Monday, May 30, 2016

May 30, 2016

Hello Crew!
How are we? Hopefully everyone is doing great! I am sure all is a bit crazy with end of school/beginning of summer changes but it is okay...change is good. 
Elder Johnson and I were talking about how there is NO WAY that 2 years has already passed by since we graduated. We are convinced that it was 2 DAYS ago. But a special congrats to all that graduated and are moving on with their lives! What a special opportunity now that these recent grad students have to prepare themselves for missions, studies, and life! May our Father guide each and one of you down the path, not that you would choose, but that He has already chosen for you.
These past couple of weeks have been great! We got to go to Guayaquil for an INCREDIBLE conference, we did a couple of amazing service projects, and are still preaching the only true, divine, and complete  gospel that exists in all of the universe and galaxies...and we are doing it as best friends. So that is just kinda cool I guess ;)

What is new back home? Any mission calls? Any recent returned missionaries? Spiritual experiences? Tender mercies? Where did you see God's hand yesterday? This morning? Where do you see it now?

This past weekend actually was not TOO exciting. Poor Elder Johnson came down with a throat infection which locked us up in the house the majority of Saturday and Sunday. We were going crazy...haha...being sick is a lot different without your mom...I tried to put the "Sherry Johnson" or "Tracy Noll" wig on, but we all know that that is just humanly impossible. But don't worry Sherry...I did cook your son meals! ;) The good part was that I got to read the Book of Mormon quite a bit. So I can't complain on that one. But with that said...shoot some prayers in the way of Elder Johnson.
We are loving life. That is the most important part. This work truly is a marvelous work and a wonder.
I am gonna jump towards real business...
The 100m dash is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events that there is today. Hours and hours of anxious excitement are put into waiting for a race that only last about 11 seconds in HS, 10 seconds in college, and 9.5 seconds on the Olympic level. All to find out who is "the fastest runner". But is that really what we discover? Yes, speed is completely necessary to be a successful 100m dash competitor, but those who win races are those who are able to maintain their top speed the longest. Not necessarily him who is "fastest" will always win the race...but him who is fastest for the longest period of time. 
It has been shown that after 30-40 meters of 100% exertion and effort to run as fast as possible, it is humanly impossible to gain more speed and run at a faster rate. Hence, the 100m dash, the race that weeds out the quickest, the event that finds speed, and the way the world uses to find the "fastest man alive", has a lot more to it than just speed. There are still 70 meters left after reaching top speed to maintain speed and overcome the race triumphantly.
Brothers and Sisters, to live a life so similar to a 100m dash, we must refrain from dwelling on our first 30 meters or trying to "relive" what we have already ran. Common "30 meter thoughts" are: If I could only be baptized again. Oh how I wish I could have one more day in my mission. Why can't I feel the spirit as strong now as I did the first time in the temple? Why is reading my scriptures and doing my prayers so much harder now than it was then? If I could only go back. Indeed, these first 30 meters are crucial. But they are ONLY used to gain speed. They are not used to help you finish the race. 
We are able to develop speed with baptism, missions, spiritual experiments, temple attendance, and other "spiritual highs"...but after this requires endurance and maintaining the developed speed. "He that is faithful and enduring shall overcome the world." Overcoming the world is hard. Enduring is rigorous. Like enduring a 100m dash, physical and mental pain are felt. We will lose our breath at times. Our legs will get heavy. Many times, others are enduring better than we are which causes doubt, insecurity, and fear. All of these come from an adversary who wants us to stay within the "30 meters", hence, limiting us from ever finishing our race and making it to the finish line where God resides. 
What I believe will help us is knowing that we overcame this adversary before. We felt the same pain we sometimes feel today. We felt the same fatigue we perhaps feel now. We felt the same desire to stay within 30 meters in the premortal life. 
But John the beloved teaches us how we did it. How we overcame Satan then and how we can do it now. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimonies; and they loved not their lives unto death" (Revelations 12:11).
1. It is only possible through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can and will overcome this race. He is the only reason that we were capable of and still the only reason that we are capable of maintaining the speed we have gathered to finish the last 70 meters. We must use His atonement to endure as we did in the premortal life. We must trust in His wings. He will carry us. His blood will give us energy and light. He is the only way. By Him, through Him, and of Him, we will finish this race.
2. We must cling to our testimonies. Let us remember that we overcame Satan as spirit children of God...IMPERFECT spirit children. We do not need to be perfect to overcome Satan here just as we did not need to be perfect to overcome him then. Nor is a perfect knowledge of all things required. Fatigue is inevitable in this race. It will come...but our testimonies and our beliefs will keep us moving and pull us to that finish line.
3. In Spanish it says that "they loved  not their own lives, even if they had to suffer until death". Do not fear suffering. Understand that, again, it is part of this race. Accept the fatigue and the exhaustion. Accept the opposition. It is not the fatigue that wins or loses the race...but what we decide to DO with the fatigue and opposition that comes our way.
There have been times in my life and even to this very day in my mission where I have felt weak. Sometimes I get the tunnel vision just as I did in those last few meters. Sometimes my legs are weak just as they always were at the end of all of my races. Sometimes Satan lures me to look to my left and to my right to see who is "better" than me or who is "faster for longer". Sometimes I get tired. Sometimes I hurt. Physically and spiritually. Sometimes I feel like a race of 30 meter spiritual highs would be nice but that is not how it works. The blood of the Lamb is blood that was shed for me and you. The blood of the Lamb is blood that flows through the living body of the Savior, Jesus Christ, that will help us overcome this race. I have tried to focus on what I testimony...instead of what I don't know. I am not perfect. But perfection is not a requisite to overcome Satan. Let us not fear suffering...for it is what pulls me to my the finish line. I often hear His voice..."DIG DEEP" and "GET YOUR KNEES UP" just as my dad yelled to me each race when enduring got hard. I can feel His cheer through His blood that was shed for me just as my mom cheered. These 3 things help me to continue on in this 100m race and  maintain the speed that the Lord has blessed me with.
Endure and overcome just as you did before. The finish line will be forever worth it.
Elder Noll
"this is why we don't drink the water!"

