Monday, April 6, 2015

April 5, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Pretty cool conference, huh?  I loved to talks and learned so much from all of them.  I was blown away at the Spirit I felt as Elder Niceler and I watched it.  I DID get to hear two general authorities speak two weeks in a row.  And then, the next week, we had conference.  Elder Nielson, the one who gave a talk of loving family members back into the fold, was the one that came and trained in our mission a week and two days ago.  In fact, half of our MLC last Thursday was on what he trained on.  It was super good and I'm impressed that he came up with the training whilst preparing for general conference.  That's pretty impressive if you ask me.

I really like his talk in general conference along with Elder Holland, who spoke right after him.  Both seemed to hit pretty close to home and helped me a lot.  A lot of the talks were on marriage and family, and Elder Niceler and I were talking and he laughed and said "How is this supposed to apply to me as a missionary and to the rest of the zone?  What can they take away from talks like that?"  And we laughed for a little bit, and then we talked about how the fundamentals for a successful marriage were probably pretty similar to those principles that could help a missionary companionship.  And the things that strengthen a family should also be able to strengthen the zone.  So we thought about that and I think we'll use some of what they said and apply it.  We had a good time talking about conference.

No it's not against the rules for me to send you my Hesperia address.  Haha, that's not why I don't send it.  It's the same thing with Victorville, I'm just not sure how long I'll be here and I don't know our area code and what not and so I just don't really give the address out.  However, I do pick-up packages every Thursday, so the latest it will be received is a week from when you sent it.  Elder Niceler and I pick up the packages and supplies for the zone so we get stuff like 5 days before everyone else.  No I didn't get your package yet, but I'll get it Thursday.

The guidelines for music are very broad and up to interpretation?  Why do you ask?  It mentions that we shouldn't listen to music that is to loud or inappropriate with it's beat, rhythm, or intensity.  And if it pulls our thoughts away from the work, or the Savior, or merely entertains, than it's a no go.  So I don't know.  There are some EFY songs I don't even listen to because they just are kind of "Meh..."

Things are going great here.  Elder Niceler continues to be a good example to me and help me.  He's super great and I admire him a lot.  He's very focused and loves being a missionary.  So he's good.  Athena and Jaz have stopped investigating for now.  Athena is super busy and just hasn't been making any time for lessons or coming to church or reading.  So that's sad.  But we think she'll come around.  The Romeros are good.  We had an awesome lesson on the Atonement and invited them to watch General Conference.  They said they would.  So I guess we'll find out tomorrow.  Will is doing good too.  He watched some of conference on Sunday and even though he had to reschedule for tonight, he is still really interested.  We taught a man named Jairo (it's Spanish) and he is super solid.  He's still 29 though, so we might pass him off to the YSA Elders so he can attend Singles ward.  I don't think he watched conference.  But that's okay, he's really really awesome.  So things are good.  Our area is still spread out as ever and it's still like going four wheeling.  Things are great.

Anyway, I love and miss you all and think y'all are great.  I pray for you.  Elder Nielson, in his training talked about when he was made a seventy, President Monson called him into his office and the only instruction he gave him was "Elder Nielson, go become."  Elder Nielson went back to his office and sat down.  He had no idea what President Monson was talking about.  So he started to think about the Savior and what the Savior would do in his position.  It wasn't long before he started to think of things to do with his time that he hadn't been given an assignment for yet.  He started helping people and getting to know them.  He started being kinder.  He was so caught up that when the Brethren called him in for training, he was actually sad because he was busy serving others.  My invitation to all of you is the same invitation President Monson gave to Elder Nielson.  Go become.  Bthe change.

Elder Russell

Sunday, April 5, 2015

March 29, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

This week was rather fantastic, actually.  Elder Niceler is a stud.  Like, he's super good!  I've got a lot to learn from him and I just hope I can learn if before one of us gets transferred.  We had a great week.  He came from Apple Valley but served 6mos in the ward that borders ours.  He's been out for about 11 months and is just taring it up out here.  He's great at teaching, he's always on time, and he's super smart.  I think he's great.  I think President will keep us together for more than a transfer, thankfully.

