Monday, March 21, 2016

March 21, 2016

What's good team? I don't have much time today. Just a funny experience and then a spiritual message maybe!! I will let you all know that this week was incredible as usual! We spent two days in Guayaquil in the Conference of Zone's and traveled quite a bit with President Riggins which is always an incredible chance to learn and grow. 
The other day we had lunch with the newly called Bishop. He is losing his mind. He is super stressed out...with reason! But his wife was gone and he had forgotten about the lunch appointment so he was running around with his head cut off while he was trying to prepare something for us. I am not sure what it was exactly that he did but I heard an explosion and turned around and saw a flame from the stove that reached all the way up to the ceiling! Haha! He totally fried the chicken! It was hilarious. I don't know what was more funny...his singed eye brows, his scream, the black chicken, or the fact that I did not feel even a degree of a temperature change in the house with a 6 foot flame because it was already so hot! ;) So I guess that was a funny experience. Obviously there are so many amazing stories and miracles that we were able to witness but they will have to wait!

"Follow Him and find a new life" is the name of the video that was released for this Easter season and it has touched me. I think one of the first things that comes to a child's mind on Easter Sunday is the Easter egg hunt. The prize is a candy or money but the trick is finding the egg. Just as small children rejoice in searching for eggs with chocolate, it is my prayer that we can rejoice in "looking for our Savior" to find a prize that only a God can give. In the 12th chapter of Ether, the Prophet Moroni commends us to "seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written". In the 5th chapter of Mark, a man with unclean spirits, just as we all have unclean spirits, would not settle for not finding his "Easter egg"...instead, "when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshiped Him." In the 19th chapter of Luke, a man of "little stature", just as we at times feel little, weak, broken, or insecure, could not see Jesus. "And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that way." What are we doing to search and find the Christ? How can we come to know Him? How can we come to feel His love? How can we come to hear His voice? In Doctrine & Covenants 93:1 it is revealed unto us how to see the face of the Lord. "It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments shall see my face and know that I am." In Junior High I literally COULD NOT talk to a certain girl I had a crush on because of how beautiful she was. I was SO nervous! But every once in a while...a burst of courage and a flame of bravery gave me the guts to present myself in her presence. Just as my nerves, because of the beauty of this girl, separated me from her...our sins separate us from Christ because of His perfection. But the miracle is that we have the miracle to obtain this burst of courage and flame of bravery every second of every day to be capable of presenting ourselves to Christ. The miracle is repentance. Just as this courage enabled me to stand before this girl, repentance enables us to stand before our Savior. "Calleth on my name" is a simple yet crucial lesson of prayer. We cannot know Christ if we do not talk to the Father through Him. It is through His grace that we can talk to our Heavenly Father in the first place and we must use this divine gift of prayer to come to find Christ. "And obeyeth my voice and keepeth my commandments". As a small boy, my dad and I went to an Easter egg hunt. My dad gave me a pep talk and got me all fired up to go get more eggs than any other kid out there when the gun went off. But me being my timid and shy self...stayed put when the gun sounded. Looking around, nervous, uncomfortable, sad while watching all of the kids load their baskets with the candy I wanted, my basket stayed empty. The others came to find their eggs while I was left with none. What would have happened if I had listened to my father's voice? What would have happened if I had "kept the commandments" that my dad gave me? How often do we not listen to the Savior's voice? When we fail to listen to the Lord's voice...we fail to find Him just as I failed to find eggs. I promise you that your basket will not stay empty as mine did if you listen to Him. You will come to know Him.
Brothers and Sisters, I know He lives. 
He breathes even as I do...but He does it perfectly.
His heart beats just as mine does...but His heart is filled with more love and compassion than I nor anyone could ever offer.
His hands are of flesh and bone just as mine are...but His have prints.
The prints that He offers us to touch. The prints that will help us find a new life. The prints that have given me a new life.
He bled just as I have...but He did it from every pore with perfect humility, love, and succor to give us life.
Just as I wake up each morning...He woke up the 3rd day and overcame death...but He does and will not lay down again as I will...
Hallelujah that the Lord has risen and hallelujah that He will be forever.
Find Him this Easter. Come to know Him. Search for Him.
Love you all! :) <3
Elder Noll

