Monday, June 26, 2017

Last Entry from the Field

This will be the last blog post of my mission. I suppose that leaves some temptation to be nostalgic and particularly reflective. There's not a great deal to report from this last week...we spent the majority of it chasing down contracts the mission needs urgently for the apartments of all missionaries. 

Which, I suppose leaves some room to reflect on my mission. I ended up serving in seven different areas. Each one consisted of a life, a new community, different worries and hopes, and different lessons to be learned. I started in Huánuco, where I spent the majority learning the language and entering into the mission life.

My second area was in Huancayo, the biggest city in the mission, where I learned a good deal about the realities of the mission and how to adapt to different situatons.

My third area was in Junín, the smallest town in which I served. I learned perseverance and how to keep your head up in faith. My companion and I wasted and wore out our lives trying to get our pension's daughter baptized, who was our good friend. It mattered a lot to us, and we both left the area dejected that even though she had her testimony, and we felt we were the missionaries meant to help her convert, it didn't amount to anything. To complete the lesson of the area, though, I was able to return to their house for a small moment in my travels for a Leadership Conference this last week. She told us she was getting baptized on Saturday. So time doesn't really matter when it comes to what we do here.

In my fourth area, I got to serve in the jungle, in a city called San Ramón. There I learned how to work with the Young Men's program and animate youth to go forward in programs and refrain from inactivity. We helped out with a lot of personal problems there as well, and I learned how to be sensitive to the different situations people live in.

In my fifth area, I returned to Huánuco, to what I would deem to be my favorite area. I guess one of the lessons I learned there was charity, because the members, the investigators, the missionaries in the zone, and my companions mattered to me a lot there. I learned how to ride the high wave while it's up and enjoy it when hard work yields great results. It was my first area in a zone leader position, so I also got to practice leadership skills.

After that, I returned to Huancayo, where I learned to deal with feelings of inadequacy in the work, which inevitably come. I learned how to be patient with other people, and that I was not solely responsible for the salvation of those around me. I also learned how to amp up the work, which perhaps was not suitable for that time, but came in handy in my following area.

Which brings me to my last Cerro de Pasco. I learned more about leadership here than anywhere else. I got to see missionaries change, and the dynamic of the zone become something wonderful to behold. I saw depressed missionaries get overjoyed with being bold in the work. I saw energy get renewed, and that did me a great deal of good. I also got great companions that brought out the best in me and made the work efficient in our own area. 

I hope you enjoyed the blog in these last years. Perhaps the greatest change throughout the two years came from trying so hard to do exactly what God wanted day after day. I can say I gave it my all. The work means everything to me. The Church means everything to me...upon believing that this is the truth, it logically means that it's the center of everything. The center of the two years, and the center of our lives. It's the center of my life. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I want everyone to know that. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice fuel our lives. I know God is our Father. I know the Plan of Salvation is the path to life eternal. And that's all I want, for me, and for everyone that matters to me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Zone on Fire

It was another solid week. More than anything, I'm delighted to continue to hear of outstandingly memorable experiences from the zone. One companionship got permission to frequently visit a Police Station and share small messages with all the officers. Today will be larger, and they will be speaking with a great crowd there.

We have other missionaries who went to the edge of their area to a small town 15 minutes out from Cerro de Pasco and went on a diligent search for the most important person in town. They boldly asked if they might have permission to show church videos in a public place with help, and received it.

On our divisions, we take out missionaries and show them how many contacts are possible within a day. I feel like the zone is swarming with activity and spiritual experiences. I'm excited to see what kind of miracles come from the special effort. Yet I know none of this would necessarily result to anything if God did not multiply anything we give Him. It's remarkable.

I know that the work is guided by Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. I want Their will to be completed, as it certainly will be. The best thing we can do is blow in the same direction of the wind and have the giddy feeling that we're contributing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

On Being Bold

This week was a whirlwind. We started out with training with our Mission President. My companion and I spoke on the importance of being bold, and we took them outside to do some practice. Some went to a market as a choir, some went with President to make a table stand of pamphlets and magazines in the plaza, and some went with me to teach Lesson 1 to passersby in the street.

President taught about being a missionary who challenges. He explained as soon as someone feels the Spirit, they should be challenged to baptism. The zone applied both trainings this week in admirable ways with outstanding results.

There's this small town about forty minutes out of Cerro de Pasco with two missionaries. The town has the smallest branch in the mission and it can be a fairly hard place to be. There, the little town -- in Peruvian celebratory fashion -- celebrated their 183rd anniversary. About two thousand people crowded into the plaza for an endless parade of representatives from all over the area and speeches from important figures. The missionaries there asked the mayor for a moment to speak with everyone the day before the activity. While they didn't get the speech time they were hoping for, they did introduce themselves to the multitude and invite them to church. It was an impressive sight to behold.

