Thursday, January 30, 2014

1/28/2014 - Letter from Mission President

To parents of missionaries serving in the Ukraine Donetsk Mission: 
Re: Current situation in Ukraine

Dear Brothers and Sisters: 

As you have heard reports of the current unrest in Ukraine I'm sure you are concerned about the security of your missionary son or daughter. Please be assured that the personal health and safety of our missionaries is my highest priority and that of the Church Missionary Department. The current demonstrations were initially confined primarily to the capital city of Kyiv, but more recently they have spread to other areas, including cities in this mission. Up to this time, however, the demonstrations have been concentrated within localized areas near government buildings and/or city centers. They have not spread to residential areas where the missionaries spend the great bulk of their time.

Our missionaries have been instructed to avoid demonstrations and other large gatherings of people and to speak Russian when they are away from their apartments to avoid standing out as foreigners. In the event that any missionaries, for whatever reason, find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, they have been instructed to leave the area immediately. The missionaries have also been instructed to have a minimum of three-day supply of food and water in their apartments at all times for use in case of emergency. 

Contingency plans have been prepared in the unlikely event that the situation deteriorates to a point that would require missionaries to be relocated. The Church, of course, remains neutral on political matters, and missionaries are instructed not to discuss politics with others.
We all hope and pray that the current unrest will be resolved quickly. Sister Lochhead and I are monitoring the situation closely, and we remain in regular contact with the missionaries. We are continually inspired by the elders and sisters in this mission, and we thank you as parents for sending us such outstanding young people. They are truly a marvelous work and a wonder, and it is a privilege to be able to serve with them in this great land. Please do not hesitate to contact me or the office staff if you have any questions or concerns.

Warmest regards,
President & Sister Lochhead 

1/27/2014 -"God speaks to our Hearts. Our hearts are the final word"

 Hi everyone,

Thank you for your encouraging words this week! They are always very needed!

I'm doing just fine with my clothes and really have only been super cold once. Elder Evalde (from Uganda) and I went to the market the other day to get some warmer stuff for him (and I grabbed some things for myself too ;)) He's the one that is really the trooper. He's never really experienced winter before in his life besides in Crimea, Ukraine (which has pretty mild winters in comparison to Sumy) and at that, his winters were spent indoors. So he is doing just great! And we're trying to keep him warm!

Our investigators are doing well, one of which is Dmitri. He is just a wonderful young man that is probably the most energetic person I have ever met. He is studying to become an Orthodox priest but is more than willing to meet with us and talk about our message to know if it is true.

It has been a pretty mentally intense last few weeks coming to learn more about his religion and being able to help him see the need for a Restoration. I have pounded my head against the topic of the Great Apostasy and read everything that I could get my hands on. But you know, just using the Bible, it's hard to 'prove' that there was a complete and universal apostasy resulting in all that we claim... and you know, in thinking about it, I think that Heavenly Father did that for a reason. In our churches we don't really look at all the details of everything that there is to look at.

Meeting with many representatives of other churches over the last few months, I have seen just how different the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints approaches everything. It is not just about intensive Bible scholarship, but rather sincere Spiritual confidence in the answers we receive from God. It is truly amazing that the Lord in His infinite wisdom knew that the wisdom of men could not be a suitable enough foundation for the testimonies of His faithful children. For one thing, we could not understand everything as well as He does in the first place because our Human Minds simply just can't - our hearts on the other hand, can absolutely understand what love means, peace, and joy. This was something we could understand and as such, it becomes the foundation of our testimony. Yes, we need to use our minds, but always and forever, the heart will have the final word.

As the Spirit of God touches our minds and our hearts, there will be unity. This is how we can know what is true and what is not. Regardless of the evidence brought forward against Christ, the Church, doctrine, or procedures, my question is always the following: "Well, if it's all not true, then explain to me the fruits."

Yes, my testimony is not solely founded on the fruits of living the Gospel - it is strengthened by all means - but my testimony is founded upon the witness received from God Himself that the Book of Mormon is true. I know it is true. And anyone that wishes to come into full-faith in this world and this Church as the Restored church of Jesus Christ - and if anyone wishes to leave this precious Church - they must go through the Book of Mormon to do so. God is so wise in allowing us to so simply build the surest foundation; a foundation that the gates of hell cannot prevail against so long as we are worthy of that testimony and live accordingly.

