Monday, October 25, 2010

2nd Letter from MTC, 10.25.2010

October 25, 2010

My dear, dear family!

Thank you SO much for all your letters! Dear Elder is working out great! I found out that if you send one before noon, it gets here on the same day :) Except for weekends--then it doesn't get here till after emailing time is done. And YES! Emailing is stressful!! It's like a race every week and even if someone touches you you freak out! Ha ha, but it's all good :) I'm glad I even get the opportunity to email :)

Oh my goodness, thank you for the PACKAGE!! I just about died when I opened it... it took me straight back to Taiwan!! Especially the choco-pies. I remembered that whenever I found one of those in my lunchbox it TOTALLY made my day! The other sisters went crazy too and the sisters that had never been to Asia at all were really excited to try everything. Oh, and thanks for including the penguin--Jake was inspired, cuz that was my favorite part :P

I can't believe I leave 3 WEEKS from tomorrow! It's flown by so fast. But yes, I'm grateful I'll get an extra transfer in Taiwan. Mom asked where my companions were from: Sister Fleming is from West Jordan, Sister Demordaunt is from Idaho (although she travelled internationally till she was 12; one of the countries was Japan!) and Sister DeVictoria is from California. I'm growing to love each of them more and more. We also have Korean missionaries on our floor, so every time we pass them I think of mom's "onions on your sneakers" so thanks for that, mom!! We also have Thais on our floor so it's fun to pass them saying "Sawadee kaaa" :)

Funny story: this Saturday as we were teaching in the TRC we had 2 native Taiwanese women. The situation we were given was that one of their husbands had passed away so we were teaching her the Plan of Salvation and that she can find hope through the Atonement. We were teaching them how to pray so they could know that God was there and that He knew their struggles and so they could feel His love. ...finish later...

This week has been harder. I didn't feel like I was making as much progress as I wanted to and I started to get discouraged. It seemed like everything came crashing down all at once. But my companions were extremely helpful and took the time to listen to all my concerns and disappointments and really helped me get through it. Ultimately they helped me realize that Heavenly Father was helping me be humble and that this was a growing opportunity. The next day one of my teachers pulled me aside for an interview and read a scripture to me that completely addressed how I was feeling. It was Alma 32:40-43 (read it). Basically my teacher said to me that I shouldn't abandon the nourishing process just because you don't see the fruit yet. It is through faith, diligence and patience (repeated 3 times in 3 different verses!) that you reap the rewards. As I've turned my focus to faith, diligence, and patience instead of the things I can't say yet, I've discovered that more words are sticking than I thought, and I've been making a lot of progress. REALLY. Multiple times each day a word comes to my mind along with a little voice saying, "See, it's because you're being diligent and patient, and you have the faith." Sometimes we just need to be humbled so we recognize we need the Lord's help. I'm so grateful for that humbling experience that has helped me to grow more than I could have otherwise.

I love you so much. Thank you for your prayers. People keep reminding us that so many people are praying for us, and each time I think of you. I keep praying for you too. By the way, Elder Nelson spoke at our Tuesday Devotional and he said that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve say thank you to the families for all of the missionaries here. I also say thank you. Keep going. The Church is True :)


Sister Morey

Monday, October 18, 2010

MTC - Letter #1

I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!! Oh my goodness, it's so amazing to finally be here at the MTC. It's so weird though because it seems like I've been here for weeks already even though it's only been 5 days! Each day seems like it's a week long, and when I get to my room at night I can barely remember what happened in the morning. I guess it's good I feel like I've been here for so long though because I found out that I'll only be here for 4 weeks after all... I leave on November 16th. Crazy, huh?

The first time I walked into my room I already felt SO loved by my companions because they had left notes on the door and another trail of notes on the floor and all sorts of treats on my bed, including a little surprise box! I was in such a hurry I didn't get to open it right away though. When I met my companions later they asked me (laughing) if I like their present and I was telling them how I loved their notes and treats so much! I found out later why they were laughing when I opened the box and found two little locks of their hair, one brown and one blonde that they had given me to show how much they loved me! Hahaha it was really funny, and we laughed a long time about how I didn't even know what they were talking about when they asked me if I liked it. :)

I spent most of the first two days with Sister Fleming, another sister who got bumped into the accelerated program. We bonded almost instantly and the more I got to know her the more I found out we were basically twins! We both have a passion for the language (she taught English in China with ILP) and we have very similar personalities. We had the greatest time going to all the orientation meetings together. On that first night we were walking past a class room and heard some missionaries singing (in their own language) "There Is Sunshine in my Soul Today" and I turned to her and said, "That's exactly how I feel!!" I wanted to burst into song, but I restrained myself and asked if we could sing hymns that night as we were getting ready for bed. When we got back to the dorm she handed me a Chinese hymn book and said, "song gei ni" which means "this is a gift for you." That totally made my day!

