Monday, February 9, 2015

No Words Can Describe

The Book of Mormon Musical Comes to Jacksonville
Good Comes from Evil
6 days
2 armies, 12 missionaries in each
stacks of pass along cards
1,000 Books of Mormon given out
     Great missionary experience!
The Book of Mormon Musical comes to Jacksonville.
Turning evil into good. The church ads in the playbill.

In sun and rain, spreading the gospel downtown.
We are ready to hand out every book after the Book of Mormon Musical,
and we did it! (Over 1,000 Books of Mormon were passed out)
Back row: Elder Williams, Elder Searle, Elder Thompson, Sister Murray,
Sister Pasko, Sister McCook, Sister Aure, Elder Layton, Elder Nally
Front row: Sister Gillman, Sister Hurst, Elder Frazier

In the hotel lobby
My companion, Sister McCook, and me after our tie tying lesson
The boys who dressed up to come to the musical
A van filled with our missionary army
President Craig was interviewed for the paper. (See the article after the letter.)
No books left!
The Pass Along Cards

No words can describe this week so I will just have to try my best!  (So yes this is going to be oober long and I still won't fully describe it.)  To be honest, the whole week is a blur of standing outside a theater downtown, then crawling into bed at midnight, then doing the same thing again.  Somewhere in there is district meeting, lessons, a trade off, and the craziest funeral I've ever been to.  We'll just start with what y'all are waiting for (and yes, I do say "ya'll" without thinking about it now)... THE BOOK OF MORMON MUSICAL!!!
I never thought I would like to be one of those missionaries in the early days of the church that pulled up a soap box and yelled out for people to read the Book of Mormon.  I have since changed my opinion. 
Our team of 12 missionaries met at the mission office and drove in a mission van to arrive in downtown Jax an hour before the play was scheduled to begin.  We each took a couple Books of Mormons and stacks of specially made pass along cards.  One had a free download of the Book of Mormon to scan with your smart phone, and the other advertised a free tour of the Mandarin building happening Sunday night.  Some places were slower, but people in little throngs walking towards the play.  By the end of the week we had found the best places to stand.  Sister McCook and I were on the corner across from the theater, but on the same side of the road.  People would cross towards us then cut the corner to avoid talking to us... even though the light was green and they and their children were about to get hit!  Some went almost completely diagonally through the intersection. You can try, but you can't get away!  If we couldn't chase them all down then Elder Frazier and Elder Williams on the other corner would!  One time Sister McCook had chased a woman across the street so I was standing on the corner alone and there was a group of play-goers on my corner waiting to cross.  They had all said they weren't interested and I would have left them alone, but they all went and stood at least 6 feet away from me.  So. Funny!!!  Come on!  I have truth to offer, not the plague!  Haha!
On the night showings we did we would stay outside the theater until about 30 minutes into the show.  Apparently something very vulgar happens about 28 minutes into the show and people sometimes leave.  Not a lot did, but there were some, and we were able to talk to others passing by. One couple was going for a "hike."  I didn't see any mountains, but they did have their camel backs on!  I chased down a man on his bike too and gave him a free download!  After those 30 minutes we would go inside the public lobby of the Omni hotel across from the theater.  We used the wifi to teach on Facebook, put lessons in the iPad, made calls, etc.  We had a lot of fun too.  Elder Layton taught me and Sister McCook how to tie a tie!  We would go back outside for intermission.  More people left then. Several elderly people said they couldn't hear, others were greatly offended that so many people would pay to see a show like that.  It was a perfect opportunity to testify of the real Book of Mormon.  Before the show ended we got ready for battle... or at least that's what it felt like!  After running out of the few Books of Mormon we had carried the first night we decided that right before the show ended we would go back to the van to load as many books into our bags and arms as we could.  We even brought a card table with us to stack books on.  Saturday night alone we gave out six boxes of books.  Sunday afternoon we only brought five boxes thinking it would be slower and we gave all of those out in about five minutes!  The ending is my absolute favorite part!  We stand in the middle of a throng of people with a huge stack of books loudly offering free copies of the Book of Mormon and people come up asking for them!  The weather Sunday was beautiful--sunny and about 75 degrees.  The first night was rainy and the other two nights were cold.  On the evening showings we didn't get home until around midnight and we still had to get up at 6:30 the next morning.  I was able to sneak in naps during lunches though.  On the last night we got lost in downtown and it was already about 11:30 so we joked that we would have to spend the night sleeping in the park.  We said that the sisters could sleep in the van and the elders could take the empty boxes from the Books of Mormon.  We had even emptied six boxes that night--one for each elder!  But we found our way home--no worries!  The van rides back to the office were so much fun!  Having 12 missionaries in one van is probably not a good idea!  haha!  I laughed harder those nights than I probably have on my whole mission!
There are just so many amazing experiences I don't even know where to begin so here are a few of my favorites:
On Saturday afternoon we taught a policeman for probably an hour.  He had a ton of questions about the church and was very curious.  The policeman had to direct traffic because so many people attended the show.  (One night we stayed later because an opera was ending right after and we thought we could get more people from there to take books.  The policeman had only stayed to direct traffic for the BOM musical so Elder Layton ended up directing traffic for the opera!) 
On the first night I met a man who had just been released from jail.  He didn't have any idea where he was going to go or what he was going to do.  I was able to share the Book of Mormon with him and he agreed to let missionaries visit him in Ocala.  We also met a man who played the keyboard in the musical's orchestra.  He was really nice and said he would download the book.  I went to hand a woman a card and she was so excited she asked if we had a real book.  I gave one to her and was able to testify of how it's blessed my life.  We were also able to talk to several hotel employees who were outside smoking for their break! I actually thought people would be more  mean, but they were fairly nice to me, or maybe I have just gotten good at blocking out mean comments. 

