question upon question

October 6

The rule is that if you’re a missionary, you love General Conference. Well, I’m a missionary and I loved General Conference. It was exactly what I needed. I went in asking myself, “What advice does God have just for me about becoming a better missionary?” On Saturday morning, Elder Lawrence invited us to pray and ponder what we are doing that is preventing our progress. As I prayed on Saturday night, as soon as I knelt down the thought came to me: “You need to elevate your thoughts.” I was like, okay, let’s get this prayer out, and I prayed, “What is– you need to elevate your thoughts– okay, so what is keeping me– you need to elevate your thoughts!— anyway, what is keeping me from pro– YOU NEED TO ELEVATE YOUR THOUGHTS– okay, what is keeping me from progressing? Is it my thoughts?” and the Spirit was like, “Yes, that’s exactly right.” The Holy Ghost is such a good friend to me. Nothing about my missionary service would be of any use without him. He’s truly the best companion you could ask for.

I really love concrete direction, so as soon as I heard that prompting, I thought: how? How do I elevate my thoughts? It’s easy for me to understand why my thoughts would be a great place to begin progressing, but how do I do it? A few hours later Brother Durrant stepped in and answered my question. He invited us to “ponderize” (80% pondering and 20% memorizing) a scripture every week. I loved this advice not only because I love it when people make up words but also because it was exactly the concrete answer I needed. Brother Durrant promised specifically that having a designated scripture to ponder and memorize every week would help us have uplifting thoughts. This answer left me with a final question: what should I ponderize first?! My transfer theme is gratitude, so I went to “thanks” in the Topical Guide and found a really beautiful verse I have never noticed before, 2 Nephi9:52 “Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice.” What are you going to ponderize this week? I want to know!

The way this direction from God unfolded was so instructive to me regarding how revelation works. I began with a question and faith that a combination of direct personal revelation through the Holy Ghost and worldwide prophetic revelation would answer this question for me. I was then given a little bit of direction as to how to refine my question in personal prayer: “What is keeping me from progressing?”. I was given an answer as well as another question: “YOU NEED TO ELEVATE YOUR THOUGHTS… but how?” and finally another answer with yet another question: Ponderize a new scripture every week, with only the question of which scripture to start with left, which was answered by my beloved Book of Mormon. This is exactly how learning “line upon line and precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:13) works. In my experience we learn question upon question and answer upon answer. Never fear the questions you have. When we know who can deliver answers from God to us and when we have faith that they will be answered by God, our questions are the foundation of personal revelation as long as we are willing to diligently seek rather than idly speculating. Wondering and praying sometimes feel similar but their results are very different.

Sister Madsen and I had a wonderful encounter with our mission president this week. He was passing through the area on another errand and he called us to ask where a good place to eat would be. My personal favorite is right next door to where we live and it just so happens that we were at that moment parking our car at home so we could spend a few hours on foot walking to our visits and talking to people. President pulled into the parking lot of this beloved diner right as we were walking by and we got to chat for a minute. It was wonderful to talk to him because he immediately wanted to know how our investigators were doing. He offered us specific advice for those whom we are teaching and asked if he could attend the baptism we are hosting for one of our investigators at the end of the month. I could see that our area and every person in our area was important to President Christiansen even though he has six stakes worth of areas, missionaries, and investigators to worry about. Bless his heart. After we talked for a little while, one of our favorite couples in the ward walked out of the restaurant in question and approached us. We had a wonderful little conversation and I felt such love for those members and leaders who contribute to the work and who take good care of us little missionaries while we’re out here trying to fend for ourselves. We have amazing resources.

This week we also had zone training with our fellow missionaries in the stake. It was fabulous and a little bit funny, as events hosted by teenage boys are wont to be. Our mission is home to the son of Stephanie Myers who began his mission a little bashful about his heritage but has slowly started embracing it. This zone conference, we were brainstorming ideas to motivate us to reach our goals. Elder Myer said, “I’ll get everyone who meets their goals their favorite candy bar. I have money!” Bless your heart, elder. Hopefully a Reese’s cup is coming my way, paid for by the Twilight franchise. Our mission is also home to the great-grandson of Minerva Teichert. At a recent conference I walked past him. I’ve never met him before but I’m just about eye-level with most elders’ name tags and I saw the words “Elder Teichert” right there in black and white. I looked up and said, “Teichert as in Minerva Teichert?!” and he said, “Yes, she’s my great-grandmother.” I gushed, “Oh, she’s my favorite!!!” and without thinking said, “Say hi to her for me!!!” to which he replied, “I will…. after I die….” Another successful interaction with an elder.

We had the privilege of finding somebody new to work with this week! A new investigator is like fresh love except way better. You pretend that they will never disappoint you and that they will want to be baptized immediately and become your best friend and great shall be your joy with them in the kingdom. Now, this is sometimes true but of course not always, but having high expectations and faith is important to missionary work. When Sister Madsen and I were role-playing our lesson (or real-playing, as missionaries in our mission love to say) I felt prompted to ask several kind of tough questions while posing as our potential investigators. I felt kind of bad because my good companion was floundering a little and usually I don’t give people too hard a time when we practice, but I just felt compelled to be a little challenging. That evening, after we left our lesson we both marveled at how similar each of our new investigator’s questions were to the questions I asked. In case you’re wondering who’s the boss, it’s definitely not me.

In baby animal/not-so-baby animal news, we visited the home of a sister in the ward who has twelve cats. Now, I’m allergic to cats, but as a missionary your needs/comfort/preferences are not important. Also, I love cats and sometimes I want to pet them and pretend like there aren’t consequences for me down the road. Anyway, this sister had one of the hugest cats I have ever seen. I took a picture but it doesn’t do the cat’s size justice and I think your imaginations will do a better job. Imagine a giant cat. It was climbing all over me all giantly and I loved it, until went home and I had to plan through my sneezing. This was the same day we enjoyed a session of general conference with an investigator who has four cats and two dogs. Also a very sneezy experience. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a missionary vehicle without a lint roller in the glove compartment. They might even be more consistent in their presence than bike racks.

Well my siblen (that’s an extra gender neutral way of saying “brethren and sisters,” fyi) I have so much love for you. I hope you loved conference and how tenderly the apostles spoke of their departed bffs. I hope you write to me about what you’re ponderizing these days at 923 National Hwy, LaVale MD 21502.

Your sister in Zion,

Sister Aspelund (that’s a real spelling that I got this week, btw)
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