Monday, February 29, 2016

Selfie little Sister

Challenge by the little sister.

Elder LaMont found this challenge in his inbox from his little sister.
Cross one eye and keep the other eye straight.

Keaton's response...

Snappy and mission approved... ....First hair cut in the field

First Hair Cut in the Field.  Snappy and mission approved.

Missionaries in the Zone

Missionaries in the Zone
We have a few people missing, but here is the majority of the zone.
Elder Christiansen, Former Zone Leader
Elder Hosenfield
Elder Michaelis
Elder Merrifield, AP
Elder Limb, former AP
Elder Hilborn
Elder LaMont
Sister Hansen
Sister Christiansen

Monday, February 22, 2016

I bear testimony...

Elder Hilborn and I went on exchanges with the zone leaders! I was assigned to work with Elder Thompson in Salina while Elder Christiansen came to Hays with Elder Hilborn. This exchange was a blast and I have learned so much! 

The first appointment we had was at the church with a man in his late thirties. This mans name was Jason. We met with him to discuss the baptismal questions and made sure he would be aware of the them for his baptismal interview. He is to be baptized on the 27th. We talked of the idea of destiny and how Heavenly Father is a master astronomer. I was very easily able to relate to these interests. I was absolutely taken aback by Jason's comment to me: he could see Christ's countenance in me. Wow. I am humbled and so grateful. 

Following this appointment, we had a dinner in the Johnson's home. Brother Johnson told of his mission experience in France sometime in the 80's. He only had two baptisms, but labored literally to construct the first church building on his preparation days. He taught us the importance of endurance because that was hat he said was the theme of his mission. Even though you may not succeed in baptizing all you wish to baptize, seeds are still planted through righteous work no matter what. 

Something fun, however not of significant importance, I experienced today was that I met another Keaton! Alas, however, he said it, "Key • in" with no 'T'. It's a shame. He was almost cool. 

The most amazing thing of the day was meeting a man named Larry. This poor man is facing false criminal charges. A plea bargain is six years in prison, a loss in the judicial conflict would cost him 25-life in prison. This is a desperate man. A tattooed ragged man who cried in front of me, someone he never before met. He is so scared. A portion of Christ's empathy burst from my heart as he told us this. I testified to him I was a representative of Jesus Christ.  I asked him read Mosiah 18:9 saying the message of the gospel would fulfill my responsibility to mourn with him, to comfort him, and to stand as a witness of Christ. We gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read. He accepted the invitation. I couldn't resist hugging Larry. I felt so much love and empathy for this man. 

So guess what? Someone I spoke to for the first time tried to instigate a "bible-bash". Mind you, bore my testimony and walked away. I didn't want any part of arguing with a hard heart and stiff neck.

The name of this man is Isaac. Isaac claimed Joseph Smith had been deceived by the devil who appeared to him as an angel of light (first flaw: Joseph saw TWO people, not one) and that all the Latter Day Saints were deceived as well.

He of course had a scripture to back up his madness. Matthew 16:18 says, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." and Isaac argued that the church never disappeared from the Earth because Jesus said, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Second flaw: he is using 'the gates of hell' improperly)

Isaac also says Restoration would conflict with the words of Christ. (Third flaw: The Restoration is proof of the fulfillment of the promise) New Testament Seminary Study Guide reads as this: "In the scriptures the phrase “the gates of hell” can refer to the powers of death or the powers of evil. Thus, the Savior’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” means that death and evil will not permanently overpower the Church. The Restoration of the Church in the latter days is one way this promise has been fulfilled." Be that as it may, there was still a Great Apostasy after the death of Jesus Christ. The gospel was not upon the Earth. The Restoration, rather than contradicting Matthew 16:18, actually fulfills Christ's promise.

I bear testimony to you the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was brought about by a true prophet, Joseph Smith, through the power of God. The Restoration is indeed a promise fulfilled in Matthew 16:18. I testify the words of Isaac are wrong, but do not be afraid for him. Although he didn't accept the gospel in this moment, Issac will NOT be lost forever.

I had been asked some good questions and thought I should make the answers public. I hope this is okay to whom I originally sent these answers, you know who you are. 

1) Would you tell us a little about your companion Elder Hilborn?

