Stake Conference

Email 12/3/18

Hello everybody,
This was a week of many meetings and much traveling. It went by fast, but at the same time, it feels like forever ago that I was writing my group email last Monday.
Speaking of last Monday, it was a decent preparation day. It was still raining all day (it rained pretty much every day this week, again), so we had some fun playing indoor Padle Ball. That night was our customary Noche de Hogar in Aurora’s house. We had fun teaching Ángel about our favorite topic, missionary work! Ha.
Tuesday morning was pretty busy, we went to Mike’s house and had a good lesson with him, and later, I helped Vanessa with her website some more. We had a really cool lesson that evening. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that we were trying to work a lot with less active members. One night, we stopped by this one Piso looking for one named Ana, but instead we met her sister, María. She told us to come back another day, and finally on Tuesday, our schedules coincided we went back. Not only was Maria that and ready to listen, but also Ana (the menos activa), her teenaged daughter (also named Ana), and the 84-year old mother of Ana and María. The member we brought with us was already acquainted with them, so that was an extra blessing. We taught them the restoration and they seemed sincerely interested and attentive the entire time we were teaching, so we’ll see if they’ll let us come back some other day.
Right after that cita, we had to get on a bus and go to Jerez to spend the night there since we had to catch an early morning train to Sevilla the next day. On Wednesday, we had our zone conference there. I realized that I was the oldest missionary in this entire tri-zone area. It was focused on the importance of The Book of Mormon and helping people make and keep commitments. Two of my favorite quotes from Preach My Gospel regarding these two subjects are:
“The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversion.”
“When you ask for commitments as part of your teaching, you are inviting the investigator to repent.”
Helping investigators and others make and keep commitments and understand the significance and gain a testimony of The Book of Mormon are some of the most important parts of our work. The introduction in the Book of Mormon states: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I know that this promise is true for I have done it myself and have received my own witness of the truthfulness The Book of Mormon, independent of the testimony of anyone else. I have seen others do the same. The Book is true, and through the Holy Ghost, God can confirm the truth of it to anyone who sincerely reads it and faithfully asks God for this confirmation.
Anyways, so after coming back from Sevilla, exhausted, we had a Noche de Hogar with the family of Miguel Ángel and María José, some members. We talked about The Great Apostasy that occurred as a result of priesthood authority being taken from the earth resulting from the persecution and death of the Apostles that Jesus called. I’m grateful this Apostasy happened because it paved the way for the gospel to be restored again to the earth in its perfect form through the prophet Joseph Smith. It’s amazing how available the gospel and the priesthood power to perform saving ordinances is throughout the world. Even though there certainly are problems and calamities in the world, we are so blessed to live at a time when The Church of Jesus Christ is so well established on the earth.
On Thursday, we had our normal weekly planning session in the morning, and then all of our plans for the evening fell through, so we spent some time trying to find more menos activos and knocking some doors. It was raining, so there was nobody in the street, but also nobody at home either, so I wonder where everyone disappeared off to.
We had interviews with President Andersen on Friday, so we had to go to Puerto for that. Those are always so good. He told us that one of the Hermanas in our district is being transferred to Chiclana this week because the companion of one of the missionaries there never went to the MTC at the beginning of her mission, and now needs to do her three weeks there. That’s a pretty weird situation. The rest of the Hermanas are going to be in a trio for the rest of the transfer.
Saturday was a good day, although we basically only did two things. The first was having a cita with Bibi, which are turning more and more frustrating because it seems like we just keep going in circles with her. Poco a poco, as they say. Then, the second thing was going to San Fernando for the priesthood and adult sessions of Stake Conference! Elder Paul V. Johnson of the seventy, who is also the Europe Área President, as well as the Madrid temple president, and President Andersen were all there and all gave talks. It was really, really, really, good, probably some of my favorite meetings that I’ve ever been to on the mission. I won’t go into all of the details about what they shared, but my favorite message came from President Andersen. He told of an experience he had several years ago when Elder Neil L. Andersen, then just a Seventy, visited their stake in Idaho. He made the remark that it’s such a privilege that the Lord lets us handle his fine china, and the fact that we’re even let into the door of the chapel is amazing given how imperfect we all are. He also talked about how having callings and responsibilities in the church is such a blessing. While President Andersen was relating this experience, it just hit me how much of a blessing the mission has been. Some of you know this, and others don’t, but I’ve had to deal with persistent depression for the majority of my time as a missionary, and I honestly have considered my calling as a missionary as a burden way more than a blessing. But when I was listening to President Andersen speak, I felt like my heart was opened up, and I could see and feel all of the ways that I have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bless the lives of others, and all of the way He has blessed me and will continue to bless me in the future because I decided to serve a mission and have been blessed enough to be able to make it this far despite my weaknesses and problems. I am so grateful to the Lord for doing that.
I love you all, and I sincerely thank you for the support that you send from afar, and I’m thankful that you all will continue to be by my side for these two months that I have left to “serve him with all [my] heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).
Élder Stark ??


1: The ocean destroying the beach
2: El cuadro de compromiso. For a lack of other pictures during the week, I made this in personal study one day.
3-4: Peter = Joseph Smith
IMG_6331 IMG_6333
5: On the way to stake conference
6: After stake conference
7: Until next time