2 Corinthians 4:5

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Final thoughts...

Unbelievable. Probably the best word I can think of at the moment to describe the last eighteen months of my life. I can honestly say that I have had more joy in the last year and a half than I've had in my entire life. I've seen more blessings, more heartaches, more frustrations, more sorrows, and more excitement.

As I've expressed before, it almost feels like I've cheated somehow. I went into this, knowing that I would be teaching others. I always knew that a change would come into their lives, but I never thought that it would change mine that much. (Thanks, Elder Vaki, for that sentence.) I have grown closer to my family, to my friends (new and old), but most importantly, I know that I have a deeper understanding and love for my Father in Heaven and for my Savior Jesus Christ. I've been allowed the tiniest glimpse at Their emotions, and it has overwhelmed me. They have SO much in store for us!

Truly, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to real and lasting joy. It's pure and simple, and "sweet above all that is sweet" (Alma 32:42). Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, endure to the end. That's it. The simplest formula for eternal happiness. We can learn of the gospel in its fulness by reading the scriptures, the Bible and the Book of Mormon. We can know of the truth that each contain by comparing the teachings found within, and then taking our thoughts and feelings to our Father in sincere prayer (Moroni 10:3-5). As we do this, the Holy Ghost speaks sweet comfort and peace to our souls, and we can know of a surety that these things are the way, the path back to our heavenly home.

I testify, as a servant of Jesus Christ, that these things are true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God; it is as it claims, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I echo the promise of modern day prophets that as you sincerely study the Book of Mormon, you will call down the powers of heaven into your very lives, and you will reap the rewards that your Father in Heaven has in store for you as you learn and abide by the precepts taught therein. I testify that God has not left us in darkness---He has called a living prophet to guide us through the chaos of our world today. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and therefore loves us just as much as He loved His children anciently. That is why He has called Thomas S. Monson to be His prophet---it's because He loves us, and wants us to make it back into His loving arms. I also testify that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet of the Lord, and that the Lord, through Joseph, restored all of His truth to the earth, to bless the lives of all of us here. The principles and ordinances of the gospel have been restored in their purest forms, and they allow us to tap into the powers of heaven to bless not only our lives, but the lives of all those around us.

I know God lives. I know He loves us. I know He listens, and answers when we pray. I know our Savior Jesus Christ stands at the head of this, His church. His arms of mercy are outstretched towards all of us, if we will only keep His commandments and follow Him.

I cannot express my gratitude to my Father and my Savior for this chance I've had to serve Them here in Louisiana. I am leaving a big chunk of my heart here. Someone I met on the street once asked where I was from, and finding out that I lived across the country, she asked in shock, "Well, why are you here in Louisiana then?" I replied, "Because God has some really special children here, who He loves so much, and He's sent me to tell them how to make it back to Him." I know that is true. I love the people here so much, despite their imperfections; most of that love is inspired by the fact that they have loved me, despite all my imperfections.

Now I'm off on yet another grand adventure----LIFE, post-mission style! Everything I've learned here will help me get through the trials that lay ahead of me. The mission really IS the MTC for life! :)

Well, I love y'all! Thank you for all the support and the prayers you've given me.

2 Timothy 4:6-7
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith..."

Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister Morgan Pedersen

Monday, February 22, 2010

The FINAL Countdown! The second to last email....(Duhn duhn duhn!!!)

