Thursday, March 27, 2014

Surprises & Picnic Benches

Where ever you are, I hope you are happy.  I hope you know you are loved.  I hope you know that your Father in Heaven sincerely cares and desires for you to never settle for anything less than what you were sent here to become worthy to achieve--eternal life in His presence.  Do not be discouraged.
I love the line in the well-known hymn, How Firm a Foundation which says, "Fear not I am with thee, oh be not dismayed."  When I hear this line I picture numerous looks I gave my big brother and parents year after year on Christmas morning.  My brother Bryan who I love dearly would always look at me anxiously sitting at the bottom of the stairs, rocking back and forth, anxiously waiting to run up to open presents with the family, and give me a look of, "Really Kels?" haha to that I could only think in my head, "why are you so suprised? this is what I do every Christmas, year after year!" There are things that are just a part of who we are, and our Heavenly Father is the very same.  Do not be surprised to find that your Heavenly Father is always there.  Do not be suprirsed that your Heavenly Father is there more than you sometimes feel.  Do not be suprised that His love for you is perfect and infinite.
Our amazing investigator Monica (on the left)...she's Dj's mom! And Sister amazing and loving member in our ward, she's the best!
This week we met so many people who become suprised to find their Heavenly Father cares more for them than they realized.  It is humbling to be an instrument in God's hands, to feel and see the urgency He has for us to be in certain places at certain times, for His very specific children.  Rob and Ally were two such of His children this week.
Earlier this week on a beautiful day, we had decided to walk from lesson to lesson so as to meet as many people as we possibly could.  As we approached our next lesson and realized we had a few extra minutes to spare.  We took a seat at a picnic table and decided to use the time to make phone calls to remind investigators of various things.  Sister Clegg and Sister Pickerell were working away on the phone when I felt this pull to turn around, to stand and to wave.  Not knowing what was to come of this I obeyed, stood up, turned around and waved.  I am happy to say I know my Heavenly Father and although I was surprised by the prompting, I was in no means surprised by the outcome :)
I Love the Reno Temple.
As I waved, a guy happily waved back.  His name was Rob.  Rob had on all black, was covered with tatoos from head to foot, had gages in his ears...and as I came up to shake his hand and introduce myself, his sunglasses came off and the light of Christ beamed from his eyes.  As we got to talking, I came to find that Rob used to be heavily involved in various forms of drugs, but gave it all up when his Dad passed away two years ago from cancer.  It was during that time he learned that nothing worldy could ever surpass heavenly help.  I shared with him the plan of salvation, the sure knowledge and conviction I have that he will see his dad again and saw hope reach him deeper than he before experienced. 
Sister Nakayama and I return to our home in Temple Square next's flown by so quickly!
He took a deep breath and explained that he had been driving around and felt this sudden need to pull over at the park and to get out with his dog.
"I'm now seeing why God wanted me to get out here," he said. "I know why I'm here."  He laughed to himself and tears started to stream from his eyes. I could see the surprise in his eyes that God could lead him so directly to where he needed to be.
With amazing Michele at an enrichment activity, so happy she came :)
Rob is now meeting with missionaries in his area, is excited about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and says he feels God's love more powerfully than he ever has before in all his life. What a tender mercy it was to be a part of such a surprise in his eyes, and a moment of relief in our Heavenly Father's eyes.  I can only imagine the relief our Father in Heaven felt to see two of His children obey, for both Rob and I learned something from each other that day.   And it all started at a picnic bench.
I have thought about that experience often this week and have witnessed just how far this world has come from truly knowing and understanding the meaning of the true nature of God.  He does everything He can for us each day.  He knows the questions we have, He knows that which we seek, and He sends miracles our way each day to help us rest assured that He is there. 
With today being preparation day, we decided to take a walk around the University of Nevada Reno campus.  As we walked, a girl sat at a picnic bench getting ready for her next class.  What we both thought would be a moment of friendship, turned into a moment of divine discovery.  As we talked we felt that we had both known each other before.  There was so much we had in common, and as our relationship of pure charity for one another built, so did the spirit. 
Sister Nakayama and I return to our home in Temple Square next's flown by so quickly!
I shared with her my spiritual experience in deciding to serve a mission and the powerful answer I received from The Book of Mormon that I needed to serve a mission.  She was amazed and looked at me with such awe and such surprise that any question could be taken to God.  When I asked her if she had any questions, she poured out her heart to be of things that have been on her mind and have been weighing her down.  I testified to her as an instrument in God's hands, that if she diligently prayed with her question and took it to The Book of Mormon, she would receive her answer.  Ally smiled with a look of relief and said, "I knew I was supposed to talk to you today.  I believe you.  I have never been interested in the Mormons, but I feel something here that I haven't felt before. I know that what you're sharing is true and am so excited to receive my answer." And it all started at a picnic bench.
Just after meeting Ally...sitting on the bench again on UNR campus :)
Brothers and Sisters, we do not have to be extraordinary to share the gospel.  These are God's children and He will provide a way.  Do not be dismayed that He is willing to do this for each of us, and do not be dismayed that He loves you enough to allow you to be a part of it.  As we serve our Father in Heaven, as we remember His greatness and our roles as His children.  As we stand steadfast in the faith which we hold dear, it is impossible to not find meaningful happiness in each and every day.
"And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice and be filled with the love of God and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true." (Mosiah 4:12).
Have a wonderful week everyone! Do not be surprised by the way God blesses you and those around you this week, you are more important to Him than any of us will ever comprehend :)
 I KNOW with all my heart and soul, whether I speak as Sister Briggs or Kelsey Briggs...this book is true and is from God.  Read it and take it to heart and you will find amazing happiness!
Sister Briggs
SHOUTOUTS: Bryan & Casey, Mom and Dad, Julia, Sister Lin, Robert Donakey, Donakey Family, Grandma Jeanie, Grandmother...thank you!!! :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

