Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Blessing- Week 105

As I have prayed and thought and reflected I continually question how I can put into words all that I have felt, experienced, learned, grown, and changed to be forever a better man and friend over the last two years?
I am now and will be eternally grateful for how the Lord has infinitely blessed me. I will share just four ways from this last week:

Miracle #1:
We met Alex last week, and truly it was a miracle of itself how God's timing is always so perfect and led us together, for only a few minutes and were able to set an appointment to come back and see him. We met him while we were out with Kherissa last week so she came with us again to visit him and it was such a happy and simple and really spiritual experience. God's love was manifested to each of us as we talked about simple truths of the reality and love of God, Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, of prayer, of the Book of Mormon and all scripture, and especially of the importance and blessings of family. He is from Africa and primarily speaks French but is incredible fluent in English and has only been here for about 8 months. It was such a powerful reminder to me of God's love and of the simplicity and beauty of His gospel for which I am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed.

Miracle #2:
One of the summer sales guys in the ward is Allen and he met with missionaries last summer, attended a YSA and family ward when he went home over the year and is talking with us again and we've had some really spiritual visits together that have uplifted and edified us all and caused an increase of each of our faith and in that process we have built a tremendous relationship of love and trust and he texted us randomly on Monday and asked if he could call. We were out for dinner but were able to take his call right there and then and he asked us some great questions that he said he feels is at the root of some of his hold backs with completely joining himself to the Church through baptism and confirmation and they are questions that he has had for a long time but hasn't felt comfortable sharing with others or talking with missionaries about them but because of his trust and the spiritual nature of our relationship he feels ready to talk about some of those questions and sincerely seek and learn answers. That friendship is one that the Lord has made possible for which I am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed.

Miracle #3:
John moved from his apartment this last week into a home and asked for our help so we and one of his friends, Jamison, were all able to go and try to do some good. While we were helping him move we watched him put a few things in his backpack and lastly he took his Book of Mormon and set it gently on top. We inquired about it and he said he has only read a few versus but loved it and is so excited to read it and wants to have easy access and keep it with him. After everything was moved and done we were able to stand and talk with John and Jamison and through the conversation we mentioned something about how important it is to have a change of nature and not just a change of behavior and a couple minutes after that John stopped us all and said "You said something interesting there that I want to talk about more..." So we were able to have a beautiful talk about  conversion, about Christ, about change and repentance and the role of the Book of Mormon in such a change and each of us in one way or another shared stories and experiences about times where our nature was changed and not just our behavior. They both agreed to come to church and seem enthusiastic about learning more and diving into the Book of Mormon. The Lord truly has prepared them and was there, for which I am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed.

Miracle #4:
One of the members of our ward told us of a woman she knows named Jackie and of her family of 5 children and how she has been to church several times before, how she has a Book of Mormon and her son has already begun reading it, how she has seen parts of general conference twice and how she is from Uganda and has a beautiful story. So we had the pleasure of getting in contact with her and set up a time that we could meet her and her family and learn of their story and talk more about the Savior and His Church and the Book of Mormon. She would go with her family to a family ward and not to the University Ward with us so we went with the Elders that she would be able to meet with and go to church with in the future. We were able to go and met all of her beautiful little kids and we talked with them while Jackie went in the kitchen and made us all breakfast. We were able to talk with all of them together about the Restoration of the gospel, of Joseph Smith's experience seeing God our Heavenly Father and His Son the promised Messiah Jesus Christ, of the true power of prayer and the miracles that come from God, and of the Book of Mormon. She had already read from the Book of Mormon that morning, two of her girls downloaded the gospel library app we felt the Spirit all together so tangibly. I know that families are ordained of God and that all of this is true. I've given my life to it and for it the last two years and am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed and feel all I can do is give everything I have for the rest of my life. May God bless each of us with His love and to walk in the light, as He is in the light, in our path and journey through mortality back to Him.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Blessing- Week 104

