Monday, November 20, 2017

"we've cried together, we've laughed together ..." (Week 65, Stroud, Cheltenham, England, Elder Ey)

*high councillor speaking during sacrament meeting*
as he talks about a member he sees in the congregation: “we’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve even slept together!”

yes that was actually said yesterday in church. you read that right. he didn’t mean it like that though and he realised that right when he said it, but it was hilarious.

this week has been a chaotic one, we had two exchanges. for the first one I was with elder mkhulise (from South Africa) in Cheltenham and then I was with elder galaragga (from ecuador) here in Stroud. they were both fun exchanges and they are both good guys. exchanges are always cool but it’s so weird spending so much time out of my normal area with my normal companion, we have two more exchanges lined up this week as well...

when I was with elder mkhulise we stopped by a less active homie named Axxdam, []. he told us his conversion story and how right after his baptism, both his mom and his best friend died. however he never doubted God’s love for him, as we were talking about having an eternal perspective, he said if he could restart his life he’d say to God “put me on expert mode”. He, my friends, has a beautiful perspective on life.

one other cool experience. Elder Ey and I decided to knock a street and 50 houses into it all we accidentally ran into an investigator that we’ve been trying to get in touch with and it was a miracle. even more cool, the flat complex he lives in is usually locked but it just happened to be unlocked this time :)

I listened to a talk called the 17 Points of the True Church and it just lists out qualifications the true church of Christ must have (all from the bible) and let me just say, either God isn’t real or this church is true. There is no inbetween, no other church on earth meets the qualifications Christ set for His church except for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I know that Christ leads this church and I’m so grateful to be here for this short time, representing him, inviting all (both out here and all of you lovely people) to come into His church! It may be clique to say but the church is true fam!

I flippin love you guys, and in the spirit of thanksgiving being this week, I’m so grateful for each of you. honestly words can’t rightfully show how much I love each of you. Thanks for helping me and supporting me despite my BYU obsession and other stuff. Have a great week, enjoy some thanksgiving feasts for me this week, wreck some homies in the turkey bowl 🏉 and always remember that elder V loves you! 😘

Elder Varner

Monday, November 13, 2017

live from Stroud! (Week 64, Stroud, Cheltenham, England, Elder Ey)

“So when the Prince gets baptised what kind of helicopter should we ask for?”

That was just one snippet of our conversation we had about baptising the prince of England who has a home here in our area, we were getting so hyped about the idea of that, I think our heads were in the clouds somewhere! Haha

It was a fast week! Not the best for feeling great but learned lots of great lessons and had fun! We had some sick dinner appointments with Bishop Crew and the Ribouets! We are continuing our effort to build a pool of people to teach and it grew by 2 this week! So we have been texting all of the formers in our area Book and we got a response from a woman named Iyyngrid, we went to her house to do service the next day and we are gonna see her again tomorrow! She’s had a hard time the last few years and the gospel could help her so much! And that’s why we’re here! We also visited a lady named Vyyicky, who lives out in a town called Cirencester which is 12 miles away from Stroud, and she’s way solid. She wants to be baptised really badly. So you may ask well what’s the problem? [] they now want to get married, but they want to have a super nice wedding, but hey maybe I’ll get to speak at a second wedding 😂

We had exchanges with the zone leaders over the weekend. I went with elder Johnson to all the far out places in our area because our area is bigger than the mission Viejo stake boundaries haha. While knocking doors we ran into a guy that absolutely hated us, he said “Mormon is an idiot”. We responded by saying “you mean Mormon the prophet, from 400AD?”. He then said “I’m pretty sure he was around in the 1800s”. “No sir, you are thinking of Joseph Smith”, almost said to him looks like he was the idiot there but I held it in! He tried tearing us apart for 5 minutes and we left before it got too bad, it was crazy though.

We had interviews with President Leppard which was awesome, he’s an inspired guy! I know he was called to lead this mission and he is led by God! We biked out to this town near us and the bike ride reminded me of trek with all the random hill trails. Yesterday was Remembrance day (like our Memorial Day) and Church was only 2 hours so we could all go to the parade and ceremony in town, it was a humbling experience. We had a sick Ward coordination meeting as well where we discussed faith for awhile, our Ward mission leader is such a beast!

Many of you saw a Facebook video of me and my homie Elder Clauboux teaching the restoration. We are doing a live question an answer session on Wednesday November 22nd at 10AM California Time over Facebook so tune in and post some questions!

I studied Helaman 5 this week and as my homie Trev has said, it is such a heater! 

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

If we develop and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, we will have the strength to do all things. I know he lives and he is a foundation you can build on, he won’t let you down!

