Monday, February 17, 2014

Mission Accomplished!

Hello family. I'm so grateful. It was the best week yet! It was a battle to the finish; we went toe to toe with the adversary to help the D family come into the church, but what a blessing! And K was baptized too. That was my last baptism as a young full time missionary. I need to share this with you. I walked into the changing room alone after that baptism, took of my white tie, looked at my name tag, and dropped to my knees in prayer. That was a really sacred and memorable moment to me. I am so grateful to be able to extend myself in this service. I am so grateful for the priesthood, for the trust of the Lord, and for being able to see Him bless lives.

My overwhelming feeling at the end of this week is that I did what the Lord asked me to do. He gave me a commission when I came here to the Utah St. George Mission, and I have done what he commissioned me to do. I did what I came here for. I asked Coach Ludvigson to give me a blessing of comfort and counsel yesterday and one of the things he said to me is that there were people in the pre-existence that I promised I would find, and that I have found them. When those words were said I immediately thought of K and the D’s. They are really special connections. There were tears when I said goodbye to the D’s yesterday, and I gave them a picture of our companionship and another picture of the temple. It’s not goodbye though, it’s just see you later.

Well, I hop on the van in an hour and a half, get to talk with President Center tonight, and then I'm on an airplane tomorrow morning. What has been etched on my soul over the course of this mission is that I will serve the Lord daily. I will reach out and love and serve his children. That is where my joy and purpose comes from. It’s when I'm on my knees before Him, pleading with him for mercy, for help, and for the strength to serve each day. I don't know all the details of my next chapter in life, but I know I can still listen to and obey the voice of the Lord.  His promises are sure!

I love you so much. I love the Lord too. Thanks for your words and the song this morning. I feel him with me now more than ever. I can't wait to see you!

With all my love,
Elder Michael George Stewart

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Best Week Yet

Hello family,

Wow, didn’t I just write to you? What an amazing week it has been. The Lord answers the prayers of the faithful, and we are seeing so many miracles.

We had two great baptisms this week! And they were at an outdoor "warm spring" with snow on the ground. But they were a spiritual experience. C and B said that the water was much warmer than the surrounding air.

The D’s (our family of 7) are ready for baptism this weekend. We resolved some minor concerns with the help of the scriptures. Elder Joens brought out Psalm 23 and we promised all the kids that on their baptism day they would feel the Lord was with them and they would feel protected. The mom and dad are also doing great. They are really leading out in the gospel. And the dad got a job at a local farm! The Bishop promised him he would get temporal and spiritual blessings for obeying God's commandments. This is a whole family joining the church, it is a great miracle and a blessing.

K is doing very well too. She pretty much taught us the lesson on tithing and the 10 commandments. I am so grateful that she asked me to do the baptismal ordinance too. What motivation for the last week!
I just feel like sharing my testimony with all of you today. It’s been such an uplifting week. The promise that we may always have the Spirit to be with us is a real promise that I am hopefully realizing more and more these days. My heart is full. This is going to be the best week yet of my mission.

I testify of God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I know they are real and that they are what the scriptures say they are: infinitely loving, powerful, and wise beings. I especially bear my testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. I have learned so much about him over these two years. It’s amazing to think about his mercy and grace and what he has done for all of us and especially for me. I know that when Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and died on the cross, he took the penalty for our sins, and when he resurrected he overcame death for all of us. Because of his atonement, he understands us, and he can save us if we come unto him. He satisfied the demands of justice for us. As we have faith in Him, repent, and obey the Gospel, he can extend mercy to us. I look forward to that day when I will see him again. And I know that if I continue faithful, I will be able to lay claim on His mercy on the Judgment day. I want to live with God again, and I want to live like God does too.

I know that the Lord works through prophets to guide us. He always has from the beginning of time (Amos 3:7)! I know that Joseph Smith was called of God to be a prophet in our days, and that the LDS Church is the Lord’s Kingdom on the Earth. It is the only true and living church on the face of the earth because the true and living Savior guides it. I love the church, the quorum of the 12 apostles, President Monson, and all of my priesthood leaders.

