Saturday, May 19, 2012

From April 2

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!
Elder Molinaro

From March 26

Hey guys!
I am still catching up on a few days, but this is my week from Wednesday through Sunday.
March 21, 2012
Where does time go? Today went really well. This week looks good on paper, but it is a lot of preparation and meetings. MLT yesterday and new missionary training today. Not that meetings are bad, just a lot of logistical stuff that we are in charge of. The movement and flow of people really is quite fascinating. What helps people move from one place to the next the fastest, how people arrange themselves when there is no structure, etc…all that good stuff, pretty cool to watch and be able to influence.
Then, today at the New Missionary Training, President told us the story of how Elder Eyring extended his call to be a Mission President to him and Elder Eyring said something interesting. He said a Mission President is never called to a geography or to certain wards or stakes…in fact, where the Mission President serves is rather insignificant. The thing that determines where the Mission President will serve is the group of missionaries he will be serving with. I love that. Isn’t that neat? President B. was not called here to Los Angeles because LA needed him, he was called to Los Angeles because all of the missionaries who would serve in his 3 years as Mission President need him specifically to be here for them. He was called to work with me and all of us, not to Los Angeles. I think that goes for missionaries too.
If, for example, the C. family lived in Mexico, I probably would have gotten called to Mexico. I have a letter from them sitting in my mailbox waiting to be opened by the way…I cannot wait, their year mark is in a week!! Can you believe that!? They have almost been members for a year and that means temple!
After getting back in Traffic from NMT, we headed off to diner with two of my favorite families. Our message tonight, after a heaping plate of pretty legit enchiladas was about a doctrine that I have really come to love and understand on my mission --that of lifting where you stand and lifting where you are asked by the Lord to stand. If everyone in the Church worldwide just lifted where they were asked to stand and did their duty, we would have such a profound impact on the word. It would be a repeat of the city of Enoch, right? That doctrine has really helped me in the office, too. Maybe making sure things run smoothly and helping to steer the ship isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think missionary work, but for a ship to function, not everyone can be manning the sails and the deck. You have the galley, the crows nest, the captain's office, etc. and each one performs their role so that the whole is successful…it is all about the greater good.
March 23, 2012
What a great day. I decided that fasting is a great way to feel the Spirit. Mind blowing insight I know, but when you really enter into the spirit of the fast, then it feels like the Spirit is what you are drawing your energy from instead of your food consumption.
It feels weird to be the oldest missionary sitting in a District by about a year or so, but that is just the demographic of the mission right now. It is very young. We learned about asking better questions and using the Book of Mormon to answer questions of the soul.
Then we booked it from South Central to Santa Monica which is not a short trip to say the least and when we got there Bro. L. wasn’t. He didn’t answer his phone, he didn’t answer the door, he was not there…so we waited…and waited…and contemplated eating sketchy berries off of a bush that was right by his door…pretty much anything that could be edible with enough imagination was looking pretty good at this point and our fast was going on about 27 hours or so. Good thing we were feeding energy from the Spirit cuz it was the only thing keeping us alive haha.
So, then Bro. L arrived and what I am about to describe was probably one of the most surreal hours of my mission. We jumped into Brother L’s station wagon and started off. The longer I rode, the longer I felt like I was in some strange movie. This little short man pretty much runs the town of Santa Monica. He probably honked 10 times to people walking by that he knew and waved to them and he commentated the whole trip. We went into an alley where he had special parking privileges, went through the back door to a chainsaw shop where he jumped over the counter and started giving hugs to all the guys that work there, went into a place called Bay City Italian market where he bought us meatball subs and mac and cheese and green beans and sweet potatoes and he walked in like he owned the place, he talks to everyone in line and gets to know them and makes friends instantly with the surrounding group, then we all hop back into his car after going back through the chainsaw store and he drives, still honking and waving to a rehab center where he has us unload some canned food that he was donating.
At first the guys weren’t gonna let us back into the kitchen but then once he told them who he was they said "Oh, all right, come with us." Again, like he owned the place. After loading the stuff into their kitchen, we were back into his station wagon (still not sure if he could see over the steering wheel or not while driving) and headed back to our car where he said "See ya' Elders" and sped off. We were both pretty shocked and amazed at what had just happened…I swear we were in some sort of movie or TV show, at least that is what it felt like. Brother L. is quite the character…Oh! I forgot to mention that the entire time he is driving around and taking us to all these places he had a camera around his neck and was snapping shots of anything and everything. All it needed was a little circus music and it would have been complete.
March 24, 2012
Good day. We are constantly trying to evaluate and re-evaluate our finding efforts and I think we are on the brink of something big…I can just sense it.
