Our Savior, Jesus Christ Created the Earth

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February 29, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!!!

This week was just great. Actually, it’s been 2 weeks since I wrote last, but they passed so fast that I’m not even sure what happened, so I’ll just kind of start a typin’ and see what happens (oh, the library FINALLY has internet after almost month!)

Transfers:
Yep, I’m still here in Portalegre with Elder M. His training is going really well. We’re still working on getting his Visa deal worked out, but the US consulate here is having problems with their system….go figure.

We are passing (looking up) a bunch of people from the area book, trying to find some new people to teach. It’s been fun. We’ve found some really nice people, some JW’s, Adventists, people who believe in God but don’t want to learn more about him, and even a guy that studies about all kinds of religions, but won’t go to any of them. This guy is an older guy (60 years old). He let us in the first time we went over there, and he kind of gave us his spiel. I’ve met a lot of similar people that I’ve found really annoying, but this man was actually fascinating. He started out Catholic, then got baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness, then stayed in an Evangelical church for a while, then studied to be a 7th-day Adventist, but they rushed him and he decided not to get baptized. Then he studied a bit with the Elders and went to church a few times, but has just stuck to his own principles. Very normal for someone who has found follies with other churches. Here were some of the things he said:
1. He believes in God, the creator–a lot. He has great faith in Him, but he believes that in spite of everything the Savior has done for us, he is only our brother, not our God, and we should not worship him. He believes there is but one God, who is the creator. Well, after some additional study, I reaffirmed the reason we worship the Savior. In the first chapter of John, we find out that it was Christ who created the earth:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God. (14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.)
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

Obviously, Christ created the earth, while in the presence of God. He is a God, being the Son of God. When we believe on His name, we may become the sons of God. Christ is also “the gate” (2 Nephi 9:41) by which we must enter. When we pray, we pray to the father, but in Christ’s name, for He taught us “whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) We worship Christ and His example because of His sacrifice and because we understand that “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Him].” (John 14:6). I didn’t really have a good answer for J_ last time we were there, but I told him I’d look into it and come back this week with my findings. And these are just out of the Bible. If he lets me open the book of Mormon, watch out; he won’t be able to deny worshiping the Savior.

2. I actually really appreciated some of the things J_ said. He told us how he admires so much the youth of our church (specifically the Elders, because it’s all he really knows so far). The fact that we live our religion so well, exactly how we should. We go out and we preach, we invite, not annoy people. We show that we believe these things to the core. His main problem with our church is apparently adults. He thinks that adults are all prideful, greedy, just-in-it-for-the-money people. I KNOW this to be false. I have the wonderful example of you and Dad. In a letter once, you guys told me about how you had decided to [do a particular thing], and I figured that it would be a little inefficient and a hassle, but in response you said, “We wouldn’t do it because it is beneficial nor convenient for us. We would do it because we want to help…in whatever way we can…as a way to serve God and our fellowmen rather than ourselves…to be an instrument in the Lord’s hand…It’ll be a bit of a hassle, tax-wise, and I’ll have some other tasks because of it…But we don’t really mind.” Wow! What cool parents I have!!!! 🙂

3. He also discredited much of the doctrine of the Old Testament on the grounds that “that doesn’t sound like a loving God and Creator.” Of course we also know that the Bible is only true as far as it was translated correctly, but that does not give us license to decide which parts are true and which parts aren’t true to fit our personal and moral beliefs. It doesn’t work like that! The Bible, each part, each story, is either true or it’s not, and we can’t do anything to change that simply because we don’t agree with certain parts. Anyway, he said that a question he has never had anyone answer was “Why were there TWO cherubim on top of the ark of the covenant?” I have no idea why he asks that or if there is an answer to be had, but maybe you guys know.

We had a couple of wonderful lessons this week with a dad and his son. They’re progressing really well, and reading the Book of Mormon well. We hope to be able to get them to church this Sunday because they’re SO cool. The dad had respectfully told us he was not ready to pray in the first few lessons we had, due to something that had happened in the past, but he has been helping his son pray with us and at night. It has been just fabulous! This last lesson, we had him pray to know if the church has been restored and he prayed with us for the first time, with tears in his eyes. It was just awesome!

We still haven’t given up on good ol’ M_. This week we created a plan for him to start quitting coffee, which he accepted. He has also gone down from 0.6 nicotine on his electric cigarette to 0.3, which is progress. I think he’s going to know more about the gospel than most of the members before he gets baptized, at this rate. But we hope he will follow our plan and can be baptized at the end of March.

