Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Week Fifty-Four: Naganeupseung

Dear people,

This week felt like three.

First things first, the blessings really do come after the much tribulation. The last few weeks have been super hard, so many disappointments so much stress, but Sunday night made up for everything.

Around the time I first started serving with Elder Hyun we got a notification that a sister from Seoul wanted to refer her boyfriend who lives in our area. We called her and she gave the typical response of "I think he needs some time, I'll call you when he's ready"  We called once more about a month later to follow up and she gave the same response. We asked for his name so we could pray for him, but honestly we just kind of forgot about them.
On Sunday morning we got a call from an unrecognized number. He Identified himself as the boyfriend and said he wanted to meet today. We called the girlfriend to let her know the news and ask for any useful information about him. Apparently she asked him to call us. She warned us that he would probably be pretty quiet because he's investigating the church for her and doesn't have a ton of religious interest personally, so we braced ourselves.
We met at the church and had a really awkward first impression. I don't know how to describe it, it was just awkward. We painfully transitioned into trying to teach the first lesson. When he showed interest in family I gave him a proclamation to the world tri-fold and said that I thought he would like it if he had time to read it later. He opened it up right there and read the whole thing silently. He proceeded to pick up the restoration pamphlet and read the entire booklet as we just sat there in surprised silence. This was a first for me so I didn't really know what to do so I just let him keep reading. When he was done he seemed really satisfied. He liked how it encouraged people to study out and pray about the message before just accepting it. Long story short, we sat together in the church for over an hour, and even though we barely taught anything and his face showed almost no expression throughout the meeting, before he left he said he received a "conviction" that this was the church he needed to join and had a really good time. That's a really nice thing to hear as a missionary. We said a really emotional thank you-prayer right after he left.

I'm so excited about him. His name is Sung-ook by the way, and don't tell his girlfriend, but he told us he wants to marry her. The church is true. Families are forever.

There was an outpouring of other miracles this week but I'm out of time.

The church is true, I love you,

-Elder Brown

I finally have pictures. These are from Zone Conference when we went to a 600 year old village that is still inhabited by people who have continued the lifestyle of the original inhabitants making it a living museum. It was the coolest place I've been to so far. So many persimmon trees.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Week Fifty-Three

Dear People,

A couple weeks ago we met a Brother Jung who called off a free English advertisement. Yesterday was the fourth time we've met him. The second time we met we shared Mosiah 2:17 about when you serve others you are serving God because he is part of a service organization and says he feels really good about serving. He liked that and agreed to let us continue to share spiritual messages as we meet. Yesterday we shared the initiative video "Because of Him" which led into a discussion about his feelings on Christianity. He sheepishly shared how he doesn't go to church but he believes in God and Jesus Christ. He expressed his frustration with all the different groups that all seem to believe the same thing but fight with each other. The way he said it was almost apologetically, like he was sorry for not knowing more. We struggled to contain our excitement as we testified that our message explains why that is and how the original church of Christ has been restored in all its simplicity. He accepted a Book of Mormon and restoration pamphlet and is excited talk about it more next time. 
Meeting these kind of people is what makes all the memories of the hard times melt away.  

Everyone in Korea has these kind of feelings about religion, they feel that Jesus Christ is important, but the churches are corrupt. They are sick of having it pushed on them by hired "proselyters" that walk around giving out material and give robotic messages. 
We are so blessed in Korea that we can, like Ammon, first show our true intent by serving through teaching English. Service is awesome. Serve.

I still haven't watched all of Conference in English, but so far my favorite talk has been the finishing talk by Elder Anderson. The Spirit confirmed his special witness of the Savior that he gave at the beginning of his talk and it made me listen with more intent to everything else he said.

The church is true.

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Week Fifty-Two

Dear People,

I feel so boring for never sending pictures, we just don't really do anything cool. We should probably start doing cooler stuff. We're supposed to get smart phones in the next month or two so that will help. 

Last night I arm wrestled a super drunk guy. We were sitting at a bus stop, the street was basically empty besides him, he walked up to us with a big smile and said "let's arm wrestle". I won. We gave him a Word of Wisdom pamphlet.

A couple days as we got onto a bus one of the only passengers shouted "Foreigner! Hello" I sat next to him and started some small talk. He seemed very excited that we wanted to sit with him. He talked about sports and English and a bunch of random stuff. For some reason it didn't feel right to bring up the gospel and we soon learned why. He talked really fast and used words I've never heard talking about the intricacies of Buddhist doctrine, so I was mostly quiet and let my companion respond. Elder Hyun would address him as "Brother" like we do everyone so at one point he stopped us and said "That's so strange that you call me brother" to which we apologized but he said "No it's just that I don't have any brothers." He started crying as he explained that he used to have two really close friends but they have since turned away from him and now he feels like he has no one. He further explained all the trials he was going through and after we listened to him pour his heart out he told us that we were just like little brothers to him. We got his number to meet again and later that night he texted us that "You two healed my heart tonight. You are my models."

We did literally nothing but listen to him. If we had just robotically given our little presentation about our church I don't believe he would have opened up to us. It's so important to love.

