Sunday, August 19, 2012

Final Days in the MTC

This is the last week that I will be emailing you from the States before I finally get to go serve my people! Thank you for the package and all you have been able to do for me and for Elder Riddle. Yep, I leave in less than a week and have all my travel plans and everything (What an exciting and nerve racking day that was, to know that I was actually going!) I'll be flying from Salt Lake to Denver, then Denver to Munich, and Munich to Donetsk to continue the next chapter of my mission. The MTC has been such an incredible experience for me and I know that the real reason I was called Russian speaking is because I needed to be here for 12 weeks to get my head screwed on straight ;) There have been so many lessons that I have been able to learn this past week and the entire twelve weeks, but I want to speak on only a few things since I don't have a ton of time and still have to pack today, (YIKES!!!). I think in totality though, all the lessons that I've learned have been focused on actually understanding the Gospel and my relationships with each member of the Godhead.

I never was really into missionary work at home and didn't really understand it completely, nor do I now, but what I can say is that this is the Lord's work. The Lord's work is a work of Rescuing all his children, active, inactive, and nonmember alike. But it is not just missionary work that I'm talking about. One of the biggest eye opening experiences for me is realizing that Heavenly Father's "Work and Glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man," is missionary work that we all were foreordained and sent here to do. We are all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him (Moroni 10:32-33), we are all to seek to build Zion (1 Ne 13:37), but we all, and I mean all, are here to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost, so that they can endure to the end." (PMG p1). This is the work we are all called to as members of the Church: to aid all, including ourselves, in coming to Christ to partake of His Atonement so that we can all together return to our Holy Heavenly Fathers presence who loves us more than we can even imagine.

Are we using the Atonement in our daily lives? I think one of the easiest phrases I use on a lesson is "because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can all receive forgiveness of sins and be able to return to Heavenly Father" that a very personal statement for a person (who can barely understand me in the first place ;) who has never even heard of Christ or of the Atonement? No. Is the Atonement a personal topic that we each can define in our heart of hearts that isn't merely an end of the Road pick-me-up when I cant go any farther, or is it the literal blood of our daily salvation bringing us closer and closer to Him who beckons all to come unto Him? (Mat 11:27-8) I know that the Atonement can be used in so many ways as it literally our only hope is this life. Take time to ponder the Atonement this week and just what it means to you. Some questions that might help thinking might be: "How does the Atonement blessing my life every day?" "How is the Atonement of Jesus Christ helping to become better?" "What do I feel and do on a daily basis because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ?" "Am I continually repenting and using the Atonement?"

As a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can promise that if we merely learn more and apply daily the redeeming balm of the Atonement, we can and will become more than we could ever hope for, and become all the Father wants and knows we can be. Please use the Atonement!

So, stepping off the soap box for a second, I want to talk about an amazing experience that I was able to have this last Sunday. We had auditioned to sing in the Sunday MTC Fireside this last week and hadn't heard anything from the music people we got discouraged and stopped practicing after a few weeks of nothing. However our lack of faith, we were able to receive the invitation to sing this last Sunday at the Fireside. We were elated and began to practice again with the 3 days we had left till we performed. We were nervous and excited when Sunday rolled around, but tried to keep in mind the advice Sister Nally, wife of President Nally of the MTC Presidency, said to us: "Musical numbers are not about you! (I seem to be getting this message a lot lately ;) It should invite the spirit and be totally for them." So that's how we performed it. It went absolutely incredibly and with thanks to God in our hearts, we were able to get the best compliment anyone could ever give: "Thank you for that musical number. I felt the Spirit so strongly." When that Hymn that is so sacred to me speaks of dying for others, serving others, and sacrificing completely of ourselves, I think of Him that had no friends in the lonely Garden, and hung by himself on the cross. I think of Him who did no wrong and sacrificed everything for me...for us. I think of Him dressed in white sitting on the right hand of the Father, on his knees with us as we plead for forgiveness and He in return says to the Father "Behold thy son who did no sin and paid this price, forgive them Father." And in those last lines of that hymn, as we come to do as the Savior did, and strive to learn of Him, and become like him, we too will have the opportunity to kneel down at the Master's feet with tears in both of our eyes and as we look at the Tokens in His hands as see that we know them...for they are our hands too. His face and love...we felt as we daily partake of the Atonement. And His eyes - the eyes we have been striving to see through these many long years. And then will come the words: "My friend, well done. well done."

