Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014

Madre, Padre, y Familia,

Things went great this week.  We got some new investigators and they are doing so well.  Being a missionary is awesome.  Carla is set for baptism on April 12th.  Holy cow that's close.  We are hoping everything pans out.  One of the problems though is that she technically lives in a different ward.  She's looking for a place to live in our ward though because her mom lives in our ward and it would make everything easier and more solid for her.  Pray for her and for her to get a place to stay, and a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

Life is good, my testimony is growing.  The church is true.  P-day is almost over so this email is kind of short.  We have two new investigators, Hailey and Leslie, both super solid.  They are willing to come closer to Christ and they are making the proper steps to do so.

I don't know if I told you about Jose.  Super awesome guy who, father of a little girl and just flat out awesome.  We're worried about him wanting to change as we haven't really ever left any commitments with him.  He is really cool though.  We found him tracting (thought you might like to hear that).  All is well in Zion (that's an apostate statement, but it's true.)

I love you all and pray for you everyday.  I hope all goes well.

Elder Russell

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    March 17, 2014

    Dear Mom, Dad, and Family,
    Thanks so much for your email.  It always means a lot to get an update on home.  I'm glad things are going good back home and no one is dying.  Sounds like things are warming up over there.  They are over here, too.  The other day it was 85 degrees.  Not that I think that's too hot for being March...but it totally is.  Here it gets to about 102 in the summer.  In the desert (where I'll probably be in the summer) it gets to 115-120.  So not too bad.  It's pretty moderate weather.  Thanks for giving my note to the Barlows, I love that family.
    The week has been good with the moving of the Spanish Elders in (elders Yankura and Hernandes), they're super fun and hilarious...but ridiculously messy.  It through some things off for Bringhurst and me and we're still trying to get things readjusted.  They taught us how to play the card game Magic.  I had never played it before I came out and it is the definition of nerdom.  The Spanish Elders play it during lunch and just before bed every day.  They're super fun to have around.  There is never a dull moment.  I caught a lizard the other day.  We named him Theodore.  We keep him next to our pet black widow, Linus.  Also, the Spanish Elders are helping me learn Spanish, and I kinda know how to pray in Spanish.  And I contacted some people in Spanish, that was pretty cool.
    The work is picking up with the new investigators we have.  Most of them are pretty cool and we have two that are just the bomb!  We've been teaching more lessons and most of our lessons are investigators (whereas earlier they were mostly RCs and LAs).  Crazy stuff though.
    So Neil A. Anderson showed up the other day (Saturday), I shook his hand and he gave a talk.  He's super funny!  He was making jokes the entire time.  He had us all laughing.  He spoke to the entire mission and the Redlands mission.  I saw Kallie Baker there.  Didn't get a chance to talk to her because she was in the other mission.  Or at least I think it was her.  Did she get called to Redlands?  Anyway, the talk was awesome and insightful.  I learned a lot.
    So I was thinking about the law of Moses recently.  In the law of Moses, people are taught to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. 19:18)  Which makes sense.  It's the golden rule, right?  Part of do unto others and you would have done unto you.  Everyone should treat others the way they want to be treated.  This was part of the law of Moses.  Other parts include the ten commandments, sacrifice rituals and worship services, and other such religious rites.
    When Christ came however, He came to fulfill the law of Moses.  To do all that was necessary to institute a higher law.  This changed sacrifices to symbolic covenants and Sabbath day observance to service and selfless work.  But Christ also instituted a higher law of love.  Instead of loving others as we love ourselves, Christ told us to "love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12).  Christ loves with charity.  More than we love ourselves.  The new commandment of love is more than we love ourselves.  It requires more than we consider to give ourselves.  It requires us to love others as Christ loves them.  Enough to do anything and everything we can for them.
    Love others that way.  You will be blessed for it.  Thanks for all you do,
    Elder Russell

    Monday, March 10, 2014

    March 10 later

    I love the gospel lessons.  I love your letter.
    What is a transfer---how long?

    From Jantzen:
    A transfer is six weeks.  P.S.  I don't know if you want to put this on the blog, but we had to move a couple couches in our apartment today...through the window.  Here's a picture of my companion doing it.

    Inline image 1
    March 10, 2014

    Last night, I wrote:
    Do you live in an apartment with just your comp, or other elders, too?  Do you get to do any tracting or is it just member referral work?  Do you drive a car, take public transport or ride bikes?    Did you buy bedding?  Please remember to answer my questions!  Love you!

    Jantzen replied:
    Sorry I haven't answered those questions yet.  Yes, I have bedding.  Up until today, it was just Elder Bringhurst and I, but starting today we'll be living with two Spanish elders.  We do a lot of tracting.  Our members don't give us referrals unless we work with them for a few weeks.  We ride bikes....everywhere.

    I responded:
    Thanks for letting me know.  I got the impression you only worked with referrals.  I'm actually glad you get to tract; that's how the missionaries found your Dad!  It's great you ride bikes---I can send more treatsEmoji.  Ok, now, write us a letter about your week.  

