Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15, 2014 (Jantzen's 19th birthday!)

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Thank you so much for all of the birthday wishes.  Y'all are the bomb and I love you loads.  Loads of...Brother Bray's famous ribs....yeah!  Totally though, thanks a bunch.  Birthdays in the mission are different than back home.  Everyone celebrated by making it P-Day.  Actually, it was P-Day anyway.  But seriously, thanks for the love and support.  Things are going well.  It's been a good day.  We had service at 10am this morning (which is right when studies end) so we woke up a half hour early so we could get to service on time.  It was a lot of fun!  Studies were good too, so that's a plus.

This week was a lot of fun!  It was Richard's and Paula's birthday this week, so Friday was hectic running around and celebrating it with them.  We made Richard a cake and put all 55 candles on there.  There wasn't very much candle left by the time we finished singing to him.  But he had a good birthday.  So did Paula.  We gave her a card that had a picture of this cartoon guy who looked beat up and it said "This is Gutnis.  He walked 15,000 miles to wish you a happy birthday.  Gutnis suffered from heat exhaustion, fatigue, thirst, hunger, sprained ankles and a scorpion sting; so please, have a happy birthday...for Gutnis' sake."

We had Zone Meeting this week and that was a lot of fun.  The Sister Missionary in our ward and Elder Mitchell and myself did a musical number.  That was fun.  But the Zone Leaders gave this awesome awesome training on Charity.  Super super good.  There is, without a doubt in my mind, nothing better than the Gospel.  Good times.

I also went on exchanges with another missionary.  We had a lot of fun in his area.  We taught a couple of less-active members and both are doing super good.  We had a lot of fun and it was a really good, spiritual experience.  The missionary is like 21 months out and goes home in March, so he knows what he's doing.

Christmas makes everything better.

We totally had dinner at the Bray's last Monday and they made Chinese food.  Mmm...they know what they're doing.  Good stuff.  They're an awesome family.  We always have a blast when we go over and the Spirit just kinda lives in there home.  Roger's doing well and he came to church on Sunday, even though he was super tired.

We also met with the Chacon family and taught them using the Family Proclamation.  They're so cool!  I love them loads.  Keep them in your prayers, they're really close to coming to church and receiving the Gospel more in their lives.  Especially pray that their hearts will be open and softened to receive revelation and answers to their prayers.

Speaking of prayer.  I was reviewing the things I know and learning more about prayer.  Cool stuff.  I have found that as we make efforts to occasionally pray on our knees and vocally, that we can focus and be guided by the Spirit easier.

Thanks for all you do.  I love and miss you all.  I appreciate your prayers and the love you show me.  Don't forget to rely on the Spirit to know what to pray for.  Don't forget to pray often.  Don't forget to study the scriptures.  Don't forget to share the Gospel.  And don't forget to look Up!

Elder Russell

Dec. 8, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Thanks for all you do on behalf of the Lord and His servants.  As one of His missionaries, I know He appreciates everything you do.  Thanks so much for all you do for me.  I feel the prayers and help you send my way, both knowingly and unknowingly.  It means a lot and helps hasten the work.

This week was pretty crazy.  I went to my first non-denominational service in the living room of someone's home.  It was on a Thursday in the evening and he first referred to it as a "Bible study," so I didn't feel too bad about going.  Plus, there were people there and we wanted to see if there would be any finding opportunities.  The Church's name (well, it's not really a church.  Church is daunting and scares people, it also requires authority--which not a lot of people claim to have--and inspiration, so instead they call themselves a fellowship) is Fishhook Fellowship.  It's catchy--get it?--huh?  Anyway, we went over the Epistle of Jude, which I thought was completely ironic since it's totally and completely about the apostasy.  But it was cool to see another take on it.  He opened it up for discussion for the first 15minutes or so and then preached his own ideas into the scripture.  It was also interesting to see how everyone had a different translation of Bible.  Even those who had the same translation had different words in each Bible.  So I had a good time listening to different interpretations.

But truly and honestly, it was probably one of the most testimony building experiences for me.  The Spirit was there to help me discern from truth and error.  It was actually a lot of fun.  My favorite line of Pastor Brad's was when we were talking about sinning (born again Christians think you can sin as much as you want, so long as you confess Jesus as Christ and don't cause others to sin), he said "You do have liberty to do that [sin] through Christ's grace.  But don't cause a brother to stumble."  He made reference to Elijah, I believe, when Elijah was asked if someone were lawfully allowed to eat the sacrificial lamb.  Anyway, I raised my hand and asked "So where do you draw the line?  At what point is sinning a stumbling block for others."  He simply said "I don't judge."  He then said "If you ask me if you can get drunk, I can show you in the Bible where it says not to get drunk.  If you want to kill, I can show you where it says not to kill.  But in the gray areas, I don't judge."  So anyway, without going to much into doctrine, we don't believe it works like that.  We believe that no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.  So we're not supposed to sin.

It was a really interesting experience.  I had a good time.  There were a few other things similar that happened, where others said it was okay to sin.  I'm so thankful for the Spirit, so I don't have to make the decision to stay clean on my own.  Also for its sanctifying and cleansing power that it brings when I repent of sins I have committed.

It rained a lot on Wednesday.  We were rather drenched.  But we had a good time.  We biked the first half of the day.  That was dumb, we got really wet and cold.  And then we helped a less-active member mount his TV on the wall.  Good times.

All the missionaries in Ontario and Upland sang at the Community Nativity Festival that our stake puts on every year.  It was really cool, we sang some cool arrangements.  And we had a great time.

Coolest thing happened while we were helping out with the missionary room there, we met this guy who was introduced to the church just a few months ago and wants to take the lessons.  The person who introduced him to the church met him at a doctor appointment, shared some stuff and then asked him if he wanted to go to lunch with him the next week.  He did and they talked more.  We got this guy's information and we're sending missionaries to his house today.  It was sweet.

Anyway, I'm about out of time.  Thanks so much for all you do!  I love you all.  Don't forget why we have Christmas.  Don't forget to think about what you can give back this year.  And don't forget to look Up!

Elder Russell
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Dec. 1, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Sounds like Thanksgiving was great for y'all.  It was for me too.  I went to a family in our ward.  One of our investigators was supposed to come with us, but he ended up going to his daughter's instead.  Understandable.  If you didn't get a chance, I would strongly recommend watching the video In The Spirit of Thanksgiving on .  It's a good one.  And then make a list of things you're thankful for--or better yet, just say a prayer and give the list to God.  He likes that kind of stuff apparently.  But yeah, this week was good.

