Monday, June 23, 2014

Good week! We get this feeling that our area is just about to explode. I'm not sure why we think that, but we get the feeling that we're soon going to have more to do than we have time for. Buckle up!

I had the opportunity last week to lead out my area on exchanges with one of the assistants to the President. It was a really good learning experience, and we had a ton of fun! He says I'll likely stay in this ward for a little while, and that he's excited for me to see what it's like when school rolls around at ASU. We still don't have a super big teaching pool, but we've really been putting effort into the personal mission plans with our members and hopefully they will pay off in the coming weeks!

I've found a new favorite scripture, found in Alma chapter 11. It's when Zeezrom is trying to convince Amulek that there is no God, and tries to get him to deny the faith, etc. I love Amulek's response: "Oh thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?" While it's pretty bold and kind of funny, it actually helps a lot.
When I think, "Maybe I can just sleep in for five more minutes..."
Oh thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?
When we see very good-looking, scantily clad daughters of God or get caught in the middle of an "Undie Run" on ASU campus...
Oh thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?
When members offer me chocolate brownies, smothered in chocolate with chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream
Oh thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?
Okay, so maybe not quite so harsh, but you get the picture. It's super effective! So, any time you feel yourself getting discouraged, angry, tempted, or the like, just think: Oh thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?

So last week sometime, we were walking around an apartment complex and this guy yells to us, "Hey, my Elders!" We look over to see a tall black guy with dred-locks and Tom and Jerry tattooed on his left and right arms, respectively. We had no idea who this guy was, as we'd never seen him at church. He tells us that his name is Andre, and that he used to go to church but hasn't been active for a long time. We invited him to FHE last week. He came. We invited him to church. He came. We had a lesson with him the other night and he said that he's never received the priesthood, but that he would like to progress toward it. Super cool! Just goes to show that God will put people in our path when we're following the Spirit. He texted us after church and thanked us for the "open arms", and that he wants to start listening to better music and hanging out with better influences. Really neat!

Welp, not much else to say. Glad to hear that everyone's still well. Hope you have a fantastic week!

-Elder Cox
June 16

That's what this week has been! A mind-plosion. Like an explosion, but of the mind. Like... my mind has exploded. Get the picture? Literally every single personal study I've had this week has had weight and significance to it. A little while back I was starting to study just random "deep doctrine" crap that has nothing to do with missionary work or salvation. So recently, I decided to go back to the very basics. Faith. Repentance. Our relationship with God, etc. It's amazing how much new perspective you can get just studying the basics. I realized that we so often take for granted how easy it is to maintain a relationship with God and maintain happiness. Of course the primary answers: Read, pray, go to church. The basics. I realized that even though these things are so easy (most of the time...), they can stamp such valid testimonies to our souls. I guess for myself, I was just thinking myself to be at a much higher spiritual plan of existence that simply reading, praying, and taking the sacrament couldn't possibly help me progress any more. I need to have way bigger stuff happen in order to further my testimony. FALSE. I'm ranting again, but it's all truth. Reading, praying, going to church, faith, repentance, baptism, the holy ghost, etc. etc. It's all true.

Another thing: Agency. When I first came out on my mission I remember saying that I wish I could just take people's agency away so that they'd be baptized and just accept the blessings of the gospel. More recently, while we were fulfilling our assignment as zone leaders, we had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about agency. We started applying the principle of leadership that Joseph Smith taught: "Teach [people] true principles, and let them govern themselves." It's so true! We had the opportunity to apply that this week several times, and it was such a learning experience. I realized that if we just tell people what to do, they really aren't going to learn anything from it. We just told them what we think, taught them, and invited them to act, or use their agency. I realized even more, that my parents are geniuses (geni? Genies?) because that's exactly how they raised me. "Hey Dad, can I go to my friend's house even though it's Sunday?"
"What do you think?"
But as I realized this I understood so much more why it's important. I wouldn't learn anything if you would have just said "Yes" or "No". I dunno. I understand it a lot better in my head than I can express over an email, but it's still SICK.

Even though we haven't really taught many lessons this week, and our teaching pool is pretty much evaporated with the scorching heat of summer semester at ASU, this week was still a super dope learning experience. Most of it just dealt with leadership and helping others in our zone to have converting experiences. Something I realized is that I'm on a mission to convert investigators, yes, but also myself, my companion, and other missionaries. That's been our focus as we've been trying to find more people to teach. We want to help our zone members have converting experiences that will help them be converted throughout their lives.

