I don't know if I have time to completely recount everything that has happened this week. A lot has happened. Sometimes I am overwhelmed trying to fit the most important things from an entire week in a letter that I only have about 30 minutes to write. My goal in each letter is to try to lift the hearts and spirits of those reading my letters, but when so much has happened in a week like this it is hard to pick and choose the best things that will do just that. I will do my best.
There are huge changes that are going to be occurring in the Georgia Atlanta mission. Changes that were very needed. I don't feel like it is necessary to go into detail (at least in this email) but I will tell you what I have learned from it all. Simply, there have been certain things that I did not quite agree with going on in the mission. I have not wrote about them in these emails, because I didn't feel like it was something that y'all needed to know about. But I have felt very strongly about a lot of the things that have been going on in the mission culture for quite awhile. Culture meaning the way things are handled, taught, reported, and carried out. And again, I won't go into detail. Many things have been happening that I have disagreed with, but let me make this clear, I did not revolt against them. They were what my leaders asked me to do, so I was going to be obedient. But in my heart, I could feel that things were not being done the Lord's way. I would do what I could to get my voice heard and I would pray for guidance. However, I always felt like I was kicking against the pricks. I felt like a heretic just thinking the thoughts that I was thinking, and having the feelings I was feeling. I was so confused and burdened down by the weight of not knowing what is right. I felt like the devil and God were raging inside me but I couldn't tell which side was which. Yet in my mind, when I felt closest to the spirit, I just knew in my heart and mind that things had to change because they were not being done the Lord's way. But I did not have the authority or the keys to fix it. I remember clearly my last exchange and the Elder and I talking about key indicators, and all sorts of other mission protocol. He asked me my opinion and I told him everything, and spilt my heart to him how I felt. I remember him saying, "Well Elder Romero, I agree with everything you're saying. But that is just not what they are telling us to do." And I said, "But what there telling us to do just does not feel right." and with tears in my eyes I said, "Elder, I want to do what feels right."
The whole situation I was in reminded me a lot of my ninth grade geography class. I had a teacher that handed out reading material and a worksheet that we'd have to do for homework. The reading material and the worksheet did not correlate with each other whatsoever. So I never finished my homework. I remember spending hours trying to do that homework and being just so frustrated because it just did not make sense. I was failing the class because I would not complete the homework. The school got my parents involved, and told my side of the story, and my geography teacher told hers. To spite me and to prove that I was not completing my homework my teacher sent me home with a mound of homework from the other students in the class. To show that other students are completing their homework, therefore I must be lazy. Unfortunately for her, this tactic turned against her. As my mother and I looked through the other student's homework we began to notice that none of the students were getting the same answers for the questions. They were just filling in the blank spaces and she was marking it right. A student even put, "this class is stupid." and she marked it correct! In her attempt to prove my laziness, she proved her own. After our discovery we scheduled an appointment with the principal to show what we've found. While in the waiting room my teacher came in and with the homework in hand we showed her our discovery. After realizing her mistake she grabbed the papers our of my mother's hand and said, "I wasn't suppose to give you those. It is against school policy to give out other student's homework." And we were never able to show what we found to the principal... I ended up failing the class. However, I was honest. I could have easily turned out with a good grade in that class if I would have just did what the other students were doing. But I wasn't there to get a good grade in a class, I was there to learn. Throughout high school I did extremely well. I graduated with a good GPA, got into the college I wanted to go to, and even achieved all the goals I've set out to accomplish since my childhood. I know that it is in large measure due to the integrity that I had in my ninth grade geography class. This geography class seemed like it at the time it was going to stop me from achieving my goals. I know that because I chose to do what felt right, I was blessed by God throughout the rest of my schooling.
Sorry for that tangent, but it does tie in with my original story. My purpose in sharing that story is not to compare the leadership or organization of the mission to my ninth grade teacher. My only purpose in sharing that story was to compare how I've felt through both experiences. This week we had Elder Evans from the seventy come and speak to our mission. Elder Evans is the chairman of missionary work for the Church. He is extremely important. We had our Zone conference on Friday, and he was our main speaker. It was a seven hour meeting. Within the first hour it was clear why Elder Evans was here, to call this mission to repentance. It was clear from all the topics that he spoke on that he was addressing the very issues in the mission that I had qualms with. Minute after minute I could feel burdens being lifted off of my shoulders. My feelings and thoughts were not, "Yes, I was right all along." Because I was never concerned about BEING right. I was concerned about DOING what's right. When he was speaking it was a sense of relief of knowing that my feelings and thoughts were not heretical at all. The spirit is real and was leading me to feel what was truly right all along. My prayers were answered and overall my concerns that I prayed about were addressed the way God would address them. That way being through the organization of the church, through the keys of the priesthood.
President Harding was our last speaker of the conference. He said in the most humble way imaginable, "Elder Evans lovingly has called us to repentance, and we will do everything he asks immediately." I am so thankful for President Harding. I love him so much. I know President Harding is my mighty leader. My love and respect for my mission President only grew through this whole experience. I've never doubted his calling or his choices. I want to make that extremely clear. I love my mission President, and he has absolutely positively changed my life. I know that if it wasn't for his tireless effort and love for his missionaries that I wouldn't be anywhere near the person I know my Father in heaven wants me to be. I will follow him into any battle. I happy to have a humble mission President that is so willing to follow his mighty leaders wherever God directs. I don't know the every detail of why the events that occurred this week happened. All I know is how I felt, and what I saw happen. After the meeting Friday IMMEDIATELY all the things that I was concerned about got changed. And I mean EVERYTHING. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this church is ran by God. I've witnessed it with my own eyes this week. I know God answers prayers. This experience has honestly been so enlightening. This truly is the same organization that you find in the new testament. Elder Evans was Paul, speaking to the church of Rome, or Corinth. This whole experience only strengthened my testimony in how true this Church is.
