Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A few thoughts on Ether 12 verse 28

Dear Folks Who Love Me,

I'll start off today with a bit of what I've been studying lately.
Ether 12 really touched me as I read it recently.  It's all so GOOD.
Faith, the purpose of weakness, how miracles come, etc.  It leaped off
the page at me as I read it this time through.  I invite you all to
read it and ponder its message.  One thing that really stood out this
time around was verse 28.  Everyone knows/loves verse 27...  But what
about 28?

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show
unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain
of all righteousness.

So how do we overcome weakness?  By coming unto God (as said in 27).
And how do we come unto God?  Faith, hope and charity.  If we seek to
increase these attributes in ourselves, we'll crowd out any other
negative pieces and be freed from our weaknesses.  What a cool

This week was really cool!  I love Elder Wilhelm.  He's a blast to
walk with and an awesome missionary.  I'm afraid we'll only be
together one transfer, but that's okay.  The Lord knows what He's
doing.  We have 3 Baptismal Dates as of Saturday and I'm so excited
for these people.  I have a slew of new investigators who I'm still
getting to know.  One of them (one of those Baptismal Dates) is named
Lorenço and he's a champion!  He understands The Book of Mormon SO
well.  He explained it to us like this:  "Well, I joined the Universal
Church in '94 and recently found that it wasn't true.  Then, you
Elders came along and showed me this beautiful doctrine and this
incredible book.  It's true and it makes so much sense--the Bible
talks about Jacob's son Joseph so much and there are some incredible
promises made to him that are never realized in the Bible.  So, we
have The Book of Mormon which is a record of Joseph's descendants."
Whenever we answer any of his questions or doubts, he's completely at
peace; he's finally found the little piece of himself that he was
missing and he's savoring every moment.

We're working with a lot of Less-Active members and it's really
inspiring (and sometimes hair-pulling) work.  For a multitude of
reasons--offense, laziness, disenchantment, unworthiness etc.--these
people have simply stopped coming to church, reading, praying, etc.
It's sad to see the downturn that their happiness, peace of mind and
life in general has taken.  Note to self:  Don't ever go inactive.
It's not a desirable way to live.

I've realized that one of the biggest of Satan's lies is the idea that
after sin we cannot become completely clean again.  He wants us to
believe ourselves unworthy, unclean, and unhappy.  I testify against
this.  Christ came for this!  He came to free us from those feelings
of guilt and unhappiness.  If you've truly repented, why do you worry?
 Repentance is the cure of the soul and can bring a perfect peace.
Though a sin be as scarlet, it CAN be white as snow.  I know this.
The devil also knows this and he's scared of it.  He's passed a point
of no return and wants us to believe the same of ourselves.  So, cast
not off confidence, believe in the atoning power of Christ and go
forth in faith.  We CAN become the person that the Lord wants us to
be.  Our past doesn't have to limit that.

I'm so very grateful for the gospel in my life.  It changes a lot.  It
provides light in a dim world and relief from the pains of mortality.
I've seen it melt hearts, change lives, brighten countenances, and
lift unbearable loads.  THIS is life eternal.  Anything else is just a
clever trick, a blatant lie, or a fleeting and false joy.

I like an example I learned recently of a cake being baked by the best
baker.  Every slice of this perfect cake has a distinct flavor.  If a
person were to arrive and take just one piece of the wonderful cake,
they'd walk away feeling satisfied and feeling as though they'd had
the best chocolate cake in the world.  Or strawberry.  Or vanilla.
But unless they stay around and enjoy every piece of the cake, they'll
never be truly fulfilled nor understand what they are missing.  We
have the cake!  It was "rebaked" by Jesus Christ through the prophet
Joseph Smith.  We aren't grasping at crumbs of chocolate or vanilla...
 We have so much more than the best chocolate cake in the world.  As a
missionary, I get to introduce well-meaning folks to other slices of
that cake that they didn't even know existed.  What a life we live.

Well, I love you guys.  Life is great.  I'm happy.  I'll soon get a
new house (this should hopefully mean water and energy =)).

I leave it with you--go and share your cake.

