Saturday, July 31, 2010

Miss the weekly posts?

Now Dallin's brother is a missionary, so you can read two more years of mission experiences of Elder Rowley. Just go to this link:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dallin Speaks in Church

Dallin is now home and will be speaking in church this Sunday, 27 June, in the center street building in Redlands at 11:30 AM.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010 -- The Last Letter

It's hard to keep from crying as I begin to write this letter. Yesterday I turned two years old as a missionary, truly the best two years of my life.

To all those who are currently serving as a missionary or who soon will be serving . . . I would say this: always remember that your time is incredibly short. Your time is one of the most precious resources that your Heavenly Father has given you. Don't waste a single second. Do what you should do every hour of the day. When its time to study, study hard. When its time to work, work hard.

Pay attention to the Spirit, as his guidance should be one of your greatest desires, and without him you can't do anything in the Lord's work. Remember who you are and who you represent, when you take off your name tag at night, and when you put it on in the morning. And always act accordingly, for you represent him 24 hours a day, even when you don't have the name tag on. Learn of Him, love Him, follow Him, and teach about Him with respect.

Obey the rules. Look for ways to be more obedient instead of ways to get around the rules. Follow your leaders, especially your mission president. Remember that part of the reason that you are called to where you are called is because of the things that you will learn from the people there, especially your mission president.

Remember also that you are called to where you are called to find people who are waiting for your testimony and teaching style. But always remember that it isn't you, its the Spirit.

I have learned and changed so much. And yet, I'm still the same. Maybe a half an inch taller, maybe a pound or two heavier, but still the same. Yet I will never be the same. The experiences I have had, good and bad, have molded me into more of the person the Lord wants me to be. I still have a long ways to go, but I am a bit further along the path than I was two years ago, and I know which path to follow and how to follow it. My knowledge, experience, and testimony have grown as a missionary. They will be the pillars of my life.

I love Mexico. I love the food, the mangos, the salsa, the tortillas. I love the cactus, the burning sun, the pouring rain. I love the crazy streets without lanes and without signs. I love the people even when they don't accept the message I share. I love Spanish. I love my companions, the members of the wards in which I have served. I love the people I have taught, especially those who have become converted to the gospel.

Thursday I had the opportunity to go to Reynosa to bring some Zone Leaders there after the ZLC last Wednesday. President gave me permission to visit some of my converts. It was a very special experience. Perla and her mom are doing well. Perla has a calling, is attending institute, has gone to do baptisms in the temple, and reads her Book of Mormon every day. Lalo is working on his papers to serve a mission, hoping to leave as soon as he completes a year in July. Tere has had a hard time, but is atteding church, and her son is beginning to open up to the gospel as well.

Tomorrow I will be attending church in Victoria, where Ranulfo has asked me to ordain him an Elder. I will also be able to see Adriana and the Anguiano family there. Tomorrow afternoon President Mendoza and I are going to visit the Ranchito and visit all the members there, especially the recently sealed Montoya Leal family. Like Alma, I feel that the Lord doth give me "exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors."

Thank you so much for having written me so faithfully. You may not know how much letters mean to a missionary. They have helped and inspired me more than I can say. . . .

I have high hopes and big plans for whats to come in the immediate and long term future. I have goals, plans, and standards. I am going to miss my mission, a lot, but I feel ready for what's to come.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010 -- Praying, Asking Good Questions, and Teaching Famous People

It’s been another great week full of lots of work and great experiences.

I am still amazed by all that I learned in the revelatory experience with Elder Bednar. My companion and I have put in practice what we learned and have seen the blessings in our work and our personal lives.

One of the things that he taught us, as I told you last week, is about praying with faith. I’ve tried to put those principles into practice as much as I can. (For example, we always say a prayer before using the mission van. Instead of praying that the Lord protect us, I have started to pray that the Lord helps us to remember the principles of safe driving.)

I had a very special personal experience with praying with faith this week. We were eating with a family in our daily meal and they asked me to say the prayer. When I pray in members' houses, I usually ask the Lord to bless them with His Spirit. As I was about to do so this time, however, I stopped. A thought came to my mind: “And what are you doing so that His Spirit can be here?” I finished the prayer, but that thought stayed in my mind.

As I ate I was having an inner battle. I know that it is always good to share a thought with the family after eating, but sometimes it’s hard. Unlike in the United States, we hardly ever eat with the whole family. Usually the sisters serve us and we eat alone. This particular family is always very busy, and my companion and I had things to do and people to see. But I kept feeling that if I was praying in faith, I needed to do something to invite the Spirit.

Thankfully, my companion saved me. “I want to share a scripture,” he told me. And I was amazed. After we finished eating, we shared a scripture, the sister looked happier and we left. When I asked him why he had decided to do so he said, “Because I felt like I needed to.” The Spirit had given us both the same prompting; only he was quicker to act on it than I was.

We have also worked hard to put in practice the teaching techniques we learned from Elder Bednar, treating our investigators as agents, not objects. We have had some great lessons by asking questions that invite investigators to think and act for themselves instead of guessing what’s in our head.

Unfortunately, this week we have also had some difficult teaching situations. Twice in the same street we came across people who politely invited us in only to take out their Bible and start to bash. Thankfully we didn’t fall for it. (That’s another thing that I’ve learned that I hope I never forget: how to talk to people who are strongly opposed to the Church or our beliefs.)

Our bishop last Sunday also taught us a lesson on teaching by the Spirit and learning by faith. He told us to come to his office during priesthood meeting, that he was going to have a class with all the recent convert and investigator men. He said that it would be a question and answer session, and that we, the missionaries, would give the answers.

At first, I wasn’t to excited about the idea, not sure how it would work out. But I was amazed at what happened. The bishop, as if he had also heard Elder Bednar’s talk, did everything to make a comfortable learning environment, and invited those present to act for themselves. He asked us the first question as an example, then let the next person in the circle ask.

The next person was a man named Adán Alvarez. He has been attending our ward for a little over a month with his wife. As his wife is a returned missionary, we just assumed that he was a member of the Church.

His question caught us by surprise: “I talk to my wife and come to church with her, and I feel good, but all of my siblings are Jehovah's Witnessess, and they also seem to be right. How can I know what church is true?” It was a sincere question from the bottom of his heart, and my companion gave a powerful answer about prayer and the Holy Ghost. We have now began to teach Adán, and he is a great investigator.

These past two weeks in the stake center that is attached to the mission offices there have been about 60 people who have come to be trained for the census that starts next week. They have been here about eight hours a day from Monday to Friday. Seeing that none of them are members of the Church, we decided to take advantage of the fact that we had 60 investigators in the church building.

Last Wednesday during their lunch break, we invited them all to watch “finding faith in Christ,” which we put on a screen with our projector. We had a table full of books and pamphlets when they left, and offered to send the missionaries to visit each of them. Several accepted copies of the Book of Mormon (and we saw them reading them later), and a few gave us their address so that the missionaries can visit them. It was a great experience.

Yesterday we were knocking doors on a street when we came to a building that looked more like an office than a house. We hesitated for a moment, but then decided to knock and see what happened. A short chubby man with a mustache and a cigarro opened the door, and I began to introduce us. He invited us in.

There was so much smoke from his cigarro that it gave me a headache, so I decided to start with the Word of Wisdom. As soon as I started, he put out his cigarro and listened to us with interest.

It was a nice little office. In the garage we could see a glipse of what looked like an expensive red sportscar. On the wall their was a picture of a man playing the drums, and a clipping from a newspaper about a musician named “Choche.”

When we finished the lesson, we asked when we could come back. “Not until next week,” he answered. I am going to California for my work this weekend. “What do you do?” my companion asked. “I’m a musician,” he answered. “Are you Choche?” asked my companion. “Yes, I am,” he answered.

Apparently our new investigator José Luis is a famous musician known as Choche. He is part of what I understand to be one of the most famous and popular older groups in Mexico: Los Broncos or Gigante de America. We have high hopes that he will accept the Restored Gospel.

[The picture below was added by the editors].

