Jose Perez

One of the greatest opportunities we have as brothers and sisters is help other people realize their own potential.  Sometimes those opportunities come all on their own, and we are just witnesses and partakers of them.  Such was the case one dark night in the Dominican Republic.

Sister Williams and I had been assigned by the bishop to visit various inactive members and families.  We got to work right away, and started visiting them every week.  One of these people was Ramon.  We was a big, jolly man, with a nice home and an eccentric personality.   Right after we started visiting him, he started coming back to church.  But we could tell that his heart was not in it, so we kept visiting.  One particularly dark night* we showed up for his house, and a buddy of his was there.  If there is one thing Dominicans love, it is having their friends listen to the missionaries.  Even the rebels on the street ask us to teach their friends.  Ramon was no exception.

We all went through the get-to-know-yous and the hymn and the prayer.  We were about to start the lesson when Ramon piped up.  He told his friend, Jose Perez, that we were missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that in the church we read the Book of Mormon.  Then he jumped up and ran out of the room.  He came back with a new copy of the Book of Mormon, and an old triple combination of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.  

He handed the new copy to Jose.  “This one is yours, and this one is mine.”  That animation for the scriptures kind of surprised us because we had been trying to get him to read his for three weeks.  Then he spent the next hour explaining every detail of the church and member-life to his friend.  We just sat there and listened.   Ramon was so energetic and excited.  We could never have shared anything with him that would have made him more excited about the gospel than what he was sharing with his buddy. 

Before we left, we invited Jose to church.  To our great excitement, he came.  He was there before Ramon and paid much more attention.  He was setting the example for his friend.  And so it continued.  He lived outside of our area, but the sisters we lived with took good care of him.  He was soon baptized and participating very actively in the church.  He worked on his family history and studied the scriptures.  I was so amazed at how the Lord had looked out for him and gotten him to Ramon’s house that night.  
Jose is in the red shirt.
One day he bore his testimony in church, and I got to hear his side.  He had been feeling pretty sad and depressed.  He felt something inside of him say to go to a church.  So he went to the closest church he knew.  But that church was closed.  So he went home.  But he still felt that way, so he went to find another church.  Again, that church was closed.  So as he sat home, desperate for something to give him peace, he decided to go to Ramon’s house for a visit.  He and Ramon were not close friends.  In reality, they were more like ex cousin-in-laws who kind of had heard of each other.  He took the ten minute walk to Ramon’s house, and was welcomed by a big, happy hug.  They had had very little to talk about, and were just sitting trying to make conversation when two girls called at the gate. 

What happened next changed his life and mine.  What I saw and heard was my inactive member sharing a testimony about eating chocolate at Family Home Evening and the fun activities at church – nothing doctrinal or particularly spiritual.  What Jose saw and heard was God answering the questions of his heart. 
Jose is in the striped shirt.

I had the opportunity to speak at his baptism, and I felt the spirit so powerfully as he sat there listening intently on my message.  His reaction to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost was that of overwhelmed joy.  During our last week in that ward, we got to go visit him in his home, and he bore his testimony to Sister Williams and me of the power of the priesthood and temple work.   His conversion was manifest, not only with his words, but with the spirit that radiated across the room.

I know that God loves every one of us.  I know that He knows where we are and how to get us where we want to be.  He will use every one of His willing children to lift up those in need of lifting.  He will allow us to help others reach their potential, and reach our own in the process.  He will give us the greatest joy possible if we are but willing to share it and receive it.

*His street had no electricity at night and it got incredibly dark, which was stressful because somewhere in the street there was a hole and a speed bump.  And we never knew until it was too late...

Little Lost Sheep

We frequently hear stories of miraculous encounters and missionaries finding some lost soul so perfectly prepared to receive the gospel.  For years I thought those stories were rare and maybe even exaggerated.  However, knowing how much God loves us, why would these stories be so rare and why would they not be so miraculous?

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

One of the first amazing finding stories of my mission was Carmen (with a ‘C’).  She came to church with her nephew, so we asked for her address.  She said she lived in house 5 of Second street.  In our area were about three or four second streets, and they were all quite long and quite far away.  So we started walking.  After several attempts and several days, we found nothing.  The next week at church she was kind of frustrated that we did not go to her house.  So we got her address again - different address this time.  Again, we did not find it.  One day we walked for about two hours.  I was hot and tired, but I felt so good knowing that we were looking for a sheep.  I remember thinking that the sacrifice would be worth it.  

