Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The First and the Final -- 29 July 2014

The strangest feelings ever. Weird thoughts. Deep fear. Abiding hope. Going home... what?
Hello, All! This will be my last email to you as a missionary....
I think there's a lot I should say... there's definitely a lot that I could say... just...
Don't rob yourself.
There. That's what I would say.
If you're serving a mission, don't miss a minute, not a single moment, because the end comes---so much faster than you could ever bear to want it to. I think That's been the harshest reality of the past few days, the reality of the end.
But it's not really over, is it?
Honestly, when I'm home, you may not recognize me. You may not know who I am anymore, and I think that's okay. Maybe you won't like who I've become, or how I act differently. You might be surprised by my testimony, my maturity (one way or another), or how I look. I am different than before, you know---the things that were good are better. The things that were bad are slowly departing, and two years is a long time for medication to work its wonders on the human soul.
This really doesn't make any sense... :) Haha
I've been asked a lot the past few weeks what the biggest lessons I've learned are. If I could list them they'd look like this (color coded for your benefit):
1. It doesn't matter nearly as much what you do as it does who you are, because who you are will completely determine what you do.
2. Jesus Christ is the Son of God---that statement is too overused and not well enough understood, but it is eternally significant---essential, and it is He who has determined who we could, and should be.
3. The most important thing you can do is be obedient to everything that God asks you to do.
4. If you live by the power of the Holy Ghost, you will become who you are meant to be and do what you ought to be doing.
5. God's plan is bigger than our plan, and if His plan is more important to us than our plan, we will be bigger than we could ever dream in this life and in the next.
6. Understanding the first 5 things, means understanding that "giving up" your favorite sins, weaknesses, broken mission rules, and incorrect behaviors is an essential step to achieving complete joy in this life and eternal life in the next.
7. We are the sum total of the choices that we make.
8. We are all gods with the potential of being a lot bigger in this life than we allow ourselves to be.
9. We have the ability to choose who we will become.
10. We are our only limitation to our potential.
I feel like if you get this, you get why I've grown the way I've grown. If you don't get it, study it, because it will change your life.
Finally, I just want to say that I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ performed the Atonement---that He is who He says He is.
I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. Therefore, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom on the earth, and no man is capable of reaching heaven except through the authority that was restored to its first leaders through the prophet Joseph Smith---that authority, which came from Jesus Christ, is now held by Thomas S. Monson.
I will never forget or turn back.
I really really really love you all! See you soon.

Rock on. Believe Him.
Peace. Love. and Temple Marriage. In that order.

Your friend, servant, son, and brother,

Elder Taylor J. Hill

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Gift -- 21 July 2014

Today my cup feels a little like it's overflowing and a little like it is so empty.
Last night we went over to one of our investigator's homes. In the house there are 6 men. When we got there 3 of them were drunk, including our investigator. There was booze in their breath, eyes, speech, and walk... We went in, hoping to find one of them who was not quite so intoxicated (they're all potential investigators) and we sat down.  One of the brothers in the house commented to our investigator, "James (name changed), you are lucky to have people who love you. They come here because they love you. You are lucky."
You know, there is a lot that I could wish people to understand. I wish everyone understood the plan of salvation, or why having a family was such a blessing. I wish everyone understood that the book of mormon didn't take anything away from the bible. I wish everyone understood that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored, but if I had to pick and choose from one gift of understanding that I could possibly hope to help someone understand, it is that I am only ever there because I love them.
I do not ever want anyone to be confused about why I email, or talk, or do anything. I am obedient because I love you. I am an example because I love you. I am a friend because I love you. I am reliable because I love you. I preach the gospel because I love you. I speak of Christ in my emails instead of me because I love you.
1.      Love for Christ
2.      Love from Christ
  1. Love like Christ
Nephi was asked by the Spirit the difficult question, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?"
Honestly, I doubt Nephi even understood the word condescension. But this is how he responded, 17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
There is a gift that has been given to each of us. The gift that I have been experiencing every day of my mission---
16 ¶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.
I know this email maybe doesn't make a lot of sense... I know I don't always make a lot of sense... I know that I have my mistakes and faults and fears and wishes, and that my mistakes and wishes may be very different than yours, but if I could ask anyone to just understand one thing I would ask that they take the time to understand God's love. Love from Him. Love for Him. and Love like Him.
That is the true gift of missionary service, it is that we come to know God's love in God's way. I know that God lives. I know that He loves us. I know that he wants us to be happy. I know that I love Him. I know that I don't always show him my love the way I should. I know that He loves you, and if we will all turn to him, we will have his love in our hearts.

