I got my letter from my mom this week and just felt incredulously guilty for hardly writing a thing about General Conference. Everyone had written all about it! All of you always tell me that you feel like you're right along with me when you read my letters and this week you were in the dark and I'm sorry.
General Conference in Japan is pretty cool. We get the translated broadcasts a week after conference. We, meaning the church. Every stake is different, but here in Koga, we watch Conference at our own church building. Which is great because if we had to go to the stake center, we'd have to travel two hours by train. Yeah, let that sink in. I could walk to my stake center back home. Count your blessings. Anyway, so in our church building there's a room set up for every language Conference is translated into. In Koga, we had three rooms: Japanese, English, and Spanish. The English room was just us missionaries and a single member who wants to move to Hawaii so he's learning English. We set up tables for optimal note taking and listened to the word of God. I know that's true! At first conference was very awkward. Am I right? If you thought talks about marriage and the law of chastity were awkward with your parents, imagine sitting in a room with elders. The climax was definitely when Sister Burton said: "I am convinced that a husband is never more attractive to his wife than when he is serving in his God-given roles as a worthy priesthood holder." As soon as she said that, all the elders snatched their pens and scratched it into their notebooks. THAT'S WEIRD. They're ELDERS. None of this marriage, attraction, or love talk! Just when I thought I was going to melt into a sweaty puddle of anxiety, Elder Oaks got up and said: "Subjects for general conference talks are assigned--not by mortal authority but by the impressions of the Spirit." We tried to compare it to companionships! We just replaced words like "spouse" and "marriage" with "companion" and "missionary work." That game can get pretty hard with phrases like "fall in love" but it's way fun. That was Saturday session. Sunday session was awesome because our friend Nova came. Her pen flew across her notebook. She said she couldn't write faster if she wanted to. In her words, conference is "amazing."
I used to think I knew what happiness was. I remember laughing at a mean joke. I did a little dance whenever I got asked out on a date. It was easy to smile, so I assumed that was happiness. I was eating the fruit of the tree of everlasting life (1 Nephi Chapter 8 & 11, Book of Mormon). But this last Sunday, April 19, 2015, when I watched my friend Nova enter the waters of baptism, I felt like I had finally in actuality taken a bite out of the fruit. I was hungry, but my heart was full. I didn't have a lick of makeup on, but I felt warm. My hair was a mess, but I couldn't stop smiling. I was so incredibly stressed that morning, but I had never seen more clearly before in my life. I wish I could tell you how prepared she was, how evident the hand of God is in her life. But her conversion is so personal, so sacred, I can't share it. I wish I could tell you all the private little details that led to her white dress on Sunday but I can't. I can only paraphrase her testimony:
Before, when I decided to follow Jesus, I wanted to follow Him because I was in trouble. Now it's different. This church is an answer to prayer. I know that God has one church that He has prepared for the spiritual progression of my family. Lots of people in my family have died. As all my loved ones died, it felt like they took a piece of my heart. I learned that even your money cannot save you from death. It is only by following Jesus Christ that I can be saved. Now, I'm following Jesus to thank him for my blessed life. I am excited to be a part of this church, a part of spiritual mentorship. Glory be to God!
Right?! I wish you could've been there. I wish I could remember every word but I won't forget the feeling. As if I weren't already sobbing, the closing hymn was "How Great Thou Art." It's Nova's favorite. Shout out to Kelly Benson, Kayce Benzon, Amber Boyd, Debbie Cloward, Cynthia Smith, Marianne Waldram, Joan Yockey, Tara Stock, Lisa Hutson, Lorna Yorgason, Elder Dallin Reber, Elder Mark Rose, Sister Sarah Ryall, and my deceased grandfather Richard William Goldsberry! None of you except for my grandpa were there, but I heard you singing. It was one of those moments where everyone felt so close. (Relief Society gave me a hymn book in Japanese, and this hymn is all of their favorite hymn)
At the end, we couldn't fight of the hoards of members that attacked Nova. Members who had never met her hugged her. Members invited us over for dinner. There were pictures and handshakes and smiles and love. I don't know how Nova made it out of there. But when all was said and done, she said she felt loved. WHICH IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE. There are baptisms happening all across the world. God loves ALL of His children. Sister Nova will always have a little piece of my heart. I know that the man who baptized Nova has the same power Christ had in order to raise the dead. Glory be to God!
See you soon,
Side Note: We also receive Jenny's companion's weekly e-mail, and this is what she wrote (Jenny didn't even tell us about this, keep in mind she doesn't speak Portuguese, she's been trying to learn it on her own):
"Some members invited us over for dinner and a less active family who we have been dying to teach was there!! We taught the restoration and Sister Goldsberry recited the first vision in Portuguese straight eye to eye with a certain man from Brazil that was miraculously there! Almost no one else in the room spoke Portuguese but the Spirit was so intense! We all felt it. It was just another drop in the bucket of the prophecy that everyone will hear the gospel in their own tongue. It was cool! And the Spirit testified to me again that we don't learn the gospel with our ears but by the Spirit."
Pizza in the "real" Tokyo
Missioanries can be goofy too. Specially this one.