Friday, July 6, 2012

Week 9 in Lagunillas

Hey hey hey!
Thanks so much, mother dearest, for the package. I'm very excited. In response to Dad's concern, we are in fact high tech, and have little portable DVD players from the mission for the purpose of viewing Church material and missionary training videos, etc. Generation X!
Thank you, Mom, for the inspiring words and the great stories. It was actually good timing because just today I had a similar experience. Unfortunately I've still got a lot of learning to do in terms of following the impressions I receive. Today is P-Day and my companion and another Elder (Elder Ancco) in our house had to go to Concepcion today to fill out the paperwork for their visas. I didn't really have any need to go at all, and neither did Elder Ancco's companion, so I decided to stay her and letter Elder Perez and Elder Ancco go together. And all the while while I considered the option of going or not going to Concepcion, I had the strangest feeling that I should go, like it would just be the right thing to do. But I had no clue why. I had absolutely zero business in Conce. So against my better judgment, I stayed. Well a few hours into the day, while my companion was in Concepcion, I got a call from one of the Elders from my district, for whom I did a baptismal interview the other week. When we did the interview, he didn't bring the baptismal record for me to sign, so he called me to let me know that the office was waiting for me to be able to sign the record. Then I realized why I had felt that impression, even though last night I had no clue that I would need to sign it. Granted it's not a big deal. I can sign it within the next week, but it is an unfortunate complication and a breach in Church protocol, as technically nobody should be baptised without the form completely filled out and cleared. Not the end of the world, but could have been avoided if I had followed the simple, yet persistent impressions of the Spirit.
I am happy to know, however, that I am able to recognize it as such, so that the next time I'll be more prepared to follow those promptings. It's funny how the will of God is often times the opposite of what we want for ourselves. I distinctly remember one occasion years back when I was torn between either going to the movie theater with the parents or going to hang out with a certain group of friends. I had the exact same odd feeling like I should go to the theaters, but didn't know why and chose to ignore that impression. Luckily, nothing terrible ended up happening, but I did end up finding myself in a less-than-spiritual environment and spent the night feeling uncomfortable and wishing I had gone to the theaters.
The scriptures make a lot of references to this type of inner conflict between the natural man and the spirit that is within us. We, as children of our Heavenly Father, are divinely begotten, destined for greatness and exaltation, but as children of men, are "prone to wander and leave the God we love." Nephi, in particular, said something I liked, as I read his words this week. 2 Ne 2 reads:
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. 
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
I really like 29, as it clarifies that the will of our flesh is indeed not the will of God. And if we are to progress in this world and receive salvation, we must learn to exercise our God-given agency and choose eternal life and keep the commandments, something that is very often not at all what we want. We like to sin, we like to choose death. We like to cut ourselves off from the presence of God. So, the solution? How can we make our will more in harmony with God's will? How can we reconciliate ourselves with God? Mosiah helps us out.
3:19 says
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.}
When we apply the atonement of Jesus Christ to our lives, we can become again like a child, filled with the Christ-like attributes necesary in order to truly repent, and put off the natural man. But we cannot do it alone. We can only do it with Christ, through His mercy and grace. David A. Bednar explains that Grace is the enabling power of the atonement that allows us to be better and serve beyond our own ability and desire. Ability and desire. What does that mean? That through Christ, even that inner voice that tells us that sinning is good and death desirable can be quieted. This is a process that takes place throughout a lifetime, a process called Santification, that truly few people accomplish. 
There's one example in Alma that stands out. 13:11,13 and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
These people really applied the Atonement in their lives. They put off the natural man and became saints. This is my goal. This is my desire, to be no more burdened by sin and weakness, but to be lifted up continually by Christ, and enter into His rest. Maybe it won't happen in two years, or in 20, but I know that Heavenly Father has given us all of the tools necesary to gain salvation, and Jesus Christ has already paid the fee.
I'm not sure why I talked about all this, it's just something that's been on my mind a lot recently. The meaning of sanctification. I guess realizing that the Spirit is constantly working with me, and trying to help me walk the right path, and the story Mom shared with me made me think about all the ways my Father shows His love for me, and what I should do to return it.
Speaking of becoming purified and changing, Daniela is doing very well. After the baptism that she attended the other week, she suddenly disappeared for an entire week. We called her and called her and she never answered. We stopped by her house and was never there. Finally, after a week of desperation and going to church on Sunday feeling a little hopeless, who should walk in to Sacrament Meeting but Daniela. Turns out she went away for a week to think for awhile. She wanted to be absolutely sure that this is the right decision for her. Before, she never liked religion and hardly believed in God, so with all the changes in her life, she was a little afraid. But she told us after the church meetings that for some reason, the things that used to bring her pleasure before now just leave her feeling empty. We never even asked her to stop drinking, but she did, because it seemed right to her, as well as other changes in her life. That is the power of the Atonement at work, when her very desires and nature have changed. Her life is now in greater harmony with the Savior's teachings and she has found an inner peace that before she never had. We're still working towards a baptismal date with her on the 11th, so please keep her in your prayers so she can arrive at that day ready and without fear.
Well, I must be off. Miracles exist. The Gospel is true and Jesus is our Lord. Have a great week!
-Elder Wilcox
P.S. Dad, it breaks my heart to hear the news about your injury. Hang in there and have faith, and I will be praying for a swift and painless recovery. You are always an example to me. I love you.

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