Missions are Fun

Preston Temple photo taken 21 Nov. 2010

A missionary is someone who leaves his or her home for a little while so others can have their families forever.

Curious about Mormons? Go to the source and find real people at mormon.org--read what they believe and have live chats if you wish! (an official Church website)

Or, go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, official web site: lds.org.

Note: The Blain's England Manchester Mission blog is a personal blog that is not endorsed, approved, or sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Our Mission Scriptures

Our Mission Scriptures:

"Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart . . . Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." Alma 29:1-2 (Book of Mormon)

" . . . be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (Bible)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Story of Lost Opportunities

 And that he might make know the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.  Romans 9:23
This story was related by President Uchtdorf in General Priesthood meeting on April 2, 2011.  We are sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven, heirs to the Celestial Kingdom.  Do we desire the richness of His blessings and know how to obtain them?  Will we take advantage of what is ours?
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in First Presidency, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
There once was a man whose lifelong dream was to board a cruise ship and sail the Mediterranean Sea. He dreamed of walking the streets of Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. He saved every penny until he had enough for his passage. Since money was tight, he brought an extra suitcase filled with cans of beans, boxes of crackers, and bags of powdered lemonade, and that is what he lived on every day.
He would have loved to take part in the many activities offered on the ship—working out in the gym, playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. He envied those who went to movies, shows, and cultural presentations. And, oh, how he yearned for only a taste of the amazing food he saw on the ship—every meal appeared to be a feast! But the man wanted to spend so very little money that he didn’t participate in any of these. He was able to see the cities he had longed to visit, but for the most part of the journey, he stayed in his cabin and ate only his humble food.
On the last day of the cruise, a crew member asked him which of the farewell parties he would be attending. It was then that the man learned that not only the farewell party but almost everything on board the cruise ship—the food, the entertainment, all the activities—had been included in the price of his ticket. Too late the man realized that he had been living far beneath his privileges.
Preston Temple in June 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Sunday Summer Walk in England

Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.  Psalm 147:8

These were growing wild!  I'm not sure what they are, but they are absolutely exquisite!
Today (June 26) was the most perfect weather day I've experienced since arriving in England almost 17 months ago.  For the first time, I went out wearing a sun dress with a light cotton, short sleeved blouse.  The wind was blowing strongly, but my ears didn't get cold and not once during an hour-and-a-half ramble in the Darwen moors did I get chilled.  A monumental moment to be captured for sure!  The sun was on my skin for the first time in weeks. 

Elder Blain said I looked so pale in church today.  He was sitting on the stand and happened to notice, since we don't get much chance to see each other at a distance these days with being in a car, in a small apartment, or sitting or standing next to one another teaching most the time.
This path I trod easily in the winter and spring is now overgrown.
Darwen moors.  The grass has been cut for hay, but it is greening up again.
The landscape has decidedly changed since the last visit to the moors.  Where there had only been the rough grass turfs on the moors, there is now buttercups and a variety of wildflowers and weeds growing profusely.
Sweet fragrance floated in the air, except when it had the smell of sweaty dogs traipsing about the hills with their equally sweaty owners.  The English do love their dogs!  They are well behaved (the owners and their dogs).
The rock walls were almost buried in greenery.
You can see Darwen Tower on the hill top way off in the distance on the right.  We still haven't had the opportunity to hike up there to see it.
What a joy to see everything so magically transformed!  Exploring without being wrapped up against the cold was exhilarating!  Aaaaah, to be free and unencumbered by hats, gloves and scarves!  (and walking around like a penguin with layers and layers and layer . . .)
The shimmering grass looked almost fake and I had to touch it to see if it was still wet from all the rain we have had.
  A variety of trees had thick leaves or blossoms.
This is the same tree I posted in the winter with green moss all over it.  There's the "tombstone," buried in now amongst the blossoms and leaves.  I probably wouldn't have even noticed it if I hadn't seen it before when there was no growth to hide it. 
Evidence of children having fun hanging from the same tree found in the "fractals" post, which is barren in that photo.

