Monday, July 14, 2014

I leave you with my testimony...

Well, it's here!

The week finished up quietly and so did I; I tried to leave the ward and the zone with as little fanfare as possible. Whenever I would stress or worry, I'd receive a gentle reminder from the Lord that the work is going to move along just fine without me. I let Palmer and Osburn take over on Sunday and it was as if I wasn't even there - they don't need me and I'm proud of them. While it all feels so natural, it feels alien as well - it feels like I'm just going to get transferred again. 

When you finish up a lesson, a conversation, or a commitment, you bear testimony to seal it. I'll close this blog with a testimony as well, to everyone who reads it:

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It's only through Him that we can find happiness - real, lasting happiness. He came to Earth and was the perfect example - He showed us how to live, how to love, and how to interact with each other. He paid our debt, taking upon himself every sin as well as every pain and sickness that the children of men would ever experience. He died, and three days later He rose from the grave, defeating death and giving all men the privilege of living again. He lives today. He loves us all and knows us individually.

His church is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and called him to be a prophet in the early 1800's, re-establishing the original church of Jesus Christ again upon the Earth. It's only within this church that the ordinances of salvation can be performed by men who have authority from God to do so. 

Because of these simple truths, I can live together with my family in Heaven forever. The knowledge of a loving God and a loving Savior has helped me understand my self-worth and why things are how they are.

I know this. God is our Father and He doesn't want us to be confused; I asked for guidance and understanding and He gave it to me. This is real, the only real thing in a world that worships fantasy. I would encourage all to ask God if these things are true. He'll show you, if you want to know.

What a ride. 
I love you, and I'll speak to you very, very soon.

Leaving Las Vegas...for a while...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Greg's Baptism and the 4th of July

I don't even know where to begin...
This has been an amazing week. We set a personal record for lessons taught in this area and we were able to teach a few new investigators who want to be baptized! Monday morning a member that we're close with texted us and wanted us to teach one of her friends in her home that night - that's a rare occurrence, so we were happy to oblige. We were able to have several lessons and answer many of her questions over the course of the week; this week she'll be bringing her whole family to the lessons so they can go through it all together. It's been great to see her "get it" and understand what baptism and the Lord's church can really do for her. This week I've been letting Elder Palmer take the lead in preparation for my leaving and he's been doing great; the lessons these week have been smooth and well-taught with him taking the reins.
The 4th was a lot of fun! We had to be with a member by 6:00pm and home by 9/9:30, so we went to a members home for a 4th of July party and watched the fireworks from their rooftop deck. The family (the Geists) invited the Moultons over as well, so it was fun to all be together the day before Greg's baptism. President Ahlander also let us watch some certain movies, such as "The Prince of Egypt", "The Best Two Years", "The RM", "17 Miracles", and get this: "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Frozen". We only had time for "The Prince of Egypt" and "The Best Two Years" though, but it still made for a great holiday.
Greg's baptism on Saturday was incredible. He was so prepared, it wasn't even funny - he's been waiting for this day for a couple of weeks, and his family has been waiting for a couple of years. It's been such an honor to be able to teach him and his family and to see the subtle transformation take place. His two older children that are out of state came into town for the baptism and came to church for the confirmation. His oldest son and his wife bore powerful testimony during the meeting and we watched from the back of the chapel as the ward swarmed them after the closing prayer. It felt so good to see the members wrap their arms around the Moultons and congratulate them. All day long I kept thinking about Dani's (Greg's wife) testimony and the way that she ended it, talking about how they're headed for the temple as a family and that she can't wait. The greatest joy I've ever felt comes from the knowledge that the families I've been blessed to work with will soon make covenants in the temple, sealing them together as a family for eternity. All I wanted to accomplish as a missionary is to provide for a family what missionaries provided for mine several years ago - I'm incredibly grateful that I've been able to see that come to pass.
I've been making a serious effort to ignore the clock, and I feel like it's been working. This doesn't feel like the last week. People keep saying it, I know that it is, but it sincerely feels like any other week. I don't know when it's planning on sinking in, but I'm not looking forward to it. I'll just keep working until they tell me it's time; I won't let up until then. I'll be able to email again next week, so this isn't the end - I love you so much and I'm excited to tell you these things in person.
Greg Moulton's baptism

Mission-mobil break-in. Nice...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Trunky Papers" and some golf therapy!!

Hey guys!

During your last three weeks of your last transfer, the mission mails you your "trunky papers", an assortment of forms to fill out and send back for mission history. They're blank pages with titles at the top that say things like "My Goals", "Most Spiritual Experiences", "Major Things I've Learned", "My Testimony". I filled them out the best I could and sent them back, happy to get them off of my desk. They sat there for a couple of days, a constant reminder of my remaining time. It was nice to sit down and reflect on some important things for a little bit; I felt relatively selfish doing so, though. It's somewhat of a shame that we're to fill them out with a couple of weeks to go still, because there are still some experiences waiting that might affect what I wrote on those papers. Some of those experiences happened this week.

