Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From Alec: March 30, 2009

Hello everyone,

Dad: I love updates, don't worry about if they're about girls - it's not like there aren't plenty of girls here if I wanted to get distracted. And if you didn't tell me I might never know what happened!

It is good to hear about Geoff - I'm sure he is doing awesome in Mexico - some of the spiritual giants in my last area (a WML and a man who gave us rides) went to Mexico on missions.

This week has been awesome to notice how the Spirit blesses us constantly - if we honestly and worthily seek to follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will be lead with faith to do amazing things.

By the way, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pray for D., an investigator of ours. He would totally be baptized but he wants his wife to come to church with him and she is just not budging, more out of shyness than just plain not wanting to go. So prayers for L.'s heart to be softened would be appreciated. We're also teaching a great kid (in a few minutes in fact...) and hopefully we can set a baptismal date with him! He told us how much church, and everything we have been teaching, has just helped him to be happier and more calm in his daily life! Our investigator with a baptismal date hasn't been to church in two weeks, but we'll stop by, and her date won't be affected if she comes back the rest of the time. Still a little scary though!!!

We had a zone conference this recent Tuesday, and I loved what President Bassett talked about sacrifice. It was so edifying and "plain and precious". Sacrifice is an eternal principle, and President proceeded to show how Christ and Heavenly Father are exemplars of this principle; Christ was and is only concerned about others and helping them, and Heavenly Father's work and glory is to bring about our happiness and eternal life! I realized then how hard Satan tries to get us to be selfish and only think of ourselves. I can't remember the exact quote but it went along the lines of "You can tell how [something, like spiritual or Christlike] you are by the way you treat other people." That was butchering the quote, but it is so true. It is easy to notice how most everyone only cares for themselves, and when you're looking for it it is easy to single out those who exemplify selflessness in every action. I've met alot of people like that - and truely living the restored Gospel is the key to unlocking that door to selflessness.

I am grateful for the opportunity and responsibility to be out here serving the Lord and His sheep - and at the same time I am humbled to know that I have so much refining to do of myself and my desires. President had an amazing quote by Elder Maxwell: "True sacrifice was never putting an animal on an altar, but taking out the animal inside of us and putting it on the altar to be consumed". Love the Lord and serve Him the very best you can!!!!

Elder Hoopes

From Mom: March 30, 2009

Dear Elder Hoopes,

How are you doing this week? We are back to life after our Spring Break. I feel rested because I got 8 hours of sleep every night, and I think my ear infection is almost done, just a little bit of fluid left in my ears and a little bit of hearing loss. The break was pretty boring for Rachel, but we did get her a prom dress. My ideas to get some spring yard work done fizzled because we had spring storms all week, but that meant I had a chance to read a book and get caught up on indoor chores. Melinda and Phil were able to come and stay with us on Friday and Saturday because Anna had a softball tournament in Boise, and it was so fun to see them again. Geoffrey
is now in Mexico after being in the MTC for 2 months.

We got a fun picture from the Theriots of you and Elder Sexton at a dinner appointment. They said that you are a great missionary. It is so sweet of them to send a note. I never thought of doing that for the parents of missionaries who served in our wards.

The ward is doing well. Yesterday we had a fast for the members of our ward who are struggling, whether it be financially, physically or spiritually. It was a sweet day and the Spirit of the Lord was there abundantly through fast and testimony meeting, and the other meetings. We had a few families move in, (yea!); one of them is the Stevens family from our stake. Sister
Stevens used to teach seminary, and they have a son a year ahead of you who will be returning from Argentina soon.

I got to sit next to the newly baptized sister for two of the meetings, and between meetings we talked about how essential the gospel is in the lives of our children. I told her that people have often asked me what I have done to raise 5 such incredible kids, and I always tell them that I couldn't have done it without the church. Lauren said that is what first attracted her to the gospel, seeing the strength it gave to families and children. After the meetings she said with great feeling how much she enjoyed them. She said her friend asked her why she goes to church and she answered that it seems like the lessons and talks seemed to be speaking just to her, and just what she needs to hear. She also said it is so wonderful to feel the Holy Spirit so powerfully. I don't know if she realized it, but she bore her testimony to me, and it strengthened me as well.

