Sunday, December 8, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Dec 2,2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We were able to have a wonderful thanksgiving and finally the snow is starting to come down! President and Sister Lochhead did a wonderful job and we were lucky enough to have them at out thanksgiving feast. We all traveled down to Kharkov this last week for a few days to be their for a zone conference and thanksgiving. There are so many things that happened, both explainable and unexplainable that just made me sit on my knees, washed over with gratitude to my heavenly Father and all those that he has sent me. I've eaten way too much the last few days...but Sister Lochhead's pies are pretty good...not as good as yours of course, but they come close. One of the most rewarding things to see was to be able to sit and talk with President Lochhead in our interview. We have a super wonderful relationship and I am so eternally grateful for that. This work really is the work of the Lord and all need to jump with two feet in! It's the best thing to do possible! As for our area, we are having to move on from investigators that aren't progressing, but at the same time, we are seeking to find new investigators and to strengthen the branch. It helps that me and my companion are having a wonderful time together! One of the most rewarding things of this week and of this Thanksgiving season that I am grateful for more than anything else is my testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. I have met all sorts of people that believe in Jesus Christ, don't believe in him, count him as a good example, see no point in learning of him, and those who sincerely know/are coming to know him. Not long ago, I realized that my personal relationship with the Savior was quite weak and need to be strengthened. I studied about him. I sought to act as he would act, and I listened to His Spirit. This last week when Sister Lochhead was testifying of Jesus Christ, the Spirit resounded in my own heart giving me a reaffirmation of what I had been coming to know in the past few weeks. My testimony has strengthened so greatly! I really only have God to thank for that. Like Peter, though still not perfect with many frailties and faults in my future, I can stand and say with head held high and Jesus really is the Christ. He is my personal Savior, and I am coming every day closer to him. As Elder Holland has said, Seek to develop a life-long love-affair with the live of the Savior. This is my quest in pursuit of holiness: follow my Savior. We really can trust him completely! In order to do that though, we need that confirmation of the Spirit that he really is who he says he is. 

I'm am grateful that my Savior out of personal choice gave himself a sacrifice for my sins. I am grateful and know that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is our perfect and only example to return to our Father and reach all the happiness our souls are crying out for. There is power in the words with the Father has been recorded to say through the dispensations of time: "This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him!" Christ really is the way to happiness and the way to all that our Father would have us do. Learn of Him. Listen to His Spirit, and walk in the meekness of his ways. In doing this you too will have peace in him as I'm starting to find!

 Everything is going fairly well with the branch (group of members in our area) and is moving forward in all reality. I really am gaining an even stronger testimony of the power of the Fast.

We were privileged to have President Lochhead in our branch this week and his wife to give a wonderful training from the Work of Salvation broadcast.  So amazing! It then led perfectly into our branch council where we more fully talked about our plans to move forward the work of salvation in our city of Sumy. We don't have ward council very often here, but it was a tender mercy to see just how much a single Fast could bring a spirit into the room and allow us to really move the work forward.

We are in need of finding new investigators, so keep praying for us. Great news is the less-actives are beginning to come back to church and the branch is starting to catch fire. We just need to keep flaming it!

Thank you for your prayers! My calling is going well in the branch serving as Elder's Quorum President. To answer your question, yes, I am using the handbook, but of course can use it better.

One of the brethren in our quorum is a deaf man and so I'm trying to pick up a little Russian Sign Language...guess my sign language at SCC wasn't perfectly preparatory to being able to communicate with him, but at the very least, I'm familiar with the governing principles. The Lord prepares us to serve.  Keep praying for all of us.

I love you. Go to the temple and do some work for me ;) It will be wonderful to go back to the temple together as we did almost 2 years ago!
Keep carrying your Christ-like light to all the world, for he really is The Light and Life of the World.

Elder Claypool

Saturday, November 30, 2013


11/25/13 Post
Thanks so much for your inspiring words. I didn't have a chance to read them all, but I wanted to thank you in light of our national holiday this week. I can just feel your support and that is overwhelming. I wanted to talk about something else that I am grateful for too besides our family, this church, this Gospel, and my Savior: The Spirit. 
Till my dying day, I will contend with the sword of truth against all the evil, cunning, and false doctrines that mankind teaches that we cannot know spiritual truths from God. Isaiah taught that in the last days "people draw near [to God] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour [him], but have removed their heart far from [him], and their fear toward [Him] is taught by the precept of men" (Isaiah 29:13). The risen Lord reaffirmed this statement to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said that "all their (mankind's) creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (JS-H 1:19). 
What is the power of God that the people today deny? How is it possible that people could draw close to God with their lips, minds, and mouths, but their hearts be far from him? There was a crucial piece of precious doctrine that was lost during the Great Apostasy after the death of the Apostles that answers this question. Let me demonstrate using a few verses: Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right" (D&C 9:7-8). The way that we are to receive revelation from God is to first study it out in our minds and then to ask God if it be right. In meeting with members of another faith I was rocked to my core to hear their methods of coming to know truth: A group of learned men who studied the Bible and came to the conclusion of how to interpret it; evidences of truth through tangible means, proving what is true, - these believers have fulfilled the first part of receiving revelation, but blatantly deny the second part: asking God if our opinion is true. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni reiterates how we can know of truth: First, we must study it out in our minds: 
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
But then comes step 2: 
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; 
And how will we receive an answer?
...and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things...And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; 
Then comes Moroni's clarion call to all the world in defense to the what the prophet Isaiah prophesied:
...wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever. (Moroni 10:3-7)
Though we can have all the evidences in the world of the truth of a mankind-philosophy, it does not make it true. Though we can be like Peter and be around the Savior, seeing all the miracles of God wrought through him, we can only know that He is the Christ from the Father in Heaven Himself, and not through flesh and blood, or mankind's wisdom of our day (see Matthew 16:17). We can come to know eternal truths directly from God. We must study and we must ask. I know he will answer. This is one truth that I am immensely grateful for this Thanksgiving day. It's a promise to all. 
I love you from Ukraine!  Happy Thanksgiving!
Hey Mom! 
I think that in all reality it is a huge blessings that our days don't go on unlimited and that we have only a limited amount of time every day and on the earth. If not, we would not have the same necessity to really learn what matters most, not being able to do it all in the time we are given. We can only do that which is most I guess the seemingly merciless clock that ticks ever on is actually yet another blessing from the Lord. 
In regards to your lesson for relief society...I can only talk from personal experience. I am and have always been a lot harder on myself in life and would beat myself up over things that I did wrong. I'll say that that is not right. The other side of the coin is also just not true either. We can't just go through life without caring and doing what ever we want using our imperfections as excuses to our misbehaviors. There's got to be a balance. The first thing that I would say is something that I realized here on my mission: it is not a sin after making a mistake to say, "Well, lets do better next time." For some reason, I had it ingrained in my mind that the repentance process involved me putting myself in a huge hole and continuing to push myself into more and more punishment for my sins and mistakes until God in His mercy would blast the light back into my life and rip me out of the dark through a very spiritual experience. Until that experience came though, I was fallen and cast off forever. It may sound a little extreme, but that was what subconsciously I was thinking. I think for some reason in the church we often do the same. We must always remember a phrase that capstones a learning experience for me spoken by a member in Donetsk: "The essence of repentance is not in sufferance, but in changing." Let that really sink in to your heart. Unlike what we have somehow come to believe in the church, repentance is not a punishment given from Heavenly Father to force us to do better next time. It is an opportunity to get back up, turn around, shake the dust off (or punishments that come) BY REPENTING, or changing our attitudes, thoughts, and actions to be better next time. If any person sincerely is repenting and turning to the Lord, his heart will be in the right place to say "Okay, let's do better next time," and then do so. We feel godly sorrow when we sin, but we don't need to aggravate it by our own fueling of the flames. 
"For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent..." (D&C 19:16)
We need to use the Atonement and Christ sufferings, not put ourselves through that which he already suffered. 
I love you mom! I'm really trying to be better at serving with all my heart, might, mind, and strength...keep praying for us here. I'm far from perfect, and the week was a bit of a dip in diligence for me, but I'm grateful for the milestones that Heavenly Father has sent me along the way of discipleship to Christ, you being one of them :)
I love you!
Elder Claypool


