Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This photo is the Russian squat... It is so cold that they all squat with both feet flat on the ground and believe that if your yahoos touch the ground that you will be forever infertile! (Is that even okay to say in a missionary blog?) Anyway... here is the last e-mail!

Hahaha that story is awesome because Bishop Wadley always knows how to play it cool. Kind of funny to think of him in a weird situation like that. I read the card he wrote to me the tuesday right after I got set apart, just a few days ago actually. He had some really good advice in there and it reminded me of all the good people who helped me out when I needed to get my rear end in gear for my mission.

I'm so glad to hear that Caleb enjoyed the Book of Mormon!! Haha everyone was wondering (of course) why I had an ITALIAN Book of Mormon. Good stuff. But I really hope that Caleb enjoys that. Maybe he'll even get through it before I get back! Also, BIG NEWS about the church: a few days ago, President Monson officially broke ground for the Rome, Italy temple! You probably already heard about that but I thought it was so cool and just wanted to let Caleb know about it. I looked at the pictures for what the planned temple is supposed to look like and it's going to be gorgeous. I love hearing about new temples. I love the idea that these ordinances are really being set up everywhere throughout the world so all of God's children can partake. It pumps me up (as Elder "West Point" Noren would say).

Well what else. The Russian's coming along! We had an investigator scenario lesson where the Sisters in our district taught our teacher, and at one point during the lesson they shared a part of the Restoration video. And it was in RUSSIAN. All our lessons are in Russian now. Man, Russians are so cool. The voice acting (dubbing) was the greatest thing ever. I kind of understood a lot of it, but it's really hard to follow when you're listening to a native. They speak extremely fast. So I had to get a lot from context, and put it together with my limited vocabulary. We've taught a few native Russians who volunteered at the TRC. A few weeks we taught a sister from... Moscow, I think? She spoke really fast and fluently (of course), but it was an amazing experience because we were able to converse back and forth, and address concerns. And more importantly, we were able to invite the Spirit, particularly when talking about the Book of Mormon. There's something about doing that in another language that gets me. I guess it's the idea that this message really is for everyone throughout the world.

Sam, thanks for all your advice. Seriously, I hope you don't feel like you're being overbearing when you write stuff like that because I really look for it in your emails. Stuff like that helps me out a lot, and more than anything it gets me stoked to go out into the world. I've got a lot to learn over the next 4ish weeks, but the closer I get, the more real it becomes! Haha, kind of like a MISSION was in the first place. I've found that you really go through the same thing again once you're in the MTC... And by "same thing," I mean waiting for your MISSION-mission. You boys will know what I'm talking about. But I'm sorry about your last companion!! That sounds miserable... 0/2 haha. But look at you! You're optimism is amazing and I'm positive that it will pay off! If you feel like you're not getting much out of all your hard work, just realize that if nothing else you're an amazing example of a perfect missionary for ALL you're little brothers! Which is ironic because I'm the oldest brother... Hahaha.

Mom, I just got back from the temple and I've just finished doing endowment work for the last of the names you gave me. Thank you so much for letting me do those for you. I really feel connected to those people now. I feel like they've had a huge impact on my own personal conversion here in the MTC. It's absolutely no coincidence the most of my reservations about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith were completely resolved by the end of the temple session today. It's hard to explain. But I feel like I had an extra witness of the Book of Mormon added to my testimony as I've put more effort into studying it, and as I prayed for help in the temple and did these family names. These people have interest in us...

CHARLES wrote me yesterday. I got a dear elder from him and I'm extremely glad about it. He's not living with anyone in our circle of friends, really, so I've been worried that he'd be hard to get back in touch with after my mission. I was going to write him today, so I'm really glad he wrote me yesterday. He said he's started reading the New Testament which is a huge deal. I've been writing to all my boys who aren't on missions right now. I want to keep in touch so that when we all get back from missions they'll feel comfortable in our circle of friends. I think that's soooo important. No one left behind.

Thank you also for sending me that newsletter! It was so fun to read about everyone. I can't wait to get out there

I love you all! Thank you so much for your letters! I hope you enjoyed the pictures and I'll be sending more home soon! Please feel free to send me pictures whenever you take any! (Although my email time is so limited and these computers are kind of slow so it might be best to send physical copies.) Agh! Time over! I will contine this message with my letter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wowza I only have twenty minutes left to write stuff. This timed email thing is the BEST.

Okay. What do I write about? Let's see. The new elders are coming in TOMORROW. I'm stoked beyond reason. When I got here I remember looking at the Elders who had been in 6 weeks already and I thought I'd never get to that point but here I am. It's so crazy. I'm already halfway done here! It's an awesome feeling. And I can't wait to meet all the newbies. This week has been kind of nice because there's no wait for showers or volleyball or nothin, but it'll be so fun to have a "full house" again haha.