No cost was ever too great for Him

Driving home at the end of a beautiful day of missionary work :)
I'm not quite sure where to begin this week.  This has been an amazing and inspiring week with attending our Zone Conference and even participating in a mini mission with a local youth from the stake. We have been blessed by our Heavenly Father to have so many of His children led to us who are prepared to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have seen people change through learning of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, yet often this is a change they likely don't see in themselves. 
We were able to feel the hugs of abused women and children who felt they were finding hope in their lives.  We were able to see tears coming out of the eyes of a less active women who is learning the reality of the Atonement.  An inactive member of the church approached us and asked how he could prepare to enter the temple to do work for his family.  We felt the spirit of a recent convert as we met with him after his recent return from visiting the temple for the first time. We were able to sit with one of our investigator families and hear how they have already made purchases to start their food storage, and to hear how their son DJ is thinking about serving a mission.  Brothers and Sisters, this gospel is true and it truly is the great and marvelous work brought forth by our Heavenly Father which is so continually mentioned throughout the scriptures.

Amazing Libby from the stake...I hope and pray she will serve a mission, she was amazing!
I know that this is truly the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the earth again today because of the way it truly breaks through any barriers and protects and inspires souls from every culture and every social circumstance.  This gospel is not just for me, it is not just for the people we see who our downtrodden or for those who have faith, it is for all.  It is a gospel of change because it is centered on Jesus Christ, and He brought the greatest change to this world that man will ever ever know.
"For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens." (Moroni 7:28)
What is the cause of the children of men?  Ask yourself now...what is your cause today?  Is it to be a better parent or spouse?  To be a better student?  To be able to run errands and get things done to make it a productive day? Every cause that we inherintly have as children of God, is advocated by our Savior, Jesus Christ.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not just to be forgiven of our sins, it is to be better.  For every cause we have each day, we can have hope and have joy knowing that Christ advocates this for us as it is in His will.
I have learned through very special experiences that our Heavenly Father and Savior's will is always better than our own.  It will always be for our benefit, it will always be for our growth and it will always be for that which reaches the very goals and desires we each hold deep down.  Sometimes we may feel it is difficult, sometimes we may feel too much is expected of us, but to truly find happiness in this life and in the lift to come, to truly be like Christ, we must learn from His example...No cost was ever too great for Him.  There was no burden He wasn't willing to bear, no trial He wasn't willing to withstand, no fear He wasn't willing to conquer, no pain He wasn't willing to endure and to what end?  To what purpose?  For what cause?  For us.
In Matthew 16:21-23, we learn that our Savior took great offence to His Apostle asking Him to not endure the sufferings and pain of the Atonement.  As the Savior tells His Apostle of the great pain He would endure, that He would lay down His life and then take it up again, His Apostle Peter almost responds as if to say, "Don't to it Lord, it is too hard.  Speak not of such things!"  To this the Savior responded, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."

