Friday, June 20, 2014

The First Vision

This will be our office! With AMAZING Sister Ordonez from Honduras! I am SO blessed to get to work and serve with her!
With Sister Siegle and Sister Opeda! How I love the companions I've had!

I hope all the Father's reading this had a happy Father's Day this past Sunday, that you each felt loved by your family, and were able to reflect on the love of your own father. I hope you were able to think of how much your life has changed since becoming a father, and how much your perspective in life has been more focused as you saw the dependency and the trust of your little ones looking up at you- with your own reflection in their eyes.
This past week, I have been thinking a lot about perspective. 

Our mission here, the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission may have the smallest proselyting area of all the missions in the world, but our outreach is worldwide.  Our mission really doesn't have boundaries.  It has changed my life to hear from people around the world, the ways that God has helped them in their life. Each additional day I spend out here, my testimony becomes more and more fortified in the Plan of Salvation, and that basic yet oh so essential truth that we are children of God.

This last Sunday I was incredibly sick, (yes, missionaries still do get sick sometimes!), and I felt so sad that I wasn't able to go out and work in the way that I so longed to.  In a quiet room, I knelt and prayed and told God I would rest for a little bit, but then I wanted Him to put me to work.  I didn't want to be kept from my brothers and sisters any longer- that I would have this unique opportunity to talk with them here at Temple Square, when I most likely wouldn't have met them otherwise. I felt the reassurance from my Father in Heaven so quietly saying, "You rest, and then I'll let you work."

Here's our best friend Anderson from Nigeria! Oh how we love him! We are now teaching his brother and two of his best friends! :) I LOVE being a missionary!
Sister Opeda had an assignment for two hours that night at the Eternal Families desk in the South Visitor's Center.  This is the sister's favorite desk because we are in charge of playing different "I'm a Mormon" videos for the guests to see as they come inside. You can see some here ( I love seeing the stories of the people from around the world and how the gospel has changed them for the better and strengthened their faith in Jesus Christ.
 Sister Opeda and I are making the most out of our last week together with teaching and carmel apples!

While standing there, a young girl from mainland China named Helen came in and spoke to me.

She so innocently and forwardly said, "Now I really believe in God, but can you tell me what He looks like?  Who is He?"
I paused a moment, listened to the still small voice of the Spirit, and ran back behind the desk to grab a restoration pamphlet in Chinese ( first link). I opened it up to the photo of Joseph Smith's first vision, where he saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Helen just looked at the picture in awe, pointed to our Father in Heaven and said, "This one, this is Him?"
I smiled and pointed to the words of Joseph Smith himself, recounting this experience.  It was in Chinese, so I was not able to read it, but I asked her to read it for us.  As she read and translated out loud for us, what began as casual words, turned into quiet words of respect and awe. I've never seen someone so humbled by Joseph Smith's first vision, but his prophetic experience in seeing our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
"I really know and feel that this is really what God looks like," Helen said.
Our beautiful South 2 zone family after our final zone training meeting!

What a blessing it was to be able to remind someone of their own Father in Heaven, and to see in her eyes that she could see so much of herself in the faces she saw in front of her.
It comes back to perspective once more, and as I reflected on this experience last night, I thought of the First Vision of Joseph Smith with a new perspective than I had ever before thought.
 It was a polka dot day!

In the First Vision, Joseph Smith didn't see himself, he saw the way God and Jesus Christ were looking at him.  He knew God had a vision for him, even though he didn't yet have one for himself.
How often are we given tasks we feel are overwhelming, or too grand for us to handle, and we ask the Lord to give us a greater perspective of ourselves to give us the power and the endurance to press forward? We always want our Father in Heaven to be able to show us ourselves, when really the greatest thing He can do, is reveal more about His true nature to us as His children.

As the new AP I'll get to work with Sister Taylor (my companion for 2 transfers) a lot! She's in the office too!

For Joseph Smith in that moment, from what we know, he didn't envision himself becoming a prophet, he wasn't seeing himself go through all that was ahead, but he saw that God looked at him as his son and as the prophet of the restoration.  Brothers and Sisters, once again, the prayer that changed the world of Joseph Smith was a vision of who God was and His perspective of who we are to Him.
This has been so remarkably comforting as I have been asked by President Poulsen, our mission president, to be the new AP (Assistant to the President) in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.  Although I feel humbled, overwhelmed, and much more, I feel confidence as I know that this is how the Lord sees me.  I feel hope knowing that the Lord is in control, and that even if I do not see myself in this vision, I can see Him looking at me, and how I love Him for that.
beautiful tender mercy from the Lord! He knows how much I love sunsets :)

I love you all and want you each to have a great week! Thank you for everything!!!

Sister Briggs :)

SHOUTOUTS: Mom, Dad, Bryan, Robert Donakey, Brother & Sister Donakey, Mary, Becca, Sara, Sean Burton (I'm sorry I didn't see you at Temple Square!), Sterling and his cute fiance ( I missed seeing you Sunday!) Courtney and Ivy (I'm so happy I saw you!), Chelsea Wilcox (so happy for you!), Sister Yuma, Sister Kilian, Sister Peggy K, Sister Purcell, Cindy Mars, Sister Sanger (thank you all for the notes and package!)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What do you want to be as you grow up?