We only have two investigators right now and we haven't been able to meet with either of them for over two weeks so that's really hard, but we've been meeting cool people and are almost finding a potential investigator every day. On Saturday we did a proselyting activity in a train station and a few people played the grand piano that's available for public use there. I sang "Homeward Bound".

I've grown so much this week. I've never been more humbled in my life.

I am focusing more on the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ. I used to think people who focused so much on Jesus Christ were kind of boring and I remember thinking that they didn't really appreciate all the other cool stuff about our church. Jesus Christ is everything. Everything else in the church is appendage. Everything else is just designed to help us get closer and learn more about Him. 

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Here is a picture of some bibimbab. I eat this sometimes. It's not even my picture another missionary sent it to me, I just feel so bad for not sending any pictures. I promise that members take pictures of stuff and I tell them to email them to me but they don't . . .

​Also here's the inviation for our musical fireside on the 29th. Y'all are invited.​


Week Fifty-One: One Year Older and Wiser Too

Dear People,

My year mark is on the 28th. Two years are short.

I just want to share one experience this week. We felt like we should try something new and take a bus to a part of our area where almost no one lives. Upon arriving, we realized the accuracy of my last statement. No one was there. We started walking to find a more central part of the city where there might be more people but stopped when we saw a super old, very sad woman walking out of a house towards us. She sat on a bench and we sat with her. She said she comes out to sit because her body hurts. We tried to talk about God a little and she told us that she doesn't believe in God or in anything else. "I don't know anything, go talk to people who know about God, there are probably some in that mart over there. Even if I died and came back to life I wouldn't know anything about God. " It was strikingly clear that nothing about the restoration or Book of Mormon would have any meaning to her and that the only thing we could do is try to help her feel that someone knows what she is going through and loves her. We testified accordingly and asked if before we go it would be ok if we could say a prayer with her. She didn't respond and just stared straight ahead. We said a simple prayer that her pain would go away and that she would feel God's love. She said Gamsamnida "thank you" and was silent until we left. 

The conversation lasted probably around 10 minutes because there was a lot of silence. I don't know if she felt anything by the end but I sure did.  Things like that help remind me that our message is not be complicated. If people really feel that the first principle "God is our loving Heavenly Father" is true, everything else falls into place: If God loves us of course there is a reason for our being here. Of course he would give us a way to be happy. I'm going to try to focus more on that principle.

Life is good, the church is true. I love you

-Elder Brown

Week Fifty

Dearest eternal family members,

When I first came to Gwangyang a few months ago we had a district proselyting activity in a nearby city called Suncheon. As we were walking into the park where we were going to do the activity I felt prompted to talk to a college-age guy walking next to me towards the same park. I honestly fought the prompting for a while but finally opened my mouth to find that he was super happy to talk. He said he not only had never seen missionaries before but had never spoken to a foreigner. I introduced our message a little bit but he politely said that because he already has a belief that it would be inappropriate to meet with our missionaries. Even though nothing came from it that experience has given me a lot of confidence with talking to people.

Because one of the Suncheon Elders was emergency-transferred out and couldn't be replaced, we have been in a trio with the remaining Suncheon Elder, Elder Summers, and have been covering both Gwangyang and Suncheon for the last two weeks. On Thursday morning, Elder Summers suggested that we go street contacting in a part of Suncheon that he's wanted to go for a while. We took a bus to a seemingly random place and after walking around for about an hour not finding anyone to really talk to, we took a break in a convenience store to sit down and have a snack.  After about five minutes, literally the only person that I know in Suncheon walks in: the student I met five months ago in the park. I jumped up and greeted him like an old friend. He was almost as excited as I was. Upon sitting down and talking with us we learned that in contrast to when I first met him, he has been looking for religion and also has interest in learning English because he wants to visit the US. We taught a simple version of the first lesson in that convenience store, he took a Book of Mormon and is excited to keep meeting. I'm just a little bit bummed that I won't be able to teach him because he's not in my area, but by this point it's pretty clear that I can trust God's plan for these people. 

That was one of the coolest miracles of my mission so far.

Good stuff is happening, I'm really happy. Yesterday we got transfer calls and I will be staying in Gwangyang to continue training Elder Hyun but this transfer I will also be district leader. That is an exciting new challenge, I'm going to learn so much especially because there will be two new missionaries in our district.

Ooh! I also got to sit next to a German guy on a 45 minute bus ride, that was pretty cool. He had never really heard anything about the church and assumed it wasn't in Germany. He was really good at English and I awkwardly told him that "Ich spreche ein 조금 Deutsche" Dang it Korean. After I gave a basic introduction to the church, he started talking about how all organizations like governments and churches no matter how well they start out, will all become corrupt eventually. If he had said "all organizations of men" he would have been correct.

1 Nephi 18:2 "Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men."

This work is led by God. I love how clear it is that the church is not an organization of man. It will not shift to the world's moral standards. I've been trying to put more focus on studying the words of living prophets in the recent general conference and I have felt the Spirit's strong witness that their words came through Him. 

I know this church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that if we ask God, he will tell us where we need to place our priorities. I still don't know very much about Jesus Christ and my relationship with him is still weak, but I bear my testimony that He lives and will replace our weaknesses with joy if we let Him in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Brown

Week Forty-Nine

Dear People,

In a train station in Jeonju we met a very drunk previous investigator of the Jeonju Elders. He asked in English: 

"Are you happy?" 

