Serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northern France, southern Belgium and Luxembourg.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Do you believe in the wind?

So this story starts with two young, attractive men on a tram, slightly past 9:00 on a Friday evening. Only one other person was on the tram, and he got off one or two stops after the attractive young men got on. As he did so, the red-headed, slightly-more-attractive young man thought to himself, "I should have talked to that man. I hope I'll be able to find someone else to talk to on this tram ride home." Little did he know to what extent his wish would come true.

One stop later, a few people got on. Among them was a man with a mustache-goatee combo sitting on his face and a beer can sitting in his hand. He walked up to us (okay yes, this story is about us) and asked, "What are you guys? Mormons? Jehovah's Witnesses?" After we informed him that we were Mormons, this man took it upon himself to express his feelings toward our church in a most colourful manner.
Apparently his sister had joined the church, and this man was upset that she didn't go drinking with them anymore. He proceeded to say many things--some of which were false claims against the church, while others detailed his violent feelings toward...well, everyone who wasn't like him.

After he realized that attacking the church wouldn't ruffle our feathers very much, he decided to change his approach by attacking the core beliefs of religious people in general. "How can you believe there is a God?" he asked as derisively as he could manage. "You can't see Him so He's not there."

Then I got an idea. I looked at this man and said, "Monsieur, I'm going to ask you a question. Do you believe in the wind?"

He quickly answered, "Well yes, because although I can't see the wind, I can feel it."

Perfect. I looked him in the eyes and told him, "I have felt God in my life."

For the first time since I had met him, he stayed quiet. For about half a second, that is. Then he chose to ignore everything I had said, offered to fight us at the next stop, informed us that he knew more than we did, and finally got off the tram.

There was an awkward silence as all the other French people around us (the tram had gotten full near the end of our conversation) stared at the ground in shame because of what their compatriot had been doing.
Then we smiled at them and said "It happens." That broke the awkwardness a little. We wished everyone a good night and got off the tram to walk safely to our home in beautiful Strasbourg.

The end.

One of my favourite amis (Toussaint) and one of my favourite less-actives from back in my days in Liège.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I don't know anyone in Strasbourg

Week one of whitewashing: few immediate results. But that's to be expected. We've got a lot of building up to do, and my companion and I don't know anyone here. We hardly even know each other. He's pretty young and his first ville was very far away, so I had never even heard of him in my whole mission life. 

Elder Dudfield is a quarter-Asian man from Melbourne, Australia. He's in his 5th (two transfers behind me). He writes a lot of girls--though one of them is more special than the rest--and likes to point out differences between Australian and North American culture. But at least he understands what a kilogram is. On that note, this is my first non-American comp. In fact, this is my first comp not from the Salk Lake City area. It's nice, because lots of people assume we're all Americans. They don't understand that the restored Church of Jesus Christ is not an American church. 

Strasbourg is a beautiful city. There are buildings everywhere that look like they belong in a more modern Beauty and the Beast. We live on the river and it is gorgeous. Allow me to attach a picture:

This is what you see when you get off the tram to go to our apartment. We live right by that bridge you see. 
And those boats are actually just floating restaurants. Cool, no?

And this is what you see when you walk from our apartment to the tram stop. The Apostasy was architecturally astounding. 

Here's my comp and me on the bridge. Can you make out what we're fencing with?
That's because we're in France. Pretty sure this is an accurate historical enactment. 

So I've been shifting my focus lately. It's been going from a "contact-until-you-teach, teach-until-you-baptize, rinse-and-repeat-until-you-leave" approach to more of an approach that's focused on the ward members and helping them grow and share the gospel. If they're less-active, I want to get them active. If they're active but only somewhat committed, I want to get them fully committed. If they've got strong testimonies but don't know how to share the gospel, I want to get them sharing. Because those results will last far longer than my time here. Obviously I still need to find, teach and baptize, but my impact can extend much further than that. There's no stat for helping a kid in your ward go on a mission, yet I see it as one of the best things I could do. 

...don't let me skip out on contacting, though. It's essential. 

Anyway, you guys can do it too. You can join me in the work of strengthening the ward. Show someone that you care that they're not going to church. Invite your friend to a ward activity. Strengthen your own testimony..."and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

I love you all. Strasbourg week 2 coming your way. Bisous!

Elder Stanford

Four-generation pictures: Elder Wheatley (my father), me, Elder Harris (my son) and Elder Barton (my newborn grandson).

PS: A cross-language study of New Testament translations

So I've started a pretty interesting study recently. I've been comparing the two Bibles I use here on the mission: the King James Version in English and the Louis Segond Version in French. Both claim to be translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The differences between the two - despite the similarity between the English and French languages - demonstrate how important points and even pure doctrine can be changed with just one or two translations. 

Imagine, for example, that you want to show someone using biblical proof that God presented the Plan of Salvation before the Creation even happened. Easy - Titus 1:2. But in French, instead of saying "before the world began" it says "since the earliest times," which could be taken very differently. (Luke 1:70 is similar.)

Or if you wanted to show that it was Jesus Christ who created the world under the direction of God the Father. Ephesians 3:9 - God "created all things by Jesus Christ." But in French: God created all things. Period. 

