First off, did you guys get my packages that I sent home with all of my books? There was expensive stuff in that package, so I want to know if it was delivered okay. It had my leatherbound books in it.
Anyway, I was thrilled to read about your adventures in Texas! That sounds like such an amazing time! I miss choir tour so much. Those were always such fun trips. They will forever be golden days in my memory. Man. I can't wait to hear the Union Choir again! It'll be a sad day when Iverson retires. He has big shoes, and I don't know if anyone will ever be able to fill them. If you can, send me a copy of the DVD! haha I want to watch it as soon as I can!
I'm glad Jonny's friend is taking the lessons. It's going to be a wonderful experience! I'm so proud of him! Also, crazy news... guess who just got called to the Vancouver, WA mission? Elder Nilsen's little brother! He enters the MTC June 26th. He may end up serving in the Orchards Ward!
This week was awesome. It really was, mom. You get these moments on the mission where you're walking down the street with your companion, the weather is nice, you're on your way to an appointment, and your heart is full. You take a deep breath and sigh, and it feels incredible. That happened last night and I said to Elder Mouritsen, "Man. This is the life. Right now, I feel like I love absolutely everybody in the whole world." haha! It's going to be hard to leave that behind.
Anyway, last Monday night, after emails and stuff, we went to visit Lynne and Adam. Adam is a hospital technician and Lynne is a nurse. Lynne hasn't been to church since she was 19 - she is super inactive but way cool. Missionaries have been going to their house to work out every P-Day for the last 2 years. haha. They had us over for dinner that night and during dinner, Lynne had a lot of questions about the gospel. We were able to clear up a lot of misconceptions, and this got Adam interested. Long story short, we asked if they had ever been taught the missionary lessons. They said no. Elder Mouritsen, after the lesson, were like, "Are you kidding me?! What the heck have the elders been doing for the last 2 years?!" haha. Anyway, it goes to show that sometimes it takes time for hearts to be softened. They accepted the invitation to take the lessons and we were able to set up a time for later on in the week.
That night we drove to Chambersburg where I was able to go on an exchange with Elder Jones and Elder Taylor! Elders Leavitt and Wright are serving in Fairview, just a bit farther away. They met us in Chambersburg and picked up Elder Mouritsen. I stayed in Chambersburg. I had a blast catching up with Elder Jones. He's seriously one of my most favorite people in the whole world.
Our exchange on Tuesday was fantastic. We spent the morning helping the Arreagas family with some projects around their house. They are non members, but have been meeting with the elders for a month now. Sister Arreagas has problems with her health, so the Elders volunteered to do service. This led to her being interested in the gospel. Her husband is hispanic, and Elder Jones is a Spanish Elder, so he was able to explain the gospel to him in Spanish. Brother Arreagas had something happen earlier in life and was disaffected with religion, but he started reading the Book of Mormon and has been hooked! He reads it every night! Sister Arreagas said, "He started praying and reading the Book of Mormon and the Bible... that woke me up. I thought, 'hmm. Somethings different here. That's a miracle.' So I started lessons with the elders." They fed us fantastic hispanic food and we were able to teach them a lesson about faith from Alma 32 and how it relates to getting an answer about the Book of Mormon and harvesting the fruits from that answer through living the commandments patiently, diligently, and faithfully. It was very good. They loved it. There were moments in the lesson when Brother Arreagas whistled and said, "Whew. Goosebumps." It was funny. They all came to church this last Sunday.
That afternoon we went tracting and had a talk about how important it is to have Charity in our hearts when tracting and trying to find people to teach. I referenced the part in the New Testament when Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem but wants to stop in and visit the Samaritans. He sends his disciples in before him to prepare the way. They come back rejected. James and John ask if they can have permission to call down fire from heaven and destroy the city like Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus says, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of" and rebukes them. Even though James and John were zealous for the gospel and firm in their faith, they had the spirit of contention instead of the spirit of edification, and Christ rebuked them. Our mission is to save, not to destroy. It was a good experience.
That night we had dinner with the Kramer family (a different Kramer family). We also shared a lesson on Alma 32. Brother Kramer joined the church many years ago and Sister Kramer was reactivated through persistent missionary efforts. It was a powerful message and the Spirit was definitely there. Brother Kramer had tears in his eyes as he recognized the fruits that have come into his life through living the gospel faithfully, diligently, and patiently. He has an eternal family with 3 daughters, they are all incredibly smart and talented and righteous, and everything in his life and career has worked out. He bore a strong testimony to his family about the truthfulness of the gospel. Then we invited his kids to read and pray about the book of mormon on their own and gain the same testimony. It was cool. I was full of so much love for that family. They are wonderful people.
