May 27, 2009





May 19, 2009

To Dad,

Despite not having the Suns in the playoffs, this conference finals looks as legit as can be. A bunch of gangsters all going at it. Kobe, Odom, Lebron, Iverson, Carmelo, Howard. So ghetto. I'm so all about it. We'll need to be watching ALL of these games, please. I'm reminding my companion that this is all next week and probably all in HD and he's burying his head in his hands. Haha oh boy. OK, Anyways...

On Sunday I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. Having considered the counsel you gave me regarding how to give a talk, I used the story you sent me about the conversion of Parley P. Pratt. I translated the story into Portuguese and used it to illustrate the power of the Book of Mormon in converting ourselves and in converting others, and thereby making us great missionaries. I felt like it was a wonderful example, simple as it was, how he had been converted by the Book of Mormon, then turned around and bore that testimony to the world. He was one of the greatest missionaries of this dispensation. Just the example of a great missionary in the early days of the Church is enough to welcome the Spirit, but I hope that at least someone at church was able to grasp on to what I was hoping to tie it to--which is member-missionary work. Something I have tried to dedicate myself to very much in the last few transfers. It is the best way to do the work.

The last speaker at Sacrament meeting was a man named Christian Klein, second counselor in the stake presidency. He talked about missionary work, amongst other things. As he spoke, he thanked me for my talk and then mentioned that the man Parley P. Pratt had special meaning to him because one of his descendants was the missionary who taught and interviewed his grandfather to be baptized years ago in Sao Paulo. The name of that missionary was Wilford Cardon. My thoughts turned to how the early days of the Church in Brazil must have been. How great they must have been. I felt a great love for missionary work. I hope that I can be that special missionary for someone generations from now.

So from that I discovered first hand that storytelling really is the best way to give a talk. Thank you for that suggestion, Dad.

I want to thank you and everyone for so many things that have helped me to learn and become something better on my mission. I want to thank you for being an example of a good man and so many other things. It's a hard thing to put into words how you want to thank your Father for things that have such eternal and infinite significance. One of the things President Cardon taught me in the CTM is that it's difficult to describe the infinite in finite terms. Such is the case with me trying to describe the way I feel about my family, or say thanks for things that have been so important. I guess all I really can do is just say thanks. So, thank you.

I make it sound like something is ending and it's all sad, but really it's more the opposite. I mean yeah, the mission is ending, but all the greater then is my resolve to do what is right and live worthy of an eternal family one day.

Everyone's getting a personal e-mail today so I have to cut it a little short here because I still have to write everyone else. You were the first though. Just one more thing I wanted to say--I'm honestly amazed by the grace of the Lord in my life. This is something I can't help but make mention of. It's hard to think about without becoming emotional. That too is something hard to describe--what forgiveness and learning and testimony and love for the Savior feel like. But those are some of the things that have been mine during this season of my life and I am endlessly grateful to Heavenly Father for having given me these things. My testimony before the mission might not have been something that would have lasted me my whole life. Now it is fixed.

We have a lot to talk about and plan when I get home. Really, A LOT. So I hope you're up for it! I can't wait to see you again, Dad. I love you.


May 19, 2009

To Momma,

To me, it's a miracle that I've served a mission. But I think it's perhaps an even greater miracle that you've managed to survive me being on another continent for two years. Congratulation, Momma! I'm sending everyone smaller personal e-mails today to say thanks for things and whatnot. Really, I don't know where to begin. There's so much. I want to thank you for being my Mom, for having raised me, for having supported me, for having given me so much and for having been an example to me and a standard for what I should look for when I want to get married. There's so much to be thankful for on the side of a son who has good parents--especially a good Mother. I love you, Momma. I wish I could actually express in words how much, but so long as that's impossible, just know that I love you.

I like to think that for every son there's a lot to be sorry for. Part of me learning and changing on the mission is recognizing just what an idiot I really was before. Not that I'm perfect now. I have many flaws. But I've learned a lot. Really, if anyone were to ask me what was the price I had to pay for me to learn to do what is right, I would say "two years of my life as a missionary". That having been said, I'm sorry for anything I've done in the past that has made you even a little worried, sad, upset, disappointed, frustrated or any other mildly negative adjective you can imagine. Now, don't go thinking too much about those things, just know that I'm sorry for all the stupid things I've done to make your job harder in the past. I can't do much to make it up to you while I'm here but you can be sure that once I'm home I'm at your disposal to do WHATEVER YOU WANT! You name it. I love you more than I can say and I've gained an incredible appreciation for motherhood, especially for my own mother. As far as things I can do here, if you remember last Sunday on Mother's Day I did dedicate the song "Hey Momma" by Kanye West to you! I don't know if anyone managed to play it during the day but feel free to take a listen, haha. Really though, it's a good song. I like it at least.

Momma, we've got a lot to do when I get home! I'm excited. I'm SO excited!

Don't worry, I'm not going to be condemning anyone to hell when I get home. You can be sure of that. I'm not here to judge anyone. I've made a goal to not be what they call, in Portuguese, "chato", which connotes anything at all displeasing or irritating. I know a lot of returned missionaries get that way. I would rather not be chato. Nevertheless, if anyone is seeking my counsel for any reason I would gladly share my opinion. But most likely only If I'm asked.

I love you. I can't wait to see you again. As a matter of fact, I HAVE missed you all this time, and I will be so happy to be all yours again. I love you.


May 12, 2009

Just a reminder first... don't forget to call President Gulbrandsen and make sure someone is around to release me when I get home. I assume that's already been taken care of, but one way or another just let me know so I can put my worries to rest.

Phone call was so great! I felt wonderful afterwards, as always. I swear I could talk on the phone every week with you guys. For some, it takes their focus off the work completely. For me it's therapeutic. It makes me feel more calm, more in control, and much happier. The mission is hard, even when you're two weeks from going home, and you need every chance you can get to smile and be happy. There's no greater joy to me than you guys.

After phone call we went downstairs from the little English School we were at and met an investigator named Marcone and his not-so-less-active sister Elda who started coming back to church when we started teaching her brother. She is 29 and he is 39, although he doesn't look it. We hopped in their car and they took us to the church they go to sometimes. The church is called "Sara Nossa Terra" or "Heal Our Earth", which is very a typical, empty Brazilian evangelical church name. Like all of them, they had a rock band and a pastor who yelled a little. He told this Mother's Day story about Abraham's wife. It was okay, but it also kind of reminded me of why there is no mention of our Heavenly Mother in the scriptures---exactly so that her sanctity isn't made a joke of the way Heavenly Father's so often is. Elda turned to me at one point and slipped me a note written on one of the little tithing envelopes that were sitting on our seats when we got there, it said: "they're weird, aren't they?" I looked at her and said "who"? and she pointed all around and said, "everyone".

They dropped us off afterward, we were very polite and very grateful. We marked to come by the next night. So, yesterday, we got to their house where they live with four or five other siblings and taught them about the plan of salvation. We bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. We told them, when we were asked, how we felt about the church we went to on Sunday night. We said it was very nice, but that we ought to be careful not to confuse the Spirit of the Lord with emotion. We invited Marcone to be baptized on May 24th. He accepted whole heartedly. He'll be baptized my last week! I'm so excited.

President Pizzirani is really upset because the mission is baptizing very few men and families lately. I understand where he's coming from, I really do. He sent a bulletin out to the whole mission burning everyone. Which is absolutely fine. Sometimes I need a little kick. Although I feel like he might have been speaking a little bit emotionally, I love President and I always appreciate his counsel. I want to make him happy and I seek to understand his vision more and more all the time. I know it's the right vision. The vision the mission had when I first got here made me want to go home.

Thanks for all the advice, Dad. I appreciate it all very much. I need to remember those things. And Momma, if you'd like to fly here to stalk me I suppose that's alright. My companion might be a little freaked out. Don't worry, two weeks is no time at all. I'll be home plenty soon. As for the airport, I don't mind who's there really. If Hajax wants to come hang that's fine with me. If anyone is afraid to let their emotions show, don't worry, because I'm not! So take peace in that. I don't know if I'll cry. Maybe. If anything I'll probably just be worried about people making fun of my hair loss. I'm gonna look like Uncle John one day. So anyways, yeah, bring whoever, fine by me.

OK don't forget to call right away, if you haven't already, and make sure someone is around to release me. I guess if they have to they can release me by phone? I don't know. Either way. Don't get me wrong, I love being a missionary. But really, I only love being set apart as a real missionary in Brazil. Once I'm home it's time to be a normal person.

