Serving in the Mexico Mérida Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

You don't have to take my word for it!


How is your first couple days of bishopdom?
PLEASE save me a reunion T-shirt. And some groats, too.

I got the Easter package! Thank you for the socks and for the beautiful picture, Luci! Your use of pasta shapes is most innovative. Hermana De Leon (her new companion) and I sat and ate all the pretzels in one sitting.

I don’t even know how to describe Hermana De Leon. She’s so powerful and intelligent and a very compelling teacher, but at the same time she’s so humble and...soft, I guess. She’s so peaceful. I love spending all day with her.

Thank you also, Jenna, for the foto of the egg. I get all fuzzy inside when you guys think of me like that.

Mom asked in the letter in the Easter package what was it that disillusioned me or made me so interested in finding real truth. It wasn’t one thing in specific, more that realizing that my thinking was so deeply permeated with 'false doctrine' about so many things.

Even in the church, unless we are feasting on the scriptures and making everything a matter of prayer, we are wrong about so many things. And we don’t even know, because our ideas feel fine and are accepted.  Most of the time we don’t even consider them as something we’ve chosen to believe. I guess I just realized how very narrow and fine is the ray of real truth. That’s why I like the definition of repentance in Preach My Gospel so much: “our love for [Christ] leads us to repent…to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will.  Repentance includes forming a fresh view of God, ourselves, and the world.”

There is also the little gem-let that says: “No one can know spiritual truths without prayer.”

Man, if there was one thing I could beat into the heads of the people here is that THERE IS SUCH A THING AS FALSE DOCTRINE. People are so content to say to me “you have my beliefs and I have mine” or “we all are worshipping the same God just in different ways.” Or, something I hear probably two or three times a day, “Soy [religion] de mi manera.” (I live in the [religion] tradition)

I bear testimony that there is such a thing as false doctrine, and that NOT all paths lead to the same God, but rather there is ONE path that leads to ONE God. Christ taught ONE, VERY SPECIFIC doctrine, and if there are two different ideas about what that doctrine is, it is impossible that they are both correct. And if you do not believe in the CORRECT doctrine, the CORRECT instructions Christ gave us to return to God, or if you do not believe in God as He REALLY IS, you are not in the "straight and narrow path" that leads to eternal life, in the "broad path" that leads to destruction. So you had better be really sure that the things you believe in are THE truth.

And the way to do that is not to ask a bunch of people, or study and think really hard, or search the internet. It is to ask God, who is the SOURCE of the truth and cannot lie and WANTS us to know the right path to come to Him because He loves us. So of course He will answer us, His children, to confirm to us the correct path to come to Him.

And as the Reading Rainbow guy says, “You don’t have to take my word for it” that the Church of Jesus Christ is the true and only true church of God. READ THE BOOK! If the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith had to be a prophet and therefore the Church of Christ really has been restored to the earth and this is it. And the way you can know it is true is to-- ask God.

Phew! I explain that to people probably ten times a day.

On a different topic, here is a question I have been thinking about: Why does giving service help us to develop charity? What is it about service that engenders love? How does that work?!

Thank you for your letters, fambly. I LOVE YOU.

Hermana Ludlam

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Joy is the love of good things"

Lia's new companion, Hermana de Leon
Hola Fambilia,

That is my lesson for the Young Women that I was telling you about, Ava-- sorry it turned into a sermon. I'm not sure how I would have given all of that to you in our 5-minute Skype conversation. 

In broaching the subject of dressing modestly, I would like to reference an excellent talk in the April 2014 Ensign called “Eye Single To My Glory.” It talks about how our bodies are glorious creations of God, and how when we dress immodestly it’s like we’re trying to take the glory that is owed to God and bring the praise to ourselves. It’s evidence that the glory of God is not our first priority.

Please:  Go read that talk.

Also, immodest dress is an indicator that we are looking for happiness in something that CANNOT last, i.e., people being physically attracted to us. There’s no doubt that feeling attractive is something that brings happiness, but it is not complete happiness and it is not lasting happiness. Really I’s “distraction of Satan” happiness, who wants us to waste our thoughts and energy towards something that in the end will leave us with nothing (because physical beauty and attractiveness doesn’t last forever.) You've paid the price of your integrity for an empty promise.

