The Brightest Joy

Ashtarak, Armenia  January 25, 2011

Family and Peoples of the World,

Life is hard. Yes I said it . It Is not easy. This week was the hardest week that I have had in a long time Not the worst but the hardest. I have however found so much joy in the smallest thing. I have found joy  in the small and simple things. I have come to appreciate my companion more, members of the branch, the branch president for the small sacrifices that they have made. Now that I have come to appreciate small but powerful habits that people have formed, such as listening to others when they speak, looking at the speaker, listening more than speaking. Habits that benefit them and those around them. I have come to appreciate individuals who don’t don’t find silence to be awkward. I have come to realize that silence is an opportunity to learn.

I have also learned a little bit more about how to apply the “good, better, and best principle” to my thoughts and the words that I use. We can fill our minds with good and fun things such as movies, games, food, cars, irritations, anger, sorrow, what could be, what could have been. Or, we can fill our mind with the best things such as “How we can serve that person?”, What is the most effective way to accomplish this task?, How can I better show my love? What do I need to change in my life to start finding joy? What can I do to exercise patience? How is this family member doing? What am I learning from this person? Where is God’s hand? I’m grateful for…

We can apply this principle of good better and best to the plans that we make. I noticed one day that I was planning my future, after the mission. I realized that I needed to start thinking about creative and inspired ways of helping the people, the members, myself and my companion. We are always formulating plans. Lets spend as little time as possible thinking about where we should eat out tonight, or what we are going to buy with our next paycheck rather let us use most of our time and creativity on things pertaining to service, love, action, showing gratitude, progression, etc. It seems to me that if we can focus 51%+  on others we will be happy at least 51%+ of the time. When we begin to think, plan and act on the “Best” thoughts we become a force to be reckoned with because love is an eternal light. We become a tool that God can use to show others His love, which is an infinite source of nourishment. That is why Christ said that if we drink from his well we will never thirst. He truly is the bread of life. I have thought about this a lot, considering that I am currently serving as a representative of Christ, The Prince of Peace.

I think that the road to charity is not really a road, it is a refinery. We must change the way we look at people. We must see through “eyes of appreciation” in order to be able to show our love for others and truly mean it. There are thirty people in our branch here, regularly coming to church. I don’t have time every Sunday to talk with each member for more than 30 seconds, but if I have already observed  them with the eyes of appreciation that 30 seconds is enough to show them God’s love. The fruit of the tree of life can be shared with others in a matter of seconds, all it takes is one bite to experience the power of God, to experience the brightest joy that our souls have ever seen.

This week P=day was amazing We visited a place called Garni and another called Gerhart. Garni is an old pagan temple.  Gerhart is a church built into the side of a mountain. It is amazing. There is so much symbolism and so much stone work here. Such craftsmanship is humbling. Before we left Gerhart we went to the 2nd floor of the church. This was a choir room. It is very unique, because the room is mainly mountain rock. It has an amazing echoing affect. We sang in there for a while. The spirit seemed to have its place there, a place of reverent worship.

We have done everything possible this week to move the work forward and to help our investigators, but not a lot worked out. In fact almost nothing worked as planned. We have two lessons with investigators. We reactivated a man. He’s 18. He is a great example. He walks an hour every Sunday to come to church and an hour back. The Branch President and us(elders) went to his home to see his mom(who is in-active as well_ that is when we ordained him to be a priest.  I felt the spirit very strongly I knew that the priesthood had already started to take its affect in that home.

Aram the man that just got baptized, 20 yrs old. He was supposed to leave for Russia last night. But I have fasted that the Lord’s will be done. I felt impressed that he should stay, that angels should block his path, if it can be done. Branch President Ayvasian told Aram, (without having spoken to me that) Aram shouldn’t be surprise if the plane leaves without him or if the plane doesn’t work. President Ayvasian said to Aram I’ll see you on Sunday. So I hope I will see Aram this week.

I have a final story before I go. One that has helped me understand a concept I have been pondering. Quieting the Mind. I experienced it to a degree the other day. On Sunday night we have enough time to visit one more person. But we didn’t know who the Lord would have us visit. We didn’t know which options would bring about the Lord’s will. I was pretty sure that going to a part-member family would be most effective because it was dark and we knew where they lived. The other option was to find an old investigator in Armenia in the dark. I didn’t know if that would be effective. But by now we are smart enough to pray and seek the Lord’s will. After praying I tried a little thing called “centering” myself. It is basically a state in which I feel more and think less. I felt a distinct difference. My brain was telling me to go to the members home, but I felt (meaning the spirit was talking to my spirit) that we should go find the investigator. I realized what it meant to quiet my mind and feel the Lord’s will. The more we consecrate ourselves the more we will learn to listen to the spirit “over” our own thoughts.

The Lord is at work. The Lord is a Loving god who will humble us, for the only purpose of helping us. I pray that each of us will learn from our difficulties. And quiet our minds, enough to feel the spirits promptings. Don’t shut out the source of all knowledge and power.

I testify of the reality of the Son of God. He lived his whole life for us. Every day he overcoming sin and temptation so that he could be worthy to take upon him all our sins and shortcomings and sorrows. He knows the way up the mountain. Don’t let a few steppe climbs stop you from following the Guide.

With Love,
Elder Cook

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