We are so excited for Conference this coming weekend! Just think, we will be watching it the same time you are. It will be an awesome birthday present for me on Sunday. In fact this will be a wonderful month because the next week is Easter, and then the week after that is Stake Conference, so it will be a month of spiritual highs. We are so blessed to have the gospel in our
lives and to be surrounded by such good people. What a joy it is to be able to share it with others!!

We love you and pray for you always,


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From Alec: March 23, 2009

Hello everybody!

Things are going just fine down here in Arizona, though today has been a little crazy because we just moved (only down the street really) from this one house in with some members. Everything is sitting in the room there, waiting to be unpacked! This will be the first time I'm actually living with members - they seem really nice though.

Thanks for the package by the way - with the pictures and stuff, I can't remember if I said "thank you" yet for that.

I do have a question though - how is Doug Hoopes doing? I just heard about his accident way back, and nothing about what happened afterwards.

Well this week was a little better than last - because I started to know the people and the area, so it went fast, as the mission always does. This area is pretty crazy - we get text referrals from headquarters once every day almost - as compared to my last area, we only got one legit (one other crazy Spanish lady) text referral the whole two transfers I was there, so no more tracting! just contacting.

What you said about charity, Mom, is so true, and I've found it on the mission. No one will open up to you, and therefore the gospel, unless you love them. There is so much hate and hard feelings in the world that when someone who loves people and wants to understand and help them comes along, it's just so liberating (to everyone involved really). There's that old saying : "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" and of course that makes all of the sense in the world. Why would someone listen to you or change from something you said unless they felt you were really there trying to help them be happier? If someone is telling you what to do and they don't love you - would you listen? How could you trust them? Well I'm having a hard time being spiritual right now because there is this guy next to me listening to music from the computer into his earphones and totally dancing and singing some of the words... anyways!

Well, we set a baptism date for this one lady - she's the wife of a recent convert and she is just awesome. She just quit coffee and so we set up the baptism and Elder Sexton and I are excited for her. We'll be meeting with another hopefully golden (I haven't even met him yet - he was sick last week) investigator so everything is going just fine.

I love you all and hope you have a good week!

Elder Hoopes

Elder Hoopes would like to hear from you! Look how sad he is when the mailbox is empty!

Still motivated by food, not much has changed
Elder Hoopes's third district:

Yes, that's an egg!

Elder Hoopes at a baptism.

From Mom: March 23, 2009

Dear Elder Hoopes,

All is well here. We are happy and almost healthy. I've got 2/3rds of my hearing back, so that should continue to get better this week. Rachel and I are at the beginning of Spring Break so our first priority of the week is to sleep a lot. Of course Rachel is a champion sleeper, but I think that 8 hours a night is pure heaven, and the last 3 days I've been able to get that! Rachel wanted to go somewhere for the break, but I figured that her trip to Europe in June is her big splurge, and we've got to save our pennies for that. So we are doing all the projects that Mom thinks are fun:
cleaning the garage, organizing the food storage, spring yard work, scanning family photo albums, clothes alterations. You can see why Rachel was talking about getting away!!

Yesterday was Caitlyn Davis' missionary farewell talk before she goes to the great state of Texas. It was a wonderful meeting, and there were many of their family and friends there from far and near. We have amazing kids out serving from our ward, some of the finest of the church. I love to read all the letters. I'll be sending you the latest edition of Mustangs on a Mission that Lashel Burningham put together. The gospel is so awesome! We are so blessed to have what we have and know what we know!!!

