Keeping God’s Commandments Brings Happiness

 

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November 9, 2015 – Leiria, Portugal

Hello Mom and Dad!

Ya, sorry, I didn’t have time to do email last p-day because we went up to do Residency for Elder M. Many rules have changed with President Amorim, so I wasn’t able to tell you that I’m still alive that next day. I will try to respond as best I can to both emails.

My brown shoes are still going strong but the cheap shoe goo only lasted like 2 days. I will have to go visit a cobbler or something. Speaking of cobbler, I think we might try and make some peach cobbler this week!!!

Wow. Has it really been 2 weeks since I wrote last…..? It passed sooooo fast! Let’s start with the Halloween Party.

The Halloween Party went really well. Pretty much all of the members loved it. We had tons of decorations, food, activities such as bobbing for apples, toilet paper mummy race (that should be pretty self-explanatory), Oreo face muscle game, eating donuts hung on fishing wire, and even pumpkin carving for everyone that wanted to participate. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so when I get the pics of the activity I’ll send them.

We’ve had some new trainings from President Amorim about “measuring our progress,” personal responsibility and growth. Recently we’ve also had to relate daily results of number of contacts and invites to baptism, among others. Some people would say it’s micromanagement or that it makes people just a number, but we should remember what President Monson said:

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”
–President Thomas S. Monson

Preach My Gospel continues: “The principle of accountability is fundamental in God’s eternal plan. We will all stand before the Lord at the last judgment and give an accounting for what we have done with the opportunities He has given us (see Alma 5:15–19; D&C 137:9).”

Here in our area we are really trying to increase the number of contacts we do each day. It has been tiring. On Saturday, we talked to so many people that by the end of the day, I could hardly speak–I had lost my voice! President Amorim has already set a goal of 50 contacts per day and we have been striving to reach that. In doing so, we’ve already found some really cool people that we pray will continue to progress towards baptism.

So, we found a Ukranian lady who is a Seventh-day Adventist and she invited us to go with her to her church. We told her we’d go if she came to ours and she agreed. It was a very unique experience. We were able to go because there was no conflict between our church schedules since Seventh-Day Adventists worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. Quick note: The “Sabbath day was Saturday, until the resurrection of Christ, when we know the Apostles were told to worship on Sunday instead, and to not be like unto the Pharisees. In English, this problem doesn’t exist, but in Portuguese, Sabbath and Saturday are the same word: Sábado. This causes a lot of unnecessary confusion when we teach keeping the Sabbath day holy or how we say it–sanctify the Day of the Lord.

Anyway, we were well received at the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Some people thought we were students in the beginning, but many of the better informed members knew better 😉 Here are some things I noticed:

They were glad we were visiting and this cute 19-year old made an announcement and asked any visitors to stand. We awkwardly got out of our seats. She came over with some little gifts for us which was a little crosshide bag with a bar of soap in it. We both took one, as everyone in the church watched and then the girl leaned in to kiss Elder M on the cheek (a very normal greeting, called giving “beijinhos”), and she almost planted one on him before he awkwardly leaned away, making a motion to shake her hand instead, while stammering “I cant, I cant….” She just kind of awkwardly apologized in front of the whole congregation and shook our hands. At least that us gave us a good reason to talk about who we were after the meeting!

They never passed the sacrament, which I thought was weird seeing that they study and live the bible to the t. They use manuals like we have, but they are like daily study manuals that people bring home, do the reading from, make notes in, and actually bring back to church the next week to talk about. I thought it was very cool actually that these people were so committed to daily, intent scripture study.

Thanks for your thoughts Mom, this week about scripture study. Truly people who follow this guideline of studying and applying the scriptures are blessed. In fact, one of the things I noticed about these people was that THEY WERE ACTUALLY HAPPY. I have never met a single person on my mission who was truly happy, who was not living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wondered how that could be and I read Mosiah 2:41 which says, “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”

I realized they were happy because they were keeping the commandments. Sometimes we think that all blessings are withheld from those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ, but that is not true. The wonderful members that I found there at the Seventh-Day Adventists church were happy because they were living many of the commandments of God–they don’t drink, don’t smoke, study the scriptures, pray, love their neighbor, love God, and try to keep the Sabbath day holy according to their beliefs. It was really cool for me to see these wonderful members of another church. It also gave us a great chance to answer a lot of peoples’ questions and misconceptions about Mormons. There were only a couple of times where people really tried to bash our beliefs.

We did notice, though, a lack of the Spirit during the meetings. They had everything, music, talks (given by a pastor), prayers, scriptures, everything that a class at our church would have, but there was something missing. It was like a disappointing pop-fly in baseball. It needed something to hit it home, a solidifier of truth. The truth was there, based-in the bible, but the conviction of testimony, that can tell us “The truth of all things” was regrettably not present.

There was a break for lunch and all of the members had brought something, pot-luck, to share. They were so excited to share with us what they had made, especially the Ukranian and Russian members. As I was dishing up some food, a little-bit of everything, they told me there was not any meat there. I politely asked why not, and they told me it wasn’t healthy, and that as much as possible they tried to avoid eating meat, unless they were in situations where it would be offensive not to. I found it interesting and started eating. All the food was spectacular, even if the meat wasn’t present 😉

But my favorite part was directly after the luncheon, all the Russians and Ukrainians (there were about 6 of them) grabbed us and were like “Hey, you guys are foreigners like us; we want to show you something.” So they brought us down to a room that was designated for them, so they could translate the talks freely, and they wanted to sing some traditional Russian hymns/folk songs about God. One of the ladies was a professional singer and a man used to be a professional guitarist and played for us. We all felt the spirit really strong during these songs, and I was grateful for their company. I didn’t want to leave, but we really had to get back to our area. They asked if we could say a prayer before we left so we all got in a circle and, holding hands, they asked me to say the a prayer. It an experience I’ll never forget.

Thank you guys so much for your weekly emails. They are always so inspiring to me. I love you all so much. Have a wonderful week.

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

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About Elder Zwahlen

Elder Cory Zwahlen is serving a 2-year proselyting mission in the Lisbon, Portugal area, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He entered the Provo MTC on July 9, 2014. One of Elder Zwahlen's favorite scriptures is Alma 29:1-2 "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth."
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