Christ tries to warn us to not put our affections and energy on things that won’t last. (2 Ne 8:7-8) I’ve always wondered why the scriptures talk so much about moths eating things and things getting corrupted and the “frail existence”, but it’s because Heavenly Father is trying to help us to discern the lies that Satan is telling us by evaluating what will bring happiness not only now but in the long-term. Like the eternal term.

Christ instructs us to love things that will last (3 Ne 13:19-20). Elder Uchtdorf wrote a FANTASTIC, best-ever, the-whole-point-of-existence talk called “The Love of God.” He says... “Joy is the love of good things.” Oooh-- that is profound. In my less-credible-than-Elder-Uchtdorf thinking, I would also say that joy is “real and lasting happiness.” And we can only have real and lasting happiness when the things that we love are real and lasting.

Go read that talk.  Also, see also Hebrews 1:9, 11 -12.

Also, just as an extra comment, I remember one time in a Youth Conference, some speaker said:  “Dressing immodestly is like rolling around in mud. Sure you will get attention, but from pigs and flies.”

So what do you do if you want the things that bring short-term happiness more than you want the things that bring long-term happiness (like the things they talk about in church or the scriptures). How do you change what you want? Well, you should know that that problem is completely natural and is kind of the whole point of the Atonement. It is to have “a might change of heart” (Mosiah 5:2).  In the last days, God is going to give us exactly what we desire, so we’d better make sure we desire things that will bring real and lasting happiness (Alma 29:4). Christ should be the center of your process of changing your heart. Because of His Atonement, you can be forgiven after wanting and doing things that are wrong and you can be strengthened and-- through a process I still don’t understand-- given a change of desire. But it requires the faith to turn to Heavenly Father and ask.

Hermana Garcia and Lia in Tiger Country
It also requires faith to even decide you want happiness in the long-term-- because you’re trading instant and certain happiness for something in the future that you don’t really even know what it is or if you want it. But you decide to trust God that what he promises is something that you want, you’ll start doing what God has told you to do to achieve that happiness.

My suggestion would be to start with the scriptures. Look for what it is that Heavenly Father is actually promising you, what is eternal life after all, and why would it be something you would want? If the goal is for us to become like Heavenly Father, what is He like that would make us so happy to be with Him and be like Him? (Starting hint: Christ came here in order to show us what Heavenly Father is like.)  And what is it that we have to do to be able to be more like Him?

Other hint: The Book of Mormon answers all of those questions rather fantastically and only in 500-something pages.

And the more you learn and apply, the more you will start to taste this real and lasting happiness that Heavenly Father promises and you will want to ALWAYS and FOREVER have it.

I love you all very much and wish I had another hour to write to you.

Presidente said he’s going to switch the Lideres de Capacitacion (Training Leaders) every transfer, so I’m soaking her up while it lasts. Hermana De Leon is like waves of the sea and white sands all the time...
Love you mucho!
Hermana Ludlam

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baptisms and Botched Transfers

Hola Familia,

I had actually been getting kind of homesick before the call, which hadn’t happened before. I actually thought of you guys and I felt sick. But after the call, I felt all better and now I’m able to concentrate.

Centenario Zoo in Mérida
I know we couldn’t really communicate super well because of the background noise, but I liked it better than when I talk to all of you together, because I feel like we talk about more superficial stuff when it’s not one-on-one. And I don’t really get a feel for how you are doing individually. So I thought it was great.  I WISH I could have had another hour with you though.

Ava, I pretty much wrote you a talk that I was going to give to you. I’ll write part of it in my fambly letters and part of it to your email. 

Here is some family counsel. PLEASE continue in your musical endeavors (that means practicing.). There are lots of things that money can buy in life that really don't give you all that much happiness, but MUSIC is one thing I wish everyone could afford. If I could give one thing to people in Mexico (besides the gospel), it would be first learning how to read and second, being able to really learn music. Even if you guys don’t want to stick with violin because you love violin, stick with it so you can learn how to be a musician. It’s something you can’t do without practice and a lot of routine work, but it’s also priceless. 
Angel's Baptism

Can you tell, I miss music a little bit...?

This is a picture at Angel's baptism (his brother Rolando is the blur, his mama Angeles, Eurinice, Lia, and Hermana Garcia.) Angel can recite you his folletos (pamphlets)and the sacrament prayer. And he already started inviting his friends over to his house to meet with us.

Rosa's Baptism
And Hermana Rosa cannot read, but her retention of gospel information is incredible. We use lots of images and props, and she can even explain principles like apostasy and priesthood. She had to be baptized 6 times before Hermano Willy sort of man-handled her under. She didn’t like getting wet I think.