One other detail about going home---I know I said that going to the Temple was more on the want list, but I've decided to move that up to the need list. Essential. I can't have going to the Temple on the same list with cowboy boots and an iphone.

Next week will be my last e-mail! If you have any last questions or concerns that need to be answered before I leave Brazil, next week is the time. I'm so excited to see you guys, and I'm so content with the feeling that I'm going to be near you again soon. I love the mission, I love Brazil, I love so many people here, but I really do love you guys more than any of that. You are the most important of all people or things or places in the world to me.

Have a good week!

April 28, 2009

So I only have three p days left. It's winding down and I'm getting crazier as the time goes by. Poor Elder Brown. He's full of envy of Japan trip. A simple, begrudged "thanks" is all he has to say. I spent most of the morning sitting at my desk eating Japanese chocolate with a big smile on my face, spouting off spiratic Portuguese phrases that just naturally come out these days when I'm overjoyed.

I'm particularly excited about going to Japan because our best friend in the branch the last few weeks has been this fat guy named Carlos who speaks perfect English and served his mission in Japan. He had a few black companions who taught him a lot of the gems of the English language. He's showed us a lot of pictures from his mission. Japan looks simply AMAZING. I cannot wait. I'm so excited. You got my other email, right? OK.

Dad, to answer the two questions you had (about the stories and about a Japan itinerary). First, thank you very much for the stories. They're wonderful. I particularly liked the testimonies others gave of the Prophet Joseph. I enjoyed very much the story about Thomas Kent. I didn't know anything about that before. I love that kind of stuff, it's so interesting to me. I'm bummed because I probably won't use it here because of the amount of background with the Civil War and all, Brazilians just don't know anything about that and I would have to explain a bunch of other details for them to get it. But you can be sure that story will come in handy for future talks and lessons when I go out with the mission at home. I'm currently in the process of translating what I can into Portuguese and I'll be able to use some of that soon with the members and investigators. Thank you so much!

As for Japan, I'm going to talk to Carlos and I'll get you a list of things next week. Of what I know right now, I think I'll probably want to see the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Apparently the biggest roller coaster in the world is in Osaka. Kyoto would be cool for seeing shrines and learning about history and culture. Tokyo just sounds amazing overall. I don't even know where to begin. Let me just talk to Carlos first and then I'll be a little more sure. Plus I'm sure I'll want to look up a few things once I'm home, and Michelle and Jonny will plan all kinds of tight stuff. I say spending at least one night in the little pod hotel thing is a must.

This week has been great. We had a wonderful family night last night with Joao and his family at a member's house. We taught about the restoration with this kid named Wanderson who is preparing to go on a mission. I love Wanderson. He's kind of a butthead, but he says that it's because of our visits with him and his family that now he's decided he wants to serve a mission. When I got here three months ago he was inactive. We're also working with his friend Wesley who has also become even more decisive about going on a mission. He too was inactive when I got here. These two guys are the best.

I'm pretty sure I won't see Joao and his family get baptized, as much as I want to. The marriage thing just takes too long here. It makes me really upset at Brazil. They could have been baptized two months ago if the government were to have just made things simple with marriage in this country. Awful. But I'm happy as can be for them because they're progressing and they will get baptized. It's just a matter of when. I'll see the pictures.

We had a great experience yesterday after our district meeting--we saw Stella!!! It was so wonderful to see her. It made me so happy. I hope it didn't show but I was a little emotional. I don't think she noticed at all, I do a decent job of controlling myself. We have been praying since we found her that she might understand and accept the gospel. Since it had been a few weeks we got worried, we prayed that we might find her again, and yesterday we did. I was touched at God's kindness with us. She probably doesn't realize it, but she is an elect of the Lord.

Everything else is going great. I had a great last zone conference this week. I gave a talk on Sunday that was probably my last talk in Portuguese. Scary. Be sure to let me know soon how long Bishop wants me to talk the Sunday I get back. I'll start preparing now.

I love you. Have a wonderful week.

ps: here's a picture of me with Japanese candy this morning!!!!!

April 21, 2009

I have one suit now. I've gotten rid of almost everything. Actually, there was a member in one of my areas that took one of my suits and had it tailored to fit him without saying anything to me. Brazilians...
The suit I currently have will work just fine for Sacrament meeting the Sunday I get back. I'll get it cleaned before I come home.
Thanks for the itinerary info. I read it out loud to my companion and he appreciated it very much. He still has a year and a half left:) You said I leave at 6pm from Brasilia and get into Sao Paulo at 7:45pm, but I think those times are actually am, not pm. Since I've been here, the missionaries have always left early eeeaaarly in the morning Tuesday morning and then spent the day waiting in the Sao Paulo airport. Although if it were nighttime that would be fine with me. However morning would also be good because the plan, apparently, is to have a van from the CTM come pick us up from the airport and take us to the Sao Paulo temple where we would do one session there and then come back to the airport to catch our flight home that night. I don't know if that's true or not or if that would even work, but it sounds nice. I miss the temple.
Regardless of whatever we're busy doing the week I get home, please leave me a little bit of time to go to the temple.
I haven't gotten my secret special package yet but I'm hoping I will this Thursday at zone conference. I haven't gotten the special letter with the pictures of Mom's "changes in appearance" either. My guess is short hair? Fine by me. Anything to make me feel less self-conscious about my male pattern baldness. If you want to say "widow's peak" in Portuguese you say "entrada", which means entrance.
I'm pretty excited about how things are going in our area. We're having a breakthrough with member missionary work. Things are going as planned. We're dedicating most of our time to visiting the members, teaching them, challenging them in simple and easy ways to be the "finders". Little by little we're having results. If this is the last thing I can do in my mission, good then. Our Branch President told us that we're the only missionaries that have ever come to this area that have given an honest and persistent effort to working well with the members and administering the teachings of the gospel through the members, which is how the leadership of the Church wants it done. I know we're doing something good, even though it's not what the majority of missionaries do here. Unfortunately, there are a lot of missionaries that rejoice only in numbers and do everything for the wrong reason and have completely the wrong vision. It makes me so sad. I love this mission! I feel the Spirit tell me so strongly and so peacefully that the way we're doing things here is the way God wants it done. I'll need to keep in touch with the Branch President and Branch Mission Leader after I leave to see how things turn out here.
That's all for this week. Oh, I saw Elder Cosme last Monday on transfer day. He finally came back from the jungle. He cried when he saw me. I saw Elder Chacon too, but didn't manage to get a picture with both of my kids like I wanted. Oh well.

Have a great week! I'll get you the phone call number next week. I love you.

ps: Thanks for the stories, Dad! They're great, and they'll for sure come in handy.

April 13, 2009

You can tell Bishop Boyer that I'm very excited about speaking on the topic he gave me and it will be an honor to be able to speak. And if Bishop Sandstrom would like I would be very happy to speak at his Singles Ward too. Will that be my Singles Ward? I'll be honest, I'm a little freaked out about regularly going to a Singles Ward. I might need to get married as soon as possible to avoid that.
The only problem I foresee in speaking at Church when I get home is that I have NEVER given a talk in English!! For all the experience I've gained to giving talks over the last two years, none of it has been in my native language. I might have a hard time.

Changing the subject, before I forget, I would like to make a special request please:

To help the members here, I'm wanting to get my hands on some Church history stories. What I would like everyone in the family to do this week is search around the internet and books and ask others for interesting Church history stories, and send them to me in this next week's e-mail. Don't mail them. Copy and paste as many as you want. I'm going to print them out and translate them into Portuguese and use them in lessons with the members in their homes. People here love Church history even though it is not their ancestry.
Why I'm wanting to do this is because we've come to the conclusion here that missionary work does NOT work in the way we try to do things here in this mission. I mean, you have success every once in a while because God isn't going to allow the work to stop. But we know that it can be done in a better way---together with the members! Feel free to get on the Church website and watch the talk by L. Tom Perry in the Sunday afternoon session on the fancy Church video player thing. He articulates exactly what I feel about missionary work and the way it needs to be done. Some missionaries don't try to change from the way it used to be. We're trying to come up with new ways to help the members be more involved in the work.