With amazing Sister Coy...I will miss her when I return to Temple Square!
Brothers and Sisters, do we realize where this offence comes from?  Do we realize why it pained Him so much to hear one of His followers ask Him not to suffer so greatly?  Because He knew we needed it.  Nothing broke His heart so much as to not be able to give us a way to return to our Heavenly Father. He took such great offence because we are worth every drop to Him.  We are worth every pain and heartache to Him.  As we come to understand this concept, as we come to truly see ourselves through the eyes of our Savior, we will see that no cost is ever, EVER too great to pay to follow Him either. 
I testify to each one of you that Jesus is the Christ.  I say this not as a faith, or as a hope but as a sure and concrete knowledge that has come to me through being His full time representative as a missionary for His church on the earth again today.  Come to know your Savior Jesus Christ.  Have the desire to pay the smallest token of what He has done for us.  I promise that as you come closer to your Savior, you will automatically be brought closer to The Book of Mormon, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because it is truly His.  I invite you all to read or listen to Tad R. Callister's devotional titled, "What is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" and feel the gravity and weight of just every blessing Christ paid for with His life, for you, and for me.
Sister Briggs
SHOUTOUTS: Gabe, Grandmother, Grandfather and Grandma Jeanie, Mom, Dad, The Donakey family and Tawny too!!!, Robert Donakey, Ariel Ibarra, Nikky Lin, Chance Robertson

Monday, March 10, 2014

Endure to the "N"


 I truly feel humbled as I sit here and type up this e-mail from our complex offices in Reno, Nevada. How is it that I will be returning to Temple Square so soon?  How is it that in just this short amount of time my heart hasn't been split between the two missions, rather it has simply grown to accomadate a deeper love for both places.  I feel a gratitude for my Heavenly Father that He has allowed me to serve in two totally different areas, not as myself, but as a representative of His Only Begotten Son.

Just starting our Hike to the "N"
I have so enjoyed being here in Reno and learning from my fellow missionaries.  I feel amazed as I learn about the sacrifices that have been so readily given to be here.  I feel inspired as I see the growth that occurs in each of us week by week.  I feel loved that my Heavenly Father has allowed me to be surrounded by such dedicated servants of Him. This last preparation day, I especially got to learn more about my fellow missionaries in a way that gave me a whole new insight into the rest of this past week.
On our last preparation day our Zone had an activity to hike to the "N" on the hillside. The "N" is made out of large white rocks and is on the hillside to represent University of Nevada Reno that is here in our area. There is a "Y" up on the mountains next to BYU...yet ironically, I hiked to the "N" before I hiked to the "Y".  Please forgive me fellow BYU friends :)
All so happy we made it to the top! I love my beautiful companions!
The hike was short, yet at times it seemed long.  There were rivers to cross, trees to climb, and steep hills to trek up.  There were thickets to avoid, slippery gravel amongst the large grounded rocks and cold wind in the air, but all the while I could see where I was going...I could see the "N" up above and knew we could do it.
Haven't we all felt this way at times?  Haven't we all wanted to be able to see where we are going? We may not remember our time with God before we came here, but we can with a surety look up with faith to be able to know where we are heading.
Yes, and we endure to the "N" even with our funny Elders telling us to run the whole time
Earlier this week we had a powerful lesson with two men who are both climbing their own mountains in life.  Jess is in his late 20s, is covered with tattoos of gang symbols and slander, is a former prisoner of the local jail and is trying to just leave it all behind to move forward.  Brother Dale Hall is a returning member who was less active in the church for the last 20 years who struggles with forgiving himself and the great importance of accepting the forgiveness of one much greater than us all.  The five of us sat in a room and discussed Heavenly Father's Plan of Salvation for His children.  It is His grand plan of true and deep happiness that He would have each of His children know. 
As we discussed the three kingdoms of glory we asked, "Which kingdom do you want to go to?"
They both in unison responded, "The highest!"
 Sitting at the "N"--it was completely worth every step :)
Jess and Brother Hall both looked at each other.  It seemed to me as if they saw a little bit of each other in the opposite person's eyes.  Jess could look into Brother Hall and see who he had the potential to become like.  He could see someone who was showing him it could be done.  Brother Hall looked into Jess and saw the road he was possibly heading down.  His eyes beamed as he realized just how truly far he really has come.
The spirit filled the room and we all sat there in silence, feeling of our father in Heaven's love for each of us and the reality of this perfect plan.  I then felt prompted to turn to Ether 12:4.
"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."
The silence continued as new thoughts formulated in my mind.  I read this scripture in a way that I had never thought of before, because it was in a way that God specifically need his two sons to hear it.

