Monday, December 29, 2014

week 55: some thoughts/ a rant

Let's see here. Yah know, one thing people always say is that the Christmases you spend on a mission will be the best. Hmm. Last Christmas was hard, but this one... this one was amazing. The kindness shown to us was outstanding. I still can't get over the fact that when the members heard we would not have presents, they went out and got presents for 200 missionaries! Sho!

Meet the Mormons (movie) is absolutely outstanding! President Dunn pulled some strings and apparently we were the first group of people in all of Africa to see it haha. Powerful.

The work is going good, we are starting to have more contact with the stake so that we can find out what to do next. Hopefully, if all goes well, by June we will have a group here. Hopefully. That will take about 100 miracles, but it is so very possible. We have no one set to get baptized. 95% of our work is with the members.

We have a less-active young man that comes out with us by the name of Washington. This dude is great! I've been here like 8 or 9 weeks now, and the change in him has been amazing! He has begun teaching at lessons and, wow, does it make a difference. The other day this black dude was being a fool and asked Washi "Do you really believe we all come from Adam and Eve?" To which he responded "Well, God said it." I think you kind of had to be there and know him to understand the significance of that statement, but his faith is skyrocketing and it is amazing to see.

So, last night when we got home  I was... annoyed to say the least. And when I'm aggravated I write. So what I wrote will just have to work as the spiritual thought for the day because I had no time to make anything else.

Please allow for grammatical and spelling errors. I have 20 minutes to type all this haha.

Driving down the road, a quick search of google, or a brief moment of concentration, will reveal to anyone with faith and a brain that the world is facing a fairly serious problem. Christianity is failing to be of "one mind" (Phillipians 1:27) as admonished countless times in holy writ. Many wonder why unity within belief systems based upon Christ matters. Matthew 7:13-14 is pretty clear in explaining why disunity will be a pitfall and a stumbling block for millions. In main stream Christianity is the path not broad? Is it not acceptable, even common practice, to ignore entire principals of the gospel for the sake of ease and convenience?  Are there not millions who think that simply being "born again" is a free pass through those great and pearly gates? How is it that we have come to consider Christ as a lenient and flexible God? Is He not the one who taught that the very though of transgression is in and of itself a sin? (Matthew 5:27-28.)

In our day there are thousands of creeds and denominations who profess the sacred name of Christ and put forth tampered ideology for the sake of popularity. Don't believe me? Consider this:  it is very clear throughout all of the scriptures that homosexuality is a very abominable sin (Genesis 18:19, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:27.) But what are thousands of denominations doing today? They are accepting, and in some cases, even supporting it because it is now the "cool thing" to do. They fail to do what Christ wants, because they prefer what popular conception wants. They would rather be revered for desecrating the name of Him who they claim to profess than suffer the persecutions of the world. Even the Catholic Church, an institution that used to follow the death penalty protocol outlined in Leviticus, is now showing signs of leniency upon the issue. Just what are these people playing at? Because their actions show quite plainly that they do not seek to progress the work of Christ. (If anyone has a problem with what I have said regarding homosexuality take it up with God not me, they are not my commandments.)

Christ himself has declared "For I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6.) Just as the Creator does not change, neither do His commandments nor doctrines. The tides and pulls of the world may effect the desire of common ideology, but now and forever truth will remain truth. Commandments will remain in place and the consequences of transgression will remain in force.

Any church, organization, or creed who fails to uphold the basic doctrines of the gospel is not only a false imitation of a Christian organization, but it is steadfastly leading its followers into the grasp of Satan. Ironic eh? People seeking to follow Christ are actually being led away by those who profess His name and "doctrines."  (If anyone is already offended stop reading now, this is a rant, and by nature it will only get worse. However, if you have an open heart, there just may be a lot to learn from this.)

If we seek to make our faith in Christ convenient by choosing what commandments to follow and aligning ourselves with the popular dictates of men we will fall by the way. If we place our love of man above our love of God the "mists of darkness" (1 Nephi 8:23) will overtake us and the "strait and narrow path" (1 Nephi 8:20) leading to eternal life will be shrouded from our eyes.