I want to help complete families prepare to go to the temple and be sealed forever. That is my desire. I know it is President Pizzirani's desire as well. The problem in the mission is that a lot of missionaries are still trying to use all those old techniques but with new vision. It doesn't work. We're only going to have success if we work together with the members. It's as clear as day to us now. We can't do it alone, just the missionaries. In the last two transfers we've met a lot of really great people but no baptisms yet because we haven't figured out a good way to really work with the members well. We've got some new ideas now though, and we're going to put it in practice this transfer. Things are going to be really different, but I'm excited. My goal is to leave this area ripe for the harvest when I leave. Pray for us and for the members that we'll have success together in building up the Church here.

No one was transferred!! Elder Brown and I will stay together another six weeks. I'm really happy about that. I love him like a brother. And he'll kill me! In doing so he'll be orphaning two children, but I'm sure they're okay with that. Elder Brown's excited to be getting his first taste of blood in the mission. I don't know what I would have done had he been transferred. He helps me a lot and is an inspired missionary.

Someone mentioned Joao's family two weeks ago I think. He has not been baptized yet because we are waiting on the marriage. Joao needs his birth certificate to be legally married and he does not have it. We asked for a new one to be sent to him from his home state. That was two months ago. It still hasn't come. Our Branch President has decided that he and the Branch Mission Leader are going to drive 100 kilometers into Goias to get his birth certificate so that we can finally get the ball rolling. That's needing to happen because I haven't been feeling very good lately about Joao and his family, they seem to be getting a little stagnant with the lack of progress with the marriage and everything. We're running out of things to teach them. I believe things will turn around soon and they'll be married and baptized by the end of this transfer.

Stella is another person on my mind a lot. I get so happy when I think about her. Bel says she is always reading the copy of the Ensign (Liahona) we gave her. She's being taught by the sisters in a different city. I hope all is going well. The only thing I worry about is that she has a lot of questions. Not that it's bad to ask questions--we should all be courageous enough to ask the important questions. But if we're not careful it can be like building a huge house without any foundation. Each piece of wood is another question, and when it's answered it fits into its place in the house and helps build up something beautiful. But when the wind and the rains come, if there's no foundation then none of it matters because it won't stay grounded. Our knowledge of the gospel, great as it may be, can all come crashing down if we don't have the foundation of testimony. For every bit of knowledge we seek, we should seek testimony to go along with it. A lot of our investigators need to understand that, not just Stella. But I mention her because she has the ability to learn so much, and it will end up profiting her nothing if she does not gain a testimony.

It's important to remember that testimony is simple. All a testimony is is a confirmation by the Holy Ghost of gospel knowledge. Knowledge can be gained by the human mind alone, testimony can only be gained by the Spirit. That's why scripture study and prayer go hand in hand. We learn about the Book of Mormon by reading it and pondering its message, we gain testimony of its truthfulness by praying and feeling the way that Alma describes in Alma 32:28. It makes sense in our minds, it feels right in our hearts, it's peaceful. But that is not enough for a lot of people. That's why I worry. Not just for Stella and our investigators, but for Jonny as well.

OK I'm really, really, really, really excited about this trip business. I better get some information on it, quick! I'm hoping to get my last package this afternoon when we go to Asa Norte for the little transfer day family night with President. Which reminds me, two of my companions are going home tomorrow. Elder C Nunes and Elder Tenorio. I'll miss them. Next family night it will be me going home. Freak.

OK don't forget, Church history stuff. I love you guys.

ps: Tell me how the itinerary looks on my arrival home. What time I'm getting in etc. I'm sooooooooo curious!

pps: Tell Uncle John hi from me. Is he still dating the girl who doesn't shave her legs or arm pits? I'll be sure to pray for Eric and Sam, and especially Grandma D.

ppps: Tell Gma Hoon I hope she has a very happy 77th birthday! She deserves it more than anyone. Also, please ask her if she and Grandpa have gotten the letter I sent to them several weeks ago.

April 7, 2009

First, just before I forget, about you guys deciding when I'll call on Mother's day... you need to remember that I am not able to call you - you have to call me. Plus, I'll be needing to set things up here with my companion because he has his family too. As a matter of fact we've already got our location planned: we're going to use the phones at this business office owned by a member. Assuming I don't get transferred of course. It's very unlikely that I'll be transferred. I'll more than likely "die" here in Aguas Claras, but who knows? I'd be fine with it if I stayed here for my last transfer. I like it here. I love the members. I'm familiar with the addresses and I feel very comfortable, Elder Brown, on the other hand, he's almost certainly on his way out of this town. He's already been here longer than me. I always miss my companions.
Remember! Next Monday is transfer day. This is a short transfer, it's ending a week earlier. My old companion Elder C Nunes is going home, and so is Elder Tenorio. I don't know if anyone remembers me talking about them. I'll miss them.
As for me going home, the reason the mission office hasn't called yet is because everything got screwed up when I went to get my visa renewed like a year ago and that's halted things a little. I'm not sure what it was but they messed up on something in the office and so me, Valentine, Barton and Day are going to the airport early tomorrow morning to get everything fixed. I'm excited to meet up with them. As soon as that's taken care of I'm sure you'll hear from someone. I know things are moving along fine with making sure I get home when I'm suppose to because I got a phone call from the office early this morning asking which airport is closest to my house. I felt old.
Speaking of making sure everything is normal for my coming home, you might want to get a hold of President Gulbrandsen and make sure he's going to be in town the day I get home. There was an AP here that went home from his mission in November and when he got there his Stake President was out of town, so he had to wait another week to be released! Look, I love being a missionary, but I don't like the idea of being at home and still being a missionary. I think I would have some anxiety problems.
Now, as for conference... what a wonderful weekend! I was able to watch in English. It is so sooooooo much better in English. In Portuguese it's terrible. It's not their voices. It's not Elder Holland's voice, with all the emotion. Both Elder Brown and I feel that the best session was Sunday morning. It started with Uchtdorf's talk, which I loved. "Discipleship is not a spectator sport". Then Elder Anderson's talk. He was TOTALLY my guess for new apostle! I was so excited when he was called. Then Elder Let me just say, Elder Holland has a power to speak that is just undeniable. I am always amazed by his talks. I don't think I've ever heard anyone speak so beautifully about the Atonement. Then President Monson's talk helped me to feel greater love and appreciation for the Savior as well. There were many other wonderful moments. Please save a copy of next months Ensign for me (I know it's all over the Church website and everything but I want to keep a hard copy). I'm particularly excited that the next conference I'll be there in person. At least I hope so. I plan on going up to Utah to watch it all there. There are so many Brazilians who would give anything to do that and just don't have the opportunity. I can't take it for granted.
Stella went to conference and loved it. She's currently being taught by the sisters where she lives. One of them used to be in my district when I was in Arapoanga. She's in good hands. We'll see her once a week, every Monday after our district meeting.

I love you! Have a great week.

p.s. - I got the Easter box. Thank you. We're gonna use the Easter eggs to give candy to the primary kids on Sunday. Tell Hajax I was more than blown away by his long letter, and that I'm writing him back today.

March 31, 2009

Two Mondays ago Elder Brown and I were having lunch in a city a little ways from here after our district meeting, and this girl sitting at the table next to us turned and started talking to Elder Brown. Her name is Stella. She wanted to know a little bit about what we do and what we teach. She lived in the US in Atlanta for a few years and she speaks fluent English (and really well, without any accent) so we explained a few things about the Church to her in English. We stayed there for nearly an hour talking to her and her friend about the gospel. They seemed really interested. We told them that we wanted to meet up with them again somehow and teach a few more important things to them. Since they both live in different cities, we decided to meet them the next Monday (which was yesterday) at the English School they work at where they are both teachers. So, after district meeting yesterday, we went there together with another missionary who works in that city.

First, backtracking a little, on Sunday at church we were talking to a woman in our Branch named Bel who we always speak English with because she was a missionary at Temple Square and speaks fluently, and she started telling us about how these two girls who work at her English School had met the missionaries and how they told them all this great stuff and were going to come back on Monday. Bel didn't know it had been us that talked to them. We asked what their names were, and sure enough! Bel got all excited and explained how she gave Stella a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Livro de Mormon in Portuguese, and taught her a few more things about the doctrine. Apparently every day of the week Stella asked her if she really thought we were going to come back on Monday.

Stella also told Bel about a dream she had a few days before she met us at the restaurant. She said that in her dream she saw two young white men and was instructed that she should listen to them because they would change her life. She said that the dream went on the whole night.