11/18/13 Post
Hey Mom! I don't have much time today, but I wanted to wish you a happy anniversary! As unfortunate as it may be, marriage that last as long as yours has and as well as yours has is rarer and rarer in this life. However, it is fortunate that I am able to bask in the glory of your wonderful example! I only have a few thoughts to share with the time I have left, but I would like to share them with you: This week I was really backed to the wall of my testimony of the divinity of the Savior. We as a church claim the singleness of the path that leads to eternal life whereas the politically correct view of the world seeks to distort that truth by claiming that we all have our own paths to God. I agree that in a sense this statement is true, but we cannot deny the fact that although we all have personal paths that lead to God, our only path must converge with the path of Jesus Christ if we are not only to return to God, but to receive all of his blessings. Satan, our damming enemy, seeks for us to be satisfied with what the Atonement gives us freely, but for us seekers of truth and light, happiness and eternal families, mediocrity and satisfactory just doesn't cut it. I was backed to a wall as I said this week with our investigators claiming the multiplicity of the path, and as representatives of Jesus Christ declaring the singleness of it. My testimony when I went to testify felt weak and without power. I came to the realization that I really didn't have the strongest testimony of the personal role Christ plays in my life. In part though, I didn't really understand what it really means to say "I know that Jesus is the Christ." I guess in my mind I pictured flaming testimony that came from a sacred conviction that Jesus is the Christ and that all who heard my testimony would beg to be baptized and follow him as in the days of Peter...but the Lord in his mercy sent me the answer to my questioning: I need to strengthen my testimony through following the counsel given in D&C 19:23 ( read those words and ponder just how all-encompassing they are to come to know Christ) and that I had more faith than I thought. I quote now some excerpts from Elder Holland's moving general conference talk two sessions ago," Lord I believe...BEAR TESTIMONY OFTEN
"The size of your faith is not the issue - is it the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know."
"Belief was always the first step toward conviction."
"Do not be afraid to ask for response to that kind of importuning God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief."
"Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. IT IS NOT!"
And when looking at all the blessings we have received in our lives from living the Gospel and following Christ, or exercising faith in other words, Elder Holland puts it perfectly "That cannot be denied."
And last but not least: "Hold the ground you have already won."
Our testimonies always need strengthening, but hold to what you have already received and remember that with all your effort in times of trial. I believe that my Savior Jesus Christ is really who the prophets from Adam till now have said he is: Our Savior and the only way we can achieve all the Father has. My belief is strengthened every day as I learn of him, listen to his Spirit, and walk in the meekness of his way. He is the way. And we can all come to know it for ourselves. Its just starts with belief. 
Elder Claypool 


11/11/13 Post
Thanks so much for sharing your story with me from your mission. That's one thing that I wish I did more growing up was heard stories from your mission to get more prepared to serve. This is the biggest learning experience of my life and is causing me to become more and more who I want me to be: Who Heavenly Father wants me to be. That experience with your handicapped friend was very tender to me. I have realized in my hardest times on my mission that the unfailing antidote is often to find someone else who is suffering more than you and help them out. It is just the most amazing thing to strive to serve all those around you. 
This last week was a week of service in many ways, but in ways more than one, we were able to be literal hands of God in answering prayers of others. The first experience this week was with our investigator that has been investigating-ish for fifteen years! He has an incredibly hard heart and it is frustrating at times to talk with him...but the Lord is using us as one of the means to help him out. Can you believe what life would be like if you didn't know that God loved you? He thinks that God does not love him because of his lack of material blessings...but that God doesn't hate him, because he has more than others. One of the most incredible divine interventions of the week was when he came to our meeting, we started talking, and it led to him sharing an experience that was an answer to our prayers and fasting: He was on his computer late at night just downloading pictures for his latest English text book when a spam popped up on his computer asking for 200 Hrivna by a certain date. Michael quickly turned off his computer and then figured he'd turn it back on in the morning. All night however, he was worrying about it and could not sleep. Apparently it was such a worry to him that he felt backed into a corner more than ever before. He got down on his knees and prayed to God stronger than he had ever prayed before to ask if God was there and if he cared enough to help Michael out. During his prayer, Michael described that he felt a quick, fleeting, unexplainable joy fill his heart that quickly left. He recognized it as potentially being the Spirit! Can you imagine it! Our friend that is super hardhearted and the last in the world to budge. He was given a trial that only God knew would drive him to his knees. He is slowly moving forward now that he has gotten a bit of a taste of the Spirit. I absolutely know that this happened by prayer and fasting from many missionaries who have served him. 
This was only one of the many things that happened this week that made us stop, pray, and thank our Heavenly Father. This really is His work as was pointed out in the broadcast this Sunday (Which was amazing!).
There really is no greater purpose in this life than to live for the sake of another. You (parents) do it constantly for us  (children) and sacrifice your time, talents, and means for the bettering of our family, the church, and others around you. You do it with an incredibly willing heart. You are an example to me of charity in its purest, fullest, and yet quietest sense.  Yes, mom's actions are amazing and often end up being seen eventually - though she is humble and doesn't want people to know what she is doing for others or her acts of kindness. Many actions are often unnoticed, quiet, and are recognized long after you have left the premises. I love my parents with all my heart for the example of service you are to me. I think of the things that I witnessed and the things that you did that I never witnessed but heard about through the grapevine - and I am brought to emotional pride in my heart to have a man like you for my dad, and the best mom! Why would you do all you do? From where do you take your courage to continue? It is from your love for each of us that is so unconditional that it is almost unfair. The words of the Savior describe you: 
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13
So I get to end my letter in like-fashion with the man you freely helped: God bless you for all you are as an example to me. I love you. Never doubt that or forget that. I love you for who you are and are becoming too. 
Your Son
The work is going wonderful mom! We were so blessed this week that I can't even count it all! We don't have the conference talks yet because well...we are a little far from the rest of the world ;) We'll get them probably next month or so. That is wonderful to hear about your wonderful missionary experiences and just how much our ward is growing back home. There is really no greater joy than missionary service! 
We have been able to see one less-active woman that the sisters are working with coming pretty regularly back to church and our handful of less-actives are moving forward too! They really do just need love, support, and the Spirit to nudge them back to what they always knew was right in their hearts. We haven't been able to see any baptisms yet, but we have some absolutely incredible investigators that are progressing and really a miracle in their humility and readiness to receive this message from our Heavenly Father. One such is a woman named Olya. She is the daughter of a member that just recently passed away due to her 4th stroke. We had made contact with her as it would so happen on the day that her mom had the stroke. We were able to provide assistance, support, and comfort to help her and her mom out in her trials. We were even able to give her mom a blessing as she laid on the bed writhing in pain. A few days later, Olya's mom passed away leaving her to take care of the funeral service. Again, we were there to help and were able to make almost all the arrangement for the funeral. It was a tender moment to be able to testify of God's magnificent plan of salvation for all of his children and that we will all live again. Death is only a part of the plan. Time settled down a bit and we were able to go over a few days ago to check up on her and really start to help her through this trial with God's comforting truths. Our wonderful member on the lesson was so crucial to befriending her (she actually had known her from before), and helping her realize just what Heavenly Father was doing for Olya: reaching out to her so that she would reach back. We started to talk about prayer as we had planned and asked if she had had any experiences with prayer. She thought for a moment and said she did and then related to us the experience of when her mom had had a stroke, she had injured her back trying to pick her mom up. She was sitting on the couch, not knowing what to do since funds were already so tight, and just hung her head in her arms asking God why he was giving all this to her...that night not long after that, we called. Yes, we did feel that night that we needed to call and were able to be the answer to her prayer and now can help her continue to move closer and closer to her Father in Heaven. He is reaching out to all of us and we can reach back through his restored truths and church on the earth today. She's already referring to our church as her church and wanting to know all that she can in order to head the call that her trial sent to her from God: 
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30
He really does answer our prayers and helps us to move forward in our trials. The question is not whether or not life will break us, because we know that this life is given for us to be changed, reborn, and become like our Heavenly Father, the question is how will we heal? Will we let our broken bones grow back crippled and deformed, or will we take upon our souls the healing balm of the Atonement that will make us into that which our creation was intended? 
I love you mom! I think that I have all that I need for winter so there is no worry there! Plus, there's no snow yet :) Keep praying for these people and the branch!
Elder Claypool