Anyway, thinks are awesome.  We had to go down the hill to Rancho on Saturday for a conference with Elder Nielson from the Seventy.  He...he knows what he's talking about.  We talked about the Atonement and the Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel.  Great, great meeting.  I learned so much.  He had us read a couple of talks from Elder Bednar on the Enabling Power of the Atonement.  They were "Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease" and "The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality."  Both really great talks.  I had read them before, but I learned a lot more from them as we talked with Elder Nielson.  Brad Wilcox says it I think best; he says "As members of the church we not only know what Jesus has saved us from, but what He has saved us for."  The Atonement is so much more than a cleansing agent.  I'm thankful it has that power, and it's one I have to use every day.  But the power of the Atonement doesn't stop once we're clean.  God wants us to be more than 'corrected'.  He Loves us a bit more than that.

Which reminds me, speaking of the Atonement.  If you have not yet, watch this video .  It's a new one the church put out in addition to Because of Him last Easter.  If you remember the Christmas initiative "He Is The Gift" this is very similar.  It has the same format and if you hashtag #becausehelives on facebook, it'll link you up and you can share the reason for Easter with everyone.

I'm super excited for this week!  I'm pumped beyond all reason!  I love you all, thanks for all you do.  I love and pray for you all.  Don't forget to keep growing and using the enabling power of the Atonement to not only be clean, but to grow, improve, and change.  #bthechange

Elder Russell

March 23, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Sounds like this week was awesome!  I think I left my earphones in Upland, so I can't listen to the movies while I'm here in the library until I get some again.  But I'll hold on to Dad and Robyn's performance until I can watch them at a later time for sure.  Sounds like it was a blast.  I wish I could have been there.

This week was good for sure.  It was happy, for the most part.  Elder Gooch got transferred (his turn for a shaft!) and I got a new companion--Elder Niceler.  He's super good and I'm so excited to work with him.  We had a crazy day today, and we actually gotta go soon, so this should be short (sorry).  But after transfer meeting, we had to wait for Elder Niceler to get green-dotted (means he can drive the truck if he has to) and then we had to drop off bikes and luggage and pick up luggage and then drop that off and then unpack and then do laundry and then...anyway.  Crazy day.

Things are going good, though.  We had stake conference the past two days.  Elder Teh (of the Seventy) came to visit the stake and he spoke.  He talked a lot about adapting to the current challenges of the day.  Great great talk.  In other words, sometimes we get content with spirituality--if that makes sense.  We think "Oh I have this routine that works for me, I'm fine.  I'm doing okay."  He mentioned having family prayer.  That's good, and it works.  But the adversary is always updating his battle tactics, so to speak.  So eventually (actually NOW) just having family prayer won't be enough.  I heard a talk a little while ago from I think President Hinckley, and he said that having daily family scripture study and prayer isn't enough anymore.  We need to do it twice daily.  Personally, I think our family did pretty good at meeting the requirements for combating the world and sin.  I always knew we would eat as a family.  I always knew we would have scriptures and prayers every night.  I always knew Monday night was family night.  The whole evening.  This were things that were set apart.  They were things that needed to happen.  So I think we did well.  I think things on my mission have been pretty good too.  But Elder Teh is right, stopping at good--or even better--is no longer enough.  I have some habits on the mission that are good habits.  But I need to switch those habits for some better habits.  I have some better habits that I need to switch out for the best habits.  If Satan will be so persistent in making us miserable, we have to always be on the up for the better and the best.  He's not getting any kinder.

We had an awesome lesson with the Romeros this week.  A man in our ward came with us and he helped a ton.  Let me just say that when love is the reason, the means and the ends will always be acceptable to God if it's the right kind of love.  We're talking charity.  If Moroni 7:45 is how you feel about someone or something...I think God probably feels that way too.  So let's pray for charity "with all the energy of heart that [we] may be filled with this love," and when we see the Savior, I think "we will [all] be like Him." (Moroni 7:48).  I know God loves us.  I know He loves you.  Charity is definitely something I need to work on.  I think this transfer will be awesome.  

Thanks so much for all you do.  I love and miss you all.  You're all champions.  I pray for you.  I think you're awesome.  Don't forget..."B" The Change.

