Sunday, January 29, 2017

Week Eighteen

Dear People,

One of our poor investigators named Ruth is trying to convert us to.. the Bible maybe..?..Her Bible study group...? Apparently us meeting her is a sign that we need to join her personal theory religion. She described us as feeling the trunk of an elephant and saying "Oh, yes I know who God is, this is God." But really there is a whole elephant that we are missing out on. She is so genuinely concerned for us, it's cute. For some reason she talked to us about how when Christ came, the New Testament added to the Old and didn't replace it, it was just another testament, but the Jews couldn't accept that. We sat in bewilderment as she described exactly what she was doing by regarding the Book of Mormon as unnecessary. It's just another testament. 

We have living prophets today, let's not be hypocrites but rather follow their words exactly.

We were re-teaching the restoration to someone a few days ago, and when what the message means finally sunk in, she asked, "If this is true, why isn't everyone flocking to your church?" In case you didn't know, that's a really frustrating question to ask a missionary, especially in Korea. Every time God has called a prophet, it has required faith from people to follow them. It is ineffective to give us blatantly obvious proof that prophets are prophets. If that were the case, Heavenly Father would just chill on earth demonstrating His power continuously and, in a sense, taking away our agency. Faith is the center of our purpose on Earth. People have always rejected the prophets. Believing Joseph Smith's story requires faith at first. When Christ was on Earth, people did "flock" to Him at first, but they came and went. No divine manifestations can replace faith.

There was a world-wide missionary broadcast this week and huge changes were made to the missionary schedule, I like them a lot, it's designed to give more freedom to the missionaries and allow us to use our agency righteously. My mission's P-day is also changing to Tuesday starting next week. Agency is rough sometimes. The Spirit is constantly pushing way harder than I want to go, and I sometimes wish I didn't have the choice to ignore promptings. Agency is essential to grow

A couple days ago we were just walking down the street and we saw a group of people around two foreigners and a turned over food delivery scooter. Elder Benefiel helped interpret for the Korean police because the foreigners didn't know Korean. Apparently they were crossing the street on a red walk indicator, and a food-delivery guy ran a red light and slammed into Liam and threw him over ten feet. Danny got out of the way in time. Liam was beat up, but standing and walking, they took the food guy in an ambulance. Liam is from England, has been here for five months, and has a super intense beard. Danny has been here over a year and also has a sweet beard. They are teaching English. As the police were working things out and we were translating, we introduced ourselves and explained a little bit about missionary work. We connected really well and were joking about Korean and how ridiculous of a situation we all are in. As we were driving in the police van to a place to get more information, Liam kept saying how lucky he was to have survived. "This is my first real near-death experience, It's making me think about religion.. all these burning crosses are looking compelling." (Gunsan has the world record for highest number of churches per square mile of city) I said "Well.. have you heard of the Book of Mormon?" and they laughed, but I guess I didn't seem serious. I wish I had been a little more persistent with it, but we totally gained their trust and they were so grateful for us. We are going to meet them again.

Life is so good, and I'm totally out of time. There is so much good stuff happening, I'm learning good stuff, I love you all.

-Elder Brown

An ad in Lotte Mart that reminds me of Skylar for some reason

"Premium Gift Set": canned tuna, spam, and some oil $25 Happy birthday!
After church if enough people don't come then we just eat food and talk, the smiling sister is our golden investigator.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Week Seventeen

Dear People,

It's been snowing every day almost all day for the last couple days so it's super pretty but super cold. It's especially humid in my area because we are right by the ocean so the cold pierces through all your layers and you always feel slightly damp. It's the greatest thing ever...

This week was a little depressing because of the cold and there were a couple days that we were trying to find less actives and former investigators with no luck. Also there was a really poor turn-out at church and every one looked super tired. I understood about twice as much of church than I did last week which is so encouraging. My brain has finally stopped rejecting Korean and it finds meaning without me having to consciously translate every sentence! I'm at about 50% comprehension and 60% ability to convey meaning.

