Monday, August 26, 2013

Last Week

Well, this is it, my last full week in the mission.

Today I have my final interview scheduled with President Stay. I really love President Stay, but I hardly know him, at least not like I know President Brough. He apparently took a couple of the Central missionaries to President Brough to be interviewed, and he may, especially because the Central Mission Office is one floor down in the same building as the South Mission Office.
But whatever happens, it'll be good.

This week has gone a lot better than the past couple and we set a baptismal date with a man named Hector who is a little obsessed with learning English. We got him to be serious about the gospel and he'll be baptized..... on September 7th. 2 days after I get home.

Oh, well, that's what's happened to me a lot. I leave the area, and then the missionaries start to baptize like crazy. I'm kind of "The Sower," because I sow the seeds, then the others come in to reap.

I love you all.

Please take care and know that I love you!

Elder Banks

Monday, August 19, 2013

The time has come...

Well, it's come.
They sent it today.
My itinerary.
For my flight home,

I felt like I'm not ready, but it's really time.
As a tradition here, to be able to receive more inspiration when we come to an area, we ask the bishop or branch president for a blessing, to be able to work well with the members and the leadership. Yesterday, the new bishop, Bishop Mac, did this for us, since basically all the ward leadership changed. He mentioned something in the blessing about "remember what you have learned in the mission field, and apply it to your next and greatest mission, which is marriage." In that moment, I felt the Spirit tell me that it's time. I will keep working until the end, but it's time.
I would appreciate all your prayers in these last two weeks.

I know now more than ever of the love of the Lord in all things, and that he is aware of us, he knows us by name, and sends us tender mercies to help us along. This was again confirmed in our trip to the Temple on Friday.

I love you all. Have a great week!

Elder Banks

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ch..Ch..Ch..Changes(in the ward)

So, I'll start with the big news: NEW BISHOPRIC!!!

The old bishop was great, but the new bishop will be even better. What's better is that he and the 2nd counselor were already 2 of our biggest supporters in the ward, so things are headed upwards here. I'll probably never see most of the success, but since Bishop Mac loves us so much, he'll be a great help to the ward, to create a culture of missionary work in the ward. I have so many great ideas and things we can do to change the ward and make this one of the best baptizing places in all the mission.

My companion is also doing well. Not really much to report. I'm just trying to do my best to endure to the end and honor my calling. There's not really much to report aroud here, just the bishopric changes.

This week, I wish to share the words of a seldom-sung hymn that President Packer quoted in his talk in October. This hymn has helped me in some of my most difficult moments.

Does the journey seem long, the path rugged and steep?
Are there briars and thorns on the way?
Do sharp stones cut your feet as you struggle to rise
To the heights in the heat of the day?

Is your heart faint and sad, your soul weary within
As you toil 'neath your burden of care?
Does the load heavy seem you are forced now to lift?
Is there no one your burden to share?

Let your heart be not faint, now the journey's begun,
There is one who still beckons to you!
So look upward in joy and take hold of his hand,
He will lead you to heights that are new;

A land holy and pure, where all trouble doth end,
And your life shall be free from all sin,
Where no tears shall be shed, for no sorrows remain,
Take His hand and with Him enter in.

This is what the Lord Jesus Christ can do for us if we follow His gospel. If we choose to do so, we will be able to be with him in the Celestial Kingdom, with our families for all eternity. If we choose not to, we have no promise.

I personally testify of the love of the Lord and of our Heavenly Father for each one of His children. Don't delay in taking advantage of the love and the blessings.

Elder Banks

Monday, August 5, 2013

A hard week, but a good week

Dear loved ones,

This was an interesting week. My companion had surgery on his foot on Tuesday, because of a nasty ingrown toenail. He blames it on me for walking too fast, but I know better! We had to stay at home for a couple days, because it was difficult to get members to do divisions (one member stays with him, and another goes with me) do it wasn't the most productive week ever.

The good news is that they took really good care of us. Sister Jensen, our mission nurse, and Elder Jensen, her husband, are excellent. Sister Jensen is very loving and knowledgeable, and Elder Jensen is one of the funniest people I know. Every single time I've seen him, he's said something funny. For example, once he explained that in the South mission, they don't give elders microwave ovens because "Sisters know how to cook, Elders just poison themselves." They get home 2 weeks before me, and they're from Utah, so maybe I'll get to stop by and visit them a little later on!

Then, on Friday, our district had house inspections, but the zone leaders didn't know where all the houses in the district are. I knew all but one, and Elder Huayta, one of our zone leaders, knew all but one as well, so I went with him in the Jensens' car to do the house inspections. While Elder Jensen Inspected the houses, Elder Huayta and I repaired things in the houses that weren't alright, and got things out of the car to give to the elders and sisters, such as shower curtains, shower heaters, insecticide, hand sanitizer, and the candy bars we gave to those who had clean houses. It was a fun day, and it was great to get to know the Jensens a little better.

Also, on Saturday morning, I got a call from Hilton, the guy who makes suits. Mine was done, and he verified my address to come drop it off. It turned out really nice, but you'll all have to wait to see it, because I didn't bring my camera today. Anyway, it's perfect. It's a very handsome, refined suit that will serve me for years to come. (unless I get really fat, but he said he left some room to take the pants out, so no problem.)

Anyway, that's really the eventful part of this week, we just had a really spiritual testimony meeting yesterday that really edified me.

I love you all.
Keep the faith, and don't ever get down!

Elder Banks

Monday, July 29, 2013

Another week in Panorama, and a good one!

Maybe our numbers didn't reflect the best this week, but we had a good week as far as excitement and progress.

The bad news is that we had to go to Zona 15, which is where the temple is, but we didn't go to the temple, we went to the hospital that's right next to it. My companion has a nasty ingrown toenail that he needed to have looked at, and we're going back this week to be able to get it worked on. He'll be down for a couple of days, so I'm going to try and find some members to be able to do divisions, so one stays with my companion, and one goes out and works with me!

The good news is, we called a member who really knows his way around the capital to find out how to get to zone 15 by bus, and he said "What time are you going? I'll take you in my car!" So we went in his car, and we came back in his car, because he had some errands to run nearby, so he picked us up after. Then, on the way home, he asked "are you guys hungry?" He then took us to lunch at Pollo Campero (basically Guatemalan KFC, even though KFC exists here too, all the way from Salt Lake City!)

The other cool thing is that there are two members of the Panorama ward who are going on their missions to the USA this year, after I get home, and they will both be passing through the Provo MTC. It looks like I'll be allowed to go and pick them up, especially Elder Mac, who will be going to Wisconsin. Hermana Lopez will be going to one of the carolinas (I forgot which) as well, so we'll see what happens there, but what a cool opportunity to be able to see and help a missionary from an area in my own mission! I talked to the Mac family last night and gave them my information so we can be in contact and their son can get from the airport to the MTC. So many opportunities to serve!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things are going well. My companion is awesome in spite of his foot, and is a trooper. He has had so many challenges, and he's just going right through them with courage and strength.

Anyway, I had a very special spiritual experience this week. This experience was the third and strongest witness to me that the Lord is satisfied and pleased with my service. I know that he now expects me to endure to the end and leave it all out here. And that's what I intend to do.

I love you all. Take care!

Until next week,
Elder Banks

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Surprise Ever

Okay, I'll just go right into it.

I went on Friday, to Jerusalén, my first area, with Elder Luna, my first "Son," or greenie. While we were there, I saw a TON of members that remember me. One told me that since I left, nobody has played the piano in that chapel. They all said hi with lots of love, which was really cool.

The coolest part was when we walked in front of the Carrillo family's house. They said hi and everything, then they said "They already invited you to the sealing, right?" We then got talking, and I went into their house, where a sister with whom I had set a baptismal date with Elder Calta was there, and gong to be sealed to her husband the next day. He was an inactive member at the time we found them. They are SO POWERFUL! I love the Camel (Cam-ELL) family so much! Elder Daniels, who entered the mission with me, and who is in my zone, and myself were requested to be the witnesses of the sealing. I called President Stay immediately and he authorized us to go, and we went!

We got there a couple of hours early, so Elder Daniels and I offered ourselves for some time here in the CCM (MTC) to teach a district of new North Americans. They didn't understand most of what we said, but we did a demonstration with the teacher. The teacher was a sub, and the real teacher of that district is in the Panorama ward, and was Elder Refuerzo's teacher when he was in the CCM. Also, while at the temple, I saw Hno. Peña, a member from Sonora, at his shift in the temple. He told us what we needed to do. Then, after taking pictures with the Camel family oustide the temple, a bunch of members from Puerto San José were entering the temple, and recognized me. The current branch president, who wasn't the president when I was there, came, and I had already met him, but just before he had become the branch president. He said that the branch now has an attendance of 80 every Sunday, and there are baptisms every month!

It was basically the coolest day of my entire mission, and it all happened by ACCIDENT/COINCIDENCE. Except for the fact that that doesn't really mean anything, because it was all just a tender mercy of the Lord. I am so grateful for the opportunities that the Lord has given me to be able to participate in these things. The Lord must really love me, because he's blessed me so much.

I love you all!
Elder Banks

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another Week in Panorama

First of all, there's a new address to send me mail (and make it quick, because I may not get it for a while).