We contacted a family about a week ago in a park, but they didn't answer the door until Sunday when we tried one last time. We were invited in and talked to a large family who are facing particular problems that the Plan of Salvation specifically answers. For instance, one of the daughters died two years ago and they're still coping with worry, heartache, and the question of what will happen to their daughter who wasn't baptized. We taught them the hope the gospel brings and applied President's training to challenge them on the spot. They accepted the last day in the area. We hope and pray all goes well!  They were certainly prepared, and if all goes well, will be a defining miracle in my mission. I know the church is true, and that God looks out for us.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Final Sprint

Back in high school, running track and cross country taught me a lot of things I've used in different ways throughout my mission and life. One of them is, on the last stretch, you train your mind to stop thinking and just sprint as hard as you can. Elder Bolaños and I are trying to take off here. We're focusing a lot on finding new investigators this transfer, so my companion and I are trying to be innovative in new and bold ways to do so. One of them, of course, is literally talk to everybody that you see. Another is the classic street meeting of yesteryear, where we stand up on chairs and teach discussions as people pass by in plazas. We also create a stand where we give out church magazines, contact cards, and pamphlets. 

To do such activities makes me feel finally satisfied...finally as though I'm really giving my all to get the message out to as many people as possible. The zone is coming to life as well, as they begin to work on a higher plane. We're facing, of course, our share of problems, including the impossible climate up here. In the last two weeks, we've sent three missionaries out of the city. But it adds a sense of urgency to the work, which is not bad. I hope you all have a great week, as summer returns to the States. Here in Cerro de Pasco, we'll still be sure to wear four coats, gloves, a scarf, two pairs of sock (as is the custom here), and a hat. ¡Que se cuiden, mis estimados!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Optimism is Realism

This week was super awesome. My new companion, Elder Bolaños and I, are having a ridiculously fun time. We're also both working hard and prepared to see a lot of miracles happen, both in the zone and in our area.

Firstly, an update on how the work goes. We still have our golden investigator who's going through all the lessons and faithfully coming to church each week. I'm impressed, once more, on how there really are people who are absolutely ready for the gospel and only need to be taught. In another family, two sisters are having a little more difficulty in progressing due to difficulties in attending. Nevertheless, they still have desires to be baptized, so we spoke -- particularly with their less-active mother -- on the essential principle of Sabbath-Day observance for the welfare of the family. Other memorable moments of the week included a contacting activity where we put up a table in front of popular places (the plaza, the high school, the market, etc.) and gave out pamphlets, cards, and magazines about the Church. It was enjoyable, more than anything because you really feel like you're completing your calling when you do such public preaching. You feel like you've become enjoined with the voices of missionaries from the past.

Another thrilling aspect of the week was the growth in the zone. Last transfer, we had a lot of things to iron out and things felt a little chaotic. After transfers, we got a lot of Elders with a high level of faith and energy, and my companion and I are focusing particularly on creative ideas to help the zone take off. We have high and fervent goals; we see Elders determined to change; we talk to others with a reverence in their eyes for what we hope to achieve in this transfer.

Optimism is realism. Brigham Young once said no one could have a real understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without being an optimist. We have too high of expectations, and we believe our benevolent actions have eternal consequences. Imagine what reality has in store when we note that it is the wellspring of all the happiest songs, triumphant stories, and majestic art. We sometimes suppose all of that is false aspect of the world; tremulous ideas we use to view the world in a better light. Yet everything has a tangible source. Incredibly, any song, picture, movie, or book was expressly created as an imitation of something the creator could discern from the world. 

That means that when we achieve some virtue of nobility, all depictions of said virtue are only attempts to portray who we have become. I know charity, love, optimism and happiness are not a perspective but rather the reality of our world. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Becoming Like Christ

Well, we witness the passing of another transfer. My good friend and companion Elder Phillips will be leaving to Huánuco, and hence begins my final transfer. I'm finally clambering up on the health ladder, overcoming a series of sicknesses. I'm on top, now!  The area is still looking extremely promising- we've seen a great many people miraculously start progressing on the steps of the Gospel of Christ. 

Lately, part of my studies have been inspired by a spiritual thought in a letter I received -- that the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 demonstrate the steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ- faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end are related to steps like being poor in heart, weeping, being meek, being a peace maker, and suffering for the sake of righteousness. That reminded me of similar steps in Moroni 8:25-26, in which the attributes of Christ are once more outlined throughout the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And again, in Mosiah 4, I was amazed to see the Gospel steps are once more taught through attributes of Christ. I would invite you to study the same. 

I came to realize that the reason Christ focuses on these steps - their purpose, if you will - is to transform us into people like Christ. We unwittingly make the two statements, "Our purpose in life is to follow the Gospel,"  and "Our purpose in life is to become like Christ" without realizing we are making the same statement. 

I know the gospel of Jesus Christ will transform us to be like Him when we return to His presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Are We Not All Beggars?