Hey y'all!  Well, believe it or not, I've only got one more of these emails left!  It's mind-boggling, if you ask me.
This week was a rough one.  Being "sans voiture" (without a car) stinketh.  I don't mind walking, but the nearest city to Oakdale is like 20 miles away, and there's no way we can walk that in enough time to get there, tract, and get back before dark.  And riding our bikes wasn't an option...we'd be riding down Interstate 10.  Needless to say, there were much frustrations.  I told President in my letter to him, "I know there has GOT to be people here in town who are being prepared to accept the gospel.  I just don't know where they are hiding."  The good news?  We got our car back Friday night, so Saturday we spent the whole day out in Mamou, and found some promising potential there.  And we've got things planned thus far for this week that we'll only be in Oakdale one day this week, and we've got a few appointments already set up, so that makes things a lot better.
Joanna disappeared on us.  Sigh.  We saw her briefly on Wednesday, and then lost contact with her for the rest of the week.  She doesn't have a phone (BOO), so the only way we can get a hold of her is by dropping in on her.  We think she may have gone out of town for the weekend.  How is beyond me, seeing as how she doesn't have a car, but that's beside the point.  She didn't make it to church, so she can't get baptized this weekend.  BLAST.  But she's still progressing, which is a miracle.  She'll get baptized soon...she's just got to make it to church once more, and really commit to coming EVERY week.
We had to drop the Darvonnes on Friday.  That stunk.  I was REALLY frustrated.  Chris told us that he'd decided that he didn't want to be married anymore, even though he still loves Elizabeth.  (Long story short---they both were not faithful; Elizabeth just was unfaithful first.)  But because he won't commit to sticking it out and making things work, Elizabeth is now up the creek without a paddle.  She's 7 1/2 months pregnant (Chris is the dad), she has no job, and nowhere to go.  She can't just get up and leave.  So even though she WANTS to progress, she doesn't want to be the only one trying to make things work.  It was a rough day.  We told them that we loved them, and that they could call us whenever they needed our help, or when they were ready to give this another shot.  Elizabeth was crying as we left, Sister English cried when we got to the car, Sister Thomas was frustrated, and I alternated in between being so angry I could spit nails, and being absolutely heartbroken.  Danged free agency!  Sigh.  It's really hard to watch people make the wrong choices, and know that there is nothing you can do about it, because it's their choice.  Oh, the protections living the gospel brings us!
The good news?  We found and taught a really sweet girl named Micah in Mamou on Saturday.  She just had a baby girl a couple of months ago, and she's made some big changes in her life to make sure her little girl will grow up right.  We have an appointment to see her again this next weekend, so we're super excited.
Well, I'm outta time, and I love y'all lots.  Keep Oakdale in your prayers.
Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister Pedersen

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Culinary adventures galore....

Hey y'all!
  Well, yet another week has gone by, and I'm still shocked at how quickly time is flying.  We had a good week this last week; I think we had our interviews with President Woods...was that this week?  DANG.  It doesn't seem like it.  Anyway, President and I had a good talk.  He asked me if I was nervous about going home; I told him that I was a little.  We talked a lot about Oakdale, and what can be done to continue to help the area grow.  Sounds like they'll be keeping a trio of sisters here as long as they can.
What else happened this week?  We had our investigator, Joanna, make it to church!  Tender mercies from the Lord!  And thank heavens for Sister Sherwood!  She had gone to pick up Joanna before church, and when Joanna didn't answer, she came without her.  But after sacrament, Sis. Sherwood told us that she was going to go back to check on Joanna, because she felt very strongly that she needed to.  And lo and behold!  Joanna was ready, and they made it to the last half of Sunday School, and all of Relief Society!  We were so excited.  Joanna is working towards being baptized at the end of the month, so everyone, keep her in your prayers!
We also had a good lesson with the Darvonnes on Friday night.  We talked about the power and importance of prayer.  Sister English and I shared the story of the brother of Jared with them.  We helped them see how God expects us to put in the legwork sometimes before He gives us an answer.  We challenged them to come up with multiple plans to help themselves quit smoking, since just praying about it wasn't enough.  We also firmly committed them to pray as a family.  I really felt an urgency to help them see how vital prayer was, and how much protection it provides us.  I got teary-eyed, and bore my testimony the very best that I could.  I felt the Spirit, and I think that they did as well.  They promised to have family prayer every night, and we promised them very specific blessings for their family if they would do it.  I asked Chris, "Do you trust this promise because it's coming from me as your friend, or because it's coming from me as a servant of Jesus Christ?"  It made him think a little bit, and he answered, "Well, both, but mostly the second one."  Hopefully he really understands that.
I love being able to tell people that it's not me promising them that their lives will be better; because, seriously, what do I know?  I'm just a 23 year old kid!  I know basically nothing about how almost anything works. And yet, I know that when I promise blessings to someone for following the Lord, I know that they'll be fulfilled.  Why?  Because I am His servant, and He promised me that He would use me to help His children.  I have been called by the prophet of God, and set apart to serve Him here.  What greater joy could I ever know?  I only get to have it for a little longer, and then It'll be time for a new stage of life.  But as for right now, I'm using that power that has been given to me to help as many people as I can, and to bear my testimony as often as I can, because I know that's what my Father wants me to do.
The gospel really does bring us joy.  I promise it does.
I love y'all!
Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister P.
P.S.  Oh!  I almost forgot to tell y'all why I titled this entry, "Culinary adventures galore..."  Hee hee hee.  I love the South---specifically their cooking.  We stopped to grab some grub at a little cafe in Oberlin, and Sister Thomas, Sister English, and I about gave ourselves a heart attack because of what we ate.  Fried okra, fried pickles, fried shrimp poboy, and for dessert: fried Twinkie and fried Oreos.  Yup.  Bring on the clogged arteries.  I can pretty much guarantee you that I will never eat all of that at the same time again.  And that is the first and last time I eat the fried Twinkie and fried Oreo.  They tasted so good, but ugh.  I felt just gross afterwards.  :)  So, yup.  Add that to my ever growing list of interesting foods here in Louisiana.  See y'all later!