Now Sister Fleming and I are split up into different districts with our own companions so we can get some experience from the older missionaries. We each have a 3-some. I love my new companions as well (the ones who gave me the locks of hair), although I really hope that Sister Fleming and I get to be companions again someday!

I also love my district and the other Elders and Sisters in my Branch. We have 22 new missionaries, most of which are going to Taiwan, and 1/3 of which are Sisters! They're really packing Taiwan with Sisters! I have been absolutely blown away at how the Elders treat the Sisters here. They respect us so much. They hold open doors, take our trays, and the meal lines even stop till the Sisters go through--it's amazing. I feel like a princess here!

We also have a lot of fun and laugh a ton. One time when we were in the classroom and speaking a little more English than we should've been, one of the teachers walked past (in fact, it was Jeremy Perkins!) and said, "Waaa, ni de ying wen tai bang le!!" (Your English is amazing!) We all burst out laughing... and then got back to work. It sent the message.

I LOVE speaking the language all the time here. It's something I've always wanted to do but never had the confidence for. Now I feel like I can do it as much as I want and never feel like an idiot :) I have felt my language skills improving more than I ever have in my life. All the promises that were made to me in Priesthood Blessings about learning the language quickly are already being fulfilled, even though it's only been 5 days. It's incredible, and I honestly didn't expect to learn so quickly. I can see how much Heavenly Father is helping... and whenever another missionary compliments me on how well I speak I always say, "It's not me!"

I had an incredible experience on Friday when we were doing a contacting/teaching activity. We were simulating the TRC and practicing shopping for clothes and then inviting people to learn more about the gospel while we were shopping. I didn't think I'd be able to participate much in the lesson portion because I didn't know many gospel words (I could go shopping just fine!), but as thoughts came to my mind of things I should say I just tried to say them and the words just flowed out of my mouth. I really couldn't believe how I knew how to say the things I did. So yes, Heavenly Father is helping me a lot.

I also learned something neat this week. My companions and I started having a conversation about the difference between having enough faith for something to happen vs. other people's agency limiting the outcome. Later another sister joined the conversation and said that in the Christlike Attribute test is asks you to rate yourself: "I have the faith necessary to help make good things happen in my life or the lives of others" which shows that no, your faith is not limited by other people's agency. (Ether 12:12-18) If you have faith that means you have hope in Christ and correct principles. I know that's true. Just have faith.

I love you all so much and I'm grateful for your prayers. I keep praying for you too :)

Love, Sister Morey

Sunday, October 10, 2010

True Repentance (My Farewell Talk)

My purpose is to help us understand the true nature of repentance, then to uncover the lies that Satan would have us believe, so we can more fully recognize his tactics and overcome them. I pray that each of us can invite the Spirit to teach us individually what we need to know.

The purpose of this life is to become the best we can be. Ultimately we are aiming to become perfect, like our Father in Heaven. Because He is God, He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (Alma 45:16), so He holds us to a perfect standard, and every time we mess up, we fall short. Already you can easily see the predicament we’re in. But our loving Father would never send us here to fail. Even before the world was, He prepared a way for us to correct our mistakes (1 Peter 1:20), through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, so we could continually progress and have our weaknesses become strengths (Ether 12:27). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Satan, who opposes everything our Father does, does NOT want us to progress and will do anything he can to hold us back, thus the word “damned” is applied to those who don’t repent. Damnation is being held back, not able to progress. But since progress is the purpose of our existence, being held back is torture to our spirits. In addition, when we disobey, we distance ourselves from Father’s Spirit and protection, leaving us vulnerable to the merciless influence of the adversary (Mosiah 2:36-37). Thus sin inevitably brings unhappiness.

