Monday, May 16, 2016

Hope you are well!

Hi everyone! I love you all and I hope all is well. For those of you for whom things are not going as well as we would like, I know that Heavenly Father loves you no matter what and that you don't ever have to do anything alone. I think often times that phrase becomes cliche because it is said so often. But truly God loves you.

A great experience with God's love is when I imagine myself standing in the presence of our Savior. I think of what He may look like, knowing that there is no impurity within him. I think of all I've done, who I am, who I want to be, and how it's impossible for me to bridge the gap between who I am and who I desire to become. In my heart I know exactly who I am, exactly what's right, exactly what's not, what was my fault, what wasn't, how I've been shaped, what I've conquered, and where I've fallen. Knowing these things about ourselves, we may wonder what life would be like if others knew exactly what we knew about ourselves. Would we still be loved? Would we still have the blessings that we have received?

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter. When Christ sees you, He knows everything about you and more. Yet His love is so great that if you can look Him in the eye and tell Him that you don't want it anymore, all of those things that we perceive to be undesirable, you have allowed Him to help. He will take your burden and cast it away.

In the Old testament we read of sacrifices and burnt offerings. The sacrifice of the firstling of the flock represents Christ being sacrificed for our sins as well as our grief and sorrow. The burning of the sin offering represents the cleansing power of the Atonement. Our burdens and sins are burned and consumed until there is nothing left.

We may become purified once more through Christ. It doesn't require any superhuman effort on our part. Simply a broken heart and a contrite spirit. As we humble ourselves at the feet at the master and cry out for him to rescue us from the raging storms in our lives, He will quickly come to our aid. And it's all because He loves us beyond our own comprehension.  

To illustrate this love, I've chosen a talk delivered by an Apostle of the LDS Church. Although he may be LDS I know that we can all agree on what he says about Christ's love. I invite you, if you have time, to read it and to ponder how much Christ loves you.

The Character of Christ
by Elder David A. Bednar

Good morning, brothers and sisters. I am delighted to be here with you. I pray for and invite the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you as together we discuss an important aspect of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last September I participated in an area training meeting in Twin Falls, Idaho. Elder Neal A. Maxwell presided at the training session, and on a Friday night and a Saturday morning he, the Idaho Area Presidency, and other general church officers instructed a group of approximately one hundred stake presidents. It was a meaningful and memorable time of spiritual enrichment, learning, and edification.

During the course of his teaching and testifying, Elder Maxwell made a statement that impressed me deeply and has been the recent focus for much of my studying, reflecting, and pondering. He said, "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." Since hearing this straightforward and penetrating statement, I have tried to learn more about and better understand the word "character." I have also pondered the relationship between Christ's character and the Atonement--and the implications of that relationship for each of us as disciples. This morning I hope to share with you just a few of the learnings that have come to my mind and heart as I have attempted to more fully appreciate this teaching by Elder Maxwell.

What is Character?

After returning home from the area training meeting in Twin Falls, the first question I attempted to answer was "What is character?" The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that many of the uses of the word character relate to graphic symbols, printing, engraving, and writing. The usages I found most relevant, however, relate to ". . . the sum of the moral and mental qualities which distinguish an individual or a race; mental or moral constitution; moral qualities strongly developed or strikingly displayed" (Oxford English DictionaryOnline, University Press 2003, Second Edition, 1989). Interestingly, when we look up the word "character" in the topical guide of our scriptures, we discover that it is cross-referenced to the topics of honesty, honor, and integrity.

