Elder Colton

Elder Colton

Monday, March 25, 2013

What I Believe

Hola mi familia y mis amigos,
This coming week we have our transfers (when we move to new areas) and I will most likely be leaving, so if you had any plans on writing a letter this week you might want to wait until next week when I send out my new address. 
And if anyone has a General Conference tickets that they could send that would be wonderful.  We have a lot of people who we're teaching who want to go but only 10 tickets in total so far. 
Last week I mentioned that Mormons are hesitant to share our beliefs and invite other people to learn more.  Those of you who knew me before my mission know that I was absolutely like that.  Anything more than a few words about religion was typically too much for me.  Let me explain a little bit about the why.
To really understand a little of why we typically are hesitant, you need to understand a few basics about our beliefs, which is why this letter is so long this week. 
Our faith centers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  He was born in Bethlehem and near the end of His life, spent three years preaching, performed miracles, and organized a church with Him at the head and His Twelve Apostles assisting.  He then suffered and was crucified for the sins and pains of each of us so that we can repent and be forgiven.  Three days after His death on the cross, His body and spirit reunited in resurrection, allowing each of us to have that same opportunity and one day be resurrected as well. As a resurrected being He appeared to His Apostles and other Disciples, eating and spending time with them and continuing to lift and inspire them on the path of the Gospel. 
That right there isn't unique to the world.  Many others have those same beliefs, but that is the central and most important part of our beliefs so it's what I wanted to explain first.  I personally know that He is my Savior because He saves me from feeling hopeless and lost.  He saves me from my mess ups (aka...sins) and guides me to what is best for me.  I feel forgiven as I turn towards Him and accept Him more and more in my life. 
Despite all the miracles and goodness that Christ did while here on the earth, He was rejected and killed.  Many refused to believe that the small town carpenter's boy could possibly be the Son of God.  And those same people who rejected and killed Him then turned on His Apostles, whom he had taught and prepared to carry on His Church after His death.   Despite those Apostles efforts to preach, baptize, and start up new congregations, all but one of them was martyred in the cause.  In the hundreds of years following, the Church of Christ slowly changed as the apostolic authority died with the Apostles and the revelation that had once guided the church slowly altered with the philosophy of men.  Eventually inspired followers of Christ such as Martin Luther recognized the changes and tried to reform the current practices so they would be aligned with those of Christ's original Church.  But without the authority to receive revelation that Christ had given His Apostles, they could not bring back Christ's Church. 
Because I don't have a lot of email time each week and (and because writing and talking and english doesn't come as easy as it used to), I'm going to simple copy and paste a description of the next part from a website called mormon.org, where a lot of our basic beliefs can be found.  This is from this webpage (http://mormon.org/restoration):
If the boy next door told us he was called by God to restore His true church on earth, would we believe him? Probably not. Neither did many people in Nazareth believe their neighbor, Jesus Christ the carpenter, was the Messiah.
After centuries of spiritual confusion people were in desperate need of Jesus Christ’s original truths. When God selected a 14-year-old boy in 1820 as His messenger, most people refused to listen. Joseph Smith lived in the United States, which was the only country to proclaim religious freedom at the time. His family was deeply religious and constantly sought the truth.
Joseph had to decide which of the many Christian denominations to join. After careful study, Joseph Smith still felt confused as to which Christian church he should join. He later wrote, "So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. . . . In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" (Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).
He turned to the Bible for guidance. He read, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). With simple faith he decided to do just that. In the spring of 1820 he went to a nearby grove of trees and knelt in prayer. He described his experience: "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17). In his vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches. Although many good people at that time believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they didn’t have the fullness of truth or the authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances. This vision marked the beginning of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth, which God authorized to be established 10-years later by a wiser, heaven-tutored Joseph Smith, once again allowing everyone to receive the joy and blessings that come from living it.
The proof of all of this is in the Book of Mormon. And because my email time is up, I'll talk about that again next week.  All I can say for now is that I know all of that is true.  I know it because I've prayed and asked about it and God has answered my prayers.
Love ya'll,
-Elder Colton

Monday, March 18, 2013


Elder Colton getting owned by a little kid. Classic.

