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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Passau: September 10, 2013

Dearest Fam-bam, 
Ok, so I tried to throw up some pictures on Dropbox, but it took me a little while to figure it out, so this email may be a little shorter than I had originally intended. I swear that I start out every email with some sort of excuse as to why this email is going to be shorter than I want... 
By the way, Mom, I didn't forget your birthday. I had included a nice little paragraph dedicated to that in that email two weeks ago that was magically deleted. When I had to rewrite it, I forgot to recreate the touching dedication that I had written to you. I hope you forgive me. Don't worry, I know how Katie gets with birthdays, and so I am planning on sending her something. 
Oh yeah, Elder Jerman did get transferred into my Zone! I was really happy when I found out and am looking forward to being able to talk to him at a Zone meeting, though the first one we have this transfer isn't for another month or so. 
Something cool that happened Monday night: well, I had written you about how we were planning on having a Family Home Evening for the members who live in the area of Passau, and that is just what we did. It went so well! Schwester Heumos and her son (who is less-active) came, as did another two or three members. It was a huge success. We had a great spiritual thought, played a lot of card games, and then ate some cake. We're hoping that we will be able to get a lot of people regularly to come, because some of those people who did come came because it was Sister Garrett's last Monday, and they just wanted to spend a little more time with her before she got transferred. 
As for your questions about temples, Dad, you have in fact asked before. No, unfortunatley, I will not be able to go to the temple during my mission. The only temple that is within my mission boundaries is in Switzerland, and so it is pretty far away from here. The missionaries who live in Switzerland can go there, but all the missionaries outside don't have the option. I'm pretty sure that includes situations where you have somebody whom you taught who would like you to come with them for their first time there. 
Mom, thanks so much for your conversion story! I had heard bits and pieces of it before, but I'm pretty sure that I have never read it out like that. It really inspired me, and I printed it out so that I can show it to my other missionary friends and brag about you. I hope you're ok with that. Maybe I'll even translate it into German and show it to members and stuff, that could be cool. Anyway, I just really enjoyed reading how you came to the Church, thanks a lot! 
Your story actually reminded me of a conversation that I had this week that kind of shook me a little bit. Well, I don't know if that's the right word, but it just kind of consumed my thoughts for a couple days afterwards. So we stopped this guy on the street, and he told us that he didn't speak German, and so we started talking to him in English. He's from Romania, and spoke the best English I've heard from a foreigner in a really long time. He explained about how he used to be really religious, but then with the time he had become atheist. He then told us, if you can give me proof that God is there, I will believe. Even if you just give me a small piece of evidence that I can't explain, then I will at least have one 'session' with God, because I have already studied this topic a lot, and I don't want to go back to it unless you give me something really convincing. It's funny, but the first thing that came into my mind was that scripture that you mentioned in your conversion story in Alma 32, about not asking for signs or whatever, and I translated it for him. I don't know, it's hard to explain this whole story, but I racked my brain and shared most of the spiritual experiences that I could think of, and then he just explained to me how he rules out anything that has to do with feelings, because 'they can be manipulated.' And so he proceeded to explain away most of the spiritual experiences in my life, while relating times in his life where he had had super similar experiences, but has since denied them. After sharing something from my patriarchal blessing, he finally agreed to have a session with God, and to read one chapter in the Book of Mormon. I don't know, I just felt really bad afterwards that during this conversation (which was straight-up an hour long), I couldn't help this guy to believe on God. It was pretty frustrating because I felt like I wasn't fulfilling my purpose. 
Well, during the next couple of days I ended up reading a couple of talks on faith, and really pondered the topic of faith. I realized that this man was making a serious error. He is confusing faith with knowledge. He kept explaining how pieces of evidence are the most convincing when they are repeatable, and when there are multiple people to support them. After reading these general conference talks though I came to the conclusion that you can't force yourself to have spiritual experiences. Faith is not even about spiritual experiences, it is just about being true to the things you do know, the experiences you have had. I thought about it a lot, and it made me feel a lot better. I actually ended up giving a talk about that on Sunday, because Sister Garrett was supposed to give one, but because she was transferred I decided to prepare on just in case. Good thing I did... Anyway, I have also realized that I always have the best studies when I really study the topic that is the most important to me at that time. Like I have had super great studies about prayer during my mission, at times when I really felt that I needed to be able to communicate better with God. 
So this week was a bit of a learning experience for me. It also led me to declaring a theme for my next transfer, Die Versetzung des Eifers or the transfer of Enthusiasm or something similar like that, I can never translate the word Eifer right (My theme last transfer was, The Return of the King, because I was made District Leader again. The theme this transfer is a little more serious.). I really just want to focus on putting more effort into the work, trying to be a more diligent missionary, and just try to really use my time as well as possible. I'll keep you posted on how it works for me. 
Anyway, I want to write the siblings now, so I'm going to wrap this email up. Thanks for your emails, it's always great to hear from you, even if you do write when you're half asleep! 
Elder Merkley

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