Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homecoming Talk

  My heart is so full. One week ago today I was in Berkeley, California in sacrament meeting at my YSA ward as a full time missionary sitting next to my companion and I remember thinking, “Next Sunday I’m going to be standing in Pocatello, Idaho in front of my family,” and it didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real, but I am so happy to be here.
I am Emma Brinton. Thank you so much for taking care of them while I was gone. I know the Lord blessed our family so much. Thank you for all of your love and support. I could feel it. I served as a missionary in the Oakland, California Mission. I also served at the Oakland Temple Visitors Center, which was a huge blessing to be on those beautiful temple grounds almost every day and feel the Spirit there and to meet people from all over the world. It was such a sacred place to me and I loved to see how diverse all the people are. I really came to see how God loves each one of His children no matter where they’re from. I hadn’t seen very much diversity. I grew up in Virginia and then moved here to Idaho so I was meeting people who I’d never imagined meeting before. I had companions from all around the world. It was a really really neat experience to see God’s love for each one of His children and the people that I taught on my mission.
I think one of the most beautiful things about serving a mission is seeing how the gospel changes peoples’ lives. And it changes yours as well as you help others change. One of the lessons that we teach people is titled, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We hear this term all the time but as I served and taught, I came to really understand it for myself. It was one of my favorite lessons to teach because it’s so simple, but so beautiful, and it’s centered on the Savior. For my talk today, I wanted to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ and share different experiences of people that I taught and how they applied that certain principle in their life and how they changed from it.
So the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ is faith. We have to start off with faith, no matter how big or how small. Faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, that He died for us, and that He lives today. Faith that we can change through Him. Faith that He can lift us through our trials and He knows how we feel. I had an investigator named Albert. He was Vietnamese, but had lived in the United States for about four years. One of our members shared a video with him through Facebook and he said, “How did you know I was looking for God?” He had been searching for God and he began to meet with us and came to church. He had never heard of God, never heard of the word “prophet”, never heard of “scriptures”, never touched a Bible in his life. First we began to teach him who God was. We said, “He is your Father. He loves you. You are His child.” We taught him how to pray. We asked him the next week, “How are your prayers going?” He said, “Ugh I just feel uncomfortable. I feel like I’m talking to a stranger.” We said, “That’s okay! It’s new to you. Just keep it up and you’ll see the change and the blessings.” So the next week we asked him, “Albert, how are your prayers going?” He said, “I feel like He’s listening.” I could have ended my mission right there. Just to have someone know that there was a God and that He hears their prayers, that was enough for me. He had so much faith and he was so humble. We taught him the ten commandments and he was so happy to hear that there were commandments. He wanted to hear more of them. His faith in God strengthened mine.
The next principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ is repentance. We believe that we can change through Him. Our faith in Jesus Christ leads us to change our lives. It leads us to repent and come closer to Him. It helps us have a fresh view of ourselves and of God. The result of repentance is joy. We can feel peace. We can feel our burdens lifted. I would love to share about our investigator Oscar. He is from Hong Kong. He had been to church a few times so when I got to the ward, I kept hearing about this Oscar kid who had come a few times. I went up to his friends and asked, “Who is Oscar? Bring him to church again! I want to meet him!” So he came to church and we set up a lesson with him and we began to teach him. In one of our lessons he said, “Last night I prayed and told God that I was sorry for abandoning him for so many years.” We didn’t teach him to do that. He felt that. His faith led him to repent. He wanted to come closer to God so he said sorry, then he changed his life to show that he wasn’t going to abandon him anymore.
After we repent, we are baptized. Baptism is the first covenant that we make with God. It’s just the gate, the first step, it’s not the end. It is an outward manifestation of our desire to follow God, to keep His commandments, and to live a life dedicated to Jesus Christ. We had this awesome investigator named Daniel. He is from Taiwan. He is going to General Conference next week so I get to see him there and he can meet my family. Daniel was Christian before. He loved God and Jesus Christ. He had been baptized before, but we told him that he needed the Priesthood to be baptized, by someone holding Jesus Christ’s authority, because this is His church. When he found this out, he was dying to be baptized because he knew that is what counted. I would love to share a scripture that explains Daniel perfectly:

“All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.” D&C 20:37

That was Daniel. He said, “I’m not stopping until I become Bishop.” He truly manifested it. He was all in. 100%.
After we are baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the most beautiful gift from our Father in Heaven. A constant companion. A friend. It can guide us, and comfort us, and teach us. I would love to share an experience that I had on my mission with the Holy Ghost testifying to me that something is true. The Holy Ghost is a witness of truth, so when we feel it, we can know that what we are experiencing is something from God, something true. In the Visitors’ Center, we have lots of different exhibits. We had this really sweet senior couple, the Nielsen’s. Elder Nielsen was just such a great guy. He is a cowboy from Roosevelt, Utah. He had a set tour that he liked to take people on. He would start with this family exhibit, then move to the Book of Mormon exhibit, etc. One day he said, “Sister Brinton, I want you to act like a guest and I will take you on the tour that I take people on.” So I was acting like a nonmember and he took me on the tour. We sat down in this exhibit about modern day prophets. It has a picture of Jesus Christ giving the Priesthood to His twelve apostles. Then it has a picture of the twelve modern day apostles. It is really powerful to see Jesus Christ had twelve apostles and we have twelve apostles today. I was sitting there and he gave a brief rundown of the Restoration of the Church and he recited the First Vision. Afterwards he bore his testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Lord’s church was restored here on the earth. It was so simple. It wasn't even a big deal. I wasn't even expecting it to be so powerful. I was just sitting there and all of the sudden this wave of love and truth came over me and I knew that what he was saying was true. I knew that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father appeared to Joseph Smith and restored His church. I knew it without a doubt and it was so powerful to me.
The last step is to endure to the end, which is hard and tiring, and sounds like a long time, but it’s beautiful and the Lord gives us so many tools to endure to the end. It includes continuing to live the commandments despite temptation, opposition, and trials. One of my best friends I met on my mission is Emily. She is still in high school. She investigated the church for about three years because her parents wouldn't let her get baptized. They hate the church. She decided to be baptized on her eighteenth birthday. Her parents kicked her out of the house and she was homeless for a while. She knew the gospel was true and she wasn't going to deny it. She is such an example to me. She would come up to the Visitors’ Center and we would just talk. She is also coming to General Conference. Her faith and her determination to endure to the end despite whatever she went through was inspiring. I have never faced that kind of opposition in my life. I admire her so much for her faith and her desire to follow Christ. There’s a scripture in 2 Nephi that describes her so well.

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” 2 Nephi 31:20

So as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we become converted, which is beautiful and it comes line upon line. It is not an overnight thing. Elder Bednar shared a beautiful insight about the parable of the ten virgins. He compared the lamps of the ten virgins to a testimony and the oil that goes in the lamps, the conversion. We know they are waiting for the bridegroom to come and they all have their lamps of testimony, but only five of them had their oil of conversion. When the bridegroom came and they were called to go in, only five of them were prepared. Only five of them had their oil. They didnt share, not because they were selfish or lazy. They didnt share because they couldnt! You cant share your conversion. You cant share going to the temple and reading your scriptures every day. You cant share praying or going to church. These are little tiny steps that you earn for yourself. You can have a testimony and share it. But to become converted, that is something that you do on your own little by little. I love that analogy. One great quote that I love from him is,

“Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is conversion.”

I experienced this. I experienced this on my mission. I became converted to Jesus Christ and to His gospel little by little. I had a testimony before and that’s great, but it’s consistently being true to that testimony where we become converted, where we have this desire within ourselves, “I want to keep the commandments. I want to endure to the end.” I felt that and I had never felt that before. I would just love to end with a scripture in Mosiah. This is King Benjamin and he teaches his people about the gospel. They say,

“Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” Mosiah 5:2

I bear my testimony of the Savior. He lives and He loves us. I bear my testimony of the Book of Mormon. It IS the word of God. It IS true. It will help you come to know the Savior and of the gospel. It will help you to become converted. I testify of the Restoration of the Priesthood and of Joseph Smith. I testify of eternal families. I am so grateful for all of you and for the chance I had to serve a mission but I am excited for this next phase of life. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, March 20, 2017

