Thursday, August 27, 2015

(week 30) Foggia is awesome!

Foggia is awesome. It's not humid, not that hot, we have an actual
WARD! And my comp is tight. I'm excited for this transfer. He's a hard
worker and speaks amazing Italian. His native language is Spanish so
Italian is easier for him than English so we speak to each other in
Italian usually. We're in a 4 man house! And we're like 50 meters from
the church so that's AWESOME. Plus there's actually youth in this
ward! Super sick. Honestly don't have much to say except the fact that
I'm happy to be where I am in my life. Serving a mission lovin it!!!
They had me and my comp teach priesthood on Sunday haha we ended 10
mins early I felt so awkward when I realize we did a 35 min lesson
except a 45 min one haha. The bishop is sooo sick I love him. My
district is me and the 3 elders in the house and the 2 sisters and
everyone is awesome. We have 2 greenies in the district and a recently
not-greenie--super young district. I love it. Our district is about to
have a baptism Tuesday!! August is almost over so I'm pretty stoked
haha now we'll be able to actually meet with people! Don't really know
what else to say haha. Miss and love you guys.

Inviato da iPad

My boy Giovanni, we got haircuts together before I took off to Foggia

I miss my district in Crotone

Saturday, August 22, 2015

(Week 29) I'm getting transferred :/

Well...we got transfer calls saturday, and of course, i'm already leaving :/ though Crotone isn't the most glamorous, i'm in love with this place and the people i've met here. it's gonna be rough leaving to be honest. i've developed some really good friendships with the people here. and i've only been here for 8 weeks! so crazy how fast time flies. well, i'm excited for what's next. I'm getting blown in to Foggia, follow-up training Anziano Ponce. when you're blown in it means that they took out the two missionaries that were both there and are replacing both of them with 2 new ones. so basically we wont know anything about our town and we'll have to figure it out haha.  follow up training means he was already trained his first 2 transfers and now for his 3rd transfer he's gonna be with me. so yeah he's 2 transfers younger than I am! i'm super juiced though because he's from Peru and doesn't speak good english yet so i may even learn some spanish...i hope. to be honest one of the things i'm gonna miss most about Crotone is the air conditioning in our room in our apartment. omg such a game changer.
alright well let's see what happened this week. as you can see from the pics, we had some fun this last week! we had an African movie night monday, super fun. and we watched 17 Miracles and it was amazing. wednesday we had a combined DDM with our zone leaders and did transfer predictions, super fun and it was a very good meeting; i learned a lot about how to recommit myself to the work and reset my focus on missionary work, in order to consecrate myself as a missionary. it's interesting how we may be doing all that we should, but just by simply thinking about things other than missionary stuff can for real distract you. even if its good stuff. like thinking about school after the mission or seeing your family. those are both great things that matter, but can shift your focus from being completely effective. it doesnt mean you shouldn't think about those things, but if it takes priority over your missionary so thats what i'm trying to do, is make this work my priority through my actions. i don't know if i explained all that as well as i wanted, but i hope you all understand the point i'm trying to convey haha.
we had an amazing lesson with Lucas, one of our investigators. he's so ready for baptism. the thing that sucks though is that he's moving to Como (northern italy) so we wont be able to teach him or baptize him..ugh. he's so sick, he's like my friend. he's 25 and we have a blast whenever we're with him. but he told us to give the missionaries up there his number because he wants to meet with them! so thats good :) i'm gonna miss Lucas a ton. luckily we'll have Facebook somewhat soon...
saturday we had deep cleaning since it was Ferragosto, a holiday here in Italy. basically no one is home and everyone just parties. so yeah we stayed in the whole day as did the rest of the mission and we deep cleaned our apartments (yay) but it was also transfer call day, so yeah that set off our focus a little bit haha. we made some apostate phone calls to see where our buddies got transferred and my trainer called me and it was so good to talk to him. man i love this mission, it's so stinkin awesome. it's rough, but so fun. the food may be amazing and it may be a beautiful country, but it really isn't easy at all, but it's so worth it. i'm just gaining more of an appreciation for the mission because of how much it's blessed my life and the life of my loved ones. i'm so happy!
oh yeah and on sunday the branch president had me bear my testimony since it was my last sunday before i leave for Foggia. it was awesome. i could already feel my italian starting not to suck anymore, kinda..hahaha!
alright guyss, i love you all. stay sweet and keep me updated :) tvb

here's just a couple of random pics that i thought i'd share. just to show you how great southern italy is (beauty-wise) so classic...