Weird to think it’s been nearly 15 months, time keeps going by faster, just don’t ever fredette that I love and miss you homies! 

Elder Varner

Monday, November 6, 2017

DID SOMEONE SAY FACEBOOK!? (Week 64, Stroud, Cheltenham, England, Elder Ey)

YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT-we are now on FACEBOOK! and I’m allowed to be friends with all of you homies BUT if you want to talk with me about life or normal stuff please only use this email to contact me, but I can answer any Church-related questions over it! I’m excited to be able to use this tool to help move forward the work here in Stroud!

it was a pretty average week, we had a zone Conference about Facebook on Wednesday which was cool. We had to be in at 6 on Halloween and to keep up the tradition I made last year, I bought a bunch of American candy and then wrecked elder ey in settlers of catan. good times. we knocked some doors on Halloween as well, but people were not down at all to talk! we didn’t talk to as many people this week as we usually do, partly because of our busy weird schedule, and the people we did talk to were not down at all, we took some L’s but it’s ok because following weeks like that are always LIT weeks so this week is gonna be sweet!

we also got to volunteer for the royal British legion’s annual Poppy Appeal, which supports troops and their families! and we started doing a member missionary work program with the Robinson family (brother Robinson is one of the coolest Ward mission leaders ever) and that’s going super well! nothing too crazy happened this week but here’s a thought:

David A Bednar once said “it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.” So many people here who are no longer associated with the church left because they were offended. So many people hang onto anger because someone “offended” them, but in reality being offended truly is a choice which we make, so choose to take the higher road and forgive and do that which is harder to forgive, forget!

major bday shoutout to one of my main homies, D-RECK JONES! happy birthday man! I love you all! Look unto Christ in every thought, doubt not, fear not 😘✌

Elder Varner

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Rise! (Week 63, Stroud, Cheltenham, England, Elder Ey)

homies! if you only knew how hyped I was right now! we saw some sweet things happen this week and this area is gonna explode soon! let’s get it!

last pday we went to Cheltenham to spend the day with our district, we did some shopping, played some sports, and even went to the celestial kingdom (five guys) and back. I did an exchange with elder clement (from Germany) in Cheltenham. on Monday night we were knocking doors and this uni student asked us each how this message we share has blessed us in our lives. I told her about my mom and how because of the gospel, I know I’ll live with her again. she was in tears, her father had passed away from cancer when she was growing up and she was so touched by how confident we both were that this message is true! her name is myyay!

elder ey (pronounced “I”) and I went to this cool little old town called nailsworth and we were walking up this massive hill and we saw this homie named Axxntony, who was wearing a bulls hat and we just told him we were handing out copies of the Book of Mormon and offered him one. He told us that he and his girlfriend have both been wanting to look more into religion, and the coolest part of all of this was that we only ended up on that street at that time because elder ey’s map went crazy, god truly places us in the path of people! He knows his children! 

We met another homie named Exxd while knocking doors, and again I got to share my experience with my mom, and then we learned that his mom also passed away from cancer and he’s always hoped for a sign that would lead him to believe in an afterlife, he didn’t want to meet again which made no sense to us but he accepted our challenge to read the plan of Salvation leaflet and to try praying for the first time.

i felt so sick at the beginning of last week, and there was one night where I was just shaking because I felt so crappy, I asked for a priesthood blessing and following that I was able to get some sleep and able to start feeling a bit better. I sometimes wonder why I’m being put through this trial, and I heard a really cool quote on a recent face to face that says “if god leads you to it, he will lead you through it”. I love that! Yesterday I gave a twenty minute talk on turning faith into testimony, I focused on two points. One being that we should doubt our doubts and act on the faith which we already have and second being that we turn trials into testimony building experiences. Email me if you want me to share the talk with you! There was a random non member that showed up and she seemed to be touched by the meeting. It was a solid week!

Here’s a thought for y’all, and that is that God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go. I’m so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There have been times where I’ve struggled to let go of the past, and there have been times where I’ve felt I’ve not improved at all. And I know that because of Jesus Christ, second chances are real. He isn’t a myth, he isn’t a fairy tale. Jesus Christ really did live, he did die for each of us, and He lives today. I testify of that with all the energy of my soul. I know that my redeemer lives! He is my saviour, my best friend, and rock, and he’s your saviour. His love is unfailing.

happy Halloween to all of you and a happy birthday to my mom who would have turned 49 this year! I’m the luckiest guy out here cuz not many missionaries can say they have their mom with them on their mission! But I do!

Just a test, email me a short line if you still read these emails, have a good week and always remember that elder V loves you!

