Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Praise to the Man

SAN DIEGO — I feel like I just talked to you! I guess that's because I did :) That was so fun, I'm glad you are all doing well. I don't have a lot to say since I just talked to all of you.

Here is an update on some of the people we are teaching:

Charmaine is doing awesome. She is getting baptized Jan 8. She has had a super hard past. I wish you could see how the Gospel has changed her. IT is the difference between night and day!

Ashli has been MIA. Prayers would be awesome! She is so ready, but Satan is working on her so hard.

Todd is the marine we are teaching. He is hilarious! He is super smart, super nice, and already seems like he's Mormon. He told us the other day that he is so sick of people asking him how long he has been a member, he just wants to get dunked already (he is waiting for the person that introduced him to the Gospel to come, so he won't be getting baptized until the end of January)!

Funny story about Todd: yesterday, we were teaching him the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. Sister Kennington started out by explaining how we got the Word of Wisdom (When Emma was so upset about the men chewing tobacco and everything). After she told the story, he looked at her and said, "Are you telling me this story because I dip?" Sister Kennington and I looked at each other, two naive utah girls with no idea what on earth "dip" meant. In unison (we are both becoming each other I swear), we asked "What does dip mean?" Apparently it means to chew tobacco. Ha ha- Well Mom, I think you would be proud, I am now educated on what weed smells like and the slang words for chewing tobacco!

The Church has asked all missionaries at historic sites to do the "chat" feature on mormon.org. So Sister Kennington and I are learning so we can teach the sisters. Yesterday, we got online and chatted with a woman from Estonia and taught her the Restoration. Another guy also came online and we got to talk to him about why Mormons are so happy. He had gotten online and watched the I'm a mormon videos and wanted to know if it was just the people in the videos or if it was all Mormons that are so happy. I just love missionary work! I bet Alma and the Sons of Mosiah are having a hoot up in heaven watching us preach the Gospel across the world from our computers!

I was looking through my journal and just wanted to share this excerpt before I go:

December 23, 2011

"I woke up this morning and there was a different feeling in the air. A peace. A calm. A quietness. I Flipped my scripture calendar from December 22 to December 23 and realized that today is Joseph Smith's Birthday. That explained a lot. It was as though the morning was reverencing his birth! We had our missionary Christmas party this morning. This whole day seems to be a blur except for one tiny moment that is still crystal clear in my mind. The moment was a few words that President shared with us in the tiny chapel in Mission Valley, Calif.

"Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord has done more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other men who lived in it." ....."

I just wanted to share that with you. I love Joseph Smith. I love my Savior. I love you all, thank you for everything!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The show must go on

SAN DIEGO — We sent off Sister Christensen this morning. She is a stellar missionary, and it broke my heart watching her leave. What an amazing legacy she has left for all of us. She is an example of a stalwart servant of God and has put true meaning to what it means to "Return with Honor". I was giving a tour with her yesterday and asked her what her last piece of advice would be for me. She told me to remember that no matter what happens in life, "The show must go on".

How true that is! Life goes on, the days come and go, the seasons change, the years pass by and nothing can stop it. Our attitudes, our actions, our desires are what give meaning to the precious time we have. Whatever trials we face, whatever heartaches come our way, it is our attitude that makes "our show" one of despair and disappointment or one of hope and happiness.

On the opposite scheme of things, this week I also sat in the front room of a sister that had no desire to be here anymore — who couldn't wait to pack her bags and go home. I sat in her living room, my heart broken, and sick to my stomach of what that kind of decision would do to this sister. I have learned that just as much as God is real, so is the adversary. Fortunately we are on the winning side!

I told you last week that Sister Kennington and I were going to irritate Satan this week, and I think we can say "mission accomplished." I don't know if you remember Ali. He is the Muslim that we had to stop teaching until President Clayton talked with him. He had his interview on Friday and President said we could teach him. On Sunday, we went over to his house and started completely from scratch. He doesn't even know who Jesus Christ is as he was never raised Christian, so we decided to watch the Finding Faith in Christ DVD with him. I want to share that part of my journal with you this week as it was one of my highlights. 

Sunday, December 19, 2011
Ali couldn't make it to church today, so we asked him if we could drop by later. We went over to the house he is staying at and watched Finding Faith in Christ with him. I can't explain how happy and relieved and thankful and excited I am to be able to teach him again. I can't explain it, but I know I promised Ali in heaven that I would find and teach him the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of course, I probably have done that for our other investigators as well, but it just seems different somehow. Words can't explain what it was like tonight, sitting with Ali, who has no idea what the Savior did for him. We had to keep pausing during the movie to explain things to him: who the man and woman were who were looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem, who the 12 men were that were following Jesus Christ, and what was happening when Jesus Christ was kneeling down and praying to God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemene. As we paused at that moment, and looked at our Savior performing the Atonement, he looked over at me with tears in his eyes, and all he could say was, "Wow".

The Spirit hit me so hard, it felt as though I could barely breathe. Heavenly Father not only testified to Ali that what we were showing him was real, but he testified once again to me, that my Savior lives, that Jesus Christ really did perform the Atonement. I love this Gospel so much. I love my Savior with all my heart. And I am so grateful for the precious gift Heavenly Father gave me during this Christmas season: a reminder that He loves me and that is why He sent His son to the earth. The only words I have to say, are those of my friend Ali — wow.

Let's not forget:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
Can't wait to talk to you on Sunday! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Life is hard, but Salvation is priceless"

SAN DIEGO — Christmas time is definitely different on a mission. I am so thankful to Heavenly Father that He has kept Sister Kennington and I so busy. I have never been so happy to be so exhausted in my life. It is a little hard not to get a tiny bit homesick around the holidays, but it's not a bad homesick. I just love you all so much!
It was our turn to pick up the mail at the mission office. I got the packages Mom and Dad sent (haven't opened them yet) and Jackie Steele sent me one too! Nice huh? 
I honestly can't even remember what happened this week. It was so crazy, I can barely keep my eyes opened writing to you. Every night, I have five minutes to rush and wash my face, and brush my teeth and jump into bed before 10:30. Unfortunately, I have been really bad at writing in my journal. But for some reason, what I had planned to tell you about, I feel like Heavenly Father would rather me tell you about what happened last night. It is a simple story, nothing grandiose, nothing extraordinary, but it is the tiny, the seemingly insignificant things that testify to me that God is real.