But Christ, in accordance with the plan of mercy provided a way to escape and be restored to happiness. “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I. …Wherefore, I command you again to repent… lest you suffer these punishments …of which in the…least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit” (D&C 19:16-20). Our Savior, through the Atonement, provided a way out. “He loves us and understands us and is sympathetic to the fact that we face temptations” (Elder Theodore M. Burton, "The Meaning of Repentance," Liahona, November 1988). “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). If He is so willing to succor us, it is our choice to let Him. The condition is repentance.

In its simplest form: “by this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43). To me that means when I recognize something in my life that is inconsistent with Heavenly Father’s expectations, I humbly acknowledge my fault to Him (and to others I may have wronged), and then do all I can to abandon that practice, and make it up to those I’ve wronged. It means constantly changing to become better.

Similarly, Elder Anderson said, “The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to ‘re-turn’ toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments” (“Repent…That I May Heal You,” Ensign, November 2009).

All too often we DO think of it as chastisement and we fear that punishment is associated with repentance. On the contrary, punishment is the natural consequence of the SIN, and grows in severity for the unrepentant. Elder Theodore M. Burton of the First Quorum of the Seventy said, “The Lord does not punish us for our sins; he simply withholds his blessings. …The scriptures tell us again and again that the wicked are punished by the wicked” ("The Meaning of Repentance"). We bring that punishment, anguish and suffering to ourselves by dismissing the Spirit and giving the adversary power in our lives when we sin. God doesn’t punish us or make us suffer, rather, He seeks to save and protect us from those things. When He extends a pronouncement of misery, He is simply warning us of what the adversary will do if we don’t listen and obey God’s will.

Already you can see how Satan can twist this into a lie: that repentance brings suffering and punishment, when in reality it’s SATAN that’s doing the punishing before repentance is complete (“The Meaning of Repentance”). After all, wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10), and the only way to be restored from sin to happiness is through repentance—changing our ways to follow the Lord’s will.

Satan has no power over the righteous—but as soon as we give in to his temptation, the Spirit leaves and we are in the adversary’s power (Mosiah 2:36-37). The adversary will do anything to keep us from repentance because he covets that power over our lives. Consider the vice of any addiction as just an example of the power he craves, whereas our Father seeks to free us from those things. Satan will seduce us with pride, fear of punishment or humiliation, and try to convince us that covering up our mistakes or simply hiding them will save us from suffering the consequences. I learned from Sunday School a powerful lesson from the story of King David. As the Spirit taught me during that lesson, it became blatantly apparent to me how Satan uses his tools of deception to keep us from repentance, and that an unrepentant heart is more serious than the original transgression.

We all know the story of David and Goliath and we see David’s courage as an example of incredible righteousness. But Satan certainly doesn’t leave the righteous alone. Years later when David was faced with a temptation to look at something inappropriate, he gave in and didn’t turn away. I’m sure he felt little nudges inside to rid his mind of those thoughts—but he didn’t. Ignoring the impressions and letting those seductive thoughts dwell in his mind eventually led him to break the law of chastity. Terrorized by the wrong he had done, instead of repenting he let fear of being discovered run wild and did everything he could to cover up his sin. He ended up murdering someone he had wronged (2 Samuel 11).

Pride and fear are Satan’s #1 tools. He will use those to keep us from repentance, increase his power, and desensitize us to following him more. But when we hide from God, in reality what are we hiding from? We are hiding from miracles, healing, love, peace, compassion. Aren’t those all things we want in our lives? In King David’s case, was the problem the temptation or the sin? NO. Although giving into the temptation and committing the sin was wrong, it was his refusal to confess and forsake that brought greater consequences and led him to greater iniquity. We ALL sin. But the difference between the righteous and the wicked is that the righteous repent and ultimately sin less and less, until they “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

To David’s credit, he did eventually realize that the only way out was repentance through the Atonement (Psalm 51). He realized he could find healing through the Savior. But repentance was much harder than if he had chosen to turn from his mistakes in the beginning. Similarly one day we will have to face our guilt and we will realize that we must repent (Alma 5:18, 21). I pray that day will be sooner rather than later so we don’t have to suffer as much as David, or Alma the Younger, or even Christ himself. For surely in the end we must “[choose] Christ’s manner of living or His manner of suffering” (Scott Woodward, EFY Session Director).

