Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hey sounds like everyone is doing great! Hey you noticed the new suit. A member gave it to me, it was too big for everyone else but it fits me pretty well. I like the double breasted look, makes me feel classy. Just one of the many free things I have gotten on my mission, like my fanny packs or ties or my pair of Eccos - some missionary going home left them, probably two years old but in good enough shape to wear still, which I do. The "big keychain" is actually one of those little counter things. I found it and decided I would start using it to count how many people I talk to every day, because there is a section in PMG that talks about setting goals for that. But I found out that was really boring and didn't feel like it was helping me. Instead I started counting how many high fives I can get! More fun, and I feel like it has helped me focus on being excited as I talk to people. Plus when they reject me I can still give them a high five and make them not leave their encounter with a missionary with a sour taste in their mouth. It usually gets people to smile, good method of softening their hearts. I got 359 in the past 3+ weeks.
I am glad Conference and Easter went well. Happy Resurrection holiday! That's what it is in Chinese. Conference was great, so much stuff that I needed to hear. A lot to improve on. A lot to change. I hope you feel the same way. Every talk was amazing, I feel so much more involved in Conferences on my mission. I think this time they wanted us to understand that families might be important, I kind of got that vibe. So thanks for being such a great family to me. I really do love you all so much. You are still such good examples to me, even now when we're far away.
Got a lot of thoughts I could share from Conference, here is one I feel like writing about. I feel like President Monson really emphasized that God is our Father. I remember someone, maybe Russell M Neslon, said "fear comes because we forget our identity." Thought a lot about this lately. This week we were in a city park and I sat down with this guy and his girlfriend on a bench, cool, normal couple in their twenties. Asked this guy about if he believes in God, he said yes. Asked him what his relationship with God was, he said that God guides him. I thought, cool, sounds like me. As I kept talking I figured out that by "God" he meant two rock things that he could throw, ask questions to, got answers depending on how they landed. He has an app of God on his iphone. Frequently when I talk to people about God their concept is of the statue at the altar in their home or on the corner of the street at the local temple that they can burn incense to and offer sacrificial food. I am not saying this to poke fun at other peoples beliefs, and I am not assuming I completely understand their traditions and beliefs. But the problem is that I follow up questions about belief in God with questions like why we are here, where we are from or where we are going, and I almost never get an answer, at least one that makes sense. Usually people just laugh uncomfortably and say they don't really think about that stuff. Shouldn't these two sets of questions be connected? People have such different concepts not only of how to believe in God but even of what "God" really means. I will often be told that my God is the western god and theirs is the eastern god and that they are both true. To me all that says is that they don't believe in any truth, that what they are really saying is there is no reality to God and thus no power. What purpose does that viewpoint have? It does no one any good and will not bring anyone any closer to an understanding of what really is. Another, people will tell me stubbornly all the time that God is simply a comfort in your heart and that is all, that he is real if you believe and if you don't he doesn't exist.
These ideas all have the same problem. Where is the "why" behind it all? What is the truth? There are no answers to the questions of the soul, the questions that matter, the ones that the overwhelming majority of people don't think about, or maybe try not or don't want to think about anymore.
There is an underappreciated power in the knowledge that God is literally a father. There is a reason, a why. He is a creator. Family is the thing that connects us to him, and the answers to the questions are real. Believing that there is a truth is powerful. It is harder than believing in the foundationless ideas that are popular, just like taking a firm stance on anything is harder than neutrality. Having truth means taking a stand, but it also means having something to stand on.
I think this is why Nephi said "For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world."
There is a difference in this God. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is one who loves us and is our dad. It is something I feel, and something I want to help everyone feel because I know what a difference it makes for me.
Wow that ended up being a lot longer than I thought. Time is mostly out. Things went fine this week. Found some great new investigators. Hope you all know I love you this /----------------------------/ much! Thanks for all the support!
Elder Braithwaite

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