Yesterday Nancy Frost taught Relief Society, and she asked me to share what the Lord has done for me to help me teach seminary. In thinking it over, I wasn't sure what to say, because I have felt fairly inadequate. But then I realized that He blessed me with a great gift; a deep concern and love for my students; He gave it to me from the first day. And though I'm still not really a great teacher, those kids know that I love them, and that I am trying my hardest to bring them something of worth. I guess that this came to my understanding as we studied 1st Corinthians this week. In the 12th chapter we studied all the gifts of God, and how each one of them, distributed among the children of God, are so different, but so necessary to edify the body of Christ. But in Chapter 13, we are taught that charity is the "battery" that makes all the gifts of the Spirit work in the lives of the children of God. A clock, with the "charity battery" removed, looked good but didn't do what it was meant to do. Likewise, we can have wonderful gifts of tongues, or administration, or even teaching, etc., but if we don't have the pure love of Christ in our hearts for those we serve, we may look good, but we've failed to do what we were meant to do. But "Charity never faileth". Once again, the teacher learned a lot this week.

Well, have a great week. We love you and pray for you throughout the day,


Monday, March 23, 2009

From Alec: March 19, 2009

Hello everyone,

I was pretty dang sad about leaving the Mesa East Stake because I felt the Lord made some promises to me that weren't fulfilled but then again - I'm only 6 months into my mission so I haven't lost faith! But I will be totally OK - moving to a new area never slowed me down. People keep saying to me it must be hard to have family (Grandpa, and when you guys came down for the weekend and went to Tia Rosas) so close but it isn't. I think it is because I've always taken Gordon B. Hinckley's father's advice to heart. "Gordon...forget yourself and go to work." I can honestly say I haven't felt homesick - heck there's NO TIME to be homesick on a mission! There's people you have to help! I don't want you guys to think I don't love you though, I'm not a heartless person who doesn't care for his family - I'll see you in two years, who cares about now (hehe that sounds funny) when there's the Lord's sheep to feed.

It seems like a year that I've been in this area; the first week of a transfer (with a new comp) always go super duper slow, but then Sunday rolls along and it is just ridiculous how fast it passes.

We weren't able to get very many people to church on Sunday, it just so happened - but Saturday was a great day. We had two new investigators - both member referrals. One guy we taught a high counselor's friend who he invited to his BBQ and then had us sit with him. It was mostly him asking questions and it went well - though I do think his friend (the member) might have been a little pushy - I'm not judging because it was motivated by sincere concern and love for the person, but I think too often as members we do not respect other peoples' ideas or agency. You cannot push someone to be baptized - they have to make the decision themselves. It's that old cowboy saying: "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". Hopefully he takes seriously our challenge to him to pray about it sincerely and ignores any feelings of getting pushed.

That day we had a lesson with this guy who in prison read the BOM 4 times and knows it's true. He is awesome and he's the only investigator who made it to church. He needs to he knows everything about the church is true. He also is a totally legit magic trick guy - he did a really sweet card trick really quick for us - and he said he'd teach me some!

Well this email is already long but I'd like to leave something more spiritual - I've come to find (and I think I wrote an email with kind of the same idea, but Jon just reminded me of it) that this life is all about sifting through choices to find out which ones bring true happiness (lasting happiness - the type that brings peace and love). All too often I think we just go through life doing things and not trying to improve ourselves by finding out what is not just good, better, but what is best and also strenthening ourselves to avoid the temptations of the devil and continue choosing righteousness/happiness. I'm so grateful for our Savior, because without Him we would never be able to completely do either - because our good choices would not be able to bring as much happiness, because of our past bad choices and mistakes that would forever drag us down - and of course it is only through Him that we get the strength to overcome the world! Love you all and hope you have an amazing week!

Elder Hoopes

p.s. I think I'll be sending some pictures soon

From Mom and Dad: March 19, 2009

Dear Elder Hoopes,

Top of the mornin' to you! That's some St Patrick's Day lingo for you. I am feeling much better after being on antibiotics all week. I still have pain and ears plugged, though. I've not only become partially deaf, I've become tone deaf as well! Now I know how Dad hears music. (Sorry Scott) It was weird because we were in the Temple chapel, waiting for a session to start and the organ was really out of tune. There were about 5 of the keys that were so flat and sour, it was crossing my eyes. I turned to Dad and said, "Wow, doesn't the organ sound awful!?" Naturally he couldn't tell. Then, when I heard the music in the temple film, and it was very off-key, I realized that it must be my hearing that was off-key. There is a good gospel analogy in there
somewhere. It's weird, music is not only painful to listen to because it sounds bad, and there are whole ranges of vibration's missing, like when the bass is turned off, but I also feel the waves of sound pushing against my eardrums, and it is uncomfortable. Nothing quite like listening with someone else's' ears to make you humble and sympathetic.

