Friday, October 30, 2015

My First Week in Brazil

Hey mom, I can~t figure out how to make a giant email for everyone without taking up too much time!! Unfortunately, I don~t have much time, and they really regulate the amount of time I get to spend on the email here in the Brazil mtc. Also, I can~t send any pictures from here for some reason. I can receive them all I want, but I can~t send anything. and it the email seems weird, that~s because I~m typing from a Portuguese keyboard. which is kinda trippy!!!  Oh, and I~ve been super super busy!! Like so busy, that I have no time to write in my journal!! I've only been able to get to the first day here, because at night, I get to my room at 945, then I have to do all my chores and stuff! So its a little stressful. So I still have to catch up on two days here in Brazil. I fell asleep on the plane, and had to worry about immigration forms and stuff at the end, which was a little stressful. but I got through all right without anything too scary. I do have to go to the police station though later today to register myself here for the next two years. After that, then I'm officially in the green. Everyone here speaks Portuguese, and very little English!! So its really hard to understand anything. But its good for me. Next Pday, I promise to have been caught up on my journal. There's a lot to write about here in Brazil! The mtc is jsut one big building, and our room is on the sixth floor. Way high up. and the windows don't have screens either!! which I though seemed a little dangerous!! haha, because I look out the window and there's a sheer drop for 6 stories down to the bottom! The mtc here is really nice though. And I learned that there are 20 million people in this city, and there are only 2 million in Porto Alegre. So I~ll be going to a much less populated part of town.
Oh! and I can receive mail here apparently. It just takes two weeks to get here. So you can still send me some mail for a little while longer.
And I~m going to type out responses to everyone elses emails later this week at night after I have gone through all the emails! It~s been great though! Ive been fed like a king here, half the time I don't even know what I'm eating. haha, but I eat it anyway, because its really good! It also so hard to remember everything I want to say. We are also able to go outside of the mtc and explore a little during our pdays! which I excited for. Sometimes it feels like a prison here, because we never ever leave the the building. but over all, the mtc is super great! I love it here, and am excited to tell you more next week.
Oh, and I sent you my journal!! haha

Love Elder Shurts

The Brazil Sao Paulo Missionary Training Center

Sao Paulo, one of the biggest cities in the world with 20 million people

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's been Crazy! :)Dallin

Dear Friends and family

Hey ya'll, Love you much! the mtc is awesome!! It's crazy, I freaking love it here. Like, the experiences I'm having here are one in a lifetime. So my P-day is on Tuesday here at the mtc, I would've sent a letter to you guys telling you guys that, but I was super busy. I thought that the mtc would be super hard and super busy, and that I would have a hard time adjusting to the schedule. but It wasn't nearly as bad as people led me to believe! haha. Mostly because I found out that I freaking love Portugesue. It's the best language ever! I'm learning so fast. I swear, The gift of tongues is real, I've so seen it work. SO our second day at the mtc, we gave our first lesson in Portuguese, and it was horrible, but I still said more things in Portuguese, and understood more than I was able to at that period of my learning. and the next discussion was ten times better. I was able to answer the questions she asked in portugesue. it was so crazy, like my mind turns into portugesue. Meu gosto o epirito santo!!. So crazy.
My district is so awesome! We all get along SO FREAKING WELL!!!! We're always laughing and telling good jokes, and we all have pretty similar back stories, which is awesome.. we are all so cool! Ha ha. We're definitely going to be life long friends, which is insane. I'll tell ya'll more about my district later.
So, I met Elder Waters here at the mtc!! haha, Actually, I run into him all the time. which is halarious! becasuse I wasn't expecting to see him in over two years. so that's been pretty cool! I also ran into a bunch of people which I knew from efy, and some old old childhood friends! it's crazy, it's a very small word we live in.
I've felt the spirit so much, God lives, and though you might not see it in your lives, he's there wanting to help you. and don't get confused. He's helping us by helping us grow, not taking away our trials. So if there's any trial that comes our way, take heart, and smile, because it's making you a better person.

Love Elder Shurts

Dallin is dropped off at the MTC in Provo by his cousins.

There goes our boy!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Farewell Talk on Agency

Here is Dallin's talk that he gave in church the Sunday before leaving on his mission. He did a great job and put lots of thought and preparation into his remarks. What a great kid!

Agency: a gift involving more than just choosing right and wrong
The topic I have been asked to speak on today is Agency, and how it’s more than just choosing right and wrong.

