Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Conclusion, but not the end

Hello, this is Hyrum (formerly known as Elder Ruby). Thank you all who have commented and taken the time to read about my experiences as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the California Ventura Mission. The posts written on this blog can hardly touch the surface of the wonderful people I met, the lessons I learned, struggles I endured, and the many miracles that I was blessed to witness.  Still, it represents the service that I gave and expresses my testimony of the great work that I engaged in.

I set out to write a conclusion. Not necessarily a conclusion to my missionary work, but a summary of the things I learned and a statement on my future plans.

I know that we have a loving Father in Heaven who knows and loves us. I have felt His overwhelming love again and again. He expressed this love in a myriad of ways, in small tender mercies throughout my life and in sacred moments of comfort when I needed Him most.

I learned that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. . . and by very small means the Lord. . . bringeth about the salvation of many souls" (The Book of Mormon, Alma 37:5-6). The Lord taught me that small things like smiles, services, church and temple attendance, and daily prayer and scripture sturdy build an armor around us that protect us from evil. Salvation comes after consistent exercise of faith. Regularly I would feel an impression to knock on a specific door or walk down a street that I didn't anticipate walking on. Even when I heeded these promptings, we were sometimes led to people who were less than friendly with us. I questioned why Heavenly Father would inspire me to do things that led to unprepared people. Without fail, we would find a person who was ready and searching for the truth later that day. As I looked back on the day, I was reminded of all the small seemingly uninspired decisions we made that day which ultimately placed us in the path of this prepared individual or family. It was the small and simple things.

I learned for myself that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I challenge anyone who reads this to gain or strengthen their own testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by reading, pondering, and praying with faith in Christ and a sincere heart to know its truth. I have done these things and the Holy Ghost has born witness to me that it truly is God's word, as is the Bible. Each time I study the Book of Mormon my faith in Christ is strengthened, I feel peace, and I receive answers to my questions.

I know that the priesthood authority that Christ gave to His Apostles (Matthew 10:1-15; Matthew 16:19; Luke 9:1-6) and prophets has been restored to the Earth today. I hold that power and I can trace my authority back to Christ in an unbroken chain. This authority is given to me and other worthy male members of the church to bless the loves of others. I have seen this on my mission as those I have blessed, taught, and prayed for have been healed of their infirmities, changed, and blessed.

My mission was an incredible time for self examination. I learned who I am. I developed more Christlike attributes than I had before I left. I learned to communicate with many different kinds of people. I honestly think that serving a mission is also meant to prepare us for marriage. Compromising, serving, and growing as a companionship gave me a glimpse of what life is like with another person. There were companions that I struggled to relate to, but I built lifelong friendships with many of the missionaries that I served with.

Coming home was another challenge.  I feared that all the learning and growing I had done on my mission had changed me so much that there would be an awkwardness as I rebuilt the relationships I forged two years earlier. This concern was immediately dispelled when I embraced my family at the airport and we picked up where we left off. Instead, adjusting to the lack of productivity, making decisions for my future, and finding my standard of technology and pop culture priorities challenged me after I returned home. While on my mission, I used a church provided planner to manage my time and stay productive, but when I came home, I lacked purpose and organization. I had a lot of time with nothing to do. Since my first few weeks home I developed a semi-regular routine and I find joy in helping my mom at the house. I have really enjoyed my time home with my family. After spending two years in the service of other people, I found making decisions for myself difficult. I came home and needed to choose a college to attend along with a career path in addition to finding a social life and trying to date. These choices I refused to think about on my mission because I thought of them as distractions from my purpose as a missionary. So, when I came home, I had a lot of decision making to do. As missionaries we don't engage in worldly entertainment such as the internet, movies, music (except for reverent music that invites the Spirit), smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, the news, magazines, radio, video games, and television. When all these entities began vying for my attention upon my return I sought to find a balance of these things in my life. I came to the conclusion that I need to spend time with things that will be of eternal significance (like my family, building relationships, preparing for college, etc.) rather than vain entertainment or worthless gossip. Still, holding true to that standard is a challenge.

I have been home for 3 months now. Thankfully the Lord gave me a few months to enjoy time with my family before He sent me off to college. I decided, after weeks of himming and hawing, to attend BYU-Idaho starting in January 2017. I will be studying Biochemistry, which is the long way of saying pre-med. The medical field interests me (maybe due to my father's participation in this field), but I am unsure where this interest will take me. Thankfully, I don't have to decide at this very moment, but I personally would like to know my career plan in the near future. I do know, however, that I want to find a wonderful young lady and build a righteous, happy family with her. Who and when, is in the Lord's hands.