I am so happy!  I have huge bags under my eyes, but every morning this week I have woken up at 630 and I have felt gratitude for all of my blessings. I love the Lord, I love his Gospel, and I love his children. I have been studying the Psalms recently, and I am grateful for King David's passion and poetry. Reading those words has really changed the way I pray and feel about prayer. Faith, prayer, and hard work really do create miracles.

Thanks mom and dad for your support and letters. I am grateful for your sacrifices for making my mission possible. All the lives and people who have been touched by my services are indebted to you for supporting me out here, and I hope you can share in the joy of conversions, retentions, and reactivations that have been going on in my mission. We serve for the Lord and we serve for his children. Our blessings are peace and joy in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

So this week my goal is to have the best week yet. I want to wake up each day and serve the Lord and my companions selflessly. I want to have great studies that help me to become better and feel the Holy Ghost. To focus on the Doctrine, building brotherhoods, and reaching out to others. Witnessing the baptisms of the D Family and K at the end of this week will be a great capstone to my mission. Those converts mean everything to me.

I love you!
Elder Michael George Stewart

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Just Grateful!

Hello Mom and Dad and Jeanie,

This week was just amazing; we changed our Pday today so that we could attend the temple with Elder Betham and Elder Campbell and their companions. It was so good to be in the celestial room with Elder Campbell and to talk about life, the mission, and the future. I can't wait for you all to meet him. I don't think I was ready to leave my mission two weeks ago, but now I am getting there. These weeks have been the best ones of my mission so far.

Here’s the highlights:

Brother S baptized his two kids, and his Grandpa confirmed them. That’s a family that has changed so much in the last few months.  Also a funny note, our pianist arrived late to the baptism so I played some prelude music. It went about as well as you could expect, but I can't wait for you to hear my new found "skills".
This week we saw miracle after miracle for the D family. J and V told us this week that while they have been taking lessons with us they have felt their lives change a lot. They were all at church again on Sunday. There were 11 of them and they took up two side pews. I am just so grateful to be teaching them. They are ready to be baptized. All of the older kids (9-14 years old) are reading the Book of Mormon too. And Juan, the 14 year old, said he is feeling more worthy. That’s a big deal for a kid coming from the gangs of Phoenix. So mark your calendars for the 15th! The whole district will be coming to their baptism.

We also kept teaching the K’s (C and B). They are getting baptized this Saturday. Their ward (the Fayette ward) does all their baptisms in an outdoor spring!  I hope they don't all freeze to death!

Also this week, S and S talked with us about attending the temple, and K made a program for her baptism on the 15th as well. 

So I am very grateful. I am very grateful for this mission. It’s the best! I’m sorry for anyone who serves in other places, southern Utah is the place to be. I am grateful for the people we are teaching and baptizing right now. It’s a huge motivation to have so many baptisms scheduled for these last weeks. I am grateful for all of the companions I've had, and I'm grateful to be able to make lifelong friends from this mission. I am grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ. These two years have taught me so much about Him and His Doctrine, and at this point I just want to serve him and do his will. Elder Becerra and I had a good moment the other day when he asked me "If they had let you extend for a year, would you have done it." I paused and thought for a second, and I am grateful to answer that I would have extended for longer if they had let me. It’s just the best thing I've ever done.

I have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that this church is God's kingdom on the earth and that it safeguards the priesthood and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is God's word, and that it can prove to all men that this is the Lord's church.

I love you so much! Keep praying for us.


Elder Michael Stewart

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Power of Three!

It was a week with a lot of growing and learning. I am so happy to still be on my mission. The biggest motivator right now is that we have several baptisms scheduled for every weekend between now and when I go home. It’s a blessing that is sure to keep me motivated. 

This week was busy with a new companion, a wedding, and a baptism!

