Thursday, June 17, 2010

Apostle L. Tom Perry Visit to Mission

I would like everyone that reads my notes from this special visit of the Apostle how much the Spirit of God was present in each of the individual talks. I want to bear my testimony that I know that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God as is the Bible. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and that God has called 12 apostles and a prophet to help guide all of God's children in the world back into his Kingdom after this life. The Priesthood was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. The Priesthood was conferred upon Jesus Christ's 12 apostles when He was alive and Jesus Christ saw to it that it was restored in these final days of the world's history before He comes again.

I have a few very important scriptures found in the Book of Mormon:

"And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healings, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them" (Mormon 9:7-8).

Scriptures from the Bible:

Keep in mind: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Amos 3:7

The Church is built upon apostles & prophets: "And are built upon the foundation of the "apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20)

I make a note of the above scriptures to emphasis the understanding that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (as stated in the scriptures). Therefore, He has provided for us today a prophet and 12 apostles to help lead His Church and we need to have faith in God that He will not forsake us and leave us alone to try to understand His words which caused men in the past history and today to misinterpret God's words leading to many different churches.

I love God and His Son Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ loves all of us, so much so, that He died on the cross for each of our sins. Therefore, to show our love to Jesus Christ we need to seek after the atonement (forgiveness of our sins) so that He didn't die in vain.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Our choir with Speakers: (from left to right)

Sister Podvodova, President Podvodov, President Schwitzer (1st counselor in the East Europe Area Presidency), Apostle L. Tom Perry, Sister Perry, Sister Senkans, East Europe Area Member of the Seventy Gvido Senkans.

Here are my notes for Saturday's meeting with just the missionaries followed by Sunday's talks.