Q: So, Elder Hill, how do you feel about going home?
A: Honestly? Sometimes I'm excited, sometimes I'm just really sad, but mostly I just don't think about it very much. A scripture was once shared with me from the Doctrine and Covenants which in effect taught me to serve in every area like I'm never going to leave that area. To unpack my bags, settle in and work as though I'm going to be in that ward forever. It's the "middle of the mission" mentality. Heavenly Father has blessed me to not be very trunky, and to be able to focus on the work. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for that.
Q: Don't lie, Elder Hill! We know when it's quiet and you're on your own, you are just singing for joy! Isn't there something your excited for?
A: :) Absolutely. There's a lot I'm excited for. I'm excited to see my family, to be with my brother, to hug my momma, to meet my Sisters' fiance and my new brother in law, to eat Cafe Rio (!), to go to the temple every week, to prove that I can live this gospel every day, to be there for my friends, to sleep (cause that hasn't happened in a long time), to run (and not be fat at weak), and to work on a car with my dad again. 

Rock on. Peace, love, and temple marriage. In that order.

Elder Hill

Monday, July 14, 2014

This Is Insane -- 14 July 2014

This is insane.
But it is so beautiful.

God is so great.
And I have grown so much.
And I'm still not done. :)
I wish somehow that we could all have a moment to talk... about life. About how you are, and about how much you are loved by me. I wish we could sit and talk about what you want and where you're going and how you plan to get there and we could sit and have it like good old times, because I wish every day that I could be there for you like you've all been there for me. But, Honestly, I think you all know what I would say to you if we were talking. :) If I could possibly have a moment with you, I would want you just to know how much I love you and that I've got your back.

I really love you all. I think you ought to know that I know that the gospel is true. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I have learned by the power of the Holy Ghost that the book of Mormon is true, and that that book as brought me closer to God and to my savior Jesus Christ than any other book, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's church and kingdom on the earth.
If you have anything you want to talk with me about, you are always welcome to email me. Always. In fact, I love hearing from you, no matter what.

I love you so much. I'll see you all soon.

Rock on. Peace. Love. and Temple Marriage. In that order.

