Monday, March 31, 2014

"What They Had Always Dreamed Of" --AND-- "Thoughts on Grace"

"What They Had Always Dreamed Of"

Hey family and friends.
This week was one of the most memorable weeks of my mission.  It was so insane.  To sum it up, THE LOPEZ FAMILY GOT BAPTIZED!!
So I have decided that I hope my wife doesn't want to do anything huge for the wedding, because weddings are a pain.  So, we tell everyone to be there ready to set up at 6:00.  At 6:00 we had 4 missionaries and 2 members.  At 6:30 we get a call from the bishop's wife saying that she won't be able to make it because of some stuff that she had to attend to at home last second (not her fault).  The day before she had said, "Don't worry about decorations.  We'll take care of it."  My heart dropped.  At this point in time, we had the tables and chairs set up with nothing else.  We had enough food for about 15 people.  Then at about 6:40, everyone starts coming.  We ended up with all the food we needed.  We were able to throw together some decorations from past activities, and it actually ended up looking pretty cool.  We had a less-active make the cake, and she did a super good job.  
Everything ended up perfect...UNTIL...EARTHQUAKE!  It was the first one that I have ever felt.  I don't know if it was big enough to be on the news in Utah, but ya, it happened.  The Arizona Kerrs sent me an email saying they were at Disneyland when it happened.  We were cutting the cake when it happened.  I felt the ground vibrating quickly underneath me.  I thought my body was doing something weird.  Then, we all felt the floor shift about 6 inches instantly and we realized what was going on.  Then it calmed down after about 10 seconds.  A few people freaked out a little, but we were able to keep going with the wedding.  We left to go home a few minutes after.  We have felt a few aftershocks since then.
Alright, so to sum it up again, there were lots of little miracles that happened along the way to get them baptized. It happened, though, and it was such a cool baptismal service! We played the bible video of Jesus getting baptized right before the ordinance and it brought the mom to tears.  The ward support for the wedding and the baptism was inspirational. The wedding was "what they had always dreamed of."

Hermana Olvera (bishop's wife) gave the talk at the baptism. In her talk, she mentioned how she and Bishop dropped by one night to talk to them. Bishop came home that night with the distinct impression that this family would be baptized and that they would be great instruments in the Lord's hands. She said that since then, they had been praying for this family to be able to be baptized. Omar (the dad) said that her talk "greatly moved me." All four of them stood together in front to share their thoughts at the end and the Spirit was very simple, but very powerful.
Such a week of miracles.  Love to see everything that made all that possible. (pictures attached)

Thank you all for all your prayers!
Elder Christensen

"Thoughts on Grace"

Here is a compilation of what I have learned regarding grace over the course of my mission and specifically what I have learned in the last few months.....

In 3 Ne 12:48, the resurrected Jesus commands, "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect."  Then a few days later, he asks, "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?" Then, answering his own question, he says, "Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27).

Perfection always seems out of reach.  It feels as though with every step we take, we come to realize the journey is one step farther than we originally thought. We look at where we are now and where we need to go, and we are often overwhelmed by the distance that exists.

This is what we usually focus on, forgetting that the Lord has promised the way is prepared to accomplish what he commands (1 Ne 3:7). "Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and fallen state, and ever would be SAVE they should rely on [the] Redeemer" (1 Nephi 10:6) We ARE in a lost and fallen state.  We can't pull or lift ourselves out of it.  The Redeemer is the ONLY way (Acts 4:12).

A convert from Australia said, "My past life [was] a wilderness of weeds, with hardly a flower strewed among them. [But] now the weeds have vanished, and flowers spring up in their place."  Bruce C Hafen taught that Christ's grace is needed to pull out the weeds and to cultivate the flowers (Atonement: All for All, April 2004).

It seems that it is commonly accepted that Christ's atoning sacrifice was necessary to help us pull up all our weeds.  In my life, and I think in much of the Mormon community, it is presumed that we are left to our own abilities to cultivate our flowers.  We read scriptures that say, "work out your salvation with fear before God" (Alma 34:37) and we mistakenly think it is all up to us.

We think we can just "white knuckle this thing" and do it by "sheer grit, willpower, and discipline." There came a time during the Great War between the Nephites and the Lamanites that the Nephites began to trust in their own strength.  They thought that they could do it on their own.  They had seen so many miracles come that it was starting to go to their head.  They had forgotten the reason for and the source of their exceedingly great strength. "And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper..." (Helaman 4:13)

In contrast, Nephi, after recognizing his weakness, prayed, "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh" (2 Nephi 4:34).

We might think that because Jesus had to drink His bitter cup on his own, we have to do the same.  This is not the case.  Elder Holland testifies, "Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so" (None Were with Him, April 2009).

Simply enough, when you trust in the strength of man, you are left with the strength of a man.  When you trust in the strength of the Lord, the strength of the Lord is added to you.

Paul testified, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). This does not just include divine strength to break bands and withstand fire, but also the extra help needed to turn weaknesses into strengths. We must be merciful with ourselves and others for as long as that process takes -- and it is a process. "Slow, steady progress is possible through the strength of the Lord. His grace IS sufficient.

Elder Christensen

La Habra earthquake

Here is the extent of the effects of the earthquake... :) Gratefully, Tanner lives about 16 miles NE of La Habra (where the earthquake was on Friday), so their apartment did not receive any damage. But, as he said in his letter, they did feel it while they were at the Lopez wedding. He said that Friday night was pretty rough with all of the aftershocks, but things have calmed down! 

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