Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Questioning and Faith

Hello Family!

Yesterday was so filled with the Spirit, I will write you some of my notes I took at ward conference, then I will talk about Norman's baptism. Just know that I thought about my family a lot yesterday and wanted to share the incredible knowledge I gained. I promise you this is all worth reading.

Ward Conference:
Bishop Oyler- He sees many come into his office, and they are struggling. It's never about if Thomas S. Monson is really a prophet, or if this is really Christ's true church. The question is always does God exist. They say they want to believe, or maybe even believe like they used to. It is normal and ok to question and doubt! It causes us to reflect on spiritual experiences that have built our testimonies. Bishop said he never felt huge spiritual experiences reading his scriptures.For him it has come through serving other people, whether at their homes or yards or coming out of his bishop's office in tears. He says those are times when he feels God exists, because that is when God's love is manifested. He said there was a time in his life when he wanted to know if he had truly repented, not because he doubted but because he honestly wanted to know. He read in Luke (I didn't catch the exact reference, it may have been 22:32) and realized it was when we have a desire to serve other people that we have truly repented. That is when the Atonement works.He has never seen God or Jesus Christ, but he believes and wants to believe they are there and live.

It might seem a strange thing to say its ok to question, but then the stake presidency speaker really elaborated on it, this was my favorite talk from the day-

President Stewart- James 1:5 says...that giveth to ALL men...Moroni 10:4 says...he WILL make it manifest unto you...We can still have faith, even if we are not sure.If we had a perfect knowledge, then faith would be dormant. Alma 32 :12 (the theme of the day) helps us to understand that we may never get out of the lacking perfect knowlege stage. The gospel of Jesus Christ is faith, repentance, baptism, recieving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end- no where in there does it say have a perfect knowlege, in fact it asks for faith which is to NOT have a perfect knowlege.Sometimes our life trial may be that we never do get a sure witness throughout our life (later I learned of a story shared in priesthood how one man served 3 missions and said he never felt he got an answer if Joseph Smith was a prophet, but he had faith anyways). Alma 32 has three references to patience, and 0 about instant gratification!
He says he is a believer because he doesn't want uncertainty to crowd over the things that are important. He gave an example of his daughter after she got engaged. She called almost every day and kept freaking out to her parents if she was doing the right thing, how can she know for sure he is the one, etc. He said he got tired of it one day and said then dump him, and she said what?!, and he asked if she loved him. She said yes, and he said than you have to be willing to take a leap of faith, or else you might miss out on the greatest things in life. When Christ asked Peter if he would leave him, Peter says "to whom shall I go? Thou hast the answers for eternal life"- we have to be willing to trust the Lord and lean not unto our own understanding. (I was reminded of the phrase "God can't drive a parked car.")
He said he was a believer because of Alma 32, because of King Benjamin, because of Lehi's dream, Luke 15, Luke 24, and Alma at the waters of Mormon. There are powerful accounts all in the scriptures of the Lord's work. His life has been changed for the better because he has chosen to be faithful. Have the faith and the willingness in life to say "it's God".

Wow! I loved it! I have been working with families who are struggling, and it really is doubt crowding over their faith. While its normal to question, we should come out stronger not break apart. We get scared, and fear is the opposite of faith, when we don't know what will happen to us- but he does. Trusting in Him in key to conversion. We have to realize we are all His, everything around us is His, including our time,the only thing we can truly give Him is our will. Our gift of free agency allows us to choose to keep His commandments, but I feel there are definitely levels of keeping the commandments. We do it because we are told its good for us, and then its because you love the Lord. I know as we seek to know if He is even there, we will feel He is, whether that be through the scriptures, prayer, or service to others, and that we will feel He is truly our loving Father in Heaven.

