Monday, December 24, 2012

Another Week in the Work

Dear All,

It's Christmas Eve! And what a great time to be a missionary! There are people all around who have turned their minds and hearts to Christ, and here we are to teach them more about him, and about his plan!

The other night, we contacted a home where we had visited someone before. The mom, whom we had talked to, wasn't home, but her 18 year old son was. His name is Daniel, and he is amazing. He's pretty humble, and willing to listen. We always ask "Do you attend a church?" to be able to get a feel for their spiritual life, but I also felt to ask him "Why do you go to church? What is it that you are looking for?" He responded "Well, I'm looking for answers." I asked him "What kind of answers?" "And he said "I need to know the purpose of life. I need to know why I'm here." We then talked for a few more minutes, and started in on the Plan of Salvation. He loved it, and committed to pray to know if it's true. We have another appointment this week to teach him more about the Restoration of the Gospel, and the Book of Mormon, and then he goes off to Las Delicias, which is a place (and an area!) in Santa Lucia, which is one of the zones of our mission! So, I'm going to hand off his phone number to the Elders in Las Delicias to be able to teach him, because he's almost a sure baptism. He's amazing! He asked so many good questions that we have all the answers to as part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It just goes to show that there are a LOT of people that God is preparing to be able to join his true church, and accept his Gospel.

Here in Guatemala, today is the big day for Christmas. Tomorrow is kind of like new year's day in the states: Everyone's still together having a good time, but the real party is over. This year, we have permission to stay out late with members, under certain conditions, with which we are complying. At midnight, they light more fireworks than we do on the fourth of July. It's crazy, and awesome. Last year, (man, I'm old!) I was on the side of the valley, and I could see the whole valley at 12am, but by about 12:15, there was so much smoke that it was impossible to see the other side. It's fantastic! I'm excited, we're just going to be TIRED tomorrow! We've been getting up early every day this week for one reason or another, because there just isn't enough time to be able to get everything done! This is an urgent work, and the Lord will not have any delays. We have to do what we're told, when we're told, and it's a great feeling when you do so. You know the Lord is happy, and you know you will be blessed for having helped his work move forward.

But most of all, I encourage each of you to remember the reason why we're all doing what we're doing today. Today we remember the beginning of the greatest life ever lived. The only perfect life this world has ever seen. Remember Jesus Christ, and all he did for you, and his love for you, and the Father's love in sending him here to Earth for you.

I love you all.
Merry CHRISTmas.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another Week

Dear All,

First of all, I'm going to tell you about the big news that's happening in the Central Mission tomorrow. Tomorrow are the changes. My companion and I will be staying together, but we received permission to go, because this will be a historic change meeting. We will be receiving more than 30 new missionaries, and the mission will open about 5 or 6 new areas, including two here in my zone, Escuintla. And due to the fact that three of the stakes in the capital were shuffled around a couple of months ago, we will be creating a new zone. Areas (wards and branches) were taken from the Villa Nueva, Villa Hermosa, and Amatitlan stakes, to create a new stake called El Frutal. So, the mission will have 10 zones, and will get a lot bigger tomorrow. And I'll get to be there to see it all happen!

As for the mission, we have some high goals we're working for. In November we had the goal of 50 families baptized. In September we had the goal of 300 baptisms, and we accomplished 314, with much thanks to our Heavenly Father for helping and allowing us to do so. This all started this January with the goal of 204 baptisms. This coming year, the January goal will be 350 baptisms. In my area, we should be having at least 8 baptisms during the month of January here in Puerto San José. It's really an exciting time to be participating in the Lord's work.

Also, on Saturday, all the future missionaries and returned missionaries from the Escuintla district came to contact people in our area. We split up to be able to work a little harder and find some new people. It was a really cool activity and we have about 48 references to contact now, to find some great new investigators.

They also told us today that Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be coming to speak to the missionaries here in Guatemala in January, and our zone will be allowed to participate!!! I'm SO excited!

The thing we really need to have to be able to accomplish any good thing is faith, and exact obedience to God's commandments. The Lord has made several promises about these things:

"And Christ hath said: if ye have faith in me, ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me." (Moroni 7:33)

"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)

In other words, if we have faith and obedience, we can do whatever we want, which is right, and according to the will of the Lord. Even when it's hard, we have to keep the faith in him, and he will ever help us.

I love you all. I know that this is the Lord's work, and I love it, and I love him.

Take care,
Elder Banks

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Central Mission

Dear All,

It's been a fantastic week in the Lord's work.

I've seen the power that the Lord has to change people's hearts. Oscar, the son of Patty, who was just baptized, has some challenges with some of the commandments of God, which is why he hasn't been baptized yet. He's 21, and it seems to me like he had a little desire to change all along, or he would never have listened to us in the first place. When we met him, he was very quiet. Sometimes he would have a little question, but he would just kind of keep to himself. This week, we've visited him twice, and each time he's been more and more open about his problems. The Lord is really taking away his temptation to drink alcohol and do other things which God does not like. And he's open about it, and happy. I wouldn't say overly happy about it, just a  little more upbeat than he has been in the past. It really is true that when the Spirit touches a heart, the heart changes.

I am writing today because we had a little change of schedule this week, because yesterday we had the annual Christmas activity!!! It was awesome. But I'm going to start with something else that was even more special, because only our zone got to participate.

On Monday, we got to go to the mission home (for my second time ever) because we earned a reward. Our zone, Escuintla, was the most successful zone in November, so we got a reward on P-Day with President. Usually, he and Sis. Brough come to the stake center of the most successful zone and cook something for us, usually one of the things we're not supposed to eat, like pork. The rule is that if Sis. Brough buys it at PriceSmart (basically Costco), and she makes it, we can eat it. Last time, she came to our chapel in Sonora and made BBQ pork sandwiches. This time was extra special because we got to go to the misison home, and she made us Christmas Dinner! She made a big old turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and texas sheet cake for dessert. It was kind of cool, we walked in the door and there's our mission president, carving a turkey! The other thing she made that was really cool were the rolls. They were really, really similar to Chris' rolls (if you're part of my family and know what that means.) and were absolutely fantastic. Anyway, that was basically awesome.

Then, Monday night, we spent time working with the Zone Leaders in their area. We had to stay with them, because we had to be in Escuintla at 3am, but there are no buses from Puerto San José to Escuintla until 3:15am. We had to be there that early because we went to the TEMPLE!!! It was a great experience, and I received revelation to know what we need to do in January to have a great successful month. The temple is in Guatemala City, which is about an hour from Escuintla by bus, and my area is about an hour from Escuintla by bus. So, yes, we're out in the boonies.

After the temple, there was a service project, but we got put into a later session at the temple, so we missed it. What we did have was a delicious lunch, and some time to relax and play around in the afternoon. Then, we had a really spiritual meeting with President Brough, and we received the assignment to read the entire Book of Mormon before Conference (and they gave us a schedule, and a copy of the BoM and everything), and we received instructions about how to be more effective missionaries. It was really cool. It was like Elder Holland's talk this past conference, and we talked about staying focused and dedicated on missionary work, like when Christ asked Peter "Lovest thou me more than these?" In our case, "these" wouldn't be the fish Peter was trying to catch, but rather anything that distracts us and makes us lazy or shifts our focus away from the work. We have to love the Lord above all, and always remember, when things get hard, that "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" (D&C 122:8)

I just wanted to reiterate how much love I have for you, for the people of Guatemala, and for our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. The secret to happiness is to love them and to serve them with all your might. "He who findeth his life shall lose it, and he who loseth his life for my sake, shall find it." (see Matthew chapter 10).

Thank you for remembering me and my companion in your thoughts and prayers. Please keep praying for us, because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the strength God has given me. He has changed me and taught me, and is making me into the person he wants me to be. And that's what matters most.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another Good Week

Dear All,

I'm still sweating, and I'm still loving it. Puerto is just as great as ever, and I'm always happy to be on the Lord's errand. I've set some more personal goals to consecrate myself even more to the work, and thus receive more blessings as part of it, both in the work and in my life.

Speaking of the Work, it's awesome. We're finding lots of chosen people, but our challenge is getting them to come to church. Most of the people have different work schedules that they don't know about until the day of, which makes it hard sometimes, but it's all good. Basically the policy here in Puerto is "He who cometh to church three times shall be baptized." There are so many people who are so humble and ready to make covenants with our Heavenly Father, we just have to get them to the chapel on Sundays.

As for my companion and I, everything is going really well. The challenge for us is speaking Spanish more than anything, because since we're both Gringos, we like our English. But that's alright, he already understands almost everything, and can speak alright as well. I'm not too worried, as long as we keep practicing.

We had a really cool training meeting with President on Friday, and he really followed the Spirit to help us with some specific challenges that this group has. He reminded us to stay humble, and not to get mad if someone else goes up to a leadership position and we don't. Aspiring to leadership is a sin, it is pride, and we can't have pride if we are to have the Spirit to be with us.

We've also found so many people this past week who are absolutely amazing. We have two young men who would have been baptized long ago if they had attended church. We also found out that Patty's son (she was baptized last week) has some challenges with some of the commandments to overcome before he can be baptized, so we're working hard with him. He's just so close to being baptized, we just need to help him overcome these challenges. Same thing with another family we've got. He has to stop drinking and they have to get married so he can get baptized (she's already a member of the church).