Saturday's missionary meeting began with the song "Called to Serve" and a prayer. The meeting begun with a testimony shared by Sister Senkans and her gratitude to the missionaries that shared the Gospel with her. The joy and happiness the gospel has been to her and to know of her purpose her on earth. The Gospel has changed her life and that of her family.
Following her testimony was her husband Brother Senkans who shared comments that he hadn't realized he could be so happy. He stated the gospel is vital to all of God's children here on earth. Missionaries are not only to teach the Gospel, but let the Gospel teach. Heavenly Father knows what is going on in individual's lives and he sends his messengers to fulfill their needs. That's why it's important for missionaries to share how others can receive the greatest joy the Gospel gives. He also touched on a good point that missionaries are to be continually happy. Others will see our joy and want to know more. Fear and doubt are not allowed in the Celestial Kingdom, so if we have those attributes we need to work them out of our lives by having confidence in the Lord. The greatest motivation of how to do this would be teaching others so they can receive blessings. Those that teach the gospel are not only blessing others but themselves as well.
Brother Senkans concluded that when we see others sinning, it's up to us to open their souls and teach. They are looking for happiness despite their outward actions. He asked the question, "Why do we need to teach even if it doesn't seem like those we come in contact with are interested." He reminded the missionaries of the scriptures in 3 Nephi 1: 16-18 regarding the birth of Jesus Christ when there was darkness for 3 days and nights. How the people remembered the teachings of the Prophet Nephi and how they "began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear..." The earth is preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ. We have the Word of God and we need to teach it.
Following Brother Senkans talk we heard further instruction from President Schwitzer. He begun by asking the missionaries, "How do you study and how do you teach from what you study?" He continued that in his career he needed to know a lot of information to be a good physician. Throughout his schooling and his career he would use one simple tool - a 3 x 5 index card he kept in his shirt pocket with one word on it: Why? Every time he would see a patient he would pull out the card and read it. If he could answer the question then he knew how to treat them. If he didn't know the answer then he knew he needed to gather more information. This tool helped him to ask questions about life as well.
Great teachers form the right question in their mind, which helps them search for the right answers. He related this example by the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He continued that all the great insights of life's deepest questions were given when as a young boy of 14 Joseph Smith sought after the right questions as written in Joseph Smith History verse 10. "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 sought after the answers. By forming the right questions he knew what to ask the Lord.
President Schwitzer continued with other examples and explanations of asking the right questions using the Bible. "Thomas saith unto him Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? (John 14:5). Jesus answers in verse 6, "...I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." He made a statement that to truly convert another is to never remove Jesus Christ from the center of your teaching. He continued by adding how we get to know Jesus Christ and the Father by quoting verse 7, "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." Jesus also stated in verse 15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
When we live the commandments we are blessed with joy and happiness and this will show in our countenance and others will see it. He stated, "We preach by our example, we teach to save souls."
President Schwitzer also explained that missionaries are not to give information only, but to teach the how, what, and why of the gospel. Before concluding with his testimony he stated that when we form a question in our minds of a Gospel principle, when we receive an answer then we need to act upon it!
Sister Perry was the next speaker and she shared a story regarding the opening song "Called to Serve." In April 1985 all the mission presidents, general authorities, and their wives throughout the world were called to the assembly hall in Salt Lake City. Elder Packard was to speak regarding how important it is to be a missionary and they wanted to emphasize the meaning and importance of why. Before continuing with his talk there were about 50 missionaries that came out from the back of the hall singing loudly the song "Called to Serve." With tears in her eyes she said the spirit was so strong and it had made a lasting impression in her life.
Elder Perry was the concluding speaker. He began by speaking of the importance of the Russian & Ukranian missionaries when they return from their missions they will build the Church and be shining examples to others. He emphasized that they are very important to the growth of the Church in Europe.
He expressed his love of the Book of Mormon and stated it in itself is a great missionary. Depending on where one is in their lives such as a missionary, student, husband or wife, the Book of Mormon takes on a different meaning when you read it. He emphasized that it is vital to have companionship study when studying the Book of Mormon.
Elder Perry stated there were three individuals that had significant contributions to the Book of Mormon. He stated that the Prophet Joseph Smith gave his life as one of the special witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Martin Harris had taken the characters from the plates that were put down on paper by the prophet. "Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows: "I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. he gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him. He then said to me, 'Let me see that certificate.' I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, 'I cannot read a sealed book,' I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation." (Quoted from Joseph Smith History verses 63-65).
Elder Perry went to on say that Martin Harris then realized that scholars were interested in what the prophet was doing, that the prophecy in Isaiah 29:11-12 was fulfilled (And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.), that the characters had to of come from God because others couldn't translate them, and a final impression came to him that Joseph Smith was a man of God. Martin returned to continue the work with the Prophet in the translation of the plates. After he and the Prophet had translated 116 pages of the Book of Mormon he asked the Prophet if he could show these pages to his wife. The Lord told the Prophet he could not. Martin Harris continued to pressure the prophet about showing the pages to his wife. The prophet asked the Lord a second time with the same result, however, the third time he asked the Lord gave his approval. The pages were lost, the mantle was removed from the prophet's shoulders for a short time, and Martin Harris could no longer scribe. He later sacrificed much of his wealth to have the Book of Mormon published. He, however, did not travel west with the saints. He remained behind. Later in life after a divorce and other struggles in his life he eventually ended up in Salt Lake City with the Saints. He continued to testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
The third special witness to the Book of Mormon was Oliver Cowdery, a school teacher. He helped scribe the Book of Mormon after the Lord restored the mantle to Joseph Smith, the translation begun on April 7, 1829. By May 3, translation had been complete up to 3 Nephi. Elder Perry asked for us to think about how much had been written by an "unlearned." (Note: Joseph Smith only had a elementary-grade education.) Copyright of the Book of Mormon was completed on June 10 and at the end of June the book was complete. The Book of Mormon had been translated in only 85 days!
Elder Perry expressed that when teaching others about the Book of Mormon we need to teach of the stories of the people and the teachings of Jesus Christ first. He bore his testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that Jesus Christ is the head of His Church.

