Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Week 5: Frisco


Good afternoon everybody! This past week was, as always, crazy. Not too much time to write today except to send out these pictures and remind everybody how much I love them! 

The first picture is of me and Elder Nelson, another Elder in our district. We went on an exchange a few weeks ago and apparently we look exactly alike? That's what everybody we met while on the exchange told us (an exchange is a 24 hour swap with a companionship. I went with Elder Nelson and Elder Seager went with Elder Hurd). So we took a picture to prove it. And it's sort of true I guess? I don't know. Who knows anything anymore??

The rest of the pictures are pretty self-explanatory. Elder Seager is in there. There are a few of me as I'm embarking from the mission office. 

It's been a super busy week though, but all in all satisfactory. It's hot but not unbearable. And I'm well fed, as usual. 

I love you all lots. Sorry for the short email!

Love love love
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Monday, July 16, 2012

Week Four: If you could Hie to YOLOb
1 message

Hello all!
I love you! This email will be short because. um. No time? How is there never any time?
Anyways, this week has been amazing.
Bullet list:
-We unwittingly helped a woman come back to church for the first time in 25 years. We knocked into her this week and didn't even realize it until we found out that she had called our bishop and requested us to come back. And she came to church on Sunday! It was. Amazing. One of the most tender and beautiful things I've seen.
-We helped two English ladies from Australia break into their car with a hanger
-We ate tri-tip
-I petted the Herrera's cats again!!!
-In church the ward choir sang "Where Can I Turn For Peace" on top of "Be Still My Soul". It was beautiful!
Oh man, that's sort of the highlight only not really? So much happens in a week, it's tough to fully explain it all. But rest assured that the work continues on. This area is very difficult as far as knocking doors or getting people to teach. Other areas you might have 20 lessons in a week. I'd say we might have had 20 lessons in the past 4 weeks, cumulative. It's tough. But the thing is we still get out every single day and knock as many doors and talk to as many people as we possibly can. And because we're working hard, Heavenly Father blesses us with miracles. Like people coming in to church while we're playing basketball and asking to be taught (that happened this week). Or people coming back to church for the first time in 25 years. Or petting cats. Miracles. All miracles. So, all you missionaries out there reading this: if you work hard, even when it feels like you aren't getting anywhere, the Lord will bless you for your efforts.
I love you all. I want to invite each and every one of you to church this sunday! You can go on and type in your address and find out what's closest to you. If you are wondering why I'm out here or what I do or talk about all day, that's the best and easiest way to find out.
I promise pictures next week.
I love you all. I've only got two weeks left in Frisco! OMG.
Love love love,
Elder Christman

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 3 - Frisco Texas

alexander christman
1:29 PM (1 hour ago)

