Saturday, December 12, 2015

Although I had stated that both  of our talks would be here only mine is currently posted.  As soon as Sophia is able to finish her review hers will  posted.  We are leaving on Dec 14 for Paris and then on to Malaga.  We are currently packing to make sure we make our weight limits.

11/22/2015 Joe Hopkins farewell talk in Fruitland 4th Ward Sacrament Meeting
Good morning!  Primary children would you show me by raising your hands how many of you participated two weeks ago in the Primary presentation? You did a wonderful job in what you said and what you sang about. I’m so glad to see so many of you here today.  Do you remember the wonderful words you said? I hope you believe what you shared in that program.  I am going to speak about many of the things that you said during your program.

When I was your age we were not members of the church.  We were members of the Catholic Church.  As members of that church children were not taught to pray.  I was given simple prayers to memorize and I repeated those as my daily prayers.  When I was 5 or 6 my mother had the courage to teach me how to pray using my own words.   That was really a courageous thing to do since praying with your own words was unheard of in the Catholic Church.  And so, I learned from her how to pray.  She told me that God listened and that he would help me in the things I needed. I believed her.  I clearly remember kneeling with her beside my cot in my bedroom, it was also the small laundry room of our home, and asking God for the things that I, as a small child needed.

When I was growing up I was small and very sickly, (you may not believe it because of my current size and health, but it is true).  I didn’t learn to speak until I was in the first grade.  I developed my own vocabulary that only I, my parents, and my sister could understand. Before I was seven years old, it seemed every time my parents were talking with other adults my size, my health and my pallid skin we're discussed. I would hear, “What’s wrong with Joe, he’s so pale, he’s so tiny.”

 This bothered me as a little child.  Soon after my mother had taught me to pray a sweet family friend whom we hadn’t seen for several months commented, ”Joe has such pretty teeth, they are just lovely.”  

How I wanted to protect that one lovely part of my body, my teeth.  So I started praying for pretty teeth. Would God please protect them through the night and through tomorrow?   I became afraid that I might forget to pray for healthy teeth one night and during that day without prayer protection they could be damaged.  So I enlarged my prayers to include not the next day alone but also would He please protect my teeth for the next two days. And it went on, and on -  

 Do you know, He answered that prayer.  I remember on more than one occasion going into a grocery store or other public place with my mother and people we didn’t know would say, “Your child has such pretty teeth” or “what a lovely smile your son has.”  I knew that God had answered my prayer. He had heard me. He knew me. And He had given me beautiful teeth.
 A few years later the Mormon missionaries came into our home, I was about 11, and they presented the Joseph Smith story.  I knew that Joseph Smith could have gotten an answer from God. God had answered my prayer.  If he, Joseph Smith, wanted to know about religion; God could have answered his prayer even as He had answered mine.  I accepted that story very easily and we were soon baptised into the Mormon Church.  It’s a lot more complex than that, if sometime when there is more time I would love to share our conversion story.  Elder Spencer Kimball was directly involved with our family for about 3 years to finally get us all converted.

As a teenager in high school I started attending early morning seminary.  We had a marvellous seminary teacher. Unfortunately in high school, like many of you teenagers, I had to follow a sister who was the academic pet of the high school.  Everybody knew her, especially the teachers and they would say, “Oh, you’re Jeannie Hopkins brother, you’ll be a top student,” and I wasn’t.  I wasn’t a bad student, but I was not a straight A student.

At the beginning of my sophomore year I decided I would be a better student, even a straight “A” student if I could be.  In seminary that year we were studying the Book of Mormon. About December our seminary teacher told us of fasting and of the power and strength it gave to the sons of Mosiah as they were preaching to the Lamanites. If this was a true concept, and I believed it was, then it would work for me.

