Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recent pictures of Kade in Ukraine

"Let Us All Press On" April 15, 2013

I'm so glad to hear that you are doing good! I honestly can say that the thing that made me happiest about your letter was to hear that MaKormick got to go out with your local missionaries and that you are working close with the missionaries. I really loved President Eyring's talk from Priesthood Session of General Conference when he clearly outlined the role of a member in missionary work. I cannot even begin to explain how grateful I am as a missionary for members who, without poking and proding, fulfill the promises they made to Heavenly Father at the time of their baptism and even more so in the Temple if they have received such ordinances. 

We are focusing right now on the family in our mission because that, along with missionary work, are all that matter in this life. Really, the family is the only thing that matters...it's just that missionary work is the strengthening life-blood of the family, both the individual family and the family of mankind.  We preach the Gospel in our homes. 

On the streets, people are in a hurry to work and it gives us a good opportunity to ask "What is the most important work you can do?" Thanks to modern day revelation, we know that the greatest work we can ever do is within the walls of our own homes. We also know as the Prophet Joseph Smith said when it all comes down to it, preaching the gospel is the greatest duty of man. 

We preach the Gospel to our friends. I love how the Index in the Russian scriptures defines missionary work so simply.  Missionary work is preaching the gospel by example and, if neccessary, using words.  Let the Spirit guide. 

We preach the Gospel to the world. Isn't it interesting that the prophets and apostles whom we sustain and support as ordained ministers and special witnesses of Jesus Christ quoted the last few verses of the Gospel of Mattew over 5 times during conference? "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo,I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20) That was the last thing that Jesus said to those who called themselves Christians - and is a marking characteristic of all who call themselves Christians, as Elder Oaks so clearly taught in General Conference. 

And We give all the opportunity to our families beyond the grave to partake of the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

This is a pretty cool work, isnt it? Smile. 

I have such a strong testimony that the Prophet Thomas Monson is the Prophet of God on the earth today. He holds all the keys and eternal authority needed and required to receive all the greatest blessings we could ever receive from our all-possesing Father in Heaven. I believe he is the prophet of God. The coolest thing for me is that like the Israelites who followed Moses, the Nephite who applied the words of King Benjamin, or the Early saints who with faith sacrificed all to heed the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I can follow the Prophet in my days. And I choose to also. 

I guess with all the missionary work that is going on in our home I can only imagine the blessings that will come to our family, our home, the twins's future, and all the people Korm will touch and convert as a missionary. This is the work to be in! Thanks for your example and humility to change from the comfortable way things were done before and sacrifice to follow the Prophet who is calling all of us to take our position in the ranks and not sit this last final battle out. "The Challenge for all of us is to be more a profitable servant in the Lord's vineyard." (President Monson). Who knows what the future will hold.

I don't know who my new companion is, but I'll know tomorrow. I'm staying here in Donetsk to further my part of the work He has suffered me to fulfill.

I'm so glad to hear from you and to hear all the wonderful news there. Wasn't General Conference amazing?! (www.lds.org). Between watching it in Russian and in English we watched a total of 18 hours of General Conference this last weekend! It's really quite amazing to watch in Russian next to these members I love so dearly. Sadly, many members, after the 1st session, didn't stay to watch all the other sessions (which was super frustrating for me since we need these members to be stronger). I would hope all would not put something wordly above the words from God through His prophets and apostles. There is nothing more important and we can thankfully always find time. 

The mission is going wonderful with a lot of weaknesses in me but I am feeling more and more like a true missionary. The secret? Applying "Preach My Gospel" (this is a manual/booklet which missionaries use and it can be found on the church website), which are words of the Prophets. We obey with exactness and we receive blessings...it's almost like God promised us that obedience is important...okay so my lack of funniness in my jokes hasn't changed, but in all seriousness my testimony has definitely strengthened that God is in the Work. I even memorized D&C section 4 for the first time in my life...in Russian yes, but still, like Elder Scott has taught multiple times, "memorized scriptures become friends in a time of need". 

