"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou
dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."
-Joshua 1:9

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 72

Well here I am sitting at the computer again thinking, holy crap where did the time go... it’s incredible how
fast time is going bye.. I don’t like it at all... I am enjoying the mission more and more and have thought a lot about my time here. There is no better way to spend every day than serving and helping people that really need it. I have been humbled more than I ever thought I could be and realize more and more the blessings of being an American. I am so happy to start the Thanksgiving season and Christmas season shortly. It is a great time of year to reflect on all the things that REALLY MATTER. What a great time of year! 

So this week my companion was a little sick with stomach problems, we think he had parasites or something like that. I remember those days when I was new on the mission... rough days but he is feeling good. So that’s out of the way, all good in the stomach department right now! 

What else... R. who got baptized about a week or two ago is doing amazing and really enjoying the new life that he has. He is such a great example to so many here in the La Paz that people can change even when they had great challenges to overcome. He is doing good things and moving along in a positive direction. I am so happy that we had the opportunity to change his life. I love that man. 

So we are teaching a man right now that lives here in La Paz. His family lives in a little pueble like 3 hours from here and his wife came here to church, with the family yesterday. They know that it is true and are so happy. They are going to get married and baptized as fast as we can take papers out for a wedding and all. The wife is so happy… what a sacrifice, traveling 3 hours because it’s the closest church , which is here in the La Paz. Their amazing, reading The Bible and the Book of Mormon and know that it is true. The Lord with ALWAYS answer our prayers. I promise ya’ll that. I am so happy for them, it’s been great being a part of their journey.

Also this week I had to give a talk in church along with my companion. We killed it to say the say the least :) My companion talked about being humble and I talked about the blue prints of the church. When I say that what do I mean? Referring to the blue prints of the church, I talked about how the church is based on the same principals that Jesus Christ himself established. I talked about how when someone wants to build a house, they build it to the exact requirements that one wants. It was and is the same with the Lords church. It was created perfectly and with all the requirements that our Heavenly Father wanted. I promise you that the exact church that the Lord started when he was in Jerusalem is on the face of the earth today. We must have the same blueprints as before. It is crucial. We must follow the Lord’s example and guidelines on each thing that we do. When we fall away from the Lords way we are doing things in our own way and not his. It is important that we have the things that are in the Holy Bible. The Bible is the guidelines (blueprints) that we must have. I started my talk off about how everything in the church in old times as well as today is based off of service and our will. I love the story in Mark Chapter 12 versus 41-44. What a great example we have from this woman. Everything starts with the love for our Savior and wanting to do His will and not ours. So that started my talk off. So then I talked about how the blueprints of old times need to match with today. So I shared many stories and scriptures, for time sake I will share with you the scriptures and you can look them up and study them and see for yourself.  Mathew 10:1, Lucas 9:1- talks about what authority is, we must understand that having authority is a divine part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We talked about the importance of marriage and following the commandments. Mathew 18:18 and 1 Corinthians 11:11. We talked about the importance of our bodies and how we MUST treat them like a temple and not partake of things that alter or do not allow us to have the spirit to be with us like drinking, smoking, drunks, or abusing other types of substances. I challenge you guys to be better about this. Treat your temple with respect and know what you are doing. We must read in The Bible to see the importance of our bodies in 1st Corinthians 3:16 and chapter 6:19. Take some time and think about how we as individuals can be better. I was happy to talk about how the blueprints from before are all taught and followed today. If we are not in line with the things that the prophets, apostles, and Lord taught, we must change to be better. THE LORD WILL BLESS YOU FOR YOUR EFFORT, I PROMISE YOU MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS. So that was the base of my talk.... 

This week was good, and this week will be better. What are you guys going to do this week to draw closer to our Savior? How about you Mr. 210? LOVE EACH OF U GUYS! 

Make it a great week, aim high in all that you do and put your best foot forward!

con mucho amor,
Elder Long! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

I love my mission

Hey, how it’s going there my loved ones? I hope that this finds you all kicking well and enjoying the cool weather and all! I am doing well, all is good! Just enjoying life more and more here. I really can say that I will be sad when I have to leave here. I was thinking I am pretty much medio catracho now! I am loving the culture more and more and grasping the language more and more, which makes me want to stay and make it more part of my life! All is going great, working my buns off and having a blast doing it. So another week abajo and time is fling. I really don’t know what I can say... but lets get down to it shall we.
So this week we worked like crazy men... We threw a talent how and a competition night at the church... it was a HUGE success and we killed it. We did everything on our own and got help from Hermana Cynthia (a woman in our ward that’s’ the BOMB) so it was good we had her help with all the food! We had over or about 150 people there... in which only about 50 were members, it was great. I will attach a photo so you can see some of the people that were there! We had good skits and all... the Latin’s can dance.... if only missionaries could dance to learn a thing or two... but it’s one of the best parts of the culture, they are so happy and just dance their lives away. We had a good time with it, in the end we did like a weeks worth of work in a few days but it was worth it, paid off in the end.