This week we baptized a young man and friend with a wonderful testimony. The Atonement of Jesus Christ had a powerful impact on him, and the day of his baptism made him so happy. I've included a picture. 

The gospel provides a method by which we become officially forgiven - that Jesus Christ can literally have the final say, and erase all guilt. I was impressed by King Benjamin's speech this week in the first chapters of Mosiah. He first secures that we are so little on our own, and we can expect nothing but pain and misery without Christ. When he establishes this point well, he then points out the sacred grace that makes it so, as President Uchtdorf says, "Compared to God, we are nothing; but to God, we are everything". As his people (and, hopefully, we) are rejoicing in unspeakable gratitude, King Benjamin then spins it into action. "Are we not all beggars?" he demands. Aren't we all dependent on the same Supreme Being? How could we ever deny our goods, and our service, and our strength to the poor and needy (be it spiritual or physical)?

I know we need to help our fellow brethren, by any means we can. 

For your viewing pleasure, here are some more pictures:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Charity is a Truth

This week had some great surprises. One of which is that my companion and I became godfathers to the son of one of our investigators. Another was a new family of investigators that live in a far out little town. Miraculously enough, they came to church. We have another family of a member mother and her daughters who are considering baptism. This week, two of them really started to light up and take initiative to get prepared for baptism, which made us happy. Another young man of 23 was going to get baptized but was forced to travel for work. He was devastated and bore a very sincere testimony, assuring us that this was of great importance to him and that the next week he won't let anything get in the way. We're meeting a great deal of good people here.

I felt impressed that charity is a truth. The end of 1 Corinthians 13 gives the classic scripture, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I thought as a child, I reasoned as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things." We don't often connect it to the idea that hate and dislike is childish. Love is not only admirable, it's merely the truth. If we were to know someone perfectly, we would inevitably love them. Our job is to ask for the eyes of Christ to help us see it. Sometimes I think we err in saying, 'God loves us so infinitely, even though we are so unworthy of it.'  I would argue that this gives the false impression we're pulling something over on God. The truth is, based on our potential, we are worthy of God's love. He is Truth, and if He loves us so infinitely, that means that is what we are worth. We just have to work at fulfilling His purpose for us.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Elder Burt and Elder Phillips
This one is going to be quick, folks. I hope things are going well back home. We quite miraculously found a wonderful woman while we were doing a contacting activity for Easter. She felt prompted to come over to us and invite us to her home. We just had an appointment with her a couple days ago and she explained how she was caring for her aged mother and epileptic brother and needed spiritual help. She already said she´d be willing to be baptized if she began to feel our message was true...and her brother said the same. Things are going wonderfully here. Also I ate a chicken heart this week! Cool cool cool. The church is true!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Transferred to Cerro de Pasco

This was my first week here in Cerro de Pasco with Elder Phillips. It was a good week. I'd like to mention some particular instances of note during the week. First, was our celebration of Holy Week here. Easter's not really a´s a celebration of the whole last week of Christ's life. Ben-Hur and the Ten Commandments are the crowd favorites playing on every screen in the market selling DVDs. We put up a tarp, put up seven giant posters of Jesus, one representing His actions every day of the week, and gave away free pictures of Christ to the crowds. We set it up in all the areas in the zone, but our area was the most successful. Crowds upon crowds gathered around to take one. Some were gracious and surprised that they were free, when most everything of this nature costs something here. Others felt entitled to take as many as they want and ignored our pleas of one for each person.

We had some other interesting experiences in the week. One came from a contact who seemed very knowledgable of the wikipedia page about the Mormon church, and had questions about all the topics missionaries need to be trained to handle. We assured him we´d come the next day and answer all his questions. We arrived the following afternoon, and he and his older brother, young men in their early twenties, came prepared with many printed, annotated pieces of paper of what the internet has to say about the Church. Surprisingly enough, I absolutely loved the experience. The older brother was especially sincere and respectful, but nevertheless wanting to know every topic under the sun that's controversial about the Church. We animatedly went in depth to answer their questions...I've loved studying this stuff, particularly from a scholarly point of view, and I knew that was what they wanted, with enough enthusiasm and love for the subject to bring the Spirit and testify it all depends on the truth of the Book of Mormon. We answered all the classic scriptures- no man shall add to the Bible, beware of angels bringing a new gospel, etc. In the end, the older brother was making his own connections to answer his own questions, profusely thanked us, and promised he'd read the Book of Mormon. It was wonderful.

On the other hand, our next visit was an interesting man and his family who, if I'm correct, is forming his own church group. This, of course, means he was far more interested in teaching us condescendingly about the Bible than listening to us. Nevertheless, when we could talk, we shared a lot of similar views on the teachings, with the addition of the magnificent claim that yes, not only COULD Christ establish his church once more, but he DID. On this second visit, it seemed more and more obvious he would keep interrupting our message to try and show his own knowledge with diagrams and everything.

