Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30,2014 note from mom

Hi All,
     Janis, the mom, here.  I just want to mention that on the 15th of July, Jantzen will have been out 1/4 of his mission!!!  Moms notice these things.  He would love to hear from you.   His email is

June 30, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I did indeed get the support package and all of the contents therein!  Thank you so much!  I ate most of the coconut dreams in about one bite and then immediately felt like I should not only repent, but go to a rehabilitation clinic. ;)  But I didn't, and instead continued to eat them.  Elder King loved the oreos and Elder Haglund and I are anxious to eat the Warhead pops...although we haven't yet gotten to them yet.  We also gave the fruit pops to the Sisters that live in the same apartment complex as we do.  I can't remember what happened to the rest of it, but I think it's gone.  The Book of Mormon key chain is with the keys that I carry around everyday.  Thanks Babs!  Y'all are awesome.

This week was pretty good!  We keep teaching the Cortez family.  They have a lot of struggles that we don't know about.  But we know they're there.  We brought a Brother from the ward to come teach with us.  It was great.  Brother Gonzalez, when we were talking about church in the lesson, said "Are you coming to church tomorrow?"  they responded that they didn't have a car.  "That's okay, I'll be here tomorrow to pick you up."  And he did.  That involved him rushing home from ward council to get his family and then rushing over there to be just in time for church.  It was pretty great.  He's coming to another lesson tonight with us.  He's a great guy.

We're also starting to work with a less active member in the ward.  He's really cool too.  He has some troubles as well though.  Last week, his wife and him got in a fight while they were in Covina and she dropped him off with a dead phone and no money and he walked home (it's about a 20 minute drive).  But he's a good guy.  Just has a little changing to do.  So Elder King and I are seeing if we can help him with that.

Prayer has been really great as well this past week.  Elder King and I have made a prayer role.  Anyone who asks us to pray for them we put on that list and we pray for them at least once a night together.  Sometimes more.  It's been crazy to see the results too.  People have come back to church, been able to get over a loss of a friend, overcome some mental problems, and other things.  It was awesome.

My knuckles are recovering and unfortunately we haven't had the chance to go back and see Isaac or anyone else in his house this week.  That's okay, he doesn't really do anything so he's always home and we can go see him.  We hope he's doing alright though.  Hopefully he's getting his act together in some degree for his girlfriend and child.

Awesome about the PMG!  It's a great book.  Chapter 4 has been one of my favorites since I started reading it.  But also some sections in Chapter 9.  Elder King and I talk to as many people as we can while we're out proselyting.  It does work to find people to teach.  That's a good section to read too.  But it's all good to read.  Thanks for doing that.  I hope you are seeing some of the blessings that come with it.

My recent convert spoke in church yesterday.  She talked about her conversion story and how she came in contact with the church.  She said she was scared of the missionaries at first ( fea?).  I think it was just because Elder Bringhurst is very big.  But it was so cool to be part of that experience and to know anytime she referenced the missionaries, I was part of that.  We really didn't do much though.  She was ready and so was Erik when they started taking the discussions.  I guess that's how a lot of it goes though.  When they're that ready.

I hope all is going well!  YC sounds like it was a blast.  I miss going to those.  Maybe I'll get to go to one as a chaperone one day after my mission.  Heard they all got exhausted, which is a good sign that it was fun.  Keep me posted on all that goes on.  I love and miss you all.  Pray...a lot.  About everything. ;)

Elder Russell

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 23, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I promise I'll take more pictures in the future!  I just don't ever think to.  Except for dumb things (like that one time I took a picture of the chair that Elder Bringhurst put in the shower).  And I don't ever feel like sharing dumb I don't send them.  So I guess what I'm actually trying to say, is that I don't have any pictures to send this week.  ....I know...I's lame.  But you've all seen SoCal anyway. ;)

The week was kind of crazy.  Elder King and I decided to keep the contacting thing going and we talked to a lot of people.  I'm fairly comfortable with it now.  I just have to keep doing it or that will change.  But it's becoming easier to incorporate Gospel teachings into everyday language.  Which would make sense because it's in everyday life...if you listen close enough.  That, and I'm becoming more comfortable with just jumping into full Gospel conversations (because PC and Taboo rules are for normal people).  It just becomes easier the more you do it.  It's like working out, except I never got stronger when I worked out.

