Family and friends :)
I'd like to share one of my favorite quotes from the book Our Search for Happiness by M. Russell Ballard that describes the blessings a missionary receives through his experiences as he continues to learn, "Weaknesses become strengths, challenges become opportunities, trials become triumphs, and adversity becomes an adventure in the service of the Lord- another fruit of gospel living." Wow that quote really hit me! It is such an accurate description. And it doesn't just apply to missionaries it can apply to all of us in our everyday lives. Everyday we can learn from our mistakes and become better and more like the person God wants us to be. Heavenly Father truly wants us to be better this year than we were last year. He wants us to learn and progress every single day. This quote reminded me of something my great friends Drew and Ashton Hosford shared with me. Their phrase is "upward only" and what it basically encapsulates what Elder Ballard was saying that as long as we're always repenting and learning from our mistakes and trying to do better than our lives will be like a steady incline going upwards only. Eternally progressing and becoming more like Jesus Christ. Through the Atonement and our desire to change, literally being perfected and molded by the Lord into the person that we need to be. Upward only. There's power in that phrase and power in living with a mindset like that.
I sincerely recommend that everyone read Our Search for Happiness. It's brief, clear, spiritual, and powerful just like we try to be as missionaries. It teaches the doctrine of Christ plainly and it isn't just for members of the church. For those of you reading this email who are not members of the church that have wondered what it is that we believe and would like to know more about our beliefs I'd recommend that book its perfect for you. Also while I'm recommending books I realized the other day how much a certain book has helped me here in the mission, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Now I realize that as a missionary it isn't the most common book to recommend but seriously it is incredible. I read it my senior year of high school and I use principles from that book every single day. It teaches fundamental principles like the importance of smiling and how much of a difference it can make, expressing sincere appreciation to everyone, and precious pearls of wisdom like the importance of remembering people's names. Remember that to everyone the sound of their own name is the sweetest sound in the English (or Spanish) language. Little things but they make a huge difference trust me :) as missionaries we meet tons of new people everyday and there is such a huge difference between the Elders who always say "Oh sorry remind me your name again" and the Elders who testify of gospel truths and apply them personally to the investigator while using the name of the investigator (while having a big smile on their face). These are all small things but remember Alma 37:6-7 ;)
But of course of all the books that I can recommend by far the most important book that anyone can read is the Book of Mormon. Read it everyday. And don't just read it. Study, ponder, pray, feast upon the word, and really submerge yourself in the Book of Mormon and apply personally to your life and problems that you're having or questions that you need helped with (1 Nephi 19:23). While at BYU the year before I left for the mission I had the privilege and opportunity to read the Book of Mormon everyday for thirty minutes. What a blessing! That strengthened me so much in my life, helped me overcome great struggles, and prepared me substantially for my mission. Remember that reading the Book of Mormon is like brushing your teeth. I used to have the attitude of "Oh well if I don't read it today I can read extra tomorrow or extra on Sunday its no big deal." Wrong! That's like saying oh I'm not gonna brush my teeth this week because I'll just use seven times the toothpaste on Sunday and it'll be the same I'm still brushing my teeth its all good. No way! That would be disgusting and your teeth would rot and your breath would stink horribly. The same principle applies with reading the Book of Mormon. Our teeth have plaque that builds up everyday and so we brush our teeth everyday. We sin and make mistakes and have temptations every single day and so we need to read the scriptures and pray everyday. It strengthens us and keeps us protected from the onslaught of temptation we have to face everyday. When you don't brush your teeth you have dirty teeth. When you don't read your scriptures and pray its like having a dirty soul. Which is more important to you?
Study the Book of Mormon every single day and it will bring great blessings of protection, spiritual strength, peace, comfort, happiness, and joy in your life.
I love you all and hope you're happy and learning and growing everyday :)