I cut in and raised my voice and level of enthusiasm to ensure we could get to the end without interruption. Our message is, after all, remarkably simple- God's church is on the earth once more; we can know by asking God and depending on the Spirit; when one knows it is true, one should be baptized to receive all the blessings possible. On that line of logic, I bore my testimony of its certainty and challenged them to be baptized upon feeling the Spirit of its truthfulness. As they backpedaled into a theological debate on what was sin and when baptism would be appropriate, we thanked them and asked if we could close with a prayer. It was a memorable experience, more than anything because the Spirit was in the room and even if they didn't accept his witness, they felt him.

Well, the Church is true. We'll keep moving on up here. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Monday, April 10, 2017

All Things Point to Christ

Elder Burt, members of his zone, and friends
Hello, world! This week I received changes and will be going to Cerro de Pasco! That's the highest city in the world, which means I'll get lungs of steel. I hear you can drink blended frog there! This was a solid week where we got to do some divisions. I enjoyed feeling the excitement new missionaries have to work and the faith that it will have results. I love talking to people...really, the key of the mission is to speak with the world. That's what we're here to do, and it affects so many parts of your mind. For instance...

I've been sharing with my companion my theories of how Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings is about the Gospel. I've enjoyed it sufficiently that perhaps I can leave it as my spiritual thought this week. I'll warn you, it will all be **spoilers**.

Harry Potter is a series about death...his parents die, Cedric dies, Sirius dies, Dumbledore dies, and about ten other people in the last book. Harry has to grow more and more each time because he has to deal with such a heavy burden. As he reads on his parents' gravestone, 1 Corinthians 15 teaches us that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. So in the end...he has to conquer death. He himself dies to save his people. Being the master of the Deathly Hallows, he's permitted to rob Voldemort of his power over death and have power over it himself. He resurrects. By dying for his people, he creates what is called a love shield around all those he saved. Dark magic has no power over them. Do you see it? Jesus Christ had to die for us, thus creating a love shield to protect us from Satan's power. Though Death was Satan's tool, Jesus became the master by sacrificing himself and now uses it to complete with God's Plan of Salvation. All things point to Christ.

Lord of the Rings has some apparent faults that frustrates people. For instance, why couldn't they just take the eagles to Mt. Doom? Let's start there. The eagles represent a literary device called Deus Ex Machina....or, godlike intervention when the characters do not have the power to overcome a situation. It appears cheap, unless it's literally representing the concept of grace. We cannot overcome all of our problems, so we will inevitably have to rely on the grace of Jesus Christ. That's the concept Gandalf explained when Frodo said frustratedly at the beginning, "It's a pity Bilbo didn't stab Gollum when he had the chance."

"Pity! It was pity that stayed his hand. Pity and mercy...not to take a life without need." Gandalf explains they will have to rely on this mercy to save the day in the end. Throughout the series, Frodo appears stupid for trusting Gollum over and over when it's obvious he intends to kill them. Yet that mercy is exactly what very nearly changes Gollum as a person. Even though in the end his efforts fail, that mercy was what brought the mercy of God upon him. In the end, Frodo himself fails, which, again, can appear like a frustrating ending...why have our hero fail in the end? It can only be to demonstrate that we all fail. Yet by being merciful with Gollum, God intervened and ensured the day was saved anyway. Gollum falling into the lava with the ring wasn't an "accident" at all, but rather evidence that someone was watching over them. Lord of the Rings is a story about grace. All things point to Christ.

Well I hope you enjoyed my analysis. I love you all. The church is true.

Elder Burt with recent convert

Monday, April 3, 2017

Christ-Like Love

Buenas, mis queridos hermanos y hermanas. I hope you enjoyed conference as much as I did. This week had some setbacks, but the good news is it's a new month, which offers new opportunities. 

I felt an emphasis in Conference on Christlike Elder Renlund's remarks, President Nelson's, Elder Holland's, and President Monson's during Priesthood. As we develop as Christ's disciples, we become different people. My mission president has focused on the truth that the judgment day will manifest who we have become, not what we have done. Based on who we are, we'll know what state of life we will be comfortable living. As we develop charity, we become the kind of people who are capable of perfect happiness. 

I've been struck throughout my mission how much dislike is a lie...if we truly know a person, we'll inevitably love them. I think Ender Wiggin once said something like that... "I don't think you can ever understand someone...what they want, what they fear...without loving them the way they love themselves." 

It's not a truth we discover all at once, but I believe we should humbly try each day to be a little better. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Increasing Our Expectations

This week we had a conference with President. He talked about how we make our own limits by working toward limited goals. As our faith and willingness to work increase,  we can put the 'dreamer' into the work, and therein lies the key to success. This impacted me profoundly, remembering my hopes and dreams from two years ago and how much reality ended up diminishing them. This week, I really saw how much expectation can change results, as I applied myself in a way I never have before. Let me illustrate with an analogy.