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016

Hey All! What's going on in the hood?! Things are legendary here! Quevedo is the bomb and always will be. Love it here! Everything is great. 
How are all of you? Getting fired up for General Conference? I sure know I am! It is going to be incredible! There are so many awesome things coming up! A member of the Quorum of the Twelve is coming to our mission on the 11 of June to visit us! So let's just say I am fired up for that one. I guess they are forbidden to tell us who it is going to be but we know he is one of the Brethren from the Quorum so we are all super excited and working hard to make him proud! 
This past week was a great one as usual. On Monday afternoon right before P-day came to an end we took the clothes over to the sister that helps us wash them. We passed a park and saw a small family that called our attention quite a bit. We decided to contact them. I am sure it was a little odd with us and our giant bag of dirty clothes that I am sure was giving off quite an unpleasant odor but the mother of the family ended up being a less active. She lives with her children and husband and is super interested in getting back into things and developing a stronger relationship with the Lord. Her husband is even excited to learn. So that was a really cool moment...the spirit's guidance never seems to amaze me.
We had a movie night and watched "Meet the Mormon's". That movie is inspired by God...not a doubt. We have an investigator who has a very strong Catholic background. She has a very closed and defensive personality as well. This movie changed her though. COMPLETELY. Especially the story of the female boxer. The light in her eyes after seeing this movie and coming to know who we really are and what are purpose really is as members of Christ's only church was amazing. 
We printed off a list from the ward of "Birthdays". There are about 1,300 members in our ward with 160ish attending church. So there is A TON of work to be done in the activating side of things. We have been going through the birthday list and visiting all of the less actives who have completed another year. It is so funny because they have NO CLUE how it is we found them, knew they were members, or somehow knew it was their birthday. They are left with their jaws open when we say that the spirit led and told us. Haha! But we have found some great families that way. So grateful for all of the tools and resources that the Lord has blessed us with.
I did take a little fall the other day...I was descending from a bamboo house that is lifted off of the ground probably 15 feet because of the floods when it rains...I came to one of the stairs and told myself that it looked sketchy. It was super flimsy and wiggly but I went for it anyways...mistake. My foot went right through that sucker and I went right through the stair case. I managed to save my scriptures though...not a scratch ;) much awesomeness!!! I think I will just get to the spiritual message or else I will go on forever!

I found myself thinking about the Priesthood a lot this past week. What it is, how it is, whose it is. how it works, and how we develop it. Doctrine and Covenants 121 explains it so well. "That the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven..." I love this because it teaches me so many different lessons. I will just share my two favorites! When I think of my mother and my sister I think of heaven. The beauty and love that I find in them is something that only heaven can hold. Women are naturally born "inseparably connected" with the heavens. But us men...Let's just say that we have some work to do! These "rights", these powers, our calling, our duty, and what has been conferred upon us by the laying on of hands helps us men become inseparably connected with the heavens because we were not born with the natural connection like woman are. The Priesthood helps us become like God. It helps us develop the attributes that will qualify us for His Kingdom. One of the other things that I love about this verse is that God literally has gifted us His heavenly power. The power and faith that was used when the words "Let there be light" (Moses 2:3) were spoken before the universe was is upon the earth today. When "the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Moses 3:7) He was using the very power that was lost but has been found and restored through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. How blessed we are.
In American Football if a Wide Receiver drops a well delivered pass the confidence that his coach, quarterback, teammates, and fans have in him decreases. Each time a well delivered pass is dropped the chances of being passed to in the future diminish. What would be a dropped ball as a Priesthood holder? What would take the confidence of our coach or Quarterback (God) away to the point where they don't throw us the ball anymore (give us power)?? D&C 121:37 says, "but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, or vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion among the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man." Each time we drop the ball or commit "any degree of unrighteousness" as receivers or possessors of the Priesthood, our quarterback -  or God -  stops throwing us the ball or giving us power and authority. 
So finally...what is expected of us? "...only by persuasion, long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile." (41-42). These are traits that we must develop to get the ball passed to us. 
My favorite Priesthood duty is in verse 45 though. "Let thy bowels also be full of charity..." Pardon me for the example but when my bowels are filled, especially with Ecuador, you best be bettin' that I am beating Usain Bolt to the nearest bathroom! And you are all the same! When your bowels are filled you drop WHATEVER it is you are doing to empty your bowels. Are our bowels filled with charity? Enough charity to make us run to the nearest location to let our charity out and love? It goes on to say "towards ALL MEN, and to the household of the faith". Priesthood brethren, let us be filled with charity and rush to all men, members or not, to release this love unto them. Young men. It is a commandment from God Almighty to fill yourself with this love and preach it to "ALL MEN", all countries, in all tongues, to every ear that will hear. SERVE YOUR MISSIONS AND PREPARE TO SERVE NOW. Fill yourselves with this love as well for the family of the faith. Your family, church leaders, and the general authorities. 
I promise God will never stop passing you the ball if you do so. 
Love you all so much! Be safe this week.
Elder Noll

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

March 7, 2016

Hey Family and Friends!! How are you all?? Hopefully super duper good! :) 
Special shout out to my little brother Alec! I want all to know how much I love this soon to be 12 year old stud. I have grown up wanting to become like a kid that is 8 years younger than me because it is what would make me become more like our Savior than just about anything else. My little brother is one of the most submissive, meek, humble, and loving people that I know. Not to mention the most beautiful in the Noll crew...have you seen his hair?? A special congrats to him as well for coming to have the years to become a Deacon and receive God's gift to mankind, the Priesthood. I love you bud. You keep me going through the tough days! I could not be more grateful to be an older brother to a Nephi like better be keeping Laman and Lemuel in line!! ;)

This week was a great one! As usual! I don't have tons of time so I will just share maybe my two most favorite experiences of the week!