So Tommy, the coolest investigator, is making some realizations. He recognizes our love for him, and our genuine testimonies of the things we are teaching him. He asked about in a kind of humorous hypothetical way "What's the worst that will happen if I never believe in God? I'll just go to Hell?" In a super guided-by-the-Spirit way we explained how Hell won't be God's punishment because we didn't do what he said, but it will be more of a personal torment, guilt and regret for not doing the things we learned we needed to do to return to his glorious presence. It was clear that that really hit him, and he repeated the word "regret" thoughtfully. He told us at the end that his original interest was learning English, and he never thought he would take the religion part of us seriously. He still won't come to church because he feels like it could be a turning point in his life and he is doesn't feel ready to take that step, but he committed to keep the Word of Wisdom this week! He took us to dinner that night too. I feel so much love for him, I just want to be his friend forever. We have three or four investigators who's best friends throughout their whole lives have been the missionaries. We are often the first time people have felt real love from anyone, and we need to let them see that they can feel that love continuously from the Savior. We are nothing compared to His perfect love.

Remember how I don't have a sense of direction? Well I certainly still don't. If I'm not super-concentrating on where North is, I become completely lost. Whenever I'm in a building I'm completely lost. All the buildings look the same and there are a whole bunch of identical chain convenience stores that throw off your orientation. And in just a few weeks I'm going to have to introduce this area to a missionary who has never been here before. Yay!  I'm learning. It only took about six years for me to figure out ​the basic layout of Cedar City, so this will be cake.

Since I was set-apart I've had a goal to re-read all of The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and The New Testament cover to cover as a missionary. The more I read the more inadequate I feel in my scriptural knowledge. I was kind of discouraged earlier and felt like I wouldn't be a very effective missionary until I read and understood it all, but of course I realized that that's not how it works. I can still testify of what I know just as effectively, and as I do the doctrine I will learn it much better than I could studying it. I love the scriptures so much, meaning just flows out of every page, they are overflowing with knowledge and the time I get to study them is so short. I have never taken scripture study seriously enough in my life, it is the most joyful thing on earth. They are perfect, the words of the prophets are perfect, it all works together flawlessly.

I thought it would be six months before I missed anyone, but I was wrong, I miss you all so much. Do the little things.

Current favorite scripture: "Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven." -Jo Smith, D&C 123:13

-Elder Brown

This sign says in essence "If any 'cult' churches or Jehovah's Witnesses knock on my door I will call the police." We almost knocked on the door with the planned response of "Oh, sorry it says 'cult' churches, we represent the only true and living church on earth"

Week Sixteen

If you're ever sad, just know that this puppy is probably more sad.​

Dear People,
The woman that called us because she met an LDS tour-guide came to church again yesterday for Testimony Meeting. I didn't understand everything that people were bearing testimony of, so I was just praying the whole time that they would say good stuff and that she would feel the Spirit. By a miracle, the youth had just come home from a three day nation-wide youth conference sort of thing, so all 6 of our youth bore beautiful testimonies. When Cho Hyeon Suk, a 17 year old priest, broke down on the stand a little bit while sharing some spiritual experience and our investigator started crying! Yeeess! She was also couldn't even sing during the closing song because she was so emotional.  I love the youth of the church so much! There is absolutely no way any other 17 year old Korean boy would do something like that. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes human nature. 

After sacrament meeting she was asking about the Word of Wisdom and informed us that she already decided to stop drinking coffee for some reason earlier in her life... So yeah she's pure gold. He son is middle school age and she knows he doesn't have a real purpose. She knows this is special, and wants her family to be like these strong little families in the church.

I'm so glad I get to stay in Gunsan to see these miracles. Whenever I come to church I'm so stressed and I expect all these people to apostasize at any moment. Our poor bishop has served as bishop for over 20 years. Being a bishop for 20 years takes more than 20 years from your life-span. It's about six times harder to live the gospel in Korea than Utah. The church seems so fragile until something like yesterday happens and you are reminded who is running this show. This is not a church of the world. This is not our work. It's His work, He'll hasten it in His time, and it will roll forth boldly and nobly until it fills the world. God is the orchestrator. The Spirit works here the same way He does anywhere else. 