Keep praying for our people here and our country of Urkaine. She needs the Gospel.

I love you!
Elder Claypool

PS - On a more sad note, last Monday I put my flash drive in the computer to download pictures, forgot it, and the next day it was gone.....second time for losing all my photos from my I hope that you have time to take all that I send you and save those. It stinks. But there are more important things than photos.
Hi Mom!

You sure do deserve what I said! You define what I said :)

Okay, I will answer your questions from the start:

We are keeping very warm and we have plenty of warm clothes. There's only been one time that we've been unprepared for the weather, and in that situation we headed home to get reprepared :)

I actually haven't really gotten sick at all on my mission. There have been times that I have gotten a cold or had some stomach problems, but they were never serious enough to take me from the work (that's actually a fulfillment of my setting-apart blessings :) )

Political unrest...just keep praying for the country. There are demonstrations almost daily now, but we keep away from them, and do what we do best :) The Mission President is keeping us all on the awares if we need to do anything, but luckily Sumy is a pretty small city. It is getting pretty bad from what we have heard. But we really are fine. 

Dima and Nicolai? They are doing wonderful! Keep praying now for Nicholai's family who we are going to start teaching today. He is already set on Baptism! But he is still keeping back for some reason...i think it is because he received an answer that he needs to be baptized in a river :) But it gives us time to work with his family and baptize them all together. Dima is progressing and could be one of the greatest Ukrainian missionaries the world will ever know...we just need to help him gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. Volodia is moving closer and closer to baptism with the goal to quit smoking this week to be ready for his baptism on the 15th of February. He is doing just wonderful! He was practrically an athiest when we met him, but now he is reading the BOok of Mormon every day and praying too. Not to mention he comes to church and is really becoming part of our small Sumy family. We're also getting a few of our members to the temple this next month or two and our recent convert here in the branch is going to be receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood soon and has already been to the temple to do baptisms! There is just real progress here, but we need to keep going. Satisfaction is of Satan, Gratitude is of God. :)

I did get the watch and gave it to him...he almost kissed me because he was so happy. He's just a great man and has a lot on his shoulders. Thank you so much for that!

On to the unfun questions...

I have no clue what classes I need to register for nor have I thought about it. Can you figure out deadlines of class registrations? What you will need to do is first contact the department of admissions and see what needs to be done to renew my enrollment at BYU. I'm currently defferring my studies. So once you find out the date, we can know if I'll have time when I get home, or if I need to do it sooner. As to the question of housing, I think that I would love to room with Elder Harrison here on the mission and can get all the infor that you need. When do we need to figure out housing? So I think the next step is just getting dates and deadlines and then planning from there. Thanks so much mom for all that you are doing! It really helps me to stay focused on the work!

My thoughts about Korm...what makes you think that he wont be ready? Just that he really hasn't been away from home yet? Well..................all I can say is that maybe you could just reemphasize with him to make it a matter of prayer and fasting if he hasn't already where he weighs out all his decisions, makes a decision and then asks Heavenly Father if that is right. Timing really is everything. It probably wouldn't be bad for you and dad to make it a matter of prayer and fasting too to see what counsel Heavenly Father has for you both...other than that, I can't really give any more advice :) Every missionary is different and all that they need is different. Elder Ellsworth, my last companion, went to school for a year before his mission, and he turned out just fine. Another elder didn't and he's doing wonderful now all depends on the person. But in any case, HEavenly Father knows best :)

I love you mom! Thank you so much for your prayers and consitent and faithful support of me out here. It is so wonderful to have such! I love you!

Elder Claypool

1/20/2014 Ever the Poet

Your message again was inspired as ever! 

This last week we were so blessed in so many ways that I was beginning to realize just how much I am like any other Nephite that fell into the pride cycle. What I mean is that we were so blessed this last week because we had new investigators:  an orthodox priest that wants to become a Mormon; Nicholai just trying to decide on a place of baptism and testifying of the truth of the church every day; and Volodia soon to be baptized as well. We are so blessed! 

