powerful thing and is studied in the Department of Mysteries. He says to Harry, “In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.” In book 7,  Harry does not beat Voldemort/save everyone with violence or in some epic magical wand battle (as the movie depicts), he wins with LOVE. He willingly sacrificed himself for everyone else and then used some smarts and the elder wand to help Tom finish himself off. But mostly, it was love and unselfishness. Harry so strongly loved people. The thing which Harry learned so many times (all before he was an adult) is that love is so hard and so painful. He had so many important people die in his life. But in that moment of freaking out and saying enough is enough–I can’t handle this pain—he, through listening to Dumbledore, came to understand some of his purpose and did not shirk from his bleak and difficult road ahead.en_US-timeline-image-harry-potter-and-the-order-of-the-phoenix-1333632366

I am not sure I am writing this out as well as I would like, but what I’m trying to say is that it is so hard. I can imagine what you’re experiencing and I’ve read many a refugee story and I just cannot handle them and want to help sooo much. But hearing things first hand and so many horrible things is so hard. But Erik, you have a strong and loving heart. You fill the world with so much love and light and your big heart can and does help many. And yet, there are still so many hurt people out there. But even if some people do not get all the peace they deserve in this world, Heavenly Father and Jesus are loving, kind and can heal all wounds, no matter how deep. I have often wondered why I am so blessed and my life is so easy and happy when so many others live through hell. I suppose so I can help. So, if you are feeling that way too, think: “I have this firm and happy foundation from home so I can better serve those who have had that torn from them.” You can feel their pain, but maybe bolster them.

We cannot fix everything but God can. It is seriously hard. All of it. I love you and I know your big heart will save so many people, just like Harry.

Elizabeth

 Erik’s response:

“Thank you for this letter and the beautiful insights from Harry Potter. I NEEDED IT.   Love you Sis!

 

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Erik said . ” I was so out of it this week, that I walked out of the apartment in these shoes and didn’t have a chance to go back and change them all day. “

The Blessings of Heartbreak

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Moses!
This week, to the visible outsider’s view, was exceptionally good. Moses is all set for baptism, soaking up the gospel like a sponge. We found a plethora of new investigators this week and now do more sit down teaching than anything else, and we had eight investigators in sacrament meeting. Things ought to be sunshine for me, right? But physical good fortune does not always correlate with emotional well being. (Hence why money does not buy you happiness)

This week it felt like the whole world was simply one big heartbreak. As if it finally became too much. It was in large part an accumulated 18 months of emotionally taking in every refugee’s story that I listen to; their slaughtered parents, their slaughtered children, their slaughtered brothers and sisters and wives and husbands. You start to understand a portion of Mormon’s anguish at the genocide of his people that he bleeds out onto the page of Mormon chapter 6. (Really one of the most beautifully heart harrowing passages of holy scripture)

James said in the New Testament;  “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

So, I’ve always figured this is one of my most important purposes out here, if I really want to live my religion and want to follow Christ, but it all just came crashing down on me this week. Every burden from all these shattered wonderful people from the last 18 months just made me snap. It hurts. It really really hurts

For some reason, it seems my whole mission has been working with the most war torn and heart broken of people. But, I got a rather unique response this week while praying; one I was not expecting. I guess I was, in my self centred way, hoping God would say “I know it hurts. Good job. You can stop now and I’ll heal you.” But that was not what I felt when I prayed. Instead, the answer  that came clearly was,  “I know, keep going.”

What?

How can it be the the answer to my prayer was to keep going, when I feel  I can’t?

But,  Heavenly Father is not the sort of parent that smothers and spoils you. He is the parent that loves you more than you can ever comprehend and He knows your potential. He knows that I could continue. He knows I absolutely cannot let myself go hollow. He knows I need to keep my heart out in the open. Why? How can this possibly be for my benefit? Well, without proper knowledge, one would probably think ripping muscles is a stupid thing to do…. But if you do it in the correct way it is what we call weight lifting and that is what builds strong muscles. Same principle applies to the heart. The strongest hearts are those that have been ripped apart and healed through the atonement of Christ. Your capacity to love and your quality of love increases from heartbreaks, because of the heartbreaks. They strengthen you if you apply the right healing methods.

Of course, King Benjamin counsels “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize therefore, all things must be done in order.”