Meet Dan, the stick figure. Really, his emotional range is as wide as his mouth- big smile, big frown. He likes to play tic tac toe, and quickly got tired of hangman. He would like everyone to know that putting a triangle blouse on his legs does not make him a girl.

Dan has a summer house (triangle on a square) on the chalkboard...yet somehow it doesn't take him far enough away. Deep in the two-dimensional recesses of his heart, he has a day, he hopes to be three-dimensional. Cubes inspire him; his imagination soars when small pictures appear to be distant objects. Yet there had to be something more. Seeing a photo across the room, he got an idea.

He starts, tremulously, with a single extra line from his head down to his legs, bending out. No, that looks stupid. He's lopsided. He adjusts his body, then gives himself a nose, hair, ears, fingers. He adds lines to reflect depth, and draws mountains, rivers and trees. He views his work, and does it all over again. Then he does it again, and again, until people flock to see Dan's beautiful, back- and fore-ground, inspiring new home. He's replicated his three-dimensional dream, but it's only a replication. While everyone's busy trying to frame the work of art, he escapes and finds a pad of sticky notes. No, a flip book. He spins his emotions into animated motion, reaching into the fourth dimension and snatching at the very dreams of the humans he so admired, weaving them into his reality. We creatures of the third dimension begin to aspire to one day be on a two dimensional screen like him.

His is the world of words on paper, art in the finest museums, movies on which we rest our highest hopes. Did he enter the third dimension? He never did, and he never will. But as he reached...sideways (he can't reach forward, silly, he has no depth perception), just as his certainty heightened that he would never achieve his dream, so ceased his interest. For he saw that there was no end of things in his own world he could make, and create. 

As we aim for crazy goals, and as we heighten our actions to be just as crazy, we begin to enjoy life far more and accomplish more than what we originally expected...even if we never quite reach the impossible. We grow content with our own capacities. And our capacity is our responsibility. Quintuple your goals's good for you.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Family Gospel

We had a baptism this week! Here's a picture below. It's been inspiring to see him struggle through a number of extraordinarily hard challenges. 

We've also begun to progress with a wonderful family who work in a restaurant. To have a family all progress at the same time is extraordinarily rare and makes us all very happy. It is a family gospel. Perhaps some wonder why family is so central to the plan of God if they live in environments where their family are not their closest friends and aids. I believe it is to demonstrate the pattern to us. To know that in the following life, when all of us live as one family with our Father in Heaven, we will recognize the importance of siblings and filial respect. All of the close friendships we make here are destined to transform into brotherhoods and sisterhoods in the next life. All the love and charity developed for our fellowman will not be lost nor disappear in the new reality of the Kingdoms of Glory, but rather be manifest all the more powerfully. Mankind is destined to carry on together, as a family, into eternity. 

May we find one another there in the great family reunion.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Flecks of Gold

This week began the new transfer period, and this week we saw people with a good number of problems. One young man that we're visiting attempted suicide, and we spoke to him the day after. Those are the times when you hold on to the rope of the doctrine we teach and actually have to have the faith that our message can help. I felt the brutal reality that I'm not good at knowing what to say to people in hard situations. I think I have a talent for making people generally feel happier, but not in addressing problems such as this...any comfort always seems to me to be contrived. We gave him a blessing and visited him a couple other times in the week.

On a happier note, I've got another sad story that has a happy ending. We're visiting a young man who has lived with his drunk uncles nearly all his life. They've hit him at times, and the last time one did so, in January, he snapped and fought back, then escaped from the house for a week. He found a contact card he received a year ago and went to church that Sunday, which happened to be Stake Conference. He felt remarkably at peace while he was there, even though all his problems came rushing back when he left. He started attending another ward. The Elders there realized he wasn't from their area and passed him to us about a month ago. We became his friends, and he started accompanying us on visits, fasting, keeping the commandments, cutting friendships, telling us his story, and thinking on how to save money for a mission.

I suppose we're here to help people. I know if you're reading missionary blogs you're used to hearing stories like this. The truth is, these things don't happen very often. We missionaries get these gems in our experiences and it's what we share with you. What we don't share is the other 99 out of 100 days. We get magnificent opportunities, but that doesn't mean it's easy.  I heard other missionaries say this to me before my mission, and I would chuckle a little. Not easy? I came on the mission wanting challenges and pain and tears...those are the heroics you hear about that you don't get that much back home. That's exactly what we came out here to do...suffer courageously to save others in celestial glory. I think I've learned that the difficulties come from doing the most ordinary activities over and over again in the faith that it'll do something at some point. Sometimes it doesn't work, and the people who need the gospel most don't accept it. Sometimes the most spiritual lessons don't end up going anywhere that you can see. And sometimes things do happen. So, in the end, we keep it up and fight the good fight, and wait for those flecks of gold that inevitably come, and then testify that the work comes undoubtedly and fully from God. In the end the flecks add up to something priceless. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Work Continues