MONDAY: Right after I emailed you all, Elder Becerra and I went and taught a lesson to S, a new investigator we found a few weeks ago. He had wanted to be baptized, but he and his fiancĂ© weren't married. They were talking about getting married "sometime this decade". We taught them the Law of Chastity and read to them from the "Family Proclamation" Those are some powerful words. And honestly, I still reverently remember the powerful spirit that filled that small room as we testified of the importance of them getting married. In that same lesson, they committed to be married on Friday so that S could be baptized on Saturday.  One of the most spiritual lessons I've ever been in. When we asked them "Will you all be married before Scott's baptism?" S immediately responded "Yes, definitely, we will do that." It just strengthened my testimony that when someone is ready and willing, the Lord can do miracles with them.
We called the bishop and ward mission leader right after that lesson, and asked them to take care of all the arrangements for the license and wedding. They did a great job, and I am so grateful for their help.
After that lesson, we packed some overnight bags and hurried to Salina so we could get on the van to St. George. The mission picked up all the missionaries who were in the MTC with me, they all left on Wednesday. I sat next to Elder Gomez and Elder Barboza on the way down. What a privilege to come full circle with those elders. In the MTC I sat by Elder Barboza every day, and we have served around each other several times. And Elder Gomez has been around me in one form or another my whole mission. I have a lot of strong feelings about these brothers and the experiences we have shared.

Monday night we proselyted in a walking area with the Sunset English Elders. I slept on a couch that night.

TUESDAY: Elder Lopez picked me up and we went to see all the missionaries boarding the transfer van.
Then all of the departing missionaries went to a temple session with President and Sister Center. There is a new movie again! That was a really spiritual experience for me. Brother Bott told us in mission prep, to "return and report" to the Lord at the end of our missions in the temple. And I took an opportunity to do that in the celestial room as I mentally reviewed all the areas, companions, and converts I have had. I felt clear and at peace about everything I've been able to do for 2 years. What a blessing. It’s not a sacrifice at all to serve the Lord; it’s my privilege and lifelong desire. It’s all about the people you’re with and the lives you’re able to touch.

After the session President and Sister Center answered some questions for us in the celestial room then we had a meeting with the temple president. He talked about making the temple a priority in post mission life. And MAKING TIME to be there. Definitely something I want to do in Provo, probably once a week.
My new companionship is Elder Becerra, Elder Joens, and yours truly. Elder Joens is a great missionary. Very diligent and he really wants to do a good job. He is the only active member in his family. I am always shocked at the missionaries who made big sacrifices to be on their missions. Also our combined weight in this companionship is almost 700lbs. We are all over 6ft tall.

WEDNESDAY: So after being trained, we loaded up on the transfer van and went all the way back up to Salina. I got to sit by Elder Campbell on the van and we talked the whole way up. Alma 17:2 "...and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord..." That’s the way I feel about that man. Eight months is a long time to serve together.  I am just so grateful that we will see each other every Pday and every district meeting each week till I leave. His example and service are big boosters to me, and I am grateful that I can be there for him too.

Wednesday night, we taught two great lessons, introduced Elder Joens to a bishop, and went to bed.

THURSDAY: This day was our District Meeting.  We learned about "How to Begin Teaching" principles from preach my gospel, got Elder Joens some groceries, went to lunch with Elder Campbell and his greenie, Elder Sanders. We taught the D family. The lesson was hectic; the kids were kind of unruly. They still want to be baptized though!

That night we had lessons with the S family (getting baptized on February 1st), K (Feb 15), the H’s (Feb. 8), and S (Jan 25). We had an awesome lesson with S about the Atonement and repentance. One of the biggest lessons I've learned on my mission is the importance of repenting and that we only can repent thanks to Jesus Christ. While it’s true we need to recognize our sins, confess them, stop sinning, make restitution and commit to keeping the commandments in order to repent---the most important step is the acknowledge the Savior's power to redeem and let that take effect in your life.

FRIDAY: Taught S about the restoration (or maybe we did that on Thursday, in any case he had all the lessons), introduced Elder Joens to President Rosenvall, taught the D family again about baptism, found a new investigator, and then we had S’s wedding The ward did a great job.

SATURDAY:  Reviewed S for his interview, interviewed him and baptized him. It was another spiritual day.