Also the hermanas had a baptism and his name was E. We helped the hermanas a lot in order for him to make the decision to be baptized and join the church. So it was so fun to be a part of his conversion and help another child of god make such a sacred covenant with our loving Heavenly Father, so that was kinda a big deal :) So happy for him.
I want to share a talk with you that I read this week that I LOVE. Sports related, but what a great message, something that we can all learn from. The things that make this world so great is that each and every one of us is different and brings something different to the table. We all have talents and we need to help others see the bright side of things. We need to look at the positive and help others no matter who or what they think, we must serve and be the person that we want people to think of us as. The EXAMPLE is the key in life. We must be an example and let our light shine. I really enjoyed this message and hope that each and every one of you can learn from a former NFL player and stud!

Chad W. Lewis was associate athletic director at BYU when this devotional address was given on 25 March 2014.
Shortly after accepting my job at BYU, I called Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s office to ask if he would do the voice-over for an athletics commercial during the height of Jimmermania. Because of my football career I had gotten to know Elder Holland, and I thought he would be the perfect person, with his distinctive voice, for the job.
Then I had a meeting with Tom Holmoe, BYU’s athletic director, and I let him know how excited I was about the possibility of including Elder Holland in our project. I naïvely assumed that Tom would be thrilled about my phone call and invitation.
I was wrong. It was a major faux pas. He let me know that any invitation to one of the leaders of the Church needed to go through the president of the school. I quickly wrote an apology to President Samuelson, and this was his inspiring reply:
No need to worry. We sometimes forget to inform those coming into BYU employment of the unique way things are done at BYU, particularly when it relates to contacts and requests of the senior Brethren. You are like those guaranteed a place in the celestial kingdom because no one ever taught them the gospel. We probably should not take this one up the line, but feel free to raise any good ideas you have. Sorry we didn’t loop you in earlier. I know Elder Holland’s only concern would be disappointing you. Know that you are loved and appreciated. All the best.
I love that letter. It is a shining example of my topic today: “The World Needs to See and Feel Your Light.” What does President Samuelson’s letter, with his good-natured correction for me, have to do with this theme? Everything! How do you think it made me feel as a new BYU employee to receive that letter? It inspired me. He didn’t crush me with his authority; it was just the opposite. I could feel his light and the love he had for me.
As I share my thoughts with you today, I hope to better prepare you for tomorrow. Many of you will run your own companies. You may hold positions of leadership. You would be wise to follow President Samuelson’s great example of how to correct and inspire others.
President Samuelson has tried to respond to every email from every student. Think of the encouragement and faith that he has shared with you and other students over the last eleven years. He has certainly followed the counsel of the Savior to let his light shine. He and Sister Samuelson are awesome, and I will miss my association with them. President Kevin Worthen and his wife, Peggy, will likewise win your hearts and earn your respect as they serve you. I know President Worthen and have complete confidence in him.
Our Savior Jesus Christ said, “Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (3 Nephi 12:16). That is my favorite scripture. Let your light shine.
When President Thomas S. Monson spoke at BYU in 2011, he titled his remarks “Be a Light to the World.” I love President Monson and know that he is the living prophet today. I support him and sustain him. He is a prophet like Abraham and Moses, like Joseph Smith and Gordon B. Hinckley. In that BYU devotional he shared his testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ:
He is our Savior and our Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father. He is our Exemplar and our strength. He is the light that shineth in darkness. That each of us here today may pledge to follow Him and to be His lights among men and women is my prayer. [BYU devotional address, 1 November 2011]
Let Your Light Shine
The week of my BYU graduation I signed a contract to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles. I wanted to head to the East Coast and let my light shine, make the team, and score a bunch of touchdowns. My emotions swirled together in a mix of total excitement and nervousness.
I arrived at the Eagles facility and was the first player in the tight-end meeting room waiting for my coach to arrive. A tall man walked by the doorway and saw me out of the corner of his eye. After passing a few steps, he popped back and stood in the doorway, looking at me with a big grin on his face. He had a wad of chewing tobacco in his lower lip. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “Hey, Utah!”
“Yeah?” I responded.
“Are you a Mormon?”
“Yeah, I’m a Mormon.”
“Are you a good Mormon?”
“I don’t know; I try to be.”
“Do you drink?”
“Do you drink?”
“Do you smoke?”
“Yeah, you’re a good Mormon!”
After that he walked off down the hall. I had no idea who he was then, but I later learned that he was Emmitt Thomas, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator and legendary defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs. He knew other Mormons, and he knew the difference between someone who was committed and someone who wasn’t. He was loved by every player he ever coached, and I enjoyed his friendly banter. As you can probably imagine, the locker rooms and the atmosphere of the NFL are not quite like that of a missionary zone conference. And yet in that environment Emmitt Thomas was influenced by some great Latter-day Saints—like Ty Detmer, who was an Eagles quarterback.
There were times that year when negative statements were made about the Church and times when Emmitt thought I might be the target of ridicule for that reason. During my rookie season, whenever Emmitt saw some of that, he would say something like, “Leave him alone. He’s a good guy.” I loved him for that.
The ups and downs of my career sent me to the St. Louis Rams and then back to the Eagles a few years later, when Andy Reid was made the head coach. Emmitt also changed jobs and went to the Minnesota Vikings.
After my fourth season I was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, the NFL all-star game played each year in Hawaii. Emmitt Thomas was on the coaching staff for my team. The first thing I did when I got to the practice field was visit with him personally. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him how much I loved him. He smiled and humorously said, “I love you too, Chad.”
I asked him if he knew what I was talking about, and with that same twinkle in his eye he said, “Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.” His impact on me left a lasting impression.
In 2008 Emmitt was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I cried when I heard his acceptance speech because it brought back a flood of memories of how he let his light shine on me. These are the final lines of his speech:
As I go to my seat I’d like to leave you with these final thoughts. Our talent is God’s gift to us. How we use that talent is our gift to him. My sincere hope and prayer is that God finds my gift back to him a worthy one. May God bless you, keep you and continue the good fight of faith. [Emmitt Thomas’ enshrinement speech, Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium, 2 August 2008, profootballhof.com/hof/member.aspx?PlayerId=270&tab=Speech]