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Ana and Flávio, a young couple who have a lot of interest in The Book of Mormon

Dear everyone,                                                                                October 22, 2012

This week was wild!  We met some great people.  Among them are Ana and
Flávio, a young couple who are very open, legally married, and have a
lot of interest in The Book of Mormon (which is great, as people
become Mormon by reading The Book of Mormon).  They are SUPER nice.
I've never sat with a couple who were so...  Prepared.  They grew up
religious but encountered some things in their church that they felt
were against the commandments of God.  Now, as they said, they are
open for something new.  The way we found them was really cool.  We
were on a split with the Zone Leaders and Elder Clifford hadn't been
feeling well.  He asked a random person going in the direction of our
house for a ride.  They informed him that it wasn't their car, but
their friend's and that she was in a hurry.  It was apparent, however,
that they felt bad about the situation.  Two nights later, they ran
into missionaries on the street and started talking.  They were amazed
and impressed by the seeming self-sacrifice of missionary service and
wanted to know more.  It's a simple way, but it feels so inspired.
That first lesson was so cool.  I really enjoyed sitting with them and
am excited to go back tonight.

We watched General Conference this weekend...  Wow!  What a
conference.  I spent Sunday sick, but I was still able to watch it and
I enjoyed feasting on the words of living prophets.  And what a feast
it was!  I have so many notes to go over.  If for any reason you
missed it, go and look it up now.  Wow.

I have received transfer calls.  =)  I'm off to Luanda 1 C to be with
Elder Wilhelm!  I LOVE Elder Wilhelm.  He's one of my closest friends
here.  And I get to live with Elder Walker (another close buddy) and
Elder Cafferty!  What a cool house!  I'm really excited to work over
there and refresh my mind on work in a new area.  Transfers are indeed
a good thing.

I have recently realized the audacity of my goal to finish The BoM 10
times a year.  I still want to.  I still will finish it 10 times in
2013.  I feel that it's important.  After that, we'll see how
effective I found it to be.  I'd rather read it once and truly get
something out of it than read it 10 times and get nothing but a good
read.  I'm sure the optimal study schedule is really somewhere in
between--or not to have a page limit at all but to STUDY the word as
it was meant to be studied.  I'm certain that my Ten Timers Challenge
(as Elder Rainbolt, Elder Arrington, and I are calling it) will be a
large learning experience.  I invite any who wish to join us in our
super nerdy, super fun challenge and quest of deeper spirituality and

I'm really loving the scriptures lately.  There's so much beauty to
word of God.  It's powerful, too.  And just...  Perfect.  The
Scriptures are the books where the answers don't change.  What a
blessing it is to have an anchor to our faith, soul, and conversion in
the form of words that can be "always before our eyes" as King
Benjamin described to his sons.  I say this a lot, but I regret my
lack of scripture study before my mission.  I missed out on a lot.
But, hey, we live and learn.  I've learned that a lot lately, too.
There's little need to regret our pasts so much as we sometimes do.
We've learned.  We've grown.  And, if we've learned it right, we've
fixed the problems.  The regrets should only cause us to not make the
same mistakes again--not to harrow up our souls to the point of
sadness and loss of self-respect.  We are here to grow, after all.

I love you all and, at times, miss you.  But...  Hey.  It's life!  My
life is good.  I know yours are good too.  We're all doing what we
need to do, so we're happy.  Peace is a good thing and the Lord is
very willing to dole it out to us.

Much love,

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Friday, October 19, 2012

New study habits and a BOM challenge

Dearest family and any friends who happen to be tuning in,

How are you all?  I hope life is running well.  I've learned a lot this week.  Those of you who know my study habits know that I hate doing a lot of things when it comes to studying--notes, records, repitition, pneumonic devices, etc--and that I've never been a great "studier".  Well, change is on the horizon!  I'm learning how to study better and smarter.  I've started a study journal and I love it!  It's helping me to remember things better and to remember little bursts of the cool promptings that I have throughout the week.  I want to share one with you all.