So now coming back to when Elder Brown and the other missionary and I met up with her yesterday. Stella had gotten on the internet and read a bunch of things that weren't true about the Church, and luckily Bel had explained ahead of time that the majority of things you read on the internet about the Church are not true. She understood that if she has doubts about the Church, she ought not to consult its enemies. So she had a whole long list of questions for us written out on a piece of paper. We did our best to answer all of them, both in English and Portuguese. Between the three of us we did a decent job. I was a little concerned about the other missionary because he was acting a little gung-ho and Stella called him out on it. She said that when he tried to answer her questions she felt like he seemed threatened by her. But she was very forgiving and not upset at all. She is a very humble girl, and very sincere and interested in learning. At the end, Elder Brown (who, as a new missionary, doesn't speak the greatest Portuguese) told her as best he could that if she really wants to know if these things are true, she needs to seek a testimony more than she seeks knowledge. I bore my testimony as well.

Then she told us about the dream she had, and in greater detail. She expressed the happiness she felt hearing us speak, and her gratitude for our willingness to come and talk to her about the Church. Then she started to cry and said in English, "I hope you guys won't forget me". She apologized for having so many questions. We told her we would be right back there next Monday. I can't wait to go back and see her again.

There will be a lot of missionaries teaching her, along with the help of Bel and other members. Including her Mom who, as it turns out, was baptized in the Church some 20 years ago and has since gone inactive and never said a word to Stella about it.

She's going to watch conference at the stake center. She's excited too. Bel is going to give her a ride. We're perhaps more excited for her to go than she is. It's so wonderful to be used as a tool in the Lord's hands to help bring the Gospel to someone. This experience, along with others this week, has given me a greater appreciation for missionary work and a better understanding of what it really is. The Lord is entirely in charge of these things. It's not the missionaries. Nothing I did made Stella's life change. I was only worthy. She said as we were leaving, "I never eat at that restaurant we met at, and I had no idea that going there that day would change my life".

I hope everyone is as excited for conference as I am. I hope everyone watches every session and listens intently to every talk. Conference is such a wonderful opportunity to receive counsel and revelation. As for the Ensign, I guess there's no need to send it here. But please save me a nice fresh copy to add to my collection when I get home. Tell Jonny to watch a few sessions of conference. Maybe even take him to Priesthood session. Take Zach too. And Socs. I suppose he's old enough. I can't believe it's my last conference in the mission. Next time I'll be back home and hopefully up in Utah watching at the conference center.

I miss you family. I love you.

p.s. - the pictures from Squaw Peak look TIGHT. Let's plan on going on at least one hike that first week I'm back. Camelback would be fun too.

March 24, 2009

Let me go through and try to answer each question in the order it was asked.

1. I was not certain that the McRib was back, although Michelle had mentioned it on the phone at Christmastime and that made me very hopeful that it would return someday soon. They don't have McRib in Brazil, but they do have McDonald's. We have one in our area as a matter of fact. We actually went there today. I had chicken nuggets. McDonald's is soooo fancy in Brazil. All the rich kids go there after they get out of school. They remind me of the black kids I saw in Chicago the first time we went there years ago who were all excited that they got to go to "MAC-donalds". Does anyone else remember that?

2. I have heard from Maxwell. He wrote me. I have yet to write him back, but I had Lex send him a facebook message. He is my good friend. I hope he wasn't weird when he went to visit. Was he? He would never speak English with me. I hope he'll come back to the States again sometime before I'm able to come back to Brasilia.

3. I was not aware that we would not be able to come back until June of next year. That's too bad. I'll need to write some people when I get home and tell them I won't be coming back anytime soon. But then again, June of next year would be the earliest we could go as a family, right? Because of Dad's station rules? If I were to go alone, I would only need to wait until I have the tourist visa? Considering how much studying I'm going to want to be doing I don't think it would even work to go alone. Actually, even June 2010 might not work because I'm kind of wanting to do 3 straight semesters at MCC (fall'09, spring '10, summer '10 and possibly the winter intercession in between). Lots of school. Maybe spring break. We'll have to see. I love Brazil. I want to come back as often as possible.

4. Going on a trip June 3rd sounds fantastic to me. As for possible impediments:
a. I don't know our financial situation but I am 100% sure we'll be just fine as long as we pay honest tithes and offerings.
b. If Grandpa's condition makes it so we can't leave I completely understand and I am willing to help with anything he needs.
c. Apparently we don't have to worry about terrorism anymore because Elder Brown and I talked to a man yesterday who "knows" that we're really spies here working for the US government. He told us where Osama bin Laden is so we can take him out.
d. I'm sure I'll be plenty wiped out but I'll have a whole week to rest before we leave.
e. I don't think any de-worming will be necessary. I haven't gotten horribly sick yet on the mission. I haven't thrown up or been bed ridden for days. Only a few colds. I do plan on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables when I get home though.
f. Jonny can come with.
g. I would LOVE to learn all of the languages spoken in EUROPE and JAPAN and CHINA and INDIA. Now if that's not a hint I don't know what is.
h. My legs are fine. The Lord has blessed me. However, I would like to see the foot doctor (Dr. Allen I think... the one in Scottsdale that I got my orthopedics from) the week I get back just to see if there are any problems going on that I'm not aware of. I certainly have walked a lot and if I have some fracture that I'm not noticing, I need to get that taken care of asap. If possible, call this week and make an appointment for me.

5. Denver Lane is nowhere near as cool as PARKER REX!! Sao Paulo is tight from what I can tell. That would be a fun mission. I'm sure he'll have a great time. Too bad he may have to go to the MTC instead of the CTM. The CTM is a wonderful place. But no need to tell him I said that.

6. Yes, I got the camera and am taking good care of it. I'm taking pictures of everything I see.

Don't worry about taking my focus off the mission. I know how to focus. Feel free to talk about whatever you want to talk about. And feel free to tell me where we're going if we're going somewhere! You know that more than anything what I'm excited for is to see family/house/animals/friends. If that's all I have (along with maybe an ipod and a few good books) this summer when I get home, that's good enough for me. One of my very favorite talks from the last conference was by L. Tom Perry called "Let Him Do It With Simplicity". It's worth reading over and over again and to reflect on. It helped me to learn more than I had before that I don't need EVERYTHING I want. You guys, my family, are without a doubt the most important thing in the world to me. Nothing separates or changes that. So that's what I'm looking forward to most about being home.
As for work when I get home... I'm try to think of what I could do. I'm fluent in Portuguese. It's natural to me at this point. I'm only working on learning more advanced vocab and figures of speech and that kind of thing. I would actually really really like to teach Portuguese to English speakers and/or teach English to natural Portuguese speakers. So I would ask if Mom and Dad could look around for a way for me to do that either in AZ or maybe New York or San Francisco or Boston or Portugal or Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil or where ever.
This week was a fun week. We are teaching a few men who are just amazing to me. The ways they are changing their lives are incredible. These are grown men. Fathers. One man has been reading the Book of Mormon for just three weeks and has already gave/threw away his entire porn collection. Another has committed to live the word of wisdom and has been. Another has gone from 2 packs of cigarettes a day to just 2 or 3 cigarettes a day. Another man named Adiel whose wife absolutely HATES us and has threatened to separate from him if he doesn't stop talking to us. He's been a rock. He reads the Book of Mormon and has committed to keep going to church even if he can't be baptized (a man can't be baptized if his wife doesn't approve). There are great people here. Anyone can say whatever they want the world over about the Gospel and about the Book of Mormon and about Joseph Smith--none of it means that the Church is no longer true. You can even doubt it all yourself, but when you see someone you love change their life because of the Gospel, there is no denying it. At least not for me.

I love you, family. I miss you.

March 17, 2009

You asked for package requests, so before I forget:
1. I need Pilot G2 size 7 pens (or size 5 if you want, just not size 10!), feel free to send a pack of those.
2. I need PICTURES! Of anything. Socks, Pebs, Josie, the new (to me) plasma TV, everyone sitting on the couch with their macbooks. Whatever. Anything. I love pictures more than anything else.