Key indicators are the way missionaries report their doings to the Mission President (fun fact, it's also what the church builds most missionary statistics off of).  There are 10 of them.  So every week we send in our numbers through the Zone Leaders on how many lessons we taught, how many investigators we found ect...  So anyway, with this season being the season it is, the church has rolled out a new campaign called He Is The Gift.  You'll never guess; it's about Christmas.  As part of the campaign, they've added on to and created a new website called .  Check it out, it's the bomb.  Elder Mitchell and I (we're supposed to study the church websites) spent a goodly amount of time on that site.  It's pretty amazing.  Also there is a new pass along card you can get from your missionaries.  Pass a lot of them out.  This is kind of a really big deal.  Also, this Sunday, visit; it's the only advertiser on that website on the 7th.  Pretty intense.  I like it a lot.  So anyway, I'm super pumped.  Go crazy with it.  OH!  And if you share the link on ect. and put #heisthegift, it will link you to the church's social media site and then all your friends can see it.  So share it a lot.  So now we report on how many investigators we find through

Also, Elder Mitchell and I made a key indicator up.  It's really cool, we're collecting it from the district every Sunday night before we send the numbers to the Zone Leaders.  It's the number of pies received, and the number of pies eaten.  Pretty awesome.

So I just finished the Book of Mormon again and I think it's a pretty good book.  Being a missionary, I notice a lot more things pertaining missionary work and gospel ministry.  Most recently, Moroni 8 and Alma 42 have stuck out to me.  Both are words from fathers to their sons.  The last few verses of Alma 42 are super awesome to read as a missionary.  Because missionaries mess up a lot.  And it's cool to have repentance to overcome that obstacle.  So when you read Alma 42, the entire chapter is spent on justice and mercy and sin and punishment and kinda makes the sinner feel super low.  By verse 25, I feel pretty bummed out for sinning.  Rather remorseful.  But the last few verses are so hopeful.  Alma doesn't actually exact a punishment, declare Corianton's doom or give him a penalty for his sins.  Rather, he simply tells him something very similar to what Christ said to the woman taken in adultery.  When the woman was found guilty, Jesus didn't give her forgiveness per say, but he also didn't sentence her to any sort of disfellowshipment in the church.  Instead, he directs her to "Go, and sin no more."  Alma also says to Corianton " son, go thy way..."  The very word "go" I think is very freeing.  It means that there isn't anything set in stone yet in terms of his salvation.  The is time to repent.  There is still time to prepare to meet God (Alma 34:32).

The other chapter you're probably thinking "That's about baptizing infants."  Well you're right.  But verses two and three are so comforting.  How cool is it to hear those words from a prophet.  Moroni's doing the missionary thing and his father writes him and only tells him how proud of Moroni he is.  Pretty cool stuff.  So there's always hope, if you're where Corianton was as, you can always make it to where Moroni was.  There is always hope for repentance and forgiveness.  Anyway, just some thoughts I had on that.

I gotta get going.  But I love you all to death.  Haha, that's a joke.  I love you all to life! (Don't die.)  Take care.  Thank you for your love and support.  Thank you for your prayers.  I can feel them every day.  Don't forget to read your scriptures.  Don't forget to check out He Is The Gift!  Don't forget that God forgives.  And don't forget to look Up!

Elder Russell

November 24, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

There will be no turkey bowls for me this Thursday.  It was really funny in Elders quorum because they discussed the turkey bowl and set it up before the lesson.  They then invited the missionaries.  We told them that our Mission President was not a fan and would prefer we wouldn't.  The room got fairly loud with excuses, which I found rather humorous because President Hobbs wasn't even near the room. :P  But anyway, I will not be playing football on Thursday so Dad and Taylor must.  Or else.

Thanks for all your emails and love and support.  I feel it out here on the mission.  It means a lot to be able to email people and have them email back.  Thank you.

Starting this week, the church just released a new initiative that I am SO stoked for called "He Is The Gift"  is starts Friday the day after Thanksgiving and goes all the way through January 1st.  If you remember back in Easter they released the video "Because of Him" it's very similar.  But it's bigger and awesomer.

This past week was awesome and Elder Mitchell and I had a lot of fun.  We had a lesson with the Chacons and they were super open about their concerns.  Missionaries love that kind of stuff because then we have something to work.  But they committed to read from the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  The are an awesome family.  We love them a lot.

The Gomez and Roger are not doing so good on progressing though.  Please pray for them.  They're awesome and we love them a ton, but please pray for them.

I was reading in Mormon today and Mormon 9 is such a great chapter on the Plan of Salvation.  It's cool to have so many good chapters on the Plan of Salvation in the Book of Mormon but I had never really noticed Mormon 9.  Great chapter.  It makes total sense of the Three Kingdom.

Anyway, I gots to get goin'.  Thanks so much for all you do.  Don't forget to read your scriptures.  Don't forget to say your prayers.  And don't forget to look Up!

Elder Russell

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I was at the Bray's last night as they were over there.  Go figure.  They're super cool huh?  Brother Bray's mom came up to me in church yesterday and said so excitedly "Doug and Elaine went through the temple with your parents yesterday and they wanted me to tell you!"  Well that was kind of cool to hear!  I was expecting maybe just a pop in and drop off the package, say hi, joke around and what not.  But I think your way was cooler.  I have a lot of fun over at their place.  I don't think I ever leave their house in a bad mood.  AND!  They cook pretty much amazing food.  So that's pretty awesome.  But no, their house is one of mine and Elder Mitchell's favorite houses to visit.  We always feel the Spirit there.  Taralee was telling me last night that you and Sister Bray are like twins.  It made sense to me but I just thought it was funny that she mentioned it.  Haha, good times.

Speaking of that visit though, did you get the package?  The main reason I sent it was because I wanted you to have that CD in there by Hyrum Smith (he's not THE Hyrum Smith but he's A Hyrum Smith---not that his first name starts with A, I was just capitalizing it for emphasis).  But I thought it would be super lame to just send home one CD.  So Elder Mitchell and I raided the apartment to see if there was anything we could send home.  So most of that stuff was there before I got to the area and was stuff that other missionaries had left behind that we ended up not being allowed to have.  So we put that stuff in there.  You don't have to keep any of it, but I figured since I was throwing it away, I might as well give it away first.  Do keep the talk though.  That's a good idea.

I did get the brownies.  In fact, I ate another one this morning (as part of the diet I'm on, I have to eat a brownie with every breakfast....just kidding, I'm not on a diet.  But I did eat the brownie).

