Sunday, August 11, 2013

Letter to Chris - "No discouragement" Aug. 5, 2013

I don't think that it would be possible to be discouraged with the amazingly uplifting letters that you send me every week. They always make me smile. They often make me laugh out loud...and they often make me laugh out loud with my companion. Thanks for your inspiration on sending me that letter about discouragement. I am growing to love the Book of Mormon even more. I also love the Holy Bible.

The Preach My Gospel manual also stresses that the Book of Mormon contains the answers to the soul. These can be typical answers regarding the plan of salvation or they can be very specific questions regarding our personal circumstances. First and foremost the Book of Mormon teaches the Plan of Salvation clearly, thus answering any questions about life accordingly. It also teaches the pure ordinances and principles of the Gospel that when understood properly can be applied to any circumstance, thus answering any of those questions accordingly. However, "It teaches that prayer and revelation are the key to solving particular problems. It helps us have faith that God will answer our prayers" (PMG107).

In Preach My Gospel it also talks about the importance of again and again receiving a witness that Moroni's Promise is I did again this last week. I had just read a bit here, a bit there and was learning a ton. Right now I'm reading the Book of Mormon in Russian and taking note of all the saving doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon. It's an incredible holy book. So I got on my knees and prayed to Heavenly Father asking if the Book of Mormon is true. Right then, as usual, no distinct answer came; however, as the days progressed I had a powerful experience. As I was having a rough day, I was able to just open the Book of Mormon and read the words of Alma to his son Shiblon. The words were so peaceful and helped me to realize that the Lord is really proud of me...that I can still improve, but that the Lord loves me. On top of that in studying for an investigator and his questions, I was able to literally find the exact question in the Book of Mormon he had and the answer directly written from thousands of years ago. That book is from God and teaches the necessary doctrines of the Gospel better than any other book...I think as members of the Church we forget how blessed we are to have that Book and modern day revelation...and how much we are responsible to carry that message to all the world. Thanks dad for being a mortal extension of my Father in Heaven. You really love me and mom and our help me to realize just what our Father in Heaven feels for me. Take Moroni's challenge again and take the challenge to every family! I love you!

"Why does it seem like we are doing it alone?" - August 5, 2013

Every single week, I sit here and think about what to write...and every single week something comes...but this week, I don't think anything is really coming yet. It was super good to see all the pictures that dad sent of you and the family. I feel like the family is growing the Gospel just as much as I am. We are really experiencing the Gospel functioning in its most prosperous environment: The Family. Heavenly Father wants us so badly to be blessed as eternal families as we individually and together strive to come to him. This last week in Heavenly Father's mercy he once again pulled me from coming out of a spiritual slump, as he has already so many times before. He just loves me too much to let that happen. I was thinking about this a lot lately and just the idea of miracles and faith. I found myself being a little discouraged this last week after having been out of our area for a few days, sitting in sacrament meeting just wondering why the miracles weren't there - why the cup wasn't brimming over. Heavenly Father loves us perfectly. He wants us to all accept his path to happiness and be cleansed and claimed by the Savior. He worries about no other work than this, His work and Glory. So the question is "Why does it seem like we are doing it alone?" I think from this came two variations of this question: 

"Am I trying to do it alone?" - I realized with the upcoming changes in the mission there is a likelihood that I will have to step it up a notch to do what the Lord was asking of me, - I was stressed and really quite fearful of the future. But I realized in an evening prayer with my Father in Heaven this thought: "You take on you the work meant for two." Not looking at this on  the companionship level, I realized that I was really not relying on my Savior as I should be. Once I realized that I had a Savior that loved me and wanted to help me, things became a lot more peaceful. The truth is this: "There is no mortal man that is so much interested in the success of an elder [or sister] when he is preaching the gospel as the Lord that sent him to preach to the people who are the Lord's children" (President Lorenzo Snow, PMG 12). 

"Why are the miracles not coming?" - We know that miracles can only occur when we display faith and that faith is tried, but I think in all aspects of life we ask this question theorizing that if God really loved us, we'd not need wait this long for his hands to be manifest in our lives. This week there was an experience that taught me something about this. Yesterday we were able to meet with Sister Albina after a lesson with a less active family and talk about how she was doing. She broke into tears as she began to describe her life situation. She has never had a family of her own, constantly is having trouble with different work places falling through, and housing arrangements not working out. She is one of the most faithful members of the church I know. Other members would light-heartedly say "have some more faith," "Do this," or "Do that." Her biggest fear was just that she felt she wasn't displaying enough faith and because of that lack of meriting miracles, she was being punished. Coming from a missionary of Jesus Christ that walks the streets and sees the hardships in his own way, please help everyone including yourself know that just because miracles don't seem to be coming, it doesn't mean that God is withholding blessings because of our imperfections. Having faith in God is a deliberate confidence in the character of God. So hold on, because if we do all we can (of course we'll have to seek ways to improve), we know our loving Father in Heaven is just that: Loving. In a council lead by Elder Per Malm of the seventy, he said in response to a comment much like I just stated about the love of the Father: "That is freedom." When we know the character of God, we can have faith in him! 