So, what is the gift of Agency??
Etymology: The word Agency entered the English vocabulary in the mid 17th century from the Medieval Latin word agentia, which is the plural form of “agens” which means to drive, lead, conduct, manage and do.
Church definition The Strength of youth pamphlet says that agency is the “ability to choose right from wrong, and to act for yourself.”
Or, as Nephi puts it, the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and “to act for ourselves and not be acted upon.” (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

But how does it work? Mechanisms that operate Agency
1.       One important mechanism allowing us to operate our agency is knowledge between good and evil, allowing us choice.
a.      Scriptural example is in Helaman 14:30-31 – “…for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.”
b.       He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil…”
c.       This knowledge between good and evil work as opposites, which present us choices. Without this knowledge between good and evil, then we would have no other choice then to choose righteously all our days, and never choose wickedly. So this opposition is essential.
d.       In 2 Nephi 2:11, it reads – “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”
e.      So what is the opposition/good and evil, that persuades us to act between good and bad?
                                                               i.      2 Nephi 2:16 reads “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” What does this mean though?
1.       John V Vandenburg said in a 1973 conference address that “These persuasions of the heart are related to two opposing forces constantly at work within every human being. They are the forces of good and evil, which the Master referred to as God and mammon. Coupled with these forces is the individual’s power to reason, which only man, of all God’s creations, possesses. This enables him to make choices. It is man’s control valve of what he wants to be. The forces governed by his own reasoning determine the nature and quality of the choice made. Thus, that which we call character is formed. We refer to this privilege of choice as the agency of man.”
2.       A second mechanism essential for the gift of agency to work in our lives is the veil.
a.       Before we were born, we passed through the veil, and entered this mortal life. By passing through the veil, we have forgotten all that we learned in our pre-mortal existence. This is essential, because if we had remembered all that had happened in the pre-mortal existence, then making the choice between right and wrong would have been easy. Faith would have been removed, and the gift of agency would not have functioned properly. Had we remembered God, then following God would have been easy, because we would have remembered him and his glory, and that would have been the obvious choice to take here in mortality. But not remembering him allows us to truly make a choice. Since we don’t know, are we going to choose to follow his plan in faith, or follow the natural man within us and go our own way.