Well, there are a few different subjects that have been occupying my thoughts lately, and I haven’t quite figured them out totally, but my hope is that by writing it out I will be able to gain some more insight. The topic I want to focus on and have been pondering quite a bit lately is that of how the Lord answers prayers. After reading in the scriptures and different talks by different general authorities and through actually praying, this is what I have come up with. God answers prayers in His own way and in His own time. The way in which God answers prayers is relative in relation to who it is as He answers each of us differently, and it also depends on what is being asked for. I am already well aware that prayer is not a way to ask God for things like in a wish list, rather, when prayer is offered and led by the Spirit, we know what things to pray for because it is what we are prompted to pray for. It is important to follow those promptings, because through them we can identify what God is willing to grant us. He is willing to grant a lot, but we must first ask for it and prove our desire to attain it.
However, just because we have discerned by the Spirit what He will grant and we ask for it, that does not mean that it automatically falls from heaven into our laps. Aligning our pleas with what He is willing to grant is not like a vending machine where we get it right and it spits out the prize.
Rather, prayer is a process of humility and aligning our will with God’s will. Therefore, we may discern by the Spirit and ask for something He is willing to grant, but if our will has not been changed then we are not yet ready to receive the desired blessing. We must continue to wait upon the Lord until He has seen a change in us and a difference in the motive for our desired blessing.
So, the more we pray by the Spirit, the more chance we have of receiving the desired blessing, but it is always in the Lord’s time because He is the only one who knows in which ways we are supposed to grow and mature as a result of a certain prayer and granted blessing. If He were to give us the blessing without us having changed in the way He intended to align our will more with His will, it would defeat the whole purpose of prayer and would turn it instead into a trivia game in which the prize for guessing correctly was a desired blessing.
I have been focused a lot lately on trying to receive answers to prayers on decisions of less importance as to be able to identify how God answers my prayers so that when I am faced with large decisions that affect more than just me I will have a better understanding of how my answers will come. In reality, I guess I am saying that I am trying to align my will with the will of the Father more and more through sincere prayer and waiting on the Lord to respond after I have progressed to where He wants me to progress more and more so that when the time comes for major life decisions like marriage and moves and career choices I will be that much more aligned with the will of Heavenly Father. As I align myself more and more, it will be one, easier to know what to pray for in those times of need and two, take less time to receive answers because I will have less course correction to do to better align myself with my Father’s will. Does that make sense? It does to me at least, in my mind.
So, prayer is more than communication and mere talking, it is the way we repent and align our will to that of the Father. The more we pray, the more we come to realize that there are blessings beyond our wildest dreams awaiting us if we but listen to, and follow the Spirit and then change what we want to what He wants for us, not to merely receive blessings, but to be more like Him which is the whole goal of this life, right? Become as much like Him as we can while in this mortal state so that in the day of judgment we are not left wondering which kingdom we will be assigned to? If we get good enough at prayer and our will is that of the Father, then when it comes time for judgment we will already know where we are meant to be because it is where we will desire to be because what God will is and what we want will be the same.
March, 25, 2012
Today was good...I learned a ton from church and from just our working today, Heavenly Father blessed me with a lot of insight on how to be and how to improve. Brother W. shared a terrific testimony and then we talked about it in class about limiting ourselves by setting limits for ourselves. All too often we count ourselves out before we really understand what we are capable of with regards to what ever it is we are doing, when in reality we should be trying to expand our boundaries, not merely set limitations within those boundaries...example...if I say man there is no way I could ever score a goal in soccer, then I am limiting myself to zero goals and being satisfied with it. I should say instead, man there is no way I can only score twice this game...that mentality opens my mind to the fact that, OK. One goal is easy, two is minimum, and who knows how many more than that I can get...not saying I would ever score that many goals in anything other than foosball, but that is the mentality. I really liked that.
In priesthood we talked about the talk by Elder Uchtdorf "You Matter to Him" which is really exactly what I needed to hear. I think a lot of the time I am willing to share the gospel with other people and tell them how wonderful it is and how God loves them individually and cares for them on a personal level but then I turn around and count myself with the masses. The "God loves me because He loves everybody" approach, not the "God loves me because I matter to him and am individually important" approach. So, lately I have been working on mentality/attitude shifts to not merely include myself in the group, but feel God's love on an individual level. His arms of mercy and love are extended to all yes, but only to all because it is to each of us individually. All of us individually collectively make up the all, not we are merely included with a giant group of people.
The teacher shared this great poem about discouragement too and how it is the most often used of Satan's tools. The advice was that each of us will have bad days and get down but not to let that one bad day turn into two or three because it snowballs and turns into negativity and pessimism. Great advice. One other stand out from the class was that I must have faith that God knows better than me what is supposed to happen in my life. My job is to take each and every situation and tackle it as best I can. Life is often times something we talk about like we talk about God's love of the masses. Life is lived as we live individual moments. They collectively add up to a well-lived life, so every moment counts.That is why we must enjoy the moment and not merely look forward to the next "big" event.
So yeah, that was my week...partially...