How is work going besides the fact that you are incredibly busy? Was that last letter that you sent to me a copy of your talk? It was phenomenal! I really did use it through out the week. Our unique message to the world is just that: Through a modern-day prophet, the Lord Himself has restored his true plan and the power to fulfill it; He guides that church today through a modern day prophet. This is the message that all need to here.

I really enjoy the message that you sent about the members being the angels that are inviting and preparing the hearts of the people. We play a crucial part in the gathering of Israel in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, allowing all the families of the earth to be blessed. There is no greater use of our time, energy, talents, or hearts than on this great work

I was able to teach a lesson in Priesthood today about the Priesthood and just what a joy it is that we hold it! Can you imagine just what would happen if we all followed the counsel of President Uchtdorf and (1) understood the Priesthood, (2) lived according to the understanding we receive, and (3) continue to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. He made the comparison to a Piper Cub and a F18 and just how they differ in mastery of the laws of aerodynamics; however, the joy of flying was the same. Regardless of where we are or how many/few the priesthood is in our ward/branch, the joy of the Priesthood and the responsibility of the Priesthood are the same. 

It's a real pleasure to be here on my mission and grow...I do need to consecrate myself even more to the work, but I'm not doing too bad of a job serving the Lord - thanks be to Him for His patience in allowing me to make all the mistakes I have and do to get to this point. 
Isn't it wonderful just how the Lord answers our prayers! I think that the most incredible thing about our church and religion that differs from every other church that I have met with here is that we believe that we really can receive revelation. We shouldn't think of revelation as anything strange, visions, etc. (although that does happen); we should remember that revelation is just the simple revealing of truths from God to us. He hears our prayers! What a supernal thought! Can you imagine that all of us sitting here on this world are so small in comparison to the cosmos that our Father in Heaven directs...think of how many of us there are...and yet, he still listens to every sincere prayer of each of his children. 

This week we were able to talk about that a lot! Answers to prayers. We are here as missionaries not to convince anyone to come into the Church, or even to baptize them to increase the numbers of our attendance. We are simply here because of our burning testimony of the truthfulness of this message and all that it contains, inviting all to come to know for themselves. The foundation to any conversion to the Church is not even conversion to the Church at all! It is conversion to Jesus Christ Himself, and a witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. 

In one lesson that we had this week, a man was arguing the ability that we had to come to know truth. His metaphor: there are three blind men who are all around a massive elephant. One grabs the elephant trunk, thinks for a moment and yells "It's a snake!" The second grabs the leg, exclaiming "No, it's a tree!" And the last, grabbing the tail, exclaims "It is neither a tree nor a snake, but something small, skinny and fluffy at the fact, I'm not quite sure at all what it is." And so the world and philosophy looks on the notion of truth today. On the streets and in the circles of mankind wisdom you hear over and over again the words theory, hypothesis, assumption, and hunch. Some go so far as to claim they are true...however with time, or put against other philosophies, the honest seeker of truth just can't seem to wrap their head around it all and often gives up. This last week I was really seeing the fruits of pondering according to my own wisdom. I have to make a point and say that this is important! We must use our heads and ponder, think, hypothesize, decide, etc., but that is thankfully not the end of our quest for truth. 

Like those three men feeling the elephant, there was no way that they could find out what the elephant was due to their lack of abilities. However, our loving Heavenly Father plays the role of the man standing behind the three blind men, waiting to be asked. He sends us messages along the way - a tap on the shoulder, a reminder to ask him, trials to help us turn to him - but in the end we have to ask. I am so grateful for my ever-growing testimony that God really does answer prayers and that we can know truth as it really is. God has called a Prophet today to reveal to us Eternal Truths and has given us the Scriptures to continually solidify that knowledge. However, it is part of God's glorious plan for us all to ask ourselves and receive an answer ourselves. For me, it was a powerful experience to get on my knees for the hundredth time to ask if the Book of Mormon really is from him, if the plan of salvation really is the plan that will govern our existence, and if Jesus really is my Savior. I am pleased to say with wonderful listening, the answer I received is that it is true. All can receive this witness from God through their feelings and impressions that come to our  mind and heart when we ask in faith. To quote the Savior: 

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matt 7:7)

I love you
Elder Claypool

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Plan of Salvation" - 10/28/13

10/28 Post
Unfortunately I don't have much time today, but I'm so grateful for your letter and confidence! It is a liberating thing to be able to be yourself around those who you know love you! 

This last week was absolutely amazing week in that it was all focused on the Plan of Salvation. Some times, a lot of times actually, we forget in the church just what we have. We have the plan that was created by God in its full splendor. Have you ever thought what gives you strength to carry on? What allows you to live through hardships and not give up? We were able to meet with a man this week that literally rocked my understanding of life, of the Gospel, and of the Plan of Salvation. He only wanted a few things in life, received none of them, and more than that, he sees the powers of Satan reigning oh the more terribly as time continues on. I find it hard to believe in a God that would allow such things to happen to His children that he supposedly loves, is what he would say. Because of it, he has become completely hopeless...the thing is that we are all not too far from that in some point of our lives or another. We have hardships and trials that seem to be above our ability or control. The doctrines of freedom of choice, hope, faith, enduring to the end, etc. really lose their appeal when we are going through the fires of affliction. However, in short form I just want to reemphasize basic truths that will help us get through anything if we keep them in our minds and choose to hold to them:

1. God really is our Loving Heavenly Father in the literal sense. Don't let philosophies or difficulties of faith take this precious truth from any of your hearts: We are His children and He loves us. Allow that thought to sink into your heart. What does that mean to know that He really does love you?

2. We are children of God. Within every single one of us is the seeds of godliness just waiting to be kindled and nourished. We have it in us to do all things with our Father's help/ Think about that. 