This week was a pretty powerful week though.  There was a lot that the Lord did for Elder Mitchell and myself.  I feel super humbled to be serving the Lord out here on the mission.  He does so much for me everyday as I try and fulfill my calling.  Everything out here would be totally impossible without our Savior.  But with Him, everything becomes clearer and the path becomes easier to walk.  One of the sections in Preach My Gospel that I found interesting was the last section in Chapter 4 titled A Word of Caution.  The third paragraph reads "Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred.  They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations.  As a missionary, you may be more aware  of spiritual experiences than you have been earlier in your life.  Resist the temptation to talk freely about these experiences."  I think it's important to keep sacred things sacred.  Like with the temple.  I have found that on my mission, I have been privileged to have many experiences where I've been able to "remember how merciful the Lord hath been" (Moroni 10:3)  in blessing me with things I don't deserve.  I feel humbled to be able to communicate with my Father in Heaven, even though in reality there's nothing I've done, or could do, to earn the right to speak with Him.  And yet, we have experiences all the time that we don't deserve.  I think it's important to only share them when moved upon by the Spirit, lest we become familiar and casual with blessings.

Okay but I will say this.  Pray like hard core for the Gomez family, the Chacon family, and for Justin, and for Richard, and for Roger.  Like, a lot for them.

So anyway, transfer calls are in and I am GOING! be staying.  Haha here's to one more transfer in Upland with Elder Mitchell.  In fact the other companionship in our ward (Sisters Christensen and Stagg) are also staying.  Woot!  They're the bomb.  We've already planned to go Christmas caroling, because we all sing.  This transfer will be ridiculous.  But super super fun!  I am so excited.

We had one Sister in our district get transferred.  And a few other changes in the Zone, but mostly, things are staying the same for now.  Upland Zone is probably the youngest Zone in the mission.  About a half of the missionaries have been out for 6mo or less.  WHA?!  Crazy huh?

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  I love you all and for all that you do!  Don't have too much fun!---Oh wait, I need to tell you about Elder Golden.  We were visited by Elder Golden of the Seventy.  He is so crazy genius.  He talked about goal setting and eternal perspective and our purpose for the whole meeting.  He knows so much.  The doctrine he talked about was super deep, but it was all applicable.  So my mind exploded.  But it gets better.  The meeting was supposed to be for 5hrs.  We ended up being there for 7hrs.  It was intense.  I almost died.  But it was awesome.

Anyway, thanks for all you do.  Remember to read and pray (a a ton) and to do the right thing.  Don't forget to remember how merciful the Lord hath been.  And don't forget to look Up!

Elder Russell

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Thank you so much for your support and prayers.  They mean a lot to me and I can see them at work.  Thank you for studying in Preach My Gospel and in True to the Faith.  They are awesome resources to find answers and confound false doctrine.  Especially the way True to the Faith is written.  I love those books and cherish them.

This week took a lot of patience, and combined with previous, it has been one of the lowest teaching times of my mission thus far.  But patience is required to see fruit, whereas faith alone can grow it (Alma 32).  We didn't teach, with exception of dinner appointments with members, till Thursday.  Appointment after appointment fell through.  I didn't really ever look at it as a testing period, but I think in a lot of ways it was.  President Monson reminds us in Preach My Gospel Chapter 6 that often times, to combat the world, the heavenly virtue of patience is required.  Most of the time we think that we have to DO something to keep the adversary at bay (for example, when a week isn't going well we evaluate and find our prayers have been lacking in faith or spirituality, and we should then make a course correction).  But sometimes the Lord sees fit to try and chasten His people, and that cannot change with any amount of faith or action.  And so sometimes we have to wait.

Thursday we had 4 appointments fall through.  Splits were late.  And we only had a few scattered back of plans.  4 days of waiting is a long time.  But starting Thursday night, the storm was over.  We taught a less-active part-member family and the non-member husband wants his kids to be there for the next teaching appointment.  God then blessed us with other appointments and lessons that all went so well.  Had it not been for patience, I pretty sure it wouldn't have happened.

We had two investigators at church on Sunday, and two less-active members.  Things are picking up and the Lord is watching out for us.  Thanks for your faithful prayers that also brought the blessings we received.

Thanks for all you do.  This week was awesome and I love being here.  Thanks for your love and support.  I miss you all.  Don't forget to read your scriptures, don't forget to pray, and don't forget to look Up.

Elder Russell

November 3, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Not a single person came to our door for trick-or-treating! ...I'm actually not all that offended because we didn't really have much candy to give them anyway.  But we had a lot of cards!  Pump the kids full of propaganda!  No it wasn't a big deal.  We had a curfew of 6pm on Halloween, which is understandable, the pagans wake up and move about at 5pm, so that's about when proselyting got ineffective.  But along with the 6pm curfew deal, if we had a ward activity that was indoors, we could go to that before we went home.  So we didn't get back until about 8pm (the pagans were all over the place at that time.  I had to fight a couple off with a stick.) Robyn alive?  You kind of didn't give very many details...  You kind of just said "Robyn was carving a pumpkin and stabbed herself.  We took her to the ER.  Made for an exciting day."  I assume she is alive.  Just kidding, I know she's fine.  It just kind of scared me to read.

Sounds like everybody had a good week (aside from the stabbing...)  I did too!  We found a new investigator.  Well, okay.  We didn't find him, he kind just showed up.  He's from Saint Luscia in the Caribbean, and he's here trying to get his citizenship and work.  Well fortunately he's staying with the Bray family who met him on vacation in Saint Luscia a few years ago.  They run a daycare and take all their daycare kids to church on Sundays, so they're into the whole missionary thing.  He's super nice and we had our first lesson with him at the Bray home (after an awesome rib dinner.  The Brays...they know where it's at.)  And he committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.

We also had a lesson with Richard.  He's doing so awesome.  Elder Mitchell and I feel super humbled to teach him.  He works a lot of hours and his health isn't so good.  His work is super hard on his body too.  I remember one lesson Elder Depew and I had with him, he had just gotten done working 8 days in a row.  He was tired and exhausted and frankly, pretty beat up.  We found out this week about how he made it to church.  He had the day off anyway, but it kind of threw off his schedule.  That Sunday off was the first day in 9 that he didn't have work.  He was talking to his manager to see about getting his normal days off again and she said "I've got a way I can do it.  You won't have to work the 9 days in a row, but you'll have to work the weekend."  He turned to her and said "No.  I promised I would go to church.  I'll work the 9 days."  I don't know how it happened, but when we met with him, he told us that he ended up having 5 days off in a row.  He wasn't tired.  He wasn't worn out.  And he was happier.  One of the days off he got ended up actually being paid too.  So we looked at his schedule to see if there was a Sunday in the near future he could come to church again.  There wasn't.  He turned to us and said "Maybe I could switch one of the younger guys at work on a Sunday, and I could take their Monday so they could go to school or something like that."  We looked at his schedule and he paused a little bit and then said "It would mean I'd have to work 9 days in a row again."  But then he smiled and said "But it'd be worth it don't you think?"  Mom, I don't know how he's going to make it, or how he's doing physically, but he's so much stronger spiritually.  Please keep him in your prayers.