President Monson has counseled us to go to the rescue of those in need. He said:
Amidst the storms of life, danger lurks; and men, like boats, find themselves stranded and facing destruction. Who will man the lifeboats, leaving behind the comforts of home and family, and go to the rescue? [“To the Rescue,” Ensign, May 2001, 48]
Surely we try our best to do that as missionaries and in our service one to another. When I was on the practice field I was grateful that Emmitt Thomas spoke up on my behalf and, in his own way, shared his gift and came to my rescue. He could have easily remained silent. I will always love him for that act of Christian kindness.
I went to Philly with a deep desire to let my light shine, and what I found is that the bright sunshine of others is brilliant! I knew that as members of the Lord’s Church we hadn’t cornered the market on goodness, and what I found was that goodness in others was exactly the light I needed. I knew the NFL would have some rough characters, because I followed the game and I watched the news, but I was filled with hope when I got to know how many great people there are.
The people you work with and associate with out in the world will be drawn to you because of your desire to be like the Savior. Let your love for Him shine from your eyes. Let there be no doubt that He is who you follow. You have an understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that the world needs to see and feel. The Book of Mormon is what teaches and clarifies the Atonement in a way that changes our hearts so that we can be born again.
Concerning the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith said:
I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. [Book of Mormon introduction; also HC 4:461]
Surround Yourself with Greatness
Another person whose light greatly influenced my life was Jeff Thomason, my teammate and fellow tight end with the Eagles. The whole team loved Jeff because he earned their respect through hard work. He had a magnetic personality that made all of us want to be around him.
Jeff took his job seriously and was a professional in every way. He could handle mistakes on the field and keep his chin up better than anyone else I knew. A great example of this happened during a play at training camp. Jeff ran “22 Texas Y Out,” which required a ten-yard vertical sprint with a sharp cut to the outside. He ran a nice route, and Donovan McNabb threw a sweet pass. When Jeff reached for the ball, it jammed his left pinky finger, which caused him to drop the ball and also resulted in a boutonniere deformity. That’s when the pinky remains bent down; it’s fairly common among football players.
Andy Reid blew up. He yelled that Jeff had just run the worst route he had ever seen. It was not typical of Andy to do that. Jeff smiled through the pain and even laughed behind his face mask as he held his finger. He knew Andy really liked him, and he didn’t lose confidence over Andy’s outburst.
Jeff’s reaction caused me and the other tight end, Mike Bartrum, to crack up. Even though Andy was on fire, it was a humorous scene. We were exhausted from training camp, and anything funny was made funnier by the sheer physical and mental exhaustion we were experiencing. Jeff’s ability to smile and laugh in times of trial and even pain lifted the spirits of those around him.
His attitude reminds me of Ammon taking on the Lamanites who scattered the flocks at the waters of Sebus. When the other servants with Ammon wept and murmured because of their dire situation, Ammon let his confident and faithful light shine:
Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words. [Alma 17:29]
My weakness as a player was in blocking. Jeff not only helped me improve my physical technique by showing me how to do it but also always encouraged me to get better. Even in the highly competitive culture of the NFL he took the time and made the effort to help his teammates.
When Michele and I would go out to dinner with Jeff and his wife, Blake, Jeff would ask me to share stories of my mission in Taiwan. He said he loved hearing those stories. We gave them a copy of The Other Side of Heaven, the movie about Elder John H. Groberg’s mission in Tonga, and he loved it. After watching it he said, “I wish I could have played at BYU and gone on a mission to Tonga!”
We gave the Thomasons a leather-bound copy of the Book of Mormon with our testimonies written to them inside the cover. Since we loved them, we wanted to share what meant most to us and what brought us peace and joy.
People will love to hear your stories. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share them. Your stories did not just happen for you; they are meant to be shared. Sharing them is a great way for you to let your light shine for others.
Jeff finished his career and went to work for a national construction company. Two years later, when the Eagles played the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football Conference Championship Game, I broke my foot at the very end of the game, which made it impossible for me to play in the Super Bowl.
Andy called Jeff and signed him out of retirement to play in the world’s biggest football game! The next two weeks were a media circus for Jeff. His story of going from construction worker to the Super Bowl was a big hit. He was on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS’s The Early Show, and a 60 Minutes special. He handled it all with class and humility.
The Eagles did not win Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots, but Jeff played a great game. It marked the end of our football careers together. The game is over, but we will be friends forever.
The light of friendship I felt from Jeff in challenging situations was illuminating—like a car driving at night with the headlights on high beam! I saw how important it was to be around someone who could maintain a positive outlook no matter the situation of the game, if there was a setback, or anything else. I learned it was vital to surround myself with greatness, and I invite you to do the same.
As you study here at BYU and then as you go out into the world, find people who will build you up and help you live your high standards. Surround yourself with people who will support your faith and not belittle you for seeking protection through your covenants with Heavenly Father.
The Power of Light, Love, and Friendship
It was a true gift to play in the NFL for a coach who shared my faith. Andy Reid came to BYU as a junior college transfer offensive lineman. He was part of the team that won the 1980 “Miracle Bowl” in which Jim McMahon threw the last-second, forty-one-yard bomb that was caught by Clay Brown to beat SMU. Andy was planning to go into the medical field and become a doctor like his mom, but LaVell Edwards saw something in Andy and told him that he would make a great head coach.
When he came to Provo, Andy was not a member of the Church. At BYU he met a girl named Tammy who changed his life. As they started to fall in love, she let him know that she wanted to be married in the temple. Andy wondered what the temple was all about. He loved Tammy enough to find out. Because she was willing to share her faith with him, he studied the gospel, embraced the teachings of the Restoration, and joined the Church. They were married in the temple, and they raised their five kids in the light of the gospel.
Andy’s whole career has been defined by hard work, dedication, and treating others with the utmost respect. Like LaVell, Andy made no distinction between the quarterback, the janitor, the tight end, or the secretaries. He lifted the entire organization. He made sure the workplace was professional and clean, with no evidence of pornography. I thought I was the luckiest football player on earth to have been coached by LaVell in college and Andy in the pros.