I would just like to quote a scripture from the New Testament that I really like. Christ said:

"Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and my yoke is easy, and my  burden is light."

I felt inspired to share that scripture while giving a blessing to a sister who is a recent convert and was about to leave her husband. She had decided to do it, then we visited them and gave them blessings. I then called the husband on Sunday morning to see if he was going to come to Church. He told me that they hadn't separated and that the whole family was going to come to church. And they did. She told us that she told him that she would stay on one condition: that they would go to church. That's the answer to many, many prayers, since I arrived in this area, and I imagine, beforehand as well. The Lord listens, but he answers on his own time.

I love you all,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baptism in the Coast

Dear All,

Yes, it's true! As you can see in the attached photo, we baptized Patty this week. She's pretty cool. Last week, we just started talking a little about baptism and she said "Yeah, I really do want to be baptized." As missionaries, that's not usually something we hear very often, and it's a miracle when it does. Sadly, her son, Oscar, couldn't be baptized this week, but we're working with him on some challenges he has. We're also working to try and meet more with her husband, because he's pretty cool too, he just works a lot. At their wedding, he was really attentive to what we said, and their daughter and son-in-law had some really good questions, so we have some more people just waiting to become members there. I'm super happy and super excited. We also found some great families, one of whom was going to be baptized in the capital, but they took out the missionaries, and then they moved here, so basically they know the church is true, and want to get married and baptized, and later sealed in the Temple. This is what we call a miracle from God, and it's a really great feeling when you get one.

After my interview with President, I started divisions with Elder Acosta, one of our Zone Leaders. He really taught me a lot of things, like how to find more new investigators, and how to be more direct with people. He was here for 2 days, and interviewed Patty for baptism while he was here. Overall, everything went over really well, and I'm going to be working on some things. For example in the hymn "Praise to the Man" it uses the phrase "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven," and in Spanish it just says "por sacrificio se dan bendiciones" ("for sacrifice, you are given blessings"). Not quite as powerful in Spanish, but still very true.

Which brings me to a principle of the Gospel sometimes referred to as the Law of the Harvest. It's pretty simple: You reap what you sow. If you sow corn, you won't get rice. If you sow carrots, you won't get tomatoes. If you neglect the plants and let the weeds grow, you won't reap anything at all. The Gospel is very similar: If we don't put in our effort to keep the commandments and do all we can to be our most faithful self, we won't have blessings on that level. One of the apostles described it as the difference between being active in the church and active in the gospel. If we are active in the church, we go to church meetings, and to church activities. If we are active in the gospel, we are also active in the church, but we are also reading our scriptures daily, praying always, trying to learn more about the gospel, and serving our fellow beings, among other things. We need to make sure that we are active in the Gospel, not just in the Church. It is good to be active in the Church, and we will receive blessings for doing so, but we will receive even more blessings if we are active in the Gospel. I know this from experience. I have always been active in the Church, but only a few years ago did I really start to get active in the Gospel. I started taking notes in Church. I started really reading my scriptures. I started being more diligent in keeping the commandments. And then I started seeing the blessings. I started to want even more, and to keep serving all I could. Even when my homework made it difficult to be able to serve, I did my best. And the Lord blessed me with a good job, great friends, and a stronger testimony. And he keeps blessing me. I know that if I stay active in the Gospel for the rest of my life, he will continue to bless me. And I know that if I endure to the end, I will be able to return to Him in his kingdom. That's something I hope to be able to have someday. God gave us agency to be able to choose, but he also have us a set of instruction manuals: the Scriptures. We must study and use them.

The Central America area presidency has asked that every member in Central America read the Book of Mormon all the way through once before general conference in April. President Brough has added to that, that we must have a study journal next to it, open with pen at the ready, to be able to write down the revelation we receive to be able to help our investigators. It's a great feeling. I'm going to be doing all I can to reach this goal, because I love the Book of Mormon. I love the Scriptures. And above all, I love the Lord and his Gospel.

Yesterday, we had an unexpected lesson during P-Day. Byron, who is 25 years old, has a clothing store. We went to go shopping and he said "Hey, I've been reading the pamphlet, and I have some questions." He asked a whole bunch of great questions, and expressed his desire to be in good standing with God. He said he doesn't want to hear God tell him "You messed up." when he gets to the other side. We challenged him to pray, and he did right there in the lesson, and said he would after we left as well. He said he's willing to do whatever God tells him to do. We ran home and brought him a Book of Mormon, and I'm pretty sure he's reading it right now. He's so prepared. I'm so glad that God let us find him, and that we're able to teach him more. I know that if we're diligent, he'll be able to be baptized, and prepare to enter into God's fold.
I know this Church and this Gospel are true, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that he and our Heavenly Father live and love us very much.

I love you all. Thank you for being faithful.

Elder Banks

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two Gringos in Puerto

Dear All,

It happened. It finally happened. I have a North American Companion! His name is Elder Muñoz and he is from Liberty, Missouri (he lives about 5 minutes from the Jail). His parents are from South America (Chile and Ecuador) but he was born and raised in the USA. The good news is that he and I have a lot of things in common, and we get along super well. He likes to work hard, and we've got some great things in motion for this time we'll have together.

Also, they are about to change the MTC program, and as a result of that, the mission will be changing the change cycles. Changes are normally 6 weeks, but this one will be 5, because President doesn't want to send missionaries home the day AFTER Christmas. Then, the next change will be 9 weeks. So, I basically get 2 extra weeks to preach the Gospel!!!

This Saturday, we'll be having a wedding, because a sister whose name is Patty will be baptized this Sunday, and you need to be married to be able to live with your spouse, and you need to be keeping all the commandments to be able to be baptized. She is so awesome, and she and her son, Oscar, met Pres. Brough at District Conference this past Sunday. It was a great conference, and President told the members off for a lot of things. But, he had the Spirit with him. If the Spirit is guiding, and you do it with love, you can and should speak strongly. If there's something wrong, God wants us to fix it so we can return to him in his kingdom when the time comes, so sometimes we need to speak strongly. Like the time when Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple. There was something wrong, and he spoke boldly to be able to fix it.

And yes, I'm getting used to the heat and humidity. I found a scale and weighed myself on Monday, and I've lost about 4.5 pounds since coming here to Puerto.

This morning we had interview with President Brough, and he really helped me know what to do. He told me a couple things I need to improve, and helped me out with a couple questions I've had lately. I feel like I'm finally on the road to becoming who the Lord wants me to be. After that, we had a really spiritual District Meeting, and we received revelation to be able to help the members participate in missionary work. As much as you may think to the contrary, members are ESSENTIAL in missionary work. We need to have members so that our converts have friends when we are transferred to another area, and they still have a support system. Conversion isn't an easy experience for the investigator, and I think it's one of the greatest miracles that can happen. These people are really changing their lives, and the Lord wants them to endure to the end, not to just weary by the way. Members' testimonies are also crucial to be able to get the investigators to Church. In Villa Hermosa, Alonzo never came to church UNTIL we brought Hno. Batres to meet him. They got along super great, and the next opportunity Alonzo had, he came to church. While at church, he basically asked us when he could be baptized. We told him, and he was baptized. And according to Hilton, the guy who makes the suits, he's super active in the church. He comes to everything, down to the activities.

So, if you're in a position to be able to help the missionary work in your ward or branch, do it. Go and visit with the Elders or Sisters. They don't need you to teach the lesson, they are trained to do that. All they need is your testimony, and maybe a personal experience to be able to help the investigators see how the Gospel will bless their lives. It's easy, so do it. And, if you still haven't talked to the missionaries, do it. I know I may be a little biased, but I wouldn't be here in Guatemala for 2 years of my life if I didn't know that this changes lives, and is true. If you've come away from the church, repent and come back. The Lord is waiting for you with open arms. And as I have heard said often about the good things in life, and especially salvation, "I never said it would be easy. But I did say that it would be worth it."

I love you all. Take care and keep praying.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

It sounds like things are nice and chilly in Utah. Here in Puerto, it's nice and hot. The house stays about 92 degrees farenheit during the day, and it feels hotter outside in the sun. We're working hard, and we have a couple families that are getting close to being baptized! This will be great, because with an attendance of about 50 every week, this branch is ready to grow. We've got a few really awesome people, and I'm excited to be able to work the area with a new missionary, because new missionaries have so much faith! We'll be able to do great things, once my companion gets used to the heat. Unless he's from Nicaragua, because in Nicaragua, it's all really hot like here (or so I've heard). In the chapels here, air conditioning is a rarity, but in Nicaragua, they're starting to put AC in all the chapels.

And I suppose you're all wondering about the earthquake. Yes, we felt it, but it wasn't scary. The house just moved around for about a minute, and then everything was fine. The epicenter was in San Marcos, which is far from here (not even in my mission) and is very cold. It's one of the few places in Guatemala where it actually snows. We just felt some movement, but it was nothing scary. Even being here in the coast, there wasn't a tsunami or anything. So don't worry, it ended up just being another experience for the journal.

Also, in General Conference a few weeks ago, the choir sang a really cool hymn that helps me in the work. In the Spanish hymnbook, it's number 67, but in English, it's not in the hymnbook. It's called "If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not." The chorus of this hymn says:

"Do not weary by the way, whatever be thy lot.
There awaits a brighter day, to all, to all who weary not."