I hope my ears are a little better for the Eagle High Choir Concert tomorrow. Rachel will be singing in that, and I better enjoy it because she's not going to do choir her senior year. She says there are twice as many wonderful female singers as needed for Sonos, so she hasn't a chance to
make it. Rachel is taking an ACT prep class because she will take it on April 4th. She is gearing up for a fun summer which includes a educational tour of London, Paris, and Rome, planning Legacy Camp, Girl's camp, as well as EFY, and some home study courses. I don't know how she will fit in a summer job into that mix.

Dad is busy as ever. This week he travels to speak in Seattle then flies directly down to Denver. The ward has been busy as well. Yesterday was ward conference so he was able to speak in Sacrament meeting. He spoke about having broken hearts and contrite spirits. He observed that often our hearts are broken because things are taken away from us that we had set our hearts upon, but that we then have the choice as to how we respond. We can become frustrated and angry, or we can turn to the Lord with contrite spirits and ask Him to make us into the people He wants us to be. Dad also pointed out that, as President Packer once said, life is a three act play, and we can't remember the first act. However, as we each were about to come to this world, we must have been apprehensive and asked our friends and family to help us when we were together in mortality. One day we will have a reunion of the Eagle 5th Ward when we are in the 3rd act of the play, and it won't be heaven if one of us has been left behind. When we are in the 3rd act, we won't care about the car that we drove or the house that we lived in, but we will care about the people we loved, or should have loved, including our Savior.

President McCauley spoke about how the ordinances and covenants of the Gospel lead us to the presence of Christ, if we make them and keep them. He referred to the Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-22, and said that the whole aim of the gospel is to bring each of us back to the presence of God. The 3 fold mission of the church, proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the saints and redeeming the dead, really is just 3 stages of the same goal, to bring each of us back to God. And the 3 fold mission leads all of us to the Temple. There we can come to understand the covenants we can keep to become able to have the power of godliness in our lives and eventually see the face of God, because we have become like Him. It was an amazing message, a sobering message. A "meaty" message that gives us a lot to chew on. And here we just wanted to lead comfortable, ordinary lives, but God has so much more in mind for us.

Well, our thoughts are with you as you are making another change. I know you are the last person I would need to say this to because you are always so positive, but remember to bloom where you are planted. May God bless you in your new area. You are wonderful, and we are so proud of you, and so grateful to have you as our son,

Love always,
Mom & Dad

Thursday, March 12, 2009

From Alec: March 9, 2009

Hello from Arizona,

Glad to hear from everyone. I always look forward to hearing from everyone. Mom, that activity you're talking about sounds a lot like TTI's in our mission. That's the name for street contacts: Teach, Testify, Invite. It's from PMG, but that is good you are asking the kids to do that. When you actually try and articulate your testimony, especially when you're under the clock, you really learn things - part of which is going to the very heartfelt basics of your testimony.

Well this past week was great. We had a good zone development meeting and some good and interesting lessons. We met with this guy in our area (he actually fed us dinner) and he was very curious about the church, partly because he was raised in a less-active family and remembers parts of the church. But he mentioned he has a colleague who is a bishop, and hasn't asked him questions because he doesn't feel their employer would like that. It just made me realize how we just need to do little things like get to know each other and spend time with other people - if that bishop invited him to dinner he would totally go and come with lots of questions.

A couple of investigators (both would attend the singles ward) didn't show up to church, they were doing other things but it was really dissapointing, especially because we felt we did everything we could to get them there, but everything will turn out ok if we have faith and do everything we can (which is part of faith).