   - Elder Hilborn is twenty years old, hails from San Diego California, and has a twin sister serving in the Tennesee mission. Elder Hilborn has been serving the Lord on a mission for fourteen months and loves the work he is doing. His first name is Nathaniel. Not Nathan, not Nate. Nathaniel. There is a passionate distaste he has for nicknames that will certainly be made known to you if you make the mistake of shortening his name. Elder Hilborn's laugh is the most contagious, hilarious laugh you will ever hear, and he can stop it on a beat. So even if his jokes (or most the time, other lame jokes) are terrible, his laugh can and will at some times bring you to tears. Elder Hilborn is friends with a lot of "Polys" (short for Polynesian, informal not derogatory) so he says a lot of Poly things. For example, "Chill cuh!" Cuh is short for 'Cousin'. When said properly, it sounds like the name Kaa from Jungle Book. His favorite color is purple, his favorite candy is Crunch Bars, he is allergic to peanuts (his skin breaks out), loves R&B and country, and wants to marry Mariah Carrey. "I'm not in love with her..! I just want to marry her." 

2) What is your schedule like?

   - I wake up at 5:15 AM, have breakfast, go to the gym (the mission president encourages us to work out every morning), come home, and have second breakfast. At 8:00 AM, I am dressed in shirt and tie and study on my own for an hour. At 9:00 Elder Hilborn and I study together until 11:00. Because I am still in training, we have to study an extra hour. We then have lunch, get in the car and see as many people as we can. A few of the goals we have are: invite to baptism, teach as many lessons as possible, and talk to everyone. We very occasionally have many set appointments so our plans for the day sometimes flip-flop and never end the way I would wish. We usually have a snack or second lunch at 2:00 or 3:00 and have dinner around 5:00 or 6:00. Curfew is 9:30 PM at the latest, but it is optimal to be home at 9:00 to plan until 9:30 for the next day. I usually have another snack, and hit the hay at 10:30. I do have a picture of my schedule on the blog if you would like to see it visually! 

3) What was your first time Tracting like?

   - Gosh, you know, I hated my first time tracting. I barely got to Wichita, got shoved with a companion I never met before, I was hungry, cold, and very grumpy. I still had my carry-on bag from the flight and I was trying too hard to adjust to all the change going on. However, every time someone would listen to the words of the spirit, all those bad feelings were gone and I preached the gospel of Jesus Christ that I know to be true! I was taught a valuable lesson. Brigham Young said something along the lines of this: when you have a bad thought, tell it to go to hell, because that's exactly where it came from. Often times bad thoughts and feelings enter my heart and mind, but I shove them away with the faith I have in Jesus Christ. God will provide. It is my job to be a vessel of His son, forget myself and get working! 

4) What was your first experience placing a Book of Mormon? Challenging someone?

   - Wow! My first lesson was with a woman named Jessica Roberts. Jessy for short. Jessy has been investigating the church for almost a year, struggling with the Word of Wisdom. I taught her, having all the faith I could muster and forsaking all of my fear, she was much too focused on the obstacle she had to tackle. The spirit took over and I believe I said something like: Jessy you are not meant to do this alone. Stop focusing on the enormous obstacle before you. Repent, be strengthened through the atonement, and Christ will help you. Focus on the blessings that come from living the Word of Wisdom and do not do it all on your own. I challenged her to live the Word of Wisdom. I challenged her to read the Book of Mormon. The spirit had never been stronger in my heart prior to this moment. I know my words were not of my own, but were the words of angels.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for prayers, emails, and love. I love each and every one of you so much. Stay close to Christ and He will stay close to you.

Photos of Hays and the apartment

Sunset from Hays, Kansas

Sunset Hays, Kansas

Elder LaMont apartment.

Living area




Elder LaMont's made bed

Elder Holborn's bed

Elder LaMont study desk

Hays, Kansas

By the way, that's a burning Jehovah's Witness pamphlet. It showed up on our doorstep and I took Elder Hilborn too seriously...

Elder Hilborn: "Eew! It's a J-Dub pamphlet! Get rid of it!"

Me: "What should I do with it?"

Elder Hilborn: "BURN IT!" 

Me: "Sweet, okay!" 

I wasn't supposed to take him literally.. Oops! (: 

I love the smell of blasphemy in the morning! 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Unity in the life of our community...

Talk about an interesting start to the new week! Tuesday, Elder Hilborn and I had the awesome opportunity to substitute-teach early-morning seminary. We taught how men like Cyrus, King of Persia, can be inspired of God despite not being of our faith. Christopher Colombus, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale are names of a few more examples. It was a great lesson and we had much participation, surprisingly.  