This weekend I got to give the Seminary class lesson on Genesis 13-14, then I gave the Sunday school class lesson on 2 Nephi 11-26 (yeah, I’m not kidding it was pretty difficult because there was so much material), and gave a talk in sacrament meeting as well. I have been really busy these past few months.

Anyway, I love you all! Thank you sooo much! See you later.

Love,
Elder Zwahlen

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Bearers of the Lord’s Message

February 22, 1916 Portalegre

Hey Mom and Dad!

The Library computers are still down so I have under 10 minutes to write my email this week.

This week we did have the meeting with Elder Kearon, President of the Europe Area. He is simply hilarious! I loved the spirit and determination that he brought with him. He talked a lot about “Being the message.” We are the bearers of the Lord’s sacred message to all the world. We must show that we are HAPPY, so that other people will want to be happy too! Our success depends on our obedience and our personal commitment with the Lord.

I received a letter from a family in our home ward who said the following about you guys:

“I have to tell you that I really appreciate the example your family sets. They are always at the service projects, any activities and always fulfill their callings well. They are dedicated to the gospel. You are blessed to have such a family and we are blessed to have your family in our ward.”

Thanks for being SOOOO AWESOME!!!! Keep it up!

This week was the 7th week of the transfer. We will find out about transfers tomorrow at 11:30am right after District Meeting, which is really annoying for us because we have to drive over an hour just to get to district meeting and so if one of us is getting transferred, it doesn’t make any sense to go all the way back home, pack up all our bags then pass through the same city once again. This means that we will probably have to pack our bags regardless, and put them in the car when we leave for district meeting. Tonight is going to be fun 🙂

Anyway, if there’s one thing that I want you guys to get from this letter it’s how grateful I am for your wonderful example as parents. You guys are incredible. Keep up the good work. I love you tons!

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

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The Work Continues

February 15, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!

So, the email in the Library is STILL not working so I’m trying to type really fast in our investigator’s house.

As far as Elder M’s visa, we are making progress with it but there was a great delay because he was born in Venezuela and the US doesn’t get along with them.

Thanks for your thoughts about perfectionism. I more of less just find it funny that sometimes we are so worried about messing up that we don’t even try. Normally the consequences for trying and not quite making it are minimal compared to those of not even giving it a shot. Thanks for always loving me and supporting me even when–especially when– I’m not perfect.

Today would be transfer day, but on Thursday we will have a mission-wide conference with an Area 70 of Europe, Elder Kearon, so the President has delayed transfers until this next Monday. The next transfer will be only 5 weeks.

Other news, I was walking by some parked cars and I caught my pants on a license plate. Totally ripped a big old hole in them 😦 Don’t worry, I’ll get a church member to fix them.

Anyway, I hope this week is an easier school week for you, Mom. Don’t stress too much. Remember I’ll always love you, whether you’re a certified accountant or not.

Love you all!

Elder Zwahlen

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The Church is True

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The Saving Power of Christ

February 1, 2016

Hi Mom and Dad!

This week was kinda crazy because we left our area Tuesday night and got back Friday afternoon, but the training that was given to the leaders was well worth it. It was two days straight of just training and cold McDonalds they bought for us for every meal.

Some of the main points that Presidente Amorim focused on were the following:
1. Obedience
2. Finding people to teach through that huge list of people that the members know. Finding people through huge activities at the church, etc.
3. “The Folder.” At the training meeting we all received a folder with pictures and information to be used during lessons. They are created on a point by point basis on a very basic level in order to captivate investigators attention and help us teach simply. They’re actually super cool and we already started using them here in Portalegre.
4. District Meeting. District meeting is so central to our purpose as missionaries because it allows us to learn, grow, practice, and gain experience as missionaries in a safe, constructive environment. WEEKLY. What could be more important. President extended our district meeting time from 60-90 minutes to 90-120 minutes. I will have to prepare really good for them so they are edifying experiences.