3. God created us to become like Him. This is the fundamental truth that answers the question of our existence: We are created and exist to become as our Father in Heaven, to receive all His blessings, to live in our eternal families, and to continue to progress throughout the eternities. We are not some kind of crude experiment or level with the animals created around us. We are created to become like Him. Think about that. 

4. Our progression depends completely, solely, and wholly on who? Us. We are the ones that have to choose. In all reality it's not going to matter to Heavenly Father where we lived, how much we earned, what our health was like, or what our circumstances are: He will simply asked as the master did to the servants that he gave various numbers of talents too in the New Testament, "What did you make with what you were given?" We were created to act and not to be acted upon. Although it may seem that we have no choice because of what is around us, never forget that the Being that is greater that all that seems to effect us day-to-day gave us the gift of agency to choose. Think about that.

5. Trials are a necessary tool for growth. Just as gold much burned to get rid of all the impurities, if we keep in mind what we were created for and just what we need to become, we realize that not only is the refiners fire a blessing, but absolutely necessary for our progression. We can then accept trials as not burdens, but blessings. Think about that.  

6. Our Savior Jesus Christ was sent on this earth so that we would not have to walk the path to perfection alone as he did. Use his help. Its free to all who seek it. Think about that.

How grateful I am that we have this plan of Salvation that allows me to have purpose in life, a path that I am walking, and peace in my heart that all will be okay. This plan is from God and perfect at that. I encourage you not only to believe what you read or hear, but get on your knees and ask God in prayer, whether it be the first time or the fiftieth time, to find out if this is really from Him. I know he answers His children because he loves us, we are his children, and we are created to become like Him, through the help of our Savior, if we so choose to so do. Love you Mom! 

Elder Claypool
I'm so sorry that I don't have much time to write this week... I love you and I printed off your letter to read it.

I lead my first funeral service today of a less-active lady in our branch here...we dedicated the grave as truly is amazing what you learn on your mission and how that prepares you...thanks for being a shining example of the priesthood for me.

"Love Conference" - 10/21/2013

Post 10/21

Oh dad, your jokes every week are just the highlight of my internet time....besides of course all the other inspiring messages that you and others send.

Thanks so much for your thoughts about peaks and valleys...the idea of opposition is something that I've been studying pretty intensely these past few days especially as I have been brought to the need to help investigators understand the Plan of Salvation...And for myself personally, it is such a liberating thought to focus on what I can do and then let the Lord do the rest. It's such a fundamental truth that we often skip over: The Lord asks us to serve will all our heart, might, mind, and strength, but even more so I would say that he doesn't require any more or less than that. When we serve with all our heart, that for me means our sincerest desires, our hopes, and foundation of everything we do. On the flip side, when we serve with our might, that's just going out and working hard. Working "smart" however comes from serving with all our mind. And then the last is what I think you were talking about: Serving with all our strength(s). I add the s because it helps me better understand that I am called to serve with what I have - all of what I have - but what I have. Give all we have got. That is enough for the Lord. "[F]or unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have" (2 Ne 28:30). We receive what the Lord has given us by actively using our gifts for the sake of the growth of the kingdom of God. I'm here on this earth for the sake of fulfilling my Father's will, and that will is to bring the people of Ukraine and Sumy into the waters of baptism and prepare them to receive the ordinances of the temple. It's a pretty cool cause. Makes me happy.

I love you dad, mom, Korm and twins. Hug all my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
Conference was just incredible and was able to help me this next week just better understand the Gospel in ways that I had never understood it before. What was merely doctrine to me before my mission is now becoming me with more breadth, depth, and purpose than I have ever experienced before. My companion is just doing so wonderful. I'm realizing that even with a wonderful elder where we both get along, we still have to be patient with each other and keep loving and serving one another. He's a trooper for putting up with me. There are actually six missionaries here in Sumy, four elders and two sisters. Only one of the elders was here before, so practically our entire district is new, but we did it to change the mindset of Sumy. It is so cool to see that when you change your attitude, the entire world changes and even our effectiveness changes. Here's the secret I think to getting to that crucial attitude shift: gratitude and correct understanding of truth. We had quite a few run-ins this week with the same type of person: hopeless, purposeless, and directionless. It is so heartbreaking to think that the old mind-set of missionaries about this city is upheld by the members and inhabitants of the city. We met with people who were incredibly bounded by addictions, limited by mentality, and chained in sin. Two of my dearest investigator friends here have literally said they have no hope in the future and cannot believe in a God that so willingly lets Satan reign. It makes you just want to weep. They even have the audacity to tell us as missionaries that our work is in vain since no one is going to change, for they have to choose themselves. It seems like kind of a predicament doesn't it? They are stuck in a dammed hole with no hope for progression. Like the man that we met yesterday, he was so locked in the damming effects of his poor choices that it seems almost impossible to change his heart. What is the point then of being here and teaching the Gospel?

Well...its pretty grim odds to be against especially when this is what you hear from people on the street and that poisonous voice you hear trying to whisper lies to your heart. But I wont believe it for one second. The idea that a man cannot change is to deny the eternal nature of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to judge a man beyond mercy's reach. That is the beauty of our message: when we choose to take upon ourselves the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, change our lives to be in accordance to our teachings, we can start over, be clean, and become even better people than before. The argument still rears its ugly head however: All men are to choose for themselves, so what's the bother of trying to convince them to choose something if it is their choice when it all comes down to it? To any member, missionary, or dear friend who seems to have given up on their duties to preach the good news of change and improvement to Christ the Lord, I want to share an eternal truth: "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other (2 Nephi 2:16). Satan's doing his part, but we are also doing ours. So let's rally around our title of liberty - liberty of the human family from sin, depression, and captivity, and bring the light of our message that God in His love has reached out to us, His children, once more to bring about a marvelous work and wonder as the children of men, through his divinely called servants and Priesthood power, are gathered and welcomed safely home. The Work of Salvation is our banner, and it's inscription? "For our wives, and children, and family, and friends - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of Our entire Heavenly Family."

It's a pretty cool thing to be a part of isn't it!? :) I bet you are eventually tired of hearing my ramblings of what I am learning ever I'm grateful for the patience :) The work is moving forward here and I am finding so much happiness from the ability to just live for the sake of others before myself. 

I love you! And all the people here that see your photo are amazed that you look so young and shinning! Hopefully the ugly duckling will grown into the handsome beauty that he hopefully got from his mom's genes ;)

Elder Claypool

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"We have the choice to either fulfill the Lord's time, or just fill it and get through the day" 10/14/13

Dear all,

Even though Heavenly Father might get weary of you praying for me (ha ha), I need them everyday.

We saw some absolutely incredible blessings this week of finding people to teach, working with members and even finding a man that is going to be baptized.

I really do believe that when it all comes down to it, our personal choice coupled with the choice-enabling mercy of opposition helps us to become what we need to be.

Everyday there is the choice to either fulfill the Lord's time, or just fill it and get through the day. If we set Goals, plan, and follow the Spirit it really does bring about miracles.