I think that's all. There are a lot of great missionary resources that I've unfortunately only thought of late in the mission, and with only ten weeks left I don't feel like it's worth it to send them. Rather, I'm just telling my companions, (who, for the last 9 months, have been new missionaries in their first few transfers) about these things so they can use them throughout their missions. I'm happy enough about that. They take my ideas and improve upon them and get really excited so I suppose I'm happy to help. Makes me excited to help my kids get ready for their missions.
Thank you for putting money in my account to buy shoes. Which I did, on transfer day last week. I was a very careful shopper and didn't give up after one or two stores. I went all over the mall and my perseverance paid off. I found a great slip-on shoe for R$60 ($25 American). Quality shoe, really. I was so excited I wore them right out of the store! I left the old shoes there. They even brought out a box of trash for me to throw them away in. Elder Brown was so impressed by what we'd found he bought a pair too. We took pictures with everyone at the store.
I imagine I'll have some money left over from what you put in my account so I plan on using that soon to send home a box or two of things I don't have room for in my backpack, like letters and a few books. I think I'll check the weight at the post office here and then let you know the price just to be sure.
I don't have much time this week because I have a bunch of letters to write to people back at the house but I wanted to share one story.
Last night I was telling Elder Brown how ever since Mom and I had the opportunity to do the sealing for Bam and her husband in the Temple, I've always wanted very much to have some kind of spiritual confirmation that the sealing was accepted and that they were indeed now sealed together. We went on talking about the Temple and eventually our conversation turned toward patriarchal blessings. He told me something that his patriarch grandfather taught him. He said that any father's blessing, whether it is before or after, is a continuation of your patriarchal blessing. A father is endowed with the same patriarchal authority over his family, even if he is not ordained to the office of a Patriarch in the priesthood. So as we went on talking my mind started sifting through the priesthood blessings that you, Dad, have given me. Then I remembered the blessing I received from you a little while before going on the mission, when you mentioned that there were ancestors of ours on the other side who were proud of me for the decision I was making, and who where helping me. I remembered how at that moment I thought of Grandma Bam. For some reason, I didn't take that as anything special at the time. Only last night, nearly two years later, as my companion taught me about the power of a father's priesthood blessing, I realize that I had received a spiritual confirmation at that time that the sealing had been accepted. Now I know why I thought of Grandma Bam at that moment, now I know that her sealing to her husband has been accepted and they are together forever!
We ought to go to the Temple the day after I get back if possible.
One last thing---a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to Gma and Gpa Hoon about the Book of Mormon. I'm not sure if they've received it yet, but let me know if they say anything to you regarding it soon.

I love you and miss you more than ever!

ps: I'm glad your talks were such a hit! I'll go back and read that story about Pres. Aidukaitis' Dad again. He told me that story in an interview once, it really is great. I'd like to find the father of a future general authority here in Aguas Claras! Pray for us.

March 9, 2009

Don't worry, Momma. I've gotten very accustomed to teary-eyed women. Sister Pizzirani cries all the time, so did Sister Aidukaitis. S. Pizzirani is worse. But not worse than some of the women in the wards and branches I've served in. There are some people who just can't seem to be able to talk from the pulpit without bawling.
As for transfers, both Elder Brown and I are sticking around. I'm happy about it. I like this area, and Elder Brown is great. We're both really looking forward to this transfer. We actually have a few families and men already in mind that can be baptized very soon so we're expecting success this transfer.
I think our greatest success' this transfer have been gaining the confidence of the members and getting them more involved with and excited about the work, and also this 19 year-old kid named Thiago (chee-ah-go) who has been in from out of town visiting his uncle the last few weeks and has decided now after several times going out and walking around/working with us that he wants to go on a mission. He wasn't sure before. He was planning on coming here to go into the army but that hasn't worked out as planned. He's feeling a really strong desire to serve a mission now and wants to go as soon as possible. Last night we sat down and gave him as much counsel as we could about how to be a missionary. It was great. I'm so happy for him, and proud of him. He'll make a great missionary. He goes back to where he lives in Goias tomorrow but I'll be sure to keep in touch with him. I'm hoping he'll get his call before I go home.
As for this week, it was a slower week. Fewer people in church. Fewer new investigators. All the numbers were low, but I try not to concern myself too much with that because I know we've been working. We can work harder though, and we're going to.
If Grandpa's condition worsens and we're not able to go anywhere in the summer as a family that's alright. He's more important. I'll be happy to help take care of him too. I plan on taking little weekends and going to California and (maybe) Utah (to see Michelle and my missionary buddies there). We'll find some fun things to do even if we're not able to go everywhere as a whole family.

Love you, family

ps: Mom, if possible, write out some of these entries from Gpa's journals for me to read.

March 3, 2009

I think everyone is accustomed to working in our family. Everyone has or has had jobs and has helped with Church responsibilities and callings. However, I have to say that there is a difference between working as a full-time missionary and being someone who works hard for a good part of the day and then comes home to their own house and takes their shoes off and watches TV and eats a healthy, home-cooked meal and can relax, read a book, listen to music, and most of all--can enjoy the family they have so near to them.
Therefore, let there be no mistake, I am planning on fully taking advantage of being home when I am no longer a full-time missionary. I love my mission and I know exactly what it means to me. I plan on using my new work ethic at jobs, at school, and in doing many things to help the Church, and I'm looking forward to these things. However, you can be sure there will be plenty of sleeping (at least in the first week home), and plenty of late nights full of conversations with those I love, getting caught up on movies, music, books and whatever else has been going on since I've left. Maybe even video games, who know? Those things cool your mind off.
This last week has been wonderful. We brought so many people to church it was amazing. I don't say that to boast of anything I and my companion have done, but, like Alma, to boast of the glory of God. We were truly blessed because we worked hard this week and didn't leave a single house without leaving a strong commitment with each and every person to go to church. We were blessed to have the help of the members to give investigators rides to the chapel. On one of the trips we had so many investigators in the car I had to ride in the trunk! It was great. The branch president was really happy,so I'm happy.
There is a man named Jesiel we're working with to get baptized this week. He was someone we talked to on the street who accepted our invitation to go (like everybody in Brazil does) and then ACTUALLY WENT. He went to church all by himself, by foot! It was amazing, particularly considering he lives at least two miles from the church. We taught him all about the Restoration yesterday. He accepted everything really well and was excited about reading the Book of Mormon.
There were a few others who went to church who have shown some interest in being baptized so we'll see how this week goes. Should be crazy.
There is a really great family we've been working with this whole transfer (I sent a picture of me and Elder Brown with them last week). Joao (John) is the dad's name. He's a really good husband and father. He's a carpenter. His job is stressful and that made him pick up smoking several years ago. Before he met us he was smoking two packs a day, now he's down to just two cigarettes per day. It's been amazing to see his progress, and his family's as well. His wife is a great person, and his kids are adorable and hilarious. I love their home. We've taught a lot to them and helped them in many ways, and they've agreed to be baptized as soon as Joao and his wife are officially married (which is a little bit complicated in Brazil, as I've explained). They have a date for the 22nd of this month. Hopefully things are all taken care of by then. The challenges and encouragement from us and from the members, and especially from the family, have helped Joao to slow down his smoking a lot. We call him in the morning to make sure he doesn't bring his cigarettes to work. His ten year-old son keeps a record of how many cigarettes per day and at what time, and everyone in his family is sure to give him plenty of hugs and say I love you. I've gained a true testimony that when someone has faith in you and expects things of you, you can do anything. That's what families are for I suppose. That's increased my love for you guys even more.

Have a great week. I miss you.

ps: I got the package with the pancake batter and syrup this week. Elder Brown and I had a huge, fattening American breakfast this morning! AMAZING! Thanks from him and from me. And thanks to Dad for the amazing picture book of your trip with Grandpa to Pennsylvania. I love it. More pictures, please!

February 24, 2009

I pressed the power button on the computer as I was trying to find the USB port just now and off went the computer along with my email. Genius! It' ok though, I wasn't talking about anything too important. I was just talking about how great zone conference was yesterday, and that I somehow managed to hear the song "The Reckoner" by Radiohead YET AGAIN in the Brazil! Drove me crazy the rest of the day. Just so everyone knows, my love for Radiohead has perhaps doubled during this time of my mission.
Last but not least... YES I do have my passport. Well, the mission does. It's been in the mission office since the day I got to Brasilia. They give it back to you at the airport the day you go home. Good thing considering my tendency to lose things. So yeah, it's in safe hands. Plan away!
By the way, now that you've got me all curious about these fancy plans being made for this summer, feel free to let me know what's going on! You don't have to, but still. I'm allowed to remember that I'll be home in only a short 12 weeks. Eeeek. Exciting/scary. I may be needing this "step down" program.