I was serving at the Battalion last night. I had just finished up a tour and I was exhausted. We weren't that busy, but the other sisters were watching one of our Christmas presentations we have been having, so after finishing my tour, I walked up to the front and a little girl and her aunt were wanting to go.  Honestly, I was so tired I felt like crying. I had no idea how I would have the energy to take this little girl on the tour and make it a good experience for her. But Heavenly Father practically pushed me into the first room and I knew He needed her to come on the tour. I knew she was special to Him. 
When we got to the outfitting room and Sister Lewis and I were dressing her up like a soldier, it came to the part where we talk about how the men did what they did. How they were able to leave their families, leave their friends, and face the unknown. We brought out the Book of Mormon and the Bible and I got down on my knees so I could look in her eyes and tell her about her Savior, whose life was written in the precious pages. The Spirit pierced the room, it touched my heart with so much force, I thought for sure there must be angels peeking in on this sweet moment. 
Sister Lewis looked at her, and said, "Julianna, Heavenly Father loves you, no matter what, will you always remember that?" "Yes" was all she said. But that "Yes" held a whole new meaning to me as her aunt explained little Julianna's situation: living without the Gospel of Jesus Christ in her life because of the actions of her parents. What a tender mercy Heavenly Father gave me last night.
God loves all of His children. EVERY SINGLE ONE.
I have been thinking about the Savior a lot this month, of always, but this month as His birth is celebrated all over the world this Christmas season. Part of a talk that Sister Kennington shared with me came to my mind. I changed some of the words, but the talk is entitled, "Missionary work and the Atonement."
"Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font? 
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary. 
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price."
How much sweeter will Eternal Life be, when we can look back and see how far we've come. When we can say, yes, it was hard, but it was worth it. When we can look our Savior in the eye, and thank Him for reaching down and pulling us up when we had climbed as far as we could.
Life is hard. But Salvation is priceless. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The power of the Book of Mormon

SAN DIEGO — WHOA!! I hardly have any time to write again! Time flies way too fast! There is so much going on and so many things to tell you. First of all, I had to print off your emails because I ran out of time to read them. I will answer your questions and everything next time and If I forget, just ask me again:).

I have never been so tired in my life. Sister Kennington and I literally lay down on our beds at night and within seconds are fast asleep. A tricky thing being a Mormon Battalion sister is we have the work to do in half the time. Having said that, Heavenly Father has helped us see miracles despite the little time we have had in our area this week. We were able to add seven new investigators this week, and three of our investigators now have a baptismal date for Jan. 7, 8, and 22!

Todd is a marine that has been totally prepared by Heavenly Father. We just met him this week. He has been stationed a lot of different places, but in each place, he finds the Mormon church and goes to the activities. He has never sat down and talked with the missionaries before, so this was his first time. We got to know him and introduced that central to our message is Jesus Christ.

As we were talking to him about how Heavenly Father has given us tangible evidence that we can hold in our hands as a testimony to the world that God has once again restored His church to the earth, I felt like we should ask him if he has read the Book of Mormon.

He said he had read parts of it. I felt again that I needed to ask him what his thoughts were about it. He looked up at me with a huge grin on his face and said, "Well, I know it's true!" We were able to explain to him that if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith is a prophet, and if Joseph is a prophet, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's church once again restored to the earth.

We committed him to set a baptismal date, and even before we could set him with a date, he set his own! He already had been thinking about it and wanted to get baptized. The power of the Book of Mormon is real. This man didn't even have the missionaries teaching him, he hasn't learned about the fulness of our message, yet just reading the passages from the Book of Mormon brought a mighty change upon him. 

Ashli is a Mormon Battalion referral. Sister Nelson took her on a tour and since August we have been trying to meet with her. Finally, three weeks ago we found her. We have only been able to meet with her three times because of schedules and things, but already she has read to the middle of 2 Nephi. We are meeting with her this week and committing her to baptism. She has already changed so much, I am so excited for her!

Tyler is also a Mormon Battalion referral that Sister Kennington took on a tour. He is 18 years old and into music and things. His dad is very less active, but wants to come back to church. Sister Kennington and I went over a few days ago and introduced our message and the Book of Mormon to him. Last night, Sister Kennington (we were on exchanges) met with him again and he accepted a baptismal date.

Charmaine: the missionaries have been working with her FOREVER! Even before I came. She went to the Christmas Devotional at our branch president's home, and felt the Spirit so strongly. I know that the Spirit touched her heart and reminded her of the divine potential she has.

She was so different when we met her. She kept saying, "everything clicks, I get it. I get it now"  You would have to know Charmaine, she is the most scatter-brained analytical, spastic teenager ever. From the world's view, she would never change, she would never want this. Yet from God's perspective, she is His daughter, and His love can change any soul.

I wanted to share with you a glimpse of these people's stories because it is a huge reminder of the power of the Book of Mormon, the power of the Holy Ghost, and the power of our Father. This Gospel is real, so much more real than I ever realized. Heavenly Father is closer than we know, and we have angels surrounding us here, now every day. Just as Heavenly Father has a great influence in our lives, so does Satan. Just as I have seen the power of Heavenly Father. I have seen how good Satan is at deceiving, at ruining and destroying peoples lives. He is sneaky and tricky and He thinks he knows what's up. He has no idea.

I want to leave you with an excerpt from my journal, and something that I have been thinking about a lot this week as we have had Zone Leader trainings, and Missionary Training Meetings.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"I have been pondering all week about some things that President Clayton talked to us about in Zone Leader Training. He read us the scripture about the Great Captain Moroni. 
"And it came to pass as the armies of the Lamanites had gathered together in the land, behold the armies of the Nephites were prepared to meet them in the land." 

I had the imagery of all of the followers of Christ being armed and ready to fight against Satan and his followers. Oh, how great this battle has become. I imagined us rushing forward to fight Satan, to defend our families, our friends and our neighbors from the awful grasp of the adversary. I feel so privileged to be God's warrior, to defend this world from the grasp of Satan.

As I read this scripture, I imagined Captain Moroni leading his army — Moroni was a mighty man, a man of God. He revolutionized the strategy of war. He made preparations, he prepared his warriors and he was always one step ahead of the Lamanites. It has hit me so strongly this week that Heavenly Father needs me to be like Moroni. I need to be one step ahead of Satan and predict where he is going to focus his battle. I read through Preach My Gospel this morning and made a list of where I think Satan is going to attack, and my plan to fight back. I know with God's help, I am going to make Satan one angry warrior. He will fail. He is not going to win. And I am going to be one of his worst enemies.

I think this is true in all of our lives. I would invite all of you to pick something that Satan keeps getting you at, and make a plan to fight back! Don't let him win! Just like it says in the scriptures,

"If all men were and had and were  and ever would be like unto Moroni, behold the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever yea the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. "

Let's shake the the powers of hell, shall we?!?! I feel like irritating Satan this week, Please help me out!!!

Love you all. You are the bestest ever. You can do hard things!!!! Don't freeze (those of you in Utah).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The pain of not listening

SAN DIEGO — I can't believe another week has gone by! Yesterday it was 80 degrees, people were mowing lawns and they all had their Christmas lights up! It is weirding me out! I keep thinking it is summer time!

To answer some questions:

Thanksgiving is actually just another day in the mission field. The Mormon Battalion is open every day — including Sundays and holidays — so I worked there in the morning and we had a Battalion Thanksgiving that the senior couples put together and then we were out in our area at night. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, though!

, you would be proud, one of the senior couples is from Twin Falls, so I even got Idaho mashed potatoes and "grandma rolls" that were almost as good as yours!

For Christmas, we will get to either call or skype (unless president clayton changes the rules). We will only have about 30-40 minutes. I think I can do a conference call, I'm not exactly sure what that is?  But please send the number just in case.

As for things that are going on here: I have learned a great lesson this week of following the Spirit that I wanted to share with you. Here are two clips from my journal that will tell the story....

Friday, November 26, 2011

I took Sister Burden on exchanges in our area today. She is such an amazing missionary. We were able to teach a lot of people and contact a lot of referrals. We tried to contact Mckaela later in the evening. Mckaela is a foreign exchange student from Germany that we street contacted in August and she asked for a German Book of Mormon, but every time we tried  to contact her, the host family was really cold and told us she was not there.