Anyway, I love you guys and am so glad that all is well. Have a great week!

Elder Molinaro

From March 19

Hey Guys,
Because these past few days have been hectic, I haven't had the time to keep my journal up to date and it will take some catching up but I will send ya' what I have so far...

March 15, 2012

What a day. First off, I have felt like someone took two dumb bells to either side of my head at the same time haha. I have had a super headache and a sore throat, but nothing that will shake me from keepin' on in the slightest. Today was actually pretty good. This morning we got a lot of the emergency transfer things updated and all of the new lists printed off and delivered and loaded up the Zone mail that goes out weekly.

Then, this afternoon we had a lunch appointment with Brother L. Well, it was a lunch/service project afternoon. We helped him move a lot of his stuff from his kitchen to another apartment that is bigger right across the courtyard of the place that he owns. That man is the most quirky and unique person I have ever met and he pulls it off completely. He is like in his 50's and he is a cook and has run for county office and worked in the music business and is just a cool dude…different, but cool at the same time. Every time he sees us he yells "Eldrrrrrrrrrrs!!" It is pretty hilarious actually. Just another example of someone that the Lord has put into my life to help me learn and grow. He is a great example of just loving life and laughing all the time and joking and not taking anything too, too seriously. He is comfortable with his different-ness and is just who he is without reservation and no matter who is around. He is also one of the best tri-tip chefs I know.

March 17, 2012

Days are going so fast now that I can’t really keep track of what goes on day to day when trying to keep track in my journal. No idea why it works like that, but it is quite odd. Today was one of those days where so much happened that I want to remember that I don’t know where to start. I guess I will just hit highlights and hope they read coherently.

So this morning I ended my exchange with Elder P. and it went really well. Probably the most effective PPI I have ever given which is a big deal because I feel like maybe those are a weak point. Kinda hard to tell because I haven’t had too many. We talked a lot about the importance of leading with love and being confident that the Lord needs you right where He has put you.

Then went to lunch with Sister Kelly. She is so great, always looking out for us and making sure we have what we need. Then we had to go back to the office to grab the van because we are closing an apartment on Ocean Park soon and need to get a lot of the furniture out of it because we are also opening a different apartment in the South Gate area. Pretty much load it up and Monday we will drive it to the new location and dump it all there. So we were trying to get the fridge in first because it is the largest thing that we have to move (and of course this apartment is on the second story of the complex). We unplugged it, walked it out from the wall and saw that there was something else attached. It was the ice maker. So there is this cord running from a spigot in the wall to the base of the refrigerator and another cord running from the base of the fridge to the top where the freezer is and the ice maker obviously is. So, Elder M. squeezed back behind the fridge to unhook the cord because he is smaller and fits easier than I do. We couldn’t pull it out any further because the cord to the ice maker was not very long, so he turns the facet thing as far as he can and then starts to unscrew the bolt from the cord and a little bit of water starts to leak out…

We just figured that it was the left over in the hose/cord thing just dripping out so he continued to unscrew and with one more twist of the wrench, the hose shot off and water was pouring into the kitchen from this spigot…I am not talking leaking, we are talking fire hose pressure spraying him in the face and shooting all over the kitchen…ice cold water too, I might add. Of course it took us both by surprise and doused us both (thank goodness we were not in our whites). I run around the apartment while Elder M. is trying to plug the blasted thing with anything he can find. This kitchen was filling up with water and it was not the cleanest because there hadn’t been people living there for a few weeks now and they left it in shambles so dusting under the refrigerator was the last thing on their to do list I am sure. I ran back into the kitchen with the only towels I could find which required me to strip the ironing board of its covering and unpin the towels that covered the board and by some miracle from above Elder M. had managed to screw the hose back onto the spigot, temporarily lessening the leakage.