Overlooking Darwen and all the terraced houses and other types of homes.
Today I am grateful to have been captured and embraced by the especially lush products of the seemingly endless rain in these parts.
My cup runneth over with the splendor of these things!  . . . and getting kissed by the sun should help rectify my pale condition ( ;

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Following Righteous Patterns - Fractals & Chalk

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  Colossians 2:5-8

Hold to the rod!
 At zone conference, we were privileged to hear more of Sister Bullock's wonderful allegories.  Below you may read these in condensed form.

Gymnast Chalk and the Iron Rod

The Bullocks visited the Grand Canyon with their three young children a long time ago.  She remembers how tightly they held on to the children as they walked on the narrow trails.  When they stood at an overlook point, there was no rail for safety.  They were frightened for the children there who were being allowed to wander around without having a firm grip on a parent's hand.  Her thoughts drifted to Lehi and the iron rod that he had seen in a vision (1 Nephi 8).  Nephi, Lehi's son, wanted to know what the the things in the vision represented, so he acted upon that desire to know and was given the interpretation (Nephi 11).  The iron rod leads to the Tree of Life, which is exaltation, meaning living with God in his kingdom of glory (Celestial Kingdom).  Just as railings on stairs or rails near cliff edges protect us from falling, the word of God can keep us safe on our journey in life.

We may ask ourselves, "Why do I want to reach the tree of life?"  We need to understand why this is important so we can have our sights on the most important goal we can achieve.  We need to gain the desire and work towards it.  Much effort is needed to gain this knowledge and to seek the goal.

After baptism, our test in life begins.  Will we listen to the scoffing and mocking and let go of the iron rod, or will we hold tight?

In her college years, Sister Bullock was on the university's gymnastics team.  She explained how important it was to put chalk on her hands to be able to keep a firm grip on the bars.  If she put on the least bit of lotion, it would loosen her grip.  Even a tiny drop of lotion could lead to an ultimate loss of grip.  She suggested that there are four  "chalks" we can use to help us hold on to the word of God and follow him.

Chalk 1- Faith.  This is the first chalk we put on our hands.  Faith requires that we put forth effort to follow Jesus Christ.  As we keep the commandments, read the scriptures, go to church, serve, pray, and do all we can to continually strengthen our faith, we will be able to hold on to it through any trial.

Sister Bullock told about a mother duck and nine little ducklings she observed one day.  The ducklings were following their mother who came to a large log.  Instead of going around it, she went over the log.  Even though it was more difficult, the ducklings followed her.  She said we must have enough faith to follow our Savior, even through the difficult challenges in life.

Chalk 2 - Repentance.  Each time we sincerely repent, our grip tightens.  We are more able to keep the commandments as we strive to keep ourselves clean and pure.

Chalk 3 - The Gift of the Holy Ghost.  At Tippanogas Cave in Utah, the lights are turned out once people are in the cave.  It is so dark, no one could ever find their way out of the cave safely.  Light is absolutely necessary to safely walk through the cave and emerge in safety.

In the world, we can find ourselves in a mist of darkness, but we do not have to stay in it.  We can live worthy to have the Holy Ghost in our lives to help us out.  It will guide us, give us power to follow a righteous path, and we will have peace in living faithfully.

Chalk 4 - Read the Book of Mormon all of your life.  Everyone needs to know and understand it.  Sister Bullock tells of a young man being pressured by his friends to do things he shouldn't.  He wondered where he could find the strength to resist the temptation.  He wrestled with this concern.  One night he had a dream where he was on his stomach on the floor in seminary class.  He was being dragged into destruction by some unseen force.  He needed something to hold on to.  As he struggled to keep from being pulled away, he saw a Book of Mormon on a desk.  He knew if he could get to it and reach up to hold on to it, he could be saved.  He woke up knowing the importance of the scriptures.  He then wanted desperately to read the Book of Mormon!

Sister Bullock then cautioned us to avoid all things that will add "lotion" to our hands--anything that will cause us to loosen our grip on the iron rod.  She reminded us that even one drop will affect our ability to hold on.  We must nurture a pure desire to reach the tree of life.

