Saturday, February 17, 2007

From an island in the Mediterranean Sea: November 30, 2005

Dear Family & Friends,
So, time starts to fly by and we hit holidays and they fly by as well. I enjoyed getting emails about the Wedding (congratulations!) and I am grateful that the Spirit of the Lord is protecting my family in ways I couldn't even if I were there. Here in Sardegna it is not really cold, but our bodies have all become used to 75 degree weather with high humidity every single day, so a drop to 50 makes you shiver. I know, it's a bit ironic that the boy who almost stared at people coats during the transition months of Autumn and Spring is now sitting in an internet point on a cool 50+ day in a suit jacket and heavy-duty overcoat. Laugh. Hopefully my body will be able to recuperate from the stress.
Thanksgiving here was simple. It doesn't exist. A few people knew about it and asked if we celebrated it in America, and a member invited us over (then to cancel the night of), but we spent the time we would normally spend over a Thanksgiving dinner at Branch Council. It was worth it - we were able to express the love we have for the Branch and the goals we want to help set, as well as determine how we can be an asset to the already partially existing Branch Mission Plan. We had had (yes, that is proper grammar, even if it is awkward) a Thanksgiving Lunch in Cagliari with the Zone Leaders and the elders and sisters from Cagliari. It was good.
Friday we had interviews with the Mission President, and I asked him what I could do to be a better missionary. I mean, we as missionaries have problems as well. We try to be 100% obedient, to be well-rounded, to focus on improving our companionship relationships as well as doing effective and efficient proselyting work, but we aren't always perfect, and sometimes because we lack constancy in relationships it's hard to ask for input because few people have the time to truly understand us. (What a fun sentence) Only our Mission President and the Lord really have the ability and the authority to tell us how we can improve from a teaching standpoint (criticism in companionships sometimes leads to contention). After talking about the work I had helped to accomplish in areas and with companions, President told me that he wouldn't change me, and that he put his full confidence in me. Those few words changed my relationship with him and will probably change the rest of my mission. I realized in that moment and thinking about it afterward the simple and profound importance of integrity. Integrity means wholeness, reality, reliability, and after watching me for months, my mission president decided I had integrity - that he could trust me and put full confidence in me and my skills. Definitely, he realizes I can't do everything, but our relationship has developed Gospel Integrity - Gospel Trust. We now have a mutual trust in the other that we are always trying to do the best for the mission, for our fellow men, but most of all, for our God. Because I have his trust, I commit myself a hundred times more to be 100% obedient, to use my time wisely, and to truly serve the Lord. It made me wonder how deeply trust, in a strictly honest kind of way, and a Gospel Trust, in the true understanding that another son or daughter of God has realized and is going in the same direction as you are, affect our personal and other relationships. I think that with a Gospel Trust you can do anything. In the past, I have loved leaders and other enough to say, "I'll do anything but break the rules for you." This was based on an understanding that men aren't perfect and we cannot truly base all our actions upon another fallible being, or else we may be led by the blind and both fall into the ditch. I have now realized that once we develop a Gospel Trust, this statement changes, to that of the Lord to Nephi the son of Helaman (paraphrased for context) - "I'll do anything for you, because I know you will never ask me to break the rules." It changes things. If the Prophet asked us to do anything in an instant without time to pray for a response, we would do it, because we have taken the time to develop a Gospel Trust in him and his calling as Prophet. We know he would never call us to break the eternal rules (which would be the real eternal laws, not the earthly commandments or personal fencelines). I think that such a trust is essential in any Gospel relationship, and now I know that I can trust my mission president and that he trusts me in a way much deeper than that my word becomes truth in his ears. I would ask all of you to re-evaluate your relationships and to develop a Gospel Trust with others. Are you truly willing to follow someone's choices because you know they are faithful? Could you submit with the humility of Isaac to his father Abraham? Could you say, as Helaman did to his father Alma (Alma 45), "I believe all the words which thou hast spoken", and "I will keep thy commandments with all my heart"? Especially for our newlyweds (welcome to the family), I know that as you develop a sense of Gospel Trust with each other, it will become natural to develop also the interesting skill of unified parents - unified parenting - the ability to make decisions that agree with your spouse even when he or she is not there to consult (when your little kids run from one parent to the other - trying to test the system). Hopefully I can learn to develop the Gospel Trust with the Lord one day, as did Nephi, and earn the trust that, "[I] shall not ask that which is contrary to [the will of God]"
We then talked about the use of the Lord in making us true servants of God - I've been in the mission for a while, and I have not yet trained or been senior companion. President told me the Lord needed good junior companions. I'm happy. We talked, and I hope that we can all covet earnestly the best gifts without coveting the stewardships that are sometimes closely related to such gifts in our human minds. For example, the gifts to prophecy, to visions, to personal revelation, and to talk face-to-face with God are often associated with the prophetic call. But, we can all gain those gifts... in fact, it is essential for our eternal salvation. Yes, essential!!! We must have the faith to see the face of God, or we could never live in the highest degree of glory with Himself and the prophets. Perhaps sometimes we look at prophets or leaders as *superhumans*, but they are just people with a calling, and we ourselves have callings as well. We are called to be fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and missionaries and home teachers and hard workers and good students and good examples and junior companions and whatever else the Lord sees fit to call us. We learn His expectations, and then He helps us to fill the role of that calling. Even so, we are entitled to gifts and blessings simply by being Sons and Daughters of God - as heirs to an eternal and celestial salvation, we have the right to all the gifts of God as apply to our own personal stewardships. Of course, we cannot apply them to those who we are not called to lead, but we are all given a stewardship, even if it is only to guide our own footsteps on the path of righteousness. Hence, our final goal is not to 'become' a visible prophet or a leader in His Church, but to fulfill the role of our creation, and to finally become a true Son or Daughter of God. I really appreciated the comments of our Mongolian Elder a while ago - we aren't all called to be angel food cake, or fudge brownies, or cinnamon rolls, and if we tried to fit a pattern not meant to be, we would not fully realize the perfection in our creation. (Maybe a recipe and some more news will follow in another letter - we had a food contest last night and I almost won with handmade Dolci Sardi that I now know how to make!) We can instead be angels of light in the plan of God - what would it be like to have all queens in a chess game? It wouldn't be the best strategy - certainly queens are better than pawns or bishops or rooks, but a queen can never jump like a knight... what if you were prepared to be a knight? We can all realize perfection and gain the true blessings of exaltation within the gifts and talents and missions with which we have been entrusted. Read your patriarchal blessings, and learn to live as a Child of God no matter who you are called to be, the eye or the hand or the foot. All are essential in the body of the Kingdom of God.
Well, I'm running out of time and we still have to go shopping (I feel like the people in the Book of Omni, explaining in the little space of the metal plates why they didn't fill them with something else - I guess it's a human trait to explain, and now I understand and can liken the scriptures more to myself :) )
I love all of you!

Anziano Peterson

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