SUNDAY: Have I mentioned that our correlation meetings are Sundays at 6:30 a.m.? So we wake up at 5:30 a.m. to be ready on time. It’s fun. At 7:30 we got a call from a new Bishop, his whole sacrament meeting program had fallen through. So we offered to speak in his ward at 1 p.m. on top of our confirmation at 11 a.m. and our speaking assignment at 9 a.m. It was a great day. At the end of the day we had a lesson with K. She has asked me to baptize her which will be my first time baptizing someone personally in months! What a big motivator to keep me going for a few weeks.

I am so grateful for this week. It’s been an emotional roller coaster but at the end of it all, I know my head, heart, and feet are where they are supposed to be. I am so grateful we stayed so busy this week. Along with all that is listed here, we gave several priesthood blessings, had some run ins with drunken people, and managed to keep going to the gym every morning.  It has taken prayer, pondering, and good old fashioned hard work, but I know these last weeks will be my best ones yet.

I love you so much! Keep praying for us to find new investigators!

Elder Michael George Stewart.

Monday, January 20, 2014

This will just be a brief note today.

My companion and I will be staying together for my last 4 weeks! And we will be training a new missionary together! I am excited to have "the power of three" with us for a little. Even better news, Elder Campbell will be transferred to Snow College. So we will be in the same district for 4 weeks. All this is better than I could have hoped for. 

We kept the Richfield AP tradition going too. I trained Elder Campbell to be a ZL in Richfield, and then he was an AP (for 9 months by the way). And after I was transferred from Richfield, Elder Campbell trained Elder Captain to be a ZL, and now he will be the new AP. It’s a good life.

 I am going down to St. George in a couple hours to do the departing missionary activities, so all I can say now is that I love you.

I really love what I am doing. I feel so grateful to Heavenly Father for all of His blessings and for the work we have been able to do together. On my mission I have truly changed my life. I feel like for the first time I am doing EXACTLY the work that Father in Heaven has always wanted me to be doing. I am so grateful for the things that we have been able to do together.

I love you so much.

Elder Michael Stewart

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This is why I extended!

We have been extremely blessed this week. One of our bishops referred us to a nonmember family of 11 to teach. The D family who are related to another family we are also teaching.  The D’s lived here in the summer and attended church a lot. They moved to Phoenix but, didn't like Phoenix for their family, and have moved back. The mother and father have been married for 17 yrs and there are 9 children. We met them on Friday, and then we went with father and one son to clean the chapel on Saturday. We had a lesson with the parents about baptism that day. They recognize that God wants their family to be in the Church, and they want a fresh start to their marriage and to their lives. On Sunday three children came to church with us (the rest committed to be there next week), and last night we also had a lesson with them about the Book of Mormon. THE WHOLE FAMILY was reverently seated, listened, and read scriptures when it was their turn. There is a very special spirit about them. They really love their bishop; he has done repairs around the house and helped them out quite a bit.

That is why I extended. To be blunt, this family is really close to baptism, and I know that Heavenly Father wants us to help them get there. It’s very exciting to teach families like that!

This week K was baptized by one of his cousins. Later that week K got hurt at a wrestling match, so we went to the High School. His coach carried him into a separate room, and my companion and I gave him a blessing. That was a very special experience. By the time he got to church on Sunday to be confirmed, he was walking, but it was still painful. He is a great kid! I can't wait for him to come on splits with us. Actually, I can't wait for him to go on his own full time mission.

There were just so many miracles! A grandma in Fayette called us and asked us to come help her get her grandkids ready for baptism. A bishop in Gunnison called us and told us an older man approached him about getting baptized. I definitely don't want to "count my chickens before they hatch" but I am just so grateful for Heavenly Father, my companion, the members, and everyone else who is making this work go forward. As Elder Campbell always said, "it’s a team concept", and none of this would be happening if any one piece was missing.

This week has been one of those "stand back and see the hand of the Lord" kind of weeks. We have been working so hard for so long! And there have definitely been fruits, but this week, the Lord definitely showed that he is able to do his own work. His children are in his hands, and he has all power to help them.
I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom on the earth today. President Monson is a prophet of God, and he and the apostles are guided by Jesus Christ to lead the church today. There is "one Lord, one faith, on baptism" (Ephesians 4:5), and we have the priesthood authority to administer that to the world. I love being a missionary to echo God’s commandment "Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son" (2Nephi 31:11). Repentance is hard, but is joyful, and all men need to do it! And it is very exciting to partner with God to bring souls unto him--nothing could ever be more important or more fulfilling.

