Sunday, 10 May 2015

Return With Honour

Well, today, I've been home from England/Wales for almost three weeks. It's Mothers' Day in the U.S. and this is my last mission blog post.

Though my mission was both a huge challenge and a long string of challenges, it has been a blessing. I have learned and gained so much. I am so so grateful for the opportunity to serve and to be a full time missionary. One of the greatest things about being a missionary is that it's not about yourself. You go to serve-or at least come home realising that. It's amazing that in the process of serving others and bringing them closer to Christ, we can come closer to him and become more like him as well. I don't think I could say that it was the best two years of my life in the sense that it wasn't easy or even pleasant often but I can say with firmness that the last two years of my life have been the best for me-in making me what Heavenly Father wants me to be.

Thank you to everyone who supported me and helped me in being a missionary! You may not know who you are or what you have done but there are so many people who have touched my life for good and have made me who I am. One was a Deacon's Quorum advisor who prepared a well-thought-out lesson every week when I was the only boy in the class.  Another is a seminary teacher who accepted the call to serve and faithfully taught a class of 4 every day at 6:00 a.m. Another is a Bishop and his wonderful wife in my ward who cared a lot about me and sought to know and help me. Another was a wonderful friend who wrote me an uplifting email almost every week of my mission. Another is an aunt who hand-knitted cushy wool socks to keep me warm in the cold and wet of England and Wales. Another is a Principal who built me up and taught me to be a leader. Another is a Swim Coach who always pushed me to be my best. These and many other people (and I really could keep going for a page of these wonderful people) have made such a significant and lasting impact for good in my life. Thank you!

I was asked to speak today in Sacrament Meeting and thought that my talk would be a fitting end for my mission blog so here it is!




Honour Thy Father and thy Mother
Luke Kemper Houghton
Sun 10 May 15

I’m really lucky today. In England and Wales, Mothering Sunday, as it is formally called, is on a Sunday in March. So this is my second Mother’s day this year!

Today, I have been asked to speak on the fifth of Moses’ Ten commandments. It reads: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” This commandment and its accompanying blessing have never been revoked.

We may wonder: why is this commandment so important to our Heavenly Father that he would give it as one of the first commandments to the Israelites and repeat it many times throughout the scriptures? President Thomas S. Monson answers this question. He said: “May each of us treasure this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and [our earthly] mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”

Our parents are partners with our Heavenly Father in raising and rearing his children in righteousness. The Family Proclamation reminds us: “HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” I can testify of this love from parents. The saying goes that you realise on your mission which woman loves you most by who writes the most often. I don’t think my Mom missed a single week.

I believe this kind type of loving care and compassion from parents is a type of the love that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. We ought to honor our parents in part because we know how important the roles of parents are in Heavenly Father’s plan and we know that they love us and have sacrificed for us. Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President said: “In the life to come, I do not know if titles such as bishop or Relief Society president will survive, but I do know that the titles of husband and wife, father and mother, will continue and be revered, worlds without end.” I believe this is one reason that the commandment for us to honor our parents is so important to Heavenly Father -- their roles are eternal.

The next question we may face in seeking to obey this commandment to honor our parents is: How exactly should we honour our parents? What does it mean to honor our parents? Elder Dallin H. Oaks answers: “If you honor your parents, you will love them, respect them, confide in them, be considerate of them, express appreciation for them, and demonstrate all of these things by following their counsel in righteousness and by obeying the commandments of God.”

One remarkable example of keeping the commandment to honor father and mother is that of Helaman’s 2000 stripling warriors.

The fathers of these young men had each covenanted never to go to war again after repenting of their former bloodthirsty warmongering ways. After a few years of peace, an aggressive Lamanite Army approached and threatened the people. Knowing that their families were in danger and desiring to protect them, these 2000 young men prepared to go to war against their enemies. Helaman writes of their great courage and faith. He recounts that they said to him: “behold, our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we shall fall” Helaman continues: “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives…” (Alma 56:46-47). These young men honored their fathers by helping them to keep their covenant to not take up arms again. They further honored their fathers by the way they lived. “And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all-- they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20-21). I am sure that their mothers and fathers were honoured by their willingness and preparedness to serve.

We read further to understand how the Stripling warriors gained and kept such strong faith in the Lord. Helaman tells us: “yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying; we do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:46-48). They honoured their mothers by hearkening to their words and, as Elder Oaks suggested, surely, they honored their parents by “following their counsel in righteousness and by obeying the commandments of God.”