Now I just mentioned the pre-existence. What was it like in the pre-existence? and what specifically happened then, that would have destroyed our agency on earth had we remembered everything about the pre-existence?
Through the scriptures, we learn that the pre-existence was where we all dwelt with god. However, we were all only spirits in the presence of our father in heaven, without a physical body. Then God gave us the gift of agency, and later explained what that gift was for, explaining how it was an essential element in the plan of happiness. (Now remember that, God gave us agency before he presented his plan.)
Robert D Hales states that God’s plan involved being sent down to this earth “to receive a body, to choose to act between good and evil, and progress to become like our heavenly father… Our agency… was an essential element of this plan. Without agency we would be unable to make right choices and progress. Yet with agency we could make wrong choices, commit sin, and lose the opportunity to be with heavenly father again. For this reason a savior would be provided to suffer for our sins and redeem us if we would repent. By his infinite atonement, He brought about “the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice.” But someone had to volunteer so be our savior. So in this great council we were all gathered before the lord…
 “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one [Jesus] answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.” (Abr. 3:22–27.) And that one said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2.)
“… And another answered [Lucifer] and said: Here am I, send me.” (Abr. 3:27.)
I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1.)
 “… And the Lord said: I will send the first.”
So the Lord asks us whom he will send to be our savior, and Christ says “Here am I, Send me” Then Lucifer spoke up and said the exact same thing “Here am I, send me”, However, right after he says that, he presents a different plan, a plan where he would redeem all mankind, and where not one soul shall be lost, and then he asks god to give him his honor. The problem with this second plan was that it would have robbed us of our agency, our agency which allows us to “act for ourselves, and not be acted upon”. Forcing redemption on all is defined as being acted upon. Our heavenly father decided to send down the first, which is our savior Jesus Christ, and not Lucifer.
Because Heavenly father did this, Satan became…
angry, and kept not his first estate…” (Abr. 3:27–28.) “And he became Satan… the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:4.)
“Satan rebelled against God and “sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him…” (Moses 4:3.)
Robert D Hales states that “because of Lucifer’s rebellion, a great spiritual conflict ensued. Each of Heavenly father’s children had the opportunity to exercise the agency Heavenly Father had given him or her.” In case you weren’t paying attention, I said earlier that each of us were given the Gift of Agency before this council. So what choice were we given? The choice we were essentially given was to follow our heavenly fathers plan, or Lucifer’s plan. Those who followed God’s plan “chose to have faith in the Savior Jesus Christ—to come unto him, follow Him, and accept the plan Heavenly Father presented to us. Those who followed Lucifer’s plan essentially “did not have faith to follow the savior and chose to follow Lucifer or Satan instead.” They did not have faith that Christ could do it, or they did not have faith in themselves that they would be able choose righteously in mortality, and thus, never being able to return back to Heavenly father’s presence.
                those who decided to follow Satan were “cast down, and they lost the opportunity to receive a mortal body, live on earth, and progress. Because of the way they used their agency, they lost their agency.”
Now, From what we’ve learned about the pre-existence, Four very important lessons are shown here about the gift of Agency.
1.       Is that it was a gift and a blessing from god. And that the Gift of Agency is absolutely essential for the plan of Salvation.
2.       When Satan presented his alternate plan, it gave us an opportunity to exercise our agency. Those who chose to follow the Lords plan “kept their First estate”, and received a body, and came down to earth, while those who chose to follow Satan where cast down, and are now here on earth to tempt us in this mortality.
3.       The Gift of Agency allows us the opportunity to progress and become like our heavenly father.
4.       Each of us here on Earth chose to follow the savior’s plan and come to earth to experience this mortality.
In addition, I might add that our agency is so important, that God, in this mortality, made ways in which we could never recover the truth by simply proving it to be true or false with scientific methods.
David V. Dearden, A science professor at Brigham Young University, stated in a devotional given on March 31, 2009…
 “It will never be possible to arrive at a full spiritual knowledge by purely scientific methods. I know this because if such a course were possible, it would destroy our agency, and the lord does not work that way. Agency is sacred. If we could prove the gospel true and always know how to act purely through reason or logic or science only choices in accord with the gospel would be reasonable or acceptable. Correct choices would become obvious with minimal effort on our part
Now that we know what Agency is, how is it more than just choosing between right and wrong?
Well, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “pick up end of the stick, you pick up the other” So? Each choice we make has a consequence.
Agency is more than just choosing right and wrong, it’s how each of those choices we make shape our lives!!
 And it is how we shape our lives that determines our future
In order to understand this more fully, one must understand the gift of the great atoning sacrifice.
We learned earlier that in the pre-mortal existence, Jesus Christ was the one who volunteered to be our Savior. “He humbly declared that he would do the will of the father in fulfilling the plan”. (true to the faith)
But why do we need a savior. What did he do that was so important for us! How does his atonement save us? And how does it work in our lives?
In the scriptures, we learn that at the end of Christ’s mortal ministry, Christ suffered all of our sins, and all of our infirmities. By doing this, He satisfied the demands of justice, allowing mercy to appease the demands of justice.
What is the law of Justice? And what is the law of mercy?
True to the faith states that “Justice is the unchanging law that brings consequences for actions… it also requires that no unclean thing can dwell with God”, because of this law, if we sin at all to any degree, we are unclean, and will not be able to dwell with God in the final judgement. No matter what we did, if we sinned once, that would be it!, and we would never be able to return to God’s presence ever again.
So this is why an atonement was needed, to satisfy the demands of justice. Christ had to pay the consequences of our sins, so that we could return back to the presence of our heavenly father.
Without this payment, we would forever feel the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve.
So, this atonement was the act of mercy which appeased the demands of justice.
But why was Christ the only one who qualified for this sacrifice? Because he was perfect
True to the Faith states that, “Having lived a perfect, sinless life, he was free from the demands of justice. Because he had the power of redemption and because he had no debt to justice, he could pay the debt for those who repent
So now we know why the atonement is essential in the plan of salvation.
But there’s more…
Alma 42:13 states…  “according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, [except] on conditions of repentance”
D Todd Christofferson said in a general conference address that “Christ died not to save indiscriminately but to offer repentance. We rely “wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” in the process of repentance, but acting to repent is a self-willed change. So by making repentance a condition for receiving the gift of Grace, God enables us to retain Responsibility for ourselves. Repentance respects and sustains our moral agency.”
So, God demands something of us still, which makes sense, because “A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist”.
In consistency with the gift of agency, we are now free to choose whether or not we want to accept the atonement. Because God will never rob us of our agency! the choice still remains to be ours! We made a choice to follow God in the pre-existence, and we still have that same choice here in mortality.
I’m going to explain this using a little analogy, which I stole from a talk called “Learning heaven, not earning heaven” given by Brad Wilcox. If any of you have listened to any of Brad Wilcox’s stuff, then you will recognize this immediately.
 “Christ’s arrangement for us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child.
Because Mom pays the Piano teacher, and because mom pays that debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something…
 What is it?...
 Practice! practice! practice!
Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher, does the child’s practice pay mom back for paying the piano teacher.
So what does the child’s practice do? The Childs practice is how the child shows appreciation for mom’s incredible gift. It is how the child takes advantage of this amazing opportunity to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found, not in seeing her gift repaid, mom’s joy is found in seeing her gift used, seeing her child get better. And so she calls for practice, practice, practice
Now if the child can’t see that, if he sees the requirement of practice as being just way too overbearing, way too much to ask, if he just can’t quite see it, it’s because he doesn’t quite see through mom’s eyes. And he doesn’t see how much happier he can be, how much better his life will be if he will choose to live on a higher plane.
Well, in the same way, because Jesus paid Justice, He can now turn to us, and He can say, follow me, keep my commandments.
If we see his requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it’s because we don’t yet see through Jesus’ eyes.
A God who asks nothing of us, is making nothing of us!” and I might addA God who asks nothing of us, is the functional equivalent of no god at all
One of our modern day apostles Elder Dallin H. Oaks said
“The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.”
The miracle of the atonement of Jesus Christ is not just that we can live after we die, but that we can live more abundantly.
The miracle of the atonement is not just that we can be cleansed, and not just that we can be consoled.
The miracle of the atonement is that through all of that, we can be transformed, we can be changed.
Scriptures make it clear, that no unclean thing can dwell with God, but no unchanged thing will want to.
Did you hear that?
No unchanged thing will even want to dwell with God!
So the atonement is not a means of allowing all to go to heaven freely. Rather, it’s a gift, just like the mother in this example, a gift available to every single person who ever lived on this earth. And because it’s a gift, we are Free to choose to accept this gift or not, and apply it in our lives or not. We are free to change or not.
Everyone still has that amazing gift of agency, allowing us to be agents unto ourselves.
Many of you have heard the atonement Christ referred to as “the great atoning sacrifice”
“The English word for sacrifice comes from two Latin words, sacer, meaning sacred, and facere, meaning to make. So Jesus’s sacrifice is to make us sacred.” (Brad Wilcox)
“The scriptures make it clear that our works are a significant factor in where we end up. However, this is not because of what our works earn us, but how they shape us” (Brad Wilcox)
It’s not about making us perfect, it’s about making us better. The child in the analogy I shared was asked to “practice, practice, practice”. Not to earn the child something, but to make the child better.
OOHH! It’s such a perfect plan!! And it makes so much sense! We are here on this earth to grow, to become better, to reach a fuller potential. Isn’t that what we are all striving for?, Progress in some way or another.