Brigham Young emphasized the significance of the Savior's character as he taught and testified about the truthfulness of the Holy Bible:

. . . the Bible is true. It may not all have been translated aright, and many precious things may have been rejected in the compilation and translation of the Bible; but we understand, from the writings of one of the Apostles, that if all the sayings and doings of the Savior had been written, the world could not contain them. I will say that the world could not understand them. They do not understand what we have on record, nor the character of the Savior, as delineated in the Scriptures; and yet it is one of the simplest things in the world, and the Bible, when it is understood, is one of the simplest books in the world, for, as far as it is translated correctly, it is nothing but truth, and in truth there is no mystery save to the ignorant. The revelations of the Lord to his creatures are adapted to the lowest capacity, and they bring life and salvation to all who are willing to receive them. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 124, emphasis added)

Brigham Young further taught that faith must be focused upon Jesus' character, in His Atonement, and in the Father's plan of salvation:

. . . I will take the liberty of saying to every man and woman who wishes to obtain salvation through him (the Savior) that looking to him, only, is not enough: they must have faith in his name, character and atonement; and they must have faith in his father and in the plan of salvation devised and wrought out by the Father and the Son. What will this faith lead to? It will lead to obedience to the requirements of the Gospel; and the few words that I may deliver to my brethren and sisters and friends this afternoon will be with the direct view of leading them to God. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p. 56, Brigham Young, July 18, 1869, emphasis added)

The Character of the Lord Jesus Christ

In a message entitled "O How Great the Plan of Our God" delivered to CES religious educators in February of 1995 (p. 5), Elder Maxwell specifically linked Christ's character to the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice:

Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement. Without Jesus' sublime character there could have been no sublime atonement! His character is such that He "[suffered] temptations of every kind" (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations "no heed" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:22).

Someone has said only those who resist temptation really understand the power of temptation. Because Jesus resisted it perfectly, He understood temptation perfectly, hence He can help us. The fact that He was dismissive of temptation and gave it "no heed," reveals His marvelous character, which we are to emulate (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:22; 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27).

Perhaps the greatest indicator of character is the capacity to recognize and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. Character is revealed, for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. Thus, character is demonstrated by looking and reaching outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and turn inward. If such a capacity is indeed the ultimate criterion of moral character, then the Savior of the world is the perfect example of such a consistent and charitable character.

Examples of Christ's Character in the New Testament

The New Testament is replete with "strikingly displayed" examples of the Savior's character. We are all well aware that following His baptism by John the Baptist and as a preparation for His public ministry, the Savior fasted for forty days. He also was tempted by the adversary to inappropriately use His supernal power to satisfy physical desires by commanding that stones be made bread, to gain recognition by casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and to obtain wealth and power and prestige in exchange for falling down and worshiping the tempter (see Matthew 4:1-9). It is interesting to note that the overarching and fundamental challenge to the Savior in each of these three temptations is contained in the taunting statement, "If thou be the Son of God." Satan's strategy, in essence, was to dare the Son of God to improperly demonstrate His God-given powers, to sacrifice meekness and modesty, and, thereby, betray who He was. Thus, Satan attempted repeatedly to attack Jesus' understanding of who He was and of His relationship with His Father. Jesus was victorious in meeting and overcoming the strategy of Satan.

I suspect the Savior may have been at least partially spent physically after forty days of fasting--and somewhat spiritually drained after His encounter with the adversary. With this background information in mind, please turn with me now to Matthew 4, and together we will read verse 11: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."

This verse in the King James version of the New Testament clearly indicates that angels came and ministered to the Savior after the devil had departed. And, undoubtedly, Jesus would have benefitted from and been blessed by such a heavenly ministration in a time of physical and spiritual need.

However, the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 4:11 provides a remarkable insight into the character of Christ. Please note the important differences in verse 11 between the King James version and the Joseph Smith Translation: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him (John)."

Interestingly, the additions found in the JST completely change our understanding of this event. Angels did not come and minister to the Savior; rather, the Savior, in His own state of spiritual, mental, and physical distress, sent angels to minister to John. Brothers and sisters, it is important for us to recognize that Jesus in the midst of His own challenge recognized and appropriately responded to John--who was experiencing a similar but lesser challenge than that of the Savior's. Thus, the character of Christ is manifested as He reached outward and ministered to one who was suffering--even as He himself was experiencing anguish and torment.

In the upper room on the night of the last supper, the very night during which He would experience the greatest suffering that ever took place in all of the worlds created by Him, Christ spoke about the Comforter and peace:

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:25-27)

Once again the fundamental character of Christ is revealed magnificently in this tender incident. Recognizing that He himself was about to intensely and personally experience the absence of both comfort and peace, and in a moment when His heart was perhaps troubled and afraid, the Master reached outward and offered to others the very blessings that could and would have strengthened Him.

