Thanks for your great insight into exaltation and and faith/works. Very interesting, I had never thought about those things either. One thing it made me think of is in Mosiah 3:19, and how we often think of putting of the natural man, but we often overlook the next line, which is to become a saint. Putting off the natural man is stopping doing bad things, but becoming a saint is all about doing those 'good works' you are mentioning. I think it was David O McKay who said the purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better. And like you are talking about, this process of becoming better or perfecting ourselves and eventually becoming exalted can only be done through the savior. Before my mission I had never understood the two parts of the atonement--the redeeming power (governed by the aaronic priesthood) and the enabling power (governed by the Melchizedek priesthood). I had only ever though of the redeeming power. But I've come to know through the enabling power of the atonement is how we can become better, and become more than naturally we could have ever been, and become perfect.
One of my biggest challenges so far has been to resist the temptation to read outside of the mission library. I'm learning more about the gospel here in the last 2 and a half months than I ever have before. And consequentially, I am wanting to learn more and more. I have so many questions about some of the deeper points of the doctrine of this church, and I know the answers are out there in books by Joseph F. Smith and Bruce R. McKonkie (i don't know how to spell that) but I guess I'll just have to wait until I get home to read about that stuff. For now I just have to suffice with finding answers in the standard works and Jesus the Christ and trying to draw some of my own conclusions that make sense based on what I find. It does make sense though, I could get so lost in the deeper doctrine and totally neglect my studies for my investigators.
One thing I have been doing is really getting into the book of Mormon. I have never really studied it, nor taken the time to really build up my testimony of it. I decided that it would be a good place for me to start. About three weeks ago I started using my hour of personal study to study just the Book of Mormon from the beginning. I also use a Book of Mormon study guide. In the last three weeks, I have so far made it to page 32. I find it completely fascinating and totally engrossing, my personal study time is what I look forward to more than any other part of my day. I decided that as I try to strengthen my testimony, the Book of Mormon would be a good place to start. If you have a testimony of the book of Mormon, by association you have a testimony of Joseph Smith and modern revelation and just about everything else. So as I have constantly prayed about what I read and what I hear from other people about the Book of Mormon, I have received answers and I have really started to love this Book, I know that it was written by prophets starting in 600 B.C., and I know that it is a true book. As missionaries we come into contact with the occasional anti material, and this is really the first time in my life I have been exposed to many of these things and questions. My testimony of the Book of Mormon is what helps me overcome these concerns brief moments of doubt and also helps me to help others overcome these same concerns. I forget who said it, but great advice I have learned is to believe your beliefs and to doubt your doubts.
I might have spent a little bit too much time on all that. I don't have much time left. Sounds like you guys had a great week... Im glad to hear Jack and Noah are fitting in well in the new ward. I have changed but I don't know if the emails make it harder to gauge but I really don't feel like I have changed drastically at this point.
Tell Jack and Noah I say hi also, and I'm always thinking of you guys. I'm glad life is simpler, and I'm sure Mom is having a great time in California.
In terms of the work, it has been a great week again. Josh and Stephanie made it out to church, but Ken and Toni didn't. Ken has had a couple of tough nights at work, in which he had to save some guy from getting strangled and had to break up like 5 fights, so he didn't sleep well and didn't feel comfortable driving. Josh and Stephaine are doing great. We are talking with them a lot about baptism, and will probably extend a date to them tommorow and try to have a joint bapism with them and Ken and Toni all on the same day. It would be such a boost to this ward. We've been working with quite a few less actives, and more and more of them are starting to come back to church. Last night we taught a lesson to the Mitchell family about samuel the Lamanite, and had the kids throwing coins at eggs we had set up on a fence trying to knock them off. It was quite a bit of fun. Josh and Stephaine are getting to be really good friends of ours. We went over to their house this week and made them American pancakes and bacon, and had a really great time. They keep inviting us to go like bowling and go play their new wii games with them at their house, but we always have to decline. I wish we could though, we get along so well with them. We would totally be friends if we were in the same ward at home.
Thats all I can really think of right now. Im sure im forgetting something important... but I gotta wrap this up.
Let me know how things are going with everyone this week,
Love Elder Steed