Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spiritual Soldiers

Things are going well here in Santa Rosa. We had a great week and enjoyed our Thanksgiving with so many of the wonderful members here. Transfers are coming up this Friday, and I hope I have the opportunity to stay here for another transfer. I love my companion, Elder Eaton. He has helped me so much and we work so well together. We look forward to many more of the miracles and blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for us this week.
For everything that is good in this life, we know that there is an opposite. To know good we must all know evil. To know happiness we must know sadness. I know that Heavenly Father has created a plan for us and for our families. We chose before this life to come to earth and to be tested. We all have trials and difficulties, but we know that what we choose to do through the trials that come is what truly defines us.

Elder Eaton and I have seen the blessings of heaven here. We walk and knock on doors, teach lessons, and serve the people in our area. We have been called to be representatives of Jesus Christ and with that comes a power of righteousness. We are doing all we can to be the soldiers God needs in His army. There is so much darkness out there in the world today and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to bring light into the lives of those who dwell in spiritual darkness. In this life we have the freedom to choose between following Jesus Christ or following Satan. As missionaries, we have had the opportunity to see the difference in those that follow Jesus Christ and those that do not. I love these verses from the Book of Mormon:

Moroni 7:16-17

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
 17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
We are all born with the Light of Christ, or in other words, a conscience. It is a gift to all sons and daughters of God, but depending on what we choose to do, that light we will either shine for Christ or flicker in unlit corners with the Adversary. As it says in the verses from Moroni above, whatsoever persuades a man to do good is sent from God, but whatsoever persuades a man to do evil is sent from the Devil. I know that God and His Son, Jesus Christ live. They are as real to me as my friends and family. I know that they live because I feel their presence in my life. Prayers are answered and I am inspired to do good. I also know that the Adversary also is real, but I know that we can overcome him and the temptations he sends our way through prayer.

We are all sons and daughters of God. We all have a light within us that can shine in this world. We can make a difference.We can be spiritual soldiers for righteousness ... and by serving, reading, praying, and going to church we grow the light of Christ within us. I know that I am on the Lord's side. I know that Jesus Christ is going to return soon and I invite you all to prepare for His Second Coming. If you are not on the Lord's side, make adjustments in your life so that you can be on His team. We know in the end that God will win. There is so much happiness that comes from living His commandments and following His son, Jesus Christ. Be spiritual soldiers who march boldly onward.

Los Amo,

Elder Vance

P.S. I invite you all to watch and share the video below. It explains a little bit about the Book of Mormon and why it is so important. It is through reading in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon that we can come closer to our Heavenly Father above.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Like A Fire

What an amazing week it was for me here in Santa Rosa, California. I have been spiritually uplifted and have seen the blessings of heaven. Miracles are happening here in the Santa Rosa mission! A hymn comes to mind as I ponder the events of this last week. The hymn starts, "The spirit of God like a fire is burning..."

I have felt the presence of my Heavenly Father through His Spirit. It is through the Spirit that we all can experience true happiness in this life and feel His presence ever so close to us. In The Bible dictionary it talks about our personal spirits. We are all spiritual beings. We are not mere mortals put on this earth to live and die, but we all have a divine purpose.

It says, "Every person is literally a son or a daughter of God, having been born as a spirit to Heavenly Parents previous to being born to mortal parents on the earth. Thus each one of us is a dual being: an immortal spirit body, clothed with a body of flesh and bone. As defined in scripture, the spirit and the body constitute the mortal soul. A spirit can live independent of a body, but the body cannot live without the spirit. In the resurrection, the immortal spirit is reunited with the same body of flesh and bone it possessed as a mortal, with two major differences: The union will be permanent, and the body will not be subject to aging and death."

I know we are all sons and daughters of God. We all have been sent here for a reason. Even though we are currently living outside the presence of our Eternal Father we can still feel His presence through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit only can work with us if we are pure in heart and have a desire to choose the right.

As defined, the Holy Spirit is the third Person in the Godhead, being a personage of spirit, whereas the Father and the Son each are personages of spirit tabernacled with a tangible body of flesh and bones.

In Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 it says...