In the great intercessory prayer, offered immediately before Jesus went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron to the Garden of Gethsemane, the Master prayed for His disciples and for all:

. . . which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me . . .

. . . that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:20, 21, 23, 26)

I find myself repeatedly asking the following questions as I ponder this and other events that took place so close to the Savior's suffering in the garden and His betrayal: How could He pray for the well-being and unity of others immediately before His own anguish? What enabled Him to seek comfort and peace for those whose need was so much less than His? As the fallen nature of the world He created pressed in upon Him, how could He focus so totally and so exclusively upon the conditions and concerns of others? How was the Master able to reach outward when a lesser being would have turned inward? The statement I quoted earlier from Elder Maxwell provides the answer to each of these powerful questions:

Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement. Without Jesus' sublime character there could have been no sublime atonement! His character is such that He "[suffered] temptations of every kind" (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations "no heed" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:22). ("O How Great the Plan of Our God," message delivered to CES religious educators in February of 1995, p. 5)

Jesus, who suffered the most, has the most compassion for all of us who suffer so much less. Indeed, the depth of suffering and compassion is intimately linked to the depth of love felt by the ministering one. Consider the scene as Jesus emerged from His awful suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Having just sweat great drops of blood from every pore as part of the infinite and eternal Atonement, the Redeemer encountered a multitude:

And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew unto Jesus to kiss him.

But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?

And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. (Luke 22:47-50)

Given the magnitude and intensity of Jesus' agony, it perhaps would have been understandable if He had not noticed and attended to the guard's severed ear. But the Savior's character activated a compassion that was perfect. Note His response to the guard as described in verse 51: "And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him (Luke 22:51).

As individually impressive as is each of the preceding events, I believe it is the consistency of the Lord's character across multiple episodes that is ultimately the most instructive and inspiring. In addition to the incidents we have thus far reviewed, recall how the Savior, while suffering such agony on the cross, instructed the Apostle John about caring for Jesus' mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). Consider how, as the Lord was taken to Calvary and the awful agony of the crucifixion was commenced, He pleaded with the Father in behalf of the soldiers to ". . . forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Remember also that in the midst of excruciating spiritual and physical pain, the Savior offered hope and reassurance to one of the thieves on the cross, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Throughout His mortal ministry, and especially during the events leading up to and including the atoning sacrifice, the Savior of the world turned outward--when the natural man or woman in any of us would have been self-centered and focused inward.

Developing a Christlike Character

We can in mortality seek to be blessed with and develop essential elements of a Christlike character. Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts associated with the capacity to reach outward and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination. Rather, we are dependent upon and in need of "the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8). But "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30) and "in [the] process of time" (Moses 7:21), we are enabled to reach outward when the natural tendency is for us to turn inward.

It is interesting to me that one of the central elements of the word character is created by the letters A, C, and T. As we already have seen in the examples of Christ's character from the New Testament, the nature and consistency of how one acts reveals in a powerful way his or her true character. In the case of Christ, he is described as one ". . . who went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). Let me now briefly share with you two memorable experiences from my service as a stake president that highlight the relationship between ouractions and a Christlike character.

Early one summer morning I was showering. My wife called to me in the middle of my shower and indicated that I was needed immediately on the telephone. (This was before the day of cell and cordless phones). I quickly put on my robe and hurried to the phone. I next heard the voice of a dear sister and friend informing me of a tragic automobile accident that had just occurred in a remote area involving three teenage young women from our stake. Our friend indicated one of the young women had already been pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and that the two other young women were badly injured and presently were being transported to the regional medical center in Fayetteville. She further reported that the identity of the deceased young woman was not yet known. There was urgency in her voice, but there was no panic or excessive alarm. She then asked if I could go to the hospital, meet the ambulance when it arrived, and assist in identifying the young women. I answered that I would leave immediately.