Luckily, one of the sons answered the door and we were able to ask for Mckaela. Well, he told us in the not of nicest terms that we were out too late and that Mckaela was getting ready for bed. He started shutting the door, and I felt the Spirit tell me, "Sister Newman, she needs that Book of Mormon", but I let the moment pass and he shut the door.

Walking back to the car, the feeling wouldn't go away, so Sister Burden and I turned around, and walked back to the house so we could at least leave the German Book of Mormon with the host family. This time, the mom answered and she in the really not of nicest terms told us to leave and slammed the door in our face. We were forced to leave the book on the doorstep for her. I learned a great lesson tonight- LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT.

I can't describe the feelings in my heart of guilt and sadness that my lack of following the Spirit brought. Thank goodness for the Atonement, for I know Heavenly Father will prepare away for Mckaela to again receive the message of the Gospel.
Sunday, November 27, 2011

Today, I learned another lesson on following the Spirit. You think I would be better at this by now, especially because I was chastised only a few days ago from not listening to Heavenly Father. I don't know how many times it is going to take me to learn to trust in Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost, but apparently at least one more time.

On our way to visit a former investigator's home, we ran into a guy walking his two boxer dogs. Naturally we walked up to him (not only because he had 2 dogs that reminded me of Peaches and Dakota, but that was a bonus!). After talking to him and sharing our message, he thanked us and left. As he was walking away, I felt Heavenly Father remind me that I needed his number, but he was already walking away, so I ignored the prompting. As we turned and started walking to the former's home, Sister Kennington mentioned that she, too, was reminded to get his number and did not.

My heart sunk to the floor — was my lack of acting on prompting going to affect this man's salvation?!? I practically begged Heavenly Father to give me another chance, promising that I would act on that prompting without delay. As we turned the corner to our former's home, there was the guy and his boxers! You better believe I asked for his number! There was no way I would fail to act this time. I have gained such a stronger testimony of listening to the Spirit. When you seek guidance from heaven, that is when miracles happen.
These past two days reminded me of a story from the Mormon Battalion that I want to share with you. I can't remember the story I shared last week, so I hope this isnt the same one.
"By November 17, the battalion had left the Rio Grande and was traveling in a southwesterly direction. On Nov. 20, Colonel Cooke's guides reported that they could not find a practical route to the west. Mexican traders told Cooke the only reasonable route was southeast to Janos in Sonora. In addition, they explained to Cooke that he could replenish his provisions, a fact that weighed heavily on Cooke's long list of worries.

"It appeared that cookes mind was set; the battalion would change directions and march towards Sonora. Cooke's decision, taking them away from and not towards California, so distressed Levi Hancock, the leading church authority in the battalion, that he asked the men to pray that night to change the colonel's mind. The following day Cooke set out for Janos and after the battalion had marched for several miles, he suddenly changed his mind, declaring that general Kearney's orders were to march to California. Consequently, the battalion changed directions and once again began traveling toward California. Many soldiers believed Cooke's decision to abandon the march to Janos came as a direct answer to prayer."
I know that Colonel Cooke listened to the Spirit. I am confident that because of that, the men did not have to fight in a single battle. It has been weighing on my mind a lot how important it is to listen to the Spirit, and I am so thankful Heavenly Father has once again taught me that lesson. The Spirit is constantly around, always trying to give us nudges, and pushes in the right direction. But it is so delicate, so soft, so quiet, that it takes such practice to hear its promptings and even more practice and courage to act on them.
The Spirit talks to all of us, to you to me every day, all the time. It is just up to us to listen and act. Miracles happen when we listen and do something from the messages we receive from heaven. I know that is true!
I love you all, I am so glad you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"More Precious than Gold"

SAN DIEGO — I have literally no time this week to write. I had to print off your letters and will read them later. The Family History Center where we write is closed this week, so we have 22 sisters that have had to share 2 computers at the Battalion.

I will just have time to tell you about my week, and next week I will answer all your questions.

It has been a crazy week. Monday, Sister Kennington and I had to train the group leaders at the Mormon Battalion. As a sister missionary, it works a little differently than elders. There are four group leaders that take the sisters out and go on exchanges and have a group meeting at the Battalion each week. And we also are part of our districts in our areas as well (but we of course do not go on exchanges with the district leader as he is an elder). Then, Sister Kennington and I help train the group leaders and take them out in our area. It has been such a great experience to learn from these sweet sisters.

Elder Nelson visited the Mormon Battalion. We'll have Brittany
tell us about it next week.

I have also had a few funny stories this week as well. Sister Kennington and I were trying to find an address of a potential investigator. We walked into a guy that was walking down the street, so we stopped to talk with him. As we mentioned that we were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he spluttered, "MORMONS ARE TAKING OVER HAWAII!!! They have one of them temple things there and everything!!!!"

Sister Kennington and I had to hold our tongues, trying not to burst out laughing. We soon realized that he was definitely drunk as he wobbled away, turning back to say, "and you know what? You girls are pretty!"

It was funny, yet really sad as well to see Heavenly Father's son so far away from Him. I can't even imagine how He feels when His precious children turn their backs on Him. It hurts my heart to think about it.

Yesterday was another funny. I don't know who has spread the rumor that people are nicer to missionaries in the rain — NOT TRUE! It was pouring rain (I called it a blustery day, and Sister Kennington totally laughed at me, Nick, I think you would appreciate that saying). Anyway, we ran up to a house and they opened the door and asked us what our special message to the world was. We explained that Heavenly Father loves us just as much as in the days of Adam and Moses, that He has once again reached out in love to call a prophet to lead and guide our church today.

All of a sudden we had a room full of people all talking at once telling us that they were prophets and all sorts of interesting things to say the least. The Spirit was not there at all. I have learned why Heavenly Father explains to us that the Spirit testifies of truth. I have seen that so much on my mission.

Two more things: I want to tell you about one of my investigators. Her name is Ashli. She came into the Mormon Battalion in August and wanted a copy of The Book of Mormon. I think I might have mentioned her. It was a miracle that we were able to contact her a few weeks ago. We have now been able to teach her about The Book of Mormon and Restoration. Mine and Sister Kennington's jaw dropped yesterday when she texted us that she was already at 1 Nephi 16. She was so excited to share a passage that stuck out to her that I want to share with you.

She was explaining how she started reading this and she just felt like Heavenly Father was talking to her....
And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto gall those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in

As Ashli — not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — told me that she felt that she knew this before, that it made sense and that she felt peace. I, too, could feel my Heavenly Father testifying that He knows each one of us. He knows what we need to hear, what we need to feel, and what we need to do to return to Him. I could almost feel His prescence in the room, almost see His face smiling at Ashley. I don't care what the world says. I don't care how hard satan tries to make us feel differently. God lives and He loves us more than we know. I wish I could take what I feel in my heart and let all of you reading this feel it as well. Heavenly Father loves you SOOOOO much!

K, I have literally 3 minutes to write you one more thing that stuck out to me today. Sister Kennington and I have to give the devotional on Thursday, so I have been reading out of my site guide for the Mormon Battalion, and I wanted to share with you an excerpt from it. I get to see everyday how much these men and women sacrificed for us, and I sometimes take it for granted. I hope this quote helps you get an essence of the love, the sacrifice and the charity that these people had. They truly knew who they were and what God expected of them.