Elder Varner

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Talk given 10/29/2017 in Stroud, England on Developing and Growing Testimony and Turning Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones

Good morning brothers and sisters, it is so good to be with you here this morning, bright and early. Just a quick introduction again, my name is Elder Varner, I’m from a little town called Ladera Ranch in Orange County California. I’ve been on my mission for a bit over 14 months and this is my fourth Area. This is a beautiful place, and you are all so lovely, im so grateful for the chance I have to speak this morning. 

I suppose I have no greater dream than that you will say of me a few minutes from now what was said of the cross-eyed javelin thrower. “He didn’t set any records but at least he kept the crowd alert.” I want so very, very much to say something of value to you.

This morning I would like to speak a little bit on how we can develop and grow our testimonies, and how we can turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. I suppose one of the main Christ like attributes needed in order to develop a strong testimony is patience. 

We live in a world of now. We can get any information we want at our finger tips in seconds, we can go to McDonalds or a chippie and get food instantly, we can get any scripture or conference talk in a matter of clicks. We live in an amazing time, but I’m afraid that we might sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that everything is so instantaneous and easy coming. 

Testimonies take time to develop. For some people, they might gain a testimony in seconds or hours, days or weeks, and for some even months or years. And as most of you know, it takes work. I’m going to paraphrase President Henry B Eyring stating that developing and growing a testimony doesn’t come through the passage of time, but it does take time. This meaning that a strong testimony won’t come to us over time unless if we put in effort. This effort includes doing the simple things well, it involves feeding our spirits, it includes working out the testimony we already have. And it certainly includes not feeding our doubts, that’s poisonous.

Elder Holland once said “do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue--it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.”

President Uchtdorf once said that we should “doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith” how important that is! Some of you may feel like you don’t have much faith, but I feel to tell you that you’re faith is stronger than you may think it is, and the fact that you are here today is evidence of that.

Do things that will help you grow your testimony, do the simple things well: we’ve heard it a million times but I’ll make it a million and one, read your scriptures. Elder Holland promised our mission a few years back that if we read the Book of Mormon every day that we would never go less active, and as a representative of Jesus christ I make that same promise to you. Pray constantly, attend your church meetings, and yes, even share your testimony with others. Similar to working out to gain muscles, we must work our testimonies out by sharing it with others if we desire growth! 

When you are doing these things, you may not feel as if you are improving much. But keep acting on the faith you have. 

President Uctdorf recounted a story last year in conference that goes as follows:

Faith comes to the humble, the diligent, the enduring.
It comes to those who pay the price of faithfulness.
This truth is illustrated in the experience of two young missionaries serving in Europe, in an area where there were few convert baptisms. I suppose it would have been understandable for them to think that what they did wouldn’t make much of a difference.
But these two missionaries had faith, and they were committed. They had the attitude that if no one listened to their message, it would not be because they had not given their best effort.
One day they had the feeling to approach the residents of a well-kept four-story apartment building. They started on the first floor and knocked on each door, presenting their saving message of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Church. No one on the first floor would listen to them.
How easy it would have been to say, “We tried. Let’s stop right here. Let’s go and try another building.”
But these two missionaries had faith and they were willing to work, and so they knocked on every door on the second floor.
Again, no one would listen.
The third floor was the same. And so was the fourth--that is, until they knocked on the last door of the fourth floor.
When that door opened, a young girl smiled at them and asked them to wait while she spoke with her mother.
Her mother was only 36 years old, had recently lost her husband, and was in no mood to talk with Mormon missionaries. So she told her daughter to send them away.
But the daughter pleaded with her. These young men were so nice, she said. And it would take only a few minutes.
So, reluctantly, the mother agreed. The missionaries delivered their message and handed a book to the mother to read--the Book of Mormon.
After they left, the mother decided she would read at least a few pages.
She finished the entire book within a few days. Not long after, this wonderful single-parent family entered the waters of baptism.”

Faith truly does come to the patient, the diligent, and to those who act on the faith they already have, no matter how small it may be.

Another thing that can help us grow and develop our testimonies is turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones. One thing I’ve heard a lot on my mission is how God couldn’t possibly exist because of all the bad things happening to innocent people. I have seen many lose their faith because of the trials they were called to face. The trials they faced turned out to be stubbing blocks for them. May I add my thoughts to this sincere concern of many of our brothers and sisters?

That is, in god’s perfect love for us, he wants us to be fitted with him, and we are given experiences in this life, which we chose to come down to, so that we may become as god is.

