Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Reduce noise in our lives" Feb 24, 2014

 Thank you so much for your letter, your fasting, prayers, and love. It's all very needed. Missionaries enjoy hearing from everyone.

This last week was another week that was full of repentance and just getting back on my feet. It's getting harder to stay focused and not think about the future because I know I need to make plans about registering for classes and where to live, etc, but the Lord is helping me stay very busy and I'm especially grateful for the scriptures. Seriously, the opportunity to receive personal revelation is just absolutely wonderful! I pray everyone will read them and not stray.  Sometimes it is the easiest way for Him to talk with us.

It was a rough week because I wasn't following promptings, wasn't striving to preach the Gospel, and on top of that we had busy investigators and not too many meetings all week...Satan's best tool is making noise and keeping people too busy for what is important.  I just felt extremely far from the Spirit. It was an awful feeling. But the great news is with repentance I am now able to move forward, back focused and I learn and continue to serve. The Lord is truly merciful!

Volodia is doing well and is now a Priesthood holder!  Also Nicholai is just a wonderful "member" of the branch already, (I say "member" but he's waiting till the summer to be baptized in order to be baptized in a river "just like they were baptized in the waters of Mormon" as he says). I just smile at him :)

The thing that is weighing on my mind right now is just the unity of the branch. There are members that are just...well... the entire branch just has a feeling of separated-ness (not really a word). How do you unite a branch? I may only have a few weeks left in this city because I might get moved to another city, but my goals are set to bring that unity to the branch that it needs to continue on. It would break my heart to see that after all these months, nothing changed in the I'm going to work my hardest to better magnify this branch and make it independent. Advice is definitely welcome!

I'm trying to do my best. Sometimes it is really hard...and most of the time its hard because of my personal pride...but my companion and I are trying. My companion is wonderful and really patient with my impatience. But we are in the service of The Lord and we love our Savior.

I love you!
Elder Claypool
I'm glad to announce that we are safe, sound, and strolling forward :) There are a lot of really sad things happening right now in Ukraine...and we are kind of in a bubble being on a mission, but kind of not since it is all that people can talk about. The people here are just in pain of all that is happening, and some how, some way, it will further the preaching of the Gospel in this hallowed land. The Land of Ukraine has been through so much...and it will continue to be tried and tested as its residents, the remnants of Israel, are proved, cleansed, and eventually gathered back to a knowledge of their Savior, themselves, and the covenants that their fathers made. But just to let you know, all is okay with us! 

That is just amazing to hear about the recent converts and less active member. Really, you have no idea how grateful missionaries are to see members like you doing their duty. Truly mom, you're an incredible missionary! 

This last week for Volodia was a pretty wonderful and yet stressful week. He is in a whole new ball-game and really just doing wonderful. The change that we are seeing in his heart it just huge! He came to church this last Sunday after a week of being super nervous to receive the Aaronic Priesthood, but came and received it. He was still pretty overwhelmed, but with time the Spirit quieted his fears and now he is doing just wonderful. He even called me Saturday night at like 10:45 after we had already went to bed, and he asked "Do I still need to bring bread tomorrow?" The Gospel is something that truly changes hearts. In talking with Volodia, I was able to realize some differences that we have in the Church that really in quite unique: the Lord named his church in our dispensation "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." Have you even wondered why the Lord chose such  name? In the church we really do require that all men, women, and children become saints, or 'set apart to the work of the Lord' - servants of the Lord engaged in his work, in my own words. We are the saints of the last days not because of our perfections or because of our abilities, but because we were called and set aside for this day and this time to all take part in the work of the Lord. As latter-day saints we announce in our title that we are set aside from all other peoples of all other times: called and consecrated to carry the Gospel to all the world, both the living and the dead. This is our duty when we are baptized into the restored Church. Isn't that incredible? There are no such thing as 'normal members' or 'members of the congregation' for we are all in one way or another engaged in this amazing work! We're the latter-day saints!

Love you mom! I'm trying my hardest and just loving my's getting harder and harder to focus and not get side tracked, but the Lord is helping. Thank you for your prayers too!

Elder Claypool

Volodia Baptized!!!!!! Feb 17, 2014


"Diligence isn't achieved by quota, but by giving all that we are able to give".

Thank you so much for your letter. I feel like being on a mission gives me a better ability to understand you and mom and have a more full relationship with you both.

It's kind of like or relationship with Heavenly Father. As we come to do what He does, we come to better know Him.

Before my mission you were both my parents and although we were a close family, there was that natural separation I still love and respect you as my parents, but I feel that the relationships have deepened over this last while to the point where we have become more and more like friends who understand each other. I don't know if that makes sense since it is a little hard to express how I feel about it, but it feels really good. I look forward to just being able to have talks between us on a level of understanding that we couldn't have had before my mission because of my lack of life experience. I have a lot to learn, but the future is bright.

