Monday, August 19, 2013

Miracles from Service - August 19, 2013

"Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni."  - Alma 17:25
Yet another wonderful week full of miracles!
We met with the Bennett's every day but one this week. On Monday, we talked about exactly what needs to happen and what needs to be taught so that Vincent could be baptized. We ate with them ate our Branch President's house Tuesdaynight, and Brother Bennett told us Aurian wanted to know what it would take for her to be baptized on the 31st as well. Yesterday, the Bennett's, us, and other missionaries in the Ames Zone, fasted for Aurian's mother's heart to be softened so she will give consent for Aurian to be baptized. 
We are continually hoping and praying for her to be able receive permission so she can be baptized with her brother.
It was a week full of service! Saturday was the first day in over a year that wasn't a sick day that I didn't wear "church clothes" at all. We went from moving one family, to helping another with re-roofing their house, and then helping Brother Bennett do demolition on the trailer he was given so he can rebuild it into a liveable condition (it was shut up with no one living there for over a year). We also spent the majority of our Friday helping this family re-roof their house. We aren't allowed to go on the roof for safety reasons, but we handed stuff up to those on the roof and cleared the shingles that came down and put them into the dumpster. This family with the father and two sons with their families make up about 1/2 the active members who live in Story City.
When I got to Story City at the beginning of June, I knew that the attitude of the branch toward missionary work could be improved. The Spirit told me that we needed to be "Ammonaries" and serve the branch. As we have served together, Elder Newhouse and I have done our best to work hard, and the members of the branch see that we truly care and are dedicated to the work. There have been fruits from our labors and we hope to keep it pressing forward!

This is arguably the best district I have served in since I have been a missionary. Each missionary is working hard, has enthusiasm for the work, and is doing their best to serve Christ. At our Zone Training Meeting I talked about in last weeks email, the Zone Leaders asked us to create a district prayer list, a list of 2 names from each area, with the baptismal date they are looking toward and what concerns they need to have resolved before they will be baptized. After we discussed all of these people and wrote them on the board, Sister Browne suggested the idea of us all getting on the same call and one person praying for everyone on the list and have it be a unified district prayer. She got this idea from the Sister Training Leaders when they were on exchanges. We have implemented it every night and it is a wonderful opportunity to build unity. Sisters England and Paul have had a week of many miracles since Thursday, including the softening of an investigator father's heart insomuch that he made them cookies. They are convinced that these prayers have helped to soften his heart.
District meetings under President Jergensen were 2.5 hours. Having 2 one-hour trainings being split up into 30 minutes of training and 30 minutes of role-plays. Also at the Zone Training Meeting, the Zone Leaders announced that President Jensen changed the time of 2.5 hours to 90 minutes. This last district meeting was only 90 minutes, it felt a little rushed at times, but was one of the best district meetings I have attended because of the Spirit that was there and the things I learned in role-plays. The other missionaries received revelation as well for themselves and for their areas, so it fulfilled its purpose!
We set a baptismal date on Wednesday for May 17, 2014 with one of our investigators! Her mother is highly against the church, believing we are a cult and that "we make our lies sound good." This investigator turns 18 on May 16, 2014, and she is super excited. She is good friends with an awesome family in the branch and she received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true. The member family gave her an old quad of scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price) and a Preach My Gospel. She is as dry Mormon* as they get.  
*Dry Mormon: Someone who is living all the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but is not yet baptized; being "dry"
My studies as of late have been on different topics or different places in the scriptures, but they keep coming back to the heart. An instance I read this morning was Abinadi addressing King Noah's wicked priests in Mosiah 12:27 "Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?" My charge to each of you is to follow Moroni's charge in Moroni 7:48 and to "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love [charity, the pure love of Christ (see verse 47)], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."
My heart is continually purified day-by-day and week-by-week as I partake of the sacrament, leaving something on the altar of sacrifice for Christ to take up. We can only feel charitable when we have the Spirit. Feeling the Spirit and Charity are almost synonymous. One cannot happen without the other. Think of any very spiritual experience you have had and think about if your love for someone around you, whom you shared that experience with, did not increase. I know that when we are "full of love," it is "through the atonement of Christ the Lord" that we are purified (see Mosiah 3:19).
Sayonara with Love,
Elder Zachary R McKenzie
Iowa Des Moines Mission
    D&C 6:34, 36
Doubt Not, Fear Not.
550 Souls to Christ