Bike week! Oh, the inspiration of President Mansell under the direction of the Lord, I am so grateful for it! We love to bike as it is but we saw even more miracles than usual this week because of the unique opportunity to have our car grounded and to either bike or get a ride with a member to wherever we were going. I wish I had the time to go through miracle after miracle of biking all week but I think my favorite series of miracles took place on Wednesday night.
We had biked to the institute building and were walking all through campus, talking with everyone we could spot and we came across one of the recent converts of our ward, Emmerson! She hasn't been able to come to church in a couple of months because of work so we got to walk with her to her work at Sonic and Wednesday was their special $0.99 hot dog deal so we each ordered one of those and they had ran out o buns and different things and it took about a half hour for us to get our hot dogs so it was great opportunity to be able to talk with her, particularly about her recent studies from the Book of Mormon. While we were there we got to see two other people we've met before and were able to set up an appointment with them! We were going out with a member at 6:00 so with the slight delay at Sonic we realized we would be late and were going to call Kherissa to let her know we might be a couple of minutes late but weren't able to do that because I discovered that I didn't have the phone. 
We left at 5:55 and began running the mile and a half to try to make it back to the institute building on time and passing through campus we stopped by the bench I last remembered using the phone at and it was still there! We got back to the institute building at 6:03, a sweaty mess and talked with Kherissa about our plans for the night and because she is a lone female we couldn't ride with her so we gave her directions to where we were going and took off biking to meet her there! 
She followed us and we went to see a girl named Taylor that we had met a couple months ago and felt inspired to go try and knocking on her door another young woman named Kelly, from Cameroon Africa and we got to talk with her instead for about 40 minutes and learned of some of her life story and experiences and were able to share the Book of Mormon with her and had a really spiritual experience all together. 
We left there and began walking back to visit someone else and stopped to talk with another guy, William, by commenting on his shoes and asking about them which led to him sharing with us his story about playing football in college and then having a cancerous tumor and how upset he was with God and about a young girl nearly 8 years old who was at the hospital also with cancer who became his best friend and supporter and turned him back toward God and several weeks after he was healed and cancer free she passed away and we were able to share the Book of Mormon with him also and had another spiritual experience with him.
Still on our walk over to see this person we had originally planned to see, we stopped and began talking with a man named Alex who was carrying a little girl. We learned that he is from Greece and the girl is his girlfriend's daughter and he asked what we were doing so we let him know a little bit about us and what we were doing and that as missionaries we get to help people come closer to God and to build their faith in Christ and how we are visiting a lot of people throughout the complex and asked if we could come visit he and his girlfriend and he cheerfully set a time with us that we could come over. 
It was such a fun and miraculous night and I am grateful for the opportunity to  only bike, to work more with these remarkable members of Christ's Church, and to sacrifice and show Heavenly Father our love and dedication to Him and we were greatly blessed to see so many miracles that night and all through out the week, this is His work of blessing and exalting souls.

Keep the Faith,
Elder Ricks

The Blessing- Week 103

Taelor-In zone conference last week, we received training and had a council about Finding and Elder Van Alfen and I got really excited about everything that was said so we have begun talking with all of the members of the ward about all of it and were able to share some of the things we learned last week at dinner with Tyson and Will. Through the discussion they began to recall experiences from their missions and Tyson began sharing some of the things he has been trying to do to share the gospel with his classmates and coworkers and out of nowhere Will exclaimed "Wow, I suck. I am a terrible member missionary..." Elder Van Alfen and I explained to them that at the beginning of the transfer we wanted to bring two individuals into the fold through the waters of baptism, one of them we knew, the other we didn't know yet. As we talked about this, we learned that Will and I have the same amount of time left in Oklahoma and we decided all together that we would find someone to teach and baptize into Christ's Church and they will find someone who can be taught and baptized into Christ's Church before we go home. We were all really excited about the goals we set together and we left that dinner with a fire and excitement to find those that the Lord has prepared. 
We began praying, they began praying, that we could all have the success in the Lord that we felt the Spirit testified to us that we could be apart of.
Tyson came teaching with us this last Tuesday and our appointment at 6:00 fell through and we felt prompted and decided to go try an investigator, whom we haven't been able to get a hold of or see for the last 3 weeks, before our next appointment.
We arrived and knocked on the door and a girl answered. We began talking with her and learned quickly of a terrible car accident she was in about 3 weeks ago and it could've/should've been a lot worse than it was, about how she hadn't been to church in quite a while and couldn't find one that she wanted to be apart of or had time for, about how she hasn't felt happy for the last three years-since she was in high school and was with a good group of friends who went to a Bible study together every morning at 6:00 am, and about how she lived several years in Idaho next to a Mormon family whom became dear family friends and who her sister had been visiting for 2 months this summer and was supposed to fly in the next day and how they had gone to church with them several times while they lived in Idaho. We relayed a favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon with her and offered her the book which she took with a heart full of thanks and excitement exclaiming, "I will definitely read this, I can't wait. I think my accident was God slapping me on the hand and letting me know He is ready to have a deeper and greater relationship again and it's time for me to find my way back."

John, Gina, and Elizabeth- A couple weeks ago we met John and in a miraculous way he invited us over so we took the opportunity and just last night we were able to go back to see him and were privileged, by God's grace and mercy and perfect timing to meet his girlfriend and one of his friends and taught them of the restoration of our Lord's Church and Kingdom on the earth. They soaked it all up, asked great questions, and expressed great thanks for sharing everything we did and for giving each of them their own Book of Mormon.

Biking Miracle- Our Mission President has issued a mission-wide bike week for this week starting yesterday so we got out of our visit with John, Gina, and Elizabeth at about 9:20 and had a 5 mile bike ride home so we took off cooking and actually made great time! On the road at 9:45 we were at the last stretch, just over a quarter of a mile away from our apartment so I turned and yelled to Elder Van Alfen, "Beat me home!!" he looked at me, slightly confused and concerned saying "There's cars?!" I responded with a gentle and loving "Sissy!!" he took off and I turned back around and just as I did so my front tire began grinding on the side of the curb and I knew it was imminent so I had to decide if I was going to fall to the left into the road or to the right onto the side walk...Recognizing what Elder Van Alfen had said about cars I quickly opted to fall to the right and gracefully went slightly over my handle bars and my shoulder met the ground and I skipped for a second and proceeded to slide on the ground on my shoulder and my back for about 5 yards.:) Now, there are two miracles to this story! #1 It was the first bike crash I have had as a missionary so I made it 1 year and 52 weeks without wrecking which is a mighty miracle of itself!! #2 I was totally fine and my bike still works great and I was worried that if I beat Elder Van Alfen home that he would be slightly upset but instead he got to laugh a little bit and beat me home so on all accounts we are blessed and it was a miracle haha:)

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Blessing- Week 102

Edmond is Zion, heaven, the courts of glory, paradise, etc. I am convinced that this is the best place and these are the best people under the heavens! As always, there are more miracles and blessings than I can count or that I can recount, especially by way of email but this week, the greatest miracle of all has been conversion and excitement in myself and Elder Van Alfen and in the lives of nearly everyone in the ward and in our area!