I love you family,

ps: - Dad, yesterday I got your letter telling about your Civil War book. All I can say is keep them coming! I loved it all.
pss: - I'm asking for pictures of family and/or Socks.

February 17, 2009

OK, I have the address of our building, but unfortunately I forgot to check the apartment number before I left today. I would say to just send to the building but I'm not sure how they do things with mail there, so maybe it's better that you not send things to the apartment. From what I can tell there are no little mailboxes, and I never see letters slid under the front door, and there's no doorman at the front. It all looks a little weird to me. Just send things to the mission office for now. Safer there.
This week we met a bunch of great different people. We met a really nice Bolivian couple one day, then a drunk Argentinian the next. He only spoke Spanish, but I found that I could understand nearly everything he said. (I'm now even more excited to start learning Spanish when I get home.) The next day we met a girl from Nigeria who we taught in English. Then we ran into a Jehovah's Witness from England. He gave me some suggestions of places to go see in London. Everyone we've met this week has been really nice. Usually it's not like that. Perhaps the best lesson we taught this week was with a member of our branch here named Keith, who is an American who moved here six months ago and married a Brazilian woman he met on LDS link-up.
He doesn't know how to speak Portuguese, so it was funny watching him interact with this family we were teaching. He was all smiles. He bore his testimony in English and I translated for the family, and I could tell they were happy and felt the Spirit.
The members are really beginning to understand how we want the work to be done here. How the Lord wants the work to be done here, I should say. We want to be the TEACHERS, they need to be the FINDERS. It should always be that way, everywhere. The thing is, people who are not in some way naturally involved in missionary work because of their callings or whatever else, they don't think about missionary work. Therefore, we plan on going to a bunch of different member's houses this week to share brief messages, and leave little, tiny commitments like "tell someone in the next 24 hours that the Church is good", and then we'll go back (or call) and see how it went.
Depending on the level of involvement the person currently has in the work, and the level of courage they have, we'll adapt to each giving different commitments to different people. One will have to make friends with someone in their building and talk about the Church within one week, another will have to give away a Book of Mormon and then report back to us how it was received and when we can teach the person, another will have to say hi to everyone in their building, or invite someone on their floor to their family night. Things like that. If members aren't involved, we won't have any real success here.
Now my challenge to you, family, is to be an example of this and make like easy on the missionaries there in Mesa. I know they're out floating around several different wards and have a lot of planned dinners with the members, but that doesn't mean you can't call them and say "Elders, we have a family we want you to teach, come to our house at 6pm on Friday night and they'll be here waiting for you". That's what needs to happen here, and little by little it's happening. An idea for your new calling, Mom and Dad... you could have the missionaries come over to our house and teach the Restoration or the Plan of Salvation to some of the young single adults who are maybe a little less active. Promise food, and tell the young single adults that they each need to bring one friend. Offer to pick them and their friend up. The missionaries will have something to do, and more people to teach and to baptize.
I love you and I miss you and I'll send you pictures from Elder Brown's camera next week.

February 10, 2009

This week was progressive in regards to working with the members. We were able to go out almost nightly with a different member to work around the city. Most of them have cars, which helps a great deal. What comes most in handy are their testimonies and their willingness to help our investigators. There was one night this week we went to visit a guy named Ricardo with a member/returned missionary named Rafael. As they got to talking they realized they work at the same bank (Banco de Brasilia), only Rafael is quite a bit "higher up". I was touched as I heard an executive in a business humbly teach and bear his testimony out of genuine love for the Gospel to a man considered much lower on the ladder. Rafael offered a ride to Church, which Ricardo gratefully accepted. Then, on Sunday, seeing them sit together at Church, I knew that this was the way the Lord wanted the work to be done.
That night, we were offered a chance to speak at a little Church near our house. The lady pastor stopped us on the road and invited us to come by at 7:30. We went, and when she invited us to come up and speak we taught about the history of prophets God has called leading up to today. We asked the pastor lady to read Amos 3:7 for us. When we asked her what she got from that scripture, she took a moment to think, and then replied, "gloria hallelujah". We asked her again what she learned, and she read the scripture one more time, said "gloria hallelujah" again and then after a moment said, "I believe the word of God is inspired of God". There are no doubts, family, we are in the right church. James 1:5 was equally as misinterpreted and poorly understood.
In the end, pastor lady ended up not liking our message very much. We did indeed bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph, of God's pattern of calling prophets throughout history and the necessity of having a prophet on the earth in order to have revelation, authority, and therefore, the true church, in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. We gave pamphlets about the Restoration to everyone there and that really frustrated her. I've never heard so many "hallelujahs" coming from a clearly angry person in all my life. We got the address of a girl who was sitting in the front who is interested in learning more.
I'm fully convinced that if we get everyone integrated with the members here we will very soon have many baptisms. We had a meeting with the branch president on Wednesday where we presented our ideas to help the branch grow and he really liked all of them. It made me happy to see the branch president happy. We should always do what we can to make the bishop/branch president's life a little easier. We've likewise gained the trust of the counselors in the branch presidency, the Quorum president, and several other members who want to help and are excited about the future of the Church here. I'm excited too.
OK now the annoying asking for stuff part. I have bad news: I lost my camera. This means I lost about 7 months worth of pictures. I'm really sad, but I'll try to find something to learn from it. I guess I'm glad that there is really no means of chronically my hair loss now. I need to ask for a new camera still. As soon as possible, please send me a cheap little digital camera that I can just use for the last three months of the mission. I would like to at least be able to take pictures of my last few weeks and my last day. You could even send me the Leika that I got for Christmas before I left, if anyone remembers where it is. The only thing is I'm not sure where the USB cord is at. I don't necessarily need that, but I just wouldn't be able to send any pictures home. I mean I can always use my companion's cameras for that. Whatever is easier for you guys. Sorry, I hate asking for things.
Worry not, Momma. Soon enough all your kids will be living in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

I love you, family.

