Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Russell

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Russell

November 3, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Russell

October 27, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Russell

October 19, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Russell