When the Spirit helps us identify something we should change, we have two options: follow the enticements, or rationalize them away. I’ve learned that rationalization = spiritual unhappiness and desensitization. Alma warned, “Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point” (Alma 42:30). When we rationalize, we’re not only forfeiting the opportunity to be better, but we’re shutting out the Spirit’s influence. Our hearts become hardened and are desensitized, bit by bit, until we are “past feeling” (1 Ne 17:45). The scriptures are full of stories that show the fate of the hard hearted. Instead, let us “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19) by responding to the invitation to change. The Lord promises, “if ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you…unto a remission of [your] sins” (Alma 12:33-34).

When I was a Young Woman I used to wonder, what if I’m trying as hard as I can to change but I keep messing up? Elder Anderson said, “Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we are climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don’t see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don’t be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting” (“Repent…That I May Heal You,”). Satan and those persuaded by him will lie to you that the process is not helping, that it does not work. Do not believe his lies. Do not abandon the process.

Another tool Satan will use is guilt to debilitate instead of motivate. Sometimes we believe we’ve done things so wrong in the past that the consequences haunt us every day. Surely we need to feel remorse for our choices, but we must not feel we are forever captive to the consequences. Do you think our loving Heavenly Father would want us to dwell on sadness and guilt? Certainly not. His is a gospel of hope. No matter how we have done things in the past we can change, and MUST change if we are to be relieved of those horrible feelings. Obviously you already recognize your mistakes and feel genuine sorrow. As we’ve learned, the next step is to abandon that behavior. That’s where the faith comes in—faith that it’s possible and that help will come, instead of accepting Satan’s lie and believing “nothing I do now will help.” Forgive yourself and move away from it. Have faith that your best efforts are sufficient for Christ’s grace and healing.

One of Satan’s nastiest tricks is to convince us “It’s just the way I am—I can’t change.” Or even more pridefully, “This is who I am. I have no need to change!” But these beliefs are contradictory to the Atonement! The very fundamental nature of the Atonement is to make change possible, to become better than we are, to rise to a higher level. We are made with imperfections and weaknesses, but don’t think for a moment there is a challenge you can’t or shouldn’t overcome (D&C 64:2; 1John 5:4-5; Romans 12:2).

Illuminated by the truth about repentance, don’t these lies seem silly? Like Nephi, I feel like saying, “Why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?” (2 Nephi 4:27-28). When you see clearly the tactics of the adversary it is so much easier to resist them and instead turn to the Savior for healing. Let us respond quickly and humbly to the enticements of the Spirit to change. Start NOW and do anything you must do.

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs read,

You might think that no one’s been through what you’re going through.
And you might think that nobody’s made the same mistakes as you.
You are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders—turn it over.
You’ve tried hard to hide from the past and to bury it deep.
You’re overwhelmed by all of the things that you know you should be.
Just believe, mistakes of the past don’t define you—He refines you.
Just have the courage to take one step.
Someone’s going be there to help with the rest!
To start is the hardest, but it’s something that only you can do.
Don’t carry the burden as the years go by,
You don’t need that crushing weight in your life.
Have faith to pray for the strength to finally see this through.
There’s One who knows youperfectly,
He can take the hurt away.
The healing starts within, just let Him in, and let it begin.

(“Let it Begin,” Courage to Stand Strong, EFY 2010)

I testify that it is the process of repentance that refines us as the Atonement removes our guilt and shame and replaces it with joy and peace of conscience (Alma 24:10). I know this because I’ve experienced it in my own life. I know the Savior lives and loves us, and is continually reaching out to each of us. We only need to reach to him to feel of his love and healing power as we change our lives to do his will.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Pattern In All Things

I learned an interesting principle this summer in a seemingly simple way, but it made a profound impact on me. It all started with one of my Session Directors as I was working as an Especially For Youth counselor this summer.

During one Sunday-night devotional our Session Director gave an analogy as follows. If you want to sew several t-shirts there are a few ways to go about doing it. You can picture in your mind how you think they should look, then go about sewing them, trying to copy the one you made before. Or you can find a good example of a t-shirt, study it carefully, and try to sew each one as closely to the original as possible.

Or perhaps the best way would be to get a sewing pattern, trace, cut and sew your fabric carefully, following all the instructions intently, and have each replica as near perfect as possible. Patterns make a way for us to get it right the first time and each subsequent time instead of replicating imperfect copies.

