Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Week One: FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello Family!!!!!

 I finally have an opportunity to write. I thought my P day was Tuesday, but apparently it was Wednesday...I didn't completely freak out or anything...

But jes I am in the CCM now! I have been here officially a whole week. And it has, honestly, been the longest week of my life. Both because it's been incredibly emotional and because we have just done so much!

I arrived on my first day to the CCM at like 6am and they started us right off. We had breakfast, met with the CCM President, Presidente Cox and his wife, and then they let us sleep for a few hours. Then we went right to lunch and classes! I am in Distrito "Moroni". My companion is Hermana Powers! She's from utah and apparently she didn't have a consistent companion for the whole time she has been here. They kept leaving i think...and then she was in trios or something but now she's got me and we're leaving at the same time - a week from yesterday.

The classes have been super intense. It is like church/seminary on steroids. Which is actually pretty nice, but stressful at the same time. I'm pretty sure they just want us to know the material really, really well so they're pounding it into our heads everyday. We also have fake investigators that we're teaching and it's been nice because you learn effective ways of teaching the different topics and you can genuinely pray and bear your testimony to these people about it and you feel the Spirit pretty strongly. Even though it's our teachers who are playing the investigators!

The food has been pretty great, not going to lie. This place reminds me of Mexico so much. We got on this old school bus to drive from the airport to the CCM and the streets reminded me of the streets of Mexico, and while the rest of the American missionaries on the bus were freaking out because we cut off tons of people and almost hit a biker, I almost was in tears because it was just so nostalgic!! And yeah the food has been filled with rice, beans, eggs, tamales and all sorts of other delicious things. Some of the hermanas have complained that they're gaining weight and I understand why. It's delicious.

Today is our P day and we had a chance to go to the Guatemala City temple! It's right next to the CCM so we just walked to it. It was so great. It was very small and it was all in Spanish, but the Spirit was still the same. And that was incredible - that I am thousands of miles away from the US and I can still feel the presence of God and peace in the temple down here. It was pretty overwhelming.

It has been such a whirlwind week full of tears of homesickness, but then incredibly good days - which I now appreciate soooooo much. Presidente Cox and Hermana Cox are awesome too and really look out for you. He asked to talk to me for a bit because he saw that I was pretty sad at the beginning and just wanted me to know that they're thinking about me and that I'm definitely not alone in missing my family.

I do miss you all. So much that my heart aches pretty much every day. But I'm not forgetting the feeling I had to come here and I know why I'm here. I'm here to work hard and to feel the Spirit and serve the people I am meant to serve in Guatemala. And I'm excited to get out to my area, Retalhuleu and meet the people there.

Sorry for the lack of pictures!! They took away our cameras at the beginning because apparently they've had problems with some Elders taking innappropriate pictures of the sisters or something at the CCM - so we get it when we go out. So I'll send you tons when I get to my area. Although we do have a couple pictures of us standing in front of the temple and the CCM! But they still have to send that to us.

I love you all and miss you all. Keep praying for me and the missionaries here! And I'm praying for all of you everyday.

 -Hermana Layton

Oh yeah also peoples!

I don't know when my next P day will be actually. I leave for Retalhuleu next Tuesday and I don't know when the P day is there. Maybe the next Monday? I dunno. But hopefully they'll allow us another 5 minute - I'm alive - email when I get there. But I will for sure let you know. I'm pretty excited to get there actually. And take pictures!!!\

Love you all again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

She made it!

An email from Hermana Layton this morning:

I made it to the CCM! Did you get that super random picture from that random number? haha
We met up with the missionaries in LA and there were some parents going on their way to pick up their son so they texted a pic of us. [see below]

I only have 5 minutes right now before they send us up to take a nap! But they said to send us mail on Sunday, since our P day changes every week. I´m only here for 2 weeks too!! They have a special district full of North American advanced Spanish speakers so that should be cool.. Anyway they said the next time we e-mail is on Tuesday.

Love you all!!!!!!!!!!!

Hermana Layton

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And she's off!

Ready to depart for Guatemala City!

With Mom.

With Dad.
All reports are that Sister Layton is excited to get to Guatemala and get this party started!  Wish her luck, and prayers are appreciated!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

First Post! Farewell Talk


Well I guess this is my first post on my mission blog!  I leave Tuesday evening to go to the Guatemala MTC And so I thought I would post my farewell talk on here as my first post before I leave.  So here ya go! 