loving the African food

saying goodbye to friends in Crotone


saying goodbye to friends in Crotone

having fun teaching the weekly  English course

the #squad at our activty

an activity we had in Sila, great weather in the mountains
I'm holding my stomach because we just had the biggest pranzo (lunch) of all time at Sorella Zito's house. She wanted to feed me before I transferred to Foggia!

life of a missionary.. & unfortunate tan lines

African movie night 

A shirt I bought along with my comp and ZL's, they had "shizzle" written on them, so sick! ha ha

random picture before leaving a members house

Monday, August 10, 2015

(week 28) Love everyone

There are some things I've mentioned but haven't really gone into
great detail about before.

One story has to do with loving the people, nothing too crazy, but
definitely helped me realize that loving the people is necessary.
There's this family I met back in Caserta, my first area, and it was
actually an amazing experience because the mom was born and raised in
Brooklyn, NY while the father was born and raised in Napoli, IT
(basically the Brooklyn/NYC of Italy). They had 2 kids, age 11 & 13,
and the whole family was bi-lingual. However, everyone but the mom
spoke Italian as their 1st language and English as their 2nd. Anyway,
the presence of American blood in the family helped me bond even more
with them, because we had something in common. Though they were some
of the nicest people I ever met, they were very difficult to meet
with. They were always busy and when Sunday's came around, they
preferred to take that day as a lazy day rather than go to church. And
when spots opened up for us to teach them, they quickly filled those
spots with other activities. Basically, this went on for almost 2
transfers, about 10 weeks. Throughout these 10 weeks, my comp and I
pondered on what we should do just to simply get a 1st lesson with
them. We came to the conclusion that we really couldn't do much; all
we could really do is love them and hope they willingly decide to
"take the lessons." Opportunities arose where we were able to have
some sort of interaction with them, but nothing really more than that.
We called them at least twice a week just to check in and see how they
were doing, and invite them to church or any other activities we may
be having. They pretty much always declined because of how busy they
were. I remember one day we had actually received a phone call from
them, telling us that their son was having a birthday party and that
he wanted us to be there! We were so stoked. When we got there the
following Monday, we quickly realized that the people he invited were
nothing less than close friends or family. We were confused why we
were included in such a crowd to be honest...eventually it came time
to go home from the party (we were already late as it was), and as
they walked us out the door, the husband shook our hands, said bye,
and told us that they wanted to come to church the following Sunday.
It was so awesome. After all that work, he finally decided to come! We
were so happy. My comp and I were pushing and shoving each other after
we left because of how happy we were. Time went on, and they came to
church 3/4 Sunday's after that. During the weeks, we would teach them
lessons and they would go amazing. I had felt the Spirit tell me
multiple times that they were to be baptized one day. Questions arose
often regarding our church and its teachings and every time we
answered she would agree with our responses. But anyway, we kept
trying to get them to commit to a baptismal date, but she felt she had
to know everything before doing so. In essence, we didn't see a
baptism in the near future. It was frustrating because the lessons
were going so good but we couldn't get them to commit.
4 weeks after my comp got transferred to Palermo, I got Emergency
Transferred to Crotone; some Greenie went home early and along with
other things happening in the mission, a total of 10 people were moved
around in order to accommodate for this unexpected event. And of
course, I was one of those 10. I was devastated. I couldn't figure out
why after all this work I've done with this family, and getting so
close to them, why I had to be taken away from them in such a crucial
I'd say about 5-6 weeks later, while teaching English Course in
Crotone, our phone rang and I stepped outside to answer it. It was
Alicia from Caserta. She apparently got my number from some missionary
or something, and called to tell me she had a secret to tell me, but
that I couldn't tell anyone else. She told me that her and her family
had discussed it, and unanimously decided to be baptized into the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At this moment, I don't
think I had been more happy in my entire mission. My eyes filled with
water and I was nearly speechless. She told me she wanted to call and
make sure I was the first person they told, because she said that it
was because of my love and friendship that they came to this decision.
Of course, it wasn't me alone that helped them decide this, but she
expressed gratitude on behalf of her entire family for my patience and
love and kindness to them throughout the months. They even asked if
there was a way I could come up and baptize them! Haha. I told them
that unfortunately not, being that I was roughly 6-7 hours away in
Looking back on it. It made me realize how important love is. We hear
it said all the time, "people don't care how much you know, until they
know how much you care," and it's true. Even when I felt like I wasn't
doing anything and we weren't making any progress, just simply running
in place, something really was happening. By just loving them and
being their friends and caring for them, they felt that, and were then
able to more comfortably accept our commitments, and consider what we
had to say as truths. As Jeffrey R. Holland says, "these people aren't
lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic..." We as
missionaries, both full and part time, must remember that these people
have hearts and emotions too, and that our goal is not to simply get
them baptized so we can check off another one for the books. What we
must do is love everyone. We must, "preach the gospel at all times,
and when necessary use words," as Saint Francis put it. We must be
Christlike and show Christlike love for everyone, because that is what
converts the people; not convincing words and persuasive arguments.
The most unique thing about our church is the presence of the Holy
Spirit. And in order to help people feel it and recognize it, you must
love them as Christ would. It's definitely no easy task, but as I've
strived to do so, I've seen much more success in my mission. According
to me, the fruits of my labors are not recorded as a number of
baptisms, but rather as those people which I have helped to feel the
Spirit, God's love, and whom I have truly loved myself. This
experience, amongst many others, has taught me that love truly is the
essence of the Gospel.