We met up at 8 pm that night. We took pictures. Elder Taylor has been developing a sword collection on his mission... he's not sure how he's going to get them home. haha. We took pictures with all of his swords. Then Elder Mouritsen and I drove home. We listened to Willard Richards' Account of the Martyrdom. That's a powerful recording.
Wednesday we spent the day prepping for Zone Conference. We had to train on applying the Doctrine of Christ to planning and studying for investigators. We made a powerpoint. It took quite a while. I miss having the office - people don't give you weird looks there when you read scriptures and talk about Jesus like they do at the public library.
There's an elderly lady in the ward here named Sister Whittmer. She's one of the first converts in Hanover. Anyway, she needed help in her yard so we helped her out. In return she gave me all 6 volumes of BH Roberts' History of the Church and the BYU Press collection of Jesus the Christ, Gospel Doctrine, Doctrines of Salvation 1, 2, and 3, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. She paid me a lot more than our labors were worth. haha! Man, I'm such a book nerd.
We visited Brother McIver and had a lesson on the importance of the Book of Mormon in conversion. He was a "9 out of 10 on the tired level" meaning he was so tired he could fall asleep. As we watched a video about Parley P. Pratt finding the book of mormon, he became a 10 out of 10. He was out cold. haha! When the video ended we wrapped up the lesson and said, "Brother McIver, will you come to Book of Mormon class tonight after you have a good nap?" He said he would.
We had dinner with the Thompson family after that. Sister Thompson complained about how her pot roast turned out the whole time. She bought a new crock pot and it super heated her roast and took all the moisture out of it. She said, "Elders, pour more gravy on that! I know you're not liking it. It's SO dry! Have more gravy! C'mon!" It was really funny. Then they let us eat some of their $80 cake that they bought at the boy scout dessert auction. Initially I couldn't believe that they paid 80 dollars for a cake, but then I ate it. It was worth 80 bucks. Double Cherry Chocolate Chunk cake with the best frosting I've ever had - and I'm not a frosting fan. Sheesh. So good.
We had Book of Mormon class that night. I've been teaching it. I've created a curriculum that provides an in-depth introduction to the Book of Mormon. We had a huge turn out - 10 people! haha! A lot better than the weekly average of 3. Sister Varga brought cookies! Brother McIver even loved it! We talked about the patterns of apostasy in biblical history and the events leading up to the restoration of the Gospel and how the reformers played a role in bringing the Bible to the masses. Everyone stuck around afterwards for about half an hour to talk, which never happens! They're becoming friends. It was cool. They all said they'd be there next week. I thank dad for my ability to teach well in a gospel classroom setting.
Thursday morning we finished our training for Zone Conference. Then we got lunch. Elder Mouritsen had to go get his hair fixed at 2 PM. When he got his hair cut last time they totally screwed it up. It was really bad. So they scheduled an appointment for thursday at 2 to fix it for free. It's looking much better now.
That afternoon we met with Jesi at the Gettysburg library. A strange older gentleman stopped us as we were headed to the second floor and tried to tell us that Mormonism wasn't true. Elder Mouritsen knew not to bother and so we just took the abuse for about ten minutes. Then Jesi said, "Sir, I've been meeting with the Elders for a long time. My life has done nothing but improve. I'm making a covenant to bear people's burdens this Sunday and turn my life over to Jesus Christ. You are welcome to come, or you can join us for a study sometime. We'd be happy to have you." He was taken aback by the kindness and the testimony of someone that wasn't us. His whole attitude changed and he said, "Well, I'm happy for you. I'm glad these boys have brought you to Jesus. Keep up the good work!" He shook our hands and left. EPIC MOMENT! Jesi said, "Holy cow! How did I do that?! Words just came out! That's what it's like to be a missionary! Wow. That's cool." haha. We went upstairs and had a lesson on fasting. She was glowing. We asked her why she looked different. "Well," she said. "I stopped hanging out with my old friends and I've only been hanging out with Jen and JP [friends from church]. Now I'm not tempted to do bad things and I'm not in the middle of drama anymore. My old friends haven't even talked to me for 2 weeks. And you know what? I don't care. I'm finally happy." I AM SO PROUD OF HER!!! That takes so much courage and faith. I wish you could see the change that has taken place in her life. Jesi was homeless for a while because of family issues. Now she has a place to stay. She got a job on Saturday. She's taking classes to become a nurse. She's happy. She's healthy. She's surrounded by great people. She's active in church. She's bubbly. She knows the scriptures. She is living proof that the gospel, when applied, makes you prosperous in the land.