This week marked the end of another transfer. My companion Elder Suarez has left to go to Cerro de Pasco, and my new companion- Elder Alvarez- will arrive later today. I'm excited for this following transfer- I think we’ll see a great many miracles and opportunities. A lot of people are coming to the crossing point in their conversion... we've been teaching two seamstress sisters for a while, and one has decided to go to the small town of their parents, Junín (a past area of mine), to announce to the family that they intend to convert. She's very nervous, but the last lesson was a magnificent turning point in which she expressed more determination.

We have another family who has come to a budging halt, despite their firm testimonies and desires to be baptized, because their funeral shop can't stop working on Sundays. We got to the heart of the problem by finally being able to talk to their mother, who owns the business. We had a spiritual lesson about the essential steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we promised her in His name that the business would thrive in the other days of the week if they decided that, come what may, they would come as a family to church Sunday mornings. She accepted, so we'll see what happens!

Yet another young man is progressing wonderfully- he already accompanies us on appointments, is set to be baptized on the 11 of March, and is -- I fully believe -- one of the chosen who only needed to listen to the Gospel to become fully converted.

Pray for them!

I still love the rousing words of the Prophet Joseph Smith about the Work:
Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause?  Go forward and not backward.  Courage, brethren; and on, onto the victory!  Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.  Let the earth break forth into singing.  Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.

 May we act according to the call. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Week of Blessings

We had some interesting days in the week. Wednesday was memorable in that we proselyted in a place we don't normally go. We went to a far-off part of our area by the river where instead of seeing the city, you saw mountains and a long dirt road, and the cliff upon which resides a more populated sector of the area. It reminded me of a community in a book I once read- very rural and a little dark, with mutters of adultery and attempted murder. We visited an old man with a farm of potatoes and lettuce. We tried to teach him, but he wanted to talk about how his neighbors were far too critical of one another, and how the scriptures teach how fasting is a sin. At the end of the day, a drunk man told us passionately he traveled seven times to the United States... 'but I NEVER arrived!!!' He sprayed us a bit with spittle as he spoke, and asked forgiveness for his ´escupidez´, which is like saying, 'stupidity'.

Another blessing of the week was meeting twice for trainings with Elder Montoya, a member of the Seventy. He spoke in General Conference two years ago. It was a wonderful experience. I like how he balanced missionary instruction with the fortification of our own testimonies.

We also had a baptism of a mother and her son who were very happy with their decision, although the water was mercilessly cold. The son is very excitable, and a good friend of ours. He's ten years old and hungrily waiting to go on a mission. The mother has been waiting for some time to be baptized, so it was a joyful day.

These are some of my experiences of the week. I hope you all had a good one, too. The church is always growing, and it has been since it began. It is never going to stop growing either, and while religious belief dwindles in these days, we need never worry the Church of Jesus Christ will dwindle. If we build it up in our lives, we share its destiny of success, until the perfect day. If in egotistic desires we build ourselves up, struggling to construct our own Babylonian towers, we limit the heights to which we might achieve. If we are meant to touch eternity, said towers will only provide stumbling blocks. Let the others toil and weeze....we stand tallest on our knees.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Week of Activities

We roll on in the Los Andes Ward with lots of successful ward activities this week. On Thursday, there was a Family Home Evening hosted by a member, open for us missionaries to invite investigators. They had a very nice flat...I felt a little of what I'll feel back home in houses. Why do they need that fancy light? They don´t even know how to play those instruments! Why does it smell nice? Why would a house need to be decorated like this? We had a young woman with her daughter attend, a seamstress who sits so wearily at the machine all day that the idea of an activity made her light up and get her things ready. 

The following day we had Mission Night, which is an activity generally run by the missionaries with a spiritual thought and some fun games. We accidentally booked the chapel at the same time as another ward´s mission night, so we just combined it and made it twice as big and twice as successful. There we had a mother and her son come, who are preparing for baptism this week. We also had a family who works at a funeral shop attend, including their relative. That day we were doing divisions with the Assistants...we visited the family just before the activity and answered the relative´s endless questions on every dark rumor on Mormonism the internet had offered him. Miraculously enough, he ended satisfied with our answers.

The following day, the Relief Society put together la Fiesta  del Amor (Party of Love) in preparation for Valentine´s Day. What garlic is to  vampires, ´love party´ is to missionaries. Nevertheless, we brought a family of investigators faithfully through the rainstorm accompanied by our faithful golden investigator of one week, who has already begun to help us with our other appointments. Finally, Sunday came, and we went to church. I was crestfallen to find not one of the investigators had come. The Sacrament was passed, and afterward they withdrew the curtain to reveal the overflow, where yet another investigator family was seated patiently all in a row. We hadn't seen them nearly all week, and to my knowledge the parents haven't attended in a long while. The father's presence was particularly miraculous, as he generally works on the weekends. So that was another good day.  And that was another good week. Elder Montoya comes this following week, so I'm excited to see what the following days bring. The church is true!