Okay story time. I got a dear elder from Mom yesterday and you mentioned how you were focusing on gratitude because of President Monson's talk. We had an awesome MTC fireside on Sunday and it made me want to change some things to make better use of my time in the MTC and on my mission. So the night before I got the dear Elder, the thought came to me that I wanted to pray throughout the entire next day without asking for anything in personal prayers in order to develop a better sense of gratitude. Okay, so it's not a very original idea, but I feel like the Spirit directed me to that desicion so I followed it. And it was awesome. Yesterday was such a great day because of it. I feel like previously I had this view that a mission is some huge task that's going to beat me to death but it'll be worth it in the end and I just have to hold out through all the trouble and hard work. But ever since I started focusing on all the blessings I've been given--and all the...(dare I say it)... FUN a mission has been--it has made me nearly completely blind to any of the trials that I might be going through right now. Everything is easier and more fulfilling. And what's more, I find out that after a full day of praying in gratitude, my dear old mum's been doing the exact same thing back home! We're definitely connected more than we realize, even though I'm not living with you right now.(P.S. I say a mission is fun, but I don't mean that in the sense that I'm just playing around. When I say "fun," I mean I'm enjoying all the work and learning and all that good stuff. Just sayin.)

Nother story. Yesterday I had a few hours for personal study time and I decided to spend the whole time reading the Book of Mormon and studying the scriptures. I read the verse in Alma 62(?) where Moroni writes in his letter to Pahoran that he does not fear man, but God. That led me on a huge scripture chase about fearing God and standing up against opposition and all that good stuff. I mean HUGE scripture chase, like two hours of awesome stories from all the standard works, Like Paul from Acts 5, and even the midwives during the time of the birth of Moses in the Old Testament. So I want to tell mom where my scripture chase ended: I found myself (with 5 minutes left of scripture study) at the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego, and I read the line where they say "But if not..." Immediately I remembered one of those late-night-one-in-the-morning talks I had with you, where you talked to me about the end Hebrews 11, and I turned to that scripture. As soon as I read it, I felt my faith strenghthened immensely, and it was like a personal message from God that after all the learning I had gotten from the scriptures in those 2 hours, the Spirit led me to a verse that had originally been shared with me by my mother! So awesome.

Okay five minutes left. Nother Story. We were looking through Elder Bangerter's notebook and we found a page with meeting notes labeled "Meetings/Boaring Meetings." It was hilarious. We joked about how it sounds like a hunting term. " 'Ere we go a-boarin'!!" New district motto/mascot. We hunt boars???

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MAN I've only been gone five weeks and my parents have already decided to get all old and go blind and stuff. Hahaha I love hearing stuff like that though because it reminds me of home. Stuff like that is so funny to hear when you know the personalities of Mom and Dad. I'm gonna come back and you'll all have canes!! Haha

Okay, so see what you've started? Last P-day all four of the Elders in my room got our home address and said "I wanna write Ma Morris!!" Good luck deciphering Elder Ortner's letter. He writes super small and he's got pretty bad handwriting... Hahaha. I read over it and I understood what he was saying because I knew the context. Basically, he wanted to thank you for the support, and he said that the package was actually super helpful because they needed to find some clay for an object lesson with an investigator. But lo, when times were bleak, the fart-putty came in the mail to rescue our dear Elders Ortner and Windham. Our most somber respect reaches far to our dearest Missionary Mom, Ma Morris. (Pictures of the us trying to knock over a jones soda bottle with a giant green sticky hand to come.) I also LOVED Caleb's letter, and I loved hearing about stuff from home in the Dear Elder. I always look forward to hearing from home. It gets me through the hard times when I think about all the support. I wish I had a cyrillic keyboard. Then I could take a few moments of pretentiousness and type "I love my family very much" in Russian. BUT ALAS.

Sorry I've been writing really weird so far. Hahaha. How are things at home? Did you love teh pictures? We just took a ton more pictures last Sunday on the temple walk because half our zone just shipped out for the Motherland/Ukraine/Baltic States/everywhere else. THAT'S SO LEGIT. I was way excited for all of them to go... But it's extremely strange not having older missionaries here... It's just weird to think that we're the ones on top. We also get EVERYTHING to ourselves until wednesday in a week and a day. That's when the new elders and sisters come in. Apparently we're going to be getting something like 21 new Russian-speaking sister missionaries. That. Is ridiculous. I wonder how many Elders are going to come in. It's going to be a ton. Anyway, that should be exciting. It will be fun to help out the greenies and kind of get them settled in. I know that helped me out A TON, being able to talk to the older missionaries with more experience. It's so much easier to hang in there during the hard times when you've got people who've gone before. So we'll be doing what we can to help them out.

Our district grew when Sister Alexeenko came in, but then they made a new district of all the Elders who had previous Russian experience. So Elder Ortner, Elder Windham, and Sister Alexeenko all moved to that new district, and now we're just a tight little group of 8. It's really fun, and it's worked out okay. But Sister Alexeenko has kindof had a hard time with her new companions because they're not really as committed as the Sisters from our district (GO 9B!!). So I will be sending ANOTHER updated district photo. WOO. That reminds me, will you send me some photos from home? I'd love to see my dear old family.