Elder Colton and a friend.


Hola mi familia y mis amigos,

This past Sunday, Elder Endicott and I sat in on a youth class for teenager guys between 16 and 18 years old.  One of the two teachers was David, the fiancee of the 18 year old women who passed away in the car crash a few weeks ago.  He and the other teacher talked with a group of 6 teenagers what "grace" is and how it comes from Christ.  The first teacher, Nico, explained that "grace" is a divine source of help or strength.  The guys talked amoungst themselves about how only through the grace of Christ can any of us be saved in the last day. 

Then David started explaining how much grace affects each of us on a day to day basis.  He shared the miracles that he had seen since his fiancee's death that come because of the grace of Christ.  That first night, he explained, he sat in her room at her house crying and praying that somehow she would just walk right in.  He prayed for days that she would just come back and everything would be alright again.  But then he shared that as the days past, he realized in his heart that he knows he'll see her again.  He said he began to feel peace once again and that even though he will probably get married and have a family, he knows he'll be able to see her again because of the sacrifice Christ made for us.

After he explained that, I shared with the guys a little about how grace had recently affected me.  These last few months have been difficult for me.  We haven't seen a lot of visible results from our hardwork and that began to discourage me.  I've prayed that God would help me understand his plan for me and help me to have more faith and be more optimistic.

Last Wednesday, I called up a 16 year old named Ismar who we had taught a few months earlier.  I can't remember if I mentioned him in any past letters, but basically he wanted to get baptized but his Dad told him he had to wait and go to Catholic Church for two months.  Missionaries who lived closer to him began teaching him and I lost contact.  But on Wednesday when I called, he explained that he wanted to be baptized on Saturday into our congregation and that his parents had given permission.  So on Saturday, Ismar became the first person in his family to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It scared him, but he felt it was right so he did it.

During class on Sunday, he was one of the teenagers in the room.  I explained to them that my definition of grace was God helping us out when he sees that we're truly trying.  Without grace, we would be simple too inadequate to do anything.  Not a single person, whether he be the Prophet of our Church, a drug addict on the street, or anyone in between, could have a hope of accomplishing anything were it not for the grace of Jesus Christ.  I felt it a lot in high school.  I didn't see it then, but now I realize that a lot of times God simply looked at my pitiful but valient effort to do right and would send inspired help.  He does it for me every single day.  And for that I am grateful for the grace of my Savior Jesus Christ.

Ismar's Baptism

And that brings me to another point that I don't have enough time to write about this week but I will next week: Mormons are hesitant (or to put it more bluntly: scared) to share our beliefs and invite other people to learn more.  It's one of our best kept secrets, but most members of our Church get nervous when it comes to talk about our religion unless someone says something to the effect of "I've been praying recently and searching for more of God in my life and had a strong feeling that I should talk with you about your belief in God."  When someone says something like that then even the most timid of members find a way to share.  Next week I shall talk more about this.  But for now, hasta luego.

Love ya'll,
-Elder Colton 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Piano Was Worth It?

