Christmas and the Atonement

Christmas Conference–Visiting the temple in Recife with our zone

Fun facts: This week I stepped on a piece of cement covering a sewer opening and it tipped over!  I half-fell in but luckily only my calves ended up inside the hole.  They got scraped up a little but, most importantly, I did not actually touch the sewer water, so that was good!  I am not going to step on any more sewer covers! 

Giliard didn’t get baptized this week.  He ended up going to a late-night party and slept late on Sunday, so he didn’t go to church.   I think it is tough — he is getting to know the church now but he has many friends who aren’t church members.  It is tough.  We hope he focuses on searching for God’s answers — it is so important to pray!  Hopefully we manage to teach him several times this week and help him with this.

This week we did an activity.  We projected the new Christmas video onto a screen in front of the church building and invited people to watch.  A few people decided to watch.  We asked some members to take cake to attract people.  We ended up taking the cake to the street and offering free pieces with our invitation.  We got the contacts of a few people, hopefully it turns out well!  It was a good way to shake things up.

I have been thinking this week about the importance of the atonement in conjunction with Christmas. This week I shared a scripture, and afterwards Sister Nogueira explained it in a way that helped me understand things I hadn’t seen before.  3 Nephi 27:13-16:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

I understood that this scripture highlights the importance of Christ’s atonement — He was born to die and sacrifice himself for us.  But I didn’t know why Christ mentioned our judgement in this verse instead of salvation.  Sister Nogueira explained that men judged Christ, lifting him up on a cross to crucify him.  He chose to go through this so that we could be lifted up and judged by God.  A meaningful parallel.  

I also like this video about why we need a Savior–the reason for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

What I learned

This week was a whirlwind!  We spent a lot of time practicing our presentation for zone conference.  The topic was “the witness of two nations”– referring to 2 Nephi 29:7-9 which talks about how the Bible and the Book of Mormon work together

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? . . . Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

Sister Anaya and Sister Faulconer teaching at Zone Conference

I don’t know if I did a good job of explaining what I learned, but I truly learned a lot studying for our presentation.  This talk from President Nelson was especially enlightening. This one from Elder Callister is also good.  I didn’t remember hearing President Nelson’s talk until I reread it, but it is so powerful!  Without the Book of Mormon, we don’t have all the truths of Christ’s gospel.  The Book of Mormon confirms and clarifies the steps of His gospel, e.g., how to baptize, how to give the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It especially clarifies the doctrine of the atonement.  Our prophet, President Nelson said:  “This important word—atonement—in any of its forms, is mentioned only once in the King James Version of the New Testament!. In the Book of Mormon, it appears 39 times!”

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When I studied the scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon about the atonement, I could see how they work together in harmony.  The Bible teaches us that Christ’s body, blood, and sacrifice cleanse us from sin.  The Book of Mormon teaches us how this works (See Alma 34:8-17 — it goes so well with Hebrews 7 from the Come, Follow Me reading from the other  week!)

I had been thinking about President Nelson’s invitation this conference (and his talk a few conferences ago) to think about what the Book of Mormon adds to our lives and where we would be without it.  I wanted to study more about this but was a little unsure where to start and had a hard time balancing it with the other things I was trying to study.  Studying for our presentation was a heaven-sent opportunity to learn more.  Without the Book of Mormon, we wouldn’t have these wonderful truths about Christ’s gospel.  We also wouldn’t have this wonderful proof of God’s love for all peoples and places — God talks to people in every part of the world, and he doesn’t stop talking!  That’s why we always invite people to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is God’s word.  We know he will respond because we’ve already asked! 

Almost without exception, the people we stop teaching are the people who don’t ask and don’t read the scriptures.  At home I thought people didn’t join the Church of Jesus Christ because they felt they received other answers from God, or because they believe God didn’t respond.  But usually (here at least) the problem is that people don’t even try to receive an answer.  If we knock he will open it (i.e., the truth) unto us! 

At zone conference, President and Sister Houseman told us that the Brazil Recife mission is going to split!  How exciting!  If I understood correctly, they are going to find 30 new apartments!  Each transfer, the number of missionaries will grow and grow until the Housemans go home and the mission splits.  We need to redouble our efforts to help the two missions be strong.  They also changed some of the goals we track — instead of counting how many times we talk with someone new or read the scriptures, we will count how many invitations we make — to church, baptism, read the scriptures, pray, etc.  It will be exciting!  

President and Sister Houseman

After our presentation, I thought all the stressful parts of the conference were over.  I said this to Sister Anaya . . . and about one minute afterwards Sister Houseman asked me if I would translate her talk for the conference!  The stress was not over!  But it´s not every day you get to try and develop the gift of the interpretation of tongues.  I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to practice.  I think I probably messed up all the genders and said “uh…” way too much, but for the most part I think it went pretty well.  Except when I started translating about Sister Houseman’s great-grandchildren.  Oops!  They’re not old enough for that!

After zone conference I went right to Tamandaré for splits.  The next day, instead of going home, I went to Jardim Massangana with Sister Pereira because our companions were both going to the temple before going home. 

This Sunday, Wesley*, another new investigator, went to church! We met him last week while eating lunch at a self service.  While eating, I was thinking about the Safetyzone video that instructs us to remember that we ought to act like missionaries in every circumstance.  People are always watching and we need to be representatives of Christ.  A few minutes later a man walked up to our table and asked which church we were from.  He said he was curious about religion and wanted to know when we had church meetings so that he could visit!  He apologized several times for interrupting our lunch — he didn’t need to worry about that!  In case anyone is in doubt, we LOVE being interrupted by people who contact us!  Feel free to interrupt any lunch I have!  We had a great lesson with him this week and he actually showed up to church this Sunday!  Miracles!!!   

Sister Anaya got on a bus this morning to go to the mission office.  I will definitely miss her!  I can’t believe she’ll be in Mexico on Wednesday.  It reminds me of the temporariness of my own mission–I wish I could serve two years but I will work on making good use of the three transfers I have left.  Now I’m staying in Jardim Massangana for two more days with Sister Pereira.  On Wednesday I’ll get a new companion (who? who?) and we will go back to Candeias.  I am accepting all prayers for the gift of discernment of directions and the gift of not screwing things up!

*Names of investigators are always changed for their privacy