Now, how do we apply the atonement? What do we need to “Practice”?
We need to practice being like our savior, and follow his example. We do this by obeying his commandments, reading the word of God, Praying to Heavenly father, becoming baptized, and “exerting ourselves, repenting, and choosing God for him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency”.
Basically, try our best to become more like our savior.
Another one of our modern day prophets Elder Neil L. Anderson stated that “Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it… By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name. The future of you faith in not by chance, but by Choice”.
James 2:27 says that “Faith without works is dead”. Thus you cannot have faith, without acting on faith. And in Ether 12:6 it states that “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because we see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith”.
So practicing to become like our father in heaven is having faith in him and his word, (which is things which are hoped for and not seen), and acting on that faith, because we know that faith without works is dead. So if we don’t act on what we hope for to be true, then it is all in vain.
There’s been a recurring theme here, have you noticed? First we act, and then God answers. We first have to pick up one end of the stick in order to pick up the other. Understanding the gift of agency has brought me to the knowledge of how we attain truth. Hoping for a grand glorious experience to convert us is most likely not going to happen without our effort. We must act, and put forth some effort, to search the scriptures, and then ask god if it’s true. Then you will receive your answer. You must first pray, and talk to God if you want to know if he’s there. You must DO something before you can KNOW whether or not it works. And you must do it with real intent, seeking sincerely to know if it’s true or not.
So what about those who do not accept this Gospel? Is everyone who does not hear about the gospel or does not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ screwed? Are we the lucky ones?
Interesting question Dallin… and the answer is NO!
We will all have the chance to hear about this gospel, whether it be in this life, or in the next. We will all have a chance. After all, That is one of the eternal blessings our temples offer us.
The missionaries will not teach an investigator who does not want to hear the gospel. They will only teach those who are ready and willing to learn. How come though? Well, because that’s just part of our agency. We must respect each other’s agency just like how God respects our agency.
Because God respects our agency, Mankind are free to do what they want. this results in calamity, starvation, wars, pestilence, feelings hurt, and all sorts of sad tragedies all over the world. Is it because God has deserted his children? No… wars and rumors of wars have been going on for as long as we can remember. Even in the Bible there were wars and rumors of wars. Like I said, it happens simply because God deeply respects our agency, and will not violate that sacred Gift. But that doesn’t mean our actions will be consequence free.
And when we find ourselves asking why? Why does this have to happen to me? Think of Frodo Baggins, and when he asked the same question to Gandalf when he had just learned about the evil which was in the One Ring. Gandalf replied saying. “so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
So what are we going to do with the time that is given us?
Close with Testimony

I’m going to leave on a mission and teach the word of God to those who will listen, and I can’t wait to do that. Because it’s brought me So much joy, and peace, and it makes perfect sense to me. The more and more I learn, the more I understand. I am going to serve a mission is because I am choosing to be like my Savior, Jesus Christ. I want to serve as he served, I want to teach as he taught, I want to love as he loved. I want to follow his perfect example, and use his atonement in my life, so that I can become better. And I want to share the gospel with others so that they can have the same blessing.