General Conference was one of the most incredible things this week as well (we watch it later than you guys). We watched all 10 hours of conference and I enjoyed every minute of it! I came with specific questions and received very specific answers! More than anything else, I came to a better realization of why we need a prophet in our day. I feel that in my daily conversations with people here in Ukraine and the experiences that we experience, all is divinely orchestrated. In fact, we met a lot of people today that said something similar to the same thing: "There are many paths that lead to God." My response was always "No, there is only one. Period." I think that both my thinking as well as the common thought of the people are equally true in part and flawed in part. Too often in the Church we note other churches don't have all the truth; we look at our church as the One True Church of Jesus Christ...kind of a heaven and hell, you're-in or you're-out kind of a view...however, we should not forget the merciful plan of our Creator. He created a perfect plan that would allow all of us to receive a fullness of His blessings; He gave His perfect Son, who showed the perfect and only way to receiving those blessings. We often call that perfect path that Jesus Christ walked and taught His Gospel. To help us walk that path, the Savior Jesus Christ organized His church, calling apostles that were authorized by Christ Himself to teach the path and help all walk it. Even when Jesus Christ was not on the earth, Heavenly Father's plan had not changed, and He wanted all to know how to follow the Savior, His Son, and receive all the Blessings. Thus divinely called messengers of God, or Prophets, come into play. A prophet is called of God, given a correct knowledge of the perfect path and the power to walk it. The Prophet, according to the command of that same God that created the Plan, teaches the people the path and helps them to walk it.

Without living prophets as our mouthpiece of God, we are left to interpret the path according to our own wisdom...not to mention that the power to walk the path is inexistent without prophets. The prophets in our day, as we were able to see from General Conference, are given to us to teach us the path and help us walk it. We can choose our path, we can choose our doctrine, we can even choose our commandments, but in the end, only the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to lead us fully to our Father in Heaven and His blessings. Partial truth gets us part of the way. There are many paths in life. Each of us have our own. But our Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus Christ, their prophets of old, and their divinely called and ordained Apostles of today solemnly declare that there is only one path that leads to Eternal Life: Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

We simply invite all to see if this life is for them...our Father in Heaven invites all to find out if His life is for them.

We were able to meet with a wonderful woman this week and her 3 month old baby girl. Imagine it if you will: the fall leaves gorgeously changing colors, the air crisp, and the Gospel to bless families restored on the earth. We were able to sit there with this mother and just talk about church, prophets, Jesus Christ, revelation, the Gospel, etc. all focusing on the Family. The Gospel is not some abstract collection of saving doctrines; the Gospel is the perfect pathway of life that leads to peace, happiness, and joy. It is far from abstract; it is the most real thing of this life. When we teach as members or missionaries, we shouldn't repeat the same mistake that I have so many times in the past: giving information. In sharing the Gospel, the end goal isn't to talk about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, living prophets, or even the remission of sins. The end goal is to take these wonderful topics that grace our Sunday school classes, sacrament pulpits, and conversations with friends and relate them to the why of it all. Understanding the why of the Gospel takes it from abstract to relatable reality. Think about this. In your conversation with your friend you can talk about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how through Him we can be cleansed of sin. That's true, but unless they are exceptionally spiritual-based, the likelihood of that enticing them to act is pretty small. Let's try adding the why to it: Jesus Christ suffered for us so that when we make those mistakes and feel that overwhelming guilt, we can be free. We can all relate to feeling more free from burden can't we? But even that is not real end of the story. Christ suffered for us so that not only could our guilt be removed, but so could our sins, leaving us clean to where it would be as if we had never made those mistakes and on top of cleansing, he gives us the strength to do better next time. Okay as your average-joe being able to continue my life with the things I learned but with a clean streak sounds pretty good and on top of that that the Atonement helps me be a better person - that's pretty appealing...but that's not the end of it all either. Jesus Christ, in suffering for our sins, allows us to be relieved of guilt, become clean, do better next time, but for what? So that we can in the end of it all live with our families and with our Loving Father in Heaven for all time and all eternity with out end. That is what will get you. The doctrines of the Gospel are only precious to us not because they exist in it of themselves, but because of what they bring to us as a result of living by them. This kind of missionary work we can all do: "I love to go to Church every Sunday because my family is strengthened in this life and I have complete confidence that I'll be with them forever. Would you like to come and experience it for yourself?" The words of a dear new friend echo through my ears that she said after our meeting with her: "I'm really just a simple person. The doctrine just isn't that interesting to me." To my friend and to everyone that reads this, and to you too mom, I just want to say that yes, the doctrine is not the essence of life, but the results of living the doctrine is why I find joy in what I believe. It makes my life the best it can be, and I can't deny that. 

I love you mom and want to thank you for all your support! Share your testimonial that is personable, relatable, and has the "why" attached, and then in love invite someone to come and see for themselves. This is how missionary work is meant to be done. 

Give the twins a hug for me, tell Kayla great job on her talk, and tell Kenzie good luck on hers!

Elder Claypool

"My new city is Sumy (not sunny)" 10/7/13

Hi Everyone,

Hey Mom!
I'm glad you enjoyed the  pictures! I can send them from time to time, but not too often. As long as they don't include specific things or people then it is okay to do so. So I should be able to send at least photos with nature and me; they don't get much better than that right?! ;)
Alrighty, so to answer your questions (sorry that I didn't really answer them before): I am currently in my new area and it is just amazing! A huge change, but really amazing! My new companion is Elder Ellsworth who just came from the MTC and is on fire! We get along just great and he is a great friend already...I think in seeking to make friends and being open/relying on one another, we are able to continue to push forward the work. Elder Carley is most definitely ready to train the new assistant...Elder Carley trained me both times we served together :) We are in the gorgeous northern city of Sumy at the northern most part of the mission. We are just about an hour from Kiev...and an 11 hour train from Donetsk. It was pretty crazy to experience the last week too:
Besides being able to spend time with Elder Carley the last few days of the transfer together (which was absolutley amazing. he's one of my dearest friends), we were also able to be some of the 16 new missionaries' first faces they came in contact with on the mission. I was super nervous, but soon my nervousness melted away when we met them. Some of them had already served in another mission in the USA for a transfer, but as a whole, they were ready to be here and lift the mission. All of them are just amazing! It was way fun as well being able to have 11 of the 13 elders in our apartment for the biggest companionship planning session ever! We were able to talk about the mission and to let them see just what they had gotten themselves into. They were so tired, but still ready to go out and work. The next day we woke up and were ready for transfer meeting. With all the new missionaries, we practically had a mission conference ;) There were some great workshops and Elder Ellsworth and I were able to get together and start our service together. The time that I had to serve around President and Sister Lochhead will never be forgotten either; it was a blessing that will change my eternities.

We headed out on the bus up to Kharkov with the rest of the missionaries traveling up there and got in late thursday night. That wasn't the end of our trip though. We got on another bus the next morning and head to good old Sumy. The city is pretty small but has plenty of people in it ready to be blessed by the Gospel. It was good for my companion to catch up on his sleep and for me to get ready for my time here in Sumy.
Arriving here, our apartment was pretty much empty seeing as we are starting a new area, with a new apartment and everything...I will admit, this is were life got to be a little stressful. We were wanting to do the work, but couldn't until we had sufficient living conditions. Thankfully, we are all set to go and getting into the groove of things. For as long as I new about this assignment, I was super excited and ready to do all that I could...but once I got here, I felt like I was getting beat pretty well. I had a new area, an apartment to take care of, a calling to fulfill that I had no idea what to do, people all around me to take care of, a dipping in desire to do the work and take on this difficult assignment, and on top of it all, a new missionary that I would take a huge roll in molding and shapping into the missionary the Lord short, I was pretty stressed out.
Thankfully, prayer and scripture study came through again, along with partaking of the sacrament. All of the sudden I felt back to myself, ready to do the work, and having the faith, hope, and love to do so. I felt like the Lord in a very real sense is testing just how much I will talk with my actions and not just my words. I've said that we would baptize thousands here, but the Lord I feel is testing to see how much I am really willing to so do. A liberating thought was the thought that this time in Sumy some time or another will come to an end...what will I do with it? I also am coming to a humbling realization again that I can't do it on my own. But we together will do it.