Russian's coming well. I memorized the first vision no-pycckuu yesterday. I might sound like a two-year-old deaf kid whenever I try to have any sort of normal conversation in Russian, but at least I can fluently tell people about Joseph Smith! YEAH! But really, I'm surprised at how fast everything is coming. During study it's easy to get down on yourself because you realize how much more there is to learn. But when we actually apply what we've been studying by talking to people, it's amazing to see how far we've come. I really feel like certain things come to my memory that I didn't know I knew off the top of my head. It's legit.

Awesome that people are reading my blog, haha. Or Mom's blog about me, I should say. It's kinda weird because I've never seen in, obviously. Anyway, cool! I really like the idea of it actually. I got some pretty rad photos, so make sure they go up for teh hole wyde interwebz. Haha. I didn't think anyone would really look at the blog, but I've gotten a letter or two saying that friends have looked at it. Reminds me, when did you see Chris, mom? Did you go down there or did he come visit? I really want him to be visiting you guys. I kind of grilled him last letter--AH I NEED TO GO AHHH BYE LOVE YOU

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


OI. Conference was AMAZING, I agree with you there, Sam. I don't know exactly how to describe this past week. I feel like I'm going through my own sort of conversion, and that there's a ridiculous amount of opposition. The adversary does not want me to find out for myself all the things I'm teaching. It's super tricky because I felt like I knew everything before I came out! And now that I'm here, I'll have these super spiritual days where I'm on fire all day long, and then the very next day I'll hit a "low" and start worrying about my testimony and questioning myself. But no need to worry, I can promise you that those times are just temporary--very temporary--and knowing that, I make it through just fine. I remember talking to returned missionaries who say that a mission is a roller-coaster. I always took that with a grain of salt, but here I am! It's amazing though. I'm learning so much through all this. I'm learning to rely on the Lord, and I feel like now more than at any other time in my life I have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. I'm learning all of this just like a brand new investigator has to! It's impossible to describe, and it's wonderful. Brother Wood said to our district that during his mission, he felt like he was going through a personal conversion whenever he brought an investigator through. It literally seems to go like this: We find out for ourselves how to come unto Christ, then we go out of our way to find people who need help finding Christ and walk with them through their conversions. I'm satisfied to speculate that we do so much more than just call from a high spiritual place--if that were the case, then the church wouldn't have any problem with doing something extremely general in place of missionary work. But it's a personal work we do with each individual investigator, which requires us to make the journey of conversion with each of them. That's unspeakably significant. Isn't that how the Savior works with us? He personally suffered for us, and knows each of us. When we build real relationships with investigators, we can personally know them, and know what their going through so we can help them. I guess I don't have much experience in the matter. I'm still in the MTC!! But somehow I know that this is what it's like.

Conference was definitely a highlight! Just like dear ole Sam said, it was like a feast! I felt like everything shared was personally relevant, whether it was something I could apply to myself, or something I could explain to loved ones who might need help. Story: President Monson, on Saturday morning announced the new temples and talked about his experiences in dedicating the other temples. I LOVE how he talked about Kyiv, and how he told us about the cultural celebration they had. I choked up thinking about a temple that close to Russia! I felt pretty stupid getting worked up over something that seems so small, but I feel like I have a connection to the Russian nation, and I don't even know them yet!!??!?!! I just thought about how awesome it is that more people are recognizing the church in that area of the world, now. And how fitting it is that the Ukrainian people would hold a celebration in a PALACE to commemorate that great milestone. That just blew me away, for some reason.

And of course, priesthood session was TEH BOMB. I felt so empowered, being able to bear my testimony through song! It was such an amazing experience, and there was power in singing about missionary work. Elder Nelson's (?) talk about missionary work was so awesome because it made me realize how badly I want all my brothers to serve full time missions. I want it so much that it hurts sometimes!! I saw the three of you there with Dad, faithfully following him to come and listen to the prophet, and I felt so proud of my li'l bros. Dad says Caleb wants to start studying preach my gospel. I'm so impressed by my little brothers! They're miles ahead of me. Do everything you can to get ready for a mission!! That means listen to Mom and Dad!!! You will never ever ever regret it. You owe it to these two to serve honorable missions and make them proud. I can't even begin to think of any way I can pay back our parents for devoting their ENTIRE LIVES to us, making sure that we have the Spirit in our home, and making sure that we make the right decisions. You have no idea how important that is until you're off on your own! And of course, more importantly, you owe it to our Heavenly Father! Think of everything He's done for you, all the preparations you received from him before you came to this Earth! Get out there and make our parents proud, boyz!! I love you all to pieces! I can't tell you how happy I was to see you! You're all making me proud, and you'll all be much better missionaries than I could ever be, because you're starting early. Don't give that up!
one minute left. Funny story: Brother Shelyakin heard us all practicing russian really quietly, and he said "speak up! If Lenin whispered like that, there would have been no revolution!!" Then he started imitating Lenin and saying "Dear comrades!" in russian. HAHAHAHA.