Nicholas Banks
Misión Guatemala Sur
Apartado Postal 340-A
01909 Guatemala, Guatemala C. A.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get on to the good stuff.

We have an investigator who was born in Kansas. His name is John Wright. How more American can you get than that? He's the nextdoor neighbor of our ward mission leader, and he was a reference from the same. He's really cool and he appears to be ready to be baptized, or at least that he will be soon.

My companion and I have so much in common that it's scary. He and I are both into the same hobbies, and are both into the same things. He has some of the same problems and challenges I did at the beginning of my mission, so it's really weird to see what I was like. I'm doing all I can to be able to leave him a lot better than I was when I started out.

Other than that, we're just working with the schedule changes and new things to get used to in the South Mission. I had an interview with President Stay on Friday and it was really great. He's a very inspired man who has an extensive knowledge of the Gospel. As much as I love President Brough, I know things have changed for a reason. And it is for the Lord's wise purpose, and that is enough for me.

I really don't know what else to talk about. Not a whole lot has changed.

We're working a LOT more with the members now. We have a new rule to visit members (preferrable recent converts or less actives) and teach them about the Plan of Salvation, and then ask them some certain questions to be able to find out that they DO know someone who is ready to receive the Gospel in their life. We do it 7 times a week and it's worked really well, we already found a great family, Mario and Silvia, through the Lopez family, which makes me really happy. I love missionary work!

Also, they're going to take part of our area away because the sisters in the ward have a really small area. The only problem is that they might take away the most productive part of our area. Whatever happens, it'll be alright, we'll keep working hard.

Anyway, just keep on keeping the commandments, and everything will work out. "Whatever happens, trust in the Lord."

I love you all. I hope you all have a fantastic week, and that the Lord keeps blessing you. Remember, you can only win when you play by the rules. If you try to rewrite the rules, well, nobody cares and you'll still be judged by the originals, so just follow them. And you will win Eternal Life.

Elder Banks

Monday, July 8, 2013

Change in the Schedule!

Dear All,

From now on, I will be writing on MONDAYS, so those who wish to write me should write me on SUNDAYS, because I don't know at what time I will be writing. Things are different here in the South mission, but they're good.

We met President Stay on Friday, because we had a zone conference with him. My companion and I are doing well, and tomorrow we have a training meeting in Montufar, which is the central chapel of the south mission, and was also the first chapel in Guatemala. It's where we went to hear Elder Christofferson and Elder Maynes. And I have no idea how to get there in a bus, because the zone got buses both times, so it'll be interesting.

The ward is doing great. We learned a way to be able to contact members effectively. We put it into practice that very night, and it was fantastic! The members took us right to the hosue of one of their neighbors who is ready to accept the gospel, and we're going to have a lesson with them in the Member's house on Saturday. I am SO EXCITED!!!!

Little, temporal aspects of the mission have changed, as has the mailing address for the mission, but since the central mission office is one floor below the south mission office in the same building, I'm not too worried about it. I'll get you the address next week.

For now, we're in good shape. I've got a couple things to talk to my parents about, but other than that, things are going well.

Well, time is short.
Know that I love you all, and that I am fine.

Take care and keep the faith,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Goin' South

Dear All,

This has been a week of BIG changes.

So, let's get the big one out of the way: I am no longer a missionary of the Guatemala Guatemala City Central Mission. Monte Joseph Brough is no longer my mission president. Although I did not change areas, I now belong to the Guatemala Guatemala City South Mission, as of yesterday. My mission president is now Laurence Richard Stay from (you guessed it) Utah.

Although I'm a bit sad because I will no longer see President Brough or my many friends in the Central mission, and a little disoriented from the changes, It's funny, because it's almost like I knew it was happening.

After receiving my mission call, I talked to a member who said: "I just met your mission president, President Stay." I was confused until I got here, and saw that President Stay is from the South mission.

On Wednesday, I received my new companion and third "Son," Elder Refuerzo from Spanish Fork, UT. He's so much like me it's scary. I'm now learning what I was like for my trainer.

On Thursday, we had a very touching conference, in the which Pres. Brough and Sis. Brough said goodbye to each of us. It was a very spiritual moment, and although I will miss them very much, I know there's something I need to learn from President and Sister Stay that President and Sister Brough couldn't have taught me. It's the Lord's will, so I'll do it, and I'll do it "with a heart full of song."

On Friday we went to my last meeting with President Brough, a meeting for the new missionaries. It was in the Villa Nueva stake center, which was the chapel in my previous area. I saw some members I know, and I got to even see one of the Yuman family! He wasn't at the church, but we went to the park to take a bus. I crossed the street quickly and my companion stayed behind, and there he was, standing next to my companion! It was pretty cool and special for me, a sign that the Lord loves me, and sends me little things to tell me it's all okay.

I close with a few choice words from a beloved hymn:

"There's surely somewhere a lowly place
in Earth's harvest fields so wide,
Where I may labor for life's short day
for Jesus, the crucified.
Then, 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."

Sometimes it's hard to accept, but that's how it is. The most important thing we can have is humility. It doesn't matter where we serve or in what capacity, only how. As the hymn says, this life is but a short day, and we have to take advantage of it. What pain I feel for those who can't understand or refuse to understand this principle, wasting away their lives wallowing in pride or in thinking about what could have been! What matters is TODAY. What can I do TODAY to be better? What can I do TODAY to serve the Lord and do his will? Everything. But first I have to be humble enough to be able to accept it. Then go to work. Don't waste your time worrying about things that don't matter, about tedious temporal details or trying to maintain your pride, but rather "be thou humble and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand and give the answer to thy prayers." In the end, our will doesn't matter much, nor our social position, nor our job, nor even our calling in the Church. "[Press] forward, be faithful, the promise is sure."

I testify of the truth of these things with all my heart. I hope you can feel my love for the Lord and for each one of you as you read this. Ask yourself "Have I done any good in the world today?" and then "put your shoulder to the wheel . . . we ALL have work, let no one shirk!" (emphasis added)

I testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He lives, and loves us to the end, as does our Heavenly Father. Love them, and if you feel that you love them and want to love them more, consult John 14:15.

"Oh, sweet, the joy this sentence gives: 'I know that my Redeemer lives!'"

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Banks

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Week of Miracles

First of all, sorry I forgot to tell you that I would be writing today, but here we are.

Now, let's look at each miracle.

Starting with the Baptism. Noé (Noah) is the young man that was baptized this week. You may notice that the same person who baptized Isaac baptized him. He is Noé's uncle, Sergio, who became great friends with Isaac, too. In case I didn't explain last week, he's a recent convert who has already been ordained a priest, so he has the authority to baptize. It was a very special day. His non-member parents and brother came, along with his inactive grandmother. They all felt great, and all but the dad came to church on Sunday as well! That was pretty cool.

Before being baptized, Noé had to have his baptismal interview.

Before telling the story of this miracle, let me explain a little. The Bishop didn't used to like us. He had some issues that aren't worth mentioning, but the point is that he didn't like us very much as Elder Missionaries.

Then, he helped us a bit with Isaac. We dropped off a small thank-you gift and card at his house, and he now sees that we love him as a Bishop.

For Noé's interview, he came early to open the chapel, filled the baptismal font, turned on the water heater, and without being asked, came to bear a touching testimony to Noé's mother and grandmother, to whom we were giving a guided tour of the Chapel and teaching about the Restoration. It was amazing, and the Bishop wants us to baptize the mom (we already want to baptize her.) We then had to go do another baptismal interview in another area (Peronia) at 3pm, with the baptism to start at 4pm. We got there just in time, and the Bishop had already turned off the water heater, set up the chairs, invited his entire family and many others, and had made sure that Noé and Sergio were dressed in white for the baptism. We got there, took the picture, and started the baptismal service, which the Bishop then directed. At the end, he gave a touching testimony about the day he was baptized, and everything was very well done, and went off without a hitch. The next day, he finished the paperwork for the confirmation, confirmed the young man himself, and gave him the Aaronic Priesthood during Priesthood meeting.

He then invited all 4 of the full-time missionaries in the ward (us and the sisters) to speak in church next Sunday.
The lesson is: God works by love. I can't tell you the number of Elders who have fought with this Bishop, but the Lord won him for us, so now all we have to do is work hard and reap the fruits. As is says in 1 John "He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love." Jesus Christ himself summed up all the commandments in two: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy might, and with all thy heart and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF." (Emphasis added) That's what the Lord's work is all about. Yes, sometimes we have to push someone a little bit, but it's out of love for them. If we're contending or fighting, the Spirit will not be present and we will not be able to do the Work. If we have hard feelings or sins in our hearts, the Spirit cannot dwell there and we will not be able to progress or help the Lord in any way. We could have fought with the Bishop like the other Elders for the last 3 months of my mission, but we showed him love, and we're doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way.

I testify of the truth of these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

This week are the changes. I know I will be training, and will be changing companions, but I don't know if I'll be staying here, or going up or down, or leaving or what. They tell us tonight, which is weird. P-day is tomorrow this week. Also, on Saturday, this zone and one other change from the Central to the South mission. It really doesn't matter, but if I go, I will be missing President Brough. But as the beloved hymn says, "I'll go where you want me to go."