At 6:30 both nights of the conference in Porto, we all had to leave and go on divisions in various areas. The first night I went in a tripla in the area of Porto 2. It was super fun actually. We met this old guy who was pretty much a rock star by profession and really liked music. He also though “pretty much everything we say is a lie, ” but we convinced him to let us come back another day. Later on in the division, Elder J had a dinner appointment with 3 other elders of that area so he left us to fend for ourselves. We were roaming around when a member stopped in her car and waved us down. She was super nice and we talked to us for a while and then asked if we wanted some cheese. We’re pretty used to accepting any kind food so we said yes. She opened the trunk and gave us this massive circle of cheese! Like pounds of it! It was pretty cool. We still don’t have our money situation figured out so at least we got some dinner 🙂

The 2nd night, the district leader from Tomar and I were the only Elders that didn’t go home after the conference because we rode up with the couple missionaries from Abrantes, so he and I just hit the streets. He is from Cape Verde and he asked a girl from Cape Verde if he could help her carry groceries, and she accepted. Normally people don’t accept help. It’s pretty rare. But like I always see when black missionaries contact other black people “I’m black. You’re black. Let’s be friends. Wanna get baptized!?” It’s like so easy!!! Haha! It was a lot of fun. On our way back to the hotel we were staying in we met all three of the couple missionaries walking out of McDonalds. One of them handed us 10 bucks and told us to go get some food, so we got some dinner that night too. That’s always a plus.

One of the member families couldn’t come to church on Sunday because they went down to Lisbon, so we had a little smaller turnout at church but it went well even so.

Sorry I don’t much more to say. I hope this week goes well for all of you!

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

February 8, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey – Sorry about this but the internet is down at the library so I’m using a printing place to write this. I can’t spend a lot of time here. I just wanted to say I love you all. Thank you so much and the church is true 🙂

Elder Zwahlen

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The Power of Goals & Faith

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January 25, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!
This week was good. I actually saw my own Blog (eldercoryzwahlen.wordpress.com) this week for the first time with an investigator. It’s super cool! I noticed it’s a little behind, so when you are feeling better, Mom, you should go and update it, or whoever is in charge of it. Thanks!

Okay, so, the week: It went quite well, and quickly. We went to Abrantes to watch the world-wide missionary broadcast with the rest of the District and the senior missionaries. I don’t have my notes with me, with most of the specifics, but I remember very well how I felt during the transmission. I felt empowered. The conference was about “Preaching repentance and baptizing converts.” The leaders of the church are so inspired. They always know exactly what the members in the world need at the right moments. They talked about the power of our calling and the importance of obedience and following the spirit. A lot of what was said were things that are outlined very well in Preach My Gospel. I liked the conference very much, as did the rest of the district.

This week I gained a stronger testimony of goals. The Zone and Mission have been focusing lately on finding new investigators. On Thursday, we passed by a member’s house at night and they invited us to eat dinner with them, but we told them we would have to leave to teach a lesson and then come back. It was pretty late and the zone goal was for each area to find one new investigator (which pretty much means you teach them a lesson and they want you to come back.) I really, really, wanted to reach this goal, but we hadn’t found anyone up until that point. We had 2 door-contact potentials that I felt we should go check on. I was praying tons that we would be able to teach the first one, in order to reach our goal of at least one new. Unfortunately, he wasn’t home, so we went to our alternative plan, a student.

We prayed fervently before we knocked on his door that we might be able to teach him. We knocked. He wasn’t home. We started praying again, and the names of some past investigators came into my mind. We had passed them countless times, but were never able to teach them. So, we went there on the prayer of faith and they were home. I knew after he answered the “who-is-it-box” that we were going to get in and the Lord had led us there. They had a lot of questions about the Plan of Salvation and what we believed, so we were able to have a fruitful lesson on the subject. I felt so guided. We were inspired because we prayed in faith for a righteous desire to reach our goals and find more people to teach. It was a remarkable and inspiring experience.

This week is going to be super crazy. There is a leadership conference for all of the leaders in the mission, including the district leaders and the senior missionaries, up in Porto. It will be 2 DAYS LONG. I have no idea what the conference will be about, but it should be pretty cool.

Well, thank you all for your love and support. Sorry everyone is sick. Hope you all feel better this week. I’ll pray for you. Thank you for your prayers. I know they help.

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

P.S. We contacted THE FUNNIEST GUY I HAVE EVER MET this week. He had talked to the Elders before and he told us he knew we were there to convert him, but that we shouldn’t worry because he had already auto-converted himself! What? We talked with him for quite a while, and we couldn’t stop laughing the whole time. He’s probably about 30, has a girlfriend and a little girl on the way. He was simply hilarious. We’ll go back and teach him and his girlfriend this week.

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God-given Agency

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First attempt at Cinnamon Rolls!

