Monday, December 5, 2011

Montana: I'm going home.

My mission has been amazing.

I cant describe the effect it has had on me. I cant begin to fathom the influence of the many people that I have met here. I will be eternally grateful for this experience of a mission.

I want to share with you a portion of these experiences that I hold so dear to my heart. I've had 5 areas since I've been out, each one special to my heart. I hope you too will feel the spirit that comes from the lessons I learned, sometimes the hard way.

Great Falls:
I started my mission here in 3rd and 7th ward. Boy, was I scared. President Gardner decided to put me with Elder Sims, who had only been in the field for 4 1/2 months! Two Greenies together!

Here we are! I look like a kid!

I learned so much from Elder Sims and this area. I learned that the Lord helps us do hard things. I can do hard things, you can do hard things! 

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I was terrified of trying to help others to come unto Christ, But I'm a living testament that the Lord makes weak things strong.
Shep, from Fort Benton!

  Poplar was my refiners fire. 

Refiner-A man who separates the precious metals from the dross with which in nature they are usually found mixed. Part of the process consists in the application of great heat, in order to bring the mass into a fluid state, hence the term “refiner’s fire.” Christ is the great Refiner

Adelle! "Book of Mormen"
I have never so intensely loved a people and then seen so little progress come from it. Its from this area that I learned that the challenges I've been given in my life are very much for my own good. 

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he 
whom the father chasteneth not?

I am so very grateful for those I met up there and the experiences I had. These people will have a special place in my heart forever.

My amazing little branch!

Good ole Butte, America!! I was doubled into this area, which is when two missionaries who haven't been in the area before are thrown into it without knowing anyone. It was quite an experience learning the streets, meeting so many people and just tracting like crazy!

I will never forget the day we ran into a very anti-Mormon. Well, I think he was mainly anti-organized religion. At his door step he was very cordial, but after being in his home for a short time, his demeanor changed drastically. He wanted us to argue with him, so we just left.

 Walking home from that I remember feeling drained of energy and discouraged. I thought,"Why couldn't we just find someone who would sincerely listen?". An amazing family in our ward housed us, so they were there to greet us when we got back home. The Spirit flooded over me when I entered the house. Their home had a "warm" feeling about it and was very different from the house we just left. It was at this time that the Spirit testified to me of just what kind of future home/family I wanted in my life.

8 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, 
a house of order, a house of God;

I want my home to be a refuge from the world and its craziness. I want the Spirit to be so strong in it that anyone could feel his influence just as they walked in.


Bro. Ramos!

12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, 
in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

I only spent a short time here in Worland (6 weeks). Its my shortest area, but I am grateful for the time I did spend their. This scripture from Paul perfectly describes the great members of Wyoming. They are quite examples of true Christians. Have you ever heard of  the saying "All hat, no cattle."? It means that someone is all show but they have nothing to show for it. Well, Spiritually speaking, Wyoming has no hat and all cattle.

Greenie breakfast at the start of the transfer!

This is my office.
This was my last area. I sure do love it! I was blessed to see alot of amazing things and work with some amazing people. Billings is the biggest city in my mission, so I was excited when I found out that I would serve there.

6.....for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Thank you Montana for everything you have blessed me with. I love each one of you that I've had the opportunity to meet and grow in the Gospel with. This is not good-bye, but see you later!
Much Love, 
Elder Garcia

Cancer and Priesthood Blessings

My Dad is my hero. He is an amazing example to me. He was baptized a little over a year ago and I want to share with you one of the things that lead him to being baptized.  It's an experience that testifies of Priesthood blessings and how the Lord leads us through trials.

This is a picture of my family back in 1996.  Garett, my twin brother is on the far left and I'm on the far right. What you can't see by this picture is what we were truly going through at the time. This picture was taken right after my Dads first chemotherapy treatment.

The back of the picture

It was June 15, 1996 when my Dad was diagnosed with "Gastric Lymphoma" or stomach cancer.  My Mom happened to be a nurse in the Cancer Center at the hospital and had worked with cancer patients for years. She knew the depth of the risk of my Dads cancer.
My Dad told me about the experience of finding this out:
"It was the weirdest thing. Mom was working in the Cancer Center at the time and a lot of time I would pick her up for lunch. When picking her up, I would go in there and see the people being treated for cancer. There were two lines of recliners that patients would sit in and get infused with chemo therapy. I remember thinking how thankful I was that I wasn't in one of the recliners.....I went in and got my stomach scoped. I was out of it but I remember hearing the doctor say "It doesn't look good. Two days later, I was in one of those recliners....I remember praying and asking the Lord to please let me be able to be here to watch my boys grow up."