In Spanish, it says
"Do not weary of fighting, be firm in the battle,
God will send rest to those who fight in the battle."

That's something that comes to my mind whenever things get hard. That if we keep on fighting, keep on working, and don't weary by the way, there's something great that awaits us. I know that if we keep God's commandments and endure to the end, we too will see the brighter day that awaits us. I hope to be able to see that day, and I hope to see you there with me. I know that even though we make mistakes, through our Savior Jesus Christ, we can return with our Heavenly Father once again. Another Hymn comes to mind:

"Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
whose wond'rous pow'r hath raised me up
and filled with sweet my bitter cup.
What tongue of gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel!"

I know that our Redeemer lives. Trust in him, and everything will work out for the best. It probably won't be easy, but that's how it is because he loves you.

I love you all and appreciate your constant prayers on our behalf. Thank you.

Until next week,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Another Week in the Coast

Dear All,

It's been a pretty good week here in Saint Joseph's Port (Puerto San José). My companion and I are getting along better than ever before, and we had 5 investigators in church this Sunday. One of them had to leave early, but said that she'll be staying all 3 hours next Sunday! I was so excited to see that, because the challenge here is getting people to church. The area is really big, and the culture isn't really conducive to scheduling, mostly because many people are fishers, and we have to try and find them at home when they're not at sea. So, basically, it was fantastic to be able to have 5 investigators in church!

Also, President Brough called me last night. He said "Elder Banks, your Heavenly Father has called you to be a trainer again." So, next week I will be receiving a brand new missionary to train! I love new missionaries, because their faith is awesome. For a new missionary, every person you contact is going to be baptized. For a new missionary, once you get used to the climate, you don't get tired, you just want to work and work and work. It wears the trainer out a bit, but that's alright, because new missionaries are fantastic. President Brough reminded me that the assignment to train is the most important assignment in the mission, and he told me some more details. I, of course, told him that I would accept the assignment.

I will also be having divisions with the Zone Leaders, starting tomorrow and ending on Friday. Sometimes they do it for a little longer, and I'm excited because I'll be with Elder Acosta, who is absolutely awesome. I already went in divisions with him once, but in HIS area. Now, he'll be coming to MY area, and for a longer period of time, which will be cool.

I'm finding even more love for the work here, and for the people. Our branch president, President Barrera, made a funny joke about me. Since I'm a gringo and my name is "Banks," everyone likes to say that I'm rich. President Barrera emphasized that yesterday while playing with some clay. He made 3 little lines in the clay, and said "I can sculpt Elder Banks with just this little bit of clay here." He then turned the clay into a dollar sign. He's a big jokester, isn't he?

Today we had a zone meeting, which was really good. We learned about faith, and the things we need to do to reach the goals the Lord has set for us this month. We are going to be baptizing 50 families in November as a mission!

Well, I don't really have much else to say today. Just that I love the Lord, I love you, and thank you for your prayers.

Never lose the faith, no matter what happens in life. Yes, it may be hard, but I promise you that it will be worse without the faith.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Dear All,

This past week has been pretty uneventful, with a couple of exceptions, basically P-Day yesterday. We had a "Super P-Day" with the zone. We ate Domino's pizza and watched the Emma Smith movie. It's pretty good. After that, we went to look for some shoes for me. Last Monday, I went and bought a pair, but they aren't apt for missionary work, just for zone conferences and interviews. One of my pairs of work shoes is really about to die, so I went after the movie yesterday to look for another pair. I had been praying to God to help me find a good pair of shoes to do missionary work. We went to one megapaca store where they sell a lot of shoes, but there almost wasn't a selection in my size. My companion suggested that we go to the other megapaca that's down the hill that sells some shoes as well, among other things. Usually their selection of shoes isn't that great, but I prayed, asking if the shoes I needed were in that store. I then felt that they were, so I said "yes" and we went. When we arrived, the store had just received a new shipment of shoes that they were still putting out. A pair caught my eye. They were a little big, but fit me. They were Florsheim, one of the few brands Mr. Mac sells for missionaries, and they looked good and were comfortable. They were brand new, sitting among many pairs of used shoes, and they were waiting just for me. I bought them, and they are on my feet right now, I had my testimony and my faith reinforced that God really does answer our prayers, and he cares about the little things. If he answers a little gringo's prayer about finding a pair of shoes, he'll definitely answer prayers about the things that really matter in life. He'll answer the prayers for guidance about life's big decisions: marriage, parenting, repentance, callings, whatever it may be. He will answer. He will answer prayers about investigators, and being able to prepare them for the covenant of baptism. I love our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ, and I know they live and love us. Whether it be one of life's big decisions, or just a pair of shoes, he is active in our lives and loves us. Sometimes he works in mysterious ways, but it is always for our good, especially when it's hard.

Last Tuesday, during District Meeting, the other elders in the district mentioned that I've been losing weight. I'll have to find a scale to see if they're right!

Right now we're working with some great people. We have a family, Juan Carlos and Tamara, and they're amazing. They're educated, and want to follow God's will. We just have to catch them at home, because they're very busy. He works in the port, unloading ships, and she's a computation teacher at the local school. I love them so much, and I will do everything in my power to be able to get them ready and baptized. We also have some more people we're working with, and the other elders will be having a baptism this Sunday, so I'll be the one to interview their candidate for baptism, being the district leader.

I don't really have much else to share, just that I am happier than ever to be a missionary. I'll be doing my first divisions as district leader today as well. Elder Nolasco will be coming here with me to work for the day, and I'm excited. I love the work, I love the people, and I love Guatemala. But above all, I love our Heavenly Father, and our Savior Jesus Christ. I will follow them until the end of my life and beyond, and I will do my very best to always do their will and accept their counsel.
I love you all. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another week in the coast

Dear All,

We just got back from district meeting, where the other elders told me that I'm losing weight. Again. So, yes, I'm getting used to the weather here, but it's burning me up! That's fine, because it's a good way to lose weight!

As for the area and my companion, things are going alright. As I may not have mentioned beforehand, my companion is Elder Ramos from Peru. He's my 2nd Peruvian. I now have had 2 Hondurans, 2 Peruvians, 2 Salvadoreans, and a Mexican as companions. Things are going pretty well. We have some stuff to work on, but that's normal. The area is huge, so we're trying to work it the best we can, concentrating our efforts where we feel that there's the most potential.

This week, I'll also be doing my first baptismal interview. As District Leader, I interview all baptismal candidates taught by other elders in the district, and my baptismal candidates are interviewed by the Zone Leaders. There's only one other companionship in my district, so if they have a baptism, I get to interview the person. I'm excited, but also nervous.

The branch here is really tiny. This week was about a normal week as far as attendance goes, and we had 70 there. It's a far cry from Sonora, the Utah-sized ward, but the people who do come to church are super faithful. There's one sister, Dora, who always passes by for our investigators if we call her, and brings them to the chapel for sacrament meeting. We also have some great converts, so if we can get over a couple little hurdles, there's success waiting here. The people are prepared to receive the Gospel.

This Sunday, we also had branch conference, which basically means that the leaders from the district (I explained that 2 weeks ago in my letter) come to visit and teach the members of the branch, and we get to sustain, or show our support for all the leaders related to the branch. In a stake, you sustain the Stake President, but in a district, you sustain the District President and the Mission President. It was pretty cool to be able to sustain President Brough in a sacrament meeting. I've never met either of his counselors (they're from Guatemala, and almost never work with the missionaries directly) but it was neat to sustain them as well.

This P-Day we're going to have what's called a "Super P-Day." This time, we don't really know what that means, but we know President Brough will come, and that there will be pizza involved. I don't know if it'll be Domino's, Pizza Hut, or Little Caesar's (all of which exist here), but it'll be pizza, and it'll be awesome.

Well, that's about all for now. Have a great day!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another Week in the Coast

Dear All,

It's been another pretty good week here in the coast of Guatemala. Yes, it's still at least 90 degrees outside, often more than 100, and we're about to head into summer here. That's fine with me, because the Lord wants me to be here. If he wanted me somewhere else, I would be somewhere else.

We finished up divisions with the Zone Leaders last week, and that was fun. I learned a lot from Elder Acosta. Then, we had a meeting of District Leaders with the Zone Leaders on Friday. Since then, my companion and I have just been sweating and working hard here in Puerto San José. We've got some good possibilities for baptism this month as well. We have at least 2 people who could be baptized very soon. I'm happy to be here, and even though I pretty much never stop sweating, it's worth it, because the people here are really great.

I went to church for the first time in the branch this past Sunday. We have literally the smallest chapel I have ever seen, and we don't even fill it. 51 people attended church on Sunday, and most of them left after sacrament meeting. I blessed the sacrament for the 2nd time in Spanish (the 1st time was in the CCM) which was good. We teach the Gospel Principles class which is fun. We have some good converts here, and we have some good challenges as well. We'll have to get working with the leaders to get the members in action. Once we get the members in action, we'll have success. I know it. The members are vital in missionary work, because we leave after a couple of months, but the members pretty much stay here forever. They're here to be able to teach and support our converts after we leave, and to help us bring them into the church while we're here. That's what happened with Alonzo, who we just baptized in Villa Hermosa. We brought a member, they got along really well, and the following Sunday he came to church. He then asked us "Hey, when will you be having baptisms?" That's the best when they ask that question!