I love you so much! Take care, and do what you can to share the Gospel with others each day! Small and simple means are the best ways to do it.


Elder Michael George Stewart

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cheerfully do all things!

January 6, 2014
Thanks so much for the birthday package.  That sweater is VERY NICE! WOW! I don't think I've ever owned something like that before, thanks.  I was very well taken care of for my birth-day. Sister Judy made a chocolate sheet cake and the football coach invited us over for a New Year dinner featuring deep fried everything. It’s a good thing we've been going to the gym so much.  At the rate they are feeding us I hope you recognize me when I come home.

At N's baptism and then at his confirmation on Sunday Sister W shared her adopted son's conversion story and how it affected her and her family. She shared how the first couple of missionary lessons were pretty rough (he is from Ethiopia and had only been in the states for a week before met him, not much English there). Later as we kept coming back, she said her prayers were answered and she knew that the Spirit was able to convey the message of the Gospel to him according to his own understanding. It really is a miracle that as my companion and I prepare ourselves spiritually, and do our best, the Holy Ghost does all the work! Sister W shared how one night she asked N if he had been praying about our message. He said yes, and that he knew that it was good. The Gospel is for all men, young and old, bond and free! You don't need an education or a lot of experience for God to speak to you.

A few exciting highlights from the week.
J came to church again!  She is becoming a lot more active. Also, you might remember C who Elder Campbell and I taught in Richfield, he was baptized the week I transferred to Dixie. We met his younger brother in Richfield at that time, but he wasn't too interested back then. Well, it turns out that J is his biological mom, and he splits his weekends between Richfield and Mayfield, and we started teaching him up here. He is a much more interested now. It’s interesting how you can come full circle in teaching a family on your mission.

K is getting baptized on Tuesday! We had to do that day because it’s the only time they don't have a wrestling meet this week. His coaches are ending practice early and telling all the boys to go to his baptism. He has been fellowshipped very well! His cousin V will be able to baptize him too.

We got an amazing new investigator, and it’s the PERFECT story of member missionary work. The new investigator is named K S; she is 19, has 2 kids and is married to Z who is a less active member. She and her husband live with Z's parents who are active. C (the mother in law) has been slowly taking her to church, talking to her about the Gospel, and helping her over the years. This week C invited K to meet with us and K agreed! She is very ready and she wants the church to help her become a better mother. Love and serve your family and friends. Don't be afraid to invite them to church and to meet with the missionaries too. If those invitations are made out of love, they will never come off as being pushy.

There are so many great things going on. The Lord is really blessing us. And I feel like I am becoming the missionary that I had always dreamed and wanted to be. It took two years and I know that Heavenly Fathers expects me to stay converted and to keep serving Him and His children my whole life. As Elder Bednar taught us, we all need to become missionaries, not just go on missions.

I know that the Gospel is true and that the Lord restored it in our days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am always amazed at how the simple principles of the Gospel are so powerful. I have really only learned 5 principles on my mission: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. But those principles and the Doctrine of Christ that they make up are in and through every part of the church and the Gospel. We pay tithing to show faith in Christ and to help us remain faithful to the church all through our lives. We read our scriptures to help us to repent of our sins and to receive the Spirit in our lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is in everything we do. Preach My Gospel teaches us to "Preach the first principles of the Gospel. Preach them again and again…" It’s kind of like chemistry, in that if you know the first principles and foundational laws, you can describe and solve almost any situation you encounter.

I am so happy with what I am doing right now. It’s going to be bittersweet saying goodbye to the mission. I have 6 weeks left. But right now my goal is just to "cheerfully do all things that lie in [my] power; and then stand still with the utmost assurance and see the salvation of God and for his arm to be revealed...." (D&C 123:17) I love you so much! And I love this Church. It definitely is the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Elder Michael George Stewart