Monday, November 30, 2015

The Last Starfighter - Green Hills, Tennessee

Hello people!

Unfortunately Nick used a Star Wars reference in his last email subject so I had to go with the less well-known alternative. Anyway, do you know what is awesome? If you guessed lasers then you are right,because lasers are awesome. Today was the day we got to go to brother Tolk's lab. It was crazy. He took us out to eat at the university club and then gave us a presentation on what they are doing with lasers and what they hope to achieve with it. It's called a CAP experiment if anyone is interested in looking it up. It is so fascinating but I would never have enough time to explain it in an email. Anyway pictures:

(There were a lot of pictures here but the email would not send)

Anyway besides all of that awesomeness, this week was pretty great. One of the interesting parts of serving in the Green Hills area is that there are 16 hospitals here. So there are always ambulances and helicopters coming from all of the towns surrounding Nashville. We get called to give a lot of blessings for all of the people in the hospitals away from their home ward and family. It is a very humbling experience and makes me extremely grateful for the health I have.

This week we went to Centennial hospital for the very first time. Centennial hospital is huge. It has three towers surrounding a central atrium and lots of entrances all around. The entrances have big glass domes over them and all open into big lobbies with glass windows and fancy desks. The round style of the glass ceilings reminded me of space mountain. The atrium was fantastic. First of all, all atriums are fantastic! This one had all sorts of shops and stores and there were trees and ferns in garden boxes lining all the paths. And then there was a round information center in the middle win a big marquee that read "information" circling around. If there was a picture dictionary, they would photograph this place next to the word atrium. It was literally the perfect ideal atrium that any utopian sci fi society would want in all their fancy buildings. I guess that's why it reminds me of tomorrow land. It felt like I was on a space ship.

Anyway,I'm sure that was far less interesting for you to read about than for me to be there, but oh well. This is the crazy part. It was empty. EVERYTHING. There were no cars anywhere around it. All the fancy bridges and tunnels and valet circles were empty. Every single fancy desk behind all the big windows was without staff. And most of the many entrances were closed. When we finally got into the atrium, it was empty too. Nobody in the security office. All the coffee shops and souvenir centers were left open, but without attendants. It wasn't all closed up like it had been abandoned or anything. Everything was still in perfect working condition. It appears as though every person had simple decided to stand up and leave work at the same time. Once we found our way to the center of the atrium to the incredibly cliche circular information desk, we discovered it was empty too. In the place where you'd normally talk to a person was a little red dial phone with an old receiver - spiral cord and all. We picked up the phone and heard the first voice since arriving. They told us our patient was on the fourth floor. So we walked over to the right tower and got on the elevators. On the fourth floor was a long hallway with nobody to be seen. Finally around two corners we found one nurse just outside the room.

The whole thing felt very surreal. It really felt like a video game. I was at least 85% convinced that a necromorph was going to appear at any moment and infect us. I was also pretty certain we'd get to the patient's room to find that he had become a zombie and we would have to run. It felt so weird but also extremely cool. I was actually kinda very disappointed when we saw the nurse and realized the hospital was full of live people. So yea there is that story.

I'm sure everyone will be like "duh, we told you so" but I found out something awesome. It turns out that if you do not eat sugar before going to bed, you sleep so much better. Then you wake up better too. It's fantastic. I went from being dead every morning - unable to even move let alone think or study - to running circles around elder Tolman. The irony is that you have more energy when you don't eat sugar. Who knew?

So this week I was reading in the Book of Mormon and it describes The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost as one eternal God. Which sounded really confusing to me, because they are three separate beings. I spent a long time looking around and being confused and eventually decided to give up. I asked myself "why does it matter?" But then I took that question seriously. Why does it matter? What should I care if the godhead is one trinity or three beings? The atonement still works either way... Right?

The prophet Joseph Smith taught that it is impossible for man to understand their own nature, purpose, and destiny without a proper understanding of God. So apparently it is important. Without understanding that the godhead is three separate beings, we would not be able to comprehend our own nature, our purpose in this life, and our destiny in the life to come. So now my study question for you is this: Why? What is your nature, purpose and destiny? What is the point of the atonement?