18 Months

Hi :) 
     The weather here this week was to DIE for. AH! I love walking outside on temple grounds, feeling the breeze, soaking in the sunshine, smelling the tulips, and admiring the beautiful temple.
     Progress with our investigators has been slow. But Albert is down to 1/2 cup coffee every other day! As we were weekly planning and discussing our investigators, we felt strongly that we need to find out who is really sincere about meeting with us. We don't want to spend time teaching people who aren't keeping commitments when there are people out there who are PREPARED to hear the gospel!
     Daniel took us out to lunch and we got ETHIOPIAN food! Only in Oakland haha. It tasted weird. Quite the experience. He invited his friend named Teddy, a Buddhist classmate from Thailand. He was so nice! He has a Book of Mormon and wants to meet with us! After lunch, Daniel told us that THAT morning, Teddy had texted him saying we should grab lunch. They hadn't spoken in 6 months. Then Daniel told us after we left, the guy sitting next to our table came over and asked about the church so Daniel got his info. AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! When your recent convert brings NON members to lunch and talks to strangers about the church. He texted us and said, "I love experiences like this! I am seeing more and more of them!" He is SO great.
     M i r a c l e s every day. We called a former investigator about 2 months ago and found out that she had moved to Hayward, so we passed her off. Then she randomly called us last week and said that she moved to Emeryville (which is in our area) and that she wanted to meet with us!! THIS NEVER HAPPENS!! So we set a return appointment for Saturday. We also met a GOLDEN investigator, a Chinese male, who just walked in the Visitors Center. He said, "Are you mormons?" We taught him the Restoration and he wants to meet with the missionaries. He isnt YSA so we had to pass him off but the Lord compensated by giving us an investigator named Harry, may I mention that he is also a Chinese male.
     We had FOUR different people confront us about our stance on polygamy, race, and homosexuality, due to some online research they had been doing. Satan is trying to get into these peoples minds and twist beautiful truths and make things confusing. We had a lady come in the Visitors' Center and practically YELL at us about baptisms for the dead. She said we had NO right to do that and it was completely disrespectful. She was mocking, laughing, and pointing her finger when I bore my testimony that we have prophets who speak to God and receive revelation.

     "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." Matthew 5:11

     We got to do some service FINALLY. I haven't done service since like August! We went to a tiny local organic farm and helped plant carrots and lettuce and other vegetables. It was so fun to be outside and in the soil. I learned so much about growing vegetables organically and the different techniques they use! I love Berkeley. They told us about how horrible the meat industry is for the environment... I am thinking about going vegetarian now. HA! Yeah right - have you ever HAD Chickfila????? But honestly I learned a lot! They really love the earth and want to protect it. 
     Something funny: We were talking to someone at Laney College and he was kind of crazy. He was going on and on. Somewhere within his rant he said, "Jesus Chris is the only one who can save us. I cant save anyone! I cant even save five dolla!"
     I will be honest. It hasn't really hit me yet. They asked me to bear my departing testimony in my last district meeting. It didn't FEEL like my last one. They were expecting all this wisdom and counsel, but I just felt like it was another day, so I bore my testimony. I bore it of the Savior. I bore it of His work that we are a tiny part of. I bore it of the change of heart that I have experienced. Then they asked me to bear my departing testimony in my last Visitors' Center training meeting. It didn't FEEL like my last one. I stood up there weeping. I could hardly speak. There were pictures of the Savior all around me and I bore my testimony of Him. I shared my experience of becoming CONVERTED to Him and his gospel, which came line upon line. I shared my love for the sisters and for my mission.
     In the summer of 2015, when I was preparing to serve a mission, I chose this for my mission scripture:

     "I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance and this is my joy." Alma 29:9