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010 -- Elder Bednar

First of all, I have to say that I am extremely excited about [my brother] Truman's mission call [which arrived yesterday]. When I recieved his email, I called all the office elders to read it with me. I am sure that the Chile Viña del Mar mission will be blessed by Truman, just as he will be blessed greatly by his service there. And I am so excited that he is going to speak Spanish!

Tuesday was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. My time is short, and words can only say so much, but I'll tell you as much about it as I can.

Monday was a somewhat stressful day. President Mendoza was in Mexico City in a meeting with Elder Bednar and all the mission presidents from Mexico, which meant that his cell phone was turned off. So we were here alone getting everything ready for Tuesday.

For the most part everything went well. There was a moment when they threatened to deport one of our American missionaries who was traveling without his visa, but the Lord softened their hearts and let him go.

But much greater than the stress was the great excitement that could be felt throughout the mission. Everyone was eager to see and be taught live by an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday morning was a rainy day. So President Mendoza asked my companion and I to stand in front of the chapel with umbrellas to recieve Elder Bednar. The meeting was to begin at 9:00 AM, but he arrived at 8:35. It was no longer raining, but President told us to stay there anyway.

When Elder Bednar got out of the car, he looked at us and smiled. Then he and those who were with him greeted us with a hand shake. (He was accompanied by his wife, Elder Daniel Johnson of the Seventy and Area Presidency, his wife, and Alan Walker, who translated. Alan Walker, although nobody introduced him as such, will be the new mission president here when President Mendoza leaves.)

When Sister Bednar greated me, she aske me where I was from. "California," I answered.

"What part,"


"Redlands! I was there not too long ago."

"I know, my Mom told me."

"Well, tell your Mom 'hi,' for me."

So Mom, Sister Bednar sends her greetings.

It was an incredible experience. I learned so much and felt the Spirit so strongly. I didn't take very many notes, for two reasons. First, he asked us not to, and second, I was moving the microphone to all the missionaries who asked or answered questions. Nevertheless, I remember perfectly the many lessons I learned.

Here are some of the things I learned that I think will best be of use to you.

Elder Bednar mentioned a few "silly, foolish" traditions of the church that he said we should get rid of.

One of the first he mentioned was that we always talk and joke about how we are going to meetings, in meetings, or coming from meetings. He said that many church leaders make themselves feel busy and important by having many meetings, but don't get anything done. He said that instead of having so many meetings, we should do things. Instead of talking about those who aren't coming to church, we should go get them. He said that he never wanted any of us to ever think of a church gathering as a meeting or a conference again. Rather, he said, we should think of it as a "revelatory experience."

And what we had the day before yesterday was truely a revelatory experience. The first two hours he asked what we had learned from his two talks that he had asked us to study ("Ask in Faith," from general conference, and "Seek Knowledge by Faith," which he gave to CES educators.) He put a lot of emphasis on the importance of us as learners to exercise our agency and learn for ourselves, and it was incredible how he created an enviornement of learning and revelation. The next two hours he answered questions from the missionaires.

I love that idea. If we stop thinking about meetings and start thinking about revelatory experiences, our manner of preparing for and participating in church gatherings will change.

Another silly, foolish tradition he mentioned was that of taking copious, detailed notes only to forget about what was said and lose the notes later. He said that often we are so busy writing what the speaker said that we miss what the Spirit is telling us. He told us not to write down anything that he said, only what the Spirit told us. He promised us that we would never forget those things, nor lose those notes.

He also said that too often in Church meetings and classes the teacher wants to play the "guess-what's-in-my-head-game," where he choses a student (with out their volunteering) and asks them a specific question such as, "What are the three elements of the baptismal covenant." Rather, he said, we should treat students as agents, and not objects to be acted upon, not forcing them to answer, and asking questions that don't make them guess what we are thinking, but rather think and act for themselves. A good question, he said, is "What did you learn from that?"

When he opened up for questions, the first one to raise his hand was Elder Dudley. And he asked the question that I had been planning to ask, a question I got from Dad: "What do you know now as an Apostle, that you didn't know before, about revelation?" His answer was incredible, and about 30 minutes long. The most important part of what he said was about preisthood keys. There are 15 men on the earth who hold all the keys. (That is why we sustain the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators, because they have all the keys.) Even though there is only one who is authorized to use them all.

He talked a lot about revelation. He read with us D&C 8:1-4. It is a scripture that I thought I knew well, as it is a scripture mastery, but he explained it like I had never understood before, showing us how the Spirit of Revelation includes asking with faith and an honest heart beforehand, and working for it afterwards. He put a lot of emphasis on verse 3, that revelation comes as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart. He said that we shouldn't worry about trying to differentiate between our own thoughts and feelings and those that are inspired. He said that he has oftened recieved revelation without realizing it.

At the end of the revelatory experience, he asked us to write down questions: "Based on what I have observed and learned today, what will I do?" and "Based on what we have observed and learned today, what will we do?" Yesterday in my personal study, I answered the first question. And in our companionship study, we answered the second question. I think that those are questions that should be asked after any revelatory experience.

I learned and felt so many things, and wish that I could tell you more about it, but my time is running short.

Saturday, May 15, 2010 -- Pictures!

[Editors' note: This is the second of two posts for May 15, 2010]

The baptism of Elsa Gaytan

Last week's tour group (Group 1)

Today's tour group (Group 2)

A picture of the office Elders with Sister Mendoza on Mother's Day. The poster is a gift we made, which we presented her by serending her by piano (me), violin (Elder Shields), and song (the other four).

Pictures with two of President Mendoza's pets: a snake and a crab

Saturday, May 15, 2010 -- The Musical Missionary Mobile

[Editors' note: This is the first of two posts for May 15, 2010]

Yesterday I woke up thinking that it would be a normal preparation day, but at 9:00 I realized that it would not be the case. Things changed, and all day we were busy doing important and unforeseen things. . . .

Today we were also very busy. We left at 8:00 this morning for another Mother's Day Show Tour. Today we went to Linares, about two hours to the East, and then returned for one of the stakes here in Monterrey. My companion and I brought twelve other missionaries with us in the van.

As you know, last weekend we were also on tour. Last Friday, we hit Valle Hermoso and Matamoros. We all stayed the night in Matamoros (about ten missionaires in a small apartment), and left on Saturday to visit Rio Bravo, Reynosa, and Reynosa Este.

Both tours were great experiences, but my favorite was last weekend. First of all, I enjoyed the talents more there (which goes to disprove a common belief that Mexicans don't have talent, as all the missionaries in the border areas are Latinos right now, by suggestion of the Area Presidency). Also, as we drove from stake to stake (varying from 30 minutes to two hours between each one), the Elders in the back of the van (sitting on makeshift seats of boxes of Books of Mormon), played the guitar and tambourine as we all sang hymns.)

I loved seeing the talent that each missionary has. And I loved seeing how much they enjoyed giving of their talents to entertain, uplift, and honor the mothers of each stake. There is great power in music, as well as poetry, dance, and even juggling and magic tricks.

Spending so much time with the missionaries in these experiences, as well as thinking of all the experiences I have had to work with many missionaries throughout my mission, has made me think. I love working with missionaries. Each one has his own story, and many times I have been surprised to hear it. Each one has his own testimony and his own motivation to serve the Lord. Each one inspires me and blesses my life, as well as the lives of the people they teach, in a special way. I love missionaries. Even after 23 months of working with missionaries every day, it is still something special to see a companionship walking down the street or knocking on a door.

Last Saturday we stayed the night in Reynosa with the zone leaders. (It felt strange for me being in the house in Cumbres again, but this time as a guest, when so many times I was host there). In fact, I had a lot of similar feelings in Reynosa. In the talent show there I saw several members from Cumbres and Puerta del Sol, including one of my converts, Maria Luisa. Once again I thought of how greatly the Lord has blessed me with so many places, occurrences, and people who have touched my life for good.