For example, Andy did not allow bad movies to be played on the plane or the bus when we traveled. That was different from how many other teams operated. I even took some gentle ribbing from my teammates, who would ask, “What are we going to watch this week? Bambi? ”
I told them, “If you’re lucky!”
After 9/11 Andy spoke to our team about grief and love. It was powerful. The next day he pulled me aside and mentioned how much he enjoyed watching me and my teammates quote Bruce R. McConkie on the news when we didn’t even know it. I asked him what he was talking about. He said, “Yeah, grief and love—I found an old conference report and plagiarized the whole thing!” It was no accident that when he left Philadelphia to become the Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach that he hired Emmitt Thomas as his defensive back coach. Birds of a feather flock together.
When Michele and I finally left Philadelphia to move back to Utah, we were sad to say good-bye to friends who had made an eternal impact on our lives. Our bishop was Vai Sikahema, who had played football at BYU and also for the Philadelphia Eagles. He worked for NBC 10 News in Philly as the sports anchor.
When Michele and I had arrived in Philly, Vai and his wife, Keala, had immediately welcomed us into their family and their home. Through the years I think we ate as many meals at their house as we did at our own. Those meals often included missionaries and people who were investigating the Church. The Sikahemas demonstrated how to create a home in which the light of the Savior could be seen and felt through their love and friendship with others.
Since Vai was in the media and chose which interviews would make the news, he unwittingly let me share my testimony with my Chinese brothers and sisters. One day I started my interview by saying, “Syandzai, Kana, Yijyan chimyau de shrgung, Jyou yau chusyan yu ren jr ernyu de jungjyan!” I proceeded to quote the fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants in Chinese. My mission president, Kent Watson, had all of the missionaries memorize and recite that section at each zone conference.
Michele called me as I drove home from work and asked what I had been saying in Chinese, because it had just aired on the news. I laughed and thought it was pretty cool for the Chinese people who lived in Philly to hear in their own language that “a marvelous work [was] about to come forth among the children of men” (D&C 4:1).
On our last day in Philly we sat in Vai’s home while his son LJ played the guitar and sang to our family my favorite Hawaiian song, “Kanaka Vai Vai.” I was overcome as I thought about the light and the love that the Sikahemas had let shine on our family for so many years. I learned from my good bishop that the Lord’s servants are color-blind, that they love all of God’s children. Vai made me feel like his Tongan brother.
While you are here at BYU please get to know your bishops. Help them remember your names by attending your meetings. Wherever you go after BYU, make sure you stay active and remain true to your testimony. Your bishop will help you feel the love of the Savior and better understand His Atonement.
A month after we left Philly, my best friend growing up, Bryan, moved into Vai’s ward. He was not active in the Church and had quite a few challenges. He called me in distress, looking for help. When I called Vai to ask for his help, he responded by saying that I had called the right person. He said he would do everything in his power to help Bryan. He promised to be relentless and to go all the way to the end in lending a hand. He committed to use all of his connections, resources, and friendships to help; he committed to pull out all the stops.
A wave of gratitude washed over me. I knew Bryan was in the exact hands the Lord wanted him to be in. I thought of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan:
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. [Luke 10:33–35]
Vai did exactly that. He bound up Bryan’s wounds and took him into his home the same way he had done for my family. He helped Bryan regain his footing in life and find his testimony in the Savior again. Over the next few years my friend met a girl named Temecia, and he helped her study the gospel with the missionaries. She got baptized and they got married. I was there and so was Vai when they were sealed in the Manhattan New York Temple. It was a miracle!
Help Others See and Feel the Light of the Savior
Presently my job and my passion is to develop the BYU Athletic Department. I get to work with some of the finest people I know. What a joy it is to work with the student athletes! Tom Holmoe calls them “the secret sauce,” and he inspires us to do whatever we can to serve them and to help them. Who would eat a J Dawg without the secret sauce? And who would work here without trying as hard as possible to help the students succeed?
Taysom Hill is one of the 630 student athletes at BYU. He strives to let his light shine as he performs with energy and class. Jeff Simmons, Taysom’s mission president, just told me that Taysom was one of the best missionaries Australia has ever seen. He couldn’t stop describing the many ways Taysom let his light shine as a missionary. One telling comment he made was that he noticed Taysom’s light long before he witnessed his athletic ability.
If I had time I would share many more examples of student athletes and generous supporters of BYU who give of their resources because they love you and want the best for you.
I am very grateful that I was fortunate enough to attend BYU. I love the professors and coaches who shared their lives and their light with me. As you apply the lessons and principles you learn here at BYU, I hope that you will find success. Be willing to share that success with others. Be willing to give back and to let your light shine so that the people around you will see and feel the light of the Savior.
I want you to know that I love my family with all of my heart. My parents and Michele’s parents are the best people I know. Michele has been my constant support and my best friend. Marrying her is the best decision I ever made. She is the absolute love of my life. My children are my sweetest gifts. I love each one of them. I want them to know that they need to look to Christ for peace, joy, and a remission of their sins.
At age nineteen I was called as a missionary to the Chinese people in Taiwan. They are pioneers who have more courage than I could comprehend. I saw in their faces the divine kindness of the Savior. I promised them, and I promise you, that when you read the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, and pray to your Father in Heaven, you will feel His love for you. I know that teaching about and being cleansed by the Atonement is the greatest motivator in life. Jesus Christ suffered and died for you and for me. I know when I demonstrate my faith and repent of my sins that I feel close to Him. I know He is my Redeemer because I have felt His light and His love. He is who I believe in with my whole heart. I know that His arms of mercy are opened wide and that He is the way to have peace and joy with my family forever.
Let us do our best to help people see and feel His light. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I hope that you can take something from this and apply it to your life. I love you guys, I hope that all is well and that all is going great with each of you. I miss and love you all. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see ya’ll . Love you Gi, keep up the good work stud, your the big man on campus! Keep working hard, work your fingers to the bone in the classroom and at Redline. Show them what the Long’s are all about. Love you stud.
Aim high in all that you and put your best foot forward in all that you do!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Long!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I love this area...R. gets baptized!

