Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23, 2014 - Repentance is Service

Hello family. You can cease your wailing lamentation, I have not yet died. We had our temple visit today, and I, like a fool, neglected to inform you. I am filled with shame.

Temple was, obviously, very nice. Today I was more grateful than usual for the temple, because most missions don't have them. It's pretty great to be able to go every couple months and sort of recharge. I realized that I could have done a lot more preparation to make it a really great temple trip, but that realization came this morning, so a bit too late.

This past week plus some has been about the same as the last couple. Not much. We have done a lot of walking the streets and not a ton of finding, but I don't feel too bad. I talked to President Hawks when we had interviews last week or so about how to deal better with the sort of finding exhaustion, and he had some great advice about taking breaks every couple hours, trying to talk with Elder Tong more, and cultivating an attitude of "well, this is the time in my mission that I get to talk about later as the really hard time that taught me a ton". I've mentioned it before, but I honestly do think that this is the time that I can become a really good finder, because we spend hours a day doing it.

Recently, in my studies, I've been learning about the key to salvation. Previously I always thought that salvation comes from not sinning. Lack of sin = eternal life. But if that is the case, why did the Savior spend the majority of his time teaching about how to treat others? Not commandments to keep, but how to be nice. And why does the bulk of Alma's teaching, or Jacob's teaching, or almost any prophet's teaching center on giving to the poor and being kind? I think the answer can be found in Mosiah 3, wherein King Benjamin teaches us to be childlike and 'yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit' in order to become saints. I have realized that since we are all imperfect, there's no way for us to be completely sinless. And we can't just keep repenting, asking forgiveness every time we mess up. Obviously we won’t ever be perfect, but repentance is giving up sin and changing. And Benjamin taught that it is the Holy Ghost that changes us. We can't do it on our own. And the way we get the Holy Ghost is by giving to the poor, serving, being kind, and doing the simple, obvious good things that allow the Holy Ghost to make us into saints. In other words, once we have taken the bad out of us, we need to fill the hole with good. If we don't, the bad will just fill back in. The only way to retain a remission of our sins and become Christlike is to follow His example and teachings and serve.

That is why I have been trying to get the girls to read together, and why I talked about missionary work last time. It is through those habits, acts, and service that we are protected from temptation and qualify for the Holy Ghost to be with us.

I also want to update a bit on day to day living. These days we do exercise in a park nearby in the morning. It's always freezing, so it makes me exercise with increased vigor. Our apartment is decently clean, but still a bit gross. Elder Tong has been fighting an ongoing war with that, largely on his own. But I am doing my part. I make sure the dishes are always all done by the time we go to bed. The other Elders don't care too much and the enemy can easily become entrenched in the sink. Today we bought bug spray and killed about 30 cockroaches under our sink. So that was fun.

I am a bit poor right now, so I'm cooking my own food a lot. I cook chicken a good deal, usually in curry because it's super common, easy, and it makes a ton of really good food. Also noodles. We have ramen noodles in the U.S. Here they have about 100 different varieties of ramen noodles. Not actually much better than Top Ramen, but at least you feel like you're choosing. Dumplings are pretty cheap, and extremely delicious. And then there's egg salad, tuna salad, tuna patties, etc. Oh, I started drinking a lot of soy milk because it's cheaper. My breakfast used to be pancakes but I got too lazy, so now I have cold oatmeal and VITASOY brand soy beverage. Sounds gross but soy milk is super sweet so it's actually great.


That bites. We all have situations we regret, but most students don't have a 36 on the ACT to make up for it. Your GPA should turn into about a 3.998, so don't worry too much.

I'm impressed with your youth leadership. (Joseph is on our Stake Youth Council and they were in charge of a meeting for all the youth last week.  We went to Temple Square and talked about what goals we can make to "Come Unto Christ" this year.)  I know it must torture you to take the place of those you always despised, but persevere. If you have read 1984, employ doublethink. And I can easily see your eloquence outweighing the other people's ward-youth-osity.

There is science behind it, if you're interested. It is called quantum entanglement. Two particles can become 'entangled' and essentially are the same, so if one changes the other changes. Unfortunately, I believe Einstein's relativity basically means that there is no 'now', no moment for them both to change simultaneously, until they could be reached by the speed of light. Kind of like one didn't change until the other could see it change. But I don't know the science, just a thought.


Your letter amuses me. I can see you being reluctant to cuddle up while partner dancing. I just wonder who the lucky 5th grader is. Wink wink. (The 5th graders have been learning how to dance in preparation for a Valentine's Dance.)

The treadmill sounds pretty cool, but not as cool as you two girls reading together. When you read, make sure you stop any time you have a thought and share. That will make you wise. Very wise. I know that that is a habit that will bless you, seriously. The one thing I've learned since coming on a mission is that it's only awkward if you make it. And that the little things count a lot.


Very good. I actually have to resist the urge to think about games or movies or books or Minecraft fairly often. Pretty tough.

There are some crazy trees in Hong Kong. They drop roots from all over the tree, trunk, branches, etc, and if the roots hit anything they just start growing. So some of the old ones are massive, twisted, and look like they're flowing over everything.


Let me set you at ease. I went to see Doctor Leung, who was a very smart, probably extremely rich, lavishly decorated, and importantly, an English speaking dermatologist. He didn't do anything unexpected, said he would try some new medications, switched things around, and then said Acutane is probably the best solution. Same old,same old. But his consultation fee was about $170 and the medicine wasn't cheap. But fear not, the mission reimbursed it all! So now I have $2600 in HK dollars! I will see him again in about a month, and at that time the mission will send in the report to Salt Lake, where it will go to insurance and you might need to pay a deductible, but don’t worry. I have the money.

Curry is the most dependable and good tasting thing to eat in Hong Kong. Any restaurant that serves curry probably does a decent job. We made curry recently, and it was pretty good. The way we do it is you just cut some potatoes and carrots thin, maybe an onion, and some chicken. Then you just put it all in a pot with water and curry sauce, boil it for a while, then eat it with rice. I like it because it's easy.

I don't have the camera cord right now, sorry.

I think 18 year olds being on missions can be good because there will be more and they're probably more humble (out of fear and confusion). It can be bad because they don't know how to live together and are generally less experienced. But my perception is skewed.


I am really happy to hear that your dancing is going better and better. You are a good example of extreme determination yielding results. And I'm extra happy to hear that you read. You may talk to me on Mother's Day.

I still don't know what a turning board is.

If you came to Hong Kong people would love you purely because of your hair, they like blond hair a lot here.

Thank you, Dad.

I do think you're right. I've been thinking recently about how we can have our nightly planning be more spiritual so as to qualify a bit more to be led. I have also been learning that spiritual promptings have a very short expiration date. You have to act immediately, or they leave.

I feel like I have had a lot of really good self motivation recently. I feel a strong desire to use this time, because it is running out much more quickly than I expected. But it's hard to keep up all day all the time. Still, I feel good. Your advice is really appreciated.

Sorry it's not longer but I do my best.

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