Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 25, 2016

This week might have been the fastest in my entire mission... wait... did I say that last week too?? I don’t know, but time is going SO SO fast with Elder Johnson! I guess it has been a little crazy with earthquake stuff. Gratefully, Vinces is so protected. We did feel the other earthquakes... when one passed I was taking a shower, right for bed! Haha! I thought for sure I was gonna fall through the floor and end up in the neighbors house in an unpleasant way! Elder Johnson and I had a good laugh at that thought. But I am glad it stopped shaking after a short time ;) It indeed was an incredible week! Too many miracles to put down on paper...

I think one of my favorite things that happened this week was to see the change in a particular family. We are teaching a little, cute, old couple. They are so amazing. They have quite a few children with some grandchildren too! They have progressed so much and have changed so so much. The changes are so so beautiful. They have learned how to pray and are teaching their little grandchildren how to do it too! We had not even talked to the little grandchildren and one day the grandma gave us some fried bananas just as a snack... so Elder Johnson and I went to town on it... but before I knew it I heard a little voice say... “Querido Padre Celestial”... (Dear Heavenly Father)... I looked up only to see a little adorable 3 year old girl saying the prayer with her older brothers and sisters... all younger than 10... to bless their fried bananas. How humbling this moment was. How amazing the change in this family is. I was nearly brought to tears at the miracle that the Lord blessed us with in that moment. So that was something super neat this week... and I am sure we will continue to see some incredible things as time goes on!

It’s that time again!!! Time for a spiritual thought.
My dad and I basically lived in the weight room as I grew up... and our bread and butter always has been and always will be the bench press. We always had a certain number of sets and repetitions, but when those were complete we were always brought to the “death-set.” The most growth is always seen during this last set. It hurts the most, burns the most, and drains you the most. It is done by doing as many repetitions as humanly possible until you physically cannot do any more. There comes a point in this set where muscle fatigue kicks in after lifting the bar as many times as you possibly can and your muscles collapse and it becomes humanly impossible to continue lifting. The weight of the heavy bar leaves you pinned... helpless and hopeless.

Have you ever experimented “spiritual fatigue?” Perhaps you’ve lifted the bar of life as many times as you possible can, but now it has collapsed. Have you ever felt helpless, hopeless, or “pinned” by who you were, who you are, or who you are becoming? Do you feel the pain of this “death-set” that makes us feel like continuing is impossible? I felt the pain and failure that came from this death-set every single time I did it... and every time I did it I eventually got pinned by the bar... without hope... without help... until I heard a voice... EVERY SINGLE TIME. It was a proud voice.

“Nice job”... and then the bar was taken off of my chest by my father who was always right behind me.

I can testify with all of my heart that God’s grace is real. It is visible, it is palpable, and it is available to all that do all they possibly can just as my dad was ALWAYS available to lift weight off of my chest after doing all that I possibly could. “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). What is all that we can do? What do you need to do to feel your nu-liftable bar lifted off your chest? What gives you hope? What will give you help? The following 2 verses give us the answer!

“And notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and we look forward with a steadfastness unto Cristo, until the law shall be fulfilled.” It teaches us that belief is required. Believe in your spotter, who is the Savior. He is ALWAYS there! He will not leave your side. We must also be obedient to have this spotter always there. Each time we disobey, the reaction of our Savior to our “spiritual-fatigue” is delayed... leaving the weight on our chest. We not only have to believe in Christ, our spotter... but we must look unto Him, and know His grace will save us. “...wherefore the law hath become dead unto us...” just as my muscles had become dead unto me and just as our ability to lift our doubts, troubles, and worries becomes dead to us, “...and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith...,” just as I was made alive by my father lifting the bar after doing all that I could, and just as our Savior will lift our bar after we do all that we can though faith in Him.

I bear my witness just as the prophet Moroni did that we are sanctified and purified in, through, by, and of the shedding of the blood of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by His grace. I testify just as Jacob did that the Lord shows us our weakness to make us KNOW that His grace is real and that it is saving.