The reason I bring up talking to people though is because there's this law (in fact, the first law) under Heaven by which all things are governed by.  It's called Obedience.  It's just fact (not an idea, not a concept, not just a principle, but a fact) that when you are obedient to God's laws, you receive blessings.  All things are predicated on this law.  Now missionaries are told to talk to everyone.  Is that actually possible?  No.  Of course not...we only have two mouths.  But the idea (the law) is that we talk to as many people as we can and the promise is that we'll have people to teach.  That's just the way things go.  So Elder King and I decided to implement operation TWEE (Talk With Everyone Everywhere).  Because the previous weeks have been a little dry in terms of teaching.  And we started talking to more people.  Well, as we were coming back from contacting one day, we randomly got a referral from the system.  So we made plans to go see the guy the next day (even though he lived clear out in the middle of nowhere!).  We were at his house and no one was home.  But I didn't feel like leaving yet.  We had plans to see this guy and if we had to break the door down and storm the house and go through all of his belongings to find a clue concerning his whereabouts then by golly we were going to break down the door and storm the house and go through all of his belongings to find a clue concerning his whereabouts.  So after several loud and authoritative knocks on his front door (the kind that sound like it's the police and not the missionaries), and after leaving pieces of my right hand knuckles on the door and placing a considerable amount of dents just below the peep hole, the Spirit told me that it would in fact not be a good idea to break into his home.  But I was not convinced (and neither was the Spirit) that it was time to leave his front porch.  So we stood there.  ...We stood there a good long while and my mind was bothering me because we weren't moving...or even talking.  So I decided to call tomorrows dinner appointment.  Right as I started to leave a message a boy walked up to the door and into the house.  For some reason, my companion didn't ask him who he was as he was walking in.  If I wasn't holding the phone there might have been dents and pieces of the skin of my knuckle on his face as well as the door.  So I hung up the phone and before I could even bring my arm back to push it forward, the kid walked back out of the house.  Again...we stood there.  For some reason nothing was said for a little bit.  Then we asked him if he was Edgar.  He replied that he wasn't.  Then this 24yo man told us that he was actually Edgar's 17yo, younger brother.  That seemed to break the ice enough for us to start teaching and testifying of the Restoration.  Well, this kid wasn't the most interested person on the planet but we kept going.  Occasionally he would answer the questions we asked honestly, or interject with a comment.  We taught him a good deal of the first lesson and gave him a Book of Mormon and told him to read it.  We then set a return appointment for the next day.  Well the next day not only was he just as disinterested, but he was also high.  He told us he wasn't quite looking to change his life and didn't plan on ever becoming a Mormon.  We didn't really care because no one does plan on becoming Mormon, and so we continued to expound on the importance of the Restoration.  He hadn't read the BoM yet and so we told him why he should.  We bore our testimonies, prayed with him and set up a return appointment before he lit up and went to go get food.  One might think it's pointless teaching someone who doesn't really care or seem interested, but I think that he does care.  He obviously cares enough to listen, and be there for our return appointments.  So I figure it's a good time to plant some seeds.  Even if it's in winter and they wont grow for thirty years.

As we were walking away from this lesson, we got a call.  This lady said she got our number from one of her friends, she used to take the lessons and would like to take them again.  She lived right across the street...but we didn't go see her till later that night.  There was a problem that arose very quickly.  Neither Elder King nor myself knows how to teach a family.  We've taught them twice and are still trying to figure out what to do.  The family doesn't have a job.  They live in the poorest part of town, in the living room of a very small apartment.  All five of them.  It's a very hard situation.  They have no money, no car, and no job.  It's pretty crazy.  Pray for the Cortez family.

So that's the kind of thing that happens when missionaries talk to a lot of people.  Just in case you're wondering.

Thanks for all you do.  I love and miss you all.  I miss Mom and Dad's cooking, even though dinners here are really good.  We don't eat too much spaghetti.  But we do eat a lot of pizza and Mexican food.  I've had a lot of pizza.  I don't think I'm sick of it yet, though.  I still don't think that will ever happen.  Even if I have it 5 meals out of the week.

I hope PMG study is going well.  It's been good to hear back on that.  Continue to do it.  It will bless your live more than you know.  Sometimes it might be hard or it might seem boring.  Sometimes it might be hard to see the point of studying it.  But I promise you you'll be blessed the more you read it.  Chapter 4 is a good one, if you ever get the chance to look it over.  I know it's a book written under the influence of God.