February 3, 2009

That's right, I'm happy to say I am a missionary who now has time on my hands! I am no longer District Leader, nor Trainer. I don't want to make it sound like those responsibilities are no good, but it's a relief to be back to being a normal Senior Companion Missionary. It was all a good experience for me and I'm really happy I went through all I did over the last five months. It was the hardest time of my Mission. It's over now though, and I can just focus on work, work, work. I am in a new area called Aguas Claras, in the DF. (It's not Taguatinga, Momma, but it's very nearby.) My new companion is Elder Brown. He's from Antioch, California near San Francisco. Two California companions in a row! He's from Elder Chacon's group from the CTM. They are such a great group of missionaries. They all speak Portuguese really well for only having three transfers, and they will no doubt be great leaders in the Mission.
We spend most of our time working in an area called Areal that is smaller and has more houses. Aguas Claras is all skyscraper apartment buildings, but it's where almost all the Members live so I imagine we'll start working more in that area soon. We need to be working with the Members here. We have a strong Branch of about 200 Members, many Priesthood holders, many tithe-payers, and about 30 returned Missionaries. It's about ready to become a Ward, I don't know what it is that's keeping that from happening. My hope is that we use this time to push the Branch past the point of being "ready" to be a Ward, but that it BE a Ward. To do this, we'll need to work with the Members in a very efficient way. I think this part of my Mission will be mostly dedicated to learning how to work best with the Members.
Chapter 13 in Preach My gospel is about exactly that, working with the Members, and I need to study it more closely and pray to have ideas of how, using the Members, we can really find the Elects here. The Lord has already answered our prayers and fasts from last week of how He wants the work done here. It is, without any doubt, working with the Members. He's blessed us with some ideas that I really think will help. If things work out as planned, I can expect to not dirty my shoes nor break a sweat with this transfer. We will train the Members, and they will fulfill what Elder Bednar instructed the Church a year ago, that the Missionaries are the full-time teachers and the Members are the full-time finders. We won't have to knock on anymore doors, and we won't have to spend anymore time thinking of where we can go after all our appointments have fallen in a matter of hours. We will work with referrals and everyone will be planned visits in Member's houses, or there will at least be a Member present at the investigators house. Please don't misunderstand, it's not that I want to be lazy, only that I know this is the right way to work. The field is white and ready to harvest, so we ought to go about harvesting in the best possible way. It's been made known to me that this is a place where the Members can be and need to be involved in the work.
My only worry is the time. People are rich here and they have a lot of fancy appointments. Pray for me and my companion that things work out here and we will be blessed with the help of the Members, and particularly pray for them that they will receive revelation and will have opportunities to bear their testimonies. My whole Mission I've always wanted simply to be a Missionary that (1)trains the Members, (2) teaches the Gospel to those the Members have found, and (3) has no leaders breathing down my neck about numbers because the work is steadily progressing and the Elects are being baptized. Even with only four months left, I know that's possible.
This week we had a meeting with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve at the chapel in Asa Norte. It was wonderful. He taught us some really great things to help us be better Missionaries. He gave us four points to remember: (1) Love the people and the culture, (2) Love your Mission President and his wife, (3) Love your companion, (4) Love the Savior. He mentioned that when he was a Missionary years ago in England, he and Elder Holland were companions at the end of their Missions, and they learned these things and had success because of them. He said that he too had two different Mission Presidents, and that it was a very similar situation to ours here. The first brought in the numbers and lifted the faith of the Missionaries, but it got to a point that there were so many children and young people being baptized that there weren't enough adults and Priesthood leaders to take care of it all. The second did more refining of the work and got things more organized and on track and the area grew towards having a Temple.
The most touching part to me was when he told us the story of when he was called to the Twelve. The Thursday before Conference he and all of the Seventies were brought together to have a big lunch with the Apostles and the First Presidency. Then they went to the Salt Lake Temple and had a big Testimony Meeting and everyone had a chance to speak. Then the Wives left and the Seventies stayed in the Temple to spend a little while in reverent prayer and scripture study. About 4 o'clock he got a call to go meet with President Hinckley, who was almost always joking around and making fun of the Seventies when he saw them, was as serious as he had ever seen him. He simply asked Elder Cook if he would be willing to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. He said that at first only feelings of inadequacy and inability came and he didn't think he was worthy, but President Hinckely stopped him and said, "no, none of that, I only want to know if you are willing to accept the calling", and he said that he was. Telling us how it was that he was able to accept such a responsibility he said that one time he had asked Elder Neal A. Maxwell what it takes of someone to be an Apostle, and Elder Maxwell said the only thing you need to do is ask yourself, "how comfortable do you feel testifying of the divinity of the Savior?" And he realized after President Hinckley had stopped him and asked him if he was willing, that he was completely comfortable testifying of Christ. He then bore that Testimony. It is powerful to hear the Testimony of an Apostle standing right in front of you.
Since then I've asked myself everyday, after every lesson we teach, that same question. "How comfortable do you feel testifying of the divinity of the Savior?" Those words are in my mind a lot. Probably because I can improve on it. We all can I'm sure. As Latter-day Saints, it would be worth asking ourselves that more often I believe. If we truly are comfortable, we need to pray to have opportunities to bear our testimonies to the people who are prepared to hear them. We'll find many people for the Missionaries to teach.

I need to go eat ice cream. I love you family. I love each of you perhaps more than I ever have. And for as much as I miss you, just remember you only have four more months of receiving truckloads of blessings. Enjoy it while it lasts. I'm writing a letter to Grandma and Grandpa Hoon today about why I asked them to read the Book of Mormon. I hope I say the right things. Pray for them that they'll understand what I say, in the way they need to understand.
p.s. - Don't worry, Cards National Champs 2010

January 27, 2009

No e-mail from Elder Hoon this week! It is transfer week and we are assuming he is getting transferred. Let's hope he is happy about it and that we will hear from him next week.

January 20, 2009

Every once in a while I get an e-mail from Tim if something momentous happens in sports. This week I get "CARDINALS IN THE SUPER BOWL", followed by Mom's letter which mentioned the same thing. I can honestly say I cannot believe it. I don't believe it. I still think this is a joke. Is it a joke? Be honest with me. It can't be real. If so, DAD, TIVO THE GAME FOR ME! PLEASE! At least burn it onto DVD along with President Hinckley's funeral and B. Obama's Ignauguation. So many wonderful things happen when I go on a mission.
Once again I have no time to talk. I have a million things to do on the computer in a short amount of time, and then I have to get on a bus and go to Brasilia to have my monthly interview with Presidente. I'm excited. Although I'm not excited for running around town doing all of my usual p day things in only a few hours. I still have to shave.
I'm really excited about the Cardinals. They're gonna win. (Speaking of that, who does it look like will win the fantasy league?) I'm really excited about having a new U.S. President. I'm happy that Maxwell went to visit and that Elder Chacon's Mom sent you guys an e-mail. They are not from the military, they are just very rich. His Dad is a Real Estate Agent. I'm especially excited that Grandma Hoon is reading the Book of Mormon. Please tell her that she can know for herself that it's true if she will just open her heart and pray to know. Anyone who wants a testimony of the Book of Mormon will get it, but they have to actively seek it.
I love you, family. Have a great week.

January 13, 2009

I have to give a short update this week because I have a bunch of stuff I have to do on the computer. Momma, thank you so much for wanting to give me a nice room to live in when I get home. I'm sure I will freak out. Feel free to send me a picture if you want! Or if you want it to be a surprise, that's fine. Dad, thank you for all the supportive things you tell me. I'm really grateful for that. I'd love to get a letter from you telling me all about what you're reading lately. Those are my favorite letters.
I have yet to get any letters at the apartment this transfer. No Christmas card or friend letters that you mentioned, yet. Hopefully soon. Elder A. Nascimento called me and told me I have a package that arrived safely at the office. Just to tease me I suppose. I'm looking forward to that.
The Lord has been blessing us with good people to teach and we're really happy about that. We brought a lot of people to Church last week. It was wonderful. Thank you for your prayers, I know they helped.
The Members are off on their Temple Excursion this week. I'm jealous. I can't wait to go to the Temple when I get home. Not only in Mesa, but several others all over the world. For all the family and friends and music and movies and traveling and school and reading and fun things that make me miss home, one thing that makes me miss home the most is going to the Temple. I hope the Lord will help me to learn a lot there.
We're working hard. Two more weeks left in this transfer, then only three more transfers. Who knows, maybe it's my last two weeks as District Leader? Maybe I'll leave Planaltina? Maybe I'll go off to the jungle finally? I don't know. What I do know is that I love the Book of Mormon. I love to teach people who will listen to us. I love you guys. I miss you. Have a good week.

January 6, 2009

I have to say that Conceicao (our recent convert of a few weeks) is the absolute joy of my life. She and her daughter, Debora (which is not an ugly name in Portuguese), are what I think of when I need peace. I was thinking about them as I was lying in bed on Sunday night and I was just completely overcome with joy. I could have cried. Earlier that day Conceicao was sustained and set apart as Second Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency of our Branch. She mentioned when we visited her a little while later that at first she was terrified but then felt peace and is really excited now, and anxious to magnify her calling. We taught a little bit about how callings work (as I've learned a few things about that here) and that helped her to feel even stronger. I feel like Ammon when he returned home from his something like 14 year-long mission and started freaking out because of the miracles he'd seen. I only boast of the Glory of God, and will continue to do so. However, for as happy as I get, my mind continually returns to that scripture in the D&C that says "how great would be your joy if you bring MANY souls unto Christ" or something like that. I want that. I don't want to be satisfied with just Conceicao in this area. I want to be able to look back on Arapoangas and think of many, many people in the same way I think of Conceicao.
There are certainly those who we've helped a lot, who we've even seen miracles with, but who haven't been able to be baptized for now because they aren't married. For these things I still have incredible joy. I've had a man tell me that he has three goals in his life: the first to get married, second to join the Church, and the third he hasn't told me yet. I've seen another man stand and bear his testimony in front of the Church declaring with tears in his eyes that he will be baptized in the Church at the very moment he is able to. There are a lot of problems with legal marriage here. It's not the same as it is in the States. But basically any honest person that is willing to change their life and that goes to Church eventually becomes converted, whether they can make covenants or not. I trust the Lord will provide a way for all of these people soon.
So that's all I wanted to say this week. Just that I'm happy because I can say that I've seen miracles. Pray together with me and my companion that the elects will be illuminated for us in our area so that we can find them and see even more of these wonderful miracles and I can keep freaking out with JOY!!!
Love, Jordan