Wednesday at 10:00 am, Elder Hilborn and I went to an Ellis County Ministerial Alliance (ECMA) board meeting. This is a conference for pastors and ministers of all Christian faiths in the area. Because Elder Hilborn and I were invited by an investigator, Brandon Nimz (Nihmz), and thought it effective to get our information out as we endeavor to be active within the community, we felt it important to attend. I was surprised to feel the spirit in this meeting: the spirit of fellowship. All of these people (there were about 25 including us) were doing their best to help their fellow men with their needs and to bring them closer to Christ. Astounded, but pleased, I enjoyed myself very much. I sat next to a man named Jorge (hor • hey), a Spanish and Puerto Rican man who is a pastor for a church very near to the LDS church in town. He told me how much he loved this town because of the faith small communities, like Hays, generally have as opposed to bustling city-folk so intent on their careers. For a man not of our faith, the spirit was very strong within his heart. Interesting that I witness this after teaching about it in seminary exactly one day before. We have found many places to try to find volunteer work to begin our journey to becoming very involved with the community. The EMCA has a 'Statement of Purpose' I would like to share because I thought it was interesting,  but also because I wish I could have some of these things instilled within me. There is something to be learned here. 

Affirming the belief that the Spirit of Christ brings transformation and unity in the life of our community, our purpose is to: 
  • Provide a forum to address the spiritual issues of our community, including but not limited to assistance. 
  • Provide a forum for understanding and cooperation among the different churches throughout Ellis County 
  • Provide a setting in which clergy and ministering persons in the community may enjoy fellowship." 
This is something genuinely good that good people are trying to do. I understand there are only two churches, the LDS Church and the 'Great and Abominable Church', but that doesn't mean the people within them are abominable too. They have real faith and Christlike attributes, but they are misdirected because these souls are lost. Please remember that we are all God's children. Most, if not all, of us are doing the best that we can. 
2 Nephi 28:14 (concerning religious leaders of other faiths)
14 They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. 

I felt a love for all the pastors and the ministers in the room by the end of the meeting. But because I am not perfect, I had creeping thoughts of judgement in the direction of these people in the beginning. 

Matthew 7:3-5 says this: 
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
(A mote is a wooden sliver, a beam is similar to a two-by-four)

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

A sinner am I to have judged righteously. They are all of them perhaps a better person than I. I'm not any better than them, I'm just blessed enough to have the fullness of the gospel that I so wish they would not harden their hearts against. But because proselyting would have been inappropriate, I demonstrated the gospel through my example. I prayed to have the spirit in my countenance, in my smile, in everything I did so long as I was obedient. I truly hope I made an impression on one of them. 

Be better than me, friends and family, brothers and sisters. When putrid judgement enters your heart, share the gospel in any way you can. Even if it's simply the best celestial smile you can offer at the time. Even if their hearts are hard and their necks are stiff, their souls still crave the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are an example to these poor, lost sheep. Be kind to them. Love them. Even as Christ would in your shoes. 

I love each and every one of you and I am sincerely so grateful for the prayers, support and love. You're truly making a difference to me, my mission, and our brothers and sisters I am teaching. Thank you! 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I received my (Valentine) package...

Elder LaMont Valentine slippers
"We thank you for your "holy" work but spare the feet."

Keaton loved the art work.

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Clear-Cut Vision for the Salvation of Souls...

So sorry I didn't give an update last week! Because of all the love and support for which I am so very grateful, I read and responded to nearly 50 emails! I ran out of time before I could write about the week, so I apologetically present two updates concerning this past week and the week before. Sorry!

Week before last:

Incredible things happened from forces above and below this week! Firstly, Kevin Dumith (do • mith; short "i") is a man who Elder Hilborn and his last companion were working with two weeks before I came into the picture. Kevin is a single, forty-nine-year-old retired war veteran. He had a very rough life throughout his Catholic childhood, but developed a great amount of faith after his hardships. When he received the gospel, he reported feeling as though the Lord was finally leading him to the truth. He studied the Book of Mormon and all the material he came across whether given to him or found by him. Such a miracle and an amazing thing to see. His faith grew stronger and stronger until the day he was baptized! That was January 30th.

 (Left to Right: Elder Hilborn, Kevin Dumith, Elder Christiansen, Elder LaMont)

The day of course brought challenges because our jealous and fallen brother doesn't want anyone baptized, but these challenges brings a funny story: Kevin asked our zone leader, Elder Christiansen, to baptize him. Elder Christiansen accepted during Kevin's baptismal interview in which Elder Christiansen met with him. That prefaced, directly after the baptism, Elder Christiansen was in the bathroom planning on changing from wet baptismal clothes to his suit for the remainder of the service. Unfortunately for him, when Elder Christiansen fully stripped to his birthday suit, he realized he had nothing to change into! He had not brought his suit with him! So Elder Christiansens solution was to simply wait for help. Meanwhile, Andreas (on • dray • us; a Less-Active the sisters brought for the service) rushed to the bathroom. When he arrived, Andreas happened upon Elder Christiansen in all his glory! Elder Christiansen asked Andreas to retrieve his clothes without covering himself. Andreas rushed out of the bathroom looking panicked and, of course, embarrassed as possible. The story ends well because I'm pretty sure I saw Elder Christiansen with a suit and tie on his way out the door, and Andreas is still meeting with the sisters. They parted ways as unlikely friends.