During the course of our telephone conversation and as I listened to both the information being conveyed and the voice of our friend, I gradually became aware of two important things. First, this friend's daughter was one of the young women involved in the accident. Our friend lived approximately 35 miles from the hospital and therefore needed the assistance of someone who lived closer to the city. Second, I detected that the mother simultaneously was using two telephone handsets--with one in each hand pressed to each of her ears. I became aware that as she was talking with me, she was also talking with a nurse at a small rural hospital who had initially attended to the three accident victims. Our friend was receiving updated information about the condition of the young women in the very moment she was informing me about the accident and requesting my help. I then heard one of the most remarkable things I have ever heard in my life.

I faintly heard the nurse telling this faithful mother and friend that the young woman pronounced dead at the scene of the accident had been positively identified as her daughter. I could not believe what I was hearing. I was listening to this good woman in the very moment that she learned of the death of her precious daughter. Without hesitation, and with a calm and most deliberate voice, our friend next said, "President Bednar, we must get in contact with the two other mothers. We must let them know as much as we can about the condition of their daughters and that they will soon be in the hospital in Fayetteville." There was no self-pity; there was no self-absorption; there was no turning inward. The Christlike character of this devoted woman was manifested in her immediate and almost instinctive turning outward to attend to the needs of other suffering mothers. It was a moment and a lesson that I have never forgotten. In a moment of ultimate grief, this dear friend reached outward when I likely would have turned inward.

I then drove to the hospital with a concern in my heart for the well-being of the two other beautiful young women who had been involved in the accident. Little did I realize that the lessons I would learn about Christlike character--lessons taught by seemingly ordinary disciples--were just beginning.

I arrived at the hospital and proceeded to the emergency room. After properly establishing who I was and my relationship to the victims, I was invited into two different treatment areas to identify the injured young women. It was obvious that their respective wounds were serious and life threatening. And the lovely countenances and physical features of these young women had been badly marred. Within a relatively short period of time, the two remaining young women died. All three of these virtuous, lovely, and engaging young women--who seemed to have so much of life in front of them--suddenly had gone home to their Eternal Father. My attention and the attention of the respective families now shifted to funeral arrangements and logistics.

A day or so later, in the midst of program planning and detail arranging for the three funerals, I received a phone call from the Relief Society president of my home ward. Her daughter had been one of the victims in the accident, and she and I had talked several times about her desires for the funeral program. This faithful woman was a single mother rearing her only child--her teenage daughter. I was especially close to this woman and her daughter having served as both their bishop and stake president. After reviewing and finalizing several details for the funeral of her daughter, this good sister said to me, "President, I am sure it was difficult for you to see my daughter in the emergency room the other day. She was severely injured and disfigured. As you know, we will have a closed casket at the funeral. I have just returned from the funeral home, and they have helped my daughter to look so lovely again. I was just wondering . . . why don't we arrange a time when we can meet at the mortuary and you can have one last look at her before she is buried. Then your final memories of my daughter will not be the images you saw in the emergency room the other day." I listened and marveled at the compassion and thoughtfulness this sister had for me. Her only daughter had just been tragically killed, but she was concerned about the potentially troublesome memories I might have given my experience in the emergency room. In this good woman I detected no self-pity and no turning inward. Sorrow, certainly. Sadness, absolutely. Nevertheless, she reached outward when many or perhaps most of us would have turned inward with sorrow and grief.

Let me describe one final episode related to these three tragic deaths. On the day of her daughter's funeral, this Relief Society president from my home ward received a phone call from an irritated sister in our ward. The complaining sister had a cold and did not feel well, and she basically chewed out the Relief Society president for not being thoughtful or compassionate enough to arrange for meals to be delivered to her home. Just hours before the funeral of her only child, this remarkable Relief Society president prepared and delivered a meal to the murmuring sister.

We appropriately and rightly speak with reverence and awe of young men who sacrificed their lives to rescue stranded handcart pioneers and of other mighty men and women who repeatedly gave their all to establish the Church in the early days of the Restoration. I speak with equal reverence and awe of these two women--women of faith and character and conversion--who taught me so much and instinctively reached outward when most of us would have turned inward. Oh how I appreciate their quiet and powerful examples.