"Giving thanks"

the longest broom handle we've ever seen!

Monday, May 16, 2016

May 16, 2016

Hello my dearest American friends and family!
This week was so so great! It was so awesome to talk to my beautiful mother last week on Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day again to all! :)
Elder Johnson and I are still getting after it! We truly had an amazing week. Are any of you sick of hearing that?? Haha. Hopefully not because I am sure you will keep on hearing the same exact thing until the end. Actually I am sure of it! ;)
Two great experiences we had that I would love to share!
Yesterday in church a recent convert who I love with all of my heart came up to us and asked us, ever so hesitantly, if we could possibly help him. He asked us what that thing is called where if you gain 10 dollars you have to give 1 dollar to the church. We told him that it was tithing. As soon as he heard those words from our mouth he practically leaped with joy..."TITHING! Where can I do that?!" I was so touched by this man's intent and joy to pay the Lord with the little that he has. How happy are we to give the Lord 10%? Do we leap with joy as we sacrifice the little that we have?
There was another really cool moment when a sweet Hermana in the branch who has a tough husband and a tough life told us that she really wanted us to visit her. We had the chance to enter her humble home and share the gospel with her...but she was the one who actually shared the gospel with me! She bore her testimony on Family History and how it has totally changed her life. The way she explained how she feels when she does temple work and when she works on her Family History really impacted me. She explained that it is really the only thing she has to maintain the peace and her patience in her home with the hard life that she lives. She did not always do it either...she recently had the impression that she should be doing better with it. As soon as she took that counsel from the spirit she got a call that day which gave this struggling daughter of God, this struggling wife, this suffering mother, a job that will provide for the needs of her and her family. If the Lord asked us how important our Family History is to us, what would we say? If the Lord rated us on our efforts to go to the temple would He be pleased?
Elder Johnson and I continue to love each and every second of our time together! We have had so many great experiences together. I can not seem to chose which ones to share!
We were walking through the wilderness... but I did not have the best feeling about I made Elder Johnson lead the way. After a little while he ended up stepping in a hidden pond thingy...drenching his shoe and pant leg. I got a good laugh out of that one! But he got revenge on me when we went to lend service and there were only two instruments. He got the rake that was in perfect condition and I got the shovel...but it was broken. So I ONLY got the shovel did not have the stick part to hold on to. Let's just say that my back took quite the toll. I guess we are even now ;)
I will save the better stories for when I can tell them in person!! :)
A trip to Lake Powell was taken by our family and a couple of others years ago. One of my great friends and I decided to take the jet ski out together after we had set up our spot as a group on the beach. What a great time we had on that jet ski. We cruised on the lake for quite some time which felt as only seconds. As we were having a great time a little light with great meaning came on. The gas-light. But we were having too much fun to let a little light interfere with our joy. We actually ended up seeing an amazing slot canyon that looked like a blast. Not thinking twice about the light, we went all in...and kept going for quite a while. Until eventually the motor to the jet ski stopped, we came to a halt and were unable to move or start the jet ski again, and we were stranded deep into a slot canyon without eyes to see us, ears to hear us, or hands to help us. There was no way out but to swim. We swam, and swam, and swam. We had to pull and push this jet ski along with us which was quite the physical test of endurance and strength for the both of us. Probably close to an hour past as we fought the current, swam, struggled, and suffered. The torment from knowing that a little light would have saved us from our state of grief was afflicting and tormenting as well.
This life is a lake. A lake that was given to us "that we might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). And just as a little light comes on to warn us and reprove us from being stranded, the Holy Ghost "will be sent to reprove the world of sin" so that we can always make it back to the beach of our Heavenly Father. We can not afford to play with sin. We can not touch it, we can not think of it, nor can we justify it. The only proper way to deal with sin is to hate it. It is what is keeping you and I from an eternal paradise. The ONLY thing. This spiritual light leads us to repentance and, if neglected, we will be stranded just as my friend and I were.