(week 28) that il mare

Ciao everyone!
this week was a fun week, man. last monday, for p-day, we went to the
beach again with our member friends and played volleyball, ate some
pasta in their little beach house, and then some italian ragazzi
(teenagers) came up to us and asked if we wanted to play soccer with
them, so we did that for a solid hour haha. basically it was a super
sick soccer on the beach with italians, ain't nothin like
it! after all that we went and got some super good gelato, because I
mean we had to get our blood sugar back up. then later that evening,
we taught a lesson to our investigator Lucas; it was one of the best
lessons i've ever had on my mission. it was about an hour long and the
Spirit's presence was undoubtedly felt. we got super close to him that
night. we made that clear transition from being "those missionaries
that teach him" to "his homies that share a special message," and it
was just what was needed. that lesson he opened up to us a lot more
and actually asked meaningful questions rather than just listen to
what we had to say. i could tell he trusted us a lot more that lesson,
probably due to the fact that we talked for 15 minutes before the
lesson about how we liked similar music and other things. also, on
saturday, we had a district activity in Sila (in the mountains) and it
was amazing because it wasnt even hot!! by the way a district is like
a stake but not a stake because there are way less people. but yeah,
we brought our investigator Lucas and he loved it! it was so sick, we
had a lot of fun. we ate some BOMB food, and did a bunch of different
games, most of which included a soccer ball haha of course. but yeah i
apologize for not having any pictures to send really. I'm pretty lazy
when it comes to taking pictures :/ i'll have more next week! we also
had 5 new people randomly come to english course on thursday so that
was super sick. August is super rough out here in italy since everyone
just dips out of italy and doesnt say anything. so i guess you could
say the work is pretty slow right now...but its ok we'll get through
it and in a month it'll be unreal ;) we have transfer calls and deep
cleaning this saturday so it's gonna be crazyyy. our district of 4
anziani and 2 sorelle has a possibility of literally anything these
transfer calls. honestly any one of us could be staying, as well as
leaving. we honestly have no clue. but i'd say i'm pretty sure i'm
staying (at least i hope i'm staying...) but stay tuned for next
week's email to see if i get transferred or not! man this transfer
went by wayyy too fast holy cow i feel like it just started!! well
guys, love and miss you all. keep sending me pictures and keeping me
updated on your lives :) (if you have time)
ci vedremm