I was asked to give a talk based on a talk by Lynn G. Robbins called “Which Way Do You Face?” from the Oct 2014 general conference.  He talks about a time President Boyd K Packer asked him that - Which way do you face?  He said it caught him off guard and didn’t know what he meant, but Pres Packer then said, “A Seventy does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people.  Never forget which way you face!”  Elder Robbins then goes on and says, 

“Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments (see Matthew 22:37–39). [Which are first - to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and second to love thy neighbor as thyself]. It is forgetting which way we face. And yet, we have all made that mistake because of the fear of men. In Isaiah the Lord warns us, “Fear ye not the reproach of men” (Isaiah 51:7; see also 2 Nephi 8:7). In Lehi’s dream, this fear was triggered by the finger of scorn pointed from the great and spacious building, causing many to forget which way they faced and to leave the tree “ashamed” (see 1 Nephi 8:25–28).”

He then goes on and gives many examples from the scriptures and of prophets who had struggled because they feared men more than being true to what they felt God wanted them to do.  He says, “Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” King Herod was sorrowful at the request to behead John the Baptist but wanted to please “them which sat with him at meat” (Matthew 14:9). King Noah was ready to free Abinadi until peer pressure from his wicked priests caused him to waver.”
And after that, he gives examples of prophets in the scriptures who were strong - for example Mormon towards the end of the Book of Mormon saying, “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear”.  And Nephi when writing on the plates, “Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world”.  

These are all examples of the principle of standing up for what you believe in, despite peer pressure.  It’s remembering and being true to what you have felt and believed through your relationship with God and expanding on that and not being ashamed of it because of others.  

So, of course, because I’m going on my mission in 2 days, I’ve applied this whole talk to my mission.  So that’s probably what I’m going to talk about for the rest of it basically…

My decision to go on a mission was kind of an interesting one.  I was, honestly, sitting at home kind of praying/having a mental conversation with God, and kind of complaining about my life.  I was frustrated that I wasn’t being as social with people in my ward and wasn’t dating as much as I wanted to and blah blah blah.  And I wasn’t sure what timetable He had for me, but if He could have just given me an itinerary of the next couple years of my life, that would be great. And it’s right then when I had the thought - “go on a mission first!”  And I was like - no.

I had never really had any desire to go - it was always kind of in the back of my mind as an option, but never really thought too much about it.  But the more I thought about it then and the more I started looking it up, the more it felt good.  And then I started praying about it and it started feeling even better - like I hadn’t felt that kind of spirit about it in a while.  So, basically over the course of a weekend of prayer, I had made the decision to go.  And then I met this boy the next November…...and by January I was 100% ready to NOT go on my mission.  I would stay with him and still do all the study and preparation and everything, but just still stay here! I was 100% ready to do that...but it honestly never felt quite right.  And I was ignoring that feeling pretty well for a while.  

And so I prayed about it and presented God with my plan and the general feeling I got from that option was….”kay”.  
So then I proceeded to say - “UGHHHH ok well maybe I’ll possibly think about, maybe, still going, if that’s what you want - maybe”.  
So I reconsidered and started thinking about it again.  And I took one whole day to really think and pray about it and I went on a temple trip that night and I was sitting in the celestial room and I asked God - do you want me to go on a mission?

And that’s when I got probably the strongest confirmation of the Spirit that I had ever received - that His answer was YES.  It was pretty overwhelming.  Which was incredibly inconvenient.  So just to be sure, I kept asking….and I kept feeling that feeling.  I kept saying over and over again in my head - Ok….so….I’m going on a mission…...I’m going on a mission….you sure?.....OK I’m going.  And I finally agreed.  And so here I am.  

And so yes - I think that applies to this topic pretty well - my journey that has led me to this decision was very personal, very prayerful and very inspired against my will it sometimes feels like.  But I feel like God has faced me towards going on a mission.  And I have felt that, and come to that conclusion myself.  And, even though it really kills me sometimes to think of the people I”m leaving behind and the things I might miss out on, I am still going because I’m trying to stay true to that feeling I had and I have faith that it is the right path for me.  And I’ve been so incredibly lucky and blessed because I have had so much support from my family and friends so there hasn’t been too much of that overwhelming peer pressure.  But this decision hasn’t been met with at least some skepticism and challenge.

For example, I work as a home health care aid and I have a couple clients and my one client is in a wheelchair and I have been working with him for a while.  And when I told him I was leaving and why I was leaving, he was quite upset and didn’t understand.  He knew I was Mormon and he sort of knew about missionaries, but he didn’t agree with why I was going on a mission.  He said that we were just there to sell our church to people and we were no different than Jehovah’s Witnesses and we’re just manipulating people, etc.  And he said - don’t you believe that working with and helping me is service?  Why do you have to go all the way to Guatemala to serve God??  And it was pretty much the first time in my life that I, basically, had to defend missionary work.  And it was difficult to hear and difficult to defend, because I had never been a super strong advocate for missionary work!