We also had the opportunity to watch via satellite the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting yesterday, along with our ward leaders. It was pretty neat, and missionary work is really going to change. The only technical difficulties were during Elder Perry's talk, about how the missionaries are going to start using more technology to contact and work with members and investigators. So I don't know the details, I just know that missionaries will be having more tech tools, so if anyone else watched the meeting and can fill me in on the details of that talk, I would appreciate it.

Take care all of you, And remember the Lord is obligated to bless you when you keep his commandments.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

News and Miracles

First the Miracles, then the News

Our investigator, Isaac, was Baptized! He had his baptismal interview on Thursday and was baptized on Saturday. He was baptized by another recent convert, who also gave him the Aaronic Priestood under the Bishop's direction on Sunday.

Isaac's an interesting case, because he hides his testimony inside, even though it is really super strong. He was so happy to be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Aaronic Priesthood that he brought us to his friend's house yesterday, and we taught the friend. Isaac then gave his testimony, and it was super powerful. His friend, who is a bit young and wild, I could literally almost see him with a short haircut, well-dressed and serving as a missionary. He agreed to be baptized when God tells him that these things are true. It was one of the coolest lessons I've had on the mission.

Attached are a couple of pictures. One is Isaac's baptism, the other is the big giant nachos we shared yesterday at the Mono Loco (Crazy Monkey) restaurant in Antigua.

Antigua was fun. I bought a couple of neat things, and the lady who sold me one of those things started to ask me about the Church. I invited her to give me her address so the missionaries could visit her, but she was just curious.

We also got locked in the chapel on Thursday. We were going to have a chapel tour with one of our best investigators who hasn't come to Church yet, and she came! She was right outside the gate with the members who brought her in their car. We pushed the button on the remote to open the electric gate (all the churches here have a big tall fence, and some, like ours, have electric gates to let the cars into the parking lot.). . . and the gate refused to open. Since the fence was so high, we were stuck. We had water and we were fine, we just had appointments we couldn't get to! The bishop called maintenance and they came to let us out and half-fix the gate.  It works now, but it's just going to break again. It's a self-destructive system the way it's programmed. For the sake of members and future missionaries, I hope they replace it soon.

President Brough called me this morning. He assigned me to be a trainer for the last three months of my Mission. I can't think of a better way to finish. The only thing is that I'll really miss President Brough. After the 29th, he won't me my mission president anymore, because this zone is changing missions to the Guatemala City South Mission. It's possible that he sends me out to open another area, but I doubt he will. I've had the feeling for a while, that I won't finish with Pres. Brough, but I'm not too worried. The important thing is HOW we serve, not with whom, nor where, nor in what position. The blessings are the SAME. The assistant to the president is just as important as the junior companion. The stake president is just as important as the lay member.

Anyway, thank you for your prayers. I can feel your love through the Spirit, and especially I can feel the Lord's love. We are never beyond the reach of His love. NEVER.

I love you all.
Take tons of care, and never forget that you are a Child of God.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Week in Panorama

Panorama. What a name.

It's a good name for this area too, because we've got several good panoramas from here. Not as good as in Jerusalén, but that's okay.

Speaking of that, I've got divisions today. I'm NOT going to Jerusalen, but my grandson Elder Mansilla is coming here with me. (Here in the mission, we refer to our trainers as "dads" our greenies as "sons" and if our "sons" become trainers, we have "grandsons").

I'm happy for the opportunity the Lord has given me to serve him. I'm not here for my own glory, but for his. I will serve him however he desires that I serve him. I know he loves me, and will bless me, but that's not why I do it. I do it because I love him.

And I love the people.

One of those people, Ofelia, was going to come to church for the first time this Sunday. She didn't, and she made an excuse that "I don't want to." I've been more sure that she'll be baptized than any other person I've ever taught, so I'm not worried, but I know she'll be a great member of the church, so I know the enemy is trying to break her down before we can get the Spirit into her heart. But nothing is impossible for the Lord. I know we'll get through this stage with her, and that she'll be baptized.

Our appointment we had with her last week was really special. We went with some members who live near her home, and they are perfect friends. They got along super well. We also found out that Ofelia is a nurse, a seamstress, an electrician, a cook, a baker, a furniture maker, and is taking some computer classes. She's about 65 years old, maybe a little older, and she's abslutely amazing. I can already see her teaching classes and serving in the Relief Society. She's one I can't let go. She HAS to be baptized. I pray for the inspiration to be able to help her to be able to progress, because I love her, and I know she'll be a great asset to the Lord's kingdom.

Thank you for all your prayers. Remember that I love you all, but especially that the Lord loves you all. Tall or short, big or small, he loves each one of his children. And if he loves me this much, imagine how much he must love each of you!

Have a great week.
Keep the faith.
And remember His Love.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Another Great Week in the Work

Dear All,

This has been a great week. I love my companion, and we're having a great time working here in Panorama. Challenges, well, there are plenty, but I have the faith, and hopefully the knowledge and skills to be able to overcome them.

We are working with Isaac, who was supposedly baptized in Nicaragua a few years ago, but here in Guatemala, we have the area office, and we have members in our ward who work there, so we had them look for his records in the Church's central system for all Central America, and he doesn't appear. What does that mean? he needs to be baptized again! It's super complicated to be able to re-create a baptismal record that was lost, because you need to have 2 witnesses, the date, the ward and stake, and who performed the baptism. And here, it's kind of hard to get all of that information. So, basically, we'll be baptizing him soon, if all goes according to plan. But it will go according to Heavenly Father's plan, so I'm not worried about it.

We also have had several other miracles. Here in the Central Mission, we have a standard of excellence to have 50% of our lessons with investigators with a member present, which really is the best way to teach. This week, we came super close, and in an area where the members have extremely busy schedules, and it's diffucult to get them out of their houses, and the sheer fact that out of the fact that we had 43% was pretty great.

Also, my companion and I are starting to take exercise a little more seriously. It's a mission rule to exercise for 30min every morning, but sometimes we justify things that are just mildly exercise, like mild stretches for the entire half hour. We've really gotten into it now, with weights and stretches, and are exercising well and having fun.

My companion is excellent. I absolutely love him, and he and I are getting along really well. Elder Arrieta is very young in the mission (and I am very old), but he's already a great missionary. I wish I would have had some of his qualities when I was his "age" in the mission.

The thing I have learned this week is that the Lord can tell you anything, literally ANYTHING through the Holy Ghost. He has guided and directed me so much in these last few months. What you have to do is listen with your heart, then pay attention to what comes to your mind. Don't get too worried if you don't feel it, because feelings of worry and doubt overwhelm the Spirit. Relax, fill your heart with love for the Lord and for the people you serve, and the Sprit will fill you and direct you in what you need to do, where you need to go, and what you need to say. Sometimes, I don't even remember what I say in the lessons because it's the Spirit talking through me.

I testify that these things are true in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Have a great week.
I love you all.
Keep the Faith,
And keep on prayin'.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Greetings from Guatemala

Dear All,

This has been a pretty good week. My companion, Elder Arrieta, and I have been working hard here in Panorama 1. Things have been going a lot better since we got the sisters all situated last week, now we can really concentrate on doing what missionaries do: baptize! I'm so excited for the possiblities here! This is the richest area by far that I have ever had. This area is known for being one of the richer areas in the capital and it's evident. The majority of the members here have cars. Our mission leader, who is the head traumatologist at the biggest hospital in Central America, has three! The bishop has two, and many other members have one or more. It's nice, because it's a big area, so when we need a ride, we can call a member, or sometimes they just show up and ask us if we need a ride. It's a big help. Especially when we need to get an investigator to church or to an activity.

Yesterday we met a recent convert who lives here in our ward, but was baptized in the North Mission just a few weeks ago by one of my friends from the CCM! It was pretty cool when he showed me the photo, because I knew the Elder who baptized him.  It was also a really great chat that we had with him. He has a computer and everything, and he's super excited about family history. His name is Sergio, and his Dad passed away 11 years ago, so he wants to do the work for him in the Temple. He's like the Yumán family from Villa Nueva, he's that awesome! I also just saw some members from Villa Nueva 1 on the bus coming back from the stake center. It was kind of cool. The other day on the buses that go to Peronia, I saw one of the investigators I found in my first area, who was baptized a few weeks after I left. We set the baptismal date with her before I left the area. We also saw another member. Next week or the folowing week I'll be going there in divisions, so I'll stop by and say hi to some of the people I met there in Jerusalen.

Other than that, we're preparing for a missionary activity on Saturday in the stake center. We'll be singing a choir number, "We'll Bring the World His Truth" as a zone, and yours truly is the pianist. I had very little time to practice, but it'll be great because it already sounded good today, and we're going to add violin and some English verses and we're going to perform it for Elder Duncan of the Seventy, who is part of the Central America Area Presidency, who will be coming to visit us later on in June.

That's all for this week. Keep the faith, and keep on prayin'.

I love you all.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Deja vu

Dear All,

First, I'll tell you about what I was expecting, Then I'll tell you what happened.

This change, leaving Villa Nueva, I Expected to go to either Chimaltenango, which is the mountains, or to one of the zones leaving the Central Mission, Mariscal or Nimajuyu. My first area was in Mariscal, so I thought that my destination would be Nimajuyu.

Change day came. I went to change meeting . . .

"In the Mariscal zone, in Panorama 1, Elder Arrieta receives . . . Elder Banks!"