We tried calling the manager, we tried calling the water company, and all they did was send us in circles with different phone numbers and finally we just decided to do it the old fashioned way and knock on the neighbor’s door and ask for help. Praise be that the neighbor we picked is a contractor and does his own plumbing! He came over and helped us get it turned off all the way..the problem was that it hadn’t been removed in so long that the washer that was originally there was completely corroded and gone and so he needed to bring out his special tools to seal it off and stop the leak. Luckily, we used the towels to soak up the water and had set bowls out in the kitchen to catch the spewing geyser that was springing from the dusty behind the fridge area and there was no water damage but to be quite honest I thought the minute the Old Faithful Geiser shot outta there we were done for. We were going to flood the whole complex and be killed for it. Thank goodness Heavenly Father has a sense of humor and it only took some ice water to the face and an imminent repeat of Noah and the ark to humble us enough to ask for help!

Later, we came to the office to meet with President about the upcoming MLT. Pretty much the gist of the meeting was that the mission needs to hear about lesson plans and using time wisely because we still aren’t getting it all the way. But because everyone is burned out on hearing about that stuff, we are going to do a training on baptismal interviews . . . I really think there are a lot of missionaries who justify sitting in their apartments and doing detailed "planning" or wasting time in the car driving around. We just need to accept that a mission is difficult and meant to make us grow and then get out and work!

March, 18, 2012

In sacrament meeting, Sister H. gave a wonderful talk about getting off the fence. It is not enough to be a Mormon, you must do Mormon-like things…Doing Mormon-like things is not just doing nothing. We cannot just say "OK, I am a good example because I am not going to crazy parties and drinking," for example. Being a member of the church and representative of the Savior cannot be passive. We must actively be doing things that makes others recognize what we stand for. Standing for something is not just standing still, it is standing your ground when temptation comes and marching forward to eternal life. All too often people think that by avoiding things they are being a great example, and that is great, you aren’t doing X, but what ARE you doing to be a follower of Christ? Get off the fence and put both feet into the Gospel. You are either all in or you fold. Great talk.

Later, Brother H. came with us and we had a good lesson with P. about trials and how life brings tough times but it means the Lord knows that you can handle them and has some growing for you in mind. The highlight of the lesson was when we were walking out the door at the end and she asked when we could come back. Usually it is a struggle to contact this woman and she avoids us so her desiring more is a good sign that she felt the Spirit and is understanding the importance of these things.

Dinner with the Smiths, a young couple from Orange County who are really high energy and fun and just a great couple feeding the Lords Servants; blessings be upon them. When I am older and feeding the missionaries, I hope to remember what they really want. They want to be able to get in, make friends, eat, share their message, get a referral, and be handed leftovers to be put in their fridge on the way out…and they want fruits and veggies. I don’t care where you are serving, those things are what every missionary hopes for out of a meal appointment…if you are reading this, please take note :)

After dinner we raced back and began work on MLT…it is finally starting to come together as we have done a lot of praying and have mixed in some other issues and topics with the baptismal interview stuff. It is going to be a March Madness Theme and we are doing a bracket and stuff, it will be pretty sweet.

Well, those are the haps for the week, minus a few. Looking forward to some time to think and pray. Isn't it incredible how a conversation with our Father in Heaven can just heal all feelings of being overwhelmed and self doubt?...Well, that is what I am counting on right now. We just need to have a talk, some Father-Son time.
I love you guys and I love my mission. I am excited to be able to work out of this funk and see what Heavenly Father has planned for me to learn from all this...testing patience is my guess, but only time will tell. I want all of you to know that I am more sure now than ever that God lives and He loves us and that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
Make it a great week!
Elder Molinaro

From March 14

Life is grand! The temple this morning was awesome. I am loving my mission so much and cannot really describe the joy that I feel serving the Lord. It is like every tiny bit of joy is magnified and just fills me up.
Here's the week:
March 5, 2012
Good Preparation Day. We got done all of the normal stuff, and actually didn’t have to wash our car because this morning after soccer we went to the garage to help some Sisters get new chairs for their apartment, and when we got back, a group of other Sisters had washed our car. It was in desperate need because last week we didn’t exactly have a preparation day due to transfers…so that was a huge blessing. God bless the Sister Missionaries…they even gave us an air freshener because they said that our car smelled weird even though Elder M. and I tried to explain that the car smells like "man" and not everything has to smell like some sort of flower to still smell nice…they didn’t buy it haha.