While my service as an official full-time missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has concluded, my service to the Lord and my fellow brothers and sisters has not ended. I will continue to look for opportunities to share the light of the gospel with everyone who will let me. I won't be pushy, I won't be overbearing, but I will be persistent. I will do my best to set a Christlike example for those around me and lift the hands that hang low and strengthen the feeble knees (Hebrews 12:12).

I encourage anyone who reads this to strengthen their faith by study and prayer. I hope that you will reach out to those who need strengthened, and if you are one that needs strength, may you find it in Christ's everlasting love and His angels - heavenly and earthly.

I conclude this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Last Post From Mission

Wow!  I can't believe the day has come for Elder Ruby to return home!  I have spent the last two years telling myself that he wasn't coming home.  Now, it's just 2 days away and I still can't believe it.  I'm not sure what to expect.  He says he's still the same Hyrum.  I can't wait to hug him and look at him.  My friend, Kristin, said she stared at her return missionary at the dinner table.  I can see myself doing the same thing.  I have been doing my best to stay busy the past few days, to make the time go by faster and not constantly look at the clock.  So far, it's working.   I know everyone is going to do some adjusting, including me.  I will be patient and understanding.  I am so excited!!

Here's a few words from his very last letter:  I will do my best to constructively learn from my experiences on my mission, and move on.  I want to come home, stay busy, study, exercise, watch Rowen play football, go to institute, play on the trampoline (Lily can't wait), harvest the garden, prepare for college and establish good friendships.  I look forward to beating you at Just Dance again, watching wholesome movies, playing cards as a family, roasting s'mores together, and eating your wonderful food.  I sure miss doing those things (especially the last one) with you, but not for long.

It will take me some time to adjust.  I may feel uncomfortable in situations that you would feel comfortable, like listening to the radio, just hanging out with no purpose, being by myself or swimming.  I may actually call you or others Elder or Sister :)  I will want to study often.  I will want things clean.  I will want to plan out my day, and go to bed at a reasonable time.  Just be patient with me and I'll do my best to be patient with you.

Last, I wanted to share his last words of testimony with you:

I feel like I have always had a testimony of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and all that that implies. The things that I could bear my testimony about before my mission are still the things that I know to be true. In that way, my testimony hasn't changed. However, I know who Christ is more than I ever have before. I know more surely that Joseph Smith was a prophet called to restore Christ's church, priesthood, and teachings to the Earth in their fullness.  I know that the Book of Mormon is God's word because of how I feel and the understanding it gives me.  No man could have written that book unless the words were from God Himself.

I am so thankful for what the mission has taught me.  I am grateful for the person God has helped me become. Don't worry, I'm still Hyrum.  (Being called "Hyrum" will take some getting used to).  I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know and love us.  They are involved in the details of our lives.  Joseph Smith was called by God to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Earth.  I know that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.  The Book of Mormon is the word of God.  The church is true, the Book is blue, and Moroni is always on the ball.  I know our family is eternal and I want an eternal family of my own.

Love, Elder Hyrum P. Ruby

Here are some pictures from some wonderfully kind people who spent the weekend with Elder Ruby and Elder Huston.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Words of High School Wisdom

This past Sunday was amazing.  Kayla (a youth non-member) came, like usual.  Her very good member friend took care of her.  Patty also came.  She is a lady who stopped meeting with the missionaries right before I got here and has lots of questions.  Patty got a little freaked out when Elder Hunter and I called her one day, because she didn't recognize our names or voices.  She also found a bag of oranges at her front door from her neighbors, who are members, and she was worried about what she had gotten herself into.  After a few months and an invitation from a member family recently, she came to church.  She has come the last three weeks, but we have not been able to nail down a time to meet with her for a lesson.  Fortunately, that family invited us over for dinner with her tonight.  I expect that the dinner and lesson will go well.  Finally, another investigating family came to church.  We taught them the Restoration lesson on Saturday.  The son (11yrs old) listened for almost the entire lesson.  He even ran to his room to get his Bible.  His parents weren't able to stay for all of church, but their son did.  I was grinning from ear to ear, and I think it was a bit obvious, but I couldn't help it:)