Elder Russell

March 16, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

This past week was great.  We had another Zone Meeting (they were closer because of the way transfers went this past month).  It went rather well, I thought.  The Zone seems a lot more motivated to find now.  It's still a struggle.  It's not like down the hill where you can know 50 doors in 10 minutes.  People here (especially in the Ranchero Ward) are super spread out.  Not very many people per square mile.  There are only a few housing tracks in our area, and even then people own about twice as much land as down the hill.  But there are definitely opportunities for finding here.  With an increased amount of faith and a little more dedication, as we rely on the Spirit, we can be guided to those who are looking.  But I think that is how it is with all of life, not just finding investigators or missionary work.  Elder Bringhurst and I still keep in contact and he was just mentioning to me that if we give God everything, we won't have any regrets.  I think that's so true.  I think God can do so much more with our will than we can.  So as we work hard and give our all, God can work miracles.

Something awesome occurred the last two days.  We have this less-active family in the ward that Elder Gooch and I have been trying to get in contact.  Dad's not a member and mom and the girls haven't been to church in over three years.  Well we went over on Saturday to see if they were home.  They were (except Dad) and we talked to them for a long time.  We asked them a lot of questions and things went really well.  We asked them about their prayers and their scripture reading.  We taught them about the blessings of daily spiritual nourishment.  Then we asked them how long it had been since they had been to church.  Ha, it had been a while.  So we taught them about the ordinance of the Sacrament.  We taught them about what it meant.  We taught them about the importance of church and then asked them if they would like to come to church.  They said they would (which was cool, except a lot of people say they'll come to church and don't).  When Sunday rolled around though, they really were at church.  They stayed for sacrament meeting, but had to leave after.  Now, let me tell you why this is so cool.  They had been SUPER less-active for that time they hadn't been to church.  Always friendly to the missionaries, but very less-active.  Our first week in the ward, Brother Morrison (their home teacher) came up to us and asked if that the family would only be taught by Sisters (since dad isn't a member and the rest are girls).  He was asking if we could somehow get the Sisters in another ward to teach them.  Well, no...that's not how it works.  And Brother Morrison was rather frustrated (maybe more sad, but also a little frustrated).  There seemed to be this lurking doubt that now the Sisters were gone (Elder Gooch and I replaced them) that the family would never come to church again.  But then they did!  And so willingly too.

I think a lot of the time we're like that as well.  We get scared of inviting people to do things because we're afraid they'll say know and we'll end up closing a door permanently that could have been opened with more tact.  Like with the family in our ward, we were scared that because the Sisters weren't there to soften the family up, the family would never come to church.  But I think the story you shared is a good example of what can happen if we just choose to open our mouths and invite anyway.  What are the odds that the less-active sister in the 11th ward was having promptings and being prepared?  In reality probably not very high.  But we'll never find out until we ask.  I have found that super super important on my mission.  To just invite anyway.  Even if there's doubt.  Even if you think it won't work.  Even if the odds are low.  Even if the person hasn't been to church in years--or ever.  We will help others so much more when we invite them to become active in the gospel and taste of the light here.

I know the church is true and the gospel is real.  Like crazy real!  When we put our trust in God enough to follow His commandments and live the teachings of Christ, we can expect miracles.  Because that's what God does: Miracles.  Thanks so much for all you do!  Keep praying and studying your scriptures every day.  Remember how powerful the principle of faith is.  I love you all.  Take care!

Elder Russell

Monday, March 9, 2015

March 9, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

It sounds like Chandler and Bryce's birthdays went well.  I went to church...that's how I celebrated.  I did that...and planning.  Yep.  Planning is the best.  But I wish them both the best and hope their birthdays were great!

Phedipides (I don't actually know how you spell his name, it's pronounced "feh-dip-eh-deez"--we just call him P-Diddy) was the runner for the original Marathon.  From Marathon to Athens is actually 24 miles, not 26.2.  Now the myth (as I've heard it) says he died at Athens after delivering the message.  But that's just what I've always heard.  Where we get the extra 2.2 miles is actually really weird.  Some Olympics in England one year (in I believe the early 1900s), the Queen wanted the finish of the race to be in front of the castle (or wherever she was at) so she didn't have to move in order to see the end of the race.  Now for some reason, they decided that instead of moving the starting line 2.2 miles up, they just extended the race 2.2 miles.  So actually, a full Marathon is 24 miles.  But they extended it for the Queen.  Hank Smith talks a little bit about it in his talk "Running Down Your Dreams."  It's a great talk, you should listen to it.