Monday, February 6, 2017

How Marvelous It Is

Here we go once more around the bend, as we enter into February. I'd like to mention how marvelous this church is in all the little details. I feel like it's a great candy store, and whenever I look in any one direction, whether it be at missionary work, or temples, or the scriptures, or modern prophets and apostles, or studies on the early church, or doctrine, I always am filled with a very personal feeling of admiration for that aspect. 

For example, this week, my mind reverted to family history work. There are so many people deep in the past with a sense of connection to us. With such minute attention, they watch our actions and ponder on what they can do to help. As we reach across in missionary work to bring others to the gospel, we can reach upward as well through temple work, and downward as we care for our families. May we strive to become anxiously engaged in a good work...and may we go on in so great a cause. In the name of Jesus Christ amen. 

Monday, January 30, 2017


This week had some crazy changes to the worldwide missionary force. We received a transmission from the council of the mission board, including Elder Oaks, Elder Bednar, Elder Andersen, and others. Some changes include the schedule, in that we now have more liberty in choosing when we study and, according to where we're serving, when we get up and go to bed. For instance, in the jungle, where everyone's cooking lunch in the morning and stays up late in the heat, missionaries can wake up an hour later, study in the morning, and work until 10:00 PM. It sounds exciting. It involves a higher focus on proselyting, including less time for study. Another change announced is the amount of numbers we ask from missionaries. Whether it be on a worldwide level, mission level, zone level, or district level, we only ask for four numbers of the week, all focused on investigator progress. The idea is that missionaries don't need to feel pressure to up their lesson count or things like that just to have good reports. We do what is most appropriate to baptize more people. Incidentally, as a Zone Leader, it also means I don't have to continue asking for endless lines of numbers each week. 

I was particularly impressed in the transmission by Elder Bednar's remarks, including his observation of the linked nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (being faith, repentance, baptism, the receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.) He taught there is no way way to separate the principles- all of them are the same message, and we should clearly demonstrate that to our investigators. Each naturally flows into the he very adeptly showed in last April´s conference. I felt a good deal of the message centered on a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 18:14: ´Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.´ That ought to be the center of all our teachings -- a sincere change in the hearts and lives of people.

What we teach is difficult change. We ask for hard sacrifices. We were talking with one person who works at a funeral home. She tried to explain to us why it's not feasible to come to church on Sundays, in part because her mother needs her in the business. We calmly explained we would never, ever ask her to make such a sacrifice on our own volition, as we never had to do something apparently impossible to go to church. We explained that the difficult doctrine of Christ is to make high sacrifices to comply with His commandments. In the end, she came, and we had a very spiritual service. I know the Gospel is not easy, but rather that it demands change and sacrifice. Joseph Smith once said something along the lines of, -A religion that does not ask for sacrifice cannot create enough faith such as is necessary to return to God´.. I think that's true...only sacrifice can make our faith grow. 

One other change that occurred was emergency transfers, now I await my new companion in a couple hours. I'll miss my last companion, Elder Santos, a lot. He was a wonderful companion, and we worked very well together. Thanks to his work in the last transfer before I came, my next companion and I will have a very successful month. I love you all, and I hope you had a good week.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Back to Huancayo

I've returned to Huancayo! I'll certainly miss Huánuco and my old companion, Elder Moss. We had a ton of fun the month and a half we were together and saw some of the most memorable miracles in the work. He knew how to act according to the Spirit. Luckily, we're from the same group, so I´ll see him again. I left a lot of good friends back in Huánuco...I´ll send pictures.

The climate here changes so rapidly the best you can do is flip a coin in the morning to see if you should bundle up or wear a short sleeved shirt. The work appears good here. We're working with a Columbian family whose accent is almost as foreign as's like learning another language. In fact, when the little girl in the family first got here, she told her teacher she knew three languages: Columbian, Peruvian, and Spanish. We're also working with a young man who wants to get baptized after visiting the church once...we started teaching him after! His mother wants to return after being inactive for a long while.

I've pondered a lot this week on knowing Jesus Christ. Perfection is easy to dismiss as something lacking personality...we love the idea that our imperfections make us unique. Yet I doubt we could maintain that opinion were we one of the original apostles of Jesus. We would find, I believe, the very personality we've always longed to find- the combination of strength, sincerity, and love. Sometimes I catch a glimpse, and it transforms me. He is the example I would follow as far as it takes me. We hear the story of his suffering so much we build a barrier between it and our emotions, just as our favorite story loses some of its flavor after the hundredth time. I'm beating my fist on the barrier, on seeing the friend I've adored for so long beaten down in such knowing dignity, such endurance and determination. His apostles must have wanted to scream at the soldiers, tell them how quickly this man could destroy them all. It must have been too much for so many of them...I´m guessing the stress and worry took over Peter´s mind so much that he wasn't even thinking when he denied Him. The after-effect must have mentally crippled him, for he knew Jesus Christ, and he knew exactly how indescribable His personality was.