May all with in the sight of this email know of my deepening testimony of my Savior, even Jesus the Christ. Every day I have the opportunity just like you to become like and do as He would do and does. I still make mistakes and need to repent almost hourly it seems...but that's okay. He suffered for us so that we would not have to suffer. I know the Atonement is real and works in our lives in so many more ways than we even realize it if we will let it. Thank you for all your incredible examples to me and how much you make me strive to become more like my Savior. With Moroni, I commend and exhort all of you to "seek this Jesus of whom the prophets have written." (Ether 12:40). May God make me an instrument! and you as well as we bring to pass this great work!
Elder Claypool

Sunday, August 12, 2012

2 weeks left in the USA

August 9, 2012
Oh my family!!! It’s so good towrite you and to hear from you! I'm so proud of the missionary work that youare doing and the support that brings me. Even though we call it missionarywork, the real honesty of it all is that we are all missionaries on this earthsent from the realms of Heavenly Father in the life before this to come andbring others to Christ as we too come unto Christ. This is “life's work”, notjust missionary work!
This week has been super amazingand continues to get better. I will admit that the last few days I have beengetting especially impatient, unloving, and unfocused. I don’t know if it’sbecause of the fact that in less than two weeks I'll be on a plane to Ukraine,or if it’s the Adversary working extra hard. Either way, it’s gotta change ;)
A few things I have beenextremely grateful for this week include: prayer, the Spirit, and just how mindful our Father in Heaven is mindfulof all of us. After lunch almost every day, Elder Riddle and I try to get a fewcontacts in on MTC campus to work on Russian, build unity, and invite theSpirit. It may seem kind of weird to do this on campus, but it is so worth it!All need to be invited everyday to come unto to Christ, even us missionaries ;)So, we were contacting some workers in the MTC talking about the restoration ofthe Gospel of Jesus Christ and I had the opportunity to recite the First Visionin Russian.  As I recited those holywords written by the Prophet Joseph himself, I was flooded with this peaceful,yet powerful confirmation that this message --that God loves us and does speakto His prophets today and that all can come back into His presence because ofthe Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ -- is absolutely true.
In watching the Restoration videoin Russian a day later, I was able to receive yet another converting witnessthat this message is true. I know with all my soul and all my heart that Josephreally did see God the Father, our Loving Heavenly Father,  and Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Iknow that what happened in that Sacred Grove of trees is everything to me andmy life. There is not a single thing in this world worth living for or dyingfor than the truths and testimonies that come from when a 14 year old boydecided to ask God a sincere question. I know this is true, and so can you!That's the most beautiful part about this Gospel and our message.  All can come to know of the truthfulness ofour message if they just ask God. We don’t have any tricks or mind games up oursleeves.  For any who wonder, we don’tlearn how to be cunning convincers of some proclaimed truth (after all we'reall pretty much just 19 year old boys who barely have their heads on straight;), but rather we learn to invite, to bear testimony, to share the word of God,and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Truly all we have is our testimonies,God's own word that can change your very heart and existence, and an offer forsalvation and eternal happiness to individuals and families to all who arewilling to follow the Savior into the waters of baptism and continue on thepath. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know this was true and that everyoneneeded this message because it is the only message that truly matters.
Thankfully, because God loves us,another thing I know in my heart is He has given us ways to come to know of thetruthfulness of this message. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of JesusChrist is there for all as an unshakeable and untouchable witness that theRestoration really did occur and that Joseph, the translator by the power ofGod, did what he did. Recently here in the MTC, I have been praying for mytestimony to increase and to know in my heart that these things of what I amdedicating my life to are true. God blessed me with those answers. In the closingverses of the Book of Mormon, Moroni, an ancient prophet and last prophet towrite in the record that is now the Book of Mormon, exhorted all men to ponderthe things the God had done for the children of men from the time of Adam tillnow, to read the words of the Book of Mormon, ponder them in your heart, andthen ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the Book is true. Andsimply as that, if the asker has a sincere desire to know the truthfulness,have faith in Jesus Christ, or trusting in Him to give an answer, and beingwilling to act on the prompting given, then by the Power of the Spirit of God,or Holy Ghost, you will have the truth of it manifested unto you. I have readevery page in the Book of Mormon and I have come to know of its truthfulnessthrough doing as Moroni promises. As a representative of Jesus Christ, I toocan promise that if you do this, even if you already have a testimony of theBook of Mormon, you may receive an additional witness or simply a witness thatthe Book of Mormon is true. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God andthat if we live by the precepts taught in that book, we can draw closer to God,our families, and never-ending happiness than by anything else.
p.s.  I hope you enjoyed the video of us singing asit was a total surprise to me that Brother Lamarouex was going to send it tillafter he recorded it. Give him this address for me so that he can keep intouch. Tell him thank you for me (he was just released this last week). Sorryif I was not as detailed in the activities of the week, as I promise to be moreso when I'm in the field, but I just want all to know and would hope thatsomehow my testimony can touch anyone who is willing to receive these things.Thank you so much for being the best family and such a blessing from God. I canhardly put to words how I feel about this Gospel and this message and theimmense blessings I have been able to receive, but in the words of ourinvestigator who just lost his job (he was a Russian priest) because he isbeing baptized this Saturday and has little to no school or money: "If Godknow me, and I know he does, what else really matters?"
Let us be faithful and trust inHim who has always been faithful to us. I love you all so much and am doing mybest to become like my Savior for all of you. I still have my struggles...dailyin fact...but I know that His hand is constantly in my life. This is life! Getinvolved in the greatest and most important work in our existence!
Elder MaKade Claypool (soon to bein the Ukraine)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aug 1, 2012 Post

