Elder Jared Stark

Serving in the Spain Málaga Mission

Month: August 2017

Perseverar hasta el fin

Email 14/8/17

Hello everybody,

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about less active members of the church, or in other words, people who had been baptized and joined the church, but have stopped attending meetings regularly, or even completely. I was told by my mission president that in places like the United States, it’s common to have around 70-80% of members who are on the church’s rolls attend on a regular basis. This number is about 20-30% in Spain and other places throughout the world (to which I’m sure that many of my missionary friends around the world can attest to). In other words, the majority of members on the church’s rolls where I’m serving right now don’t attend church meetings basically ever. Therefore, a lot of our work as missionaries revolves around finding these people, getting to know them and their needs, and helping them return to activity in the church.

This past Monday, we were stopping by the houses of some less active members, and we found a family who has not been attending church for decades. The 84 year old mother was baptized when she was younger, and her two sons, both in their fifties now, were baptized as children. Although they are very, very nice people, it’s sad to see that they had completely forgotten all of their knowledge about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and had even stopped believing in God altogether. What was once something important in their lives has now become but a memory. We also met this week with another less active member, who was active in the church growing up, but stopped doing so when he was a young adult. He has desires to come back to activity, but is afraid of the changes and work that it’s going to require.

During our interviews with President Andersen on Wednesday, I talked to him about this topic, and in our discussion, he read the following about enduring the end from Preach My Gospel:

“Faith in Christ; repentance; making, renewing, and keeping covenants; and being cleansed by the Spirit become a pattern of living. Our actions in daily life are shaped and governed by these principles. Peace and joy come by following this way, and we gradually grow in Christlike attributes.”

This is to say that becoming a member of the church is more than just being baptized. In fact, baptism is just the starting point; conversion comes bit by bit on the path of enduring to the end. I’ve seen time and time again throughout my own life and through experienced on my mission that those who stay active in the church are those who ultimately end up the happiest. Those who do the simple things like reading the scriptures and praying every day and attending church on a regular basis are those who have firm and stalwart testimonios that lead them to having lasting peace and joy. It’s all about patterned living and consistency. This is the type of living that leads us to the highest level of peace and joy that we can obtain. As it says in Preach My Gospel:

“Eventually, as we follow this way and “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ … and endure to the end,” we are promised, “Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).”

Sometimes it’s discouraging to see how many people have stopped living in agreement with the covenant they made at baptism. But, all we can do is worry about our own salvation, what we have control over, and help out those who are lost. Another quote from Preach My Gospel says: 

“A few members do not endure or remain fully active. However, enduring to the end is a personal responsibility. We “work out [our] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), and we serve and love those whose faith has grown weak through inactivity.”

I know, with all of my heart, that this church is true. Just like Joseph Smith said, “I [know] it, and I knew that God [knows] it, and I [cannot] deny it.” Living a patterned life following the example Jesus Christ gave us is the only way to find lasting happiness in this life and in the eternities after. 

Love,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photo

1-5: We hiked up to the Castillo de Santa Catalina last preparation day

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6: Elder Liza and I

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7: A horse

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8: Jesus Street

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9-10: The District of Jaén: Elder Stark, Elder Trowell, Elder Liza, Elder Craven

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11: With our recent convert Pablo

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12: First time making cookies

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13: Until next time

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Lift Up Your Voices

Email 7/8/17

Hello everybody,

Last Monday, as we were enjoying preparation day in the chapel, we got a call from President Andersen informing us of an emergency transfer in the mission affecting the other set of elders here in Jaén. The next day, Elder Rigby left to go to Ciudad Real and Elder Trowell came from Huelva to be companions with Elder Craven. That provided a sufficiently crazy start to the week.

Also on Monday, we had another lesson with Olga. She’s doing good, progressing little by little. We have been able to get through 2/3 of the Restoration with her so far, so it’s definitely going a bit slower than “normal,” but she has been keeping her commitments to pray and read, so it just goes to show that everybody has their own pace of learning.

We’ve still been keeping in touch with Jorge this week, but he has been a bit busy with moving, so we really haven’t been able to see him too much, but we’ll probably be able to see him a bit more this week. We ate lunch with him on Wednesday, and that was about it.

This week I was able to do a baptismal interview for Juani, an investigator of the other Elders. Those interviews are for sure some of the most spiritual parts of this work. She hopefully will be getting baptized this week, but has to go to France for a few days, so it’s still a bit up in the air what’ll happen.

One night last week, we were contacting in the street, and we were stopped by a lady named Lola. She approached us saying things like “you guys worship Joseph Smith, don’t you, etc.” Of course, we tried to set the record straight with her, found out she was a Jehovah’s Witness, and ended up talking with her on this street corner for over half an hour. She told us that she thought we were really sincere young men, and wanted to keep talking to us, but somewhere a bit calmer. So she told us to follow her to a park by her house, but she wanted us to follow her at a distance so that nobody from her church would see her with us and judge her for talking to the Mormons. We ended up following her for almost 30 minutes to the other side of town, and she kept looking back and subtlety gesturing at us to keep following her. It was very bizarre, but super funny shadowing this old testigo lady at her request. Once we got to the park, we talked for a few more minutes and then set up another cita to meet there. When we came back for the second cita, she had brought some of the Jehovah’s Witness study material, and our understanding was that she would share a little bit about her church with us and we’d be able to share our beliefs with her. Unfortunately though, once she had finished sharing her thing, she indicated she had no interest in “listening to our lies” and unfortunately, that was that. 

I think that my favorite part of the week was our lesson with Nabil, our investigator from Morocco. As we were teaching him, he stopped us and said, “There’s something that I feel like I need to tell you guys. That day when you contacted me on the street last week, I was praying to God to know if he even existed, and if there was more to life, and right when I finished my prayer is when you stopped me and talked to me. I took that as an answer from God to my my prayer.” He’s still finding out if what we’ve been teaching him is true and from God, but he’s accepted an invitation to be baptized, and I have no doubt that his prayers to find out the truthfulness of this message will be answered, too.

Here are some scriptures that were especially applicable for the mission this week. The first is D&C 123:12:

“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it–

Therefore, as it says in D&C 100:4-6:

“…I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls. Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.”

I testify of the truthfulness of this promise for I have seen it fulfilled time and time again. The Lord wants his children to know the truth, and he calls missionaries to communicate it. The work is true. Miracles happen every day, and God is the one who is directing this work.

Love you all,

Élder Stark 🇪🇸

Photos

1: Elder Liza cut my hair

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2: Preparation day lunch

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3: Elder Liza, Carlos, Elder Stark, Olga

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4: Elder Stark, Elder Craven, Elder Liza, Elder Rigby

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5: When district pictures go bad

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6: Goodbye Elder Rigby

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7-9: JAÉN

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10: Until next time

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