Friday, July 29, 2016
Pershendetje(hello)! I'm here at the MTC, I'm safe, and it is amazing! The language is hard but there is such a unique spirit here and I'm doing so well. My companion is Elder Schneider and we get along great! My P Day is Monday so that's when I can email you again. The food is great and I already ran into Trevor and Robert. They welcomed me and helped show me around which was awesome! Love you, and I will email you again on Monday. Mirupafshim(goodbye)!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
July 27th. Austin got all packed and we headed out the door to go to Tucanos. Everyone humored Mom with a few more photos.
I don't think anything prepares you for how fast the MTC drop off is these days. We knew it would be fast but it was really, really, fast and wonderful AND horrible all at the same time. Austin looked ready to go and he didn't even look back. We can't wait to hear from him but know in our hearts he's doing great.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Today I have been assigned to speak on the talk "Be Thou Humble" by Elder Steven E. Snow. While studying this talk I found that Elder Snow focused on two main principles; the impact that hymns can have on our lives, and the powerful blessings that we can be given through humility. These are the topics that I will speak about today.
In the first presidency preface of the hymn book it says "the hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord." I love this quote because it speaks to the amazing variety of uses and purposes that the hymns have as well as the power that they contain. One part of this quote in particular stuck out to me and that is the ability hymns have to unify us as members. Throughout my life there have been many times where I have felt this power but some of the most important times happened on scout camps back when I was a deacon. I remember many times where as we were hiking along a trail or beginning a fireside one person, usually Trevor or Robert Mickelson, would begin to sing and quickly more and more people would begin to join until all of us were just singing a simple hymn together. While this may seem like just a small thing the spirit that it brought was so strong and I can't think of another time where I felt more united with all my fellow quorum members.
Another powerful quality of our hymns is how quickly and strongly they can bring the Spirit. I love how the beginning of each church meeting is started with an opening hymn, it is amazing to see how quickly these hymns are able to bring the spirit and add such a strong feeling of reverence. Elder Snow talks about this in his talk when he quotes Elder Oaks talking about the Hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour" where he says "Picture the spiritual impact of a handful of the Lord's servants singing that song before praying for His guidance in fulfilling their mighty responsibilities." This stands out to me because of the humility it shows of the apostles in how much they trust in and rely on the Lord. One of the places that these opening hymns have had the greatest impact on me is at our wards mission prep class. Each Sunday we start class with a different hymn, many of which I had never even heard of before, and for each hymn brother Johnson teaches us the significance of when it was written or the meaning behind the words. This is so powerful because it teaches us how these hymns can help teach investigators of the love that our Heavenly Father has for them as well as strengthening our own testimonies. To me these hymns always sound as though they are sung with more power and reverence than any other place.
Hymns are also unique in the way they are able to teach pure and simple truths. This is evident in the way that primary children are taught simple songs with powerful yet simple messages in them, many of which are commonly sung in sacrament meetings and musical numbers and are even included in the standard hymn book. These primary songs create a strong foundation from which our testimonies can grow and as we progress in the church the new hymns we learn add to this foundation and continue to strengthen us throughout the rest of our lives.
Elder Snow's talk pays particular attention to hymn number 130, Be Thou Humble. This hymn teaches a very simple and pure truth which as stated by Elder Snow is that "if we humble ourselves, our prayers are answered; we enjoy peace of mind; we serve more effectively in our callings; and, if we continue to be faithful, we will ultimately return to the presence of our Heavenly Father." I feel like this message is so important in our day because of both the critical blessings of humility and the extremely destructive nature of pride. I love the way Elder Snow emphasizes the blessings of humility when he says "humility is essential to gaining the blessings of the gospel ... It enables us to have broken hearts when we sin or make mistakes ... And enables us to be better parents, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends." The part where he talked about how humility enables us to have a broken heart was especially important to me because of how essential that has been for me. In my life I've noticed how much easier it is to forgive someone when I humble myself first. I've found that when instead of focusing on what they did wrong I try to instead focus on the fact that I'm no better than they are and how many mistakes I've personally made it becomes harder not to forgive them than it would be to forgive.
