Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 28, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

This week has been soo good!  Elder Kind is a hard worker and we met and surpassed all of our goals this week except for referrals and investigators at church.  It was so rad!  It was crazy to hear what happened to the FJ (I'd asked for a refund *wink*).  It was weird having too much to do this week.  It's odd how that works.  The less you do the less you feel like there is to do but the more you do the more it feels like there is to do.  That's how it was this week.  Elder King and I worked hard  this week and did a lot and then Sunday rolled around and we we like "Ah...we forgot to do (this and that)."  It was kinda depressing, but cool when you look at what we did.

President Hobbs randomly showed up to sacrament meeting, that was cool.  It was like, you're totally not in our ward, whatcha doin' here?  But it was cool because he got to meet two of our investigators.  President is pretty awesome.

Concerning Carla, she hasn't been batptized yet.  I don't know when she will be because she has some things that need taking care of first.  She is also being taught by some Sisters in another ward because Carla technically doesn't actually live in our ward.  But she'll be okay we think.  She is pretty solid and sticks to her beliefs and is pretty steadfast in her testimony.

Elder Hernandez (roommate) and I have had a lot of fun this week in the apartment.  We lived together last transfer and got pretty close and so we do weird things and it freaks our companions out.  It's a blast.

Other than that, the work goes forward and things are just going great.  We had some neighbors move in to our complex and they're not members...yet.  They were pretty nice but I think they think we're freaks.  I would too if I lived next to four guys that wear helmets.  Elder Buttars (wardmate) is soo trunky.  All he talks about is his crazy mission stories (he has a lot...he wasn't exactly obedient).  It's kinda awkward around members.  Elder Haglund's cool though, he came out at the same time I did and he does work.  And he's funny.

The Lord's hand has been evident in my life so much this week.  As I study prayer more, I realize how bad I am at praying and I see all the things I could improve on.  Praying is so cool.  You should do it more often. ;)  Study chapter 4 in PMG, iss tha best.  That and chapter 6.  They're both really awesome.  I love and miss you all and I keep you in my prayers.  Keept the faith!

Elder Russell

P.S.  Has Taylor checked out what a 2 week mission is?  He can do it next year before he comes out on the mission.  It's super cool, he should check it out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,
Happy Easter!  I hope all went well and you all worked harder yesterday to save souls.  Or at least, I hope you worked harder on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to save souls  (since that's what Jesus did the three days before resurrection.)  ;)  I love you all and I'm so thankful for the Savior.  He is my Prophet, Priest, and King.  He's done so much for me as I know He has for you.  Yes!  I got your package!  It made me so happy!  I'm so excited to read the book.  I am just wigging out for this transfer!