I know the Book of Mormon is scripture.  That it contains the words of God.  That it testifies of the Savior.  That if we abide by it's precepts we will draw closer to God than by any other book.

I know the Savior lives.  That He loves us.  That the atonement is real.  That it works.  That He directs the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know God lives and is very active in all of our lives.  We are His children.  He is our Father.

Elder Russell

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 16, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Thank you so much for your study of Preach My Gospel.  It's an incredible field-book for missionary work and life in general.  The principles taught in there could be studied for life-times and I would still be pulling out truths and applications thereof that I had not before heard.  Continue studying it and looking for ways to use what you have learned with our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.  You're all awesome.

In reflection of the week, my attitude can really only be positive.  We had a lot of work to do--though not the work we intended to do in the beginning of the week.  However we did work hard and God blessed us this week.  Diligence can be a hard attribute to acquire and nurture.  But it was one we kind of had our work cut out for this week.

We received a training during Zone Meeting on Tuesday concerning service.  Starting next month, our mission will be implicating a program called Just Serve.  It's a program that has been piloted in other missions to help others find service opportunities in their local communities.  I'm not sure exactly how it works, but it is something most of us are excited for.  Missionaries enjoy service projects.  Some enjoy it because they get to be out of proselyting clothes; others like it because the don't HAVE to talk about the gospel; but I think I take to it because it helps people in a way that they can immediately see, gives opportunity to share the gospel, and allows me to build a stronger relationship with others.

This week, Elder King and I helped move people in and out of houses for about 13 hours.  It was a really good experience and we got to spend a lot of time with a very less-active member of our ward.  I love him and his family and it was good to associate with them for such a long time.  We also helped another non-member family move into the home of a member of our ward.  They were nice and appreciated our help.  The son of the family seemed fairly open to meeting with us and hopefully our ward-mates will have the opportunity to meet with him.

But it sort of put Elder King and I under the pile a bit because none of these were planned activities--the moving.  So after helping the people we didn't have much time for other proselyting.  Poor Elder King, I've pulled him out of bed everyday this week in the morning to go running with me too.  He's been exhausted all week long.  But we kept working.  In the odd times of the day, leaving us with little time to go to certain parts of our area to meet with people that we could have lessons with, we've had to become good at street contacting.  Which is the same sort of situation we met Sylvia in.  We haven't been able to meet with her in the past week but we keep trying.  Mostly, we just talk to the people we can, which is fairly easy on bike.  It can sometimes be daunting because they're total strangers.  But I've never walked away from a contact going "I really wish we didn't talk to him/her."  God helps us and prompts us in what to say.

This past week we've talked to a lot of people about families.  We talked to a Muslim and he told us a lot about the importance of being married before having children and we testified of eternal families.  It was a great experience.  We've used The Family: A Proclamation to the World a lot this week and I wish I carried more on me during proselyting.  A lot of people need it in this day and age.

In reflection of the conversations we've had with and about families, I want to wish dad a happy Father's Day and I hope it went well.  It's been a great blessing to be raised in our family, with both parents, away from the dangers of the world.  I sent him an email all about it.

I am thankful for the time that I have to be here on a mission and for the success that God gives us from day to day as we strive to serve him.  I love you all and thank you for the support you lend me and for the things you have taught me.  Continue to be prayerful and mindful of those around you and look for ways to serve them.  You will see God's hand in your life more and more.  You will be able to see how much He loves you, as you love others; as you practice principles of faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement and repentance.

Elder Russell

P.S. This is the family we helped move for 11 hours of the week.  Jeff is the one we've been working with.  He let me put him in a headlock.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 9, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

This week has been pretty stellar.  We did some tracting, some less-active tracting, a lot of visiting potentials, contacting, and stuff like that.  Overall, we just tried our best to work hard during the week.  It wasn't the best week for teaching lessons-the work is a little slow right now.  But the work is good nonetheless.

We tried our best to stay out as long as possible and to talk to more people on the street.  We did pretty well at it, but fortunately there's room to improve.  I think my favorite situation is a situation in which we can help someone on the spot with something.  Like just on Saturday we helped this lady named Sylvia with moving some mattresses from her garage to the side of her house.  It was a really neat experience and we talked to her for about a half an hour after.  She said we could come back and teach her and that's what we plan to do.  She was really nice and has had some killer awesome experiences with faith.  Like having four kids to raise and feed on her own and going to the store with 81 cents in her hand and somehow having enough to feed her family.  She's really cool.

