Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Friend Hurricane Irene

Dear Family,

So dad and I are the only ones who aren't going to school this year.  I'm on a mission, Dad, what's your excuse? Elder Gibbons of the seventy came on Saturday and basically talked about applying what Elder Ballard taught us about.  Lots of self-evaluation and ways to increase our faith.  I'll be studying it this week because I don't think I fully understand it yet.  There's a storm hurtling this way.  Apparently it's going to rain in a big circle and a couple trees might fall down.  I'm not too worried.  Sorry I don't have a lot of time to give a big update.  Just be still, and know that I am Elder Fine.

Pictures:  This is a starfruit, I had never seen one before my mission.  It is called a starfruit for this reason: see second photo.  It is somewhat similar to a tomato, but a little sweeter and without the nasty seed goo.  You eat them with salt.

Ever onward,

Elder Fine

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One Legged Man Takes a Stand

Hello Fines Great and Small,

This week was exceptional.  First of all, Tony got baptized.  Tony is a one-legged black man from Chicago with a strong evangelical background.  I've been working with him since March.  He's been dropped and retaught by missionaries 3 times, twice by me.  He's disappeared, re-appeared, quit smoking several times, along with several other vices, and has just generally been very difficult in his progression.  And last sunday he was confirmed a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I'm not sure what changed, but he just made a decision and actually took it seriously.  Super cool.  Baptisms generally make your week good.

Secondly, we were visited yesterday by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the quorum of the twelve apostles, accompanied by Elder Gay, the area seventy.  Elder Ballard taught us about becoming master teachers and being ready at any time to teach any lesson to any person and really focusing and knowing Preach My Gospel.  As much as I agree with that, and plan to refocus my efforts to do so, that wasn't anything new to me.  What really struck me was Elder Gay's talk.  Elder Gay used to be a professor at Harvard.  He graded thousands of papers. 5 percent received excellence, 10% received low pass, and the rest of them received satisfactory grades.  About 2 percent of the students were ridiculously brilliant, no question.  Another 5 percent were the opposite extreme.  The rest of the students were about equal in their ability.  So how do you make the distinction between mediocrity and excellence?  It's easy.  Organization and planning.  Most of the students that got A's on those papers were not any superior in capability to the vast body of satisfactory Harvard students.  What pushed them above the rest were their organizational habits.

Planning has been one of my biggest focuses as well as one of my biggest weaknesses in the past several months of my mission.  I've learned a great deal about planning in my mission that I had no idea about before.  At this point, I consider myself a "satisfactory" planner.  I would like to reach excellence.  Planning is an eternal principle.  Everyone on this earth planned to come here, and agreed to God's perfect plan that he came up with to ensure that his spirit posterity could return to live with him in perfected glory.  All things are first created spiritually, or planned, before they are created physically.

Anyway, I'm not giving a talk on this, but you get the idea.  It was impactful.

Comic relief:  Photo of Elder Fine curled up on the couch (after we came home from the mission conference, I decided to read Jesus the Christ for a little didn't turn out so well)

Have another great week!  Love you!

Elder Fine

Monday, August 1, 2011


And now, my beloved brethren,

I have decided that I'm going to improve my letters to you, so that we can mutually benefit from these emails.  While, "hey, everything's fine" is a good limbeck album, it's not a very good email from your missionary.  So I'm going to step it up by following a pattern.  In my future letters I hope to 1) respond and make comments on the letters I received from you.  2) share spiritual experiences and things that I have learned during the week, with the hope that they might teach and inspire you as well.  3) Inform you of goals I have for personal improvement, or applications of what I have learned, and invite you to apply the same principles in your lives.  In this way, my letters will focus less on what I am doing and more on who I am becoming, and hopefully you'll be able to enjoy them even more.  As with everything, this will take practice, so here's a trial run.

Happy anniversary!

The decision you made to get married is not only responsible for my very physical existence, to which I am eternally grateful, but has blessed the lives of, at a rough estimate, 3 bajillion, people, and that's just the beginning.  In all seriousness, well done.

Mom's fun little getaway sounds remarkably like something from a television show that I would have absolutely no interest in watching.  Nevertheless, I think she enjoyed herself, so that's great.

Painting trees in the Arizona summer sun is probably one of my favorite things I did, and would be a great thing for Ethan to do as a starter job.  He could really even do it during the school year, since he can work whatever hours he wants.  But that's of course up to him.

Speaking of pictures, I have a specific request for you.  There is a picture I took in Greece, on the island of Rhodes, that demonstrates clearly the concept of an arch with a keystone (Book of Mormon principle).  If you can find it, either on the computer or on facebook, I'd like it sent to me, preferably printed, since it would be difficult for me to get a print of it in color without it being super expensive.  Also, I have two pictures to send you.  One is Alejandra who was baptized and confirmed this weekend by her husband Martin.  The other is a drawbridge in downtown on the Miami River that reminded me of the movie inception.

This week in preparation for Zone Council, I've been studying a lot about unity.  Unity with your companion, with your leaders, and with the Lord.  Christ was his father's Junior companion.  They worked in perfect unity one with another, and when he had a problem with something, he wasn't afraid to point it out.  Nevertheless, he followed his Father's leadership.  He also was a perfect leader to his disciples, and taught them to love one another, to "be one" as his father and he are one.  He later told the prophet Joseph Smith that if the saints "are not one, [they] are not mine."  As a missionary, without unity, we lose our ability as well as our right to teach the gospel.  "if a man say that he love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar." "If ye receive not the spirit, ye shall not teach." We are commanded as missionaries to teach "two and two" and as members of the church to move as a family unit, hearkening to the counsel of the appointed leader.

With this in mind, my goal is to listen and teach in appropriate proportions.  I'll let you choose this week  how to apply this principle.  That took a long time.  Hopefully I'll get better at it.

The Church is True!

Elder Fine