Elder Taylor J. Hill

Friday, July 11, 2014

Weddings, Weldings, Cows, and Calls -- 7 July 2014

Well, first item of business:  Congratulations to my older sister, Briana, who has just made the most important decision of her life in the right place, at the right time, with the right man. :)
My mission has taught me a lot about work. I've done farming, ranching, mechanical, and quite a few other forms of work. Missionary work is easy physically (as long as you do your 30 minutes of exercise and you stretch every time you work hard), but I'll tell you, the things we do for people!
Someday when I'm home and you're all asking me about my mission stories, you'll have to ask me about the time we tattooed cattle. I think I told you Elder S's (shout out!) analogy about how we find and how it relates to branding cattle. There's the easy way and the hard way. The hard way is wrestling them down one at a time and holding them there as they squirm. The easy way is putting them through a chute where you push them through one at a time and do it as they are pinned by a machine.
According to Elder S, when you find the hard way, you get covered in crap, you get kicked by cattle, and you are exhausted by the end of the day, but you feel like a cowboy (or a missionary). But, in my experience, when you push them through the chute, you still get covered in crap, you get kicked by cattle, and you are exhausted at the end of the day, and you feel like a cowboy. The difference is simply quantity.
You missionaries out there... feel free to consider the analogy and let me know what you come up with.
Life's good.
Maybe I've shared this story before, but it's something that I'm learning and I think is important to share. Maybe it's not even a true story, but it still teaches important truths.
In the 1500's there was a gentleman by the name of Hernan Cortes. You may know that our friend Cortes is responsible for the fall of (and the annihilation of) the Aztec empire.
There was a reason for this, he wasn't some genocidal maniac thirsting for the blood of a foreign nation, rather he was seeking for something else. Aztec treasure (I'm not saying that that justifies the genocide that happened, just focus on the symbolism and quit worrying about the details). Many others before Cortes had sought the wealth of the New World, but Cortes was exceptional. He understood something that nobody else did. As long as you leave a way back home, you'll never fight like you have nothing to go back to.
So, what did Cortes do? He burned the ships that could take them home. Burned the boats.
You can imagine that his men were either really discouraged or really really motivated. They must have immediately recognized that unless they conquered, they likely would not return home. So, they fought like they wanted victory more than anything else. Because they burned the boats behind them, they gave more than anyone else had given before.
Cortes, obviously, won the treasure.
Well, there's an awful lot that could be said about this, relating to missionary work and life, but I'd just like to share a quote from Elder Holland. "There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist....
Now, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies of the Book of Mormon, bury your weapons of war, and leave them buried. Forgive, and do that which is harder than to forgive: Forget. And when it comes to mind again, forget it again.

You can remember just enough to avoid repeating the mistake, but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to those Philippians. Dismiss the destructive and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family and your friends and your neighbors. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go. That is the thing Lot’s wife didn’t get—and neither did Laman and Lemuel and a host of others in the scriptures."

Our lives are things to be enjoyed, do yourself and others a favor. Burn the Boats. Leave the past in the past and just be who you ought to be. Be where you ought to be. And be there when you ought to be there. Leave the past behind you, and look forward with faith. Whether you're a trunky missionary, or one who is afraid to go home because you don't want to slip back into the past. Maybe you're hurting because of something that someone has done to you. Please, just let it go. Allow the Atonement to be yours. Allow Him in.

Burn the boats.

I love you all!

Rock on. Peace. Love. Temple Marriage. In that order.

Elder Hill

Monday, June 30, 2014

How High River Is Pushing Me -- 30 June 2014

Hello Everyone!
Here's a quote from Jeffrey R. Holland that I heard that I think you'll love.

"No, the good people, the strong people, dig down deeper and find a better way. Like Christ, they know that when it is hardest to be so is precisely the time you have to be at your best."
Okay, sometimes we come against things that seem to be harder than we can handle. Bigger than we can bear. Scarier than we seem to be able to muster the courage for. For me, pushing to the end of my mission hasn't been a trial, but I've often been tempted to just let my companion do his thing, cause I won't be here for much longer anyway.... No. I don't do that. I don't quit. I don't fear digging deeper. Trying harder. Being bolder, and bigger, and better. I'm not going to lay down and give up.
Let's be honest though, we all have a lot of weaknesses. Frankly we often don't have the strength, the energy to keep pushing when it just always feels like we are forever draining our cup into so many different resources. How is it possible to continue to give when we have literally not been fed enough?
Ether 12:27

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

So, what am I learning? Well, sometimes we are tempted to just take the easy way out---to give into temptation, to just let go and let it all just land instead of faithfully pressing forward. For example: not going to church one week, Or not reading your scriptures today. Maybe the temptation is to do something dark, that would spiritually cripple you. Maybe it's to give up on the Church---the only true and living church on the earth---on God, or on ourselves, believing that we have found something better, something more convenient, or just that we don't want to have to deal with the hardship of it all anymore. Any of these things because we just don't feel like we can do it anymore.