Let me explain the significance of this.

Panorama used to be one area, for a DL and his companion. They just split the area and opened Panorama 2 with sisters this change. I know, because we had to find them a house. My first District Leader in the mission was stationed in Panorama. I am now the District Leader here. And Jerusalén, my first area, is in my district!
And if that wasn't enough, my first Son, Elder Luna, is in my first area, Jerusalén!!

And if that wasn't enough, my first son, Elder Luna, who is in my first area, Jerusalén, is training HIS first son, Elder Mansilla!!!

How crazy is that?!?!?

And I get a front row seat to all of it! I've already seen 2 members from Jerusalén on the buses here, and one of them was one of my converts!!

I'm basically here to work hard for these last few months, and do my best to lift up the ward, and lead the biggest district in the mission, being 5 companionships. There are other districts tied with this one in being the biggest. Mine also includes 2 pairs of sisters, which is a blessing, because I don't have to manage doing divisions with 4 different sets of Elders.

If that wasn't enough, I now have had companions from every country in Central America, with the exception of Nicaragua and Panama. I have had companions from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica. And Peru, and the USA, but those aren't part of central america.

The bad news is that I will probably be sent to the South Mission, and will no longer work with President Brough, whom I love so much, but I know it was revelation from the Lord, so I don't complain. President Brough taught us that "it doesn't matter where you serve, but rather how you serve."

I testify of the truth of these things. The position doesn't matter, the where doesn't matter, the what doesn't matter, only the How.

So if the Lord sends you to be a Stake President in Southeastern Africa or a Primary Teacher in Provo, Utah, just do your best. In the Lord’s eyes, both are equally important.

Remember that He loves you, and that there is nothing you can’t do if you have faith!

Take care. Thank you for your prayers.

Keep the faith,

Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Well, it's happened again. Changes. For the rest of the world, it would be Transfers, but the word we use in Spanish, "cambios," literally means "changes" so that's what we call it here.

Tomorrow will be the change meeting. Since it's a little different in every mission, I'll explain how it works here:
On Monday morning (p-day) we receive a call with the changes, and they say, for instance, "In Villa Nueva 1, Elder Gabriel Stays and Elder Banks Leaves." Basically, they just tell us who has to pack. They also sometimes say "Elder Banks leaves and has an interview at 8am." If you have an interview, it means you will receive an assignment, such as being a district leader, zone leader, retention secretary, or assistant to the president.

Then all those who have "changes" go with their companions to a stake center in a place called Monte María (Mount Mary) to the Transfer meeting on Wednesday.

Changes are read by zone, in alphabetical order. The missionary who is staying in the area stands up, then, when his new companion is announced, he also stands up, they recognize each other, and sit down. It's funny, because the missionary playing the piano (which is sometimes me) usually doesn't get seen for a few seconds when his name is announced, because nobody remembers the pianist. New missionaries sit in the first rows, and trainers sit on the stand.

For example, when Elder Gabriel came here with me, they read "In Villa Nueva 1, Elder Banks (I then stood up) receives Elder Gabriel (who then stood up, then we both sat down).

It was funny when I went to the coast, because my companion had been joking with everyone that "In Escuintla, Elder x receives Elder Banks!" Then, that very change meeting, I went to Escuintla.

So that's where we'll be tomorrow, because I have changes. I will be leaving the celestial area of Villa Nueva 1, with awesome members, amazing recent converts, and plenty of great investigators.

And there we are. I feel that I might be going to one of the zones that will leave the mission, or to a certain place in the mountains. But I won't know until tomorrow.

Also, in Villa Nueva 1 there will be a trio. We know because they dropped off furniture on Saturday (desk, closet, bed, etc.) for another missionary to live there.

I'm really going to miss it here, there are so many great people, but I know that since the work is starting to speed up here, the Lord will send a great missionary (or 2) to take my place.

Anyway, I hope you are all well. Take care.
Trust in the Lord, and whatever happens, it'll be alright.

With love,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Here Comes Mother's Day!

Dear All,

This is the best ward I think I've had in the mission.
The missionary family from last week got us an awesome referral. We found him on Monday, and had a 2nd visit on Saturday. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and he said he'll be reading the WHOLE THING this week! We'll be going to see him on Saturday to see how it went. His name is Cesar, by the way.

This week's missionary family is pretty cool as well, the Hernandez family. They're an older couple with their YSA-age kids. The Dad was a counselor in the stake presidency at one point, and now he's the High Priest Group Leader. They live in a private community where we aren't allowed to contact, or even enter IF we don't have a set appointment, AND the people we are going to visit told security what time we're coming, so basically, getting an investigator in there is a great opportunity, so we can actually have work in that part of the area.

Private communities here are very different here from in the States. There are ALWAYS security guards. Sometimes they let you in with just the address or the name. Sometimes they're more strict, like the place described above. Sometimes. security calls the house of the person, and the person in the house gives permission to be able to let you in. I've only seen one that's MILDLY similar to the system used in the USA, and heard of another that's in another mission. There are also some that only control the cars going in and out, and bikes and pedestrians are free to come and go.

About half of our area is communities like this, with varying degrees of strictness in their security. But in any of them, (with 1 exception) they don't let us contact. So, as mentioned above, basically member references are the only way we can get into those communities.

Like these communities, just about everything here has security guards. Shopping centers, restaurants, gas stations, literally EVERY decent-sized business that's formally established has a guy with a shotgun (or several) to take care of it. It's nice to know that there are places like that where we are protected.

The chapels don't have security guards, but have high fences, often with barbed wire, and sometimes electric gates to go in and out. The clerk's offices are basically bank vaults, so nobody enters through the tiled ceilings or breaks in to steal the computers. If you don't have the key, you don't get in. Or out.

Well, enough talk about security. The most important security we can have is our testimony. As a missionary, our testimonies are tried a lot. Someone will come up to you in the street and try to convince you that the Book of Mormon is of the devil, because it's not in the Bible. They'll say that we worship Joseph Smith, and all kinds of other lies they've heard about the church throughout the course of their daily doings, from people who don't know, because they have never investigated. It can be trying at times, but knowing that one has received witness of the Holy Ghost that this is the Lord's church, and His work, it doesn't faze you. On the other hand, with recent converts, whose testimonies are still fragile, people tell them these things and sometimes they fall away. We must strengthen our testimony, and have this sureness and security so that we will not be "carried about by every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men" (Ephesians 4), and "when the Devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind . . . it shall have no power over [us] to drag [us] down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which [we] are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereupon if men build, THEY CANNOT FALL." (Helaman 5:12). That foundation is Christ, and the revelation that his Prophets receive from Him to guide us.

We strengthen our testimony by daily prayer and scripture study, weekly church attendance, constant obedience to the commandments of God, and regular temple attendance, if possible. We must be strong and strengthen our testimonies day by day, so that when the tough moments come, we will not be dragged down where we don't want to end up. I testify that we will all be blessed as we work on strengthening our testimony, and "lay up treasures in Heaven."

Take care. I love you all.
Happy Mother's Day!

Elder Banks

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Another Week in Book of Mormon Country

Dear All,

This week has been pretty crazy, and awesome.
Starting with Friday:
A man from our ward, Brother Fuentes, who lives in front of our house, came over to study language with us. He served his mission in Colotenango, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where my companion is from, and he speaks Mam, the dialect that Elder Gabriel speaks, so we got a little help on the language for him. We also just scratched the surface of the fact that the Mam language itself is proof that the ancient peoples of the Americas knew about the Law of Moses and about Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation.
2 Examples:
In Mam, the verb "lo'n" has several meanings:
To know,
To have seen,
To eat fruit. Not just any food, but fruit.

The word for body refers to the skeleton of a man, and means "the bone that is left." The word for Woman literally translated means "she who was made of the bone."

Any of that sound familiar? (See the book of Genesis, or Moses in the Pearl of Great Price)
There were several others as well, which I have written down at home, and which are really, really cool. I really want to learn this language, and visit this place, but it is part of the Quetzaltenango mission. Well, maybe I'll get to go when I come back to visit!

I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. The members haven't really done much to help us lately, so what I did was that I outlined all the excuses that they always give us, such as "I'm too scared to teach the gospel" (we do the teaching for them) and "They already go to another church" or "none of my friends are ready to receive the gospel" and helped them to see that none of these excuses are relevant.

As part of the same talk, I announced the beginning of the missionary family program in our ward. Basically, one family per week is assigned to work with us a LOT: they come visit with us, introduce us to their friends and family, we have Family Home Evening in their house with investigators, etc. We've been trying to get a giant missionary name tag that says "missionary family" on it, but it's been hard, because the person who makes it lives far away so we started by just giving them a Book of Mormon. The Missionary Family then has to pray about who should be the next missionary family, and then give a 5-minute testimony during the announcements in Sacrament Meeting the following Sunday, and announce who will be the next week's missionary family. It's going really great so far! We started with the 2nd counselor and his wife (who was one of my teachers in the CCM) and they gave us an awesome reference on Monday night, and we have a 2nd visit with him today.

Tuesday: P-Day was changed to Tuesday because we received permission to have a zone activity to go to the Guatemala City Temple! We were able to be strengthened by the Spirit of the Lord, and receive revelation from God about what we need to do, what we can do better. I was also able to buy a set of CDs of the Book of Mormon for a convert who can't read, and some DVDs at the Distribution Center. So that's why I'm writing today instead of Yesterday. I think it's a pretty good excuse, don't you?