The thing that was our shinning ray of hope was our elder's quorum made of up three active men and four missionaries. I was reminded of the Prophet  Joseph sitting on the Issac Moorley farm talking to a small collection of priesthood holders saying:

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540)

Look where we are now.
This is a work that we are working hand in hand with our Mighty Father and Jesus Christ themselves. We will penetrate the hearts of the Sumy people with the truth that is breaking the clouds of darkness. It;s already been a little rough and I hope it will continue to be so, but with the Lord's help, my companion, the branch, other missionaries, me, and the Lord will do His work.
I love you mom!
PS - to answer your other questions: Lena is doing well, is going to Russia for a while and so she wont be able to be baptized any time soon, but she knows the Book of Mormon is true. That's a plus :) In regards to winter things, I should be okay, but it should be a colder winter than the last. I'll need to buy a shapka and a sweater or two, but our apartment is great and warm! Tell the twins good luck for me! We havent watched conference, but will this weeked. I'm excited! Thanks for the pictures! Tell korm he is a good looking prospective elder :)
 There's so much to say and so little time when it comes to my new was quite exciting leading up to the new missionaries coming in and going to my new area with my new companion. I'll explain in a little more detail about the activities and thrills, but know that I am happy, growing, and being tested. It's a whole new world being a trainer, coming to a brand new area with nothing, and getting back into the swing of doing missionary work every day without the traveling, planning, and administrative things of an assistant.  I'm ready!

In regard to your topic....I'll have to think about it some more. The branch here consists of a small band of priesthood holders that are solid. Our quorum is currently comprised of 3 active great men, not including us four missionaries that we placed here. I am eager to serve them.

I'm super blessed with my companion as well...I think he came pre-trained. He is an incredibly spiritual Elder that is super easy to get along with and one that will cause many many mighty miracles to occur. We are looking forward to some incredible times here...and even though I had my rough patches already in the area, I am choosing and receiving a lot of help here in Sumy as I learn to again love the work at the level that I once did. I was very excited to come to Sumy, but I realized I was relying on my own experience and wisdom...but now am clearly starting to see that there is no way I can do it here on my own with my companion. We need The Lord. The Lord is testing my faith to see if I can do as I say. And I will choose to do so.

I love you! Pray for the people here in Sumy, the branch, and for our goal to baptize five people before Christmas.

Elder Claypool

Monday, September 30, 2013

"Understanding Eternally Enduring Truths" 9/30/13


It is great to see that the family is doing wonderful! Also, thank you so much for your pictures. They were incredible and great memories. We all need to take time to see just how much we've grown...and it has been a blast to show all the people in the mission office my pictures ;) 

Tell the twins that I played soccer for two straight hours on Monday after I wrote you last and was dead tired afterwards. I was playing with the Kharkov zone and really had a blast...who knows, maybe I'll be able to school the twins when I get back ;)

This last week was wonderful with being able to fight the tendencies to relax, move on, and not endure to the end. But I really like what I heard one missionary say while he was giving a blessing to another sick Elder: Enduring to the end is where all the real blessings are earned and merited. 

When I was with Elder Harrison, a dear friend of mine, he expounded Helaman 3:35 to me that talks about how the people waxed stronger and stronger in humility and firmer and firmer in their faith in Christ, which change came from yielding their hearts to God. How did they do it? Of course they prayed, fasted, and served, but it was interesting that the verse before describes that they were severely persecuted. Sometimes we let persecution or trials in general get us down and it has a negative effect on us; however, we should use it for our benefit. Like the people in the verse, we can use our trials and persecution as an opportunity to give our hearts more fully to God. 

I think that has been one of the most life-changing things of my mission: Being able to learn a truth that literally frees me. I'll show you what I mean: This week I was having a rough time opening my mouth, talking to people and inviting them to come into the waters of baptism and be baptized. In a very inspired district meeting, we talked about baptism and just what it means in the scheme of things and the question was posed: "What is keeping you from having faith to baptize and expecting to do so?" The Spirit whispered to me: understanding. I realized again as I already had before that what keeps me from performing was first and foremost rooted in my understanding. President Packer has taught: "The Study of true doctrine will improve behavior better than the study of behavior will study behavior". When we understand the key truths of the Gospel in our hearts (which understanding in our hearts can only happen when the Spirit takes what we know in our minds to our hearts), it just clicks and all of the sudden obedience to a law isn't so hard, choosing to serve the Lord isn't so much of a chore, and in the end of it all, we are more equipped to endure to the end when we are founded upon eternally enduring truths. After the conclusion of that meeting, all of the sudden talking to people on the street wasn't just a chore, but a privilege trying to allow all to partake of salvation. 

Whenever a person is not performing as the Lord would require, reproof is rarely the remedy. Teach when understanding lacks, reprove when repentance is needed.
One of the most amazing things that we were able to experience this week was just how much we need members to help us with our brothers and sisters. I've thought about it long and hard and realize that members doing missionary work (meaning the finding, baptizing, and fellow-shipping) is just so much more natural that a kid in a shirt and tie walking up to you on the streets and asking you what may seem like overly-personal questions. When the members invite their friends to just experience the love and joy that they feel, they are going to see much more success than a missionary will his whole mission walking the streets. The missionaries as divinely sanctioned teachers of the word will teach those friends the doctrines needed, call to repentance (or give commitments), and then with the members work the investigators closer and closer to their eternal destinies. We haven't got here yet, but we are well on our way. 

We have members on our lessons. its just a given for us because we see the blessings of it. We have an investigator, (took name out), who we met with a few weeks ago who had prayed to meet with the missionaries. We had an incredible lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith and she was more than captured by the ideal of our message's potentiality to be true. The member was able to bear testimonial about the Gospel. This is an incredibly powerful method to share the Gospel for members and missionaries alike: It's not necessarily an "I know that..." statement for that is a testimony. A testimonial is when the member relates a story that clearly displays the effect of applying the Gospel in their lives. Its like a testimonial of a great new car; "This is a great new car! I can't even express what life is like driving in the nice leather seats with the car windows down and my MoTab blasting! Not to mention it has a GPS navigation that leads me to the promised land...etc." Disregarding me be a little silly, every member can bear testimonial to their friends in a non-weird, abrasive way. Not only that, but she felt the Spirit greatly on the lesson, agreeing to be baptized. However, she expressed an incredibly  serious phobia of water. The member that was on the lesson assured her that if the Lord can do all the great miracles he has done, he can surely help with her phobia. The next lesson, another member was informed before hand of her phobia and when we showed her the font, the member was able to calm her fears and assure her that all would be wonderful! More than that, She received an answer to her prayer that it was true and that she should be baptized! What aided in this was the member on the first lesson explaining how she felt the Spirit in a practical way that She could also recognize the Spirit. As a member before my mission, I had no idea how much aid I could have been to the missionaries...but repentance is an eternal principle and I will be the best member-missionary I can in the future. 

