Elder Curtis Sudbury

Elder Curtis Sudbury

Monday, August 2, 2010

From Curtis - August 2, 1020

Dear World,

The month of July has drawn to a close and, out of a goal of 24, we baptized 1.  I've never been much of one to care about goals, so I'm not too devastated, but what is sad is that it could have come to pass.  Perhaps the miracle of 24 people didn't come to pass, but the miracles I've seen have equalled that magnitude.  Eleazar was a miracle.  We have somebody that came to us yesterday, an investigator of about a month, and told us she would like to get baptized.  Another miracle.  We contacted a few families by knocking on doors that we felt impressed to knock.  Those families are accepting the gospel very well.  That is certainly a miracle.  We have seen miracles of protection.  One in particular that comes to mind was when we were going to try to find one of our investigators.  She lives at the end of a group of houses that belong to a family that is very against the church.  When we got to her house, a group of a couple rather large dogs and a couple small dogs all came and started barking and approaching like they were going to attack us.  Groups of dogs are not at all uncommon in Latin America, and they usually bark at you and make a big show, but they act differently when their intention is actually to attack.  This group's intention was clear.  They were getting closer and there was absolutely nowhere to go.  Suddenly a HUGE white dog came from behind us and attacked that group of dogs.  He chased them all into hiding.  I want to be clear, I have never seen that dog before, nor since.  Nevertheless, he protected us. Dogs here don't do that. :P  We have taught lessons where the Lord blessed us so much with His spirit that our investigators felt it, recognized it, and progressed immediately.  We have healed people who were sick, and, in a town where baptisms supposedly can't happen, we baptized.  As for the reason why that goal didn't come to pass, although I felt very strongly about it, I have a couple reasons that I feel strongly that explain that.  First, for a time, both my companion and I lost faith in the possibility of that happening.  Miracles come AFTER the trial of our faith.  Second, I have found that, many times, the Lord helps us put a crazy, ridiculous, miracle level goal that seems almost impossible to attain because, in the working for that goal, we grow so much.  President Chavez said something to me in an interview that stuck with me, "I like having a missionary put a high goal, work to accomplish it, and fail.  If a missionary sets a goal of 24 and works for it, he's going to baptize more than 0." :)  Perhaps a more succinct and clear way to say it comes in a quote that I've loved for some time, "Always shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."  I can honestly say I have learned many times more what I knew in terms of revelation, spiritual guidance, spiritual support, and how God works by working and believing in that goal of 24.  I truly believe that it was possible, but, for a time, we lost faith in the promise.  As a result, I have learned to have faith in myself.  God has used me to bring about miracles, why not in my own life?  I felt strongly about it, but I lost faith in the promise because I was afraid that I had deceived myself.  Though it is wise to be careful that you are not deceived, one thing the Lord has taught me, partially through a few of the letters my family and friends have been sending me, is that I have practised, listened, and know what the Spirit sounds like and to have faith in my own actions.  If I am sincerely trying to serve God and not build up my own glory, God will use me as an instrument in His hands.  "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7, my emphasis).  God sometimes has us work for a goal that we are not going to complete so that we will grow in the process, so that we will become the people we need to be.  A good friend shared an experience with me.  She was proposed to by a recently returned missionary.  She prayed about it and felt good about it, so she accepted.  She began preparing for the wedding spiritually and temporally.  One night, it became clear that he was not the right person for her, a feeling which was confirmed by the Spirit after careful prayer.  I talked with her about it, wanting to know what she thought and she shared something along these lines with me: I learned so much about myself, what I want from a husband, and what I need to do to be ready to get married and be married; God wanted me to work for that goal, even though I wasn't going to complete it, so that I could grow.  My testimony of this particular kind of revelation has grown a lot this last month.  Sometimes God calls us to push against a really big rock and try to move it.  At the end of the day, the week, the month, the year, the decade, etc. of pushing that rock, it may not have ever moved, but our muscles have grown, our minds have been strengthened by the determination of our cause, and we can do so much more, just because we were faithful in pushing against an immovable rock.

I don't know if any of that made sense, but maybe it did :P.  At the very least, try to find method to my madness ;).