The entire Saint Petersburg chapel and culture hall was filled with members and investigators to hear the words of Apostle Perry. Avtovo Branch had most of it's members ride a bus to St. Petersburg.
Sister Senkans' began the meeting with her message how Jesus Christ can change our hearts and mind. Teaching with love and a positive attitude changes our hearts as well as those we teach.
Brother Senkans' spoke about happiness and stated that if we want to be happy in the next life we need to change our lives to be happy in this one. He related a verse in Mormon 9:14: "And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still."
He also mentioned that happiness and joy go together by living a righteous life. Quoting Helaman 13:38: "But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal head."
He asked the question, "What causes unhappiness?" He said we need to ask ourselves if we are living worthily and to look around those people we associate with who may be causing us to hold back the joy we can have by living the Gospel completely. He mentioned two more scriptures: Ether 12:27: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
He said that this scripture tells us that weaknesses stop our happiness but Heavenly Father shows us how our weaknesses can be used to help us come unto Him to find true happiness. The last scripture was Romans 5:3-5: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
In conclusion he stated that trials help us become stronger and bring us joy and are necessary to understand our weaknesses as to strengthen us in the end.
President Schwitzer followed with a short talk about the family. Relating parts of the Joseph Smith history he compared the beginning of young Joseph Smith's life as a young nervous boy retiring to the woods to pray to God in verse 14: "It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally." And later in the history of Joseph Smith when he prayed with more confidence to the Lord. President Schwitzer pointed out how close their family had to of been for Joseph's father to believe his young son saw an angel of the Lord and the support of Joseph's family throughout his life. He continued to empahsis the importance of family today, how it's important to study as parents and a family the Proclamation to the World. The prophets and apostles today are chosen by the Lord for the entire world, not just the Church, thus the importance to share this proclamation with everyone. He continued that the Book of Mormon has the greatest teachings on how to have a great family. He especially liked the pattern of the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon and how he followed in his teaching that if you follow the commandments you'll prosper and how he shared his life experiences with his sons on how he too was afraid in his life but how he had been blessed as well. Alma displayed trust in his sons and was kind and patient with them.
Sister Perry was the next speaker and she shared her gratitude of all the blessings of the Gospel and how being a member of the Church and all the knowledge we have by its teaching. She testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and because of the restoration of the priesthood we can partake of all the blessings associated with that: Blessings of the sick and afflicted; receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and being an eternal family through the temple ordiances. She also added that with all these blessings come responsibilities and quoted on of her favorite scriptures. Mosiah 2:41: "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of neverending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
She stated what a wonderful scripture to teach us that by our choices we can live with God in an unending state of happiness.
Concluding Sunday's meeting was Elder L. Tom Perry. He began with a comment that if we listen and apply the teachings of what we have heard by the other speakers and live our lives by them we'll see a mighty change in our lives.
He commented that a little over 180 years ago in a little log cabin in the Church was organized on April 6, 1830 and that today the Church is all over the world in 160 countries. He read scriptures in Doctrine & Covenants section 21 verses 1, 4 & 5: "Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ; Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith."

He stated that the Lord reveals His will through his chosen prophets and that we need to know that all the prophet's teachings are true because they come from the Lord himself. The Lord will never let the prophet lead His children astray. If he does the Lord would have the prophet removed from the earth.
He said that when he was 7-years-old he met his first prophet, President Heber J. Grant. He told of a childhood story that when President Grant was to come and visit their family his mother told him and his younger brother they would have to eat in the kitchen because of their bad table manners. She would leave the kitchen door open so they could watch the prophet eat. Following their meal his mother suggested to his father and the prophet that there were prepared beds upstairs for them to have a rest before the meeting later that day. His mother told her young son to go to the church and reserve a seat for them. When his mother arrived at church and his father and the prophet were not there she feared her husband and the prophet had overslept and told her son to run home and awaken them. His father was quite embarrased that he had overslept and told his son to awaken the prophet. He said that was quite a task for me at 7-years-old! However, he did as instructed and when the prophet awoke he pulled the young boy to him and Elder Perry remembers the kindness in the prophet's eyes. He said he was sure there was instruction given to him but to this day he only remembers the kindness in the prophet's eyes. He continued to relate the other prophets in his life since being called as an apostle.
First, was President Harold B. Lee who was a dynamic teacher and taught the gospel clearly. He wanted to make sure the members understood the gospel. President Lee coordinated priesthood and relief society lessons to be the same so the lessons could be discussed as a family.

Second, was President Spencer W. Kimball who was a powerful speaker and called all young men to go on a mission. The missionary force almost doubled overnight.

Thirdly, was President Benson who taught everyone to be a great missionary and almost every talk was on the Book of Mormon. The Church continued to grow. Members were now studying together, more missionaries were in the world and the Book of Mormon was throughout the world.