If you're a believer in 'regression to the mean', the price of the baptism was not fun. Somehow, I managed do contract a hellish case of gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the intestines. This resulted in a symptom of extreme vomiting that lasted close to seven hours from 12:30 am to 7:30 am. It is mandated by the mission if you are vomiting longer than three hours, you are to go to the emergency room. I arrived at about 12:00 pm, the afternoon after my tumultuous episode to be laid in a gurney and asked, "How would you rate your pain?" to which I responded, "It's killing me." Clearly the doctor was not familiar with Brian Reagan, but I thought I was funny. All the doctor could comprehend was that I was a very troubled patient when he again asked me to rate my pain and I said, "Eight!" and couldn't keep myself from laughing. You have to understand, I only had two hours of sleep and I just had the second worst night of my life. One thing led to another and it was decided they would IV me for 2-3 hours. There is a lovely picture of pale, sickly, me taken by my perfectly sympathetic companion who asked, "Can I take a picture so other missionaries will believe this story when I tell it to them?" I don't believe I answered yes, but here it is:

Last week:

The most exciting part of my week came from something unexpected. It is commissioned new missionaries establish what is called 'My Clear-Cut Vision for Baptism' with the intention of each missionary having and working towards a number goal of baptisms for our two-year service.

That's great, right? But I have an issue with it. My problem comes from this: my zone leaders (the bosses of the district leader, my companion) push so hard for baptisms, it's becoming detrimental to the trust the ward has for the missionaries. For this reason, the investigators are not being received into the ward as well as they should. This can create hard-heartedness within recent converts. This area needs something more than just a constant flow of baptisms. The ward and its missionaries need to unite, less-actives need a hand to reach out to them. Yet the zone leaders push for better numbers than what we report, demanding more baptisms sooner. A mission is more than baptisms! Baptisms are not going to matter if the brother or sister dunked in the water is simply going to fall away because the missionaries needed +1 baptism for the month. This is a really frustrating thing for Elder Hilborn and I.

Because of my just frustration toward the short-sightedness of my superiors, I titled this document 'My Clear-Cut Vision for the Salvation of Souls' instead. I clearly state a refusal of having a number goal. I prayed and followed the close direction of the spirit as I wrote this, and I would like to share it with all of you and ask what you think of it.

Here it is:

My Clear-Cut Vision for the Salvation of Souls

"I am a missionary. I am a soldier of atonement in the war against Lucifer. Ever concerned of my responsibility to bring Christ's lost sheep to my Father, I will serve to my maximum capacity. I have full knowledge of my accountability for these spirits and I will never stop fighting for them until we meet in the next life to rejoice. Satan will not best me. I'm still on my mission because I refuse to mourn for these children I could have saved if the devil had his way. Love for the savior enables the endurance I will need.

With the sword of truth in hand, I march brothers and sisters through the atonement, blowing open the gates of Heaven. Because they are my brothers and sisters, I will never associate them with numbers. I am a missionary. I am a soldier in the war of sounds that never ended. This is my sacred calling. If it ever gets hard, I will remember the words, "Elder LaMont, wear out your knees." My goal is this: save as many as I can."

Aside from this, preparation day is the second-best day of the week. Elder Hilborn and I leave the house early to attend an Aikido class at 9:00 am (Central Time) because one of our investigators, Brandon Nimz (Nihm • z) is the sensei. Aikido is an awesome martial art! It is one of disarming throws using the energy of the aggressor. Our first lesson last week was about wrist grabs and how to use them when attacked with a weapon or a simple punch. We practiced against a knife and a baseball bat. So much fun!

Yesterday I was able to anoint oil and assist in a blessing for an 2-month old girl named Kaitlyn. She is having a mess of medical trouble with her heart and has had multiple open-heart surgeries. It was a really wonderful experience.

Last week on Tuesday I attended my first institute class and I wrote a quote by David O. McKay I want each of you to consider: "What you sincerely think of Christ will determine what you are, what your acts will be. No one can study this divine personality of Christ without becoming conscious of refining influence within oneself."

As I daily increase my understanding of the savior and my love for Him, I work harder to try to be the missionary Christ would be in my place because I am here in His place.

I want all of you to know how grateful I am for the support you have given me. Specifically, I am immensely grateful for the emails, the prayers, and the love. All of this help influences me to keep pushing through the hard times and rejoice even further in the better times.

I love all of you so much!

Monday, February 1, 2016