We got to go to the visitor's center the other day and see the temple with some of our investigators.  It was fantastic to see the gospel of Christ put out in such clarity as it is in the visitor's center.  There was one panel that had a list of testimonies of the different people in the early days of the church.  One of those testimonies was Emma Smith.  I was particularly interested to listen to what she had to say.  Her testimony went something along these lines:  Joseph could hardly dictate a letter, let alone a book.  Nevertheless, he did dictate that book and, serving myself as scribe, I witnessed how many times he would go to eat and rest and come back hours later and begin the dictation again without ever looking at the notes I had taken or asking me questions.  Such a manner and firmness that he had in dictation would be difficult for a learned, studied man; but for a man so unlearned, and unstudied as Joseph was at the time, it was nothing but impossible.  Only by the power of God could it have been possible.  I truly enjoyed going and my testimony was strengthened.  I loved seeing the temple and am excited to one day be able to take my family there.  :)

There was a poem that I read before I left on a mission, that has come to my mind as I've dealt with my own temptations and thought about my investigators.  As a missionary, this is essentially what I'm trying to do for myself and my investigators.  I hope someone finds strength in this, it gives me strength every time I read it.

At Tara in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness,
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

I love this poem because it describes a bit of the struggle that we have in seperating ourselves and our investigators from the powers of darkness.  We truly must call on all heaven and the universe to stand between us and Satan's powers, but such an action is very possible by faith in Christ.

We had to "leave" Carlos and Blanca.  They didn't want to progress and told us basically that even if they did know that it was true, they wouldn't get baptized.  That does make me sad, but the work goes on.  Perla told us she wants to get baptized.  We have an appointment with her tomorrow.  We found two families, the which are the families of Ignacio and Carlos.  When teaching them both, the Spirit has been quite strong and I have great hopes for them.  Miracles continue in tiny, tiny, dirty, San Juan Tehuixtitlan.  Thank you all for your prayers and help, I have felt especially blessed. :D

On a business note, I cannot keep in touch with many of you, my dear friends, simply because I do not have your addresses, be you on missions or at home.  Should you want me so to write to you, please write me a quick note at the least so that I have your address.  I forgot to bring any of the addresses I had, so if you want a letter, write to me! ;)

Sister Dixon sent me an article that brought tears to my eyes.  It is a missionary experience that helps bring things in perspective for me, and I would like to share it with you all.

Do We Really Know What We Have?
by Scott Anderson

We had an unexpected moment in the mission field. We knocked on a door and a lady said something to us we had never heard, “Come in.” Now remember, I was a German missionary. This never happened to us; not even the members would say that to us. At this point suddenly this dear lady invited us in.

My companion said, “Do you know who we are?”
“You want to talk about religion, don't you?” she said.
“Yes, we do!” explained my companion.
“Oh, come in. I've been watching you walk around the neighborhood. I'm so excited to have you here. Please come into my study.”

We went in and seated ourselves and she sat down behind the desk. She looked at us with a smile, then pointed to three Ph.D.'s hanging over her head. One in theology, the study of religion, one in philosophy, the study of ideas, and one in European history specializing in Christianity.

She then kind of rubbed her hands together and said, “Do you see this row of books here?” We looked at a well arranged row of books. She then said, “I wrote them all. I'm the theology professor at the University of Munich. I've been doing this for 41 years. I love to talk about religion. What would you like to discuss?”

My inspired companion said we'd like to talk about the Book of Mormon. She said, “I don't know anything about the Book of Mormon.”

He said, “I know.”

Twenty minutes later we walked out of the room. We had handed her a Book of Mormon and this trade off that we had been on was over.

I didn't see this lady again for another eight and a half weeks. When I saw her again it was in a small room filled with people as she was standing in the front dressed in white. This theology professor at the University of Munich was well known throughout Southern Germany. She stood up in front of this small congregation of people and said, “Before I'm baptized I'd like to tell you my feelings. In Amos chapter 8:11 it says there will be a famine of the word of God. I've been in that famine for 76 years. Why do you think I have three Ph.D.'s? I've been hungering for truth and have been unable to find it. Then eight and one-half weeks ago, two boys walked into my home. I want you to know these boys are very nice and wonderful young men, but they didn't convert me. They couldn't; they don't know enough.”

And then she smiled and said, “But since the day they walked in my door I have read The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, all of Talmage's great writings, Evidence and Reconciliations by John A. Widtsoe and 22 other volumes of Church doctrine.” She then said something which I think is a challenge for every one of us here. She said, “I don't think you members know what you have.”
In her quiet, powerful way, she said, “After those years of studying philosophy, I picked up The Doctrine & Covenants and read a few little verses that answered some of the greatest questions of Aristotle and Socrates! When I read those verses, I wept for four hours.”

Then she said again, “I don't think you members know what you have. Don't you understand the world is in a famine? Don't you know we are starving for what you have? I am like a starving person being led to a feast. And over these eight and one-half weeks I have been able to feast in a way I have never known possible.”