There have been some downhills this week too.  We haven't been able to get in touch with Robert or Paula all week long and we're pretty worried about them.  Wayne, Nancy, and Marie, officially dropped us.  And we've talked to but haven't been able to meet with Justin in over a week.  Please pray for the people in Upland and for the Spirit to be with them.  I've been thinking a lot about prayer.  If you get the chance, read the prayer section in true to the faith.

I love you all.  Please take care.  Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.  I love the Spirit I feel when I read all of your letters.  Don't forget to read your scriptures.  Don't forget to pray.  Don't forget to rely on the Lord.  And don't forget to look Up.

Elder Russell

October 27, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I've been thinking loads this week about testimony.  That's what I gave my talk on, trained in district meeting on, and will train again in district meeting on.  I've been thinking about how important testimony is.  It's something that I wished was stronger before I came out.  And something that can always use strengthening as a missionary.  Elder Mitchell and I listen to a lot of talks (in the car, in the morning before studies, during lunch, and sometimes before we go to bed), and two ones I've listened to recently by President Monson had to do with testimony, and gaining one.  In fact, Your Potential, Your Privileges by President Uchtdorf (Priesthood, 2011) is really a lot about gaining and strengthening a testimony.

As a missionary, you use your testimony a lot.  In fact, if you do it right, you use it always.  We should always be looking for ways to strengthen our testimonies and come closer to God.  I've totally found that the times I feel the Spirit the most, and the times I'm the happiest, are the times when I'm in the word, and on my knees often.  If there's anything that I would encourage anyone to do, it would be to read and study the missionary lessons, and keep the commitments listed in there for a month straight.  I am so convinced that those lessons will strengthen anyone's testimony and help them receive a testimony if they do now have one that I honestly believe Elder Ballard told us to read Preach My Gospel in the April session of conference (his talk is called Follow Up, and it's a great talk to go back and read.)  Please read the missionary lessons, and keep those commitments in there (the lessons are in Chapter 3 of PMG).

Sounds like everything is going great back home.  Tell Rylie congratulations on getting her blessing.  I read mine again this morning.  Every time I do, I learn more about what I need to do in the coming week.  That blessing will be a greater source of direction in her life than any other text.  I love that blessing.  If there is anyone I know that is prepared to have a blessing, it's Rylie.  She'll understand her blessing with a depth that not many people have.

I miss the primary back home.  We had our program a month ago and I thought it was awesome.  We had a blast watching and the Spirit is always there so strong.   This week is fast and testimony meeting.  If you get a chance, start the commitments in PMG now, and go bare your testimony on Sunday.  In Gospel Principles the other week, we had a testimony meeting instead of a lesson (our Ward Mission Leader didn't show up.)  The Spirit was so strong.  I walked in late because Elder Mitchell and I had to bring something to someone, but when we walked in, the Spirit started speaking to me right away.  It was awesome.

Not a lot to report this week.  Everything went well.  Elder Mitchell went on his first two exchanges this week (one with our Zone Leaders and the other with a member in our district), so we had two days of not being with each other.  It was super weird.  It was like having one of my toes amputated.  It didn't hurt all that much, but it just felt like something was missing.  We have a month-in-meeting with the rest of the new missionaries this week to see how everything is going.  He's doing great.  You all would love him so much.  He and I are like brothers.  I think we actually get along too well.  We have a lot of fun.  But we work hard.  He's so comfortable just talking to people about the gospel, it's awesome.

Richard came to church.  He finally had a Sunday off from work and was able to make it out on Sunday.  He's a lot of fun too.  He struggle a lot, but he's super humble.

Well all, I love you dearly and pray for you every day.  Keep being awesome and don't let anyone take awesomeness away from you.  That would be dumb.  Don't forget to choose the right.  Don't forget to love God, and all others around you.  And don't ever forget to look Up.

Elder Russell

October 19, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Y'all are the bomb!  It's good to hear from you.  Sounds like things back home are still in order.  Good...just how I planned it. ;)  Sounds like y'all had a good week.  Thanks for your letters.  They mean a lot and I dig the picture of everyone looking up (that's part of my morning rites.  Just kidding, I don't have morning rites.  Elder Mitchell does though).  We do run in the mornings though.  I make him run every morning.  And he puts up with it.  He was faster than me in high school.  Not so much anymore.  But it still beats lifting weights.  We like running.

The Mauritzens...I definitely remember the name.  But I've had like a zillion coaches, you'd have to tell me which sport and team.  But anyway, tell them hi and thank you for being my coach.  I really looked up to my coaches back home.  They taught me a lot.

Awesome about your knee.  I hope it keeps feeling alright.  I'll keep ya in my prayers.  Probably made Goblin Valley a little easier.  Hey it's probably not even 100 degrees there this time of year, huh?  I don't know if I could ever say 100 degrees is bad anymore.  Granted, I wouldn't like to live in 100+ weather, but I've had worse. How're Corynne and Bryce doing?  They recovering okay?  I still haven't heard from either one of them.

Tell Robyn I'm only mildly offended she didn't want to share what I gave her.  But I guess she can share whatever she wants. ;)  No it's not a problem.  That was just super super recent when I wrote that, so it was on my mind.  There's loads about missionary work that she could share.

Speaking of sharing things.  Elder Mitchell and I gave talks in Sacrament meeting yesterday.  That was super fun.  The Bishopric gave us kinda vague subjects; they wanted us to speak on what prepared us to go on a mission and why we came out.  Well that's kind of super not that interesting, I've just kind of always wanted to go and had a super great family.  In the name of...  So we kind of took parts of that and ran with it.  I spoke on testimony and the Restoration, and Elder Mitchell spoke on the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation.  No we didn't plan that, we just kinda ended up teaching the first two lessons over the pulpit.  It was a way fun experience.  We had a good time.

This week has been long feeling, but also short at the same time.  I feel like it's been forever since I've been emailing, but at the same time it does feel like it's been less than a week.  But it's been way good.  Elder Mitchell still surprises me with how prepared he was before he even got to the field.  He works hard and he's very effective and he just loves doing missionary work.  We were talking one day when we were late getting out to proselyting.  I said "Man, the Spirits just kind of lagging today."  He says "Yeah, I think when we're not out working, it tends to do that."  So neither one of us like meetings, or being in the apartment.  It's super awesome.  I feel kind of bad.  We're supposed to let new missionaries kind of adjust to missionary life...we skip lunches to be out working.  It's super fun but sometimes we'll be on the way to an appointment and we'll look at each other and say "I'm super hungry."  Fortunately, dinner usually takes place a couple hours later.