What a spectacle it has been to witness the last two months of Ashanti's stunning and miraculous conversion. She has been one of God's elect and it has been such a blessing to be able to see her excitement and love of the gospel grow and flourish until she has been brim with joy and overflowing with excited anticipation for her baptism. She was baptized last night and was so calm and at peace and full of gratitude and joy for all the Lord has done for her throughout her life and especially the last couple of months. Conversion is the most incredible, uniting, and beautiful miracle to witness.

I know this is the Lord's work and I've been able to feel an ever increasing abundance of God's love and Spirit this last week. I know of the power of the Sacrament and of prayer and study and faith and repentance and baptism and other covenants with the Divine and of the power which is in Christ.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

 Elder Van Alfen, Ashanti's mother, Ashanti, Elder Yamane, and Elder Ricks

Six months ago I was so blessed to serve with Elder Yamane and now I receive the special blessing of being served by Elder Yamane as he is now my District Leader! I love him so much and was grateful that he was the one who was able to talk with Ashanti personally, on Friday before her baptism yesterday, in the way the Savior would in seeking out her story of conversion and being able to witness that she truly is repentant and prepared to be baptized into the Lord's Church and Kingdom here on the earth. With such a sacred experience, Ashanti asked Elder Yamane to baptize her and it was such a spiritual evening!

The Blessing- Week 101

The field is white, already to harvest, I can see it and I know it and I believe Christ in every word and promise He has ever made. In John 4:31-38, Jesus taught this truth and promised that we aren't here to sow now and reap in four months, but that instead we are sent to reap now and in the process of reaping, naturally and immediately sowing becomes a byproduct. I know that there are still people that the Lord, in His infinite love and wisdom, has prepared personally and through others of His children for Elder Van Alfen and I to bring into His harvest of souls. A couple weeks ago, Elder Van Alfen and I prayerfully sought the Lord's will and felt encouraged by a heaven sent thought that we knew of one individual, Ashanti, who is coming unto Christ through faith and baptism unto repentance and that there is one other individual, currently unknown to us, who is also prepared to come unto Christ this month through faith and baptism unto repentance.

We have been able to see God's mighty hand in so many ways and be the beneficiaries and witnesses of so many miracles. One particular miracle that touched me this week was our experience with John. We felt impressed to go to an apartment complex and try a few people we had previously met and talked with, the first didn't answer and we walked out to go to the next and casually began conversation with John about his hair and how long he had been growing it out. Without more than a three sentence conversation, he said "Do you want anything ot eat or drink? I am getting my mail right now but you are welcome to meet me back at my apartment to talk." Frankly, I was shocked and I'm sure I looked as dumbfounded as I sounded when we stumbled with a response that we were going to try one of our friends from our congregation and then we would be happy to meet him at his apartment. We tried this young couple, again to no avail, and with a prayer of thanksgiving went to John's apartment where we were able to have a 45 minute conversation about where his faith and relationship with God are at and he inquired about the one thing he had heard about Mormon's, being baptized on behalf of the deceased. After an explanation about prophets and temples and about that glorious doctrine and piece of God's plan for each of our salvation, he was nodding his head in absolute agreement and told us it just makes sense. "...the Lord is preparing people to receive you and the restored gospel. He will lead you to them or He will lead them to you." Preach My Gospel ch. 9

This really is the work of our Heavenly Father, the field truly is white already to harvest, and I am grateful to be on His errand.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Blessing- Week 100

Well, I am shocked again that it is already time to be sending this email and I feel so blessed because of the blessed and wonderful companionship and friendship I had with Elder Burrows and the miracles we were able to see together and now Elder Van Alfen is a stunning missionary and an immediate best friend and it feels that this week was just filled with deep rooted conversions and God's perfect guidance and timing to produce mighty miracles. 

Heavenly Father's perfect guidance and timing to produce mighty miracles:
The very first day Elder Van Alfen and I were together and got to campus, we saw immediate blessings and miracles that can be attributed only to God's supreme and masterful plan and how He directs and guides His children with perfect timing.
Emmerson-We were walking on campus for no more than 4 minutes before we spotted Emmerson who was baptized last October so we ran to her and were able to walk with her to her apartment and had a great visit with her outside for about ten minutes to feel the Spirit and God's love altogether.