Next was President Howard W. Hunter who emphasized the importance of more temple and genealogy work. Followed by President Gordon B. Hinckley who Elder Perry said was a "human dynamo!" and that he had more energy than any man he ever knew. President Hinckley's message was building more temples. The Kiev, Ukraine Temple will be the 134th working temple completed.
Today, our Prophet President Thomas S. Monson's sole concern is about people. When he is home for the Sabbath he goes to nursing homes and has meetings with those living there. He always tries to reach out to those that need him. Elder Perry described President Monson as having warmth and feeling for every soul. His message is to understand everyone we come in contact with. Build a community of saints. Be concerned for everyone who is near us. Reach out and make them our friend as we help them along the road of life.
The Lord intended each prophet to emphasis their teachings differently as to what the Lord needed for the Church and the world. The Lord is in charge of His Church and He chooses the prophet for what important work needs to be done at their appointed times to serve. Elder Perry concluded on how blessed we are to be a member of the Lord's Church. Those given the keys through the priesthood are representatives of the Savior. The Lord continues to reveal the truth to his children on earth through the direct line of his prophet, seer and revelator. He asked everyone to be humble and submissive and the Holy Ghost will provide the way we should follow. He declared that God lives and we are His servants.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Drennan's Going Home Dinner/Party

The Senior Couple The Drennan's left for Hong Kong Monday to visit their daughter and son-n-law and visit the Hong Kong Temple and leave for home (Salt Lake City) on the 16th. They served as leadership and member support in Kaliningrad. We are going to miss them. Sister Podvodova fixed a wonderful dinner of borsch, baked potatos, chicken kabobs, salad, bread, & ice cream in hot chocolate (most everyone's favorite dinner!). President Podvodov LOVES to play spoons so after dinner we started out on the floor and ended up at the extra long table that is in the mission home (it can seat up to 20 people!) We had a lot of fun!

Daniel Podvodov, Elder & Sister Hazlewood, President & Sister Podvodov, Sister & Elder Drennan, Joe and I and Stephan Podvodov.

Elder Onychuk, Stephan & Daniel Podvodov

Daniel, Sister Podvodova, Sister Drennan

Sister Podovodva, Sister & Elder Drennan & Joe

Joe, Elder Koivisto, President Podovodov, Elder Hazlewood

Dining Out With Friends

Joe and I dined out with the new Humanitarian couple The Hazlewoods and a young couple they met at the grocery store this past weekend. Elder & Sister Hazlewood had met Jenny and her husband at one of the local grocery stores. He went up to Jenny and asked if she spoke english because they were having a very difficult time figuring out what the different foods were to purchase. It happened that she and her husband are English teachers! They are from a different part of Russia but are living and working here in St. Petersburg. They had taken us to their favorite Georgian restaurant. It was very good food. We really enjoyed their company.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Random Pics

Souvenior Shopping day with Mission President's wife Sister Podvodova (left) President Schwitzer's wife (center) and me. We are standing in front of the famous Spilt Blood Church

Look at the size of these bees over here!!

At the eye clinic we needed to go to for Joe's eye you have to put in 5 rubles into this machine to receive plastic covers for your shoes. We don't know the significance of covering our shoes because the floors are so old and cracked our shoes get more dirty walking on them then outside! We heard that the money helps supplement the doctor's pay. A close friend of ours is a brain surgeon and the bus drivers in this town get paid more then he does! Very sad!

Joe and I "Smelling the tulips" Loving Spring!!!

The new Humanitarian Couple - John and Karen Hazlewood. We are having a blast with them. They are fun to be with. It's like we've been friends forever.

Another Fontonka River Tour

Tuesday night Joe and I took another boat ride with the Clements and The Hazlewoods. (The Clement's are the CES couple that teach the teenagers and the Hazlewoods just arrived in April and oversee church humanitarian projects). The Clement's son and family arrived from America and we all went on this tour. I took a picture just coming out from under a bridge. Some of these bridges are so low you can stand up in the boat and touch underneath. According to Wikipedia, St. Petersburg has 342 bridges - the widest bridge in the world spans the Moyka River.
A tradition local newlyweds do is lock a pad lock on a railing overlooking a canal to symbolize they will be together forever. City officials have to occasionally go around and cut the locks off.
The fourth picture listed is an old prison. The tour guide stated the shoreline is original from the time the prison was in operation. During flooding season the prisioners that were housed in the basement would have to stand in water up to their necks! They are now in the process of remodeling it into a big shopping/business center.