Sounds like dad continues the battle against woodpeckers attacking the house. Did you know that they have woodpeckers here in Urkaine too? They are called dyaddles. 

To let you know about my surroundings, the Shakhtar stadium is pretty close to our area, but you could Google the street Parkhomenko 4a...that is the church next to which we live. It's our future stake center - smile !

I wanted to thank you so much for what you taught me as a youth. The Prophet and Apostles quoted 1 Peter 3:15 quite a few times and I instantly remembered our days from priest quorum class together. Though the youth of this day are more prepared and will be even better missionaries than we will have been, I'm grateful for the aid I received from you. It's our job now to "catch the wave" as Elder Nelson said and become better missionaries. I'm reading the New Testament right now which I have read earlier in my life. But now I'm more focused and feel like it is really the first time. It is incredible to see the Master and His example to all. I love Him. 

Pray for our investigators and less actives. We are building this desire to be more profitable servants of the Lord, but we need all the prayers and the timing of the Lord we can get. I guess we just need to work with diligence until the time is right. It's all going to happen very soon...we can feel it. Never forget how much I love you and revere you.

Love Your Son Elder Claypool

"Послушание, всегда и везде -- Obedience, always and everywhere" April 8, 2013

Dear Family,

I think it is I who should be thanking you and dad for all you did in raising me! I thought a lot about this yesterday and the days before and a feeling of gratitude came over me. It was quite humbling really. You see, I was thinking about my birthday and all that it meant, knew that pretty much only my companion knew about it and I wasn't going to go around telling people it was my birthday. Naturally I was thinking, "man...this day isn't really going to be about me that much is it? It's a Fast & Testimony Sunday...so no birthday breakfast even. Well, we don't have time to really cook anything special because we're busy anyway, and probably no one knows it is my day." Soon after thinking about me, the Lord taught me my lesson that day:

In our zone conference my companion taught us all brilliantly about the meaning of the words "unprofitable servant." He drew a diagram illustrating what King Benjamin had written. Imagine that on this diagram there is Heavenly Father and You. There is one arrow from Heavenly Father to you with the caption "Life and the condition to keep the commandments". Then as we try to keep the commandments (or in other words the arrow from us to Heavenly Father) another arrow is drawn from Him to us with the caption "immediate blessings." In pondering about this I realized how backwards we have it on our own birthdays. We did nothing really but come into the world, and yet we celebrate ourselves as if it were some kind of accomplishment. I'm not saying we should forgo celebrations or anything like that...mainly because I still enjoy them too much and I love birthdays! Smiley face. But, really if we take the time to think about it, our  birthday is a day in which we should give more to others for that which others gave to us. Mainly it should be us giving more to God and our parents for the life they give us. So, on my birthday I thank you mom, dad, and my Heavenly Father for all you did in giving me this opportunity to live and learn. This is the purpose of our lives in losing ourselves for the sake of other's welfare. The coolest thing is, we find ourselves...that is, we find ourselves at that potential which we are capable of attaining.

Thank you so much for your letters! I really enjoyed them and laughed super hard when I read dad's jokes. In regards to MaKormick,  I am so proud of him! He's starting to really listen to the Spirit and that is how he is learning. It is interesting that in the Gospel we can learn and learn and learn, but until the Holy Ghost takes it from our head to our heart (and only He can) then we really haven't learned anything. That really is the key that you told Korm too...or that he told himself.

Haley's quote on my birthday related to it super well. It talked about how the greatest lesson we can learn in life is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. I think of the Savior and his obedience. In my interview with President Podvodov, our acting mission President before President Campero returned, (which by the way was all in Russian) he said something that is just classic for this man: "Obedience, always and everywhere"  (sounds cooler when you say it in Russian by the way). Really, it's like dad always said the two most important words are: "Obedience" and "Repentance". Obedience, because if we are obedient, we will do all we are supposed to when we are supposed to and receive all the blessings of God because of it. Repentance, because as we all know, WE AREN'T PERFECT! Thank you so much for your support and always helping me see the better. I am improving and the Lord is really blessing me with that.