But the week has been good.  Life is good.  I love being a missionary and the work definitely keeps going forward "unhindered" as President Monson would say.  We did family home evening with a family last night, and we were trying to figure out what to do for the lesson.  They have some younger kids with shorter attention spans.  So we were discussing our most memorable FHE lessons and I told Elder Mitchell I could tell the story of David and Goliath backwards because in FHE we would do that lesson about every other week with action figures.  Couldn't tell him where the story was in the scriptures (although I think it's earlier in 2nd Kings), but I knew the story inside and out.  So we did the story of Ammon with action figures.  And I'll pretty much bet ice cream on they'll remember it if they do it again.  Pretty sure.  So that was fun.

So I'm still studying virtue in the Book of Mormon, and I've come to some sort of a semi-sure conclusion that virtue is feeling the way God feels.  I've also decided that virtuous people receive revelation super fast because they think like God does.  But sometimes that doesn't always feel good.  We were listening to this talk about receiving answers to prayers, and this speaker talked about how sometimes in an answer to a prayer, God gives us a knot in our stomach.  We'll be somewhere, or doing something, and we just feel a pit in out stomachs.  Sometimes that's how our Heavenly Father communicates with us.  Well I was reading in Mosiah 28, and in verse three the sons of Mosiah get that feeling.  These men are so in tune with the Spirit, that they feel pain for others the way God does.  Just uneasy, trembling and quaking, they describe it.  They just don't feel good.  And that's what drives them to serve their missions.  Sometimes God uses that pit to answer our prayers.  I thought that was interesting.  Because of that answer, an entire nation was converted to the Lord.  Multiple peoples change their lives to come closer to their Savior.

Thanks for all you do.  I love an pray for you everyday.  You are all awesome!  Don't forget who your Savior is.  In John 6:66-69, Peter bares testimony and remains faithful in an apostasy among members.  Develop the faith to be as Peter.  Don't forget to pray.  Don't forget to read scriptures every day.  And don't forget to look Up.

Elder Russell

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

So this is going to be like way super short because we have an appointment in like a half hour. :P  First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TAYLOR.  I totally didn't forget.  I have his present and I've been meaning to send it for...the last two weeks.  But P-Days haven't been accommodating (for example, yesterday was Columbus day) but I will send it soon.  I promise...ish.  I hope the day is going great and that he's having fun y cosas.

Yes!  I totally have seen Meet the Mormons, twice in fact.  I saw it over a week before it came out (missionary perks) on Wednesday two weeks ago.  It was super cool.  The other time I saw it was at a meeting for new missionaries.  All of the new missionaries that came out this transfer hadn't seen it yet (because they were in the MTC when it came out) so we watched it their first day here.  We're actually not allowed to go out and see it in the theaters.  The reason is it's not meant to be a proselyting tool, and they don't want missionaries to be there because we scare people away from things.  So we just kick back and watch it with other missionaries.  Actually, we're not even supposed to bring it up with people unless they're already investigating the church (at least until it moves from the theaters to Netflix).  But yeah, good movie.  I'm one of like 10 missionaries here that has seen it twice.

I guess that brings me to my companion.  Elder Mitchell is from Las Vegas and has been out in the field for six days.  It's weird, because they assigned me as trainer, but the Elder I'm training already kind of knows everything--so nothing much has really changed.  He's way cool.  He's a singer, he ran in highschool, and jokes around a ton.  So we kind of get a long.  We laugh literally like all the time.  It's rather ridiculous.  We had some other changes in the Zone as well and we have some awesome awesome missionaries that moved into the Zone.  I'm super pumped for the transfer.

The week was kind of awesome.  We talked to this guy on the street named Justin. He's 16 and we asked him if he had every talked to missionaries before.  He said no and long story short, we came by the next day to teach him.  This kid has gone through things that no kid should ever have to deal with.  He's super nice and really sincere.  He wants to make his relationship with God stronger and he's just awesome.  If you could pray for him that would be awesome!  He's a great guy.  He's who we're seeing right after this.

This week has been such a blessing and has actually gone by super fast.  God truly does watch out for us and loves us a ton (but like, actually more).  Don't forget to read your scriptures.  Don't forget to pray.  Don't forget to attend church and serve in callings and love one another and help each other out and be kind and loving.  And most importantly, don't forget to look Up.  I love you all and pray for you everyday.

Elder Russell

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 5, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I totally did get to see conference!  Pretty stellar, huh?  I really appreciate the directness of the talks.  Especially Klimingat (or however you spell his name.  We have some Ukraine missionary evacuees in our mission, he was their old mission president.  Pretty cool to hear them talk about him).  I think one of the talks I loved the most was Elder Bednar's talk.  We went over to Robert and Paula's house for the last session of conference (Paula has never seen it and Robert hasn't watched it in over 15 years!); after ELDER Packer's talk, I was kind of wondering (I don't know if she's getting much of this...) and then BOOM.  Elder Bednar *ahh....understanding*.  Great conference overall.  I'll definitely be studying next months Ensign (SO happy we get those).  Tell the fam to email me all of your favorite talks and why.  But yeah, in that choir I saw a lot of familiar faces.  It was weird actually.  Last conference, there was a choir that sang from the Orem institute of religion (that was the institute I attended).  Had I stayed another year back home, I could have sang in two general conferences.  Also, Ephraim Tripp was in the MTC choir during priesthood session.  But I'm pretty sure coming on a mission was better.  I got to meet two of those prophets (and Larry S Kacher of the 70) and shake their hands (I even hugged Elder Nelson) anyway. Nbd.

Crazy developments with Corynne and Bryce.  But if there's any couple I know that could pull through something like this and still remain faithful and positive, let's face it, it's Corynne and Bryce.  A gift of the spirit that Moroni left out in Moroni 10 is resilience.  And Corynne and Bryce are truly resilient.  Pretty stalwart people.  I'll keep them in my prayers.

All I have to say about the FJ that car has a mind of it's own.  You should ask Corynne and Robyn to write a talk with that story though.  Sounds like something that could provide a lot of metaphorical power (I want you to slowly clench your fist and say, ever so maniacally, "metaphorical power").