Yesterday was P-day, and we went to the beach. The whole zone came here to our area and we went to play in the sand. We can't get wet, but we can go play in the sand or just relax. It was great. The sand here is black, which is pretty cool. I guess it's because of the volcanoes that there are here in Guatemala, I imagine that this is volcanic earth, at least in part. The coolest part is that in part of the area, you walk along the dirt/sand road surprising a ton of little tiny crabs. They're literally about 3/4 inch in their biggest direction. Some are smaller, and some a little bigger, but most are basically about that size, about the size of a big spider.

As for my companion, he's a pretty good guy. He likes to go running in the mornings, so it's something that we've been doing. The area is really, really big, so we can do a lot of running if we want to.
I also directed my first district meeting today. I gave the lesson about how to begin teaching, how we can gain confidence, and how people can better understand our purpose as missionaries. Many people just think we're here to teach them and talk about God, but they don't realize that we're here to baptize them into the true church of Jesus Christ.

We've got a zone conference on Thursday, and all we know is that President Brough has some higher goals for us to reach. I'm a little nervous, but definitely excited to see what the Lord has revealed to President that he has in store for the mission at this time.

I love you all. Thanks for being great and keep up being great!

Elder Banks   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Heat and Responsibility

Dear All,

I have been transferred.

The Guatemala City Central Mission is divided into 3 parts: The Capital, the Mountains, and the Coast. Up to this point, I have been in the capital. My 3rd area was supposedly in the coast, but it was really in the capital. I have now received the blessing to be able to get to know another part of the mission: the coast. I am now in the zone Escuintla, in the area Puerto San José. I have also received the assignment to be a district leader. First, I want to talk about the coast, then about the district, and then about General Conference.

As the subject line says, the coast is hot. And humid. I came to Escuintla once before for a zone conference, and I thought "Man, this is hot. I could put up with it, but it's pretty hot." That was the city of Escuintla, which is about an hour away from Puerto San José by bus. Puerto means "port," so, yes, I have a beach in my area. And no, I can't go swimming, it's a rule for safety reasons. Anyway, Puerto is a LOT hotter than Escuintla, which is interesting. I've been sweating a LOT, and because of that, my clothes get dirty faster, but I don't really care about any of that, because the people here are so fantastic! They are much more open and receptive than people in the capital, and while they may already attend their church, they don't make a huge deal about it, and listen to the message. There are a few who have heard something false about the Church from an outside source, and insist that they're right, but basically the people are a lot more awesome for missionary work here in the Coast than they are in the capital. They're very open-hearted and kind. Also, Escuintla is a Zone in the mission, and a District in church terms.

Since I have lived in Utah all my life, I never knew what a district was until I got here in the mission. In areas where there is a decent number of members of the church, the church is organized into wards (congregations), or if it's smaller, branches (smaller congregations). These wards and branches are then organized into stakes, which are groups of congregations according to the geographical area. In areas where the church is still developing, a district is established. A district is made up of only branches, not wards, and the district president operates under the authority of the mission president, whereas a stake president does not have to do so, he has his own authority for the stake. So here, there's a lot more work, and I'm excited to be part of it.

Now for the district. The district of which I am assigned as leader only includes 2 areas: Puerto San José, and Puerta de Hierro. It's a small, but great (and hot) district. As district leader, I will be required to interview candidates for baptism who have been taught by the members of my district. My investigators will now be interviewed by the zone leaders. I'm excited to be able to serve the Lord to an even greater level in this assignment, and I'm excited to be able to work hard, and bring about much success here in the coast.

Now for conference!!! I was pretty shocked when President Monson announced the new age at which young men and women can leave on their missions! Young men at 18, and young women at 19!! That's pretty exciting. And what it means is that we need more missionaries. I invite you all to read the talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from last October's conference entitled "We are all enlisted." Get ready, and go and do, just like Nephi (see 1 Nephi 3:7). This is the most spiritual experience I've ever had with Conference, and I really felt close to our prophet and the apostles, I imagine because we're engaged in the same work for the moment. I learned that it's important to repent, and always be ready, and that we need to find joy in the journey of whatever we may be doing. I also learned that no matter what area you're in, no matter what part of the Lord's work you're engaged in, if you're there on the Lord's assignment and doing you're best, it doesn't really matter what happens. Pres. Uchtdorf explained this in one of his famous airplane analogies. He compared flying a plane from the 1940's to flying with the Blue Angels. Both are work, and both are beautiful, but both are a very different type of activity. It doesn't matter if you're serving as a primary teacher, a bishop, a missionary in Guatemala, or an apostle, or if you do missionary work or family history work, the Lord has entrusted you with something, and you need to seek his guidance in taking care of it. And do your best, always. As we do this, the Lord will bless us with the guidance we need, and with many other things in every aspect of our lives (see Mosiah 2:41).

I know this is the Lord's true church newly established in these latter days, and I know that if we serve him well, he will bless us abundantly. He always remembers you, even when you don't remember him. So let's remember him together!
Thank you for your prayers.

I hope you all have a fantastic day!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

6 Weeks in Villa Hermosa

Dear All,

Now, for a little inside scoop about the Guatemala City Central Mission: the changes (transfers). If you come or go, it happens on Wednesday, without question. They always tell you Monday morning, so you can use P-Day to pack. When they call, they will tell each missionary if he is leaving or staying, and if he has an interview. If someone has an interview, that means that they will be receiving an assignment, such as senior companion, district leader, zone leader, secretary, assistant to the president, or retention leader. You get to the "change meeting" without knowing where you're going, and you leave the meeting with your new companion to your new area. From there, it's all history.

We received the call Monday morning about 11:15am. Our district leader told us that I will be leaving, that Elder Perez will be staying, and that both of us have interviews tomorrow at 8am. That means that my companion will probably become senior companion, and I will probably receive one of the other assignments. We won't know until tomorrow, but I do know that I won't be training this change, because President calls all the trainers on the phone during the week before changes. Also, district leaders have cell phones. They just received them a couple months ago. They can only carry them at certain times, and they can't let ANYBODY borrow the phone, but they have them. Zone leaders, secretaries, and assistants carry their cell phones always, and there is always one per companionship. Only the assistants have two phones. So who knows? I may be carrying a phone in the near future.

For know, I'll keep working, and go say goodbye to my converts here. It's been really great to be here, and it's been a little bit of a break from assignments. But I'm not here to relax, I'm here to work, so here I go, working on something new!
As for Villa Hermosa, it's been fantastic. Just like last time I was in this zone, I only stayed 1 change, or 6 weeks. And, just like last time I was in this zone, my companion is from El Salvador, and really wants to learn English. Elder Perez is fantastic, and will keep working hard, and keep the great relationship we have with the Bishop and the Ward Mission Leader.

And to tell you a little about the divisions I had last week with Elder Silva in La Hermosa:
We had some good little lessons, and we got to go have the correlation meeting with Hno. Samayoa, the ward mission leader. They fed us BBQ ribs, which were delicious, and they're a great family. He works for the Church, in maintenance of buildings, and I actually saw him once before, in the Amatitlan stake center, waiting to have my interview with President Brough. He seems pretty cool, and it would be great to work with him. It was a fun little excursion, and I got to learn a little more about the things a district leader does.

I just wanted to tell you how much I love the Lord, and how much He loves all of you. His love is infinite, and no matter what happens, He'll be able to take away your pain. Trust Him, and He will help you. As He says in Psalms, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalms 46:10) I know He lives, and I am honored to be able to wear His name on my badge every day, and to be able to represent Him in all I do. Don't ever forget how much He loves you.

Thank you for everything. I love you all.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another Great Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

This has been a really great week. First of all, Alonzo was confirmed and ordained a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. It was pretty cool. We've also found some great investigator families.

Yesterday we found a family, the Mayen Smith family. Yes, you did read that right. Smith. It's the Mom's last name, and what's more, she has absolutely no ancestors in the USA or the UK, so who knows how she got that name! But they're really cool. They alreay want to come to church. They've come a couple of times with other Elders about a year ago, but they weren't baptized. We don't know why the missionaries stopped visiting them, because they're pretty awesome. I'm really excited to be able to know them and to be able to bring them into the Gospel. They're even looking for a church to go to right now, so the Lord let us come to them in the right time.

I also got to play the piano in a house yesterday! We went to visit a less-active family whose daughter is 11 and hasn't been baptized. The Dad is learning to play piano, and they have a little piano keyboard in their living room. I played them a couple of hymns and it was really fun. It's been more than a year since I've played a piano outside of a church building.
Our district is rather successful this month. The most successful district gets the prize of having a district meeting in the mission home with President, and with the new missionaries who are going to come into the mission the following day. We're in the battle with by previous district, Sonora, and the Office (the secretaries and assistants) to be able to win the prize. Prospects are good that we may win the prize, but that's not why we're here. It would be really fun, but we're not here for fun, we're here on the Lord's errand.

Yesterday was a really fun p-day as well. Since I discovered that my current jacket isn't waterproof, I bought another one at Megapaca, which is basically Guatemalan D.I. or Goodwill. It's black, and it fits me pretty well and is very classy, and most importantly, waterproof!! I also bought a couple of church DVDs there that actually have D.I. tags on them: "On the Lord's Errand" (Thomas S. Monson's Biography), which I can use in my teaching, and "Mr. Krueger's Christmas," which I can't, but I can watch when I get home! Overall, I spent about $9 on the jacket and the 2 DVDs, and I'm very happy with my purchase. Especially with the jacket.