"I have never seen that rich spot of earth since. Nor do I regret it, for there always has been a higher object before me than gold. We had covenanted to move together... we were in honor bound to move the next day. We did move, leaving that rich prospect without ever sticking a stake in the gulch. But abandoning it to those who might follow...people said, here is gold on the bedrock, gold on the hills, gold in the rills, gold everywhere, gold to spend, gold to lend, gold for all that will delve, and soon you can make an independent fortune. We could realize all that. Still duty called, our honor was at stake, we had covenanted with each other, there was a principle involved, for with us it was God and his Kingdom first, we had friends and relatives in the wilderness, yea, in an untried desert land, and who knew their condition? We did not. So it was duty before pleasure, before wealth and with this prompting, we rolled out and joined our comrades."

This quote is after the men found gold at Sutters Mill. Instead of staying, they knew they had made a covenant with Heavenly Father and that they had something more precious than gold. I just thought as I was reading this, how we really need to sort out our priorities. I have learned that a lot while being here. Heaven comes first. Nothing else is as important.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"God is aware of us"

SAN DIEGO — I hope you are all doing well! Thank you for the updates. It is always so good to hear how you all are doing. Every time you share your experiences with me, my testimony grows. 

I guess I better tell you about my CRAZY week! First of all, transfers were last Wednesday. Sister Nelson got transferred and I got a new companion: Sister Kennington! She is from Layton, Utah and is SO AWESOME!

We went on exchanges all the time with each other, and have already been good friends these past months I have been here. I am so excited to have her in our area!

For transfers, President Clayton comes to the Battalion and announces them there. The other missionaries have transferred at the Mission Valley Stake Center. After he announced everything, we were singing the closing hymn and all of a sudden I got tapped on my shoulder by President to come out in the hall. Oh my goodness, let me just tell you, having your mission president tap you on the shoulder to follow him is not the most pleasant experience as a missionary- SCARY!

President asked Sister Kennington and I to be the training sisters over the Battalion. What a humbling experience, let me tell you. I am so glad that Heavenly Father makes weak things become strong: He has a lot of work to do on me that is for sure!

An amazing thing that comes with that responsibility is an even deeper feeling of charity. I didn't know I was capable of loving so much, but Heavenly Father has sure helped me stretch my heart even more. It is so funny how He answers prayers. I have spent many many hours on my knees begging Him to help me with my faith, with my charity, and with my trust in Him. I am so grateful that I get to work harder on developing those qualities in myself!

Here is a little update on the area:

I have been seeing how much Heavenly Father wants all of His children all over the world to hear about the Gospel. Right now we are teaching two people: one girl named Tao Tao, who is from China and one guy named Ali, who is from Iran.

Neither one of them have any idea about who their Savior Jesus Christ is at all, which has been a humbling experience to be able to focus an entire lesson on how much the Savior loves each one of us, how he gave his whole life to serve, to love, to lift each one of us. There is a sacred spirit that enters the room when we talk about the Savior. I would not expect anything less, for He is the life and light of the world. Even though people despised Him — and still do — even though people mocked Him, and still do, even though people turned away from Him, and still do, He loved them all and He loves us all. I know it. I can't see Him. I can't hear Him. But there is no one and nothing in this world that cannot tell me that He does not live, for I have felt his Spirit touch my soul. I have felt his hands lift my burdens. And I have been encircled by the arms of His love.

I have seen so many miracles and so many instances this week that have shown me that God is aware of us. Sister Nelson and I have been trying to get a hold of Ashli, a girl who came to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site and wanted to learn more since August. Every time we try and contact her, her dad answers and to say the least, does not like us at all.

Last night, Sister Kennington stopped by and she answered the door. We sat in her living room talking to her about the Book of Mormon, about how God is aware of her and loves her. I watched her face light up as her spirit remembered (even though she didn't realize it) where she came from. She had the light of Christ shimmering from her eyes, and I knew there were angels in the room, helping her remember that she is a daughter of God, a princess of a King, and that He wants her back.

We also taught a guy named Keith, who was standing on the street corner in front of the institute building and one of the members invited him inside for pizza. He told them he didn't want pizza, but he went in anyway and immediately asked how he could learn more. The elders were able to teach him a little bit and then they passed him to us since he is in our area. Heavenly Father was aware of him — he helped him get to that street corner, he inspired that boy to invite him in, and he is helping us teach him how to return to Him. God does love us. He does care. I know it. I know it with all my heart.

You kept mentioning the holidays in your letters. Something so weird here in California, I keep forgetting Thanksgiving is next week! It is kind of hard to think that Christmas is coming when it is sunny and 75 degrees all year long! I have some questions for all of you:

Nick: How is your job doing? What kinds of things do you do?

Juli: How do you like the new house? How are the girly bugs? How are you?

Chris: How is school going? What meds are you learning about? do you have the hospital rotation yet?

Hannah: Are you still TA'ing? How is teaching going?

Sara: How was San Diego? I saw Bobby's family! So fun! How are clinicals? Any fun stories?

Mom: How are your kiddos at school? Crazy this year or pretty good? How has it been with Marv and Jackies daughter? What about sister Rosenburg?

Pops: How was the football game in the snow? How is the center coming along? Have you decided if you are going to Finland?

Grandma and Grandpa Morgan: How are you doing? Has it been snowing in Idaho too? I ate a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie the other day- definitely not as good as grandma morgans, but a good reminder of you!

Grandma and Grandpa Newman: How is working at the temple? I met someone that works at the Jordan river temple, but I can't remember their names.

Time is up! So sorry, but I have to go. I love you all. I hope you know that. Have a wonderful week and please don't forget who you are. I hope you don't take my letters as sounding preachy. Heavenly Father has just helped me see the world so differently. We are His. He wants us back. Let's help all of us return together!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The crazy places He wanted me to go

SAN DIEGO — What is this I hear about SNOW?!? Are you kidding me! I keep thinking it is June here, I can't believe it is already November!

My time is so messed up — first of all, we do the same thing every day and so I can't keep the days straight, and then on top of that I can't keep the months straight because there are no seasons here! I hope you had fun playing in the snow though:) You will have to send me pictures!

Juli, Thank you for the Halloween treats — that was so ADORABLE! I took a picture of it, I will send home soon.

I can't believe Carla is having a baby! That went by so FAST! It is so interesting how life seems to just slip by in the wink of an eye.

Something I keep being reminded of, is that we can't take this gift to be here on earth for granted. This is such precious time and we never know when our time is up. Each time that a transfer comes to an end, I am forced to reflect on what I have done, who I have become, and what difference I have made. Sadly, there are moments I wish I could take back, times I wish I would have opened my mouth and I did not, burdens I could have lifted, smiles I could have given.

But fortunately, there are also miracles I have seen, people I have touched, and lessons I have learned. Every six weeks I think the same thing: what are my thoughts going to be when I get to see my Father in Heaven again? What will I have become, who will I have touched, what legacy will I have left?

I just want you all to know that you have a purpose here! You have a legacy to leave! You have burdens to ease, smiles to give, laughter to share, and only YOU can do what you were sent here to do. You can do this! You have angels in Heaven cheering for you! I am cheering for you!

One more funny thing: Sister Nelson and I were talking to some random person on the street the other day and the lady asked Sister Nelson if she was my mom (Yeah, I thought you all would get a laugh out of that!).