I automatically responded that I was very happy to which he replied: 

"I'm happy right now too, but I don't know if I will be happy in a few days."

He talked about a bunch of random other stuff, that first response really struck me. Even in this man's drunken state he knew that his alcohol and the pack of cigarettes in his hand was only giving him temporary pleasure. He had no certainty in his future. I'm so grateful that I can be truly happy with no artificial aid and more importantly for my certain knowledge that throughout all my future this peace and happiness be remain. I know the unchanging keys to happiness and only I can remove myself from it. God's laws won't change.

The American Brother Youngs who moved into our branch a couple weeks ago was just called as the branch mission leader! Our last one was inactive so this is really good news. He is so amazing.
We taught Simone a super random string of principles going from the godhead to the gift of the Holy Ghost to the Book of Mormon. She seemed to be interested the whole time and we're really hopeful about her. Brother Youngs helped a lot.

I had a powerful Book of Mormon testimony building experience this week. I won't write about details but I tried Moroni's promise sincerely for the first time in my life. I've always felt awkward praying to know the Book of Mormon is true because I've always known it was true and have had so many different undeniable witnesses of it, but I figured that to testify of the specific promise I would need to have tried the specific promise, so I did this week with actual faith that I would get a clear answer. Right after the prayer, nothing unusual happened, it was just a spiritual prayer, but I didn't think much of it and got up to start making a lesson plan for Simone. For some reason I was writing out what I specifically wanted to say to her when testifying of the Book of Mormon. As I was about halfway through writing the sentence "It will bring you a greater knowledge and love of the Savior" when I was suddenly overwhelmed and started sobbing. Luckily Elder Hyun was praying in the other room or that would have been a little awkward.

I know God lives. I know that we are never unworthy to pray to Him. I know that Jesus Christ was more than an influential teacher. I know the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets inspired by God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as currently organized with Thomas S. Monson as it's president is Christ's authorized church. I bear my testimony of this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Brown

Hey look I found another awkward picture of myself! The guy who's not a missionary is our fearless new branch mission leader Brother Youngs. He basically gave this member visit's whole spiritual message despite not even knowing MTC Korean gospel vocabulary.​​​

Week Forty-Eight

Dear People,

I'm out of time once more.
A couple days ago we were in a trio with one of the Suncheon Elders on our way home from a proselyting activity in Yeosu and we met an American woman in the bus station from Ohio. She is doing some English teaching thing in Korea and we found out she lives in our area Gwangyang! Her major is some theological something but she knew almost nothing about the church, lucky for us we had a forty minute bus ride to talk about it. This was one of maybe three times I've been able to teach in English and even though I kind of failed saying the first vision she understood really well and is super interested in the message. She also has Korean learning interest so we got her number and we are going to meet again for sure. I'm so so grateful that we have the recently moved in Brother Youngs to potentially fellowship her.

The biggest thing I've relearned recently is that success as a missionary is such an internal thing. Even if I am getting all the results and all the baptisms, I will still be a failure if I know deep down that I didn't give the Lord my whole heart and mind. We will not be happy until we do so. According to PMG Chapter 4: "He is anxious to support you in your practical and specific challenges." God is desperate for us to be happy but until we give up our whole heart and mind we are in a state contrary to happiness. He won't force us.

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Week Forty-Seven: Brother Youngs

Dear People,
This has been the fullest week of my mission. We had an unusual street contacting experience earlier in the week. We were wandering around the city one morning looking for humble people and we found one! She was wandering around waiting for a ride or something. We started talking to her and found out she used to go to a church but hasn't for a while and is looking for religion. She she asked us for our number (a first for me) and said she doesn't have a phone right now but will call us. she happily accepted a Book of Mormon too. That wouldn't be a big deal in a lot of places but it was so encouraging for us.
We met a previous investigator who is about 16 years old named Bum-jun. Elder Child and I met him once in the past but he didn't seem interested and has been busy since then, but we tried again and he could meet. Elder Hyun masterfully related to him and got him to open up about all his religious feelings and we realized this guy is super golden. Here's how part of the conversation went:
"I'm going to go to church this week."
"Which church?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ."
"Oh, like our church?"
"Yeah. I'm going to go every week from now on."
And he came this Sunday! Miracles happen. Someone else new came to sacrament meeting as well. We were minding our own business getting ready to start the announcements, I was sitting up on the stand because I was going to bless the sacrament and some white guy  I've never seen walks in and sits next to my companion with a huge smile. All the members were looking at me mouthing "Do you know this guy?" 
We come to find out his name is Brother Youngs and he moved into Gwangyang to be an English teacher. That's super uncommon, but the really crazy part is that he is not a returned missionary from Korea. He served in California speaking "Mang". He is learning Korean though and is already better than a lot of new missionaries. He is super outgoing and immediately started trying to get to know all the members in his new branch with his basic Korean.
So that's crazy. The members all love him already and due to a miscommunication are all convinced that he is a descendant of Brigham Young.
Favorite scripture this week is Alma 37:44.
44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
At any moment we can think and ask ourselves "What does God want me to be doing right now?" and we will see the answer as clearly as if we were holding the Liahona looking at a pointer. We read 1 Nephi glad that we aren't as foolish as Laman and Lemuel, yet we have just as simple of a task. How often do we resentfully stare at the pointer that is directing us toward some rocky path and look for a better way. 
I love to do missionary work my way. I love studying my way. But it's too hard. I quit. I give up. It's a waste of time.
I accept defeat and turn over my dreams, desires, and underlying purposes to the Lord. That is the only intelligent thing to do. Fighting Him is exhausting. I'll never win.
I'm so grateful for our perfectly patient, loving Heavenly Father. I know He lives. I'm grateful that he has given us everything we need. He gave us Jesus Christ. I testify that He is path to peace and I invite you to do something to live closer to His example in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Brown

