Monday, June 6, 2011

Durham Update

I was reminded last night that I haven't updated Elder Casper's blog lately, so here are a few letter excerpts--

May 31, 2011--

It seems like our teaching pool has pretty much dried up. We've tried to keep adding new investigators every week, but we haven't found any the last couple weeks. We've found some really good potential investigators, but we haven't been able to get up with them and teach them yet. We've been discussing what we can do in order to find more people in our companionship studies. We decided that we need to try and find community service opportunities, seek the Spirit's guidance more in finding, and do a better job of talking with everyone. The people that we have found have not been elect. They've been willing to listen, but they haven't been willing to act. So we're trying to find other ones. It's definitely been testing our patience, but we have faith that the Lord will reward us according to our desires...

In response to what I have learned about the Atonement - I think I've got a lot more I need to learn about it! I truly am more grateful for it now than I was before my mission. I have felt divine comfort, guidance, and strength come to me at different points during my mission, and I know that was due to the Atonement. Let me tell you about something that really jumped out to me this last week. I came out on my mission because I felt it was something God wanted me to do, and it was my duty. Those thoughts have definitely been a motivating factor for me, and I couldn't have made it through my mission without knowing those things. I've always thought, though, that at the end of my mission I would want my motivation to be love for people, that I would want them to experience the same blessings of the gospel I've received. That is definitely true, but I realized it goes deeper than that. At the end of my mission, my motivation should be gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I would want to have felt without a shadow of a doubt that I had truly been forgiven of every mistake I've ever made, and have no guilt whatsoever. I would want to help the people I teach feel the same way, and understand the basic principles of the gospel. That way, they could experience true conversion, not just a social conversion. They need to understand the Atonement, or else they will have missed the whole point of what the Church is about! The Church isn't about FHE, or family history, or mutual, or Sunday school, or anything like that. It's about coming unto Christ so you can become clean from sin...

To answer your question about the weather - it is getting very warm. Actually, quite hot. It is supposed to get up to 98 degrees today, which is pretty good when you get that humidity in there. Is it bizarre that I actually love these humid summers here? Elder Koplin hates it and loves the winter, while I'm the exact opposite. One thing for sure, Washington will seem like cake compared to this!

Dad, I am really looking forward to helping teach you and being taught by you this summer. And Mom too. Why don't we set a goal to have family scripture study every day (including Sundays) this summer? I have improved much in the area of cleanliness, but it's still not an easy thing for me. I was thinking a little bit about the different qualities and attributes each of us have. Some of my glaring weaknesses are strengths to some people. Some of their weaknesses I am strong at. It's so great to have family and friends that we can help and that can help us.

June 6, 2011

We were able to find a couple of really neat people this week. We started teaching a 15-year old named C. He's surprisingly spiritual, considering his age and background. Our ward mission leader came with us to teach him, and he seems like he could really have some potential. We haven't been able to get up with him since then though, because he doesn't have a phone.

We also were finally able to teach M. M is someone we first talked to 7 weeks ago, when we first got to Durham. He's originally from Guatemala, and has an uncle who's a member of the church there. He used to meet with the missionaries in Raleigh, and I think he went to church a couple of times. He told us he used to enjoy meeting with the missionaries once a week. He said he would be baptized if he found out that it was true. We weren't able to set a return appointment because he didn't have his work schedule yet, so he's not officially a new investigator. We are excited for him though.

We didn't teach K this week, but we were able to visit with him briefly. He told us he would like to come to church again. We asked him if it would be ok if a member of a member of the church called him to arrange a ride, and he said yes. So our assistant ward mission leader called, and he and our ward mission leader helped get him to church. It was great, and church was amazing. The gospel principles lesson was on baptism, and I think it really made him think.

The work is still being fairly slow here, and we're trying to get a good teaching pool. We're slowly making progress though. The ward here is still amazing and gives us a lot of support...

I had a little paragraph written about what I've learned about repentance, but I forgot to bring it. Let me try and do this on the fly though. I've learned that repentance is the way we become truly clean and guilt-free. We cannot attain true peace of conscience until we repent. True repentance involves true sorrow and pain. Repentance is entirely up to us, and receiving baptism and the Holy Ghost are consequences that naturally follow repentance.