22) The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

I know that the Holy Ghost is real, because I cannot duplicate those feelings by myself. I know that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth. He testifies that God is our Heavenly Father and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of this world.  It is through the Holy Ghost that we receive answers from God. God is the source of all truth. If we ask in faith, He can and will send His Spirit down to bring feelings of happiness and peace into our hearts. Those feelings cause "the burning" within us. When we feel The Spirit, our spirits feel like they are at home. We feel a bridge built between our spirits and our Heavenly Father.

In Galatians 5:22-23, we are reminded ...

22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

The family we have been teaching was baptized on Saturday. They got baptized because they received their answers directly from God. The Holy Spirit bore witness to them that what we had been teaching them was true. They acted on the answer they received and followed the example of Jesus Christ. What a blessing it was for me to be able to baptize little Francisco and see the rest of their family enter the waters of baptism as well. There was such a strong spirit in the room and I was impressed that we as missionaries have merely been guides along the path for this wonderful family. Now that they have been baptized and been confirmed, they have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. To be able to know if our church is the true church of Jesus Christ once again established on the earth, one must pray and ask God for an answer. Below are a few verses of scripture that describe how anyone can TRULY know if what we bring to the homes of thousands around the world is true.

1 Corinthians 2:12-14

12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

I know that this gospel is true. I know it is true because I have personally received an answer from my Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. I am grateful for the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father. That connection has been strengthened so much here on my mission through fervent prayer and a desire to feel of His presence in my life. I know that faith is not what we see, but what we feel. I know that true conversion comes through the Holy Ghost. It is through God, the source of ALL truth that we can know which path is the right one. He is willing to answer us, only if we believe. This gospel has changed my life. I know where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going. I know that because we are all sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father and we can receive answers "spirit to spirit" from the Holy Ghost that will stay with us forever. The Holy Ghost is like a fire that is burning and I want to live my life so that it is never put out. I would like to invite you all to read The Book of Mormon and ask God if it is true. Those that do, I promise, you will receive an answer through the Holy Ghost. You will feel a burning deep in your soul, with peace and happiness. That is your answer. This is a promise to all. All are invited to partake of these feelings of pure happiness and joy that will last for the eternities. I know that Jesus Christ lives and one day soon He will come again. The Spirit of God is burning in me; let it burn in you.

Los Quiero Mucho,

Elder Vance

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tall, Straight, and True

Last week we had the opportunity to have a mission conference in the Upper Redwoods here in Santa Rosa. We stayed at a camp owned by the church, named Camp Liahona. It was a marvelous experience to be with my fellow brothers and sisters. Being in the Redwoods was an amazing experience ... my eyes were opened to how much time and effort and beauty our Creator put into forming this world. The camp was so successful, as the focus was on how we can grow our faith and see the miracles happening around us. We all had a moment to find a spot for ourselves in the forest and pray. I had an incredible experience. I felt peace and comfort. I received strength from communicating with my Heavenly Father above. After I finished my prayer I was thinking that we are all results of miracles. We are all here and fulfilling our purpose here on this earth by following Jesus Christ. Sometimes because we are human we fall into routines or ruts or begin to lean or fall. One of the senior missionaries that was running the camp told us something that impacted me so much. We were all in one part of the forest and we were surrounded by giant Redwood trees. He said, "The Redwoods draw our eyes upward. They draw our eyes to heaven."
I looked at the Redwoods around me and it was true. They drew my eyes skyward. I grew so much at Camp Liahona. My faith was strengthened and my desire to share what is so precious to me grew. Elder Eaton and I are doing so well. He is a great elder and has already helped me so much. There are many miracles in store for us here in our area. I know that we must be as the Redwoods; standing tall and standing true for what we believe ... at all times, in all things, and in all places. I know that we are doing the Lord's work and am so happy and so grateful for all the blessings I am receiving. I received word that my sister, Madeline, will be leaving for her mission at the end of February. She will be serving in the Paris, France mission! I was so excited to hear that and I know that she will be an angel to her people over in Europe. I love being a missionary. There is no greater joy I have experienced than sharing this gospel with my brothers and sisters. The family we have been teaching are going to be baptized on November 10th! We are so excited for them and they are so strong in the gospel. I know that we all must stand tall, be true to the covenants we have made with God, and be that person that helps others draw their hearts and eyes to our Heavenly Father above.

Los Quiero Mucho,

Elder Vance