Well there familia and friends, here we are another week down, and I really just don’t know where time is going. I am starting to feel Catracho here and life is doing amazing, all is good down here in the sweatville, enjoying every day like no other. Lets get down to it shall we! 

So this week we were preparing our boy R. to be baptized, and Saturday we had his baptism... his story continues to amaze me and I know that our Heavenly Father has a plan for each and every one of us. This man has made a complete 360 degree change in his life and has overcome some very difficult things. Relationships have been compromised and his life was very messed up. I say that humbly and respectively because each of us has our cross to bare. He came to the area I am now serving in to receive some help he needed. It was just three weeks ago we were walking in the crazy streets of the market and I heard someone say hello and we all said hello and kept going. The strongest feeling came over me to go back and talk to this man, so we did... and here is where his life has changed forever. This man is so converted to the gospel and trying to do the right things. R.is a stud! He is helping so many other people change because they want to know his secret. He is a great hand in our work. We are so thankful for him and his decision to change his life and draw closer to our loving Savior. He’s a stud, we’ll leave it at that! 

Also, we have another man that came to church through a member that invited him and he loves the church and knows it’s true. He is reading The Bible and The Book of Mormon like crazy, he’s a stud and a half too. He’s on page 528 of The Book of Mormon, he is so great! His name is C. He is progressing and we are working on some things with him which are proving to be a challenge... some paper work that needs to get in order if he decides he wants to be baptized. I know if it is all meant to be the Lord will assist us in getting the necessary things accomplished to make it all happen. We will make it happen. So please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

So this week in church we packed the house for this area. The first week that I was here there were less than 10 people on time to partake of the sacrament. Well, this week we had more than 60 and we had 84 people in church. Everyone is trying to find out what’s going on and I straight up tell them… work your you know what off!!! I have never been so tired on my mission then I am right now in this area. I really have not, we crash every night. Covering two areas is a challenge to say the least but I LOVE the challenge. Before I arrived here there were 4 missionaries but now it’s just my companion and I and we’re killing it like no other. We pack the house for activities too! I can’t express how much I love this area and my love for the Lords work. I know that we are only servants for Him. This area is changing around for the better. The other ward that shares our building too is asking how we are doing it. I told them  work is the key and to get everyone on board and the ship leaves and whoever wants to do work is on board! So we are doing great things. This upcoming week we have a talent show and competition night and it’s going to be great. Next week I will have photos! All is good here, enjoying it like no other. 

Thanks for everything guys, you guys are the best. I want to share a talk that I read this week that’s really good. I love the message and hope you’ll take some time to read it and make some changes and I know the Lord will bless you. 

Anthony D. Perkins was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given on 4 February 2014.