A cool miracle that happened this week! We were walking through an apartment complex looking for a member's apartment. There's a guy hangin' out at the pool and he says, "Hey, you guys lost?"
My thoughts: "Oh freak, we're about to get shot."
Nah, just kidding, it was a totally non-threatening situation. Anyway, so this guy tells us that he needs a good influence in his life. Well perfect sir, we happen to know some representatives of Jesus Christ that can help you find peace in this life and eternal joy in the life to come. It's us. So we sat with this guy and just listened to his problems. He had separated from his wife who was living in the same apartment complex he did, and he had been drinking and wanted to go see his kids. He asked our advice on whether or not he should go over there, and we told him that it'd probably be better if he went home and slept for the night and went and saw them later. Anyway, we were able to teach this guy about the Gospel and it was cool and stuff.

Thanks for all the support and prayers and stuff! My testimony is booming! The Atonement is real! I love being a missionary! I love my family! Have a great week!

-Elder Cox

Sunday, June 8, 2014

That's the high I think of this week. 108 degrees. Are you kidding me?! I've literally never felt anything so hot in my life! It probably got even higher, it's just that when we checked it was 108. I couldn't even believe it.... Well, I definitely can believe it being out in the sun. But man, it's like standing in front of a fire. All day. It's fun though, at least we have a car and aren't biking around all day. Sheesh! It's getting up there though. I drink so much water but I hardly ever pee because I'm sweating so much! Tmi? All well!

So we had MLC (Mission Leadership...Council?) the other day. I went to one before when they "randomly" selected a bunch of the younger missionaries to attend, so I guess technically it was my second one. But basically in MLC we'll analyze the statistics for each of our zones and council on what we can improve on, what we can do to help missionaries, etc. etc. So it was pretty cool! It makes me feel like I'm a manager in a big business or something, and I have to have good statistics or someone gets fired or something. Okay, not really, but I can definitely see the practical skills I'm getting being a zone leader. I can see how I could use these skills later on in life. It's really interesting! But President Toone has extended the challenge (did I mention this already...?) that every single companionship in the mission baptizes this transfer. It's a pretty awesome challenge and a lot of the missionaries are getting set up for it. We had 5 baptisms in our zone just last week, which is pretty decent! The goal is that we all baptize someone this transfer, and it will get us on track to be able to achieve weekly baptisms in every area. That's the vision of President Toone, and so we have the task as zone leaders to help train and motivate to help achieve that vision. Another thing they brought up in MLC is a personal mission plan that's designed to help us work better with the members. The idea is that you brainstorm a list of anyone and everyone that you could possibly share the gospel with. Then, prayerfully pick 2-3 names. After that, you set a goal as to how you're going to help these people come closer to Christ, and set a date for when you'll have it accomplished. So, that's what we've been doing is going around to all the members of our ward and encouraging them to do this. Should set us up for long-term success!

Tomorrow is our zone meeting, which is basically like district meeting only... for the zone. So Elder Bressler and I have been preparing a training that we're going to give our zone that's going to help them roll this mission plan out. We've decided that we're going to do everything we can to lead with love rather than fear or something else. So far it seems like we've gotten pretty good feedback whenever we praise our stewardship. We just find ourselves talking about various missionaries in the zone and how awesome they are, so I had the thought that if we think they're awesome, we should call them and tell them they're awesome. So, that's what we've been doing! It makes me feel good, and I'm sure it helps them feel good as well. I'm sure that's how Christ would do it! That's really the trick, trying to do everything the way Christ would do it.

We have some really awesome people that we're teaching that are ssooo ready for baptism! The catch? They don't live in the boundaries of our area, or the boundaries of our mission, for that matter. Even more ridiculous, the missionaries in the other missions aren't contacting these people, so they've just kept coming to church and meeting with us. We seriously have two people that could be baptized tomorrow if we had the authority to do so. We're planning on asking the bishop for his blessing on going forward with their baptisms.

I've really re-learned how awesome prayer is lately. I was reading in PMG about how prayer should be energizing and uplifting and super awesome and I realized that's not exactly how it was for me. I have a tendency to pray for the same things over and over without really putting my heart into it, so to speak. But as I've changed that and prayed with "real intent" and actually putting my heart into the things I'm saying, I really notice a different feeling in my prayers. I think I forget sometimes that it's not just a laundry list of things you need from God, then you stop. It's actually communication where you can receive the Spirit and revelation. Just goes to show, it can be really easy to take the basics for granted. We always hear pray, read, go to church as the things we need to do but we don't really think about it. It seriously makes such a huge difference! I dunno exactly where I was going with that, but it's true.

Anywho, I'm still having a blast down here in Tempe. It's nice and hot, the work is great, the Spirit is strong and the baptisms flow forth! I love the work! And I love YOU!

-Elder Cox