That will get your heads puzzling for at least a little while I suppose. It took me a couple days to figure out and it will take me an eternity to apply what I learned.

Anyway that is all for now :) have fun till next week

- Elder Basham

This is a picture of my district. They are super awesome.

Sister Richardson is going home now. It's hard to believe it's been
a whole transfer. We're all anxious to find out
who the new person is going to be.

Monday, November 23, 2015

In which Elder Basham freezes to death, eats sardines, and makes pancakes - Green Hills, Tennessee

Hello you! No no you over there. The one with the eyes. Yes you!

This was a very fascinating week. It is definitely starting to be winter here. The Sun sets at 4:30, and it's 30 degrees shortly after that. While tracting last night we had to wear four layers of coats
and gloves and a beanie. I hate beanies, but I didn't care because the warmth was worth it. We just went shopping and bought leather gloves and scarves. (Ross is fantastic) Overall it was actually pretty great though. I love the way these southern neighborhoods feel in the winter. The houses look so cozy. It kinda feels like Christmas already.

Saturday was funny though because when we left our house it was sunny and bright so all we wore were wind breakers. This was the day we had to bike all day from one side of town to the other and back again. Lo and behold, halfway through our journey, the greatest storm of all time fell upon us. We were thoroughly soaked for every appointment. It was awesome though. We rode like 35 minutes to visit this one guy at 8 pm. This sounded like a terrible idea to me. But it was so worth it in the end. The second I saw him I totally loved him. He has the best smile and laugh in the entire world and the fullest jolly black person voice ever. Like he beats Morgan Freeman. You could literally listen
to him read the dictionary and just be enthralled.  It's fantastic.

Side bar: Elder Tolman really loves he city skyline. He is always making me take pictures of it for him a as we drive around. He also randomly wants a picture of the road. These things must be fascinating for someone who has lived on a farm forever (I tease) but anyway he said this great quote. "The city at night is just like if you put a bunch of Christmas lights on anorexic mountains." So yea there's that for you.

Moving on. I never really considered myself to be a picky eater. In fact I suppose you could call me the opposite. I will eat pretty much anything that is prepared well. Not that I'm one of those teenagers
who will shove anything half edible into my forever hungry stomach. That prepared well bit is important. I've even started eating avocados. So yea not picky. That is until I saw sardines. The second my mother opened a can of them for me this summer my reaction was "Nope. No. No. No. Nope. Absolutely not. Not ever." Little did I know that I would have to face sardines again. One of our wonderful investigators is a family from Africa. They are so sweet and grateful and just my favorite in every way. They offered to make us African food for an appointment which we happily looked forward to all week.  It was a white yam, a can of sardines, and lots of cayenne pepper. I was
a bit skeptical at first due to my previous experience with these nasty little canned fish. But either the fact that I had ridden a bike for two hours or all of the hot pepper made it actually rather
delicious. So I suppose I can eat sardines and not die.

Anyway so after a freezing day of fun and interesting food, I was in desperate need of something warm and delicious. So I decided to make pancakes as an after dinner shmeken. Unfortunately there was no syrup. No problem. I'll just make some caramel sauce. That was soooooooo delicious. Like I cannot describe the goodness. And by some miracle, I made the single greatest pancake ever. I won't go so far as to say I'm good at making pancakes or that I could do it again (I didn't. The rest were burnt) but this one pancake was perfect in every way and was just delicious. The only problem was that I accidentally set the caramel sauce back on the burner which had not cooled off yet. So while our first pancakes had perfect caramel syrup, the next ones had sticky caramel candy. And then, before I realized the problem, it turned from that into a grainy paste of buttered sugar crystals. So now we have that to deal with. Fortunately it goes well in oatmeal.

So yea that was a fun day. Besides that, this week was perfect. Like everything went well and we found so many new people to teach. We had more lessons in one day than we had had in whole weeks prior. This area is really picking up and it's super exciting.

I suppose you are wondering what what I am going to talk about now.  How about an Old Testament story. Everybody knows those.