Interview with President Brough!!!!!
I love my mission president so much. He always has the Spirit with him, and he always has inspiration to be able to lift me up when I am down, and tell me what I need to do better. That's why I love it when he comes to interview us! I always learn something new and important about the Gospel, and about missionary work. Something he said to the entire zone confirmed a revelation I received several weeks ago: he said " It doesn't matter WHERE you serve, it matters HOW you serve." He then said that we shouldn't worry about if we stay here with the Central Mission, or if we go to the South Mission when the mission splits in June, because it really doesn't matter. The revelation I received can be summed up in "What e'er thou art, act well thy part." If the Lord needs you as a Stake President or as a Primary Teacher, it does not matter which it is, as long as you are faithful in your calling. If you are faithful, you will be blessed. If you are not, there's no guarantee. Just do what the Lord wants you to, and everything will be well.

Thank you for your faith and prayers.
Please know that the Lord loves each and every one of you. He knows you. He knows your name, and is very aware of your life and your doings.

Take care,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another Week in the Work... with Pictures!!!

Dear All,

Here, at long last, are the pictures!!!

The lady with the wavy hair is Roxana, and the sister with her husband is Candi, who was just baptized this past Sunday.
Candi is so amazing. Her husband, Byron, is a recent convert, and he prayed very hard that she would be humble and accept the Gospel. I had the privilege of baptizing her this past Sunday, and then they invited us over for lunch, because it was Ricardo's (Bryon's dad, on the left of the photo) birthday! We're  going today to have Family Home Evening with them, because Byron was working yesterday. They'll be a great strength to the ward here. I'm so glad to have been a part of their conversion. It's especially cool because Byron was baptized by Elder Lontine, who was my first Zone Leader in the mission, and will be coming to visit next month! so he'll see Candi now that she's been baptized.

We had divisions last week, which was really great. I went with Elder Mendoza, who was the only Latino Elder to come in with my group, and who is now my Zone Leader here in Villa Nueva. He and I are great friends, but that's not why it was such a great experience. He really helped me build my faith and diligence, and to be a more bold and challenging missionary and person. Thanks to what he taught me, there have been miracles this week in our area.

One of which absolutely blew me away. The Portillo family has been taking the discussions for about 2 months now. Elder Gabriel went to see them, along with Elder Huish during divisions. They started talking to them about the importance of coming to church, which has been their challenge. They hadn't come since we started visiting them, in spite of the fact that we'd taught about the Sabbath Day and everything. According to Elder Gabriel, they just told them that "You'll never know if it's the true church or not if you don't attend!" and apparently, it struck a chord with them, because about halfway through sacrament meeting, they walked in. It was a MIRACLE!!!! We were just about to drop them because they didn't come to church, but now they came. They're reading the Book of Mormon, they're praying about it, and they liked church, so we have to baptize them! We even had one of our most awesome member families, who live fairly close to them, volunteer to come visit them with us, and maybe have an FHE in their house with them! It was so cool! Those of the family who didn't attend committed to attend where they work in Escuintla (not too far from my previous area) so we'll see what happened there.

I just learned so much about the love the Lord has for us. He really wants to bless us, but if we're disobedient, he can't. We must obey him so he can fulfill his desire, and bless us. Our most important desires will also then be fulfilled.
Please take care of yourselves.

And for those who are asking when I will be home, you'll have to wait until September, because I'm going to keep working until the bitter end.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We All Have Work...

Dear All,

This has been another great week. We've had some fantastic opportunities to be able to teach, learn, and help people come unto Christ. After all, that's what we're here for!

Things have been pretty uneventful this week, with one exception: We will be having a baptism this Sunday!!! Candi, the wife of one of our best recent converts here in the area, decided to be baptized, with the help of our Father in Heaven. We challenged her to baptism, she said she wanted to wait, but then we challenged her (and her father-in-law) to pray and ask God if the 21st of April was the correct date. They live 3 doors down from the Yumán family, so we had the lesson in the Yumán's house. It was awesome, the Spirit was so strong, and Candi told us about her experience. She said "I didn't realize that God could respond so quickly!" She prayed, she received her answer, and though not all her doubts are gone, she is still happy and has made the firm decision to be baptized. I love being a missionary, because we get to see firsthand the miracles God works in our lives, and in those of the people we teach.

We also brought some of our recent converts out to visit this week: Alejandro Yumán and Estuardo Arroyo came out to visit with us, and it was really cool, because no testimony has a more powerful effect on an investigator than that of a recently baptized member. It's all still fresh in their heart, and they are super enthusiastic to be able to testify of the truth with all their hearts. It's fantastic to be able to see. Even if they're just "patojos" (kids) it's still fantastic, because they're so honest about the things that they know are true. Alejandro told us about how when he started to read the Book of Mormon, he felt a change inside him. Before, he would never go to church, or read the scriptures. But now he loves it, and he can hardly wait to turn 18 and become a missionary! And his parents told us that he used to be the first one to say "not me!" when they said "We're going to church!" And though I haven't told him this, I saw a visible change in him. When I first arrived, he was super quiet, and almost never smiled. Now, he smiles all the time. He's really experienced the "mighty change of heart" that Alma talks about, and you can see it just looking at him. The rest of the family has experienced similar changes, and they told us about what their extended family said about them when they saw them after their baptism. It's so cool to experience firsthand the tender mercies of the Lord.

"Wherefore, weary not of doing good, for ye are laying the foundations of a great work, and out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
-Doctrine and Covenants 64:33

This is a true principle that has helped me in my mission. There's no such thing as a small part to play in the work, because the work is made up of many little building blocks, as are our personal spiritual lives. Some may be Zone Leaders, some District Leaders, some Assistants to the President, but the work is done by everyone. Everyone has something to offer, so even if you feel small, or as if you don't have anything to offer, THAT IS SATAN TRYING TO DECEIVE YOU. He wants you to doubt your self-worth and take away your self-esteem. DON'T LET HIM IN. He will only destroy you, but God will bless you with miracles if you only have faith in yourself. As says the song from the movie "The Prince of Egypt," There can be miracles when you believe. Believe in God. Believe in Christ. Believe in the cleansing power of His Atonement. And last of all, believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, the Lord can't help you very much, but once you have faith, there can be miracles.

Take tons of care. I love you all!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

General Conference!

Dear Friends and Family,

This has been a pretty good week. It didn't start off too well, but it ended up alright. The Lord really humbled me and I have had a change of heart, after a very spiritual experience on Thursday. I am so happy now to be able to be here in the Mission, and there is nothing I would rather be doing but preaching the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Part of what inspires me now is that there is absolutely no reason to be sad. Ever. If the Lord is in our life, and we know that He loves us, there is absolutely nothing negative that can trump his love. The words of a beloved hymn come to mind:

"The Lord is my light, then why should I fear?
By day and by night, his presence is near.
. . .
The Lord is my light, he is my joy and my song.
By day and by night he leads, he leads me along."

I testify that everything happens for a reason. I know you didn't ask for the challenges the the Lord has sent you--neither did I-- but "know thou . . . that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good." (See D&C 122:7-9) And this is an experience that I will never forget. I can now truly say that the Lord Jesus Christ IS my joy, IS my song, and IS my light. We all get to a point where we think we know him, then we have another experience, and we come to know him even better. I hope it keeps happening, even though it will be hard. We become acquainted with God mostly in our extremities, or rather, our challenges and trials. Personally, I am thankful for this challenge I have had. I don't know if I'm ready to ask the Lord for challenges, but I am grateful when it's all over. I'm sorry, but this life was not designed to be easy. Salvation was not designed to be easy. "We all have work, let no one shirk!"

I was also very thankful for the talks given by President Monson and the Apostles this past weekend, as I was inspired and uplifted, and told to do better. I especially loved the Priesthood Session, which I FINALLY got to watch in English! For the first time in the mission field! I am happy that the Apostles reminded us of what president David O. McKay taught: "Every member a missionary!" We learned this weekend that as members of the Lord's church, it is our calling, our duty, and our obligation to do missionary work, and we are entitled to receive inspiration regarding how to do so. Elder Andersen said that we need to "paint a missionary badge on our heart." Just because I have one on my shirt right now doesn't mean that my companions and I are the only ones responsible for this work. Even in Utah there are opportunities for missionary work. Find out what you can do, how you can help, and do something. You can also help with the missionary work on the other side of the Veil: temple and family history work.

Here in Guatemala, there are churches everywhere. People have garages on the fronts of their houses, and they set up podiums and enormous speakers there and turn them into churches. The way the world sees a church and the way that the Lord sees his church are very different. In any church one can go, have faith, keep the commandments, and even receive miracles, because the requirement for a miracle is faith. Anyone can love Jesus Christ and be blessed for it. But because of the orderly manner in which God has established his kingdom since the beginning of time, there is a requirement to be able to enter into the kingdom of God: baptism. But to be able to have a baptism that God recognizes, the person who performs the baptism must hold the Priesthood, or the power of authority of God on the Earth. This authority was lost for centuries after the death of the original Apostles of Christ, and has been restored to us again by those same apostles through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The only place that true Priesthood Authority can be found is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I don't say this to satisfy my pride, nor for any other reason, other than that the Holy Ghost has testified to me that it is true.