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Week Forty-Six

Dear People,

Yesterday Elder Hyun and I were planning on visiting a couple of potential investigators at their stores, but we couldn't find one of them and on the way to the other I realized we were in the area of a previous investigator so we called and he said we could meet. This specific investigator is in his mid seventies and has met missionaries for a long long time with no progress. During our meeting we were able to get him to open up about why he has commitment problems and how he doesn't want to get baptized because he'll feel a raised responsibility to keep the commandments and keeping the commandments is hard.

After we left, Elder Hyun asked me if I felt the Spirit during the lesson. When I said that I did a little bit he asked "When did you feel it? What were we saying?" I started talking about how I don't remember exactly when, but how he shouldn't worry because it was a great lesson and he did really well. Then he took me off guard by saying:

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not worried about whether or not I did well, I'm just trying to figure out his needs so we know what to focus on next time. I asked because whatever we were saying when you felt it is what we need to focus on next time."

I assumed he was just seeking validation about how he did in the lesson, because that's what I do naturally,  but he helped me remember that it's not about us. He was only focused on what our brother needed.

This specific investigator also has no problem believing the Book of Mormon or that Joseph Smith was a prophet. "Yup, that's God's word." Elder Hyun and I also discussed that phenomenon: How people can know that the Book of Mormon is true but not be motivated to do anything about it. I've had an investigator that has struggled to believe in God yet said of the Book of Mormon: "Oh yeah, there is no way Joseph Smith could have written this"

We decided it's because in these cases the knowledge is superficial, logical understanding. We can read the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith History and say "Yeah, that makes sense, I'll buy that story" that's easy, but that kind of testimony will never fuel the kind of sacrifice and dedication that true church membership requires. It may give enough motivation to keep the explicit commandments and come to church regularly, but to go beyond superficial discipleship we have to be taken by the Spirit across the bridge linking knowledge with conversion to Jesus Christ.

To allow that to take place we must prayerfully read the Book of Mormon and ponder and apply it's claims to our current situation.

Life is really good, but we are running out of investigators. It's hard to maintain faith to find sometimes.

My favorite scripture right now is in 1 Nephi 16 (I actually changed the words a little bit)

19 And it came to pass that we did return without investigators to our apartment, and being much fatigued, because of our journeying, we did suffer much for the want of investigators."

28 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.

30 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into a super remote part of Gwangyang, according to the directions which were given upon the ball.

31 And it came to pass that I did talk to a bunch of high-schoolers, insomuch that I did obtain investigators . . . (and they all got baptized and were deeply converted to Christ)

We actually haven't done this yet, but it's the plan for Thursday. I'll report on how it goes. :D

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Week Forty-Five: Hyun Kyung-Don

Dear People,

So, last Wednesday I rode a train to Deajeon to see off Elder Child and meet my new trainee. When I entered the room of new missionaries with all the other trainers, one of the trainees was standing up and translating for President Madsen. He was really handsome and yes, he's the one I got. His name is Hyun Kyung-Don. Upon our short introductions I learned that he is from Seoul, he's 19 but has already attended a year at BYU Hawaii and another year at BYU Provo. If you ask how, it's because he skipped high school to study for the ACT and TOEFL tests and got admitted to BYU-H when he was 17. He's fluent in English, which is a blessing and a curse because when I can't say something in Korean it's super tempting to just say it in English.

We had a crazy first day. We barely had time to dump his luggage at the apartment before running to an English teaching appointment. He flawlessly turned the English appointment into a lesson about true repentance and we got the investigator who previously only had English interest to agree to have religious discussions from here on.

We also met another potential investigator on his first day and he bore a super powerful testimony about why he chose to come on a mission. He has a really great habit of testifying in a way that makes it impossible to doubt that he believes what he is saying is true.

He is full of fire and dedication and so much humility. On our second day, we were in the middle of weekly planning and I asked him a question about an investigator. He paused and said: 

"I'm so so sorry, I'm trying to focus, but I'm really hungry, I think if I ate first I will be able to focus better." 

It was 7:00 and we had nothing but ramen for lunch. I forgot to feed him dinner. I'm a terrible person. He forgave me.  I'm so excited to serve with Hyun Kyung-don.