Ephesians 4:5 states "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Who is our one Lord? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Simple... right? One faith? As defined, in one sense (and the only sense that happens to make sense in this context), is a system or set of beliefs. So there is one set of beliefs. Simple... right? One baptism. We are to be baptized in the same manor as the Savior, for was He not the perfect example. Simple...right? But... are there not those who profess that Christ is a spirit? And others who explain Christ possesses a body? Are these descriptions of different Christs? Now, there are those who say that these "little" details are of no consequence because we all pray to God. But if we all pray to different forms of the "same" God, wouldn't they in fact be individual forms of different gods?   (Please note, this could be rewritten in the context of faith or baptism. There is no unity.) Let us for just one moment consider peaches and plums. Both are fruits, and in some ways you can argue that that are the same. Both are soft, both are juicy, and both have soft skin. Yet, the fact remains that peaches are not plums, nor are plums peaches. These two objects in question are fairly similar, but it would be futile to attempt and prove they are unified. So, if two objects being similar are not the same, how could two thought processes based upon the Savior, being diametrically opposed, converge on solid ground? It does not work. It can not work. It will not work.

You see, the world has placed before us a very broad path. The world teaches that any and all beliefs are fine to believe. However, last time I checked, all rational and capable human beings are desiring the strait and narrow path to heaven, not the broad path the hell. Some may ask, where is the common ground? Quite simply, there is none. A principal of religion is either correct or false. There is no meeting half way, there is no conforming to popular vote. Truth is truth, and those who fail to accept it (not find it) will have eon after eon to consider the source of their downfall and the reason for their eternal imprisonment. At this time it is not my goal to teach truth, but to establish the need for it. Which, I suppose, in and of itself is in fact truth. Funny how that works.

Looking back on the past there are quite a few highlights in my existence. Few remain in my mind as vividly as the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean on the coast of Washington. I remember the overcast sky, the cool wind blowing in off the great deep, and the sand between my toes. I am by no means an oceanographer, but one thing I did notice was the reality of tides and waves. Let us for a moment consider that the tides represent the world's opinion, that the shore represents the percentage of true doctrines understood, and the waves are the revelation coming from Heavenly Father.

With the times, the tides will rise and fall due to the forces of gravity. (Let's substitute gravity in this case for the influence of Satan.) What once was abhorred eventually becomes esteemed. What once was a hidden appetite will burst forth and become the next rage. As a whole, humanity is so very willing to change, conform and contort. What we fail to realize is, while a loss of morality constitutes for a gain of popularity in this world, where does it leave us in the world to come? Why is it that a life based upon principal and faith draws the finger of scorn? Well, I can very well tell you that does not come from the influence of the Father.  Most choose to conform for fear of standing alone. Most fake what they cannot make. For example, in the early stages the Catholic church (the ultimate source of all but a handful of churches) would hold councils and allow for learned men to decide points of doctrine. A show of this is December 25th. Who decided what day Christ was born? Show me the day in the scriptures and I will give you a cookie. Here is a lesson of the Jewish calendar at the time of Christ - there were 12 months, in order they are: Nisan, Iyar, Siwan, Tammuz, Ab, Elul, Tishri, Markhesewan, Kislew, Teboth, Shebot, and Adar. Each month consisted of 29-30 days. Fairly similar to our calendar right? In a civil aspect Tishri was the first month, from a religious stand point Nisan was the first month. Since we are considering spiritual matters, we shall assume the spiritual calendar as we move forward. Let us read Luke 1:26. It says that the conception of Christ took place in the sixth month. So add on 9 months and that takes us from Elul to Siwan, which on our modern calendar corresponds to April and May. My intent is not to discredit Christmas (in fact the day matters not, for we do not worship the day, but we worship Christ, so really shouldn't every day be Christmas?) but to show the whole cloth from which 95% of Christianity has been created from.

That, however, is just food for thought. Do we now see how many doctrines are not rooted in scripture or revelation? Many common beliefs today are the ideas of men, mingled with and supported by scripture when and where it fits.

Now, back to tides and waves. At different times, due to tides (opinions) the amount of shore (true doctrine) being displayed in common Christian belief sways. It changes, it is flexible.  Would not the only safe place be on the dry ground? Would that not be the only place that the shore is not changing? So, the only safe place in Christianity is the one that presents 100% true doctrine. Makes sense right?  But what of waves? How can they effect us? Waves can only "make" us wet if we are on the dry ground. So, we already have 100% true doctrine under our belt, how can waves effect us? Well, when I'm dry, 99% of the time I wish to stay that way. So, If a wave is coming, will I not back up out of its reach? The revelation sent forth from God can take us from good to better. While certain doctrines are necessary for gaining salvation, others are about wants and desires. So, If we are on solid ground, can not God make us just a bit better by sending some revelation our way?