On Friday I was able to share the same message I shared with all of you on Easter with all the missionaries at our zone conference, but what was more, the Lord filled my mouth and gave me confidence to do so since the entire conference was in Russian. Like Korm, when the Zone Leader's Council made the decision that we all must speak 100% Russian outside the apartment with a few exclusions, I was a little protiv. (That means "against it" in Russian...there are so many words that others will just have to know in Russian when I return home because they are a part of my vocab now)  But the thoughts always were: "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven" and how true that is. We have sacrificed comfort, maybe understanding, and even the ease of feeling the spirit and receiving promptings in English as we have gone to just speaking Russian in the mission. However large the sacrifice, it will be worth it. Every choice in this life is a sacrifice in the end: Either sacrificing what matters at the moment for what matters most, or sacrificing the greatest blessings available for that which is readily on display. When the conference was about 3/4 of the way over, I sat there and this feeling of sheer joy came over me as I realized that for the last 3.5 hours we, English speaking missionaries, had been speaking the language we were called by the Lord to speak. That's true doctrine.

I love you. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever forget that.

Elder Claypool  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"He is Risen. Jesus is the Christ" - April 1, 2013

Good day family and friends from Ukraine!

Can you believe that it is 10 degrees here and people are in shorts and t-shirts? We are for our prep day. Feels like spring!  Okay so there's a difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, but it is pretty beautiful here! Happy Easter to you too!  

Some news from me...

President Campero (our mission president that was in USA being treated for cancer) is officially back! He flew back to Ukraine on Friday and is already back in full swing working. Everyone needs to meet this man. We were talking with a less active about the sacrifices we should make and he was just making excuse after excuse. We kind of stopped the light speech and really just talked to him straight up. I realized how incredible of a man our president was as I related his situation: A mission president,  life-threatening cancer, from Bolivia serving in Ukraine, had to be in America, meeting with as many doctors as he can, and all why? To get back to serve the Lord. Without even knowing if his disease was going to be fatal or not, he planned on coming back and has come back, either to die in the service, or live to serve Christ some more. We really do not have excuses. Especially when we compare ourselves to the Savior of mankind.

In this Easter season, I have been blessed with the opportunity to really ponder some more what I am actually doing as a missionary...and how I am thanking my Savior for what he did. 

This morning I was reading in Moroni 7 which states "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men. For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens. And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased?" 

That is, Moroni is asking us whether or not Christ's work is finished, - whether or not the miracles (or the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ) has ceased. He continues:

"Behold I say unto you, Nay;"

How have they not ceased?

"...neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men." (Moroni 7:27-32)

Take a moment to ponder just what Moroni and actually what his father Mormon is teaching us (which they left us these writings from over 1,600 years ago for us today).  In my words I would say this: Our Father in Heaven has created a perfect plan for our fullness of joy in the unit of families, unified with our Father in Heaven. Because of the nature of His Plan and Eternal Law, all mankind fell so that they could have joy, in the future, become full. Jesus Christ, our Loving Advocate and Intercessor  before the Father, whose name we praise especially this Easter season, took upon himself all that was made wrong by the Fall giving to us, all the children of the Father, an unconditional blessing of immortality and the returning back to the presence of God. But  we are held accountable now for our own choices. Hence why all prophets and apostles from the foundation of the world have said what? (and this is where Mormon's writings come in) Come unto Christ in order to partake of the blessings of the Atonement that are conditionlly given based upon each individual's personal usage of the Atonement. Or in the words of Mormon: "...lay hold upon every good thing...and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them." (Moroni 7:19, 24) 

Imagine to yourself you are with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ who are sitting on their eternal throne in the heavens having completed the Miracle that is sufficient to save all men that will use it. You would see them, in order to allow all to use this gift in full, make a covenant with Abraham and all the holy prophets in the history of the world. You'd also see them giving the prophets the keys to access this gift and administer the ordinances (and thus the covenants) required to obtain the fullest blessings of the Atonement to all men. So now in the Perfect Plan of God the Atonement is completed (or The Miracle), the opportunity exists for all to obtain it (or to obtain the miraculous blessings of the Atonement), but do all have the opportunity to do so? This is why He sends His angels from His presence to testify to mankind that all may "...have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men." (Moroni 7:32). Who will carry the Good News to the world? We will. 