     I chose it because I really felt that God had commanded me to serve a mission. I chose it because I wanted to be that tool in Heavenly Father's hands. I wanted to be humble. I wanted to experience that joy. I have reflected on it again and again throughout my mission. I turned to it when I wanted to quit. I turned to it when I felt alone. I turned to it when I was tired.
     But it has brought a different meaning to me as I have approached the end of my mission. I know that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded me to come to Oakland, California to be an instrument in His hands to invite & help these people to repent and come closer to Him. This has been my absolute joy. It is a beautiful thing to get lost in the service of others. My mission provided that opportunity for me. I realized that as I was helping others, I myself was coming closer to my Father in Heaven. It is impossible to put your whole heart and soul into this work and not change yourself. He molds us and shapes us as we willingly put ourselves in His loving hands.
     The past 18 months have changed me. I am not sure I can put it into words. How am I supposed to explain everything that I have learned and felt and become? How would I be able to count the miracles I have seen? The prayers I have prayed? The tears I have shed? The lessons I have taught? The sweet Spirit I have felt? How am I supposed to explain how much I love the diverse people of the Bay Area? How could I EVER adequately express the overwhelming gratitude I feel for the opportunity I had to serve a mission. 
     I will miss these people. I will miss my sisters. I will miss the beautiful temple grounds and the breathtaking view of the Bay. I will miss the Spirit and peace of the Visitors' Center. I will miss testifying of the Savior as His set apart representative. I will miss talking to strangers on the street with a Book of Mormon in my hand. I will miss being on a mission in California. The list goes on and on.
     But the good news is that my mission is not overThis is just the beginning! Luckily, I love change. I am excited for this new phase of life! I can make "life after the mission" happy and wonderful. Just because the name tag comes off, doesn't mean I don't have His name on my heart anymore. I have covenanted to take His name upon me my whole life!! My mission was preparing me to face real life challenges!! It was deepening my testimony so when the winds of the world blow fiercely, the roots I have grown in the gospel of Jesus Christ will keep me steadfast and immovable. It was preparing me to be a member missionary and a mother and a teacher. It was helping me see the eternal perspective so when trials come, I will remember that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and that all things will turn out for my good if I am obedient. It was setting the habits of personal prayer and scripture study that will keep me close to the Lord. It was establishing a pattern of daily repentance that will keep the Holy Spirit with me. The list goes on and on.
Oh sweet the joy the gospel brings.
     I know Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior. I know He restored His church through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Whenever I recited Joseph's experience of seeing our Father and His Son, I felt the Spirit testify to me that it was true. This is the most beautiful message in the world. How blessed I was to share it with the people here. The Book of Mormon is true. We can repent and feel peace again. Heavenly Father loves us. He hears and answers our prayers. We will see our loved ones again.
My purpose as a missionary was to invite others to come unto Christ.
My purpose for the rest of my life is the same.
My heart is full. 
All my love and more,
Sister Emma Brinton


Ethiopian Food

Ethiopian food with Daniel and his friend Teddy

Cinnamon rolls with Ayla




Christus

I love these two (Emily and Sis Muench)

Emily



Our ward mission leader, Ricky

PF Changs

Service with Brenly at the organic farm!!!