I keep on re-learning principles that I've already learned before but just aren't seeming to permanently change my behavior. For instance, I absolutely must stay clean and organized or the Spirit will be restrained. My progress seems slow and sometimes I don't feel successful as a missionary. I'm almost at my year mark and it's hard to feel like I've really made an impact on Korea, but I'm I need to remember that success is conversion to the Savior. I won't be successful by working hard the way I want to work hard. I will be successful when I give Him all my heart and all my will.

I'm finally understanding how everything about the commandments and ordinances of the gospel just leads back to following Christ. We were sitting with a potential investigator who was asking what his family can do to progress and be a better family. In my mind I was screaming "get baptized and follow the commandments!" and as I was thinking about why those things bring happiness it hit me that following the commandments is just following Christ. That's what brings happiness, not just abstaining from coffee or changing behavior on a certain day of the week. It's trying to live like Christ that brings the joy of the gospel.

I know Jesus Christ lives. I know that He is the path to lasting satisfaction. I bear my testimony of this in His name, amen.

I love you, 

-Elder Brown

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Week Forty-Four: I'm Training, Probs a Korean

Dear People,

Transfer calls were on Monday. I'm staying in Gwangyang for a fourth transfer and I'm training! I will meet the poor new Elder tomorrow morning. There are six new Elders coming in and five of them are natives so I'm likely going to to be training a Korean which is crazy stressful. This will be the first time I've been senior companion . . . I'm about to get super humbled.

My companion Elder Child is about to go home tomorrow after his 27 months of service. Watching a returning missionary pack up is a really good way for one to miss their family, but I'm glad I'm still here! I had a nightmare a while ago that I came home at the same spiritual state I'm in right now. I have so far to go. There is a great work to perform. There is a great harvest waiting for me to decide to plunge my sickle into. In my grandpa's words "I must start with the mission field that is my heart"

Because I'm going to train I've been thinking about how how I felt my first few days in the field, how consecrated I was, and how far I've dropped from that point. From the beginning of the MTC I thought it was just part of my nature to be super faithful and energetic about missionary work. I was proud that it seemed to come naturally to me, I was proud that I had been blessed with such great desire but my fuel tank of consecration has been running empty for a while and I've done little to refill it. 

While Elder Child was packing, I was reading some talks and stories about consecration and being worthy of the Spirit. It led me to offer a really powerful repentance prayer last night. I felt the power of Jesus Christ's Atonement.

A marvelous work is about to come forth among the people of Gwangyang and in the heart of Elder Brown.

I love you.

-Elder Brown

Week Forty-Three

Dear People,

On Thursday morning our branch president called us early in the morning and said that our elders quorum president had a sudden heart attack and asked if we could go together to give him a blessing. We got all ready and were waiting outside, but then he called again and informed us that he had just passed away. That was super unexpected and sad. His wife is the Relief Society president, and they still have a couple young kids. Please pray for their family. Life is weird.

I watched a video on Mormon Channel in a series called Hope Works about making the distinction between our spirit and body that helped me understand that it really is all about returning to live with God.

Before we were sent to earth we were in God's presence. We knew we belonged there. We were at peace, we knew we were loved and understood. We were At-One with him. The Fall took us from that and dumped us in a field where we often don't feel love, and are rarely accepted by society. It is very clear to each of us that something is wrong. Something big is missing. From the time we become conscious everything we do is trying to fill that void, we are trying to return. We hopelessly try to fill this hole with money, power, knowledge, or beauty. Whether we know it our not, we are all trying to save our selves.

There is one way and one name by which we may be saved. There is one specific reliable way to gain all our deepest desires. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will fill the void. 

One of Elder Bednar's study methods is to prayerfully choose a topic he wants to understand deeper, get a cheap copy of the Book of Mormon, read it from cover to cover marking things that relate to the chosen topic, write a couple paragraphs about what he learned about that topic, put that piece of paper in the copy of the Book of Mormon, then place it on his bookshelf of other copies that he has followed this pattern with. "If you start doing this now, by the time your my age you should have a bookshelf of 400-500 copies"

I am starting my first copy with the topic of "Pray Always" I'm super excited.

I'm going to go play virtual golf now, but I love you all!

-Elder Brown

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Week Forty-Two

Dear People,

My area is the second hottest place in Korea and we be 'proaching the hottest time of the year... for the last couple of days we've been walking in a "real feel" 109 degrees. Sweat's flowing freely.  A couple days ago a random guy literally pulled us off the street into a convenience store to buy us a drink. "It's too hot! You're going to die!"

This Sunday we were asked to teach gospel principles class and we chose the topic of repentance. As we taught, I learned something about the principle of confession. When we don't confess in prayer our shortcomings, we are showing God that we believe we can overcome sin on our own. Changing undesirable behavior is not repentance. We must recognize our sin and confess the exact nature of it with no justification of our actions in order to repent of it. Changing our behavior does not remove the effect of that sin. Christ does.

 This week has been really hard, probably the hardest of my mission so far, but I wouldn't trade this for anything. The church is simply true. The Book of Mormon is simply true. It is seamless. It is the surest channel of the Spirit. It is a map to lasting happiness.