As Children of the Covenant of Abraham it is our privilege to carry the message of the Gospel to all the world until this opportunity has reached every corner, every man and woman, and every island, so that the Covenant may be fulfilled; that we "...[may] bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them." (Alma 42:31).   In this Easter Season, let us deepen our understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ by realizing the angels that declared "He is not here, for He is Risen" are none other than those who carry to all the world, to all the city, to all friends, and to all the families this glorious message: He is Risen. We are those angels. We are living testimonies that He is indeed Risen, that miracles have not ceased, but that His work continues with full-force. This is who we are. This is our marvelous work and wonder. This is what is really worth living for. I know it all to be true.

Happy Easter my wonderful Family! I love you so much! 

Elder Claypool 

"All things are fulfilled by Faith" -March 25, 2013

Hey All !

I don't have much time either, but I feel impressed to share with you that each of you in your church callings really are called to do an amazing work. To read your emails every week and to see how you are magnifying your calling by magnifying your love is one of the most incredible things for me to see. I think I say this every week...but I really do have the best parents. I think everyone in the mission knows that.

Time is moving on and the days can seem purposeless and forgettable at times, but I know that God has something better for us: a fullness of joy. I've learned very clearly that if we are only going to have a part-time relationship with Deity, we can only receive a part-time portion of the blessings. Unless we are willing to descend below all things, we are not able to be lifted above all things. Through faith are all things fulfilled. Why? That's something I don't quite fully understand yet. But that's our homework for next week. I'm going to mail you my answer next week, and I'd like to hear yours. It'll be cool to study the same thing this week with you mom.

This week was good in that I was able to do a lot of thinking. I was in another one of those slumps where I just didn't feel capable and just down on myself. I was able to partake of the sacrament, renew some promises, and really decided to set some goals and get back up on my feet. There was one of our assistants on an exchange with me yesterday and it really helped a lot. His name is Elder Mitchel Butterworth and he is from Australia and is an incredible example to me of a leader. What amazes me the most is just how much he, when relying on the Lord is changing the mission. I have a lot of weaknesses, but I took your advice dad and started to count my blessings. On top of that these missionaries (assistants) really helped me just lighten up. It's really easy to get on a negative train here because we want to accomplish more and it is sad that people cannot accept Christ.

Transfers went well with me and my companion ready to really progress this transfer. This transfer is only 4 weeks due to the change in time of MTC (new incoming missionaries from the Missionary Training Center only get 9 weeks of learning Russian in Utah before coming here). I just wanted to tell you how much I am grateful for examples like you and all around me. I have a long ways to go before I am prepared for what I need to be, but if I can just do what the Lord asks, then I have no doubt and have faith and hope that I will be like Him. Truly His grace is sufficient for all of us (Ether 12:27) and all things are fulfilled by faith.

I love you and really know that this is the real life Christ talked about in John 17:3. We're dealing with eternities here.

In regards to missionaries and members who are not active or converted as they should be, we have to answer the "Why" question. Only that will help. They need to feel wanted and needed. If they only feel needed in a physical or temporal manner as a statistic or temporal need, their conversion and dedication will be temporal. But if we want to help them be eternally converted and eternally dedicated, that only comes from feeling needed eternally and spiritually. I'm learning this with the missionaries and members here. If they can understand who they really were, are and can become in the eyes of Him who sees only truth (things as they really are, were, and will be) they will have the power in them to walk the journey of faith.  This is His Gospel.

And mom, Korm and twins, you are an incredible example of losing yourself in the work of the Lord and in result have found yourself. I haven't quite found myself like other missionaries have...but in losing myself, I have the promise to find myself. I love my Savior. I worship my Father. I follow His Spirit...or at least Im getting there - smile.

Keep smiling, eating your amazing food which I always enjoyed too, and knowing that I love and pray for you!

Happy White-Almost-Easter!

Your Son Elder Claypool