These young men knew what it really meant to honor their parents. They were commanded just as are we: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” We can see in the outcome of their story that this specific promise of the Lord was fulfilled.  They were blessed and protected so that even though many fainted from the loss of blood, not a single one of these untrained soldiers was killed during the many engagements they had with their war-hardened enemies. Their courage, faith, and righteousness in times of great difficulty came because of their valiant and righteous parents.

As in all virtues, the perfect example of a honoring father and mother was that of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, himself. In Luke 2, we read:

42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
The young boy Jesus did not hesitate when his mother sought him out-He went down with them and was subject unto them. He hearkened to the words of his mother and honored her by heeding her counsel.
Jesus gave the greatest honor to his Father possible when he performed the atonement. In this act of selfless love and compassion, totally obedient to his father, he bled at every pore and was eventually tortured and crucified. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he cried out:
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus honoured his father by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins and afflictions. He suffered immeasurable pain in order to satisfy the demands of justice and offer us the plan of redemption as his father had commanded him to do. Because of this act of perfect love and obedience, we can inherit all that our father hath.
In the lives we lead, we may not be asked to give our lives and suffer for others as He did. We may not ever have to strap on our armour and go to war against a vast army of Lamanites. However, in our lives, we will have countless opportunities to honor our fathers and mothers by choosing to follow and learn from their examples and seeking to draw closer to the Saviour Jesus Christ. By keeping God’s commandments, we draw closer to our Heavenly Father and show gratitude for our parents who have made our very lives on earth possible. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “If we truly honor [our parents], we will seek to emulate their best characteristics and to fulfill their highest aspirations for us… Nothing we could give them would be more prized than [the] righteous living [of] each [child].”
I am truly grateful to be a part of a family where the gospel of Jesus Christ is taught by example. Though my parents are not perfect, I always have known that they want to do what is right. I knew that I was honoring my parents by serving the Lord as a full time missionary. For me and for the other missionaries I knew, there couldn’t have been a more meaningful invitation to be more Christlike than when our mission president asked us to strive to be the missionaries our mothers imagined us to be.
I am grateful on this Mother’s Day Sunday for a Mother and Father who sacrificed so much for me and for each of my siblings. When I was little, I told them that I thought it was unfair that we had a mother’s day and a father’s day but no kids’ day. They laughed a bit and then said “every day is kids day.” I didn’t appreciate that until recently when I came to understand just how much parents give for their children- it really was every day that they sacrificed for us.
I know that the commandment to honor our earthly parents is an important facet of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that by honoring our earthly parents, we honor our Heavenly Parents. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I am grateful for parents who tried their best to get us up and going in the morning to read the scriptures when I was younger. Dad tried to get us to do jumping jacks to wake us up at 6 a.m. I know that this church is true. It is the church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth once more. I am grateful for wonderful parents who shared their testimony of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with me before I had my own. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I am grateful for parents who follow and sustain the Lord’s chosen prophet. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve a full-time mission. It has been a huge blessing in my life. And, I am grateful for wonderful parents who encouraged me to serve and then supported me every step of the way. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Home!


First sighting!


Elder Houghton arrived safely to San Francisco International Airport today.
Happy smiles at SFO
Fruit Pizza "Welcome Home Luke" with the Websters


















After being released from his two-year mission to the England Birmingham mission by President Marshall in Modesto, he made it home to Soulsbyville!









The End.

Monday, 13 April 2015

(almost) Goodbye England and Wales


Image result for england birmingham


Image result for milford haven wales



Hello Everyone,

In a week, I will be flying back to America. I'm writing this email to just about everyone to say Thank you. I have learned so much on my mission and it has been a great experience. Thanks for emailing me and supporting me. It has been greatly appreciated. I'm grateful for the two years I've been given to serve the Lord and learn more about him. Though I'm excited to see my family and friends back home and continue on in life, I will dearly miss the people here. I love the places I've served. I have many fond memories here.

Thank you so much!
Elder Luke Kemper Houghton


Elder Houghton will be returning via Frnakfurt and San Francisco, on Monday, April 20!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

From a Bona Fide Grown-Up!


From 30 March 2015

Birthday card from home.  Dad found the package and we had to do something with it for EH's birthday!



Current Temp: 46°F 8°C 
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Dear Everyone!

So, Good News is that it's not supposed to rain for the first two days of the week. Bad news is that the moon has a leak, the sun isn't coming out for three days, and it's going to be raining for the rest of the week (LDS weather thing onmissionary.lds.org!).

It has been a good week but a tough one. We have lost a family who we helped and loved an awful lot, from our list of people we teach about the gospel.