Sunday morning we left Reynosa at 7:00 AM and went straight to our chapel [in Monterrey]. Elsa Gaytan was there waiting for us. We hadn't seen her since Thursday, when she had her baptismal interview, although we had kept in contact by phone. When we saw her, she told us that her husband had come home the night before somewhat drunk and very angry, and that it seemed as if she wouldn't be able to be baptized. She told us how she couldn't sleep that night until her six-year-old, Angel, who reminds me of [my little brother] Benson when I left, told her to say a prayer, which helped her feel a lot better. Her husband still isn't very happy about it, but he did accept her decision and give his permission.

It was a great baptismal service. She was well prepared. Her mom and a friend accompanied her, as well as a few of the Elders who had taught her previously. Her story is a great lesson for me of how God prepares his children over time, as well as of the principle of fasting.

This last week, we taught a person named Christina Torres. We found Christina and her 14-year-old daughter by knocking doors about two months ago. We visited her a few times, but then lost contact when she went on vacations to Veracruz. But last week we found her again. Christina is extremely active in her Pentecostal Christian church, but accepts us and listens sincerely.

In our visit last week, we asked her if she had read the Book of Mormon. She had! She read 3 Nephi 11 (the part we had left her), and then had started from the beginning (a very good place to start). As Elder Tenorio said when he visited us more than a year ago, the Book of Mormon is the best missionary. One of the reasons is that it can do the work even when we can't find the person for more than a month.

When we asked her what she had thought of what she read, her answer was very interesting. She said something along the lines of, "Well, everything I read sounds like what I read in the Bible. It teaches the same thing. And it talks a lot about Jesus Christ. From what I've seen so far, it seems true."

Our next step is to help her pray and receive a testimony of the Holy Ghost, and then to understand the implications of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon as to her religious life. She is well on the right path, because she has read and understood the Book of Mormon, and recognizes it as something that teaches the same principles as the Bible and testifies of Jesus Christ.

I am very excited about learning from Elder Bednar next Tuesday. I can't wait. We have planned everything, even where each zone will sit in the chapel. I'll tell you all about it next week.

I love you all, and my love and appreciation for you grow with each day spent in the Lord's service.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010 -- Mother's Day Testimony of the Restored Gospel (in Spanish)

Thursday, May 6, 2010 -- The True Heroes

This week has been just as busy as the last. Because of their visa problems, the new American missionaries are arriving one by one. (I have gone to the airport about six times in a week.) Also, we are busy planning the annual Missionary Talent Show for Mother's day, which starts tomorrow. (Tomorrow we will be in the border in Matamoros and Valle Hermoso, and Saturday in Reynosa and Rio Bravo).

I'm not sure if it is the same in the States (I really can't remember), but here in Mexico there seems to be a tradition among the members: when you know that a missionary will be finishing soon, you have to ask him lots of questions about what he is going to do and if he is trunky (or "muerto" or "frito," which are basically Mexican versions of trunky). I don't like it. I don't consider myself at all trunky, nor do I plan on slowing down nor becoming distracted. I just hope that you all don't do the same to those missionaries who serve in the ward.

Like I said, this has been a busy week. There is always lots to do. As an Assistant, sometimes I feel like a secretary, babysitter, chauffeur, technician, or a million other things. But when I do, I remember what President Mendoza has taught us, that the "service of God" referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 4 doesn't refer specifically to knocking on doors, but to all the work that we do as missionaries.

The last time we went to the airport there was a lot of people, and it was full of security guards. Right before the missionaries came out, several huge WWF wrestlers came out, and everybody screamed and the cameras took pictures. It was interesting. The true heroes came out unnoticed by the world.

Elsa is doing well. She is excited about her baptism, and about helping her husband follow in her footsteps. We have had to plan everything well, as we will be in the border all of tomorrow and Saturday and will be arriving directly to the our services Sunday morning. But everything is ready.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010--The Busiest Week Yet

It has been a great week, but a very, very busy week. One of the busiest weeks yet. Even though it can sometimes be stressful, I love the work I do.

When I feel tired, the Lord always sends me a tender mercy to get me going again. A few days ago, for example, after spending the day in a Zone Leader Council, having only slept six hours the night before, I sat at my desk at the end of the day and thought "I am wiped out." Then I looked up at a paper that I have posted on my desk, a paper that Dad sent me several months ago with a picture of one of my old pairs of missionary mall shoes and a quote from President [Spencer W.] Kimball: "My life is like my shoes--to be worn out in service to others." It felt good to know that I was doing just that.

Part of the reason why we have been so busy is the normal transfer process. But this transfer is not a normal transfer. We were expecting 13 new missionaries on Monday, but only one, a Mexican Sister missionary, arrived. The rest (10 Americans and 2 Peruanos (I don't know how to say someone who is from Peru in English) hadn't recieved their visas. One of these missionaries arrived yesterday. Two or three are going to arrive on Tuesday and who knows when the others will get here, so we have been repeating the process of recieving new misssionaries.

By the looks of it all of this month will be just as busy. We are going to have to go the border at least two times as part of our annual Mothers Day talent show. There is another event which I will tell you about later which will also take up a lot of time.

But, like I sad, I like it. I want my last transfer to be my busiest. And we are taking advantage of every spare moment (which are a lot fewer than I would like) to work in our area. Elsa Gaytan is progressing splendidly. We saw her yesterday, and although we hadn't been able to visit her for a few days, she told us all about what she has been reading in the Book of Mormon. In fact, she has been taking notes in a notebook! She will be getting baptized on Mother's Day.

* * *

I have very, extremely, incredibly good news. Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be coming to Monterrey and is going to take three hours to teach all the missionaries from the two missions. As you can imagine, I am excited. Of course, it will be a lot of work and stress to plan and organize it all, and I am nervous about participating (President Mendoza asked me to say the closing prayer). But I am sure that it will be a wonderful spiritual experience. I still think almost daily about things that I learned from Elder [Russell M.] Nelson and Elder [Richard G.] Scott [of the Church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles] when they came.

About Elder Bednar's visit: Sister Mendoza has talked to us all about going in our best to the conference. She said we should all wear our best shirt, preferably one without buttons in the collar (I don't know why.) I want to be obedient, but all my shirts are somewhat old, and all have buttons in the collar. [To Mom:] Could you deposit a few dollars on my card so that I can buy a new shirt next week?

Sorry that my letter is short this week. . . . Thanks for your love and prayers!

P.S. Today is Children's day in Mexico. ¡Feliz día del niño!

Friday, April 30, 2010 -- Pictures

Here are several pictures. I worry that sending pictures of my preparation day activities may give you a lop-sided view of my missionary work. The reason why I have so many pictures of preparation day is because it is the only day that we are allowed to bring our camera with us (with the exception of baptisms).

The first picture is of the seven office Elders of last transfer with a boa constrictor that we found under my bed. (Just kidding, it was in a pet shop.) Three of those seven Elders are no longer in the offices.

The next shows us in front of Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Falls), a local waterfall. It was beautiful.

Then comes a picture of the office Elders and Sister Mendoza the night of President's birthday. (The waiters and chef).

Then comes a picture of me showing Elder Larsen La Cola del Caballo.
The next features four of us taking phone calls far from the party the night of President's birthday. Even on Presdedent's birthday the needs of the mission don't stop. I am the farthest to the right.

The next shows the Mariachi band that played for President's birthday.

The last picture shows the surprise we made him here in the offices, complete with cake and balloons. We made party hats from the cones we have to drink water (my hat is on the desk in front of me.) You can also see a glimpse of the white board, which is full of names of missionaries (we were in the middle of the transfer process.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010 -- A Tribute to My President

Yes, transfers are this week. I'll write more about it a few lines down, but yes, I am staying on as an Assistant for my last transfer.

Speaking of my last transfer, although I am very happy and excited at the prospect of seeing you all again, of being with you and doing all the good things you do with you, and for all that will happen in my life in the next months and years, I am trying to avoid thinking about it. It's not that thoughts about home make me "trunky" or want to work less (it is quite the contrary), but the thought of finishing my mission hurts. I've loved almost every minute of my mission, and the minutes I didn't love so much have been the source of great growth and learning for me. I love being in the service of the Lord, and I love His children whom I serve. I know that there will be other opportunities to serve, and to learn and grow, after my mission, but as President Mendoza has said, it will never be the same. These two years are unique and unrepeatable, and I don't want them to end.