We ponder on the sadistic violence of that time and wonder on how they could do such a thing to Jesus. Yet that was their culture back then. Ours is one of sarcasm, mocking, and cynicism, and we seem to use it just as cruelly against Him. We curse in His name, parade comedies of Him on modern television, blaspheme and joke because those are our tools. We yet crucify Him. I think we send the spear in his side when we doubt His love or His wisdom in our suffering. As Elder Bednar taught in this last conference, "He may say to us, 'Ye never knew me in the last day', if we do not take steps to know Him in this life."  I want to recognize and appreciate every aspect of His perfection at the end. I want to know Jesus Christ. In the name of Him, my perfect friend and brother, amen.

Elder Moss and Elder Burt

Elder Burt with Carlos

Elder Burt with Melvin

Monday, January 9, 2017

Finding the Lost Sheep

This was a wonderful week. One of our investigators got baptized on Saturday, and we had various positive experiences throughout the week. Once we were walking with a member trying to chase down a young man in the ward to remind him of an activity and ask for a referral. My companion stopped at the door of an investigator we haven't seen for a while and knocked, letting the young man get out of our sights. However, the investigator opened the door and we had a wonderfully spiritual lesson for the first time in a while, to the point where he said he would be willing to be baptized as he came to know the things we taught were true. I believe it was a pivotal and necessary lesson in his spiritual growth, and I'm sure my companion was inspired to knock on the door. 

With the increase in contacts we're doing, I've tried to spend a little bit more time with our area map, praying over where we should go. I felt prompted to go to a certain alley near the limit of our area. We went, and a young man there opened the door and let us speak to him in the moment. Inside, he asked profound questions and accepted The Book of Mormon. I felt as though we could trust him to just genuinely explore it this time around before we gave him a specific reading. The next day we dropped by again, and he practically recited the testimony of Joseph Smith from memory, knowing all the details and having a great many more deep questions for us. Unfortunately, he'll be traveling to Lima for a few weeks. 

We also did divisions with a companionship that's struggling a bit in the zone. One is very new, and I went with him in our area. Not only did we have a miraculous day full of lessons and new investigators, but he also overcame his fear of talking with people on the street and started doing it for himself with enthusiasm by the end of the day. It was, all in all, a good week.

I was studying this week a little about repentance. I was thinking about the parable of the one lost sheep, and how the shepherd left the ninety-nine to find him. I thought perhaps the lost sheep had to travel in rain, across thorns and thistles in his path, through a river, and past rocky hills, before it finally collapsed in despair. It struck me that the shepherd as well would have to walk the same path in order to reach the rain, across thorns and thistles, through a river, and past rocky hills. Our Shepherd only had one way to reach and rescue us, and that was to walk the same roads we walked on...through the same pain. For such, He performed the Atonement, suffering for our sins and dying. I know He is very familiar with our own paths, and will help us come back to the fold.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Painted Rooms

This week we had several activities out of the ordinary, including interviews with President, painting our room, and New Year's. We also walked a lot in the rain contacting people. Though we did not have a great deal of success, we set up a baptism for the following week, which was a blessing.

I'd like to focus on one part especially of the week...painting our room. To be honest, it looks super awesome. It feels professional, and for the first time in more than a year, there's no greasy, moldy, or dirty stains on the walls. We're going to put some inspiring posters up and make it a legitimate nice place to be. It's going to be cool. Cool. Coolcoolcool.

Ahem. My point is, something as simple as a paint job completely changed the quality of the room and our satisfaction with it. In life, sometimes the paint color changes on a daily basis, and we somehow permit it to completely change our outlook on life. If we have a single bad day, our nerves can become completely frayed, we feel it necessary to lose our tempers, and after generally deciding life is a disappointing testing ground of trials and tears, we throw it at the feet of God at the end of the day and demand, "What was that all about?!" The next day, when the paint changes, we shout praises to the joy of life and determine we'll never forget the mercies of God again. All for something as simple and exterior as the paint that surrounds us. Now, I know it's sometimes an ugly paint job for a week, or a month, or even a year. Yet I sincerely think the principle stays the same. We would be so much more peaceful if we knew every trial is temporary, or less worried if God told us the exact day when a problem would end. Moroni is right that faith and hope are an "anchor" to our souls in that we stay grounded amidst all the changes in circumstance, mood, and success. May we continue to keep an eternal perspective and stay consistent in our efforts to improve.