In Hebrews 1:2, depending on what language you're reading, you might find that the Lord created multiple worlds, or you might find that He created just one. 

As you can see, doctrinal correctness appears to be found more often in the English KJV whenever discrepancies exist. In fact, the only French difference I've found that I like better is Acts 17:29 - in English, "we are the offspring of God"; in French, "we are the race of God." I think it does a better job of highlighting 1) the fact that God is not a cloud, but more importantly 2) the divine potential of all humans. 

Now, the soul-searching disciple and curious scholar alike ought to pose the questions: If there are doctrinal differences that appear in the Bible from just two translations, how many have been perpetuated over the centuries through the many translations just like them? What if we add that to careless transcriptions by hand, or even the express altering of "original texts" by those whose goal it is to please men rather than God?

The Holy Bible is a good thing containing hundreds of priceless truths - including the firsthand accounts of the life of our Saviour - but left on its own, it makes for a sandy foundation indeed. Do you see, dead reader, the need for a prophet today? Do you see the need for divine scripture translated by God rather than men, scripture which clarifies the plain and precious things that the Bible can only sometimes reveal?

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is evidence that God loves and speaks to His children in other places than just the holy land. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is evidence that God loves and speaks to us today, just as He did in ancient times. He speaks to us through chosen prophets - after all, He always has. He can also speak to you, if you ask Him to. Put it to the test. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Surprise whitewashes and grandfatherhood

See ya later, Liège. 

So transfer announcements were made this weekend. And for the first time on my mission, they surprised me...because after only two transfers in Liège, they're shipping me out! I was sure I'd stay and possibly get a new companion here, but Elder Orton will be doing that instead. I'm really gonna miss this place. 

So where, you may ask, am I going? I don't think I'll tell you, you can all find out next week...JUST KIDDING I'll say it.

I am going to...Strasbourg! Look it up on a map, y'all. Apparently it's a ville that many missionaries wish to serve in at some point on their missions. I feel super lucky. I hear it's beautiful there. Just gotta make sure not to accidentally step into Germany. 

Another surprise is this: I'm whitewashing! (For those of you who aren't yet familiar with mission language, whitewashing means that both missionaries in a companionship move into the area at the same time, so neither of them knows anyone or can find their way around.) Whitewashing has always been on my mission bucket list - just didn't think it'd come this soon. So I'll keep you updated on this new adventure. 

But even with all those surprises, I think the best news on the repertoire is this: I'm going to be a grandfather! Yes, my son is training this transfer. I'm so excited for him. Elder Harris is an excellent missionary and he's got all he needs to help his blue succeed. 

Oh and something else that's cool is that on my way to Strasbourg I'll stop in Paris for a few hours, which is where my father (Elder Wheatley, remember him?) will be as a zone leader, along with my son and his new son. 4-generation picture coming up next week!

Love you all! See you on the other side...of the border. Ya know, because I'll be in France again instead of Belgium. Yeah.

So there ya have it, folks. This Wednesday morning, I'm packing up and moving from something great to something even better. And thus the Lord's work rolls forth. 

Elder Stanford, out.

I shall write my next epistle from France. Salute all the brethren of the household of faith. The grace of God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. 

P-day bowling with the Calgary homies!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Of General Conference and friends

Hey family and friends!

First of all, big shoutout to the Tillemans and the Primary! Thanks for the letter! You guys are the best. 

So this week was General Conference which was awesome. If you come with a question, listen attentively and take notes, you're sure to leave the conference not only as a slightly better person, but with a huge desire to become the best person that you can be (because hint: that's the person God wants you to be). And it's cool because with His help and thanks to His Son, the best you can become is far greater than what your best would otherwise have been. 

If you haven't watched Conference, I encourage you with all the energy of my soul to go to and watch it. If Moses were around, wouldn't you want to hear what he had to say? There is a prophet on the earth today as well. It's like the holy scriptures, but meant specifically for modern times, and not written in Ye Olde English. 

Whose talks were the best? That's for you to decide, dear reader. For my situation personally, I liked Elder Lawrence's, Brother Durrant's, Elder Renlund's, and many others. Different talks, such as Elder Foster's and President Utchdorf's, are ones that I can see being very helpful for me and others down the road. 

This weekend was also a cool occasion because my dear friends Josie and Taylen stopped in Liège and watched Conference with me. Shoutout to them because they are awesome! My mommy will probably post pictures so no worries about that. 

As far as missionary stuff, suffice it to say that our last couple weeks of not getting the usual results for our work have ended. We don't have too many progressing amis right now, but we managed to get a BUNCH of new amis this week. Most of them were actually delayed results from last week or the week before. 

Which brings me to ponder again on the impossibility of measuring the real impact of a mission. If I'm seeing good results a couple weeks after putting the work in, I wonder how many good results I haven't seen because they've come months after. Or how many good results haven't even happened yet but will because of some of the things I've done. I'm convinced that I'll see a small fraction of those good results years down the road, and the rest in my Heavenly Highlight Reel. Yes, that is the first thing that happens upon entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. #doctrinebystanford

I love you all! Keep it real. A good way to do that is by watching Conference and inviting others to do the same. 

Elder Stanford