The mint field across from the Church building in my area is growing and it sure is strange not seeing any corn!
After sending out my previous email I headed out with a group of missionaries to a place called Jump Creek. Whenever there is a group planning on going on a hike or visiting a different part of Idaho, I make sure I join in because there is a certain rugged beauty to the landscape here. The mountains are visible on a clear day, but mostly it is just foothills and rocky crags. I've gone hiking twice, and it has been beautiful each time. We saw a waterfall and then did a little rock climbing to the top. On our way to another area we happened across a young woman who had been serving in our mission just a month and a half ago before she left to deal with a sickness. It was odd, but good to see her doing well. I don't think it was coincidence that we showed up at the exact time that she was there. Perhaps we will see her again in the future . . . with a nametag! :)
That occurred on preparation day, which is every Monday. It helps us prepare for the upcoming week full of missionary work. I woke up on Tuesday morning having a great desire to fully dedicate myself to the work of the Lord. We spoke with a man who is Catholic, but has developed an unfortunate cynicism toward religion as a result of many churches and people using religion to get personal gain. We learned all about money being the root of all evil. We talked with him for half an hour about religion and testified to him that the Book of Mormon would help him. This man's experience with religion is one we come across a lot. It is sad to see. Yes, many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion and God. However, these atrocities are not of God. These things occur because we live in a world that is very imperfect. God is the source of all truth and goodness in the world and despite the terrible things that occur in our personal lives and in the lives of others in the world, God's purposes and plan for our eternal happiness will still be accomplished. The adversary of God's plan for us is the devil, Satan. As I've been out here on my mission, I have perceived that cynicism toward religion in general comes from him.
Religion has done so much good in the world. I cannot effectively summarize how much good has been done because of religious organizations. The following link is just one example from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the good that religion has done for the world. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/africa-clean-water
There is a great scripture about pure religion in the Bible. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27
I know that without religion, the world would be in very sorry shape. God wants there to be spiritual organization in this world. Jesus Christ called apostles, seventies, and others to practice pure religion through His Church. That call is extended to all people, regardless of the denomination or religious/spiritual affiliation they have.
Many people we speak with consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. I understand this feeling because there have been days in the past when I've wondered if going to church and reading scriptures really matters. However, faith without works is dead. Having a belief means nothing unless it motivates you to do something or become someone and you act on that motivation. We encourage everyone we meet to go to church if they don't and that means we support them in going to another church if they feel that desire. It is in the action that faith becomes something more than just some spiritual feeling in your heart and mind. It becomes who you are.
We have been meeting with a man and his family who have truly started to change as they have taken action on the feelings in their heart. The husband is facing prison time through bad choices he made throughout his life. He has felt a great desire to come back to church and change who he is. As we've met with him, it has been remarkable just how far he has come within the past few weeks. His priorities are clearer and he has been gaining a stronger faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. It has helped him immensely and I step back and marvel at the miracle I am witnessing. He will still have to suffer the consequences of his past actions. That is repentance. But he can and is changing.
I met a man who loves the Minnesota Vikings! We biked past his house and we stopped to talk to them. I noticed his Vikings cap and so we talked about that for a little bit. I can't believe there are Vikings fans out here.
I hope you all have a great week!