But, like I said, I am excited for what's to come. I will do my best to the end of my mission, and do the same in the next phases of my life.

* * *

Mom asked me about my scripture study. I think that there are a lot of great ways to study, and it all depends on one's needs and wants.

Right now, for example, I am reading the Book of Mormon in a manner suggested by Preach My Gospel, marking references to Christ, His words, His attribtues, and His doctrine and principles each with a different color. This method of study has greatly strengthened my testimony of the Book of Mormon as a testament of Jesus Christ.

I have also read it out loud, read it checking every footnote, read it in as short a time as possible (Parly P. Pratt day), and in many other ways. Each time I have learned something different.

One thing is certain. "Effective daily study must always begin with prayer." (Preach My Gospel page 17). For study to be effective, we need the Spirit, and we recieve the Spirit through prayer.

I think it is great that [my little brother] Benson has found a love for Harry Potter and for reading in general. I have never missed movies during my mission, but on occasions I have missed reading a good book. I look forward to reading with him when I get back.

Since last Sunday I have spent several hours each day with President Mendoza. As always, I have learned great things from him. This week I got to see him in ways that I haven't before, but everything he does he is a good example. I am reminded of what President Carlson said in his blessing when he set me apart, "You will learn great things from your mission president." Or what Elder Cook has said: "The influence of a valiant mission president is one of the great miracles of the Restored Gospel." Here are some of the situations in which I have seen President Mendoza this last week:

Transfers. This time around, transfers have been a difficult process. We started early (Sunday instead of Monday) and finished late (yesterday at about 7:00 PM), with an average of six hours each day working on the sacred process of transfers. There are two basic reasons why it was more difficult this time: President Mendoza wants to leave everything, including the zone leaders and the organization of the missioin, in perfect condition for the new mission president, and because of certain situations we have had to close some areas. But President Mendoza never got tired or frustrated. He is always very happy and cheerful, thinks every decision through, is concerned for the mission as a whole but also each missionary as an individual, and always seeks the Lord's guidance.

His Birthday. Yesterday was President's birthday. It was full of surprises for him. When he arrived at the offices in the morning, we were all hidden in his office, which we had decorated with balloons and banners. We bought a cake to eat with him. It was his favorite (and also mine), rollo de mango (mango roll). Then, from 6:30 to 7:30 he was surprised to recieve a phone call every five minutes from the zone leaders of each zone to congratulate him on behalf of their zones.

But the biggest surprise came at night. We said goodbye to him at about 7:15 when he left the offices, and he said, "see you tomorrow." Little did he know that we would be seeing him less than an hour later. We had been helping sister Mendoza plan a huge surprise party for him for a few weeks. He left his house last night thinking that he was going to the movies with his family, but when they passed through the park, he got a huge suprise as he found the stake presidents, Area Seventies, and other friends from Monterrey (including us) there waiting for him.

It was a great party, although I felt really weird being there. (We played the part of waiters.) Sister Mendoza had contracted a Mariachi band to play. I had never seen a real, good Mariachi group before, and it was incredible. There is a lot of Mexican culture which I have come to love, and last night I found one more thing to love, with Mariachi music.

The best part of the party for me was watching President Mendoza. For example, after the Mariachi entered by surprise and played their first few songs, President Mendoza inturrupted them to say a prayer to bless the food. He said to the band, in front of everyone, "Señores, everyone here in this party is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons. Have you seen those young guys over their before? (and he pointed to us). Well, talk to them. As members of the Church, we are used to saying a prayer before blessing the food . . . and explained how to pray." He didn't hesitate for one minute to "contact" the entire Mariachi band in front of everyone. What an example!

Sister Mendoza had asked the band to play some of President Mendoza's favorites. I watched as he tearily sang along to one called "Mi Querido Viejo," about a father. I watched as he hugged Sister Mendoza tightly as they played one called "Alma, Corazon, y Vida," about love. I watched as he tried to dance with Sister Mendoza to a more up-beat song. (She resisted dancing in front of everyone.) I had never seen this side of President before, but even in a party, he is a good man, a good husband and father, a good friend and a good host.

As coach. Today he came to the offices to play with us on our
preparation day. We played volleyball and ping pong. He soon realized that all of us are pathetically out of practice in any sports (for some reason he is not at all out of practice, or maybe just a natural.) So we took some time doing some exercises. Once again his belief in us, his patience, and his way of teaching were incredible.

I have learned so much from President Mendoza, things that have helped me be a better missionary, and things that will help me be better through the rest of my life. I am sure that a major part of the reason why I was called to this mission was to be taught by him.

Even though we have had little time in our area this week, things are going well. Our efforts to teach the message of the Restoration to the members (a suggestion we found in Preach My Gospel) this week led us to two new part-member families. Teaching families is the best.

Friday, April 16, 2010 -- Rain and Blessings

It´s been a rainy week here in Monterrey. I've enjoyed it. Sometimes it seems like the rain is perfectly timed to rain only after 9:00 at night or before 11:00 in the morning so as not to affect the missionaries.

I love the sight and sound of rain so much that I have been doing my personal stuying outside, kept dry under a roof. Rain makes me think about a lot of things, especially the Primary song that says,

I like to look for rainbows
Whenever there is rain,
And ponder on the beauty
Of an earth made clean again.
I want my life to be as clean
As earth right after rain . . . .

The work never ceases. Both in the offices and in the area things are marching well. (Can I use the word "march" like that? I'm not sure if it has the same meaning as the Spanish word marchar.)

It seems like in addition to the water falling from the sky, this week has brought with it an outpouring of blessings.

Last Sunday night our ward had the second in a series of activities that we have planned. (The first was the sporting event that I wasn't able to attend because of the zone council.) Sunday was the event that I was most excited about, partially because I had the initial idea (which was improved upon by the ideas of my companions and the ward leaders.) It was a "conversion fireside." I love hearing conversion stories, they always bring the Spirit and always encourage me to be better and do more in missionary work, so we planned a night in which several people would share their conversion stories.

This was the program:
  • Opening Hymn: Called to Serve (I played the piano)
  • Prayer
  • Nancy Cabello shared her conversion story (she was baptized about eight years ago, but became inactive soon afterwards--until about two months ago when the missionaries found her and baptized her Mom)
  • Elder Crisostomo shared his conversion story (he has been a member for three years and a missionary for almost two years. His parents were sealed while he was in the mission field. His is an incredible story.)
  • I gave a short talk sharing three conversion stories, including that of [my pioneer ancestor] Ann Jewell Rowley, showing that you can't measure the results of one person's conversion
  • The Bishop shared a few words
  • We finished with a movie called "By Small and Simple Things" about member-missionary work
  • Closing Hymn: "Because I Have been Given Much"

In terms of attendance, unfortunately it wasn't the best of activites. But for those who attended, it was a spiritual feast. I was very much edified, and I could tell that the members were reminded of their own conversion, and became more excited to share the gospel with their friends.

This past week I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission. As you know, I had already had several testimony-strengthening experiences with fasting, such as with Angelica Montagut or Jorge Montoya, or recieving my own personal guidance. This week my testimony was strengthened even more.

President Mendoza has suggested that in April and October the missionaries should fast the first Sunday of the month instead of waiting for the second week as do most members. (The reason is that, as we are sitting in the church durring that time it will be easier than when we fast while working all day in the area.) My companions and I followed his advice and fasted during General Conference weekend.

Last Saturday we went to visit a person named Elsa Gaytan, who has been taught by many sets of missionaires. When we went to teach her, it was clear that she was one of the Lord's prepared children. Although it has been some time since the missionaries last visited her, she was still reading the Book of Mormon on her own.

As we taught her, I asked myself why she had not yet been baptized, but the answer became clear when we invited her to church. First, she asked if she could attend a different buidling [referring to a nearby meetinghouse other than the one used by the ward in which she lived]. We explained the order of the Church, and she understood.