And trying to explain this to the Pastor and his Wife we visited yesterday was a little difficult. Especially because he is hard of hearing. But the truth is that God love us all, and wants us to follow him. This weekend, it was quoted from the Bible that the Lord Jesus Christ came to be the author of eternal salvation for all those who OBEY him. The only way we can do so completely is in His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have prayed, and have come to know for myself that these things are true, and that is what I invited the pastor to do, and that is what I invite all of you to do. If you have already, do it again. If you haven't, do it. You won't regret it, and the Lord will greatly bless you.

I testify of the truthfulness of this work. It has changed my life, and I have seen it change many other lives. And no one can make me deny it.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Have a great week.
Until soon,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Week, and a Baptism!

Dear All,

I apologize for not having the photo of the baptism, but I forgot my card reader this week. Roxana was baptized on Sunday, and I baptized her. She has had a lot of challenges in her life, but I know that she will find peace and comfort in the Gospel. She is probably one of the people I know that's had the hardest life, in just about every way. Financially, emotionally, in the family, she's just had it coming at her from every direction. And now she has God on her side to help her!

I'll start with a little more news:
President Brough, along with the First Presidency have opened up our privileges for e-mail. We are now allowed to write to ANYONE WE WANT, with the exception of:
-Persons of the Opposite Sex within mission boundaries
-Other missionaries from the Guatemala City Central Mission

From there, it's fair game. Therefore, I invite you all to write me. My email is and I would love to hear from you soon. This may also be easier, since I never have time to write letters on P-day. We also have 75 minutes now to write to everyone. Please don't include itnernet links, because I can't look at them, nor anything inappropriate, because it will take my mind off of missionary work. But anything else, go for it!

I love missionary work. I love the Gospel. I just finished reading the Book of Mormon for the 7th time, and it just gets better every time! I felt the Spirit in a new way, that I haven't been able to understand this many things before, and it was great. I love to read of Jesus Christ and his servants, learning from them how I can become closer to Him. The key is in Alma 37:6-7:

"Now, ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me, but behold, I say unto you that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass, and small things in many instances doth confound the wise.
"And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes, and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise, and bringeth to pass the salvation of many souls."

What the Lord wants is our faithfulness and constance. He doesn't care what our circumstances are, he just wants our constance and our love. And we show our love for him by keeping his commandments (see John 14:15). If we do the little things every day, such as pray and read our scriptures, keep the commandments, and go to church every Sunday, the Lord has promised that he will help us to do whatever thing is expedient for him.

I so testify, that Jesus is the Christ, and that I have come to know him both in my extremities, and in my moments of joy. I love this work, I love the Lord, and I love our Heavenly Father. I am excited to hear from his servants this weekend in General Conference, as I know it will be a great experience, and I know the Lord will give me additional direction with respect to how I can do better.

I testify of these things with all my love for each of you.
May the Lord bless each of you as you do your best to follow him, and keep his commandments.

Take care, and know that He loves you.
Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Have Work Enough to Do...

Dear All,

This has been a week of sacrifice and a week of miracles. Think for a moment about the words of the Hymn "Praise to the Man," especially where it says "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven."  Think of the early Saints, the hardships they faced, the challenges they overcame, and the difficulties they encountered that none of us could ever have imagined to have lived. Then, watch the movie "17 Miracles" and look at the miracles they received. Read the accounts of the Pioneers and the enormous, miraculous blessings they received from God. Then look at your own life. How much have you sacrificed to be able to serve the Lord? How many miracles have you received lately?

I'll give you an example. This week, we had a lot of appointments fall through. For two days straight, we got caught contacting all afternoon. We knocked so many doors and not one opened to let us in. If they wanted to let us in, it was either a bad moment, or there wasn't a man in the house (if there's no man inside, we can't enter the home), or another invented excuse.

It's hard.

But it's worth it.

On Sundays, we've been struggling to get investigators to church. We kept working hard during the week, and prayed that we might be able to have the 8 investigators in church that we are expected to have every week. We've consistently been having one or two in church. This past Sunday, Sacrament Meeting started, and there were two, as far as I could see. Later on, I looked around from my seat at the piano, and I saw two or three more who had come in. Then, when they opened the door after the Sacrament, I looked, and there was a miracle waiting outside in the hallway. The Montejo family is an interesting family. The mom is a member, the husband no, and they are letting the kids decide which religion they want: Catholic, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The dad is pretty fixed in his religion, but sometimes he surprises them. This Sunday he said to the family "Wake up, we're going to mass." They all got ready, they got in the car, and everyone thought that they were going to the Catholic church, but Dad surprised them when he pulled up and parked in the Chapel parking lot, and they all walked into sacrament meeting! It was a miracle! The mom, dad, two sons, and the girl that lives with them and does housework all came to church! And it was especially cool because usually when they go to church, they go to the other ward, even though they live in our ward boundaries. I think the kids like the other primary teacher better or something like that.

In other words, miracles exist.

They don't come out of nowhere, they come after we sacrifice and do all we can, keep the commandments, and keep trying hard to do what we're supposed to do, the Lord will do the rest. We don't know when, where, or how the miracle will come, but if we pray for miracles, we will have miracles.

So when life seems hard, it's not because the Lord doesn't love you, it's because he does. He's trying to teach you something, and to prepare you to have the faith to receive a miracle.

So instead of praying for a trial to be over, it may be wise to pray that the Father help you to learn what you need to learn, and develop the faith you need to develop to be able to receive a miracle, because miracles don't come until after we have faith (See Moroni 7, The Book of Mormon).

The words of the hymn are true:
"Do not weary by the way,
whatever be thy lot.
There awaits a brighter day to all,
to all who weary not."
("If the way be full of trial, weary not," see October 2012 General Conference, Sunday Afternoon Session, closing hymn)

I testify that these things are true. That Jesus Christ "lives and loves us to the end," as does his Father. That this is his Church, his Work, and his Glory, and that we are all privileged to be a part of it. Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

Have a great week.
Keep praying,
Keep reading your scriptures,
and never let anyone tell you that "You can't."

Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another Fantastic Week!

Dear All,

This has been a great week. We had some hard work, and a lot of meetings, but we came out alright in the end.

The miracle of this week is that Roxana, who wanted to be baptized, had disappeared for a few days and we couldn't get a hold of her. We talked to her yesterday, and on Sunday, and we're teaching her the last few things she needs to know before being baptized. She doesn't live in our area, but a family member, who is also her close friend, is a member of the ward here, and has been helping us a ton. We always have the lessons in her house, and she's always there, so we get to have that visit with a member present, which is excellent.

Wherever you are, I exhort you to work with the missionaries. Having a member who isn't a missionary at the lesson makes a HUGE difference. You don't have to teach anything, you just have to share your testimony and let the missionaries teach what they have planned. It's not that hard, and it makes an enormous difference in the Lord's work.

When I was in Villa Hermosa, I arrived and met an investigator who had been making a lot of excuses to not go to church on Sunday. Then, we brought a member to go visit him. That Sunday, he already had plans, but the following Sunday, he attended church. That same Sunday, he said to my companion "When will there be baptisms? I want to be a part of this." The last I heard, he comes to Church every Sunday, and he's super active in the activities, and everything that has to do with the Gospel.

And it all happened because a member took a little time out of his afternoon to join us for a visit. So even though you think your testimony is weak and that you don't make a difference, YOU DO.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (see Matthew 5, 3 Nephi 12)

Yesterday we also had a great zone activity, in which we went to Antigua Guatemala for the second time. It's a great city with some great views, and it's one of the most famous places in Guatemala. It used to be the capital of Central America, and it's where you can buy all kinds of typical fabrics, and just about anything made out of such fabrics. It's really fun, and I bought some nice, unique things to enjoy when I'm back in the states. Antigua is also the place where there are more Gringos than any other place in Guatemala, both living there and tourists. Some of the elders spent a while talking to some guys from Canada, and there were just a TON of white people there. There are Guatemalans that have light skin and light eyes, but it was really weird to see so many "canchitos" (white people) in the same place. They're everywhere in Antigua! Imagine how weird it will be for me when I get home!

I leave you with my testimony in the form of 2 scriptures from the Book of Mormon that have helped me a ton. Alma 37:6-7, and Ether 12:27.

Alma reminds us that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass," and in Ether, the Lord mentions that if we come unto him in our weaknesses in humility, he will make our weaknesses into strengths.

Recently, I have noticed some changes in myself. Changes with respect to challenges I have had for extended periods of time. And my faith really has grown, because little by little, by small and simple means, the Lord has changed me. I have tried to be humble and ask the Lord for his help to help me overcome my challenges (believe me, just being a member of the Church, getting baptized, going through the temple, or going on a mission doesn't eliminate the problems) and he has done so, little by little. I know that he has been listening to my prayers, and that he has been blessing me in his own time frame. And it works out better that way, because at the same time, he has helped me be more humble and patient, while waiting for him to help me. No, the challenges aren't over (far from it in fact), but I know that the Lord will strengthen me to be able to take it, and to overcome (see Mosiah 24).