A way we can learn to develop humility is by always looking for and taking joy in the success of friends and family. President Howard W Hunter taught that "our genuine concern should be for the success of others." This principle is so important because as we focus on the success of other people instead of ourselves we become more selfless, kind, civil, and unpretentious, as well as protecting us from the pit-falls of self-promotion, jealousy, and resentment for the triumphs of our peers. I am so grateful that I have been blessed with amazing friends who always try their best to see the good in others and are so quick to celebrate even the smallest of achievements of others. Additionally I am so grateful for the humility they have shown me through their own examples, it is so amazing to me how they recognize the hand of the Lord in even the smallest blessings and they are always so quick to thank Him for everything they are given. It truly makes it so hard to be prideful with them and this has been a huge blessing for me in my life.
Another important blessing of humility is its power to strengthen us. Ether 12:27 states "and if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." I love how this scripture focuses on how our Heavenly Father chooses to give us weaknesses as a way for us to turn to Him and be strengthened. Continuing with this theme we are also given trials throughout our lives, and while these trials often don't seem like blessings they do have a unique ability to make us turn to the Lord in humility. As Elder Snow says "If we choose to be spiritually attuned and remain humble and teachable, our prayers become more earnest and faith and testimony will grow as we overcome the tribulations of mortal existence." I know that this is true and I feel that there is one group of people who exemplify this quote perfectly and that is the pioneers. After facing years of persecution and horrific violence these humbled and faithful people had to make the grueling and dangerous journey across the plains taking only what they needed to survive. And because of their immense faith and humility they were blessed with the strength to carry on. I know that they did this for us and we can be blessed by their amazing example of humility and trust in the Lord. I know that if we like the pioneers follow the counsel given to us in D&C 112:10 where it says "be thou humble;and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answers to they prayers" then He truly will lead us rough our trials and answer our prayers.
For me a key part to studying humility is learning how to become humble. This principle is taught very simply and powerfully by president Spencer W. Kimball when he said "How does one get humble? To me, one must constantly be reminded of his dependence. On whom dependent? On the Lord. How remind oneself? By real, constant, worshipful, grateful prayer." I also know that if we constantly take the time to humbly realize our dependence on the Lord that he will guide our actions and create more good through our works than we could ever imagine. An amazing example of this principle for me is my great great great uncle Joseph Alma Ott. Joseph was the third son of his pioneer parents and had just been married for three weeks when he was called to serve a mission to Germany. Because of his faith in the Lord and his willingness to sacrifice for the church he accepted the call. Unfortunately while disembarking from the ship in Germany Elder Ott slipped and fell into the cold water and became very ill. One month and six
days later Joseph passed away due to black diphtheria and was buried at the St. Paul cemetery in Dresden, Germany. Almost six months later a tombstone—bought by the German saints—was placed on his grave and dedicated to be protected, with an inscription reading "in Memory of the Missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph A. Ott. Dedicated to him by His Fellow Believers." Although he was very devoted as a missionary he was not able to teach a single person on his mission and would normally be considered to have failed. However many years later while East Germany was cut off from the rest of the world a girl named Maria Strauch was walking through the cemetery during the middle of the day she saw a bright light shining on one of the tombstones. As she approached the grave she read the inscription of the tombstone of Joseph Ott where she read the name of the church and decided to look it up. Soon after she found the address of a local branch in Dresden where she attended meetings, embraced the gospel, and was baptized along with her husband and many of her thirteen children and since then many of their descendants have continued to be strong in the gospel. I love his story because it shows how God can work through us in ways that we would never expect, as long as we put our trust in Him and follow His directions.
I am so grateful for examples like these in my life whether it is the stories of my ancestors, the example of a leader who taught us to look at the world around us and that we can find teachings of the gospel in everything the Lord has created for us, the friends who have shown kindness not only to me but to everyone they meet as they spread the light of Christ, or the unconditional love and lightheartedness that my family shows me every day. I testify to all of you here today that I know that this church is true and that we have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves each one of us. I know that he restored this church through the prophet Joseph Smith and that He truly did appear to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove. I also know that through our Heavenly Fathers plan for us we will be able to live with our families for all eternity and will one day live again with him. I am both so humbled and grateful that I have the chance to share this joyous message with the people of my mission and I promise to serve with all my power that I may have the Holy Spirit with me because it is Him who truly changes the hearts of people. I promise you all that if we strive to be more humble each day that we will receive countless blessings from our Heavenly Father who wants to bless us with all He has. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Austin opened his call on March 25th with the support of his friends and family. He was called to the Adriatic North Mission, speaking Albanian, reporting to the MTC on Wednesday, July 27th. The Adriatic North Mission is comprised of Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. It is located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and above the country of Greece.