I'm also really looking forward to the opportunity to see you all again and my heart breaks just thinking about it...but I love my Father in Heaven and I covenanted with him to serve till the end, and I love the people of Ukraine and being a missionary! The church is true.

This last week I was able to see many miraculous things like the baptism and confirmation of Volodia. It was such a joyous moment to see him be baptized and then to participate in his confirmation. It is even more amazing to see how much he is changing! However amazing the experiences this week, I was tired. I was feeling that we had built up to this moment and my energy was just spent. I literally was just falling asleep during our companion study. With all of this happening, I relaxed spiritually and wasn't as diligent as I could have been...but in repenting and seeking inspiration from my Heavenly Father, I realized that I can't go on on my own. He is giving me an opportunity to rely on Him even more and use His grace. Like Peter in the water after he began to sink, I can't even keep my head above water without my Savior. The amazing thing is that I was able to learn that in these times of trial and hardship just where our strength to endure comes from: Loving the Lord and loving others.

I read in the scriptures the other day about Alma the Younger leading his followers into battle against the contriving forces of Amlici. The army, because they relied on the Lord, was strengthened and were able to defeat not only the Amlicites, but also the Lamanites when they came and joined forces. It could have been a crippling blow for the band of Alma when the beaten Amlicites were rejuvenated by the numberless hosts of the Lamanites, but they drew within themselves, called upon the Lord and were strengthened.

As a whole, we fight for the right purposes and seek to do the will of God. We will then be strengthened in Him. But what about when that just doesn't seem to be enough? When I walk the streets I try to do what is right, but at times I just don't have very much energy, spiritually and physically. For those situations, the Lord gave us the example of Alma the Younger specifically a few verses later. He was battling furiously with Amlici sword to sword. He believed in God and was a righteous man who called upon the Lord, but his focus didn't end with just a plea for strength. He prayed for strength in order to be an instrument in the hands of God to save his people. Only when others become our 'why' will we have enough strength to endure. The greater the cause, the greater the strength. When we fight for our Savior and when we fight for our loved ones, we gain spiritual and physical strength to fight our battles. In fact, no longer do we fight our own battles, but the Lord fights them with us and even for us at times.

I'm coming to learn what it means to "wait upon the Lord". There are great promises that come from doing so. I can't imagine what it is like to have lost Hilai and now CJ (even though she has a great opportunity for her family) but Heavenly Father is molding my amazing earthly father even more. Read Isaiah 40:28-3. I pray for you and will continue to.

Diligence is not achieved by meeting some objective quota, but by giving all that we are able to give. Some days that may mean we can run the full 3 miles. Some days that may mean we can even go the extra mile. And some days it means that the most we can give is to limp our way to the next checkpoint. The Lord does not expect the same objective amount of effort and energy from every person. He requires all of one's individual all. And when we give that, no matter what it be, His Grace takes care of the rest. We can't run faster than we have strength.  But regardless of how much you can give, just keep giving. You have an incredible heart with an incredible capacity to give. Don't hesitate to ask Heavenly Father to send a bit of Grace your way. I've seen in my life what a lasting difference my works have when His hands are in the making.

I love you! If I didn't love the Lord more I would be on the next plane home, but my duty is a reviving reminder to serve my Redeemer.  I am so happy to be in Ukraine serving.

Elder Claypool
Ukraine Donetsk Mission
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Thanks for your email! This last week was just wonderful with many ups and downs, but I will tell you about the biggest up: 