On the third week of church, I think she refused to tell us where she lived because she was so annoyed that we had not shown up after she had already told us twice.  However, a lady in the ward knew our situation, and asked her where she lived for us.  Carmen just stepped outside the church door and pointed down the street.  Yes, she lived within pointing distance of the church.

We started visiting with Carmen.  She started loving our visits.  With the help of her nephew, Hugo, or as she called him, Ali, she overcame many large obstacles and learned the basics of the gospel.  I have never met someone who felt and recognized the spirit so strongly.  That is why she started going to church in the first place.  When we taught her something new, she got so excited, laughed, and told us how much she felt it.  One day we showed up at her house, she opened the door and simply said, “Thomas S. Monson.”  She was so happy that she knew the prophet’s name. 

The day of her confirmation at church, she cried all the way through the meeting.  It was kind of alarming, but very amazing to me.  The first time she bore her testimony, she practiced for about two weeks.  She was so happy to share it.  She wanted to share the gospel with her children and her friends.  She wanted to do temple work for her family.  She wanted to do it right.  She started going to school so she could learn to read the Book of Mormon.
Hugo, Carmen, Hermana Williams, Hermana Smith
Hermana Smith, Carmen, Hermana Williams
Hugo's Brother (current missionary), Hugo (current missionary), Carmen, Hermana Williams, Hermana Smith

Carmen really loved the gospel and loved learning about it.  I often think back to that day when we walked for hours chasing an incorrect address.  I am so grateful that we did not give up looking for one of the lost sheep of God.

Over the next few weeks, I will show you just how often God uses interesting means to bring people together at the right place and time.  I testify that every one of his children are known, numbered, and under His watchful care.  When He knows the time is right, He finds a way to bring them back to His fold.

Scriptures by Candlelight

One of the best parts about being a missionary is that you get to be very happy, a lot of the time.  You wake up every morning and think how you are going to help as many people as possible that day.  It is your only concern and only responsibility.  On my mission I got to spend lots of time working with very special companions, teaching very sweet principles, and sharing with very sincere people.  One of these was Charles.

The way we met Charles is a bit of a miracle in itself.  We went to go visit an investigator, but he was not home.  As we stood calling at his doorstep, we noticed a SUPER old lady sitting in the garage of an unfinished house across the street.  She was looking at us and we were looking at her, so what was the natural thing to do?  We went over and started visiting.  I do not remember what we said, but I remember the Haitian girl sitting behind her listening intently to us.  It turns out the lady did not even live there; she was just using the shade.  So we started to visit the Haitian girl.

She invited us into the house.  It was an unfinished block house.  It had no cabinetry, no paint, no wiring, no plumbing, no doors – nothing.  About eight Haitians in their early twenties lived there, most studying or working in Santo Domingo.  The Haitian girl we went to visit spoke no Spanish, but was intrigued by us anyway.  So she called her brother, Charles, to come visit too. 

There was only one old, hard, bench-like couch in the whole house.  They sat on it, and we sat on the floor.  Right away Charles, who did speak Spanish, started asking questions about the Plan of Salvation, repentance, and baptism.  It was exciting.  He would occasionally remember to translate the lesson into Creole for his sister. 

I remember the first time he came to church.  I was sitting in Sacrament meeting, and the bishop was speaking.  He looked toward the back door, nodded, and slightly gestured for someone to enter.  Before I even saw him, I knew it was Charles.  I got the hugest smile on my face, as he shyly entered.  I thought that that was the happiest I had ever been.  But that was just the beginning.

One day we had a movie party at the church.  We invited him, his friends and some other members from the ward to come watch the First Vision video.  Looking back, I can see that my faith was pretty weak.  I was worried that actually seeing the first vision might make them doubtful.  And indeed, when it was over, they just sat there in silence.  But then he asked if he could have the video.  He had felt the spirit that I was too busy being worried to feel.  My amazing companion, without hesitation, gave him the disc.  My testimony of the truthfulness of the First Vision grew immensely that day.

The sweetest moments of all, however, were the many, many nights we all spent reading the Book of Mormon together.  We normally went to his house at night, when his school and work were done.  At this time, the house was full of people.  Since it was night, it was dark, and there was no electricity to provide light.  So we always went with candles, matches, and the mini floral lights that I had gotten as a student in a floral design class.