So once upon a time there was a group of 2 million people standing on the edge of the Red Sea with all the armies of Pharaoh behind them. As any of us may have done, they began to panic and whine. Saying things like "it would have been better that we were still slaves" and whatnot. Meanwhile God was literally right there in front of them as a pillar of fire and the shadow of a cloud. Like right there. All they had to do was look up and remember "oh yea the Lord will fight for us." But instead they needed Moses to remind them of this. And they still continued to murmur as the cloud went down in front of the Egyptians.

Anyway the moral of the story is that God is literally right there watching over you. He is always there to protect you. We go through many trials in this world, but we are never alone. Unfortunately we cannot see him there as an epic pillar of fire always following us, but we're expected to have a little bit more faith than the hard-hearted Israelites. So without that visual reminder, how can we
keep ourselves from doubting and fearing?

That certainly is an interesting question isn't it. It's can be super easy to see the Lord's hand in our lives when everything is awesome. However, life rarely is that way. How do we remember the great mercy and power of God even when life stinks? There are lots of fantastic answers to this question. The one I want to focus on for now is this: Have the covenant written on your heart.

What does that mean? Well that is for you to find out. Yep. It's a homework assignment for you should you choose to accept it. I can promise you that engraving the covenant upon your heart will give you the strength to resist all temptation and overcome all trials.

So with that food for thought, I bid you adieu till next week.

- Elder Basham

Monday, November 16, 2015

Greek Food - Green Hills, Tennessee

Hello human beings and cats

Contrary to the subject of this email, I have not had any Greek food. I have finally managed to acquire good Mexican cuisine by my own hand, but after all of the delicious burritos and fajitas, I really want a gyro sammich with Taziki sauce. Oh well I'll find that later. For now though, behold the Parthenon!

The Parthenon in Nashville's Centennial Park

So yea that's all the Greek stuff I have managed to find. Unfortunately the pagan temple is also closed on Mondays so we cannot go inside. No 30 foot statue of Athena :(

On another note, we had zone conference this week. Elder Zwick of the seventy came and it was pretty much the most amazing thing ever! He kinda completely changed our entire approach to missionary work. But it's totally okay because this new method is so much better. On top of that I learned so many things that will completely change my life. I would love to share them all with you but I'd be typing all month.

So instead I'll talk about something completely different: taking your faith to the next level.

So once upon a time there was a man named Adam. He offered sacrifices to the Lord as he was commanded after being cast out of Eden. Then one day an angel came and asked him, "why are you offering a sacrifice to the Lord?" To which Adam replied. "I really have no idea whatsoever. I'm only doing it because God told me to. And that's pretty much good enough for me." (Paraphrased by Liam)

So yea that is next level faith in its finest form.

There are many commandments and responsibilities we are given in this world. Often times, each is given a specific reason and/or blessing associated with the it. These kinds of commandments are really easy for us to follow. We can logically see why God would ask it of us and are quite happy to obey. However, there are also many commandments that we don't understand, don't see the reason for, don't immediately feel the blessings of, or don't really want to follow at all. These are much harder to keep than the ones we like. It takes far more faith.

Remember the faith of Abraham. When God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, he got up the next morning and started doing it. Even though it did not make any sense both in the laws of this world and in the laws of heaven. However, Abraham knew the lord had commanded him to do it, so he did.

Fortunately, the Lord will never ask us to lay our children on the altar. However, sometimes He asks us to sacrifice things we would really rather not. They can be things that we really love, things that may even seem good from our frame of mind. But the Lord asks us to take our faith to the next level and to give up some of our pleasures for Him. At these times we must look within ourselves and choose to exercise our faith. We must choose to believe in His plan and promises. We must choose within ourselves that we do love Him first and greatest.

As incredibly hard as this is to do, remember the blessings Abraham received for his obedience. The Lord never ever forgets any act of obedience. Neither does he ever forget an act of disobedience. All acts will be rewarded justly in the end.

So yea those are my thoughts over the last few days. I hope they help you as they have me.

I think that is all for this week. I love you all! Have a fantastic week!

- Elder Basham

Monday, November 9, 2015

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who divide things into two categories, and those who don't. - Green Hills, Tennessee

Hello everybody!