-Anziano Blaise

Thursday, August 6, 2015

(week 27) it's been a week already?

time is just flying these days i dont even know what to think. i feel like i wont have enough time during my mission to even get comfortable with the language let alone how to be a successful missionary. lots of things are happening, so much so that i cant even begin to list what happened last week haha. however, some highlights include: a fun 2-day exchange with the district leader and his greenie in Catanzaro on wednesday and thursday (which ended up being quite successful), we got our air conditioning fixed (!!!), our investigators are progressing for the most part, except for the 2 that we dropped haha. we're meeting some real cool people with potential but it's rough to meet with people here in august because the whole country takes a vacation just about haha so it's rough for missionary work. but we're looking to overcome that. i'm also brainstorming how to find more effectively and efficiently by kinda taking an "unorthodox" approach to finding. I guess we'll see in these next few months if the fruits of my labors will be existent. I'm learning a lot here on the mission. both through my experiences and my studies. i find myself preferring to study the Gospel than Italian haha which sounds good, but I need to learn Italian! I love learning about the Gospel and I wish I knew this before the mission when I had more time to study. I now realize my dad/seminary teacher was right when he would rave of the simplicity and value of the scriptures. I'm studying the Book of Mormon, of course, but I've also decided to study the New Testament pretty thoroughly, I started 2 days ago and I just finished Matthew and I LOVED it. it's so awesome that we have the Joseph Smith Translations as well to help us better understand the true message the Bible, having been translated numerous times, is trying to convey. I love learning about the life of Jesus Christ, as well as His true character. There's a talk given by Elder Bednar while he spoke in the MTC like...4 years ago or something. its a bummer that there's no way to access this version of the talk anywhere outside the MTC, but I watched the video of it twice while in the MTC, and I remember lots of what he said. He talked about the Character of Christ and exhorted all of us missionaries to study said topic. I've been mixing it in to some of my studies and I've found it to be one of the best experiences i've had while studying. realizing how selfless, perfect, and loving He was and is just inspires me more than anything to change myself to become more like Him. though we know that's not possible in this life, we should still strive to do so, so we are better prepared after this life to meet our Savior. there is also a speech given by Brad Wilcox at a BYU devotional, called His Grace is Sufficient. I'll send a link so you guys could download and read it if you want. I know you guys are all busy and not missionaries lol but I really would impress you to read it, and if you have read it, read it again. it's amazing. you can even listen to it if you dont want to read it lol. but basically it's amazing and really sparks a desire to constantly strive to change for the better. and just how incomprehensible our Savior's love and mercy is for us. that being said, I just want to state that I do in fact know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that He doesn't make up the difference...He is the difference. I testify that it is through Him and only Him that we may receive eternal life and happiness with our families. and I know that He will be pleading and begging on our behalf at the judgement bar. all we need to do is our part--follow the commandments, and repent when we mess up--and his mercy and sacrifice will literally save us. I love this Gospel and all of the blessings it brings. and for this motive, I'm out here preaching it to the people of Italy for 2 years. it may sound like a sacrifice, but it's so miniscule compared to the eternal sacrifice that was made for us...
I love you all and miss you all SO much. I think about you guys every day and it does nothing but motivate me to get stuff done out here in hot and humid south. i hope and pray that you all continue to see the blessings we have in our life, especially the little ones. because those are also just as precious. have a good week everyone. and I apologize that my pictures are nonexistant...haha I guess I forget to take pictures. eh, whatever. ciao belli! ci sentiamo :)

-anz blaise

                                                                   His Grace Is Sufficient
                                                                           Brad Wilcox