He had a tumor the size of a grapefruit on the wall of his stomach.

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up;

  Priesthood authority, the authority to act in Gods name, has been restored through a modern day prophet.  It's the same Priesthood that Christ held and his Apostles. As a result, blessings of healing have been restored.
  It was that very same day when my Dad had his first chemo treatment that he called over two worthy Priesthood holders to come and give him a Priesthood blessing. Even though he wasn't a member, he had the faith that it would help. 

My Moms' testimony on the blessing that my Dad received:
   "The Spirit was so strong you could feel it in the room.  Brother Cooper gave the blessing and he was so overcome with the Spirit he was somewhat weak after giving it and had to stand in one place for a minute to gain his strength and composure.  He later said that during and after that blessing was the strongest he had ever felt the Spirit. After that blessing I had peace in my heart and knew that everything would be okay. After that I really didn't worry about Dad dying, I felt that the Lord would heal him along with the chemotherapy and everything would be alright."

  My Dad was healed and has been cancer free ever since. Not only that, but this was a trial in my Dads' life that helped him to have a softer heart towards the restored gospel. He has since been baptized and would attribute this experience of getting cancer as a big turning point towards accepting the gospel into his life.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.....
  11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

   The Lord puts trials in our lives to help us to grow, to learn and to become more like Him. He chastens us because he loves us. When we look at the situations we are in as "learning experiences", we will grow and reach that full potential that the Lord sees in us.

I am so grateful that the church of Jesus Christ has been restored on the Earth along with the Priesthood. It's that Priesthood that saved my Dad. Because of this trial, my family is even closer to becoming a forever family. The Lord is very aware of each of us.

From Agnostic to Believer: I've Often Wondered and Wandered.

  This is one of my best friends from back home. His name is Mike and I look up to him in so many different ways. I love his missionary blog and this is a post from it. He served courageously in Chile until he received a medical release and he documents those events here on his blog. Check it out when you get a chance.

I've often wondered and wandered.

In my politics, in my art, and in my philosophy, I looked for solid ground to stand on. Radical doubt was my mantra and pure reason my motto.  I waded through swamps of disbelief and skepticism, climbed mountains of intellectual rebellion, and walked miles to a lonely land where I was my own deity, my own creator.

In my world, faith was superstitious and silly: an uneducated man's game.

But my world was a small one, self-centered, and self-relied. My paths were unsure and my eyes blinded to the infinite power of hope. I didn't smile much and cynicism became my religion. Little did I know the happiness I was denying myself and little did I realize the joy I could yet have.

I slowly began to realize that the reason and philosophies I so easily ascended to were not convincing necessarily because they were true, but because of the arguer's skill.
As Steve Martin's Toby the Horse once wrote, 
A big horselaugh to the human idea that reason ever actually changed anyone's mind or proved anything beyond a person's ability to argue. I could argue that the sky is green if I wanted. And win. Why? Because I could study enough to corner you on every proposition; I could become quick-minded on the green-sky-issue. I could have your head spinning with the twists and curves I would throw at you.
Such unprovable arguments such as those contesting and proving the existence of God were just that: unprovable.
It was then that I realized belief was a choice. I finally understood that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Watching the examples of a close friend and many family members, I slowly but surely began to exercise faith. Setting doubt aside, I believed to believe.
And I found hope, I found joy, I found direction, and I found purpose. The more I trusted in God (hoping that there even was a God), the more He blessed me and gave me the strength to hope even more. He confirmed to me my paths in deeply personal ways and He helped me to achieve lifelong dreams. Personal miracles were realized and I found in my stubborn heart a love for Deity and his son, Jesus Christ. 
Now I go on a mission not because I can prove to you that the Church is true or that there is a Creator (I can't), but because of the happiness and blessings I have found in the unseen power of Christ's Atonement.
I go because I owe it to my brother the Savior, I go because I owe it to my Father in Heaven, and I go because I only hope that others may desire my help into the same amazing grace and joy I have experienced.

After all God has given me, I would be remiss if I didn't.

My Football Story: OUCH!

Growing up I had many friends that loved playing football. I had a Dad who watched it religiously. Even with my Mother being a nurse and hating football (because it was "too dangerous"), it was bound to happen that I would start playing.
  So there I was, a big 8th grader, ready to play in my first tackle football league.