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh, the hilarities of missionary work! (Is that even a word---hilarities? Well, if it wasn't, it is now.)

So, as usual, time is short....but it's not entirely my fault this time!  I had to transfer email accounts, because they're updating MyLDSMail.net, and blah blah blah.  Long story short...it ate up my time.  So, now, y'all get the short end of the stick.  SORRY!
We had stake conference this weekend.  Bishop Richard C. Edgley, first counselor in the presiding bishopric, was the visiting General Authority.  He spoke a lot about "The Rescue" program that Pres. Monson has made his priority.  He counseled us, "Don't jump off the ship."  He talked about how many people find one thing that they don't agree with or don't understand, and because of that, they leave the Church.  His remarks reminded me of a conference talk not too long ago called, "It's True, Isn't It?  Then What Else Matters?"  He asked us to think about our own testimonies.  Will we ever need to be rescued?  It made me think a lot, and I'm really grateful for the chance we had to learn from him, as well as from President Woods, and the members of our stake presidency.  We also got to hear some great talks from members of the congregation---yup, they got called up to the stand without any prior notice.  And yet, the talks that they gave were just awesome.  Surprisingly enough, I like having stake conference like that.  Of course, that's probably because I didn't get called on.  Oh well.  :)
Funny story of the week: Sister Thomas and I were tracting in Oberlin, and as we were walking back to our car, we met an inebriated man called "Pappy", and his sober friend, Trey.  Pappy first tried to shake my hand across a really wide ditch, and when I told him that I couldn't reach, he leapt across the ditch and about fell in.  Then he rambled on for about 7 minutes or so about all sorts of things.  As we started to leave, Pappy told me, "I'm in lub (love) with a beautiful woman.  And guess what?  I'll even go to church!  I'll be a Pentacostal."  I smirked, and said, "Well, that's great, except I'm not Pentacostal."  He looked puzzled, then said, "Well, I'll be Jehovah's Witness then!"  "Strike two," I replied.  (Trey was laughing his head off in the background the whole time.  He'd met someone who was LDS when he was in the military, so he knew who we were.)  Pappy paused, and looked and us for a minute before guessing, "Catholic?"  "Strike three.  We'll see y'all later," I said, and walked away.  Pappy was still guessing religions after us---"Baptist?!"  It made us giggle quite a bit.  Go figure...I attract all the drunk guys.  Sigh.  Well, at least I won't have to worry about that at home.  :)
Love y'all!
Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister P.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Zone Conference, Birthday, and other exciting stuff!

Hey y'all!