I realize that most of my letters are more of  a spiritual account of the lessons I'm learning and I don't talk much about our investigators and things like that...I'll do better next week on that. I really am so grateful for the Gospel and its infinite capacity to fit every facet of our lives. This is because it is true, pure, and simple. I know that the Lord blesses us with opportunities to learn and grow, applying the Gospel in our daily lives. That's really what this life is about: Apply all that we we learn becoming not only rich in doctrine, but disciples in doing. I love you all so much and really am so grateful for all that you do as my mom to give me an example of love, service, and consecration to the Lord. 

Till next week!
Elder Claypool
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The Work of the Lord - July 29, 2013

There are a few miracles that I would like to share with you. The first is one by way of doctrine: In our recent mission leadership council where we all meet as leaders of the mission to discuss needs and be taught in order to teach others. Our council seeks the will of the Lord, and the end result is incredible. I just wanted to share what the doctrine of this meeting was with you because it really helped me see the bigger picture: The relationship between the Doctrine of Christ, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Gathering of Israel, the Spirit of Elijah, and Our Purpose as missionaries.

Our Heavenly Father gave us a perfect plan that included us coming to this earth in an imperfect state in order to grow and learn. Because of our mistakes and the true doctrine that no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, it was requisite that a Redeemer or Savior come to the earth giving us the perfect example and means by which to follow him. He taught that we must have faith in him, repent, be baptized by immersion by one who holds the authority of God ( or priesthood), and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost that we may follow him and stay on the path that leads back to God. This is the Doctrine of Christ, or the path that all must walk to receive the cleansing and perfecting power of the Atonement that we all need.

So in order to allow all mankind to have the opportunity to walk this path God made sacred covenants with ancient prophets like Abraham that all the children of the earth would have this opportunity. He specifically covenanted with Abraham that through his posterity (Israel) all the families of the earth would be blessed and that they would carry the holy priesthood required to activate and ratify those saving ordinances. The fulfilling of this covenant lies one who's shoulders? The children of Abraham - the tribes of Israel. 

Throughout the history of Israel, they didn't always heed the prophets, thus distancing themselves farther and farther from God, until because of their wickedness they were scattered to the north and all over the world. The fulfilling of the covenant lied on scattered Israel's shoulders still. To then of necessity gather Israel, the Lord once again restored his church through a modern day prophet named Joseph Smith so that the prophecies of ancient prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel could be fulfilled. The Lord in his wisdom brought forth a record of an ancient remnant of the tribes of Israel that lived in the ancient Americas that was translated by the Prophet Joseph by the power of God and acts as the functional tool to gather Israel. This record is the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. By the thousands, the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints walk the earth as foretold by Jeremiah and Isaiah to gather back scattered Israel wielding the Book of Mormon as their tool to convert the hearts of the children.

The opportunity for all to hear about the Doctrine of Christ is being spread, but there is still more: thousands of our brothers and sisters are on the other side of the veil who never heard of or had the chance to accept the Doctrine of Christ and walk the path that he taught. But the Father has a plan for that. We learned that the gathering of Israel is happening on the other side of the veil in the spirit world ever since the Savior preached to those who were dead, as we read in 1 Peter 3:18;4:6 and D&C 138.They too are being informed. But there is still more:

On April 3, 1836 Elijah the prophet, appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and gave him the power to seal families together for eternities in holy temples. The power to vicariously perform the saving ordinances on their behalf was also restored allowing all the families of the earth to be blessed and unified after this life and for eternity.

So where do we as members and missionaries come in to play? We are members of the tribes of Israel  who carry the solemn responsibility to declare the doctrine of Christ to all the world. We, through the waters of baptism, gather our fellow brothers and sisters of Israel to continue the work of blessing all the families in this world and in the world to come. When enough saints are gathered in one place, a stake of Zion is built and a Holy Temple of the Lord shortly follows making way for the great work of salvation to continue on the other side of the veil.

This work is much larger than we may presently when we're thinking about talking to that person on the bus, inviting that friend or family member to an activity, or inviting a way-ward brother or sisters back into activity, let this truth fill you and not any fear. For all we know, there are scores of spirits both waiting and already having exited this life counting on us, going before our face and on our right and left, seeking for their living family members to accept the gospel and perform the work necessary for their salvation. This is the Work of the Lord. As my companion has said: "Nothing can stop it, but our personal righteousness can speed it up."

