Saturday, March 22, 2014

And Cut! / Life Lessons / Atonement

Elder Burt and the elders from the office.
Top of the morning to you all, and a very merry St. Patty's day! If I'm being completely honest, I totally forgot about it until someone mentioned it in an e-mail. I guess St. Patrick's day really isn't a big deal in Brazil.

1) And...Cut!-  So I'm sure many of you were on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about my marvelous experiences with a general authority this week. Let me tell you- the beginning of the week was crazy. Preparations, cleaning, praying, fasting...the office was stressed out to the max. Then, Tuesday night before the Seventy was programmed to arrive, President called me into his office. "Elder Burt," he said (in English) "we have a big, big problem." The Mission Tour had been cancelled. So the next 24 hours were spent un-preparing everything--changing bus tickets, cancelling hotels, everything. I'm not sure which part was the bigger headache. It was somewhat disappointing, but it worked out fine.

The other side of this is a reminder that I will be leaving the office next week! So my next letter will no longer be on a Saturday, but will return to Mondays here in a week and a half. These last few days have been spent wrapping up everything in preparation for my departure. I am so excited. So you can look forward to finding out where I am in a week!!

2) Life Lessons-  These last couple weeks we've had the opportunity to teach some graduate students who are researching the church, as I mentioned in the last letter. So on Sunday we had one of them in church, and he really enjoyed it. The student who came to church, Stefan, is really awesome and especially interested in the church's focus on families. Still, we were unsure of the possibility of actual interest since all of this is based around a school project.

We had an amazing lesson Wednesday night. The group of students wasn't the same--only two of the original four were able to attend, and one new arrival. One of them was Stefan. We came without much of a prepared lesson, planning on allowing them to ask the questions. Miraculously, the entire visit was based around the second lesson, the Plan of Salvation. They began asking questions about our beliefs, how it compared to others, the normal school project sort of things. Notes were taken based on my responses. But an interesting thing happened. As the questions went on, they put down their notes and began to ask their own personal questions. And suddenly I realized that they weren't questioning its truthfulness, but accepting it as a given fact. Despite their religious backgrounds, they believed the doctrine because it sounded so familiar. I was astounded as our simple, bold responses were not doubted, and left them desiring to know more. The most astounding question of all came from Stefan, towards the end of the visit, seemingly unrelated to the others. "How can I become a part of the Mormon church?" I don't know if it was a personal desire or part of the project, or a subtle combination of the two. But I did come to a stronger personal testimony and realization of how much revealed truth we have, and how hungry others are to know it.

3) Atonement-  This week I found my studies being largely spent in studying and pondering on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For such a simple doctrine, it's fantastic how much time one can spend studying and learning about it. And it always brings the Spirit and a feeling of edification.

Yesterday in particular I felt extreme peace and love as I thought on this eternal sacrifice of the Savior of all mankind. He suffered the sins of all the world, and gives us the free agency to accept or deny His eternal gift. The opportunity to live eternally with our family and our Heavenly Father. The choice is as simple as that, yet it requires a complete humility that mankind is not prone to, and a realization of our own imperfectness. To say: "I know that I am not perfect. But I would like to be." And strive to show this very real desire through our works and actions. That is how we accept and receive the benefits Christ is ready to give. "Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?...Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive." (3 Nephi 9:13)

And so I will end, echoing the final words of the Book of Mormon: "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ." (Moroni 10:32)

I love you all. I love the Savior more than I can even begin to properly express in words. He is our hope, our salvation. Through Him we can find peace. I know that He lives. I am not perfect. But I would like to be.

Much Love,

Elder Burt

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