We haven't heard back from Sharon.  She's choosing to kind of remain aloof in the situation.  Super depressing for us, but we'll stop by again this week and see how she's doing.  She's an awesome lady and we really respect her.  Just want her to come into the fold...y cosas.  But we keep praying.  She'll come around some time or another.  It's hard to break away from a faith you teach in.

Poor Elder Depew.  After 7mos in one area, he finally got transferred.  That's not the poor Elder Depew part though.  He not only got transferred, but into the same ward as President Hobbs.  I love being around President, he's an awesomely inspired man--but let's face it; no one wants to work under the boss's direct gaze.  But he's a good missionary and President loves him, so it will all be well.  President takes care of his missionaries.  So now I have a different companion.  But we'll have a lot of fun.  We have a lot we want to do this transfer and some pretty high hopes.  Speaking of which; we have a lesson with a potential investigator who wants to know about some of the archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon.  I told him it wouldn't matter in getting an answer even if he did have proof (you can't learn spiritual truths doesn't work.  It's called looking beyond the mark and Jacob has a few things to say about that.  So does Elder Ballard...but anyway).  But he's still curious, and frankly I am too.  It's been a while since I've seen that kind of stuff and I think it's awesome. So I was wondering if you could send me a picture of Dad's wooden tablet from Bolivia--the one with the two sticks.

Anyway, things are going super well.  I'm excited for the transfer.  I've been studying virtue in the Book of Mormon.  I have decided I really admire virtuous people.  Preach My Gospel says that virtue originates from our innermost thoughts and desires.  If that is true (and I think we oughta say it is) than Lehi had to be a virtuous person.  He received visions from God in his sleep (so did Nephi--see 2Nephi 4).  I think that being virtuous is one of the most heavenly attributes of the Savior because you think the way He thinks, you see the way He sees, and you feel the way He feels.  Which I am so impressed with.

I love you all and miss you dearly.  You are always in my prayers.  I am so thankful for your examples and for all you do.  Please take care and know I love you.  And...Don't forget to look Up.

Elder Russell

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Well fortunately, enough has happened in the past four weeks that this shouldn't be too dry of an email.  In fact the past three days have been some of the most productive I've had in a fairly long while.  We were doing weekly planning (we do it on Fridays) and we're sitting there thinking to ourselves "'s been six days since we've had a lesson with an investigator..."  That's quite the drought.  We hadn't found anybody, or taught anybody all week long.  The only lessons we had were with less-active members--two of them.  Okay, I'm no stat monkey (numbers aren't really a big deal to me), but in case you're wondering, two less-active member lessons in six days is not the highest lesson count for missionaries.  But we didn't really care--we went to the temple the day before.  Nothing could really get us down.  Except for maybe malaria...that would stink.  So we're kind of trying to figure out how we're going to reach our goals and who we could go see and not really coming up with anything.

And then we had four lessons with investigators, two of which were with new investigators, in two days.  So that was pretty cool and we felt all warm inside and stuff.  We felt super grateful to God.  It was a great weekend.

But back to weekly planning.  Last week we were dropped by three investigators.  Also not good on the numbers game.  One of them being Sharon.  That was sooo depressing.  We were stopping by to see if we could catch Carlos (Sharon's next door neighbor--who also happens to be an investigator) and Sharon walked outside.  We needed to follow up with her and she how she's doing anyway, so we started talking when she stopped and got really serious.  "Yeah, I meant to call you back the other day.  I need to tell you that I need to cancel our appointment for Friday."  The word 'cancel' in comparison to 'reschedule' is probably on of the worst feeling comparisons in the world.  She continued "And I don't think it is worth the time for you two to keep on coming by.  I was praying and got my answer that the Bible is God's ONLY word."  Well we thought that was kind of weird.  We found out later in the conversation that she just wasn't realizing the answer.  It's understandable that she would be hesitant--she teaches the equivalent of primary at her church and to give that up and to attend a different church while her husband stays at the current one is kind of a lot to give up.  We knew she had a lot of fears, but most all of them seemed to go away when we were in lessons with her.  She was so close to coming to church and to getting a strong confirmation.  She was reading the Book of Mormon, she was praying--on her own and with us--and she even allowed us to bring a member to one of our visits.  She was going so good, but a decision had to be made and she chose to stay where she's at right now.  She told us she's not shutting it out of her mind and she still keeps the Book of Mormon near her bedside and she'll still read from it.  Elder Depew and I bore fervent testimony to her about the truthfulness and the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Spirit entered into all of our hearts.  But she had made her decision and we were super sad.  But she says she want to keep in contact and we'll probably see her this week anyway just to see how she's doing and invite her to General Conference.  She's really awesome and we still want to keep in touch.  Our area isn't that big, so that won't be hard.

But we found Nancy.  She's technically YSA age...but we don't really want to tell anyone that, because we think she's super cool.  She was way nice when we first met her and she invited us over.  We showed up at the expected time and she was like "I thought you guys were going to forget."  HA!  We never forget.  She was happy to see us and we taught her a quick lesson and invited her to church.  She accepted and was excited to come.  She didn't make it.  She teaches kindergarten and has taken care of kids for pretty much her entire life and we forgot to tell her last Sunday was THE PRIMARY PROGRAM!  I was super bummed for like 30 seconds...and then I just started to enjoy the program.  It was awesome.

Speaking of the Primary Program.  Robyn needs something from the field, huh?  Well, there's a lot to tell.  But something that has been on my mind a lot recently is another couple we're working with.  Paula's not a member (I don't know if I told you about these two), and Robert hasn't been to church in over 15yrs.  Here's what she can share: 

Robert actually found us.  We were sitting on the corner late at night trying to figure out what to do when Robert drove by.  He invited us over to his home and we started teaching him and Paula, his wife.  She's really excited to learn more but Robert's not sure he wants to come back to church.  So I fasted for him on Sunday--that he would gain the desire to come back to church.  After I got done praying, I got the thought to read Mosiah 3.  Verses 4 and 5 say "For the Lord hath heard thy prayers...and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice....For behold, the time cometh...that in power, the Lord...shall come down from heaven among the children of men..."  I know God answers prayers.  And that went He loves all His children.

I'm excited to keep working with them.  They are so awesome.  Our ward is actually shrinking because people keep moving out.  Our Bishops and Stake President are super concerned we'll have to dissolve the stake.  Some members have 3-4 callings here in our ward.  Robert and Paula are exactly what the ward needs and we pray always that they'll join the church.  Pray for Enos would.

Getting back to weekly planning this past week.  Elder Depew and I started in this area with one investigator.  As we were planning this past week...we had one investigator.  It was discouraging for a moment--we had to start all over again, from the beginning.  But we felt a certain surge of confidence in the Lord.  It was actually really cool because once again, there's no where to go or turn but Up.  So we have our week filled out and plans to do some hard work this week to end this transfer (probably Elder Depew's last week here).  Lesson learned:  Don't Forget to Look Up.