Insight about missionary work I got after failing to properly introduce our message to a man in an ice cream shop and trying to impress him with ourselves rather than our message:

Anyone who sees us will recognize these things: These sweaty teens are in a foreign country. They are learning a difficult foreign language. They are wearing very uncomfortable clothes. They must have a motivation to be doing so. Something very significant have compelled them away from family, school, friends, and their country. 

There are a couple possible compelling forces:

1. Money. They are either getting paid a lot of money, or through this mission thing they will eventually make a lot of money in their church. 

2. This is a study abroad. They like travel and want to see the world.

3. It's a mandatory thing. If they don't do this they have to do something harder, like military. 

4. It's a social/family/cultural thing, if they don't do this they will be estranged from their religious community 

5. They have discovered a glorious truth and can't bear to sit still until the whole world has had opportunity to partake of it's blessings.

If the missionary commandment to "open your mouth in proclaiming the gospel" is not upheld, our very presence in the field becomes a paradox. If we don't quickly and genuinely bring up our desire to share our message with everyone we come in contact with, our reason for being in the country will never be recognized as reason number 5. We must do everything we can to obliterate the possibility of people thinking we are here for reasons 1-4.

I am very very guilty of not displaying reason 5, but it's been an important step for me to recognize this problem. I am going to do my best to repent every day and love the Lord enough to open my mouth.

Heavenly Father lives and is anxious to bless us. He is doing literally everything in His power to help us return to Him, but the choice is up to us.

I love this work and I love you.

-Elder Brown

Week Forty-One

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

No time today, but life's good. We've been doing a lot of district proselyting activities focused on Teaching English, they've been pretty effective. We're racking our brains and praying hard for ways to touch people's hearts. Finding is really hard. Missionaries need members.

My favorite scripture this week is 2 Nephi 2:8 

"Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. . ."

Everything about our message really just leads back to returning to remain in God's presence. We will all return to God regardless of our actions on earth, but without preparing for that time by following the gospel of Jesus Christ we will not stay in His presence for very long.

I know that God lives. I know that he answers prayers, especially ones asking how we can draw closer to Him. I'm pretty sure those are His favorite prayers to answer.

-Elder Brown

Monday, July 17, 2017

Week Forty: Rainy Season

Dear People,

Once upon a time it rained. A lot. And I had holes in my shoes.

I'm still not tired of missionary work. I am shocked when I realize how much time has passed and how little I understand about everything. We will never know everything we can about Jesus Christ before we die. We will never understand the Book of Mormon enough to not study it diligently and methodically every day, we will never become perfect at sharing these things with others. 

I had a pretty discouraging experience yesterday on a bus talking to a really nice atheist guy. I felt so insufficient in presenting the message according to his needs, and by the end of the conversation when I tried to get his number he just laughed and said "I don't believe". 

There is nothing more humbling than this work, but there is also nothing that makes it more clear that God lives. I have learned for myself that God lives. He loves all of His children. Nothing we do will keep him from desiring to help us.

That's what it comes down to. I feel like everything else is really just appendage to that.

Something that experience and several others have helped me appreciate is the truth that no one else's actions, belief, or lack of belief can negatively effect our own joy in living the gospel. No one else's lack of belief in the Book of Mormon will detract from the joy and wonder that I receive while studying it. 

A member's son was baptized on Sunday. Even though it wasn't an investigator baptism it was really cool to see the progress of the church in Korea in that simple way. Sometimes I forget how new the church is to Korea. There are very few multi-generational families, almost everyone over 30 years old is a convert. 

Keep doing good stuff. Read Preach my Gospel. Ask me questions because I don't really know what to write about...

I love you.

-Elder Brown

Monday, July 10, 2017

Week Thirty-Nine

Dear People,

This is going to be short because I want to go bowling.
Yesterday we found a taxi driver that seemed so gold. He talked about how he goes to church every week even though he feels like it's not completely true and doesn't like that there are lots of churches. We super tactfully introduced our message and we felt like we were doing everything right but he just nodded and grunted and showed not even a glimmer of interest. This happens so frequently and it is so frustrating. Everyday it becomes more and more plain to me that the church is true, and because it seems so objective in my mind I noticed that I got into a habit of planning my lessons in a way that logically presents the truth of the message. I try to convince in a way that I don't feel the Spirit and we don't see results.
I was on a split with Elder Anderson who talked to me about Brigham Young's conversion in Chapter 11 of Preach My Gospel. I learned a lot as I read it.

“If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true”

Having faith in the converting power of the Spirit is going to be my focus for a while. I struggle with this, I'm such an objective thinker: "If we can just explain it in this way in this order and make them understand this, there will be no way they won't know it's true!" There is no lasting conversion without the Spirit. There is no lasting conversion without repentance involving the savior.

Oh fun story, at the beginning of the week a member called us and asked:

"Do you know Jung Dong-Wook?"
 We go through all our previous investigators and are like: "Uhhh, no..." 
He's like: "Hmmm...  come to my house at 7:00 Thursday prepared to teach the first lesson"

So we get all excited and are role playing for this new referral and are so happy that the members are doing missionary work. We show up at his house and just his family is there and they seem happy to see us, but there is no investigator in sight. We're just talking with them too nervous to bring up the referral but then he sits us down with his 8 year-old son who is about to get baptized and we realize that Jung Dong-wook is his son. So that was a little awkward but teaching him was really fun and was the first time I've taught a little person.