But basically my answer to him was this - I had felt like it was the right thing for me to do and I’m going to do it.  I don’t fully understand why or what He has in store, but it was a very distinct, powerful confirmation that I received about it and I can’t deny it.  And I’m not there to force people or manipulate people into joining the church - I’m basically going and presenting them with this option, that I believe has brought a lot of happiness in my life and I think it brings a lot of happiness in other people’s lives and there is such great value in living it in your life.  But if it’s not their time, it’s not their time.  And I’m going to try to be as in tune with the Spirit as possible to try to know how to help them and help them feel the love of their God as I have felt it in my life. That’s it.  I’m not there to force people - I just know I am supposed to go and, to me, that means that there are people that God wants me to meet and to teach and to help.  He has work for me to do and it is my job to try to be in tune with His Spirit and love them.  That’s the way I believe I have been told to face and I’m just striving to stay true to that.

The last example Elder Robbins gives in his talk is that of the Savior.  He says, “The Savior, our great Exemplar, always faced His Father. He loved and served His fellow men but said, “I receive not honour from men” (John 5:41). He wanted those He taught to follow Him, but He did not court their favor. When He performed an act of charity, such as healing the sick, the gift often came with the request to “tell no man” (Matthew 8:4; Mark 7:36; Luke 5:14; 8:56). In part, this was to avoid the very fame which followed Him in spite of His efforts to eschew it (see Matthew 4:24). He condemned the Pharisees for doing good works only to be seen of men (see Matthew 6:5). The Savior, the only perfect being who ever lived, was the most fearless. In His life, He was confronted by scores of accusers but never yielded to their finger of scorn. He is the only person who never once forgot which way He faced: “I do always those things that please [the Father]” (John 8:29; emphasis added), and “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).”

I’m going to be honest - this talk is not my favorite.  I feel like there is some danger in the approach that is given in this talk of us, as members, feeling overly superior to the rest of the world.  And that by facing only God, you’re turning your back on the world. and isolating yourself and not giving any consideration to other’s opinions or sympathy to the different ways people live their lives.  I honestly think it makes us seem smug and unapproachable as members of the church and makes us think we are better than everyone else and we are in a position to judge the world.  Which I don’t think is exactly what he’s trying to say in his talk, but that’s the overall impression I got from some of the things he said and I don’t really think that’s the example of the Savior.

The Savior’s great commandments are - to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and second to love thy neighbor as thyself.  It’s about love.  And I feel like the Savior was the ultimate example of love - both for His Father and for others and that is the example I try to follow.  
My absolute favorite stories from the Savior’s ministry are that of the woman taken in adultery and the man who brought his afflicted son to be healed.  

The woman was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Christ because she had committed adultery and according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned.  They were testing Christ to see if he would punish her as they had judged because, clearly, this woman had “forgotten which way she faced” so to speak and committed this sin.
“But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
And they all left.  
“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

And when the man had brought his son who had been possessed with a spirit - desperate and in tears, pleaded with him to heal his son.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
And he healed his son.  

I absolutely love both these stories because of the incredible love and compassion that Christ showed to these very imperfect people - and I guess I just identify with them because of my imperfections and doubts, but yet have felt the love of God in my life.  And I think the point is that I am not the Savior - I am in no position to condemn other’s actions or judge them - that’s not my job - that would honestly be too exhausting.  My job is to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, and also to love my neighbor as myself.  It may be a pretty “kumbaya” approach and I promise I’ll get off my soap box now, but - I feel like the moments of greatest motivation and progression in my life have stemmed from the feeling that my Heavenly Father loved me.  

And, of course, because it’s Mother’s Day I can’t forget probably the greatest example I have in my life - my mom.  She is the greatest example to me of love and strength and if I could be half the woman she is, I would be completely happy in my life.  I am so incredibly lucky to have her as my mother and just my friend.  

I am so incredibly lucky and blessed in general.  I have had so much support for my mission from my friends and family, active and not active and I cannot express how much that means to me.  I love all of them with all my heart.  

If there is one thing that I feel like I have gained a testimony of in my 24 years of life - it’s that God knows us each individually and He has a plan of each of us in our lives.  And above all else, He loves us.  And I think that coming to that realization in our lives and believing it gives us the strength to move forward and to face forward.  

I don’t know everything - I don’t have a perfect testimony of everything.  I know that my Heavenly Father is there, that He loves me - I know that He wants me to go on a mission.  I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near this point in my life without Him - I’ve noticed my prayers have changed to, just, “thank you for the life you have given me”, because I honestly feel like I am still here and happy because of His love for me.  And I know that He has that love for every single person on this Earth and I hope that I can just be an instrument in His hands to help people come to know and believe that.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.