I have a beginning of a cold and so that is really annoying. It's been a while since i've been sick but I'm starting to battle it so it should subside quickly.

This week ended with a little, well a lot, of a shock. We were planning Saturday night (the night transfers are announced) and our phone started ringing and I saw "Pres Bassett" on the screen. He only calls that night if someone is becomeing ZL, DL, AP, or training. My heart sunk partly because I'd hate to leave this area and have to get a new companion (again...) but president asked for "my companion". It turns out Elder Duren will be training! It will only be his 4th transfer out (like 5 months). That is pretty cool, he will do well. But it hit me hard because it means I'll be moving again - over to Papago zone (West Mesa) with Elder Sexton. I've already met him - he's one transfer older than me and was in my first zone. If you asked me how I felt about it I would say I'd rather stay with these wards and investigators. I tried hard to sink my roots into this area because I felt I only got to know some of our investigators and less-actives in the last area, and I really hoped/believed that I would be here a long time. But, I'll do my best in the next area with my new companion - there's a reason I'm going there so I'll go willingly and hopefully a Nephi-like attitude, not a murmuring Laman/Lemuel one. I love my mission and hope to be the best representative of Christ I can be.

Love you all and hope you choose happiness. I read alma 29 and it really epitomizes a lot of how I've felt on my mission. I want to be an angel and cry repentance with the sound of thunder that "there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth". But of course the reason that will not be so is stated in verses 4 and 5, that we will be given what we choose. Literally we reap what we sow, which makes sense - if you choose bad, how could Heavenly Father give you good? You chose those things, and therefore choose "life or death, joy or remorse of conscience". After remembering that I knew that was true and that I could only do so much as a missionary, but then I was reminded about how much joy that "only so much" can bring. "Perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy." which, if you remember, was one of the scriptures I chose for Alma Academy when I was one of the leaders. The theme was "instruments in the hands of God" and that is my joy - and it can be everyone's if they have desires to perform the work!

Elder Hoopes

From Mom: March 9, 2009

Dear Elder Hoopes,

Hope you are doing well. We are happy though not healthy. Last night I woke up with a throbbing ear ache so I guess I will go in to a doctor to get some antibiotics after I take a nap. I got about 3 hours of sleep. I understand why little kids with ear infections get so crabby; poor Elliott has had one this week, so he has my permission to whine and fuss as much as he wants. Sorry Laurie.

Seminary this morning was hard for the kids because of the time change with Daylight Savings. (So the students want to know why Arizona doesn't do Daylight Savings time?)

I had them do an interactive game activity called "Are you being spiritually spoon fed?" We started by reading Romans 10:13-17:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how
shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they
hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How
beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring
glad tidings of good things!
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The thought was as we share the gospel we usually don't have time to lay before people a feast, we usually can answer a question, or tell them something that will pique their interest so that they might want to learn more. It's like they are being spoon fed just a bit of the gospel. The kids were seated in a circle facing a partner and they had 60 seconds to explain/quote scripture/share experience/ bear testimony of a gospel event, topic or scripture. (For example, one event was the First Vision, one topic was eternal families, one scripture was John 10:16.) Then after their 60 seconds was up, they closed their eyes and their partner rated how spiritually fed they were, by holding up one to five fingers, one meaning hungry and five meaning spiritually fed. We tallied and rotated to new partners for each round. It was a good exercise to do to see how difficult it is to coherently share just a portion of gospel truth. It was a great learning activity.

That is what you missionaries constantly do as you contact people, and what all of us need learn to do better. Peter 3:15 "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." We are so blessed to have the gospel. It's almost too good to be true: joy now, eternal joy in the world to come!!!

Well I better go take some more advil. Love you so much. We pray for you every day,


Monday, March 2, 2009

From Alec: March 3, 2009

Hello from Mesa,

It sounds like everyone is doing pretty well, I would say I definitely am as well. I got the package on Tuesday - man that was a good one! Thanks Rachel (if you had blindfolded me I could still have been able to tell they were your cookies). Oh and Happy Birthday tomorrow! Sorry I won't be able to send anything cool I don't think now, but I'll definitely have to make it up when I come home with souvenirs or something like that. Oh and do you know a Brother Larsen teaching seminary at Eagle? because he is the son of one of our bishops here.

