Mom, I need to repent. I told you I'd write more often, then never made time for it. I will do better. Today, unlike any monday in the last 4 months, I am setting aside two hours to email.
Let me begin by telling you about my week. We had to move (again!) this last week, which ate three days of our time. It would have taken a lot less time, but we had to spend 2 days cleaning the apartment that we were moving into. The Elders who had lived there were such a mess! They left dirty dishes in the dishwasher, wet towels in the washer/dryer combo (they had started growing a moldy layer of fuzz) and the cabinets were trashed.
- a bunch of personal stuff just for Mom and Dad -
I was incredibly sick for about 2 weeks. I missed church one week, missed all but Sacrament Meeting the next week, and we didn't accomplish much in the way of missionary work. I feel like I let my zone down, but there's not much I could do. I had a 102+ Degree fever for three days, and for the rest of the time I struggled to breathe and to keep anything down. I was very dizzy. While I was sick, I witnessed a day of miracles that I want to tell you about. It started early in the morning. I woke up while the sun hadn't risen yet, and realized I was shivering. I was cold. I eventually coaxed myself out of bed, and turned the heater on. It was 72 degrees in the apartment, and I turned it up to 78. I wrapped myself in blankets and tried to stop shivering. I was shivering so hard it hurt. I was getting really frustrated. No matter how warm it was, I was freezing. After about 10-15 helpless minutes, I realized I should just pray. I said a prayer thanking my Heavenly Father for everything that I had, and asked him to give me the strength to overcome this temporary struggle. I told Him that I knew that He could do all things, and that I had faith that I would stop shivering when I ended the prayer. I closed my prayer, and instantly started to relax. Within moments my body went from uncontrollable shivering that was causing me to bite my tongue, to resting peacefully on the bed, warm, and comforted. I was so grateful.
That was my first miracle. Every prayer I said that day was answered instantly. I asked for the strength to get up and teach a new investigator that night. I was blessed with strength. As we departed from Elder ____________'s home in South Orange/North Tustin at 4:50, I prayed that we would be guided to our appointment quickly and efficiently and safely. We had to go to Fullerton, a 28 minute drive according to the GPS because of rush hour traffic. Our appointment was at 5.
The freeways were incredibly clear. I could not believe it. That doesn't happen on a Thursday night around 5:00. More incredible, is that traffic was stopped beginning at the exit we got off. It was literally bumper to bumper all the way past Yorba Linda Ave on the 57. We got off at our exit at 5:01, and I prayed that Heavenly Father would turn the light green. He did. I prayed it would remain green until we were safely through the intersection. It turned yellow after we completed our turn. We prayed for a parking spot (difficult near Cal State Fullerton) and one was open right under this shade tree. All of this felt surreal. I, at this time, had a fever, but it was being held at bay by any number of miracles. I hadn't taken any ibuprofen or Tylenol since the morning.
We have never met __________ before, but he had come to church the previous Sunday. He wanted to meet with us, as he had a lot of questions. He lived right off of Yorba Linda and Associated, which were both very busy streets. Because of the backed up traffic on the 57, many people were using Associated to cut through to Imperial Hwy. We don't know which apartment is ___________'s, but we pray that we will find it. It is the only one with the open door, and we see him inside. We meet _________, and get to know him a little. His apartment is bare, bar two couches he had in the front room. The AC is unplugged, and all the windows are open. It is very hot, and I am hotter. We open with a prayer and ask that the Spirit may be present in the lesson.
We teach _________ about the restoration of the gospel. We conversed about how God is our literal Heavenly Father, and how He created each one of us. We taught about how because of this, He has an interest in all of our lives, and wants what is best for each of us. We talked about families, and how they are instrumental in our Father's plan. We talked about Prophets, and what their role in civilization is. We talked about how people were wicked and rejected the prophets, leading to periods of apostasy. _________ was very sharp, and pointed out that God always loves his people. This is true, which is why he eventually called a new prophet, to teach and edify and lead His people. Eventually, we taught, all of God's children will have the opportunity to accept or reject His Gospel, regardless of who they are or when they lived.
