Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mom's and Tattoos, These are a Few of my Favorite Things

First off, to all those who write me letters -- I DO write you back. Sounds like a couple have been lost. Don't worry, I'm alive and in China. I guess I'll write you again.
This week has been full of surprises. I guess I'll start with S, he's the big news lately. I've never seen a man change his life around so quickly. Elder Farnsworth and I checked our planners and saw that we met him on the 1st of November. Here we are in early December, he's abandoned (by himself) his baggy overly large clothing and long hair and earring in his left ear for a clean cut head, glasses? and clothes that fit. He comes to church and prays to himself in every hour of the meetings, participates in each class, answers questions and prays some more. Last night I asked him what he learned from church, and he told me about how in Elder's Quorum some of the men were arguing about how to judge people righteously. He said he could see that one particular brother was having a big question in his mind, so he immediately started to pray for him. Then he spoke up and said, "Well the most important thing is, if you don't know what to do, you can just pray or fast."
Now for the surprises. Because S is such a sincere guy, he went ahead and did a very sincere thing. He has this tatoo on the back of his right hand in between the knuckle of his first finger and thumb of a clover. He has indicated time and time again of his loathing for it, and we've assumed that it must have some meaning that brings him thoughts of the bad things he did in his past. This wednesday we scheduled him for a lesson about Thomas S. Monson to help him gain a more solidified testimony of the modern prophet. He was waiting for us in the hallway of the chapel as we finished a lesson with someone else. Elder Farnsworth greeted him as I went into the library to grab the TV, and as I was pushing it into the classroom he came up to me and said, "Have you seen S's tatoo?" Rather elated by my sudden and erroneous assumption that he must have removed the clover I said, "What? Did he remove it?" Then Elder Farnsworth made a particularly interesting face and said, "Not quite." My interest peaked, I walked out to greet him and reached out to shake his hand. He clasped my hand.
I didn't know whether to be delighted or horrified by what I saw next. I was right about one thing. The clover was gone. But I choked on my "hello" as I examined the new and bigger tattoo that covered it. A cross engulfed in flames and the word "Pray" etched beautifully and permanently right there for all to see. S, you see, he's a great guy. As we sat down for the lesson, I really didn't know how to respond, so I just said it straight. "S, because our bodies are sacred and are from God, we as members of his church don't get tattoos." He looked at me and said, "Oh." Then he told us that the reason he put "Pray" on his hand was because he always forgot to pray over his food, so every time he lifted the chopsticks to his mouth he'd see the word on his hand and offer a word of prayer. Yes, again, he really is that awesome.
Yesterday at church we saw the sides of the tattoo missing, replaced by raw skin and traces of dried blood. We didn't really say much about it, because we didn't want to make a big deal about it. I have not met a more faithful man in my life. The things that S has shared with us and the sincere desire he has to be worthy to receive all the blessings of the Lord is so incredible. I've sent two pictures of him today for you to see, the one of the Temple in the background of us just last night. That he would have the faith to so immediately change and do all that the Lord wills of him is a testimony to me of the power that God has to forgive us and to build us.
As for another surprise, we had a ward activity on Saturday, and inviting two mom's on the street about 15 minutes before it started turned into about 6-7 mom's with all of their kids, totalling over 20 people there that were not members of the church. "Eat food and play games!" we said. The Lord did the rest.
I'm so blessed to be out here serving the Lord. All we have to do is be willing, and the Lord will shape us and build us and help us change. I myself have so many things I need to change. But I know that with a willing heart and an obedient spirit, the Lord will shape us and change us, and help us become who we were always meant to be. God bless you all and may he help you all to continue repenting and growing throughout your lives.
Love, Elder Hazen

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