Well this week was pretty cool - we went tracting more in this week than I have on my mission, but that is because we have the Easter Pageant flyers to hand out, and the people are alot more friendly if that's the main reason you're knocking on their door (for them probably the 5th time in the past year missionaries have knocked on their door - that's how small our area is). No miracles. but I do know we've been blessed not only with the Spirit because we were working hard to find new people, but also new people to teach. We were biking out of our apartment the other day and saw this guy walking to us, so we stopped him and chatted. He asked us if we were "heading to work" (gotta laugh when you hear that in Mesa, you know they have recently come here if they ask that) and we explained what we do, and I felt the Spirit when I teachtified (teach + testify) to him about the restoration. We asked when we could meet with him and he gave a specific time and day! That was pretty cool, and yesterday we had the chance to teach him. When we got there, he had a whole page of questions he had written down - I think most of them the general about religion ones. He was raised in the Catholic church but never really by his choice whatsoever. The lesson went pretty well I feel, and we both (Elder Duren and I) think that he will read and pray.

We also were riding to grab something from our apartment and one of our less-actives that lives across from us was sitting down and got our attention when he saw us. He talked to this guy close to him who said he was LDS and wanted to come back to church, so we went and talked to him. You could tell he missed the Spirit in his life, and we were able to teach him. Hopefully he keeps the commitments we extended, because it is only through "doing" that you keep commandments and therefore receive blessings. (He actually seemed surprised that we committed him, but I think he realized he should be reading and praying anyways).

Well we had Stake Conference yesterday and it was great to be there - especially because both President and Sister Bassett spoke there. But probably the thing that has been most manifest to me this recent week is the power of sincere testimony. When someone stops and sincerely testifies of truth that they have realized from the power of the Holy Ghost, there is a difference, a very powerful feeling of the Spirit that can do amazing things. It can touch the hearts of those who perhaps were hardened, it can lift you up and keep you going in hard times, and it can do so much more as well. I know through the power of the Spirit that Jesus Christ is our Savior, He loves us and so does our Heavenly Father and the greatest thing we can do is to first "obtain" these things, lay hold upon all good things (Moroni 7) and then, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." As President (Stake President here) Turk said in Stake Conference, "these things will be of the most worth unto you, to declare these things to the earth" (or however that scripture in D&C goes). Love you all and I think of you often,

Elder Hoopes

From Mom: March 2, 2009

Dear Elder Hoopes,

Hope your week is going well. We are all doing well. Rachel turns 17 tomorrow; it's hard to believe she'll be a senior next year! Dad and I will be empty nesters and you and Rachel will be at college at the same time. It doesn't seem like Monday to me because I didn't get to go to church yesterday. I was tending Jen and Merl's kids Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while Jen went to visit Merl, and poor Sidney came down with the stomach flu on Saturday morning. Fortunately I had prepared this morning's seminary class last Thursday so I was ready. Because I sure didn't have a chance to sit down and prepare over the weekend.

We have been studying the last chapters of Acts in Seminary, and I am amazed by all that happened to Paul. I started reading in Acts 20 and couldn't put it down. I felt like the grandpa in the movie "The Princess Bride" as he describes what the book is about to his skeptical grandson: "There's accidents, raisings from the dead, farewells, arrests, beatings, prisons, trials, prophecies, assassins' plots, governors, kings, visions, angels, tempests, shipwrecks, poisonous snakes, healings, miracles, and true love." Living the Gospel is the greatest adventure of all, because it is where the battle for life, love, and freedom is fought every moment of every

It is such a comfort to be led by living prophets through the storms of these days. I pray for the courage and faith of Paul and our current prophets. We are so blessed to have their direction and assurances to keep on the journey, with the hope that we will arrive at last.

Love you sooooooo much!