Also, we had some visitors in our district meeting: Elder Israelsen and Elder Trejo, the assistants to the president. They're pretty cool, and Elder Israelsen was actually in my area almost a year ago, so he knows a lot of the members and we're still working with a lot of his converts. It wasn't too eventful, but it was really good. Now, I'll be going on divisions again, this time in La Hermosa with Elder Silva, and Elder Finau Ngalu will be with my companion in my area.
Well, that's just about all for now. Keep the faith, and keep the commandments. As says the hymn, "In this there is safety and peace."

I love you all. Have a fantastic week, as will I.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another Great Week, and Baptism!

Dear All,

First of all, to calm the worries of those of you who read the news, I'm not anywhere near Volcan de Fuego. I didn't even know it erupted until I read the email my parents just sent me. Yes, it is within the Central Mission, but the eruption was absolutely nowhere near my zone. I'm still in the capital, not in the mountains, where the volcano is.

Here in the Guatemala City Central Mission, we have a little saying. We always say "Nosotros Bautizamos Familias" ("We baptize families"). Here in Villa Hermosa, it seems to be a little different. As you will see in the attached baptism pictures of this week and last week, in Villa Hermosa, we say "Nosotros Bautizamos Viajitos," or "We baptize little old men." We just baptized Isidro, and this week we baptized Alonzo, and there's another gentleman named Augusto who may be baptized very soon. Usually the older part of the population isn't that receptive to listen to the Gospel and be baptized, because they "Already have their church," but here in Villa Hermosa, it's a little different, which is fantastic.

Alonzo was absolutely excited to get baptized. He wants to be part of the Church and serve in the Church. He's a widower and is retired, so basically has all the time he wants to be able to serve or work a little. During the baptismal service, he had changed back into street clothes, and he saw me mopping up some of the water on the floor. He said "Oh, no, Hermano, let me do that. Don't you worry!" He's got such a great heart and I'm so glad to know him. He'll be a great member of the Church! He's dressed in white in the picture, and the other guy is Hno. Batres, who really helped him get to baptism, and will really help him from here on out. Every new convert needs a friend, and Hno. Batres is Alonzo's friend within the church. He also knows several other members already, so he's right on the way to being a faithful member. We're going to see him again tomorrow, and I'm excited.

As far as the rest goes, it's been pretty normal. Yesterday we had a district activity. We ate delicious burritos made by Hna. Garcia, and we watched "The Other Side of Heaven." It was fun, especially because Elder Finau Ngalu is of Tongan descent and speaks Tongan. Also, there was a guy in the movie named Finau, which was kind of a funny coincidence! Overall, we had a great day, and got to relax a bit.

Other than that, it's just going great, working hard, working with the Spirit, and helping God's children return to him. It's really cool, and I'm really greatful that my Heavenly Father has let me be part of this work.

I love you all. Have a great day, and thank you for your prayers!

Elder Banks    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Dear All,

This has been a pretty good week.

As last week we had district meeting with Pres. Brough, this week was different, too. We had a training session with the whole zone, which was pretty cool. We did some practices, looked through our area books, and watched a short video on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how it relates to missionary work. It was really powerful, and awesome. Our zone leaders are really cool, and our zone is fantastic. The secretaries and assistants are in our zone as well, so it's nice to be able to get things quickly.

Speaking of getting things, thanks to the Mulveys for sending me the notes from the 31st! It's so awesome to be able to hear from my aunts, uncles and cousins!

Yesterday we had a zone activity, and we got permission to go to Zona 1, where the central market is. I bought a little duffel bag made of "Corte" (typical Guatemalan fabric), a white shirt adorned with a little black-and-white corte, and a jersey of the Guatemalan soccer team. It was pretty cool, and it only cost me Q195, or about $25. The white shirt alone would have cost at least $15 in the states. It sounds like a lot to spend 195 of any currency, but for us North Americans, it doesn't really seem to add up to that much.

And it was perfect timing, too, because today I'll be going on divisions with Elder Finau Ngalu, who is from Australia. I believe he is of Tongan descent. He entered the mission with Elder Luna, so he's pretty new as well. Elder Silva will be with my companion, Elder Perez, until tomorrow morning. For the first time in a while, they took me out of my own area for divisions, because usually the senior companion stays in his own area, but due to some special circumstances, the divisions have been arranged differently this time. It should be really fun, and I hope to learn a lot from Elder Finau Ngalu.

We also have a baptism this Sunday! We will be baptizing Alonzo, who is 67 years old and a widower. He's got so much faith! We set his baptismal date last week, and taught him about the Word of Wisdom. Yesterday we went by to make sure that he hasn't had any coffee, because people who will be baptized have to give up these things for a certain amount of time before they can be baptized. We talked to him and he said "Since the day you taught me it was bad, I haven't had any coffee. I've had a few aches and pains because of it, but if it's bad, I won't drink it." What faith!! He's one of the coolest people I've met here. He told us he wants to serve in the church after being baptized. We also taught him that he can be sealed to his late wife, and have an eternal family. Now, we just need to find and baptize his kids! They don't live in our area, but we can always pass on the reference! This man came to church the first time 2 Sundays ago, and while there, asked us when we would be having baptisms. He reads the Book of Mormon and marks it, and is now reading the Gospel Principles manual the Ward gave him. I am so happy to be able to be associated with him!

I guess that in this area it's the older guys who are awesome. Isidro was just baptized (in the attached photo, I've got my arm around him), Alonzo will be baptized soon, and a guy named Augusto came to church for the first time this Sunday. It was funny, because the member of the bishopric who conducts welcomes in the meeting every person when there for the first time. The bishop and 2nd counselor can be funny, but the 1st counselor is really serious and almost never smiles. He was conducting, and said something really funny without noticing. The name "Augusto" sounds a lot like the phrase "A gusto," which means "to your liking" or "comfortable." Before church, Augusto said to us that he always feels "a gusto" in church, or something to that effect. Then, in sacrament meeting, the really serious first counselor said "We would like to welcome our brother Augusto, who is visiting us for the first time. Brother, we hope you feel 'a gusto.' " I was sitting at the piano, and I had to really contain myself not to laugh. It wasn't his intention to make a joke, but he said that, and noticed afterwards. I couldn't really see his face from the piano, but it was great.

I love the people so much here. They're so funny and full of love. Some are very closed to the Gospel, but most are very kind about everything. The people here would give us the shirt off their back if it were necessary, something which in the States just doesn't happen all that much. It's really a manifestation of charity, which is the pure love of Christ.

Thank you for all your prayers and your love. Never lose the faith!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Great Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

It has been another great week in Villa Hermosa. It's actually a great name for this area, because it means "Beautiful Villa." It's one of the wealthiest areas I've had here in Guatemala. Our bishop lives in a community almost identical to one that was in my last ward, and the houses in this neighborhood are a lot like houses in Europe. The rest is typical Guatemala, but nice. Here we are in the city San Miguel Petapa, meaning that I've only had one area in Guatemala City. Jerusalén and Sonora 1 are parts of Villa Nueva, and now I'm in San Miguel Petapa, meaning that only in La Corona (Ciudad Real) have I been in Guatemala City.

On Saturday, we had a really busy day, beginning with a baptismal interview, then getting ready for a wedding, then the wedding, then a baptismal service. We baptized Isidro, after marrying him, then we confirmed him on Sunday. It was great, since I really saw a change in him. Last week they were having some family problems, but since he was baptized, everything has been peaceful, and he's just been a whole lot happier. It's amazing to see the power of God in people's lives. We just have to have faith that he can help us, and he will help us do whatever he needs us to do. As Moroni teaches us "And Christ hath said: If ye have faith in me, ye shall have power to do anything that is expedient in me." (Moroni 7:33)

I will send the picture of the baptism next week, because I forgot the camera today.

We just finished a great district meeting, because President Brough and Sister Brough came to the meeting. They do that sometimes, and it was the first time for me. President helped us out a ton with our investigators, and it looks like we're set to have a great month, we just have to keep working hard. Nephi teaches that " grace we are saved, after all we can do," and in my experience, it's not just about being saved, but rather this principle applies in whatever we need to do. If we work as if it all depended on us, then pray as if it all depended on God, then the problems are resolved, and depending on our faith, the miracles come. It's a two-part relationship, it's not just lazing around and waiting for God, nor is it just us working ourselves to a pulp and God doing nothing. Nobody cares more about this work than the Savior, so we work hard under his direction, and with his guidance through the Holy Ghost. This was taught in Doctrine and Covenants, I believe 42:14 "And ye shall receive the Spirit by the prayer of faith. And if ye receive not the Spirit YE SHALL NOT TEACH." (empasis added) And it's not just prayer, it's WORK as well that brings the Spirit. If you think you don't need to work, read D&C 58:26-29, and also remember verses 4, and 42-43. Something the people always ask us is "and when is your day off?" The answer of course, is my day off will be in September 2013, or rather, when I get home. The Lord doesn't give days off. The Lord makes us work hard, because he knows how important this work is. He knows that there is no other way to do it, and he knows how urgent the work is. That's something I'm still working on understanding, as President Brough always says: "¡Hay urgencia en la Obra!" ("There is Urgency in the Work!")

This applies especially now as I am in the home stretch of my mission. I feel really old, because I just passed the year mark. There are people waiting, and I can't leave them waiting, they need to be brought to the Fold! I didn't really do anything special passing the year, I just bought some ice cream. Ice cream is popular here, but it's funny because ice cream and what we would consider a popsicle (or "ice lolly" in England) are referred to with the same word, so you have to find what you really want to be able to eat it. We also had cake on Saturday, but it was for the wedding, not my "birthday."

They also asked me to play the piano in church on Sunday, the first time in months. It was great.

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. They're a big help. It's good work, and sometimes hard work, so every little bit helps.

Keep the faith. Never forget who you are.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Year Older... and Wiser too!

Dear All,

Yes, it's this week. Friday I enter the home stretch of the mission: Year 2. No, I don't believe it either! I heard the tradition that missionaries burn a tie at 6 months, a shirt at 1 year, and some burn a suit finishing the mission. I'm not much of a burner, and I still like my shirts, so I think I'll be keeping mine, but I am thinking about buying a cake. I'm thinking that's something fun I'll do.

As for the transfer, it went fantastic. I am now in the area Villa Hermosa, in the zone Villa Hermosa. It's the same zone as La Corona, my 2nd area, so I'm super excited to be back. My companion is Elder Perez, from San Salvador, El Salvador. When I entered the mission, he was in Jerusalén with Elder Caceres, my trainer. He left that area the day I came, so of course we've been talking a lot about that area as well. He and I get along really well, and we're working on English a bit with him as well.

In our district are several other great missionaries. Elder Hansen and Elder Terrazas are the zone leaders, and are in our district. Elder Hansen was my zone leader in Jerusalén, and in La Corona, so I know him well. Elder Terrazas was in Sonora 1 a few months before I was, and entered the same day I did. He just has 6 weeks more in the field because the Latinos don't have 6 weeks extra in the CCM to learn Spanish! Also with us are Sister Knudsen, from my district in the CCM, and in Jerusalén, and Sister Garcia, who was my fellow techie in the CCM. Also, Elder Silva is the district leader, and he was the district leader's companion in Sonora, so I know just about everyone in the district. Now that I think about it, it makes me feel old. Elder Silva's companion is Elder Finau Ngalu, from Australia, who entered in the same group as Elder Luna. He's pretty cool, too.

The area is a little different from my last area. The ward is a little smaller, but the members are fantastic. The Bishop has us over for lunch every Sunday, and he's really cool. Also, there's a guy who makes custom suits for the missionaries, who is a member of the church. His name is Hilton, and he lives in my area, so I think I'll be starting a suit soon, but we'll see. There are some fantastic people here, and I'm super excited to be able to work here. We're going to be working hard to reach some goals we've set as a mission this week, and this month. It'll be very, very good and I'm excited to be a part of it. We already have 2 baptisms lined up for this weekend!

And yes, they did ask me to play the piano in transfer meeting. It went well, but we arrived just 10 minutes before the meeting started, because Hermano Peña gave us a ride, but had a stop to make on the way to the meeting that took a little longer than expected. But everything worked out, and here I am!

Elder Luna received Elder Hopper, who was in the same zone already (Amatitlán), and had already met my comp. It'll be interesting to see how they get along, because their personalities are pretty different!

Also, yesterday, an elder who returned from the mission here about a year ago came to visit. He was one of Elder Perez' companions, so we met up to say hi. He was also in Sonora at one point, and in Linda Vista as well, so we know a lot of the same people. He said to us "Take care. I would trade places with you in a second!" Another one of this elder's companions, Elder Pavon, is just up the hill from us in my old area, La Corona. He went there from Jerusalén, and a while before that, he was in Sonora 1, so he knows all of my areas, with the exception of the current one! That was kind of fun, and since Elder Perez was also in Jerusalén, we talked a bit about that with him as well. Elder Perez was there right before me, and Elder Pavon right after me, so it was cool to see. We talked in particular about the Paniagua family, who Elder Perez found with his companion, I taught with my companions, and Elder Pavon married and baptized with his companion. It was pretty neat. And now I really feel old.

Know this, that the love of God is infinite. He has provided so many things for me and my companions, and changed the lives of so many people. I've seen it and I've lived it, and there is no doubt in my mind of it. God will never forget you.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. They really do help.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Dear All,

It's official. I will be transferred tomorrow to a new area. I don't no where or with who, but I know it'll be according to the Lord's will. Who knows, I may end up in the coast or in the mountains, or I may stay in the capital. I'm trying to not have any hopes or fears as to where I'm going, so I can better trust in the Lord and his plan for the missionary work here in Guatemala. As the hymn says "I'll go where you want me to go." There was one elder who was in my district in my first area who said something a little funny. Waiting for his mission call, he thought "I hope I don't go to Central America." He was then called to Guatemala. Being here in the mission, he thought "I hope I don't go to the coast, it's too hot there." He then was sent to the coast. Then he thought "I hope I don't go to Peronia, it's too dangerous there." He was then sent to Peronia. But he is one of the happiest missionaries I know and a very hard worker and bold teacher. It just goes to show that we don't know best, but the Lord always does.

My companion will be staying here, and receiving another senior companion. I believe I'll remain senior companion, because they haven't told me I'll be going back to junior.

I also believe that they'll ask me to play the piano at change (transfer) meeting tomorrow. Even though I don't really have time to practice in this area, I've improved as a pianist, I believe because I've been using my talent to serve. I've now played in a conference with a general authority, a zone conference, a zone meeting, and several training meetings. But change meeting is a little different because we all go into a certain chapel, and one of the assistants reads the changes (transfers), and announces the assignments, such as zone leader, district leader, trainer, retention secretary, etc. During all of this, there is someone playing the piano softly in the background. It actually becomes a very spiritual experience sometimes, and I always enjoy change meeting.

Also, I like it because the piano in the chapel where we have the change meetings is electric, and you can basically turn it into a functioning organ, so it sounds really nice, since organs are a rarity here. Usually there's just an acoustic piano, and some areas apparently don't even have that. Anyway, I imagine they'll ask me to play tomorrow, because all the other pianists President knows of have all finished their missions. There are others, but he doesn't know they can play. If they do, I'll probably be playing for just about an hour straight. It'll be fun!

As for Sonora, I'll really miss it here. The ward is fantastic, almost like a ward in Utah. The leaders are all fantastic, and very supportive, and the attendance has never dipped below 200 since I've been here. The members work really hard with the missionaries, which is crucial to be able to have success. Over half of the baptisms I've had in my mission have been here, and that's why. It's an amazing area, and I'm really going to miss it. The good news is that my areas have only gotten better and better with the changes, so I'm hoping that the trend continues.

Overall, it was a pretty uneventful week here in Sonora. The only thing we have to report is that the investigator who is absolutely awesome, Geisi (hey-see), didn't come to church this Sunday. Her member friend from work was supposed to bring her to our ward this week, but he went to pick her up and they went and did something else. She's amazing, and I know she'll be baptized, she just needs to come to church! My companion and his new companion will be passing by her house this week to get her to church. Her whole family is very Catholic, but her Dad left, and he was a member of the church, so she's had a little bit of exposure to the church. The family is nice to us and everything, they just aren't interested in the Gospel. I think that once she's baptized, the family will see the change in her, and it will be good.

Also, yesterday, I bought some fantastic ties, and got my new suit jacket back and tie from the sister who was repairing them. Everything is fantastic, and we're lined up to have a really good day today as well, starting with a delicious lunch after I finish writing this letter.

Just some lines from one of my favorite hymns:
"There's surely somewhere a lowly place, in Earth's harvest fields so wide,
Where I can labor through life's short day for Jesus the Crucified.
And trusting my all to thy tender care, and knowing thou lovest me,
I'll do thy will with a heart sincere: I'll be what you want me to be.
I'll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord, over mountain, or plain, or sea,
I'll say what you want me to say, Dear Lord, I'll be what you want me to be."

I love you all. Keep the faith, and never forget that you are a child of God, and no matter what may happen, He lives, and loves you to the end.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

It's been a pretty good week. We're almost done with this transfer, so a week from tomorrow we'll probably be going to transfer meeting so one of us can go, and the other will receive his new companion. It's been fun with Elder Luna, but I think we may just be running out of patience one with another.

The baptism in the attached picture is a young boy named Marcelo in the ward. His family is inactive, but returning to activity in the church, and none of the family was able to baptize him, so I had the privilege of doing so. This time the heater worked in the baptismal font, so it was nice and comfortable. It was really cool, because when we came out of the water, he went and said to his Mom, "Mom, I feel brand new!" It was so cool! We stopped by the house yesterday so we could chat a little with the family, and the mom told us that "He's been acting really well today, and he's been really obedient. He told me that he feels all new and he's been saying he has to be good because 'I can't fail Jesus!'" It was pretty cool to see that baptism really is something that changes people's lives, not just something we're obligated to do. It's something very sacred and special, and though each one of us must pass this step, we should never take it for granted.

Many people do not remember their baptism, or were never baptized by priesthood authority.  Those of you who have been baptized, try and remember the day. It's something I wish I could remember better, because I've seen how it helps, and the miracles it can work. I always ask my converts how they feel within one day of being baptized, because I wish I could remember. One responded "My brother, I felt very joyful." Others have responded that they feel fresh and clean, like it's a new start, because that's exactly what it is. In John Chapter 3, Jesus Christ taught Nicodemus that baptism is the way to be born again, which is necessary to be able to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.

