Monday, August 29, 2011


Hello family!
Well, guess who has email in the MTC? Yup, we're the first ones to get it, so that's pretty exciting. So hopefully that means I'll be able to attach some pictures too. We'll see. Well, first of all I haven't received any mail if anyone has sent me anything. If no one has sent me anything then this is awkward. But speaking of firsts, guess how many missionaries we have at the MTC? 71. Yup. We're the biggest group they've ever had. There's about 19 of us going to Sierra Leone, and the rest are either staying in Ghana or going to one of the two missions in Nigeria. So yeah. We're super busy here all the time though. We are constantly in class and when we're not in class we're eating. And let me tell you, they give us a LOT of food. I've only cleared my plate once. The food itself is, well, interesting. Pretty much every single meal has some form of rice in it, although today we had pasta. Which was stinking delicious. We usually have some sort of fruit with the meal too. Which is always really really good. I don't really know what to say.. you'll have to ask me some questions. Umm I haven't played any football (yes, if feels good to call it that all the time) yet, but I've had plenty of good conversations with my Ghana friends here (US soccer fans, remember the last two world cups? yeah...). My companion here is Elder Nartey, who is from Ghana and is going to serve in Nigeria. He's awesome. Anyway, I'll just talk about the pictures since I have 4 minutes to send this.
So anyway, I have to go but email me back with any questions and I'll answer any that I can. Miss you!
Elder Stewart
 The first picture is in the Atlanta airport where about 20 other Elders showed up.
The second was actually taken over Africa from the plane. The clouds looked crazy.
The third is with Elder Nartey outside the MTC, and guess what, I grew about 4 inches!
The fourth is Elder Nartey standing next to some of our taller companions. He's about 5 feet tall. Haha.

Sending Hunter off!

Thursday we took Elder Stewart to the airport and sent him off to the Ghana Missionary Training Center for two years.  It was sad to see him go but we were excited for him.  
He was able to call us from the Atlanta airport and told us there were about 20 other missionaries traveling to Ghana with him.  The next day he was able to call us from Ghana and told us there were six lines of barbed wire on the fence.  He also said he was fed rice and "mush" for lunch.
We will post Hunter's letters on here for the rest of his mission so check back soon  :)  Don't forget to write him!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four Months Ago...

In case you haven't seen it, this was when I opened my mission call:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Farewell Talk Given to the Lafayette Ward!

               Throughout this summer I have had the opportunity to convert my family’s old video tapes to digital versions on our computer. While I was going through these tapes I came across a video of my mom talking to me when I was about five years old, and at a point in the conversation my mom asked me, “Hunter, where do you want to go on your mission?” Now of course when I was watching this video I was like “oh my gosh this is the most exciting thing ever.” But the crazy thing is that the answer five year old me gave my mom was exactly right. After she said “Hunter, where do you want to go on your mission?” I looked right back at her and said, “church!” I know I know, not nearly as impressive as me saying Africa, but seeing as how I thought Sierra Leone was in South America, I don’t think that’s very likely. So yes, if you didn’t know already I have been called to serve in the Sierra Leone Freetown mission which is located in West Africa… not South America.  I’ll be leaving Lafayette this Thursday to report to the Ghana MTC, and three weeks later I’ll head to Sierra Leone.

                So in the past four months I’ve had a lot of time to research and find out more about this far off land I will soon be moving to. My mission is English speaking, but there is a language that the local people of Sierra Leone speak that is known as Krio. It’s not the same thing as Creole like we know it here, but it is similar in a way. Just like Creole French is similar to regular French, Krio is supposedly similar to English. The reason I say similar is because I looked up some videos on YouTube of people speaking Krio and I seriously had no idea what they were saying. So that will be interesting. One of the main sources of information that I have found about my mission has come through a  blog set up by a missionary who is currently serving in my same mission and has been there for almost year. Basically what happens is that his family posts the emails he sends to them every week onto this blog, and anyone who is curious can go and read it to find out what he’s been up to. Just real quick I want to share some things that he has seen and experienced that tells me I am in for a very different experience. These things are: Venomous Black Cobra snakes, two giant scorpions fighting, cooked monkey leg, getting infected with malaria, the main streets in the city being made of dirt, and Sierra Leone being in the top 10 poorest countries in the world. So with that said you might be wondering why anyone would want to go to this place. Well, besides the fact that I thought that most of that list of things sounded pretty awesome, it’s the other things that I have read that makes this place so special. Hearing about the dedication and just overwhelming spirit of the people that live there makes this place sound like a utopia. Without a doubt the next two years are going to be very difficult, but at the same time the will be even more rewarding.

                The message I have to share with y’all today is one that I’ll be sharing many times throughout the course of my mission, and that is the meaning of the Atonement, and the role it plays in our lives. Before any of us came to this earth, Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. By doing so, Christ’s mission was to become the ultimate sacrifice for all of us today, and make it possible for us to be resurrected and to work towards obtaining eternal life. Three days after Christ died on the cross, his spirit was reunited with his body, and he obtained an immortal body of flesh and bones. This is resurrection, and this is a gift that is promised to all of us, regardless of whether or not we have done good in this life. To be clear, no matter what you do in this life, you WILL receive this gift of resurrection. However, this does not necessarily mean that we will receive eternal life, or that we will be allowed to live in God’s presence. That is something we must work for, as it says in Doctrine & Covenants Section 14 Verse 7—“And if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” In Preach My Gospel, it says, “Our Father’s plan for us to be successful in this life and to return to live with Him is called the gospel of Jesus Christ, with Jesus’ Atonement at the center of that plan. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive eternal life if we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.” So to emphasize the 5 main things we must do to receive eternal life and return to God’s presence, we must:
1.       Exercise faith in Jesus Christ
2.       Repent
3.       Be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins
4.       Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and
5.       Endure to the End

One person who I always felt exercised incredible faith in Jesus Christ was the prophet Jacob, who is found in the Book of Mormon. One of my all time favorite quotes in any scripture is found at the end of Jacob Chapter 7 Verse 5. In this chapter Jacob is being spoken to by a man named Sherem, who is trying to convince Jacob that Christ could and will never exist. It is to these attempts that Jacob replies, “And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.” I love that. Jacob could not be shaken in his faith. When I think about where I want to be in my own faith, I always think of Jacob, and always try to strive to be that unshakeable rock that he was. If we all follow his example we will have no problems exercising faith in Christ.

        Repentance and being worthy is so important. I looked it up and it turns out that the word “repentance” is used in the Book of Mormon 187 times. The incredible thing about repentance is that we can receive forgiveness for anything we do wrong in this life. That is made possible through the Atonement of Christ. If we commit a serious sin, we cannot be afraid to speak to the bishop about it. I had a friend at BYU who had committed a serious sin before, and he told me that even though he had feelings of shame and guilt, talking to the bishop and confessing of his sins was without a doubt the right thing to do. He said that after he had gone through the repentance process he was able to feel forgiveness, and ultimately felt closer to his Father in Heaven. If you are one of those people, do not hesitate to speak with the bishop. In Alma chapter 34 verse 33 it says, “And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” We cannot wait until the last days to ask for repentance.
We have been called to be baptized to receive a remission of our sins. In John chapter 3 verse 5, Christ tells us, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  When we are baptized by immersion, we are in a sense, born again. When we are baptized, we are completely clean from sin, just as we were when we were born. Baptism is what Christ was talking about, being “born of water and of the Spirit.” I remember the feeling I had at my own baptism. I remember that when I stepped down into the font, it felt as if there was a great weight around my ankles. As I was pulled up from the water I remember that feeling of great weights being lifted from me. I knew that I had been washed clean from my sins. While I didn’t completely understand the magnitude of baptism, I did understand the importance of the ordinance, and I knew that from that point forward it would be my responsibility to remain perfectly clean. But, as we all know, none of us are perfect. We all sin, and we all make mistakes. And because of this we are so lucky to have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament each week. The sacrament serves as a time to renew the covenants we made at baptism. To remind ourselves and the Lord that although we have sinned, we want to be forgiven, move past those sins, and to be considered clean again. As long as we repent of our sins, take the sacrament worthily, and continually remember those sacred covenants we made at baptism, we can remain clean and prepare for the day we will meet God.

                The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a great blessing we can all receive. After we are baptized we are confirmed members of the Church and are given this gift by the laying on of hands. It is important to know however, that there is a difference between the gift of the Holy Ghost, and feeling impressions of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith said, “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received [impressions of] the Holy Ghost  before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him.” Many people who are not of our church think that a missionary’s purpose is to try and convince people why they should join our church. But in reality, it is not the missionary who changes the hearts of the people, but the impression of the Holy Ghost. Anyone who is currently an investigator or a convert of the Church can probably agree that when they were being taught by the missionaries just about every visit involved the missionary’s telling them to pray to God and ask if what the missionaries are telling them is true. If there is anyone here today who is wondering if the things that I’ve said, or anything that they have heard or will hear in this building today, are true, then I challenge you to pray and ask God if they are true. I promise you that you will receive an answer of its truthfulness.

                And finally, the last thing we must do is endure to the end. Now that we have gone through all the ordinances and have gained a more complete knowledge of the gospel, we must strive to stay worthy of our covenants and be good examples to those around us. Elder Keith K. Hilbig said it best when he said, "The path to eternal life is not on a plateau. Rather, it is an incline, ever onward and upward. Hence, ever-increasing spiritual understanding and energy are required to reach our destination. Because the pernicious opposition by Satan continues, the continuous enlightened guidance of the Holy Ghost is absolutely essential." I watched a talk online once that was given by the LDS Business College Student Body President. He had just returned from being an EFY counselor, and he told a quick story from there that he called “The Parable of the Golden Jug.” For those of you who don’t know, EFY is a weeklong camp the church puts on for the youth, where they learn about all kinds of different things about the gospel and have just and awesome time with other church youth from around the world. The week that he was a counselor was very, very hot. So hot that the people in charge there made a competition in which the group who drank the most water would win a big golden jug filled with 7 pounds of candy. One week he had a group of boys who really wanted to win so they worked really hard to get everyone in the group to drink tons of water. At the end of the week the group that got third place had drank 500 bottles, the group who got second place had drank 800 bottles, and the group that got first, this counselor’s group, had drank 1,840 bottles. That night they were all celebrating when one of the boys in the group said to him, “We won by a lot. Why didn’t you tell us that we were winning by so much? We could have won by 10 bottles. If we would have known we wouldn’t have had to work so hard.” So this counselor thought about it for a second, and then a thought came to his mind. He looked at his group of boys and he said, “When you pass from this life and you make it to the celestial kingdom, do you want to make it by doing the bare minimum, or do you want to make it knowing you gave it your all and you did your best? Do you want to make it by 10, or do you want to make it by 1,000?” The thing we can take from this is that when we endure to the end, we need to do everything in our power to be better servants of Christ. We need to do all that we can to build up his kingdom and to share our happiness with those around us. It’s only by doing these things that we can truly endure to the end and return to our Father in Heaven.

                In closing, I’d like to leave y’all with my testimony…

These things I leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.