Then we had a linger longer with the singles. Jesi's friend Chuckie came and stayed for all 3 hours of the church after the baptism. He loved it. He also stayed for the food. =D
This week was amazing.
The Petersons had us over for dinner that night. We saw a video of Elder Densley, one of the former AP's, dancing. He's incredible! I never would have guessed that Densley was a Dancer. haha. Then we did some service for them and helped them move some furniture upstairs from an apartment across the street. We were supposed to have a lesson with Paul that night but his mom was in the hospital. Initially it was serious, but now she's doing okay.
Friday was Zone Conference. It was such a bittersweet experience. It was the last Zone Conference of my mission. Elder Gerratt, Elder Harrison, Elder Reese, Elder Jolley, Elder Low, and Elder Bennett all gave departing testimonies. I had to give mine as well. I've never felt a greater spirit in the departing testimony meeting. These Elders are all legends here. There's not a single bad one in the bunch. It was powerful. President gave an excellent training on how to answer difficult questions using testimony, the scriptures, and short, powerful, true statements. Elder Espinosa sang "Savior, Reedemer of my Soul" and Sister Maddox [who happens to be Bruce R. McConkie's grand daughter by the way!] played the flute (usually it's done with violin) and Sister Ferrin accompanied them on the piano. It was incredible.
Lunch was delicious. I was able to eat with all my friends. Elder Bartlett told me that Tori and TJ got baptized! I'm so proud of them! And they are meeting with Molly, the lady who called us out of the blue a few weeks ago. Apparently, she's incredible. haha.
We had a cool experience right before the 2nd session started. Elder Warnock pulled me aside and said, "Elder, do you have some way of writing down information?" I love how he phrases things. So funny. I said yeah. Why? He said, "Because there's a man here who just walked in and he wants to learn the gospel." I told Elder Warnock to take me to him. The man's name is Mr. Lawson. His gall bladder recently ruptured and he contracted a near fatal disease, but he was able to survive. His health hasn't been the same since, and it has made him question a lot of things about his life, including his religion which he'd always been unsettled about. His mind was continually brought back to a Mormon family he knew. He said, "I know nothing about the Mormons other than that they're really nice. There's this one family at the farmer's market that's there every year. They make the best food, and they have such genuine customer service. People love them. Even if they aren't going to buy anything, people flock to them just to be around them because it's a good time. I started thinking about what made them different." Three days earlier he found the harrisburg chapel. He drove by it and thought, "Hmm. A mormon church." But today he saw all of the cars in the parking lot and he got the overwhelming feeling that he needed to stop in and talk to the people inside. So he did. Charlie is the nicest man. He's an older, african american fellow. He reminds me a lot of Morgan Freeman - the way he looks and the way he talks. I said that the missionaries could come to his house to teach him the gospel. He said, "I'd like that. Would you be my missionary?" I said no, but I could introduce him to Elder Rassmussen and Elder Anderson. I went and got them and introduced them to Charlie. They, along with Elder Warnock, were able to explain the priesthood and give him a priesthood blessing for his illness. I had to get back to help conduct the 2nd session. But apparently he felt an overwhelming sensation during the blessing and said, "We're meeting this weekend, and I'll be at church on sunday!" Yet another powerful manifestation that the Lord works through small and simple means to bring his children home.
After lunch the Stake Presidents addressed us, which was cool. Then Elder Bartlett and Elder Moulton gave their training and then we trained. Overall the conference was a wonderful, uplifting experience.
We got stuck in traffic and it made us late for all of our appointments that evening. We dropped off Munoz and Jolley and then had dinner with the Shearers. We felt impressed to invite them to serve a senior mission during the lesson after dinner. They said they'd been thinking about it and we told them about the 6 month option, which they hadn't heard about. We will see where that goes. I hope they act on it. They're fantastic people.