Speaking of which, I stayed!  Which is awesome.  Our ward should have four baptisms next month.  WAHHH!  Nuts huh?  It's sooo crazy.  We should be setting another baptismal date this week as well.  Things are going really well and thankfully, I get to be there for it.  Elder Bringhurst though, he got transferred to Chino (he wanted to go there so it's all good).  My new companion is Elder King and he's pretty awesome.  I don't know how well we work together personality wise, but he's clean.  That...makes me so happy.  When you live in an apartment with four Elders and one of you wants to be clean, two don't care, and one wants to be messy...you can bet it stays messy.  But now all the Elders are clean.  It totally makes feeling the spirit easier.  No lie.
Tell  Lyssa happy birthday for me.  I'm sorry I missed it...well...partly anyway.  I really missed Easter dinner though.  It was weird not having that tradition here.  It made me come to think about how weird (mainly awesome though) our family is.  I really did miss it.  Oh my gosh!  It didn't even hit me till this week.  I get to Skype you all in less than three weeks.  Crazy huh?  I'm excited for that.
This past week was crazy.  Paulson didn't ever get a companion before transfers (that's a weird sentence), so we stayed in a tripanionship for last week as well.  Super cool.  It was always busy and we always had someone to see.  That was the bomb!  Totally enjoyed that.  We literally taught so many lessons.  We were just always teaching.  As it should be. ;)
Here's something that will boggle your mind.  When you come out into the field, your trainer is called your father and you are his son.  After training, your next companion is your mother, and you are his daughter.  So here's what's weird:  Elder Bringhurst went straight from being trained to training.  So he was my father, but I was his mother, but I was his son, but he was my daughter.  Yeah...think about it.  Incest gets weird in the mission.  So now, Elder King is really his daughter's father's son's daughter's mother's mother.  now that's weird.
Sorry the letter for this week is short.  But I do want to let you all know that I love and miss you.  You're awesome and my favorite family (hehe, it's funny because you're my only family).  I love the Savior, our Redeemer.  He has really made everything possible.  If you haven't already, go look up the video on Mormon.org called Because of Him.  Do it now.  It's really good.  I pray for you all every night and think you are all the best.  Pray for the investigators in the ward and in your ward and then do your best to help them out.  There's a sister in the Tongan ward here in Ontario that has a daughter in south Africa on a mission.  Haha she told her she won't send her any money, or any packages, or anything to help her.  But she told her that if she ever wants help from her mom, her mom will help the missionaries in her home ward.  So really, if you want to help me or my companion, please help the missionaries in our stake back home as much as you can. :)
Elder Russell
P.S.  How's the PMG study going?  Read chapter two, and then study it again following the guidelines it gives.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 14, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,
Life is going great on this side of the work.  God continually watches out for His children and waits to bless them as they act in all diligence.  It's the last week of my second transfer and I'm near the end of my training (whatever that means).  Saturday we find out who's going where for next transfers and we have some pretty good ideas of what will happen.
Speaking of transfers though, Elder Williamson (one of my wardmates) got midnighted to the desert last Thursday!  Midnighted means that one day President Hobbs decides he needs someone somewhere else before transfers.  They gave Elder Williamson about a twelve hour notice and he packed his backs and left.  Haven't heard from him since and probably won't till transfers.  Meanwhile, there are two areas in my ward here and it covers half of Ontario and half of Montclair.  Elder Paulson (Elder Williamson's companion) got put into a trio with us till transfers.  So he's with us for about a week and we're covering two areas until then.  We always have something to do.  Luckily we have a car.
We got a few new investigators this past week and a couple seem pretty solid (well, all three are, but one is actually on track for baptism).  They all seem ready to hear the gospel and change their lives (I just hope we can help them with that).
The ward is doing well.  Last night I gave a fireside to the ward on how to use familysearch.org.  It's not too bad actually.  I spent a few hours the past few weeks studying up on it and got a really good feel for how it all works.  It's more fun than the youth give it credit for and easier than the seniors think.  Hop on the website when you get the chance and search for an indexing project.  There's a lot someone can do to help broaden the pool of searchable people on the website.  Elder Cook this past conference said that family history is essential for salvation.  Which pretty much means we're going to end up doing it sometime.  I think of the millennium when we'll be doing temple ordinances for those who have passed.  Wouldn't it be nice to know you contributed?  Wouldn't it be awesome when you passed on to be able to see those you know and love who went before you and to know that you were their baptism?  You did their work?  You helped them receive Christ's Atonement?  Because of you they can now have eternal life?  I think it would be pretty boss and I regret not doing it before I left.
One of our investigators is just on fire!  He totally pwns.  We committed him to baptism last week and he accepted.  Then we realized we had to teach the commandments.  No matter how much you know the commandments bless your life, there always seems to be a fear that the investigator won't see that it does bless their life and reject living it.  So we showed up and wanted to make sure he knew and recognized the spirit before we asked him to do anything.  Because the spirit is a lot better at convincing people to do things than we are.  So we walk in, sit down and start talking with him about general conference.  He loved it!  He said that he was thinking about what President Monson said and he said that he knew his neighbors for eight years and he hadn't had them over for dinner or anything and wasn't very close.  He said that he should do more as a neighbor.  I just abut crapped my pants from excitement.  Not only did he go to conference, but he wanted to apply what he learned.  I'm not sure very many members came away with the resolve to change as he did.
That resolved one of our concerns, whether or not he was willing to change.  The other one was whether or not he recognized the spirit.  So we asked him if he knew what the Holy Ghost was.  He said yes.  We figured good, he's read the bible.  We then asked him if he had ever felt it and what it felt like to him.  He responded and said that it was more than a feeling or a thought, because he knew it didn't come from him, but he said that that would be the best way to describe how it feels.  We hadn't even read him D&C 8 yet.  So we asked him how his reading was going.  He said really good, he was understanding what he was reading and he said that he felt the spirit when he read and that it led him to do good.  So we asked him where he was in his reading.  He said Alma 3.  We gave him the Book of Mormon two weeks ago!  I can't say I've ever read it that fast.  Then we asked him how he felt about Joseph Smith being a prophet.  He said he wanted to know more about him.
So he searched it....  And he said in his research that he had come across a lot of anti-Mormon literature.  He talked about how he had read that Joseph Smith had done terrible things.  He said most of what he read was heavily against Joseph Smith.  That there was very little that was positive.
We paused for a moment.  And we asked him what he thought and felt about it.  He looked at us and said "So it would make sense that he's a prophet.  I don't know of a single prophet that everyone liked, or that even a lot of people liked.  All of the prophets were rejected in the bible at one point or another."  And then I really did crap my pants from excitement.  I don't know a single person whose testimony is strengthened by reading anti-Mormon literature.  Except for him.
Anyway, that's the elect for you.  It's been confirmed to me time and time again out here that the church is true.  I know it.   Our investigator was telling us about his life.  He said a couple of years ago, he lost his mom.  He said it devastated him.  He said he got really depressed.  He ended up separating with his wife.  He lost a lot of his sanity, he lost control of his weight, his job was going terrible and he said that he almost lost his house.  It was then that he turned to God.  He started reading the bible and praying again.  As he started to do what's right, his job secured, he was able to keep his house, he finalized his divorce, he regained his health and his sanity, and his life was going a lot better.  "That's when you guys showed up, to show me what to do next."  He just amazes me.  How many investigators are prepared to hear the gospel when we show up?  Not many.  And how many recognize that they are prepared?  Only him.  He's doing so well.
I love you all and thank you for your support.  The church is true and I love being out here.  I asked President to let me stay another transfer so I could see some investigators baptized.  I hope I get to.  God is not a God of chance.  He knows what He's doing, and it is for our benefit.  Study the scriptures and the words of the living prophets.  But do more than study them, live them.  Stand as a witness at all times, in all things, and in all places.  Keep the faith.
Elder Russell