It was something like this...

I went to the try outs and was drafted to the my cousins team. Unfortunately it also happened to be the 2nd worse team in the league according to many of the other players.


  Oh well, I was still ready to play! It was our second game. We lost our first one horribly, so this would be our redemption game(or so I thought). It also was the first game that my Mother came to watch me play.  I wasn't the biggest player on our team, but I definitely thought I was. And now I'm going to now try to paint you a picture of what happened in this game....
  The Dixie College stadium had the smell of freshly cut grass in the air and the green stains from it were on my cleats. I was surrounded by the blinding flood lights of the stadium. They lite the way for the opponent to tromp to the field goal, which was done many times. There I was, on the kick off receiving team thinking, "I got this." It was my job to block for our 4 foot nothing receiver. Was I scared? Not even little. Blocking on kick-off receive was something I had much practice in at our first game.
The opposing teams kicker seemed as if he was a giant. At least 6'7'' compared to my measly 5'7'' and guess who got to block him?

This Guy.
  Not only was his size intimidating, but the fact that he had a prosthetic leg was also very intimidating. But I had something to prove. I was no wimp. "I got this." I thought. All I remember was this giant, running towards me, then waking up in my bed the next day. That's it. I was filled in by my Mother that I received a concussion last night in the game and that I would not be playing football anymore.
But what I also found out from the doctor is that I didn't necessarily receive this concussion because I was hit so hard.

Who would have thought this thing could cause so much damage?
  It was because my helmet was so loose that it did not protect me properly. It was bound to happen because I didn't have the right equipment.

  Thinking about this story in my life made me think about how much the Book of Mormon plays a roll in the lives of many people including myself. It truly keeps us safe and sound even when the world has massive trials running full speed and fixing to tackle us.

 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

  Satan is a liar. He will try to make you think differently then what the scriptures testify of. He will always try to make you miserable. We need to use the right equipment. That's what the scriptures are. They're the stuff that is going to keep us safe when our trials seem like giant football players running towards us at full speed.

"...and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction."

  Nephi is trying to teach us that even when we think we are weak we have far more power over the adversary when we use the scriptures.

So whats stopping you from recieving more safety?

  What is stopping us from reading the scriptures? Whatever it is, its not important. Its my humble prayer that we might read them every single day. From that I can promise you protection and guidance. Nephi promises that we will never "perish". What more could you want. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know it testifies of Christ. I feel the Spirit every time I read it. You can too.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Hanging by a Thread.

 Have you ever felt like you are just hanging by a thread? That you are almost used up, done, and can't go on?
I know I have.
We all have.

Its alot of the time, when we are think we are at our limit even more weight is put on us. Its times like this we might think "How can I do this?" or "These trials are too hard".

 But know, the Lord is there. He love you. He knows your trials, he knows how much you are taking on and he WILL help you.

 Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
 We at times can't see the full picture of what the Lord intends for us. We don't see the Hope that is their, because our "natural eyes" are closed. 

 Never let go of your hope that our Father knows you.

Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

He wants to hear from you through prayer.

 And behold, these things which we have desired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land.
And he will answer you back.

 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

This I know is true. I've seen it in my life many times that I have received guidance using these principles. I dare you to try it. Sincerely pray to our Father in Heaven and ask him how to help you with a personal trial, then open the scriptures. I promise you, you will find guidance in this. 
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Never let go of your hope and your faith in the our Father and his Son. They know you and love you.

The Atonement and Lawnmowers

What does this have to do with anything?
  Every single thing we teach as a missionary is an appendage of Christ and his Atonement (His ultimate sacrifice). When broken down, the word Atonement becomes "At-One-ment". It is through the Atonement that we become at one with God and his Gospel. We estrange ourselves from God when we sin. The atonements purpose is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin. This makes it possible for us to return to our Father in Heaven.
And I would say that's pretty important.
  So why don't more of us realize the true nature of Christs' Atonement or at least try to? (Ive seen this in myself also, so I'm just talking in general.) A couple days ago Elder Mull and I were knocking on doors when we got into a conversation with a nice young lady. After talking about who we were and if she went to church somewhere in town, I asked her how Christ played a role in her life. She said "I don't know."
We need to know.
Dont we?

  Where will we find out? How can we know? How can we learn about what our Father wants us to? In the scriptures.