She then told us that she had attended our ward, many years ago, but that there was a sister in our ward with whom she had had a disagreement, and the sister had declared that one of them had to stop attending, because they couldn't both do it. She had written a letter to that sister asking for forgiveness, but the sister didn't even accept reading it.

As I listened to her problem, I distinctly heard a phrase in my mind that I had studied in Preach My Gospel that morning: "Great blessings are available to those who obey God's commandment to fast." And so I did something that we hadn't planned on doing, something that I had not talked to my companions about beforehand. I pulled out my Bible and turned to Matthew 17:21 and begain to explain the principle of fasting.

That very moment my companions and I began a fast. At the end of the lesson we knelt down with her and offered our prayer to begin our fast.

The next day, we awaited anxiously in church, but Elsa never arrived. But we didn't lose hope. Knowing that faith without works is dead, we decided to act, and after our services we decided to talk to the sister [with whom Elsa had a conflict]. Her answer greatly surprised me. She said, "Elders, this is Jesus Christ's Church, not mine. I can't say who can come and who can't. If she wants to come, that's great, and I won't do anything. Just don't ask me to sit by her."

It may not sound like much, but knowing the situtation, it was huge. And it was an answer to our fast. Later that same day we visted Elsa to give her the news. She was overjoyed. Yesterday, in a lesson which we planned especially for her, we challeneged her to be baptized. She happily accepted, saying only that she had to make sure that it was all right with her husband first.

Without a doubt, there are great blessings available to those who fast. Problems that seem unsolvable can be solved with faith the size of a mustard seed shown by a true fast.

Last night we went to visit Nancy Cabello and her husband, Jonathan (he's the one who was a Catholic missionary.) We had planned a lesson for him in which we were going to challenge him to be baptized, but we were nervous.

In our companionship study that day, we had thought about all the possible answers he could give. "But my mom would never talk to me again if I were to become a Mormon" or "are you kidding me, I'm a catholic missionary and you want me to get baptized in your church?" Elder Dudley said, "and what if he just says ´yes?´" We all laughed, thinking that that was impossible.

We began our lesson by verifying if he had read his assigned reading, 3 Nephi 11. He had. We used it as a platform to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When it came time to challenge him, it was Elder Dudley's turn. When he asked the question "Will you be baptized?" Jonathan said, "yes." No objections, no doubts, just "yes." I was amazed.

We congratulated him on his desire and explained that this decision was the first step to an eternal family. And we finished our lesson talking about eternal families. As we did so, his wife, Nancy, looked at him with a look of such love and hope. I think that she was imagining the two of them and their young daughter in the temple, being sealed for time and all eternity. As the second principle of the first lesson in chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel says, "The Gospel Blesses Families."

I love missionary work.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010 -- General Conference Experiences

What an experience was last weekend! I don't know how they do it, but each General Conference seems better than the last. (Actually, I do know how they do it. It has to do with revelation, priesthood keys, and truth.) I've said it many times before, but it has never been more true than now: it seems like the General Authorities know my needs and write their talks just for me.

I think General Conference weekend is when the Church comes closer than ever to being Zion, because we are so united. That's something you don't feel as strong when you watch conference at home--the feeling of being connected to the Saints across the world.

A large part of those feelings of unity comes through the music. It is incredible when the choir and congregation sing together. Even though it be in different languages, the tune is the same, and the Spirit is strong. Several times durring the congregational hymns, I imagined my family, my friend Andrea, my converts, old friends, and fellow missionaries across the world, knowing that they were all singing with me at the same time.

I love the music in General Conference. In the hymn book it says that some of the greatest sermons are taught by the singing of hymns, and I think that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the best preachers.

Here are some of my favorite General Conference moments from last weekend:

1. President Monson's talk. In fact, all of the Sunday Morning session was incredible. The prophets and apostles who spoke truly did their duty to be "a witness... of His resurrection" (Acts 1:22). President Monson gave His powerful witness of the resurrection, and immediately afterwards the choir gave a second testimony singing with such power. We had three investigators with us that session, and they all felt the Spirit strongly.

2. President Eyring's talk in the Priesthood session. What a powerful lesson on diligence! His talk was for me a call to be better and work harder.

3. My favorite talk was that of Elder Foster of the 70, who talked about Mothers. I love my Mom. I, like Elder Foster, "understand in a personal way the great influence of mothers." Mom, thanks for all you do.

4. Elder Andersen's description of conference as an "inspired symphony." What a great analogy!

There were many other talks that helped me a lot, like President Uchtdorf in the priesthood session, Elder Holland, Elder Cristofferson, Elder Perry . . . too many to name. I love living in a day when we have prophets and Apostles to guide us.

Another good experience I had in General Conference was seeing Ranulfo Villegas, my convert from Victoria. He is doing better than ever. He was very excited to tell me that he had just finished reading the Book of Mormon for the third time! (And he was just baptized in December.) His comment made me think about something it says in Preach My Gospel, "For you to grow in the gospel and stay on the path that leads to eternal life, you need to develop a habit of gospel study." (page 17).

Speaking of Preach My Gospel, this week in the mission we are dedicating all of our personal study hour as well as all of our language study time to reading Preach My Gospel. I have learned a lot this time reading it. One of the most important things that Preach My Gospel teaches, and one of the most important things that one can learn as a missionary, is how to work with the Spirit. Here are four of my favorite Preach My Gospel quotes on the Spirit:

  • "Enjoying the gifts of the Spirit should be one of your most earnest desires." (Page 4)
  • "You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you." (Page 11)
  • "Through the power of the Holy Ghost we can feel God's love and direction for us. This gift is a foretaste of eternal joy and a promise of eternal life." (Page 65)
  • "You will succeed in your work as you learn to recieve and follow personal revelation." (Page 89)

The Spirit is key to everything I do as a missionary. In fact, it is key to everything we do in this life.

* * *

Cultural moment: It's mango season here, and I love it. When I first arrived in Mexico, I wasn't too excited about eating mangoes, but they have become one of my favorite foods. I often eat them with breakfast, lunch, and dinner since they are so common and so cheap during this time of year.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010--General Conference Time!

Much has happened since last I wrote. Last Friday, as you know, we recived reinforcements. Eight valiant new missionaries arrived from the united states. "Valiant" is a word that President Mendoza always uses to describe the new missionaires, and it truly applies to this new group. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, which I spent teaching them, was an incredible experience.

Saturday afternoon at the last moment, we decided with President Mendoza that it would be best for us to bring the new missionaries to their areas that day. So we were off to Reynosa. We made good time and were able to introduce them to their companions and return to Monterrey before 9:30 PM.

Monday, as always, was full of office work--talking with and counseling the zone leaders, filling out reports for Salt Lake and for President Mendoza. It went well.

Tuesday we had a zone leader council. We presented to the zone leaders a new zone leader's manual that my companions and I have been working on for a few weeks, among other things. The council also went well. That same night we had a ward missionary activity planned. When we told President Mendoza about it, he told us not to change it, but that he would excuse us early from the ZLC. My companions had both finished their participation before time came, but I still had two topics left to discuss with the council. So my companions went without me, and I stayed to support President and do my part.

The truth is I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to attend the activity that we had planned. We did a lot to plan and prepare the activity, and I wanted to attend. (I was especially excited to be a judge in the salsa contest (salsa as in sauce, not in dance.)) But my companions told me that it went well. There were over 70 people in attendance, including ten investigators. Even though I wasn't able to attend, I am happy that it was a success, and that my companions and I were able to fulfill our dual duties (to president and to our area) at the same time. We have two other activites planned soon and I am sure that they will also be successes.

Wednesday we went to the temple. Every time I go, I learn something new and feel something special. The peace of the temple is incredible, as is the clarity with which we can recieve revelation.

After the temple, we had another surprise visit to the border. A companionship is opening an area in a pueblito near San Fernando, Tamaulipas, and we had to go stock their new house with furniture. (It is about a 4.5 hour drive from Monterrey.) We went and came back all on the same day.

Yesterday we had to spend extra time in the office to make up for what we had lost Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as to print the zone leader manuals, since they loved them in the council and President promised that we would have them out by Monday.