I wanted to share to experiences from my journal this week, so I will just get to it!

November 2, 2011
We planned to go contacting in the park at Mira Mesa today since no one is home and our investigators could not meet. It was so awkward! We promised Heavenly Father we would talk to everyone, so naturally the first people we saw were a couple on a date having a picnic at the park. Sister Nelson and I looked at each other for a second, both of us thinking the same thing: do we really have to interrupt this date?! But we promised Heavenly Father, so we marched up and talked to them.

They gave us a definite NO and did not want to hear our message. There were tons of moms at the park, so that was our next stop. Mother after mother turned us down, some of them were super cranky, we were about ready to head on to our next stop, but another mother was sitting farther back on the playground watching her children play. I thought to myself, "Heavenly Father, I have just been told by about ten people to leave them alone, all of them are watching me, laughing at me, not to mention, there is a couple at the top of the hill that are making fun of us. Can I just run away and hide PLEASE?"

But I promised Him.

So we walked up to her and invited her to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site. To my surprise, she wanted it! She has Mormon friends and really appreciated the Church's stand on Proposition 8. We were able to bear testimony of the sacredness of family and of her divine role as a mother of God's children.

I know we went to the park today for a reason. Heavenly Father needed us to find her. I would talk to a million angry soccer moms to find the one Heavenly Father has prepared, because I know He numbers His sheep. He loves every precious soul, and He is preparing them to receive the Gospel. I just love being a part of the miracles and the tender mercies of the Lord.

Now for a really funny day I had this week:

November 4, 2011
We had to go to Pep Boys after study this morning because Sister Kennington (I was on exchanges) and Kearsley had to get their oil changed on the car. There was no room in the waiting room and it was loud anyways so we decided maybe we could walk to the Church while we waited for the car to get done.

We checked how long it was on the GPS and it said 9 miles. We thought, "Okay, we can do nine miles no big deal."

When we asked the Pep boys guy how long he thought it would take to walk nine miles he laughed out loud at us. Yeah, I guess we deserved that. So we reconsidered. We thought maybe we could find a quiet place down the street to read our scriptures so we headed out. This was the day that it was pouring rain outside and we had no umbrella or hood. Don't ask me what we were thinking!

We walked down the street, but building after building turned out to be run down or liqour stores or whatnot- not exactly the kind of atmosphere we were looking for. We did get to talk with a girl at the bus stop and and another girl walking to the bank, but by that time we were soaked and it was time to head back to pick up the car. As we were crossing the street back to Pep Boys, a car raced by and splashed through a HUGE puddle — the kind seen in a movie where the water sprays over the person crossing the curb, only thankfully Heavenly Father gave us a tender mercy and it only got my shoes. Not that it would have mattered anyway, we looked like we had just jumped in the ocean.

After that, we went to contact a referral Sister Kennington and Kearsley had. He is Persian and wanted a Farsi copy of The Book of Mormon. Sister Nelson taught me how to say, "hello, how are you doing?" in Farsi, so that helped us and he allowed us to come in and talk with him about The Book of Mormon. 

It is amazing to me the spirit of The Book of Mormon. Just talking about it, it touches people's spirits. It reminds them of who they are and where they came from. He allowed us to come back and teach him more about it this week.

At the Battalion, we were able to take a member couple through the tour. Afterwards, they wanted to go to the tower, but they wanted to take the elevator. We warned them it was slow, but they didn't mind. We have to wait for our guests to be completely done before we go up to the front, so Sister Kennington and I waited at the bottom for about 15 minutes. All of a sudden we heard, "SISTERS!" They were stuck in the elevator! About 10 minutes later after getting the site director and the senior couples, we got them freed. What a crazy end to a crazy day!

What stuck out to me most is that Heavenly Father will do anything He has to to remind his children who He is and to help them receive the teachings of the Gospel. Whether it means sending two silly sisters who think they can walk nine miles in the rain just to share two mormon.org cards with people at the bus stop, or having my companion teach me how to say things in Farsi to warm up a man's heart, all of it happens for a reason. Because He cares! Because He loves us!

I just wanted to share with you one more thing today. I was reading my scriptures this morning and I was reading the last chapter in Second Nephi. The last words that Nephi wrote down was his testimony of the Book of Mormon. His last thoughts, the last things he wanted to share with us were these:

"And if ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ judge ye- for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory that they are his words at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things notwithstanding my weakness. "
The Book of Mormon is true. I know it! I can't explain it exactly, but because of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to my soul as I read its pages, I know that it is a book from God. I have seen it change people, I have seen it bless people, I have seen it work miracles. Such a book would not come from any other source but our Father in Heaven. Reading its pages brings great power.

This world is hard! It is distracting! And Satan is trying so hard to get us to take The Book of Mormon lightly (yes, even us missionaries!). Don't take it for granted! Think of the sacrifices that our ancestors did to bring it to us. We owe them and Heavenly Father more than to set it on the bedside table or let it collect dust on the bookshelf.

I promise that you will receive strength and power as you read, and blessing will pour down on you from heaven!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The miracle of forgiveness and Brittany's first baptism

SAN DIEGO — It sounds like you all have been super busy! I loved the picture of the girlies in their costumes —SO STINKIN CUTE!

I am glad to hear you all had a good Halloween. Halloween as a missionary is different, but as a Battalion sister, it is even more different! We all had to be in by 5:30, but I was working at the Historic Site, and it never closes, so we were there. We had the little kiddos come into the room where we dress people up like soldiers and gave them candy from the haversack. It was super cute.

Later that night, we had a Halloween talent show/party at the Battalion with all the sisters. It was so much fun.
One of the senior couples, Sister Stallings from Twin Falls, made spud nuts! YUMMY! Oh man, it reminded me of the good old days in Grandma Morgan's garage, eating her yummy doughnuts and having "stone soup". 

Mom and Dad, I hope you know, when I have children, you are required to have a Halloween party in the garage, so start preparing! Oh and Mom, I am so happy to hear all of your missionary experiences! I love hearing about them. I want to be that kind of member missionary when I get home. 

Sara said that Juli sent her and I a Halloween package? I want to say thank you in advance! It will probably come today, so thank you Juli! I hope you are getting cozy in your new home! Love you so so so much!

I took a couple from Finland through the tour a few days ago, and those amazing memories at the big blue house flooded back to me! I have been writing down the people I have been able to share my testimony with from other lands and so far I have been able to share it with people from Ukraine, Israel, China, Japan, Russia, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, England, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Tonga, New Zealand, and Australia. Isn't that so neat how Heavenly Father is spreading the Gospel throughout the world in so many different ways? I love it!

Before I have to head out I want to tell you about H.R.'s baptism! He is the Marine that we have been teaching, and he was baptized on Saturday. He has a friend in the Marines that is Mormon and has been a great example to him. He had missionaries teach him for a while and then he got deployed, but after coming back, he wanted to learn more and so we have been teaching him. I am just going to write down part of my journal entry because it's easier:

October 29, 2011

HR's baptism was today. Sister Nelson and I got to the church early and started filling up the font and setting everything up. I had no idea how stressful setting up a baptism could be! H.R. and his family arrived —HR with a big grin on his face. How could anyone not be happy on such a day!