I testify that the Lord does hear our prayers. He does bless us with miracles, and he does help us when it seems like there's nothing we can do. We just have to "Lift up our heads and be of good comfort" and have faith in him in keeping his commandments, and he will help us more than we can ever imagine. I have seen it, and I have lived it. "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) "And Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE to him that believeth."

I testify that these things are true. Jesus lives, and has done what no other man can do for each one of us. God has again called prophets to guide us in His ways, and that His church has been established once again upon the face of the Earth, all because of his love and concern for us.
And I testify these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I love you all.
Thank you for your prayers.
Have a great week.
Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

President Brough

Dear All,

I just wanted to let you all know how awesome my mission president, President Brough is. I love him so much, and he has helped me in so many ways.

I forgot to mention last week that today we had our district meeting in the mission home, or as everyone here calls it, "La Casa del Presidente Brough." Then, Sis. Brough made us lunch, and we got to eat and chat a little with President and Sister Brough while we ate.

And since the meeting was a district meeting, and not a zone meeting, it was really cool, because only 8 missionaries were there in the mission home with President and Sister Brough. And, since it was a district meeting, the District Leader is in charge of directing the meeting.

The District Leader of the Villa Nueva district is yours truly.

But, it went extremely well. We had a practice about teaching The Gospel of Jesus Christ (What we refer to as Lesson 3), and I chose Elder Mendoza and his "beloved son" (the new missionary he is training) Elder Parker to teach two very special investigators, "Brother" and Sister Brough. It was really cool. President and Sister Brough asked some great questions, and we were able to learn a lot from him about how we can improve the work in our zone.

I'll also get to see him Thursday, because there will be a meeting for all the District Leaders in the mission, and on Saturday, which will be a zone conference.

Whenever he teaches, the Spirit is always present, and several times he has changed the topic of a zone conference, a district meeting, or some other meeting to fit the actual needs of the missionaries present. So, basically, I'm always super excited to talk to him, and I don't like it when meetings are over, because he really helps me and gives me the drive and confidence to keep working hard and doing my best.

My companion is excellent. I love him so much. He knows how to work, he follows my example, and we have a good time working. Since Elder Gabriel is serving in his own country, it's really cool to see his love for his own people. I love him and pray for him daily, and I hope that you all join me in prayer for him, for me, for our mission, and for each of our investigators. I don't know that I've ever had a companion for whom I've cared for so deeply. Elder Muñoz and I were just about best friends, but this is a different type of relationship, and I'm honored that the Lord chose me to be Elder Gabriel's companion. He's helping me to do what the Lord instructs us in 3 Nephi 27:27 "Wherefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am."

Also, Elder Zavala, one of the elders in our district, who is in Villa Nueva 2, will be sent to a different area tomorrow, and his companion, Elder Ward, will be receiving a brand new missionary, meaning that there are a lot of new missionaries in our district!

Anyway, I just wanted to remind you all of a principle taught in numerous places in the Scriptures:
"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10)
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
"Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ and shall endure to the end, thus saith the Father: 'Ye shall have eternal life.'" (2 Nephi 31:20)

The way in which we show our love to God and endure to the end is keeping his commandments, or obeying him. The first scripture in Spanish says "I the Lord am OBLIGATED when ye do what I say..." So really, we come to learn that he is completely obligated to fulfill the promises he has made us. If not, he would not be God. God is just, and he will give us whatever we deserve, both right now, and in the life to come.
May we all make an effort to be able to live more Christlike lives, and to be able to deserve the best that God has to offer us.

Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.
"I know my Father lives, and loves me too.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true,
He tells me it is true."
"He lives, all Glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior still the same!
Oh, sweet the Joy this sentence gives:
'I Know that my Redeemer lives!'"
This is my testimony to each of you, and I hope it helped at least one of you to come closer to God on this beautiful afternoon.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Week, Working Hard...

Dear All,

Thank you for your prayers, I can feel them, and I ask that you can please continue, because we have some high goals this month that we're trying to reach, and we need all the help and support we can get.

Apart from that, things have been pretty normal, not really much to report.

We're still working, and the people we have are progressing, though it's been hard to find new people to teach these weeks. People just haven't been opening doors as much as usual. But on Sunday, we found a great family, the Batres family. They're evangelicals, but they seem pretty interested. They all said they would pray to know if the message is true. I felt the spirit in their home, and it was really cool. I hope that they progress, and if we can get them to church, I know that they will.

As for the rest, we're just fine. There really aren't any major problems, we just need to keep working harder. My companion is funny, and a great person. I'm happy to be with him.

"...The right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not, and Christ is the Holy One of Israel, wherefore ye must bow down before him and worship him with all your heart, mind and strength, and with your whole soul, and if ye do this, ye shall in nowise be cast off." 2 Nephi 25:29

That's what we do as missionaries and as Latter-Day Saints. We worship him with everything. Worship is not just go to church, pray, and sing hymns, worship is the way you live. Dedicate your life to him, and do all you can to serve him. That's what it means to worship Christ.

And I will forever be grateful for these two years he has given me to worship him. I know this is His church, His work, and His will. I know that He has a living prophet to give us His counsels for today. I'm happy to be serving him, and bring his children, our brothers and sisters, back to the fold.

I love you all. Have a great week.
Endure to the end. Don't forget to pray.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Changes, Changes and More Changes!

Dear All,

We got some BIG news this week. As many of you may have read in the Church News, there will be a new mission formed in Guatemala: Guatemala Cobán Mission! This will be a division of existing missions in Guatemala, and will affect every mission except the Quetzaltenango mission. The Guatemala City North Mission will lose the part that is Cobán and other nearby areas, and be renamed the Guatemala City East Mission, because Cobán is the northern part. The rest of the changes involve the Central Mission: the Retalhuleu Mission will lose the Pueblo Nuevo Tiquisate zone, and it will be added to the Central Mission, along with the missionaries in the zone at the time of the change. The Central Mission will lose the Mariscal and Nimajuyu zones to the Guatemala City South Mission, along with the missionaries serving in those zones at the time of the change. The division will take place on June 29th, after the transfers here on June 26th. It'll be interesting to see who ends up where, and what ends up happening to all the missions! It brings a new meaning to "I'll go where you want me to go!"

Other than that, things are pretty normal. The only exception is that I spoke in church this Sunday, and we found out that this ward is chomping at the bit to do missionary work. We now have a list of 25 different members who are willing and available to go out and visit with us during the week, which is most excellent. I passed the list around in Relief Society and Priesthood meetings, and people just started writing their names down. It was awesome!

We also confirmed all 7 of the Yumán family this Sunday. It happens in Sacrament Meeting before the Sacrament is passed. The sacrement was passed at about 10:30 (church starts at 10) because there were so many confirmations! It was really cool, since they're not only a big family, but also an amazing, faithful, endure-to-the-end kind of family. They even went to Seminary yesterday at 5am of their own free will! We were going to tell them about it and go drop them off, but they went on their own! It was awesome! They've also been assigned to help with the church cleaning, and really want to serve. They're some of the most amazing people I've ever had the privilege of meeting, and I'm excited to help them keep progressing in the Gospel.

Also, I found out that the Samayoa family (the other awesome family I've been able to baptize) is doing great. Elder Gabriel, my companion, was there in Sonora 1 when I arrived, and I replaced him there in that moment. But the chapel that Sonora uses is being renovated because it wasn't big enough, so the Sonora Ward attends at the Amatitlan Stake Center, where the El Lago Ward also meets, which was the area of Elder Gabriel right before he came here, so he saw the Samayoas every Sunday! I talked to one of the missionaries in the area, and he said that they've been called as a fellowshipping family for missionary work, so they're basically super awesome!

In these days of accelerating missionary work, the words of a hymn come to mind:

"The time is far spent, there is little remaining
to publish glad tidings by sea and by land.
Then hasten, ye heralds, go forward proclaiming:
'Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven's at hand!
Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven's at hand!'

Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you,
the weight of your calling he perfectly knows.
Press forward, my brothers, for Jesus is nigh you
His arm is sufficient, though demons oppose,
His arm is sufficient, though demons oppose."

I bear my solemn testimony that this is the Lord's work. We are all enlisted 'til the conflict is o'er, and Happy are we!
Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, because the Lord will always remember you, and the covenants you have made with him. And as long as you are faithful to him, he will bless you if you put your trust in him.

I love you all.
Your continued prayers and thoughts are and will be greatly appreciated.

Elder Banks

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baptizing a Future Bishop and his Family

Dear All,

This has been an absolutely fantastic week for the Central Mission, especially in Villa Nueva 1. We baptized the Yumán family! They overcame challenges of their son's accident, difficulties at work, and all kinds of things to be able to be baptized. They are probably the most faithful family I have ever had the privilege of meeting. I really feel that the dad, Edgar, will be a bishop, or have some other position in the fairly near future, due to his faith and diligence, and desire to serve and to follow Christ.

President Brough was at Stake Conference this weekend, and after the meeting, came up to meet their family. He shook their hands, counted the kids and said "1, 2, 3, 4 Missionaries!" (Not counting the little sisters). It was pretty cool. I had the privilege of baptizing Edgar: I baptized him, and he came up out of the water crying. He gave me a hug right there in the baptismal font. He was so happy! The next day, he told us that he felt in that moment the weight of responsibility fall on his shoulders, to endure to the end, and teach his family how to do so with him. The day after his baptism, people already started asking him questions about the Gospel, and he had some pretty good answers!