Paydon-We met Paydon a few weeks ago on campus and played basketball with him and then talked about the Book of Mormon and Restoration of the gospel and he was so intrigued and we were able to set up a time to come visit him but with some things coming up we weren't able to go visit him then and couldn't get a hold of him by texting or calling so immediately after we finished talking with Emmerson, we turned around and walked for 90 seconds when we say Paydon playing basketball and not realizing it was him at first we looked at each other and hurried our way over to him to see if we could play and to my great surprise it was in fact him and we got to play again and talk a little bit more after playing and set another appointment and nothing will get in the way of it this time:) haha 

Kirk-Just as we finished playing our game with Paydon, as the winning shot was taken, Kirk was walking passed the court on the sidewalk and saw me and we had met a week and a half ago and he called out and said "Hey, is that Elder Rick?!" (Haha it is a common occurrence for others to forget I have an s at the end of my name:)) so while I went to talk with him for a few minutes and we set up a time to get together for a lesson, Elder Van Alfen kept talking with Paydon and it was just miraculous all the people we had previously met that God placed in our path once again within a half hour of each other. This morning, walking to the library, we saw Kirk again and he is looking forward to us coming over to visit him and share with him the Restored gospel.
Deep rooted conversions:
Ashanti-She has been so prepared and has been one of God's elect the whole time we've been able to teach her but I can't believe how deep her conversion is getting and the passion and excitement that has filled her this last week. I'm not sure what happened and can describe it in no other way than that the Spirit of God, like a fire, is burning within her and she is so anxious for her upcoming baptism and taking so many strides towards that remarkable and sacred experience.

Alice-Gave a talk in sacrament meeting and was the highlight of the entire meeting. Her testimony is so powerful and she declares the stark contrast and blessing of having the gift of the Holy Ghost in comparison to not having it and she is gaining so much confidence that can come only by living the principles of the gospel and coming to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Scott-Has returned to the Church and come back into activity for the last six months after 16 years of inactivity and he too bears such a powerful and sincere testimony of the power, mercy, and divinity of Christ and he received the Melchizedek Priesthood at Church yesterday before he moves to Arizona this week to begin his career after finishing residency. He really and truly is a brilliant example of Christlike love and light and he radiates both of those things wherever he stands.

Hannah-Received her patriarchal blessing yesterday and is so strong. I've talked about her in every one of my emails I think for the last two months and I still can't say the smallest part of just how miraculous and deep her conversion is. If you took away every single other piece of evidence or thoughts or feelings that confirm, by the Spirit, the reality of God, then looking only at Hannah and the story of her conversion and the true and everlasting joy that rests within her soul, then you will have seen and felt enough to know that God is and that He loves His children, every one. 

I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father and am so full of gratitude and joy.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Blessing- Week 99

My heart is full and my words insufficient to express my love and gratitude to God for the many tender mercies and miracles I've been so blessed to see and be apart of.


Elder Burrows- After three incredible months, having so much fun and seeing so many miraculous things together, I thankfully get to think back on all the things that Elder Burrows has taught me and helped me with since I got to this area and it's tremendous to me how the Lord has used Elder Burrows as an instrument in my own spiritual growth and path to perfection. I love him so much and am so grateful for his companionship and for all that God has done to strengthen and bless us. I have been so blessed my entire mission with the best companion's that can be given, oh how I love my companion and how I love this work.:)

Elder Van Alfen-I learned of who my new companion will be for my last transfer as a full-time, tag on your chest, missionary in Christ's Church and am so excited to be with him! He has been out for a little over 10 months, is from Eagle, Idaho, and is absolutely incredible!!:) I got to serve around him for a time while I was in the Village and just can't wait for all that I will be able to learn and experience with him over the next 6 weeks and the people we are working with and will be able to work with this next transfer. I feel confident in the expectation that this will be the best 6 weeks of my life and I want to cherish every moment of it. We are going to work harder, be more obedient, and have more fun than either of us ever have on our missions and I couldn't be more excited to end my mission with him.:) 

Hannah-Wow, she has been and continues to be such a great source of strength and faith and Christlike discipleship and convicted testimony of the Savior and I still stand in aw, among everyone else who has met her, at the conversion she is having and the way our Heavenly Father is working in and through her. In an opportunity that was unplanned by us but prepared by God, we had a lesson with Ashanti yesterday at the church and Hannah was the teacher the entire time in sharing her unique conversion story and filling every heart with the Spirit of God and with His pure, all encompassing love in a way that has touched us so many times before and again then and in a way that really and truly has now changed Ashanti's entire life which will extend into all eternity.

Ashanti-This last week we were able to visit Ashanti a couple times and in such a spiritually moving way and in her sincere desire to follow Christ, she has decided with a surety that she wants to be baptized and is planning to have that sacred ordinance take place on July 8, just a few weeks away. I just marvel at the way that God loves each of us as His children and how He wants every good thing for us. I have learned so much about His nature and goodness and mighty and miraculous power since arriving to this area and seeing time, and time again, His power and love in this work that is His. I know with a certainty that it is His work and that no unhallowed hand can frustrate or stop my God and Friend, the Creator and Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Blessing- Week 98

What a blessed week in Oklahoma!

This week we were so fortunate to have a visiting General Authority Seventy and his wife come to our mission for a mission tour and then after that he actually presided over our stake conference this weekend as well! It was truly a week of edification, sanctification, renewal, inspiration, spiritual confirmation, and testimonial growth. I loved each and every minute!

Ashanti is still progressing so much and making decisions that are propelling her to true conversion and eternal life which is such a miraculous process to witness. I will never grow weary of seeing the Lord's hand and power in my life and in others lives as He guides us on the paths of eternity. There were so many other people we got to see and other miracles we were blessed to witness and be apart of but primarily today I wanted to share a couple of the things that I learned from this week of ministering from on High.

