Friday, July 27, 2012

Be A Missionary Family

Dear Family,
It's so good to hear from you! This has been a wonderful week and I really took the things that you had told me in the letter in stride. Sorry for the email not getting to you on time, but there was a lot of good that came of it. Thanks for being so loving and caring!

That is absolutely wonderful to hear about you stopping and talking with the Hammons. They are absolutely amazing individuals and I love them dearly. When it comes to promptings and revelations from the Spirit, I really love what I learned about this from a video by Elder Bednar: just be a good boy and good girl, keeping your covenants and commandments, and you can ensure that the Lord will be leading you. Too often in the Church we have this unwritten rule that we have to know if its the Holy Ghost before we can act on it. President Packer has said "revelation often comes as a conclusion." Not to mention that if you have thoughts to do good you can know its from the Spirit. If it meets the test of inspiring you to become more like the Savior then you can know that it is by the power of God. Don't forget too that the more you become like the Savior, so will your thoughts; thus you cannot expect the Holy Ghost to prompt you to do something if you already know you need to. Just some food for thought that I learned.

For the MTC, its been absolutely wonderful and I cant believe I have less than a month left here in the MTC! Currently we are teaching a Russian Priest and a man from Nova-Sabirsk. Of course they are just our teachers but its all coming along. We're learning how to teach people and not lessons...which by the way is incredibly difficult!!! But so worth it. The Spirit continues to help us and grace us in every lesson. We were also able to get a new teacher this week because Brother Adams got moved to a new Russian district (because we got a batch of new Russian missionaries to help and mentor, wahoo!). Our new teacher's name is Brother Wilson and is potentially one of the most incredible men I have ever met. He carries this reverent dignity with him wherever he goes and is such a powerful, spiritual giant! In my interview with him I was able to learn to love and respect him even more, but also received this advice from him: look for reasons to love people. If you can transcend faults by finding what to love, it will make life so much more successful. Oh and I also was privileged to bless the sacrament in Russian this week...really crazy difficult, but so worth it! Oh and (sorry for the horrible flow in this letter ;) ) I am singing in our sacrament meeting this week with 7 other Elders singing an expanded arrangement of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" that I had sang. Now its in 4-6 part harmonies and all a Capella. Hopefully our audition will go well and we will also get to sing in a devotional!

Another really amazing experience that occurred last night was Elder Gary J Coleman came and spoke for the Devotional. He spoke on missionary work and the opportunities that it could bring...I guess its just never really hit home - the power of missionary work that is - until I heard the moving discourse from the man that if not for him, I likely wouldn't be listening to him speak or on a mission...I don't even know where I would be.

It's quite difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone where the terms "plan of salvation," "Atonement," "Holy Ghost," "Modern Prophet," and even "Jesus Christ" are not even understood by them. How ungrateful I have been for what I have. We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today! His plan and prophets are fully revealed and our salvation is in sight! We have a Savior, and a correct idea of His perfections and character, and through His Atonement, which we know and can access through priesthood ordinances and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is available to all! We have the light when all others have darkness. Doesn't that make you want to share it? Sure we're imperfect and have fears, but that doesn't matter! No one ever said this life was anything about us,- like the Savior we are to hold our light up to the world to glorify our Father which is in Heaven. We need our family in on this, we need to inspire the members and all without the truth.

Sister Coleman talked about families and the Gospel, and how her family was a missionary family. I'm so grateful for the examples set by all in our family and how we too are like that, but remember that the Gospel blesses families in all circumstances. We want no empty chairs in the Celestial kingdom. I want ever member of our family including our cousins and such to partake of what I get to teach and represent every single day. I love you Kyleigh and family! Please know that this Gospel is the best way we can live our lives.

Its been another rough week in a sense, but only because of my own pride. The Lord's work moves onward and He invites all to come unto him. I echo the words of Moroni in Ether 12:40- "and now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost...may be and abide in you forever. Amen."

I love you all!!!!!!!!! Come unto Him every day step by step!!!