I noted earlier in my remarks that the letters A, C, and T form a central component in the word character. Also noteworthy is the similarity between the words character and charity--as both words contain the letters C, H, A, and R. Etymologically there is no relationship between these two words. Nevertheless, I believe there are several conceptual connections that are important for us to consider and ponder.

Let me suggest that you and I must be praying and yearning and striving and working to cultivate a Christlike character if we hope to receive the spiritual gift of charity--the pure love of Christ. Charity is not a trait or characteristic we acquire exclusively through our own purposive persistence and determination. Indeed we must honor our covenants and live worthily and do all that we can do to qualify for the gift; but ultimately the gift of charity possesses us--we do not posses it. The Lord determines if and when we receive all spiritual gifts, but we must do all in our power to desire and yearn and invite and qualify for such gifts. As we increasingly act in a manner congruent with the character of Christ, then perhaps we are indicating to heaven in a most powerful manner our desire for the supernal spiritual gift of charity. And clearly we are being blessed with this marvelous gift as we increasingly reach outward when the natural man or woman in us would typically turn inward.

I conclude now by returning to where I began--the statement by Elder Maxwell in that special training session last September: "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." It was the Prophet Joseph Smith who stated that "it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God"  The New Testament is a rich resource for learning about and increasing our appreciation for the character and life and example of the Savior. My prayer for each of us is that through our study of this sacred volume of scripture we will more fully come unto Him; more completely become like Him; and more fervently worship, reverence, and adore Him.

As a witness, I declare my witness. I know and testify and witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. I know that He lives. And I testify that His character made possible for us the opportunities for both immortality and eternal life. May we reach outward when the natural tendency for us is to turn inward, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lots of work!

This week feels like a very long week.

Transfer calls came two days ago and Elder Perry will be with another Missionary this next transfer and I will be training again. We all have talents and even in the mission we are expected to use them. I suppose the Lord sees that I am a decent trainer. Must be my mission niche! I am not the most eloquent teacher or the best leader but I am fairly easy to get along with so I guess training is something that I will be asked to do a lot! I am still the district leader and this next transfer my district is supposed to be larger. But you know it is so much easier now that I have been doing it for six weeks so that's a little bit less stress on me.

There is this ten-year old girl that we are teaching who wants to be baptized! We set a date with her for this next Saturday so hopefully it will work out. Everything has been working against us. It seems that almost everything that could go wrong has. Her Father left and moved to Texas, leaving behind her and her many siblings. She is the third oldest and is pretty responsible. She came to church on her own with one dollar for tithing. It was a miracle that she was willing to express her faith by bringing her tithing with her without being asked to. Especially since her and her siblings go to bed hungry most nights. It's hard to get them help because her parents aren't doing what they are supposed to which can cause problems. She is just very prepared and has shown us that she wants to do the right thing even if nobody else in her family is. How a gem like her came from the situation that she is in baffles me. Where did the good come from amidst all of the wrong? That in itself is a miracle and there is no denying it. I know that God wants to help us and that no matter what we are experiencing, we can be a light and we can be blessed with faith beyond measure. This little girl knows who she is and she knows what is right. Her understanding may not be perfect but her faith is very close.

I love you all and I want you to know that I have seen God's hand daily. If you have seen God's hand, you may as well have seen Him with your very own eyes. Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.

Elder Joshua Norrell

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Stuff!

So we got a third companion, Elder Edwards, and a jeep! Both additions were needed and with Elder Edwards we took in his area with ours! Also, I'm assigned to drive the jeep and I hate driving sooo yeah that happened. I will attach a picture.

We found two new investigators this week through inspired tracting! "What is inspired tracting?" you may ask. Well allow me to explain. We look at a map of our area and choose ten streets. Then We individually look at the list and select three streets. All three times we did it, Elder Edwards and I either got the exact same street names or were one off from having all three the same! It was cool and all and when we went there were people whose doors we knocked on that were super prepared for our message! It was surely a blessing!