Now that race kind of reminds me of something Elder Keller (one of the assistants to the President) was telling Elder Gooch and I about last night.  They're changing the standard of excellence starting tomorrow and they were telling us about them.  They're very very high for the mission average, and that can be kind of discouraging and daunting for those who are doing their best to reach them.  So we were kind of confused as to how we would pass this information down to the other missionaries and motivate them do reach for the standards of excellence.  Elder Keller was mentioning that the standards of excellence aren't a quota.  They're a tool to help us build our faith and raise our expectations.  We were discussing about how to view the standards and he asked me if I did track.  I told him yes.  Then he asked "When do you stop running?"  I told him "AFTER you cross the finish line."  He said "Right, so the way the standards are going to work is, these are not the end goal.  These are numbers that we can use to increase our faith to fulfill our purpose.  Our goal is that we will eventually reach far beyond these numbers.  Our goal is to find teach and baptize more than these numbers indicate.  This is a baseline for how the work will develop."  A lot of the time, I believe, when we set goals, we set them too low.  We're afraid of not being able to reach them, so we don't set them very high.  As a result, we don't even accomplish those goals.  I believe we can do a lot more than we think we can.  Especially when we involve God.  So with the standards of excellence--those are high goals.  In order to reach them, we have to be looking beyond the standards of excellence.  In order to reach the standards of excellence, we have to know that we don't stop running until after we've crossed the finish line.  That's the only way we're going to be able to succeed.  In order to reach them, our faith has to be in something bigger than numbers.  Our commitment has to be in something greater than tracting.  Something better than teaching.  Something more infinite than just coming to church.  Maybe I'm not making sense, but it's awesome to be out here and part of this work.  We listened to a talk recently by President Hinckly called "Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep."  Listen to the way he sets goals.  Think about his faith.  Take a look.  Set goals like President Hinckly does. ;)

I love this work.  I love being a missionary.  I love the gospel.  I know it's true. I know the Savior lives.  That He loves us.  That He wants us to be happy.  The Atonement is real.  The Gospel is real.  They blessings are real.  The Priesthood is real.  I know it for sure.

Elder Russell

March 1, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Thanks for praying for Jazmine and Athena.  They're doing great.  But we're a little concerned for them.  Keep the prayers coming for them.  They're great and they really are trying.

Sounds like things are going great back home.  Just trust the Elders though.  I know sometimes it's hard when it doesn't seem like they're doing what they're supposed to.  But I guarantee if you wait to prepare people, people will never be prepared.  God will take care of our friends and neighbors if we do our part.  And we can't delay anything because we think someone ought to be more mature.  Please don't wait to have the missionaries teach those we know.  I promise that's not a good idea. ;)

Elder King is from Colorado (my second companion).  He's in my Zone Now.  He's still a District Leader!  That's a long time to be a District.  He had one transfer where he wasn't, but now he is again.  That's crazy.  But he's awesome.  I learned a lot from him.  I don't know if he lives anywhere close to where Corynne and Bryce are moving too.  But he does live in Colorado.

Things are going well.  We went to Rancho again for another meeting (Rancho is forever away.  Okay not really.  But like 45 minutes) and that took forever.  And we have another meeting again this week.  But the meeting last week was good.  The Spirit was so strong and it helped me so much.  So I'm so thankful we got to go.  And that we were kept safe.  Because you never know what might happen when Elder Gooch is driving the truck.  Actually, funny story about that.  We drove to Rancho for the meeting with another set of Elders.  We were on our way back and Elder Houston kept saying that there was another way we could take back.  There really isn't much to look at on the way back from Rancho, so we decided we'd punch it into our GPS and try it out.  Well, it was a lot more beautiful than the normal way.  But we think we ended up going pretty far out of the mission (on accident--and you have to go out of the mission to get to Hesperia anyway) and it took a long time.  But it was so beautiful.  We were up in this mountain and ended up driving through this mountain town (no one knows where it was) and it was so cool.  But yeah, we were lost for a while and probably won't do that again.