 

January 18, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Mom and Dad,

So, we realized this week that we can now go into a member’s house, because of a clarification by President Amorim. I mean, we have a member family, a mom and 2 kids that we could previously only talk to in the doorway unless her other, (older) nonmember son was home. But now we have permission from President to visit them. We took full advantage of it this week by having 2 family nights with them. They’re simply incredible. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but out here where we are the leadership and the priesthood, it’s truly a blessing.

In that same family, the mom had a birthday this week. We planned a family night at the church on the day of her birthday, and we actually had a surprise birthday party for her with food and desserts. It was awesome!

I gave a talk in church this week derived from a talk given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie called “Agency and Inspiration.” He talks about how we need to use our agency to make the best choices we can, even though God has commanded that we always look to him and ask for His direction. How can we find a balance between our own agency and God’s inspiration in order to make correct decisions? We make hundreds, maybe even thousands of decisions everyday–what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to say…etc. Many of these are insignificant decisions, but there are many decisions that can ultimately determine our happiness in this life and our Salvation in the world to come.

It is during these decisions that we are in the most need of the Lord’s guidance. In his talk, Elder Bruce R. McConkie gives 3 examples, 2 of which I will explain, that help us to understand the unique correlation between agency and personal revelation.

1. “You have not understood”

When Oliver Cowdery was writing down the words of the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith read them, he desired to also have the power to translate. So, surely enough, he asked Joseph to ask God if he could also translate and the Lord said, “Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive.” Alright, he thought, sure thing. He had faith, he honestly wanted to be able to translate, so he followed the direction given through the prophet, prayed, and tried to translate, but he failed, being totally unable to translate. He then wondered why it was he was not able to do it and the Lord responded, “You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me” D&C 9:7. So, it wasn’t that Oliver lacked faith, but it was that he hadn’t done everything in his power to work out the problem for himself before he asked the Lord. Because obviously, had he done so, he would have realized that it was not the will of the Lord for him to translate, but that he should be content with his work and help uphold the prophet in his calling. The Lord also clarifies, “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong…” (D&C 9:8-9) We can learn that the Lord wants us to use our agency to its fullest by searching for answers and weighing the outcomes. For, how can we thing that the Lord would give us an answer when we “took no thought save it was to ask [him]” ?

2. “Why are you asking me?”

The second is more well-known. It is the story of the brother of Jared. The Lord showed the Brother of Jared, how he was to build the barges, and he did likewise. But there was a problem – they needed air in the Barges. This was a problem that was “totally beyond his capacity to solve.” So, he took it to the Lord, and the Lord tells directly to make holes in the top and the bottom of the barges and when water starts to come in, plug the holes. “Do thus and so and you’ll have air.” Oh! Easy enough; one problem solved. Now, there is one other problem– No light. All who are familiar with this story know that when The Brother of Jared asked the Lord, the Lord responds very differently than the first time, by saying “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” (Ether 2:23). So, The Brother of Jared goes to work, carving and shaping stones pure stones from rock of which he believed that if the Lord touched, would glow in the barges, giving light during their journey. And after showing his faith, he presents his plan to the Lord, which is accepted. The Lord knew that The Brother of Jared was capable of finding the solution to the problem, and in the end, learned much more than he would have learned had the answer been given to him. God knows what’s best for each one of us. He wants us seek his counsel and work out problems for ourselves. Many times, we have to weigh the options and present our plan to the Lord. He will answer. He always answers.

Anyway, thanks for all your love and support. Things are going well here and I hope the same is true back home.

Hey Dad!

Thanks for your intuitive insights and perspective. I laughed quite a bit here in the library while reading your email. The other people in the room probably think I’m crazy 🙂 I just finished a lengthy conversation with a retired engineer from England that now buys, fixes, and sells pocket watches on EBay. I don’t know what part of England he is from, but his accent is so thick! I seriously understand Portuguese people better than this guy! It doesn’t even sound like English!

Thanks a lot for the ideas to help M_ quit drinking coffee. We’re going to work to apply them this week. He really needs a stronger testimony of the gospel. Hopefully he will see that the Lord’s ways are higher than the ways of the world.

I kind of miss the snow, actually (I can say that now while I’m here, anyway…). You’re completely right: It’s so much better shoveling someone else’s’ snow than your own. Doing service can be hard, but it’s very fulfilling.