Musings: How did Christ love everyone, even those difficult to love. How did He do that? He loved everyone despite their annoying habits and their lack of kindness. He didn’t just love them in spite of those things either, it is like He was able to love them, not even seeing those weaknesses and only seeing their strengths. What a good example…the BEST example.

March 6, 2012

Today was ZLC. President's piece was terrific. It was about the Atonement again. Some of the points that he made that I thought were especially interesting were that Christ went into Satan’s realm and attacked him on the offense and did not merely sit there and let the Atonement happen to Him…He attacked. Often times we let life come to us instead of us charging and attacking life and the problems that come our way. The only way to get stronger is to face something head on, not merely endure it.

Some other things that the Spirit told me while we were listening was that the opportunity to serve God is the opportunity to become like Him…through nothing else can we attain all of the Godly attributes one day needed to be considered in the same category as Heavenly Father. Success comes from gaining charity as a motivator for all we do without thought or expectation of reward or recognition and without complaining.Good stuff, right?

March 7, 2012

The real highlight of today was a talk we had with Senior missionary Elder O. That man is one of the best men I know, I love him to death. After a long day of knocking a lot of doors without too much to show for it, we sat and talked with him about his ranch and farm back in Utah and what he likes to do and how life is on a ranch.It sounds awesome. I think I liked the sound of it for a few reasons. One, because I have never really experienced anything like that and a real day of hard manual labor and it something I have longed for recently, and the other is because here in Los Angeles everything is so concrete and there is so little green that it made me remember that there are places like that! Places without sirens and sidewalks. Places that are left exactly the way God created them and intended them to be. I think post-mission I will do a lot more with nature and appreciating it and such. It is kinda like how I have been on a fruit and veggie kick lately because for the first ¾ of my mission the only things I was ever given to eat that were green were salsa and serrano peppers haha.

March 8, 2012

Today helped in the way of manual labor. It happens twice a year and it was our turn for temple service. Who knew I could enjoy pulling weeds, raking leaves, and diving into dumpsters full of prickly palm fronds? I wouldn’t have guessed it, but it was so fun to play in the dirt and help make the Lord's house even more beautiful than it already is. That took up the majority of the day, but this afternoon we taught Sister J. We taught her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and did it at the Visitor’s center and the temple steps…There are 5 temple steps and there are 5 steps of the Gospel…convenient right?

March 10, 2012

Today was one of those days that tested our will power and our endurance. We ended up knocking a lot of doors without a lot to show for it. We knocked and walked and knocked and walked some more, and we tried visiting a few 5-5-5 people who weren’t home and then we were walking to try and visit some members to save miles and gas so we walked for a good 20 minutes and then asked someone to make sure we were gin the right way cuz sometimes the roads and directions can get kinda confusing and he gave us directions that sent us in the opposite direction than the one we wanted to go in. And to make matters worse, it was not too far from the beach and in Santa Monica and the closer you are to the ocean, the less effective the street contacts are. Everyone is so preoccupied with getting to the spot where they can sit and do nothing that they walk right by what really matters.

We had dinner with Sister G. tonight and she is just the greatest. She was asking us about our day and we told her that we knocked a lot of doors with little success and she gave us her pep talk about not getting discouraged and how on the days that it is hardest to keep going, when we do keep going, that is when we, but more importantly our families, receive the biggest and most rewarding blessings.

She talked about how Los Angeles is a wicked city and how our generation was sent to the earth at this time because we could battle the wickedness and the darkness that the Adversary brings to it, and we in particular were sent to one of the most wicked places in the world at a time when the world is more wicked than it has ever been because only we can combat such darkness and evil at this time. She is a great motivator.

It is not about laying down when times are tough…can you imagine if I never even swung the bat in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded? The game is on the line and choosing not to swing at all means I won't get a hit even before the first pitch is thrown. I am going to not only swing, but I refuse to strike out. These last two and a half months of my mission I am more experienced and skilled at talking with people about the gospel than at any other time in my entire life and mission and I will use those skills that I have honed for the last 21 months to make these last few the very best and the hardest I have ever worked in my entire life. I cannot afford to sit down or lose focus. I am sure that as the Savior faced His final few days before the Atonement was completed were no cake walk and if I am to represent Him officially for the next little while then I must go through a tiny fraction of what He did. It is not supposed to be easy, but it is worth it. Pay the price and earn the prize…I will not slow down.