Okay, so we had zone conference on Thursday, and as usual, "it....was....AWESOME!" (Anyone ever seen that episode of Reba? No? Okay, well, moving on!) President Woods talked to us about becoming Preach My Gospel, not just using it as a manual. That's definitely something I can improve on; I know that Preach My Gospel was definitely inspired---it was written in heaven, and compiled here on earth. President also talked to us about how to be more bold in declaring the truths that have been restored here on earth today. We've been given some new pass-along cards that are REALLY cool; they have questions of the soul printed on one side, and as we ask people to read the question to themselves, we know it's making them think about these deep questions that will lead them to sincerely seek the truth. We know that this new way of contacting people is going to do SO much good, because Satan is already fighting hard against it. But we know that as we roleplay and have the faith to open our mouths to all we see, we'll be put the path of those who are ready to progress closer to Heavenly Father.

President was also pretty funny this zone conference. I was leading the music, and we'd made it weakly through two verses of "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise" when he stopped Sister Thomas at the piano. He encouraged the elders to really sing, and had them stand up. Then he said, "You know, Sister Pedersen is doing such a good job up here, elders, and she's nice to look at too, so look up!" I'm pretty sure I turned beet red. I laughed. Hee hee...it still makes me laugh as I think about it.
President Woods made another funny comment a little later on---he said, "Sister Pedersen is what I like to call sophisticated country." Not entirely sure what that means, but again, it made me and everyone else laugh. Good old President.

The only part I did NOT enjoy about zone conference was giving my "go-home" testimony. As I stood at the pulpit, I told the other missionaries that this was the day I'd been dreading since the beginning of my mission. I love being a missionary so much, and I know I'm needed at home, but it's still going to be hard. Anyway, I bore my testimony of the vital importance of the work that we are doing. I shared an experience that I'd had earlier this week.

Sister Thomas and I were out tracting, and we were invited into a home. As we came in, the man on the couch seemed to ignore us, and there was a definite hostility in the air. He told us to "share the word," so we started slowly into teaching him about how we knew that God is our Father, and that He cares about us. As the lesson went on, the hostility was still there, and I thought for sure that he was about to start pulling out anti any second. But as Sister Thomas shared the First Vision, and as I bore my testimony after her, the Spirit came in, and the feeling in the room changed dramatically. I then got to teach about the Book of Mormon, and bore my testimony of it. The Spirit touched me so strongly; I told the man how much I loved the Book of Mormon, and how it has helped me know my Savior better. It has helped me draw closer to Him, closer than anything else ever has. By the end of our lesson, the man's countenance and attitude had completely changed. He told us that he was an apostolic pentacostal preacher (BIG surprise....NOT), and that he'd heard the story of Joseph Smith before, but that there was something about the way we told it that made it different than before. We told him that the difference was the Spirit, telling him that this was something he needed to pay attention to.

As I finished sharing this story, I bore my witness that I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I bore witness of the Prophet Joseph, and of President Monson. I told the other missionaries to cherish every day, because it goes by faster than you know, and that now is the ONLY time we'll ever have this chance to change peoples lives in this way.

It probably wasn't the most eloquent of testimonies, but I felt the Spirit as I testified, so I know that it was okay.

Um...oh yeah! I am officially 23. Weird. But fun. Fun, because I have some pretty incredible friends here in Louisiana. Two AMAZING gals from Baton Rouge drove up to Oakdale to bring me a birthday cake on Saturday night. I was SO surprised! I loved it! Seeing Brandie and Leesa was so much fun, and even though they didn't stay long, they made my day! Then, on Sunday, my AMAZING companions surprised me with little gifts---a red velvet cake mix, a box of macaroni and cheese (Yum!), two candy bars, and an INCREDIBLE poem and drawing of me! If only I looked as good as Sister English drew me. :) We ate TWO dinners too...oh so good! The Vances cooked, and made me a mandarin orange cake...HEAVENLY! And they got me presents too! They were too sweet! And THEN we went to the Neumeyers, and Christine made the MOST AMAZING BISQUE I'VE EVER HAD!!!! Corn and crawfish bisque...oh my heavens to Betsy, it was so good! And THEY made me a cake too!