I also had the opportunity to give a talk on Sunday in church. They assigned me to speak first, followed by 2 recently returned missionaries. I spoke on retention, which is very important. If someone who is baptized doesn't receive support, they probably won't endure to the end, which means that they won't be able to go to the Celestial Kingdom. If we can't keep people in the Church, we're not really helping them obtain salvation. I spoke on the hymn 208 "Brillan Rayos de Clemencia," which in English is number 335, "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy." To understand it, we need to understand the symbolism: In the days when ships navigated with map and compass, lighthouses were a necessary tool to be able to find the harbor. Sadly, sometimes all the ships could see was the lighthouse, and couldn't see the rocks just outside of the harbor, and crashed, destroying both cargo and passengers. What was done, is people were assigned to maintain lights burning on the beach or near the shore. These lights then reflected off the surface of the water, thus allowing the ships to see the rocks, avoid them, and enter the harbor safely.
The words of the hymn in English are as follows:

Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy, from his lighthouse evermore,
But to us, he gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.

Let the Lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave,
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled, loud the angry billows roar,
Eager eyes are watching, longing, for the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother! Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying hard to reach the harbor in the darkness may be lost.

So our job, then, is to set a good example, and help our brothers and sisters come to know the gospel, and if they know the gospel, to live it. We do this by inviting, but mostly by living the gospel, and setting an example. My favorite part of the English lyrics (this part was lost in translation to Spanish) is the third verse. Even though you may think that your light is weak, and you don't have an influence, you do. Keep your light burning, and keep being good examples.

I love you all. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks

Monday, August 6, 2012

One Day Early...But for a Good Reason!

Dear All,

I write to you this week one day early, because tomorrow we will have interviews with President Brough! I always love talking to President, because he always inspires me to do better. He really knows his missionaries, and he's 100% dedicated to the work. He loves what he does, and he loves every one of the missionaries of Misión Central. I always try to bring him questions, so I can know what I need to improve, and know how I can be the best missionary I can. D&C 4 instructs us to serve with all our "heart, might, mind, and strength, that [we] may stand blameless before God at the last day," and I want to be blameless before God, so I seek President's help when I feel I need it.

So tomorrow, we'll be having interviews, a zone meeting, watching a movie, and probably getting new phones. It's interesting here, because our phone is a cell phone, but for a desktop. It has a handset and a cord, and to answer it, you literally pick it up, just like a home phone, but it's a cell phone. It has a big antenna and receives text messages and everything. District leaders will now have cell phones (like zone leaders, assistants, and secretaries already have), but I don't know what's in store for the rest of us. We'll find out tomorrow!

The rest of this week has been pretty good. I've been a little sick with a cold, so it's been a little harder to work, but I've made it through. My companion always pushes me harder to do more, which is awesome. It ensures that we never have the chance to laze around, and that we always get done the things we need to get done. Elder Luna is a great missionary, and I really hope he continues progressing after we are separated. Changes will be in two weeks, and I imagine the Lord will probably separate us. It's rare that two elders who aren't leaders are together for more than 2 changes (3 months), and on top of that, I'm his trainer, and they usually separate trainers from their greenies pretty quickly. It'll be interesting to see what happens with us, but whatever happens, it's been a great time with Elder Luna.

Also, something really cool happened this week. Gilbar, who we baptized and confirmed last Sunday, came out with us on a lesson. He's got a really great testimony, and he's a fantastic man. He really helped the young man we were teaching, even though Gilbar is old enough to be his father. Also, on Fast Sunday (1st Sunday of every month), the brethren of the Priesthood here in the Sonora ward go out and make visits. Yesterday, we were walking along the streets of Proyectos, the neighborhood where we do most of our work, and we saw 4 men in white shirts making visits: one of the young men, about 13 years old, Brayan, one of our recent converts, Geovany, the Elder's Quorum President, and Gilbar!!! It was so cool to see that even though he's only been a member of the Church for about a week, he's already getting in the Spirit of serving others, and helping them to come unto Christ! I am so excited for all of our new members!

Just to finish off, I'd like to share my testimony. I've seen the power of God, the power of the Priesthood, and the power of the Holy Ghost to change hearts, and to change lives. Seeing the change in Gilbar's countenance as he was baptized and confirmed just affirmed that. There was literally a noticeable difference in his face after being baptized. This, along with other experiences I've had, confirm to me every day of the reality of God, and of his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. They really are watching over each and every one of us because they want what's best. They know much better than we do what we need to do in this life to be able to be happy, and to be able to be happy for eternity in the life to come. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and that the authority and power of the Priesthood-or the authority and power God gives to men to act in his name-are real, and are found only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's the only place one can receive the ordinances of salvation, and return to live with our Heavenly Father again. I know these things to be true. If I didn't know that this is true and important, I would still be at home playing around on the computer. But, as President Uchtdorf once said, "I am doing a great work and cannot come down." So if you miss me, think of that. Know that I miss you too, but this is where I need to be, and where I'd rather be, at this time.

May each of you have a fantastic week! Thank you for all of your prayers.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Fantastic week in the Lord's Vineyard

Dear All,

First of all, the big news is BAPTISM!!! We had three baptisms this Sunday. They were all baptized before church, and confirmed in sacrament meeting. They are the Samayoa family (in the picture the gentleman with the dark hair, and his wife with the baby). We baptized their daughters when I first arrived here in the area, but we've been working with them for a couple months, and they are now members of the Church! The other young man is Robinsson, whose girlfriend is a member of the church. That's how Elder Martinez found him. He's excited to receive the priesthood and serve a mission, and convert his family, who are all Evangelicals. The older gentleman standing off to the right is Leopoldo, who everyone calls "Hermano Polo." He's the grandfather of Robinsson's girlfriend, and Robinsson asked that "Polo" would baptize him. I baptized Sis. Samayoa, and my companion baptized Bro. Samayoa.
It was really cool, because as soon as brother Samayoa passed his baptismal interview, I saw such a change in his countenance, and it was even more evident after his baptism and confirmation. It's amazing to see the power of God in people's lives, and the changes it can make. I'm really excited for Robinsson as well. I know now more than ever that this church is true.

Other than that, the big event of this week was divisions with the zone leaders. We had divisions for two days, which usually doesn't happen. Elder Durfey from Arizona came here with me, and my companion went with Elder Lagos from Honduras to the zone leaders' area. I learned a ton, including a new way to start teaching someone, and the fact that we can do so much more in a day than I thought we could before seeing their example. I know now what I need to do to keep progressing, and find the Lord's elect that are awaiting the gospel, and the people to whom I promised I would bring it.

Yesterday we had a district activity, and we watched the church film "17 Miracles." It has to do with the Willie Handcart Company, of the Pioneers. It really shows the sacrifice that many people have given for this Gospel. On Saturday, I also watched the film of Joseph Smith, and his life. None of the people represented in any of these two films would have sacrificed all they did, for some including their lives, for this Gospel if it wasn't true. I know it's true, and I know that I'm very blessed that I live in an era when the Gospel is more widespread and freely available. It's great. I encourage all of you to see these films, to be able to better appreciate how precious this Gospel really is.

I just want to say that I am so happy to be here in the Lord's work. No, it's not easy, but Yes, it is worth it. More than worth it. But really, I play a very small role in all of this. Conversion comes through prayer, study, and attending church, but mostly through the Holy Ghost. My role is just to point people in the right direction so they can do what they need to do to return to God's presence. Elder James B. Martino of the Seventy, and of the area presidency of Central America once said when talking to the missionaries here that "If the Book of Mormon had a mouth to talk and feet to walk, we wouldn't need any of you!" And it's true. The Book of Mormon is the evidence, and it's how we can know of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as administered through the priesthood authority of God, found only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Read it, pray about it, and you will know. God will answer you. He answered me. He answered the Samayoa family, and Robinsson, and many, many other people whom I have met, or whom I have yet to meet. Do it. You won't regret it. And if you've already done it, do it again!

Thank you for all you do. I really hope that everything is going well for you all in the USA, but I'll stay here. At least for another 13 months!

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hello from Book of Mormon Country

Dear All,

This has been a pretty good week.
On Friday, our ward had a missionary activity. This week was Ward Conference, which is a HUGE deal here in Guatemala. There were activities every day this week, but the missionary activity was the most powerful. We taught about the Book of Mormon: what it is, where it came from, and why it's important.

To review briefly:
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture like the Bible. It does not replace the Bible, but works with it to teach us about Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

It is an ancient record of the peoples who lived here in the Americas, very likely in the areas in which I am serving my mission. The people here knew of Christ, and had prophets who taught them what they needed to do, according to the Lord's will, just like the prophets of the Bible.

The record was translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God into English, and now exists in at least 90 languages worldwide. It teaches us clearly and simply the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and puts an end to false doctrines that have been perpetuated through the centuries. Joseph Smith did NOT write the book, he simply translated it.

These are some of the reasons that the Book of Mormon is important, but here in the Mission we use it as something else, which is: Convincing Evidence of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon contains the invitation to read it, ponder the message it contains, and ask God in the name of Christ in a sincere prayer if the book is true. Those who do this receive a testimony of its truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. If the Book of Mormon is true (which it is), that means that the Prophet who translated it, Joseph Smith, is a true prophet of God. If he is a true prophet of God, the church that God established through him has to be true.