Do all that you can, Brothers and Sisters. You will hear the voice of our Savior just as I heard the voice of my father... “Nice job”... and then you will feel the weight of the world be lifted off of your chest. You will feel the doubts that you have erased from your mind. You will feel the sins on your shoulders purified by the Lord’s blood. Permit His grace. Rejoice in His grace.

He is the Savior of the world. He is your Redeemer. He is your Spotter... full of grace and of truth to save you after all that you can do.

Elder Noll

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 18, 2016

Wow. What a week. What a weekend actually! 

I am sure that you have all heard about the earthquake that went down here in Ecuador. Elder Johnson and I are so blessed to say that we are perfectly fine and safe. Thank you for all of the prayers that have been sent our way, but more for the prayers that have been sent to those who are suffering. It hurts my heart so much- with the thought of the beautiful people of this country who I love so so much- suffering. These people are amazing. They are incredible. And they deserve the prayers of everyone. 

The earthquake did not damage much of our mission. I feel so blessed to not have to see the suffering of these people with my own eyes. Everyone we are serving is just fine! We are pretty far away from the trigger point...but that does not mean that we didn't feel it. I am sure it was quite the sight actually...we were mid prayer when it hit. The Brother who was praying hurried and finished and then we ran outside...it still had not hit hard. But about 10 second passed and we actually started to lose our balance. Things started falling from all around the place! It gave Elder Johnson and I much fear! We actually started hugging each other and jumping up and down like 10 year old girls. In Vinces, where we are at, the earthquake lasted about a minute and then the power went out for about an hour. It came back for about another hour and then went again for another 5-6 hours...we will get to that a little later in the spiritual message! ;)
I don't even know where to start with this week! It was incredible!
I think I will just share one experience really quickly!
We found a man who had JUST finished off his smoke...and he had a packet of 2 more. We felt the strong impression to stop and talk to him so we did. We first testified of God...of His existence...of His love. Then we went strait to the case. We testified that He is a God of commandments and of Prophets who talk with Him and that a Prophet received a commandment called the Word of Wisdom. We explained that smoking and drinking is against the laws that God has given us and that we are damaging ourselves as we partake of such substances. We asked him, "Brother, what would Jesus Christ do with this packet if He were here?" He thought for a second...gave out a grunt, smashed the packet between his hands, and threw it into the street. He told us he has kids and he needs to be a better example to them. He thanked us so humbly and so kindly and we were able to take out another visit for later this week. What a tender mercy to see. We were blessed with the chance to literally see repentance take place. How amazing. What a Christlike example. What would Christ say about the things we are doing in our lives? What are we willing to smash and throw away in order to follow the Savior?
Now on to the spiritual message...