Life is good. Pray for missionary opportunities.

-Elder Brown

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Week Thirty-Eight

Dear People,

Yesterday I was studying lesson 2 pretty in depth trying to figure out all the intricacies of why we need to die, and why we have to rely on the Savior rather than suffer for our own sins and all that sort of interesting stuff, and as I was reading in Abraham I felt a pang of discouragement.

Here are my thoughts:

I accept that this is complicated and can't all be understood at once. I accept that I don't have to have an answer to everything to know that it's true, but If I can't explain everything, how can and I teach and convince others of the truth? This just seems so hard to understand and even harder to explain.

I was only having this discouragement for a couple seconds when I felt the Holy Ghost very strongly and the clear thought came into my mind: "Is this feeling hard to understand?"

No. The Spirit is not difficult to understand. And if my investigators feel Him I won't need to convince them of anything. That's His job not mine. My job is much simpler: it's to bring Him with me and my companion to lessons.

Of all the teaching skills and knowledge I can develop, nothing will ever be more important than living in a way that allows the Spirit to come with me everywhere I go. 

I realized that I've been lacking a lot of faith that my investigators will feel the Spirit, and that's probably because I haven't had a good relationship with Him recently.

Transfer calls were yesterday I'm staying in Gwangyang! I'll probably be here for a few more months because this is my companion's last transfer and I'll need to introduce the area to the next missionary who comes in. I get to send Elder Child home and keep all the language books he won't be able to carry on the plane!

I can't believe how long I've been out. My year mark is September 28. I honestly thought I would have accomplished a lot more and been a lot better at Korean by this point, but I know that I have been working hard. I'm happy and growing everyday. 

I love you. Be good and stuff.

-Elder Brown

Monday, June 26, 2017

Week Thirty-Seven

Dear People,

I totally forgot it was Father's Day until I saw all the father themes on lds.org. Shout out to my daddy-poo. I could talk about that guy forever. To all who didn't know him very well, he likes birds a lot. He's a pretty solid painter, and he's kind of obsessed with the ancient connections of Japan and Israel. Also he likes Calvin and Hobbes. He's also really spiritual and stuff. Yeah, that's a good overview I guess. 

I'm feeling the gift of tongues. There is so much power in reading the Book of Mormon in the mission language. When I am speaking I can see the words on the pages I read earlier. Korean is still super super hard but the foundation is set.

Miracle this week: Korean missionaries are notorious for keeping really bad records and so there was a certain record of a less-active member that moved like ten years ago and the record should have been destroyed but wasn't. Not knowing that she moved, we visited her house to find her whole family there. They had never broken the contract on their apartment and moved back after three years of living in Jeonju. We never would have known to find her if we hadn't had the record. God's hand in this work is so apparent.

Last week on a split with the Zone Leaders I was up in Jeonju and while waiting for the bus to take us home a happy-looking middle aged man walked by and asked "Are you from America?" I said yes and he nonchalantly responded "I'm from North Korea." and kept walking. I jumped up, stopped him and excitedly asked him how and when he got out. He came out through China somehow and has been here for less than a year. I told him we were missionaries and after looking at our nametags he proudly stated that he too believes in Jesus. I told him we have a very special message about Christ and he agreed to meet the missionaries in Jeonju. I'm excited to hear how that turns out. North Koreans have such a special feeling around them. That nation is going to implode once the gospel can be preached there.

I mentioned in my week 9 MTC email that I met a North Korean escapee and would probably write the story later. I'll write it next week, it's a good story.
Important truth I've been thinking about: If we ask, God will always tell us what we need to do to improve. The answer will always be clear and it will generally be something we really don't want to do, but no matter how hard it may seem to us, why shouldn't we do it? Why ignore the priceless gift of pure wisdom from our Father?

God lives. The Plan of Salvation is not a good idea or colored circles. It is our purpose. Find joy in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is true.

I love you,

-Elder Brown

Here are some pictures from our Buddhist temple trip a while ago.​
In this picture you can see part of one of the gold leafed massive statues that we weren't allowed to take pictures of.​

My Zone

Monday, June 5, 2017

Week Thirty-Six

Dear People,

We switched our P-day to  today because tomorrow is Korea's independence day so no one will be working.
Sorry I'm already out of time, this will be short.

This week I re-learned a couple principles I've already learned since the beginning of my mission but apparently forgot about. Namely time and environmental management.
Every transfer or so, I'll restart all my goals and simplify my life but I slowly start picking up new projects and start new little goals that sneakily replace other keystone habits and then I crumble. 
I also somehow forgot how importance of keeping the apartment organized and clean. Doing personal study with a pile of dishes in the sink will reliably give me about 25% of what I could have learned if I had put forth my best effort to make my surroundings spiritually conducive.

When Elder Bednar did a Q&A with the missionaries in Korea before I came, some one asked something like "What can we do to better develop . . . " (a Christ-like attribute or something)
He responded with something along the lines of: "It's not about doing more. It's about doing the same things consistently." 