to Eric, me, Emily, Nate, Alicia, Irene, anne.fuller, asplundingrid, Taylor, marni, Barbara, tkchrstmn, djolauson, Eliza, Daniel, Taylor, Bill, Brian, natalie.raines, brittany.evans
I will say this every week but how is it Monday already again? Geez, time flies out here. I am halfway through my first transfer! What??
Time is limited so I'll keep it short but I wanted to share a story. The day we got into Frisco three weeks ago, we met with a member of the bishopric for the 3rd ward (every ward has a bishop and two counselors who help him). We got a referral to go back and check on a less active member named David that this brother had met a few weeks earlier and had just been thinking about a lot since then. We went over that night and talked with David for a few minutes. He was interested in seeing us the next day, so we set up an appointment. When we showed up, we got to talking. David's girlfriend Lisa was there as well. David's been less active in the church for about 12 years or so. He has been going through some nasty legal issues with his divorce and the custody of his children for the past few years. Lisa has also been going through the same sorts of things and both were really distraught. As we talked to them, they grew less and less nervous and anxious about all their legal troubles and the stresses they face. We talked a bit about Jesus Christ and how he can encourage and bear us up in times of trial. Turns out Lisa has read from the Book of Mormon and has completely read through the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelation). She was really enthusiastic about learning more. So we set up an appointment for lunch the next Friday. That Friday came around and when we showed up, David said he was surprised to see us because he thought Lisa had cancelled. David was moving out of his house and had people working on things so we couldn't talk much but he said to keep calling Lisa. He was going back to Utah the next day but encouraged us to keep in touch. A few days passed where we couldn't seem to get ahold of Lisa but we kept trying. Finally we got in touch and set up a teaching appointment at the church. We met up and went over the first lesson about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. We had a great conversation and, at the end, she said, "Do y'all have any more questions or anything?" When we said no, she said, "Ok well good because I know it's true. And I want to get baptized." We were blown away! Unfortunately for us, Lisa lives 9 miles outside of our mission, up in Aubrey, Texas. She's technically part of the Fort Worth Mission. So we talked her through that and explained the process to getting her transferred over to her ward and the Fort Worth Elders. It took a LOT of faith on her part and ours to trust in the organization of the mission and the church. It felt like we were sending her out without any help; we had no contact with the Fort Worth Elders or her future bishop. She also seemed uncomfortable and uneasy about leaving the relationship we had already established. For me, it was trying because it was such a huge blessing to meet with her and to have her be so confident and receptive. I felt like I couldn't wait for others to step in and take over; I wanted to get it done myself! But I prayed hard and just relied on the Lord. We didn't hear much from Lisa for the past two weeks, until Saturday evening. She called to tell us that she and her two children are getting baptized on the 28th of July. It was such a miracle. She said that the night before we knocked on David's door, he was telling her that he kept feeling like he needed to go back to church but couldn't figure out why. She said that he was questioning whether or not he even believed in God. David is now back at church and preparing to take part in the baptism of Lisa and her family.
It's a testament to me that God knows His children. He knows each and every one of us so well. And all we have to do to bless and help others is to do our duties. To reach out to others and to be there for them. To lift where we stand as President Uchtdorf says.
Anyways, that's a HUGE blessing for us and for Lisa and her family. It's an incredible thing to see happen. Miracles do happen in our area.
No pictures this week, sorry friends and loved ones. I haven't seen anymore cats, that's the main reason.
I'm well-fed and happy. Very very busy. But the weather has chilled out.
Today I'm buying a can opener!
I love you all so much. Write me letters!!!!
Love love love,
Elder Christman

Week 2: Frisco Texas

alexander christman
Jul 2 (7 days ago)