To start I’d like to share a story shared in Conference a few years back that goes as follows:

“President Hugh B. Brown, formerly a member of the Twelve and a counselor in the First Presidency, provided a personal experience. He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:
“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”
President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’”
Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:
“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done--that I should have done--that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall.
“And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. …
“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”

God knew what Hugh B. Brown was to become and what was needed for that to happen, and He redirected his course to prepare him for the holy apostleship.”

We are given trials, not because god hates us and wants to see us fail and hurt, but because he loves us, and he wants us to become as he is. We can turn our trials into testimony building experiences. Growing up my mom battled breast cancer. Doctors appointments, bed rest, and surgeries were all part of her trial. Shortly after I turned 8, she passed away from her four year battle with cancer. For so long, I was angry, I was depressed, and I simply couldn’t understand why all of that had happened, I was unhappy for a long time.

Over a period of time I decided that if I believed in god and his son, that I would have the hope to see my mom again, I would have that hope that for so long I didn’t feel I had. Through scripture study, temple attendance, and a lot of prayer I eventually developed a testimony that has grown and grown, it keeps growing. It wasn’t until a few months ago, on my mission, that I truly developed a testimony of Jesus Christ, I know that His grace and love truly are sufficient for me. I’m so grateful for my trials and my mistakes, for how they have led me to the testimony which I now have. I can trace almost every ounce of my testimony back to the hardest day of my life, 11 years ago. Our trials can be stepping stones to gaining a testimony. Even if all you have is the desire to believe, that is enough, that is all you need to start your journey to gaining an unshakeable testimony. 

In our search for enduring faith, in our quest to connect with God and His purposes, let us remember the Lord’s promise: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Will we give up after knocking on a door or two? A floor or two?
Or will we keep seeking until we have reached the fourth floor, last door?

God “rewards those who earnestly seek him,” but that reward is not usually behind the first door. So we need to keep knocking.

I promise that if you will do this--even until the fourth floor, last door--you will receive the answers you seek. You will find faith. And one day you will be filled with light that grows “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”

I know that Jesus Christ lives. He loves each of us so much. He truly does reward our diligence in seeking to grow our testimonies. Brothers and sisters, my dear friends, keep doing the simple things well. And never give up. As you consistently choose the right, the heavens will open, and you will know, as I know, that Jesus is the Christ, he is my saviour, and he’s yours, I humbly testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, October 23, 2017

duces Cardiff! (Week 62, Stroud, Chetlenham, England, Elder Ey)

hey everyone! 
it’s been a weird week to say the least but it’s been a fun one! I really don’t like saying goodbye to people so saying goodbye to Cardiff was kinda rough, especially cuz of how tight all us missionaries were there. For the last pday there we went to Cardiff city to grab some stuff and while we were there the sun went red because of hurricane Ophelia and stuff, we got some cool pictures. Then we made bacon avacado burgers with the other missionaries! 

I left Tuesday morning for Stroud and I do have to say that this was the easiest transfer I’ve had so far, and that’s because this place is gorgeous and Elder Ey is awesome! It’s only been a week but it’s been a ton of fun so far! This area is by far the most hilly place I’ve been so far and we haven’t even started biking yet, I gotta get my bike fixed...but this place is seriously GORGEOUS and it’s much more old fashioned, and smaller than my other areas, the ward isn’t too big here but they are all so kind. It’s been a good first week filled with tracting, and talking to people all the time. We don’t have a ton of people we are working with but it’s all good because we are gonna kickstart everything here, it’s gonna be an awesome transfer!

Our district is giant! It consists of Elder Ey and myself (Stroud), Elder Claboux and Elder Galaraga (Stroud), Sister Bateman and Kovisto (Cheltenham), and Elder Clement and Elder Mklisle (Cheltenham). It’s crazy going from 4 people to 8 people, I definitely miss the Rhiwbina district but this district is sweet! 

I don’t have a ton of stuff to say today because nothing too crazy has happened yet but next week I’ll have more fun stuff for y’all, but here’s a quick thought. The last ten or so months I’ve dealt with weird stomach nausea issues, not actually sick, but always feeling it. It has been one of the hardest trials of my life, and even though I’m so excited for the day where I’ll be better, I’m grateful for all I’ve learned from it. Elder Holland once said “Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed...Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come...You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” And as the song quote I love so much says “I believe that there is light up ahead”. During our hard moments, we must show faith and hold onto hope, everything will eventually be made right to those who love god and follow His word. “the words of Christ, if we follow their course, [will] carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.”

We are gonna get so fit this transfer, we have had some sick morning work out seshs so far! And for those who skimmed this email just know that IM ALIVE AND HAPPY. Have a good week, I love you guys! Look unto Christ in every thought, doubt not, fear not 😘✌

Elder Varner