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 7, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Miss you all loads!  This week has been great!  I want you all to know you're all awesome.  The work moves forward at an increasing rate.  This past week we got a new investigator that just straight up came to church and wants to get baptized (there are no statistics for how often that happens, because it doesn't.)  She's on fire and watched conference and reported to us on what she learned and likes.  Just like that.

Another one of our investigators came to conference as well.  We set a baptism date for him and he's just doing awesome.  We were teaching him the Gospel of Jesus Christ (4th article of faith and enduring to the end), when we got to baptism, we challenged him to be baptized.  We asked him if he would be baptized by someone holding the proper authority.  He responded "Well, I would have to be, wouldn't I?  So, yes."  He's super cool.

We passed Karla off to some other missionaries.  She technically no longer lives in our ward and hasn't for quite some time now.  She has maybe two lessons left and she'll be baptized on the 19th of April.  Elder Bringhurst and I are so happy for her.  She's overcome a lot and made some major changes in her life.  That's two days before transfers so we're both for sure going to be there for her baptism.

Conference was super cool (in case you haven't all noticed), I enjoyed that a lot.  The main duty of a seer is to warn of times of trouble.  As we all sustained the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we sustained them as prophets, seers, and revelators.  There is no dispute in my mind or heart concerning whether their council was prophetic or revelatory.  What we need to look for is what they are seeing.  What they are warning us about.

It was no question to me that remaining steadfast and immovable is ever important.  Obedience brings happiness.  Every time.  Disobedience brings misery.  Every time.  I don't know what will happen that caused the prophets to speak so much on heeding the word of God, tying ourselves to Him through our religion, and yoking ourselves with Christ through covenants and to always participate in ordinances.  I don't why.  But I do know that it's important.  I know it's needed.  I know it's a warning.  I know there's a reason.  It may not be in the immediate or near future.  It may be now.  It may be far distant.  But study the words of the prophets.

I can now tell you that you must study preach my gospel and invite others to take the missionary discussions.  It is so important.  I'm not saying that just because I'm a missionary.  I'm saying that for the same reason that Oaks talked about the authority of the priesthood.  Because God's church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The work of the salvation of souls is not limited to 83,000 full-time missionaries currently in foreign fields.  The war waged for the souls of men is not by a small part of God's children with white shirts and ties and black name tags.  It's by all of us.  We are all God's children.  We all need saving grace and ordinances.  Baptism is not something only 8yos of the church needs.  The blessings that come from covenants are not just for the members of the church.  They need to be extended to all of God's children.  We must all receive them at one point.  God doesn't just want 83,000 missionary.  He wants 15,000,000 missionaries.  Just because I have a paper that says I'm full-time, doesn't mean you aren't.  Members aren't part time.  We take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and thus, we must act accordingly.  We must not take the Name of the Lord in vain.

Sorry...I get excited sometimes.  I just think missionary work is really cool.  But yeah, tips for studying.  Always remember that Preach My Gospel is not a book of processes.  The words in that book are not things missionaries do, they're things missionaries live.  Preach My Gospel is a compound of inspired principles given to us to live.  For example, one doesn't DO nightly planing.  One LIVES the principles behind nightly planning.  The process is a result of principles properly practiced.  As missionaries, if we're not living PMG, we repent.  If we're merely doing the things it says than we aren't missionaries.  We are fakes.  Repentance is a change of heart, not a change of hand.  Alma asks us if we've ever felt the mighty change of heart.  Not the mighty change in action.  Because our actions always follow the true desires of our heart.  It's never about the what, it's about the why.