That reminds me of the reason we were over in that location of our area in the first place!  Last week we had Zone Conference, right?  And I don't know if I told you, but I ripped about a foot-long hole in the back of my suit pants.  None of us know where or how it happened but it was super depressing.  But it was along the seam.  So there's this less-active lady in our ward who know's how to hem and repair and what not.  So we were actually picking up my pants from her when we ran into Sylvia.  Moral of the story, always rip your pants at Zone Conference if there is a less-active seamstress in your ward.

We also had this conversation with a guy named Mustafa.  Yeah, how cool is that name?  He could be in the Lion King.  He's Muslim and we were heading back to our house on bikes when he stopped us.  He's a trucker and had driven through Utah a lot and had seen a lot of temples and wanted to know more about our religion.  He said that although sometimes (a lot of the time) religion separates people from one another, he's always found Mormons to be faithful people.  So we talked to him, gave him our number and a card, and told him we'd be back to see him.  He's gone 6 days outta 7 so it's going to be hard to catch him...but the Spirit knows when he's home.  And that makes it easier for us.

I managed to nail two flat tires in one day this week...that was pretty cool.  Do you know how hard it is to pop two tires in one day?  Actually, it was the inner tubes.  The tires themselves were fine.  Which makes it even more awesome.  I popped two inner tubes without damaging the tires in one day.  It was a good day.  ...Okay so it didn't feel like it at the time.

I think this week has probably been the most fulfilling feeling week, even though we didn't do a lot of teaching or finding or what have you.  It was successful and satisfying.  Preach My Gospel says that our success is measured by our commitment to serve the Lord and share His gospel.  Which is true, and this week I felt it.

Which brings me to the point that I always come to.  How was PMG study this week?  That book is amazing and truly written by Prophets of God.  This week you should all study Chapter 9.  Especially the working with members part.  And ask yourselves what more you can do as members to help others obtain Eternal Life.

We had Stake Conference on Sunday and a new Stake President was called.  It was a really cool experience to have.  We're excited for our new Stake President, too.  Two members of the Seventy were there (Elder Johnson and Elder Biserra).  Elder Biserra is actually one of the newly called Seventy.  He was one of the ones who couldn't take his place on the stand during General Conference because he was serving as a Mission President.  Guess that mission he is serving as President in?  The California Arcadia mission.  The mission just south of mine.  He was actually my ward-mate's mission president before the mission split.  Fancy that.  It was pretty cool.  Especially the Saturday night adult session of conference.

It's good to hear about the vacation.  Sounds like a blast.  I bet y'all are having fun.  It looks that way even if you're not.  ;)  Either way, I'm having more ha.

I love you all and thank you for all that you do.  This truly is God's work and my testimony grows more every day.

Elder Russell

P.S.  I'm serious about the PMG Study thing though.  And I'll pester you guys till I hear back from you on how it's going.

Monday, June 2, 2014

June 2, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family (and anyone else who might end up reading this),

The vacation sounds like a blast.  Amish country, huh?  That's cool.  I wonder if the preconceptions we have about Amish country are as inaccurate as some one the ones people have down here.  Here's my favorite one I've heard about Mormons:  "Is it true you have to consummate you marriages in the Salt Lake Temple?"  Haha, no...but that'd be cool.  Did you ask the girl if she's ever churned her own butter?  How much does a village patriarch's hat weigh?  Is it true that all males born during even numbered years are trained in the martial are of Wow Ouch Bang?  Does every second daughter in the family really have to grow out her pinky toe her entire life?

This week was transfers.  My area for this transfer is...wait for it...drum!  Yeah, I'm staying here in Ontario for at least one more transfer.  At the end of this transfer I will have spent 6mo in my greenie area.  Which doesn't happen very often.  But apparently there's something here I still need to do here (or maybe there's something I still need to learn :P).  But most of the Zone stayed the same.  Really the only IMPORTANT difference is Elder Hernandez is now serving as a Zone Leader in Rancho.  I'm gonna miss him tons.  I know he's only 20 minutes away, but I've loved living with him for the last two transfers.  This past transfer, we didn't miss a day of running.  It was super fun.  We met this guy named Mark down at the track we live next to.  He goes down to the Ontario High track to do speedwork every Tuesday and Friday.  We timed our miles on Tuesday so we never ran with him then, and then most Fridays we did loops.  So we never really ran with him until Friday.  He said he was going to be running on Friday and since it was one of the last days Hernandez and I would for sure be in the same apartment, we did speedwork with him. definitely in better shape than we are.