Remember, "The strong people dig down deeper and find a better way." Whenever life does get hard we can dig deeper. Those moments when you don't have anything left to give are the same moments that usually require your best---and it is Christ that will provide that strength for you. That is the power of Grace. It is the power of His atonement that grants us the strength to be who we want to become, and do what must always be done. So, who are the strong people? Anyone who will turn to Christ. Who will trust Him. Who will believe Him.

Please, if you are considering giving up, I know you better than that. Dig down deeper, and find a better way.

He is the Way. The Truth and the Life. 

I love you all soooo much. Keep going. Don't you quit.

Rock on. Peace. Love. and Temple Marriage. In that order.

Elder Hill

Monday, June 23, 2014

That Awkward Moment when You Realize You Actually Understand the Priesthood and Priesthood Keys -- 23 June 2014

I was wondering if that one would ever come :) I guess that's what happens when you study :)
Hello everyone! I have been transferred from beautiful British Colombia to the wonderful area of High River. Back in the Foothills Zone. I thought I had knocked it out, but I suppose it's time for round 3. Let's be honest. It really doesn't stand a chance this time. I'm faster, stronger, more faithful, and unafraid. Let's rock.
I'm serving with my mission grandson!!!! His name is Elder H and he's a fireball! I love it! He's a great worker and a phoenominal teacher. We're going to turn High River inside out (it's already inside out---remember the floods a year ago?). We're also serving along side Sister Missionaries in the area. We've created a plan to work together in making things happen, instead of dividing up the work. They are amazing. I can't believe just how blessed I am to be here.
My thought this week has to do with Charity. This morning I was studying D&C 121 34-46. This section is probably best known for the common place phrases in verses 7-9, which are God's promise to Joseph Smith that He will never leave him alone. The verses following are some of the best verses of scripture in my opinion, but as you make it to 34-46 God teaches the priesthood probably its most important lesson.
I've read this section many many many times on my mission. But I learned something interesting today. It says,

 34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
 35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, ---- 

I got to this point and thought, "I know people like this." Suddenly my world halted and I realized what had just crossed my mind. What was I doing? I don't have the right to put others down like that! Many familiar scriptures came to my mind about judging. Especially judging righteously.

Remember the mote and beam analogy in Matt 7?

After I realized this I realized what had happened to my priesthood power...

So, my thought is simply this, sometimes we accuse others of being something. Some times they really are that something or that someone, however. We have been admonished to be bigger than that. How do we do it in the moment? Well, we recognize that we are just as guilty as they are. We've probably had the past mistakes. We remember the mercy of Christ in forgiving us for those mistakes. And we forsake our own past, deciding within ourselves to also forgive the one we are confronted with. Then, as we follow the rest of the counsel in d&c 121 34-46 we are given priesthood power to do what he needs us to do to help others.

This is just a quick thought cause I only have a few seconds left, but I love you and I invite you all to read this section and figure out what you can do to be closer to your savior.

I love you all!

Rock on! Peace, love, and temple marriage.  In that order.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Commission, My Position, and My Salvation (confidence in Christ) -- 17 June 2014

Dear Everyone that I love,

I have a few different thoughts today. Many of which come from my heart and not from any little known facts about mortality or scriptural knowledge, but first I have something to say about missionary work.
If God has asked or called you to do something, He gives you the power to do it. But it takes commitment. That is why success as a missionary is defined in Preach My Gospel as commitment. Which is why missionaries in Russia that never even get to teach a single lesson 1 on their missions still come home stronger than they've ever been before. They come home sanctified, and converted unto the Lord---because they did what they were called to do. That said; is it no small coincidence that the Lord said in D&C 18: 10, 14-16

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.

15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

For some missionaries that "one soul" is the only one they can really control.

