Monday, September 19, 2011

Sept 19th 2011 - Letter to Seminary Students

Hey Guys!!! I hope the school year for you has been as amazing as my time here in Uganda has been for me!!! I guess I'd better introduce myself cuz you're probably wondering WHY Brother "So-and-So" is wasting your precious time reading another letter from another missionary. Haha, so my name is Elder Brandon Winters. Some of you may know me, some may not. My younger brothers are Kyle and Benjamin Winters who you may have seen around. I am from Lake Point but I currently reside in Ntinda, Kampala, Uganda. I arrived in the Uganda Kampala Mission on June 7th after a 3 week stay at the Johannesburg MTC. These four months I have been away from home have been challenging as well as incredibly rewarding. I want to start off by commending each and every one of you for being in seminary today and the whole of this term. I have been asked numerous times by many people what I think prepared me most for my mission. Of course if my Mother was in the room I would usually say something about how my wonderful parents taught me the gospel and raised me with the mentality that mission was not an option but an obligation...and that is totally true....but in reality the seminary program was the real pre-MTC I needed to be ready to serve a mission. By attending all 4 years of seminary you will have the opportunity to cover all four of the standard works which contain the fullness of the gospel. If I remember correctly you are studying the Old Testament this year (forgive me if I am wrong). I challenge you to grow to love this book. The writings and journeyings of the house of Israel are some of my favorite stories to read. I recall the story of Moses and his people as they were traveling in the wilderness. One day a bunch of snakes or serpents came into the camp and started biting everyone. Our Heavenly Father being the merciful God he is provided a way through Moses the prophet for everyone to be saved. All that the people had to do was to look at the brazen serpent Moses raised on his staff and they would be healed. Such a simple task. Such a simple solution to a potentially fatal affliction. So simple in fact that many of the people refused to do it and suffered the consequences. In our own lives today we are attacked on every side by serpents. These "serpents" come in many forms: Drugs, Violent Video Games, Immorality, Pornography and the media we are exposed to on a daily basis. Let us shun these evils as we would a rattlesnake in the mountains. These temptations will only bring us sorrow and grief for the rest of our lives.

We have a wonderful example in the Old Testament of an individual who shunned evil, in fact he ran away from evil. Joseph who was sold into Egypt experienced many challenges during his life but one particularly difficult challenge was the frequent and constant solicitations for immoral actions from Potiphar's wife. Joseph had the right idea when he told her "There is none greater in this house than then can I do this great wickedness against God?" (Genesis 39:9) Joseph understood his high standing in God's eyes and didn't want to do anything which would cause him to fall from that place. In verse 12 we read of Joseph's actions prompted by his righteous desires. When Potiphar's wife's solicitations started to become more than mere verbal solicitations Joseph did the right thing "...and fled and got him out" (Genesis 39:12) We should all learn from the example of Joseph. We may not be solicited by our bosses wife, but we may be tempted by friends or acquaintances to drink at a party this weekend, we may be researching for a school assignment on the internet and an inappropriate pop-up shows up on the screen. No matter what the temptation the examples in Genesis 39: 9;12 can really help us out. Instead of taking "just one drink" ARISE AND GET YE OUT!!! Instead of clicking that mouse button and having our minds polluted by pornography, ARISE, AND GET YE OUT!!! I testify to you that you ARE the "Noble and Great Ones" spoken of in Abraham 3:22-23. You ARE the sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves you. If you could truly understand your true character and potential you would never even think about touching the unclean things of the world. Let us all adopt this motto in our lives whenever temptations arise "...How then can I do this great wickedness against God?" If we do we will have so much more power to resist the temptations of the advesary because we know who's "got our back."

When and if the time comes that we do sin against God he has provided us a way to overcome that sin. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Jesus Christ IS the way. He DID come down to atone for the sins of the world. Through sincere repentance we CAN be forgiven for our mistakes. As we grow and progress in our lives I pray that we will be able to recognize sin and its destructive powers. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, immorality and all the other temptations which easily beset us as teenagers will not bring us happiness. King Benjamin teaches us in Mosiah 2:41 that those who keep the commandments of God are Blessed and Happy. I don't know of anything I want more than to be blessed and happy while in this life. I have a strong testimony of this the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been restored in its fullness to the earth and we have and will continue to receive the blessings that come from its presence here upon the earth.

You have probably noticed how much I used the scriptures in my letter today. I love the scriptures so much. Each morning I have the opportunity to spend 2 hours learning from these words of the prophets. If we want to know how we should be living our lives, all we have to do is turn to the scriptures, for "...They will tell us all things what [we] should do." (2 Nephi 32:3) The scripture mastery scriptures we commit to memory during seminary have been selected by prophets of God as containing doctrine and principles which we should know by heart. Please don't look at the scripture mastery scriptures as just another thing to memorize. Take the time to understand what they are saying and you will find that committing them to memory will become a lot easier, not to mention more enjoyable.

I cannot tell you enough times. Stay strong, be obedient, hold tight to the Iron Rod, honor your parents, listen and study the words of the prophets. If you do these things you will not be led astray. I promise you that. I love each and every one of you, and I bear my testimony of the things I have written today in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Until we meet again!!! Sula Bulugi (SOO-LAH BUH-LOON-JEE)

-Elder Brandon Winters

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