Look! Both missions on one map..Salt Lake City AND Reno!
"Jess, what is the first thing you do when you are about to set places at the dinner table?" I asked.
"You gotta know how many people are going to be there so you know how many places to put," he responded.
A moments hesitation and then I read part of the scripture again, "...Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God..."
The spirit sunk in and we all learned together the profound meaning of the words contained in this inspired scripture.
"It doesn't just say 'even at the right hand of God', it says 'even a place'. Jess, Brother Hall, there is a place for each of us at the right hand of God," I said.  "There is a place because you are expected to be there. You don't set a place for someone you don't expect to come.  Your Heavenly Father, your Savior Jesus Christ have set a place for you in their kingdom because everything is in your favor for you to make it there."
I felt so humbled to be an instrument in God's hands to deliver that message not only to them, but to us missionaries in the room as well.  I had never really thought of it that way before, but it changed the way I viewed everyone the rest of the week.  Each of us are sent here to succeed.  We are sent here to endure to the end where we will one day rest with God, even at His right hand.
We all left that room with a fixed determination to endure to the end.  We could better visualize the futurue ahead.  We could better feel our Savior's love for us walking along beside us to get there.  Our vision no longer included the rivers to jump across, the thickets to avoid, the slippery gravel amongst the large grounded rocks and cold wind in the air, rather it was our Savior standing by our side.  It was not him beckoning us at the "N" or at the end, but it was Him taking every step first to lead the way.
Did the winds of the week cease?  No.  Did the fallen through appointments, the rejections and the oppositions go away? Not quite :) but we each knew that we were standing shoulder to shoulder with the best man this world has ever known.
The Savior teaches us this very principle of enduring to the end in an account in the New Testament, where He bids His Apostle Peter to walk out to Him. Peter waivers and falls as he sees the fearsome waves surrounding him, but step by step, hand in hand, they made it back to the safety of the ship.
"And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased." (Matthew 14:32)
This verse teaches us so profoundly that as our Savior walks by us, the winds won't cease, but as we walk with Him they will cease when we make it there together. And make it there together we all will, for there is a place prepared :)
With my favorite Kroshus at the temple! I will miss them so very much when I go back to Temple Square.  Sister Kroshus is like a sister to me :)
I love you all so very much and feel humbled with sincere gratitude for your letters of support and encouragement.  I pray for all of you every day and feel blessed to be included in your different paths of enduring to that place which God has prepared for us all.  He expects you to be there, expect yourself to be there as well :)
Sister Briggs
SHOUTOUS: Grandma Jeanie and Grandfather, Makelle, Sister Green, Nikky Lin, Grandmother, Mom & Dad, Sister Kroshus (haha I told you I would put you on here!), Brother & Sister Donakey, Mary, Sara, Barry, Robert Donakey, Ashley Solosko :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Trials aren't just busy work

We had an amazing lesson with our investigator Morgan (Dad--this guy and you are the SAME!) and the other Sister's investigator Rudy.  We had dinner and watched the Restoration with a family in the ward in their beautiful home.  How I love these people and will miss them so :
Hi everyone! I hope that February was a beautiful month for each of you.  It surely seems to be one of the quickest months I have experienced since being a missionary.  This last week was packed with blessings and miracles that are too many to count and to grand for me to now fully comprehend, yet I see them, I know they are there. I know they are evidences of God's sincerest love and His divine power. How humbling it is to be a part of His work and to see just how much God loves His children regardless of their current circumstances, past pitfalls or future fires.  I know of the truthfulness of the Savior's words found in modern revelation to Joseph Smith.
"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God..." (D&C 18:12).
D.J. is just one individual in this world.  He is one guy, one brother, one son, one worker at Home Depot, one struggling student, one good cook, one dog lover, but most importantly he is the only D.J. that our Heavenly Father has.  He is the only D.J. that our Savior died for.  He is important and is special to our Father above.  Others may have his name, but no one can replace who he is as a child of God.
We met D.J. my first week here in Reno as we were out street contacting.  We were going through the trailer park looking everywhere for those who were prepared for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we crossed the street to visit with a former investigator of some previous missionaries in the area, a young man, just 20 years old, walked outside of his home in torn up clothes to grab the newspaper.  He didn't seem to happy to see us.  We were all so chipper and happy to be out doing missionary work, and he appeared to have just woken up as he rubbed his eyes and looked into the glaring sunlight. We left D.J. with a copy of The Book of Mormon, invited him to read, and asked when we could come back to share more with him.  When we returned, no one came to the door, yet I felt that hope wasn't lost.  I felt in that short interaction with him just how important he was to God and that there was a specific plan just for Him.  There were people he would need to meet, struggles to overcome and situations to endure to help him draw nearer to God and to become the person who would latch onto the gospel and receive the blessings that are promised to each of us as His children.