Elder and Sister Echo Hawk are both converts to the church and speak with such love, respect, and reverence towards the missionaries and the members who played such an influential role in their conversion. As they bore testimony of this conversion they experienced, they invited the Spirit in all that they did and said particularly as they testified of the power of the Book of Mormon and as they said something that will forever echo in depth of my soul. In speaking of those missionaries that taught them and helped them in their conversion Elder Echo Hawk said "I would like to be a witness for my two missionaries at the judgement day." This one line, I feel, will have changed my life forever more. The Spirit bore witness of it to me and in a flood of thoughts and emotions I began thinking of those who have played such a profound role in my life, namely my parents, and thought to myself, "I would like to stand as a witness for my mom and my dad at the judgement day." That thought continued to develop and I thought more of others who played a role in the conversion of my life to this point and I realized I want to stand as a witness for each of them and my thoughts on the subject concluded with the realization that I hope and pray that I can live the kind of life that those around me will be able to see and witness a very real, physical and spiritual change, that they can see my life from the beginning, see the flaws and weaknesses and shortcomings and witness the desires of my heart and my nature begin to change into a character of pure love and discipleship, a truly Christlike life, countenance, and reflection permeate my entire being so that others will be able to stand as a witness for me at the last day that they have truly seen and witnessed a mighty change in me to the point that I have no more desire or disposition to do evil but to do good continually because I will give all my sins to feel the power of the Holy Ghost that I may know the Almighty, my Heavenly Father and my Savior and Friend.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

PS: Hannah was in Texas this weekend and went to church down there. She looked on LDS tools and learned that the ward meets at 1:00 so she arrived, ready for church, and walked into a chapel where there was seemingly nothing going on because there were just a few people standing and talking. She thought maybe she had seen the wrong time or went to the wrong place and knocked on one of the doors where a couple of Priesthood leaders were standing and talking together. She inquired about the meeting telling them she had just recently joined the church a couple weeks ago and it was her first time there and they informed her that she was at the right place and the right time but it was stake conference that day for them so it was over now but that there was someone she needed to meet so they walked her into another room where she met Quentin L. Cook and was able to sit down and talk with him for 15 or 20 minutes. She recounted her conversion story to him and she was struck at the love and brightness and genuineness of that man. Two weeks as a member and she meets an apostle and is able to have a sit down conversation with him, I promise you with how miraculous this whole thing has been that the Lord is preparing Hannah for His great and eternal purposes and we can't wait to see what those things will be!

The Blessing- Week 97

Miracles on Miracles!! I love these people and I love this work and I love this ward/area and I love the feelings of the Spirit of the gospel and I love to love! I am convinced that there is nothing in all this world that can bring greater joy, satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose, and  success to anyone leading up to the time that individual begins his or her own family. 

Immediately after Hannah's baptism last Sunday, Bishop was able to visit with her and gave her her temple recommend. It just so happens that for the last several months a ward temple baptism trip has been planned for this last Wednesday, three days after Hannah's stunning baptism, and she was able to go with the ward to the temple to do baptisms for those who have passed on and not had an opportunity to accept the fullness of Christ and His everlasting gospel. God's timing is just impeccable and unparalleled. It was amazing and she was just beaming and couldn't stop smiling from ear to ear the entire time that we were there. Just a few days before we were able to witness the Spirit and joy of the gospel consume Hannah in that hallowed place, we were able to see the same affects happen with two other individuals that have become so dear and near to my heart as well. We were privileged to have been invited by David in the Village ward and Alice in the Norman YSA ward to be able to go to the temple with them to witness the same ordinances and the same special Spirit and joy in the House of the Lord. 

There is so much happening here right now and I am just so grateful and I love and marvel at the opportunity to be apart of such a work that is so much greater than myself. I feel no more and no less the joy and gratitude of Ammon, one of the great missionary heroes and representatives of Jesus Christ, as he expressed the feelings of his heart in the entirety of Alma chapter 26. I love those words and I too feel to sing the song of redeeming love "Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

The Blessing- Week 96

Wow...This had to be the most insane and miraculous week of my mission and if not then it is certainly one of them.
Let me tell you a little bit about Hannah and her quest in seeking to find and know Jesus Christ and to follow Him and the pure and absolute miracle of conversion that has transpired for her and in her over the last 3 weeks.

Sometime prior to May 5, Landon arrives to Oklahoma as a summer sales representative and through a funny story is able to meet Hannah but only through skype.

Saturday May 6: Hannah and Landon meet in person for the first time and Hannah notices something different and special about him for a number of reasons so she inquires about it and he is able to offer a simple and somewhat casual testimony/response which led to her telling him that she wanted to come to his church, check it out, and learn more because she was just intrigued.
Sunday May 7: She came to church with him for her very first time in an LDS church service, Landon introduced us to her and she absolutely loved every minute of the entire three hours. (Unexpectedly, that morning, without us or Bishop knowing that Hannah would be coming to church that day, Bishop texted us and asked us to teach gospel principles class which was essentially on the Restoration of the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ.) She was mesmerized by it all and later asked Landon if she could come back with him the next week.