The earthquake that just occurred here and the loss of electricity brought me to the realization that we were blessed with the privilege of reliving both miraculous and devastating events in history. "And there began to be great doubting and disputations among the people, notwithstanding so many signs had been given (of the crucifixion of Christ). And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder. And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land..." (3 Nephi 8). 
I can testify with all of my heart that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this earth and established His very church. Not a church of men, of tradition, or of habit...but a church of truth, of power, and of authority. There existed one single church...the church of Christ Himself. The very one that he constructed, formed, organized, and led. But the people rejected Him...they even crucified Him...and His death and absence caused the world to shake and the light to go away just as it did here in Vinces on Saturday night. Vinces was completely dark for about an hour. I thought of my Savior during this hour of darkness. How would it be to not have a Savior? Dark. I felt in danger. We had no communication with other missionaries. We were lost! Just as those who lived in darkness for 3 days in the account of 3 Nephi. But just as the light came to Vinces once more...the light came to the world once more. "And now it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land." There is no doubt in my mind or heart that Jesus Christ lives. He arose and because of his Resurrection these Nephite people were brought out of the darkness just as we were on Saturday night. We were ordered to go back to the house immediately because it was not safe outside - so we did. We got home, planned, got ready for bed, (snuck in a protein shake just like old times ;)) and RIGHT before we said the prayer...the power went out again. Just as the power went out in the world when Christ had ascended to the Heavens. "And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ." The TRUE church of Christ was denied and eventually withered away because of the pride of men. Because of the false teachings the light was taken from the earth once more just as it was in Vinces after it had returned. The only churches that remained are the same ones that we see today. Churches edified by men without direction from the One True God and without any power whatsoever to grow closer to the Lord, Jesus Christ. I lived this on Saturday night. This is called apostasy. And it was once of the most miserable things I have ever experienced in my life. I do not want to complain...because it was a marvelous experience that really touched my heart and has changed my testimony forever. Elder Johnson and I COULD NOT SLEEP. IT WAS ROASTING! The only thing we have that permits us to fall asleep is the little fan that we have. So when the power goes out...we are toast. The fan is also what keep us safe from the zeebra-squeets because the breeze from the fan blows them off of our skin when they try to bite us. So the mosquitoes got us pretty good. The fan also gives off a sound that helps us not hear the loud music from outside that never stops. It helps us sleep in peace. The fan is the gospel of Jesus Christ. After His ascension to Heaven the power went own and the fan stopped working. The heat of unbelief and false doctrine did not let people live in peace. Satan's temptations bit all continents and could not be blown away...and the world fell into darkness. These hours were miserable! The apostasy was MISERABLE! But what relief, joy, and gratitude we had when the sound of the fan was heard and its breeze was felt. The heat went away. The mosquitoes - millions of mosquitoes were blown off of our skin. And the music was no longer heard. We could fall asleep in peace. The power was back and the fan worked in Vinces just as the power came back and the fan started spinning once more in 1820. I promise all of you that if it were not for a 14 year old boy who entered a sacred grove on a beautiful spring morning we would have no fan. The gospel of Jesus Christ would not function. The heat of false doctrine would be unbearable, the bites from Satan would torment us, and the world's wickedness would take over our peace. We would have no access to the atonement of the Savior - had this 14 year old boy not of prayed. The restoration of the gospel and the life of Joseph Smith has been and forever will be the greatest blessing in your entire existence apart from the blessing to have a Savior and Redeemer and for the life He lived and gave for you. I know without a doubt that the heavens were opened that spring morning. They were opened because there was no truth. There was only tradition. They were opened because God is love. God is mercy. God is forgiving. And God is real. God would not be God if it were not for Joseph Smith. I know and testify that the fan is spinning. Jesus Christ has once again established the very church He Himself organized during His earthly ministry on earth. I don't know it because my parents told me, because I saw it on YouTube or because I read it. I know it because I talk to the Almighty God of the Universe. I talk to your God. I converse with Him who know all. I speak to Him who created the universe, the sun, and the stars...and I have asked Him if what I have shared is true...
I do it every single day...
and He never fails to tell me "yes".

Love you all!
Elder Noll

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016

I could probably finish the weekly report up with that. Elder Johnson and I are having the best of times sharing the gospel and spreading the Lord's love. The experiences that we are having are far to awesome to share over email! They will have to wait until we can share them in person! Much more interesting! We are still kicking it in Vinces and getting after it! Vinces is a little tiny District made up of 2 branches in Vinces itself and 1 branch about 2 hours away. Working with branches is always a bit different but I love it so much. Some of the most bright, loving, and dedicated members of Christ's church I have ever met in my life assist the smallest of branches.

We are living with an Elder from Bolivia and another Elder from Salt Lake so that is a good time! Each morning we pump out some circuits, drink a protein shake, and get after the study grind! It is so awesome! What I love most is to see and feel the change that has taken place in our relationship. There is nothing in this world that will bring a friendship closer than the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

One night we ended up getting out of a visit a bit later than we expected. We only had about 5 minutes to get back to the house to make it home in time. It has been years since I have run head to head with Elder Johnson! Haha! But we strapped on the laces and got after it. It was super late at night and raining but it didn't hold us back! We made it in time! :)

We are teaching some of the most amazing people. There is one woman and her children that are progressing so amazingly! We left her with the Book of Mormon and asked her to read the introduction. When we passed by the next day she was already asking questions about Nephi and his journey to Jerusalem to get married!! Haha! She is great.
If I start with the best stories I will never stop! So stay tuned for the next few months!!! ;)
I have been thinking a lot about how I can become what the Lord wants and expects of me. I have thought about what I want to become and how I can get there. As I thought about what it would take to become what the Lord wants of me,  I soon realized that it is a process...a process that requires patience, trust, steps, and practice. Those four words (patience, trust, steps, and practice) define a 4x100 Meter relay to a dime. 