Volodia was baptized! It was such an amazing thing to see him be baptized and all the members that were there to support him! He came such a long way: We found him on December 25th in the evening when we were on our way home. We walked passed him and there was just a small, subtle thought to stop and talk with him. So we did. Gave him a Book of Mormon, and a few days following we were able to start meeting with him. He knew the Bible really well, but didn't believe it, thought that his knowledge was sufficient to save himself using the laws of physics, and that the existence of God was not even a big question in his mind: He wasn't an atheist, but also wasn't anywhere close to believing in God. So we kept meeting with him and had some lessons where it just didn't seem like we were going any where. It even got to the point that he didn't really want to meet with us. We didn't know what to do and felt that we needed to go by again...but we did, but this time with a member. Finally, having a member on one of our lessons, the Spirit was so strong and from that moment he began to change. He accepted a date of baptism because he felt that he needed to...something inside told him to say yes. There were still problems with the Word of Wisdom, but he had felt the Spirit and we kept going from there. There were many ups and downs where my faith was shaking or his faith was shaking, but after some extremely powerful experiences that I wrote about two weeks ago and lots of prayer and fasting, Volodia was ready this last Saturday to be baptized. He was baptized in a small hotel spa since our little branch doesn't have a font, but that didn't stop him for a moment. He was ready, willing, and wanted to change. The changes that came into his life are not yet complete...but he is a completely different person! The joy that filled my heart when he was baptized was just...unexplainable. He knew that he was making a covenant with God and he did with all his heart. To hear his humble testimony and to see then the next day him be confirmed and become a full-fledged member of the Lord's Restored Church was only half the blessing. To see the change in him was even more rewarding. Though he had a problem with smoking and couldn't quit until a little under a week before his baptism, after his baptism with his newly acquired spiritual strength, he was able to tell his neighbors no - something that he wasn't able to do before. Not only that, but yesterday night after he had been confirmed he came with us to go tracting out of his own desire. He even called me this morning just to say that he had read his scriptures  and had almost endured all of Isaiah in 2 nephi ;). The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Restored by Joseph Smith truly changes hearts. A man who was far from what is now is now on the path to eternal life. It really is worth it to follow those small promptings, open your mouth, and follow through in faith. The results are eternity changing. 

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In more ways than one, it was a very white weekend :)

I love you mom! 

Elder Claypool

Feb. 2 - ups and downs of mission


Thank you so much for your love and prayers...they truly are answered daily in my daily life. Nicholai is doing good and introduced us to his daughter this week to start teaching here! Dima left to go home but should be back in a month or so. We'll keep the ties with him. 

I needed to hear about the message of enduring well...this last week for the first time I experienced something that I had never really experienced so intensely: a desire to just be done. It wasn't that I didn't like my mission or that I wasn't having a good time, I just missed you all, missed the temple, wanted to have my own family, and move on to the next step of life feeling that I had put in my time. What kept me on the right track and not to get completely lost was my covenants actually. God was asking me to continue and to endure. Endurance is a huge part of the Gospel that we often don't focus on, but I think that the reason for that is because faith, repentance, and baptism are all things that we can teach, but endurance needs to be experienced. So I am learning through my experiences what it really means to endure to the end. I covenanted with God that for two years I would serve Him. If he considers that two years is what I need to give to him, then the full two years I need to give. Covenants are truly a blessings to help us endure to the end and remain faithful. How wise is our Loving Father in Heaven! 

That was all shadowed by one of the most miraculous things that I have seen so far in my life. Our investigator Volodia, who is on date to be baptized the 15th of February, was progressing. He was reading the Book of Mormon every day, praying every day, and coming to church. He was trying to live the Word of Wisdom and quit smoking, though it was hard for him. Even a recent-convert in the branch, Roman, was doing an amazing job befriending him and even stopped by his house without our knowledge or suggestion to see how Volodia was doing. We received a call from Volodia Saturday morning saying that he need help right away and so we gathered up our things and headed over to his house. Once we were there and within the first few minutes it was obvious what he needed to talk about: All the things we had given him to help quit smoking, all the Liahonas, books, and scriptures were gathered together in two plastic bags and sitting by the door. He proceeded to tell us that he couldn't keep on fooling us and just said that because of his superior knowledge of physics and science, he had too great of a means to believe that God doesn't exist rather than have faith that he does. He couldn't go on when he had no interest in such things. Only if God showed him a sign would he believe and join the church. We were shocked. The whole time I was just praying that we'd have the Spirit to be with us to know what to do and to say the things that would change his heart...but in the end all we could do was express our love, Heavenly Father's love, and bear testimony of the truth of all that we taught. He had made his decision however. We left in shock carrying all of his materials and headed home to finish our studies. In that moment, the desire was to just throw in the towel for a while because of the hardship that we were going through...but the Lord in His mercy (that I didn't understand at that moment) prompted us to keep talking with people on the streets and keep working. Regardless of the desire to just break down and stop, we kept on forward. The day continued with an okay lesson with a new investigator that we had found - nothing special, but we kept on keeping on. Towards the evening we received another phone call from Volodia. He called us and had asked if our meeting was still going to happen with him that evening as we had agreed on before the morning's endeavors. Confused, we agreed, and waited for the evening to come to see what was going on in his head. There was a little hope that he had changed...but not much. He arrived at our weekly game night and to our dismay had not changed one bit. On the other hand, he smelt like smoke, and openly boasted how he was no longer trying to live the commandments, but freely transgressing them. We had no idea what to do or why he came. We kept talking with him and didn't see any progress. My faith was completely gone in him changing. But that's not the end of the story. 