But, another family's Dad was touched by our last minute visit to them on Saturday morning (we shared the Easter initiative video and then implored them to come to church and trust that God would provide a way and that we or other members could help them out with a bit of cash at the end of a tough financial week). So, at first they said they wouldn't but then they said they would come and they had a great time. The Dad came into combined Priesthood/RS fifthSunday which the Stake President put on (he's never come into Priesthood before) and it went really well. Also, it was my birthday so a bunch of members were doting on me and giving me cards and stuff and it was a great Sunday. I got to choose and play the hymns for every meeting on Sunday. The normal pianist likes when I play (she can do more hymns than me but enjoys singing occasionally (which she can't do when I'm gone)). We sang 199, 116, and 198 (ran out of 1 cards). No one knew 198 but it went well and it's a good one in the right circumstance.

In other good news, a couple who have been coming to the family history clinic invited us over and we had lunch and shared the whole Restoration lesson with them. They absolutely love it, think it's wonderful that we are so happy and truly live our religion etc. and really want to come to church. J, the wife said "Wow, what a responsibility for such a young man" when we taught about Joseph Smith being called as a prophet. She was thrilled when we gave her the Book of Mormon and it was lovely. She even defended us to a nay-saying neighbor who said that she wouldn't allow such people in her house (we had to encourage her to still speak with that neighbor).

So ya, three weeks left. I won't see President and Sister Rasmussen until trunky night. I've only got two Sundays left in the field--one is my departing talk and one is general conference so things are winding down quickly. I didn't get travel arrangements but on the same day that I got my birthday card from the Rasmussens, I got the letter about packing and clearing everything up in the flat.

Elder Houghton



Also, the Branch President's wife, Theresa Williams, sent along these pictures and this note:

I know he is due home real soon, but i thought I would send a few pics of Elder Houghton at our house today enjoying his 21st Birthday.  We had the youth and YSA over for a Mexican feast and Birthday cake.

Take care and thanks for your son, he has been a real inspiration to our Gareth. His papers are in Salt Lake now!









Pictures from Wales and a Trip to Tenby


From 16 March 2015

The fun Fair on Saturday with the branch.



The Mystery Box we used as our activity at the Branch Fun Fair activity.
(40 items total with 10 in the box at one time, reach hand in and identify
random objects as quickly as possible before the clock runs out).
It was a hit!







A Norwegian cookie I made (usually they are not braided).


The Island of Misfit Cookies.
  

A Tall Ship that appeared in Milford Haven docks the other day.








Tenby (after 30 mile bike ride)

Tenby



































































Row houses in Tenby






















Hmmm. . .How did that peanut butter get on my companion's face????












Sunday, 15 March 2015

Marching Forward


From 9 March 2015
Gary and Susanne at the chapel along with Elder Hunter. It was pouring down with rain in the morning but then too bright to take a picture later.

Dear Everyone,

Sorry for my slacking on getting out emails to everyone. No excuses.

This week was a challenging one at first but it was good in the end. We got to see some cool things happen.

Image result for mini cooper 3On Sunday, we got to church early with the Galloways and I was practising the piano while we waited. Brother Prior, of the Branch Presidency, was in the room and commented: "Who's got the new Mini Cooper D?" I looked at Elder Hunter suspiciously and he had a wide grin. I then quickly asked: "What colour is it?" The response from Brother Prior: "Red." So, basically, Gary and Susanne who we taught in Gloucester, came to visit us! Elder Hunter arranged it and it was a total surprise for me (He got a tongue lashing for that one! I hate surprises.). We got to see them and talk with them and it was wonderful. They are amazing and they are doing really well. They've been to the temple to do baptisms four times with the Bishop and his wife and another couple in the ward who fellowshipped them (and who are now their closest friends) and they have callings and are preparing so they can be sealed for time and all eternity. I took my revenge on them surprising me by asking Susanne to share her conversion story in Gospel Principles. It was amazing. It was so lovely to see them! It just filled me with happiness and gratitude that they are doing so well!






Later, while we were coordinating with the Galloways, our stalwart and amazing-in-every-way senior couple here in Milford Heaven, Elder Hunter took this picture from their balcony of a beautiful sunset as two Belgian trawlers departed the Marina. We live in a beautiful place and it's wonderful!






On Saturday, we were invited to Ethan Sky's birthday 11th party (Ben 10 Theme). We had our lunch there and it was great-got to talk to some cool people who are friends with the Sky family and also celebrate. We didn't have any wrapping paper for the gift we got Ethan so we had to put it in a cloth Christmas gift bag that we found. We wrote all over it in sharpie Ben 10 Ben 10 Ben 10 and Ethan 11 Ethan 11 Ethan 11. It was quite funny to me for some reason. Ethan is a great kid-as are the rest of the Sky children. I love their family so much!