I'm having to cut parts out because I just do not have time. Truth is eternal. Truth burns bright. Truth lines the way back to our Father in Heaven. Many claim it is fine to believe what you wish. Many claim that left or right, whichever you choose you will be fine. But the truth of the matter is that only truth will carry you safely to the end. False concepts lead to eternal damnation, while truth leads to eternal life.

It is the job of each and every one of us to find the truth and cling to it.  If we fail to do that, we fail in our purpose in coming to earth. We are to carry the standard of Christ forth, not cling to the beliefs of our pastors. So maybe, just maybe, this year we can be a bit more self-sufficient in our pursuit of happiness. For it is what we know, not what our pastor teaches us, that will get us back to that God who gave us life.

Any-who, had to delete  a lot of my thoughts just because of time. That's what I got. Sorry for the spots of inadequate explanation, the time really is a killer. Love y'all.

Elder McClellan

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for trying so hard to send me something haha, hopefully the message I'll share later in this will make you see that all is well.

Lets see, this week was slow. The car was in the shop for 4 days and we were unable to get  to the area. That wasn't fun. 

Alright, here is a message for y'all from things I've been thinking about.

Throughout the centuries preceding the coming of the Savior, heavenly messengers were proclaiming His soon to occur arrival and explaining the signs that would usher in his coming. My favorite prophecy of the coming of Christ is the following - Micah 5:2, "But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

This scripture speaks of a ruler who shall come forth from Bethlehem against the odds, be of the tribe of Judah, and will be of eternal significance. The simple and eloquent language of Micah is astounding and from it we can learn dozens of different things about the Savior, but for the time being we will move on from this scripture and come back to it later on.

The prophets of old knew of the reality of the Savior and many wore out there life in the purpose of sharing their testimony with their fellowmen. Nephi, (a book of mormon prophet) had a particularly vivid vision of the conception and birth of Christ. His words are as follows. "And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul. And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him."

So far, Micah has taught us of the antemortal existence of Christ, and Nephi has explained to us how it is that He will enter the world and gain a body, but the thing most people don't quite understand is to what end was He born? What has His purpose? In Micah He is described as the Ruler of Israel, in countless other scriptures He is said to be the One to destroy the enemy of the kingdom, and unfortunately for the millions of Jews alive at His birth these are commonly misunderstood. His purpose is started quite clearly in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

His purpose is quite clear. He was born to atone for our flawed existence. Because we choose to not do what we are told, a perfect being had to enter the world and offer Himself as a ransom for our sins. Now back to Micah, we know that at some point in the premortal existence Christ was chosen by the Father to be our Savior. So, Christ has now being given His mission. To atone for us. Thousands of years before He even came to earth he was fully away of what his life would be like. Isaiah 53, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

What kind of man, left with thousands of years to ponder the cruelties of their mortal existence, would press forward and carry on with the plan to redeem God's children? Well, a man with perfect love would. Christ chose to be born into this twisted world, in perhaps the most humble setting imaginable, because He loves us. Unfortunately, in the main stream, Christmas has turned into more of a commercial holiday rather than a day to reverence the Only Begotten. But does it have to be so? How would our Christmas change if we made it about the first gift rather then the ones currently under the tree? If we could just remember that the first gift was not wrapped, it did not have a bow, or fancy lights, but was born into a stable. Wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in a manger came the first gift of Christmas into the world. Would a remembrance of that not bring back the true spirit of Christmas?

I can honestly say, this will be the first Christmas of my life in which there is not a single present to unwrap. There will be no fancy dinner or elaborate family activities. Heck, I'll be surprised if anyone other than a missionary will even make mention to show that this day is set apart from others. But I am absolutely positive that this Christmas will surpass the others by far; for it will be the spirit of Christ I am enjoying, not the spirit of our modern day "Christmas."

Please do not mistake me, I'm not condemning those who are going to give or receive presents. My thought actually is that giving should be our focus of the day. "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!"

Being the celebration of Christ's birth, would it not be wise that we exert a bit of effort giving Him a gift? Fortunately for us, for the Babe of Bethlehem is no longer accepting gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All He asks is for a willing body and a humble heart. Would serving Him not be the best gift we could give Him this Christmas? Would it not be the best gift we could give Him each and every day?

The first gift of Christmas is a gift that keeps on giving, so why should our show of appreciation ever cease? There are many who proclaim to follow the Christ, but blaspheme before Him by their actions. If faith without actions is dead, should we not choose to be doers of the word? (James 1 and 3). Christmas should not be a question of "what am I going to get?" It should be a question of "do I have enough to give?"

Though it was far from perfect this past year has been the best of my life. I'm not sure life has ever been harder, but I sure know that nothing yet left me in a state of ecstasy as serving the Lord has.