to me, Emily, Nate, Alicia, Irene, anne.fuller, asplundingrid, Taylor, marni, Barbara, tkchrstmn, djolauson, Eliza, Daniel, Taylor, Bill, Brian, natalie.raines, brittany.evans
Whew. How is it Monday again? I'm starting week three in the field. That means that my time in Frisco is almost half way up! WEIRD.
So much has happened this week but it's tough to condense and report it all so I'll bullet point it:
-Frisco has a reputation for being a difficult area because it's wealthy, lots of southern baptists, lots of anti-mormon stuff, nobody home cause they all work, etc. But it's been an incredible experience being here. I'm learning how to work with the ward members to get to know them and see to their concerns. I love it here so much. It's amazing.
-All the people we've taught and got to know all belonged to either a different mission entirely or a different ward. We have to stick to teaching the people who go to the Frisco YSA Branch and the Frisco 3rd ward because of lots of reasons but the most success we've had with having good discussions with people and teaching lessons haven't even gone to our ward. It's both amazing and really frustrating at times. ha ha ha.
-No heat exhaustion this week!
-Went on a day exchange to Plano. Because Elder Seager is a district leader (meaning he is responsible for all the missionaries in a geographic area), he goes out visiting with different companionships and I either tag along or am placed with another missionary for a period of time (no longer than 24 hours). This happened last week, and I was in Plano. Boy howdy the people of Plano are crazy. There were FAR more people willing to talk to me though so that was nice. But this guy had us at his door for about 10 minutes describing in depth how Ross Perot got the EDS people out of Iran in the 70's. He kept saying over and over, "Ross Perot is a demi-god". Then he thanked us and we walked off dazed.
-I almost ingested some bird shot in a piece of duck an investigator (that's the term we use for someone who is investigating the church) gave me. TEXAS.
-Marni, Amelia, and Thomas Campbell: Do you remember an elder who served in Seattle 3rd back between 2006 and 2008 or so named Elder Abegg? He came to one of our wards on Sunday and we talked about you all. He remembers you!
-I finally have to concede the nearest and dearest point of my heart: butter tastes better than margarine. The truth is out. There. (X-Files)
I love you all! No more time, but I'm sending pictures. I love you I love you I love you!!! This week has been amazing. Know that I'm praying for y'all.
As the texans say, "'Preciate ya!"
Love love love,
Elder Christman
P.S. The pictures of me and the biggest fattest cats I've ever seen and who I love. I'll have more pictures next week!
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Week One
Greetings from Frisco Texas!
So much has happened in the past week, so let me get the preliminaries out of the way.
I am in Frisco, Texas! My address for the next 6 weeks (only) is:
Elder Christman
710 Rose Hill Ln
Frisco, TX 75034
Until I get my call at the end of these three months, I will be emailing from this gmail account.
The apartment I live in is NICE. It is HOT. We got HEAT EXHAUSTION earlier this week. But we are HEALTHY. I am EXERCISING every day. I ride a bike two miles in the morning and run a quarter of a mile. I lift weights. I also eat at least two meals a day at the homes of members in the two congregations we cover. So I am SUPER well fed. Probably gaining weight, at that.
Here is some fun basic information. My mission president is named President Durrant and he is AMAZING. He is very in tune to the needs of the missionaries. I.E.: my trainer is Elder Seager! He's from Las Vegas and served for the last 8 months as an assistant to the mission president (the mission president gets a companionship of missionaries who assist him in all of the things. Basically it's a VERY difficult and busy job, because it's a ton of administrative tasks, as well as tending to all of the 155 missionaries in the mission,  as well as proselyting and teaching). We both got double transfered in to our area, which is unusual. Normally, a missionary will transfer in to an area to a companion who has previously been serving in that area so that the work isn't interrupted. The new elder gets adjusted to the area while the elder who was already in the area helps them continue meeting with investigators and members and all of that fun stuff. Elder Seager and I didn't have that luxury. We are both brand new to the area which means we're both clueless about the work that's gone on before us and the needs of the congregations we cover. The mission is set up so that each area has an "area book" which is a binder of information, such as the boundaries of the area and previous investigators and teaching records and ward member lists and things like that. But our predecessors weren't super diligent in their record keeping so we had very little to go on once arriving. However, that gave us the opportunity to work that much harder at getting started and staying busy. It's been incredible being here. I know right now that this was the best decision I've ever made (besides getting baptized). I am truly happy. I am so excited and concentrated and I just feel my mind and heart growing. The members here are an inspiration. Elder Seager is a rock. He is so solid and obedient to the calling of disciple of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect companion for me. We work hard, stay positive and reverant (that's a hard one for some 19 year olds to do), keep a good attitude, and don't waste time. It's WONDERFUL. Elder Seager's testimony is clearly hard won. He's been a member all of his life but he's had some great experiences which have transformed his understanding of the gospel and Jesus Christ. He's so strong and helpful. It's tough to believe I'm almost two years older than him. Ha ha ha.
So in addition to being double transfered, Elder Seager is also training me and is a district leader. Our responsibilities cover a family ward, the Frisco 3rd, and the stake YSA branch. That means that we spend over 8 hours at church every sunday, in between the three hour meetings and hour long ward councils (planning meetings for the auxiliaries of the ward). Yesterday was our first Sunday and we were asked to give our testimonies. It was a great experience because as a missionary I've realized that all that matters right now about who I am is my testimony of Jesus Christ and his Atonement. All that matters is how much I desire to serve others. All that matters is how much I love and care for everyone, including myself. As a missionary, as I get to share my testimony, I am sharing the parts of me that I'm most proud of. The parts of me that I can hold out and say, "This is who I truly am, this is how I understand myself." It's a powerful, intimate thing and I'm so grateful for having the opportunity to do it day after day.
In short: I love it here. I love the work. I love the people. I'm guaranteed to leave this area at the end of this transfer (6 weeks), which means leaving Elder Seager as well and, even though I have 5 weeks left I'm already sad about it.
So, recap: you have my address so send me letters! Family can email me at my gmail account! No pictures to send home yet, but that'll change next week, I promise. No time to take pictures this past week! Just too busy.
I love you all. Your support and love means the world to me. If you're ever wondering why I'm out here and what I'm doing here, if you ever wonder why I love this work and why I'm happy and proud to respresent it, I invite you to go to a church meeting. You can find times and meeting houses at It'll give you a better understanding of who you are, of how you are loved, and how you can be happier. I promise you those blessings.
Everything is great. Even having people slam the door in your face. Even that is bearable when you know why you're doing it.
Love love love to you all,
Elder Christman

