Tuesday, December 23, 2014

T'was the Email Before Christmas... Also, Steven.

Before I say anything I got to say the mailing system in Africa has thoroughly confused me. And before I comment any further on the atrocity of the said system I have to publicly acknowledge and ask forgiveness to the lovely Granny K.
Grandma, I love you. Thank you so much for taking the time to hand-write a letter to me just about every week. This Zone Conference I received some letters from all the way back in May. I commend you for your consistency and adore you for how much time you spend taking care of those you care about (myself included!). Along with the packages I received from Mindy and Kent and Debbie (and a GIANT thanks to the both of you as well!), you made this kid's Christmas Conference. I truly appreciate it.
And now that outpouring of love has made me not want to lament about the mail. Sooo let's continue.

Back to Swaziland:

I'd like to separate this email from others to talk about something special that happened to me this past week. I did not anticipate what occurred to have ever have been an experienced event in my lifetime, but lo-and-behold, I've experienced it.
And I am so grateful.
This week, I met Steven.

I'll be completely honest- I don't know how to articulate our encounter and I don't know how to do this man justice, so I'll just write what I wrote the day after meeting him.
"Before Galland received his new companion, we had one final lesson together.
I finally met the fabled Steven.

All the hype was obliterated by the reality he was. My mind feels like it has expanded ten-fold. The man is pure intelligence. He has read all of the world's greatest works (they were just lying about all over his house, along with various editions of encyclopedia britannica) and he has been able to distinguish a difference between books and scripture. It is not in authorship alone that differentiates the secular and divine word, it is inspiration. Scripture is God speaking through his servants in the written form. You cannot feign scripture, it is confirmed through the Holy Spirit. On top of all this, he's concluded that scripture truly is Truth; the principles contained within are eternal and for our correction. They are a way for God to teach His Children, and they are for our betterment. Scripture is answer to life's problems.
He's practically memorized the Bible in all his years. His method of reading is astounding. What he does is he takes 30 minutes per page and completely dissects what is written. He is a virtuoso of sorts in his understanding of what he reads and sears it into his brain. It is far past just reading what is on the page; it is complete comprehension. I've never met anyone who knows the Bible more than him.
And even though God has gifted him with one of the greatest brains in this generation, he is one of the most humble men on the planet. He attributes all he is and all he has to this Father in Heaven. He wants so badly to do His will. He follows and understands what he knows to be God's word.
This middle-aged man lives with his Alzheimers stricken mother in a house not unlike any other around it. I know that God led Galland to find Steven and introduce the Restored Gospel of Jesus Chirst to him. Now, Galland met Steven around a month ago, and has not been around to teach him much of anything other than explaining the Restoration through Joseph Smith and what the Book of Mormon is. Slightly socially stilted, my meeting with Steven warmed my heart and affirmed my testimony in the Book of Mormon and in the Church of Jesus Christ.
I'll give you all rough quotes of some of the things Steven commented on with our hour together:
" Frankly, they don't know what they're talking about. They interpret the scripture out of context and infuse it with a meaning unintended. It makes one doubt if they've ever even read the entirety of the book, and if they have, if they understood it." (while fervently apologizing for having to speak his mind on why there are so many Churches and why he doesn't attend a particular denomination.)
"Science is mad intelligence but scripture is Gospel Revelation." (on why he has chosen to rely on the Word of God rather than the wisdom of the world)
"Scripture gives solutions. It isn't just a good read, it is a call to action"
And then, finally, when referring to what he feels and has discovered about the Book of Mormon:
"No man could've written this Book. If anyone is against it, they've allowed an outside influence or opinion to form their understanding. Or they just haven't read it. I've found it is scripture."
In all his brilliance and in all his humility, when Steven spoke these words the Holy Ghost entered the room. I felt God's Spirit confirm something I've come to learn so intimately through the mission.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know what people say about it, and I know what people think about it - but I also know how God feels about it, because He told me. I know this church is true. I know the Book of Mormon with Holy Bible, together, contain the fullness of the Gospel.
Find out for yourself. Don't take your neighbor's word for it - or even mine! Read it, Ponder it, and ask *God* if it's true. He doesn't lie.  He's your Father, He loves you, and He wants you to be happy.
Come see for yourselves.
I love you all, I love Swaziland, and I love this Church and what has happened to me since truly joining it.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12.8.14 Update

Swaziland is a gift from God. This small monarchy-guided (There is an actual king here) land is the most gorgeous of any place my eyes have ever had the privilege of encountering. The mountainous regions in combination with the African foliage destroy any notion of what I thought beauty was. Everyday I find myself pausing in awe and taking in the vistas God grants me.

My companions are the best, man. The absolute best. I think it's a culmination of speaking in my native tongue (kind of... this is going to sound ridiculous ((because it is)) but no one can understand me unless I use a shoddy Irish accent. I'm not playing with you. The Californian accent is a little too quick, I suppose. It's all the emphasis on the vowels and rolling the tongue with some of the words that helps. It's also highly entertaining for my companions.) and just being brothers in the most bonafide sense. Due to issues not of their own making, my comfort level as a missionary and human being never quite met the a satisfactory level with my companions until I hit Swaziland. I love this country. I love these people I am serving and these people I'm serving with.

Elder Banovich [The O.C. - Original Companion] (prepare for your mind to be blown) went to Viewmont. Apparently I graduated with him. He looked so familiar the instant I met him but neither of us could place it until hours after when he mentioned where he lived. Crazy, crazy stuff. He is the biggest sweetheart in the world. He's also the biggest goon in the world. It's still a holy time with him, but the humor is congruent to who we are. He kills it in the clicking language and is definitely the most knowledgeable to cultural differences and need-to-know information. 
Elder Galland is the addition to our trio. There is no complaint on my end here - Galland was the first District Leader I had in Mozambique and now he is my District Leader (and companion) in Swazi. I was so stoked to hear I'd be living with him again and now I'm serving with him! The love this bear has in his heart for everyone is love in the truest sense of the word. He's the man. He just gets it done, whatever is being asked of us. I've also never met anyone who can tell a more engaging story. It's an art I'm sure anyone he knows him would say he perfected it. 

In the weeks we've been working together I've had some of the most powerful spiritual experiences yet on my mission. The very things we study about in the scriptures have been happening. It's real. It is all real. Do people know that? I want to testify that I know this is the work of the Lord. I know He is with us and I am so grateful to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful to wear my Savior's name everyday on my chest and in my heart. It is the best decision I have ever made. There is no comparable feeling to the goodness that is out here.
And this sentiment isn't exclusive to just my writings and your readings - It's attainable. It doesn't just have to be something everyone reads about every so often when they decide to look at some LDS kid's blog in Africa. The secret is choosing. The secret is acting. If you want to know if these things are, do what Heavenly Father asks you do to do. DO. Get on your knees, Pray. Ask Him what He would have for you. Read His word, and follow it. He promises blessings if you follow his commandments, and God cannot lie. My invitation from over here on the other side of the world is to join me in this happiness. Join with me in this joy.
Act, friends. Act. Do. Find out for yourselves.
Start here:
Elder Mortimer