I hope that gives you a little vision of what we're doing here :)    

Importance of Families - July 22, 2013

It was so good to hear from you and to see all your pictures and just to hear from you. It means a lot to me just to receive a letter when I can only imagine just how busy you are. This last week flew by and the days continue to be full of miracles that are just too much to number in any email that will be of sensible length and not a recreation of my daily journal, however, the Lord did teach me some very important lessons this week: the Importance of families. 

We were able to have a lessons with a new investigator named Vladimir as we are trying to start up this new area and find those who are ready to be baptized, and really enjoyed this man. He was just wonderful in so many ways...but he was focused on the false doctrine that we must focus on ourselves before we can help others, thus needed to fulfill our own desires before we can fulfill others'. His family consists of his wife and 10 year old daughter but in his mind, family is just another way to fulfill his needs...but when he's been home for more than 2-3 weeks at a time, he gets tired of them and luckily can go work in a different city...we lovingly but sternly told him what the Lord expected of him as a father and he took it quite well. We were able to use our experiences in our lives to show just how much role parents play. While Elder Butterworth was talking about his dad's busy schedule and the precious time that was spent with him, I was reminded of dad and just how amazing it was that for how much he does travel, I would never say that neglect was one of his characteristics. Dad is the best dad in the world in my eyes...there is something to say when we can use our fathers as a method to teach a man who really doesn't understand God the relationship that we have with our Heavenly Father. Thank you dad for being the incredible father that you are. Truly the Gospel blesses families. The Gospel was made for families.

So we concluded the meeting with the man realizing just how much his 10 year old daughter needed him, and we committed him to call his daughter that night to just share his love and appreciation for her. Even though it is not text-book Preach My Gospel commitments, we invited him to strengthen his family ties. Parents have a crucial role in teaching their children the Gospel, inviting, and helping them to live it. I saw this in even a bigger scale that a man and his daughter the next day.

We were at a sports night with the zone leaders in Donetsk and were having an okay time playing basketball, but not being very effective in proselytizing. After a while I began to watch the youth that daily gather around our church building to hang out because of the nice grounds our church building has in comparison to the area. I watched their gestures, heard their language, saw their actions, and really it was quite dark. They were doing things that made  you just sick inside and even witnessing it made me feel a withdrawal of the Spirit. I got out of there as soon as we could thinking that I was never going to participate in such activities again because I couldn't handle the direct violations of divine nature and law is such large quantities. But then the thought came...and it's a thought that has come up many times before but not ever with such power: 

"It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole dearth groans under the weight of its iniquity. It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell...Which dark and blackening deeds are enough to make hell itself shudder, and to stand aghast and pale, and the hands of the very devil to tremble and palsy. 
"And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart— 
"For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:6-8,10-12).
As a youth who knows the path, the power, and the plan, it is my imperative duty to help. They need the kind of role models that we as members of the church can give. They need the activities and opportunities to grow and learn as we do. 
So I was talking with my companion about my thoughts and just realizing that of all the people I can usually talk with and preach to, the skill to talk with people my age or younger doesn't exist. And of course in His wisdom, upon talking about this with my companion and expressing the desire to develop the skill to talk with youth, three youth stop us, a little aggressively engage us, but miraculously the Spirit filled my heart with calming thoughts and exactly what I needed to say. Although they walked away still a little sarcastic and unchanged, I realized that the principles for teaching them are the same as for teaching all: By the Spirit. We have different ways to reach them...but it is our imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation. And what power parents have in helping the rising generation become who they proved themselves foreordained to be before this life.  I really like the next few verse of the section 123: 
"Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; ...These should then be attended to with great earnestness. Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints [and youth], which depends upon these things."

 Families are the best place to teach, learn, invite to live, and help each other live the Gospel. And on the other hand, no amount of effort can compensate for failure in the home. Thank you so much for being the best family in the world and for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ...its what makes our family a Family with a capital that is a Forever Family. Doesn't your heart just swell with gratitude to God for blessings of the Restoration?! I love you
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"The Lord does not ask about our ability or inability, but only about our availability" July 15, 2013

Mom and Dad and the family: 
When I told the other elders here with me that you had taken the time to suggest the missionaries go over to see some friends, they all with unison said: "YEAH!" I'm beaming to think that my family is doing the work of the Lord just as much as I am trying to do. The work is just incredible isn't it? We had an opportunity to meet with a wonderful girl named Irina and her son Gleb that is 11 years old. She's been through a lot. Because of transfers this week and a whole lot of running around (including 6 new sister missionaries!), we were quite busy, but not too busy to take the time to stop and follow the promptings of the Spirit. We were trying to go through our area book and look at former investigators since we now have our own area and are not just traveling missionaries! It means double the work, but double the blessings! We found Irina's record and thought to call her even though the note said that she always just hung up on the missionaries. She answered, and we were able to meet with her! What a miracle. She's seen a lot of horrible things in her life where Satan has succeeded in ripping herself and her family apart. But that's where we come in. How many people in this life just silently scream for the blessings of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, but kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it? (see D&C 123:12) And we have the privilege to say: "There really is a way to be clean. Completely." Isn't that a beautiful message? Of course it is! It's the most beautiful message in the world! And for all those who may read this who have not yet heard the message I carry with me everyday, I urge you to follow the gut-feeling you've had for ages now and find the missionaries and take part in the miracles God is offering all of us! 