Hola mi familia y mis amigos,
This is a letter that I never, ever thought would come from me.  And I fully realize anyone who knew me growing up may die of shock, not to mention Jared (my older brother) will have a good excuse to make fun of me for the letters I used to write to him while he served a mission in Brazil (which said he wasn't allowed to mention piano in his letters to us back home). 
For many years my mom forced me to play piano and I hated it.  I loved my teacher (Miss Tomi) but the actual piano was not exactly on my top list of favorite hobbies.  Even when I did manage to practice my songs and learn them well enough for recitals, I would freeze up on the stage and not make it past more than a few measures. But as soon as I graduated from high school, the sacrifice and frustration of Miss Tomi and Mom payed off as I began to love piano while I was in college.  One of my greatest memories of BYU was sitting at a piano with a good friend of mine as I played and she sang hymns. 
On my first Sunday in the MTC (Missionary Training Center-where we spend a few weeks at the beginning of our mission), our Bishop needed a pianist and my companion so kindly volunteered me.  At that point I had never accompanied in my life and my first experince went poorly. I messed up most of it and only played 3 of the 4 verses (and Mormons get ticked when you mess with their hymns).  As more companions so generously volunteered me, I slowly got better at accompanying and at this point I'm decent at it.
Spanish congregations typically aren't full of pianists, so in our worship services I'm often called on to play (aka...sacrament meeting).  Never do I enjoy it and I do all I can to avoid it.
But...on Sunday I had one of the greatest experiences of my life: they asked me to play piano during primary. Primary is the sunday school class we have for kids 3 to 12, and they have songs that are so much more fun than our normal hymns.  Not to mention its a bunch of kids singing the songs.  Many of those kids are young boys between 3 and 12 years old.  And many of them happen to be crazy. 
It made me appreciate my own primary teachers so much more.  When I was that age my mom described as such: Brandon has two speeds: fast, and asleep.  He also has two volumes: loud, and asleep.  As I watched the primary teachers try to herd a group of boys, I decided that primary teachers deserve instant exaltation in Heaven. 
Especially one particular teacher of mine: Sister Kerr.  We were about 10 years old when she taught us.  And when I say "we," I mean 11 of the craziest kids ever to step foot in a church.   We only had a single girl our age to even out the craziness.  How Sister Kerr managed to do that yet still make all of us love her so much is beyond my understand.  And what she probably doesn't know is that she touched each one of our lives.  My friend Taze (who is serving a mission in Taiwan) and I were talking about her only a few months before he left.  We talked about how much it meant to us that she had stuck with us, never got mad at us, and also taught us about the gospel.  Being the inconsiderate teenagers we were (and partly still are), we never thanked her.  That will be on my list of things to do when they make me leave here. 
Love ya'll,
-Elder Colton    

Monday, March 4, 2013

"What This is All About"

Hola mi familia y mis amigos,
Today you're going to hear a story about a man and his family. It teaches a few lessons.  
Ten years ago, a young dad wanted something more in his life.  He had young children and a beautiful wife, a good paying job, and everything most people want in life, but he was missing something.  He found that something in the gospel and he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It filled his life like nothing else can.  His testimony grew quickly and not too long after, he and his family were married in one of our temples for time and all eternity. 
Now fast-forward to 2013.  He and his wife have five children and a happy marriage.  They have a beautiful home in a quiet neighborhood.  He owns a border grill here in Layton and is one of two counselors (or assistants) to our bishop.  Last Sunday, his oldest daughter and her boyfriend finalized their engagement and life seemed golden for their family.
His name is Hermano Herrera.
Now move to Monday, February 25, 2013.  On Monday evening he gets a phone call from the police.  His oldest daughter was driving on I-15 northbound and has an accident with a semi-truck.  She dies within minutes. 
Everything changes very, very quickly.  Suddenly he doesn't have his oldest daughter with him anymore.  Her fiancee doesn't have her anymore.  Every plan they have disappears in an instant. 
On Thursday they hold her funeral and burial.
On Sunday, Hermano Herrera came to church alone to speak to our congregation for a few minutes.  Here a short notes version of his impromptu words:
"Thank you all for the support you've given me and my family.  I come here very pained, but we have felt your love.  But I want to tell you something.  My testimony of God and this Church has not been weakened.  It has been strengthened.  This morning my wife asked me to bring my daugther back.  I told her I can't do that.  It would be egotistical to want that.  She is happier now and with God again.  But I know....I know...that I will see her again.  I know I will be with her again.  We will be resurrected together."
That, right there, is what this is all about.  That is why I am a missionary.  Hermano Herrera just lost his daughter for a time, but because of his testimony in Christ and His Church, he say 5 days later, "I know I will see her again and I love God." 
Love ya'll,
-Elder Colton