Her powerful message and her challenging question was then ended with her favorite scripture, “For don't you see, the truth can make you free?” She said, “These missionaries don't just carry membership in the church in their hands, they carry within their hand the power to make the atonement of Jesus Christ of full force in my life. Today I'm going into the water and I'm going to make a covenant with Christ for the first time with proper authority. I've wanted to do this all my life.”

None of us will forget the day that she was baptized. When she was baptized, she got back out and before she received the Holy Ghost, she stood and said, “Now I would like to talk about the Holy Ghost for awhile.” She then gave us a wonderful talk about the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Later two young missionaries, both relatively new, (one had been out about five months, the other three weeks) accidentally knocked on the door of the seminary in Reagansburg. One hundred twenty-five wonderful men were studying to become priests inside. They didn't realize this was the door they had knocked on because it looked like any other door. They were invited in.

In somewhat of a panic, the man said, “I am sorry we just don't have time right now.” The two missionaries were relieved, but then he said, “Would you come back next Tuesday and spend two hours addressing all 125 of us and answer questions about your church?” They agreed that they would, and ran down the road screaming. They made a phone call to the mission president and cried for help. The mission president called us and said, “Do you think that dear lady that you have just brought in to the church would like to come help these two missionaries with this assignment?”

I called her to explain what was to happen, and she said, “More than I would like to eat, more than I would like to sleep, more than...”

I said, “Fine, you don't have to explain.”

We drove her to the seminary and as we went in, she grabbed the two missionaries that had originally been invited, put her arms around them and said, “You are wonderful, young men. Would each of you spend about two minutes bearing your testimony and then sit down and be quiet please?”

They were grateful for their assignment. They bore their testimony and then seated themselves. Then she got up and said, “For the next 30 minutes I would like to talk to you about historical apostasy.”

She knew every date and fact. She had a Ph.D. in this. She talked about everything that had been taken away from the great teachings the Savior had given, mostly organizational, in the first part of her talk. Then the next 45 minutes was doctrinal. She gave every point of doctrinal changes, when it happened and what had changed. By the time she was done, she looked at them and said, “In 1820 a boy walked into a grove of trees. He had been in a famine just like I have been. He knelt to pray, because he was hungry just like I have been. He saw God the Father and His Son. I know that is hard for you to believe that they could be two separate beings, but I know they are.”

She shared scriptures that showed that they are and then said, “I would like to talk about historical restoration of truth.” She then, point by point, date by date, from The Doctrine and Covenants put back the organizational structure of Christ's church.

The last 20 minutes of her talk were absolutely brilliant. She doctrinally put the truth back in place, point by point, principle by principle. When she finished this profound talk, she said, “I have been in a famine as talked about in Amos. You know that because last year I was here teaching you.”

For the first time, we realized that she was their theology professor. She continued, “Last year when I was teaching you, I told you that I was still in a famine. I have been led to a feast. I invite you to come.”

She finished with her testimony and sat down. What happened next was hard for me to understand. These 125 sincere, wonderful men stood and for the next 7 minutes gave a standing ovation. By the time four minutes had gone by I was crying. I remember standing and looking into their eyes and seeing the tears in their eyes, too. I wondered why they were applauding after the message she had given. I asked many of them later. They said, “To hear someone so unashamed of the truth, to hear someone teaching with such power, to hear someone who finally has conviction.”

The truth is what can set us free. Do we really know what we have?

I sent home a few weeks ago a quote called the Fellowship of the Unashamed.  I want to add my testimony and my conviction that I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made.  I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I know He lives.  I know God lives.  I know that all mankind must be born of Christ and, by faith in Him, we can be saved.  I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints is the Church and Kingdom of God on the Earth.  I know that it is true, of God, directed by Him, and I cannot deny it.  I know that this is the only way for peace to come to every human heart and every nation on the Earth.  I know it is true, correct, and, if there are mistakes, they are the mistakes of men and will, in time, be corrected by God for this is His Doctrine and His Gospel.  I hope in Heaven and Earth they seal this testimony.  I know, and I can not and will not deny it.

All my Love,
Élder Sudbury

P.S. I decided to just send this to all of you who's email I had, it might save a little time.  Mom, I got the package, thank you, I won't need any more razors for several years ;).  If you want me to confirm charges, please send me a list, and I will tell you if they are from me or not.  I pulled out a little under 100 dollars last week to help pay for the temple trip, all of which will be reimbursed, so I shouldn't have to pull out money for quite some time...at least that's the plan.  Thanks, fam, for writing me!  I'm going to try to send off the letters I promised tomorrow! :)

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