Do you want to year a funny story?  This Tuesday we had MLC again.  That is my last MLC (Mission Leadership Conference).  President and Sister Felix fed us all breakfast at the Mission Home before the meeting started.  We had waffles.  The MLC was focused on real intent, focus and teaching repentance.  That was wonderful and much of the content related to my recent studies/thoughts.  After lunch, the Assistants asked if we would pick up supply orders for our zones from the mission office.  Our zone had ordered 3 boxes of Books of Mormon in addition to other materials.  The boxes have 40 copies of the Book of Mormon and each box is about 35 lbs.  I thought I was tough, so I picked up two boxes and let Elder Huston take the other box plus the bin of the other materials.  Well, I did fine picking them up with my legs, not my back.  The problem came when I had to put them down.  We walked out to the car and I squatted down in my suit to set the boxes down, so that I could pop the trunk.  As I did so, I heard a big ripping sound and looked down between my legs to see a 8" tear in the seam of my pants:)  I tried to keep my cool, but Elder Huston decided to announce my ripped pants to the elders around!  We still had 3 hours more of MLC.  Of course I was embarrassed, but there was nothing I could do.  Thankfully, the tear was between my legs and it was hidden by my suit coat, but still.  We had a good laugh.

As we were walking down the street last week, we ran into a member of the ward who is showing sheep in the fair, which happened to be last week.  With this member was a journalist who is fascinated with our church.  She took pictures of us and asked about our missions.   For the paper, she is following this member all fair week and was/is going to make an article about her.  I used my livestock judging skills and taught the member about how to tell if a lamb is too skinny, too fat, or just right by comparing how it's loins feel to her fingers, arm and back of her hands.  The journalist took pictures of us feeling/petting the lamb.  She also said that she had lost her copy of the Book of Mormon when she moved and would like a copy.  We gave her one and got her phone number.  She said she is interested in learning more.  So, we may be in the newspaper.  Good publicity.

Hyrum wrote some advice to Rowen about going to high school.  I wanted to share it with you:
The best advice I can give to Rowen is to do the small and simple things in your life, like daily prayer, scripture study, serving others, smiling, and keeping up with homework assignments.  Don't let them get piled up.  Don't procrastinate.  Consider not doing homework on the Sabbath.  I never did, and Heavenly Father blessed me for that.  Stay away from temptation on the internet, in the locker rooms, and when you are alone, tired, angry, or sad.  Enjoy learning at school even if your friends think the teacher is dumb, or school isn't cool.   Be social, but spend your time in a manner and in a place and with whom is most important.  That may be uplifting a friend, being with family, or counseling with a coach/teacher.  You do a great job of these things already, but just don't forget them and don't get distracted from the things that really matter to you.  That's for you to decide.  Explore and develop your many talents.  Continue to be the spiritual giant that your Heavenly Father wants you to be.

I love this great and marvelous work!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Eating Balut

Kayla, our 16 year old investigator, is progressing very well.  She asks the best questions and says wonderful prayers.  Her prayers are super sincere, engaged and personal.  Kayla is on track to be baptized on August 20.  She moved the date so her sister could attend. 

Madelene has the new member “glow” :)  She looks like she belongs.  She’s happy and understands what is taught more readily.  She took us out to dinner and told us about growing up in Beverly Hills.  She lived near Marilyn Monroe.  They were friends with Frank Sinatra and Madelene had met Shirley Temple’s family.  Madelene said that Shirley was a miserable little girl who just got bossed around by adults.  That was sad to hear because Shirley is such a cute little girl on television. 

Funny story (sort of):  Elder Bronson and I were on exchanges in his area.  We were on bikes and trying to talk with this guy on the sidewalk, when from my left side I heared this super loud train honk.  I turned toward the sound and there’s this guy in his black suburban holding out his iPhone.  He laughed at us and yelled, “In the name of Jesus!” and then drove off.  The guy we were trying to talk with was embarrassed and walked shamefully away.

Another story: We ate dinner with a Filipino family.  The last time we ate with them they joked that next time they would feed us balut.  Well, they didn’t forget.  Thankfully, they fed us a wonderful meal and then they brought in 10 boiled duck eggs with the embryos inside and expected us to try them.  They were still hot when we got them, so as I pealed mine and waited for it to cool down a bit, I did my best to muster the courage to eat it.  The kids were laughing at us and video taping us, but they didn’t want any balut.  This was a bad sign . . . Finally, I was ready.  Although it looked disgusting (veins on the yoke and the mangled, hairy baby duck, gray on the side) and smelled a bit odd, I just closed my eyes and bit in.  I just got part of the yoke in that bite and it didn’t taste too bad.  That gave me a little more courage to finish.  Honestly, I felt the way I did before going down that slide at the Kalahari that drops you and then climbing the stairs to do it again.  I knew I would finish it, but I was not comfortable.  The baby duck was a bit crunchy and kind of stringy.  I finished, but one was enough for me.  Elder Palmer did it too.  His baby duck was a little further along in its development, so his was more crunchy and feathery.  He was a good sport though.