Thanks for asking about the goals! We've been working on the service situation. I need to put more effort into talking to everyone and seeking the spirit more! Thanks for reminding me...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Leaving Wilson (with Elders Taylor and Brady)

Working hard in Durham

Hello everybody,

Holy smokes this week has been a crazy week! That transfer just snuck up on me, I had no idea that was coming! I was transferred to the (drumroll please).... Durham 2nd ward! This area is so much different from all of my other areas! I'm actually in the city now. My area covers North Durham, and our ward has about 250 active members in it. Lots of Duke medical students with little kids. It's pretty crazy, it was really loud in sacrament meeting because of all the kids! The ward is really good, it's just loaded with all sorts of awesome members. I'm really excited to be here. My new companion is Elder Koplin, from West Jordan, UT. He's been out for about 5 months now, and he was actually in my last district (he was in Smithfield). He strongly reminds me of Lee Crowther in his personality. It's going to be a good next 2 transfers!

OK, now from my LTP:

"Elder Koplin and I are really trying to get things going here in Durham 2nd. When we got here, the first thing we did was organize the apartment. There was a lot of "legacy" items/ junk in the apartment, and we just couldn't live with it. It was left clean though, which was good. We set goals to contact at least 10 people every day this transfer, and to help 5 members a week commit to do something to share the gospel and set a date that we can follow-up with them. We figure that if we stick with those goals, the Lord will lead us to the elect and bless us with people to teach. There were a few investigators that the sisters were teaching that we've been trying to get up with, we want to see if they are willing to progress. The ward here is amazing. They seem to be really excited to have elders back in the ward. We've been able to talk to some really good people in the few days we've been here, and we're sure the Lord will bless us with people to teach. We are striving to be exactly obedient. The more obedient we are, the more blessings we receive. It will probably translate into more baptisms in this area, and even if it doesn't, we will receive many other blessings. I truly believe that.

We did find two new investigators this week, K and K. They live together but are not married. We left them with copies of the Book of Mormon to read. They have an opportunity to find out for themselves if it is true. If they do want to continue their investigation, we will teach them the law of chastity and invite them to act on it. If they don't repent, we won't teach them anymore. They're good people, and they liked how they could read and pray to find out if it's true. So we'll see what happens.

We also taught an investigator named M that the sisters were teaching. He's 18 and a nice kid, but he hasn't acted on the message at all. We tried to read from the Book of Mormon with him but he kept getting off onto random subjects. He doesn't seem to have too much real intent. We'll see what happens though."

There are a few things I've learned about prayer on my mission. I've learned that the Spirit is given by the prayer of faith. So, praying with real intent and full purpose of heart will help us to feel the Spirit. Prayer is something you need to work at. Our answers to our prayers always come through the power of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes you receive a small prompting while you are still on your knees, sometimes you'll be going along and later you'll have a deja vu moment, and sometimes miraculous events will happen where after witnessing the event the Spirit will hit you like a ton of bricks. In every case, it is the Holy Ghost telling truth to your heart.

This week I was at district meeting with a bunch of the other missionaries serving in Durham. I noticed one of the elders was Elder Calaway. I said, "Elder, where are you from?" He said, "Washington state." I said, "I'm from Basin City!" He said, "Jessica Casper is my cousin!" I said, "She's my cousin!" Ha ha ha, it was crazy. His name is Kellen Calaway, and he's from Richland (although his family lives in St. George now). His dad is Bret Calaway. He knows Brad and Sanette's family real well, and he's even been up to the cabin with them. He's a pretty funny and crazy guy. He was on his mission for about a year in Puerto Rico, had to get sent home for a year to have knee surgery, then was reassigned to this mission about 3 months ago. Small world!...

I had a question for all returned missionaries in the family. What were some questions that you would ask people while you were contacting them when you served? I'm just looking for suggestions so that I can better improve in that aspect...

Derek, and any self-proclaimed/uncertified legal experts in the family - is it legal to ban religious solicitations in the United States (seeing as we are non-profit)? Have there been any court cases about it? Does NC have any state laws regarding it? That's a question that I've wondered about my whole mission.

I'm glad Michael is doing well in Brazil. Tell Bishop Nielson thanks for the e-mails. I would reply myself, but out of a desire to be obedient I'm not. When does Lee get back from his mission? What's going on with Ashley? Somebody please tell that girl to write me a letter.

I couldn't help but laugh when I read about Mom, "the bird killer". Ha ha, that was funny. And what do you mean, we've never had a problem with birds striking the windows? Don't you remember the quail incident? And by the way, those little metal square foot gardening things are pretty neat!

Well, I gotta go now. I hope you all take care and have a good week!

Elder Casper

Friday, April 8, 2011

Transfering Again!