Also this week when we had to go back home early because it was Halloween, we played chess and watched Ephraim's rescue. It's a movie about the Mormon pioneers in the Martin Handcart company and all of the miracles that they experienced even though there were plenty of hardships to go along with it. Parts of the movie were hard to watch, especially when it depicted other people in pain. Interesting how sensitive you become to those things when you don't see it for a while.

Anywho this week has been great and I appreciate all of the emails! Now enjoy a photo of me looking dumb with the keys to a nice Jeep!

Elder Norrell

Monday, October 26, 2015

New mailing address and new insights

First order of business,our new mission address is:
1370 Caldwell Blvd.  Ste.  300
Nampa, ID  83651

And now on to the email!

So this week has been pretty good! I decided I would email my trainer, who is home now, and beg for his forgiveness because I now understand all the things I did that were annoying!

So this week we have been mainly focusing on the young people in our wards that we felt needed help. When it comes to calling in all that we did for the week, there isn't a number that goes along with that but we know that if we can help the young people in the church continue to build their faith in God then the week wasn't wasted. We love helping people because we love them! Haha! What better thing is there?

So a spiritual thought for the week. The other day I was pondering the question "Who crucified Christ?" Well of course the Bible tells us that the Jews accused him and the Romans carried out the deed so that should be the end of the question right? No! It's deeper than that. Maybe the better question is "What kinds of people crucified Christ?"

When we look into the Saviors Earthly ministry, the answer runs through the whole course of His life. The Savior was born in humble circumstances and the news of His birth was heralded by angels to mere shepherds. The humble were the ones who would truly appreciate Christ. Do you think Herod, even if he hadn't been seeking to destroy the Messiah, would have come to see him in person? Probably not.

To emphasize the point I'm getting to, note that Jesus sat at meat with Publicans and Sinners rather than with the Scribes and Pharisees. He very much enjoyed the presence of the humble crowd rather than those who were puffed up in pride because they were teachable. Those who recognize their NEED for a savior are the ones that would recognize their Savior.

So what is Elder Norrell getting at? What does the question that he asked have anything to do with what he is saying? Well I'll tell you. Jesus Christ wants to be with those that accept him and those that Accept Him want to be with Him. When we accept Christ we are saved, not because we vocally said "I accept Christ as my Savior" but because when we make that commitment to humble ourselves and let Him help, He will show us how to become like Him and He will complete us and make up for what we cannot do on our own. That is the meaning of the word Atonement, to make up for something.

So what kind of person was it that crucified Christ? It was those who felt no need for saving. They had been lead under the false impression that they didn't need to accept help of any kind because they were already perfect. They were the ones who were so caught up in what was said or what had already been said, that they missed the bigger picture. They let worldly things get in the way of what, or who, would truly save them: Jesus Christ.

The message here is that we need to always watch ourselves to be sure we aren't getting so caught up in saving ourselves that we don't let Jesus save us. I can guarantee you that His way is so much easier. So don't be like the hypocrites and only worship in word alone or deed alone. Turning our lives over to Christ mean turning over our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Easier said than done, huh?

That's what I learned! And it's not so much that I didn't know it before but it was a new perspective on an old topic.

I hope you all are doing well and I pray that God's love finds you!

Elder Norrell  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Three updates in one!

I've posted Josh's last three emails here in one post from oldest to newest. He didn't send a group email on Sept 14th, so that week is missing.  Enjoy!

September 7, 2015

This week a young lady named Sierra was baptized! It was good to see her come out of the water. I was very nervous though because I was the one that she wanted to do the confirmation on Sunday. I spent all Saturday and part of Sunday worrying about it. I really am not a fan of speaking in front of a lot of people. But it was a good experience because when I got up to do it, I closed my eyes and imagined that it was just Sierra, Christ, and me. The words just seemed to flow and I tried not to think or second guess myself. If anyone in that room truly knew me, they would know that I could never have offered a more eloquent, specific, and well thought out blessing unless I had spent hours thinking about it and writing it down. I know now that I shouldn't have worried about it. Maybe the promptings of the spirit were so clear because it was fast Sunday, maybe it was because I had just finished two sacrament meetings, maybe it was because I had been trying extra hard to be obedient because I knew I was needed for the blessing. Regardless, I know that the spirit was there and that Heavenly Father cares about all of us despite our current circumstances. I love you all and hope you are doing well!