March 11, 2012

I kind of have a lot to write about today because, spiritually I learned quite a bit. Today our lesson in Priesthood meeting was about perfect love casting out all fear. It was based on a talk by Elder Perry and there were three main points. Be bold in your declaration of the Christ. Be a righteous example. Go out of your way to bring up the church. Can you believe that!? It was straight up revelation and an answer to my prayers about how to improve. It really pumped me up and I realized something as the teacher was explaining the importance of each of the points.

All too often people think that they can pick one of those and work on it and call it good. They think: "I don’t think I need to go out of my way to bring up the church if I am being such a righteous example because people will see my example and know what I believe"…false. These three focuses are essential…all of them. If you don’t speak up about why you are being a righteous example or what drives you to live in such a way then no one will know for sure and it is rare that they will ask, but it is common that they will wonder.
Think about if the Savior had chosen to be a righteous example and nothing else. Yes, His life would have been a great one, but had it been quietly lived, it would not have affected nearly as many people. If He passively lived life and never declared His divinity or organized a church with the priesthood or anything His mortal Ministry would have been about as far reaching as those lucky enough to see Him do his thing. In order to fulfill His messianic mission to its fullest, it was required of the Savior to master all three of those points. So, too, it is with us as missionaries and even as normal church members.

It is not enough to just live life hoping someone will notice that we are following Christ. We must boldly declare what we know and that will lead us directly lead us to the church and lead others to the truth.We can humbly exclaim “watch how I am living, this is why I am living this way, and you can see the same results if you apply these teachings of Christ of whom I testify and know lives.” All three build on one another.

Something else I came to realize today is that the Atonement is personal. Yes, we have all heard that the Atonement of Jesus Christ includes us. He died for your sins and my sins…but rarely do we think of it in the light of "what if I was the only one to choose agency and God’s plan? If 99.99999% of Heavenly Father’s children chose the wrong plan, and I chose agency and to come to earth and be tested, an Atonement would still need to be made, and more importantly an Atonement would still BE made. If I was the only one that needed saving from sin, Christ still would have come to earth to die for my sins and my mistakes to get me back to my Father in Heaven. If I was the only one! He would have died…just for me if that is how it played out."

A lot of the time we hear and think about the Atonement as so all encompassing and widespread that we are merely included in it rather than we are the reason individually for it. He loves me. Individually and personally. He loves you the same way.

We ended up doing quite a bit of tracting and talking with people on the street and it turned out to be one of those things where the Lord is testing your drive and stamina and how many you are willing to knock before something happens not at all in the way you would expect it to. So we knocked a good 3 blocks, both sides of the street with minimal luck when we decide to go to a members apartment complex a few houses down and try and get in. So we walked there and couldn't get in because they weren’t home and the gate to the complex was locked.

So, we both turned around ready to head back to the car and try somewhere else and we see this lady walking up the sidewalk a few yards from us and she stopped and looked at us and we looked at her and she said “Are you Jesus people?” If ever there was a description that was short and sweet and still accurate to describe us, "Jesus people" has got to be up there as one of the very best. We said we were and asked her if she was a "Jesus Person" and she talked about how she was raised agnostic, but then she chose Judaism and has recently accepted Jesus Christ and is looking for truth. FINALLY!

Her name is S. and she is one of the most genuine people I have met in a long time. She told us that she wants to follow God and Christ and wants truth and is very in tune with the Spirit based on some past stories she recounted and said that if God wants her to be a Mormon and the Book of Mormon is true, she’s got nothing against it. So, we gave her a Book of Mormon and she is gonna read it and pray and just wants the truth.What a perfect book for finding truth right!? The Lord was testing our patience and then sent someone right to our feet.

March 12, 2012

Today went really well. We had a lesson with Sister S. who is on the 5-5-5 and taught her about the first half of the Plan of Salvation. She is really going through a tough time. We talked about how this life is a time of struggle and hardship and that it is all for our benefit and that God loves her even when times are tough. He gives her tough times because he knows she can not only handle it but grow and improve as a result.
It was a powerful lesson and she wasn’t the only one teary-eyed. Brother T. came with us, too, so we could go in. The day before he informed us that he had been praying to find more ways to serve and he let us know that if we ever need him during the day and we let him know the day before, he can take his lunch break to come teaching with us…So the very next day we took him up on his offer. What an example. If that man is not going to heaven we are all in trouble! Not only was he desiring to know of the Lord what more he could do to serve, but he acted on his prompting to make that time available to us to use him to help us teach, and then when instantly called upon, he followed through and sacrificed time, one of the hardest things to sacrifice, to serve the Lord.
So that is it for now. I love you Guys! Have a great week!
Elder Molinaro