And often that blessed state leads to laziness, satisfaction, and like the banana story you sent me, we stop getting ripe or we ripen so much that we rot. As I was thinking about it, I wrote a poem to express a little bit just what I felt inside and what I was battling with:

In hunger or famine with mouths to feed,
The Breadwinner will diligently strive,
To obtain the need and bring the feed
That mouths might be satisfied.

He'll work in the trenches and do the deeds
No matter how mucked with dirt - 
From morning till night with all his might
To riches from rags convert.

Yes, He is diligent, courageous, and true - 
A laborer worthy of hire.
But when famines subside and blessings abide
Where goes our hero's desire? 

Will he work just as hard - and just as long
As then when blessings were few?
Does diligence persist when blessings exist
To prove him persistently true?

Or does laziness creep and start to claim
The Heart, Mind, and Might of the man:
"Satisfactions replete! Why back to my feet?
Have I not worked hard enough with my hand?"

He'll let one hour go, then days will slip by
As time marches ever on, -
And soon he will find, with no effort of mind,
Famine again starts to dawn.

Thus endurance and diligence are needed the same
In want as well as in worry:
For the One having all there is to have   
Continues His Work and His Glory.

Love you. 

Hi Mom!

Sorry that I don't have much time this week to write you, but I sent dad a letter that talks a little bit about just what I felt and experienced this week. It was such a blessed week and I just love this work so much! I washed over with gratitude that allows me to work even harder. We need ever more you prayers and fasts because we cannot do this work on our own. The Lord is merciful and just requires that we do our best. Then He takes care of the rest. One of our new investigators this week that we found after a really rough night of being denied again and again is now progressing pretty well, but also sharing the Gospel with all around him. He loves the church and wants to meet every day with us and just...he's incredible! Dima after the 3rd day of knowing us had shared the Gospel with his mom, grandma, friend, the doctor of his grandma, and other wonderful friends of his. On top of that, Nicholai, again bore testimony that the church is true and that here in the Church he finds peace unlike anywhere else. We do all that we can and let the Lord do the rest. There is one benefit, as President Lochhead often says, of our message when it's all said and done: It's really true. :) I love you mom! You are a woman among women! Here's an exerpt from Jesus the Christ that reminded me of you:

To every son the mother ought to e preeminently the woman of women; she is the one woman in the world to whom the son owes his earthly existence; and though the title "Mother" belongs to every woman who has earned the honors of maternity, yet to no child is there more than one woman whom by natural right he can address by that title of respectful acknowledgement. When, in the last dread scenes of His mortal experience, Christ hung in dying agony upon the cross, He looked down upon the weeping Mary, His mother, and cmmended her to the care of the beloved apostle John, with the words: "Woman, behold thy son!" Can it be thought that in this supreme moment, our Lord's concern for the mother from whom He was about to be separated by death was associated with any emotion other than that of honor, tenderness, and love.

Love you mom!
Elder Claypool

1/13/2014 Wahoo! 45 at church!

I hope that you got my last email. It looks like it didn't get sent last week, but this week you'll just have two weeks worth ;) I love you so much and am so excited that I can see you soon! It's such a blessed balance to have that I feel I am getting cloer and closer to to miss you and to focus on my purpose. When the balance is right, I am able to use missing you to fuel my mission. It's not the easiest to be out here on my mission, and the longer I am here, the more I become a missionary naturally, but the more that I have the desire to see you all again, go to the Temple finally, and begin my own family. But, the wait is always worth it, especially when you are doing what the Lord would have you do. I live by my covenants and find great strength in such a life style. I've grown so much mom! And I have no one to thank other than you and dad, Korm, Kayla, Kenzie, and all who support me. Most of all, I have to thank my Heavenly Father that he is so merciful and full of grace towards me. My heart is just filled with gratitude.
This last week, we lost a few of our investigators just because they aren't ready and don't want to change...its always hard to see that. We continued to work though. Sunday was just the climax of it all. We were at church on Sunday and there were 45 people there! 6 months ago the average was about 25 and now we are pretty consistently getting over 35 and now two weeks in a row of 43 and 45. There are investigators there, less-actives returning, and our members are strengthening and almost being renewed into a new branch. The feel of Sumy is just...we are so blessed by Heavenly Father. Our investigator Nicholai bore his testimony today at Gospel Principles and pretty much bore testimony that he had received just that day: "While I was at sacrament meeting, I asked and pondered as I'd been counseled...and know I can say that I received my answer: I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and that your church - well, our church - is the church of Jesus Christ." You have no idea what that did to my heart to hear those words. I was like a father that was just so proud of his kid...but in all reality, its the Spirit that takes the credit with Nicholai...we are just privelaged to participate. Then we were able to have a pretty rough evening...really rough. But my companion was a trooper and never once complained and keep going. We had some pretty rough rejections and it was dark, wet, and cold...but you know, we kept going because we promised God we'd serve with all our all...and in the end of the evening we were blessed (literally in the last few minutes of the day) with a new investigator that is very much so going to prove a strength to the church here in Ukraine. We felt that we needed to turn left and go a different way home than usual after missing our bus stop and needing to backtrack. So we did, and as we did, turning a corner was Dmitri who then engaged us and he practically took our number, set up the lesson, and did our job for us. We must endure to the end to receive the blessings that there await. And they are so worth it. At the beginning of my mission, I was under the impression that when I put in A effort then God would give me A1 (or the according blessing in return). In other words, I thought that if I put in 20, I would get 20 back. Then I would work and work, but seemingly get nothing in return. Why endure then if the blessings maybe come and maybe wont? That was my thinking...but then I realized that the formula was really quite true, but incredibly unbalance. When we keep a commandment, we really are immediatly blessed...but it is not always the blessing we expect. Sometimes the blessing is the absence of those blessings we are seeking after. This allows us to endure, be diligent, patient, and truly faithful. I am grateful for those blessings that seem to be painful or painstaking in the process, but work to our betterment in the end. God loves us. I testify of that. I also testify that we can fully and completely lay all our expectations on him and have full confidence in him: He is our Perfect, Loving, Heavenly Father that wants our very best. So our job is now to be submissive to his will, that so far exceeds our own in glory, wisdom, and perfection. As C.S. Lewis said: "There are really only two kinds of people: Those who say to God 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says "Have it your way." Let us take courage in our faith in Our God and truly give ourselves more and more to his will. 

Thank you mom for being a constant pool of wisdom and examplary valor that I can turn to and learn from. You are one of the greatest blessings of my existence. Thank you. 

I love you with all my heart and can't wait to give you a huge hug!
Elder Claypool 

1/13/2014 Prayer

Thank you so much for your letters. 

I agree...Prayer is something that I am finding amazing strength in...somehow, sincere prayer is just what keeps me on the right track. If I get lazy in my prayers, then often times the results are accordingly. There is great power in being completely open with God and keeping in remembrance every time you pray that you are literally talking with our Father in really molds your prayers.

I have found great comfort in praying for grace as well recently to be able to not only bring forth fruit, but to bring forth fruit that would remain as Christ said in John15:16. It's an incredible chapter on the grace of God - a topic that has become an anchor of my soul. 

I'm so glad to hear that our family is doing well. It's pretty amusing too...last night we had a pretty rough night and I found myself for the first time really, whole heartedly, and sincerely missing the family, the Temple, and my future family. I want to be with my family again and I want to have my own family...I want to go to the Temple again and continue the work for my ancestors...but first and foremost, I desire to bring others to Christ and fulfill my missionary purpose so I remain 100% focused here. I love the Ukrainian people. 

I found great comfort and a widening of perspective in reading the short biography of President Joseph Fielding Smith in preparation for my lesson on Sunday...I know The Lord prepares us through His Grace to fulfill what we are called to do in this life...and right now, this mission here in Ukraine needs to be done with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. 

Claypools may not always start out the best, but we know how to end. I'm ending (or rather beginning anew) strong. 

Tell aunt Amber that I would love an agent...I just don't know if I'll be able to keep up with her ;)

I love you,
Elder Claypool

Better late than never -1/6/2014

Thanks mom for your wonderful example and always reading the words of the modern prophets! Isn't it so amazing that we have such gifts as modern day prophets and apostles! Every day we have the opportunity to just go out and do it. Some times we are super hesitant on doing what the Lord would ask us because like Naaman, we feel that we would do the big stuff, but the little stuff we can't bring our selves to do. I've always found it humourous - our human nature that is - that we will claim that if the chance came we would die for Christ and the Church like Peter or Paul, Abinidai  or Joseph Smith...but doesn't it take more courage to live for Christ and the Church? Like Naaman, are we so willing to do the big things - to take the special calling of Bishop or Relief Society President, to preach to the mass - but not do the little things. From small and simple things comes the great moments of life. I love the fact that we as members of the Church understand that to some degree. As missionaries, we have the opportunity every day to do the small things, follow the little promptings, and see the results. Some times, I don't always follow them...probably more often than i would wish this is the case, and even when I do, not much happens at times. But it is in the seemingly mundane deeds of the 'average' disciple, that the miraculous work and glory of our Heavenly Father is brought about. So as a missionary, it gives me comfort to know that, yes, every thing that I do will not have an immediate result, but that I can be diligent in doing much good  and "not be weary in well doing" (Galatians 6:9). I love what the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in section 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants in regards to our duties to God:

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 the widows and 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—

Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—These should then be attended to with great earnestness.

And then the words for every faithful member doing their duty with seemingly little to show:

 ...Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things. You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed

And by His marvelous and merciful grace, all we can do will be strengthened, enhanced, and made sufficient

I love you Mom!

Elder Claypool 


Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for your uplifting letters always! You are absolutely right that I need to stay focused on the work, and you can be the one counting how many days until I come home.  

Sometimes it's not so easy to keep focused, but Heavenly Father really helps me. He really is so merciful. I am so impressed at your inspired letter again, because the last few days I have been studying about grace and just how grace works. I never really understood it,  and never really realized that the main reason that I was trying and trying and it never seemed like I could keep up was because I was relying too much on myself. 

I'll give some thought to your High Council message again, but my first and foremost advice is that to strengthen your faith in Christ, you have to just do it. When I say do it, I mean that you really have to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ to its fullest. 

For me on my mission, the times that I have been closest to Christ is when I follow his counsel, try to do as He would do, and really focus on Him and learn of Him. 

In the book Doctrine and Covenants it sums it perfectly "Learn of me, listen to my words, walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall find peace in me" (D&C 19:23). Peace is what we are all seeking, isn't it? Isn't that why we have faith in Christ? But we can't do it without the word of Christ to get us there. Christ says, speaking of grace as it would have it, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing..."

So, What does it mean to abide in Him? John describes the answer in 1 John 2:3-6: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."

And What does it mean for Him to abide in us? Let's read further in Christ's sermon on grace...

"...If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:5-7). 
We must have his words abiding in us at all times if we are to strengthen our faith in him. Ultimately it comes down to the same three things that the Lord himself said to Joseph Smith in the cited revelation above: We must learn of him from the scriptures, we must listen to his words (And I would add to this that we follow the Spirit - see Mosiah 3:19 - focusing on the importance of following the Spirit to become like Christ), and walking as he would walk. This has worked for me to strengthen my testimony of our Savior.  

Even by grace are we prepared to do the work that the Lord would have us do! (see D&C 88:78-80)

I love you! 

Elder Claypool

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dec 30, 2013 - Happy New Year!!!


Thanks so much for the email! Since I am repenting, I will be better and answer your questions first ;)

The chicken and steak both turned out really well I thought and was almost completely eaten up! The chicken was better by far. Whether or not everyone liked it I can't really say...but they must have been hungry enough to eat it all ;) The Nutcracker was just phenomenal and full of majestical magic to say the least. I had never seen it before, but to hear the music and the dances were just phenomenal!

Yes, I play the piano quite often and have gotten better I's my singing that I haven't had much practice with...I'll have to work on that talent some more ;) The Chopin piece that I played was for a classical music night in our branch called "Grand Waltz Brilliante" and was probably the most classical music-y thing that I've ever played in my life. It was super fun, but I definitely needed to practice to perform it ;)

New investigator wise, we were able to have one new investigator named Volodia who is just so incredible! He is super humble, from humble circumstances, reads the Bible in his free time, and is just super tender hearted. He came to church on Sunday for the first time and said that he felt like he had come home. He's had a pretty rough life so far by personal choice and by circumstances, but he is finding the Gospel and it is healing his heart. It must have been pretty fun for him too on Sunday during combined third hour to listen to Elder Harrison and my lesson on the importance of missionary work.  Well, as the Brethren have said, retention begins from the first lesson. He even agreed to share the Gospel with his brother! :) He, Michael, and Nicholai are our progressing investigators right now and they are doing just wonderful! Keep praying for them and that we will be able to find even more who are ready! Especially pray for Michael who has known the church now for 15 years, still hasn't been baptized and is slowly but surely progressing to membership. We helped him put on his tie this last Saturday at our Christmas party and he said "I guess I can look like a real mormon tonight!" This man was very hardened and cruel in his attitude about life before we came and out of the blue today he sent us a text saying "Have a great day!" in English and in French. He just needs to get over his hurdle and jump with two feet in to active membership. ;) Nicholai is a wonderful man seeking truth...and he learns by the Spirit and will be a wonderful Elder's Quorum President someday! So all in all, our investigators, though small in number, are doing well. We have a few other investigators, but they are not progressing nearly as well as these three. The work is so sweet! And moreso than anything else, it feels so amazing to lay down in bed at night and just know that you represented Jesus Christ with honor today. What tender feelings to feel while speaking with our Father in Heaven in prayer. That is true happiness.

Thank you so much for your message from the general conference talk.  This week was a big repenting week for me because I had let myself slack even more than before and needed to get back up on my feet and do His work. Thankfully, God is so merciful. I wasn't doing anything hugely wrong, I just wasn't doing "all that I could". I was willingly choosing not to do enough of the work of the Lord although it was there before me. I got lazy and just wasn't representing Jesus Christ as I was called to do. With the holidays, we were busy with many other things, and missionary work got put on the back burner of my thoughts. Thoughts of home, future, and family filled my thoughts, - they were all good thoughts of course, but they took me out of Ukraine, and out of my mission. This resulted in my drive to do missionary work decreasing, and me actually doing the work with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, decreasing. It wasn't just this week that such feelings occurred, but that they all sort of culminated this week. It all led to me sitting on a bus reading Jesus the Christ choosing to ignore the promptings to talk with the man sitting next to me while we drove all the way down to another city for zone conference. While I was reading, the Lord in his tender, but firm way called me to repentance. Reading about Peter and the Savior's conversation on the shores of Galilee in the end of the Gospel of John helped me to realize that like the fisherman, I was doing it all my own way and was not catching any happiness. The Savior was coming and trying to tell me to cast my net on the right side, or to do it His way. I was choosing to resist...and I realized that the reason behind it was just that my love for the Lord and those around me had been placed on the backburner. So, realizing that I really did love the Lord and that I was to change -especially that I was not going to end my mission this way - I decided to talk to him. He was a wonderful man, and not much came from the short conversation we were able to have, but it was the start of my repentance process. That night in my prayers, I had a pretty intense conversation with my Heavenly Father seeking forgiveness and committing again to serve him. With such a renewal of covenant, I slept pretty well that night. The next day was the real blessing however: it was the day I would prove to the Lord my committment. So, I talked with people and declared the Gospel with more heart than the day before, and I started to feel those familiar feelings of joy...then came zone conference. I want to now say again and again that I have a firm testimony of the Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. As I sat at the conference, the spiritual thought was all about the covenant we make as missionaries to represent Jesus Christ in signing our acceptance letter. I have covenanted with the Prophet of God and with God himself in the life before and this life again that I would serve, and I am a covenant keeper. This moved me one step farther and I knew more of what I needed to do: Make representing the Lord my first priority. Then President Lochhead stood up with his presentation entitled: "How to be a Real Missionary."  He is awesome and inspired. As soon as the title of his message popped up on the screen, the words of Isaiah and an overwhelming spirit arose in my heart:
"Shall...the lawful captive [be] delivered?" (Isaiah 49:24). I was most definitely a lawful captive in the sense that I had chosen against the light I had received to not do that which I knew to be true. I was, by law, a captive of my own conscious choice. And yet, in this moment of my repentance, the Lord's words, again quoting the words of Isaiah and answer this question arose: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me...he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18)" In this moment when I was a lawful captive of my own poor choice, the Lord in his immense mercy forgave my choices and helped me to move forward.

I testify that He is merciful. I testify that He is so patient with each one of us. I testify that there is no chance we have strayed too far or fallen too low to turn to him, repent, and return to the blessings we can have. Jesus Christ is our Savior. Believe Him, not just in him, but believe Him and that he can do what He says He can. In the words of Alma the Younger while in his repentance process:

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

 18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

 19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

 20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

 21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:17-21)

I am here as a representative of Jesus Christ. I testify that He and only He can remove those feelings that we feel constantly of guilt, imperfection, failure, and 'lawful captivity.' If we turn to Him, He will give us joy more than words can express.

Turn to Him.

I love you. Thanks for never giving up on me! You can count on a more diligent and dedicated Elder Claypool from here on out!

Elder MaKade C Claypool
Ukraine Donetsk Mission

Dec 23, 2013 - Merry Christmas!!!

Dec. 23, 2013

Merry Christmas everyone from the beautiful country of Ukraine! 

I feel super privileged to spend another Christmas here in this very special land where, unlike anywhere else in the world, we celebrate Christmas twice! Because of cultural traditions, Christmas has always been celebrated on the 7th of January here in Ukraine and usually in the Church we celebrate on the 25th of December. So between the two days turns into just one big Christmas! Regardless of how you celebrate, when, or with whom, I wanted to add my person witness and message about the One that we remember in this Christmas season. 

Currently, we live in a special time in the history of mankind. There has never been a time so blessed than our day (to say the least of which I have the opportunity to write to you all so easily!), but, regardless of where we are, this also seems to be one of the hardest times of human history. Throughout the world the cultural, political, ethnic, and religious power struggles fill the headlines, - and to add to this, our already difficult lives are often coupled with emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles within the precious unit of the family as well as in our personal hearts. What is to be done?
In this warm season of Christmas-giving, there seems to be a shelter from the surroundings - a blanket that covers the dirt and darkness that at times seems to be in our lives. Our families are together, our focus is on others, and life seems just a little sweeter in this time of the year. But how can we get it to last? How can that peace that we feel so abundantly this Christmas season abound throughout the whole year - The spirit of love, self-sacrifice, and service? I think we know that answer, and I would submit that in making the reason for the season the focus of our lives, we can maintain such peace throughout our entire lives - in our world, our families, and in our hearts.

What is that reason? It is the Babe in Bethlehem, the Boy of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Savior of the World - Jesus the Christ. 

Of Him, the prophet Isaiah wrote: 
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given...and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6)

He is truly the Savior of the World and the Prince of Peace. I love that title of all the titles given to Him: The Prince of Peace. Of the Mission of our Savior the prophet Isaiah continues:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon [Him}; because the Lord hath anointed [Him} to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent [Him] to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;...
 to comfort all that mourn;...
to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; (Isaiah 61:1-3)

In our lives today I can think of no greater answer to all our lack of peace in the world than the Savior Jesus Christ. These are blessings we all seek: our broken hearts healed, liberty from our mistakes and sins, hope when all seems lost, comfort, beauty, joy, praise, and good tidings that soothe us to our core. There is no medication that can do what he can. There's no person that can council as He can. There is no one that loves us more than He does, and there is certainly no one that can bring that sought-after peace into our lives than he, who is the prince of peace:

O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people; (Mosiah15:18; The Book of Mormon)

So how do we do it? How do we take what our Lord and Savior did for each of us, and apply it into our lives that the healing, the comforting, and uplifting may occur. Again, we turn to the words of the great Prophet Isaiah: 

...every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money;come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 
 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; (Isaiah 55:1-3)

He simply invites us all to come unto Him. 

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)

And again the same words are repeated in his ministry to the people of the Book of Mormon:

Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy. And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him... 

...And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears. (3 Nephi 17:6-10)

This is my testimony to the world: Come unto to Christ and He can heal us. He is the Prince of Peace. Learning of Christ, acting as He would act, and listening to His spirit, we come to know Him - a knowledge that is unparralleled with any ointment, medication, or counsel in improving our lives. In this Christmas season, I would encourage all to make this next year dedicated to truly coming to Him - coming to know Him, to know of Him, and to have others know Him by you. He is the answer. 