Elder Claypool

The Elder Claypool Pride Cycle (July 18)

Well my family,
Here I am again on another P-day doing the most incredible work, and really only important work here in our portion of eternity. Can you believe I only have about a month left here in the MTC?That thought alone has left me to do some serious thinking about what I really am doing and if I am really prepared to do it.
Naturally this thought has made me reflect on my language abilities. For those of you who don't know, Russian isn't the easiest, but can be rather difficult.The progress we are all making every day is ginormous, but still when you look at the abilities in comparison to the end result, it can seem very overwhelming and daunting. During the week, there were many times when this overwhelming-ness hit me like a wall...every day multiple times too! One came as we were teaching the entire first lesson to another companionship...we had never taught the first lesson before and naturally, were a little rusty...but what made it harder was that our companionship that we were teaching were fantastic at not only teaching in the language but teaching in the doctrine. Now, I know it is not good to compare, but I still did in my selfish little natural-man ways. This caused me to get rather frustrated and not so happy about where I was at. I was greedy rather than grateful.
We ended up teaching another lesson to our investigator Vladimr (pronounced Vlad-ee-mer, like redeemer), and got him one step closer to baptism and taught a great lesson but still I had that dark corner of greed lurking in my mind. After the lesson I was still frustrated and so I started to point a finger in my head, not verbally thankfully, but in my head. I decided from an early stage in the MTC I was going to make sure that my companion and I were progressing together to ensure we were unified. So naturally I was seek to blame him in part because of my language abilities. See how all of this is so focused inward? Pretty nasty stuff isn't it? I was able to get a little of a hold of myself and bring things back into focus; not focus on my worries, but focus on my blessings, my investigator, and my companion. The Lord was helping to see things in a new light I guess.
However, the next day came and it was time to teach Vova. Now, Vova was a bit of a tough investigator at first seeing as he would read the Book of Mormon, pray, and all, but he just wouldn't go to church. Finally one day he was on a business trip in southern Ukraine and just decided to go to church. From there we were able to progress with Him a lot faster, teaching him lesson three, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then actually committing him to baptism. This was our last meeting with him and I was focused on myself. I knew I could not focus on my lack of language, on my lack of ability, on I said a quick prayer asking for forgiveness, tried to focus on the investigator, his needs ,and his faith, and then we went into the lesson.
Now, to take a step back , I feel its pretty appropriate to label this account and an Elder Claypool pride cycle that occurs at least once every day if not more, but I want you all to see the blessings that came from it. Recently, even though at the time I didn't feel like I really needed it, I wasn't praying for the gift of tongues. I had a strong testimony of the things the spirit had helped me with and that the spirit definitely spoke through the barrier of my poor Russian, but I didn't really feel the need to pray for the gift of tongues...I'm sure you can guess how intelligent that was ;) so, I decided to start praying for it because I was supposed to, not only because I needed it. During this lesson as I was able to focus on Vova, to teach him of his covenants and bear testimony, I felt the spirit so strongly and couldn't deny its power working through me. I spoke and word came out of my mouth that I knew, but wasn't consciously recalling them...I couldn't even remember half of the things that I said previously. We read with him Mosiah 18:30 and there was a very tender moment as we talk of the importance of this day to him, and then closed in the name of Him we represent. I have every confidence that our lesson was taught through the Spirit to Vova that day and that the gift of tongues is a literal gift that blesses me daily. But in order to receive it and in order to receive and spiritual gifts we are to ensure that we are worthy of such, we ask for such, and we seek to do everything we can to be as such. In a fireside given by Elder Featherstone (which is a whole other 30 minutes of typing a letter's worth), he quoted Elder Bruce R McConkie who said: "No other talent exceeds spirituality." I believe that to be firmly true.
Love you
Elder Claypool

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Hello favorite family in the whole world and existence of eternity!!! I've thought of you all so much this last week...but don't worry, it's in the good way ;) Well...where do I even begin? This week was pretty rough but at the same time super beneficial! Being here at the MTC there are many opportunities to bear testimony and especially to ponder the path of your life. And with all that you are taught, experiences make you really wonder, ponder, and reflect on your life. To be really honest though, this was probably one of the hardest weeks of my life recently.