With Companion Sister Opeda

June 12, 2013 was the day I entered the mission field here at Temple Square in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.  The last year has been filled with so many questions from guests from around the world.  At first, with Sister Lin, most of them were in Mandarin, so I reverted most of the questions back to her :) Some of the most common questions we hear each day--
  • "Wow, how many pipes are in that organ?" (11, 623 in the tabernacle organ)
  • "Are you allowed to get married?" (yes! We believe that families can be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity.  The family is the most important unit is society and is one of the powerful ways how God shows His love!)
  • "Where does the Prophet live?" (Somewhere here in Salt Lake, however he is always out traveling God's children throughout the world as a witness of our living Savior, Jesus Christ.)
  • "What do you do in the temple"? (We make higher promises with our Father in Heaven. We testify that through making covenants that He has required us and blessed us with the opportunity to make, we can come closer to Him, receive blessings and return to live with Him again as families.)
  • "How long did it take to build the temple?" (40 years, from 1853 to 1893)
Yet, mixed in between these questions on the surface from the hundreds of people we see and meet each day, there are questions and comments each day that illuminate the truthfulness of the gospel--
  • Just yesterday a woman said, "Never in all my life, have I seen so many young women so happy.  You all are doing something right here."
  • "Why are all the Mormons I meet such driven people?"
  • "How can we bring the light each of you have to touch all the world?"
  • "We never want to leave Temple Square. Why does it feel so good and so comforting to be here?"
  • Making smoothies with Sister Opeda!
With each person, the Spirit directs us how we can respond to help them to know that everything we share, everything we have, is something that was already paid for by their Savior and made possible through their Father in Heaven's great plan for each of His children.
I think of the questions that God as our Father might have asked us before we came to this earth--
  • What do you want most when you go to earth?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • How can I help you to never forget me and your Savior even when you're away? You need to know I'm still always here.
  • How can I help you and always let you know my love is there?
With Father's Day coming up, I think of the questions my own amazing Father has asked me throughout my life.  In one specific instance in kindergarten, I came home just crying and looked for the nearest and best place to be comforted--my Dad's lap.  I remember crawling up, sitting there and him looking at me with a smile and yet with such concern.
"What's wrong Kels?" he said.
"Tomorrow is career day at school and I don't know what I want to be when I grow up," I responded as I cried.
"You can be anything," he said with a smile.
My eyes got bright and big, as they still do, "Anything?!"
Laughing now and holding me closely he said, "Yes, of course, anything."
As I got older and went through different things throughout my life, my Dad and I have been able to talk and see that it's not really what we want to be when we grow up, butas we grow up. I really know and have come to see through the thousands of people I have been able to meet and talk with during my time as a full-time missionary called to serve in both the Temple Square and Reno, Nevada missions, that the gospel of Jesus Christ will give us the steps to take as we grow up. The Atonement of our Savior is infinite, we cannot put limits on it by our time or expectations, but it is there to create growth where our desires are pure and our faith is in Him.

Learning in Sister Malavasi's District Meeting! So blessed to see Sister Gearheat all the time too! yay!After another wonderful security training with President Harmon!
I am so grateful to know that my Father in Heaven's love for me is reflected through His Only Begotten Son, His called Prophets and Apostles, through His trust in me as one of His representatives, and with Father's Day coming up--through the love that my own Father here has for me.  I am so grateful for my Dad, Vaughan Briggs, and the lessons he has taught me through my life.  That he isn't just there for when I grow up, but as I grow up.  His love has taught me so very much about the reality of my Father in Heaven's love.
To both of them I wish the ultimate Father's Day.  A day where they know they are loved by their children, when they know we respect, honor and cherish them, and when they know that never, ever could we or will we be able to do without them.
Happy Father's Day, Dad and to all the Dads out there!

Love Always,
Sister Briggs
SHOUTOUTS: Sean Burton, Cami Jensen, Grandma Jeanie, Mom & Dad, Robert Donakey, Brother & Sister Donakey, Ken & Tawny (congratulations! Happy father's day to you, Ken!), Sara, Mary, Becca, Barry

Monday, June 9, 2014

Close your eyes, bow your head...

To all the parents who sent family members into the MTC this past week, we met many of them here at Temple Square--you can rest assured that the Lord knows what He is doing in sending them where they are going.  They are exemplary people who know how to do right by their Father in Heaven.  They love the Lord, they love the work, and they love each of you who they left at home.  Know you are in their prayers and that they love and adore you. Pray for each other, let your Father in Heaven be a part of your family here no matter the distance.

Prayer really can overcome and transform any distance and any barrier.  A couple weeks ago I wrote home about a man named Anderson in Nigeria. Anderson is someone we have been teaching over the phone, and what a blessing it has been. Where he is there are no local missionaries, instead his bishop and the ward members teaching him after church and give him the materials he needs to prayerfully study. He is such a powerful example of the Lord really overcoming barriers.