We had originally assigned him 3 Nephi 11 to read.  He read with a French/Spanish dictionary and notebook in hand.  He had questions, so we read with him.  Then he liked it so much that he wanted to keep going.  Together we read much of 3 Nephi, pausing to learn gospel principles together along the way.  Sometimes we only read verses, and sometimes whole pages.  Sometimes he had doubts, but the spirit was always so strong, that he could not help but keep studying.  Those were some of the sweetest nights of my life.  Each night we would walk home down those dark streets, practically floating for being so happy, and so grateful for the work of God unfolding before us.

Charles’ life has not been and will not be easy.  He has seen and experienced things I do not even want to imagine.  But he has also felt the peace of the gospel and the joy of the spirit.  He knows that God loves him and as Charles is willing to be obedient , he will continue to find that comfort.

15. If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

18. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

He Called Us 'Elders'

I have heard all of my life that hindsight is 20/20.  Meaning that in the moment, we cannot see the whole picture clearly, but later we can.   I think that is what faith is all about.  We are walking without seeing clearly, if at all, trusting that the one guiding us does see it all.  Every time that we take those trusting steps, we are blessed and directed, even if we do not understand how at the moment.

This happens a lot in life.  I do not think that I could count how many times things seemed to be crazy or out of control and later I saw that they were masterfully orchestrated to be just so.  One of my favorite examples of this happened about two or three months into my mission.  

We had been assigned by the bishop to visit an inactive woman.  We were putting a lot of effort into her, but despite all of her big talk, she was not progressing.  She told us that she LOVED to read, and that she read constantly, yet even with her promises, she never could be bothered to pick up her Book of Mormon.  She always said she never went to church because she was physically disabled.  And I truly believed her.  But one day we showed up to her house for our appointment, and she was not there.  Apparently she was not as disabled as she claimed.

As we left there, I was grumbling and condemning in my heart, and probably out loud as well.  Our backup plan was to try and look for someone who lived a distance away.  So we started walking.  We went up a street that we seldom used.  And after just a few minutes, a man called out to us.  I thought he was drinking, and did not feel much like talking.  But he called us ‘Elders.’  Since our plaques did not say anything about elders on them, we knew he had visited with the missionaries before.  So we stopped.

As it turned out, he was named Domingo and had joined the church about 20-25 years earlier, moved to be a chef in New York, and had gone inactive.  He had forgotten everything about the church except that it was HIS church and he believed it was true.  He had recently moved back to the area to live with his aging mother.  Earlier that day he was walking and saw the chapel.  He recognized it as being the Mormon church.  Something stirred inside him.  Later that day he had seen us walking and recognized us as missionaries.  Again he felt something, and wanted to take action.  So when we walked right in front of him, he called out to us, because he was ready to start again.

Any Castillo, Hermana Williams, Hermana Smith, Domingo (with two church manuals and a Book of Mormon in hand)
We got the ward involved.  Soon Domingo was coming to church every week, reading the Book of Mormon and the church manuals, asking questions, and believing it all.  It was so amazing to see him accept the gospel he had forgotten so long ago.  He was clearly prepared to hear it again.  I do not know where Domingo is today, but I know that he heard the message God had prepared for him.  When I look back on that moment, I realize that God’s plan was perfectly laid, and because we were simply trying to do the Lord’s will, we were able to help one of His children.  We set off that day to bring someone back to the fold, God just had to show us who.  

That Gift of Tongues

The Lord has always used ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  As Elder Holland said, that’s “all God has ever had to work with.1   He takes young people, and gives them opportunities for greatness, and then helps them all the way through.

About a month after I had left the MTC in my mission, I started to get discouraged about the language.  I studied so hard, and yet understood so little of what people said.  I struggled to express myself in even the most basic sense.  This was frustrating.  Where was that gift of tongues anyway?  The Doctrine and Covenants says, “Every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power.”2  So why was I struggling so much?  Didn’t I have a right to the language?