As we sang an opening song, "Come, Follow Me," I could almost imagine Jesus inviting HR to come into His fold. The spirit was so strong. As HR walked down into the baptismal font, it all hit me: I hope heaven is as happy as today has been, watching one of Heavenly Father's sons return to Him.

As HR came up out of the water, the Spirit hit me so strongly as he paused for a second just looking down at the water. I could almost see the burden this Marine has had on his shoulders being lifted off. I have come to appreciate the Savior's gift of the Atonement more and more as I have seen what it has done and can do for people.

As HR was getting dressed, Sister Nelson and I prepared a message about the Restoration. President Clayton (our mission president) came walking in at that time, which was nerve-wracking. But despite my wobbly knees, I was able to bear my testimony of Joseph Smith and God's love for all of us. I could almost feel the angels I am sure Heavenly Father sent to be at HR'S baptism today. It was so nice to have part of heaven with us in that little room in Ranchos Penasquitos, California.

After, HR bore his testimony. What hit me the most was when he looked up at us with tears in his eyes and said, "I never thought I would be ready to be baptized, but its true, its true." I couldn't help but sit in awe that this Marine, who felt like he had done things that could not be forgiven of, stand in front of me with his head held high, with a new countenance and a light shining in his eyes. It is hard to comprehend that power that God has to change us, to heal us, to love us. This was such a special moment — I am sure that angels were singing for joy as HR made this covenant today. This is a moment I never want to forget! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chastity, The Book of Mormon, and a white castle

SAN DIEGO — This week has been so full of miracles, I figure the best way to share with you is to share some clips from my journal.

Brittany was so happy to get letters and packages
But before I do that- HR Dudley, the marine we have been teaching is getting baptized this Saturday and we have 4 other investigators with a baptismal date for the middle of November! There are no words to express what it is like to see a person use the gift of the Atonement to change their lives completly to follow God. I wish I could explain it. I was thinking about the thoughts shared with me from Elder David A. Bednar's talk and there is a quote in Preach my Gospel from President Howard W. Hunter that talks about missionary work and our own conversion:
"Surely taking the Gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people is the single greatest responsibility we have in mortality... we have been privileged to be born in these last days as opposed to some earlier dispensation, to help take the Gospel to all the earth. What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others... A great indicator of one's personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others."

It's just as Lehi felt when he tasted of the fruit of the tree, he desired his family to taste of it as well. I don't know all of you who are reading this, but many of you have tasted of the fruit, many of you have experienced the cleansing power of the Atonement — don't keep it to yourself, go share it with others. I promise that looking outward and not inward, by thinking of others and not yourself, you will be following the example of Jesus Christ and will become more like him.
October 19, 2011
We were on splits today because we had too many appointments. Yay! What awesome words to hear as a missionary! I taught HR the Law of Chastity with his girlfriend and Relief Society President, Amanda Stubbs. I had the most amazing experience as we finished up the lesson. I asked him if he had any concerns or questions that would be keeping him from living the Law of Chastity. Immediately I felt as Ammon did in the Book of Mormon when he was able to discern the thoughts and intents of King Lamoni's heart. I knew exactly what HR was worried about —that it would be hard for him to keep his thoughts and words clean while he was on base with the other Marines. We were able to talk about his concerns and because of Heavenly Father's tender mercy, I was able to help him with his worries...
October 22, 2011
We had the temple shift this morning. There were lots of people here today, but mostly for weddings. In Winnie the Pooh terms, it was "a blustery day"!

While we were shivering under the umbrella at the temple, a car pulled up and a guy asked us for a Portuguese Book of Mormon, which we were more than happy to give him. He told us that he was Mormon and that his girlfriend told him about a dream she had last night with a white castle and how badly she wanted to go inside during her dream. The boyfriend told her he would take her to that building and we were able to give her a Book of Mormon and send the missionaries to her home because she wants to be baptized. Wow, what a testimony of how Heavenly Father really does know and love us individually and will answer our prayers in many different ways!...
October 24
We were on exchanges today. I was in my area with Sister Kearsley and we were able to teach Michael, Kerry, and Raul. Kerry came to the church and we talked to her about the Plan of Salvation. I asked her if she received her answer about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. She looked me straight in the eye and in a whisper said, "yes, I know that Joseph is a Prophet of God and that this book is true"

I do too! I know that Joseph is a Prophet and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, another testament that Jesus Christ lives, and a loving gift from Heavenly Father to guide us in this day! It is amazing how powerful the Book of Mormon is. It truly has "a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword or anything else"

As we were teaching Raul, we asked him how his reading was going. He said in his own words, "Well, it's going okay, I'm really bad at names, but I read about these brothers that went to this mansion to go get some books, and the bad dude, was like, "bang bang bang" I want your riches, and so they had to run away and then later the bad brothers were whipping their other brother and the Spirit came and told them to knock it off...." Oh my goodness, Sister Kearsley and I looked at him with our jaws dropped to the ground — I'd say he is reading and understanding the Book of Mormon!

The Book of Mormon is such a powerful source in conversion. There is a talk called, "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon" by Ezra Taft Benson. It is an amazing talk and something I have been thinking a lot about this week. I have been able to talk to a lot of people about Joseph Smith, I have reminded a lot of members about the sacrifice of our ancestors, and every day as I take people on the tour, i am reminded of what people, namely Joseph, went through to bring this Gospel to the earth again.

Joseph would not be tarred and feathered for a mere lie, he would not watch his children, neighbors, family, and people be mobbed and persecuted because of their beliefs, he would not go through trial and tribulation to bring forth the Book of Mormon for a lie. He would not do that!

He has passed on his legacy to us. It is now our turn to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon, to turn outward and not inward just as Jesus Christ would and teach, help, lift, inspire, and love all of those around us. You can do this! You are children of God, you were born with the responsibility to share what you know with the world. I know that there will be many people waiting for you when you return to Heaven, with arms wide open, thanking you for opening your mouth and sharing what you know. You can do this! Go forward with faith, not fear! Share a smile, give a hug, and let your light so shine:) 
I love you all so much. Thank you for sharing with me all of your experiences. You are so amazing, and I am so lucky to know you all.
Just FYI- Transfers are November 9th. I think Sister Nelson will be transferred since she has been in the area so long, but honestly I have no idea.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Created for greater things

SAN DIEGO — Once again I am writing you with tears dripping down my face! Man, who knew you could all make me cry so much!!! Sara asked me a question last week that I forgot to answer. She asked, what is your biggest blessing?

Without question, the first thing that popped into my mind was family. And I'm not just saying that because I am writing you. Seriously, you mean the world to me! Heavenly Father knew I needed all of you. I need your teasing, I need your hugs, I need your laughs and smiles, I need your words of encouragement. I need every single part of each of you that has helped me become who I am today. Most importantly, thank you so much for loving me.

"For a wise and glorious purpose, thou hast placed me here on earth..."

Heavenly Father has been blessing us in finding a lot of people to teach. I want to tell you about a couple of them:

H.R. (ya, that is his first name) is a Marine that the other missionaries referred us to.  He works with a Marine who is Mormon, and before he was deployed to Japan, he took the missionary discussions, but he was not interested. He has been back for a few months and is really interested in the Church and has accepted a baptismal date for October 29th, and is so excited to be baptized. I can't believe the change in him. It is so amazing what this Gospel does for people!