Departing missionaries

The Neves

I love them!
Sisters
District

Monday, March 13, 2017

O that I were an Angel

Hiii family and friends all around the WORLD!! :)
     We had a busy week FULL of miracles!!! 
     We had to move Albert's baptismal date because he was in San Diego last weekend so he didn't come to church. We want to make sure he is prepared before we baptize him anyways so it's okay. Of course I am sad, but I would rather have him be prepared and ready than rush through it. He is really great! He has been living the word of wisdom willingly since the minute he found out about it. That is humility and faith in action! He is submitting his will to a God he is just starting to believe in! He is demonstrating so much faith by keeping a commandment he just heard about from two random missionaries. It's clearly not us haha we dont know anything. It's the Spirit. He can FEEL it! These are the elect. These are the people who are prepared to hear the gospel. Think about how hard it is for us to keep a commandment and we KNOW God is there and loves us. Here is Albert, no religious or Christian background, keeping a commandment whole heartedly out of faith and desire to do what is right and come closer to God. Talk about becoming like a little child.
     SO we taught Albert about tithing and fasting. He agreed to live them in the blink of an eye. I just sat there. You dont have any concerns? You dont have any worries? You just accepted it with total willingness and humility?? HE DIDNT EVEN BELIEVE IN GOD A MONTH AGO!!!!!!!!!!! After the lesson, he opened up to us about how he wants to put his whole heart into a church. He is learning about another Christian church that he got involved with before he started meeting with us. He told us he was going to fast and pray about which church to join. Sunday morning, he told us that he felt a "powerful" feeling that Mormonism is right for him.
     Can we just review the past month we have had with Albert?
1. Albert wants to learn more about God
2. He joins some Christian clubs
3. Katie (a member) shares the gospel with him over Facebook
4. He comes to church
5. We have a lesson with him
6. He begins to pray and read the Book of Mormon every day
7. He starts living the Word of Wisdom
8. He fasts and prays to know which church to join
9. He receives an answer to his sincere prayer
     Over the course of a month.
     His life is CHANGED because of Katie sharing the gospel, and him accepting it with a perfectly willing heart and mind. The Lord is preparing people around us. Because Katie reached out, Albert's life will never be the same. The gospel changes lives. It has changed mine.
     We had a lesson with Mauricio! He is really sincere this time around. He keeps apologizing for losing contact with us before and promises to never slip away again. He admits that his faith is weak because he hasnt been exercising it, but hey! Step one! Recognize that there is a problem to fix. He WANTS to come closer to God. He is just so so so so busy. That is one of Satan's greatest tools - to make people too busy. It's not that they are doing BAD things... Mauricio is going to school and working and studying. They are good things, but without prioritization, they prevent us from doing the important simple things like reading our scriptures and coming to church. Once he feels the spirit through the Book of Mormon and notices the change that will come into his life as he comes closer to Jesus Christ and repents, he will be baptized. He told us he would have already been baptized if he wouldnt have slipped away. He knows the Church is true. He understands the Restoration. He WILL be baptized this year. He texted us yesterday and said, "I found the answer I have been looking for about joining the Church." We got burritos with him to celebrate. With Daniel & Emily.
     We had a wonderful Zone Conference! I think it was one of my favorite Zone Conferences of my whole mission. Wow it was powerful. I was just scribbling notes the entire time! I am so motivated. It was allllll about teaching our investigators REPENTANCE and making sure we are baptizing CONVERTS. That is one reason we don't want to baptize Albert so soon. We want him to be converted. He is not just a number. We did role plays about using the word "repent" in our teaching. Our job is to invite people to REPENT. It could come off as very preachy and prideful if you did it the wrong way. But if you do it out of love, they will feel the Spirit encouraging them to repent. They will WANT to change their lives to be more in harmony with God. Growing up I always thought repentance was this big, bad, scary thing and I hated talking about it. UM HELLO! Repentance is the most BEAUTIFUL, SPECIAL, and HOPEFUL thing!!! It is a message that we can change! We have second chances! Why would someone be scared of a second chance?! Why wouldnt someone want to talk about the hope and peace and relief that comes from sincere repentance? My heart swells with gratitude for our Older Brother and Perfect Example who makes it all possible. I just smile and my eyes well with tears as I teach my investigators this beautiful message of repentance and hope that they can feel the same way I do towards it.
     I want to echo Alma's words:
1. O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
2. Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
     We taught our investigator, Ryan, the Plan of Salvation (I always call it the Plan of Happiness and they always smile) and at the end of the lesson I was bearing my testimony of it. I said, "Some people think it ends at death!" I covered the second half of the plan with my hand. "Imagine if this was the end! But because of Jesus Christ," I uncovered the second half of the plan, "We will live on after this life! We know that we can live with God again!" I was on the edge of my seat just hoping and praying in my heart that he would feel the beauty and hope of this message!! This is the most beautiful message in the world. Ryan felt it's truth. He thanked Heavenly Father in his prayer by saying, "Thank you for providing a way for us to return back to you. Thank you for your mercy and love. I want to have a relationship with you." My heart. These are precious moments. O that I were an angel. I just sat there thinking about how blessed I was to have this sacred time to share this wonderful message with the smart students of Berkeley who are studying biochemical engineering and nuclear medicine.
     Heavenly Father's ULTIMATE purpose and work is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) Why does He want us to become immortal and have eternal life? Because He wants us to be HAPPY! Everything He does is because He loves us.
     I testify of His love. I testify of our relationship with Him. I testify of His Son. I testify of His gospel. I testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I testify of the relief that comes from repentance. I testify of eternal families. I testify of the peace that comes from prayer. I testify of our RESPONSIBILITY to share the gospel. I testify of the joy that comes from doing so! I have seen it in my own life and am changed because of it. 
My heart is full.
I love you & the Lord & His work.
Sister Emma Brinton

Zone Conference
Sisters at Zone Conference

The Gochnours sent me a necklace for my birthday. I love it!

Beautiful temple grounds

Add caption

The weather is awesome


Sister Muench

Fro Yo with Priya and Ayla

Rafil and Bro Neves

Rafil and Sis Neves

Rafil


Bro Neves

Senior Couples

Brother Williams (1st counselor in Oak 9th Ward)

I love the Neves

Chocolate pudding with gummy worms

Pants on the ground

Lunch with Emily, Daniel, Paul, James and Sister Muench