I love hearing from all of you. This week was super exciting. Monday night Elder Tolman and I ate dinner at the Tolk's house and then had a lesson with an investigator with them. They live in Brentwood so their house is huge. They took us on an art tour and I must say they kinda have Ed beat. They have a painting so big they had to buy this new house just to find a wall to fit it. Anyway that's not even the coolest part. (Side bar: nobody in the south makes good Mexican food) Brother Tolk is the physics professor from Vanderbilt. He is in charge of the laser lab. Here. Watch this video about him.

I'm a Mormon, Musician, and Laser-Loving Physics Professor (2:26)

Alright so yea he is super awesome. The best part is that he invited my district to come visit his lab next Monday. We'll get to see all of the crazy laser shenanigans and it is going to be awesome. On top of that, he is the ward choir director. The chapel you saw in the video is actually the Green Hills building. I've sung on that stage. Anyway, Elder Tolman and I were both in choir so we decided to practice singing for appointments and as a tracting technique. He is a tenor and I'm a bass so it is perfect harmony. We had been practicing Nearer my God to Thee and decided to sing it as part of our lesson. Little did we know, Sister Tolk is a Juilliard piano performance major. So she decided to accompany us. Then they liked it a lot. So they voluntold us to sing it as a special musical number in sacrament meeting. That was great and really helped build our relationship with the members. If I find a recording I may attach it next week.

Anyway they invited us to be in the Messiah concert this December with a full symphony and epicness. This will be the greatest thing ever.

Besides that this week has flown by so fast. I really don't remember a ton of things besides that. Elder Tolman and I are having lots of fun together. I am loving cooking. Elder Tolman is super surprised by how many delicious meals can be made in 25 minutes and under $5. He had been eating frozen pizzas and microwave meals for the last four months. So he is quite grateful for me and I am quite grateful that he does all of the dishes.

Here are a few pictures of things that I found in Nashville.

The public library is freaking awesome

So this week I want to talk about faith. Something I was taught a long while ago finally sunk in:

Faith unto salvation requires three things. 1) a belief in God 2) a correct understanding of his character and attributes 3) an actual understanding that our current lives and hearts are in harmony with God's will.

We read in the scriptures and in General Conference talks that faith leads to Hope which leads to our happiness in his life and the ability to get through trials. That Hope of the love and blessings of God and all that He has in store for us allow us to overcome anything we may face on this life. The faith that leads to this Hope, requires all three of the principles.

Often times faith is simply a belief in God - sometimes without even a correct knowledge of Him. This kind of faith gives us something to look forward to - a hope of a better life to come. But this is not the same thing as Hope. That kind of hope for a better life is hardly anything stronger than a hope that life will be easier after college, after the bills are paid, after all the kids grow up.

The kind of enduring, eternal Hope will allow us to truly find peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. It is the kind of faith that allowed President Eyring's father to have complete happiness despite the death of his wife. It is the kind of faith Great Aunt Rose taught Eva about. It will allow us to become truly converted unto the Lord and, like all the Lamanite converts of Ammon, never fall away. It requires a foundation of faith containing all three principles.

The actual knowledge that one's life and heart are in accordance with God's will is not something you can read in a book, hear from someone, or even think about yourself. This knowledge can come only from the Holy Ghost testifying to our hearts when we are truly doing all we now can to keep the commandments. John 14: 26-27 "the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things ... not as the world giveth, give I unto you."

I can testify that finding this knowledge leads to true peace and happiness. It is by no means an easy journey. But anyone can reconcile their will with the Father's will through prayer. I challenge all to follow the counsel we all heard in General Conference this October to "repent every day" and ask God in prayer "what lack I yet." I promise that as you do these things the Holy Ghost will teach you how to better live a Christlike life.

Always remember that discipleship is not a destination but a journey.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! May the Lord bless you and keep you.
- Elder Basham

Monday, November 2, 2015

Daylight Savings and Nashville Things! - Green Hills, Tennessee

Hello all of the people!