August 1, 2012
Good morning!  Well, well, well...can you believe that the MTC train isalmost at its end?  I have only 20 daysuntil I head out to Ukraine and begin to serve my people. With this thought inmind, it has led to quite a bit of anxiety, but so much excitement!
A little on how the MTC (Missionary Training Center inProvo, Utah that trains missionaries before they go out to serve) is going:   First, Russianis the most incredible language in the world and we’re up to 4Speak-Your-Language days a week now! (Well, I guess this week will be fivedays). Essentially what that entails is just nothing but Russian all day long.Our teachers are teaching us almost in complete Russian and it is absolutely incrediblehow the gift of tongues actually is. I have a strong testimony of this gift,but, more importantly, and at the foundation of it all, I am beginning to havewithin me a burning conversion to the grace of Jesus Christ. This was evidentlymanifested while we taught two of our lessons to our two investigators on thesame day:
1. Ivan (EE-vahn) was first to be taught on Monday and...wedidn’t really have a lesson plan (oops! Be prepared). We were practicingteaching the word of wisdom in English (rare) to Brother Adams who was pretendingto be an investigator named Vechaslav (literally means "eternalglory" in Russian ;) ) and then all of the sudden our teacher, BrotherWilson asked if we were ready to teach we excepted, and pleased toget 5 minutes to 'gather our thoughts'...aka, prepare a lesson. We had decidedpreviously to teach him about the Savior and who He was, what He did, and how Hisexample applies to us.  We found somescriptures and went in to the lesson praying for the Spirit.  Ivan didn’t know at all who Christ was, butthe lesson went wonderfully! As we testified of Him, the Spirit entered intothe room and testified to all of us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,and the Savior of the World. In fact, Elder Riddle, in the middle of the lesson,asked Ivan to pray to find out if the words we were saying were true. He did,and this incredible peace filled the room. I have such a deep love andreverence for the One who is becoming my only Hope, my Dearest Friend. We thenspoke on the example of the Savior in 2 Nephi chapter 31 (scripture found inthe Book of Mormon) and committed him to baptism right there. He was hesitant,but he knew we would help him and that his Heavenly Father would help him too.
2. Vladimer (Vlad-EE-mer), our other investigator was alsoscheduled to be taught by us that day. Rather than following the usualPlan-Study-Teach-Cycle on our own as a companionship, we were able to do thiswith Brother Adams.  It was wonderfulbeing able to prepare a lesson with him and my companion and see the results.We planned and taught on the principle of faith and wanted to help Valdimerrecognize that he did have the faith to be baptized. In previous lessons withhim, his issue was that he wasn’t sure and wanted to be 100% on his decision.With this goal in mind to aid his faith, we made a lesson that wasstraightforward, effective, and fun. This is something that I have never donebefore because of how much we focus on the spiritual side of conversations, butI learned an important lesson on this: theGospel is nothing but a pathway to a fullness of joy (maybe the first ofmany MaKade quotes). If at all we feel burdened trying to live the Gospel,unhappy with our life, not understanding how this is the 'great plan ofhappiness,' and we are doing everything we can to keep the commandments and covenants,then ask yourself this question: "Am I using both the redeeming power andthe enabling power of the Atonement in my life at every opportunity?"Remember where true joy comes from.   Nowgo smile.