All of us with amazing Sister Stutz! She means the world to us and makes the biggest difference :) 
I have often thought back on that experience with D.J., wondering what would happen with him...until 2 weeks ago when we saw him at church with his entire family :) We had asked some incredible members in the ward to invite someone in their circle of friends to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of the divine placing of our Heavenly Father, D.J.'s mother, Monica, works with this very member of our ward, their paths were crossed, and now the entire family is investigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
D.J. has been reading The Book of Mormon since we first met him back in January, and has been able to find relevance to it in his life. As we met with their whole family in the member's home this last week, the spirit boldly testified to each of us in the room that Jesus is the Christ, that God is our Heavenly Father and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, called to bring in this last dispensation.  As a family, they are seeing the significance that they hold in God's eyes.  They are seeing that they are not lost without a guide in this life, but that they are truly children of someone whose whole purpose is to bring them grand happiness.  Only can He bring them this grand and eternal happiness because He knows them each so very personally.
This past Saturday, we met with D.J. just briefly outside his home and spoke with him about how his family is doing and what questions they may have. 
D.J. turned to me and said, "I do have a question.  I don't understand everything, but I do understand that this makes you happy.  What has the gospel done for you?"
I stood there and thought for a moment.  How could I sum up so simply everything that the gospel of Jesus Christ has done for me in my life.  It has taught me everything I know, and made me everything I am.  It has comforted me when I'm afraid, and lifted me when I am weak.  As I thought, I truly reached heavenward to know what my Father in Heaven would have me say that would reach him the most.
"The gospel of Jesus Christ has given me an assurance of God's plan for me," I said.  I paused and felt there was something I needed to say, something more that needed to be heard.  Trusting in the spirit I opened my mouth and out came the words that seemed so simple, yet put the biggest smile on his face.
"The gospel of Jesus Christ has shown me that trials aren't just busy work," I said.
The spirit bore testimony of the truthfulness of this statement and I could see D.J.'s desire to latch onto the gospel of Jesus Christ grow within.  I am so grateful for the way the spirit teaches us so simply and yet so directly.  Let us not only accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and brother, God as our Eternal Heavenly Father, but let us also accept the Holy Ghost as the teacher and testifier of truth, as the Comforter. 
Brother's and Sisters, your trials are not just busy work.  With the full knowledge we have of the Plan of Salvation, of God's Plan of Happiness for His children, we know that remarkable blessings await as we patiently endure and press onward.  Our trials are not just ways to fill the time, they are ways to make our time eternal.
Morgan said this is his wolverine face :)
"Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless-- whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day." (Mosiah 23:21-22).
With the knowledge of our Heavenly Father's plan, we may be assured that our trials have purpose.  They are to help us to repent, to change our view of ourselves, of God and of the world, to become more like the only perfect being this world has ever known, our Savior Jesus Christ.
I testify to each of you that your trials have meaning, there is a reason to them, and all will come full-circle to those who put their trust in God and carry on as the early pioneer saints singing, "All is well! All is well!"  All is well, brothers and sisters.  You are children of God, you are children of the King and your potential is truly divine.  I would invite each of you to study the Plan of Salvation, to pray with real intent to our Father to know that it is true.  I promise that as you do this, you will see your life as one of great purpose and meaning that is to prepare you for glorious gifts above. 
Sister Briggs :)
SHOUTOUTS: Cami Jensen, Nikki Lin, Mom & Dad, the Donakey Family, Robert Donakey, Grandfather and Grandma Jeanie,