Incredible Weather and Good Ol' Corn - August 12, 2013

The Weather is Perfect! *Knock on wood*
I can't remember if I told you last week, but the Bennett family is moving at the end of this month down to the Ames 2nd Ward in the Sisters area. They want their son to be baptized at the end of this month still, on the date we set 2 months ago,August 31st. Their daughter, we're hoping to help her be baptized still on that day. Even though that is the weekend they will be moving, Brother Bennett said he wanted the Branch to have a baptism. I thought that was pretty cool!
We had two special meetings this last week: Interviews with our Mission President, and Zone Training Meeting.
In Interviews, our Mission President will train for a few minutes on a subject he feels relevant to us, then he takes between 10-15 minutes to interview each of us individually. When we were in the interview with him, our companion sat with his wife and she got to know us better in a less formal setting.
Before he began interviewing, President Jensen told us about his expectations for us. He said "these are not worthiness interviews. You were interviewed by your Bishop's and Stake President's back home, you wrote and signed a letter to the prophet accepting his call to be a missionary. You are held to a much higher standard than the rest of the world. The world is down here (low level with his hands), the members of the church are here (level with his hands a little higher than the first), the members who have been through the temple and received their endowments (a higher level than the other two), then ordained missionaries." The missionary level is the highest. Preach My Gospel says "when you were set apart by priesthood authority, you received the right and privilege to represent the Lord. You received a ministerial certificate that verifies that authority to the world. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The setting apart may be taken literally; it is a setting apart from sin, apart from the carnal; apart from everything which is crude, low, vicious, cheap, or vulgar; set apart from the world to a higher plane of thought and activity. The blessing is conditional upon faithful performance” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 478)" (p. 4). President Jensen voiced that he believes that as well. It was pretty neat!
While President and Sister Jensen were interviewing and talking with one companionship, the rest were in the Relief Society room. The Zone Leaders take this opportunity to examine our Area Books and we take looks at theirs, with any suggestions or comments on them for improvement take place. The rest of us are congregated in a room and we discuss the scriptures, do simple missionary activities or role-plays, or we just talk and get to know each other better. It was a great time to build district unity. We also went to lunch as a district afterwards, so it was a great time!
The second meeting is Zone Training Meeting. Early each month, Missionary Leadership Council (MLC) is held. It is a full-day of trainings and discussion that all of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders attend, and they are trained by President and Sister Jensen and the Assistants to the President. Zone Training Meeting is where they take what they learn from MLC and bring it down to each missionary on a Zone-by-Zone level. The Ames Zone (the one I am currently serving in) is pretty awesome! Usually as part of these meetings, the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders conduct role-plays in conjunction with their trainings. In this zone, they ask the missionaries who are coming to bring any investigators or less-active members or potential investigators that are able to come and be taught by missionaries. Instead of us role-playing with other missionaries, they have the investigators go sit in a room and tell them missionaries will soon be in there to teach them. The Zone Leaders have pre-assigned who is going where and who they will be teaching, pairing missionaries who are not in the same district. We have a few minutes to plan and then we are off and teaching them for 45 minutes. It is a really neat experience to teach with other missionaries you don't get to see that often. And this zone is the only one that does that... I hope it's not for long! Oh, and did I mention Brother Bennett came and was taught by 4 fantastic elders? Well he was and he really enjoyed it!
My studies have been focused on this district and how to better find new investigators, as that is something each companionship in our district is struggling with. The wonderful thing is, there are no lazy missionaries in our district (which is something that didn't happen before I came to Story City), and we have the faith and enthusiasm of 3 missionaries who are in their 1st transfer. The work here is about to take off!
My theme for the week is 2 Nephi 31:20, "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." My goals for the week center around this and putting off mine imperfections and giving them to Christ the Lord.
"Condemn me not because of mine aimperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been."
   - Mormon 9:31
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them."
   - Ether 12:27
"O, remember, my son, and alearn bwisdom in thy cyouth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God."
What better advice than from the Servants of God?
Elder Zachary R McKenzie
Iowa Des Moines Mission
    D&C 6:34, 36
Doubt Not, Fear Not.
550 Souls to Christ

Mission: Officially 1/2 Over. :( - August 5, 2013

"It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength" -Mosiah 4:27

Time already seems to be going by faster... I hope and pray I make the most of it.
Even not being members of the church, others can have a great understanding of truth. Usually it is mixed in with some bits of false doctrine. Sometimes others are willing to learn something new, sometimes not. This week we had a lady tell us that it was none of our business what church she went to. It is interesting the things that Satan has done to bring in false concepts of God and the true gospel into the minds of the people of the world. We can never belittle or try to break someone else's faith, we must always build upon what they believe in. Some cases are harder to build their faith, some have very easy concerns to handle and help them form a correct vision of the truth. But we must always build their faith. President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, "You can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen." In the Doctrine and Covenants, it is stated, "And the Spirit shall be given unto you aby the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the bSpirit ye shall not teach" (section 42 verse14). D&C 109:7 states "seek learning even by study and also by faith."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve shares his thoughts on this line of thinking:
"Almost everything I have said here has been an aid directed toward the missionary process, ultimately toward the investigator. May I close with an extended testimony about how focusing on the Atonement helps full-time and member missionaries and mission leaders.
"Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
"You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
"Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
"For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
"If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,”16 then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
"The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
"I testify that the living God is our Eternal Father and that Jesus Christ is His living and Only Begotten Son in the flesh. I testify that this Jesus, who was slain and hanged on a tree,17 was the chief Apostle then and is the chief Apostle now, the Great High Priest, the chief cornerstone of His Church in this last and greatest of all dispensations. I testify that He lives, that the whole triumph of the gospel is that He lives, and because He does, so will we.
"On that first Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene first thought she saw a gardener. Well, she did—the Gardener who cultivated Eden and who endured Gethsemane. The Gardener who gave us the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley, the cedars of Lebanon, the tree of life.
"I declare Him to be the Savior of the world, the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, the Bright and Morning Star. I know that our garments can be washed white only in the blood of that Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. I know that we are lifted up unto life because He was lifted up unto death, that He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, and with His stripes we are healed. I bear witness that He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, that He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief because upon Him were laid the transgressions of us all.18
"I bear witness that He came from God as a God to bind up the brokenhearted, to dry the tears from every eye, to proclaim liberty to the captive and open the prison doors to them that are bound.19 I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free. That is my missionary promise to you and your missionary message to the world."
I add my testimony to Elder Holland's. I love you and I know that your Father in Heaven, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost love you. We are here, members of His holy church to bring others closer to Christ. May we do it out of the Pure Love of Christ, Charity, is my prayer.
Love from Iowa,
Elder Zachary R McKenzie
Iowa Des Moines Mission
    D&C 6:34, 36
Doubt Not, Fear Not.
550 Souls to Christ

It's Already Been 1 Year!!! - July 29, 2013

I can hardly believe it. I entered the MTC one year ago this Thursday. It can't be that long already! A year ago today I spoke in Sacrament Meeting and had a bunch of you over to our house. It is going by so fast. I hear that as soon as you hit the year mark the rest just goes by even faster. I believe that that is a sad reality.
Great week. We did about 20 hours of service, helping one member family prepare for their house to be bought, helping a couple of non-members help clean up their yards, and helping a member of our branch presidency prepare some of his house to so he can move out sooner rather than later. I feel like I was in "civilian" clothes for way too long this week!
Our Branch President is fantastic! He had us in his home to teach some of his friends in response to asking him "Who can we teach in your home this week?" It was a great blessing to be there. Elder Newhouse and I could have taught better, we taught too much of a lesson and not enough of teaching to their needs. So much to learn! Our Branch President was also lacking speakers for Sacrament Meeting, so he asked Elder Newhouse and I to each speak for 10 minutes on the Work of Salvation Broadcast. It was awesome! I spoke on charity and conversion and told the members we no longer tract, and Elder Newhouse recreated Elder Holland's telling of Peter and Christ's interaction from the October 2012 General Conference ( It touched some members and we are excited to see where that leads.
We heard about the Church of God based out of Korea and a member who lives here. They believe in Heavenly Mother and so she was really excited to speak with us. Turns out it isn't quite what we thought it was. She tried to teach us but was just very confusing, we were the first people to listen to her. We listened to her last week, so we will get to teach her this week!
There was a severe thunderstorm here on Monday night. We had just finished teaching a lesson at the Stake President's home and they had fed us a dinner of homemade stir fry. We were about to leave as it was about to get serious. So we stayed for an extra hour to wait out the storm. If you think you have seen a severe thunderstorm, and it wasn't in the Midwest, think again about it being severe. Wind bursts of upwards of 60 mph and lightning all around, back-to-back-to-back for an hour. With some rain. There were broken branches and bark off of trees everywhere! We spent a good 4 or 5 hours this week at least helping pick up branches, rake leaves, and mow lawns because of all of that. Crazy! Worst storm I have ever been in. Just wait for the tornados... (Just kidding Mom. Story City hasn't been hit by a tornado in a long time. *knock on wood*)
This week my focus has been charity. Nothing moves forward without Charity and the Spirit. So I am striving to increase those as time goes on. Study and pray for Charity, the pure love of Christ. And do your best to act on it. That is my invitation to you.
Elder Zachary R McKenzie
Iowa Des Moines Mission
    D&C 6:34, 36
Doubt Not, Fear Not.
550 Souls to Christ