There have already been miracles from our efforts.  A group of 15 year old young men came to the musical dressed as missionaries like you would dress up if you were going to Harry Potter.  I got my picture with them!  It was funny!  Anyway  Elder Frazier got the Facebook address of one and he has been reading the Book of Mormon!

Elder Layton and his companion got a media referral for a 17 year old who saw the play and hated it and got online to request a real Book of Mormon.  He came to church Sunday and loved it.

Friday night at the musical we began a trade off with the Jax Beach sisters who were also participating in the musical.  I was with Sister Aure and we had a great time!  That was also when the funeral happened. There was a sister in the ward with the last name of Murray who passed away.  She was from Jamaica and alot of her family came in for the funeral.  To make a long story short her daughter thought I was playing piano but the rs president got someone else. But I was going to play piano for the musical number.  Well the soloist couldn't practice until Saturday morning but she said it was an easy song so I agreed.  Well the funeral is 30 minutes in and still no soloist.  I'm assuming when she comes she will use a cd accompaniment or something but she texts and says her car wouldn't start but she is coming with the music.  Oh and I got called on from the audience to lead the music.  So she comes up and hands me the music and again states how simple it is.  I look at it and see six flats and a ton of sixteenth notes.  so I fake it the best I can (Sister Aure thought it sounded good..) but the soloist just told me to stop and she'd do it acapella.  It was a pretty sad funeral with so many people who didn't know the plan of salvation.  There was a family friend who sang an absolute gospel song.  It was definitely different for an LDS chapel.  A young boy on the front couldn't stop crying and so his mother took him into the foyer and she started wailing and speaking in tongues.  No joke.  You know the crazy languages that other churches think comes from the spirit?  Yah that happened in  the foyer during the closing hymn.  It is definitely NOT from the spirit.  And on top of everything the microphone was out so it was hard to hear anyone.  It was sad that it was so struggly, but there were a lot of happy memories shared of Sister Murray's life and it was wonderful to have so much of her family together. 
Sunday we attended Fort Caroline's sacrament meeting because we had to miss our ward to go to call repentance outside of the musical.  President and Sister Craig spoke so we got to see them!  There was an article in the newspaper about the missionaries and the Craigs were interviewed. They had gone to the musical some with the other group, but didn't make it out with ours.  President Patch and President Herrington the counselors did though. 

The Book of Mormon is the word of God!  It testifies of Jesus Christ so simply and purely.  I find attributes of Christ all though out it--these teach me who Christ is and also who I can become.  He gospel is clearly outlined in the Book of Mormon so we know what he expects of us.  I know that anyone who sincerely reads the Book of Mormon and asks God if it is true will come to know that it is.  I love the Book of Mormon!  I love being a missionary!
I love all y'all!  Thank you for all of your prayers!  We truly appreciated your help in these efforts! I learned a lot from my experience this week and I am so grateful for the opportunity!

Sister Murray

PS    The missionaries passed out over  1,000 Books of Mormon.  Great missionary experience!

This is the newspaper article:

Mormon missionaries will offer people attending 'The Book of Mormon' musical a different 'Book of Mormon'  

By Charlie Patton Wed, Feb 4, 2015

 Over the next four days, people attending the Tony Award winning musical “The Book of Mormon” at the Moran Theater will be offered a chance to look at a very different “Book of Mormon,” the one that is a sacred text to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That’s Paul Craig’s plan. 

Craig, the mission president of the Florida Jacksonville Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will send 12 Mormon missionaries to the each performance of the musical “to be able to answer questions” and give out copies of “The Book of Mormon — Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” which Mormons believe is a translation by Joseph Smith, founder of The Church Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, of an ancient text written by prophets who lived on the North American continent. The missionaries will also hand out cards that will enable users to download “The Book of Mormon” to computers and mobile devices.

For most of his adult life, Craig has lived in Utah, where he is partner in a business that provides materials to contractors for finishing interiors. But for the last 19 months he and his wife of 36 years, Nadine, have been living in Jacksonville’s Deerwood neighborhood while Craig serves a mission supervising 236 Mormon missionaries serving in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, a job for which Craig is paid neither salary or expenses. Among missionaries he supervises are more than 200 young people in their teens and early 20s. Young men typically spend two years as unpaid missionaries, young women 18 months.

The “job” of those missionaries, who, like Craig, receive no salary and pay their own expenses, “is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and get involved in community projects,” Craig said.

Craig served a two-year mission four decades ago in Belgium and France. As president of the Florida Jacksonville Mission, he is serving a three-year term that began in June 2013 and will run until June 2016. It’s not a position he sought. Before being asked by a church leader to take on the unpaid presidency, Craig had never been to Jacksonville.

“We love it now, though,” he said, citing the beaches and the Okefenokee Swamp as two places he and his wife have enjoyed visiting.

But he doesn’t particularly love the fact that this week Jacksonville is home to a touring production of the Tony Award winning musical “The Book of Mormon.” The musical, which opened on Broadway in 2011, is playing at the Moran Theater in The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Artist Series’ Broadway in Jacksonville season. There will be nightly performances through Sunday with matinees on Saturday.

The church’s official position on the musical has been measured, offering neither condemnation or approval. Craig said he understands that the show has “catchy tunes” and that many people find the satirical story about two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda entertaining. But he said he is bothered that “something we hold in high regard” is treated with “mockery and profanity.” 

When his term as president of the Florida Jacksonville Mission ends Craig, a father of four and grandfather of 11, will return to Salt Lake City. His business partner then will head out on his own senior mission.