But clearly things are going great!  I love being out here.  I learned a lot this week.  One thing I learned is that every time I figure out something I need to do better at and how to get better at it, my prayers gain a clarity that they don't normally have.  Anyway, that's all for this week.  I love you all and hope none of you have to have two ingrown toenails removed in the near future.  Remember to read your scriptures and keep the commandments.  All of them.  Literally all of them.

Elder Russell

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February 23, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I miss you all and think you're awesome.  This week sounds like it was great.  Preach My Gospel is probably my favorite book on earth, aside from the Hugly series.  I study that book (Preach My Gospel, not the Hugly series) every day, and it gets better and better.  I think as our understand of the Gospel increases, so does our desire to learn more about it and live it.  We're studying (focusing) on chapter 2 as a mission right now.  I've been thinking a lot about the Live What You Learn section at the end, and about how important it is to do what God tells us when we're learning.  We focus on one chapter of PMG each month starting in January and Chapter 1.  But we skip Chapter 7 (because it's language, and most of us are English missionaries, and so we can get to Chapter 13), it's a lot of fun.  Build those library.

This week, we taught Carlos on Monday and he rescheduled twice for our next appointment.  So we'll see him tomorrow.  But we also met with Jazmine and Athena twice this week.  Athena came to church, but Jazmine was at her dad's for the day.  So we visited them after church (when Jazmine got back) and we set a baptismal date with Athena.  Jazmine said she would pray about it, and if it felt good, she would be baptized.  She gets some flack from her dad's family.  Pray for them both.  They're awesome and they want to do what's right and they're so close to baptism.  Pray they will be okay and safe spiritually.

Things are great here in Hesperia.  Offroading is still crazy, but we don't get as lost anymore.  We know most of the dirt roads, where they are and where the 4-wheeling trails come in so we can avoid them.  But sometimes, our GPS takes us the weirdest ways.  I swear, Sally (our GPS) is better at locating lost things (or maybe just loosing things) than any missionary I know.  We get lost all the time.

I love you all and pray for you.  Keep doing the things God wants you to and life will always be great.  That's a promise (Mosiah 2:41).  I know the church is true and I'm thankful for the Gospel.  I love my Savior and I'm thankful for the Atonement.

Elder Russell

Feb. 17, 2015

Dad, Mom, and Family,

Thanks for the update.  In response, I actually don't hear a lot from my older siblings.  I mean, members here have told me about the snow back east, but I don't get much mail from the first four.  Which is understandable, their lives are probably busier than mine.  And I don't feel let down because I'm pretty sure I only emailed Austin twice on his mission.  So I guess it comes back to me.  Sounds like a lot of snow.  Hesperia needs snow.  Or even rain.  Or water in general.  Or even clouds.  It's super desert here.  The hottest day last week was about 85 degrees.  And it's February.

Our area is...massive.  It's probably about 10 times the size of my last area.  But...we have a truck, so it's okay.  We didn't get the chance to teach anyone last week.  We didn't know what we were doing what with all the white wash and meetings in the stake and what not.  But we did get a lot done.  We live with two of the craziest missionaries in the mission.  The Elders (our ward mates) are always cracking jokes and Elder Fausett is always messing around.  He's a blast.  We love them to death.

As far as the baptisms go.  We may not get as many as some missions, but the number isn't what worries me.  What I'm concerned about is making sure I don't miss anything.  In Zone Meeting today, we talked about serving God to our fullest potential--putting our all into the work.  My biggest concern is that when I get done with my mission, I just want to make sure I didn't miss a person I could have helped or shared the Gospel with because I wasn't as obedient or diligent as I should have been.  And I know I'm not the most obedient missionary.  I know I'm not the hardest working.  But I just want to find and help as many people as I can.  In the District Videos (the TV show we watched before I left for my mission) the two missionaries I want to be like are Elder Bott and Elder Hepworth.  They're awesome missionaries.  They just truly love their callings and work their hardest.  They might not be as skilled, per say, as some of the other missionaries like Elder Christensen or Elder Moreno, but they love what they do.  And their desire is so sincere and their faith is so strong.  Those are missionaries that the Lord can trust.  And that's all I want to be, is just a missionary the Lord can trust.