Sunday May 14: They came together again and after gospel principles class we were able to sit down with her and had our first lesson together and it was one of the most spiritual visits I've ever had. She asked us a lot of questions which we worked at answering and essentially just ended up talking about Christ and His power and about the miracle of conversion in which we were able to share personal stories of. She would make comments such as "I'm not saying I am converting, yet, but..." or "Growing up my faith would teach ..... but I love that you believe ....." and other things similar to that. We left, simply inviting her to read 3 Nephi 11 from the Book of Mormon. In a Spirit guided fashion, we told her that we wouldn't invite her to convert or to be baptized at any time unless we were absolutely overwhelmed by the Holy Ghost because we knew and were confident that she would feel the Spirit and be invited by the real teacher, when the time was right and when she was prepared to take that step and it would be something that she would just want to do to follow Christ and commit to Him.

Monday May 15: We had a lesson all together at Landon's apartment and once again had an equally spiritual visit as we answered more of her questions and talked about accepting Christ's invitation to throw the net to the other side, to love Him, feed His sheep, and to follow Him. She had read 3 Nephi 11 and continued reading through to 4 Nephi. We invited her to continue reading and praying.
Tuesday May 16: We had another lesson all together at Landon's apartment and taught about our Heavenly Father's plan for our salvation and happiness and success and she loved every second of it and we had, yet again, such a powerful and spiritual experience together and it left me stunned. She had read from the Book of Mormon for over 3 hours that day out of her own personal curiosity and desire. We invited her to continue reading and praying and she would make comments such as "I think it is just the greatest thing in all the world that you believe we can be sealed with our families for eternity" with the biggest, happiest smile from ear to ear.

The rest of the week she had job interviews in Chicago and Edmond because she just graduated college that week with a graphic design degree so she kept reading and praying and pondering on her own and talking with Landon and doing all she could to continue learning more. At various times her father would send her some anti-Mormon things simply out of love for her and because he doesn't know what we really believe but only what he had heard from others and from online. None of it ever phased her though because she was learning and seeking for herself and asking us all of the questions and seeking the guidance and inspiration of our Father in Heaven.

Sunday May 21: They came to church for the third time together and that night we met at the temple and sat on the steps of the temple as we had, yet again, one of the most spiritual visits I could imagine and had experienced. She had begun saying things like "Our faith..." or "I used to believe ...." and she would talk about "conversion" and "baptism" and ask questions about those things. We answered more of her questions and continued teaching the doctrine of Christ and we, still hadn't invited her to baptism but it was apparent that the Spirit had already touched her, pricked her heart, and invited her to be baptized so we inquired about her feelings and, being absolutely overwhelmed by the Spirit, followed up her words of desire and commitment by encouraged her to pursue this course and to do as the Spirit invited  her to do just as Alma invited the people at the waters of Mormon to be willing to bear others burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, stand as a witness of God at all times and in all places and to clap her hands for joy because this was exactly the very desire of her heart.

Monday May 22: Hannah's father sent her a lot of online anti-Mormon things which stated that we in no way were Christian but instead that we worship Satan and praise Joseph Smith and think we could replace God and a number of other things and we had emailed and told our Mission President, President Mansell, about her and we talked with him about what was going on and he actually lives in Edmond also and invited us and Hannah and Landon to come over to his house for a lesson that night so that's what we did. We addressed some of Hannah's questions and she said "I know it's true and I believe it and I am only asking the questions so when other people ask me what I believe or about our faith I can tell them the answer like how you have been doing it for me." She didn't have any concerns, no doubt about any of the things she had been sent and heard. In 8th grade she was at a Bible camp and read Matthew 5:48 which reads "Be ye therefor perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." She saw that it said perfect and asked one of the camp ministers about it and he told her not to ask questions like that and that perfect didn't really mean perfect like God but instead that it is absolutely impossible for us to be perfect like Him. She shared that with us after we had already gone over the beautiful doctrine of Deification and she was astonished and so pleased that the question she had asked in 8th grade was finally answered and that the answers came from the scriptures and that it made sense and felt right. We talked about a number of other things and concluded by watching Elder Holland's April 2016 General Conference address "Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You" and it was such a spiritual experience once again. It was amazing how President Mansell was able to say just a few short things and offer a fatherly perspective and give that kind of advice and comfort and counsel.

Tuesday May 23: She went back home to Fort Worth Texas with her family. She learned that she received both of the jobs that she had interviews with in Chicago and miraculously everything was smooth and loving and went well with her family.

Thursday May 25: We received a phone call and learned that Hannah wanted to be baptized that weekend. In a state of awe and excitement and thanksgiving and praise at the hand of the Lord in Hannah and each of our lives, we began making all of the plans and the arrangements for her baptism to take place on Sunday, May 28.

Friday May 26: We had another lesson all together in Landon's apartment and in standard fashion the Spirit was so powerful and tangible and we were able to have a beautiful visit, talking about the last three weeks and the miracle of each event and about the requirements of baptism and going over the questions of the "baptismal interview" (really it's just a sacred and spiritual testimony meeting that a missionary or the mission president gets to be apart of). By this point she has read over half the Book of Mormon and has it all marked up with incredible insights and we invited her to read Joseph Smith History and to look for the nature of God in this account of what is, in all reality, the second most sacred and most important event that has happened in the history of the world, after the first and greatest and most important event that of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. She told us that she wanted President Mansell to baptize her so we got to listen as she called him and asked him to baptize her and you could hear him begin to cry and he said he would be honored and so happy to do that and that he was so proud of her. After they hung up she sat for a moment and began to tear up as she expressed that she really enjoyed and needed to hear that he was proud of her as a kind of father figure because her father isn't supporting her in this and hasn't said that he is proud of her and it was such a tender and spiritual moment to feel that kind of love that surpasses all natural love and moves into the realm of pure and true and Christlike love that only our Father can give.