Transfers were last week.  Hyrum stayed in Thousand Oaks, but got a new companion.  Only 7 of 80 companionships stayed together this transfer.  He is now a Zone Leader and had to move into an apartment with another set of elders.  His apartment was going to be given to some sister missionaries.  Twenty-two new elders came in this past transfer!  As of today, Hyrum has 5 weeks!  He will return home September 14!!  We can’t wait :)

This week our ward got to do a training for the entire mission leadership (district leaders, zone leaders, sister training leaders, and YSA missionaries). We were chosen to show what we do to be so successful and to give the missionaries tools to use to help the other missionaries in the mission become more unified with their wards. We received a lot of good feedback from President, the assistants, and the missionaries.

Elder Palmer & Elder Ruby at a picnic

Twins: Elder Ruby & Elder Palmer

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Learning From the Book of Mormon

I look forward to hearing about how fair goes. I wish I could be home to help train and fit the steers. Those skills I learned with the steers have carried into missionary life.  Elder Palmer and I needed hair cuts, so I trimmed him up, and he cut my hair. He did a good job. Also, training and steer is a bit like training a new missionary.  First of all, you are always training when you are with the steers. They observe everything you do and your reactions.  Second, it is best to be consistent in how you tell the steer what to do so they know exactly what you are trying to tell them.  In a similar way, a new missionary pays attention to everything you do.  You have to be consistent in your attitude and the rules that you keep.  If for any reason you need to do something that does not fall in line with all the rules, specifically the minor ones, it is important to explain why and what.  From what I understand, parenting is very similar.  You can’t pick and choose when you are training, or parenting.

This last week and the week before, there have been homecoming talks by missionaries returning to this ward. One of the recently returned missionaries served in La Crosse, Wisconsin and spoke Hmong. He knew the Bakers! That was a fun connection. One missionary got home from Argentina last week.  I have observed who these missionaries become and their testimonies, and how they adjust to “real life.”  Some are super happy, others act like they are still far away, another made everyone feel special. When I get home, I will be super exited to be with you all again.  It may take some time to adjust.  I may feel like it’s not real.  I’ll need to be busy.  I may get stressed as I make decisions about college, but I will love being with you to share experiences, laugh, play, talk, and work. 

What are some of the insights that you have found as you have read the scriptures lately?  I’ve found that the Book of Mormon was written for our day.  Helaman 13: 24-28 describes how corrupt people can be.  They go to pastors who preach smooth things, who say you are saved by grace.  You cannot work your way into heaven, so just be a good person.  Christ has payed the price for your sins.  Well, true it is that Christ’s grace is what saves us, and, on our own, we unworthy creatures cannot merit anything, but it is upon conditions of repentance that we receive Christ’s mercy.  To save us (meaning reward us all Eternal Life) regardless of the choices we made, would not be just.  And god is just. Were it not so, God would cease to be God, and we could never anticipate the results of our choices, therefore making it impossible to choose good verses evil.  (I hope that made sense, if not, you can ask me about it when I get home, or in a letter.)

Another passage in Helaman, Helaman16: 20-22, describes a complaint/argument that unbelievers have.  I hear this today too.  People say that we are brainwashed or controlled by a prophet, a man. They say that they only need their relationship with God, not man.  They think that religion restricts them, telling them what they should or shouldn't do.  They are not willing to humble themselves and seek to do the God’s will.  Why do they not see that living in sin restricts them?  Doing God’s will enables us to be free.  Anarchy is not freedom.  Living within the bounds the Lord has set will grant us Eternal Life someday. What could be more free than inheriting all that the Father has? Romans 8:16-17 Anyway, Helaman wrote for our day.  His days were like our days.  If only we could learn from those accounts.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Madelene's Baptism

Saturday was Madelene's baptism. She came with her white hair looking nice. We took pictures with her. Madelene also brought her care-taker, Rexine, who is not a member (Rexine came to our lesson with Madelene on Thursday and she seemed very interested...). Many members from the ward attended. I gave a talk on baptism that was very brief. I shared two scriptures (2Nephi 31:5-7 and  Romans 6:1-3). We had 4 non-members from our ward who were there, so I hope they understood what was taught. Elder Palmer baptized Madelene with the assistance of a boy who has a mission call to Ecuador.
Madelene was slightly nervous (she has a hard time getting around because of a back injury), but they put her down slowly into the water and only had to do it once. While we waited for Madelene to change, we passed our paper for the members and non-members to write on to Madelene. She told us on Sunday that she had read all the notes, and she thanked us and others for their words.