Now I'm not saying that baptisms don't happen in my mission.  They do.  They're hard.  It's not easy to prepare someone for baptism.  But my job isn't to count numbers.  Satan can compare us, but Christ can improve us.  It is true that the harder we work, the more we keep the commandments, and the more faithful we are, the more people will come into the fold.  But the number of people coming into the fold is not my focus so much as doing my part in it.  I want to be the best missionary I can be.  And that's what matters to me.  The people matter to me.  The work matters to me.  The Spirit matters to me.  I just want to make sure I let the mission go through me, not just me through the mission.  I love this gospel and what it can do.  I love the power it has and the love it brings from our Savior.  The church is super true.

I'm glad to hear everything is going well.  I love you all and miss you loads.  I pray for you every day, you know.  I really do want you all to be happy and have the joy the gospel brings.  Keep doing your best to do what God wants.  God wants to bless us.  Follow the Savior.  If we want top know Him, we have to do what He does.  We gotta be on His heels, as President Hobbs said in MLC.

Elder Russell

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 9, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I got transferred out of Victorville today.  I was there for six weeks instead of six months.  I guess President wanted to change some things around.  We call it being 'six week shafted' in the mission, because right when you meet a bunch of the members, you get transferred.  I did get one of my ingrown toenails removed before I left though.  That was awesome.  I go back later this month to get rid of the other one.

My new companion is Elder Gooch.  He's a great missionary and I am pumped to work with him.  We got whitewashed into Hesperia, so we're still up in the desert, just a different part.  There are even less people in this area than my last.  But we cover a whole bunch more area.  I'm super stoked to be here.  Things feel good about this transfer.

So, everyone back in Victorville is doing well.  No one ended up coming to church while I was there, but my replacement in that area is such a boss missionary, so I have no doubt that things will go super well in Mesa Linda.  Elder Fullmer is great and he'll do a lot of good with Elder Carter.  They'll have a great time.

On Sunday, we heard this talk by one of the newer members of the ward.  His topic was "Trifle Not With Sacred Things."  It was so good.  He focused a lot on how we receive blessings from God and how when we don't take His commandments seriously, He can't really take our blessings seriously.  He quoted the song "You Raise Me Up" and talked about how having the help God gives is a sacred experience and privilege.  We can't take that for granted.  We short change ourselves blessings if we do.  He explained how we often don't give the proper reverence for things that are sacred.  Prayer, scripture study, church classes.  We see them as things to do instead of chances to grow.  As such we see them more as chores to accomplish and we end up giving it an improper amount of reverence.  It would be my challenge to all of you to make sure you take every gift God gives you and treat it with a sacred attitude.  Avoid loud laughter, and evil speaking of things that God has given us.  Make sure we pay attention in our meetings.  Listen for the promptings of the Spirit and also follow them.  Show God you want to follow Him and become more like our Savior.  Trifle not with sacred things.

I love you all.  I pray for you.  I hope all is doing well.  Weather out here is in the 80s.  Read the scriptures, ponder them, pray about them, listen for promptings; act on those promptings, lift others, and be a benefit to your fellow man.  God loves you, and that is an awesome fact.

Elder Russell

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 26, 2015

Mom, Dad, and Family,

Things in Victorville are great. We had interviews on Friday and they were great. There is no doubt in my mind that President Hobbs is an inspired man. That he does God's work. Understand and know, God does call people to His holy work. And that those people receive His guidance. His power is real.

Like than, the blessings of the His gospel are real. They aren't some superficial thing that people think up to themselves. The gospel, and the religion that accompanies it, are not things concocted or directed by man. Lots of people talk to us and say they believe "religion is a man made construct." One of the biggest wiles of the Devil is he convinces people that they do not need to receive any blessings beyond the ones they believe they can achieve through their own strength and power. That...stinks. So don't ever believe that the gospel only provides blessings of feeling good. Although it does do that as well.

Sounds like Dad needs a degree in audio engineering. ;) That was a joke...because he has one. Haha, get it? I miss music a ton. But not too much, because I'd rather have the Spirit. So out here on the mission, not listening to rock...doesn't bother me. Super cool stuff. I probably won't listen to a lot of music that I did before when I get back home. Just not worth it. But good music is totally worth it.