September 21, 2015
"Peace and Blessings"
This week was a pretty good week. I had so many opportunities to recognize the Lord's hand in my life and not only was it there but it was also a testimony to me that He knows exactly what we are going to do and ask for before we even do.

The first example of this was on Friday. Thursday night I set some goals for myself, which is something that I try to do daily. The goals that I set were to:

1. Find at least 1 new person to teach
2. Talk with everyone
3. Be ready for those that God has prepared

As we went about our day trying to contact old former investigators in one of the apartment complexes by the Birch, it seemed as though there was nobody to talk to. Then someone pulled up in their car and began to walk to their apartment. So we talked to them even though it didn't seem it would go anywhere and, in fact, I was right. They said they weren't interested. But this is where it gets exciting. Because I personally made a point to attain that goal that I set for myself, we were blessed. About as soon as the one lady we had just talked to went inside, someone else came out of the apartment right next to us and we talked to them! Suddenly it seemed as though the dead complex that we were in was alive. Everywhere we went there was someone coming outside or coming home. There were no people anywhere except for where we went. I saw God's hand in the work that day and we found one new person to teach out of all those people and along with that, two former investigators were willing to meet with us again!

Another miracle that occurred was with our investigator Lorenzo attending church. Lorenzo has been wanting to attend church for the past two weeks and because of circumstances, he wasn't able to come until this last week. Even though he was about forty minutes late, he made it to sacrament meeting with his three small girls (he's a single father). The last talk of the meeting seemed to be geared towards him and his girls were all very well behaved.

In Gospel Principles we taught about prayer and in this class we all introduced ourselves. When Lorenzo introduced himself Brother L. realized that they were first cousins and instantly made a connection! Brother L. who has been kind of a Debbie Downer in our class was now excited and making friends with our investigator! So much so that for the rest of the class and Priesthood meeting we didn't even interact with him much because Brother L. was taking such good care of him. Lorenzo was so impressed that he told us that he would be back next week and for an hour there I almost forgot that Lorenzo wasn't a member yet because he fit in so well. It was surely a miracle that the connection would be made and not only did it bless Lorenzo but it also blessed Brother L. I truly gained a testimony of member missionary work that day.

You all are so great and you make my day when you write! 

Love, Elder Norrell

September 28, 2015
"Interesting week"

Hey! So all is well in Nampa! I hit my six month mark in three days and transfers are today and Elder Goodsell is leaving :( He's going to Caldwell. Not sure who the poor unfortunate soul is that will be my next companion but he should be getting off the airplane tomorrow morning. It'll probably make him feel better about being new when he finds out that his trainer has no idea what he's doing as a District leader! Hey it's okay to not be perfect because God multiplies our efforts when we rely on him. In other words we will both be learning by the spirit of God and it is only by the grace of God that we will be able to succeed.

Our investigators are awesome! Lorenzo is doing well and it's like he's just super ready for the Gospel. Ashley went to church even when she was out of town (which is kind of super amazing) and we taught Oscar another lesson! Oscar definitely notices such a change in his home when we come because we strive to bring the Spirit of the Lord with us!

I know that this Gospel is true and the Jesus Christ lives. There is truly nothing that can stop the work from progressing! I know that when we choose to turn our lives over to God, He will guide us and protect us from more trials than we can handle. Come unto Christ all ye that labor and are heavy laden and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In other words, allow Christ to shoulder your burdens and as long as you stay neck and neck with Him, going the same direction, our burdens will be made easier. It doesn't mean they will go away but they will be made lighter. 

Do all that you can to be the best you can be. "Try a little harder to be a little better." - Gordon B. Hinckley

May the light of His love continually be a lantern unto your feet!
You are all super amazing. 