When Enos remembered the things his father taught him about repentance and the power of God, he  asked, "How is done?" (that God can forgive and bless).  The answer he received from God is all things are possible through faith in Jesus Christ.

O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.  Jacob 3:2

Fractals in Ferns and Following Righteous Patterns
This is the special book mark we all received from Sister Bullock.  "Fractals are repeating patterns in nature.  Why do they repeat themselves?  Because they work.  The scriptures are full of patterns by which we should live our lives.  When followed, they will be a guide as well as protection for each of us."  -Sister Bullock
Sister Bullock held up a fern frond and broke off a small piece.  She explained that the tiny piece repeated the same pattern as the larger fern.  The fern frond is a fractal, like many other things in nature and it is a phenomenon in self-similarity.  Each piece resembles all or part of the original fractal (as seen in familiar fractals such as snowflakes and tree bark).  Science and mathematics have fractal foundations in many areas, as does art.  Fractals are true patterns created by the greatest scientist, mathematician, and artist of all, our Heavenly Father. 
Just as in nature, the scriptures give us patterns to follow in life so we are not deceived.  The fern will serve as a reminder for us to follow the righteous guidelines (the patterns) therein--by which we can organize ourselves to keep on the correct path in life that leads us to Eternal Life.

How many fractals can you find?  Gods creations are SO amazing!

Sacred Missionary and Pure in Heart

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  or who shall stand in his holy place?  He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  Psalm 24:4-5

This is the Blackburn District standing with President and Sister Bullock.  It is the last picture we will have with them as our mission and their mission comes to a close.  The picture is taken on the Preston Temple grounds where our zone conferences are held.  The temple can barely be seen in the right of the photo.  "Don't be something that you're not, but be everything that you are."  -President Bullock.

 Our last zone conference with President and Sister Bullock was 23 June.  They have established a mission culture that has helped us to know the difference between a social, honorable, and sacred missionary.  A sacred missionary has both feet in the mission and sees his or her mission as sacred, holy, and holds deep reverence for it.  President and Sister Bullock are truly a perfect example of being pure in heart in their intentions and each exemplifies a sacred missionary.  How fortunate we have been to learn and be inspired by their example and teachings!

The 'Sacred Missionary Document' (written by David J. Bullock) begins with this quote:  "Whenever Church members speak of consecration, it should be done reverently while acknowledging that each of us 'come(s) short of the glory of God,' some of us far short (Romans 3:23).   Even the conscientious have not arrived, but they sense the shortfall and are genuinely striving.  Consolingly, God's grace flows not only to those 'who love Him and all His commandments ,'but likewise to those 'that seek so to do.'  A second group of members are 'honorable' but not valiant.'  They are not really aware of the gap nor of the importance of closing it (see D&C 76:75, 79).  Those 'honorable' individuals are certainly not miserable nor wicked, nor are they unrighteous and unhappy.  It is not what they have done but what they have left undone that is amiss.  For example, if valiant, they could touch others deeply instead of merely being remembered pleasantly.  A third group are those entangled with the 'ungodliness' of the world, reminding us all, as Peter wrote, that if 'we are overcome' by something worldly,' we are brought in bondage,' (2 Peter 2:19)"  Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, p.22.

"You will get as much out of something as you put into it."  President Bullock  "Happiness is in the journey, not the destination.  I have found more enjoyment in the pursuit of a goal than in reaching the goal.  Find the joy in the journey."  President Bullock.
I will share some of the tidbits from President Bullock's talks in this blog post and Sister Bullock's in the next post, since I believe their broad range of experience in life has produced much wisdom.  They know what brings lasting happiness and success in life.

President Bullock's list of the top five "life changing books," (outside of scriptures) which changed his life forever and altered his direction in some way (he has read a lot of religious and secular books over the years).

Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage (he read this on his first mission and it opened his understanding of the Atonement)
Pure in Heart, by Dallin H. Oaks (our of print) (the difference between doing and becoming)
The Miracle of Forgiveness, by Spencer W. Kimball (everything is in our minds first)
Teach Ye Diligently, by Boyd K. Packer (teaching methods of Jesus Christ)
The Infinite Atonement, by Tad R. Callister (he read this while serving as mission president)

President Bullock asked himself how many drops of blood is he personally responsible for in
Jesus Christ's suffering.  He said that repentance is a process and not an event.  As we gain knowledge, we will become more aware of the things we have done (or should have done but didn't), to cause our Savior to suffer.  We can use the power of the Atonement, through repentance, to rectify the feelings of unworthiness we will feel as we discover our sins.

He went on to say that we will be known in the hereafter by our hearts, as we will be identified not by our physical appearance we had on earth (which is a result of human genetics), but by our spirits, which are eternal.  We will be glorified beings that radiate beauty according to the level of our righteousness.  We will be known by who we really are.  

President Bullock also said people will be judged not by the heights they gain, but from the depth from which they came.  When we are asked to stretch beyond our capabilities, it is because we are loved and God wants to help us become who we are supposed to be.  He then said that we cannot become a hermit (how many times have I wished to be just that?) and indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.  We are needed to enrich the world for others and to make it a better place overall through our service.  We must strive to never become who we are not, but become everything we are--everything the Lord expects us to be. 

Being pure in heart is the key to the Celestial Kingdom.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Crazy" Mormon Theology

To understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, read its Articles of Faith. Here's another one of those great videos produced by Defending Mormonism.

Defending Mormonism: "Crazy" Mormon Theology

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mission End Count Down Reflections & Pictures

"Yea, will ye sit in idleness?  . . .  begin to be up and doing."  Alma 60:21-24

In the verse above, Moroni was chastising someone he had hoped would help him, but wasn't aware of why he had not been rendered assistance.  In this case, there was a good reason the other person wasn't able to help at the time.  We all have good reasons at one time or another why we are not able to do as much as we'd like.  I suppose I'm reflecting on this today because I am ill and had to cancel going to see a sister in dire need, and wasn't able to go find the less-active people we need to locate.  We all, for one reason or another, aren't always able to serve as we'd like.  Heavenly Father knows our hearts.  He tells us there is a time an season for everything.

I know I'm not supposed to sit idly by while thousands around me lose hope and faith while suffering from loss of loved ones or property, from loneliness, despair, poverty, or any number of challenges.  Knowing this may cause me to wonder if I am "up and doing" enough to use my life and capabilities in a way that benefits others.  I hope to think that doing my best will be acceptable, though it seems daunting looking at the needs in the world.

When we feel inadequate and overwhelmed at all the needs around us, a gentle reminder brings peace in this quote from Edward Everett Hale:

"I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do."

As our mission enters its last seven weeks, quite naturally there is evaluation as to what useful things we may have accomplished and what we might still be able to do in the short time left.  I take comfort in the words above. I also realize how blessed I've been by all the "ones" who have lived before I was born and others more currently who have contributed to make my life a marvelous experience.

As we drive about, I'm starting to realize some things I'm capturing in photos for the last time.  I must avoid trying to take all of England home with me in photographs, or drown all of you in pages of photos on the blog as I have so frequently done.
 Another quote I read today, seems to go with the appreciation of the things man does to improve and beautify the world with all the planting of trees, gardens, and landscaping schemes.  I've been the recipient of hundreds of years of building, planting, and beautifying this glorious country.  I've also been the beneficiary of technology and the skills of man that made so many comforts and means of communication available. 

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.”  (President Thomas S. Monson, 1988 Ensign, "In Quest of the Abundant Life.")

Each "one" has contributed somehow to the overall success of the things we have to enjoy.  Thank you to all of those individuals, both living and dead, who have made (for most of us) such an enjoyable earthly existence.

Someone said in a talk the other day that we think something that is 100 years old in America is really old, and people in England think 100 miles is a long way.  So true!  That is probably why many in England haven't traveled far from where they were born.  They have no idea what they are missing in their own country!  History is everywhere.  We Americans get so excited being in countries where we can see buildings still standing that are hundreds of years old, and walls that have been here since the Romans walked the land.  Grant you, we do have some old ruins in America, but they are not as accessible and with the written history as we find in Europe.
This 1641 "cottage" looks more like a mansion to me.  It was hard to get a good picture with the trees around.  I should have taken the picture in the winter before the trees leafed out.