And... the touristy picture! In a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, Cinco de Mayo fell on a lunes (Monday). The Centenario Zoo in Centro is never open on lunes (p-day) except for last week. There were a lot of ties and white shirts at the zoo that day. It was an impressively high-quality zoo. Lots of Kitties... 

Thank you for the humility quote, Mum! I think one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned on my mission is how to pray and get results (pretty much how to work the system). God can only give us specific answers when we ask specific questions. And God won’t give us things unless we ask, because it denies our agency to give us help we don’t want, or if we don’t demonstrate that we want His help by asking for it. So I pretty much pray about everything. I’ve realized my whole life my prayers were never really a communication with God, just talking to myself or a ask-thank sort of interaction--instead of communicating both ways. It takes faith and hope to ask for specific things, and it takes faith and trust to be looking for the specific answers throughout the day.

Oh you guys-- it was a mission nightmare come true! Last night (at like 11 pm) our district leader called us to tell me and Hermana Garcia were staying together (hooray). And so we were happy and went to bed contentedly thinking of the wonderful, worry-free p-day we were going to have the next day. And then the next morning we just happened to be talking with Elder Olson who casually asked what Hna Garcia thought of her new transfer. And we were like “Elder, that’s not a funny joke,” but he was dead serious. You guys THEY MESSED UP OUR CAMBIOS (transfers). That’s a big deal! Cambios are a very emotionally-invested affair.

So we called the assistant and learned that Hermana Garcia was moving to Chitchinitza with a different companion and we were supposed to be at the stake center in an hour! So amid the tears of Hermana Garcia we start shoving all of her stuff into suitcases and trying to do the last-minute cleaning and... ya estuvo. Mi nueva compañera es (My new companion’s name is) Hermana de Leon, who is everybody’s favorite sister missionary. She is SO sweet and composed and just kind of like having a mom. She is from Mexico but lived in PORTLAND for a few years. Pictures next week.

Also, I gave a lesson in Young Women’s class on Sunday about modesty that I want to write about next week too.

Eternal Love,
Hermana Ludlam 

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Whole Hour on Mother's Day!

Dear Family that I Love,
Hermana Garcia did Lia's hair.  Mexicali Trensas!

I had to put your Christmas card picture away because I kept getting distracted. I get to call on Sunday the 11th at 6 pm my time. I’m not sure what time that is for you. And... we get to talk for a whole hour!!! In the leadership conference, one of the sisters asked: “President how much time do we have in the call, 40 minutes or an hour?” and before he can answer all of us sisters (we all sit on the front row) start mouthing at the same time and holding up our fingers. And he looks at us for a second and then says, “Oh... okay,” and the whole chapel cheers. I love our President.

Can we do more one-on-one conversations this time?

I typed up my presentation for the conference. :) It went SO well. I think people were not used to receiving practical, applicable advice in trainings so everybody got really excited about it. I’m attaching it too because I don’t know how well the formatting will send. For you future missionaries (and your names all end in 'a') and for member missionaries, too (all Lia's sister's names end in 'a').  (You can find these notes in a separate blog post below, “How to Contact Effectively”.)

I think this training will actually make a big difference. The reason we aren’t baptizing as a mission is because everyone just keeps teaching and teaching the same problem investigators that they never have time to go out and find the people that are actually going to get baptized. One of the reasons we are doing well in our area is because we contact a TON of people and drop a ton of people, and the ones that we keep are all de oro. Teaching is fun.

Baptism of  Juvenicio, Tuzcano (Harper's comp), Harper y Jesus
At first I felt bad because I was basically making decisions about who was going to be saved or not, but one of the elders in the conference was inspired with a great analogy: That in the emergency room, the doctors can’t treat everyone. They assess the patients to see who is the most likely to survive, and work on them first. If they don’t choose, they both die.

It’s true. We have a VERY precious limited amount of time, and if we waste it on people who are not going to progress, not only are those investigators not going to be saved, but neither all the people who WOULD have listened that you never found. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt for the prepared ones.

Look what we found at Church Distribution!  No more backpack.
I was also thinking about why it is that God prepares some people and not others. I thought “if he loves us all the same, why would he put things in the life of SOME people to prepare them to hear the gospel so they can be saved.” I found a great answer in Alma 5.