The baton in a relay race is what delegates change. We must be patient as we wait for our baton or change. If we enter a race with desires to receive a baton or truly search for a change in our lives, change is what will come and better is what you will be. But some batons take longer than others. Be patient with yourself and with those around you as you become like your Savior. Change takes time!
A 4x1 is compiled of "blind exchanges". When it is your turn to receive the baton you are not to look back. You are not to look to your left nor your right. Rather, you are expected to trust in him with the baton and that he will deliver it to you with accuracy and precision. As we look to become "changed" or "converted" we must develop trust in the Lord that He will deliver the change to our hearts and get the baton in our hands. 
If you have a desire to change - are your eyes forward? Do you look back or to the side? Or are you set on who you want to become and what the Lord wants of you? How do we permit the Lord to deliver us the baton or the change? How do we permit the spirit to show us how to change?

In the book of Matthew a young man is searching for eternal life. He is looking for the baton and trying to figure out how to receive this change. He has waited ever so patiently and "he goes to the Lord", showing trust and faith in Him, and says, "all these things  (the commandments) have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"
 Returning to our 4x1 relay...In order to have a perfect hand-off you have to measure steps. Each runner comes in at different speeds and whoever is receiving the baton has to find the perfect point to begin to run. For this reason it is required of whoever is going to receive the baton, to take an exact number of steps, depending on his speed and the speed of his teammate - to discover exactly when and where he should start running to receive the baton. This is a brutal process. As a track runner, I remember asking myself the same question that the young man asked the Savior. "What lack I yet?" As I asked myself this question, I ALWAYS KNEW. ALWAYS. I knew how many steps I needed to take off or how many I needed to add. After practicing and practicing and asking myself "what lack I yet" time after time a perfect exchange was developed. Brothers and Sisters, if you want to hear the voice of God...if you want to feel of His perfection...if you want perfection, eternal life, and glory...one simple question will get you there.
"What lack I yet?"

The heavens will open and you will know EXACTLY what to do. EXACTLY what to change. The spirit will tell you exactly how many steps to take back or how many to add to help you have a perfect "hand-off" in your process of change. The Lord will tell you what is keeping you from eternal life - just as the Savior told the young man what was holding him back; "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor...". This young man found out just how many steps he was lacking in order to have the perfect hand-off.
I testify that the Heavens are open...God's voice is real...changes are possible...eternal life is reachable...and perfect hand-offs are attainable. All the Lord requires is that we ask Him, "What lack I yet?". After we ask the Lord this question we must wait for His loving and perfect correction in order to give us the perfect amount of steps to get to His Kingdom and to take home the gold in the 4x1 relay called life.

Be accepting and humble when the Lord tells you...because He will! Don't "go away sorrowful" like the young man did. have patience and trust. Measure and ask the Lord what your steps are and what you lack, and put it to practice. 

I have experienced miracles in my life with this question. I have felt the Lord's presence like never before as I have asked Him what I lack. He never fails to get me the baton and He will never fail you.

Love you all tons! Until next week!
Elder Noll :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April 4, 2016

Hey all! 
Gotta write super duper fast! We are in Guayaquil for a conference tomorrow so it did not leave us with much time with the travel and what not!
WOW. Conference was LEGENDARY! Loved it so much. I hope everyone can keep the spirit...and if you did not have the chance to partake of the spirit...GET TO A COMPUTER! 
So...working with your best friend is the greatest thing ever. The unity is so unreal. The spirit is so strong. The visits are so personal. There is no doubt that a friendship centered around the gospel is a friendship that lasts, matters, and edifies. We went to town this week! Service projects (the rat did give us quite fear but we lived), had some amazing spiritual experiences, and were able to come to know a God a bit more. Sorry that is so brief...I will give some details next week!! ;) I really want to share a spiritual message...I have a lot of ideas on my mind that are really hitting hard so I am going to let the spirit write!