Moral of the story----CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH THE INCREDIBLE PEOPLE I DID. :) It was probably one of the best birthdays I've ever had. Oh yeah, and the other moral of the story is share your birthday cake, because when you have four, it's really way too much. ;)

I am so incredibly lucky. I love the people here SO much. They are truly incredible. They are such good examples to me of Christlike love. I am honored and humbled to call them my friends.

As for the OTHER exciting stuff...
We've had a good week this last week. We found a FAMILY to teach!!! YAY!!! I love families. We've got an appointment on Thursday with Mosatye and her four children. She's met with missionaries briefly before, so we're excited to find out what they remember. We met her tracting, and she invited us right in. We also met a cool guy named Josh. I gave him a pass-along card as he was standing outside his friend's house, and we got to talking about the importance of families. He told me that he'd lost both his parents growing up, and that the thing he wanted most in this world was to be with his mom again. We've got an appointment to teach him later this week; I'm really excited. He's got a lot of potential.

Well, I think that's about it! I love y'all! Keep on keepin' on! And I'll (gulp!) see y'all soon!

Your Friend in the Faith,
Sister P.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

One less week in Louisiana....BLAST.

No time for intro...we've had an okay week. Sister Myer was sick, but is feeling better. Here is the update from our zone conference with Elder Condie!

We had our conference with Elder Condie on Thursday...can I just say, WOW?!?!!!! It was awesome. He is an absolute riot. Seriously, you don't get to see that side of the General Authorities very often. Did you know he can play the piano? Yup, and he's good too! That part was a little nerve wracking, because we were asked to do the musical number, and since Sister Myer had been sick, we hadn't been able to practice as much as we would have liked. But it went really well. She played her own arrangement of "Behold A Royal Army," and Sister English and I sang. Anyway, we talked about a lot of different things; we'd written down questions last zone conference, and Elder Condie chose a few to answer. He talked to us about doing our very best where we are---bloom where you're planted. He talked about Elder Kikuchi---he's the fourth longest serving General Authority (Elder Packer, Pres. Monson, Elder Perry, and then Kikuchi), and he's so humble and kind and loving. He told us about when Pres. Marion G. Romney was conducting the GC session where Elder Kikuchi was sustained. Pres. Romney's eyes were pretty bad, and he couldn't read Kikuchi's name, so he simple called him, "that Japanese fellow." When Elder Kikuchi got to the pulpit, he said, "President Romney, when I die and go to celestial kingdom, I change my name to Smith."

We also talked a lot about the Spirit, especially about how we can invite it more strongly into our lessons. He told us that if our investigators won't keep commitments, they won't keep covenants, and that in order to help them do so, we had to bowl them over with the Spirit. He talked about seven simple ways to bring in the Spirit into a lesson, and just as he was ending, describing the beauty of the scene, he said, "Take that, you Southern Baptists." He is seriously hilarious! Just the way he said it---just threw it in there.

His wife, Sister Condie, gave a really good talk too. She said something that hit me really hard. She said the greatest gift her parents had given her was a knowledge of the Gospel. I have to agree with her. There is nothing more that I could ever be more grateful to you both for than teaching me about the gospel of Christ. Thank you, thank you!

Elder Condie gave us some things to talk about with stubborn people, which was REALLY helpful. He pointed out that Christ's original church had 12 apostles, temples, prophets. He then told us to sweetly but boldly ask them, "Does your church have these? If not, then how can it be Christ's church?" He also gave us some response to the whole Revelation "none shall add" thing. He told us to sweetly but boldly ask them where to find the Nicean creed in the Bible. He also talked about the prophecies in the Bible about the Book of Mormon, and about the Greek root of the word 'baptize' means 'immersed'. He told us to ask, "Where did the founder/leader of your church receive his authority?" He told us to bear powerful testimony of the First Vision, and how the keys of the Priesthood were restored. He said, "When you tell them in a humble, forthright manner, the Spirit will bear witness that what you are telling them is true."

