This week was a wild one, full of ups and downs and news and so much good counsel from God's servants -- the Prophets and Apostles. I am doing really well, really enjoying my mission and happy as ever. I can't really do it justice in the intro to the email, but I hope you feel a little of what I have felt as you read through the different days. I love you guys :)
March 27, 2012
Today went well out in our area. We started the day with a lesson with Z.S. from the 5-5-5 program and she is doing well. Well, except for the fact that she was living with a guy before being baptized and kicked him out in order to get baptized and he said "OK" and left his furniture and now he is repo-ing it. ALL of it. So we helped her move every last piece of furniture out of her apartment and into the front yard after teaching her about the rest of the Plan of Salvation. I really love the scripture in 2 Nephi that talks about how Christ employs no gatekeeper at the gate to the Kingdom. President has talked about that before and how it is so He can be the one to embrace us and take us in His arms and say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." How awesome will that day be!?
March 28, 2012
We were asked to go and give a blessing at the veteran’s hospital which was a rush because the guy was headed into surgery in about 20 minutes when we got the call. We stopped and got into the car and raced over there. As we were driving, I couldn’t help but realize how incredible the Priesthood of God really is. No one else in the area could have stepped in and offered that blessing. No one was closer to where this man was -- nobody who had been authorized by God to act in such a manner and to offer a blessing of healing to an afflicted soul and body in need.
As we arrived, the clock was ticking against us and we barely made it to the room before they took this man off to have surgery. He was very ill and so frail and feeble that we were not allowed into the room without first putting on these yellow disposable smocks and rubber gloves and so we willingly obliged and entered his room to offer him a blessing. He asked Elder M. to anoint and for me to bless. As I placed my hands on this man's head there was a different feel than at other times that I have given a blessing. Usually the words come that I am supposed to tell the people that through their faith and obedience to the commandments of God they will be healed. However, this time no such words came. I blessed this man that he would be comforted and that he would have peace of mind knowing that his family would be taken care of in his absence. I felt very strongly that this man was not going to make it much passed his surgery. As I ended the blessing, he thanked me and we were on our way, but the impression that this son of God would soon be called home did not leave my mind. I am so grateful for knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and the peace that it brings in such tumultuous times.
March 29, 2012
Anyway, in the little time we were in the office, Sister W. got a call from a man who wanted to talk with missionaries but he wouldn’t give her his number or address, just wanted to talk to one of us…me or Elder M.. Immediately red flags started going up and I just kinda sensed something was up. I lost Rock, Paper, Scissors so I took the call. Initially the man started out with legit questions and I answered them and then he started to try and twist words and go deep doctrine and it turned out to be what I thought it was from the beginning.
There are a few different people who somehow get all kinds of missionary numbers and try and shake their testimonies. He was no amateur either. This guy knows his stuff and knows how to try and affect missionaries. He once called Elder M. and started asking him questions and talking about the most sacred of things about the temple and, in a nutshell, he is bad news. So, he started trying to convince me that I was being brainwashed and according to the Bible and the Book of Mormon God and Jesus Christ are the same person. I knew that although that may be his starting point, he was not going to end there. He talked with me for about 40 minutes and tried to convince me that I didn’t know what I know to be true.
Every time he answered with a scripture or a story from the scriptures that apparently "discredited" Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon, I answered with testimony about the Book of Mormon and answers I have received from the Living God who is separate from His son Jesus Christ. This guy was pretty brutal and relentless and bent on trying to destroy my testimony and strike a the foundation of it in questioning and attempting to get me to question who it is I pray to and have a relationship with. After a lengthy conversation, I ended the call because we had another appointment to get to and because this guy was being fueled by the adversary.
After thinking about it for a long time, I see that conversation as a great blessing. I have been praying lately for opportunities for my testimony to grow and further develop, and I am glad Heavenly Father felt that I was ready for such a phone call. I know that when Satan sends forth temptations and people who attempt to diminish and destroy faith we are not meant to fall or to weaken at all. God intends for us to stand our ground and fight with the sword of the Spirit. Combining testimony with the powerful witnesses found in the Book of Mormon, and wearing the whole armor of God we cannot fail. There will always be opposition to the forces of good and truth and light. It helps me to know that I am on the right path and that I am progressing toward my heavenly goal and home. It is my prayer that one day I get to meet the man who called me face to face so I can boldly declare to him while staring him in the eyes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that they are two, distinct and separate beings, and I will not now, nor ever be, deterred.
March 30, 2012
Latin people are the greatest. As we sat down to teach the different lessons that we did, I realized how much I have grown to love the Latin people and culture. They are a chosen people of the Lord for sure. They are so humble and so family oriented and so loving and giving of all that they have and they try to serve others (especially the missionaries). I am so glad that Heavenly Father blessed me with the ability to serve in Latin areas for the majority of my mission. It really has been the perfect combination if ya' think about it. He put me in Spanish with Latinos for a good 16 months and that helped me learn the language and to love the culture and people and it took no time at all for me to love the food, but then I got moved to a semi-functioning, diverse ward near downtown for three months and then to a high-functioning ward in Santa Monica where the people are just as diverse, but love and serve as much as the Latinos.