We taught more than normal this week, and I'm really grateful for that - after last week of practicing and meetings, it was nice to teach and get my hands a bit dirty. We were able to meet with some people we hadn't met with in a long time, maybe about six weeks time, due to either unavoidable circumstances (someone had a baby) or avoidable circumstances (motivation). Either way, some good lessons and good experiences; one of our investigators believes it all and is ready for baptism, but needs to get married first and we're unsure as to when they're going to do that. Another funny/odd experience: we set up a lesson with a less-active member the ward told us to visit, show up to his house and it's this forest enclosed by a huge wooden fence. We buzz the bell, he lets us in and we're in this beautiful wooded compound - turns out he's the caretaker for Paul Mitchell's Las Vegas house. It's hidden in our ward out in the desert a little bit, but it was neat - he took us on a tour. There are some celebrities that live in the custom homes in our ward: the pawn stars guy lives across from some members, Pauly D lives a block south of us...kind of weird. 

Anyways, Greg Moulton had his baptismal interview and did great! We met right before for a little review lesson and he pulls out all of the lesson pamphlets out of his pocket and goes, "I've been studying". He's so prepared it's not even funny; I'm so excited to see what he can do and who he's going to be able to help in his service in the church. That family is on fire and I'm doing my best to just stay out of their way as they keep heading for the temple. His baptism is the 5th at 5:00 and Tunney's giving the talk again; he's so stoked. I'm so grateful for this last area and the people I've met's been a curveball in my mission, but the best one, for sure.

Today ought to be fun - we'll be playing volleyball with Herlin's zone and then Palmer and I are golfing at a local (and cheap) par 3 course with Tunney and his companion. Golf therapy is much needed at this point.

Love you all so much!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Musical Fireside and Samia went through the Temple

Hey there -

This has been a ridiculously busy week with a lot going on! I mentioned last week how things need to slow down a bit; this week felt about a month long, but in a good way.
So, first things first - I'm in a trio again (see February of 2013)! There's this guy from Las Vegas who can't serve for medical reasons, and so his Stake President and President Ahlander worked something out where he can serve here during proselyting hours and go home at night - we were chosen as his first companionship. His name is Elder Osburn and he's a good guy; he did a year of school at BYUI and is ready to serve the best he can! He drives to our place at 8:00am and then drives home at around 7:00pm. I've had to leave the companionship several times this week, and so I'd leave the area in the capable hands of Elder Palmer as acting senior companion. He's been doing great and handles it really well - it's a good opportunity for him to pretty much "train" a new missionary and he said he's been learning a lot this week.
The reason why I've been leaving Palmer and Osburn alone a lot is because I've been practicing for a Musical Fireside we had as a mission last night! Our mission started holding these firesides once a month and the program is entirely missionaries making music - everyone in the valley can come if they bring an investigator. They've been really successful (this is only the third time) and so I wanted to play at this one since it's my last. I got together with Elder Carson, a great pianist and Sister Baird (really good voice) and we wrote a song this week to play last night at the fireside. It's been stressful because we were on a time crunch and practiced every day this week, but it all paid off last night and it was a really good time; I think there were around 500 people in attendance, so that's pretty sweet.
The highlight of the week was Samia Witwit's trip to the temple this Saturday! She was baptized last June and she received her endowments at the Las Vegas temple this weekend - awesome experience. Elder Herlin and I were companions for the day and we were picked up by former Elders Torgersen, Peacock, and Kredt. It was a ton of fun to see those guys again, albeit kind of weird; it doesn't seem right to see them outside of the context of a mission. It was great to see Sam again and to see how happy she was, surrounded by people who support her in the house of the Lord.
Awesome week; looking forward to another one! Love you all so much -
Samia and her "support staff"

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Power of Prayer

Hey everyone!