As a missionary, there is a lot required of you and lot in which you are expected to perform. The Lord has called you to serve Him and expects that you do so. When it comes to following the rules and being obedient to that which I have directly in front of me, I do just fine. We get up every morning at 6am and make sure we start off the day right...but being a missionary is much more than just being obedient. In Preach My Gospel, it reads that we cannot convert people beyond our own conversion, or, in the words of the Emeritus Seventy that spoke this last week, "you cannot expect your investigators to gain a testimony of something you do not have a testimony of." Needless to say, whether by the Spirit's promptings or atmosphere of the MTC, I have pondered questions regarding this: What do I desire? Why am I here? Do I have a testimony? Am I converted? Am I willing? Do I love the Savior?

All these questions and more have been on my mind as I have been driven against a wall needing to know these answers. I felt multiple times throughout the week like I was drowning in the sea of my own confusion and mental tempest. I would remember the Savior, why I was here, and what I was doing and it would all be better, but then I would relapse into these fits of doubt (frustration). However, the Lord is mindful of His Children. On July 4, we were to teach another member of the zone whom we didn't know; to practice our Russian and to edify one another. Elder Bunnell and I sat across from each other and gained knowledge of each other and such, then headed back to our individual classrooms to prepare for the next hour. As I sat in a sea of confusion, I felt no direction, I felt lost, I felt alone, I...realized... I was only focused on myself. I would pray for help and then try to focus on Elder Bunnell and what he needed rather than myself, but to no avail. But like I said, the Lord is mindful and I know that. I went into that lesson with a small idea of what to say with a sad excuse for a lesson plan. We sat down and in Russian, we began to teach. Elder Bunnell proceeded to share a simple list of scriptures that had within them exactly what I needed. Through tears we continued the lesson as without fail, every scripture felt as though it was dictated from the mouth of God to me personally. What was the truly amazing part, followed the lesson. In bearing testimony, Elder Bunnell, in halted Russian, described to me that while preparing his lesson, he had only heard of half of the scriptures and just felt like the Lord what guiding him to not only what I needed, but what he needed. In simple Russian testimony, he bore record that God really did know me exactly, that He knew exactly what I was going through, and he knew exactly what I needed. I know that now too.

The rest of the night was wonderful, as I hope your 4th of July was as well, but I couldn't expect that that would be my only trial. Throughout the week, I continued to struggle and ask myself if I truly was converted on "all things", and where I measured in every aspect of my testimony. Nevertheless, I would continue to try to do that which I was supposed too. Pray to my Heavenly Father, meaningful and with the realization that not only is He listening, but kneeling with me, is what continues to be my strength. I would pray to my Father for guidance, for comfort, for peace, and without fail, I began to see His hand in my life. I would receive an impression here and an impression there each day, and like a gentle current or breeze, I could feel His guiding hand, but not necessarily know the direct route to go. I've realized that no one can strengthen my testimony but me. Yes! I have a testimony and I have had one, but the Lord in His infinite mercy, of which I am incredibly grateful, has openly showed me just how much I need to grow and become "more converted". I realized through the week and the comments of my companion and others speaking by the Spirit, that this time is a time of great testing for me. I cannot convert people beyond my own conversion nor can I just expect to go with what I have. This mission is a mission to serve the Lord. To devote my heart and mind to him 24/7 and to the children whom I serve. I am learning more of the Atonement, I am learning more of the man called Christ, and just what He has to offer...the offering of his whole self for me (and for you). The road is long and I have even longer to go before I can truly be the missionary and man that the Lord would have of me, but for now, I have faith in Him from whom salvation comes. And as I learn more of all that I lack in, I realize that all comes back to that great and last sacrifice of my Savior, even Jesus the Christ (See Alma 34:14). Use the Atonement. Learn more of the Atonement. and seek more fully to become converted to this Gospel. This is His work. I testify of Him. The Church is true.
Love, Elder Claypool

PS Tell Eric Hi for me and Ryan congradulations and that I'm proud of Him. I really do love you guys so much and am so blessed to have a family as supportative as you all. I'm trying to learn and serve the Lord now and finding our out hard that is and how far I am from being anything I wish to be...but i guess in a way that's okay. The hope I have to remind myself daily of is that that there was once a perfect Man who walked the earth so that by him, in him, of him, and through him, I might have hope. This is the hope of My salvation, the man I am working to represent. Jesus Christ my Savior.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Testimony to true conversion...

To my dearest family!