Tonight is my last dodge night in which I could be moved. I hope that I don't-and I don't think I will be-as many have said, "it would be cruel" but I guess I don't really know. We think Elder Hunter will stay as well but we shall see!

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a missionary. It is tough as there are many people who, for whatever reason, don't want to know but it is amazing to see how much the Gospel of Jesus Christ really helps people if they will open their hearts to receive it. It is a huge blessing!

Lots of Love,
Elder (for 6 more weeks) Luke Houghton



This was a massive throne thing we found in the castle we went
to for District P day last week in Kidwelly. It was a great day of exploration and fun!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

P-Day at Freshwater West

From 23 February 2015

Elders Hunter and Hougthon
Dear Everyone,
On P day last Monday, we went with the Galloways to Freshwater West (where Shell cottage/Dobbie'sdeath is and also a scene from some Robin Hood Movie). We didn't find any dead house elves but we did find a dead jellyfish and a dead seal. Ya, hopefully this picture isn't too gruesome. It was fun to explore the beach even though it's a bit different as a missionary in the winter than as a Californian in the summer. Luckily the weather did cooperate and it was a lovely sunny day. The water was really pretty and nice (not the brown in the picture that you see-we made the mistake of taking that picture right next to the storm drain pipe that was discharging lots and lots of muddie water sorry!).
Yes, pretty gruesome!
It has been a great week for us though. I had a weird ear problem but it seems to be gone now and it didn't really interfere with proselyting at all. We accomplished a lot of good things and got to teach a few new people so it was way good.
Have a great week!

Elder Houghton

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Milford Haven Update

for 9 February 2015

From Elder Hougton's email home. . .he didn't write a "blog letter."  The first paragraph demonstrates his good spirits in response to my disappointment I expressed in my letter to him that we did not fell an oak tree I'd hope to get down last weekend.


Don't worry, you can get the oak tree another time. Mom 0 Oak tree 1 for now (just imagine Cruella DeVille "You may have won the battle but I'll win the War(drobe)" but without the drobe in your case (unless you want to save the wood and have it made into a nice wardrobe). I do remember the tree getting all snarled and ugly. If it's still there when I get back, I'll gladly help (but don't wait for me if you don't have too!-I know you got a little concerned there that maybe this wasn't your son emailing suggesting that he would help with a sweaty hard work project but it actually was.)

So, things are good. We miraculously regained contact with S. As it turns out, her husband R is angry with everything having to do with the church. In the same week that we realised that he may have seen the negative BBC documentary "meet the mormons" which would only be believable to someone like R in an angry state, the church released the real "Meet the Mormons" and we'll hopefully be able to use that to help him get a better picture of things. Plus, it's nice and inspirational and cool anyway so it can't really cause any issues anyway.

Pembroke castle, near Milford Haven--possibly the
castle near the KY's home.
The KY Family is doing well mostly. Dad still isn't interested but M is working to get back to church Hopefully we'll be able to get the kids on a date for baptism soon. We're going to explore a castle with them near their house (they are homeschooled) in a few hours and it will be great. Fortunately, Grandma Taylor-the amazing older knitting and cat lady who dotes upon us-gives us oodles of chocolate covered biscuits each week (I can't handle any more of them because there are just so many in the flat!) and we use those as a Book of Mormon reading incentive (not sure it's the best reason to read the scriptures but at least they're doing it-it's all good until Grandma Taylor runs out of Kit-Kat bars!). 

We talked to a lady out on a  street that we had prayed about going to tract in an area I'd never been. She was walking her dog and we had a pleasant chat. Toward the end of the chat, she asked us to pray for her brother in law who was struggling with cancer. His name (not his real name but we'll say it was) was Richard Queen. Lo and behold, I need a haircut really bad and there are no barbers in Milford open on a Monday. We popped by the barber on our street who is always closed. It was one of the first times I'd seen him open and there's not sign for his hours. We asked when he was opened and I caught a glimpse of his barbering certificate on the wall. The name was Richard Queen (again, not the real name but ya). So, only I realised it and we had to run but I'm now going to use lunch time to go get a haircut and see if it's the right Richard Queen. It was quite amazing. Also, we met and taught a Turkish former investigator who seemed pretty cool along with his English sort of Jehovah's Witness wife. They are really nice and open. I love Muslim people!

That's all for today!

Elder Houghton