So, back to Valdimer. We are teaching him; had him do an object lesson that involved himtrusting that we had candy to give him;  and that he could get it, even though he didn’tsee it;  and that if he did 15 jumpingjacks in the middle of this busy walkway (...he of course rejected, laughed,tried to barter the number he had to do);  but he did it and received the candy.   All of that was not the real teaching momentof the lesson.  The important teachingmoment of the lesson was when he read Ether 12:6 and then taught himself bysimply saying "Guess I can’t get the candy until after I have faith and ambaptized?"    He understood the Spiritfrom reading the scriptures.  The Spiritis the only one who gets credit to do any teaching on these lessons, and thebest part is that though we can present the message to the investigator, the HolyGhost presents it to their heart in their way.   My family and friends- Seek the Spirit givento us that is the conduit through which we partake of the grace of theAtonement. Please, partake of the Atonement and come to know this Jesus of whomthe prophets have testified (Ether 12:40)
To say the least, I am so grateful. For all the notes,blessings, treats (thanks everybody), prayers and life lessons that I receiveevery day because of you all and because of our Father in Heaven's love for us.He knows us so personally and wants us to be everything He is and more. He asksthat we pray to Him, so He can bless us. Heasks us to believe in His Son, because it is through His Son that we canreceive joy, even a fullness of joy. Don’t seek to merely gain a testimony ofthis work, but let your works be a testimony of Him who we all were sent torepresent and come unto. In a devotional this last Tuesday that influencedmy heart so much, the speaker spoke of "why we are here," and who itwas that sent us? As a representative of Jesus Christ and an authorizedMissionary for Him, the talk seemed to apply wonderfully to us all.  But, never forget this lesson the Spiritwhispered to my heart: In the premortal-life we all chose. We all chose to comehere and to follow the Savior. Because we have been born in this day and age,we were sent here by our Loving Heavenly Father to bring all souls to Him.There is no greater purpose of life than the purpose we were sent here to do:fulfill His Will, as our Savior set the example for us to do. You are herebecause Heavenly Father trusts you enough with the Salvation of the souls ofAll His Children.  Let us be faithful tothat calling. And if you feel as though you cannot go on or cannot become thatwhich is asked of you to be, take this lesson I learned from this experience asa missionary: Remember who called you. Remember that you chose once before andproved yourself in the life before coming to this earth:  you can do it again! You cannot do it on yourown.  His Grace is sufficient for you tobecome who you are called to be. Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies. Rememberthat you are called and who it is that extends that call.
Love you all!
Elder Claypool