So I haven't had much proselyting time this week. But that's OK. I understand that my office work, and trips to the border are other forms of "the service of God," and I enjoy and learn from each experience. The two lessons which we have had this week have gone really well. Monday night we had a FHE with a young recent convert and her husband, who is an ex-Catholic missionary. We taught the Restoration in a didactic way, and he understood. He also attended Tuesday's activity and is excited to go to general conference.

I love teaching families. Yesterday, we taught the land lady of the house where the missionaries used to live. She has a good opinion of the Church and the missionaries because the missionaries who have lived there have been respectful. We talked to her about prophets and she too is excited to attend general conference this weekend.

I think I am the most excited about general conference. It is always my favorite weekend. General Conference is the epitome of the Restored Gospel, since it is when we listen to the modern prophets and Apostles who receive revelation from God. I am also happy because I know that you will be watching the same conference. . . . We will be under the same satellite, which is just as special although not quite as romantic as being under the same moon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010 -- Meeting the Bishop

Sometimes when I write in my journal or in my letters, when I try to write en [sic] English, it comes out in Spanish, and even when it comes out in English, I mess up on the grammar and spelling. I remember when I got excited when I dreamed in Spanish. Now it is a rarity when I dream in English. In my dreams all my loved ones now speak Spanish. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten English. (I have been following the suggestion of Elder Nelson to teach my companion English so as not to forget it myself), but Spanish is currently my first language (and I think my English accent is rather funny).

You may be wondering why my preparation day is Thursday instead of Friday this week. Tomorrow and Saturday we will be busy all day because tomorrow eight new American missionaries will be arriving. They are arriving late because of visa problems (sound familiar?).

It has been an interesting week. It has been a while since I have been in a trio (since Utah, in fact.) But I like it. We get a lot more done in the offices, and we have more ideas for the area (although I think sometimes three men can be a little intimidating when we talk with people). We are working hard in our area. Opening the area continues to be an adventure, with its challenges, but we enjoy it. We have created a plan to improve relationships with the members and work more effectively with them, as well as to find and teach more people.

We had a couple of interesting experiences looking for the bishop the other day. First, when we were looking for his house, we knocked on the wrong door. When we asked for the Gutierrez family, they had no idea who we were talking about. But when we asked if they knew any Mormons in the neighborhood, they pointed straight to the bishop's house. The people really do watch us more than we think. It made me wonder what my neighbors would say about me and about the Church because of my actions.

The bishop wasn't home that day. The next day we were walking down the street between appointments talking with the people on our way. As we talked with one man, another man about 20 yards away was looking at us. So we then went and contacted him. "Hi, Elders," he said, "I'm your bishop!" Who knows what he might have thought if he had seen us passing all the people by instead of talking to them as missionaries should. Once again, we never know who's watching.

* * *

I am amazed at how many of my friends [who are now missionaries] are assistants [to their mission presidents]. Being an assistant doesn't make you better than any other missionary, but it shows me how greatly the Lord has blessed me with my friends.

I don't know what the news is saying about the goings on here in Monterrey, but things are fine. Remember what the Lord told Mosiah when his sons wanted to go on a truly dangerous mission to the Lamanites: "Let them go up, for many shall belive on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites" (Mosiah 28:7).

* * *

I am attaching pictures from the Obispado, a huge flagpole on a hill next to a Catholic Church with a great view of Monterrey. One is of all seven of the office elders. Another is of me enjoying the view. And the third is a pciture of me and the flag pole, taken by Elder Castillo. While we were there, I thought of how "high on the mountain top a banner is unfurled."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010 -- Transfer Week Again

Greetings from the City of the Mountain Kings where, as [my brother] Truman described BYU, "Spring is on the air." It is beginning to warm up again, bringing with it extreme temperatures, the ever-present mosquitos, and the humidity. The truth is, I love it.

It has been a great week. This transfer we started a new way of doing things. (I love President Mendoza--he is always looking for ways to do things more efficiently). Instead of doing transfers on Monday, we did them on Tuesday. Monday we recieved the Valiants [new missionaries] and taught them all day. Tuesday we had transfers and the afternoon with the Heroes [departing missionaries], and Wednesday we said goodbye to the Heroes in the airport. As always, it was full of great expereinces.

Once every six weeks in the transfer devotional my companions (Elder Dudley is once again in the offices) and I get five minutes to say whatever we want to the whole mission. I love that time and spend weeks in anticipation, thinking about what I can say that I have learned or that the mission needs to hear. Also, with our new plan, the transfer devotional features the presentation of the tutors and disciples, and the heroes have time to share their feelings and their testimony. It is always a great expereince.

Wednesday after the airport we went to Reynosa, to bring some needed furniture, proselyting materials, and packages to the missionaries, and yesterday we went to Linares, which is about a two hour drive to the southeast. I love roadtrips (largely due to the fact that I always remember our family roadtrips, particularly our Church History tour.) I love seeing the beautiful scenery, having time to think, and having good conversations with my companions.
I brought my journal along, hoping to catch up, but ended up bringing the wrong one. (I grabbed one that was already full). But it turned out all right. My companions and I chose random dates and I shared with them some of the experiences that I have had on my mission.

Our change of [proselyting] area . . . has been an interesting experience. Our priorities have been to meet the members and gain their confidence, work with the bishop and ward mission leader, and use the area book. Opening an area has made me better understand the importance of keeping good records in the area book, so that those who come later can build upon the foundation we lay.

We left a lot of good people behind in Victoria. One of them is a young man named Jesus Chaides. Jesus is 16 years old and came to live with his newlywed cousin in Monterrey, in order to go to school and get a job. His cousin is a member and invited him to church. That is where we met him.

When we first started teaching him, he was just like any other of today's youth: not very interested in God--in fact, he didn't believe in him. But after talking with him, we found what he was interested in: he likes helping people (he told us that he wants to build houses for poor people some day.) So we talked to him about the best way that he could help people: serving a mission, and he expressed desires to accompany us and see what we do. Our next lesson, we talked about the Plan of Salvation and caught his attention. Never has an investigator asked so many sincere questions as did Jesus.

Little by little he has been changing. Now, he has the desire to be baptized. It was hard to say goodbye to him. We went with the new missionaries in Victoria to introduce them to Jesus a few days ago. Jesus asked us if we could come to his baptism. We told him that we would. I love seeing how the gospel changes people.

I have no doubt that there are people just like Jesus in America (my new area) and in all parts of the world, people who are waiting to hear the message of the restoration.

Gracias por sus oraciones y su amor.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010 -- Transfers, Zone Councils, and Other Things

I appreciate the concern that Dad expressed in the letter this week about safety here in Mexico. President Mendoza explained things very well in his letter to the families. I really have no idea of what is on the news there and in other parts of the world, but, based on the phone calls and letters we receive in the offices, I think that they paint the picture a lot worse than things really are. (Or maybe it is just that those who call are family members who love and worry about their missionary sons and daughters.) As you know, I spent six months in Reynosa, and as an assistant to President Mendoza I am quite involved with everything that goes on in the mission, both frontera (border) and ciudad (city). And I can tell you that, yes, there are things going on, but that the missionaries are protected and the work goes on.

This week was wonderful. Monday and Tuesday we were involved in the sacred process of transfers. As always, it was incredible. This time, we finished in record time. (Of course, last transfer we finished quickly but spent the rest of the week making changes to the transfers as we received more information about the missionaries.)

I have described the transfer process before, but one of the parts that most impacts me is how much we pray. We start with a prayer. We place the zone leaders and we pray. We place the district leaders and we pray. We place the tutors and we pray. We place the senior companions and we pray. We place the junior companions and we pray. When we finish, we pray. Participating in the transfer process has helped me strengthen my testimony that church government and organization, as well as who is called to what calling, is a sacred thing and truly inspired.

After the last prayer Tuesday night, when we were finishing the transfers, I took a few minutes to look at the transfer board. For a few minutes, it seemed as if my eyes were opened. I saw the potential of each missionary and each companionship, how each brought certain strengths but also certain weaknesses, and what they could achieve if they worked together.