We met with a Canadian woman who wants to learn Korean. She had some misconceptions about Mormons that I've never heard of before. She thought ever single member was paired up like missionaries were and couldn't leave sight of each other... It was super awkward trying to explain that that's not a thing...

Elder Benefiel: "When I go home I won't do this anymore.. I'll walk to school by myself... wear earphones and stuff..."
Elder Brown: "Yeah, like at home my family is totally normal... they aren't.. like that.."

She looked super skeptical. We totally made it look like we were hiding something. She's also Lesbian and I don't know if she knows the church's stance on that.. She will be fun to teach.

I try to put my self in the shoes of people who don't believe there is a God, but I can't. It doesn't seem possible. I was trying to think of why I have such a strong conviction. It was almost surprising to acknowledge that I have no recall-able memories of seeing God. I haven't heard his physical voice or felt his physical body, so why I feel the lingering warmth of His arms around me? Why do I always feel that light feeling you get after having a deep conversation with someone? It's the little things that have built up throughout my life, the habits that my parents helped instill in me that let spiritual experiences build up on each other until my testimony cannot be broken.

I know God lives. I know Jesus Christ lives, suffered for me, and is always waiting to help me up. I love the companionship of the Holy Ghost when I am worthy of it. I know the Book of Mormon is true and that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith, and I know that Thomas S. Monson is God's chosen prophet and holds the keys of the kingdom today.

I love being out here. I feel so unhelpful and inadequate most of the time, but I am growing and am not discouraged at all. I want to be exactly obedient, I want to open my mouth to everyone, I want to be God's instrument, and as long as that is my desire, I will be ok. I will get there. I love you all so much, keep doing the little things!

-Elder Brown

P.S. It's ridiculously cold.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week Fifteen

Dear People,

I had sacrament meeting in the the US today for the first time in a while. In Gunsan there is a US Military base with grass, sidewalks, cheese, peanut butter, and a tiny LDS branch on it, so this week we visited for sacrament meeting. There were about eight brothers and one sister with her baby. It was so weird seeing how ridiculously American they all are, and hearing about all the stuff going on in America, and praying in English. I forgot I was in Korea until one of them said "I know I'm supposed to be in Korea right now" And I was all...what are you talking about? This is totally 'merica.

I don't pick favorite investigators, but Tommy is by far my favorite investigator. This week he explained to us his theories of why paid ministry destroys doctrine because their motivation is to get more people to come to their church, and how he doesn't even think some of them believe in God. We just smiled and nodded a lot. He was super impressed with the church's organization and it's early history. He wouldn't believe that people were actually killed and persecuted including Joseph Smith; he kept repeating "In the 20th century!?" If we can somehow get him to see the importance of exercising faith he could be a super awesome member. He is super smart, but kind of just likes philosophizing.

Alma 48 makes it pretty clear who Mormon's Book of Mormon hero was.

7 Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God. 
11 And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
 12 Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
 13 Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.
16 ...and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.
 17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

Mormon even named his son after him. 
The contrast of Moroni and Amalickiah is my favorite Book of Mormon story right now. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the Book of Mormon, and am constantly stressed that people have shaky testimonies of anything. Read the Book of Mormon every day for ten minutes with a spiritual journal open next to it with cute little marking pencils, sitting down somewhere you can write. Not in bed on your phone. Read all of the General conference talks from this session again. You will start craving it like your body craves water.
This will solve every problem of life.

Two super drunk old guys on a bench called us over to them a couple days ago and we started talking about the Book of Mormon, one of them took my copy and stuggled to turn to first Nephi. He started reading the chapter heading and nodding his head happily. The other guy was jealous and wanted his own book to read, so I got another out of my bag. We gave them a few pamphlets too. They were very grateful for our service and message. We probably could've committed them to baptism. Poor guys. Hopefully they'll accidentally bring the books home and notice them when they're sober. Isn't the Word of Wisdom great?