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Sometimes we use that as our excuse to do nothing at all. It is the most common scriptural excuse to avoiding charity or any form of sacrifice. Anti-welfare advocates love that scripture, but that is not what King Benjamin is getting at at all. He is saying work with your whole heart but make sure you do not become rendered useless, then you are not much good for anybody. He is not saying, do nothing, live for yourself…..  God did not tell me to take an emotional vacation. He told me to keep going, because He knows my capacity. He knows how much is too much and even though I thought this was too much, He tells me to keep going….. Because this is one of the greatest gifts He can ever give me- a better heart. This may seem like nothing but pain and suffering right now for me but this will give me a better, stronger, purer heart at the end of this.

Sometimes, we forget what is most important in life. It goes deeper than that. The overarching purpose is not just to physically go from point A. to point B. It is to grow. To become more like Christ and the absolute most important thing to grow in obviously is love. Love is the means of obtaining perfection. Love is the fabric of the universe. Love is the why and how to our existence. Therefore, there is nothing more important than growing in our love. I cannot stress this enough. We can get caught up in the fine details but “without charity (we are) nothing.” Truly. Simply. It was therefore base and narrow minded and silly of me this week to want God to say I can just finish feeling love, lock up my heart, and go into robot missionary mode. Love is the reason why I am here. I am here to feel this heartbreak and pain. It isn’t a trial of my missionary experience. It is my missionary experience. It is my purpose. This is what life is for. Tearing my heart apart and healing it up stronger. Not getting bitter. Not getting cold. But seeking healing from the words of God in prayer and scripture study and then going out and loving more. So, when your world seems to only be heartbreak, thank God. This is His way of helping you grow. Keep loving. Not just even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Trust in God’s promises. Look to Christ’s example. Always keep loving. I love this gospel. I’d give everything to it.

My mind has been on “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde this week. If you haven’t read this short story—read it, right now. (You can read it online here ) .If you’ve already read it, read it again. I wish I could read it on my mission so very much….but seriously read it, and remember what it is at the end of the story that God values as the greatest two things in the town………and then live your life to be likewise. The paradise of heaven is worth breaking your heart on earth.

Much love,

Ä Scott

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I found my long lost apartment. Strangely the man who answered said it was not my apartment and that he was not all too interested in my message of his salvation.

The Prince of Egypt

IMG_1968[1]First and foremost, Samir and Roleen, my first ever investigators, my first ever lesson, my first ever baptismal dates, are getting baptised this week. Very few things could make me happier. I knew they were going to be baptised, but it was a matter of when. And when is now!
So 18 months of this missionary stuff under my belt and the transfer call was made and I’m………………staying here.
It is good because we found a whole load of new investigators including a blind lady named Eva, (so cool to teach someone who relies on the tone of our voice rather than the expressions on our face) a wonderfully humble truth seeker named Gosie, whose brother was just killed in war in eastern Africa, and Moses.Moses. Moses. Moses. Miracle miraculous Moses. The hope of Israel!
IMG_2009[1]The Royal Sheep. Seriously, these are the royal sheep. As in, these sheep belong to the King of Sweden. This is the King’s Uppsala palace..

 

 Moses is simply one of those miracles that just happen and you find yourself rather lucky to witness it. He is the sort that is so prepared and so good down to the core that it really does not matter all that much which missionaries teach him, he would accept the gospel and convert to it himself. We could just hand him the Book of Mormon and a few pamphlets and he would do all the work to prepare for baptism…..Of course we will be doing much more than handing him reading materials though. We will be pouring everything into him to build his faith, for a far from ordinary future most certainly awaits such a soul as Moses.
He was born in Eritrea but has been a wandering refugee from that violent dictatorial state just about his entire life. On the way, he lost his mother and now Moses, having ironically moved last from Egypt (it was not a 40 year exodus fortunately) is completely alone in Sweden at age 18. Remnants of his family he believes are in Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Netherlands, etc.. He never has had a normal peaceful life. He literally grew up running. And here is the thing—he is absolutely brilliant. He is fluent in 5 languages, (not just able to communicate….I mean fluent),  is a geography wiz and now he wants to go into theology. And, he is just a good human. Straight down to the core he is goodness. There is a light in his eyes of pure goodness. Despite all that he has been through, or perhaps because of all that he has been through, he is one of the kindest, happiest, deepest and spiritually in touch souls you could ever meet.
So, as we began teaching him he had two questions for us 1. Why are there so many different Christian churches? And 2. Why do we no longer have prophets and miracles like the bible times?
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Yet another district family coming to a close.
 