And this is part of the importance of the Book of Mormon. It changes hearts. It changes lives. It shows the world that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that Joseph Smith was his prophet, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the one and only true church, directed in these days by the Lord Jesus Christ, through his living prophet.
If you're not reading the Book of Mormon, read it.
If you haven't prayed about it in a while (or ever), do it.

For me the Book of Mormon is something that is amazing that has changed my life. I have come to know my Savior by reading its pages. I recently finished reading it for the fifth time, and I marked in orange every time the Lord's name appears, in any form. I have found very few pages where there isn't at least one little orange mark. I am now starting to read it again, this time marking words spoken by Christ or the Father. I've already marked quite a bit, and I've just begun. This book is centered in Jesus Christ, and teaches what we need to do to earn our salvation through him. And I know that it is true. I have put the invitation into practice, and asked God if it's true. And it is true. I have no doubt of that. It's my favorite book. And it's amazing to teach about it here, teaching (in many cases) the descendants of those who wrote it! It's a way to know better and clearer what you need to do to be saved than anything else I've found, and on top of that, it's an enjoyable story.

As for the activity, we had some great investigators come, including a friend of one of our investigators who is an agnostic, or isn't quite sure God exists. It was cool to be able to answer some of his questions and help him see God's love for him. We had a good time, and we got some great references!

We also had 5 investigators at Church this Sunday, which was pretty great. Thanks to this, we'll be having 3 baptisms this next weekend, according to the plan.
Also, I'll be having divisions with the Zone Leaders this Thursday through Saturday. It'll be interesting, and fun. We'll be having some baptismal interviews as well, so I'm pretty excited!

Other than these things, life is pretty normal and uneventful here in Sonora. I love the members, I love the investigators, and my companion's not too bad either! :)

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. They are felt on a daily basis, as I am able to do things I know that I alone would not be capable of doing. The Lord makes all things possible that are according to his will, if we have the faith that he will help us, and if we do our part. This applies not just to missionaries, but to all of you as well.
Thank you.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Walmart and Zone Conference in Escuintla

Dear All,

This has been a pretty good week so far!
First of all, last week was changes, and my companion and I are the only ones in the district who didn't have a change. Elder Pearson, our awesome district leader, finished his mission and went home, being replaced by Elder Hartmann from Illinois. The other two companionships had changes as well. Things are looking pretty good for this change, it should be a good time.

Monday, we got permission from the zone leaders to go to Walmart. At Walmart, they sell a lot of American food, including peanut butter, American candy bars, and even Ritter Sport (which is acutally German, but it's delicious). The bad news is, it's all really expensive. In the USA, Walmart is one of the cheapest supermarkets. Here, it's one of the most expensive, along with Paiz, which is also owned by Walmart. Both sell American food, and both are expensive. We had fun, and I bought some Quaker oatmeal for breakfast, and some peanut butter, and Welch's grape jam! Sadly, the jam was mismarked on the price, and cost double what it said, so I spent a little extra money this week. In dollars, it's still cheap, but in Quetzales, with what else you could buy with the money, it's pretty expensive. So, Walmart will be a sort of once-in-a-while thing, not every week.

But the Biggest event happened yesteray, and this is why I'm writing today: ZONE CONFERENCE!
Even though my area is in Villa Nueva, which is part of the Capital, my zone is considered part of the coast, so the zones Amatitlan (my zone), Santa Lucia, and Escuintla meet together in Escuintla for zone conferences. It's about an hour by bus, if the bus is in good condition. In Escuintla, it's HOT. Right down to the wind and the tap water. I could get used to it if I had to, but it's still hot. And there are parts where it's even hotter! Thankfully, the chapels down there have air conditioning, so we basically only sweat on the bus ride. I was asked to play the Piano (of course) which was great. President Brough spoke to us very strongly. He taught us a lot, and corrected us on some things that we need to improve. It was the best zone conference I've been to, despite the fact that they didn't feed us lunch. Apparently, there was a problem with the caterer, and there was no food. When Elder Trejo, one of the Assistants to the President (and my former zone leader) told us this, he jokingly said "But you can all fast, it will give you strength!" Then they let us out of the church for a few minutes to go buy something to eat.

Overall, we learned a lot about faith and integrity, and we had the chance to talk with President and ask him some questions. I even got to talk to him a little one-on-one, which was fantastic. I absolutely love President Brough. He knows how to make us understand the importance of something, while still being funny about it, and keeping the Spirit there with us. He made us laugh a lot yesterday. That's the best way to teach, because everybody remembers what was taught, but the most important thing when teaching is the Spirit. The Lord teaches us in Doctrine and Covenants 42:14 "And if ye have not the Spirit, ye shall not teach." If that's not clear, I don't know what is. Therefore, if we don't have the Spirit, we can't teach the Gospel. If we can't teach the Gospel, we can't fulfill our purpose as missionaries. And if that happens, I can't imagine the Lord is too happy with us. That's why we have so many rules as missionaries, because we need the Spirit. If we're disobedient even a little bit, it doesn't work. The Spirit leaves us.

Also, on Saturday, my 4th umbrella in the mission met its end. It had already broken a little, and the wind in Linda Vista just finished the job. We were on our way to the chapel, so I left it there in the garbage. My companion thought it was hilarious. I may just go with the raincoat from now on. We'll see what happens.

I hope that all is well with all of you. I hope it's going as well for you as it is for me!

Also, we're probably going to have 3 baptisms by the end of the month. One is a young guy named Robinson, and the others are a family that Elder Martinez left us. The family weren't too sure, but then we had a lesson with them and one of our recent converts here in the ward, and it was really great. The Spirit was very strong, and the investigator was able to see how important the Law of Tithing is. It's really great to see how the testimony of a member can help the investigators progress.

Thank you for all you do, for your thoughts and prayers.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Week... And it was a good one!

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been a pretty good week!

We had 5 investigators at church, which was amazing! Usually, we just have one or two, but we had 5!!!! We also had a really good week as far as teaching goes. We found some great families, and we're teaching them how to be able to return to our Heavenly Father, and how they can have eternal families, to be together forever. It really is a great work. I love the area, I love the ward, I love the investigators, and I love my companion.

Speaking of the investigators, we're working a lot with a family who Elder Martinez was teaching. The daughters were all baptized, but the parents are still preparing. We found out through some friends of theirs that they're a little worried about some of the commandments. Specifically tithing. They don't think they can afford to do it. We have to help them see that they can't afford NOT to do it! Tithing is a commandment that God has given us, so we can show him our faith, and he will give us blessings in return. The money isn't the point, it's the faith. But you can't have the blessings unless you live the commandment. In my life, I've seen the blessings, and I can't afford not to pay my tithing. They just can't see it yet. We'll get them to see, and help them to have the blessings, and they'll be baptized. They already know that the Gospel is true, they just have to meet some members that have a strong testimony of this principle, and they're ready.

Yesterday, apparently there was a zone activity of lunch with President Brough, but nobody told us, so we didn't get to go. The good news, however, is that we went to some pacas (used clothing stores) yesterday, and I found some awesome stuff. I found 6 cool ties, which altogether cost me Q25, or about $3.25 for 6 ties. I also went to another Paca and bought something I didn't plan on buying. I found a blazer/suit jacket that fits me perfectly, and pretty much matches one of my pairs of slacks (which I happened to be wearing at the time). The suit that I brought from home is now a little big for me, so I'll be wearing this on Sundays these days, just for a change. It was an unexpected surprise that only cost me Q40 ($5.15).

My spiritual moment this week is about humility. To be able to do this work, I can't trust too much in myself. I have to trust in the Lord. If I trust too much in myself, I'll get pride, and I won't have the Holy Ghost with me. If he's not with me, I can't teach. Humility is something I'm really learning here in Guatemala. Many people here live very, very humbly, with very little money or worldly things, but the thing that I love is that they are so happy! And I really mean it. I know plenty of people in the United States who aren't nearly as happy as the people here are. It's amazing to see how wonderful life can be when we cut away all the things that don't really matter, and we focus on what really matters: our family, our friends, and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Lord teaches us in 3 Nephi 13, "Do not lay up in store treasures in the Earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal, but lay up in store treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, neither do thieves break through and steal." (See also Matthew 6) I have seen the truth of this time and time again, and I really admire it. I wish I could have my mind so firmly fixed on the heavenly treasures, and not have the earthly ones as a distraction. I love the Gospel, and I've seen the Joy it can bring. I wish everyone could know this gospel, and live it, to be able to have both Earthly and Eternal happiness.

It is my solemn testimony that I am on the Lord's errand. He takes care of us all, even in the littlest things. He loves each and every one of his children, and he wants us to return to him. Those of you who are parents, think of when your children left home. Those of you who are children, think of when you left home. Don't you miss each other? Don't you want to be together again? Don't deprive your Heavenly Father of this joy. Work to return to him. He loves you, and he wants you to make it back home. I know that there is only one way to do this, and that is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and through baptism and other sacred ordinances performed by the priesthood authority of God that is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I love you all, and I want to see you there when we've all made it back home.

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. Please keep praying and thinking. Share the Gospel with a friend or family member. Go to the Temple whenever you can. These things will help you to make eternal friends and bring you eternal joy.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Banks