Norman's Baptism:
Instead of teaching the Restoration during the intermission, we shared testimonies. My companion and I shared ours. I have not felt that moved at any of our baptisms yet. I felt the Spirit stirring inside me as Norman went down into the water and came up new. I had seen such change in him, more humility and trust in the Lord that he was ready. I had seen how emotional his wife got, and how much I KNOW this will bless their family. I know that God loves us and He sent His son Jesus Christ to atone for us so we can all change, repent, and enter the waters of baptism.

I want to hear all of your testimonies or why you believe/have faith this week.
Please write me at my permanent address:
Sister Laurel Martin
California Oakland/San Francisco Mission
4945 Lincoln Way
Oakland, CA 94602

I love you.
Sister Martin

picture 1: our korean kids! sally and louis. my comp and I are really dressed up because we also had interviews with President Meredith that day
picture 2: I ran into Alyssa Madsen from Bay City at the Visitor's Center. my eyes are kind of closed
picture 3:Norman's baptism

Monday, January 21, 2013


So Norman is getting ready and excited for his baptism! He and his wife Mandy are calling it BBE Best Baptism Ever! It has been one of the most joyful experiences seeing this come to fruition.
We met an Indian man knocking dorrs this week. We gave him a church tour and taught the Restoration and he said he has a hope that this is all true. He will be baptized in February if he gets his answer! We are teaching another Indian woman referred from the Hawaii visitor's center who lives here. She has been coming to church and bobbing her head around saying "I'm making so many new friends and I dont even know their names!" haha. Also we are teaching another Mongolian woman and then Peter, Zaya's husband is also Mongolian. We were sad to see our little Korean kids we were teaching go back to Korea, but we sent them with Korean BOM's and pamphlets and will refer them to the missionaries there! I will send pictures next week of them. Basically, this area is soooo diverse, its really fun getting exposed to the different cultures they teach me a lot.
Sorry it is short this week. But we are getting pumped for ward conference, with Normans baptism right after. Then coming up is stake conference and also a temple trip with our recent converts to go do baptisms!
Also, one of Ben's old mission companions is in my ward! I am sending a letter and pictures to you soon Ben. It was Elder West!
I love you all, please email and write letters, I love to hear from you.
Sister Martin

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Great week

Sorry this will be short.
Another part member family has seen success! Norman said he got his answer to be baptized! He announced it after fast sunday (of course, chalk that up to another fast miracle!) in our lesson. His wife Mandy, the member, got emotional. What a blessing for their family! Norman is chinese and works at Berkely, super smart, but finally has opened his heart to following Jesus Christ. Our ward mission leader was also fasting for him, our ward is SOOO excited for them.
Also we went to Fenton's icecream place in Oakland, its famous, its on the Disney movie "UP". It was really good, I will have to take you there sometime.
Our recent convert, Lucia, went and watched baptisms in the temple for the first time! With all our recent converts now, we are setting up temple trips! Yay! I only go once every quarter of the year, unless its one of my converts. Of course we are hoping to come back for the sealings of the part member families in a year too! :) Also Lucia has seen success in her chiropractor business, she got more clients! She told us "It doesn't hurt having the Holy Ghost!" haha too cute.
Also Sister Hewett and I got a special assignment from our mission president for the whole mission. We are getting official maps printed for every apartment. So we are getting the best prices we can, networking,etc. I will tell you more later.
Love you! Keep the faith! The gospel is true!
Sister Martin