You should see this guy, he's screaming Mormon.  It's kinda crazy.  So when we ran with him on Friday, we invited him to take the lessons.  He respectfully declined but said he would still like to do speedwork with us on Tuesdays and Fridays.  So I think I'll drag Elder King out of bed to go running with me every day so we can keep seeing him.  Slowly but surely...he will convert.  Only, he'll be tough because he grew up around members.

Another guy Elder King and I have be working with actually just moved *tear*.  We never had a lesson with him, and he doesn't actually want any of the discussions, but we talked to him for like 45 minutes.  His name's Marcello, and he's 17yo.  He's a pretty cool kid (a little arrogant...but I'm not really one to talk).  He just barely moved to Chino Hills (which is totally not in our area, and if we were teaching him, we'd totally be poaching).  But even though he's not interested, we invited him to come out to Zone Activities on P-Day.  He seemed down for the idea (because hey, who doesn't wanna hang out with 26 missionaries?).  He's a super great kid and will probably destroy me at ultimate ball.

Have you ever gone less-active tracting?  I did it with Elder Buttars on Wednesday last week.  You just go through the ward list and visit everyone who you know doesn't come to church.  You get to know them, share a thought, ask to go through the lessons with them...and then leave.  It's...actually pretty fun.  I think most active members of the church get this notion that less-active members of the church want nothing to do with the church, and so they get scared of going to go see them.  Then, every once in a while you get some bold member who goes over to share a message...and it works.  Then everybody's like "What...what...what happened?"  And the active member's like "Well...we talked about the game last Saturday."  And boom, just like that:  Soul=Saved.  It works.  You should give it a try.  Just go over, invite them to dinner, a movie, say hi, tell them about something cool, ask them to do something for you (they like that one).  If the gospel is really a full part of your life, principles will just come out of your mouth.  As the stake president down here says "Do the Mormon talk."  It's pretty cool.

So I learned something pretty recently that I think is kind of cool.  I have found you get really good at things you consistently do.  Aristotle said "We are what we consistently do; excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a lifestyle," right?  Which I think is an awesome principle.  Someone who works hard, is going to get really good at consistently working hard, right?  Or someone who complains a lot, finds a lot to complain about.  I learned about this principle a few different places last transfer.  One was in Zone Conference.  We discussed a talk by Elder Bednar called "Converted Unto the Lord" which is a pretty rad talk.  The talk was really about the difference between testimony and conversion.  But the thing I really took away from it was that conversion is not an act, it's a character.  So like, someone who comes to church, reads the Book of Mormon, and is baptized could be a convert, but at the same time they could not be.  It's this infinite difference between principles and processes.  It's hard to really find a way to describe it.  But testimony is a point of departure and conversion is really the journey.  Consecration is the end.  But even then, consecration can't really be the end because progression is eternal.  So a true convert is really never fully converted. There's really no such thing as arriving, right?

Now what does this have to do with doing something consistently?  As President McKay would say, "Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit.  Sow a habit, reap a character.  Sow a character, reap a destiny."  So it's pretty important to watch the little things we do, right?  Bro Flack (my YM President in Provo) told me "If I could really give you any advice that I truly think would help you on your mission, it would be don't complain."  I thought that was interesting, but I'm starting to understand what he was meaning.  The first time you complain, it might be sarcastic and maybe even humorous.  But after a while, you start to become pretty sarcastic, and eventually it looses it's humor.  Then, over time, you're not just complaining, you're a complainer.  So don't complain.  And super hard to do, right?  But I think that's super important to understand and it's not just a cliche.  It's a true principle.  A convert is always trying to develop Christlike attributes and become more like the Savior (which, by the way, the baptismal covenants were designed to do.  I know right? O.o)

Speaking of Christlike attributes.  I'm still waiting to hear back on how the PMG Studying is going.  How was Chapter 6?  What did you learn?  What attributes did you pick and how did you apply them?  your next assignment is to read the first lesson in PMG and pick out the principles.  Not the doctrine, the principles.  The difference is, the doctrine are the things you should know (and probably do know), principles are the things you're supposed to live.  Please don't neglect PMG, Scripture Study, or Prayer.  This will bless your life more than you know.  Please please study PMG and please follow up with me.  I would love more than anything to hear about that.

Thank you all for everything you do.  I love you all and pray for you.

Elder Russell