My wife, Christy, and I are so thrilled to be with you. When we were young and skinny BYU undergraduates, if someone had suggested we would return in thirty years to speak to students in the Marriott Center due to my calling in the Seventy, we would have laughed uncontrollably. Yet I suppose our visit today illustrates the marvelous wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we seek to be led by the Spirit and go forth in faith, often not knowing precisely what course to pursue, life can curiously turn out to be more abundant than we might ever have imagined.

You young adults are now living in what Elder Robert D. Hales of the Twelve Apostles has called “the decade of decision.” Many of the most important choices of your life will be made in your late teens and twenties, such as “going to the temple, serving a mission, getting an education, selecting an occupation, and choosing a companion and being sealed for time and for all eternity in the holy temple.”1

Today I speak particularly to those persons who are struggling with one of these important decisions—some perhaps almost paralyzed from fear of making the wrong decision and some maybe needing only a little reinforcement to remain confident in a decision made previously.

Four lessons of inspired decision making by Nephi in the well-known opening chapters of the Book of Mormon, if applied, can reduce your fears and increase your confidence to go forward.

Lesson 1: Qualify for the Spirit by Obeying Commandments
The last sentence of Nephi’s sacred record encapsulates his life: “For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey.”2Nephi’s faith in and love for the Savior is exemplified in his actions to obey God’s commandments. He prayed, crying unto the Lord in his youth until he obtained a testimony.3 He served as a missionary, teaching and inviting Ishmael’s family even without an “Elder Nephi” name tag.4 He read the scriptures, searching the brass plates until he understood them and could teach from them.5He sought after and followed the direction of a living prophet, which blessed him spiritually and temporally.6 Such obedience permitted the Holy Ghost to powerfully accompany Nephi throughout his life and yielded ongoing personal revelation.

As young adults who have been taught gospel truths and have accepted sacred covenants, you too must stay close to the Lord by keeping God’s commandments. I testify that consistent obedience to small things such as reading the scriptures and praying daily, attending Church meetings, heeding the counsel of living prophets, and serving others will qualify you for the Spirit—and the revelation He brings.

Now, as obedient as Nephi was in life, he was not perfect. I repeat, Nephi was not perfect. He lamented his shortcomings with phrases such as this:

O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.7
But Nephi understood the doctrine of the Atonement, exercised faith in Jesus Christ unto repentance, and thus remained sufficiently worthy for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

You too are not perfect, yet perfection is not a prerequisite to personal revelation. The prerequisite is daily repentance, because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”8 When Satan whispers that you are unworthy of personal revelation, as he always will, remember the Savior’s teaching: “As often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.”9 If your repentance has been sincere and thorough,10 and even though temptation may persist for a season, be assured that the cleansing power of the Atonement will bring the Spirit to guide you in the weighty decisions of life.

Lesson 2: Move Forward in Faith, Even Without Perfect Knowledge

Put yourself in Nephi’s sandals for a moment. Your father comes home to tell you about a great spiritual experience whereby the Lord has commanded your family to leave behind all your wealth and travel through uncharted wilderness to a promised land. Wouldn’t you like to know something about your journey and ultimate destination?

I suppose Nephi would have been thrilled if the Lord had clearly revealed his future: “You will leave Jerusalem but come back for brass plates and Ishmael’s family, marry one of Ishmael’s daughters and have children, travel southeast across the Arabian peninsula for many years, almost become a murder victim at the hands of your brothers (multiple times), build a ship, sail across an ocean, start building a village but then abandon it to escape persecution, and finally build a temple in your promised land.” But that degree of clarity is not how God worked with Nephi—even though Nephi was fully worthy of the Spirit and personal revelation—and that is not how He will work with you.

Perhaps seeing a Blu-ray–quality trailer of his entire life and its trials would have been so daunting that Nephi might have been too frightened to even leave Jerusalem. Instead, as his family traveled through the wilderness, new instructions only came to Nephi “from time to time.”11 Even when he was building the ship, the Lord provided specific guidance only “from time to time.”12 These glimpses “from time to time” turned out to be a great blessing to Nephi. Viewing his life journey with certainty up front would not have provided Nephi the soul-stretching and faith-forming experiences that helped him become a more Christlike man.

If you are waiting for God to unmistakably reveal to you what academic major to pursue, whom to marry, what job offer to accept, where to live, whether to go to graduate school or not, and how many children to bear, then you will likely never leave your apartment. Christy and I can testify that such personal revelation will come to you only “from time to time.”

Our Heavenly Father wants us to grow in every way while on this earth, and that includes developing our ability to weigh facts, render judgments, and make decisions. But He also invites us to bring our decisions to Him in prayer.13 Answers to our prayers are personal revelation and come to us, as taught by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve Apostles, “in one of three ways.”14

Confirming Assurance

“First,” Elder Scott says, “you can feel the peace, comfort, and assurance that confirm that your decision is right.”15 In our married life, Christy and I have found that assurance for critical life-impacting decisions can be communicated through the scriptures, often after temple worship.