Saturday May 27: We met Hannah at the church and talked about the Joseph Smith story and how it all points to God and how it restored and helps us to understand His character and nature. She then had her interview and we went to Landon's apartment for one last, wonderful visit before her baptism the next day. The most powerful words that I've ever heard out of an investigator came in a request that she made to Landon, Elder Burrows, and myself. I won't go into them yet, because she also made the same request to everyone who attended her baptism.

Sunday May 28: They came to church for the fourth time now and it was exactly 21 days from the day we first met her until then. It was another incredible church experience and it was amazing, the lesson in gospel principles was all about baptism. It wasn't man inspired and worked out just too perfectly to merely be a coincidence.  
President and Sister Mansell invited Hannah and Landon and Elder Burrows and I over for dinner at their house before the baptism so we went there for dinner and then left to the church for the most spiritual baptism I've ever been apart of. After she had gotten dressed in white we went to take some pictures and she just broke down. She was so happy. She walked about half way down the hall from us and just fell on her knees and started praying. She is a miracle. She asked for some time to get up and speak before the baptism was preformed, and when she did so she rocked everyone's world. She read out of Mosiah 18 specifically, these verses:

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts

She bore such powerful testimony that she was clapping her hands for joy and that this was the intent of her heart. She then made the request. She asked that her story be told, but insisted that it was for a specific purpose. She asked that we never share her story to glorify Her, or Landon, or us as the missionaries who got to teach her, but that we share her story as a testament that people can change and hearts can be softened and to glorify our Savior Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. She insisted that she would never be a Mormon. She insisted that all she wanted was to learn more, but as she read the pages in The Book of Mormon, as she prayed and received answers to prayers, as she sincerely attended church, the Lord changed her. In 3 weeks, to the day, the Lord changed her. That is why I just wrote you all this novel (Sorry about that). I testify that people can change, and hearts can be softened. I wanted you all to hear her story so that I can make it very clear that I know that He lives. So I can make it very clear that I know that the power of Christ's atoning sacrifice is real. He is the Master Teacher. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. I hope you can feel the same and I hope that you can feel how much I love being a missionary. I can't believe the miracles that have happened in front of my eyes and I can't believe how fast the end is chapter is coming. This work is the Lord's, He lives and His love suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. Of Jesus Christ whom has changed me and whom I represent and of these simple truths I know, feel, and bare solemn witness of.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Blessing- Week 95

I stand all amazed, I marvel, and I think of the One that this is all about. I am in awe always when I look at the power, glory, Spirit, splendor and miracles of this work that He is is directing, upholding, and flourishing. It was such a spiritual week for me as I was able to participate in four of the most spiritual and emboldening lessons I have ever been apart of. I know with a certainty that the Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that the work of man cannot and will not frustrate the work of the Lord, meaning, even when I say something wrong, the Spirit changes the things I say from the time it leaves my mouth to the time they hear it to the very exact thing they need to hear, know, and feel. I've seen it and I've felt it.

Monday-We visited with her and talked a little bit about what we do and we aligned visions about what we expect and what she expects out of being able to visit together and just had great conversation with her.
Wednesday-We went over to her apartment with out Elders Quorum President and had a wonderful lesson with her about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and she was just soaking it all up. She has so many pure and true foundational beliefs that align perfectly with the doctrine of the scriptures and the Church and was so excited to have a Book of Mormon and to read 2 Nephi 31.
Sunday-She came to church with us yesterday and absolutely loved it. She was participating in everything and kept commenting about how much she was enjoying being there and how much she enjoyed all of the people and everything that was talked about and the whole nine yards. She even read 2 Nephi 31 between our visit and church yesterday. We fully expect her to make great strides in the gospel and is progressing so quickly to baptism it's remarkable!