As finals week approached in January I decided to take my desire for straight A's to God. At that time I had eight subjects (including PE). Each subject had a 2 1/2 hour final and there were two finals per day. On my own I decided that I would fast the entire week of finals. Today such prolonged fasts are discouraged, back then if it was discouraged I never heard about it. My fast was a complete fast without food or water. I realized that my full effort was required if I expected Gods help. I organized my notes; re read all the materials and did all I could for each test.  I started my fast on Sunday night. We lived on a farm and I still had my chores of milking the cows morning and night, we had three milk cows.  But every moment that I was free I was studying. Monday was easy, Tuesday was harder but I still made every effort to be prepared in every way for the tests, Wednesday was very hard and I became increasingly tired. So my actual study time was significantly reduced by my increased need for sleep. All my free time when I could stay awake, I was reviewing my notes reviewing the textbooks and preparing myself as best I knew how. I really don't remember what exams I had on Thursday but I made it through it and was grateful to end the fast. I had done all I could to reach my goal and now I left it with God for the results. Because I'm standing here today you should know that I did receive straight A's that semester. It was the only semester in high school that I did.  But I learned that when God gives a principal it applies to each and all of us if we have the faith to use it.
I served a mission in the north Argentine mission from 1965 to 1968. I returned to BYU after my mission and studied economics. After graduating from BYU I married my wife in August and began working at Bank of America in the same month. Prior to our marriage my wife had a Ford Fairlane and I had a small VW. We didn't need both cars and so we sold her car to a Mexican farm labourer who was a member the church and was here in the country illegally. He didn't have all the money so he gave us a small down payment with the promise to pay the rest in monthly payments. Three weeks after taking possession of the car and without making further payments both he and the car disappeared. We were told he and the car we’re somewhere in Idaho.

We were like many newlyweds and we were busy and active and I was sure I would be able to pay our tithing at the end of the year.    The first of December came and with tithing settlement we learned we didn’t have enough money to pay our tithing on our bills.  We were about $300 short.   My wife and I visited and we decided to pay our tithing. This was the middle of December, which meant that there would be no Christmas.  Actually it was more serious than that. I was paid monthly and would not be receiving another paycheck until December 31. We didn’t have enough money to buy food to take us to the end of the month.  We were just foolish young marrieds but we were smart enough to do what the Lord asked of us. Following our decision, we paid our tithing on the next Sunday. On Wednesday or Thursday I came home from work and in the mail was a check from Idaho from our Mexican friend for the entire amount that he owed us.  This was the full amount we had paid in tithing plus about $50 more. Paying tithing is the best plan for good financial management. I've tried it. I've studied accounting and the Lord brings about His will if we will be faithfulI've learned that I can't afford not to pay tithing.
God promises blessings.  I testify to you he keeps his promise.  He says, “Try me herewith.”  And I have tried Him and it works.  The scriptures have become mine about prayer.  I don’t have to worry about what prophets have said.  I know for myself.  I have received my own testimony of fasting.  I have received my own testimony of tithing. 

I have learned that I love to read the Scriptures. Early in our marriage we started reading the scriptures daily.   We read them to our children.  We never used children books of the scriptures.  We read the actual scriptures to them and our children responded by listening to God’s word and they understood them.   They learned to read from them. When you read the scriptures daily they become real to you.   

Everyone has to find their own way to read the Scriptures, but what I have found that works best for me is to read 4 pages a day.   By reading 4 pages a day, I’m able to get  through the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price every year.  And so setting that standard I have continued to read the scriptures daily.   At one time I went seven years without missing a day of reading the Scriptures. I totally agree with Nephi in what is called the psalm of Nephi found in 2 Nephi 4:15   “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them…” I have learned that they teach truths.  I rejoice that I have read the Book of Mormon more times than my age and I am almost seventy.   

By reading the scriptures daily they have become mine.   One of the wonderful things I have learned about the scriptures is that the prophets are passing on hints about what they used to make it through this life. Hints on things that we can use or ways that we can pray to make it through our problems.

Returning to the Psalm of Nephi, have you ever considered why Nephi asked to shake at the appearance  sin?  In verse 31 Nephi states “Will thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of  sin.”  I've thought about that verse. Wouldn't be helpful for us to know before hand if something was wrong? So from time to time I asked in prayer if God would help me to shake at the appearance of evil even as Nephi asked.  Specifically, I began including in my prayers if God would God help me to understand when evil was present before me, and that I might shake at the appearance of sin.   I was living in Venezuela, my wife had returned home to the states for our annual visit.  While she was away there was an after hour activity of my office to attend. As I was driving to the activity all of a sudden my body started shaking.  It began in my torso and then my legs, my hands and my arms were shaking.   I pulled over to the side of the road and realised I should not go to that activity.  I turned around and started for home and the shaking stopped. I no longer need Nephi’s assurance that God protected him by having him shake at the presence of evil.  I knew and know  God answered my request exactly as he had answered Nephi’s.   Therefore If other men of the Scriptures have tried something and it works for them they are trying to share with us that idea to help us overcome the problems we encounter just as God had helped them.
I have continued with that wonderful standard and love reading the scriptures.  But so you know not everything goes as we planned even when we are following all the rules.  I went through a divorce and it was earth shattering, but I never changed my standard.  I then needed God more than ever.  I can tell you that when the scriptures say that you can hear His voice and He will talk to you they are true. I testify that He will answer you if you seek Him out.  You will not be able to dictate when but when you approach him humbly he answers.  On one occasion I was driving to work and He spoke to me and I know His voice. 

Many things happened.  I was then single and living outside Hermiston, Oregon  and I went to the Portland temple.   In the celestial room I met a very tall lovely blond, who now sits to my left; and who is now going to Spain with me as my companion.  What a privilege to meet your wife in the celestial room of the temple.   But again not everything always goes as we planned and in 2007 things had not worked for us and we were at the point of getting a divorce. Even with our auspicious beginning everything had not worked.  I was still reading the scriptures.  But we were separated, I was living in Southern California and had been for several months.  It had been even more months  since we had  spoken.  I had gotten to the point that I needed to know if our marriage should continue.

One of my heroes is Gideon in the Old Testament.  If you don’t know of Gideon you can read of him in the book of Judges  chapter 2 through  chapter 8.   Gideon was called to be a general for the Lord’s armies and he was just a farmer.   Gideon couldn’t believe it when the angel called him to take charge of Israel’s non-homogenous army.   He thought on it all day and it bothered him and so he prayed, “Lord if this is what you want me to do, I am going to put a sheep skin outside and I want there to be dew all around in the morning, but no dew on the sheepskin” and that happened.  Gideon again thought about it all the next day and still could not believe God’s request.  I can absolutely understand his doubt.  So Gideon doubting the first answer, prayed the next night “Lord I am still not sure what you have asked for, so I want the reverse and I want the sheep skin to be wet with dew tomorrow morning and nothing on the ground.  If you truly want me to command your Army.”  The next morning the sheepskin was soaking wet with dew while the ground was dry. Gideon now knew the answer. How he command the army with such faith was miraculous.  If you don’t know the story please take time to read it several times and learn from him.

With our marriage I was to the same point as was Gideon; I had people telling me that I should allow the divorce to go through.  I could not believe it and I told God I needed an answer. I decided that what I needed was to hear her voice.  We hadn’t spoken in months. I was confident or perhaps so needy that I gave God a deadline.  I  explained that I needed to know or receive  an answer in one week. I began the week fasting.  I attended the Temple. i sought His direction continually in prayer through out the week. On about by Thursday of that week, I still hadn’t heard and I reexplained to God  that if He really need more time, I could extend the deadline a little further.  But I need to hear her voice.   On Saturday evening, it was in January, there was a football game on and I got a phone call.   My cell phone ID said it’s Sophia.  I answered, “Hello I’m so glad you called.” She responded, not with hello, but “I don’t know why I am calling you” - but I did, I knew.  I tried to tell her why I knew over the phone but it did not come out clearly.

I now knew, even as Gideon knew, that our marriage was to go forward. Sophia did not know this nor could she accept my testimony.  Somehow we made it to May without the divorce going through. I was now back living in Boardman, Oregon and she was in Hood River. We had advanced to speaking on the phone perhaps twice a week.  There was still one document yet to be signed in the divorce papers before they would be presented to the judge.  I was attending the temple weekly trying to be in the right place to hear His voice. I believe it was on the second Tuesday of May, I had attended the temple as was normal. For those of you who are unaware I have a heart condition call tacho cardia.  As I was going through the session I a had tacho cardia heart event, which means my heart started going a whole lot faster than it should.   When the officiator came by in the normal course of the session,  I told the officiator that I was having a heart problem but would try to finish the session;  I made it through the session but it was a very emotional session for me and could be its own Sacrament meeting talk.

I got back to Boardman and that night called Sophia, we did talk on the phone once in a while.  I was sharing with her what had happened over the last several days and what had happened that day in the temple; she listened and then went on to other events. Kind of like saying - okay that’s what happened and now what else is new.  Later she told me that she thought I was trying to get her sympathy, I wasn’t I was only sharing with her this significant event.  After a few moments and other comments she said, “Your serious, you really did have a major event at the temple!”  I responded, “Yes.”  She said, “Then let me come out and care for you.” 

And I, in my hard hardheartedness replied, “I don’t need that.  I am taking care of myself just fine” and basically hung up.  If you have ever had the privilege of being chastised by the Lord you will know the next 15 seconds where immensely significant and tense.  I know exactly what people mean when they say their entire life passes through their mind.   Alma the Younger in Alma 36 uses the term  “the gall of bitterness” and the “exquisiteness” of his pain.  In those 15 second, after hanging up, I remembered all the times I had said I had forgiven her, all the times I said I wanted her to be with me and many other specific items.  The spirit told me; “you have not forgiven her at all.  Your hardness, your way of viewing, even your pride is more important than her offer, her generosity. You haven’t forgiven her even after all the times you have said you had.”