"And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked."

Procrastinating repentance as my friend and I procrastinated our return to the beach only leads to darkness, affliction, and to one tough swim. It is the devil himself that leads us into these slot canyons to strand us in misery and hopelessness. He tells us that the gas light does not mean much and that our return can be delayed until we our finished up with our will and what seems pleasing to us in that moment.
As I meditated on this experience I had, I was able to come to a conclusion of 2 teachings early on. 

1: We MUST give heed to the spirit and repent and return when we are told. We cannot continue to play on sinful waters.
2: Repentance is a swim...a tough one. As humans we will make mistakes. Our jet ski's will run out of gas due to our failure to act and repent and return. All of us sin. As a result...all must repent. Repentance is among the greatest gifts that God has offered us through His Son. But it is a draining, exhausting, and challenging process that requires effort, help, and endurance.

But the 3rd lesson that I was able to learn is my favorite.
My friend and I FINALLY managed to make our way out of the slot canyon. But we were still miles away from the beach. How many of you have felt like you have repented but you still feel miles away from your Heavenly Father? How many of you have finished a tough swim of struggle and affliction and feel like you still cannot make it to the beach of the Kingdom of God. My friend and I sure felt this way. In fact, we would still be swimming today if it were not for a boat that stopped by our side, threw us a rope that we tied to the jet ski, and towed us back to our beach and sound with our families. This boat saved us from an impossible swim of an eternity.

I can testify that the King of Kings, the Savior, the Christ...your Christ...has a boat. He has a rope. And through Him, by Him, in Him, and of Him, He will tow us back to the shore of our Heavenly Father. His rope is eternal. No matter how tired you are, how far you have swam, how many times you have neglected your gas light, how strong the current, or how heavy the jet, like my friend and I, can and will be brought to safety and paradise through the Lord, Jesus Christ, though His mercy, His atonement, and through your repentance.
"...if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you."

 I make the same promise to each of you today. IMMEDIATELY will our forever reachable, eternally accessible and merciful reliever tow us home.

I am evidence of the Lord, Jesus Christ's rope. I am evidence that he tows. And I know He will make you evidence too.
In His sacred name. Amen.
Elder Noll


Monday, May 2, 2016

May 2, 2016

The love of a mother is truly impossible to comprehend. That really came to life as I asked questions of my Heavenly Father this past week. I asked...
1- Who was my mother in the premortal life?
2- What was our relationship like in the premortal life?
3- What thanks do I have for my mother?

1- As I thought of my mother all I could think of was “noble and great.” I know that through divine revelation my mother truly was a noble and great daughter of God. She was one of the faithful daughters of Eve. This goes for all mothers! All were prepared before the foundation of the world so they could carry out such an important role and such a sacred calling in the perfect plan of our Heavenly Father.
2- Track took quite the toll on my body growing up. The preparation was tough work and required rigorous effort. Physical and mental struggle accompanied me each and every preparation period, practice, and work out. Had it not been for the daily massages from my mother I would not have made it... that is a fact! During these times I would not have been able to endure the sore and tight muscles that I lugged around each and every day if it had not been for the constant care and attention from my mother. But as a track runner, the preparation, practice, and work outs are only part of the sport. The meets come. The time to let the hard work pay off and use my loose muscles… thanks to my mom. But what’s interesting is the massages NEVER STOPPED. In between each event, even at the meet, my mother was always there. Ready and willing, to rub my sore muscles to help me get through the meet, finish each and every race, and perform to the best of my ability. Race after race, she attended to my needs. And eventually... the meets would come to an end. The time to go home and rest would arrive. But low and behold... the care STILL did not cease. After each track meet the massage always came. And the encouragement, love, and compassion of my mother always filled me.