I can only imagine that your family history work has been going steadily. I really would like to get into it, but I just don’t know where to start. I think it would be so much fun to do indexing of names from Portugal! You’ll need to show me the ropes when I get home, how to find names and such. I wonder if Madison still does anything with that after having been assigned by the stake to help people with their family history.

Also, this Wednesday, we’re going to have a world-wide missionary broadcast that we will see with the rest of our district in Abrantes. Should be really cool!

We made cinnamon rolls 🙂 I actually had no idea that cinnamon rolls took so much work! And they grew so big!!!!

Love,

Elder Zwahlen

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We Don’t Drink Alcohol!

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January 11, 2016 Portalegre, Portugal

Hey Mom and Dad!!!

TRANSFERS! Yes, I’m still here in Portalegre, but Elder T got transferred to Figureira da Foz, my first area actually! I’m gonna miss him. We got along super well and it was a fun transfer, but I’m sure this one will be as well. I’m actually training again. This time he’s a Portuguese Elder, named Elder M. He’s from a city fairly close to Lisbon, called Carregado. He was actually born in Venezuela, and speaks fluent Spanish, so I’m gonna have him teach me some, so I can talk to all the Mexicans when I get home. His family are all members and he was born in the church. His call is actually to BOSTON, Spanish-speaking, but he’s just here for this transfer while waiting for his Visa. He hasn’t even gone to the MTC yet! He’s literally serving as a missionary in his home mission, in his home District! It’s cool to see how much he loves the people and wants to help this group grow.

Because he’s supposed to be in Boston, the mission didn’t have a credit card for him, and they haven’t succeeded in putting his money in my account yet, so I’m now like super in debt because of the gas to Porto and back, as well as a really expensive map the Mission President asked everyone to buy and now weekly food (we are still suffering from when Elder T disconnected the fridge by accident…..). So, that’s why I had to take out so much personal money. I’ll get it all back though, eventually.

My last day should be JUNE 20TH. I don’t know if that’s the day I go home or if that’s my last day in the field. We’ll see. It’ll all work out. It’d be wonderful to have Zach and Amy do a duet (vocal accompanied by organ) at my homecoming. I’m sure it will be amazing.

Our investigator, M_, is doing well. He’s already stopped smoking and he keeps going to church but he just doesn’t want to stop drinking coffee. He has a health condition, anemia, which is a problem with the Hemoglobin in your blood or something. But it makes you tired and M_ feels he can’t stop drinking coffee or he will be too tired to carry out his daily activities. We don’t really know how to help him understand the importance of the Word of Wisdom. Do you have any ideas of what we can do to help him?

This week was kind of crazy. On Tuesday we found out about the transfers, so later that day we drove up all the way up to Porto. I had nothing to do up there, so I went on a Division with one of the Elders I came in with. That was cool. There were a lot of missionaries up at the office, so I got to sleep in a really nice hotel. Whoohoo!

The next day we had the training meeting with President Amorim which was super inspiring and we got to meet our new comps. My comp was actually the only one that President Amorim already had matched before-hand.

Elder M already has his driver’s license, so I got out of driving another transfer! We drove back Wednesday night and slept in the Abrantes Elders’ house. We got to our area Thursday morning and passed a super old member on the way in. She tried to give us like everything in her house, either for us or for us to distribute — clothes, food, school books, all kinds of random stuff. We only got out of there by telling her there wasn’t any more room in the car! Haha, she’s a super cute old lady and doesn’t have a lot herself, but wants to serve others. It was really cool to see how easily she was able to give to others.

A really old man named Senhor J invited us in and asked me if I liked something. I didn’t really understand what he said. I thought he said ginger, like the root, and I’m used to telling people I like things, so I told him yes, I liked it. Then Elder M was like, “Elder! That’s alcohol! We don’t drink alcohol.” The man was actually referring to the alcoholic beverage, Ginger haha! Sometimes it really pays to have a Portuguese companion 🙂

Today was the first time I had to start the car wash machine by myself, and I was having problems with it. So I put down the pressure washer hose, to mess with it, to see if I could get it to work. Well, it started up. And I wasn’t holding it….. It blasted out of the holder like a rocket ship and it was flying around the washing bay while my comp and I tried to get hold of it. It happened on a really busy street corner, so I’m pretty sure some people saw! Eventually we got hold of it and washed the car 🙂

Aw, I almost forgot, thanks so much for your package of pudding boxes! The members love it!

I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder Zwahlen

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