I LOVE THE BEACH. But when the day comes to an end there is something I cannot bare...
Sand on the bottom of my feet.
It can be on my hands, legs, in my hair, or ANYWHERE! But the sand in between my feet and toes rubbing against my sandals or the pavement makes me cringe. How many of us have things about us that make us cringe? How many of us have defects or faults that we cannot bare? How would it be if if I tried to take grain by grain off of the bottom of my feet after a long day at the beach with tweezers? How many of us nit pick every single fault we have with tweezers? How many of us find every single fault, error, or annoyance on the bottom of our feet and attempt to take them off one by one with tweezers? The Lord does not intend of us to look for and find all of our errors, imperfections, and faults...there are far to many, just as there are far too many grains of sand on the bottom of our feet. But how can we take away the unbearable annoyance of sandy feet, imperfect bodies, debilitated minds, or insecure hearts? Luckily, there exists a way.
As soon as you make it off of the sand at the beach there is always a fountain. This fountain washes all the sand off of your feet quickly and efficiently. What could this fountain be that could possibly wash away all of our insecurities, faults, and doubts? Where can we find water to take away the sand?
 "For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17) I testify that the lamb of God, Jesus Christ, shall lead us to His everlasting, cleansing, purifying, and perfecting fountain of living water. His fountain is His everlasting Atonement. His water is what cleans our feet. 
How can we permit His water and atonement to clean our sandy feet?
In John 13 the Savior washes the feet of His Disciples. But when He gets to Peter, Peter says; "...doth thou wash my feet?" I would imagine that Peter, being human, had some pretty sandy feet just as all of us do. And instead of accepting the Lord's cleaning fountain of pure water he asks the Lord if it is really Him that washes his feet. I thought very deeply about this question and I came to understand that so many of us make the same question every day but in modern day language. 
Is it you Lord that can take away my grief?
Are you sure that the gospel of Jesus Christ is what cleanses us?
Is it not the world that cleanses us and tells us if we are or are not good enough?
Why didn't Heavenly Father just make me perfect? Why didn't He make me smarter? More patient? Funnier? How come I am not the best on the team? Why did Heavenly Father not make a more beautiful me?
The Savior's response to these questions will ALWAYS be the same response that He gave to Peter. "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter."
How many of us have heard that before? I know I have.
"Don't you worry! You just gotta hang in there!", "It is for your good", or "Have faith! It will all work out. God has not forgotten you." I think Peter, like me and so many others, gets a bit irritated with that response. He says, "Thou shalt never wash my feet".
(In today's terms) :
You can't help me Lord.
My parents don't understand.
My Bishop has no clue.
Christ's so called "atonement" shall never wash my sandy feet.
The Lord then gives us a brief, simple, beautiful, and perfect answer that is hard to understand but easy to rely on. An answer that gives us faith and hope.
(Non scriptural) You know what Peter (Elder Noll, so and so, and every other brother and/or sister of mine), you ask why you are not perfect? Why you have faults? Why is it me and the atonement that was brought to pass through me that has to wash you? I will tell you why...(Scriptural) Because "IF I WASH THEE NOT, THOU HAS NO PART WITH ME". 
We must drop the idea that there are so many imperfections on the bottom of our feet and accept the fact that the Lord needs something to wash in order to give us "part with Him". If we were perfect the Lord would have nothing to wash, no hearts to mend, no spirits to put at peace, no souls to save, no way to show love, and no feet to clean...therefore inhibiting us to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again. Only the Lord's atonement can take away sandy feet. Only it can take away errors, doubts, and afflictions. Do we have more than just sand on the bottom of our feet? OF COURSE! YOU ARE NOT GOD YET!
Let us use the water of the atonement for now to rid the imperfections that we have until we reach what I always did after the fountain at the beach. After the beach always came a shower. This shower will swallow up all sand and imperfection that has ever been known. This shower will make us perfect. This shower is the resurrection that awaits us all.
I have felt His washing in my life and testify that His fountain of living water is real and it is 100% dependent always. This fountain will wash our sandy feet and ready us for the shower of the resurrection to allow us to arise in perfection just as He did the third day. This I know.
In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Elder Noll