I love you all and pray for you often.  I'm glad to hear everything is going well.  Tell Corynne she should email me sometime before the second coming.  It's been nearly 9mos.  Come on. ;)  How are she and Bryce doing?  I think about them and pray for them.  I hope all is going well.

Also!  I was reading the past conference talks again (in preparation for this week), and I ran across Elder Ballards talk.  Ever since I read Our Search for Happiness, my love for Elder Ballard has grown so much.  But how is Preach My Gospel study going?  I know more than ever that studying that book and using it not only in missionary work and efforts, but in everyday life will bless you all and those you meet and know.  By the way, good job in Boston, Mom.  Take care and love those around you.

Elder Russell
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September 15, 2014 (Oops. Sorry this is out of order.)

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Saturday was the first time in my life that I had heard Brother Robbins sing.  I've known him almost 19yrs and didn't know he could sing until I came out on my mission.  One of the people who danced what he sang accompanied me for Bring Him Home--he's a guy in my ward.  He's a really good guy.  But anyway, Bro Robbins did a really great job and he nailed all of his notes (he had some pretty high ones).

Sounds like school is going well back home.  Man, I miss going to school.  Often times I wish personal study on the mission was extended to two hours, because one isn't a lot of time to study the gospel.  I never thought I'd actually say that.  I mean, I've always loved studying the gospel, but I had never really consistently for more than 15mins a day or so.  Now I know what it's like to study it for longer, I don't think I could ever go back.  I try and rush the morning schedule just so I can get to personal study early; then at the end of the day, we try and do planning as quickly as possible so I can get ready for bed and read before bedtime.  I have grown to love the scriptures so much and I wish there was more time to read them.  There is so much material to study and learn from, it's insane.

I'm excited to hear about how the auditions go for Rylie.  Sounds like she's improved a lot and she's doing really good.  You'll have to let me know how things go.  Also, when Robyn's invented a robot that can do household chores, have her send it to me.  I could really use it out here.  I think it would be great.  And sounds like Taylor's grabbing the bull by the horns with school as well.  That's awesome!

This week was great.  We had some miracles happen and it was just awesome.  First off.  We had a really slow day Thursday (like painfully slow), so we did a lot of tracting and weren't able to teach anyone.  But on our way back, we saw Marie.  Our last lesson didn't exactly go stellar with Marie and we were trying to figure out a way to recover.  She called out to us and we stopped and talked for a little while.  It was really good and helped some things.  She didn't come to church this Sunday, but things are looking a little better.

We were also scared about Sharon.  We had called her a couple times during the week and we thought she had dropped us.  So when we went over Friday, we were super anxious to see how she was doing.  We had thought maybe she got anti-ed or something in her family had happened or she just lost interest.  We knocked on her door, and no one answered.  We were super put out because she had seemed so solid the week before.  So we kind of hung our heads and started to mope.  But we decided we should ring the doorbell anyway (missionaries always try at least twice; once for their salvation, once for ours).  Well turns out she was home and waiting for us, she had water waiting for us and her Book of Mormon out and ready to go.  She had taken notes to outline the chapter, cross referenced it with the bible, and had questions written down for us to answer.  It was really cool.  She even said she wanted to read the testimonies of Joseph Smith and the witnesses.  We didn't really mope after that.  It was a great experience.

The Howards also came to church.  Brother Howard works on Sundays and the ward has tried everything to get him to come to church.  He says he wants to come, but then he never shows up, even when he promises he will.  Last week (not last week, but the week before) we did everything we could think of to get him out to church and he didn't come.  So when he promised to come this week, we were rather skeptical.  But he came with his daughter in law and his grandkids.  It was awesome.  First time in over a year and a  half.  Haley, wants to be baptized (she's 8) and we think it'll be good motivation to keep him active.  It was an awesome day.

Thinks look good this week.  We have some people we have plans to go see and were excited to see them.  Thanks for all you do.  The prayers mean a lot to me.  They really do.  I love and pray for you all.  I miss you and think of you all often.  Keep on keepin' on.

Elder Russell

P.S.  Next week we go to the temple, so President is moving P-Day to Thursday instead of Monday.  So, I won't be able to email for 10 days instead of 7.  Also, I know I've already mentioned it, but please please go do Grandpa Josip's work.  I would really like to go through the temple for him and I only get to go through the temple every 6mos.  Love you all.

September 24, 2014

Download SAM_1040.JPG (5.7 MB)
Mom, Dad, and Family,

Good to hear from you again.  Sounds like the family is doing well and that homecoming went great.  Taylor's part seemed to be positive and sounds like he had a blast.  Haha!  Homecoming is a fun day.  I enjoyed mine a lot.  Of course my date was the best date a guy could ask for, so that helped.

I just got out of the temple not too long ago.  It was amazing!  First time in 8mos!  Which to people outside of Utah might not seem that long...but to me it felt like an 8yr famine!  So it was great to go again.  We left the mission...which didn't actually feel very weird at all (it's happened by accident to me before) and went to Redlands (where Kallie Baker is serving, used to be all one mission before 2013).  The temple is very small.  Angel Moroni looked very big on top.  It's design is very similar to that of the Mt Timp or Bountiful temples, but about half the size.  It was beautiful nonetheless.  The entire Upland Zone got reservations there and so 24 missionaries were all in the same session.  It was so good.  I did get Grandpa Josip's information (I actually had a copy with me the entire time, but I wasn't sure if there was any other information I needed).  Unfortunately, when they printed off the cards, there were no ordinances done for him.  So I didn't get to go through for him.  But the temple was still a great experience.  I loved it a lot!

Some of the highlights for the past week and a half:  Last week, I had to bear testimony that Joseph Smith was a polygamist (I never EVER thought I'd even have to do anything remotely close to that in my life...but there the situation was, and I took the opportunity.)  I went on back to back exchanges (which means for a time, I was serving in other ward.  One day I was in the 2nd ward, one day I was in the 3rd ward--the Robbins' ward).  I sang again in Sacrament meeting (my arrangement of Abide With Me; 'Tis Eventide, it was a quartet).  But yeah, the time is going well.  I'm learning tons and the work is moving forward.  I love being a missionary and teaching the gospel.  Oh yeah!  We're back to finding (we're running short on investigators) and while we were tracting yesterday, we got chewed out by this near-deaf-old-shirtless-loud-bible-basher.  It was actually really frustrating.  But it's whatever.  Anyway, I love you all tons.  We're running short on time today.  Keep doing what the Lord wants (He's like...super smart).  Read your scriptures (like as much as you can), pray ( seriously and fervently), go to church (but do more that; BE at church), and always...don't forget to look up.

