Sharon is doing really well! A couple of days ago we taught her an amazing lesson where we talked about the Questions of the Soul. We'd been struggling to plan for her because she wasn't being very open in lessons. Although she was reading and coming to church and had even told a member that she was really enjoying it and had felt something good about the church, we hadn't been able to get her to tell us that or identify her concerns.
So we watched the Church's new DVD Finding Happiness with her and had her identify the questions that it raised. The first time she had trouble recognizing them, so we watched it a second time. After the second time, the Spirit came strongly into the lesson and she told us about some questions she had about life after death. I was excited that we'd identified something and was all ready to end the lesson, but Elder McIntosh opened up Preach My Gospel to Chapter 5 and read through the whole list of 15 questions of the soul it has there, asking Sharon to identify ones that were meaningful to her. As he finished the list, she told us that there were several of those questions that she cared about and mentioned one or two specifically, things I never would have imagined she had been thinking about. It was exactly the lesson we needed to help us help her progress! Even better, right at the end of the lesson she told us she had felt the Spirit as we'd read from the Book of Mormon in a previous lesson and also that she'd felt it at Church. She came to church again this week and seems really committed. I love watching people become spiritually committed to their investigation of the gospel.
We also had a great lesson with Kirk, just yesterday. He has so much insight into the scriptures, it's incredible. He told us about how he has concerns and questions about contradictions in the Bible, and we shared 1 Nephi 13:40 and testified of how the Book of Mormon establishes the truth of the Bible. Then we read 3 Nephi 11 with him. Often it's very difficult to read the Book of Mormon with investigators at first, because even when they understand it you have to work hard to get them to ponder upon what they read and have and express spiritual insights. But after we read a few verses with Kirk and asked him how he would feel if he'd experienced what the Nephites were experiencing, he spent several minutes bearing testimony and explaining just how meaningful it would be to him to hear the voice of the Father and see Christ in person. I actually learned a lot from his comments about what it means to see Christ. Kirk also understood very clearly from our teaching and his Book of Mormon reading that he needs to find out if Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that everything depends on that. He is now quite committed to that. He has so much potential if he has the real intent to find an answer to his prayer!
All-mission conference was fantastic, but in quite a different way than I had expected. There was immense build-up to the conference across the mission - President Bullock talking up the conference in zone leaders' council and zone conference, missionaries serving in the outskirts of the mission (including me!) traveling in closer to Chorley on Monday night and sleeping over with other companionships, etc. - and I figured we would be rewarded by some kind of mind-blowingly eloquent and spiritual 90-120 minute discourse by President Packer. I couldn't have been more wrong. The whole conference lasted barely two hours, and President Packer answered questions for about 20 minutes and spoke for maybe 30 minutes at the end. The Bullocks, Sister Packer and one of President Packer's sons and his wife all spoke as well. President Packer spoke very quietly and simply, without any kind of fanfare or drama. I think his son summed it up best by something he mentioned in his talk, which I'll paraphrase: "The most wonderful thing about my parents is that they consider themselves to be just ordinary people." Listening to President Packer, you could tell he thought of himself as just an ordinary person. That his humility purified his words and made them powerful even though they were delivered undramatically. I could also sense that President Packer trusted the Spirit completely to guide what he said, and that he wasn't nervous at all. I couldn't imagine him being afraid of anything. That's what real faith is, I suppose.
Because of that, the conference was even better than I'd imagined. I think President Packer's unassuming counsel provided me with a clearer witness of his apostleship than the impassioned discourse I'd imagined would have.
This week Elder McIntosh shared with me an important insight he had about being a zone leader. He said that he felt we needed to care more about other missionaries' areas and even view them as our own, sacrificing more time from our area to go and help their investigators progress and to go and help them find new people. I pondered about this afterwards, especially with regards to key indicators, and I felt that there was no reason for our area to be getting really high key indicators if other areas in our zone were struggling - better to get the basic standard here and then spend the rest of our time working with other missionaries.
Then Elder McIntosh and I had a great opportunity to apply this idea yesterday. On Saturday night we had nine lessons set up for Sunday, eight of them with potential investigators. Essentially, our day was booked solid from the end of church to curfew. Lessons with potential investigators are notoriously unreliable, but we decided to exercise our faith, set a goal of 10 new investigators for the day, and (at Elder McIntosh's suggestion) fast throughout the day for success in achieving our goals. I wasn't too keen on the "fast all day" idea at first but decided I better not be a wet blanket and went along with it.
Unfortunately, some of our appointments fell through or turned out to be false as we tried to confirm them by phone on Sunday morning, and as the day progressed the remaining appointments fell through one by one. By about four in the afternoon, we had a lot of free time on our hands, which meant we would be doing some finding! We had already achieved the mission standard for quality gospel conversations, though, and so we decided to go to Crewe, where finding has been a bit tougher in past weeks, and help them for a couple of hours. I knocked one side of a street with Elder Larson and Elder McIntosh knocked the other side with Elder Breisch. It was a pretty normal day of tracting and we didn't get in any doors or set up too many appointments, but for some reason I felt amazing about it! Just really close to the Lord and the Crewe elders. We ended up getting 0 new investigators for our area but somehow I felt really successful and happy about how our fast and our day had gone. Later that night Elder Newson (the Crewe elders' district leader) thanked us for going up there and said it had meant a lot to Elder Breisch and Elder Larson. It meant a lot to me too - I feel a lot more faith in and love for our flock since then. I think that experience taught me what it really means to magnify my calling as a zone leader. Now I'm really excited to go and spend as much time as I can helping out my missionaries in their areas!
I'm humbled sometimes by how the Lord blesses us for doing simple things like thinking about our callings and praying and fasting. Late last night I realized that if Elder McIntosh and I hadn't been fasting we might have just gone home for tea in the afternoon and not even thought about going to Crewe. Good thing I listened to him. : ) I feel so blessed and so guided. This is really the Lord's work.
P.S. Sorry about the mix-up with my email two weeks ago on the Wednesday instead of Monday. Our preparation day is indeed Monday, but In England Easter Monday is a bank holiday, which means all the libraries are closed. The Tuesday in that week was zone conference, so I wasn't able to email until Wednesday. I forgot to let you know about that the week before - my apologies.
In the spirit of repentance, be warned that next Monday (May 4) is also a bank holiday. So expect my email on Wednesday the 6th. : )