I have had such a great mission. Not one bad area, not one difficult companion, just a lot of wonderful opportunities to learn and grow and transform myself into the man that Heavenly Father needs me to be in order to use me how He plans in the future. Every day I wake up, I feel growth and transformation. I can feel the refining and cleansing power of God in my life and it is the greatest feeling. I pray that as I endure to the end that He continues to bless me in such a way that I can continue to change and improve. This life truly is a life of progression and I didn’t realize that until I hit the mission field. These have been the best two years for my life and of my life, hands down.
March 31, 2012
Some of the most exciting times in my life have been on my mission. And, some of the times when I have felt the most excited occur in the minutes leading up to General Conference. We walked into the Sawtelle building this morning and I heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Come Thou Fount and instantly I just got really excited. It is like that rush of energy you feel right before something terrific is about to happen. It just rushed over me and I could not wait…I was pumped to say the least. I get psyched just talking about it! These men are Prophets and Apostles of God! Think of how people anciently must have felt if they were visited by Peter. It is incredible! Men chosen by God, men who speak and converse with Him face to face spoke to us and told us what He is saying!
As I entered and got that rush of excitement I also felt a huge spiritual hunger and desire come over me. I don’t think I had previously realized how much I longed to hear more of the words of the living Apostles and Prophet. I yearned for modern revelation and I was about to feast. The first session did not disappoint in the slightest. Without going into too much detail about all of the talks because I have enough hand written notes to pretty much give my own conference, there were so many talks that I loved.
The two that really stood out to me were by Elder Hallstrom about the difference between being active in the church and being active in the Gospel and how they are two very different things. The church is meant to help us be active in the Gospel. Then, Elder Eyring gave a talk that helped me more than any other. Elder Eyring helped me see that trials should not be sought after or asked for, rather, they will come to help us grow and increase in faith and testimony if we consistently live the gospel of Jesus Christ because then we will be more of a threat to the Adversary and Heavenly Father will see that our testimonies are capable of withstanding and pushing through the opposition He allows the Adversary to put in our path.
As we get closer and closer to the Savior and becoming like Him, our trials get harder, but the sword of the spirit is sharpened the closer we get to our Father in Heaven. You can’t climb a mountain by standing at the base either…you must attack it and take it head on just as the Savior took on the Atonement. He did not sit and let it happen to Him. He battled with the Father of Lies and conquered him. We must act in a similar fashion if we are to truly progress and grow.
That talk to me is spiritual gold and I cannot wait to read and re-read and study it out. The two stand out talks from the second session was definitely Elder Holland and Elder Scott.
Elder Holland spoke about something my Momma has taught me from since I can remember. Using the parable of the workers in the vineyard who all got paid the same despite the time they began their labor, he talked about envy and how just because something good happens to someone else does not diminish the good things that we have received or mean that God loves us less. We are all loved equally and should rejoice with our brothers and sisters as they succeed and receive blessings from our Father in Heaven. He said that those who live in envy live in misery because their blessings are never enough because there is always someone with more and every time someone gets something good from God we despise them and that blessing that they received.
Elder Scott’s talk was an answer to many of my prayers and was, ironically enough, about prayers and their answers. He discussed how answers can come in many different ways but the best formula for getting answers to prayers is to study the scriptures and try and apply what you read and study to your dilemma and then pray for a confirmation that the way in which you have applies it is true or not. He also mentioned how sometimes prayers can be answered through our dreams in which a loved one teaches us things that Heavenly Father wants us to know and be aware of. That doctrine seems pretty deep for me, but receiving an answer in a dream comes I think after the first method has been tried at length and earnestly. He talked about how those on the other side of the veil are all around us and know us better than we know them and are constantly with us helping us along in our lives. He also talked about things that hinder revelation.
We headed to Priesthood session at the Westwood Building. They pulled out all the stops, too. Elders Bednar, Richard C. Edgley, and the entire First Presidency spoke. Talk about a stacked line up haha. I loved all of the talks, but certain things stood out to me more than others. They talked a lot about actively being the patriarch of the home and leading your family in righteous paths and not being lazy. Elder Bednar talked about how if we hold the Priesthood of God we should act differently than other men. Former bishop Edgley talked about rescuing less actives and how one less active can turn into 30,000 after 6 generations…which is a ton! The Prophet spoke about different things to do with the priesthood, but the thing that hit me the most was a story he told about a marine who commanded another dying marine to live by his priesthood and it was powerful. I hope if I am ever in a situation like that or one similar that I will have the faith and courage to use my Priesthood boldly and powerfully. God will not have timid servants. Moses, Noah, Nephi, Ammon, Aaron, Mormon, Moroni, Joseph Smith-all men who boldly wielded the Priesthood of God.