Kerry is a friend of Michael's (our investigator that can't get baptized yet). She comes from a broken home, and has had a rough life, but every time we meet with her, she can't stop talking about the peace she feels. It is such a testimony to me, hearing people who do not know what the Holy Ghost is, talk about it. More and more I am reminded that we are not teaching these people. We are reminding them of who they are — of their divine worth and the potential they have. How could anyone forget living in the prescence of God? They can't. I am so grateful for the tender mercy of Heavenly Father sending the spirit to touch our hearts and remind us of where we came from and who we can become. Those moments are priceless.

Archie is a referral from the Elders. His mom and sister were baptized a year ago, and he never wanted to "barge in" on their lessons, so he has no idea what they believe, but as he has been learning about the love Heavenly Father has for us by restoring His Church here on the earth, and as he has been reading the Book of Mormon, his heart has been changing and he wants to find out if what we are teaching is true.

I wanted to share a little bit about these people, because each of them came to find out about the church through an example of a friend or family member. (That could be and definitely is all of you!)

As I have been on my mission, I am learning more and more what God expects of me and what promises I made to Him in Heaven. Oh, how I wish I wouldn't have wasted so much precious time before my mission when I could have been lifting a burden, mending a heart, sharing the truth of this Gospel, giving a smile. Life on earth is the time to prepare to meet God — what better way to prepare to meet my Father than to follow the example of His son, Jesus Christ, and serve His children.

I have a quote in my journal from Elder Holland that I have been thinking about.

"I believe we have all been created for greater things than we can comprehend. The times call for great things, but great things in the noblest and most redemptive sense are predicated upon tolerance, love, respect, understanding, dignity, prayer and God."

I want anyone reading these words to know that I add my testimony to that of Elder Holland's. You are created for great things. You have divine worth. Don't hold back the love that God has given you — go share it with the world!

I know this letter is a short one this week. I'm really sorry, I just am kind of at a stupor of thought. I don't know what to share with you, which has not happened before because usually I put you through reading long letters of which I'm sure most of it is boring. Is there anything you want to know about? Sometimes I get into the missionary groove and forget that you might have questions or curiosities. Let me know, I would be happy to share. For now, just know that I love ya. I'm doing well, and trying my best to move the work forward.

Love you all. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The miracle of the missed appointment and unanswered questions

SAN DIEGO — Wow, I can't believe another week has gone by! I am almost halfway through another transfer! I hope Little Brooklyn had a Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a fun little birthday party for her.

Well, once again Heavenly Father has been showing me miracles. It is amazing how when you open your eyes and your mouth, the miracles that He can send your way. It reminds me of the scripture in Mormon- 
"And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many miracles? And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being?" (Mormon 9:18-19)

I know with all my heart that He has not ceased to do miracles. I want to share with you a couple excerpts from my journal that happened this week:

October 7, 2011
I saw so many miracles today! Both of our appointments fell through — that doesn't sound very much like a miracle, but indeed it was. We had a member with us, so we went to visit Brian Murray, a less active member. I hate apartment complexes so bad! I always get so lost and of course once again we found ourselves wandering aimlessly around the complexes trying to find a building that didn't seem to exist.
We were about to say a prayer when a young guy walked out of the complex. Our member recognized him from high school and so we were able to talk with him. His brother is a recent convert who he is living with and he agreed to come to church with us on Sunday!

On our way to visit a former investigator's home, we saw a lady walking her little granddaughter and stopped to talk to her. She expressed that she just moved in and was looking to attend a church. Heavenly Father knew our plans for the day, and He needed us to talk with these two people. Just coincidence? There is nothing in this world that can make me think that this was anything less than a miracle from God. He numbers His sheep. Even in a little town in San Diego, a woman taking her granddaughter for a walk and a young man on his way to a job interview matter to Him.

October 10, 2011
We were able to contact Pani, a former investigator that the elders found, and set up an appointment for today. Pani is from Iran, but her family moved to Ukraine, converted to Christianity and now lives in San Diego.

As we sat in her living room tonight, she couldn't stop asking questions. She had so many, all we could do was listen to her concerns as she kept asking and asking and asking, giving us no room to answer — "How can I feel the Spirit?" "Where am I going after this life?" "Does what I do here even matter?" "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

My heart ached so badly for her. I watched a 19-year-old woman voice her deepest concerns and desires for her life and she didn't have the answers. She didn't know she was a daughter of God. She didn't know that her Father listens to every prayer she says, and knows exactly the intents of her heart. She didn't know that she lived with her Heavenly Parents before coming to this earth and that she chose to follow the plan to help her become like and return to her Father in Heaven. She didn't know that Her Father made a way to restore His Gospel on the earth for her day in this time.

We, of course, couldn't teach her everything at once, but we did talk to her about the Holy Ghost. After the lesson, as I was saying the closing prayer, my heart longed so badly for her to recognize the Spirit. I prayed with as much faith as I could that she would recognize the feelings of the Spirit. After we got out to the car, I got a text from her that said three simple yet beautiful words: I feel amazing.

Family, I love you so much. There are so many miracles around us. Something I wish I would have done better before my mission is not being scared to open my mouth and talk to people. There are people longing to hear about this Gospel — And yes, there are even people in Utah and Idaho, too! Please open your mouths, talk to people! You don't have to share a formal testimony, but your light and your spirit will touch your hearts. I want to hear about your experiences, I promise you that if you act in faith they will come! I love you more than you even know!
Mom and Dad: HAPPY LATE ANNIVERSARY! I know it was on Sunday, but I forgot last week to wish you a happy day in advance. This is so bad, but I can't remember how many years you have been married? Are you on year 30 or are you passed that? Time goes way too fast! Also, I can't remember when Grandpa Newmans Birthday is? Is it like the 23rd or something?

Thanks for updating me on the goings on in football. It's so funny, we get a lot of visitors from Arizona and Utah who are huge BYU fans, so I get bits and pieces now and again. Sara told me Nick and Juli got moved into their apartment? Sounds fun! You will have to send pictures! Speaking of pictures, could you send some pictures of the family? I only have two — one of Sara and one of me and mom. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Sis: (I'm going to write you a quick note here, because I don't think I will have time today to write you a handwritten letter, sorry!)

My missionary plaque scripture is 2 Nephi 22:2. What do you want yours to be? And I just have to say, I almost stood up and cheered when I heard you placed your first NG tube- THATS MY SISTER! You rock Sis! I know the tests are going to be one of your challenges in nursing school, but don't let that discourage you. Remember, Heavenly Father wants you to be there, you have and always will put in your best, and He will do the rest. Trust Him, He will not fail you, I promise!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"You Mormons speak so freely to God"

SAN DIEGO — It sounds like you are all doing well and busy busy busy with life!

Wasn't Conference SO GREAT? I can't wait for the Ensign to come out so I can read it again!

To answer your question about what I did for Conference. We watched the first session at the Mormon Battalion and then drove to our area and watched it at the stake center.

I don't have a lot to write about this week. It was such a hard week. I am beginning to understand a tiny bit what Ammon is saying when he said, "Now when our hearts were depressed and we were about to turn back".

I know that just as the Lord told Ammon, I too must "bear with patience thine afflictions and He will give unto me success."  So many people in the world think that baptism is the final step. I am here to testify that enduring to the end is where it is at! I know we can all do hard things, we can all bear with patience our afflictions for God has promised us that when we do, He will reward us openly and how great those blessings will be!