    Then later, we received the letter of the week:
    Mom, Dad, and Family,

    This week has been SUCH A BLAST.  Things have just gone great.  Don't really know where to start.  It was the last week of transfers, which Elder Bringhurst and I were nervous for because he's never been with a companion for more than a transfer.  We were hoping we'd stay together because things are just picking up in the ward, and the members are starting to trust us and they're doing missionary work better.  We didn't want to have to have one of us or both of us get transferred out and have the ward have to go through that process again.  We stayed.  That, and Bringhurst got made district leader, he hasn't even been out for quite six months yet, either.  So we're pretty excited about that.  We had been living in our apartment by ourselves this last transfer, but this new transfer (due to the influx of missionaries), we're having a Spanish speaking companionship move in with us and the apartment that would be theirs is going to the YSA Branch sisters.  So that will be fun as well.

    Elder Eckersley left to go to Upland, he's going to the Upland First Ward (I don't know if that's the Robbins' not).  He and I were pretty tight, so I'll miss him.  He was one of the ward-mates (we have two companionships for our ward).  Needless to say, Elder Bringhurst and I are pretty stoked for this transfer.

    We got three new investigators this week!  That's more that we had the entire last transfer!  All of them are solid too.  We worked really hard this week and the Lord blessed us.  I guess He just wanted to see us work hard for an entire transfer first.  We had three potential investigators that were supposed to be at church on Sunday.  Yeah, none were there.  But guess who was?  That's right, Carla.  We had a lesson with her, reset a baptismal date and she's now on track to getting baptized.  God works in funny ways.

    One of our investigators accepted everything in the restoration, is excited about the Book of Mormon and modern prophets, and he wants to hear about the Word of Wisdom.  He says that when he was in drugs, his relationships would just go bad.  He's pretty much ready.  He accepted baptism and now we just have to set a date.  He's awesome.

    The other investigator we got this week is this really logical guy.  We were going to visit what we call an Eternal-gator (an investigator that doesn't keep commitments but is fine with us teaching him).  Well, our lesson fell through, but his neighbor across the street was working in his yard.  We started talking to him and asked if he had a faith in Jesus Christ.  "I believe in a higher power," He said, "I don't believe we came from any monkey." So we set up a lesson, taught him the Plan of Salvation, and he agreed with everything in it.  We got him to say the closing prayer and set up a return appointment.  Haha, we asked him what his belief was in the creation.  "Well," He said, "God already had his angels.  I guess He just got His creative side on and started making the earth." It was dumbfounded when I told him, "yup, pretty much."  He's super solid.

    In 1Nephi 1:20, Nephi tells us about how when Lehi started to do missionary work, the people were "angry with him...and they also sought his life, that they might take it away."  I assume that there are people here that wouldn't mind if we died, but no one here actually seeks to take away our lives.  Rough situation for Lehi to be in.  "But," says Nephi, "I...will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are all over those whom He hath chosen."  My guess is that either Nephi had to be crazy, stupid, or a whole lot better at being positive than me to have the guts to say "tender mercies" right after "take away his life."

    Turns out that he really is just better at being positive than me.  It is of my opinion that the Lord's tender mercies are all around us.  We, being mortal, have a limited scope of them.  So sometimes God gives us a trial, so we have to look for tender mercies in a place we haven't been looking.  After we find them, He might put the former mercies back.  He hasn't given us any more tender mercies than before, He has just broadened our scope of which ones and how many we can see.  Sometimes, though, He really does bless us more than before--that is if we "endure [the trial] well," (D&C 121:8) or at least, that's how it was for Joseph Smith.

    My last district leader (Elder Patch) told me while I was on exchanges with him, "Circumstances are never the solution to your problem."  By golly is he right.  If they were, one would never have the ability to fix their problems.  The only thing I would add to Elder Patch's proverbial counsel is, although circumstances are never the solution, once the solution is found, your perspective on the circumstances will no longer be a problem, either.

    The tender mercies are all around us.  Endure trials well and your scope will be broadened; you will be able to see.  Interestingly, the way to find the tender mercies is to follow Paul's admonishment; believe, hope, and endure. (1Corinthians 13:7)

    With God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37), so "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope," (2Nephi 31:20) and find the tender mercies.

    Thanks for all you do back home and for your prayers, they really payed off this week, and I am truly thankful.  Please keep Carla, Arthur, and Jose in your prayers along with the ward.

    Elder Russell

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    March 9, 2014
         Hi Everyone,
         I noticed that I affixed an incorrect date to Jantzen's last letter.  I put Feb. 3 when I meant to put March 3.  Sorry!

    Monday, March 3, 2014

    February 3, 2014

    Mom, Dad and Family,

    It's so good to hear from you!  Sounds like a lot is going on back home with the ward.  Tell Val and Stu congrats for me.  Milo will be four when I get home.  That kid and Malachi crack me up.  That's awesome that he came along okay.  I hope everyone keeps on the up.  Give everyone my best.