An old church turned into . . .
A supermarket!  Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without--that's what the prophet said . . ."  (from "Provident Living"- a Primary song)

I've already posted pictures of the library in Darwen, but the purple door is new for you purple lovers' enjoyment
Never been in here, just snapped the photo as we drove past.  I like the roof angles in this old mill turned into a shopping mall or outlet stores of sorts.  We shall shop here for Elder Blain's "travel clothes" when we are off our mission.  See the white vans and how they compare in size to the cars?  The stripes are common on many vehicles, especially service ones of any kind.
Driving around our immediate area, I noticed the fields were not as green as usual.  The grass has been cut for hay during the past couple weeks.  With the sun not reaching the bottom layers of the tall grass that are now exposed, there is now more contrast and a patchwork look across the moors.  We didn't get out into this type of country in our last area and never noticed any change during this season.  Things are greening up quickly again with all the rain we are getting.  I'm sorry I've taken the pictures through the car window, but had no time to stop.
Heading home at the end of a busy day
Oh no!  The dreaded white van, which is an inside joke here in England because they take up more than their share of the road.  In fact, the middle of the road is their favorite place.  They are the bane of Elder Blain's existence.  He hates dealing with them.  It seems the attitude of the drivers is they own the road, since they are bigger than the cars!
Beautiful England, we shall truly miss this blessed country
The moors (with the grass cut) that are directly above out apartment
I won't quit taking pictures of old buildings, scenery, or canal boats when I find them--ha, ha.

This place is called "Botany Bay."  It is a shopping mall (you can see it in the distance).
I won't quit taking pictures of Elder Blain doing stuff like perfecting his shot so he can shoot with the best of 'um in the family when he returns off the mission
Fancy arm and foot work and more ballet moves.  He's "up and doing," right?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The King James Bible Celebration--400 Years!

My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.  Psalms 145:21 (KJV)

 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.  The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, article 8.

 Chorley Stake held a wonderful celebration commemorating the 400th year of the King James Version of the Bible.  It was a glorious evening with NO RAIN (prayers answered)!  Today (the next day) it has poured all day.  I personally believe Heavenly Father doesn't like anything to rain on his parade--or production.  It went off without a hitch and I'm sure He was very pleased.

After the choral event, there was a fireside presentation by Bible scholars and researchers.  They have been documenting the lives of all the men who served on the committees to bring forth the King James Bible.  Fascinating history it is.  If you want to study more of it, type into your search engine: "King James Bible 400-year celebration."  That should get you to one of the King James Bible trust sites.
The choir members at the 400-year celebration wore these roses on white blouses.  I took this picture while it was still on a choir member.  I'll go to any length to get a good flower picture, huh?

1611-2011 King James Bible
An original page of the 1611 King James Bible
The King James Bible weighed 40 pounds!  Think of carrying that around to meetings!
Elder Blain was privileged to hold it!
One of our mission's senior missionaries was also a choir member--such dedication and service!  We were fortunate to hear the choir practicing for this concert for several months now every Sunday night while we were in the building for YSA.  It has been a truly memorable and spiritual experience.  My favorite piece was "He Watching Over Israel," from Medelssohn's "Elijah, No. 29."  He, watching over Israel slumbers not, nor sleeps . . .
The choir is under the tent, but we could still hear them really well.  It was an outdoor concert.  This is the VIP section.  We were on this hill, which actually gave us a wonderful view of the sky and green hill.  The combination of the beautiful music and these outdoors made it a heavenly experience.

Beloved ward members from Newcastle Ward where we served previously.  It was exciting to see familiar faces and have a reunion at this wonderful event.

There were many displays at the commemoration.  These are just some of them.  The multi-colored one is the Young Women values colors.
Future suggestions:  Leave the fisherman out of the boat so it doesn't block the beautiful picture behind it.

There were clouds, but they looked like they were pushed out away from the area where the concert was.  These were shots of the temple going into the concert and leaving.