Love, Elder Kelly McClellan

Monday, December 15, 2014

week 53: a few stories

Alright, well basically to answer your question, this is how Africans in my area celebrate Christmas:
Step 1) Spend all your money on booze instead of food (in two weeks they will start begging for money for food) 
Step 2) Go to a rally point (such as a family members house)
Step 3) Drink as much as you can
Step 4) Be a terrible person. 
That is Christmas in Africa. That is why we don't go out into the area haha. 

I told you last week that I was going to send you a spiritual thought, and I totally was. But someone just stole my Preach My Gospel book out of my backpack, so that thought is lost. Sorry... maybe next week. This week was crazy haha. So first I want to start with a few stories. 

Friday I heard tale of a kidnapping. So of course I pursued this, and found out that earlier in the week a group of Totsies (gangsters) kidnapped two Elders (I don't know either well) and dun tossed them in the boot (trunk of the car.) Long story short, after racing around the streets the thugs rolled their car, with the Elders still in the boot. Basically, the Totsies got all messed up, and the Elders opened the trunk after the crash and walked away. Powerful or what? 

Tale 2: This happened a few months ago, but nevertheless, it is still amazing. Two of my buddies went into a teaching appointment, and when they came back they discovered their car had been fire bombed. Crazy, but even crazier still is the fact that every single Book of Mormon in the car was fine. The covers and pages were completely fine, while the rest of the car was just a metal husk. Powerful. 

Also, those are both true stories, not your typical "Mormon myth." I heard one from the Area President, and the other I saw with my own eyes. 

Tale 3:
Alright, so I'm in Africa right? Well, as is to be expected, it is a bit ghetto at times. In my area it is ghetto all the time, because it is just a mixture of townships and villages. So Saturday we were tracking down a contact when there was suddenly a puddle in the road. No big deal right? Well, what was 2 inches deep where we checked was about a foot deep 3 feet further. Never the less, the Toyo did us proud and made it through. However, the grass is not always greener on the other side; we rounded the bend just to discover a fetching swap covering the road. Choices: go back and get stuck (we would not be able to get the speed up to make it through), or go forward and maybe make it. So, we pressed forward. My comp checked it out and pointed out the solid parts of ground. We made it to about three feet from the solid road - again, bam! The ground underneath the front left tire that looked completely solid gave way and we were stuck. The mud nearly covered the tire. I was more than sad at this turn of events haha. After a quick prayer we set out to get it unstuck. In the process I ruined 1 pair of pants and my shoes still smell like that blasted infernal mud. Basically we rocked and pushed the car out of the swap. But I am not sure how. Like, wow it was stuck. Pretty sure we had some assistance of the Heavenly type. The Africans just watched. They were all waiting for us to leave the car and go for help so they could rob it. Ha, we showed them.

(The mud we got stuck in. Powerful.
You cant really tell how swampy it is from this picture.)

Let's see here, now that the tales of the week have been shared, let's move on the the climax. We had mission tour! Elder Cook of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy came and taught us. It had three parts to it:
1) This is what you're failing at
2) This is what you need to do
3) Then a security briefing (I feel like this was due to the kidnapping)
It was awesome! I even took notes, unfortunately they were in the Preach My Gospel that was just stolen... so ... yeah. Can't share those either.

Saturday night we got a text message at 8. We were giving talks the next day. Gosh dang it.  I chose to talk on Page 7 of Preach My Gospel - the foundation of faith. That's what I was going to share today... but yeah. They were powerful talks! All four of us missionaries spoke, and people actually paid attention. I was totally preaching fire and brimstone up there. Totally shambocked those with weak testimonies and then proceeded to tell everyone that they had no excuse for not reading the scriptures every day. It was powerful, I got about a million hugs and hand shakes afterwards. People dun loved it. The Spirit was strong. Then I had literally 15 seconds warning for teaching Gospel Principals. Oh well, I'm pretty sure a year ago I would have died in that situation. Improvement and progression? 

On the downside that one health problem that I had for that time has come back, so I've been sick a bit lately. Sick every morning. Sick when there isn't food to eat. Annoying, but oh well. Worse things have happened. 