Elder Joshua Norrell

Monday, August 10, 2015


I've learned quite a lot about faith this transfer. When this past five weeks began, my faith was strong and I knew that God would take care of me. Yet over the course of those same five weeks my faith has grown tremendously. Every experience where I was unsure and asked for help, not knowing if it would come, my faith grew. Because every time I asked, I received. My prayers are answered 100% of the time because I asked, waited patiently, and watched for God's hand. I am now at the point where I know that I can call for the help of our Father in Heaven and never allow a single doubt to enter my mind because I know that what I am doing is right and that I am being the best that I can be, always improving.

Lately I read a book in someone's home. It was a short narrative on the parable of the ten virgins with the lamps and the oil. In the narrative, the author speculated on what the ten virgins were like before we even hear the part about the bridegroom coming. Each virgin who lives in this certain town is given a handcrafted lamp that is made by the man who sells the oil. Each individual lamp is different and was made with each woman in mind. Some used their lamps often, others were afraid to use it. Of those that used their lamps, they brought light to others and were given items that allowed them to improve the use of their lamps; of those that did not use their lamps, nothing was gained. One of the women didn't feel that her lamp was very special and thus did not use it, little did she know that the maker had made a unique design that would show with use. Another who did not use her lamp one day found that it was broken and was devastated. Although some used the gift that they had less or more than others, regardless of circumstance, the lamp maker was always glad to hear from the women and he would always provide oil, improve, or repair their lamps.

In the story, the one who made each lamp is Christ. He cares for each of us and He has given us all special gifts that we can use to help others. If we use our lamps or gifts to provide light and return to Him regularly to refill our lamps, He will provide even more than we expected. As we use our own special gifts, we can recognize how special each of us truly is. It is never too late to use our lamps or to ask Him to fix it because he cares for each of us unconditionally. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, there is no thing or person that can keep us from receiving blessings but ourselves, and there is no other way to be truly happy than through Him. He is the light that guides us and helps us to see clearly. Any other way to happiness can only bring temporary happiness and never true joy. The path that Christ takes us down is the best one.

I love you all and I want you to know that God loves you. You can be sure of that because I love you. And how much greater is God than I?

With love,
Elder Norrell

Monday, August 3, 2015

Thai Food!

Super good thai food! Funny story they were like "On a scale of one to ten how hot do you want it?" and I was like "Seven". So that was awesome! Then later the restaurant manager (this sixty something year-old white man) came to our table and was like "Who ordered a seven?!" When I told him it was me he was like "Are you sure? This is a REALThai restaurant!"
I didn't know it was a crime to enjoy spicy food. (Also let's be honest it wasn't super spicy. Spicy, but not very bad.)

HAHAHAHA!! Now that I have your attention you MUST read my email! Muwahahaha! Evil evil evil evil!
I guess that's what people think of the missionaries. We just dedicate two years of our lives to being pure evil. I mean I'm so evil. I just want to love everyone to death and make them so unhappy that it just looks like they're happy but they are actually super oppressed and wanting to do good continually. That's the real scheme here. I'm not actually doing this out of love. But OF COURSE I"M BEING SARCASTIC! I actually do mean it all very sincerely and I'm trying very hard.

So this week there were some cool experiences. Twice in one day we prayed for a ride to come get us and sure enough one came each time! That usually doesn't happen in Nampa. When I say usually I mean it has only happened about three times since I've been here. So for it to happen twice in one day was awesome!

In that experience there are some pretty great principles that were emphasized. The rides did not show up until after we had walked for a bit. We had to exercise faith that our prayers would be answered and we couldn't doubt and say "If" we only would say "When".
The second principle taught was that we were only blessed after we had done what we were supposed to. The first time we needed the ride to get to an appointment but as we walked the second time without an appointment we saw so many people. There was a guy named Michael with a flat tire, some kids at the park (who weren't very nice but hopefully we set a good example), a woman named Michelle, and a man named Lake. Heavenly Father knows exactly what he is doing!

In other news, we bucked hay the other morning! I felt like a real cowboy!

So far we have two people with baptism dates but there are still a lot of obstacles so keep them in your prayers!

Elder Norrell