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Farewell Talk Transcript: Confusion and Reality

Today I was blessed and honored to give a farewell talk at my local chapel in the Dallas 1st Ward. Everybody there is incredible and have all been such an inspiration to me. I got the opportunity to thank the members of the ward for their service to me, as well as bear my testimony of my understanding and belief in the gospel of Christ.

I felt it might be helpful and a matter of good faith to post the rough transcript of my talk online here as it is, essentially, part of my missionary experience. I wrote the talk out fully to flesh out my ideas and then sort of stuck to this draft while speaking so this is as close as one can get to being there I guess:

Farewell Talk given 6/3/2012 at Dallas 1st Ward, Midway Chapel

I am honored and excited to be here today and extremely blessed and excited to announce that this will be my last Sunday in the ward. I'll be reporting to the mission field on June 18th and before then I'll be headed home to visit family in Kentucky. I've been called to serve for three months in the Dallas Mission here in Texas and, pending my ability to handle the rigors of the mission, I'll be sent out to another mission and the MTC shortly following my time here in Dallas. I'd like to clarify, for a moment, why I'll be serving in two missions. I've got some mental health issues I live with that have made getting this far in the missionary application process difficult. I live with CDO, which is OCD only in alphabetical order like it's supposed to be. I've also got severe, at times clinical, depression. Those things combined have made me feel as though I'd never get to serve. And the brethren in Salt Lake have decided that the easiest way to see if this work is right for me is to immerse me in it for three months. I'm so pleased to get this call and excited to move on to my other call following my time here. I'm comfortable sharing this with you all because I want it to be known that if you have any doubts whatsoever if the Lord will provide for you opportunities to live your life fully, complete with the opportunity and blessing to serve others, you need not worry. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep and He knows you, knows what you need, and never leaves you wanting.

Today I've centered my talk around two quotes. The first is from e.e. cummings and is something I wrote down a long time ago in preparation for my farewell talk. In fact, it was so long ago that I don't even remember why I wrote the particular quote down. I had a document on my computer titled "mission farewell" and when I realized that I actually had to concentrate on writing this last night, I excitedly thought to myself, "I must have done some work already. There's the file!" And when I opened it up, there was only one line of text and it was this quote, "the departure of everything real is the arrival of everything true".

Great. Talk written.

I don't know why I wrote that down when I did but it actually synced up perfectly with another quote which has stuck firmly in place ever since I read it during scripture study the other morning.

From D&C 63:24 - "And now, behold, this is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence."

These two quotes jive so well for me because, I think, they are both essential parts of the same process. For one, in order to even begin to be happy with ourselves and this life on earth, we must cede our firm grasp on what we understand to be "real". Classically, and not illogically, we understand what is 'real' to be that which we can touch, smell, taste, etc. Our empirical faculties define what the 'real' world is. In addition to that, we define things like society, cultural expectations, social norms and pressures - all very real things to be sure - by our experiences which are comprised of our empirical faculties. Basically, what we experience first-hand we understand to be real. That's the story of western philosophy. What's delightfully crazy is that at the end of experience and experienced 'real'ness is a gap, a broad open nothing wherein lies intangible truths. Like human consciousness. Like ethics and morals. Like miracles. Like perceived communication with a higher power. It's like staring wide-eyed into a pitch black room; our eyes begin to play tricks on us and we begin to see shapes and figures emerge from the gloom where we cannot even see the hand in front of our face.

How do we reconcile the limits of our human experiences with the constant reassurance that there is something beyond us? Again; we must cede our hold on what we understand to be 'real'. And after that? The departure of everything real is the arrival of everything true.

