Contributed by Frances Eyre
During his freshman year at Aliso Niguel High School, Logan Stites was invited to go to seminary by Kaylee Hepburn; who is a member of the Laguna Niguel Ward currently serving a mission in Montreal, Canada. From this invitation, Logan began attending seminary on his own throughout his high school years and began attending Wood Canyon Ward activities and eventually began going to church. I got to know Elder Stites very well since he was one of my husband, Matt’s, Priests in the Young Men’s Program. He hung out at our house a lot and he became like an extended member of the family. In January 2016, he was baptized a member of the church and after one year and one month, he left to serve his mission in Houston, Texas. Elder Stites was super excited to go to Houston, but his initial few months were pretty tough. It was hot, it was humid, he got attacked by mosquitos, and he served in a Single Adult ward where nothing was happening. I could tell from his letters that he was frustrated. But recently he was transferred to a new area and I can tell he is much happier and is feeling the spirit. When I asked him about the saving power of Jesus Christ and how it has influenced him and others on his mission he wrote me the following:
“It all starts with the Atonement that Jesus Christ performed. What exactly is it? Well to simplify things we'll break it down to three sections: His suffering in Gethsemane, His death upon the cross, and finally His miraculous resurrection three days later. When Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, we learn from the Bible he "sweat great drops of blood," and the Book of Mormon goes even further to clarify that he bled from every pore. The pain was that extreme, but because he descended below all things, he was able to understand everything that we have ever gone through, and all that we will go through, with perfect exactness. He then went through one of the most brutal ways to die, but literally gave up his life for us. He "gave up the ghost." Yes they nailed him to a cross with nails, but he intentionally gave up his life, as in, literally split his spirit from his body. And because of his resurrection we too, can be resurrected. It is his free gift to the world.”
It’s amazing to me that someone who has only been a member of the church for a year and a half is able to comprehend and succinctly describe the atonement.
Logan goes on to talk about ‘Grace’ and how the Savior paid for our sins, as long as we are willing to do all that we can do. He expresses his appreciation for Christ, and sacrificing for us. For his faith to not give up on us. He ends with an experience from his mission:
“A miracle that I love seeing is how Christ can influence other's lives. One of our recent converts named Donna has had a great experience with his saving power. Donna has done a lot of things in the past that she knows now to be wrong, and has really regretted it. She wasn't sure if there was forgiveness, if there was any hope. Her situation even now is bad. But as we began to teach her, her eyes were opened to a whole new world. She learned that she could always be forgiven of her sins. That there is no sin too great that Christ has not already bled for. She was so thankful for Christ and his sacrifice, and sought to become clean, to not waste his eternal and infinite atonement. As she entered the waters of baptism she was crying, knowing what it all meant. She would be born anew, a new creature in Christ. A sister in His restored Church. She is so thankful for all that has been given to her and has seen the miraculous blessings that have come because she has followed Jesus Christ. She is still going through hard times, but her faith does not waiver. She may get discouraged, and Satan may attempt to bombard her with different things, but in the end Christ's strength, His grace is able to help her keep afloat. I know that Christ understands all of us, no matter what. And there is nothing we can do, or have done, that will change that. Is God probably disappointed in us sometimes? Most definitely. Does He stop loving us? No. His love is infinite, unchanging. Christ lives, God reigns supreme, and their love for us will allow us to be with those we love for all time and eternity.”
Elder Stites once told me that as a kid, he was very unathletic. He failed in all sports and was very uncoordinated. In middle school he started running and a few years later with persistence and training he became one of the top cross country runners in Aliso Niguel history holding records in several categories. Once Elder Stites puts his mind to something, he faithfully works at it, develops it, and is unwavering in his determination. I love reading Elder Stites’ letters and can see how his testimony is being strengthened week by week. Like his running, he is transforming and becoming a strong and stalwart missionary. In fact, he was recently called to be a district leader. And while he jokes that this new responsibility is a train wreck waiting to happen, that is just Elder Stites being humble and we all know that he will be successful in this new role and will continue to change the lives of those he meets.