For example, after much pondering and prayer, we decided to abandon our new dream home in Dallas, accept a job transfer, and move with six young children to Beijing. But we desperately desired spiritual confirmation for such a momentous move. Divine assurance did come to us, in the temple, as we read these words in the Doctrine and Covenants: “It is my will that you should . . . tarry not many days in this place; . . . think not of thy property. Go unto the eastern lands.”16 The voice of Jesus Christ in the scriptures, accompanied by powerful feelings from the Holy Ghost, unquestionably confirmed that our decision to move to China was right.

Nephi had similar experiences while building his ship. He said, “I . . . did go into the mount oft . . . ; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.”17 When you need to confirm important decisions, spend time with the scriptures and at the temple so God can speak to you.18 I emphasize can speak to you, because sometimes the Lord withholds confirming assurance.

Unsettled Feeling

The second way Heavenly Father answers prayers, Elder Scott says, is when “you can sense that unsettled feeling, the stupor of thought, indicating that your choice is wrong.”19 While newlywed undergraduates at BYU, Christy and I learned valuable lessons about recognizing this type of prompting.

After my mission to Taiwan, I thought international law would be a good career choice. As Christy and I considered that possible future, we understood that five more years of expensive education lay ahead. The United States economy was in a deep recession and our funds were limited, so we reasoned that joining the air force ROTC would be a wise choice to pay for my schooling. But as I took the required tests and filled out the paperwork, we just could not get comfortable about making that commitment. No stupor of thought or dark feelings came—only an absence of peace. While joining the air force is a great option for some, we determined this was not the right course for us. Looking back, that seemingly illogical financial decision was inspired, in part, because I would have been a horrible lawyer!

While at BYU we learned another lesson about wrong choices that was painful in the short-term but a blessing in the long run. Christy and I found a used Mazda car that fit our small budget and prayed about purchasing it. An unsettled feeling came that I foolishly disregarded because the car’s interior looked cool and the car had a great sound system. I rationalized that the bad feeling would depart if the high-mileage engine were replaced. After the seller agreed and put a Toyota engine in that Mazda, the dark feeling remained, but we once again pushed it aside and handed over our meager funds. This car, which we cleverly named “Toyazda,” turned out to be a pile of junk. But we learned to recognize the “Toyazda feeling” that warns of a wrong choice.

Divine Trust

Elder Scott said God answers prayers in a third way: “And this is the difficult one—you can feel no response.” Elder Scott continued:

You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust.20

Nephi’s third attempt to enter Jerusalem and obtain the brass plates illustrates how we should proceed with divine trust. Nephi recorded, “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth.”21 What a great statement of faith: “Nevertheless I went forth!” Nephi had received no specific answer on how to accomplish his objective, but the time to act had arrived and could not be postponed. So he moved forward, knowing the Spirit would direct him when needed.

Moments will arrive during your decade of decision when you cannot procrastinate any longer and must act. A few months ago our family went out to see the latest Star Trek movie. At one point Spock questions the course of action that Captain Kirk has determined to pursue. Kirk responds, “You’re right! What I am about to do, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not logical, it is a gut feeling! I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.”22

Looking back at my life, what Captain Kirk calls a “gut feeling” has guided many important decisions: marriage to Christy, my BYU major, my first job, and graduate school. I had studied each decision out in my mind and prayed for confirmation, but I had to act on what felt right because no unmistakably divine assurance had yet come. Confirmation came only later.

I learned what Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve Apostles taught:

We will get promptings of the Spirit when we have done everything we can, when we are out in the sun working rather than sitting back in the shade praying for direction on the first step to take. Revelation comes when the children of God are on the move.23

Some of you may be nervous about acting when heavenly assurance has not yet come. Take courage. Elder Scott promised, “When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.”24

Our daughter Jenni uses a humorous example from the movieHome Alone to illustrate this concept. You might recall the scene where Kevin is surprised to be in an empty house but still yells out to his absent parents, “Guys, I’m eating junk and watching rubbish! You better come out and stop me!”25 Jenni says her prayers sometimes feel similar: “I’m moving ahead to major in psychology, so if that is not right, please let me know!”

I testify that you are sons and daughters of loving heavenly parents who trust you to make decisions and move forward in faith without a perfect knowledge of what the future holds. And, as with Nephi, the Spirit will in due time confirm or warn of your chosen path.

Lesson 3: Commit Fully to Inspired Decisions and Live in the Present

Nephi’s commitment on the journey to the promised land stands in stark contrast to that of his brothers Laman and Lemuel. Like Nephi, they made the decision to go, but their hearts never left Jerusalem. Nephi was fixing his broken bow to hunt for food and mining ore to build a ship while his brothers seem to have been lounging in a tent.

Today the world has too many Lamans and Lemuels. Schoolwork is undertaken half-heartedly because Halo 4, Angry Birds, or Facebook beckon us back into the tent; employment is perfunctorily accepted while looking for the next, hopefully better job; a ward is moved into but never really joined because of a possible future relocation; and even marriage can be exited if inconvenient.

Jesus Christ’s church needs committed men and women who are like Nephi. You will experience greater progress in life when you wholly commit to your decisions and strive to excel in your current circumstances even while you have an eye open to the future. Doors usually open to the fully committed.

Nephi exemplifies the wise counsel of President Thomas S. Monson:

Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it. . . .