This past week when we called Anderson, he excitedly told us that he had saved up all his money to take the long and exhausting trip to attend Stake Conference. He recited to us all that took place on his bus trip to the conference, the way he tried to get there early so he could sit in the front row, and the people he shared the gospel with who he met on the way.  He was so wonderful and gave us a very full and detailed report of all he had learned and the spirit that he felt.

"The first talk was about honesty, and I really liked that," he said. "But I have to be honest, when they talked about marriage, I didn't listen because that does not have any value to me right now."

Sister Opeda and I laughed and just smiled as we spoke over the phone in our little cubicle in Salt Lake City, picturing this man in Nigeria on the other line. Then our laughter turned into surprised stares.

"I do not have time to think about marriage right now," he continued. "I promise the Lord I will serve a mission.  I will be a missionary."

Okay, remember we have never met Anderson, and over the phone he sounds like he's in about his early thirties.  He has talked to us about his business and many things that led us to believe he was much older.

"Wait, Anderson, how old are you?" we asked.

"17. I am 17, my sisters, and I want to serve a mission and bring the light like you have brought it to me," he said.

Sister Opeda and I just started to cry. Little did we know that we had been teaching this young man the whole time. The spirit that came over us was unlike anything I had before experienced.  He shared that he will save up all he has to serve a mission, and that he has started his missionary work already.  He gave a copy of The Book of Mormon to his brother, and is saving up all his money to travel to see his family and to take them to church with him and to his baptism next week.

"Through me, they will know the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will know the real meaning of the love of Him," he testified.

As we sat there and cried with him over the phone and shared our testimonies, I thought back to our very first conversation with him when he called into the phone number.  In our first contact and interaction with him, we closed with a prayer and he said, "Please, please teach me how to pray." We taught him how to pray and then he repeated.

"Close your eyes, bow your head," he said, and he has said it in every single one of our lessons since. Each time he says these few simple words, there is an inexpressible joy that comes through the phone that so deeply penetrates our hearts.

Although we have not seen him in person, our love for him is real.  Although we have not seen him physically close his eyes and bow his head, this last week we were able to envision him doing so, as we saw Jerrell be baptized and follow this very same pattern in the waters of baptism.

Jerrell was someone Sister Gearheart and I met last transfer up at the Christus here on Temple Square.  This past weekend, he followed his Savior and was baptized by the Priesthood authority of God and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.  What a miracle it was to see his joy increase and deepen over these past few weeks. He is now preparing to receive the Priesthood to baptize his two children Oscar and Madison later this month.

Everything from Salt Lake with Jerrell to Nigeria with Anderson all connected as I watched Jerrell go into the waters of baptism. When attending a baptism for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is always an opportunity for everyone to be able to see regardless of where they are sitting. There is always a mirror above the baptismal font and angled so that everyone can see.  However, the children are always invited to come up and to peer through the glass to get a closer look.

As Jerrell was walking back to the font to be baptized, the children were invited to come forth. As I was reaching into my bag I then heard, "Sister Briggs! Sister Briggs!" You need to be up here too."  It was Madison, his 7 year old daughter.

As I walked forward, Madison and Oscar (Jerrell's son) put out their arms and had me sit right in between them. As Jerrell was baptized, the strongest spirit came over each and every one of us, especially Jerrell. 

I thought of the very same words from our Savior's baptism,

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

In the pictures at the piano, I was teaching Madison (in blue-Jerrell's daughter) and her friend Aalyiah (we are now teaching them too) how to play "I am a Child of God" on the piano.  Thank you for the lessons Mom and Dad! And thank you to my teachers all growing up!

As Jerrell came up out of the water, you could see relief in his very countenance.  You could see years of pent up questions and remorse taken away.  You could see the joy he felt in knowing that he was loved by his Father, as he was someone who hadn't seen his birth father since he was three.  

The member who baptized him left the water and there was Jerrell.  He closed his eyes and brought his hands up to his eyes, bowed his head and took a deep breath.

There came Anderson's words to my head again, "Close your eyes, bow your head."

I testify that Jerrell that day was able to feel the very reality of our living Father in Heaven and our living Savior Jesus Christ.  I testify that in such humble and joyous moments, they can be remembered and imprinted on our very souls as we "close our eyes and bow our heads."

As Jerrell's hands came down, and his head back up, he looked at us and smiled, and looked up as if he could hear his Father in Heaven's voice too. 

May we each take the time to "close our eyes and bow our heads" and then to look up in gratitude for the peace we feel in doing so, for the light in brings, and for the way it enables us to follow our Savior in His directed way.

I love you all so very much. This gospel is true, it is perfect, it is His! :)

Sister Briggs

SHOUTOUTS: Barbara Keil, Mom & Dad Briggs, Bry & Case (feel better boo boy!), Jessica Helm, Momma Pickerell, President Hermansen and the Reno Nevada Mission office, Sister Green, Brother & Sister Donakey, Mary, Becca, Sara, Barry, Robert, Grandma Jeanie and Grandfather...and you :)