Hello everyone! I'll be greeting you in person pretty soon, but until then I'll fill you in on my life by e-mail.
I attended my last ever Zone Conference. I was more involved than I'd normally like to be since I was conducting it and doing a lot of other things during it such as bearing my last testimony. I was standing up in front of everyone and then sitting down and then popping back up a lot, but since I also conducted the Zone Conference last month, I was able to enjoy it more this time.
We then had an exchange with the Assistants to the President, or APs. I got to be with Elder Rasmussen again which marks the third exchange we've had together on our missions. Love serving with that guy! We've been on our missions together a long time now, so after a lot of hard work on the exchange we talked at the apartment about our time here in Ukraine and everything we've learned. Funny story about Elder Rasmussen . . . We saw each other very often at BYU before the mission, but we--at that time--didn't know each other. He recognized me because I always wore the same shirt, and I recognized him because he's like 6'8" and hard to miss. When we saw each other at the MTC in Madrid, we were pretty surprised (haha!) and now we're in the same mission and have served together a few times. Funny how paths cross.
We went to an opera finally at the famous Odessa Opera House. I'd served here 9 months and hadn't ever been, so I had to cross that one off the bucket list. We saw 2/3 of "Carmen"--2/3 because it was really long and although we were enjoying it, we had to be home before curfew. It was sung in French, but despite my 5 years studying that language, I didn't understand much. Thankfully there were supertitles! In Ukrainian...
So the first act I was doing my best to read the Ukrainian supertitles, but it was hard because 1) I don't speak Ukrainian (Editor's note: he speaks Russian) and 2) it was hard to read without my glasses--which I forgot. So I was reading blurry supertitles in a language I don't quite know, but it actually made the opera super interesting and I was always on the edge of my seat. During the first intermission, we speed-walked to our apartment to get my glasses. Good thing we live 5 minutes away from the theater.
One thing I've been thinking about a lot lately is the Fall of Adam. It's a very deep subject and because of that I won't get into details. In the Bible we don't know much about the Fall. The account is vague and the commentary is sparse. The Qur'an offers even less and is, as I've been told by devout Muslims, purposely vague so as to preserve the Godly aura that comes with anything we don't fully understand (by the way, regarding that, one interesting difference between Islam and our religion is that we believe that Godliness is found in knowledge and the availability of it or the capability to attain it, and not in the lack thereof.).
Continuing, I have found that many people consider the Fall a terrible event that threw the course of humanity into disorder and forced God to send Christ as a back-up plan to redeem us all and fix everything that Adam messed up. This interpretation of the Fall leads to a fundamentally different perspective of our life on Earth since it shapes our understanding of God's plan for us. Since commentary touching upon the Fall is limited to a few verses in the Bible, this confusion is understandable. I am eternally thankful to many chapters in the Book of Mormon which clear up the confusion and help us understand the nature, gravity, and consequences (good and bad) of the Fall.
First, we know that the Fall was not a surprise. Second, we know that the Fall was an overall good thing, a "fall forward," a necessary part of God's plan to give all His children a shot at eternal glory. Third, Jesus Christ was not the back-up plan, but was prepared before the creation of the earth to round out the repercussions of the Fall and turn every short-term negative aspect into a priceless opportunity for eternal growth and perfection. I could copy/paste many references to many questions concerning the Fall, but I'll stick to one small passage from the Book of Mormon that touches on but a few things:
2 Nephi 2:22-25:
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
If you have questions, ask me or any other member of our church! Love you all!