Nobody ever responded to my question about what was the difference between a full-time missionary and a member missionary.

Hermana Ludlam

Lia's Notes: How to Contact Effectively

How To Contact Effectively
(D&C 42:8-Have to FIND those who will receive. D&C 29:7- The chosen will listen to you. Alma 13:24- People being prepared before you get there)
Characteristics of Effective Contacting
1.       DECIDE (to yourself) and COMMUNICATE (to them) that the person is someone that you want to get to know (shh… ‘flirting’). The person is a potentially glorious child of a Divine Being.
a.       “We don’t make contacts, we make connections.” (MTC Experience’)
b.      First make observations (Mormon 1:2-quick to observe) and then ask questions. It should be a conversation, meaning that you listen to the person and then respond specifically to what they said. The contact should talk more than you. (Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary, Elder Bednar, June 2011)
c.       Should be normal and happy and real. Smile. (PME 176- should be ‘warm and genuine’)
2.       Pray to find them (before) and what to say (during). You’ll only make an impact if you’re doing and saying what Heavenly Father wants you to, and He can’t tell you that unless you ask. (D&C 42:14- Spirit only received by the prayer of faith, 2 Ne 32:9- Pray always, do nothing without first praying)
3.       Use scriptures. That is where your power comes from. (Alma 31:5- Preaching of the word more powerful effect than sword.
4.       If a person isn’t moving, they are your target. (On the bus, in line, sitting in street, waiting for a bus, working in their lawn, etc.)
 a.       Need to teach lessons short enough and far apart enough that you’re not always in a rush to the next lesson and can stop to talk (D&C 61:3 – Don’t move so swiftly while people on either side are perishing in unbelief.)
5.       Fill ALL the forms of your Future Investigator table in your agenda (FULL name, address with HOUSE NUMBER, phone, when available, and how/where you met them) , and in the area book when you get home. Put them on the map. Write yourself clues to remember who they are. (Mni 6:6- record so you can REMEMBER)
 6.       If possible, teach a lesson in the moment. If not possible, set a specific appointment.
 7.       Give EVERYONE a or passalong card with your names, number, direction of the chapel, and the meeting time. Write the date and time of the appointment if you made one.
 8.       If it becomes contentious, end it immediately. You might say the perfect thing, but when they aren’t listening you are wasting precious time. (3 Ne 11:30- contention is not of me, should be done away.)
9.       Ask for references from EVERYONE.
a.        Question is not ‘Do you know someone?´ but ‘Who do you know?’ (PMG 159)
 What should I say? (The Key, Mind-Changing Principles to bring up)
·         The Restoration. In every conversation. (PME 159)
o   There are lots of people who say ‘I’m not interested in changing religions—it doesn’t matter because they all lead to God.’ Lots of times, people don’t want to listen until we say something like ‘Christ only taught ONE doctrine of how to live with God and be happy, not multiple. Many of these truths were lost because people took them out of the Bible or changed them. But because God loves us, He doesn’t want us to not know the way to come back to Him. He’s restored the truths that were lost. Would you like us to visit you to teach you more about these restored truths?´ You’d be stunned at how many people change their mind and give us their datos.
·         Families Can Be Forever. (PMG 159)    
o   People like to talk about their families, almost everyone has one, and usually it’s one of the things people feel most strongly about and want help with. Really, the whole point of the first bullet point, Restoration, is about how to have eternal families.
o   Also, the Gospel helps families have more love, purpose, unity, peace.
·         Purpose of Life (They are a Child of God with Divine Potential, Here on Earth to Learn to Be Like God.)
o   Lots of time this leads to the idea of PRIORITIES (almost always ‘work vs. church’) and you can back them up to the wall of faith. Often people realize they don’t really have faith and need to learn how. (3 Ne 13:28-33)
o   Teach that our actions and what we do with our life have CONSEQUENCES now and for the eternities, so you’d better be doing it right.
o   Then tell them there are specific instructions from God about how to live life correctly and happily.
·         There really is guidance in life to discern what is truth – Modern prophets, Restored scripture, the SPIRIT
·         Their current religion and relationship with God/Christ.
o   Instead of ‘How is your relationship with God/Christ?’ (answer: ‘bien’), rather ‘Do you have a relationship with God?’ (works much better.)
·         Use the 10 points of ‘How To Begin Teaching’ (PMG 176), in a way that is part of the conversation.