I don’t know if I have told you this before, but I have discovered that personal growth, improvement, and progression in the mission field are accelerated. If a missionary works hard and sets goals, he can achieve miracles in the lives of others and his own life much quicker than he could at home.

As part of the transfer process, we decided that it is time that the assistants change area. Our current area, Victoria, is somewhat distant from the offices, so next Tuesday my companions and I will be transferred together to America, an area closer to the offices. I have never opened an area before, but I am excited. It will be somewhat of an adventure, an experience for learning and growth. We are going to work hard, building on the foundation that the missionaries before us left in the area book, and looking for the Lord’s chosen children who are waiting for the Lord’s chosen servants.

Wednesday, we had our mission president´s council, which is a meeting with President Mendoza and his counselors. We talked about the needs of our mission and thus chose the topics for the next day’s zone leader council.

Thursday we had the ZLC. It was incredible. President Mendoza began teaching us two great principles. First, he taught us about sacrifice, based on the story of Cain and Abel, and the importance of sacrificing what the Lord asks, not what we want to give. Then he talked about councils and their role in the Church. President Mendoza is a great teacher.

When Elder de Hoyos came to our mission two weeks ago, he also taught us about councils. He taught us many things. One of the things that most caught my attention was his teachings about questions. He told us that good questions are one of a teacher’s most powerful tool. He told us that he himself has been trying to ask more questions instead of giving more answers. For example, he said that when he is in a conference with an Area Seventy or stake or mission presidents and someone asks him a question, and he begins to give a response, but President Johnson, the Area President, tugs his jacket, reminding Elder de Hoyos to respond with a question that helps the questioner find is own answer.

So I have been trying to follow his example. When I prepared my topic for the ZLC, all I did was make a list of good questions to prompt discussion and help us find the answers as a council. It went well. It was truly amazing.

Speaking of missionaries, in his letter Dad . . . asked me what helped me decide to serve a mission.

There are many things that helped me make that decision, but I think one of the most important factors is that I made that decision a long time before I turned 19. At least since I was 14, and probably a lot earlier, in the back of mind I always had two prime goals: go on a mission and become a good husband and father some day. It was part of my mindset.

Of course there are lots of other factors, such as good friends, good parents, being active in church, Mutual, and seminary. Another important factor was my pre-mission experiences with missionary work. I still remember my mission-for-a-day feelings and experiences.

When I think about my peers that decided not to serve, I think that they also made that decision long before they turned 19, or they consciously made other decisions that would later impede full-time missionary service--decisions such as not to attend seminary very often (or not to participate if their parents forced them to go). Decisions to spend time with the wrong sort of people, or decisions to break commandments.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 -- Message from President Mendoza

In my email last week, I made brief mention of the things that are going on here in Mexico. Yesterday, President Mendoza sent an email to all the parents of missionaries in our mission explaining what is happening and explaining that we are safe and protected.

I recieved permission to send you the email today. . . .

[Editors' note: What immediately follows is a translation of the original message, generated with the help of Google Translate. The original Spanish version appears after the translation.]

The Mexico Monterrey East Mission is divided into two major population centers. Half of the missionaries serve in the metropolitan area of Monterrey and the other half on the border with the southern part of Texas, USA, in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico. [In this border area,] we serve the stakes of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Rio Bravo, Matamoros, and Valle Hermoso, all of these in the state of Tamaulipas.

During the past three weeks we have witnessed what is said in Matthew 24:6. ["And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."] Our missionaries in the border have literally heard the thunder of gunfire and heard plenty of voices with true and false data. I have said they have a right to feel afraid because in addition to the struggle that Paul describes in Ephesians 6:12 ["For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places . . . ,"] now we are also spectators of a war between two groups of offenders with one another and the Mexican army as a third contender.

The little information that appears in the media does not report the magnitude of what is happening and much of what circulates on the Internet is not quite real. But the purpose of this letter is so you know that this “war” is between two rival groups that meet in public places [and] has caused harm to innocent people who, by accident or circumstantially, have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The same occurs when some members of these groups are confronted by members of the Mexican army patrolling the city to ensure the safety of public.

The attacks are not directed at civilians and I am happy to report that none of our missionaries has witnessed a situation of this kind.

None of our missionaries has been injured in these violent acts because the Lord protects them according to the promise of D&C 84:88 ["And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up"] and by the prayers of every member of the church family that includes us in your prayers. Thank you very much for that. It is noteworthy that on Monday, March 8, four of our missionaries were attacked and robbed while they slept. This happened in the morning. Fortunately, they only lament the theft of valuables.

We are in constant communication with the stake presidents and leaders of area home missionaries. We direct that the missionaries:

  1. Stay away from any place that might pose a danger.
  2. Upon identifying a place of conflict, move away in the opposite direction.
  3. Follow the recommendations of the bishops, stake presidents, and civil authorities.
  4. Stay tuned to the promptings of the Spirit to walk in safe places.
  5. They should return home [no?] later than 7:30 pm.
  6. They must also report any situation that affects or involves risk.

We have faith that the Lord will protect us, but we remain cautious in fulfilling our mission work.

* * *

“La misión México Monterrey Este se distribuye en dos grandes núcleos de población. La mitad de los misioneros sirve en la zona metropolitana de la ciudad de Monterrey y la otra mitad en la frontera con la parte sur de Texas, E.U, en la cercanía del Golfo de México. Servimos a las estacas de Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Río Bravo, Matamoros y Valle Hermoso, todas estas en el estado de Tamaulipas”.

“Durante las últimas 3 semanas hemos sido testigos de lo que dice Mateo 24:6. Nuestros misioneros en la frontera han escuchado literalmente el trueno de los disparos y han escuchado un sinfín de voces con datos ciertos y datos falsos. He dicho que tienen derecho a sentir temor porque además de la lucha que describe Pablo en Efesios 6:12, ahora también somos espectadores de una guerra entre 2 grupos de delincuentes entre si y el ejército mexicano como tercer contendiente”.

“La poca información que aparece en los medios de comunicación no refieren la magnitud de lo que sucede y mucho de lo que circula en internet no es del todo real. Pero el objetivo de esta carta es que usted sepa que ésta “guerra” es entre dos grupos rivales que al enfrentarse en lugares públicos han causado daño a personas inocentes que por accidente o circunstancialmente han estado en el lugar equivocado en el momento inoportuno.”

“Lo mismo ocurre cuando algunos integrantes de esos grupos son enfrentados por miembros del ejército mexicano que patrullan las ciudades para garantizar la seguridad de la población”

“Los ataques no están dirigidos a la población civil y me alegra informar que ninguno de nuestros misioneros ha sido testigo presencial de una situación de éste tipo”.

“Ninguno de nuestros misioneros ha sido lastimado en estos actos violentos gracias a que el Señor les protege según la promesa de DyC 84:88 y por las oraciones de cada familia miembro de la iglesia que nos incluye en sus plegarias, muchas gracias por eso. Cabe mencionar que el lunes 8 de marzo 4 de nuestros misioneros sufrieron un ataque y robo mientras dormían. Esto sucedió en la madrugada. Afortunadamente solo lamentamos el robo de sus objetos de valor”.

“Estamos en comunicación constante con los Presidentes de Estaca y los líderes de casa Zona de misioneros. Hemos dado instrucciones a los misioneros de que:

  1. Se alejen de cualquier lugar que pueda representar un peligro.
  2. Al identificar un lugar de conflicto, se alejen en dirección contraria.
  3. Sigan las recomendaciones de los Obispos, Presidentes de estaca y autoridades civiles.
  4. Estén atentos a las impresiones del Espíritu para caminar por lugares seguros.
  5. Deben regresar a casa a más tardar a las 7:30 de la noche.
  6. También deben reportar cualquier situación que les afecte o implique peligro”.

Tenemos fe en que el Señor nos protegerá, pero estamos siendo prudentes al cumplir nuestra labor misional.

* * *

Friday, March 5, 2010 -- En las mañanitas cantaba el Rey David; hoy, por ser tu cumpleaños, te los cantamos a ti

[Translation: In the early mornings, King David sang; today, on your birthday, I sing it to you.]