There is nothing new to report on our investigators, so I would like to share with you an experience I had working at the Mormon Battalion- it is an entry from my journal, so it might be a little bit scattered- sorry:

September 28, 2011
Tonight at the Battalion, I had a special experience. I was taking a tour of a young family and an older couple. The elderly man told me he had been here before, but wanted to show his wife the tour and the mother of the young family was talking to me about her mission, so I assumed they were all Mormon and thus tweaked my tour towards Mormon families.

The young family had to leave the tour early because their daughter was scared, so that left just me and the older couple. After the tour I gave the man (Curtis) a referral card. He held it in his hands for a minute and then he just started talking. He said, "you know, I think it is really neat how in the other room you called God, Heavenly Father. It just rolled off your tongue so easily!" He explained that he is Presbyterian and he never knew anybody to talk so freely about God as "Mormons do". As he was talking about how we so easily talk about Heavenly Father, I realized, "Yes, I do indeed know my Heavenly Father!"

How many people in this world don't even realize how kind and gentle and loving He is?!? I felt the Spirit so strongly talking with him. I know Heavenly Father was answering my prayers and testifying to me that He really is here. I never want to forget that warmth and comforting feeling that I felt sitting at the end of the tour in a brick building with this man and his wife. For a moment, I could almost touch Heaven. I could almost feel Heavenly Father wrapping His arms around me. I could almost hear Him whisper that He was proud of me.

He lives! I know that My Father lives! I know that his Son, my Savior and Redeemer live! What comfort that sweet sentence gives.

He loves you. He numbers you. Just as President Uchtdorf said, we are numbered like the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky. Though we may be nothing to the world, to Heavenly Father we mean everything!


Mom: I would LOVE if you could send me an ensign! THANK YOU!

Thank you for your package you sent — I LOVE the treats you sent me — the granolas and trail mix are THE BEST thing ever!

Dad: I would love it if you sent me the general conf talks/ more music! I can even send my iPod home and have you put it on that so you don't have to send another one?  We do have the aux jack thing in our cars, so that would be AWESOME! I am so excited for you and Sara if you end up going to Finland. I wish I could go back! I want to write Leena a letter, so I might send it to you and have you forward it to her since I don't have her address. I keep thinking about the saints in Russia and Finland- they are so amazing!

I love you all to the moon and back!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Peppers, pit bulls and patriarchal blessings

SAN DIEGO —It sounds like I might have forgotten to send my letter from last week, so here it is:

It is so good to hear from you! I love hearing how things are going with all of you. I only have a few minutes today to email. We got to the computers late and someone is signed up after us. I have to say this week has been a "hoot and a half" as Sara would say:)

We had exchanges this week. The first day I went with Sister Kennington to her area, El Cajon. We did service for an older lady who is curious about Mormons. She had us wash all the baseboards and doors and frames in the upstairs. I never thought I would miss cleaning while on the mission, but I have to say having a bucket and rag washing the doors brought back good memories of Saturday chores with mom and Sara! (Mom, do you remember when you tried to get Aara to want to do chores and so we played that "Rats" game and whoever won got to pick the job they wanted to do?)

The hard part was that this woman chain smoked so bad — not even kidding! I felt like I was getting lung cancer just breathing in there! By the time we left, we smelled SO bad! We had to take off our layers and sweaters so that other people we met that day wouldn't think that Mormons Smoke! It was pretty funny.

The next day, I had exchanges with Sister Kearsley. I was in El Cajon again. We had a dinner at a member's house — cream of carrot soup and stuffed green peppers (yep mom and dad, I can see you laughing right now: you know how picky I am!). Well, thank goodness for Finland's not so delicious Mammy and nasty fish stuff, that broke me in. I ate it with flying colors and a smile on my face. One thing I hate about being a missionary is everyone feeds you SOOOOO much! If they have to roll me off the plane when I get home, I am NOT going to be a happy camper! (Don't worry mom, I am eating my vegetables!)

The week doesn't stop there. Just yesterday, we were walking back to our car after an appointment and there were two men in the garage. I said hello to them, but they had a big mean dog and it looked like they had been drinking, so I kept walking. Sister Nelson decided to walk up to them and try to give them a Mormon Battalion card and a mormon.org card, even while the dog was barking and showing its teeth at us! You know my luck, the dog starts chasing after me! I squealed like a little girl! I said the fastest prayer I have ever said in my life and fortunately, the dog stopped before it got me, but you can imagine I was not very happy with my companero!

I have learned the difference between Elders and Sisters- When Elders see a dog with fangs, a mean bark and drool hanging from its mouth, they run! When sisters see a dog- they try to give handouts?!?!?

On a spiritual note, I have been thinking a lot about my mission call. I have shared with some of you that I have always felt like I promised Heavenly Father that I would serve a mission, and being here I know I am keeping my promise. I was reading my patriarchal blessing yesterday, and it stuck out to me that one of the promises I have made is to gather Israel, to share the Gospel with all the world. My patriarchal blessing says that I will have the opportunity to bear testimony to many people, people of other lands. 

I have been pondering that this week. In the past two months I have been able to bear my testimony to people from England, China, Germany, Spain, Austria, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia and many other places around the world. What an amazing opportunity this has been for me. I want you all to know the testimony I have that we are all God's children. I see all kinds of people here in San Diego — so many with different circumstances and outlooks on life.

Many of them don't even know who they are. I do. You and they are sons and daughters of a King! You are Royal. You are worth something. God loves you and He numbers you individually. I know He cares. I have seen His hand in my life and the lives of others every single day. This is God's work. He has restored his Gospel on the earth today. The hail, the storms, the shafts in the whirlwhind cannot change the Truth. Satan can try as he might, but he will not win. Lies, tricks, and deceivings never win in the end. The truth will conquer —He lives! I know He lives!

I love you all so much. Please don't hold back — don't you dare hold back what you know! God's children are looking for something and they don't know where to find it. It is in each of you. You have the light of Christ. You have a testimony. You matter in God's plan! He needs you! You are his missionaries whether you have a black name tag or not — you have been called to this earth at this time for a specific reason. What trust He has in each of you!
Go out and do good in this world like I know you are already doing. I love hearing how you are all doing. Thank you so much for loving me!

Sara: I LOVED the pictures of the glasses- You are STYLIN! and the snuggie is pretty awesome too. I am so excited to hear you like clinicals! I am going to have to hand write you a note to answer your questions because I am low on time, but know you have a letter coming!

Nick and Juli: So where did you move to? I need your address! I love you all, please tell the girlies hello for me! Thank you both so much for writing me, it means so much!

Chris and Hannah: Brother, I am due for another letter. It has been three months, wasn't that our deal?! How are things going for you? Hannah, I hope you are doing well, sure do love you both!

Mom and Dad: Thanks for the updates. I laughed out loud when I heard both of you were using the sound dictation system at the same time in different rooms of the house to write to me! Thanks for the BYU update. WOW! I am SOOOOO glad the Central Florida game was so good! Keep me updated please!

Uncle David: I don't know if you read these blogs, but I was thinking about you the other day and all of the fun memories me and my family have had with you: ice cream and brownies on Sundays, visiting you at Modern Display, lots of fun stuff. I just wanted to say hello and that I love ya. Please tell Natalie, Jason and Brandon hello for me, I hope they are doing well!