Gah I can't believe I'm writing another email already...this has to slow down sometime soon, because I feel like I'm losing time faster than I can use it. I'm more sensitive to chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel, "How Do I Use Time Wisely?", now that mine is coming to a close. With that being said, it's been another good week, albeit a quick one.
I alluded to some good news last week, and here it is. Elder Palmer and I spoke last Sunday on the Book of Mormon (I think I told you that last week) and then we taught Sunday School right afterwards on Faith in Jesus Christ. We were stressed out all day preparing for these two hours of church, making sure we didn't look like dorks in either instance. We finished up the Sunday School lesson and we're packing up our things, and Greg Moulton walks up to me. He says, "Something today inspired me; call it a revelation. What steps do I have to take to get into that tank back there?". I just hugged him; it was a while before I could compose myself and respond. We had been working with that family several times a week for the past six weeks and praying for them constantly; ward council was praying for them, and I know that his family was praying unceasingly. It was incredible to be there in the moment God answered many, many prayers (including Greg's). We're going over to the Moulton's several times a week again, but this time, it's to prepare Greg to be baptized on the 5th of July.
We've been on a spiritual high from that experience all week, and it's carried into everything else. A kid we go out and work with a lot from the ward called us a couple of days ago and has a friend that wants to learn more - we're meeting with her this Tuesday. We got a text from Church Headquarters for a woman who visited the St George temple and wanted a visit from the missionaries. Too many good things are happening for me to even handle right now - I love it. So incredibly blessed.
Love you so much! Have a good one.
The area I get to serve in and the church we attend

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The physical and emotional healing of the Atonement

Hey fam -
It's weird re-learning how to work with a car.
I'll see 104 on the in-car thermometer and wish I was outside biking in it. That's normally when I step outside and realize I'm crazy.
It really has been such a great week. We've had some amazing experiences that I promised not to talk about for a couple of days, so I'll fill you in on it next week, but we've been constantly reminded of the love our Father in Heaven has for all of His children. We've always been acutely aware that prayer is real; He answers to those who ask in faith. I'm so pleased and blessed for the way this last transfer of my mission is turning out and I'm grateful to those who have offered up prayers in my behalf. I feel them.
We had dinner with the Moultons (Tatum's family, Tunney's aunt/uncle) this past Saturday and had a great time - Sis Moulton apparently won Cupcake Wars a while ago and made us an assortment of the best cupcakes I've ever tasted in my life...they were phenomenal. Afterwards we taught a lesson about the Atonement, the sacrifice, of Jesus Christ. We shared a scripture from the Book of Mormon, found in 1st Nephi 19:9. It reads:
"9 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit‍ upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness‍ and his long-suffering‍ towards the children of men".
I love that the Book of Mormon constantly testifies and prophesies of Christ (mentions Him in some form or fashion every 1.7 verses) and that it teaches in depth about His Atonement. This verse talks about being scourged and smitten, but it's interesting to note that he was spit upon. The scourging and smiting are physical tortures; the spitting, emotional. Christ suffered for us so that we can be forgiven of sin, but also so that we could be emotionally healed; we can use the enabling power of His Atonement as well.
We spoke in church and my topic was how the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ. Five minutes before my talk, I lost my notebook. I was so nervous, looking everywhere for it. I had to speak for ~10 minutes without notes or a guideline of any kind. After the meeting, the notebook surfaced behind the seat next to me - I have the worst luck speaking in this ward.
Amazing week, excited to tell you all about the upcoming one :)


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Agency and Answers

Hey family!

I seriously cannot believe that it's June. Three huge groups of missionaries came out in 2012, the June group (Tews), the July group (my group), and the August group (Tunney and Herlin). Each one of these waves of missionaries had around 25 come in, so we're seeing the numbers of missionaries out here in Vegas West begin to recede with the first supergroup heading home today. I've been around these missionaries my entire mission, and so it's surreal to see some of these great friends leave. When companions I've really loved have gone home in the past, it felt nothing like this because the end felt so far away. However, with the end looming in the distance I've felt claustrophobic around these "dead men walking"; I don't like being reminded of the eventual and inevitable end of my service.
With all of the missionaries going home (and a lot of missionaries (mostly sisters) coming in), there have been a lot of areas closing down/collapsing and a ton of double-transfers. The ward right below us is being double-transferred and getting sister missionaries, but they can't live with the single male that the elders were living with this transfer, so we're switching living situations with them (since we live in a casita, a separate living area). This switch up is taking us out of our ward boundaries, so as a result we get a car this transfer! It's bittersweet because Elder Palmer and I were somewhat looking forward to biking around in 120 degree weather, but our effectiveness as missionaries will be through the roof with some wheels; we'll have to fill our day up even more when we plan now!

Some of the people we're teaching have been struggling with recognizing their answer from God on whether or not what we've said is true. Almost in response to their (and I'm sure many others) dilemma, an Ensign article came out this month about recognizing revelation called Agency and Answers by Elder Richard G. Scott (you can read it here It's a wonderful talk that we've shared with many this week and has helped them (and us) recognize the way God talks to us. As I read and study more and more, I realize that the Lord respects our agency and demands accountability, which I absolutely love. He wants to see what we'll do with the truth he's already given us. Read the talk and let me know what you think!

Love you all so much! Good week this week and a better one up ahead.