Sunday was a day full of miracles. A man named Nicolas came into church with shorts and a purple t-shirt on about 30 minutes before church. He's from New York, but he lives here now. He had attended church before with colleagues of his and he is interested in learning more. We got his number. Our Elder's Quorum President and Ward Mission Leader jumped on it. Nicolas sat with one of them and he looked comfortable! Heavenly Father can do His own work. Madelene got confirmed in sacrament meeting and there were a bunch of non-members there because a guy named Dakota was giving his homecoming talk from his mission. Grace, a 93 year old investigator of ours, also came to listen to her dear friend, Sister Greding, speak. (I'm not sure what it is with us teaching old ladies).

After church we went by a potential investigator who said to come by at 4:30. The potential wasn't there, but a guy named Steve answered. He said he'd be interested in learning more, so we set up a return appointment for Tuesday!

For dinner, we ate with the Galeria family. Their youngest daughter just graduated high school and she's preparing for a mission. She has a boyfriend named Tony who also came for dinner. Those two have been reading the Book of Mormon together and right now they are in Mosiah, I think. We asked if we could share a message. The Galeria's asked if we would teach Tony the restoration. Of course, we accepted. We tried to understand what Tony believes and what level of understanding he has by asking questions. Although Tony didn't understand everything we taught, the Spirit was in that home so strong, especially as Brother Galeria shared his testimony. We asked Tony if he would get baptized if he found that the Book of Mormon was true. He said "yes"! We left the Galeria's filled with the Spirit.

The great day didn't end there. The Fauvers had us over for cake because Sister Fauver's birthday is this week. They also had planned on us teaching one of their daughter's friends, named Kayla. Kayla did not grow up in a very religious home. She knew about or believed in God, but was not familiar with much of the Bible or what the Atonement is. However, she'd been asking her friend, Sofia, a bunch of really sincere questions. Kayla recognized that she felt happy and "pure" (that was how she described the Spirit to us) when she talked with us, when she hangs out at the Fauver's, and when she comes to church (she's been to church twice since I've been here). We taught her who Heavenly Father is, who Jesus Christ is, how the spirit speaks to us, and prayer. She loved the lesson. The feeling of peace and truth that the Spirit brings just wrapped the room up like a warm blanket. Both Sofia and another 16 year old kid from the ward sat in on the lesson and had great input. They testified of the Book of Mormon and modern day prophets. I wish you could have watched Kayla's face light up as we told her that we have a prophet on Earth today!

I'm so happy out here. There are struggles and disappointments, but the thoughts and effects of all the challenges are made sweet when God reveals His hand. The Priesthood is real! The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith saw who he said he saw. Jesus Christ is my savior. We are all beloved sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents. The Holy Ghost has confirmed these things to me. Heavenly Father knows each one of us. We are led today by a prophet called of God.

Follow-up Training Meeting

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Training again!

Transfers were this past week.  Hyrum is staying in Thousand Oaks, but will now be a Trainer instead of a District Leader.  So, this past Wednesday, he got a brand new missionary that he will train for the next 6 weeks.  He was super excited to be training again.  He loves his new companion.  He is a hard worker, loves to work out and will go running with Hyrum.  Hyrum says he does about 100-140 pushups and sit-ups each morning.  Wow!  He's going to come home all buff!!

Hyrum's District

Transfer process, but Hyrum isn't in the picture

Next transfer, we will be in a car share with another set of missionaries. That means that half of the time we will be biking. WooHoo! For the last three days the temperature has been near 100! Yesterday was especially bad in suits. Our area is full of hills. This car share will be a great experience for a new missionary. I remember being on full bikes my first two transfers. It was great for me. Plus, being on the bikes will give us more opportunities to meet people as we go.

Madelene, is set for baptism on July 9th! We were able to get into a home with twin 13 year old boys. They sent us off with a carton of fresh eggs from their chickens and as we were leaving, the family said "see you soon!" Although they did not set a return appointment, it sounds like they expect us back. . . They know some members of the ward.  I love this area so much. Even though the area is geographically small, biking is going to be a challenge. There are a lot of hills and we live out of our area. Still, being visible on bikes will be good.

Here's a picture of a dead rat some other elders put on our car.  Not cool!

Hyrum spoke in church on Father's Day.  He spoke about the similarities between his earthly father and his Heavenly Father.  It must have been really good, because one member took notes and then typed them and emailed his talk to us!  Another member sent me a text and let me know how much she enjoyed Hyrum's talk and that he is a wonderful missionary.  Hyrum told them about our family tradition of shooting prairie dogs on July 4th.  I guess that got a laugh from everyone.  He did clarify that we do it because they eat the pasture the cows need and make holes the horses could step in and brake a leg.  I think that was a totally foreign concept for the California people :)  They loved his stories about his dad.

Hyrum at a District Leader Training