Hey everybody,

Wow, I am just so happy right now. I love being a missionary. Conference was awesome!

"This week was a pretty crazy week. We've been frantically trying to get the car repaired, the carpet shampooed, the apartment ready for transfers, cover English and Spanish investigators, and watching General Conference. It's been really good though.

Thank you so much for sending me to Wilson. This transfer has helped me out a lot. It hasn't been an easy transfer, but it's helped me to realign some of my priorities and expand my vision. Elder Brady has helped me out a lot, and hopefully I've helped him out some too. Elder Taylor has helped me out a lot also. Wilson is a great ward, and they will do well.

This general conference was just awesome. I learned so much from it. I can't wait until the conference issue comes out next month. I plan to diligently study and seek to understand it. I've set some goals for the last 2 transfers of my mission that I'm seeking to accomplish. One thing that I've learned here in Wilson is that when it comes to goals, there are 2 important parts: setting inspired, attainable, worthy goals, and being diligent and having perseverance in obtaining those goals. Don't give up on a goal until you've given it its due amount of work and time. Give it some time, and if things don't get better, then adjust your goals.

We taught a lady named C. Her mother was a convert to the Church, and she said she would be a member if she had grown up in it. She said she's not interested in converting, but she wants her great-granddaughter to become a member. So we'll see what happens with that.

We taught Bro. B also. We had a very good, Spirit-filled lesson. He told us that even if he finds out that the Book of Mormon is true, he won't leave his church. It was disappointing, but he was being honest. We were in contact with the M family, but they didn't come to General Conference. The B girls showed up for two talks of general conference, then left. We think they might be looking into the church for the wrong reasons."

So, this is going to shock you all. It really shocked me! To answer your question, we do live with the Spanish elders. Elder Taylor was training a new missionary that came to Wilson at the same time I did. On Wednesday morning, Elder Brady said, "Get a picture with Elder -, he's going home." I didn't believe him, but sadly he was. I'm going to miss him. About 1 minute later President Cotterell showed up at the apartment, and I was just like, "Wow, this is really happening." President pulled Elder Brady and I into our home, and sat us down. He basically said, Elders, you've done a good job here in Wilson this transfer, but the decision has been made to pull the English elders out of Wilson and allow the Spanish elders to cover it. I was shocked, I had no idea that this was in the works. President told me that I will be whitewashing (2 new elders into an area instead of just 1) into an area that is being covered by sister missionaries at the moment. He didn't say I would have a new missionary, but that I would be the senior companion. He also told me that I would be going to a zone that I haven't served in before. So unless something has changed between then and now, that's what I'm expecting tomorrow at transfer meeting. I think I'll end up somewhere in the Triangle Region (Raleigh, Durham, Apex), and I have a couple guesses as to where I might go, but I don't know anything for sure. I guess I'll be able to tell you next Monday! This has been very unexpected. I love Wilson and I'm going to miss it. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy my next area too, though. I'm pretty excited to find out where I go.

So, I wrote this out. It started as a response to the question about feeling the Holy Ghost, but it turned into more of just missionary advice. Please forward this to Michael and David Gledhill.

Keep your priorities straight. Study Chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel over and over again, especially the section "A Successful Missionary". Be diligent and a hard worker, but don't be in a rush to get everywhere (that will interfere with the Spirit). Remember that every blessing we receive in this life comes through obedience. Be exactly obedient, don't rationalize any rule-breaking. Limited obedience will bring limited blessings. You will serve around missionaries who choose to be disobedient on certain things, and you might even have a companion who doesn't strive for exact obedience. Love them enough to refuse to accept their disobedience into your missionary work, and show them what an exactly obedient missionary is. The Missionary Handbook and your mission president will tell you all you need to know about obedience to missionary rules. And by the way, Elder Smith saying that the former assistant said that President said that sleeping until 6:40 is ok does not constitute a directive from the mission president. Don't listen to hearsay, ask your mission president if "rumored rules" really are rules. Resist the temptation to follow other missionaries instead of following the Lord and your mission president. Everyone (missionaries, members, mission president, etc.) will trust you if you are exactly obedient and radiate love for the Lord as your motivation for obedience. A successful missionary enjoys the companionship of the Holy Ghost. By living the doctrine of Christ as found in Chapter 1 of PMG, you will feel his companionship more fully. Helaman 12:1-3 teaches that when people prosper, they harden their hearts and turn to wickedness. Someone with a hard heart does not feel the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost. It takes a soft heart to have his companionship. So, if it feels like it's been a while since you felt the Holy Ghost, take it as a wake-up call and a signal that you need to change something in your life! Never weary of doing good (Alma 37:34). And remember that conversion (both your conversion and your investigators' conversion) comes through the heart, not the mind. It is extremely important to have a firm knowledge of the doctrines and principles of the gospel, but your investigators must be converted by the Spirit and not convinced by knowledge (or they will eventually fall away). There are a lot of other things that I would like to say, but that's all I can think of right now.

