Email January 2, 2015 – Elder Kenneth Wm. Burton
Bunch of Burtons
Well the snow just keeps coming. It melted off at one point because of some rain we received, but we're back to a good layer of snow. Last Monday I bought a new pair of shoes, more like black leather hiking boots that pass very well as church shoes. They've been great, very comfortable and completely dry.
This last week we used some time to move out of our apartment and in with the other Elders. So right now we have four living together. Kind of crazy, Elder Amos and I are still living out of our suit cases because we don't know exactly who will be leaving next Monday. Normally we would find out today who's transferring but last night the assistance texted the mission saying calls wont come until Friday, meaning missionaries will only have Saturday and Sunday to pack.
We have a baptismal date with Lona for the 21st of March! She now has a good goal to work for to be ready for baptism. We're going by tomorrow to give her a blessing, the doctors have recently found a tumor in one of her breasts. She isn't doing to great health wise right now, maybe two weeks ago they also found a tumor or something in her back.
Church yesterday was great, I love fast and testimony meeting. Erik, a recent convert, who the other Elders worked with, received the priesthood last week and blessed the sacrament for his first time yesterday. He also gave his testimony, which we were happy to see was under 15 minutes, when Erik starts talking its hard to get him to stop. In an appointment my companion once timed an hour and a half before we were able to squeeze a word into the conversation. He's great though, the gospel is changing him so much and you can see how happy he is. He's a great strength to the branch.
I've been continuing to study grace and mercy. I've always thought of them as the same thing, but have come to understand the difference. I don't know if any of you have read the talk His Grace is Sufficient by Brad Wilcox, if you haven't I would recommend it.
In 2 Nephi 25:23 the scripture sates, "...it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." I have always recognized this scripture to mean that we need to do all that we possibly can and then Gods grace lifts us up. I did't understand it correctly.
There are two parts to this scripture, first, "it is by grace that we are saved". We read in the Bible Dictionary that "grace is the enabling power from God that allows men and women to obtain blessings in this life and to gain eternal life and exaltation... Such divine help of strength is given through the mercy and love of God." Now with the "after all we can do". Us humans are weak and we make mistakes. Without grace we would be alone and never obtain eternal life. But because of Gods mercy we can access grace, or Gods power. It is the power that allows us to overcome and conquer. We still need to act, but grace is the fuel that drives us. When you ride and electric bicycle you still need to peddle, but grace is that battery that allows you the strength to get over the steepest hills. Brad Wilcox describes the atonement as a mother paying for a child's piano lessons. The child will never be able to pay his mother back, but his mom can ask for one thing, practice. I picture mercy as the opportunity given to practice the piano, and grace is our teacher and guide. We can't learn the piano on our own if we don't know which keys match the notes on our sheet music. Grace is the strength, power, desire, patience, and joy that allows us the blessings of heaven and helps us as we strive to improve our piano skills. Thus "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." We still need to act, but not to reach up to grab a hold of grace. We act so that grace is activated and it will raise us up. Remember the law of physics that an object cant be moved if the same force is pulling on it from both sides. Grace is whats pulling us to the right, we are whats pulling us to the left. If we instead act in faith and try to live for God rather than trying to live for our own happiness, we will find ourselves supported by Gods amazing grace.
The city of Ammoniha in the Book of Mormon was destroyed, but not as a punishment for the peoples sins. The Lamanites were going to attack whether the Nephites had repented or not. But if they had repented they would have had the Lords protection and help. God offered mercy by sending Alma to preach His gospel. God was offering grace, which would have given an enabling power of protection and blessings from their enemies. The mercy of Christ gives us grace which is the enabling power that allows us to overcome our weaknesses and become perfected in Christ.
I know I sent this song a few weeks ago, but I feel its easier to understand in this perspective...
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
Its good to hear everyone back home is doing well. I'm praying for you all. Have a great week!