We invited Volodia to institute of religion just like we had done in the past every week and he hesitatingly decided to come. The branch president couldn't come to lead the lesson as usual, and so I had to teach it. So we started our study about the book of Enos, prayer, forgiveness, and revelation. It was honestly a good lesson, but nothing special or out of the ordinary...but for Volodia it was for one simple reason: The Spirit. Throughout the lesson he would make comments like "My heart is not in the right place" and "you must have been praying really hard for me." After the lesson, I had the prompting to just sit down and talk with him. "How could it all have changed in just a matter of a short few hours," he said. "I have never felt in my life my conscience speaking so loudly to me as now. Before, I could smoke and could care less because I didn't believe in God and had nothing to worry about...but now...I guess that means I...I do believe in God. My desire to have a clean conscience before God so much greater out weighs my desire to smoke."  Then more and more introspectively he said: "I need to repent." 

I cannot express the Spirit that we felt in that room as the Spirit literally was testifying straight to his heart in such a way that he could not deny it. He was feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost burning into his heart the divinity of the message with an evidence greater than other thing on the face of the earth: his personal change of Heart. He continued during the prayer that we said as we kneeled together after his amazing experience and even during the prayer he exclaimed how the Lord was asking him why he was behaving like a little immature boy..."but he's saying it in a loving way...the kind of loving way that a father has for his son," he said. After the kneeling prayer we were in shock...about as much shock as we were in this morning. In a matter of a few minutes and hours - moments in eternity - his entire life and eternity was turned upside down, broken down, and rebuilt through the power of the Spirit. As he was getting dressed he stopped, turned to me and said almost hesitantly: "Is it still okay to be baptized?" OF COURSE IT IS !!!! I replied. He took back his scriptures and headed on his way home. But that is not the end of the story. 

We went to his home the next day, Sunday, to pick him up for church. In the past we had kind of almost dragged him to church every Sunday since his desire had been small. But this time, he opened the door with a light in his eyes, a literal light. We walked in the room of his humble apartment and waited as he quickly finished his breakfast and got dressed. As we waited, my heart sunk a little bit: sitting on his bedside table was a big fresh box of cigarettes. I turned to the Spirit to know what to do, and felt that I just need not say anything. A few minutes later he also sees the box and says: "Oh, and I wanted to repent," and handed me the box of cigarettes. He has extremely poor circumstances and it would have cost him a pretty kopeck. Following a prompting I gave them back and told him to crush them himself. And without a seconds hesitation he crushed his box of cigarettes and handed them back as if it meant absolutely nothing to him. Almost giddy we went out and threw them away. At church he participated in all the lessons, gave incredible answers, continued his friendships with the members of the branch and as he was leaving after being at church for three hours said: "There is a road of unbelief that I need to overcome. But I'll overcome." 

The Gospel changes lives. Truly the Book of Mormon and the Spirit are the greatest tools that we have in conversion. That is one fruit that no one can deny in their search for truth: The truths in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints change lives to the better and in such a way that the only explanation is that it is from God and endorsed by the Same. 

Thank you for your prayers. As Alma the Younger was not the one who merited the visit of the angel and his change of heart but rather the prayers of his parents, so am I too grateful that I could have parents that pray for me and my investigators. Thanks mom. I love you very much and can't wait to see you...but I still have a work to do here and I must diligently do it. I will endure well. 

Elder Claypool

Feb 10, 2014


You're letters are always inspiring and help me to do better. The mission has been so wonderful! And it will continue to be so. I not long ago read that advice from Elder Ballard that you sent me and it just hit me how wonderful our Father in Heaven is, how much he really does ask of us, how much he has the right to ask that much of us, and just how much I want to give my all. This week was pretty quiet with not may ups and downs but a lot of wonderful opportunities to serve. There's more to be done...but I'm moving forward.

Volodia is doing well to, but pray for him to give up smoking. He's having a hard time doing so, but he really is gaining a testimony of the truth of all that we teach. The Gospel changes hearts. When we reach out to God, God reaches back, and when God reaches back, hearts are changed. There is nothing like your investigator calling you and saying: "I don't have many minutes left on my phone, but I just wanted to call and say thanks for all that you do." He even came up to me and showed me a verse that he had found in the Doctrine and Covenants after praying for an answer from God, opening the scriptures up, and receiving a clear and direct answer. And this man was practically athiest little over a month ago! The Gospel changes hearts!

We have our other investigators that are doing well too and studying the Gospel (one called us and told us about the things that he learned while studying the Gospel principles manual yesterday at work since he was unable to come to church. It is just a blessed time Mom. I love my Savior and am coming to know him better and better with each passing day...the path is long, but I'm walking it. 

I love you! Thank you for your support!
Elder Claypool