Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Letter #4

Good morning my dearest family!
Today I have a series of relatively unrelated stories and turn out to all be very much related.
Several weeks ago, the coordinating sister in my district came up to me and asked me to play a cello-piano duet with her and to audition (there are about 6 meetings during the course of one week that require a musical number and so every Thursday the a few members of the MTC presidency hold auditions).  Of course I agreed and the song she chose - "I Stand All Amazed" was one of the most beautiful arrangements of a church hymn I've ever heard. 
The following week, an elder from a zone across the hall asked me to do the same thing (by this time I had made the "always-willing-to-accompany-for-whoever-may-need-me" list) but for a violin piece.  It was beautiful as well.  Kaye Craig would've been so [proud.  I walked in to audition and there was Stephanie Horan.  We were representin'!  Anyway, we were accepted for both auditions.
Last week, about Thursday, I received two letters in my mailbox stating that I would be playing the one with Sister Pederson at Relief Society on Sunday and the other with Elder Smith - going to the Phillippines by the way - on Monday for Senior Missionary Orientation. 
Sunday came around, and Sister Pederson was VERY sick.  Turns out she has had problems for years with her stomach, but those problems decided to manifest themselves in the most awful way 3 days before her departure date to the field.  She told me that she would possibly not be leaving on Wednesday, but that she had received a blessing and was hoping for the best.  I immediately knew two things:  She would not be leaving on Wednesday.  And I would be her companion.
Anyway, she received a blessing and we went through with the performance.  Turned out the first counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency was our speaker. Needless to say, there was a bit of stress in the air.  But holy. cow.  It was amazing.  The spirit that filled the room after we played was... tangible.  It could have been sliced with a butter knife.  It was so unbelievably powerful.  Afterward, she came down and thanked and hugged us personally.  You may or may not know that when I perform in church setting, I imagine as if Christ were sitting in my audience.  I remember that we would never judge me, but simply loved me, and thank me for praising him through music.  After that performance, "I [stood] all amazed at the love Jesus offers me."  It was just SO POWERFUL.
Before that performance, Elder Smith had found me and told me that his departure date had been moved up so we would have to skip our performance the next day.  After Relief Society, I told this to Sister Nalley - the MTC President's wife.  However, I told her, I was prepared at any moment to perform and, if she needed, I would happily step in.  She made me look her straight in the eyes and promise that it would go well and then said "Great. See you tomorrow."  So the next day, I played for those wonderful seniors who are sacrificing so much - "How Great Thou Art."  I once again imagined that Jesus sat in my audience, and how it would feel to truly say to him "My Lord, My God, How Great Thou Art."  Dah.  So awesome. 
Last week, both of our investigators accepted the invitation for baptism.  The lessons were very similar, both completely guided by the Spirit and both structured in almost the exact same way... quite by accident.  Well, let's be honest, nothing is by accident.  We taught a little about the plan of Salvation and then asked them, right then and there, to pray in front of us to know if what we were teaching was true.  We had them kneel with us and read out loud Alma 22: 16-18 (hope that's  right?).  Where the missionary Aaron is teaching.  We asked them to replace the name "Aaron" with "Las Misioneras" and read the words to us right there as we knelt.  Then, they asked.  We waited in silence and let the Spirit teach until they were ready to talk and then we testified that the power they felt was truly that of the Holy Spirit.
The following lesson was "La Doctrina de Cristo" or really just, The Gospel.  Faith in Jesus Christ and His everlasting Atonement, repentance, covenants, the Holy Ghost, and persevering to the end.  That on which the entire church is centered and on which all relies.
It went well... but I had been struggling.  I cannot possibly describe to you the pressure and stress that can come with being a literal "representative of Jesus Christ" called and set apart to call others to repentance.  I also have a special power to promise blessings as people worthily make and keep covenants - often very specific blessings.  How can I POSSIBLY call others to repentance when I am a sinner myself?  Of course, as you know, I have never done anything extraordinarily terrible or even worthy of confession, but I have just felt absolutely wracked with guilt for things in my past, regardless of their triviality.  It is literally painful.  It can hurt so bad and it makes testifying impossible. So, last night, I talked with my Branch President.  It was terrifying.  I was bawling.  But it was so worth it.  I just needed someone to reassure me that I can be clean.  Truly, really clean.  Because that's what I have been promising investigators.  And I needed to know for myself.  That man.  Holy cow.  Grandpa Thomas's letter last week talked about taking upon ourselves the countenance of Christ.  That is truly what happened to him.  It honestly felt like I was talking face to face with Jesus Christ himself.  I felt healed and made whole and I KNEW and KNOW that the healing power of the atonement is very, very real.  With Mavel, we shared the story of the woman who simply touched the clothes of Christ to be made whole.  All we have to do is come to our loving Heavenly Father, that all-powerful and perfect God, in prayer, and plead for forgiveness, and we can be made clean.  Presidnet Wilkins asked me to read Mosiah 4 - which I would recommend with all of my heart.  I read it before bed last night and couldn't sleep most of the night because I was just SO HAPPY.  True repentance leads to a desire to do no evil and THAT is how I felt and feel and I am just so happy.  So so so happy.  I can't possibly describe i t in words.  Now I can truly testify of this healing power and of the reality of Christ's Atonement.  There is no other way. No other power greater than that.
Anyway, so as of last night, Sister Pederson was made my companion.  I absolutely ADORE her.  We had an extra bed in our room so it all worked out perfectly (reason for everything). The first thing we did this morning was head to the temple for initiatories.  She needed to hear the physical blessings and I needed to hear the spiritual ones.  Oh baby I was crying all over again.  The power that comes from the temple.  Dah.  "I Stand All Amazed" at "How Great [He Is]."    Also, I was thinking how the Lord always prepares the way for His work to go forth.  Please note that the other Provo temple was announced before the missionary announcement.  This temple is becoming so swamped I wonder if it will have to become an "Only Missionary" temple.  Anyway, just something to think about.  Just as I was prepared to play in that meeting, the Lord prepares His people for His work.
This is my last normal week. Next week we have orientations and whatnot!  Crazy!
I love you all so much.
Hermana Thomas

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