Next week we'll be in our new area, apartment, companionship, and chapter! Here we go to baptize thousands of families. We will bring salvation to the people there. 

I love Ukraine. I love the people. I love Jesus Christ our Redeemer. 

I love you !
Elder Claypool

9/23/13 "Obedience really does ensure happiness..."

Good morning !

Your words are so absolutely amazing! Obedience really does insure happiness just as much as it ensures happiness. Congratulations to both of you on your new calling. Yes, mom is amazing.

You are blessed to lead temple work for the doctrine of Baptisms for those that couldn't have their ordinance work performed here. I agree it is a strong point that testifies of the Restoration of the Gospel. It is a doctrine and practice that was practiced during Jesus Christ's primitive church and is something that has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

This last week was quite wonderful with Mission Leadership Council and being able to be back in Kharkov helping missionaries. Elder Carley and I are doing just wonderful but super tired. It's good though. We are working as hard as we can...but we can continue to do better.

The mission is in the most amazing place that it has been in a long time and I'm able to be filling my time with the mission and its needs. We are doing such an important work and the leadership principles that I am learning as a missionary are priceless.  I have so many blessings. My leadership skills are improving, especially in being around President and Sister Lochhead as they teach by example and I am able to better understand what it means to live the Gospel and be consecrated to it. I'm so grateful to my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents to real-life Gospel living. Living the Gospel should not make us estranged from our friends and family, but more united. Up until this point in my life, I feel that I along with many members of the church mistakenly create a 'holier than thou' relationship with their peers and close ones seeking to deny all ungodliness, mistakenly denying also the sinner in the process. We are all sinners. We aren't better than others. But we have the truth of the gospel and need to share it so others can partake of blessings our Father in Heaven so very much wants to share. You are a wonderful example to me of how living the Gospel is fun, rewarding, and happiness. It's not some abstract idea that is drawn all over the chalk boards of our church buildings, but a real way of life that meets every need of every person. Thank you for that.

In about 2 weeks I will no longer be an assistant and will be heading to the smallest branch in the mission. It is an area that has really struggled.  There are a ton of offended less-active members and all the missionaries recognize it is a dying area.  Missionaries who had checked-out were sent there in the, as you can imagine we have a lot of work to do. A tremendous amount of work before all is lost. I have been asked to serve as the Elders quorum president there.  Any suggestions? Please pray for those members and me to help them catch the vision.  Our goal is to strengthen the branch, baptize hundreds, and get the branch back on its feet. It's a large task, but I feel that to this was I foreordained to be here.

Love you!

Elder Claypool
Ukraine will never be the same

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

9/16/13 "Be available to the Lord's time"

Hello everyone,

I really appreciate all that you do in sending me pictures so I can see how my amazing siblings are growing, and you are right that mom is the best looking. The photos are always the best part of the email...well besides dad’s jokes of course. Is everything all clear about our new media rules and blog, etc?

The weekly lesson for us:  this week was a huge testimony of being where the Lord wants us to be at the right time...and also that plans are meant to be changed J…. As part of our responsibilities, we were able to be up in Kharkov this week, the other main city of our mission. It was wonderful traveling up there with a younger sister who we were taking to Kharkov to serve with a short-term missionary (a short-term missionary is a local person that serves as a temporary missionary for 2-4 weeks). Once we arrived we were able to be with the zone leaders for the night. I was able to be with Elder Stoker, a missionary who was in the MTC with me and is just a wonderful man that knows how to have fun, but keeps it spiritual at the same time. A few instances of being where the Lord wanted us to be:
It was a huge thing for me to see Elder Stoker’s Christ-like character in giving his food to a man on the streets with what we had just bought ourselves (reminds me of the Claypools back home). All of us should never forget that people around us are in need, spiritually, temporally and physically. 
We were able to be in the right place at the right time for some Elders that were struggling and help them out. This was pretty important only because President all week was gone in Moscow for a Mission President seminar. Time after time, Elder Carley and I were just amazed at the placement of the issues in our paths...or rather that the Lord placed us in exactly the right place.
The week continued with us trying to be on exchanges with other missionaries to train them, and we ended up having urgent calls that caused us to run up to Sumy, a city at the northern-most part of the mission, and we purchased an apartment there (by the way, if you were wondering why I pulled out a larger amount of money this week it was because we had to pay a down payment on that missionary apartment, and due to the last-minute trip we had to make overnight, lack of money because of train ticket purchases, and lack of ability to get money from the Mission Office fast enough, we had to take desperate measures.) It was pretty funny that Elder Carley and I with a bit less sleep than usual were at the train station one night literally having to walk around so as to not fall asleep standing J   we got caught up on our sleep eventually...but there were a few days that I was more tired than I have ever been in my life. With the apartments out of the way for the new missionaries, it was a huge relief. In the end, we were able to go on only 1.5 exchanges out of the whole 4 days we were up there. It was a huge privilege to be around Elder Zacherl again, my former German companion. He finished his mission this week and I was able to be with him his last few days before he goes home to Germany. What a blessing it was to be around the missionary that taught me how to be a missionary and also to see how much he was still going strong until the end of his two years. We had some incredible lessons together on the exchange that we did...and he is the missionary that I aspire to be like. We also had a bit of fun time on Friday going to one of the world's largest markets in Kharkov to buy...drum roll.. guess what………yes, ties! (so that would be a portion of the funds that I pulled out of my account as well).   I got a “few” ties to say the least.  Helped the economy there.  The ties are amazing and good prices.  And I have to wear a tie everyday anyway.   Our plans continued to fall through once we got back to Donetsk of being able to go on exchanges due to some things that we had to solve, but in the end of it all, we were able to be where we needed to be at the right time.

This week I gained a testimony as a result of my prayers of faith: We were working pretty hard with the little time that we had to proselyte this week, opening our mouths everywhere we went. One night about 20 minutes before the days end, there was that small prompting that is often over looked to talk with the person that was walking towards us in her bright colored clothes. We did, trying to prove our dependability to the Lord, and exchanged numbers, teaching a bit about the Book of Mormon. The next day, she called us asking when we would meet which was pretty good that she did since I had honestly forgotten about her. We got a wonderful member on the first lesson, sat down with this woman and realized just how incredibly prepared she was. After teaching the message of the Restoration and relating the First Vision, we paused and let the Spirit continue to testify. In the silence she said: I believe this is true. The member then bore powerful testimony about how she also felt it was true from the beginning, but still asked God if it was true, receiving her personal answer that no one could take from her. This woman is just absolutely ready for the Gospel and will be a powerful member. It was a powerful moment to ask: "Let's say that you come to know from God that Joseph Smith really is a prophet of the Restoration, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Christ's church is again on the earth, would you want to become a member of that church?" She said yes. And then the next question was "Will you then be baptized to become a member of that church?" Again her answer, Yes. 
This work is so rewarding and it really is real life. If we think about it, this is the life we are meant to live in our church callings and service on a mission...and in all reality, the "reality" that we live is just as real as the movies. There will come a day when the movie will end and we'll head out of the theatre of this life and into the next. I'm so grateful for the knowledge of God's plan for every one of us that allows us to know where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going; more importantly, this knowledge gives us motivation, direction, and actions to fulfill in this life to capitalize on the blessings that await us in the eternities. We are in the right place and this is our time to do the work of the Lord. The Savior said:
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)
Let us use the time we've been given to do what we came here to do. And if a person doesn't know what to do, that's what prayer and scriptures (and missionaries) are for. I know that He answers our prayers and gives us direction, or the "how" to fulfill His Holy Work. 
Love you lots!
Elder Claypool 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Learn to Love First, and the Work will Follow” -9/9/2013