Elder Condie talked about how we can have the power that the sons of Mosiah had, that Alma and Amulek had, that Nephi and Lehi had. He read Alma 17:2-3, and talked about the process found there. He told us that the spirit of prophecy tells us WHO to talk to, and the spirit of revelation tells us WHAT to teach. He told of an experience he had as a mission president in Austria (I think). He received a phone call from man who wanted to complain about two of the elders. The man said that the elders had told him that the reason he wasn't getting the answers he was seeking was because he was homosexual, and they told him that he needed to repent. Elder Condie asked, "Well, are you?" The man said, "Yes." Elder Condie then told us an expression in German which means, "The rock hit the barking dog." :) If we are doing what we're supposed to, the Lord will give us the information we need, when we need it. Our job is to call people to repentance, and to teach them of the gospel so they will understand and desire to be baptized. Elder Condie told us that if we wanted our investigators to get it, we need to close the gap between where they are right now, spiritually speaking, to where they need to be. He gave three examples from the Savior's life where He had to do the same thing---once with Nicodemus, once with the woman at the well, and once with the apostles themselves. He told us that we need to teach the concepts of our lessons multiple times, because this is new to them; they can't be expected to soak it all up the first time. He then demonstrated this by teaching six elders phrases in Hungarian, and asking them to repeat it back to him. He showed us the importance of repetition, in person, and in several scriptures.

Elder Condie encouraged us to be our best selves. He told us to rely heavily on the Book of Mormon. He quoted Elder Carlos Asay, "You'll never be involved in a Bible bash if you teach from the Book of Mormon." He told us that the Book of Mormon is how we invite the Spirit into our work. He told us, "You're in the whitest field there is, and you've got to be really, really sharp." He bore his testimony of Joseph Smith, and told us that there is a tight connection between the prophets of old and the prophets today. He told us that he believed Joseph Smith was still heavily involved in this work on the other side, and that we must keep up our work as well. He gave us his blessing, as a servant of Jesus Christ and as a representative of the Quorum of the Twelve. He said, "I bless you with greater love, a greater ability to repent, with greater courage, with greater patience, with a greater ability to see through the Father's eyes. I bless you that as you lose yourself here, things will work out at home. I bless you to have radiant, Christlike countenances."

I loved every single second of it. The Spirit was SO strong! I wish everyone in the world could have been there---they would have felt the Spirit, and would have KNOWN that the words which were spoken were true. I knew it then, I know it now, and I will continue to know it for the rest of eternity.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Zone conference with Elder Condie!

Hey y'all! Not too much to report on from down south, sadly. We're struggling to get members and investigators to church here in Oakdale. If y'all could keep the following people in your prayers, that'd be amazing! These are all amazing people and families we're working with, and they have incredible potential, which means that we're really ticking Satan off here in Oakdale, and he's stepped up his game a notch. Well, I say if he wants to play like that, that's just fine with me. I'm calling in the calvary. :)

Will you please pray for:
Mike and Christine Neumeyer ("New-meyer")
Chris and Elizabeth Darvonne ("Dar-vohn")
Ronnie and Amanda Cormier ("Core-me-eh")
Joanna Carpenter
Troy and Angela Hubbard
Robert McKenzie
Dustie Thibodaux ("Tib-ah-dough")

Also, any prayers for our little Oakdale branch would be greatly appreciated as well. The work is SLOWLY moving along, but it is moving, and we've got BIG plans for 2010!

"Make no small plans; they have no magic to stir mens souls."---Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Vision of the South"

I love y'all! Keep on keepin' on!

Sister P.

P.S. We get to hear from Elder Condie of the Seventy on Thursday! He's coming to tour our mission. This means I'll have LOTS to tell y'all about next Monday.

P.P.S. For anyone who knows my family, we have some big exciting news! Stacia is officially engaged! She'll be getting married to Jake in May. If you want more details...well, tough, because I really don't have any. ;) Just teasing...but seriously. If you really want to know more, get a hold of my sister. :) Love y'all!

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