April 1, 2012
Today was such a good day. SUCH a good day. Why? Well for starters we got to listen to even more general conference and hear some amazing talks about family and the holy ghost and marriage and so much good counsel it will take me months to sort through all of it. My favorite of the day was probably President uchtdorf’s talk entitled Stop It. He talked about if you are judging others and being critical there is a two word simple solution…Stop It. So simple yet so profound when really broken down. There are some things in the gospel that can be altered by a process of study and revelation and prayer and diligent searching, but it just goes to show that some of the worst habits must be stopped by personal will and desire to follow the Savior and His teachings. I look forward to studying more in depth what was said and cannot wait to see what little treasures of personal revelation the Lord has waiting for me as I do so .
After dinner we got a call from Bishop who is out of town asking us to go to the UCLA Hospital to give a blessing to a non-member granddaughter of a member who is sick with terminal cancer. We made it to the hospital and found the room and there lay a girl named C. about 23 years old, and stick skinny. Her husband and best friend were in the room and none of them were members. Elder M. and I explained that a blessing is. We talked with this frail young woman and her husband and friend for a little and got to know them and then explained that her grandmother had requested that we gave her a blessing.
We explained that a blessing is a special message from your Father in Heaven and that it can only be given by those holding the priesthood of God. We boldly told her that we have the same authority that Christ himself gave His apostles and worthy followers and that we were representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. The wonder and amazement in her face as we described this power and authority with such conviction is indescribable. She graciously accepted our offer to lay our hands upon her head and as the blessing was offered, the Spirit flooded the room. It was overpowering and everyone felt it, member and non-member alike.
There is something special that happens when the powers of heaven are called down and directed toward one of Heavenly Father's children. As we shook their hands and wished Casey good luck in her surgery tomorrow, I know that she had a spiritual witness as did her husband and friend that these two young men were not merely young men, but they were in fact representatives of the Savior of the World, the true and Living Messiah and Redeemer of mankind. It was a powerful experience for me and was even more special as we boldly declared in whose name we were administering. General Conference really helped me to see the importance of boldly wielding the priesthood of God to a world in desperate need of God’s power and influence.
After the blessing we returned to the office and President asked to speak with me. It was the interview/news I had been expecting. I have been up here in the office for 4 transfers, just about 6 months now, and rarely if ever does he keep an Assistant for 5 transfers. He said "Elder Molinaro you have served so very well and we are going to ask you to take a new assignment. Does that sound all right?" I said "OK" and he proceeded to tell me how he has appreciated my service and consistency. He said that he has always been able to count on me to do the right thing and that he has been so grateful for the peace of mind that has brought him. I thanked him graciously and humbly. I have gotten an assurance from the Lord that my service has been accepted thus far, and the words from President sealed the deal.
I do not include these words in my journal to boast of my achievements because quite frankly I feel like there is so much more I could have done up here to improve the mission, so many more plans that I have for the growth and success of myself and those I am responsible for around me. But I want this to be a lesson to all that often times we are far too critical of ourselves. It is so difficult to see the outcome of what we do and hard to admit that we are doing our very best. We always feel that there is more that we could do and that what we are doing is not adequate, and we are right, there IS always more that we could do, but our Father in Heaven is often times satisfied with the work that we do. He sees the good we do while we focus on our shortcomings. In order to align ourselves with the will of God we must give ourselves credit for progress and work done. This does not meant that our striving for perfection should cease, but it means that we should take time to pause and see how far we have come. Feelings of accomplishment and self assurance that we are doing what the Master would have us do do not need to come from a third party. As long as we feel the Holy Ghost whisper that we are doing well, we have the Lord's stamp of approval.
President is such a great man. He told me that my next assignment is not yet decided, but he said whatever it is, it will be a great test for me. He said that it will be the biggest challenge I have had thus far and that it will be life-changing. That was enough to make me at least a little nervous, maybe more apprehensive, but I am excited. My feelings about the whole thing are mixed, but President Monson's talk really helped me see that change is just a necessary part of life and new and different assignments and the change that they bring are meant to help us grow and progress.
Tomorrow we will pick up Elder T. and I will start showing him the ropes of office work. As for my future? It is undecided. But, whatever my challenge may be, and whatever obstacle I may face in the next 7 weeks, I will not be stopped or slowed. I hope that whoever my next companion is is ready to work his fingers to the bone and learn what it means to wear yourself out in the service of God. Not only will I climb this mountain, but I refuse to do so crawling. It is a sprint to the finish and I will not slow down. The time has come to pick up my pace and lengthen my stride. I will take whatever mountain I am sent to climb and not only overcome and conquer it on the offense, but I will baptize doing so. With God as my captain, I cannot fail. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for me.
I testify that God lives and that He hears and answers prayers after all we can do. It was not until my act of humbling myself that He answered so many prayers that have been uttered aloud and in mind over so many years. His priesthood is on the earth and He works through His servants the prophets and missionaries. With such power and authority I will take on my new area, wherever it may be and battle the power of evil that I know is widespread there.
So, that was my week. As of right now I feel pretty good...excited to see what the future holds, but I am really going to miss Elder M. We have become really good friends and he has taught me so much. Wish me luck, this week is transfer week and will be just as complicated as all the other ones except harder to stay focused because I am gonna want to get a head start on my new area!