One night we went to the bishop’s house to celebrate his wife's birthday.  There was no electricity that night, so it was absolutely pitch black in his humble home.  After eating a little cake, (by feel, which ended in some dirty skirts...) we started to share a spiritual thought.  We sang the only song we all knew by heart, Families Can be Together Forever,and someone said a prayer.  Then it grew silent.  I felt as though everyone was waiting for someone else to say something.  It was hard though, because without light, we could not just read a nice scripture.  (I did learn, though, and carried small LED lights with me for the whole rest of my mission.)

Normally my companion took the lead on the lessons.  So I was waiting for her.  But she said nothing.  Finally I felt like it was me who needed to speak.  So I gathered up my courage and opened my mouth.  It is an interesting thing, teaching a large group of people, who you cannot see, and with whom you can barely communicate.  But maybe it is a little liberating.  All I know is that I had something I wanted to say, and even though I did not know how to say it, I knew that I needed to.  So I started speaking.

I told her that in American culture, it is tradition to gift things on birthdays, and I had something to give her.  That made her very excited.  Then I told her I was going to give her my testimony.  With that I shared one of the more heartfelt and personal testimonies I had every given.  It was not easy, and took all that I had to do it.  More than anything, it took me relying on the spirit to communicate the feelings I had.  Looking back, I cannot imagine that anything I said made any sense at all.  But the spirit was so strong that everybody understood me completely.  And finally I started to understand that long sought after “gift of tongues.”
I had been waiting for my brain to magically become perfect at Spanish, but that would not have helped me or anyone at all.  And God does not do anything unless it helps people.4  But when I relied on the spirit, the gospel message got through.  In fact, that is what the prophets had been telling us in Preach My Gospel all along.  President Thomas S. Monson taught: “There is one language … that is common to each missionary—the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart.”5

I testify that every time we want to do good, God will support us and give us what we need.  With Jesus Christ as an example, God has always worked through the most humble and meek of us all to accomplish His work.  And through these people, He has blessed, guided and redeemed mankind.

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.  But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.  Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.  Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth.  And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.6

The First Day

I remember the day I left the MTC so clearly.  We got up super early to finish packing our things and cleaning our room.  Then we handed in our bedding and took our suitcases to the front door.  Some left their bags under than handwritten sign “oeste” but I left mine under the sign “este.”  I was headed east!  We all nervously filed our way into the cafeteria for a final breakfast and harassment from the kitchen man.  He was going to miss us.  Then off we went.  The assistants to our president came and picked us up in their van, threw our stuff in a truck, and drove us the whopping 2.3 kilometers to the mission office. 

Once there, the excitement really took off.  We received a long lecture in Spanish about health and all the ways a missionary could catch a disease and die.  Nice.  But the most exciting part was when all of the older missionaries came in and I knew that one of them would be my companion.  It was all very emotional, and I was so ready to go.

Well, I finally got assigned my companion.  We ate lunch and she got me a cup of punch, so I knew that she would do just fine.  Then we were off!  One of the very first visits we made after we got to my first area, aptly called ‘Mi Hogar,’ was to a little sub-community we nicknamed the Haitian Village.  I think that was the first time I saw people living in such circumstances.   Poor does not really describe it.  I do not know how to describe what poverty is like.  It is people living in tiny spaces, practically on top of each other, with no indoor plumbing, no privacy, no hygiene, and often no electricity.  It is a hard thing to see, and I knew that I had stepped into a new world.

 We were teaching a sweetie named Mimina.  She is Haitian, living in the Dominican Republic.  That, in and of itself, was not the best of circumstances.  To be honest, it is very hard to be Haitian and ever live in the best of circumstances.  But many of the Haitians I know are also many of the best people I know.  We were teaching her about the restoration.  I knew very little Spanish, and there is a chance that she knew less than I.  Communication was difficult, to say the least.  Luckily I had two excellent companions to form a functional trio.  I remember feeling the spirit very strongly, despite the difficulties.  When it came time for me to teach, it was just as natural as anything.  I probably did a poor job, but it felt really good.  The best part is that she felt the spirit too.

Later that day I had the opportunity to contact for the first time.  We were street contacting.  I was kind of nervous, but with some encouragement, I approached a lady and invited her to church.  (I had no idea where the church was even located.)  I could not understand her response.  She just did not seem that happy.  But I was.  I got to talk to several people that evening.  It was a really neat experience. 