Thank you so much for sending me all those packages and things this last week...I'll admit, it kinda felt like Christmas for a while ;) I'll be sending you a letter this week just so I can take time to write to you individually, but real quick I'd like to just share with you what has been happening this last week:

To continue where I left you all last week, we had an amazing time singing for the general authorities and then again at night time for President Packer for the concluding session of the mission president seminar. We were privileged before hand to actually have Elder Russel M Nelson come in unannounced and talk with us. It has been such a blessing to be able to associate and be in the presence of these special witnesses of Christ! I think over a period of 4 days I was within 3m of every single one of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve besides Elder Hales. What a blessing!

These last week, if I could describe it correctly and accurately, has been a complete roller coaster. Everyday up, then down, then up, then down, sometimes feeling like I'm scrambling and other times feeling like I was on top of the world. The language is continuing to come and that is wonderful...but its my spirituality and eternal progression/character that I am most focused on. As a missionary, we have the opportunity to help others receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that they can endure to the end (PMG p1); we are here to help others come to know of the love the Father has for them and the love that is available to them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, we cannot do this nor even hope to do so without being first converted ourselves. Now, conversion is kind of an interesting and intriguing topic that I have been able to study about the last few days and just what it entails, trying to assess my own conversion. To put in Nephi's terms, I'm still sitting at the gate (see 2 Ne 31:15-18). I realized that in my life, I have a testimony of many different aspects of the Gospel and receive witnesses of those truths time and time again. But how, if I had received so many witnesses, how could I doubt what I knew? How could the Three Witnesses after receiving their witness fall away from what they had seen and beheld? The answer lies in the process of conversion. Elder Bednar in a recent  MTC devotional on Christmas day this last December spoke on conversion. To paraphrase, he clarified that a testimony is what you know to be true; conversion is being true to what you know. So where was I? Where am I? I came to realize that even though I was questioning my testimony, yes, I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon, of the Atonement, of the existence of God, of the priesthood, of President Monson, of the truthfulness of the church and His gospel, but in terms of conversion---no. I felt as though my progression in the Gospel was one of being led by a cattle-prod; as I felt my testimony or the foundation upon which I was built begin to crumble, then I would begin to fortify, sincerely pray to my Heavenly Father, and then all was well again. However, the Lord is mindful. The week was riddled with many experiences that gave me opportunity to learn and to grow. First off, I cannot even begin to express how much I don't know Gospel wise, but also how much I lack when it comes to being a representative and disciple of Christ. We were able to have a wonderful testimony meeting on Sunday that was completely in Russian. I understood, was able to bear testimony, and testify that the Spirit does speak to every man in his own language and in His own tongue. My companion and I were able to both participate and give priesthood blessings this last week, feeling an abundance of the Lord's love for those individuals, his complete forgiveness, and the Hope that comes only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We experienced an incredible fireside where a brother of one of the seventies came and gave an entire hour's worth of the Prophet Joseph's life in the character of Willard Richards from the time Willard met him to the events shortly preceding the Prophet's death. When singing Praise to the Man following Willard's testimony, we one by one stood as we sang hails to that Prophet's name. All these and more were experiences I received this week to reaffirm my testimony, but the conversion was still not there. To become converted to Christ is to truly believe that he is, to believe he can do all he says He can do, to forgive yourself, to repent of your sins, to experience God's love and share that love with other through Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the answer to all of the problems any man anywhere may face. To be converted, is to partake of the redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement every single day and to get on your knees morning and night, pleading to come in to oneness with the will of our Father. To become converted is to become become perfected in Christ. This takes effort! And incredible amount of effort that will leave you never being satisfied with your present eternal self, but always, always, always remembering the hope from which all blessings flow. I still have a long ways to go till I will be converted completely and I do not know if it will be in this life. Everyday I struggle with the thorn that has been given me in the flesh...but that is how it is supposed to be lest any man boast by his own works that he alone is responsible for his salvation and perfection. We cannot do anything save it be by, through, and by using the Atonement of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Begin today to serve him continually building upon his foundation. Continue to read his word, even the Book of Mormon, his gathering tool today. If you feel as though you cant or seemingly will never make it, just remember that all can partake of this Atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ

Love you all!