Good Morning!
It’s quite ironic just how spot on your jokes are in regard to the culture here...but make no mistakes that I love this culture so very much!
By the way, thank you so much for your package.  Hopefully this story will make you laugh:  I received a random phone call from a random number and was told to meet a guy near our office. It was pretty funny because although I knew what it was for, the missionary I was with just observed me walking up to this stranger as he walked out around his big black van. He says "Is it you?",  me agreeing, and he handing me a bag and walking off.  It didn't help that I gave a little "priest quorum" rendition of your work and all your spy encounters. So, a few of the elders are about as convinced as Jarod Maynes is – ha ha. 
You're absolutely right that it is super easy to talk about religion but harder to get people truly interested. I think that that is the best part about the promise from Elder Holland in Preach My Gospel is that if we listen to what people around us have to say and really just befriend them first, we'll be given what to say. Elder Jeffrey R Holland said this: 

“More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you
can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. . . . If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends."

I have such a strong testimony of this on my mission. The people here do not respond well when someone stops them on the street, puts a Book of Mormon in their face and asks if they'd like to know about scriptures, angels, and a story about an amazing young man from the 1800's. I think that it would be a little awkward to have that conversation myself if something of the like happened to me. I've come to learn that all of us have questions, all of us have opinions about our Father in Heaven, but it can be locked way down in there. Like Elder Holland said, when we ask inspired questions, listen to them, and listen to the Spirit, we will notice a truth of the Restored Gospel that will highlight their interest. We all relate to the gospel differently and because of that, different things of the Gospel entice us. I'm learning this quite literally dealing with missionaries and having the responsibility to lift and inspire the mission: For me, the Gospel is most effective in the teaching of pure doctrine and letting the doctrine itself inspire me. For example, to know the purpose of the family helps me greatly to do missionary work. For others however, it is the coach-before-the-game talk that pumps them up. We address those needs in our teaching and exchanges. 
If there's one thing that I am learning now it is that love is the only way to open hearts and move the work forward. We were able to look at some new apartments this week for all the missionaries that are coming in and in the process, we were with a taxi driver from about 11am-4pm. He was clearly living a worldly life and loving it. Unfortunately, we treated the situation as an opportunity for reproof when what he really needed was us to love him and teach. After the day was over, we had learned a lot about him, and he opened up to us quite a bit, however, because we didn't show him love in not just telling him to repent, but helping him do so and showing him how to do so, he was not interested in further conversations.  We learned to love.
Yesterday there was an incredible lesson from the life of President Lorenzo Snow where he opened a new area on his mission in Italy. The people that he was to be teaching were a firm religious people who had segregated from the Catholic Church to live more fully by the Bible as they thought. Elder Snow knew that he would not be able to preach immediately, otherwise the people would close their hearts and the word would not get within them. What did he do? He started to study the Bible with them, lived among them, showed love to them, became their friends, and then after 11 years and after a huge miracle of healing someone, he was able to preach, baptize and help the new Italian saints come unto Christ. 
The Lord is hastening His work, but that doesn't mean that we should be too hasty in preaching the Gospel; we should always follow the promptings that are given us by the Spirit, but should always remember that the preaching of the gospel is the most natural thing that we can do as simply faithful disciples of Christ. We love, we serve, we live the Gospel, and then we take the time to help our friends and family see why that is. I wish before my mission I realized that for a regular member it is so much more natural to share the Gospel than for missionaries. We need the help of the members to do the finding and fellow shipping, we the teaching, and together the introduction to church life. This work is the most rewarding thing there is. Thanks for opening your mouth to give the opportunity to others to be blessed as we are blessed. You always were the best example of missionary work for me!
I love you! Sorry my email was really just thoughts all jumbled and on paper.
Elder Claypool
PS - I hope that you received the letter regarding new policies on media and sending it home. With all that is going on in the world, the Lord revealed that we need to be a little more careful with our pictures, words, etc. You need to remove the pictures off the blog if there are any. Have you had a chance to save all the pictures that were emailed home to all of you? I have not had the chance. At least we'll have those pictures!
Love ya!

"Be Faithful to not lose 40 years in the wilderness​" - 9/2/13

Dear family,

I hear dad chose the celestial time zone being in Europe this week, eh?  Too bad we don't get to see each other. I hope that work is going good and that all the people you meet are able to see you for who you really are.

This last week was pretty hectic and crazy mainly because Elder Butterworth received a transfer call and now is serving in Lugansk.  I wish him well and know he will finish strong.  I appreciate all I learned from him.

Guess who my new companion is? Elder Carley! We get to serve together some more which I'm very excited about.  The amazing thing is that Elder Carley and I already have such an incredible friendship that we naturally already have unity.  I have to really step up and do what is required of me...but Elder Carley is the perfect companion to magnify the assignment with me.

We are at a time right now in the mission where there are over 21 missionaries that are in their first 18 weeks of their missions and soon there will be an incoming group of 17 more new missionaries.  From these past few transfers and upcoming one, it will mean that 50% of our mission will be young (in their first 24 weeks after coming into Ukraine).  It is humbling to know that the Lord is giving us this opportunity to take advantage of the building of this mission.

This past week I've pondered a lot about the children of Israel and what was the cause for them to go into the promised land. After all, we are promised that temples will dot this entire land and that children of Israel will join the church by the is keeping us from that day, was my question I pondered.  I've read and studied, and realized that in the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and getting ready to enter the land of Canaan, we are no different.  Moses sent 12 spies to go and check on the land, see if it was worth it, if it was fruitful, and how the people were. The faithful (two spies) Joshua and Caleb came back seeing the fruitful fields and fortresses of the children of Anuk (or the giants as they called them). They were faithful in the Lord and gave what the Bible calls a "good report" of their findings. The other 10 spies unfortunately did not have the same faith. They considered themselves as grasshoppers and refused to believe that they could do what the Lord asked. What was the result? Because of 10 spies, an entire nation of hundreds of thousands, who were perfectly naive to the actuality of the land of Canaan, followed suit in the same faithless opinions and eventually wandered in the wilderness by commandment for 40 years. What would have happened if they had all united in their faith as Joshua and Caleb? The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness without direction and progression for 40 years receiving sermon after sermon on obedience, faith, and that as soon as the older generation died off, the young ones would enter the promised land. I see our mission in the same circumstance as the spies, or currently serving older missionaries, will have a time to give report to the naive children of Israel, or the new eager missionaries. The Lord has withheld missionaries from coming in last transfer and will send them in a powerful force this next transfer to continue what report we give. So in short, Elder Carley, myself, President Lochhead, and the mission are on a quest to prepare our minds and hearts to drop the ridiculously unfaithful mentality that we are in Ukraine and thus cannot expect the miracles of the gathering of Israel. We can and we will.  We will improve our faith.  So if you could pray for our mighty change of hearts and sufficient faith to bring about the long-foretold promises, we can use it!  Ask home wards to pray too.

Those are some of my thoughts  ;)

I love you and these principles apply everywhere and in every calling in the church: The Lord gives us the promises, the goal, the vision, the 'what'. We are the ones that must use the scriptures, personal experiences, and receive revelation for 'how' we'll go about doing all of it. We need Him. We testify of Him.

I love you,
Elder Claypool