Merry Christmas to you all and may we take faith in the words of the Angel Gabriel along with the host of angles heralding the birth of our Savior: 

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke2:10-14)

Come unto Him.

Elder MaKade Claypool
Ukraine Donetsk Mission
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dec 16, 2013

Dec 16, 2013

Dear all,

Thank you so much for your advice, love, prayers, and support! It is truly inspiring to receive the advice of a father and mother on the earth, and I bet that it is pretty inspiring to give it too. I'm grateful for it!

Yep, the last few chapters have begun and are flying by. I was so blessed to be able to serve with Elder Ellsworth this last transfer and unfortunately we had to be split up because we were doing too good together (I'm just kidding, it's because the Lord needed us to work with others).

I had a pretty long week of travel from one end of the mission to the mission office and back in the period of about 48 hours...I was tired. But it gave a lot of time for pondering about how I can best give myself now on my mission and to improve.

Our little branch in Sumy is absolutely incredible and moving forward at speeds that must be discerned with spiritual eyes, but still forward!

My new companion is an incredibly humble man from Rwanda. He was baptized in southern Ukraine while he was studying. He's a recent convert of about 2 years, but has a huge testimony, great light in his eyes, and a fire to do the work. It's so humbling some times when we see what the Lord trusts us with, but we keep moving forward.

We were able to see huge progress on our ward council this week which is huge! And on top of all of these blessings, a dear friend that I met at BYU, who is currently serving here in our mission, is now in Sumy in our district! It is something that we have been waiting for since the pre-earth life that is finally coming to fruition.

Mission life is absolutely incredible and full of incredible gratitude that just pours over me every day! I really do love my mission and love to give myself completely to the Lord!

I love you!

Elder Claypool

Dec. 9, 2013

Good morning Mom!

I'm glad to see that not only the season of Christmas, but the season of winter is being celebrated back home too! We've been able to listen to Christmas music and see the Christmas decorations go up one by one here and there. It really is a wonderful season to help us keep our baptismal covenants to always remember the Savior. I have found so much joy the last month being able to come closer to my Savior just by studying about him. It's an indescribeable blessing! I would encourage you to make your study specifically on the Savior at least until Christmas. I realize that studying the Book of Mormon and other scripture is so important, and when you add a purpose to your study -for example to come to better know Christ - then all of the sudden we feel the Spirit pouring into our hearts and allowing us to truly hunger and thirst after righteousness. The snow is just gorgeous here too and not too cold! 

Inline image 1
This is me infront of the statue of Schevchenko. He was an incredible poet and wonderful man that fought with the word for his country. 
Inline image 2

This is the main street of quite, calm, little Sumy. Did you know though how historical the city actually is? Rokmoninov, Bartnyansky, and many other very world-famous composers and poets lived in this city at one time or another. 

We were able to have an evening of classical music where many members, missionaries, and even people from the community were able to perform. It was a huge success and definitely enjoyable! Russian classical and Ukrainian classical music is just moving to say the least. I was able to play a piece from Chopin that was...well, I'm grateful for Heavenly Father's help, because there would be no way that I could play that one on my own ;)
I'm here on my mission now and I hit my 6 months left sad….time has been flying so incredibly fast that I can barely hold to it.
These last 10 weeks have passed so quickly that I can barely imagine how fast the next will fly. It's been kind of thought-provoking to look back over the last few weeks and just see what we've done...and yet not see enough progress ( I wish we could do more). It's not a question of gratitude, because I am super grateful for all that has happened...but I feel that I haven't been able to give the Lord very much in return for all that He has given me...kind of that feeling of not really contributing. It's hard not to feel this and it's in part because I can always work harder, or serve better than I, I'm searching for what I need to improve on and do better for the next transfer...
I'll be serving with a new companion.  He is from Rwanda. He has a really rough background from what I have heard and was baptized only a year ago.  But, the Lord is extending the call and I need to respond. Any ideas of how I can better give myself to the Lord and be more helpful to His work? I realize that the missionary that I am isn't a bad one, and that I have a lot of wonderful abilities that the Lord has given me but I wish I could do more. I have done some good...but in me there is an insatiable desire to do not have those feelings of regret that I could have brought to pass the work with more diligence.  Any patriarchal advice?
:) Love you! 

Elder Claypool