That night we were to call our district leader.  My two companions were discussing which of them was going to make the call.  I had seen it done on the Preach My Gospel DVDs, and it did not look like a big deal.  So I picked up the phone and made the call.  It had never occurred to me that I might not know how to converse with a Peruvian over the telephone.  He asked me how the day went.  “Bien.”  How were my companions? “Bien.”  Was there anything he could do for us?  “Como?”  Could he help with anything? “Como?”  Did we need anything? “Que?  No entiendo.”  Finally in broken English, “Sister, can I help you?”  “Oh, no. Gracias…”  About nine months later we ran into each other again.  He laughed so hard remembering that phone call.  Bless his and my heart.  Then when it was all over, I climbed into my mosquito net, turned my fan on hi, and slept soundly.  One good day of missionary work complete.

People always talked about adjusting to being a new missionary, but for me it was not that hard.  It was an awesome adventure.  I know a big part of that was the sisters I was with.  I am so grateful for the companions who helped me in those beginning weeks and months.  They gave me opportunities to grow as a missionary and were ever patient with me.  I am sure that most of the time they could have done things easier themselves, but they let me try.  They were both new in the mission too, but never used that as an excuse to not give their best.  They continue to be excellent examples for me.  

To Fast, or Not to Fast?

Last Sunday was fast1 Sunday, and I was so hungry!  That’s probably pretty normal, and probably even the point.  But it is pathetic how easily tempted I am when I am hungry.  I had the thought at least twelve times that I could sneak a bite to eat and nobody would know.   And then I remembered how I was not fasting for other people to see2, and how fasting brings blessings3, and how without it I could not ever reach perfection4.

Once I decided to study fasting throughout the scriptures.  My study was incomplete, and may never be, but still quite awakening.  I looked up all of the scriptural references to fasting5 and read about what was happening at that place in the scripture.  Then I looked at the why of the fast.  I had always thought that fasting was a more potent form of asking for things.  So if there was something that you really wanted, you just fasted for it, and the statistical probability of getting it went up.  But, it turns out that our ancient prophets did not see it like that at all.  Surprise!

I counted many reasons in the scriptures for fasting, and “getting whatever you want” was not even close to being at the top.  Among the reasons for fasting were pleading for forgiveness, coming unto Christ, partaking of salvation, receiving revelation and testimony, performing missionary work, mourning, giving thanks, worshiping, obeying, and rejoicing.  That is quite an incredible list with a far greater possibility potential than simply asking for more blessings.  God already knows what I need and want.  Maybe what he would like to see is where my priorities are or what my spiritual concerns are.

I will never forget the first time I fasted in the mission field, nor, I suspect, will my two companions.  It was my first weekend, the first weekend of August 2013.  We had started our fast on Saturday at noon, so as to finish it after church on Sunday.  Then we hit the streets from 2pm until 8pm.  That may have been the longest, hottest, unfilled six-hours of proselyting in my entire mission.   The Caribbean sun was so fiery and every single appointment and back-up plan fell through.  We walked, and walked, and walked.  Soon we were dehydrated and just exhausted.  By the time the sun went down, we really wanted to go home.  But we talked together and made the painful decision that we were going to finish the day the way we were supposed to.

Really Hungry Lizard

The next day we were all sick.  Almost too sick to even walk to church.  But we had done a true fast and had not given in when the going got uncomfortable.  After eating a nice lunch and rehydrating, we felt much better.  Needless to say, every other time I fasted on the mission, I always hydrated myself well before, and planned my most solid appointments for that time.  I learned much more, however, than that. 

There is something to be said about giving your all to keep the commandments of God.  The strength of my testimony grew immensely that day.  The level of my conversion also increased drastically.  For the first several days of my mission, I was not in love with missionary work at all.  I felt guilty for not wanting to do it, but I did not want to.  When I put my health and happiness on the line to be a missionary, when I really sacrificed, then I found the love for the work that sustained me throughout my whole mission. 

I’m so grateful that God gave me that experience on my first week of the mission.  The personal decisions I made that day to do the work even when it was not fun or easy set the tone for the rest of my service, and hopefully for the rest of my life.   And now when I fast, and the thought sneaks into my brain that nobody will know if I snitch a snack, I remember what could happen if I just stay strong.

Hola Mis Amigos!

Hola!  Welcome back to your most favorite website!  Isn’t this so much fun?

I am going to place here, along with the occasional non-related post, stories and pictures from my mission, with more details than ever before.  If you read this, then you’ve probably already heard many of the stories, but it will be fun anyway. 