Did you know that I got to sleep in an hour and when I woke up the sun was out. After two weeks of waking up in blackness I could finally see. This magical phenomenon is caused by the end of the treacherous and abominable system known as daylight savings time. Unfortunately I've been told that it will come back in the spring and then I'll have an hour less sleep. So that's a bummer. But for now we are free. This all reminds me of that synthesis essay we had to write in 101 about whether daylight savings is a good idea or nay. Basically it turns out that it is a bad idea for business, health, safety, and international airlines. So yea lets get rid of that okay thanks.

On a totally different note, this week was super fun! We had tons of lessons and 50% of them with a member present. The people here are so wonderful and loving. Everyone just loves to talk to everyone all day. There are tons of immigrants here as well as people who have lived in Tennessee their whole life. Lots of the immigrants are researchers at Vanderbilt University. There are so many grad students and post-docs.

One of our investigators is from China and studies cancer - variable sequencing or something like that. And we have a cool friend on the bus who is working here for 6 months all the way from Rio, Brazil to study tuberculosis. And best of all, one of the members of our ward is THE physics professor at Vandy. I cannot wait to have dinner at his house.

On top of that we had a fun time with Halloween. The ward party was a blast. I think we had the greatest costume ever! (Admittedly we stole the idea from the sister missionaries, but whatevs.)

Elder Tolman and Elder Basham in their Halloween Costumes (switched tags :-D)

And since we had to be in by six on Saturday, we got to just hang out and relax. Which is not a very common occurrence. So we had the most (pun intended) righteous Halloween party ever!

And we had lots of fun cooking. We made burritos to eat while we watched. Which was super fun. But even better we made giant cookies in these cast iron skillets and then put ice cream and chocolate on them. It was super fantastic and we sent the picture to all of our district to make them super jealous XD


Skillet Cookie

So my thought for the week is on Mark 12:30 "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." There are four ways to worship God here. I think that is important. If we think of carbon, it is a simple element. With only one it is nothing. With two, it is a gas - empty and flowing about, unable to even absorb light. With three, there is a two-dimensional bond creating flimsy materials such as graphite which shed easily and are dark, absorbing light. But if there are four linked together in a three-dimensional bond, it creates a diamond - revered in industry for its unparalleled strength and hardness, loved by all for its brilliant ability to reflect light. So too we may be, if all four points we become. Only when loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength can we truly reflect all of His love into the world - to stand as a witness of Christ in all times and all places whatsoever ye may be in. And just like the diamond, when our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies are all employed in the service of God, we will have the strength to overcome anything. Though all hell should endeavor that soul to shake, it will never collapse.

Anyway all y'all take care now :) talk to you next week!

- Elder Basham

(2nd Letter of the Day):  Nashville Things!


I cannot believe I forgot to tell you all about the epic things I did.  I was looking forward to sharing this all week. I went to the Bluebird Cafe where Taylor Swift was first discovered by a producer. That was awesome. Unfortunately Taylor was not there but oh well. I forgot to get a picture so that might be coming later.
Music City - Chet Atkins Statue

The other cool thing is this amazing lesson I taught. He absolutely loved the message of the restored Gospel and agreed to be baptized next Saturday. Unfortunately I'm not quite sure he'll be able to make it to the service. He seems a bit glued to his chair if you catch my drift.

Then there is a hilarious bus driver lady. She drives the route right by our house so we see her all the time. The first time I got on the bus, she looked me up and down then said, "Elder Basham? Well. I'm sure glad your first name isn't Sister!" That made me smile a lot. Then one time we were in the middle of driving when she just pulls the bus over in the middle of the road, during rush hour, and yells, "I'm sorry y'all I can't wait no longer!" She ran into McDonald's and bought two chicken sandwiches and then ran back onto the bus. It was the most hilarious thing ever.

Also, the first thing I did in the area last week was organize the kitchen. (Because what is more important than organized food?) I found that we literally have enough hot chocolate to require a hot chocolate shelf. Yes that is right. Once I gathered all of the hot chocolate mix from cupboards around the house, there is so much it requires its own shelf in the kitchen cabinet. Fortunately it's not freezing enough here to need it all yet, but at least we are following the commandment to keep food storage.

I think that is actually all this time. Ttfn :)