The voice was right. If I continued with that hardness I hadn’t forgiven her. Yet I had the audacity to claim I had. I immediately phoned her back  and tried to apologize; to tell her that yes;  I wanted to accept her kind offer.  Long and short she came out and we have been wonderfully - happily married for the years since. 

I hope you have heard that I know:
God answers prayer. 
He is a God of miracles. 
You can make the scriptures your own.  They’re mine - not because James or any other prophet claims your prayers will be answered, not because Malachi speaks of paying your tithing and the windows of heaven  being opened, not because Nephi speaks of shaking at the appearance of evil, and not because in the Doctrine and Covenants it says that the Lord will chastise whom he loves.   I have had my prayers answered, I have had the windows of heaven opened when I paid my tithing, I have had my body shake at the appearance of evil, and I have felt the loving chastisement of a God who loves me.  
Brothers and sisters rejoice in the scriptures.  Rejoice in what God has tried to share with us.  It has been my desire to share with you the testimony that I have that Jesus is the Christ that He is my redeemer and that I love Him.  And I with my wife hope to share this testimony with His children in Spain. In His name, Jesus Christ, I share this testimony with you.  Amen.

Invitation letter to all our friends to come to the blog

To our family members, friends, and associates over the years
This is our First, and perhaps last, memo to you for some time.
You may not have heard from us for a long time,as you may well know we are not active face bookers or emailers nor very great corresponders, but recently we have been very busy preparing to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Back in April we were quite sure that we would be going to Africa and specifically to the Cabo Verde Islands as missionaries. But the Lord had another plan for us and so we have been excitingly preparing for a mission to Spain. We will be going to Malaga Spain. There are three missions in Spain one for the north east with the center in Barcelona, there is the Madrid mission in the Center Spain and including the northwest, and there is the Malaga mission which is the Southern part of Spain in an area called Andalucia. Malaga is just 50 miles to the east from the Rock of Gibraltar and is right on the Mediterranean Sea.

Our mission will begin on the 30th of November 2015 and will be for 18 months.  We fly to Salt Lake City and then to Provo Utah where will we will spend two weeks. During this time we will be learning the particulars of what life and activities we will probably be doing in Spain. At this point what we understand is that we will be office specialists assisting the mission president. The mission president is  Pres. Anderson. He and his wife are from Blackfoot Idaho and became mission presidents on July 1 of this year. They will serve for three years.  We had received our call to Malaga prior to their leaving Blackfoot and so we had the opportunity to meet them before they left.  We understand he has about 220 missionaries and two stakes that he is responsible for.

We fly out from Salt Lake on the 14th December directly into Paris France the morning of the 15th. There is a two hours plane exchange and then we fly to Malaga. We will be replacing another senior couple in Malaga and we will be taking over their apartment.  Therefore we have a furnished 4 bedroom apartment waiting for us. It is on the fourth floor overlooking parts of the city. We understand the apartment is approximately 5 blocks from the Mediterranean Sea.We think this is pretty exciting especially since Sophia loves the ocean. The mission office is not in Malaga but it is about 5 miles to the west in a small vacation community called Fuengirola. We are very excited.

We were concerned on what to do with our Idaho home while we were away but the Lord has blessed us in finding a house sitter to take care of the yards. We feel this is an excellent arrangement for us since we don't have to worry about the yards and excellent for her since she won't have to pay rent.

As you can guess we have been busy this summer trying to get the things together to go. Sophia has had to have several medical issues attended to (last year's colon cancer, hernia, left leg circulation, and full hysterectomy). Joe even had to have a molar pulled out. But we believe that this time we are both good to go. Our plan is to have a blog that you our  friends can go to to see what we're doing. This is the only time when we will be sending out this as an email to each of you. The name of the blog is///////. 

For those of you who are not members of the church let me explain our first blog. Just before a missionary leaves his home church, in the Mormon  vernacular his home ward, the missionary is invited to speak at church. Sophia and I had that opportunity on November 22nd. The first blog will be the two talks put into print. We both actively sought to have God's influence in our words and our presentation.  We felt his help in what was delivered that day and therefore would like to share it with you also.

We really have felt spiritually directed and helped to get where we are. We frequently pause to note His hand in the opportunities, choices and selections that are given to us.

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