I'm trying to simplify and consistently do the things I know are the very best things I could be doing. I have learned much more than I did when I had several projects going on at once and I have been feeling the Spirit.

Yesterday in testimony meeting, I was impressed with how clear it was that the people bearing their testimonies really happy. And it was so clear that it was because they were actually living the things that they believed. That is the key to happiness. Live what you know.

I'm going to quote Nick's email without his permission again because I love the truth he shared:

 "If you are looking for a testimony in this church but do not yet have one, or require one stronger please take my advice. Carefully ponder and study the Book Of Mormon. As you read, let yourself be skeptical and ponder the possibilities about what could be true. Read and study the whole book. Whether you think it is true or not humble yourself before the lord and ask with pure intent. King Lamoni's father offered up his sins to know the lord. As we ask for answers we not only need to be willing to except Heavenly Father's answers but also act upon them. This gospel is not easy. It is said that it is simple but difficult which I agree whole heatedly. . . This life is meant for enduring not enjoying however joy comes from enduring well. True joy, not temporary happiness. I hope it doesn't sound like I am preaching, I am just offering a personal account of what I have learned. But I cannot stand the thought of being out here trying to get strangers to read and ask if this book is true when loved ones back home can't seem to get around to doing that. Just do it. Please. Try to remember the punk I have been in my life and look at the only variable that has caused me to start becoming a small fraction of the man I hope to be. Use logic if you have to. The result will be the same if we are humble. I gotta go. My time is up and the guy next to me is on a really inappropriate dating site."

His words are my words. I am preaching this to total strangers, I hope so badly that the people I love that I left to be out here are doing these things. 

I know Jesus Christ lives. I know God reveals any truth we are willing to work for. He loves giving knowledge and love as much as we love receiving it. He wants our happiness more that we do because he loves us more than we love us. If we loved ourselves more we would more consistently do the things that bring happiness.

I wish I had more missionary stories rather than just boring stuff, but honestly the work is going pretty slowly. We are struggling in this little area, but we are not discouraged. When Elder Oaks came he told the members not to pray that the missionaries to find people to teach, rather pray to know which of your acquaintances are ready to hear the gospel and pray to know how to share it with them.

Pray for the missionaries, but only after you pray for your personal missionary efforts.

I love you. But I love Heavenly Father and his glorious work more.

-Elder Brown

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Week Thirty-Five

Dear People, 

I love you :D

Just so you know, even though I will never be able to write about or tell in the future all the little things that happen each day and all the little ways that my conversion is deepening, it is happening. Every day.

I was having a pretty hard time last week feeling the joy of living the gospel and being a missionary, but even though I wasn't feeling it, I kept going. I kept doing all the little things, kept working hard, thought back on the happy times and eventually it passed. I don't know exactly why I felt that way, but I am so grateful that I had the habits in place that helped me to decide to keep doing the dance even though I couldn't seem to hear the music. It would have been so easy for me to slip into sin and have to go through pride cycle like we all do so many countless times. If I had, I would have been very humbled, been brought to fervent prayer and repentance and I would have certainly felt the savior's love, but I know that when I faithfully get through those rough patches that feel like abandonment, I learn so much more and feel the savior love so much more that I would have if I had used it as an excuse to fall into disobedience.

This morning I read the talk by Ulisses Soares, and a quote on this subject stood out to me: 

"In these moments of trial, the adversary—who is always on the lookout—tries to use our logic and reasoning against us. He tries to convince us that it is useless to live the principles of the gospel. Please remember that the logic of the natural man 'receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.' Remember that Satan 'is an enemy [of] God, and [he] fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth [us] to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.' We must not allow him to deceive us; for when we do, we falter in our faith and lose the power to obtain God’s blessings."

If we were always feeling ecstatic about living the gospel we wouldn't actually be exercising much faith. Walking  obediently when we don't know exactly the results is when the real blessings can come in the long-run.

So three general authorities visited our mission this week including Elder Choi, Elder Gong, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and their wives. We're so indulged. I shook an Apostle's hand for the first time! Elder Oaks had us all line up to shake his hand and greeted us by name. I thought I was wearing my Korean-only name-tag and was expecting him to ask my name or just say "Elder" but he just said Elder Brown nonchalantly and I was convinced he straight discerned my name until I looked down and realized I had my English name-tag on. Boring.

It turns out Elder Oaks is . . . a really goofy person. His whole body shakes really hard when he laughs at his own jokes and his huge smile is really contagious. He literally quoted Nephi 3:7 as "Nephi 3rd. . .15  or something" It was so cool to see God doesn't expect even his Apostles to know everything, There are things much more important that knowing every scripture reference and church history date or being perfect teachers or many of the other things we sometimes worry too much about as missionaries but he does need us to faithfully and consistently love Him with all our heart. I watched him nod off twice during other people's talks and then jerk awake and smile really big. General authorities are just people too, they share all our weaknesses, but that doesn't take away from the powerful reality of their callings. God calls the weak and the simple. I know that a prophet of God spoke to us this week. My prayers were answered by his words I was brought closer to Christ.

Life is so good. Read general conference talks. Read the Book of Mormon everyday and pray about it. Prayer is the most reliable way to learn spiritual truth.

I love you.

-Elder Brown