We had our lesson with Lynne and Adam. Lynne had joined another church in her 20's and she claimed to believe the nicene doctrine of the trinity. But every time she would explain her belief in the Godhead, she would just explain what the Latter-day Saints believe about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. She didn't understand the difference. So we had a lesson about the Godhead. It was an object lesson where Elder Mouritsen read the Creed of Athanasius aloud while I juggled 3 tennis balls and did various things to demonstrate how impossible the doctrine is. Once we were through, Adam said, "How could anyone believe that?" Lynne said, "Well, apparently we do!" Adam says, "No I don't! I've always believed it the way that you and the elders explain it! They're one in purpose but three separate people. I mean, how can Jesus stand on the right hand of himself?" It was cool. It was out of the ordinary for us to have a lesson like that, because we don't like to draw comparisons between us and other beliefs or do them any disrespect, but they needed to see that they weren't the same. haha. Now we're all on the same page. After the lesson they said, "So, when are you coming over again?" We said we could set up for sometime next week. Then they said, "What're you doing for dinner tomorrow night?" We told them we were free. So they invited us over for dinner! They're so awesome!
We were supposed to have a lesson with Rose Marie but she was super sick. Brother Neiderer came out with us to go visit her. Her voice was completely gone and she looked miserable. She whispered, "I wanted to call you but I figured you wouldn't be able to hear me over the phone. Sorry I had you come all the way out here for nothing." We said it was okay - it was only a few blocks away from our house. We set up a time for later on the next week once she was feeling better. After that we talked with Brother Neiderer about his conversion story. What an incredible man. He needs to be an apostle or something.
We visited Brother McIver again after that upon his request. He has such great faith and genuine love. He's trying to quit smoking. He said, "I firmly believe that the prayer of the righteous availeth much, and I know you two are righteous. You say the opening prayer and I'll say the closing prayer, and God will help me out. I know it." What a great man.
Saturday we had to do weekly planning and do the stake president correlation report, which took all day. I cleaned the font while Elder Mouritsen did the bulk of the report - it's pretty much a one man job. It sucks. haha. Lynne and Adam had us over for dinner at 5. It was fantastic. Lynne's dad is Brother Kerns, and he was there. We had incredible pork chops. After dinner we taught The Restoration Lesson in its entirety. Lynne had a ton of off the wall questions, and a lot of it was going over Adam's head, so he just read the Restoration pamphlet all the way through. His eyes were wide and he looked like he was deeply affected by it. He had some really good questions of his own. He said, "Ya know, I don't know why people give Mormons such a bad rap. I told a lady at work I was taking lessons from you guys and she looked at me like I was the devil or somethin'. This stuff makes sense." We committed them to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.
We also realized that they are taking the lessons, and that they are also friends with Paul and his wife Liz, and they're also friends with the Gaylord family. All of them are taking the lessons! So we proposed the idea of getting everyone together to watch Prophet of the Restoration. Adam said, "I'll buy pizza! We can have it here!" Adam is so cool.
After that we drove to Gettysburg for Jesi's baptismal interview. We had it at McDonald's. haha! Elder Munoz interviewed her and she passed with flying colors. Jen and JP were there to support her.
Sunday morning was absolutely nuts. We had to fill the font, make the program, send off the report, attend the Hanover Ward, and then we had the baptismal service 2nd hour. Bishop Buxton gave a fantastic talk. He's the bishop of the Gettysburg ward and a close friend of Jesi's. She's known him for a long time. He said, "We need to do 3 things. 1) Realize that we're all sinners. 2) Realize that we have the power to choose what we will be. 3) Make the covenant to change and trust that God will help us do it." It was probably the best baptismal talk I've heard. After that Elder Mouritsen baptized her. There were so many people at the service! Then she got changed and we ended the service and headed in to the sacrament meeting, where I confirmed her. It was a unique service because something big is going on in the stake here (we don't know what it is) but the whole branch presidency got released and a new one was installed. They were all asked by the Stake President to bear their testimonies. 6 people stood up and congratulated Jesi. Then the Stake President congratulated her himself. 4 of the 7 were converts. It was really really cool.
After that we had stake president correlation meeting with the stake presidency and President Rehm from the mission presidency. They're doing fantastic work.