I am grateful to be here with my wife, Debi, and my two youngest children—who are currently attending BYU—and several other family members who have come to be with us. It is an honor to be invited to speak to you today. Several years ago I received an invitation to speak at Women’s Conference. When I told my wife, she asked, “What have they asked you to speak on?” I was so excited that I got my words mixed up and said, “They want me to speak about changing strengths into weaknesses.” She thought for a minute and said, “Well, they’ve got the right man for the job!” She’s correct about that. I could give a whale of a talk on that subject, but I think today I had better go back to the original topic and speak about changing weaknesses into strengths and about how the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27, D&C 17:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9)—sufficient to cover us, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Cover Us A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?” She said, “I just don’t get grace.” I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?” She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.” She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing. She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?” She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway. Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.” Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom © brigham young university 1 His Grace Is Sufficient Brad Wilcox Brad Wilcox was serving as a member of the Sunday School General Board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as a BYU associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education in the David O. McKay School of Education when this devotional address was given on 12 July 2011. 2 Brigham Young University 2011–2012 Speeches representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?” She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot. I said, “Wrong.” She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.” I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.” She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?” “Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.” Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35). “So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.” “True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.” Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Transform Us Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice. If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane. In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us. Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because Brad Wilcox 3 we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original). Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change. I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.” I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.” They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?” I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!” Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to. I know a young man who just got out of prison—again. Each time two roads diverge in a yellow wood, he takes the wrong one—every time. When he was a teenager dealing with every bad habit a teenage boy can have, I said to his father, “We need to get him to EFY.” I have worked with that program since 1985. I know the good it can do. His dad said, “I can’t afford that.” I said, “I can’t afford it either, but you put some in, and I’ll put some in, and then we’ll go to my mom, because she is a real softy.” We finally got the kid to EFY, but how long do you think he lasted? Not even a day. By the end of the first day he called his mother and said, “Get me out of here!” Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly. In the past I had a picture in my mind of what the final judgment would be like, and it went something like this: Jesus standing there with a clipboard and Brad standing on the other side of the room nervously looking at Jesus. Jesus checks His clipboard and says, “Oh, shoot, Brad. You missed it by two points.” Brad begs Jesus, “Please, check the essay question one more time! There have to be two points you can squeeze out of that essay.” That’s how I always saw it. But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, 4  Brigham Young University 2011–2012 Speeches “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.” The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists. Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Help Us “But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven? Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace. There are young women who know they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them, and they love Him. Then they graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace. There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again.” And then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace. I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. They say, “Well, I’ve blown it. There is no use in even trying any more.” Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace. I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage Brad Wilcox 5 requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll financially, spiritually, and even sexually. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than talking with each other. These couples don’t understand grace. In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13). One young man wrote me the following e-mail: “I know God has all power, and I know He will help me if I’m worthy, but I’m just never worthy enough to ask for His help. I want Christ’s grace, but I always find myself stuck in the same self-defeating and impossible position: no work, no grace.” I wrote him back and testified with all my heart that Christ is not waiting at the finish line once we have done “all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). He is with us every step of the way. Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during and after the time when we expend our own efforts” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 155). So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch (see Hebrews 12:2). In twelve days we celebrate Pioneer Day. The first company of Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Their journey was difficult and challenging; still, they sang: Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; But with joy wend your way. Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day. [“Come, Come, Ye Saints,” Hymns, 2002, no. 30] “Grace shall be as your day”—what an interesting phrase. We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them. Conclusion The grace of Christ is sufficient—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the 6  Brigham Young University 2011–2012 Speeches absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37). Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said the following: Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . . . . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . . . . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. [CR, October 1976, 14, 16; “Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, 12, 14] With Elder Maxwell, I testify that God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’ grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Oh, young people, don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, I promise you will feel the enabling power we call His amazing grace. I leave this testimony and all of my love—for I do love you. As God is my witness, I love the youth of this church. I believe in you. I’m pulling for you. And I’m not the only one. Parents are pulling for you, leaders are pulling for you, and prophets are pulling for you. And Jesus is pulling with you. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen

Here are pictures I retrieved off of the Mission Blog since our Anziano didn't send any this week!
Taranto Zone

Taranto Zone

singing at zone conference