Before I begin, I would like to share some thoughts I have about missionary work. 

Being a missionary doesn’t make one any different from anyone else.  A missionary just has a more time-demanding calling.  There is nothing magical that happens when they put on that nametag that allows them to receive clearer revelation, repel the forces of evil, discern the righteous seekers of truth from the frauds, know the scriptures better, or speak with more power.  The miracles that happen with missionaries could happen to anyone at any time if they are worthy, have righteous desires to build God’s kingdom, and actually put in the effort required.  Yes, the faith of a missionary could move mountains, but that is, in large part, because a missionary spends 16 hours a day for 18-24 months moving rocks from one location to another.  If you want to move a mountain, start putting in the time and work required, then God will bless you with results.

God doesn’t need missionaries so much as missionaries need to be missionaries.  We know that “no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.”*  Whether or not Hermana Smith chose to serve a mission had no bearing on the outcome of the Plan of Salvation.  That was decided long ago.  What’s more, all of the people I taught would have one day received a testimony of the truth, whether or not I taught it to them.  ”…Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him.  Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God…”** 

Perhaps it was key that I taught them at the moment I taught them, with the exact amount of love and understanding that I had for them, to help them not only believe, but follow the teachings of the prophets, thus reaching a level of conversion.  However, it probably could have been anybody.  But it wasn’t.  It was me.  God could have used any of the 15 million plus members, or the 7 billion plus non members to touch the hearts of these individuals.  But he didn’t.  He used me.  And because I had the privilege of being his missionary, I will receive, for the eternities, the greatest blessings available to man.  I am unable to even count those blessings, because the vast majority I have not yet seen nor experienced.  I do know, however, that I will forever carry those bonds of love and friendship.  When I see my people at the right hand of God, I will know, and they will know, and God will know that it was a beautifully choreographed team effort that got them there.  And somehow I was chosen to be on that team.

I hope that we all feel the desire to reach out to others and 
share the truths we know.  “There are few things in life that bring as much joy as the joy that comes from assisting another improve his or her life.”***  So with that, here we go…

A Guest Blog: By Jarom Vogel

A while back I asked the famous illistrator Jarom Vogel to do a guest blog for me.  And here it is, the visual representation of a recent text he received.

Girls Go To College...

Think about the first four years of a person's life.  They start out a non-functioning, puffy, mini-blob of a human.  They cannot do a single thing for themselves.  Not one single thing.  Then they get bigger, learn to stick things, possibly even food, into their mouths.  They learn to move, walk, talk, and understand the world around them.  You might even say that the first four years of a person's life encompasses more growth, development, and learning than any other four years of their life.  And you might be right.  But during the last four years of my life, I went from this...
to this.
Yeah, I know.  Wow.  Four years ago I thought I was enlightened and could read old, musty books like a champ.  But after four years of growth, development, and learning, I have come to realize that not only am I not enlightened, but it doesn't even matter.  I now know that the only  thing that matters is proper hand-on-hip placement and appropriately timing tassel tossing breezes during photo shoots.  See, I've come a long, long way.

You are probably wondering how I did this.  Well, it wasn't easy.  For example, I went to BYU for 13 terms; including fall, winter, spring, and summer terms; and I completed a study abroad, a four-month internship, and a total of 149.5 credit hours.  My final semester alone I took ten classes.  They were all fairly academically simple (it was my fun semester).  However balancing Piano, the Cultural History of Medicinal Plants, Floral Design, Mentored Learning, Christian History, Islam and the Gospel, Indoor Cycling, Racquetball, Self-Defense, and Swimming took a lot of work.  Just out of pure curiosity, I took stats throughout the semester to see what it takes to make it through one fun semester.

Textbook Pages Actually Read: 1115
Tests/Final Exams: 17
Quizzes: 24
Papers: 7
Piano Practicing Hours: 60
Cycling Miles: 319.6
Racquetball W/L Record: 8:21
Swimming Miles: 10.7*
Work Hours: 343.4

All of this work over and over was worth it though, because I got to take these yummy photos with these classy people in this spiffy outfit.  

So watch out world, because I aim to make the next four years just as grand!
*That doesn't sound nearly as difficult as it felt; I nearly died several times. So if this makes it sound more realistic, then I swam 18,850 yards.