Things in this world are not as they should be! We are ill. We are sad. We hurt others. We hurt ourselves. We try hard and do not succeed. We try very little and do succeed. Innocent people die without an explanation world round. There's a wealth disparity that seemingly can't be solved without the breakdown of civil discourse or moral fiber. And the message that one hears over and over again to explain all of this is that this is simply how the world "is". That this is the real world. That this is the truth of the matter. How then to battle our disgust with this reality when we know that it doesn't ring true? We must release our grasp on it. Admit that it isn't true. That there is a better, more ecumenical and loving way that things are set up and ordered. The departure of everything real is the arrival of everything true.

The second quote comes into play here. If we are to give up everything real, as so many early Latter-day Saints did, and to welcome the arrival of the truth, then how do we combat "confusion, which bringeth pestilence"?

This line is so tiny in this gigantic chapter. In fact, this line is so tiny in the entirety of scripture. I don't think that this sentiment is shared anywhere else, although if I'm wrong please manifest with the right hand. Those who think that joke was lame, with the same sign. This is crucial to me though. This idea that confusion is pestilence. It's such a great insight. In our lives, we experience situations of woe or misery where we hold full or partial accountability for how things turned out. This is an unavoidable fact of agency. And in these situations, these mini-tragedies, we have a pain that runs two ways. There is the initial pain of the transgression, either one committed against us by another or against ourselves by ourselves, and then the pain of confusion. Confusion as to how to proceed, how to process the pain we're feeling, confusion as to how to reconcile this event with our normal lives. The list runs on and on and, in the end, confusion might end up eating us from the inside out. Pestilence is synonymous with the bubonic plague, an infection which causes necrosis of living tissue within your body. It is an illness which eats you from the inside out.

Confusion brings pestilence. Notably, the quote isn't "confusion IS pestilence". We have normal confusions as well. It is a part of being alive. However, as someone with an illness which thrives exuberantly on confusion, I can tell you that even sometimes seemingly small confusions can lead to full-blown crises.

How do we escape this confusion in the pursuit of the arrival of truth then? God has given us instruction in this very chapter!

1. Take your time with things. He orders the saints to assemble but NOT IN HASTE because haste in things brings confusion. Don't rush yourself. Do things correctly. Festina lente, as St. Augustine would say.

2. Be committed. Earlier in the chapter, He says that He will make the mysteries of His kingdom known to those who keep His commandments. The reasoning for this is because if He gave the mysteries of Heaven by commandment, they wouldn't be heeded. This means that we will be given, in return for following His wisdom, a piece of His wisdom. We won't know the full reasoning behind all that we do until we do it. In order to fully go along with this, one must be committed.

3. Seek after the truth. Our faith would mean nothing if it couldn't be tested. It's tested on our end by living life righteously. It's tested on God's end by the power of prayer and the Holy Ghost. If you wish to seek after the truth, turn to the source of all knowledge and truth: God. Ask in humility and out of real longing and you will have your heart and mind enlightened.

Do not act in haste. Be committed. Seek after the truth. These small things will help slow and the stultifying effects of confusion in your life.

As a final thought, I'd like to address something which often gets me in trouble. I like to think I've got an inquiring mind. As a result, I sometimes think, or used to think, that believing in something was the same as denying all other things. It's a weird sort of black and white thinking that I've had to break myself of over the past few years, but I know I'm not alone in making this assumption. A good friend of mine in high school was one of the first people who had really gotten me into the habit of discussing my faith openly. He was the one who encouraged me to find a church to go to and we'd often talk at length about the particulars of God and Christ in our lives. When I found the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and began learning the gospel of Christ, I was so excited to share this knowledge with my friend. There were answers to questions we'd long been asking each other in vain. He politely turned away my excitement for him to check out the church though, and made it clear that to him, faith was founded in a nebulous cloud of uncertainty. It was foolish and vain in his eyes to assume that God had anything so tangible upon the earth as a central church. Over time, I saw this attitude transform our discussions of our faith. Whereas my friend used to speak excitedly of Christs' role in his life, I soon saw him talk about how distant and removed Christ was from him. It was like, in order to avoid defining a higher power too much, he had to turn his faith into a metaphor. The abstraction was too much, and the last time we talked my friend said he was taking a break from religion for awhile. Which isn't something to bemoan and rent our garments over. It's something, in fact, that I've said in the past. But it's the natural progression of a line of thinking that says, "If we forsake the real for the true, then we must retain our confusion because it must be in the confusion that the divine is held." That is, it's a belief that confusion is essential to spirituality. This is not true. God would never leave us to confusion. Confusion is not the same as open-mindedness or humility. It's not the same as admitting that there is more truth out there to be found. It is not the same as suspending disbelief. There is such a thing as not knowing the wholeness of the truth and still knowing the truth.