Monday, January 7, 2013


Hello Family,
My bishop is going to be on TV this week! He is a designer in San Francisco, and he wil be on SharkTank on ABC Friday night. Please record this for me mom and dad. I'm not sure what time he is on, but you can look it up on the TV. He is younger, about 33, has curly hair, and he is showing off a design for plants or something. I have never heard of Shark Tank but apparently its a pretty big deal. So look for Bishop Oyler.
Also, our zone leaders had a meeting with us this week and mentioned that Walnut Creek has "seen a bump" lately in baptisms. Then the Assistants to the president called us and asked us about how we used revelation in turning our area around. Then we made it into our mission's monthly "Messenger" or newspaper thing! Woah, we felt so famous! Apparently, Walnut Creek hasn't had baptisms in a year, and in the past three months we have been there, we have had three, and others with a baptismal date. I think I mentioned it before, but we had "shot gunned" or "whitewashed" the area. Both Sister Hewett and I were completely new to Walnut Creek, so we had no preconceived thoughts about it and just came to love everyone and work. But honestly, we have no idea what to tell people when they ask us what we are doing. It really is just prepared people that are ready, we just happen to be the missionaries here. It's all the Lord!
This week was Lacie's baptism! We have LOVED working with Lacie. Her husband Ross started coming back to church about 6 or 7 months ago, because he was getting married to her and they wanted to to raise their kids in the church, so Ross started coming back from being less active. He knew he needed to be strong for his family and our Bishop (who happened to be a childhood friend of his) helped him make the necessary changes. Sister Hewett and I started seeing him pass the sacrament and teach Elders Quorum, we were so proud of him! He was working so hard because Bishop told him he needed to be the one to baptize Lacie. Then when Ross was ready, we had to make sure Lacie was ready. She wanted to be baptized, but wanted a sure answer. Sister Hewett and I didn't hear from her for a while and freaked out that we were losing her, but then we fasted and prayed a lot one Sunday, and two days later she texted us saying she wanted to be baptized December 29. We screamed and jumped for joy! When we met with her we asked what happened to make her say that. She said she was talking to a troubled friend who was going through some really hard decisions, and Lacie said she had a thought to send her the missionaries! But then she thought "I'm not going to subscribe someone to something I'm not subscribed to" and said she knew that was her answer. So Saturday, Ross' family came into town to support them, and Ross' mom gave a testimony of her own conversion. It turned out to be very similar to theirs. She got married to Ross' dad, and said she wanted a religion and started to look for a church. Ross' dad was less active and said "wait before you do that, I have to call someone" and he called his stake president and he got back into church and she got baptized! So Lacie came up out of the water on Saturday and gave Ross a big hug. It was really powerful seeing a family make these steps of progression together. We are going to help them make it to the temple to be sealed in a year! Also, Lacie is pregnant, so they will get to seal a little girl to them as well. They are one of the coolest couple we have ever met. I will send a picture, but Lacie actually put on her jumpsuit backwards and it had a weird tie on it, and she tied it in the front. She thought it was supposed to look like that so she just rocked it anyway. Ross said it looked like her belly was a present with a bow on it. Then they took us out to eat Mexican food with their whole family, bishop's family, and our ward mission leader's family.
This week was exchanges with the sister trainers and it was the scariest most stressful thing of my life! I had to be in charge of Walnut Creek for 24 hours while being watched and trained by Sister Jensen, one of the sister trainers. I had to be senior companion, lead everything, and drive. Driving (and parallel parking) here was terrifying! When Sister Hewett and I were back together again, I almost cried with relief. I had a lot of funny stories to tell her, because I was so stressed of course we had the worst things happen. We had an ant infestation in our apartment to name one thing! Poor Sister Jensen was a little freaked out by that haha. We got transfer calls this week and Sister Hewett and I are staying together in Walnut Creek! I had been praying for that. I was not ready to train or leave Walnut Creek. Our ward was relieved as well; there is too much work to be done!
Love you all tons!!
Sister Martin

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Post Christmas

Hello Family!

This week was so fun talking to you! It was good getting to see you all as well. Especially the babies and cats....just kidding, I love all of you. But seriously. One of the things that is crazy is that we can't hold babies on our mission! And if I could pick one rule to rebel against in the white handbook, it would be about keeping pets. I miss having cats around! And one of our members would love to give away their giant sweetheart of a cat. I wanted it so bad! But don't worry, I won't rebel, I will be obedient! :)

So since I just talked to you, I will send pictures of our Christmas zone activity, service project, Lucia's baptism, and working at the Visitor's Center. 