Then we talked about Christ, and his earthly ministry. He is the center of everything we do, we explained, and as such all things that are taught in church or talked about in the gospel should relate back to Him. We talked about some of His teachings, and about his last week as a mortal man. The sacrifice that He made for us allows all of us to obtain eternal life. We talked about the last period of apostasy. So great was the wickedness of the people that they crucified the Son of God. While they authority to teach and baptize was left with the Apostles, when the Apostles were gone, the authority left with them.
"Following the pattern that God had established for teaching His children, after this period of great apostasy, what needed to happen next?" we asked.
"Well, God would need to call a prophet, to lead His children back to the light," __________ replied.
We talked about Joseph Smith, and who he was. As we get closer to the First Vision, I get fearful that something will happen to pull the Spirit out of the room. The windows are open, and the traffic outside is already very loud. There are large diesel trucks hauling their loads up the hill outside, creating a noisy situation. Every time I have taught the first vision, something has happened to distract the feeling of the Spirit. I have had phones ring, spiders crawl down peoples shirts, knocks at the door, and other associated things happen. I began praying in earnest that we would be able to feel the Spirit powerfully and that nothing would happen to disrupt the experience. My companion and I had planned earlier that he would give the account. He had a strong testimony of the First Vision. We have _________'s full attention as Elder Spencer begins his recount of the First Vision. I prayed hard for the Spirit to be in the room.
I closed my silent prayer about a third of the way into the account. As my companion said "I saw two personages," all the traffic outside stopped. It became completely silent in the apartment for the first time in the whole lesson. The Spirit filled the room powerfully, and for a moment after my companion stopped speaking, we couldn't say a word. Finally, I asked __________ if he noticed how quiet it got. He said "It's quieter now than it's been the entire time I've lived here!" I asked him what he felt. He said " It feels... warm... and comforting. It feels like everything is ok right now." I asked him if he believed what we had shared with him.
He said, "Yes."
It was a powerful reminder to me that Heavenly Father is closely involved in this work. The traffic started again, and we had to raise our voices to compete against the noise, but we had all felt the Spirit in a powerful, converting way. It was the most powerful experience I have had in accounting the First Vision on my mission.
After the lesson, we returned home. My fever had taken over, and I feel into a deep sleep, concluding my day of instant miracles. I am so grateful to have been a part of the amazing experience I had. I have never had so many prayers answered so instantaneously or powerfully in my life before, but it was a good reminder that with faith in Christ, all things are possible.
A few weeks ago, before President Bowen left, I had the opportunity to ride in a van with just him and my companion. We went to go pick up the laptop I had ordered from Micro Center. I asked President Bowen what was the most important thing he learned in his 3 years as a Mission President. He said, "that the Holy Ghost will communicate the truth of all things to you if you are worthy. Too many people misunderstand that. They think that it only has to do with gospel topics or The Church, but that's not what Moroni said in the Book of Mormon. He said that through the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of ALL things. I have truly learned that He is involved in the very minute details of our lives, and I know that if you live worthy of your covenants, you can receive answers to any questions you have." I was very thankful for that advice, as a bunch of really serious and big decisions are beginning to mount in front of me.
I am so grateful for this Church. I had no idea what I believed in High School. When people asked me what the difference between our church and their church was, the answer I gave was "Well, we are expected to go to church every Sunday, and most other churches seem fine to have you on just Christmas and Easter." Ok, well, that's not wrong, but it's not exactly correct either. In reality, most churches have truth in them, and most expect a lot of their congregations. You find good and bad members in every church, including ours. I think what really sets our Church apart from others is the hope. If you don't know what I mean, go to a Latter Day Saint funeral. You'll find out rather quickly what I mean.
I am constantly growing out here. I am making mistakes often, but learning from other peoples mistakes just as often as I have to learn from my own, so I guess I'm going in a positive direction. I've realized that life is hard, that it will always be hard, and that people will say no to you every day of your life. The reason I keep going is that everyone on earth already said yes to the Plan of Salvation once.
I love my mission. It is going far too quickly. I am ready to do lighting again, but I am so grateful for the change that has come over my life. I truly have a hope for the future, and know that I will be successful as I keep my eye single to the Glory of God.
I love you both. Thanks for being such great examples to us.
Elder Caleb Clark