But anywho, I'm going to go email President and ask him to get us a Backie. Have a good week.
Love, Elder McClellan

Monday, December 8, 2014

week 52: facing challenges

Alright to answer your questions first:
(Editor's note - In response to last week's letter, I emailed him the following:
I was relieved that you sounded a bit more cheerful last week than the week before, although sad to learn that your scriptures disappeared. Who steals someones scriptures?!? That is totally lame. Also glad that you have food again; do you eat like a crazy man the first three weeks of every month and burn through your allotment, or is it just really sparse? Is food really expensive in the stores? Do you ever get meals from the members? I hope this week was a good one again, and that your appointments all held. I have to admit to feeling a bit alarmed thinking of you going to a gun store down there... if people just run around in the streets with AK weapons, I can't imagine what they sell in the stores. Be safe!)

Well, we get roughly $110 bucks a month and everything here is the same price at home, if not more expensive. For example, I pay 3 US dollars for less that half a gallon of milk. So by the end of the month money is gone haha, and the last week is always a bit of a struggle. 

The members never feed us, at least not in this area. Absolutely terrible (I say that because of their lack of faith, not lack of giving us food.) There are 3 or 4 exceptions to that, but yeah.

Also, the thugs get their AK's from the police. Not from gun stores, so don't worry about it haha. Honestly, 99% of all gun stores here are owned by  Boers (white people) and they are incredibly racist, so it is probably the safest place I could ever be in South Africa, so yeah, don't worry about that. 

Oh awkward, you have such a good way of shambocking people haha. You're like Elder Holland, what you say you do in an incredibly loving manner, meanwhile you're preaching fire and brimstone. Powerful. Alright fine, I'll prepare a spiritual thought for next week haha. (This was in response to me saying that I missed hearing his testimony.)

What, there was a Christmas broadcast? We didn't even hear it. Oh well. We are usually pretty out of the loop compared to the rest of the world. All they seem to tell the members here is to quit selling their daughters and to quit buying wives. Labola. 

Let's see here, this week was amazing! We had interviews with President that were spectacular. The problem we are facing is two fold. Well, three fold. First, we have a 90 kilo commute to and from our area. Second, the church meets forever away from our area. Third, the people are too poor and/or not faithful enough to make the sacrifice to come to church.

Basically it just leaves us at a loss for what to do in our area. We are getting about 20 recent convert/ less active member lessons a week, but there is no progression really. The Gogos (grandmas) don't seem to care. They are comfortable with their current state. The young have no jobs so they cant afford to come. And the in between are non-existent.  President Dunn actually said that the Area Presidency is currently trying to figure out what to do with Hammanskraal. The end goal so to speak. This may seem weird, but you really have to understand Africans to understand the problem. It is difficult. Our investigators are too poor to be able to come . It is a tough nut to crack. Oh well, where there is a will and the Lord, there is a way! Hopefully we find that way soon haha. 

I'm pretty sure Margot is the cutest baby to have ever existed. Those pictures are pretty darn great! 

Also, I'm pretty sure South Africa is falling apart. There have been power outages every day for the past week. A few nights I've actually had to sleep under a wet towel because it has been so hot. The mosquitoes are killer, but luckily they don't carry malaria here.  

Sunsets are amazing here...

Any-who, I'm happy and the church is true.

Love ya all lots, 
Elder Kelly McClellan

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

week 51 (half way mark)

So first off, sorry for the negativity of last week haha. I kinda got railed over the past few weeks and I just got fed up with it. My scriptures walked away in my last area, my last day in Katlehong half my allotment disappeared from where I kept it, and then I found out the office was fining me for a mistake they made. I was just sad, but anywho, this week was amazing. Instead of 95% of our appointments dropping like last week, 95% of them held, and wow it was powerful. 

Unfortunately, we won't have any baptisms this month, this area has only had 1 in 2 years, but we are hoping for 5 in January now. The problem is just the dang transport haha.  Oh, and the members (most but not all) are lazy. They do everything they can under the sun to rationalize their inactivity and participate up to the level of a strangled duck as far as contributing to missionary work goes. Oh well, on the bright side I'm back amongst the Sotho (sutu) people and that is where I feel at home here. I started my mission with them, and it is just nice to be back with a people whose culture I understand.

Let's see here, there is not really much to update you on...hmm. Oh, on the up and up, I'll have food in just a few hours. The end of the month always sucks. Been out of food for 4 days. I testify that after eating one dry wheat cake you're tired of it - try living off it for 4 days, haha. I don't understand why the missions to our south and the one to our north gets twice as much allotment as we do. That's dumb if you ask me.

I'm very much looking forward to Christmas and New Years already. We get both days off (there are too many drunks out and about.) I really want to go play with elephants again for Christmas, but we will see what happens.

Hope you all have a great week, I'm off to find a gun shop.

Love, Elder McClellan