We are back working full proselyting time in Walnut Creek, no more VC. So we have been struggling just a little actually having appointments, because this is the horrible awkward time when everyone is out of town, or can't seem to afford 30 minutes with the missionaries, until after the magical January 1 date. "Come see us after new years" is the key phrase. But we did have some cool experiences already this week. First of all was that we lost our house key at night. Our key ring was loose, and that was the one key we lost. Our land lords recently moved, so there is no other way into the house. We were freaking out, we called our previous dinner appointment place asking if they could look out in their driveway, we were searching all in our bags and outside the appointment we were at. Finally we had the sense to calm down and pray about it. As the prayer was ending, our phone rang and it was the dinner appointment saying she didn't see it, but my companion had the prompting to just look in the backseat again. So we did, and there it was! But at this time, we had cancelled our next appointment because we thought we were going to have to look for it all night. We were sad we had done that, but then we realized we had been parked next to another house with a lady in the ward who is really struggling right now. We had been asked to visit her before, but have NEVER been able to get a hold of her. She happened to be home, with her daughter. We came in and asked how their Christmas was, sang a hymn, said a prayer, etc. She told us to come back again, and we left that place knowing we had not lost our key coincidentally, we were meant to see her that night. So prayers are answered, we just need to ask, and also Heavenly Father knows us individually and His plan is always better than ours.

Also this week we talked to another older lady in the ward, she served a mission back in the 70's. She served in Arizona/NewMexico/Texas/Indian Reservations! She showed us her pictures, and shared her testimony of the Lamanite people, and the Spirit we felt was amazing! She told us she has taken a college class here in Calfornia on the Native Americans, and her professor from Berekely had listed the top five references he would use for the information in his class. Number five was the Book of Mormon! A kids in the back raised his hand and asked why the BOM, and the professor looked at him and stated " it's one of the most accurate records kept of the native american people!" This professor was not a member, he was actually Jewish. I have been reading so much more of the Book of Mormon in one day than I ever have before. I know it has a Spirit about it that brings conversion, and I know it is true, but not because of Indian records, but because of the Holy Ghost.


Sister Martin

picture 1) at zone conference, I got to pick a gift from that pile (which had been bigger than that before) and steal gifts, etc. All the missionaries were really getting into it, chanting to steal and everything. So was our mission president! It was really fun, and I got some good presents, like toilet paper, toothpaste, blanket, candy, and cd in my bag. We were so spoiled! ;)
picture 2) also at the zone conference, they had a display of a collectin of nutcrackers, including star wars ones(i don't know if you can see them in the picture or not)? so i took a picture because I thought of mom's collection of nutcrackers.
picture 3) at lucia's baptism with: the member lady who referred her, the elders that began teaching her, my companion and I that taught her, and our bishopric member who baptized her.

picture 1) at the warehouse service project, you can see only one corner of all the bags we had filled.
picture 2) all the missionaries in our shift who helped: top l-r: elder watanawongworakula, sister stewart, elder anderson, me, sister chan. bottom row l-r: sister hewett, sister chan, sister lau. sister lau and chan (in front) were the chinese sisters who rescued us when our car battery died in oakland! our chinese angels! :)
picture 3) in the mexican ghettos of oakland after the service project, eating our cactus flower and corn flavored icecream, and waiting for our burritos. i loved the burrito, but not so much the icecream.

picture 4) all the VC sisters in our outfits for our Christmas concert performance. this was not our final performance picture, because we realized after this picture was taken how bad the scarves all looked, I think mine in particular is pretty awkward, and of course I am right up front. We made them look uniform for the actual concert, don't worry.
picture 5) on the phones/mormon.org chat in the VC. so when mormon.org says chat with a representative, that's us (or other VC's around the world). it was actually pretty fun!
picture 6) me and sister hewett all ready for the last Christmas performance (so you can see the fixed scarf, and a pretty ribbon thing we had to wear as well)