. . . Learn from the past, prepare for the future, live in the present.26

Lesson 4: Draw on the Strength of Trusted Loved Ones to Sustain the Journey

Even after we have sought the Spirit, moved forward with our decision, and are wholly committed to it, doubts may still arise and cause us to re-question our decision. In such circumstances a trusted family member or friend can provide counsel and strength to stay the course. When Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, Nephi probably relied on his father, mother, and his brother Sam for this support. But I suggest that along the journey his new bride became that trusted anchor.

A comprehension of Nephi’s wife did not come to me until I was in my late thirties. While vacationing in Utah from our home in Beijing, we visited the Church History Museum to view the Churchwide art competition. I was transfixed by a painting of Nephi lashed to the mast of a ship, soaked to the skin in a driving storm, and absolutely exhausted.27 At that time I felt I could relate to Nephi—I was bearing the burden of establishing my firm’s position in China, striving to be a good father to six young children, and magnifying my Church calling. I felt pretty overwhelmed. I wondered whether we should remain in China as we had been directed by the Spirit to do.

But in the painting I also observed that at Nephi’s side were his wife and one of his children. She was experiencing the same storm and challenges as Nephi, but her eyes were defiant and her strong arms were protectively wrapped around his shoulders. In that moment I realized that I too was blessed to have a loyal spouse offering her strength in my times of trial. And I hoped that I was a similar strength to her when she felt lashed to a mast raising six kids in the storm of a foreign land. Together we recommitted to our decision of living in China.

Since that museum visit I have spent time looking for Nephi’s wife amidst the opening pages of the Book of Mormon. My studies have caused me to ponder their courtship and life together.

What did she see in Nephi? He wrote that he was “large in stature.”28 Does that imply she was enthralled by Thor-like ripped abs? I believe it was his spiritual strength that drew her heart to him. When Nephi came to the home of Ishmael, she observed a powerful missionary. On the trip to Lehi’s camp she heard him raise his voice in faith and forgive his attackers. Brethren, preserving and enhancing the spiritual strength you developed (or will yet develop) as a missionary or in other righteous service is your best asset in becoming a desirable husband and father.

What did Nephi see in her? At Ishmael’s home he was likely impressed by this young woman whose heart was softened by the word of God.29 On the journey out of Jerusalem he observed a woman unwilling to rebel and prepared to move forward in faith, and we might assume she was the courageous daughter of Ishmael who pleaded with Nephi’s brothers to not harm him.30 Sisters, being able to develop spiritual sensitivity, faith, and courage to follow Jesus Christ is among your best qualities in becoming an incredible wife and mother.

I invite each of you to become the type of person that your current or future spouse can draw on for wise counsel and strength. Drifting aimlessly without spiritual or temporal purpose will not enhance your prospects for a successful marriage. Do not retreat into an impenetrable shell because of prior relationship rejections and pains. Invest yourself in finding a mutually compatible companion and be willing to move forward in faith when you feel you have found the right person. Do not let fears of repeating the broken marriage of your parents or your friends keep you from that crowning covenant.

I am confident that Nephi’s wife strengthened his resolve to do the many hard things the Lord commanded him to do. I testify that in our day, a virtuous man and a worthy woman, sealed for time and all eternity in the temple, can likewise do difficult things as equal partners.

To stick with our decisions in times of doubt, each of us needs to draw on the strength of a trusted friend, family member, or spouse. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve Apostles shared an experience that happened at BYU not long after his 1963 marriage. Elder Holland related:

I turned to Pat and said something like this: “Honey, should we give up? I can get a good job and carve out a good living for us. I can do some things. I’ll be okay without a degree. Should we stop trying to tackle what right now seems so difficult to face?” . . .

Then my beloved little bride did what she has done for 45 years since then. She grabbed me by the lapels and said, “We are not going back. We are not going home. The future holdseverything for us.”31

“I Will Lead You Along”

The future did hold everything for Jeff and Pat Holland, for Nephi and his wife, and for Tony and Christy Perkins—and it does for you. Jesus Christ promises:

Ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.32

I promise that if you will apply the lessons learned from Nephi and modern prophets about making decisions, you will be led along with personal revelation from time to time and your life will be “of curious workmanship,”33 uniquely pleasing to the Lord. I invite you to do the following:

1. Qualify for the Spirit by obeying commandments.
2. Move forward in faith, even without perfect knowledge.
3. Commit fully to inspired decisions and live in the present.
4. Draw on the strength of trusted loved ones to sustain the journey.

As you progress through your decade of decision, may you have the faith to say, as did Nephi, “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth.”34

I know that Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, are the source of all our blessings in mortality and in the eternities. Jesus taught, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”35 Be confident that the Savior will fulfill His promise to lead you along to an abundant life, even when the immediate path sometimes seems uncertain. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Enjoy it and live it out baby, and I promise that the Lord will bless you. Have a great week! Enjoy the cool weather and I’ll continue to enjoy sweating in places that I didn’t know existed HAHA . I love you all. Make it a great week! I love you Gi. Thanks dad for all your hard work and mother just keep being the stud and half you are. I love you guys! 
So the pic of the pyramid we talked about having a strong foundation and all during the family night at the church. It was really good! We must have a strong foundation like it says in the bible! 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 

It was a great activity!!! Think and ponder about your own lives… 

Con mucho amor,
Elder Long!