In 2 Nephi 24, Isaiah talks about the Lord delivering the House of Israel from the bondage of babylon (the world).  As so many things that Isaiah speaks about, this is not something with just one meaning.  The idea came to my mind of the Savior's invite to take upon us His yoke that is easy and His burden that is light.  This is in obvious contrast with something.  Another yoke and burden must not be easy, must not be light.  Sin is the bondage of Babylon.  The Gospel requires us to cast off those bonds with which we are bound and then gives us the capacity to do it.  The Lord will give us rest from sin.  The world would have us believe the opposite--that sin is freedom and that our "rules" are bondage.  We know that this is simply untrue.  The Lord offers freedom from the bondage of Babylon to all those would take it.

"And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall give thee rest, from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve."

I love Isaiah.  I never thought I'd say that, but I've been so enjoying his words lately.  I have a new and exciting goal!  From January to July (the last 6 months of my mission) I will finish The Book of Mormon 5 times.  15 pages a day.  It's not even hard!  I read books 2-3 times the size of The BoM in a week...  Why was I always so unwilling to read the best book?  Well, I'm making this a new life goal.  I want to finish The BoM 10 times a year.  It's nothing!  And that book is so important.  We need to focus on it.  If other things need to take a bit of a back seat...  Well, what's more important?  I've learned a new way to judge whether something is good for my life.  So often we look at our little vices, the things that just don't quite line up with the teachings of the church, and we justify them or we ignore the truth of them.  We constantly ask ourselves where the line is.  It's a simple test really:  Does this bring me closer to or further from my Savior?  Does this invite or expell the Spirit?  Am I living up to the name I took upon myself at baptism, or am I forgetting Him for a moment?  I really liked this thought when I heard it.

My area is going well, but slow.  We've found some great new people, some old ones have dropped out, and we're trying desperately to save a few others.  We'll see.  Batista has been out of town all week, but he gets back today!  =)  We taught Luceilia the 1st lesson this last week and invited her to baptism.  Her exact words?  "Tem que ser."  Or, "it has to be."  An awesome response!  We also met this incredible family who owns a little restaurant.  They like to feed us and are really interested in the Gospel.  They've accepted baptism but we've yet to give a date and they've still got a lot to learn.  Pray for them!

Elder Clifford and I have started to understand each other a lot more and things have been improving a lot.  That said, it's not been much of a "training" experience.  He doesn't take too well to the idea of being taught by me, so I've backed off a lot and its helped.  We walk blind at times, but I think it's necessary for the peace of things and for him to learn the way he needs to.  The Lord's helping a lot and I'm learning to be much more humble and patient.  It's a long journey.  =)

I love you guys!  I miss you now and then, but I know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  As we say in Portuguese, "Vale a pena".

Keep it up,

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Monday, October 8, 2012

Highlight of the week, a man named "Batista"

Dear everyone,

Gosh, I feel good today!  Another hard week in the way of numbers and "success" (of course we all know that success has only a little bit to do with numbers), but a good week, overall.  I find myself thinking less and less on home and more and more on the mission.  I'm really trying to be the missionary that you all probably think I am.  I'm really trying to be more like my father--an incredible man, to those of you who don't know.  Highlight of the week?  A man by the name of Batista.  He was simply a street contact, but he's turning into so much more.  He speaks better French than Portuguese, but with the help of the Spirit and the pamphlets that we have, he's understanding.  We're fellowshipping him with a member from the Congo.  The first time we sat with him, he just glowed.  I can't explain it any better than that.  He stands out.  And he's so accepting and so willing.  He loves God and knows that God loves him.  He lives in a one room concrete shack that is incredibly well-kept.  It has essentially a little bed and a chair inside of it.  He said to us, "God loves me!  I have a home, a job, I eat well, and I always have enough extra to send home to my family in Gabão."  He then explained that he doesn't like smoking or drinking, doesn't want a relationship with a woman, and hasn't yet attended any churches in Angola.  We invited him to come to ours and he said he would!  He had to travel before this Sunday, however, and he won't be back until next Saturday.  That all said, I'm so excited for him!  He's so special.

This week was an awesome one.  Missionaries can now serve with 18 and 19 years of age!  What a cool blessing!  I'm excited to meet some of these new, incredibly prepared missionaries.  We need them.  If you're thinking about serving, do it.  That's my advice.  Do it and do it right.  Prepare now.  NOW is the day to shine.  Don't leave it for later.  It's a mistake.  There are so many things I wish I had done to better prepare myself.  The basics are so important here:  Prayer, Scripture Study, Repentance, the building of a strong testimony, and worthy temple attendance, to name a few.