I think my zeal for this work and love for the Lord and my brothers and sisters increases every day and without a doubt, so does my happiness. We had the opportunity to be over at a member's house yesterday and just to get acquainted and see just what miracles that we could work with them. As we spoke together they talked about how when meeting the missionaries, they would have never thought that their children would serve missions, that they could go to the temple, that Brother Trunov would be a branch president, or that their children would be married in the temple and one would be studying at  BYU I. However they taught an important lesson that their missionaries told them when the doubts came: "All you need to be is worthy." They are so worthy and the Lord has made the way. They were on the verge of tears as we expressed gratitude for all that they did for the missionaries and for their desires to serve the Gospel. Sister Trunov was practically on the brink of tears because she wanted to do missionary work so badly and help her family and her friends, but just didn't know how to do it. I want to have that kind of desire to serve the Lord. If we have desires, we are called to the work (D&C 4:3). And like Elder Maxwell beautifully put: "The Lord does not ask about our ability or inability, but only about our availability. And if we prove our dependability, the Lord will take care of our capability." Its just so fun to give it all to the Lord and see what he will make of you and those around you through you!

I love you all so much!

Elder Claypool 

"New President but same truths" - July 1, 2013

Thank you for your letters.  The last few days have been absolutely amazing! President Lochhead and his wife are... just terrific! Heavenly Father loves me. I feel so incredibly privileged to be around President and Sister Lochhead and to have been around President and Sister Campero. I love him dearly and from the very first moment started to leave irreplaceable impressions of love and teaching in my heart. 

My personal prayers do need to improve to the point where telling Heavenly Father how I feel is common. 

I love you. 

Elder Claypool   

"Be Teachable" - July 8, 2013

Thank you for your letter and always bringing a good smile to my heart. You have an incredible ability to lift my day with every email and help me see the miracles that I often don't see. I think the Lord makes it all amazing and influential to others, mainly because I am definitely unable to do that myself. He blesses me so much. Especially on the mission!

This last week I had the incredible opportunity to just breathe revelatory experiences being able to be at multiple meetings, conferences, and in a car with a general authority from the Europe East Area Presidency. It was quite amazing. It was quite a week too to be honest.

Our new mission president and his wife are just incredible! They are first and foremost examples of consecrated missionaries! They have incredible unity and President involves Sister Lochhead in everything: transfers, planning, interviews, etc. He respects the ecclesiastical keys, but also he counsels with his wife at every opportunity.

We were able to be with President Per G Malm of the seventy and what a privilege that was. He is just so bold and helped me really be more bold. "Speak Up" he taught.  This is really part of our calling as missionaries and members of the church: We need to not be afraid of our own ideas and opinions, but we do need to be humble enough to accept the will of the Lord as it is revealed to us unobscured by our pride. Pride's been a pretty rough thing for me this week.

My companion is a very competent man that is quite experienced and blessed with a lot of gifts that I don't have.... Whereas he has wonderful ideas, seems to be two steps ahead of it all, and very professional in all that he does. I find myself comparing my weaknesses with his strengths and just feeling horrible. It has a lot of side effects that weren't the best: lack of unity, lack of hope for own self development, and lack of happiness.  I will improve.

It's quite funny how the Lord taught me that I need to be more teachable. In my patriarchal blessing it says just that, that I need to be humble and teachable on my mission especially...what an amazing thing that it did to me to realize that I could just learn from him and not need to compare myself to him. The truth began to free me as I realized that I am me and he is he. We have the same goal and are able to benefit and learn from each other, but I should not take part in the priestcraft of placing any person, myself or another, in the place of perfection that only belongs to Christ the Lord. He's who we strive to be like, not like others. Of course we can learn from everyone - especially when it is a checkpoint on our path to Christ - but the assimilation of behaviors and characteristics of others should never take the place of the assimilation of behaviors and characteristics of Christ that are our true goal.

We will create a new area (the assistants to president haven't had an area in a long time and finally we will have a proselyting area too), so we'll have to start that on Thursday; the necessity of being the best missionaries and best area in the mission; and fulfilling our administrative and counseling duties to our new president. It's a lot of stress...but it gives me an opportunity to learn: We can learn something from's just a mind-set.

I love you!
Your Son, Elder Claypool