One night, lesson by lesson fell through. We had made a goal to find 4 new investigators but had found 0 at this point in the day with only an hour left to work. We had changes last week and I am fairly new in the new sector so I don't know it that well...and it is HUGE. But we prayed to the Lord in the middle of that dirt road to help us find the 4. When we asked Him to give us the four we waited...about five seconds of silence passed and an image popped into my mind of a member family we had said hi to on of my first days. And of course it was the farthest away from where we were, but we got on our horses and headed there without looking back! We got there and treated this encounter as if it were life or death! Haha! We said..."Hermanos! We said a prayer and God Himself told us to come find you!" They got all wide eyed and insisted that we come into their house. We explained to them that we were looking for four people that have been waiting to hear of the plan that was created for them in the Heavens and invited the father of the home to say a prayer to find out who these four were. The prayer that he gave was simple but so beautiful. When he finished we waited in silence again. Then the brother spoke..."You know what? There is someone just down the street. His boys are members but they are inactive. He could really use some help. And in front of them is a family of 3. A father, mother, and child. You could visit them." We were so happy! We went strait to these homes and met these AMAZING people. We have visits scheduled with them for later on in the week! Revelation is incredible and prayer is direct communication with God the Father. I testify of that!!

The other happened yesterday. There is a less active teenager who we are working really hard with. He is super addicted to electronics. His parents and Grandma can't get him off of his computer or phone. His family is super worried about him and so are we. We visited him yesterday and asked if we could share a scripture and sing a hymn. He rejected and continued playing his video game. Then a thought came to my mind..."Sundays at 5: Family History"...I remembered that the stake worked in the Family History department every Sunday at 5. I was cunning...haha..."So (name) like computers, right? Do you like fast computers or slow computers? Obviously fast right? Do you like video games? Do you wanna play a game that only members of the church know how to play?? " He looked up with a grin and asked..."What kind of game are you talking about??" I told him he had to find out for himself. And he came with us to the church! It was the first time he had stepped foot in the church for years! We paired him up with a Family History Instructor and while they went to work we had a few meetings with different Presidencies. After the meetings we asked him if he wanted us to walk him home. He told us no. He wanted to keep kicking it with his friends and working on his family history. Right before we left he yelled, "Elders! Family Home Evening! My house! Wednesday at 7!' Haha! Such an amazing experience! He completely changed. It was unreal how drastic the change was and how instant the spirit of Family History was able to lighten him and touch him. How blessed we are to have such an incredible access to helping our loved ones on the other side of the veil...which brings me to the spiritual message of the week!! :)

I started to form questions in my mind this past week that really started to worry me. I was having trouble sleeping. I spent the majority of nights on my knees asking the Lord questions. Ever since I was a little child I remember my Grandfather, who passed away not too long ago, denying our faith as a family and as members of Christ's church. He spent YEARS investigating...but did not receive it. Doctrine and Covenants 137 explains that "all that have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God." What happens to my Grandpa after having had the opportunity to receive it but didn't? Will his happiness be complete? Will he be forgiven for having denied the truth? Do we or does he have any hope after being "permitted to tarry" in the gospel but refused? What is he now? What will he become? I was led to 1 Corinthians 15:17. "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." I know that Christ did indeed raise himself. He is risen today...and forever will be. Because of this my faith and the faith of and not vain. Because of the resurrection of Christ my Grandpa does not have to be "yet in his sins". Then the Lord got after me a little bit in verse 19. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." In Spanish it hit a little harder...I became "the most worthy of pity". There is hope in Christ in all times, in all things, and in all places...on BOTH sides of the veil. As I read of the "seeds" or souls not baptized, my love for temple work grew so strong. If it were  not for the house of the Lord my Grandpa would be "sown in corruption" (1 Cor. 15:42). If it were not for the restoring of keys given through Moses, Elias, and Elijah themselves 180 years ago, he would be "dishonored and weak" (1 Cor. 15:43). If it were not for a 14 year old boy in the spring of 1820 who saw the brightness and glory of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, my Grandfather would be "sown a natural body" (1 Cor. 15:44). Which would then disqualify him of the Kingdom of God knowing that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50).
But the Lord's house is here upon the earth. Moses, Elias, and Elijah did indeed restore these keys to a Prophet in this dispensation. Joseph Smith did complete the prophesy in the 33rd chapter of Job, "He shall pray unto God and he will be favorable unto Him: and he shall see His face with joy; and he will render unto man his righteousness." And because of this my Grandfather along with so many other will be "raised in in-corruption", "raised in glory", "raised in power", and "raised a spiritual body". I know it and I rejoice in it! 
This came to life even more when I saw a sick, suffering, weak dog giving birth to 5 little beautiful puppies right outside of our house the other day. I felt so bad as I saw this dog suffer. It had already given birth to 4 living and breathing puppies. When it gave all it had left to give birth to the 5th I was so saddened when it came out dead. I then made a connection...this suffering, pained, and weakened dog is like our Savior when He performed His infinite Atonement. We are His puppies. Like the dog suffered to give birth to her living puppies, the Savior suffered so that He could succor and love the living. But the dog suffered equally to give birth to something that did not live. The Savior suffered equally for the dead. I testify that the Atonement functions on both sides of the veil and that temple work and Family History is real and is perfect. 
Love you all!
Elder Noll