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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 2, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,
So, I kind of don't have a lot of time, but the week has been great.  We found two investigators kind of out of the blue.  Actually they weren't because we know they were sent from God.  One is a mother (Natalie) of two little boys (Cash 5 and Cruz 1).  She was super kind.  We were talking to her as she watered  her yard with her boys.  After talking for about 15minutes we asked her if we could share a message sometime.  She said sure, and sat down with Cruz and Cash came and sat next to her on the porch.  Well alright then.  We taught her the Restoration and gave her a Book of Mormon.  It was pretty cool.  We are going to go see her tomorrow night.
We also met this guy named Carlos.  He was a born again Christian whose parents attend an Anti-Mormon church (go figure).  However, he took an anthropology class and kind of lost his faith.  He said he misses believing and having a relationship with God.  So we taught him as well (go anti-faith-anthropology-classes).  He said he'd read the Book of Mormon and we'll see him next week.
His next door neighbor is named Sharon.  We just got out of a lesson with her hour ago.  She said she'll also read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  She's super awesome as well and just looking for the truth.  She believes just about everything we believe and was really really super open to the gospel.  We see her again next week.
We taught Richard.  He's listening to the Book of Mormon as well and he's doing so well.  He wants to make our visits more regular and he's progressing really well.  But he has some serious struggles and needs your prayers.  He's a great guy and is just really really awesome.  So keep him in your prayers that he'll be able to overcome his challenges.
Noah is doing really well too.  There were some kind of weird things that happened, but basically we talked to him over the phone and he's like "If I'm going to be a part of this church, I want to know it's true for myself.  Your bishop challenged everyone to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year and I want to do that too.  I really am trying to understand and do my best to accept this as the truth, but I want to make sure I know it."  We're!  Keep it up!
Alas, we were not able to meet with Marie OR Hugo and Grace.  Hugo and Grace are being less and less interested, we think.  So we just continue praying for them.  But with Marie, I don't think we set up expectations with her enough.  I guess she just didn't know that we are kind of there to make a permanent change in her life.  She did really good the first week, but this last week has not been as strong.  Which is understandable because she had to deal with a lot of family coming over and she kind of went to Hollywood for her son's wedding.  Haha, so we're not too worried about her.  But she does need prayers as well.  So keep them coming for her.  She's great.
The Lord has been really good to us this week.  And we're so thankful that He's providing us with these miracles.  We kind of...are still trying to figure out what to do with them. :P  That's kind of awkward, huh?  We just need to be super good missionaries so we can do something with the gifts God has given us.
I love you all and thank you so much for all you do.  Sorry this email was a little short.  You're in my prayers and I hope all goes well for you.  Remember, God is watching out for you.
Elder Russell