I would like to finish by bearing my testimony of this church and, more importantly, this gospel. The church leads us to an understanding of the gospel of Christ. The gospel of Christ leads us to an understanding of our true selves, in the eyes of a loving Heavenly Father. We are so blessed by our Heavenly Father. God loves us. Christ lives and is active in our lives today. I invite all of you up to bear your testimonies. Speaking truth feels good. Share that part of yourselves of which you're most proud; the part of yourselves that most fully shows what a divine and precious being you are in the eyes of God. Thank you so  much. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Diet Dr. Mission Pepper

OK! So. BIG DAY TODAY. Got called by my bishop and told, at 10 AM, that there was "good news" about my mission call that we needed to "talk about" at 7 tonight. I didn't have a white envelope in my hands with a picture of a white guy slapping Saddam Hussein on the back of the head

(yes, this picture is featured prominently on the fabled packet of information about your mission which you receive in your "call"), so I figured out that everything, ever, was wrong and proceeded to worry for about 9 hours.

Come to find out that I am an idiot and should not have worried! AT ALL.

Sisters and brethren, I am pleased to announce that I am being assigned to the Dallas Texas Mission for two transfers beginning June 18th! I will be set apart (that is, specially designated; literally "set apart" from the world - a nice blessing that separates me with a mustache from the mustache-less me with a nametag!) as a full-time "short term" missionary for the duration of three months. I'll be serving under President Devin Durant. As in, retired NBA small forward, All-American (and French expat) Devin Durant. As in, the guy who is a dead lock for David Byrne:

Following my completion of said transfers, I'll receive a formal mission call from Salt Lake and will be shipped off to the MTC to begin the rest of my mission.

"OK," you're wondering. "What's this guy's DEAL?"

My deal. Ahem. Friends it's no secret that I suffer from an array of ailments. I can't grow a full beard, I'm obsessed with cats, and I have an unfortunate affinity for barley sodas (Malta India! Vita Malt!). I also deal with chronic (at times clinical) depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. That's also not that big of a secret, too, I guess. I mean, you don't have to be particularly observant to see how dizzyingly anxious I can get.

And so the careful, caring minds in Salt Lake decided to play it safe before sending me off onto a full-time mission. My time spent in the Dallas mission will be a sort of proving ground to make sure I can handle the rigors of mission life. If I can hack it for the two transfers here, then I will receive my official mission call. If it proves too difficult, then I am at least prepared to return to a stable life.

It might seem kind of scary to admit openly here that I've got these issues. It also might seem to occlude the central point of this blog, which is about missionary work. But I include all this to solve any questions about my assignment and to stress that the Lord and His servants truly love us all. By some accounts I'm sure my missionary application looked like a disaster and a half; medications and letters from therapists and explanation after explanation that I am really not THAT messed up. I don't think I believed, truly, that I was actually going to be allowed an opportunity to tell people about how much the Lord loves us in this capacity until the bishop told me the plan today. I truly half expected to never, ever receive a letter or anything from Salt Lake. To just quietly live out the rest of my life waiting. Very dramatic, I know.

But until today I didn't realize to what lengths the Church will go to make sure that A) their members and  missionaries are safe and, B) that everyone gets an opportunity to serve. It's a major source of validation, to be honest. I know I can do this. The Church knows I can too. Here is the opportunity. What a wonderful feeling of trust and responsibility! What a wonderful feeling of loving encouragement.

This is an amazing and overwhelming honor. I can't express my gratitude enough for everyone who has provided comfort and support. My family, Eliza's family, my friends, my ward members, former bishops, cats, and coworkers who, admittedly, think I'm a pretty weird dude.

God bless y'all. The gospel of Christ and the Lord is here to make our lives make sense, to make us happy, to make us comfortable and loving and all around better people. If you want, I could mail you a Book of Mormon? Let me know? Call me, maybe?