We had the privilege to watch the Priesthood Session of General Conference yesterday at the mission home.  It's the best session I can remember seeing.  Wow!  What power.  What a beautiful message of preparation, priesthood, and support.  Watch it.  It's possibly life-changing.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes the best missionaries the best.  I've found a principle that I believe applies to all membership in the church.  The best missionaries (members) worry themselves with specific people, details, and the will of the Lord.  They don't obey sort of.  They don't go out and do a part of the work.  I've been very guilty in my life of being a "half-wayer".  It doesn't work in life and it doesn't work in the Gospel.  It certainly doesn't work when seeking the Lord.  He wants workers who work.  He wants servants who serve.  And when we do it right, He endows us with power from on high.  This is the only sure way to true success:  Do always the will of the Lord.  I'm starting to learn what that means.

I'm trying to consecrate my life, thoughts, actions, attitude, and abilities to the Lord.  I'm by nature a very selfish person.  I think, to degrees, this is true about a lot of people.  I'm learning what it means to hold someone else in a higher regard than I hold myself.  It's been a long journey thus far and I'm only slightly closer than I used to be.  I have felt your prayers and fasting as of late and I thank you.  I love you guys.  I'm trying to serve the Lord the way that you do and in the way that you all think that I already am.  I'm growing.  He's helping.

I love you guys!

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Commitment keepers are Covenant keepers"

Boa noite, irmãos!  How is everyone?  I hope life is as good for y'all
as it is for me.  This last week was hard...  But so good.  We're
hoping to get a family baptized by the end of the transfer (the 25th).
 They've been very accepting up until now and have so much potential.
Alex, the father, is awesome at keeping up with commitments.  And, as
we missionaries say, "Commitment keepers are covenant keepers."

Have you ever thought much about covenants?  The Scriptures are
littered with the word.  Simply put, a covenant is an accord.  We
promise to do thus and such and the Lord promises to give thus and
such in return.  Covenants are the most pure form of living the Lord's
commandments.  Our covenants should grow to define us.  They should be
much more important than our thoughts and desires and, indeed, our
thoughts and desires should grow to reflect our covenants.  The
keeping of covenants gives us a place at God's right hand.  Baptism in
and of itself does not save us.  It does not open any gates.  However,
living the covenant that we make at baptism (our first covenant) does
open the gates of heaven.  When we remember why we do what we do,
we're more likely to do it.  At baptism we promise that we are willing
to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and keep His
commandments for all of life.  Later--much later, actually, and after
much preparation--come the covenants of the temple.  Of marriage.  Of
not only being willing to do those things, but to do them forever.
And the promises only get bigger and more incredible.  What do your
covenants mean to you?

I'm excited to see this family grow in the gospel and receive the same
joy I have received.  Please remember them in your prayers.

Life is kind of hard at the moment...  But good.  Right.  We're living
in a hard place with little power and almost no water.  But, hey, I
signed on for this.  It's a learning experience, to be certain.

Oh!  Someone asked me a bit about my new mission president.  Well...
I have 2.  Kind of.  It's a new and weird situation.  Pres. Kretly is
the MP of Mozambique.  He's decided to take a larger hand in what we
do here in Angola.  He also has authority and keys over us.  Pres.
Thompson is technically his counselor and, ostensibly, our MP.  It's
not a power struggle (I think), it's Double-Coverage.  We're all
learning a lot together.  I've been a bit frustrated lately because I
spent 6 months organizing this mission to work with all mission
systems alone and independently.  Now...  It's all falling apart.  The
good and bad news is that it's no longer my problem.  I hate seeing
all my work go to waste, but I like not having to deal with it.  I
know it'll all work out.  Eventually.

Well, I love you guys!  The Church is true.  It's powerful.  It
changes people.  I know that.  I've experienced that personally and
with a lot of incredible people here.

Keep on keeping on,

Elder Cody R. Eckman

P.S. Mom, the FROG Lip Balm is incredible.  Thanks for the package!