I'm not going to stop there, though. Because I don't believe that God would drag me all the way to Canada to serve a mission, do His work, and give everything that I have and not have the joy of seeing others come into the Gospel. Doctrine and Covenants section 43 verses 15-16 say:

15 Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit;

16 And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.

In other words, we are not here to be the ones who are taught and converted, though that will happen because we are taught from on high---we are here to teach. Thus the field is white already to harvest. Harvest. Surely the Lord is preparing the people of this world to receive the Gospel. The whole world. In every mission. Everywhere. In fact, He won't even come until the Gospel has been preached to every nation kindred tongue and people.

Are you saying, Elder Hill, that everyone is called to baptize?

Yes, yes I am.

Well, how, Elder Hill, How? 

Short answer: Get out of the way. Be the pure fibre optic cable through which God can shine his light into the hearts of those you will come into contact with. Don't be the messenger who looks through the cable themselves and tries to describe what is on the other side---that's not enough. Be the cable. Get out of the way. Thus, "...Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power [to do my work], that ye may give even as I have spoken.

That's my rant. I love this Gospel, and I love every missionary in the world, especially all of you, and I want you to know that the power is in you to do all things which the Lord hath commanded you. You were born to lead. You were born for Glory. You are His children, and therefore His heirs. You have the right to fulfill your purpose as you are faithful. You are more powerful than you dare yet believe---please don't sell yourselves short of that endowment of power that I know  you have been given. 

*sigh* :) I love you so much. :D Soooo much. You have no idea how much I love you.

Other than that, last night I got a phone call from my mission president. This close to transfers, that's not abnormal.

"Elder Hill, what do you want to do for your last 6 weeks?"

"Whatever the Lord wants me to do, President."

"Well, tomorrow you'll be getting a notice for transfer. I'm going to assign you to be a district leader, can you do that?"

":) Yes, I think I can handle that."

"Good, I think so, too."

So, that's what's happening this transfer. So, I got an email this morning telling me I'm going to Calgary somewhere. Pack the bags. :) Rock on.

Finally, the last business... I was on the phone earlier this week with President N, because I was looking for some guidance.... You see, I've done some bad things in my life...I'm guilty of being loaded with mistakes and sins. I'm not dumb enough to believe that mine are worse than yours or that yours are worse than mine, but I've recently been so bothered by my past that I've felt that I'm just not worthy of any good thing that God will give me. You can imagine how this could hold me back in my progress.

President shared something with me in that conversation that I would like to share with all of you.
Sometimes we do something terrible and we don't feel forgiveness in the way we want it, but if we have done all we ought to do, our next step is to trust Him. Wholeheartedly. Completely. Without reservation. Remember the story of King Lamoni's father? He was going to kill Ammon, and then Ammon held him at sword point and the king began to cry, and fear. He then offered Ammon half of his kingdom if he would spare his life. Later Aaron taught him. And after learning of God he said, "O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day"He went from being willing to only give half of all he possessed for his life, to being willing to give away all of his sins. That's a complete change in who he is, how he thinks, and what he desires.

So, that was the message. If we really have faith in God, we will give Him everything. Including all our doubts about His gospel, His existence, or even our standing before Him. If we have faith in Him, then we would "Doubt our doubts [about where we stand with Him,] before we doubt our faith [that He will save us]."

You know and I know that I'm so much less than perfect. The good news of the gospel covenant is not that Christ will save the perfect people, but that He will---does---has---can save the imperfect ones. If you are willing to do all that He asks, then He will do his part.

So, that's my testimony. I'm on the Gospel train with both hands. I'm trusting Him all the way. I believe that as I do so that God will ensure my return into His presence as an exalted being with the ones that I love by my side. I believe that He will save us. I believe Him. I am choosing to believe that He will accept me---including the dark lines in my personal marble egg that really, truly, do make us all beautiful.

I love you all ssoooooo much. Please, accept these truths, and live them.

Then, Rock on. Peace. Love. And Temple Marriage.

In that order.

:) Elder Hill