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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

FELIZ NAVIDAD


It´s so weird hearing the instrumental version of "Feliz Navidad" on the Mexican radio... It´s just not whole without the lyrics. (We got to listen to the Mexican radio while folding laundry again this week. Much happiness).

ANYWAY.... Here´s my diary for this week.
Wednesday: Chris spoiled "Into the Woods" for me. I´ll forgive him. Eventually.
Thursday: I dreamed about Voldemort and his pet armadillo. Good to know my dreams are still weird. Talked about charity and how we need to pray for it. TODAS LOS DIAS. En la mañana. En la noche. En la tardes. (It´s an inside joke between my comps and I. Remind me to tell you about it sometime.) The mountain was on fire, but the baptism B was still there. Started talking to Latinos at dinner. We´re best friends now, even though I still have no idea what they´re saying. One day.
Friday: Went contacting. Taught the Restoration to a couple of other missionaries. Yeah. Great fun. That´s about it.
Saturday: Played beach volleyball with 25 people and 3 balls. I´m amazed that I didn´t get hit in the face. We taught Hermana Rena for TRC. She´s so sweet! She pretty much taught us. We didn´t even try. The Spirit was so strong and we were all crying. Stupid tear glands. We also gave a Book of Mormon discussion on virtue. Read Mosiah 4 and see how it relates to virtue.
Sunday: Had a reader´s theater for Relief Society. I was the musician. In a lot of ways. Never again. The things I do for Hermana Gill (The choir director). I also gave a 6 minute and 20 second talk in Spanish on (guess the topic) FAITH in sacrament meeting. Hahaha. It´s only the topic I´ve given talks on since I was 12. I didn´t write it until sacrament meeting. Pretty proud of myself. (Our talks are supposed to be 5 minutes, btw). Had the best devotional EVER. It was by the director of operations down here, Shawn Cates. He´s a cool guy, and a gringo, so we get along well. Hermana Gill made me brownies. They were delicious. Triple fudge topped with powdered sugar. Watched the Restoration movie. We cried. It was beautiful. We also watched two videos. "He is the Gift" (#sharethegift) and "The Nativity" by radiant.org . It has the Piano Guys and David Archuleta and Peter Hollens and Alex Boyé and Jeremy from Studio C. Watch it. Love it.
Monday: We took our farewell MTC pictures. Our colors were blue, yellow, and gray. Can´t wait to see how they turn out. Nothing else really happened.
Tuesday: Taught Carlos (and other people) The Law of Chastity. It went surprisingly well, except when I said that breaking the law of chastity is a really bad fish instead of a really bad sin. Mi español es roto. Had a devotional by Bishop Gary E. Stevenson where he pulled a sword (a real one) out of nowhere and said "Isn´t that narley?". Have your sword of the Spirit with you always. It´s your one weapon. Everything else the gospel gives in a shield/ protection.
Today: Cleaned. Packed. Shined the shoes. IT RAINED. Best Christmas Eve ever.

FELIZ NAVIDAD! But remember the reason for the season, for without Christ, there would be no Christmas. Share his gift, his many gifts, with the world. The gift of His Atonement. The gift of His Gospel. The Gift of His Service. STAY AWESOME.

Love,

Hermana Kennedy

Oh, and here´s some random quotes:

Hermana Hawkes referring to my nickname (A): "I´ve been sitting for the past fifteen minutes wondering how you can get "A" from "Kennedy"."
Hermana Hawkes: "Animal torture is the first step to serial killing."
Me: "Happy Christmas, Harry." Hermana Hawkes: "Happy Christmas, Ron."
Hermano Cates: "Stay on target. YOURÉ A DISEASE!" (My new life motto.)
Our Latino friends: "Aqui!" (Referring to when we hit the volleyball in the completely wrong direction.)

P.S.
"Mal Pescado". (It´s a very bad fish). It´s doctrine. Leviticus 11:9-12.

¿Porque no?


Our crazy district.

Elder Wilde

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas is coming!

We all need a little more Jesus in our lives
Sorry for the boring title. I couldn´t think of another one. In English, at least.

So, here´s my diary for the past week:

Wednesday: A new group of missionaries came in, and I was happy to see on of my college orchestra buddies, Clarissa Reed down here! She´s going to Alabama and will be in the MTC for Christmas, New Year´s, and her birthday. Poor girl.
Thursday: Instead of doing language study, we had choir practice because we were going to sing at the visitor´s center on Sunday. We ended up singing at the employee´s Christmas party after practice. My teachers were making faces at me the whole time. Not cool. Not cool.
Friday: It was Guadalupe day. There were a lot of fireworks. A LOT. We couldn´t sleep the night before because they were so loud. They were really loud during the day, too. Not cool.
Saturday: We had TRC today. TRC is where you teach volunteers about a certain topic that your teachers assign. We taught two members separately, Mario and Valeria. Our lesson with Mario was perfect, even though he talked super fast. The Spirit. It does cool things. We laughed most of the time with Valeria. She didn´t really have any questions or problems, so we just taught her and gave her reminders. But, at night, we had a wonderful Christmas program by some RMs, planning to be missionaries, and teachers here. It was the Nativity story in folk dancing. Satan made an appearance. He was really creepy. Never want to see that again. But the rest of the program was wonderful! They had an epic sword dance, and a piñata, and this adorable little girl. So cute. But the elders behind us were being really loud and disrespectful. They got a mouthful from President Pratt the next day, though, so it´s cool. People just don´t know performance etiquette. It makes me sad.
Sunday: I DIDN´T HAVE TO GIVE A TALK IN SACRAMENT MEETING. But next week´s topic is on faith, and that´s been my topic since I was 12. It´s going to happen. I know it. Today was the day we performed at the Visitor´s Center. There were 36 of us, and a lot of people showed up. The room was so packed that they had to move people to other rooms. And they got packed. We sang some Christmas hymns, This is the Christ, God Loved Us So He Sent His Son and He Sent His Son, I Know that My Redeemer Lives, and Oh Holy Night. Hermana Streuling and I did a piano/violin duet to Oh Little Town of Bethlehem. I did a piano solo for O Come O Come Emmanuel. Another Hermana did a gorgeous Christmas Medley. It had my favorite Christmas songs--Carol of the Bells, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and We Three Kings. Yeah I was happy. She asked me to turn pages right before, so of course I said yes. It was great. I felt so sick--like fainting sick. I didn´t faint, though. I just snuck off my sweater and sat down to play the piano. It worked out perfectly. We also watched this movie called ¨"How Rare a Possession". It´s about the Book of Mormon. It´s a good movie. Watch it. Cry. Love it.
Monday: Instead of studying, we had an epic discussion about lightsabers and everything in the Star Wars canon universe. Shows how much we work... We´re getting better, though. That´s about all that happened.
Tuesday: Carlos is on a baptism date! So proud of him. Now he just needs to keep the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. Fingers crossed. It was also Hermano Melara´s last day with us. He´s leaving to go to school. He showed us an awesome inspirational video that his mission made. He better send it to me. It made me cry. Partially because the music was by Hans Zimmer. Time from Inception and another song from the Da Vinci Code. It was beautiful. We cleaned bathrooms for our service project. We´re pro cleaners now. I also played at the devotional. It was a really good devotional by an Elder of the 4th Quorum of the Seventy down here. Ask me about it, and I´ll tell you.

Fireworks still go off every day here. We yell Guadalupe every time we´re in our casa and one goes off. Yeah.

Love you!

Hermana Kennedy

P.S. We get to see Meet the Mormons on Christmas. I´ll be smarter this time and bring tissues. Yup. It´s going down.

"Sista Time!"
Sister Kennedy and her companions
"Our Christmas tree"
"My Decoration"

"The Elders"
"The Sisters"
Mexico City Temple 
"Temple Time!"



"Visitor's Center Decorations"

"Funnies"

"Jesus! (Because, why not?)"



"These are the guys from my district. This is what they send me on P-Day. Yeah. We're perfect for each other. We know." 
"Elder Etter's Arm. It's very veiny"

"Our teacher's last day and our party"




"Mexican Coke. Yum." 



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another week gone.

Sister Kennedy's MTC District
I know I´ve only been gone three weeks, but we´re in week 4! Solo español week. Es no bueno. I have to speak only Spanish for the next 3 weeks before I leave! Yeah. Not happening so well right now. Thank goodness I have a companion who´s pretty much fluent. (I love you Hermana Campbell!)

So, we got two new progressing investigators, Carlos and Julian. One´s my day teacher, Hermano Saucedo and the other is my night teacher, Hermano Diaz, respectively. Julian has committed to baptism. We teach him again tonight. Carlos is... Carlos. He´s more interested now. He´s reading el Libro de Mormon, so that´s good, right?

A lot has happened this week. We started this thing called TRC. It´s where volunteers come so that the missionaries can practice their Spanish teaching skills. They´re either nonmembers, members, investigators, or inactives. We got a member, Miguel, who was actually one of the teachers here. We taught him about prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, and Satan. It was fun. And terrifying at the same time.

We went to the visitor´s center for the Mexico City Temple today. It´s absolutely beautiful! We didn´t get to go inside the temple because it´s closed for the next six months. (It was sinking, so I completely understand.) We did get to tour the visitor´s center and see their beautiful pointsettas! (Pics are coming, I promise.)

I also went running with Hermana McArthur on Monday. We both threw up after, but we´re ok now. Thank goodness for the priesthood.

Spiritual things: We´ve been talking a lot about being converted. Having a testimony and being converted are two completely different things. A testimony is something you know is true. Being converted is living your testimony every day. It´s called having integrity. If you don´t know the definition, look up Renee Pay and she´ll be happy to tell you. Actually, just ask her about the 8 keys of excellence, and you´ll be set for life. Anyway, conversion is a lifelong process. It´s not a big, grand experience. As you keep living the principles you know are true, you´ll begin to be converted in that one thing. Then you move on to the next principle and repeat. Endure to the end. All that fun stuff.

Funny things: My district laughs a lot. We´re really close, and we don´t want to be close to anyone else, so we´ve become "That district". I´ve also heard "the Kennewicks". We have a reputation. It´s kind of awesome.

Keep loving everyone, especially Jesus!

Happy Christmas season everyone! Remember the Savior every day for the next 13 days. He´d really appreciate it.

Love,

Hermana Kennedy

P.S. Our service project this week was folding laundry, specifically sheets. I am a pro folder now. We got to listen to Spanish Disney music. It´s awesome! Although, Hakuna Matata in Spanish is kind of weird... Oh well. I liked it. We got to listen to the Aristocats, and I got very happy. :)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Too much Elder Holland!

Hola!

This week was THANKSGIVING. So, here´s a list of a few things I´m grateful for:
1. My mother. Pretty self explanatory.
2. My father. Also pretty self explanatory.
3. My siblings. I´m still trying to delude myself into thinking that I don´t miss you.
4. Mis compañeras. They´re awesome. And wondeful. And do my hair.
5. Peaches. They make me happy.
6. Mis maestros. Sure they talk really fast and I can´t understand what they're saying half the time, but I can now construct sentences in Spanish. Pretty awesome.
7. Mi distrito! They´re awesome! 6 elders and 5 hermanas = the best time of our lives. So excited to come home and have a Marvel marathon with then.
8. The nerd life, The girls in my district are all Sherlocked. It´s great.
9. The scriptures. They´re so calming. Read them more.
10. Marking crayons. Having 12 different colors is muy bueño for my purposes. Everything is color coded. Sassy moments are in pink. I don´t think I´ve ever realized just how sassy Nefi was until now...
11. El CCM. The workers put tablecloths and real plates and silverware on the lunch tables for Thanksgiving! We had Thanksgiving! With turkey and creamy mashed potatoes and green beans and I was happy.
12. Devotionals. WE HAVE SO MANY. One on Sunday, one on Tuesday, one for special occasions (like Thanksgiving.) Two of them so far have been by Elder Holland. We´ve watched so many videos with Elder Holland. Mis maestros quote Elder Holland. SO MUCH ELDER HOLLAND. It´s awesome.

So there you go. I would have put God and Jesus Christ as my number one and two spots, but I thought that went without saying....

This week in the CCM has gone by so fast! We commited our first investigator, Russel, to baptism! And then we found out that he was our night teacher... #awkward. Hermano Diaz is awesome, but I still can´t help but call him "Russel". Now we have two more investigators, Carlos and Julian. Carlos is one of our day teachers, Hermano Saucedo, and Julian is Hermano Diaz again. Exciting, right?

Typing with a Spanish keyboard on a Spanish computer is weird. It makes me question my English...

I haven´t gotten sick or had a mental breakdown yet, so I´m pretty proud of myself. We´re also going to the mall today because Hermana Campbell needs shoes. ... We´re leaving the compound.

Also, here in Mexico City, they celebrate a saint EVERY SINGLE DAY. WITH FIREWORKS. IT SOUNDS LIKE A WAR ZONE. That and all the honking from the horrible traffic does not help with the noise level. Guess I´ll be ready for the fireworks when I come back to the US for New Year´s. #notcool

Also, according to Hermano Saucedo, having chairty for others is like having a bromance with them. Like Ammon and King Lamoni. Best bromance ever.

Well, we´re about to leave, so I´ll sign off!

Love you!

Hermana Kennedy

P.S. Elder Bednar gave the Thanksgiving devotional last week. We got to email him questions and he answered them. The people in the Provo MTC got to text him. Guess what? I saw Sister Sydney Sands texting Elder Bednar! It´s good to know she´s actually alive.... Ok. I´m going now. Adios!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Yo estoy en Mexico!

I can write a complete sentence in Spanish. I am so pleased with my progress. Ser y estar are weird verbs, but I´ll go with it.

This week was my first week at the CCM! It´s pretty great. I have two companions, Hermana McArthur from St. George, and Hermana Campbell from San Antonio, Texas. They´re awesome! They´re so sweet and nice and nerds. We get along well, if you can´t tell. There´s also two hermanas we´re with all the time, Hermana Hawkes from Arizona and Hermana Streuling from Utah! It´s great. They´re in my district.

The food here is really good. It´s authentic Mexican food most of the time. The orange juice is drinkable, too, but I think the apple juice is better. Speaking of food, Tuesday is probably my favorite day. It´s P-day eve, pizza night, and devotional night. We get a giant slice of Costco pizza for dinner. Es muy bueno. Last night, our devotional was given by Elder y Hermana Oaks. They talked a lot about obedience and not being too hard on ourselves. They encouraged us to have charity, the pure love of Christ, so that we would be more able to lose ourselves in the Lord´s work.

I have to teachers. I still don´t know their names because they talk so fast. They only speak in Spanish which is really difficult for most of my district. (My district is the equivalent of a class.) We have cinco hermanas y seis elders en mi distrito. We´re all going to Washington Kennewick, Spanish speaking, so that´s pretty cool.

The language is still awful, but I´m getting there. We had to teach our first investigator, Russell on Friday of last week. IN SPANISH. Poor guy. Poor, poor guy. Our whole lesson on faith went kaboom. Esta bien. Esta bien.

I´m unofficially the official ward pianist. Sacrament meeting is the equivalent of a mental breakdown because we don´t know who´s giving the talks. Presidente Torres will announce your name, and then you have to speak. It´s an assigned topic, though, so we all have a week to prepare our talks. Still not cool, though. 

Well, life is good, the Lord is good. Pictures will come next week. For now, gotta run! 

Con amor,
Hermana Kennedy

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Farewell to Remember

We are down to 2 days. As time has flown since I've gotten my call, I've gone through stages of boredom, excitement, and now absolute terror. I'm going to a foreign country with foreign traditions for the next six weeks. I have to spend my first Christmas away from home. Needless to say, I am absolutely petrified. I'll grow accustomed to it, though, by working hard and relying on my Heavenly Father.

It is a tradition in the LDS culture that a missionary who is leaving will give a "farewell speech" on their last Sunday in church. November 16th, yesterday, was the day I gave my farewell speech. Here's what I said:

Good morning brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anna Kennedy. I’ve been called to serve in the Washington Kennewick mission, Spanish speaking, and I report to the Mexico Missionary Training Center on Wednesday.
I was asked to speak on how living the gospel brings peace to our lives. And I’d like to pray that the Spirit will be with me to carry my words to your hearts. At first I thought this was going to be an easy topic, but as I started to really ponder it, it became a lot more difficult for me because I had no idea what “living the gospel” meant or what “peace” was. So, let me begin by defining peace.
According to Webster’s dictionary, peace is a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; and harmony in personal relations. In the scriptures, peace can mean either freedom from conflict and turmoil or the inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit that God gives to his faithful Saints. The peace we gain from living the gospel is the latter definition.
So, one of my problems was solved. As for living the gospel, here’s what I came up with. When I searched this phrase in my gospel library, it came up with a few results—some scriptures, some general conference talks, even some pamphlets. Do you know what they said? “So-and-so lived the gospel.” Or “By reading this pamphlet you will able to live the gospel.” It really wasn’t helpful. But I didn’t lose hope and after reading 324 general conference talks, 9 scriptures, 5 pamphlets, 65 teachings of the presidents of the church, and 33 lessons for the youth, I finally got to the children’s section. It had one result—a song called “I want to live the gospel.” Every other line of this song says “I want to live the gospel.” Helpful, right? Actually, it kind of was because the lines in between every other line actually gave me a pretty good idea of how one can live the gospel. So, thanks to my extensive research, I was able to compile the steps to help you on your path to living the gospel. You can thank me later.
1.     Find out the truth of these words for yourself. If you want to live the gospel, you first have to know if its teachings are true, otherwise why would you want to live it? You can find out if the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are true by asking the missionaries, praying, studying the scriptures, attending church, and pondering the things that you have been taught.
2.     Follow the plan of the Savior. The Savior gave us a plan of happiness that we can easily follow by gaining experience and learning to make the right choices. Because of this plan, we are able to discern good from evil and learn from our experiences what brings us lasting happiness. When we make the right choices, we become more like the Savior and are able to partake of the eternal blessings that come from following His plan.
3.     Keep the commandments. Have no other gods before our Heavenly Father. Don’t worship idols. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Keep the Sabbath day holy. Honor your parents. Don’t kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet. Love the Lord your God. Love everyone, for that matter, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they did to you. Be humble and grateful. Don’t be a hypocrite. Pray, read your scriptures, go to church, attend the temple, repent! The list goes on and on. Take Nike’s word for it and just do it. I promise that your life will be changed.
4.     Learn to obey. President Jorge Beccera will tell you that the first law of heaven is obedience. There are four levels of obedience: compliance, conformity, subjection, and finally, submission. I’ll let you determine where you are on that scale, but when we submit our will to the Lord willingly, and are obedient to Him under all circumstances, He will bless us by taking care of our worldly needs, giving us eternal blessings, extending more commandments and divine direction toward us, and finally providing us with divine revelations so that we may know what the Lord wants us to do. Eventually, what we want will become what the Lord wants for us, and our interests will converge.
5.     Have Christ. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” and we do these things so that we know where to turn for peace. One of the Savior’s many names is “The Prince of Peace”. When we have Christ in our lives and when we have access to His Atonement, we are able to feel true peace—that inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit of God. In the book of John, chapter 14, verse 26, Christ says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Christ overcame the world so that we could know what peace truly was. When we focus our lives on Christ, we’re able to feel the calm of the spirit—the calm I imagine Christ felt when he was betrayed, tortured, and eventually crucified.
President Joseph F. Smith, a former president of the Church, lived in a time of world wars. In response to finding peace in such a difficult time, he said the following: “The Lord loveth peace. The doctrine of the Savior of men was “Peace on earth, good will to men,”... The greatest of all the commandments that was ever given to the children of men is: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ [Matthew 22:37–40.] If in the central nations of the earth this spirit of love had existed, this principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ; if this glorious admonition had been taken to heart by the rulers of those nations, there never would have been any war, there never would have been any bloodshed, there never would have been the devastation and ruin and evil conditions that exist today. It is because the people of the world have not the gospel. It is because they do not obey the truth. It is because they have not Christ, and therefore they are left to themselves, and the results that we see are the consequences of their own misbehavior and of their own wicked deeds.
6.     This leads me to the final step of living the gospel. Love. I know I sound like a cheesy hippie preaching about love and peace, but it works. When you are able to love somebody so much that you don’t care who they are, what they say, or how they act towards you, you get pretty well rounded. And while your life may suck, you’ll be at peace.
I’d like to share a very personal experience about how I was able to feel peace by living the gospel. In the beginning of October, the Supreme Court announced that gay marriage would be legalized in Utah and some other states. I made a mistake by posting my thoughts and opinions about this statement on Facebook. (Sometimes, I’m so happy that I’ll be forsaking social media for eighteen months….It causes way too many problems.) As many of you know, the Church’s official stance on gay marriage is that we believe marriage to be between one man and one woman. We don’t support gay marriage, but that doesn't mean that we hate homosexual people. It just means that we don’t agree with their lifestyle because we believe differently.
When I posted my thoughts on Facebook, I wasn't prepared for the overwhelmingly negative and bigoted response that I received from two of my acquaintances from high school. After being insulted, slandered, and deeply offended, I decided to do what Jesus would do and turn the other cheek, accepting what came and loving them anyway. It was so hard. It got even harder when they started insulting and slandering my friends and family, my government and freedoms, my religion, and even my God. Needless to say, I was not a happy nor a calm person. I was deeply hurt and surprised that somebody who claimed they were so open-minded could be so hypocritical and close-minded. But, I decided it was probably easier (and from a lazy perspective, less work) to love them anyway. So, I did. And I felt calm I felt comforted. I felt that I had done my part as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And even though it was a terrible situation, I was at peace. Living the gospel truly does bring each one of us peace. I've felt it, and I’m sure many of you have felt it also.
In conclusion, we can find peace by living the gospel. We can live the gospel by finding out the truth, following Christ’s plan, keeping the commandments, learning to obey, having Christ, and loving others.
God is not the author of confusion. He’s the author of peace. He’s given us a great example in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I know that when we strive to follow the Savior’s example by doing the previously listed steps, God will grant us His peace, and we will be more able to live in such a troubled word.
I know God lives and loves each of us. I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and the Prince of Peace. I know and testify that he atoned for our sins so that we would be able to feel lasting, eternal peace. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that he did see our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know that he restored the fullness of the gospel to these latter-days. I know that he translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that we have a living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson, and I know he speaks for God. I know that he is able to show us how to live the gospel so that we can have peace.
I’m very excited to preach this gospel of peace to the people of Washington for the next eighteen months. I know that I will be able to make a difference in at least one person’s life with my message. I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve my God and my fellow brothers and sisters. I pray that we’ll all be able to feel the peace of God in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, and that we will continuously rely on the Lord for that peace.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


I'd like to thank everyone who supported me at my farewell. It meant more to me than you will ever know. I'll miss all of you while I'm gone, but you can always pray for me, and I'll remember you. ;) Wish me luck as I start this new adventure! #noregrets

Hermana Kennedy, signing off.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Closer and closer...

WE ARE UNDER THE TWO MONTH MARK. I REPEAT. WE ARE UNDER THE TWO MONTH MARK.

Can I just leave already? God is pretty funny making me wait five months. I will be the most patient person by the time I actually leave on my mission. It makes me wonder what will test my patience on my mission.

In the meantime, since I last posted, I have gathered all my missionary outfits! Sure it took two days of tortuous shopping, but I lived, and so did my wallet. (Yay for sales and mothers!) I also had to get a root canal. They're not as bad as people make them sound. Well, except that my dentist lost a file in my canal so I have to go to an endodontist and see if they can fix it. :/ MY TEETH BETTER BE PERFECT ON MY MISSION.

Anyway... The friend spotlight of this week is the amazing Sydney Sands. She leaves for her mission to Kobe, Japan in 8 days. 8 DAYS. I don't know how I'm going to live without my dear friend. She's a wonderful fangirl, a smart ditz, and the awesomest blonde I know. (Besides me, of course.) I had the opportunity to perform at her farewell. I was terrified and did horribly, but nobody needs to know that, right? Sydney's talk was wonderful, though, and it's impossible for me not to share that wonderful message with you, my dear readers. I hope it inspires you as it did me. You should also visit her blog where all her letters will be posted!

Sydney's Blog

___


Ohayou gozaimasu, brothers and sisters. Good morning. I am Sister Sydney Sands, and I have been called to serve in the Kobe, Japan mission. Thank you for showing up to my farewell, whether intentionally or not, and you’ll wanna buckle up—I’ll be up here for the next twenty minutes. For your listening (and my speaking) convenience, I have planted people throughout the pews to laugh at all my jokes.
Take a step back from this Sunday morning and think for a moment about your favorite book or your favorite movie. Does it have at least one sequel? I’m sure it does—all movies have sequels these days. I’d like you to take a moment and think about how long it felt, waiting for that sequel.| | Got it? Wasn’t that a long wait? Now, imagine the next sequel coming out in two years. Now imagine five years. Now imagine waiting 1700 years. No joke—seventeen hundred years. It wouldn’t be in your lifetime. It wouldn’t be in your children’s lifetime. Generations of lifetimes would pass and you would still be left waiting for the end of the story. When the next part of the trilogy came out, you wouldn’t even recognize it as a sequel.
Two hundred years ago, that’s where the world was—unable to recognize the continuation of its most influential story—the story that I’m about to tell you today: The restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This story begins at the very beginning of the creation of mankind—Adam and Eve. Adam was made the first prophet. He walked and talked with God and taught his children the gospel. Soon, the people fell away and were left in spiritual darkness. Noah brought back God’s light after the flood and taught his children. Their children fell away and into darkness. The same cycle happened with Enoch, Abraham, and Moses. These “cycles” are called dispensations, and have always ended with a spiritual darkness called an “apostasy,” where it is “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). An apostasy begins when the people shun the word and God removes his prophets from the earth, cutting off mankind from priesthood authority. However, God loves his children, and each apostasy ends with the beginning of a new dispensation. With each new dispensation, God provides two things: A prophet, and new information on the Gospel.
Prophets are given the priesthood. They are the only ones authorized to speak for God and reveal new doctrine, among other things. Prophets learn by revelation, and in turn reveal that to us. When there are no prophets on the earth, there is no proper authority, and so the gospel falls from heavenly interpretation to human interpretation, which is, of course, faulty, fractured, and sometimes, straight-up false. Without prophets, no new revelation is given, basically severing our connection with God. After all, the scriptures are all testaments of Jesus Christ.
In the parable of the vineyard in Mark 12, the dispensations are compared to a man who owns a vineyard. He builds a tower, then let the workers, the “husbandmen” handle the vineyard. “And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.”
God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. Christ was sent to overcome death and atone for our sins. During his short thirty-three years on earth, the Savior also taught the Gospel, organized his church, called the twelve Apostles, and gave them priesthood authority by the laying on of hands. He fulfilled prophecy and was ultimately killed by those he saved. Before his death, as mentioned, he gave his apostles the priesthood, which meant that they were able to perform saving ordinances and establish his church through the world. However, shortly after Christ’s death, the world fell apart. Paul was beheaded, Andrew was crucified, Thomas was speared, James was clubbed and stoned, and most of the other apostles were also brutally martyred. The priesthood was gone, and the world fell into the great apostasy.
Without the main pillars of the church to rely upon, people turned to human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and principles of the church. The Romans, who persecuted the Christians, then became Christians themselves, used a council to settle important religious questions. They debated over philosophies and physically changed the scriptures. Not just the Romans, of course—entire books have been lost as a matter of course. Don’t you remember Ahijah, Iddo, and Shemaiah? Of course you don’t—they don’t exist anymore—they were lost. My favorite Old Testament prophet, Nathan, had a book. It’s gone. Samuel had another book. Disappeared. On top of that, the Bible used to be hand-copied by monks. If you had to copy page after page every single day with no spelling errors and no change of pace, what would you do, other than go crazy? Well, to make the work more efficient, you might cross off a word or two. What if, instead of a monk, you were a cardinal in politics? Vote for me and you’ll go upstairs, vote for him and you’re going downstairs. And some people, like the commonwealth, simply couldn’t help their misinterpretation—there was no Google, no howtocatholic.com, no phonelines. How were they supposed to know if their beliefs were 100% canon? How were they supposed to know the scriptures when most of them couldn’t read Latin, much less read at all?
Some people realized that they felt uncomfortable with the Gospel, and wanted to reform it. First evidence was the great Catholic schism, where the church divided into Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Next was the great Protestant divide, when Martin Luther protested against corruption in the Catholic Church. William Tyndale translated the scriptures and made them available to the common people. John Wycliffe preached that the church should have no part in political power.
All of these reformations played a big part in what people looked for in a church, but God’s power was still absent. Every Church has truth in it—some a little, some a lot—but the priesthood was gone. That’s why reformation, as much as it helped, didn’t fix the problem. |Every apostasy requires restoration.| And these reformations opened the doors to that restoration.
That same restoration was in the works since before Christ was born. In 1Nephi 13, an angel is showing young Nephi the history of the land of promise. Nephi sees the Gentiles (that’s us, the non-Jews) go through a struggle to religious freedom, despite the darkness and apostasy. As he watches the Gentiles cross the Atlantic ocean with the Bible in hand, the angel promises that the Lord will not “suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness…For behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and…these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles.” Once again, we’re the Gentiles. The Lord promised Nephi, a prophet who lived almost two thousand years before us, that the Lord would give the book that Nephi wrote to us. Everyone here in this room was promised two thousand years ago that we would receive the sequel to the Bible because God loves us, and will never let us be in the darkness for long.
However, I can’t read Egyptian, Hebrew, Aramaic, and ancient Arabic, all of which featured in the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. We needed a seer and a revelator—someone ordained of God with the power to administer the ordinances outlined in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Sound familiar? We needed a prophet. Someone old and educated and learned. A theologian. A local hero to rally the people, to spread the word of the new scriptures and the new dispensation. At least, that’s who I would have chosen.
God had very different plans. Instead of pulling a Goliath from the masses, he picked a David. Fourteen years old, farmboy poor, third-grade education, cheery disposition. The Lord chose Joseph Smith Jr. to reestablish the church and translate thirty pages a day, six days a week, with some archaic glasses he found in a box buried in a hill. Why? It may be because he was young, and had his whole life to preach the gospel, it could be because his heart hadn’t hardened against new doctrine, it could be because his parents were religious, it could be because he lacked wisdom and could not have possibly written the Book of Mormon. It could be because he lacked wisdom and so he asked of God.
The Second Great Awakening was a phenomenon peculiar to the United States, and some historians believe that it is the reason why we have higher church attendance than any other country in the world. It was a huge ordeal—hundreds of new churches in buildings, on soap boxes, parading around on the grass collecting members, shouting fiery words, preaching in the road to passersby. Every which way one was bombarded with doctrine—all from the same book, but thousands of interpretations, everyone threatening spiritual death if you didn’t listen. How was one supposed to know where to go? What church to choose? Young Joseph Smith Jr. was in this position. His parents belonged to different sects, and both were very adamant in their faith. However, the family often shared in scripture study, and so the scriptures were what Joseph turned to when in doubt. And so he read the fateful words: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5)
And so he did. “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me,  and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
And Joseph Smith did. His vision led to the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the translation of the Book of Mormon.
This is an incredible story, especially considering that it only took a little more than a century for the church to increase from six members to one million.  Sixty years after that, and the church went from one million to |fifteen million.| Wow. Wow.
I’m not a prophet. I’m not a leader of millions. I wasn’t born in the Second Great Awakening, and I can’t put “translated a companion to the Bible” on my resume, so I had trouble relating to the story of Joseph Smith. What makes the restoration so important, so impactful, other than the fact that it happened? After prayer and study, I’ve decided that the restoration provides us two messages: a declaration of love, and a call to action.
The Restoration is a message of love. 1John 4:8 states that “He that loveth not knoweth not God; |for God is love.”| |God is love.| Salt is salty. Water is wet. God is love. Water doesn’t try to be wet—it doesn’t see you jump in the pool and say “Oh, let’s get him wet.” It just is. God just is. He doesn’t look at someone who’s doing poorly and go “Oh, I need to love him.” He just does. Despite the death and persecution of His Only Begotten, the Lord of the Vinyard still loves us. We are ignorant, so he sends a prophet. We are weak, so he sends the comforter. We are imperfect, so he gives us a Redeemer. God so loved the world, but he didn’t love it in the way that we love green grass or the sky or clouds or sand on the beach. God loved the world because he loves you. He knows your name, he hand-crafted your body and wept when you were hurt, and you never saw Him, but He was there, holding your hand when you were summoning the courage to squish that spider, or when you were taking that physics test, or when it felt like everyone had abandoned you. He is perfect, and He is love, and what we do matters to Him. He wants us to grow up to be like Him one day—happy and perfect and loving, so He gave us the chance at knowing everything He does.
That’s what scriptures are—testaments of Jesus Christ. We have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Another Testament, the Book of Mormon. All these have been written to testify that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer. “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2Ne. 25:26) The rest is just extra. For it is “upon the rock of our Redeemer…whereon if men build, they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12) If religion does not bring you closer to God, it is useless. It will not comfort and it will not save.
The Restoration illustrates God’s love—his proof that he will answer any and all questions. As he told Nephi, he will not let us be blind. We’ve been given the tools—now it’s up to us to use them.
There’s a book that I love by C. S. Lewis called The Screwtape Letters—a collection of letters from the devil Screwtape to his young nephew Wormwood. All of these letters are guides to lead his “patient” down to hell. On the very first page, he tells Wormwood that argument is useless in convincing a man away from God. “Jargon,” he says, “not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to think that materialism is true! Make him think that it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.”
In today’s society, much of the debate around religion and morality deals in jargon. We judge their value on whether they’re ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive,’ ‘academic’ or ‘practical.’ ‘Conventional’ or ‘ruthless.’ ‘Popular’ or ‘unfashionable.’ We throw in all these reasons—Oh, the word of wisdom is ‘practical.’ Oh, the Book of Mormon is ‘well-written.’ The Prophet is ‘a good man.’ That’s why you should follow it. Rarely do we ask the most important question: |‘Is it true?’|
The Restoration is a call to action—demands us, through example, that we ask the important questions, not the convenient ones. You heard in Anna’s lovely musical number—“Oh, what a beautiful morning,” and you’ve heard the phrase “in the first morning.” Those who rise early—those who do not hesitate to take action—are the ones who will succeed, who are called of God. I compare waking up in the gospel to a personal conversion, because it is only through the light of Christ that we can truly see. We are commanded to wake up and set our eyes on that light of the world, the husband of Israel, the Redeemer of our souls, and so we must have faith that it is true.
A familiar parable on faith is that of the Ten Virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. “And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” The five foolish ones had no oil, and so were not able to attend the marriage. Although some people believe that the five wise ones were selfish in not sharing their oil, I liken it to sharing flashlight batteries. You can’t just expect someone to give you one of theirs. It doesn’t work that way—then you just get two people with no light. Just like you can’t share oil or flashlight batteries, you cannot share faith. I stand here today as a witness of the Gospel, but I cannot stand here in your place.
Don’t just assume that the Book of Mormon is true. Don’t just assume this church is the right one or that President Monson is the prophet. |Ask.| God is waiting for you to ask. He could be waiting to give you the most spiritual experience of your life. The very title page of the Book of Mormon invites you to question the validity. It is up to you to ask.
But there is a catch. A special way to ask, illustrated in Moroni 10, verses 4-5. You’ve heard them a million times before, but they’re important, so humor me and try to find something new in them, this time. “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if you ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Did you catch the special technique? You need to have two things: a sincere heart and real intent. Both are things you’ll need to develop inside yourself.
Sincerity is freedom from hypocrisy and integrity in your desire. Your question has to be one that you want to know the answer to. If you just ask about the Book of Mormon because you figured “Hey, why not?” you’re not likely to get a sincere answer.
This next part, real intent, is what I consider to be the most important part of the prayer. Real intent is the resolve to change your life according to the answer you receive. This one’s harder, because we are creatures with a high moment of inertia—meaning that it’s really, really hard to get us moving. Often, this is because we don’t quite understand the magnitude of whatever principle we’re praying about. Boyd K. Packer illustrates this point, saying that “True doctrine, understood, changes behavior and attitude.” When we truly understand a piece of the gospel, we change ourselves to fit it. That is the morning of our conversion. It is the moment, or the accumulation of moments that tell us that what God has to say is worth our time. It’s humility, when we understand and demonstrate meekness to the Lord. It is progression—because the closer we adhere to the principles and ordinances of the gospel, the more blessings that we’re given. Real intent is the respect in understanding that God is higher than we are, and the love and clarity of understanding that He is just waiting to give us the world.
Obedience is the final step—the only way to cement our feelings in stone. It is the little things, the everyday effort, which keeps us in the church. In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape warns Wormwood against action. “The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about his new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilizing the seeds which the Enemy (God) plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act…The more often he feels without acting, the less he will ever be able to act, and in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.” Once our prayers are answered, it is our duty to live our lives according to the answers we receive. It sounds like a big burden—it is a big burden, but as Christ says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Brothers and sisters, everything that I have said today is either true, or it is not. I have a testimony that every word that I have spoken is the truth, and as perfect a truth as can be revealed to someone as imperfect as I am. I stand here as a witness of the restoration of the Gospel in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church is true. Prayers are answered, and God loves his children. I testify that the veil is thin and that he is always, always close. I testify that he loves you, and that he loves me, and because He loved the world he sent his only Begotten Son. I testify that he is a God of Love and a God of Miracles. I testify of perfection, and for the next eighteen months, I will testify and introduce those who are ready to God. I testify that God is waiting for the introduction, and that he will direct my paths. I testify that prayer with sincerity and true intent, followed by action is the most certain way to know anything in the gospel, and I testify that that kind of knowledge is necessary in these latter-days. Learn it for yourself. Love it. Live it.
Brothers and sisters. Good morning.

I say these things in the name of the one Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, amen.
___

Maybe I should just steal her talk.... We'll see.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Livin' la Vida Loca!

77 DAYS!!!!! This mission cannot come any sooner! I'm so excited to serve the Lord for 18 months.

This past week has been spent preparing for the mission, of course. Mission shopping and planning was done. I also had the wonderful opportunity to have somebody with whom I could prepare! One of my dearest friends, Shannon, spent most of last week with me. She is also preparing to serve a mission in the Kansas Wichita mission. She reports to the Missionary Training Center seven days before I do! We attended the Ogden Temple open house and visited seven other temples in two days. We even did baptisms for the dead in the Salt Lake Temple!

For those who don't know, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in redeeming our dead by allowing them to be baptized and confirmed via proxy. That is one of the main reasons why our temples are so special to us. We wish to be with our families forever, but we believe that in order to enter heaven, you need to be baptized. Those who died before being baptized are pretty much excluded from heaven, then. But, God is fair and just, so He provided a way for the dead to be baptized--proxy baptisms in the temple. As a result, our ancestors have the opportunity to accept the opportunity and a ticket to heaven so that they too can spend eternity with their loved ones.

Here's some pictures for your entertainment
















Keep calm through the craziness and carry on!

Hermana Kennedy, signing off.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

14 Weeks to Go...

And, the countdown has officially begun! I report to the Mexico MTC in 87 days! That's fourteen weeks and two days. Or three months and two days. The point is that I still have a while to wait... While I wait, I figured that I would tell the entire world about what I'm getting myself into! If I rant, never fear, it's completely normal, but I would ask you to bear with me until I get off my soapbox.

A brief introduction:
I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a motto in our church that "every member is a missionary", but some of us take that phrase to the next level. We willingly give up eighteen months to two years of our lives to preach our knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world! (Or, most of it since some countries won't let our missionaries proselyte there, like China). Our first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. said about the purpose of missionary work, "After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel". 

We take his counsel very seriously, because we believe in Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the World. We also believe that we can live together forever in our Heavenly Father's presence, as long as we are prepared. Missionaries are called to serve and prepare those who are willing to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I look forward to the day when I will bring even one soul unto Christ because that will be one of the greatest joys that I will ever experience.

Ok. Rant over.

In other news, one of our apostles, Elder David Bednar, recently gave a lecture concerning the Gospel and media. He invited us all to "share goodness"--to be the good that people see in the world through the media. If you'd like to hear Elder Bednar's talk, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?cid=social_20140820_30105576&v=kXi8bYMjZok. His words are truly inspired, and I would encourage you all to share goodness in your Facebook or blog posts; Twitter updates; Instagram pictures, and any other media sites that you use. If you want to see what other people are sharing, just look for the hashtag #sharegoodness. I'm sharing goodness, how about you?

Hermana Kennedy, signing off.