[Editors' note: This is the second of two postings for Friday, March 10. The first appears below.]

Before all else, I want to wish [my little brother] Benson a happy birthday. Here in Mexico, the traditional birthday song is called “Las Mañanitas” ["The Early Morning,"] and it is usually sung very early in the morning to wake up the special birthday boy or girl. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wake you up singing on your birthday, but I did think about you.

You have now reached the age of accountability, and are starting it well, using your agency to chose to follow Jesus's example and be baptized. Everything that I do as a missionary is centered on helping people understand how important it is to make that same decision. Congratulations! I am sure it will be a very special day. I always tell people that they will feel a happiness and joy that they have never felt before, and I know that you will as well. . . .

As Benson competes eight years of life, I complete 21 months as a missionary. It is hard to believe--in fact, I don’t like thinking about it. But it has also been a time to evaualte myself and think about where I am, how far I have come, and how much further I have to go.

As I told (and showed) you in my other emails, today we went to some caves. I truly stand all amazed not only at the love Jesus offers me, but also at the beauty of His creation.

Ever since last week’s opportunity to attend the sealing of Eddy and Olga, I have been more excited to work with families than ever. My companion and I are teaching several families, including three part-member families. It is wonderful to teach families.

Last Sunday, the Lord blessed us with a "tender mercy" in church. The teen-age cousin of one of our ward members has come to stay with them for a few months to study and work. He came to church with them that day and that evening we taught him in their home. In the first lesson he accepted a baptismal date. His name is Jesus Chaides and is a good guy. He wants to come with us one day next week to see us work, and wants to go on a mission when he finishes high school. What a blessing!

Mom asked me in her email if there is something that I would like you to fast for. In the missionary handbook, it suggests that we not ask our families at home to join us in special fasts for investigators. But since you offer, I think it would be great for you all to fast for something that the Area Presidency asked all the members in Mexico to fast for as part of a quest to re-dedicate ourselves to the Lord:
  1. That the government leaders throughout all the world can make good decisions that protect their people and help the gospel to grow, and
  2. That the members of the Church throughout the world have the desire to be obedient to God's commandments.

In the months of November, December, and January, all the members of the Church in Mexico fasted together for those purposes, and I can see the wisdom in that fast as well as the other things that the Area presidency has asked us to do.

I don’t know how much you hear about what is going on here in Mexico. But I imagine that it is quite a bit. Just know this: I am fine, as are all the missionaries here. The Lord protects us when we are obedient, and as Joseph Smith said, “No unhallowed hand shall stop this work.” When I get home I’ll have some stories to tell, but for now, just know that I am well and am protected as are all missionaries.

I truly appreciate your prayers and fasts and thoughts and love.

Friday, March 5, 2010 -- Preparation Day

[Editors' note: This is the second of two posts for March 5, 2010. The first appears immediately above.]

Today President Mendoza gave us permision to have an excursion. . . .

We had to drive about 1.5 hours to arrive to the mountains where our final destination was.

As we got closer, we enjoyed the view even more. We drove there in missionary attire, then changed into normal clothes in the car. I no longer have normal clothes, so I wore my exercise pants and a soccer jersey I bought here.

The place where we were going was called Grutas de Garcia or, being translated, Garcia's Caves.

From left to right: Elder Lopez (records secretary), Elder Castillo (financial secretary), Elder Christosomo (my companion), Elder Dudley (assistant, but not currently my companion), Elder Larsen (executive secretary), and me.

To get to the caves, we had to go up in a ski-lift sort of thing.

It was fun with four of us in the car.

The view from the top was also amazing.

In the caves, there were many beautiful things to see. We moved in and around and over and under the formations.

It was truly incredible! According to the guide, it took 50 million years to form it (wow!).

Several of the formations had man-given names for their shapes, such as . . .

the gorilla (el gorila),

hell (el infierno) (made more scary by the red-lighting),

the donkey's head (la cabeza del burro),

and the dead man's hand (la mano del muerto).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010 -- The Most Beautiful Day of My Mission

This week was amazing. It was home to some of the best experiences of my life, but also some of the most intense stress I have ever delt with.

Let's start with the good news. You will remember the Montoya Leal family, who were baptized December 28 2008 in Juarez. From the moment that Elder Zamudio and I began to teach them, we had the vision of them becoming an eternal family. I think that vision helped us defeat the challenges that came up during their conversion and stick with them.

That same vision helped us write to them from time to time after being transferred to encourage them and to remind them of the feelings that they experienced when they first got to know the gospel.

That vision has become a reality. Edy and Olga and two of their children were sealed for time and all eternity in the Monterrey Mexico Temple last Wednesday. It was incredible.

It felt so great to see them after so long. But it felt as if it had been only yesterday that I was with them in the Ranchito. They have progressed immensely.

As I sat with them in the endowment session, a multitude of thoughts and feelings struck me. Only months ago I was teaching them the basic principles of the gospel, so simple yet so foreign to them, and now they were learning with me, being taught from on high. I remembered how I felt when I went to the temple for the first time—the feelings I had, the questions that came to my mind, how I was so extremely nervous at first, but ended with the greatest peace that I had felt in all my life. . . .

I learned a lot in that session. I learned that I, as a missionary, am a true messenger of Jesus Christ sent to help people prepare to return to the presence of God. I also learned more about the importance of the family in God's eternal plan.

I had the blessing and privilege of being a witness in their sealing. This was the second time that I had seen the sealing ordinance (the first being when I participated in vicarious sealings in the Provo Temple during my stay in the MTC). I said then and I repeat that the sealing ordinance is the most beautiful thing I have seen on this earth. In fact, it is what this earth is all about.

Tears came to my eyes as I they were sealed, first to each other, then to their children, for time and all eternity. Such joy filled my heart as I saw them hug each other with a love that was truly eternal. Nothing can compare.

If every day of my mission was full of rejections and hardships and trials (and many are), it would be worth every minute of it for that moment in the temple.

Another special part of Wednesday’s experience was seeing many of the members from Juarez, with whom I had worked when I was in that area. The Gomez family, who were the Montoyas’ fellowshippers even before they were baptized, were by their side every minute in the temple. What a great day!

As I mentioned, today we had a zone leader council with Elder Benjamin De Hoyos of the 70 and the Mexico Area Presidency. It was also a wonderful moment. He spoke mainly of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and its importance and relation to missionary work. He also talked about the importance of good questions as part of our teaching with our investigators, and he talked about our future. He spoke for about three hours, and then gave us time to have our council as we usually do. I was very nervous, but had the opportunity of leading a discussion in front of Elder de Hoyos. It went well. In fact, he complimented us on our council, and taught us about the importance of councils in church organization and government.

Tomorrow we have another meeting with Elder De Hoyos. I’m excited.

Now you are probably wondering why this week was also so stressful. Many of the reasons were for normal duties of an assistant to the President, which I will tell you more about later. But the main reason was all the preparation that we had to do for Elder De Hoyos. We cleaned the offices from floor to ceiling. The truth is, I have never seen the offices so clean as they are now. And several things went wrong. The dryer broke and we didn’t have a way to wash the tablecloths. We brought them to a landromat, but they came out wrinkled, and we spent hours trying to iron them, but never could figure out how. But in all this, there is another lesson to be learnt, one which President Mendoza has taught us several times: don’t let the details take away the Spirit. Or don’t stress so much about the little things that you can’t enjoy the spiritual moment when it comes.

But despite the stress, it was a great experience.

I am well and happy. This work is the Lord's work, and nothing can get in the way.

* * *

[In answer to questions about culture in Mexico:]

There are all sorts of Mexican Music. Mariachi is one, ranchera, grupoer, cumbia, salsa, and much more. There is Mexican rock, Mexican pop, even Mexican country. One of the most common among today's youth is regeton, but it is the equivalent of rap: there is nothing good about it.

* * *
One of the most famous parts of Mexican culture is the food. And not just tacos and burritos. Every region has a traditional dish with a rich taste and a richer history. Probably the best part about Mexican food is how willing the Mexican people are to share it.