Such is the pattern of our lives. We can picture in our mind the way we think we should go, do, or be, but surely that would give the roughest end result, try as you might. There are many wonderful examples we can study who will indeed lead us in the right direction. But there is one perfect pattern who, if you follow intently, will help you become as perfect as possible: our Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ. "He is like the Father, the great prototype of saved beings" (Joseph Smith).

As I pondered that concept that week I began to see other analogies with similar messages, such as the service project we did each week with the youth. We made simple fleece blankets for orphanages by cutting slits around the edges of the fabric and tying the pieces together. Special instructions and patterns were provided in each case.

That week as I watched the youth enthusiastically go to work, many left the pattern quickly after realizing the extra effort and time required to match it up and cut around it.

At first I thought, "Sure, they'll get it close enough, and it'll save time." After all, the first few cuts looked just like the patterned ones. But as they continued to cut, each one deviated a little more, getting wider or thinner, shorter, more crooked or uneven than the last. I still kept thinking "It's ok, it'll all look the same when they're tied. They're cruising, and we'll be done in no time!"

But the trouble came when we tried to tie the knots. The short, fat fringes were nearly impossible to tie, and the long, skinny ones were more flimsy and less elegant. All the sudden our work slowed dramatically as we tried over and over to finish those difficult knots. We were among the last groups done, and although the blankets still looked nice, they were definitely less than perfect.

I couldn't help but think of how much easier it would've been to have followed the pattern diligently from the beginning, and to have urged the youth to do the same, even though they didn't understand why and were eager to do it on their own. Now I could see the reasons behind the method, and the difficulty that could be avoided. All they had to do was trust that I knew better -- had experience, that I wasn't just trying to be old-fashioned and make their lives difficult. And if they didn't, they'd have to deal with the consequences. I'm sure you're catching my drift, because yeah, the parallel hit me over the head too.

The pattern of the Gospel our Father in Heaven has given us is designed so we can live the happiest way possible and avoid many of the unnecessary difficulties. There are no shortcuts to living with true happiness. In reality, the pattern that's set is the shortcut because it saves the time trying to correct the mistakes (remember, we were among the last to finish). Any time we deviate there will be difficulties and imperfections. Luckily they don't have to be as permanent as a cut piece of fabric. But that's a topic for another post :)

All we must do is carefully follow the instructions our Father has lovingly given us and trust that He knows all things.

As soon as I saw that pattern, I quickly noticed how well it worked, repeatedly. Week after week youth from all over the country would come from the widest variety of backgrounds you could imagine. But no matter their previous experiences, as they immersed themselves in the gospel-centered activities of the week, they were beaming with joy and love by the end. I can't even express the difference I could see. And not only in them, but me too. I remember distinctly thinking that I was always so incredibly happy by the end of each week. Especially the Friday of my last week. I was singing and dancing and about ready to explode with joy, and the funny part is, I'm not even exaggerating!

The pattern of frequent prayer, personal and group (family) scripture study, serving others, learning about the gospel and then sharing it with others brought the Spirit into our lives so strongly. We received answers to our prayers, we found comfort and encouragement in the scriptures, we felt such a strong love for all around us (even though we barely knew them!), we felt the courage to make needed changes in our lives and be unwavering examples to others. Such are only a few examples of the many blessings that come from immersing ourselves in the gospel.

Just a few weeks ago I read an article in the Ensign entitled "To Returned Missionaries" that solidified all these things I'd learned. Elder L. Tom Perry was petitioning returned missionaries to "press forward with the zeal" they once had as a full-time missionary. All too often they come home and slump back into their old habits and then wonder why they aren't feeling the same spiritual high they felt on their mission. The exact same thing could be applied after EFY! I know because it happened to me several times.

It was no surprise to me when Elder Perry outlined the same basic principles to keep that spiritual vigor:
  1. Frequent, consistent, and mighty prayer
  2. Individual and companion (family) scripture study
  3. The joy of teaching the gospel

This was an important lesson for me to learn. Looking back I've seen the difference when I haven't followed the pattern. And now I recognize why I'm so ridiculously happy when I do! Just follow the pattern. Heavenly Father knows best. People are the happiest when they're immersed in the gospel.