My track experiment helped me come to know what my relationship was like with my mother in the premortal life, what it is like now, and what it will be like in the future. In Ephesians 3, Paul explains that through our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten, “the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” This testifies to me that my family was named and formed in the heavens above, before we came to earth. As was you, our Father named me as the child of my mother and you as the child of yours. But what took place after this naming? Why would God have formed our families and what is it I learned as I was with my mother in the premortal life? In verse 16 it says, “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” My mother taught me through the spirit. She strengthened me and showed me how to listen to the spirit so that I could have might on this earth. She strengthened me and helped me overcome difficulties in the premortal life so I could perform to my best ability here on earth, just as she massaged me and helped me overcome sore muscles to help me be ready for a track meet on the earth.

In verse 17 it says, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.” In premortal life my mother showed me what faith really is. Before even coming to this earth I knew who Christ was, and is, thanks to my mother and her pre-life teachings to me. I also came to be “rooted and grounded” in her love. There is no doubt that my mother prepared me, cradled me, held me, loved me, and kissed me in the premortal life just as she loved me, prepared me, and massaged my legs in pre-meet preparation to help me perform to my best ability… here in this track meet called life.

Finally, in verse 19 it says, “and to know the love of Christ...” My mother truly showed me what the love of God is and was. What the love of our Savior feels like and how to know it. She helped me be ready to run my race in this earth just as she helped me be ready to run each race at each and every meet. And the race came! The meet arrived! My mom went a little earlier than I did… ONLY A LITTLE... but eventually we both found ourselves here on this earth and entered in this track meet.

My life, like the life of you all, consists of race after race, trial after trial, and affliction after affliction. But just as my mother massaged my legs during the preseason and practices (premortal life) she never stopped during the meets (this life). If it were not for my mother and her massages it would be impossible for me to make it through my daily races. I would not be capable of overcoming the difficulties and challenges that this track meet throws at us. But just as every track meet came to an end, this track meet called life will too. But I can testify that the love my mother had for me in the premortal life and the love she has for me in this track meet of life will continue on in the heavens just as her love continued on after each and every meet by giving me a massage when all was said and done.

The love of a mother never dies. How blessed I am to have gotten these massages that prepared me for this track meet in the premortal life. For the massages that I get in the track meet and in this life that help me overcome and perform to my best ability in my races. And for the massages that I will receive in the heavens and the love I will feel from my mother when we are eternally together in a state of perfection and joy when this meet comes to an end.

3- In English we say that a mother “gives birth.” But in Spanish, mothers “give light.” I love this so much more! In D&C 93:32 we learn that if a “spirit receiveth not the light it is under condemnation.” If it were not for my mother I would be under condemnation. She gave my spirit light. “Spirit and element connected, receive a fulness of joy: and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.” If it were not for my mother I would have NO joy. If she had not humbled herself and given light to me, it would be impossible for me to have happiness. Finally, “light and truth forsake that evil one.” If it were not for my mother and the light she gave to me, the massages and preparation she gave me in the premortal life, and that she continues to give me today, I would be incapable of overcoming Satan.

Dear mothers, you are important! Never forget the sacredness of your calling! I wish all of you faithful daughters of Eve a Happy Mothers Day and I wish the best for you all!

To my very own mother. I love you, I adore you, I live for you, and I am who I am because of you. I thank my Father in Heaven for having named me and formed me in a family with such a faithful daughter of Eve who prepared me and taught me. Loved me and cared for me. Who continues to give me her love and attention. I love you, Mom. Thank you for the light you gave me. Thank you for the light you give me each day of my existence. I look forward to the moment when we are in the heavens together, surrounded by concourses of angels, holding hands with Dad, Ryan, McKenna, Alec, and those we love, in the presence of Him who formed us. In the presence of Him who will give us all that He has and is. But this time, I promise, I will be the one giving you the massage ;)
Happy Mothers Day!
Elder Noll