Now I know I've already written a lot. I wouldn't be surprised if most people just stopped reading in the middle of my ninth grade drama. But like I said, a lot happened this week. We found a great new family. Daniel and David are doing well. Please continue to pray for them. Brother Crew's wife had a heart attack, she is doing well though. I love Brother Crew so much. My heart goes out to this man. He has the biggest heart. Every time he ends a conversation with always asks us this question, "Do y'all have nourishment?" and never fails to tell us how much he loves us. I feel so much love in this ward. I just never want to leave it. The people here are just so loving and caring it brings tears to my eyes.
Oh my goodness I just have so much to talk about! On Thursday we went to a devotional in Atlanta. And guess who was there?! Brother ASPER! It was the greatest thing ever! I got to talk with him and give him a big hug. He told me about how the ward was going and how much he missed me. It was so funny, within three minutes of the conversation he pulls out this folder and hands me a five page paper that he wrote on the premortal life. He says, "I wrote this this morning. I think it will come in handy for you." Haha. Who else does that? He is a scholar! I love him so much. I also got to see one of my other favorite people from the Dunwoody ward at this devotional, Sister Albanes! Her and I got along so well. We could always joke around. It was so nice to see her. That wasn't the last person I got to see from the Dunwoody ward though. The next day at Zone Conference I met Sister Whitehurst. The Whitehurst family was one of my favorite families from the Dunwoody ward. I don't think I wrote too much about them. Sister Whitehurst was very excited to see me and told me that her family missed me a lot, and that their son Jared really missed me. Jared and I were really close. He is a huge sports fan and could tell you any stat on any player playing any professional sport. NO JOKE. This kid had a photographic memory. She said that I was such a good influence on Jared that now he wants to go on a mission. This almost brought tears to my eyes (I say that so much, I really don't cry that often). There has not been a single thing in my life that has brought me more joy than being able to affect and influence other people for the good. Not a single thing. Hearing that Jared now wants to go on a mission seriously made me so happy.
Now for my last and final thoughts. I want to end this letter with my testimony about The Book of Mormon. And encourage all to read this amazing book. If anyone reads any part of this letter, please read this part. The Book of Mormon is true. It is true, it is true, it is true. Please everyone, consider these things, and give ear to what I have to say! I just want to scream this out to the world. Jesus Christ is the son of God, Joseph Smith is his prophet an revelator in these last days, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is once again the Lord's Kingdom established on the Earth. And I know these three things because I have read, pondered, and prayed about The Book of Mormon! If you do not have a testimony of this Church, you've fallen away, or you are having doubts it is because you have not read (and I am not talking about a page, a chapter, even three-forths of the book. I am talking about the WHOLE book), pondered and prayed on The Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith could not have written this book. I have studied and studied and studied and studied. Joseph was 23 when the book was brought forth. He translated it in less than three months. There are two big theories that have been proven totally false about it's origins, and the only theory left that people are turning towards is that he wrote it out of his own mind, his own experiences from his life. Of course when you run out, or lack, any evidence to prove that he couldn't have brought it forth the way he said it came forth, you are going to either have to accept that he translated it from golden plates and accept the he was a prophet, or deny he was a prophet and once you've ran out of evidence that could prove the contrary (which the critics have ran out) resort to the theory that he dictated it out of his own mind. Isn't it obvious, that theories (besides the theory that Joseph wrote the book himself) were developed because everyone who knew Joseph, and lived during that time KNEW that Joseph was not intelligent enough to write such a profound piece of literature. People tried hard to find the ways Joseph could have written this book, because they knew he couldn't have done it by himself. Isn't it interesting how the critics developed theories to explain how the book could have come forth regardless of Joseph's incapability to write the book, and then go back and say that Joseph wrote the book as the theory to explain how the book came forth? When studying the history of Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon all people will come to the same crossroads. Either you read with an open heart and pray about the book to know if it is true, or you don't. There is no other interpretation for The Book of Mormon. Either it is true or it is not. Let me tell you right now, no amount of research is going to prove The Book of Mormon false, or even true! The only way to gain a testimony about The Book of Mormon, and the thing that continually strengthens my testimony of The Book of Mormon, is to READ, PONDER, and PRAY about it. There is no way to know whether this Church is true of false without doing that. I invite all those who read this, whether you are a member or not, to read and to pray about The Book of Mormon. Because quite frankly, The Book of Mormon doesn't mean anything to you if it is false. All it means is that Joseph Smith was a criminal and that he deceived a lot of people. BUT IF IT IS TRUE, then it means the world to YOU. It means that God the Father and Jesus Christ love you, you can live together as a family for all eternity, the things that you've done wrong can be made right, you can go to a Church and be sure that the things being talked about are true, that there is a life after death, and that God still speaks today. Those things are so much more important to prove to yourself than to prove that Joseph Smith was a charlatan. Because if the book is false, then it won't affect you and it doesn't matter to you. But if it is true, regardless of if you believe it or not, it will affect you and it should matter to you. I want to tell the whole world that I know The Book of Mormon to be the world of God and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. It has blessed my life. It has changed my life. Please consider what I've said and read The Book of Mormon.
"You don't know me - you never will. I don't blame you for not believeing my history had I not experienced it I could not believe it myself." - Joseph Smith (Journal, April 7th, 1844)
I love you all so much. With all of my heart. I wouldn't take the time to say so much if I didn't feel love for all the people that read my weekly letters. I don't write back home to try let people know how great of a missionary I am or whatever a selfish motive may be. I really write back home so that all can see that this Church is true. Because the truthfulness manifest itself daily in my life out in the mission field, and I want to share my experiences with the world.