Here's an example:  Missionaries invite others to be baptized.  They DO this by teaching the message of the restoration, baring testimony, and asking the investigator to be baptized.  That would be the what.  That's what we do.

Here's the why: Missionaries invite others to be baptized.  They do this BECAUSE they have testimonies that God's proper authority has been restored to the earth.  They know that the ordinance of baptism is a necessary covenant to obtain salvation.  They have felt God's love in their lives.  As a result, the what happens.  But it's not about the what.  In other words, when we live correct principles, correct actions will follow.  So as you study PMG, always remember that the things you read are to be things that happen because of the way you live.

I love and miss you all.  You've blessed my life immensely and I'm thankful for you everyday.  Keep living what you should, so you can do what you should.

Elder Russell

P.S.  This picture is how Elder Bringhurst and I felt after Conference.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 31, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I FEEL SO BAD!  I totally forgot to wish Dad and Robyn a happy birthday!  I hope they both went great.  Dad's only 26, we know that--but Babs!  You're a year away from being in YWs!  It's crazy to think that when I get home, Robyn will be a Beehive, Rylie will be a dating Laurel (honestly...that one freaks me out the most), and Taylor will be an Elder!  That.  Is.  Crazy.  I'll be 20 though, so it's like whatever.

So this week started out slow (I'm not going to lie because that's a sin).  In fact, we weren't able to get any lessons on Wednesday (pshh...their loss.  It was cloudy though, so it was understandable).  But it totally picked up toward Saturday.  We had lessons and they all went well.  Things are going great.

Sad day though, we have to pass one of our investigators off to the Elders in the other ward because we couldn't find her a place to stay in our ward.  Her baptism is a week from Saturday and she only has two more lessons till she'll be through all the discussions.  She's keeping all her commitments and things are just going super super well with her.  Elder Bringhurst and I are super pumped.

We have this one investigator that is so boss.  He takes things best when we teach boldly and are forward, accepts all commitments, wants to continue, asks great questions and understands.  He's just really awesome.

Things are going so great.  It's not always easy and sometimes things can be a pain in the butt, but they always pan out and the good moments are a blast!

Crazy thing happened the other day, I felt my first earthquake (not created by explosions).  They said it was a 5.1?  I don't know.  It was cool though.

Another crazy thing happened.  I saw Sister Robbins and Brooke.  Both are taller than me, which wouldn't make me feel bad except one is 11yo.  It was so great to see them.  They gave me the update on their family and what they knew about you guys back home.  It was really cool to see them.  It wasn't weird actually, even though I had to shake their hands instead of giving them hugs.

I noticed something interesting in my studying today.  In Mark 6 Jesus separates His Apostles into companionships and sends them on missions (where the concept comes from, along with anointing with oil), feeds the five thousand and walks on water.  It's a pretty packed chapter, go read it.

Now what I thought was interesting was in verse 7, Jesus tells His missionary Apostles to "take nothing for their journey,...no scrip, no bread, no money..."  And with that, He sets them apart and ships them off.  They take no thought about their temporal needs and go forward with faith.  After they had returned, a multitude of "about five thousand men" (v.44) were gathered.  They listen to Jesus teach all day and forget about dinner.  When dinner time comes, they all get hungry (weird how that works, huh?)  The Disciples decide to let Jesus know--as if He doesn't already--saying "Send them away that they may go into the country...and buy bread; for they have nothing to eat."  Jesus, seeing if they had learned from their missions, more or less ignores their temporal plight.

Here we find the Apostles once again forgetful.  They had all just taken "no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." (Matt 6:34)  They departed and served without thinking about dinner.  But here they seem to have forgotten about how God took care of them when they focused on the work.

Christ tells the Apostles to feed the multitude.  The Apostles argue that they only had enough to buy "two hundred pennyworth of bread." (v.37)  Here are the men who have just "heal[ed] the sick, cleanse[d] the lepers, raise[d] the dead, [and] cast out devils," (Matt 10:8) and they're worried about feeding some people.

Christ asks them how much they already have, they replied "Five [loaves], and two fishes," (v.38)  Jesus "commanded them to make all sit down." (v.39)  Arguing no further, the Disciples trusted in the Lord and did so.  All were fed and the surplus was more than the original amount.

There are loads of lessons we can learn from this experience, but the one I learned today was that for every "trial of your faith," (Ether 12:6) God will give a confirmation--even if it's of the same thing.  As long as we act in faith, our faith will be answered.  The Spirit will always confirm our faithful, righteous actions.  So go forward with faith and act in all diligence.

I love and miss you all.  I hope all goes well back home, I pray for you every night.

Elder Russell