Mom, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am so glad that I decided to serve a mission. I feel like my mission has been filled with all sorts of frustration and struggles, but I've grown tremendously. I feel like I know what's important now. I know that I could not have learned the lessons that I have learned at my young age without serving a mission. "Learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn to keep the commandments of God" (Alma 37:35). Much better to have the knowledge I've gained at my young age than to learn it incrementally over the next 30 years or so.

I'm sad to hear that Bro. Edmonds was transferred. Do you know when he's going? Hopefully I can meet with him and talk about NC before he takes off.

One funny thing really quick. Before General Conference started, I was doing some pondering about the lessons I would be learning. I figured that many of them would be applicable for my last 3 months as a missionary, and the others would be more applicable for my first 3 months after returning home. Then 3 or 4 different speakers go and tell all the returned missionaries to quit dinkin' around after their missions and find a wife. Ha ha ha, that just made me laugh.

Well, I should have lots of good things for you in my next e-mail! Take care, I love you all so much.

Elder Casper

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Area

Hey everyone,

Well, this week has been good! Let me tell you about my week and transfer:

"I was a little surprised to get transferred to Wilson with Elder Brady, but I'm happy with it. I think I'm going to really love it here in Wilson. I've already learned a lot about serving others from Elder Brady. I think we will be a good match for each other.

We have some good things going on here in Wilson. No investigators with a baptismal date, but a lot of work to do and some good investigators.

We taught Bro. B. He's pretty involved in another church, but he's interested in finding out if the Book of Mormon is true. Not sure how interested he is, but according to Elder Brady he's come a long way. We'll keep teaching him and see where it goes.

This week the Spanish elders were at Wal-Mart and talked to two girls who go to Barton College named L and A. They wanted to go to church, so the elders gave them the address of the church. They showed up at church! We taught them the same day and we have a return appointment with them for this Tuesday. They seem very promising, almost too good to be true. L loves to drink coffee, but that's the only concern we know of so far. We'll see what happens...

So, my new companion is Elder Garn Brady from Baker City, OR. He's a really good guy. He's got some health problems, but he's served a really good mission. He's been out for about 19 months now. Old companionship, huh? His dad owns a drive-in restaurant in Baker called Burger Bob's. He's been here in Wilson for 4 months already, so I wouldn't be surprised if we only end up being together for six weeks. You never know, though. I like Wilson a lot, too.

I was hoping to get transferred to the Triangle (the Raleigh area) because I haven't served there at all on my mission, but I'm all right with Wilson. Wilson is in the Goldsboro zone, and we're going to Goldsboro on Thursday for interviews with the President. It's the first time I've ever got to return to one of my old areas, I'm sure it'll bring back lots of good memories. Wilson reminds me of Goldsboro, except it's a little bigger (~ 50,000 people) and a little nicer. I like the ward here already, and I'm really excited to serve here.

This week in my study I realized something. I've been speed reading too much in my studies, and I think it's hindering my ability to feel spiritual promptings. So I'm trying to slow down and digest what I read a little better...

And speaking of my new address, I was wondering if you could order something for me! The church just released the film "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" (which was really awesome!) on a set of DVDs called "Doctrine and Covenants Visual Resources DVD's". The item number in the catalog is 08042. It's only like $5 and has a ton of really good stuff on it. In fact, I would recommend you get a copy for yourself.

I had a couple of questions from the Book of Matthew that I wanted your input on. First, Matt 5:10-12 says something to the effect that you are blessed when people persecute, revile, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for the Lord. How can that be a blessing? D&C 122 says bad things that happen to you will give you experience and be for your good. Do you have any other input on that? I also read in Matt 18:12-13 that a man will leave the ninety-and-nine sheep to go after the lost sheep, and then rejoice more over that than the 99. I wondered why that was, but then I realized it must mean that he has a lot of love for that sheep. What do you think?

Well, please tell everyone hi for me. Thank you so much for all the support and help you have given me. I know the gospel is true. Have a good week!

Elder Casper