Elder Russell

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 8, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Bishop Frandsen called us last night while we were out trying to see some people.  We had kind of exhausted all of our backups and were out seeing some people we haven't seen in a while.  "Hello, this is Elder Russell" I say.  "Elder Russell, this is Bishop."  "I Bishop, how are you?"  "How are you?"  Bishop says.  "Good, Bishop, how are you?"  I reply.  "I'm doing okay.  Hey listen.  I was just calling because I got this impression to call you and see how you're doing.  Are you guys doing okay?"  "Um...yeah.  We're doing good...I think so anyway."  I turn to Elder DePew and ask if he's doing good.  He confirms. "Yeah, we're doing fine, Bishop."  "Okay,"  he says "I just--if there's anything you need, if you need to come by, or you need my help with anything, I just want to be there for you."  "Thanks Bishop  I think we're doing okay.  But we appreciate that."  "If there's something with sin that you're involved in--or the missionary rules or something and you need to talk to President, just let me know I want to be there for you."  Now I was thinking it was a little weird.  "Just, when you get those promptings, you can't ignore them."  He says.  "Well...I think we are doing oka--"  "I'm just kidding, I just wanted to call you and let you know I talked to your parents. ...just wanted to harass you."  ...Thanks Bishop.  Thanks.  That is kind of how last night went for me.  Anyway, he thought you all were cool and he enjoyed talking to you.  Probably most of what he was saying wasn't true, but that's okay.  Maybe he said untrue good things.  He's a pretty fun guy.

But the week has indeed been good.  We taught a lot and found another investigators (besides Sharon).  His name is Don.  We have a lesson with him this Friday and we're hopefully going to be able to pass him off to the YSA missionaries since he's 25 and unmarried.  He's really cool though.  He's a recent Christian (he calls himself a new believer).  He was raised in a Christian home but he said it wasn't till about two years ago that he started acting on the things he had heard.  His gospel knowledge isn't massive, but he knows that Jesus Christ is his Savior and we think that's awesome.  He loves to help others and loves his family.  He has a nephew that just is crazy about him, his nephew probably interrupted the lesson six times or so and we told him that the boy could join us (he's two).  It was good.  So we have high hopes for him as well as Sharon.  Things went well.
Marie is doing well but I don't think she's as interested as she was before.  We think that's because we got distracted by the fact she came to church that we forgot to just care about her and talk about her.  Not that we don't care and not that we don't talk about her, but we just taught instead of truly helping her.  So we're working on that as well.  But we think she'll still be awesome, we just need some more time with her.

And that's pretty much the way things have gone recently.  Now that we're teaching a lot we kind of have to refocus how to do the work (because it's a different part of the work).  So we hope we can help our investigators.  We pray for them often and they really are awesome.

So somehow I got roped into singing...again.  This time for a stake talent show.  I got a text from a member in our ward and she said "Just want to let you Elders know that I volunteered Elder Russell to sing with Brother Pedroche at the talent show.  Text him for details."  ...So we decided I'm going to sing Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.  because we like it, it's in my range (the arrangement he has) and we think it's appropriate.  It is a prayer after all.  So now we just have to invite all the nonmembers and less active members as we can to the talent show to make it a productive use of time.  Pray we get some people there and that they'll be touched.  We should have at least a few.  But I'm excited.

I was on exchanges with Elder Markham on Wednesday (Elder Markham will be the next Stephen Covey--he knows way to much about the gospel...which I didn't know was possible.)  We talk about interesting things and questions that we have about the gospel.  He typically has an answer, and eight references to back it up.  But we were talking about Alma 60-61.  Often times we like to discuss the characters of the Book of Mormon and what they would be like in real life (in fact, last week, we put actors to the characters in the Book of Mormon).  But we were talking about Moroni.  We were talking about how we think he would be in person.  A lot of the time, we put Moroni on a pedestal (which is understandable, Alma 48:17 tells us if everyone was Moroni, there really wouldn't be a lot of Satan).  But in the Miracle of Forgiveness by President Kimball, President Kimball tells us that no one is infallible; that we all commit sin at one point or another.  We all have weaknesses.  In Ether 12:27 we learn why we have weaknesses and what they do for us, but the point is we all have weak spots.  Sometimes we forget that when it comes to Moroni.

In fact, Elder Markham (and trust me, Elder Markham and I are huge fans of Moroni) was talking to me about Alma 60 (Moroni's letter to Pahoran), and he said "Even Moroni had his flaws.  I mean after all, he was calling down condemnation on Pahoran when he really didn't have the authority to do so."  I sometimes forget that Moroni wasn't the prophet at the time; Helaman was.  Also, Moroni made quite the amount of assumptions in his letter to Pahoran.  I can only imagine how Pahoran must have felt; I just got kicked out of my own city, they tried to kill me, my people are dying from food, I can't help my armies out fighting for our freedom, and now one of my captains thinks I'm a bad guy.  What would your reaction be?  How would you respond to Moroni's rather angry letter to you?  But instead of getting defensive, he simply forgives.  And we learn in the first few verses of Alma 61, just what kind of person Pahoran was.  If there is anyone that has ever lived on this earth that I would like to be judged by in a court of law (besides Jesus Christ), it would be Pahoran.  He was so understanding, so forgiving, and so happy that Moroni was still alive and righteous.  That, to me, is incredible.  I get angry when my companion takes my milk for his cereal in the mornings (not really, but it's to demonstrate a point), Pahoran remained calm when his chief captain accused him falsely of being a traitor.

We don't hear any apology from Moroni in chapter 62.  We just know Moroni was happy to hear that Pahoran wasn't actually a bad guy.  But I don't think it matters.  The lesson taught in those chapters is not of one concerning the war with sin; to me, it's a lesson of forgiveness.  Pahoran never mentions his injuries to Moroni.

In retrospect, the question I would ask myself and all of you is when someone makes an accusation on your character--because Moroni wasn't mistaken on what happened, he was wrong about who Pahoran was--do we have the courage and the meekness to forgive it anyway?  I know I could improve on it.  I also know that if we do develop a character of forgiveness, there will be a peace, that cannot be achieved through any action.  There will be a love that cannot be as consistent and deep with out it.

I know the church is true and that this is the Lord's work.  Don't forget to forgive.  Remember that there are bigger things to worry about.  I love you all and miss you dearly.  I pray for you and hope everything is well back home.  Keep being awesome and don't forget to look Up.

Elder Russell