Hannah and Landon:
Since last week we taught Hannah three times and had the most spiritual and inspirational visits in every single instance.
Monday- (Restoration at Landon's apartment)
Tuesday- (Plan of Salvation at Landon's apartment)
Friday- High hopes and good news! Hannah flew into Chicago for two job interviews since she just graduated college and she did incredible and got both of those offers which we were thrilled with and was an answer to her's and our own prayers but the icing on the cake will be when she finds out this week if she got a job in Edmond for another interview she had. We are confident she will get the job and will then have the option to stick around here if that's what she chooses to do.
Sunday- (Gospel of Jesus Christ at the temple)
As they talked about the potential for eternal families (her absolute favorite) it sparked a lot of questions about the temple. We had our lesson last night with her on the front steps at the temple. I wish I could express to you guys the spirit that was there, and the joy that we felt. I have seen some amazing miracles on my mission, but as the subject says, it just keeps getting better. I just keep getting happier. These people just keep moving forward. We taught The Gospel of Jesus Christ and along with teaching faith and repentance, the natural course was to teach about the sacred step of baptism. Hannah is the most sincere, and humble and contrite person. When we invited her to follow the example of Christ and be baptized she was SILENT for at least 20 seconds but felt like 9 years.. She then gave the most genuine and sincere "yes" that I have ever heard. The light switch entrance of the spirit doesn't happen too often. We are taught that more often than not it's like a sunrise. We got the light switch!! She has studied over half of The Book of Mormon already, and as any truth-seeker does, she knows that it's true with everything that she has. We never wanted to leave, but the most incredible part is to know that we aren't the source of her conversion. She told us last night that she never planned on a second lesson. She never planned on coming back to church. She sure didn't plan on accepting an invitation to be baptized. The way the Spirit works in her and the way she allows it to touch her is such a rare and special occurrence and experience. She is needed. I don't know why. I don't know what God has in store for her, but he has softened her heart. We have a great relationship with Hannah and Landon but that's not where her faith lies. She is moving back down to Dallas for the time being this Tuesday. Wherever she gets hired will depend on if we continue to see her progress, or if it's in Dallas, or Chicago. I have every bit of faith that she has truly "Felt to sing the song of redeeming love". Wherever she ends up is where her progress will take place but one thing is certain and that is that she will continue to progress and thrive in the gospel.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Blessing- Week 94

It was so sad, after finals were over there was a mass exodus of people packing up and heading out of school and Edmond back to wherever they call home for the summer so a lot of the people we have been meeting with and teaching we won't be able to visit again until they get back this fall. You could imagine it has been a fun week figuring out everyone that is staying that we can keep talking with over the summer and it's been truly amazing to feel the sustaining hand of the Lord as so many people have left, how He has provided us with so many opportunities and still so many people who have a desire to learn and to act on the path of faith and repentance leading to eternal life. 

One of those such people was Hannah who came to church with Landon again yesterday! Sacrament meeting was great and I always cherish that special time in the remembrance of Christ, sacred things, and spiritual renewal. In gospel principles class we talked about faith in Jesus Christ, and you could see and feel how much she was treasuring the words, testimonies, and power of the spirit that was there. Right after that we stayed in there with her and Landon and she began asking questions which developed into an experience where the Spirit was so present and tangible in talking about conversion and how families can be sealed for eternity that tears filled our eyes and warmth and light seemed to fill the room. She has such a firm testimony and confessed that the last 8 days of coming to church with us and talking with Landon and then us she has felt a great increase in her faith in Jesus Christ and joyfully asked for a Book of Mormon and with anticipation accepted the invitation to read 3 Nephi 11-28. 

I cannot deny the power of the Holy Ghost. I know that Jesus Christ lives and stands on the right hand of Power, our Eternal Heavenly Father seeking for ways to demonstrate His grace, mercy, love and to impart His wisdom and goodness upon each of us for our benefit, happiness, and success. I love them and I know that Christ's Church is on the earth, that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are in all matter of fact, the very word of God. I know it and I love it and I give thanks for it. What a special opportunity it was to visit with my family last night who I have been sealed to. I'm grateful for my angel mother and for each member of my family, they help me to feel a portion of God's true and pure love and the joy He must experience when we are seeking just do to good things. That's really what it is all about, family and love.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

 While we were texting all our potential investigators this was one of the texts we received from one of them!  It was pretty funny!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Blessing- Week 93

What an incredible week!

We talked with nearly the whole world this week, I'm nearly certain. We had our booth on campus three times this week and that is always one of the neatest and most personal and uplifting activities to talk with people and to build connections and relationships quickly. I absolutely love being able to talk with and relate to and teach and be uplifted with and share a spiritual experience with so many individuals who are my own age. It was the last week of school and everyone was trying to prepare for and cope with finals and many were also trying to make preparations to pack up and head home for the summer so we met a lot of people who asked us to call them and meet after finals were over, people who said we could call at the start of the fall semester, others who said we could send missionaries to talk with them again, we set a few appointments with some, but all in all it was and is the greatest thing to be able to talk with so many people and have such intimate and spiritual conversations centered on Christ and his ability to strengthen and enable and save us and for so many, we were able to talk with them abut how He can help them through their studies and testing and life as they take time to focus on Him. What a glorious thing to be able to witness as others faith is increased.

We saw so many miracles with so many of those individuals and the conversations we had but yesterday was something extra special. There are dozens and dozens of people showing up at our ward for summer sales and one of them, Landon, met a girl here in Oklahoma at a dance on Saturday night and after talking she, Hannah, told him she wanted to come to his church because he was so different. He doesn't drink or do drugs or sleep around and she just felt different around him and could just tell there was something different and special about him. So they walked in together and he introduced her to us and she enjoyed Sacrament meeting, Elder Burrows got to teach about the restoration of the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ in the latter-days and she was just glowing and so mesmerized through the entire class.

I was so fortunate and blessed to be able to go back to OU for Alice's baptism on Saturday and there was such a beautiful spirit felt there and she is so committed to following and learning and knowing our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. What a special and sacred and spiritual experience it was for me to be able to witness that and be apart of God's plan in bringing about His mighty purposes and blessings in her life.

The gospel is just so special. I love this work and I am so grateful I get to see Heavenly Father's mighty hand working for the success and happiness and salvation of us, His children.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks