Monday, September 30, 2013

Keeping Covenants

Hello friends and family,

I would like to start my email by saying that my heart goes out to my Oakview ward. I heard about some of the tragedies that took place this last week, and I wish to express my sincerest sympathies to my dear friends back home. I know the sadness will pass with time and I know that our Savior can heal your hearts. To the Jensen family I send all my love and I am offering prayers in your behalf each day.

In light of all that has happened this week, I must say I've had a wake up call. Heavenly Father has put a number of experiences in my path to remind me what this life is REALLY about.

I am so grateful that the Relief Society Broadcast focused on Covenants. I hope everyone that was able to go to the broadcast found it as enlightening as I did.

So, what is life about? It's about making sacred covenants and doing all that is necessary to keep those covenants. Through the saving ordinances we receive we can one day receive the greatest gift of all, exaltation. As has been made very clear to me, life is so very short. The time is now to do what I can to keep the sacred covenants I have made. Not tomorrow, not some time in the near future... The time is NOW.

What does it mean when we keep covenants? When we keep our covenants we are bound to the Savior. I love that! "BIND" is such a powerful word. 

I love how Sister Stephens reminded us that we demonstrate our commitment to the covenants we make every time we act as the Savior would act. I'll admit, I never really thought of it that way. We, as members of the church, have committed to act in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ... So it would only make sense that Christ-like acts demonstrate covenant keeping! Seems so obvious... but it really flipped a switch on in my brain... don't know about anyone else. Haha.

I've been thinking a lot about what I can do to help the relief society sisters in my ward keep the covenants they made at baptism and eventually make more sacred covenants in the temple. I realized on Saturday that it all starts with me. "Mourn with those that mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort." I have been issued a call... and that call is to put away all other distractions so that I can focus solely on the needs of those in the ward in which I'm serving and well in essence, EVERYONE I come in contact with. I would say this is a prime time to think about the covenants I've made with my Heavenly Father and look at what I can do to better demonstrate my dedication to those promises.

So again, after receiving word about Sister Tamra Jensen, I understand a little more than I did before the importance of expressing love to those who are far from me. I love every one of you... family, friends, anyone who may be reading this. You are not alone. Ever! As was mentioned by our Prophet Thomas S. Monson this week, the tribulation we face may bring us to our knees and cause us to seek consolation from the atonement. And this is what helps us grow. No challenge each of us faces is too great, and no trial too difficult for us to overcome. As we keep the covenants we have made at baptism and in the Holy House of the Lord He is bound. He will always keep his end of the deal. Thus, our families are forever. I know, with all that is in me, that families last beyond the veil. The relationships we have with our dear loved ones have been there since before this life began and will go on after this life.

I love you all and may God bless you with the strength you need to endure!

Love Always, Sister Franklin

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Zoo and sisterhood

So this week was a little bit slower... but a lot of good stuff happened...Sorry I didn't really think about what I was going to say before hand. I'm usually better about that. But off the top of my head:

First off, we went to the zoo!! As I may or may not have mentioned before, we do service each week in a nearby park called Prospect Park. The park was designed by the same people who built Central Park, so it has a similar feel to it. Beautiful place...Anyway...inside Prospect Park there is a zoo, and to thank us for the many years of service the missionaries here in Brooklyn have rendered to the Park they let us in for FREE! Wooo! Super fun. So I'll include a couple pictures from that. (Tara didn't send any pictures of the Zoo.:()

So I've been thinking about something a lot. And that thing is...Sisters. A sister is a really unique person. I think everyone can agree that a relationship with a sister is pretty special. As we were riding the train on the way to an appointment the other night we were sitting across from a mom and two daughters. The sisters were very close in age and they had matching clothes on. One had her head resting on the mom's shoulder and the other rested her head on the shoulder of her sister. All were sleeping peacefully. (Well, as peacefully as you can sleep on the Q train. Haha.)

It got me thinking about how much a missed my Sister. How appropriate that her Birthday is tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 24th)! So... Jaycee my dear...I would like to dedicate this email to you.

From the beginning of my time here on earth it's always been you and me. "Where did the time go??" People always ask...But I think we know where the time went. The time went to countless hours playing dress up. The time went to watching Beauty and the Beast and Lion King over and over again. Time went to many hours braiding hair and talking about boys. And well, as much as we hate to admit went to many hours of fighting about pretty dumb stuff. Haha.
So where did the time go? It went to US. Time together is what made us the people we are today and it created the relationship we have now. Sometimes though, I like to think about the earlier stages of our relationship. You know, before time actually existed here on Earth. How was it back then? I like to think we were best friends in the premortal life. Or maybe we weren't. Maybe Heavenly Father just knew you were the only person who could put up with me for eternity. Haha. Regardless I think Heavenly Father put us together for a very special reason. I may never figure out for certain the REAL reasons. BUT I have my suspicions. I know one thing for sure...You saved my life in a sense. Because of your expereiences you helped me see what paths I needed to take. I can truthfully say that I would not be where I am right now without your help. So, thank you for all the time you've spent with me. And I thank our Heavenly Father for allowing me to continue the relationship we began before this life.

Here's to families! Here's to sisters! Here's to another day in the life! AND here's to Birthdays! Happy 22nd Birthday Jaycee! 

Keep on keepin' on everyone! Pray for a missionary experience this week, and I promise you it will be given...and when it is, take it!

Love you all!

Sister Franklin

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jamaica and The Ultimate Lesson

     So... I'll just start by saying. This week was INCREDIBLE. I know I say that all the time. But I REALLY REALLY mean it this time. Haha.
     I'll start with saying our Bishop is just amazing. Simply amazing! So is his wife. The Herrera's moved into our ward just before I got here and look, now he's the bishop. The Lord sends ya where he needs ya. That's for sure. I've seen a lot of changes in the ward since he's become the bishop. He is so kind and so loving. He encourages us missionaries so much and thanks us for our hard work. He definitely motivates me to work harder and to be diligent in serving this ward that our good bishop cares for so much. Sister Jorgensen and I went and taught with his wife on Tuesday and it was such pleasure! She is such a great example of "acting well thy part" to the sister's in our ward and to us missionaries. In case there's any question, I'm referring to the talk "We Are Daughters of our Heavenly Father" by Sister Dalton. If you haven't read it recently... GO READ IT! Love that one.
     Hopefully I can do justice to this next story via email... it's a little complex and there's a lot to it... so I pray it makes at least a little sense.
     I was asked to participate in a public concert that the missionaries in Zone 6 were putting on. Along with Sister Blosil (from the Midwood English district) and Elder Goates and Elder Erickson from my district. (In case anyone wants to know... Sister Blosil is pretty much famous for her beautiful voice, Elder Goates is a vocal performance major from BYU and has got PIPES, and Elder Erickson may or may not be the best, or next to the best, piano player I've ever met..,Sooooo not really sure why they invited me, but I'm sure lucky they did.) (Sister Freeze and Sister Jorgensen stayed here in Midwood while Sister Blosil and I along with the Elders spent Saturday in Jamaica, Queens singing/performing and inviting people to church.
     It was a pretty cool experience. We were in kind of a big... like, mall? Thing? I don't know... regardless, we sang near a food court where a lot of people could gather and listen should they choose to. A LOT of people came and expressed interest in learning more and there were even a few people who were taught lessons right there in the food court. How cool is that!?
After the concert was finished, we planned to just head home to Brooklyn. BUT the Lord had a much better plan in mind for us.
     As we were just about to head down into the Subway station to get home, a man dressed in Muslim attire stopped us and said, "You guys are Mormons, right?" "Yes, we sure are!" was our reply... Now, at this point in time I hate to admit I was trying to think of all the many ways you can say "Sir, we really don't have time to argue but thank you for your opinion and your time" and which version of that phrase would be best for the situation. I immediately repented when he responded to our confirmation that we were indeed Mormons... He said, "Would you mind teaching me about what you believe? There are so many unreliable, hateful sources out there I simply can't trust what I see on the internet or read in a book. The only people who can accurately tell you about the beliefs of another religion are those who practice THAT religion." (You have to understand...this RARELY happens...usually people who approach us like that only want to argue or mock us. So this was a HUGE blessing, and well, a shock.) We all felt good about this, and said we'd be happy to teach him about our beliefs. He then said, "Hey, actually, would you mind coming back to the school and teaching me and my fellow scholars as well."   UMM, CLARO QUE SÍ. It's not everyday you get invited to a Muslim school to teach Latter-Day Saint doctrine.
     So we went down the block to the school. We removed our shoes before entering... (always super cool to participate in the traditions of other faiths and cultures, I LOVE IT!) and were seated in the office of the dean of the school. He came back with the Dean of the school. He kindly greeted us and offered us coffee or tea... And so it began! Haha...We taught them ALL of the missionary lessons including, The Restoration, The Plan of Salvation, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Word of Wisdom, The Law of Chastity, Tithing, Ordinances and temple work, and Missionary Work!
     They taught us about the Muslim beliefs and we learned LOTS about the history of Islam. I discovered that they actually have extremely similar doctrine to us. Interesting right? I had no idea. They believe in a pre-existence and an after-life just as we do... and they have very similar views on family and chastity. However, the extreme difference between our religions is Jesus Christ. They are not Christian. They do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. They do believe he was a prophet and they love him very much, but they do not worship him in anyway or acknowledge him as a savior for mankind.
     I thought about my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ and tried to imagine my life without that. It simply couldn't be. I'm so grateful for my knowledge that Jesus did indeed suffer every pain and affliction for all of us…he paid the price of our lives and made it possible to receive a fullness of joy.
This experience was one of the most enlightening and powerful experiences I've had in my life. I don't think I've ever had a spiritual witness that God lives quite like that. It was such a unique situation. It was truly a blessing to speak openly and freely about the doctrine of Christ and have no fear of ridicule or disrespect.
     Before we left, we gave them all the pamphlets we used to teach and gave them both a copy of The Book of Mormon.  Adam, the one who stopped us on the street gave me his personal copy of the Koran. SO AWESOME, right? He marked the chapters that really changed his life. Interesting to note that Adam is from Puerto Rico. So we got to speak a little Español. And hey, now that I've gotten pretty good at this Spanish thing... I can learn Arabic. Wooo!
     I think the greatest thing I took away from it was that God loves us. He truly does, and he allows us to experience what we need to in order to progress in our lives. I don't expect that either of those men will join the church anytime soon. And you know what, it's okay. Adam said to us, "There must have been some reason why God gave me the courage I needed to talk to you." And he's right. God does have his reasons. So whatever the reason, the four of us were meant to cross paths with those two great men that day.
We traveled back to Brooklyn and discussed what had happened. We all felt similar spiritual impressions and feelings. Love those missionaries we'll all remember that experience forever.
     After an hour and twenty minutes on the train, we were home. and shortly after that.... TRANSFER CALLS.
Dun. Dun. Duuuuunn.
And well. I'm staying here in MIDWOOD! WITH SISTER JORGENSEN. First time transfers didn't just throw me a huge curve ball. Couldn't be happier. Sista. J and I are going to rock this.
Best week ever!
Hope everyone else had a great week too! Keep the faith!
Hermana Franklin

      Me in Prospect Park

The View from my apartment window.
So Ghetto but so super cool!

Sister Jorgensen and Me (SYD)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Social Networking, Spiritual Gifts, And Sister Sydney Jorgensen

So... here's a slightly crazy piece of information for the week....

Come October, I can use Facebook for proselyting purposes... Whaaat? I'm not really sure how I feel about this. :)  I really loved the idea about leaving all that social connection behind when I left. However, I know the First Presidency and other people at church headquarters have thought about this a lot and this has definitely been in the works for years... So I'm sure great things will come of it. I just really don't love the prospect of seeing everything going on back at home as of right now... sort of feel like it will be more of a hindrance than help... Guess we'll find out in October.  

Ran into Jay and Lisa Franklin yesterday...That was SO crazy. I mean, of all the millions of people here in New York City! Haha. Guess they were in town for a Yankee's vs. Redsox game... (Way to go SOX.) (Sorry New York, you'll never convert me in that aspect. Haha.) Super awesome to see them and tell them all about my area and the missionary work around here.

Something I've been thinking about a lot this week is the concept of "spiritual gifts". I was encouraged by Sister Freeze (a sister serving in the English ward) to write down all the gifts of the spirit I've been given and all the talents I have. Then to write down things I'd like to improve on and spiritual gifts and talents I would like to develop more fully. I definitely recommend this exercise to anyone and everyone! It's awesome.... here's why...

The word talent comes from the Greek word talanton, meaning balance or weight, and refers to any variety of weights of gold or silver and the value of such in terms of currency in ancient cultures. Most of the seventy occurrences of the world "talent" in the scriptures refer to money in this sense, including in the parable of Jesus concerning the king who became the model of compassion by forgiving one of his servants a debt of "ten thousand talents".  (Matthew 18: 24). However, in His other well-known "parable of the talents" (Matthew 25), the Lord uses the metaphor to show that talents can be more than just money... they're also gifts that we can use to achieve worthwhile goals. In this sense talents are given to us to build the kingdom... they do in fact come with covenant responsibility. When we serve the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength (D&C 4:2) we can "stand blameless before God" and bring "Salvation to our souls". (D&C 4:4) Using our talents for the cause of Zion will bring joy, comfort and eternally enduring blessings.

As I learned more about what talents and gifts of the spirit actually ARE... I saw how I could use the gifts I've been given to improve those things that I saw needed some work in my life. The lord doesn't give us a task unless he has prepared a way for us to accomplish it. And well…I found that I have been given many tools/gifts/talents that will enable me to accomplish and achieve the goals I've set for myself.

(If you'd like citation of my sources...the scriptures, PMG, True to the Faith, and My Missionary Companion scripture book. Haha. I highly encourage you to read the spiritual gifts section of True to the Faith. Super great. )

Another gift I've been given is my Companion Sister Jorgensen.

She is such an inspiration to me. And I couldn't be more grateful to have her as my companion right now. She's helped me learn a lot about myself in the last 6 weeks.

She is such a strong woman. I don't know if she realizes it, but it's the truth.

She gave me a talk to read this last week... Wow. She just knows exactly what I need, when I need it. Ironically the talk she gave me mentioned how God has a very detailed plan for my mission... the people I will serve and teach, the wards I will be placed in, the areas I will be assigned to, my mission president and his wife, and of course those who will serve as my companions. And I know 100% that this is true. I know Sister Jorgensen was meant to be serving in this ward with me at this point in our missions. Our companionship isn't perfect... it's not like there weren't days this transfer that we could have been more effective/diligent. BUT Sister Jorgensen always knows how to make things better. It's awesome to see how our spiritual gifts and strengths really compliment each other.


I pray we stay together this upcoming transfer! (Only one week left of this transfer... they're just FLYING. Kinda want time to just slow the heck down. Haha.)

Anyway... that's about all I'd like to gab about today, hope everyone is well and dandy!

LOVE you!

Hermana Tara Franklin

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

D&C 135:3

This week was a roller coaster to say the least.

Something I think I should share that everyone would enjoy is a good "dog" story. I may have mentioned this before but dogs are extremely common around here. EVERYONE and their dog have a dog. (Why? I don't know. I've never figured out the logic behind... "We live in a tiny apartment that requires us to have our TV on our kitchen table and our bathroom also serves as space for Christmas Decoration storage...So we should probably get a dog." :) Whatever! Everyone's got one, regardless of how little sense it makes.)  Thus, we're used to getting attacked by various kinds of dogs of all sizes when we come to people's apartments...This week, however we had a fantastic encounter with a pet RABBIT.

We were looking up a less-active member in our ward when we found a MASSIVE pet bunny at the top of the stairs. It was bigger than a lot of the dogs and cats that I've seen in people's houses. He freaked us out pretty good. Haha. I don't know how many of y'all have had a rabbit, the size of a small child, charge you, but man it's scary. I think he thought he was a dog. After he realized we came in peace he just kind of hopped around us and pretty sure he would have wagged his tail if rabbits did that.  We named it Thumper. Never did figure out its real name because the member who owns it wasn't home. Better luck next week.

Another interesting thing that happened to us was that I was stopped by a gentleman who asked me to keep "my religion" out of his life and away from his family. He told us that his sister was a lesbian and was happily married to a woman in California. He also expressed his disgust with "my religion" for their support of Proposition 8. He told me he could never believe in a church where the men are called Elders and the women are not. It was probably only a 30 second conversation. It makes me sad that people misunderstand. This was one of those times where you feel pretty helpless...and by defending yourself you would only make the situation worse. So we had to just walk away. I truly feel bad that his family may have been hurt by discrimination or hateful propaganda geared toward homosexuality or sexism. But that's not "my religion".  My religion doesn't promote discrimination or hate. My religion isn't about exclusion. It's about inclusion. The good news of the gospel of Christ is for EVERYBODY.

Also, saw my second street fight this week. No knives this time. Haha. (Sorry mom, maybe I shouldn't tell you these things till after I come home.)

Had Mangu for the first time!! So good. For those of you who don't know. It's a Dominican dish...mashed plantains with onions and all kinds of good stuff in it.

My favorite highlight of this week was that the youth in my ward went to youth conference. They got to go upstate to The Sacred Grove and see Palmyra and all the Church History sites along the way. (So jealous of them...) Many youth who attended haven't come to church in years and Ashlynn our beautiful, wonderful 12-year-old investigator went as well. They all came back just glowing. ALL of the young women and young men got up and bore their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith during sacrament meeting. Several of them went into the Palmyra Temple and got to do baptisms for the dead for the first time ever. Hearing about their experiences just brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

They all got me thinking about my personal testimony of the Restoration and of Joseph Smith. I remember talking with my district a little while ago about when we all knew the church was true. Most of us said it was just a knowledge that came over time based on countless experiences. But one experience that really stands out and that I'll never forget was when I visited Carthage Jail with my family about 7 years ago. I remember putting my hands up on the window from which Joseph fell and I felt an overwhelming feeling. I remember feeling like God truly knew me, and loved me. I knew in that moment that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he was called by God to restore the gospel. 

Joseph Smith was given a divine mission to bring God's true church to the earth once again. I am so grateful that Joseph Smith completed his mission so that I could be here today serving mine. D&C 135:3 says "Joseph Smith the prophet and seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." I feel nothing but indescribable gratitude for the many blessings the restored gospel has brought to my life and to my family.  Joseph Smith himself said, "Now what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; a voice of truth from the earth; glad tidings from the dead; glad tidings for the living; glad tidings of great joy."

I love being a missionary!

Hope you all have a great week! A shout out to my Aunt Kylee and Uncle Scott and Cousin Ross... Congratulations on your new baby girl! She's GORGEOUS!


Sister Tara Franklin

        Thumper -- Killer Rabbit