We found this 18yo kid named Daniel on Saturday. His sister and brother-in-law are members in Apple Valley. He's super cool. No, my area ends quite a bit before Apple Valley. My area up here is about a third of the area I had in Ontario. Super small. Apple Valley is two zones away. But good stuff.

But anyway, things have been good the last four days. I love you all and miss you by the handfuls. Just kidding, that's weird. I pray for you all everyday. Give a Book of Mormon to a neighbor this week. It'll be cool. I promise. They'll like it if you do it right. Keep on keepin' on!

Elder Russell

Friday, January 9, 2015

January 5, 2015

The Frozen Chosen
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Mom, Dad, and Family,

Last week was nuts!  The Valley is totally not the Desert.  Not even a little bit.  And I'm such a Valley kind of guy so it was crazy to adjust.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the Desert.  I'm stoked to be here.  But it was crazy getting adjusted to the difference.  Elder Carter is the bomb and he works super hard.  Pray for him, he's doing great!

So Victorville looks pretty much like the area between Utah Valley and Cedar City.  Except the mountains are smaller and more spread out.  And there is less shrubbery.  It's pretty awesome.  But it's super cold!  What's up with that?!  Here in Victorville it got down to 26 degrees and over in Wrightwood (other side of the District) it got down to 7 degrees.  What the heck?  It was 80 degrees last Christmas.  Where did this come from?  Oh yeah, and it snowed.  That was odd.  But hey, it's all good.

We had a baptism this Saturday.  That was really cool, I wish I was there to teach him all the lessons.  But Fransisco ate everything up.  He was golden and is just on fire.  He was actually baptized into the singles ward in Barstow,  but his fellowshippers were in our ward.  So we taught him all except for one lesson and he came to church in our ward until after he got baptized.  He was just great.  His spirit was so strong and just a powerhouse.  We also found two new investigators this week and I'm super excited to be in this area.  Everyone is super nice and fun and the ward is really motivated to do missionary work.

I totally have a testimony that God really does want us to be happy.  I've seen that this week as I got to the area.  That as we work hard and be obedient to God's commandments, He blesses us with joy.  It's such a simple promise, but it's so effective.  We don't need to go looking in weird places to find it.  It's always with us.  As King Benjamin, I often like to "consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God."  He loves us a lot and He wants to bless us with His Spirit.  It's just a matter of accepting the laws and obeying the ordinances.

Sounds like Park City was a blast.  I miss you all a lot.  Logan was a good one to bring in my stead though.  He's an awesome kid.  Hope everything else is going well too!  I love and pray for you every day.  Keep doing what you're doing.  Keep loving the gospel.  Keep praying.  Keep reading the scriptures.  Keep going to church.  And keep on keepin' on.

Elder Russell

P.S.  Our temple trip is on the 22nd.  If you could get me Grandpa Josip's blue card before then, that would be awesome!
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

December 28, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I totally got the packages.  All of them.  It's all there in it's true form. ;)  Things are great and I'm having a blast.  Talking to you all on Thursday was awesome.  I couldn't have asked for a better time.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire!  I totally got transferred from Upland and they took me all the way to Victorville. -_-  No I'm stoked and my new companion seems super cool.  We're both excited to work and I'm stoked to be here and doing new things.  We both decided obedience is key to everything.  In fact, at the Robbins' today we were with Parker, and we decided the same thing.  So this transfer is going to be a good one.  I'm really really excited.

We said our goodbyes last night to everybody and it was probably the most depressing day of my life.  I never thought I'd grow so close to people.  And don't get me wrong, I was really really close to the members of Rancho Park.  But Up5 was super super awesome and I got so close to everyone there.  I'm going to miss it big time.  Tears of anguish and stuff.  Hopefully I'll be able to go back to that ward.  I'd love to serve there again.  Everyone there is super great.

Crazy thing happened Christmas eve.  I got this letter with CDs in it by a guy named John Pennington.  Apparently he read my blog.  So he wrote this book that answers some common questions about Mormon doctrine.  I thought it was going to be anti, so naturally I listened to it.  Turns out he knows what he's talking about.

Anyway.  I wish I had more to talk about but I saw you last week and I'm in a totally new area, so I don't know anything.  I love and miss you all.  You're awesome and you rock my socks.  Take care and live righteously.  You're in my prayers and I can feel yours.

Elder Russell