Mom and all, (1/23/90)
I’m going to preface this first paragraph with a comment about the appearance it gives of missionaries using "calculating tactics" to convince people into the Church. While we were certainly trained to do things that would increase the chances that someone would join the Church, it was always out of a genuine love for the people and a desire to have them experience what we felt was the best thing in the world: the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, there was never any question that what actually did the converting was not our own machinations, but the Spirit. In fact, it was widely understood that if an elder "convinced" someone to be baptized without allowing the Spirit to confirm to the investigator that what they were doing was right, the new "convert" would very quickly leave the Church.
That’s downright exciting news about the M’s [next door neighbors]. If she/they decide to take the discussions, the most effective way is to have a member/friendshipper (you) there while they’re taught. It adds to the comfort and spirit and you can support what the elders say. Getting M [neighbor daughter that’s my age] to seminary would be fantastic because if you find it difficult to bear testimony in on-on-one (I do too!), a group setting could also be good. Also, if they’re not ready for discussions, have them over for a video (Together Forever, Heavenly Father’s Plan, How Rare a Possession). It’s easy for people to quickly slip back into complacency though, so I’ve found the best way to keep curiosity up is daily contact. The more regularly I contact my investigators, the faster they progress toward baptism. Doesn’t have to be a spiritual discussion every day, just let ’em know you care. Exciting!
Read something about the Lamanites in "Joseph Smith the Prophet." Something about the day coming when "we will see a nation baptized in a day" and that nation of Lamanites going to Zion to build the New Jerusalem – helped by us. So, South America and Mexico could be busy during Armageddon, I dunno. I only seem to get more and more confused as I learn more of what’s supposed to happen. All I know is that it’s 10 short years to 2000. I remember 1980 vividly… Someone calculated how long it would take to fulfill the remaining prophecies of the signs of the times. It could all happen in as little time as 6 months! Scary.
I’m not sure what this next paragraph was referring to, but I suspect my mom asked about this because of something my sister(s) were going through.
What helped me out of depression? Good question. Depends on the type of depression. Depression from stress was cured by some violent music and a good thrash around the dance floor. Depression from failure is difficult because it’s often a self-perpetuating loop. A good talk with a buddy did help – listening to myself moan about this and that got old fast. When they noticed, a little note or card of encouragement did me wonders (funny, since I usually downplay that sort of thing). In my blackest moods, I sometimes wrote really depressing poetry. When I was finished describing how I felt in the most tangible way I know how, I was able to look at myself and say "you’re pitiful. Cheer up." and I did. Sometimes, I was cured half way thru the poem – doubled over in fits of laughter at myself. (I exaggerate, but you get the point.)
I used to be quite the poet. I probably should have kept a lot more of them than I did. They were definitely more cathartic than artistic, though. So keeping them wouldn’t have benefited anyone very much.
T’s training already, huh? [referring to a friend that started his mission about the same time. "training" here means he’s been given a new missionary to train.] Of course, he’s been out a little longer, too. I could train in my next area. That happens a lot sooner than I thought. Then again, I could be a junior companion my whole 2 years. But, I’m dreaming. Your average elder (here, anyway) considers Assistant to the President the bottom rung, with Greenie being at the top. You can look at that attitude two ways: laziness (less work, the better) or humility (1st shall be last, he who would be master, be servant…) I just find it funny. Elder B just handed me my family tree. See, Elder B is my "dad" because he trained me (like father, like son and all sorts of funny things come out of that). So, I’ve got a "family" tree going back to 1984.
President really wailed on us at interviews. Repent! I guess the phone call he got (on Christmas Eve!) asking what was wrong with our mission came indirectly from the Twelve. Whoa. Get out and find! Work our tails off! Statistics for the year come in and people get motivated. Makes me laugh. Numbers weren’t too funny though. Baptisms in this mission are actually down from last year. Not behind in its increase, but actually down. There was a total of 8 baptisms in my area last year. 3 were while I was here. It’s tough, though. A recent study showed England being the second lowest in religious activity in the Western world. Only Hungary was more irreligious. Elder B puts the percentage of regular church attenders at between 2-5%. Some environment. USA was around 55%. Of course, President followed those statistics with this: "So what’re you gonna do about it? Give up? Hell no!" ‘Twas quite a pep talk.
I can still remember that meeting. President was quite a bit more animated than usual. I recall coming away from it with a new found acceptance of realistic expectations, but also a determination to do everything in our power regardless of those expectations.
It’s confirmed: we get 4 more elders and a car in the area on the 31st. I probably won’t be in the car, which is OK. I could do a lot of good in it, knowing the area, but I like the humility bicycles bring.
I did leave all my tax info at home, right? Hope so. Looks like I could be paying taxes in 2 countries and it’s bound to get confusing. You should be able to use the 1040EZ. Good luck. 🙂
Well, Cheerio for now. I’m off to Nottingham for a conference on Wed. I’ll say "hi" to Robin Hood for you.
Love, Elder Chris
PS Guess I kinda changed my mind about the suit. I found a nice looking double-breasted one for 40 pounds ($65). New. Couldn’t resist. So, Merry Christmas to me!