December 30, 2008

On this matter of travel you've mentioned, Dad...
You can blame my outrageously well-traveled companion for the following thought process. (He has seen everything from Prague to the Great Wall of China. I sit there freaking out when he tells me all about Italy and how Australia looks just like the US. He's been to Hong Kong! Dad, do you remember when we watched the thing on the travel channel about the Hong Kong airport and decided we NEED to go there? Well, we still do.) I want to see everything in the world. The way I like to think of traveling is to plan things as if money were no object and we had an unlimited amount of time. Then look a what is truly feasible and scale back from there. I plan on doing as much of this as possible throughout my life starting as soon as I get home.
Not just because of my companion, and not just because of Dad's page on my fancy calendar, and not just because of my obsession with maps that I developed at a young age (though these are all factors), but also because I've had the opportunity to live in some very poor places in Brazil and live without a lot of nice things for this season of my life, and that, I believe, has given me the most incredible desire to travel the world and see everything. I don't mind if every birthday and Christmas present I ever get for the rest of my life is a trip somewhere, I just want to see things.
I'm sure I'll end up making a list. Michelle and Lex, tell me where you think it would be fun to go. Not only do I want to go to new places, I want to see a lot of the things I've already seen so that I can value it the way I really should have at the time. I won't bother anyone on this subject much beyond now, today. I just want everyone to know my thought process. If anyone wants to bring this up with me later, feel free.
Speaking of places we've been, that is really sad about Fernie. That could either be an easy way to go-if you just get hit by an avalanche and die instantly-or a really awful way to go, if you're buried alive. That's horrible to think of. I don't know if I'll ever go snowmobiling.
As for Christmas... it was so great to talk to everyone. SO great. I was so happy. I didn't cry. I have yet to cry during or after family phone calls. I just get really happy. I was so happy afterward that I went outside and just started teaching this woman out of nowhere and I read 2 Nephi:31 with her and invited her to get baptized and all this great stuff. She lives in another city, we'll see what happens. Dad, I hope you're enjoying your Kindle. It sounds incredible. What did everyone else get? I hope I get some pictures soon.
As for boxes, Mom, I must make a few changes. I don't want anymore chocolate and candy and unhealthy stuff. As much as I've appreciated everything that has been sent to me so consistently throughout my mission, I need to make sure I don't get fat. Ever since we got out packages last week we've been eating nothing but Pringles and chocolate. We're getting FAT. I get up in the morning and do exercises and then I eat chocolate! So please tell everyone else who would send me a package to please send healthy things. If possible. If nothing healthy to eat can be sent, just send PICTURES! Pictures are the best.
A healthy food suggestion for all: there is this granola cereal that I like to eat here called Kellness. It's made by Kellogg's, I have to imagine it's in the States but I don't really know. It's sooooo good. If you want to send me that I would appreciate it a lot. Granola bars too. Always remember of course that you don't have to send me anything, only pictures of Socks and family are the things I will consider required.
Happy New Year for everyone. Remember that 2009 is the year I come home. Don't forget..... I miss you always, family. I pray for you. I love you.

December 23, 2008

We found a house for you guys to call at! So excited!!!
Elder Chacon's family is in California and our guess is that the times are the same right now for AZ and Cali. We might be wrong about that. He's planning on getting his call first at 3pm here (10am there), but if it turns out there is a six hour difference between here and California, his family may end up calling at the same time as you guys. Thus, we have the cell phone. I really hope it's not a confusing situation for anyone.
All I'm really worried about is having a hard time speaking JUST in English. That's gonna be tough. I'll get by though. I hope Gma Gpa Hoon and D can be there.
I love you guys. I can't wait to talk on the phone.

December 16, 2009

I'm eating a banana as I write this. First of all, they decided at the last second to move p-day/transfer day to today because there are no missionaries going home this transfer, and because we aren't going to do our little family night thing we do every transfer day at the chapel in Asa Norte because it was being used yesterday and today. So this transfer is normal p-day. Sorry about the confusion. I promise it's not anything I had control over. The next one will be January 26th, which is a Monday.
I'm not leaving. Neither is Elder Chacon. The only person leaving our district is Sister Souza. Everyone else stays. Sister Souza is really nice, and a great missionary. I'll miss her a lot. We'll have Sister da Silva in her place now. I'll still be district leader. After this transfer I'll only have three transfers left, which makes me think I'll only have one more area after Arapoangas. As always, I like my area. I don't want to leave. leaving, at least for me, is the worst part of the mission. I hate leaving. For one, it's stressful, and messy. you have to pack your bag really quickly and run to the bus stop and you usually get lost at some point trying to find where you're going. No fun. I'm slowly working on getting rid of things though, luggage particularly. So that makes things a little easier. My plan of coming home with just a backpack will surely come to pass. That will be amazing. But even worse than all of that stuff, the hardest part about leaving is that you have to leave the members and investigators that you work with and become friends with. There is nothing good about that. There's never any time to say goodbye. I hate it.
Anyways, I'm glad I'm not leaving. And I'm excited about this next transfer. We're going to get a lot of good done, and we're going to be a lot more organized. Elder Chacon is doing a great job of helping me organize things.
One thing I do not have organized yet is the Christmas phone call. I'm sorry. I can't seem to find anyone who is able to help us out. We may have to do it on the cell phone again. I know it's expensive, but here's the thing... the few members here that have house lines are either going out of town or are not trustworthy at all. There is one member I can think of who will be here on Christmas who has a house phone but I'm convinced that something will "come up" or she'll just forget and leave her house. I will look around this week, maybe we can use an investigator's house. I can still update you next p-day (which is not Christmas day, it will be the 23rd) if we find a place where you guys can call. I'll be sure to let you know.
Let me tell you guys just really quick about the miracle that happened this week. We baptized a woman named Conceicao (kon-say-sown) on Saturday, and it was perhaps the most meaningful baptism of my mission thus far. We met Conceicao at the beginning of last transfer, Elder Cosme and I. She was living with a man named Francisco who she has two kids with, Davi and Debora. They aren't married, like a lot of people here. When we first met them Francisco seemed more interested, but over time he started to lose interest as Conceicao started to listen more and more to what we were teaching. In the time we've known them, they've moved to a different house, which is behind a new store of used furniture they opened up. They have two of these stores, Francisco takes care of one and Conceicao takes care of the other. After several weeks of teaching her we learned that Francisco argues with her over almost everything, doesn't ever help with the kids, and even hits her sometimes. She told us how she stopped loving him years ago and has been wanting to separate from him, but he has always refused. We gave the Book of Mormon to them on I think our second visit. Conceicao was the only one to pick it up and read it. She loves the Book of Mormon now. Over the past several weeks it was becoming increasingly clear that she was prepared and deserved to be baptized.
We'd already taught her everything; we were beginning to go over the lessons all over again, and even coming up with some fun object lessons from the Book of Mormon for her and her kids. The only thing that was getting in her way was the fact that Francisco was living in the same house with her without being married. They weren't breaking the law of chastity, they weren't even sleeping in the same room, but the rules of the Church with this kind of thing are very clear cut. Basically, you can't live on the same property as someone of the opposite sex (outside of your family) without being married if you want to be baptized. So Conceicao went several weeks wanting very much to be baptized, but not being able to because of this technicality. She didn't get discouraged though, nor did she allow such circumstances to weaken her faith. She continued to follow our counsels and read the Book of Mormon and go to church. We would come with plans to try and get Francisco out of the house. Leaders from the Church were called over to talk to him and explain things. We tried just simply moving his clothes into their other furniture store where there is a little apartment to live in. He wouldn't leave. And they would fight a lot. We recognized that it was entirely outside of our control whether or not he left. Our only option, after three months of teaching, and a sweet priesthood blessing given to her, was to fast and pray that the Lord would please not forget those who do his will. He answered our prayers this weekend, after the bittersweet test of faith, and Francisco finally decided he didn't feel welcome in his home anymore, and left. Conceicao was baptized on Saturday night and confirmed Sunday morning. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.
She has been radiant these last few days since receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and is so excited to learn more. She feels honored to have the chance to be a full tithe payer and to be given a calling soon. I know with a surity now that I can't go home from my mission saying I didn't see miracles. Truly I can testify of the words Mormon spoke, "He has not ceased to be a God of miracles". My prayers have been full of gratitude, and hope for the future. We have a number of good people to work with on the horizon, so I'm happy I'm staying here.
I'm also looking forward to my new pants that I should get next week at zone conference, and I'm especially looking forward to our Christmas phone call!!!!! I'll be sure to let you know if I find someone's house we can use. If not, I'll give the cell phone number next week. I hope all is well at home. I miss you guys, I love you and pray for you.