Its a simple answer, but requires action from us. We need to read, to study to ponder. Then we will learn the true nature of the atonement. This doctrine of work and action from us, Gods children, has always been a large part of the gospel. For example, we know that Christ made a perfect atonement and it unconditionally covers all of mankind. As a result, all will rise from the dead with immortal bodies, because of Jesus’ atonement.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
-1 Corinthians 15:22

But atonement is conditional as far as the sins and the mistakes that we make in transgressing the commandments our Father gives us.  This is where the doctrine of work comes in.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; 

  This is where my lawnmower idea applies. I was thinking about the atonement a couple days ago and this just popped in my head.  So say your brother gives you this amazing gift of a brand-spankin' new lawn mower. You can tell its a pretty nice mower with its adjustable suspension, 190 cc engine and the 3-in-1 bagging system all set up and ready to go. Your lawn needs mowing, you have a new lawn mower and its a great day outside so conditions are perfect to get the job done. But you leave it in the shed instead of doing the work. The gift is wasted, even after your brother knew you needed it so badly. So with this picture in your mind, imagine how your brother might feel if he came to visit you and saw the new mower dusty, sitting in the shed and your lawn grown out. Now, imagine how the Lord must feel when we waste such an amazing gift that he has given to us and we don't repent and don't use the atonement like its meant to be used. 
Just as my parents would say when the lawn needed cutting:
Jeremy, the lawn is not going to mow itself.

So let us all get out and work. Let us have faith in Christ, repent of our sins and obey the gospel so we may have the cleansing power of the atonement in our life.


For a better understanding of Christ check out:

Rockstar v.s. Missionary

  Since I've been here in Montana many people have asked me "Why did you want to go on a mission?" or "What makes you want to do this?". So I want to give a little insight on my answer to these questions.

Its no secret that I am a huge fan of music.
Its a Fender Tele if you were wondering.

  I grew up listening, playing, writing and sometimes recording it. I had all kinds of gear for my guitar, had a band, was writing music, playing shows.....Just about everything my music passion could want (Well, except making loads of money to buy more music gear.).

In the midst of all of these things, I had rooted in me something that surfaced many times. My testimony. It was this testimony in Jesus Christ which helped me to come out here on a mission. I hope to share a little of it with you.

After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.
-The Prophet Joseph Smith
In the Book of Mormon, the great King Benjamin teaches his people about service:

17And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

  I understood this concept. I knew that what I had been blessed in my life to have the knowledge of the gospel. I knew it was a responsibility that I had, to share it with others..The promptings were there. But how could I? Leaving the place I was raised was hard enough, but also going to a place where I knew no one and on top of that trying teach the gospel to them... Just seemed impossible...
Then leaving my music was another thing.
This is a ton of fun....Especially in sweats.

What should I do?

So I prayed.

And prayed...

And prayed some more....
   And you know what kept coming to my mind...

Keep scrolling down.


My testimony in the Book of Mormon. I'm going to share a snippet with you:

 I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know it is the word of God. It cuts through any darkness, sadness, anger, or unbelief. This is because this book testifies of Christ, it teaches of Christ and as Joseph Smith said, we can come closer to Christ through the Book of Mormon then any other book. I've felt the power of it, you can too. I declare that this book is true. I know it through the Holy Spirit which testifies of all truth and light. I have felt the love that Christ has for us through it. Its an amazing, intense love that he wants us all to feel.

"We must know Christ better than we know him; we must remember him more often than we remember him; we must serve him more valiantly than we serve him."
-Howard W. Hunter
 This is why we have the Book of Mormon.

  With something so powerful, how could I not go? Who cares if I'm scared. The things I have at home are minimal compared to the eternal truths that ill be sharing with others. 

"We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming."
-Joseph B.Wirthlin

Eternally speaking, I am not defined by my guitars, my fears, my temporal hungers. 

I am a child of My Father in Heaven. 
And so are you.
We are brothers and sisters. 
We all deserve this knowledge, this building of faith.
  Its my prayer that we might be able to see a portion of the potential that our Father sees in us and that we might all be able to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. He will tell you the Book of Mormon is true and he will tell you the truth of all things spiritual. Ive had the opportunity to talk about the gospel with anyone and everyone for the last 17 months, and I wouldn't trade it for anything (Not even music stuff). That's because I know what we share blesses individuals and it blesses families. 

So read. Ask questions. Pray. Search and you will find. Knock, and it will be answered.