Then we had a linger longer with the singles. Jesi's friend Chuckie came and stayed for all 3 hours of the church after the baptism. He loved it. He also stayed for the food. =D
We were completely exhausted by the time we got home that afternoon. We only had time for an hour of studies and then we went nad had dinner with the Hodsons. Their son is like my twin, only he's 1/2 asian. He is in choir. He did band. He played the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz his senior year. He was the Cat in the Hat in Seussical his Junior year. He's going to BYU because he likes their animation department (the key difference is he actually has artistic ability to get into the program) and he loves Lord of the Rings. He asked me, "So, here's the real question. Do you have an asian mom?" I said, "You know what, you got me there. That's different." It was really funny. We had a good lesson with them after dinner. We invited the son and the daughter to invite friends to mutual activities.
We felt impressed to visit a lady named Trudy that night. Her son is a Bishop in Florida and her daughter is active in Utah. They joined the church when they were teenagers but Trudy never joined. We knocked on the door and she opened it and said, "I had a funny feeling you guys would show up tonight. Come in, come in!" We came in and she said, "My husband and I are really excited. Any minute now my grand daughter is going to call. She's opening up her mission call!" What're the odds that we'd show up at that time without knowing about it? Miracle number 1. Trudy had a lot of questions for us about missions and about what they're like and why we do them. Her husband finally opened up to us as well. He had a lot of sincere questions. Trudy was nervous about where her granddaughter was going to go because she has a form of palsy. Apparently her daughter was really worried about her being away from home, and Trudy was worried too. The phone call finally came, and we got to listen to the whole thing transpire. Trudy said to her daughter, "Guess who showed up at my door just a few minutes ago? The Elders!" They thought that was amazing. They were happy we were there. Ashley, the granddaughter finally opened her call and, said, "You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The field where you are called to labor is the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission!" Everyone on the phone started screaming and crying. Trudy started crying. So did her husband. Trudy's daughter got on the phone and said, "Did you hear that mom!? This is a miracle!" Trudy cried and said, "She's going to be safe! She's coming to grammy! If she needs me I'm just across the border in the other mission! If anything happens I'll be here for her!" Everybody was crying. It was amazing. Once the phone call was over they had more questions for us. Trudy wants to take the lessons. We said a prayer with them and prayed that the heart of the mission president in philadelphia would be softened so that he would allow Trudy and her husband to visit their grand daughter at some point during her mission. Wow. What a crazy experience! The joys of following a prompting!
The Gaylords had us over for a lesson that night. It was amazing. They are such a great family! The whole family sat in, including the oldest daughter's boyfriend. At first he was a little aprehensive, but 10 minutes in he was reading from the Book of Mormon as well. We had a lesson on the importance of the Book, how it fits in with the Bible, what's in it, and what doctrines it teaches. We watched "A Book of Mormon Story," the mormon message with Bishop Cook from England in it. Then Elder Mouritsen and I shared our favorite scriptures. Sister Gaylord explained the pattern of apostasy and restoration and told the story of "John Smith" in her own words. The kids remembered a lot from the last lesson as well. The dad said, "This just makes sense! I am really enjoying this." We let them know that all of their friends were taking the lessons and that Adam and Lynne wanted everyone to get together and Sister Gaylord said, "Yeah! We could have our own little fellowship group!" It was so funny. At the end of the lesson they committed to read the introduction and the first chapter of first Nephi. We knelt down and Brother Gaylord said the prayer. Half way through he said, "Lord, we're so very grateful for Zach and Tanner. They are such wonderful young men and we're so grateful that they've taken the time out of their lives to come and teach us your word. We want them to know that they are not a burden to us and we love having them in our home." That's SUCH a great thing for a missionary to hear. The highest compliment you could ever give us. It was awesome. I was having flash backs to meeting with the Johnsons and Robin, Brian, and Kara. As we left they were all standing at the door, smiling and waving and telling us to come back soon. I thanked the boyfriend for sitting in with us and he said, "No problem, man. I actually liked it. Maybe I'll come next time." It was one of the best appointments of my entire mission.
That brings me to the point where I was walking down the sidewalk and I told Elder Mouritsen my heart was full of love for everyone.
This week was amazing.
I love my life! This is the last week of the transfer. We'll see where things go. I might get transferred and go double in and train somewhere. We will see. Wherever I go, I'll do my best!
A guy from our ward, Joel, is going to BYU-I right now. He was in town and stopped by our apartment that night to visit. I told him he should take Jamie on a date. He had me make a video on his cell phone of me introducing him so he could post it on her facebook wall after he friend requested her. SO FUNNY!