Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Posted by Lia at 12:54 PM
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Things have been awesome here. Yesterday we gave the first lesson tutto in Italiano. It was way sweet. The guy we had was really cool and pretty funny. Some highlights from the lesson: When I told him the first vision in Joseph Smith's own words (translated to Italian), from memory but at a comfortable pace so the investigator (william) could soak it in. That was really powerful.
The lesson went really well though. I also busted out a smooth flow of Italian because he thought all we needed was the Bible and he loved the Bible, and I was like, I know the Bible blesses our lives and is the word of God, but I also know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Gesu Cristo and that it blesses are lives, and how much better is it to have even more words of God?! And he was like "haha, yeah that's true." And then he said he wants to read the book of mormon and pray about it.
And at the end of the lesson we knelt in prayer and we had him offer it, and I got a cramp in my leg.
That was during the TRC, so it was just practice. Now let me tell you about a couple of real investigators. Wilma from NY, and Brian from Minnesota. I talked to them while I was in the Referral Center. I'm serious, you guys should log onto the chat on mormon.org if you ever have and gospel questions.
So Wilma was this lady, from Trinidad or Jamaica or something, who wanted a Finding Faith in Christ DVD. And so I was like, could we send some representatives over to deliver it, and to share a message about Jesus Christ? And she was like "Yeah, I'd really enjoy talking about Jesus" And then I found out she has a mormon friend, and she has a friend who may also be interested, and basically it was pretty sweet.
On chat I talked with Brian. He's a cool kid. Catholic. He had a lot of concerns about the afterlife. The highlight from that conversation is when he told me that he's catholic, but it's all the same God...And so I told him that's cool, I have a lot of catholic friends. And then I invited him to come worship with us sometime, and told him I think he'd enjoy it. And I'm totally sure he went to church last week, and he still had a lot of questions so I told him any of the members could answer them for him, or he should talk to the missionaries. So...BOOM!! That was sweet.
OH!!! BIG NEWS. I'm a Zone Leader now! haha. That was this last week. So that's pretty cool. Turns out it's about a hundred times better than being a District Leader because you don't have to do as much, but you get more respect. haha. So that's pretty cool.
I'm healthy as ever. This may sound ridiculo, but I really drink 1 or 2 V8's every day. I also have a grapefruit every morning, and basically it's awesome.
We also had our one month anniversary. I've been here awhile now. That first month flew by, as I'm sure the next one will as well. I really just want to get to Italy. It's going to be so awesome.
Let's see...what else to tell you about., Have I told you how amazing our classroom is? We totally have the best one in the MTC. For one, we have the most decorations. A couple of the Anziani in our district are pretty sly about snagging some from other rooms, and it's way good. We also have the best markers. Anziano Rowland's mom sent us a package of different colored expo markers so that's sweet. We also found a way to get some sweet soft chairs.
And we listen to Music with a message all the time which is so good, and you should really check it out. They just came out with a new one!! Joseph Smith.
Ciao Ciao Ciao!
Posted by Lia at 1:59 PM
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
So i seriously only have 25 minutes to e-mail you and the timer goes down fast, and this keyboard sticks!!!
So I'll try to get to everything. The MTC is AMAZING!! I can't believe how much i love it! As soon as i got here I kept seeing people I know, and now i have seen a total of 26 people that I knew by name before I came into the MTC!! i love it. the spirit here is incredible.
My district is pretty awesome. There are six of us anziani, and one sorella. We have some diverse talents, and we all seem to get along really well. i love my companion! He is so solid in the gospel, and he's a straight up scriptorian. He knows a ton about the church. And knows all the scriptures you could ever need to know!
My companion was pretty funny. When I got the letter from mom he glanced over and said "who's that? She's a cutie" hahaha.
My Italiano is starting to come along. I can bear my testimony. Io so che il libro di mormon e vero! Io so che la chiesa e vera. I can also kind of pray, and of course do introductions and stuff. I also have the missionary purpose memorized in italian.
So far i haven't had any problems missing home or anything. i pray often, and that's all you really need. The gospel is SO SIMPLE! All you have to do to convert someone is get them to feel the spirit, then read the book of mormon and pray about it with a sincere desire to know. Like it says in Moroni 10:3-5. Our teacher, Sorella Birdsall said that all they even need is a desire to have a desire, and then if we can create an environment where they can feel the spirit, then it'll work!
Which reminds me of something I really want to tell you about! We did our first day in the Training resource center yesterday! First we had to talk with someone in Italian for 15 minutes, and that was really rough, but then we got to give a 40-minute lesson on the restoration. It was AMAZING! I feel like if I was speaking english, I'm already ready to do this! I love it! We started with a prayer, taught the guy a lesson, bore testimony often and prayed for each other during the lesson, and then at the end he was actually willing to offer the prayer for us, and accepted our challenge to read the last couple paragraphs in the intro to the book of mormon and pray about it. And I know it was fake and the guy was already a member, but the spirit wasn't fake, and he acted like a real investigator, like we had to work to get him to open up more and stuff. I will admit he was pretty receptive. It helps that he already had a testimony of Jesus Christ.
Okay, so i'm sure you're all wondering about the food. I am very happily surprised to say that it is AWESOME! Bennissimo! I've been trying to eat more healthy. My companion and I both help each other by eating salad and stuff like that.
And I'm not going to get fat in the MTC. i've been working out every morning and getting excercise during gym. We've played some awesome calcio (soccer). It's a really good time.
If you're wondering if I need anything...you guys fulfilled my needs really well. I was needing a backpack, that suit jacket, and a little note pad!! So thank you so much for that! Grazie Mille!
Anyway, keep me posted on how everything is going for you guys! Everyone thinks I'm the most popular elder because of all the mail you've been sending! haha.
Something else that was pretty cool was my row got called up at the MTC fireside the other night. We all had to say things that we gave up to come on a mission, but it couldn't be the same as someone else. I was going to say music, but the guy in front of me did!! So I said snowboarding.
I think if I would've been called to a chinese-speaking mission my life would just be too easy. So it's good that I'm getting challenged by going to Italy.
I've gotten some sweet photos but I can't send them to you! Cause I forgot my stupid attahment to the computer but I promise I'll send some next week. Or maybe later!
So I'm going to sign out and try and get one to you.
Io Amo all of you!
Anziano Ray Banks!
Posted by Lia at 10:34 AM
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that as long as Ray is in the MTC (which will be until the beginning of December), you can write him for free if you use:
Posted by Lia at 1:18 AM
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Posted by Lia at 11:52 PM
Monday, September 28, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Posted by Lia at 8:11 PM
The party was awesome (pictures to come) and my talk went great! Thanks to everyone for coming!
Good Morning Brothers and Sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ray Banks and I’ve been called to serve in the Italy Catania Mission. I’ve actually been in this ward for abut four years, although for the last year and a half I’ve been attending student wards or been away. But this is my home ward and where I’ll be leaving from.
For those of you who do know me, you probably know that I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese (dust off shoulder), I’m half Chinese, my mother is from Taiwan, and my father served his mission in Taiwan. So naturally, when I opened my mission call, I thought it would be to Taiwan. Or at least Canada Chinese Speaking, or maybe the Australia Sydney North mandarin speaking mission.
So you can probably guess that I was completely shocked when I opened up my call to Italy. I was actually on a road trip with my family to California, so I didn’t even get to look up anything about the area for awhile. While we were driving I called some of my closest friends and relatives telling them I had been called to CATaNIA, and half of them thought I said I had been called to Catalina Island. So to clarify, I won’t be going to an island off the coast of California, but I’ll be going to an island off the coast of southern Italy. Catania, Italy, and no, I don’t speak any Italian. But anyway, since getting my mission call I have had the opportunity to look up some things about Italy.
One thing I did is read the BYU culture-gram about Italy. It said three things that stood out to me:
1. Italians consider social interaction very important; they try not to miss social events such as parties and celebrations.
2. When eating with guests, Italians usually do not hurry, a meal may last one to four hours
3. Soccer is by far the most popular sport
And that’s when I knew that it was the perfect call for me. So in preparation for my mission, I’ve been adapting to Italian culture by going to all the dances and parties at Dixie State College, spending hours eating dinner, and practicing my soccer skills.
But my dad kind of burst my bubble a little when he told me “Ray, you’re not going to Italy to become an Italian, you’re going to Italy to become a missionary”, so I’ve also been doing what I can to prepare spiritually. Which sort of brings me to my topic, which is testimony and prayer. Because as I’ve been preparing spiritually for my mission, I’ve been building my testimony (by reading the scriptures and preach my gospel and going to the temple) and I’ve also been praying about a lot things.
To start off, I’d like to do something that always bugs me: Ask a ridiculously simple church question. The problem with answering these is trying to come up with a perfect answer. Last week, my book of mormon teacher did this, and it took the class about five minutes to come up with a decent answer. The question I want to ask is, what is a testimony? But I’m just going to give you the definition as it’s written in True to the Faith:
A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that we are led by a living prophet today; and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints is the Savior’s true Church on the earth.
I really like how that sums up our basic beliefs, and gives the core of a testimony. The way we can actually know that these things are true is through a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. By praying and reading the scriptures we can receive this witness! In Moroni 10:3-5 it says regarding reading the scriptures:
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.
And so you can see that, just like everything in the church, there’s a simple way to do it. You just need to read the scriptures and pray! Then once you get a testimony there are a lot of ways to build it up.
I know in my own life I started out by sort of bumming off my parents testimony. And then people say that you need to stop doing that, so I read the book of mormon, and prayed about it, and then gained my own testimony (it really worked!). But then, I actually built up my testimony a lot more through other people. It’s funny that I’m speaking with Craig today because when I started writing this talk I immediately thought of him. I remember the first time I heard him bear his testimony in church I thought, alright, that’s cool that craig bore his testimony. Then a few months later I remember he bore his testimony again and I thought, wow, Craig has got an awesome testimony! I was way impressed about how solid he is in the church, and hearing him testify of the truths of the Gospel kind of inspired me to be better about paying attention in church, studying my scriptures, and just living the principles I’ve learned.
And that’s one of the great ways to build our testimonies! By listening to the testimonies of others and by bearing our own testimonies!
Our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson said: “Regarding one’s testimony, remember, that which one willingly shares he keeps, while that which he selfishly keeps he loses…..Teach and testify. There is no better combination.”
So you see how important it is to bear our testimony.
I remember one time after fast and testimony meeting I actually felt really stupid that I didn't bear my testimony, because I know the church is true and I wanted to tell someone. So when I got home I just bore my testimony to my mom, because it's important to tell someone.
When we bear our testimony it will be especially beneficial if we speak by the Holy Ghost
2 nephi 33:1
1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I amighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man bspeaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
Going back to Craig, the experience I had also shows how peers can have a positive influence on your testimony. Three of my best friends, all went on missions this summer. What a blessing it is to have three great examples like that. And they have all helped me build my testimony. Just little things like, Ray, I don’t think you should do that, or…are you going to read your scriptures before you go to bed, or Ray, I slept in too but there’s a ward in green springs that meets at 2:50, so we can still go to sacrament.
I know that sounds a bit extreme, I usually don’t sleep in that late. And I know I’ll be making some adjustments to my sleep schedule for my mission.
When I followed the counsel of my friends, my testimony was strengthened as I obeyed the commandments.
And that’s another way we can build up our testimonies, just by obeying the commandments. I think that’s really cool cause let’s take, for example, if you didn’t have a testimony, but your parents made you go to church. Then you would learn the commandments and what you’re supposed to do. Of course it’s still your choice to pay attention and choose the right, but if you give it a try, you’ll gain a testimony! In John 7:17 is says:
“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine…”
So basically that means that if we do God’s will, we’ll know of the doctrine, or have a testimony!
Now let me talk to you about prayer. As I mentioned earlier, we can pray to know the church is true, and then receive a confirmation by the Holy Ghost. But really we can pray for everything. Usually I just go to rap artists for a good beat, and I don’t usually recommend following the example of any rap artists, but Mac Dre, a famous bay area rapper, actually set a good example regarding prayer. In one of his songs he said, “I P-R-A-Y every D-A-Y” And another famous rapper, Lil Wayne said, “Before I sleep I pray to the Lord” This is some good advice. But they’re still probably not the best to go to for spiritual advice, so if we refer to the scriptures, in Alma 37:37 it says:
37 aCounsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for bgood; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the cmorning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
I know through personal experience that when we counsel with the Lord our prayers are answered.
This last year I went to school at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. That college has some significance in my family. Not only is it where my parents met, but it is also where my mother was converted to the Gospel. She was actually baptized in a sunrise service just a few blocks from BYUH at Temple Beach. My mother is a convert, and so she knows what a great blessing missionaries can be. So she is excited for me to leave on my mission so that I can go and Preach the Gospel, and share with others the same message that she first heard that changed her life. And I’m sure she’ll be praying for me on my mission.
Going back to my testimony of prayer… not long after I got to Hawaii, I had my 18th Birthday. I had started to hang out with kids that all had longboard skateboards. So for my birthday all I really wanted was to get a longboard. And I have parents that love me, so for my birthday they sent me one.! I was overjoyed! I started riding it everywhere. About two days after I got it I rode it to the library to study, and left it on the skateboard rack outside the building. When I got done studying, it was gone. It had been stolen!
The year before that when I had only wanted one thing for my birthday it was an iPod, and that had gotten stolen. It seemed like whenever I got something I really loved, it just got stolen! So getting my longboard stolen last year actually hit me pretty hard, and made me really sad. I went out for a walk on my own and just started thinking. I thought, when I get something nice, it just gets stolen. Then I thought, so I guess there’s no point in having nice stuff. Then I thought, but what about developing skills? Well, if you develop skills, you could just get injured, and then you would lose that. Then I thought to myself, what about good friends? Well, you or your friends may just move away and then lose contact with each other. I thought to myself, what is the point of even doing anything?! I’m here going to school, and learning all kinds of stuff, but what if I got in a car accident and went brain dead. There’s really no point in doing anything! (looking back all my thoughts seem ridiculous, but you have to realize that I really loved that longboard). In all my sadness and self-pity, I decided to pray. I prayed that I could somehow get my longboard back, that I could be happy again, and that I could know what is even worth doing because it seems like you can just lose everything.
In our prayers we can have a tendency to be too general, please bless, please help, but if we pray with faith, we can actually be a lot more specific in our prayers, and then receive specific answers.
And in this case, all my prayers were answered! Within two days of it getting stolen, the campus police watched the security tapes and got my longboard back from the guy whole stole it! And then of course I was back to being happy! And regarding the biggest question, what is even worth doing, I opened up my scriptures right to the page that has 3 Nephi 13:19-20
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where amoth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
20 But lay up for yourselves atreasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
So then I knew that what is really important is that we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. And I also had my testimony of prayer strengthened, and I knew that God really cares about me.
This whole story is a bit reminiscent of an article in this last month’s Ensign by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. It was about the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. In the article it says that “everyone…will be called upon to face trying times…We must not succumb to the fear that God has abandoned us or that He does not hear our prayers. He does hear us. He does see us. He does love us.”
So when times get hard, like our stuff gets stolen, or we don’t have any money because of the economy, we just need to endure, and use the hard times as an opportunity for growth and ask for help. Even when the Prophet was in Liberty Jail it became like a temple because of his testimony and faith. Elder Holland says “you can have sacred, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life – in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.”
So we can actually be thankful for the hard times because we can have sacred experiences if we approach them with the right attitude. Looking back at my experience, I actually think it’s way funny the scripture that I opened up to, and it taught me a valuable lesson. It also gave me something to talk about in my farewell talk, so thank goodness for that!
In closing, of course I’d like to bare my testimony, but before I do I want to tell you about one of my friends in Hawaii that really helped strengthen mine. Right before the semester ended he bore his testimony in church. For most of his testimony he talked about how exciting it was to get his mission call, and how he wouldn’t be able to body surf for the next two years, because everyone knows that he loves to body surf. But then at the end he said that although he doesn’t know everything about the Gospel, he has a simple, but strong testimony, and he felt ready to serve a mission.
I feel exactly the same way. I don’t know everything about the church, but I do know that it is the right church, the true church, and that we have a living prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson. He’s an awesome guy. I know that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and that he restored the gospel. I also know that through prayer and scripture study we can build our testimonies and live worthily, and that our example can help others in their lives. I know that through Jesus Atonement we can repent and become worthy. And I also know that God loves us, and cares about us. And I also would like to add that I love my family, and I’m thankful for them, and that they were able to come and support me, and for the example they are. And I’m thankful for the great friends that I have. I love you and know that you help me lead a better life.
And I definitely recommend a mission for anyone who's thinking about it. Cause in my mission call it actually says "Greater blessings and more happiness await you" And I'm a really happy guy, so if I can be more happy, that's just awesome!
And of course I’m thankful for this great opportunity to serve a mission, and I’m so excited that I really just wish I could go sooner. I know that it will be hard, but that through prayer I will have help as I preach the gospel. It’s like President Monson said “Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”
And so I’m sure that my mission in Italy will be great.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Posted by Lia at 2:43 PM
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Party is tonight, 6pm. My house! Everyone be there!
Tomorrow I'm talking in church, 9am, the new chapel on Little Valley Ward.
See you there!
Posted by Lia at 2:33 PM