    The work is moving on here in Ontario.  There is so much progress being made.  Ward council yesterday was stellar!  Our WML is a little bashful in ward council so missionary work isn't typically addressed a lot in ward council unless someone else brings it up.  But guess what, we fasted for the ward yesterday, and our WML spoke up and assignments were made and missionary work was taken care of.  It was great.  We also fasted for a new investigator and we met David on the way to a member's house.  David is the set manager for television shows like Monk and The Mentalist.  He's Christian but he wants to know more about our church.  He knew a guy he worked with who served a mission in South Africa.  So we asked him if he wanted to know what his friend taught.  He said yeah and we taught him a lot of the restoration.  We had a member with us and the member bore his testimony and the spirit was there.  We asked if we could come back, David said yeah, but he's super busy and wasn't able to make time.  Keep him in your prayers so he can make time for the missionaries.  His wife is also a staunch Baptist, so pray for her to let David take the lessons.

    We had a joint Zone Conference last Thursday and we got introduced to a new way of working with ward missionaries that I am so pumped for.  I wonder if it's going on in Utah.  It's a way that allows the ward missionaries be the ward.  They meet with ward members and ask about their non-member friends and make decisions concerning what they can do for fellowshipping those friends; then they make commitments and follow up.  That way members have people to help them follow through on missionary work and get their friends ready for the gospel.  It's super cool.  There's a ward area book and the WML acts as a district leader and everything.  It's just awesome.  We found out about it in Zone Conference but it will probably catch on in a month or so in our stake.

    This week is the last week of my first transfer.  It's been a blast.  There have been a lot of struggles but the miracles have been amazing.  Yesterday alone.  My testimony of fasting has grown a ton since I've been here.  Last month, we fasted for rain (all of California did, actually.  Apparently it was under direction of the first presidency or something,) that night, it started raining.  Saturday it poured and we actually had some flash flooding.  Stellar stuff.  This week we fasted for the ward and a new investigator.  The ward council went great and we got a new investigator. 

    I was reading Jesus the Christ this week and I read about Matthew 4, when Christ begins his ministry with temptations.  I find it interesting what the Adversary tempted Jesus with.  The first one (after fasting for days) is food.  "If thou be the Son of God, command these stones be made bread."  Talmage points out that men have killed other men because of hunger.  Brothers have turned on each other.  Esau sold his birthright for a mere meal.  But Christ resisted and turned away from that temptation that most (if not all) would have given into.  The Devil that takes him to the top of the temple and tells Him "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."  This one is interesting.  Jesus gets His power and authority from the Father, and the Father loves Him.  If Christ were to fall, His Father would save him.  This temptation is for Jesus to tempt God.  Of course, He didn't.  Satan then takes Him to a mountain and shows Christ all the kingdoms of the world and offers Christ all of the power and glory of them "if thou wilt fall down and worship me."  Talmage reminds us here that people have sold their souls for eternity to only possess a portion of what was just offered.  Christ again resists.  Now the most interesting thing happens here.  Whether or not the Devil could have actually given Jesus what he had offered Him is a matter all to its own.  The thing that I find interesting here is that the Adversary tempted with the very thing he tempted us with when he was Lucifer in the pre-existence--what he led a third of the host of heaven a way with.  Lucifer's plan to have us all inherit a glorious kingdom, but he wanted us to worship him.  That's exactly what he had just tempted the Savior with.  Satan failed and was then cast out of Christ's presence.

    Now I think there is a temptation that I think is often overlooked when we read this story.  That temptation was the word "if."  This temptation was present in all three of the others.  In all of the temptations there was the word "if."  What the Devil was really trying to do is get Christ to question His identity.  The Adversary wanted Christ to forget He was of divine right and authority.  He wanted Jesus to misuse His power for self gain.  But Christ realized something that I think we often forget; Christ didn't have to prove His divine identity to Satan.  So often when we're tempted, we feel as though we have to prove to the Enemy something.  But we don't have to prove anything to him.  He knows, but he tries to get us to forget.  He wants us to prove our agency by showing we can choose that contrary to the will of the Father.  He says "if thou be" a child of God before everything he tempts us with.  Praying on our pride, telling us to misuse ourselves.

    God knows us, and He wants us to use our agency for what's best for us and others.  Satan knows that, and so that's what he attacks.  God knows, the Adversary knows, it's important that we also know.  God loves us.  Don't every forget who you are.

    Thank you all for your examples to me.  I love being out here knowing what I know because you helped me.  I want to do what's right.  Pray for our ward, David, those we come in contact with and Rita.

    Oh Rita!  She's doing a lot better and we made this Book of Mormon for her with scriptures we studied and prayed about that we believe will be relevant to her.  It took hours.  But hopefully it'll be good for her.  Her friend (a ward member) is the one giving it to her so hopefully it'll go over well.

    Elder Russell