You could not ask for two better questions to prepare someone for the message of the restored gospel and he just embraced it with joy, with absolute joy. We invited him to be baptised on the 18th of June but we had to change the date…. to the 11th. hahaha. Not a problem for me.
Those last three months of working through nothing but rejection and heartbreak and disappointment finally produced something. It shows how little of it has to do with me. How little is in my power. To take success in the mission as glory on yourself is idiotic…. It is the Lord and the prepared that you find who should receive all the glory. I did not make Moses want to be baptised. I certainly am here to help him be baptised and converted, but ultimately baptism and conversion are in the hands of the Lord and Moses himself. I can hopefully be a tool to help sculpt but never should I take the credit as the artist. As Isaiah asked “Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” (Isaiah 10:15)
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So this recent lovely series of rather fortunate events led me to pondering on what, as mortals, is in our control and what is not. To suggest we control everything is commonly agreed upon foolishness. You do not need to look further than the weather forecast and the gambling casinos to see that we, mortals, do not control everything. We can influence, inspire and teach people in a positive light, or we can manipulate, enslave and brainwash people in a negative light, but ultimately it is they themselves who make the change, influenced upon their surroundings but ultimately up to their free agency. But, saying we cannot change people does not mean that every event of our life is outside of our control either. We are not helpless pooh stick just drifting down the preverbal river of the Roman concept of fate. We are, as a better allegory, more of a canoe with paddles. There will come rapids and waterfalls and stones as obstacles in the metaphorical river, and sometimes with the flow of the water, we will meet such dangers and no amount of paddling could prevent such, but more commonly the rapids in this particular river can be avoided by proper paddling in advance to the danger. Often times, when we go through such problems we tend to confuse (or convince ourselves that we are confused) the avoidable rapids with the unavoidable ones. Though Cassius, from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was not much more than a dirty, rotten, slimy, selfish, cowardly villain,  he did offer some wisdom when he observed (and correct this quote if I am wrong mum…. I have no way of looking it up) “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves.”
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The first real Mexican food  in 18 months!
 How often do we blame the stars, or fate, or someone else for our follies? Furthermore, how often do we take all the credit for a blessing that really did come from the stars, was really fate or was due to the actions of someone else? How do we recognise what is our fault or our good work or really just something complete out of our control? I think it has a great deal to do with finding the beautiful balance between humility and self worth.
It is a common, if not almost omnipresent, mistake of mankind to either be too deep in self pity or too deep in self arrogance, that we end up being neither humble nor self valued.  Pride is the adversaries rendering of heaven’s self worth. Self pity is the adversaries rendering of heaven’s humility. It is pride and self pity that masks what good or poor fortunes on the preverbal river of life are our fault or out of our hands. Therefore, it is mastering power over these two that clarifies what we can and cannot control in our life. C.S. Lewis once noted that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but  thinking of yourself less.” And likewise I cannot think of any better cure for narcissism than getting out of yourself and thinking about others.
So, the cure to these polar plagues is simply what seems to be the cure to almost every spiritual predicament: love. When you serve others, you think less of yourself and so your arrogance goes down, and in turn you find more of yourself, for there is more of yourself to find, and your self worth increases. It must be noted that I am talking about real love and service. It is very possible to do “charitable things” without an ounce of charity, and when the heart is in the wrong place it can even inflate your ego even more, but that is a discourse for another week.
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As for this week, the message is there are things you cannot control, such as the conversion of a soul. You can influence and inspire and teach and these will certainly be key in the conversion process, but ultimately the conversion is in the hands of the convert. Likewise, there are things that we do control that we sometimes deny to ourselves. For example, you can say the mediocrity of your essay was not your fault because you were so busy throughout the week. But, chances are that you could’ve begun the assignment earlier and been more organised with your time. The way of recognising what we do and do not control is through balancing our humility and self worth and denying the presence of self pity and pride to creep in.
And that is the message for this week, folks.
Loving it here in trevlig Svergie.
Much love and peace,
Erik