I feel like I'm progressing so slowly. I have so much to learn, I am still so scared of opening my mouth, Korean is so scary, and I have so little time. I feel like I just barely started, but I'm over an eighth of the way done, but... I know it's going to to work out. I feel the Spirit almost constantly. I know when it leaves. I want to be an instrument in God's hands. I want to be exactly obedient. I want to follow the spirit in lessons and be an effective teacher. I am not comfortable with where I am, and because there is still a force pushing me to do more, I know it will work out. I will get to where He needs me to be.

I love you all and I'll try to have some spiritual experiences to share next week! Pray to find missionary opportunities and to have the courage to open your mouth. You have it harder than I do; I'm talking to strangers I won't see again, you are talking to your friends.

-Elder Brown

 Do a happy laugh for Jesus

 Korean churches are straight corporations.

Drug Sausage

 This whole wall was Little Prince themed (I freaked out a little)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Week Fourteen: Fish Alex

Dear People,

Alex (Shauna's note: Alex lived with us for five years like a member of our family. Jay stayed with his family for a while in the summer before 6th grade) and his mom drove all the way from Seoul on Wednesday and picked us up from our apartment to go to lunch. In my poor Korean I tried to express how sorry I was for how awful of a little kid I was in 6th grade, but she wouldn't have it, she said in her broken English that she didn't know how else she could thank my Mom. She took us to a ridiculously expensive restaurant and ordered $170 worth of fancy beef for the four of us. Later she took us to Korea's Walmart-equivalent "Lotte Mart" and started throwing things in the shopping cart for us despite our protests. She was talking to us in a "Mom low-form." We had suddenly both become her children. She bought us way too much stuff. My companion was loving it. Alex hasn't changed a bit, we caught each other up, It was awesome finally understanding them speaking in Korean to each other.  

The Church is in good hands. The missionary program is perfect, if all of us would just follow Preach my Gospel and use the tools we have been given, the church's progress would double. 

Because of the tools I've been given I know exactly what God expects me to be doing at any given moment, I just have to decide to do it. I'm really really bad at that second part, but whenever I ignore promptings I feel sick. Little by little I am going to get there.  Everyone can know what He wants us to be doing at any given second, we just have to decide to listen.

Attention all English speakers: The Book of Mormon in English is light reading compared to the behemoth that is the Korean Book of Mormon, understanding the Book of Mormon for Koreans is like learning a new language. There is not a sentence in it that is written the way a Korean would write it because it has to contain all the same meaning as the English. These amazing members read it anyway and gain so much from it even though it's hard. Read the Book of Mormon.

Everyone is super jealous of our area because we have 9 INVESTIGATORS! only about four of them have good potential, but we have 9 people that are totally cool with coming out to the church and talking to us about religion. That is unheard of in this area. I feel so inadequate, I hope that I'll be able to have something like this again by the end of my mission at a point where I can understand and say everything that I want to, but for know I am just feeling really grateful and am working to fill the shoes I've been given.

Miracle this week: On Saturday a woman called us asking what time church would start the next day because she wanted to attend. Apparently she went on a trip to see the national parks in the US and her Grand Canyon tour guide was a member. He was a champion and he talked to her about the church so now she's back in Korea and wants to learn more. Thank you tour guide for opening your mouth. She came to church yesterday and got to listen to my super broken talk about missionary work. 

Hopefully she wasn't too weirded-out by our members who were wetting their pants with excitement about a new face in Gunsan Ward and telling her about how we don't practice polygamy any more. I love them.

The English Book of Mormon talks about being an "instrument" in the the hands of God, and I've always loved that that can be like a tool instrument or a musical instrument, but Koreans have a different word for musical instrument, so the Korean Book of Mormon just says "tool". Boring. Either way that is such a cool analogy. Be submissive to The Master. Why would we do anything else? He knows what will make us happy, don't fight your personal happiness. That's just silly.

I love you all, and I love this work, keep doing the little things!

-Elder Brown