The kids also play games in their free time. They put on their ties, and they knock on the bedroom doors in their house and the other siblings answer, and they act like they are missionaries going to visit people! It's so cool! The Zone Leaders interviewed the family, and asked one of the kids what he wants to be when he grows up, and he said, "A missionary." Since they have to wait a year to be sealed in the temple, I'm planning on coming back to be there when they go through.

It was perfect timing for their baptism as well, because Elder Martinez left in the change meeting yesterday. He went to Mariscal, the same zone as my first area. Or, as we say it here, where I was "born." In other news, Elder Muñoz left Puerto San José, and opened an area and is TRAINING!!! He's parctically brand new, and he's training. I knew he would go far, because he's one of the better missionaries I know. Also, Elder Daniels, who entered with me, is training in the area where I was trained: Jerusalén.

My new companion is Elder Gabriel, from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, which is part of the Quetzaltenango mission. His native dialect is Mam, and he's had to learn Spanish here in the mission. He's doing pretty well, and he's a great Elder. He's also my first Chapín (that's what they call Guatemalans) companion. I'm excited to be able to work with him. It's weird though, because my last 2 companions have been from the USA, so I've gotten too used to speaking English with my companion! But there's no problem, because my Spanish is just fine.

I end my letter with a favor. The mission has set some big goals for March and April, to confirm 204 people in each of these months. We humbly ask for your support in the form of prayers. President Brough instructed us to pray as if it all depended on God, and to work as if it all depended on us. There are souls waiting to participate in this sweet salvation. Please help us find them.

I testify that Christ lives, and is our Savior and Redeemer. He and our Heavenly Father love us more than we could possibly imagine. And although Moses once said "Now I know that Man is nothing." (See Moses Chapter 1, the Pearl of Great Price), for our Heavenly Father, we are everything.

"Remember, the worth of Souls is great in the Sight of God.
And if it should be that ye should labor all your days, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the Kingdom of my Father!
And, if your joy should be great with soul that ye have brought unto me, how great shall be your joy if ye should bring many souls unto me!"
-Doctrine and Covenants 18:10,15-16

Thank you, I love you all!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Another Week in Villa Nueva

Dear All,

It's been a good week. The family I talked a lot about last week is doing great. The members are helping them out a ton! They visit them a lot, and they like it. They already have some great friends in the ward, and they're really excited to all be baptized on Sunday. I'm just happy and humbled to be a part of it. They already told me that they want to serve in the church, even if it's just cleaning the building! They're probably the most amazing family I've ever met. Next week I'll be sure to send you the pictures of the baptism, and how everything turned out. We're going to have a combined baptismal service with the Zone Leaders, because this week is stake conference and we share a chapel, and therefore use the same baptismal font. What we're doing we call a "white day" ("Día blanco"), because everyone will be dressed in white. The family will be 7 baptisms, and the Zone Leaders will have 2 or 3, then the other area, Villa Nueva 2, will be having two baptisms in their own chapel later that evening, for a total of 11, possibly 12 baptisms this week in our district! I'm so excited! Now, all we have to do is find the next big family to be baptized!

In the month of January, the Villa Nueva zone won the most successful zone in the mission, and yesterday, we had our reward P-day with President and Sister Brough. We played some games and ate Little Caesar's pizza (yes, it exists here, along with Domino's, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC.) We combined with the El Frutal zone to make it a little bigger, and it was fun. I got to see some of my best friends in the mission, like Elder Loayza from Peru, and Elder Snyder from Mapleton, UT, who are in that zone, and who I usually don't get to see, because they're not in my zone.

Speaking of zones, the Zone Leaders in both of the above zones are now training while being Zone Leaders, which is pretty crazy. They each have a "son," so there are now 2 more elders in my district, Elder Ellison frrom Utah, and Elder Parker from Chicago. They both came right to the mission from the Provo MTC because the CCM here in Guatemala was just too full to be able to fit them. It was pretty crazy. But they're both cool guys, and we're going to do great things here in the district, because now we basically have a whole other companionship, even though they all have the same area. They came in last Wednesday because there are changes in the MTC programs, like I told you, and that means there are a lot of missionaries entering the mission, and at different times. The change that is 9 weeks ends next week, in the "official" changes of the Central Mission, even though there have been 2 other change meetings in between this and the last "official" one. President will be calling all the trainers today or tomorrow, so they can attend the meeting for new trainers on Thursday morning. There will be over 30 missionaries entering, so there will be plenty of trainers.

This morning, I had a really cool revelation I would like to share with you. It happened while I was reading Alma chapter 50 in the Book of Mormon. In this  story, Captain Moroni is preparing his people and his land to protect it from the Lamanites, who are coming to war against them. I'll only share part, because it's kind of long, but he dug up banks of earth around the city, upon which he put works of timbers, pickets, and watch towers. There's so much symbolism in this chapter, but I'll just go over a little bit about how we can protect ourselves and our families spiritually. The banks of earth represent our testimonies: firm and strong in the faith of Christ, and based upon the foundation of his teachings, and those of his prophets (both modern and ancient), for it is the same (see D&C 1:38). The works of timbers are our obedience, made strong little piece by little piece. The pickets are good works, adding another level of strength onto our obedience and testimonies. The watch towers represent the Holy Ghost, who will be with us when our testimonies, obedience, and good works are where they should be, to warn us of dangers both physical and spiritual. Then, as the Nephites did, we can build our own "City of Moroni," or rather, our own eternal life, and our eternal home, with our eternal family. Then we can truly say what a popular hymn in Spanish says: "Las huestes de oscuridad atacan con furor, mas la victoria es de Dios, el Rey y Redentor." In English: "The armies of darkness attack with fury, but victory is God's, the King and Redeemer."

I testify of the truth of these things, that if we are "True to the Faith" and obey the Lord, trusting in him constantly, he will protect us from the real dangers that lie in wait to deceive us (See Ephesians 4). Through our obedience and good works, we will see the miracles that God has prepared for us, both in this life, and in the life to come. No, it won't always be easy, but things that are too easy are rarely worth it. As the hymn teaches us, Keep the Commandments . . . In this there is Safety and Peace."

Take care. I love you all!
Until next week,
Elder Banks

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Dear All,

This has been quite a week. The biggest events happened in the last couple of days.

On Sunday, for the first time the entire Yuman family came to church! They're a family of 8, with only one who's too young to be baptized. This was the first time for the mom, the rest had come at least once to church to see what it's all about. That means that we have officially set a date with all of them to be baptized on the 17th of February!

On Monday, we had a Family Home Evening with them in the home of Hno. Ramos, our ward mission leader. He's amazing, and their families get along really well. The lesson was really cool. We watched a video about the conversion of Wilford Woodruff, which is in the Doctrine and Covenants videos. It's really good, and you should all watch it. It's called "The Great Apostasy." The spirit was really strong. Hno. Ramos gave his testimony, and it was really powerful. Hno. Yuman told us that he'd started looking for a church to take his family to about 3 months before the Elders knocked on his door, and nobody from any other church had visited him. It was really cool.

Then, yesterday morning, Hno. Ramos called us. He told us that Fernando, one of the Yumans' children, had suffered an accident early that morning. The tire of a bus passed over his foot, and broke bones in his heel and his shin. Apparently, the family trusted Hno. Ramos enough to call him and tell him about what had happened, even before they called us. He told us to call them and to get some members to go and visit them. We called the Luna family, and they gave the young man a priesthood blessing and spent most of the afternoon with the family, laying aside their personal affairs.

We arrived to the Yumans' house about 5:30pm, and we had the most spiritual lesson I've had on my entire mission. We talked about being strong in our trials, and that the Lord strengthens us, and gives us trials to purify us. Talking about this, we usually use the analogy of Gold. To become beautiful, gold has to pass through a fiery furnace, and be hammered and polished with abrasive tools. The father of the family said "You mentioned that trials are what polish us and purify us like gold. Well, if we're going to be like Gold, we want to be 24-karat!" He cried during the lesson, out of joy. He also cried giving the closing prayer, which is rare for him. He's a very positive person, and he's already talking about the things the Lord wanted him to learn from this experience. He said it was so his wife could see the unity and love in the Church, because she had only attended once. I am so amazed by the faith, humility and love of this family. They are so united as a family, and it's fantastic. They are amazed with the love and unity in the ward, and I am sure that they will be a fantastic family, and do much good in the church. Their oldest child is 15, so they can all still serve missions. They are really what you call a tender mercy of the Lord. The thing that amazed me the most was what Fernando asked them while he was in the hospital. He asked 2 questions: "Oh no, how am I going to get to church this Sunday?" and "Will I still be able to be baptized?" My jaw almost hit the floor. It's the first thing that the family asked us when we entered their home yesterday. I love this family so much, and I admire them, that they are so strong and firm in the faith, even before becoming members of the Church! And, I know they have the faith to be able to receive miracles. I'll be talking to President Brough tomorrow to see if Fernando will still be able to be baptized with his cast on.

Aside from the miracle, it's been a pretty good week. Nothing much to report, really. We discovered a new neighborhood yesterday where we can go and contact today, and get the work moving along even more. This is such a fantastic area!
I love you all. Never forget the Lord. He never forgets you!

Elder Banks