Monday, December 28, 2009

Pictures and E-mail from 12/28/09

Merry Christmas from Cleveland!
The elevator door at Matt's apartment.

The front door of Matt's apartment building.

A cold day in Cleveland.

Eating ice cream. No, the missionary 3rd from the left couldn't finish his whole thing.

Elder Pickett, Bro. Branch, Matt

The shoes are already getting pretty worn out.

I guess we do get to email today.

Yes, calling home was definitely the best part of Christmas. When is Mothers' Day again?

Our church is going to be starting at 9:00am this year as well. That is nice because we'll actually have time to work after church instead of killing half of the day waiting for it. Luckily I don't think we have to get up early for church since we have to get up at the same time every day anyways.

Do well with your relief society lesson. That is cool to hear that Tucker is going on a mission, too.

I hope you guys have fun at the cabin. Are you doing anything special or just going up there to have a good time. How much snow do you guys have in Utah now? We finally got the start of a good storm yesterday and it is still snowing, but not nearly as hard as it was last night. Still we have nothing compared to what Utah usually gets by now.

I think Grandpa's foodmust be an acquired taste or something because I remember really liking his cooking for the past several years. Mushrooms, onions, peppers, squash, eggplant...yum! How can you not love it? Everything goes well with onions! And his pancakes are delicious!

The Browns won 4 games now? Is that a club record or something?

I don't know what is going on with New Year's Eve nor New Year's Day. One of them might be changed to our P-day but I haven't heard anything yet.

Per your question, I think Destiny drinks and I don't think any of our other investigators do.

Happy New Year!

Elder Smith

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

E-mail from 12/22/09

Merry Christmas everyone!!

So we have a shortened P-day today so we can email and then Christmas will be a P-day too. Important things first: I will probably be calling sometime around 7:00pm or so, Cleveland time, depending on how long Elder Wayment stays on the phone with his family. If I am correct, that would be 5:00pm Utah time. Yes, of course I am excited to talk to you guys.

We found transfer information yesterday. Elder Pickett and I are both going to stay here in Cleveland. We will also be getting a new companion, Elder Wayment, in a triple-up for two weeks until he goes home. He is going home a couple weeks early to go to school. Elder Bready, one of the spaniards in our district, is being transferred, and we will find out who Elder Baxter's new companion is tomorrow.

Good job Peyton, Delaney and Cody on your musical, dancing, and scientific talent and prowess. I'm sure you did great. I would have loved to hear Praise to the Man on violin. We just had the "praise to the man" lesson in priesthood also and it was really good. Our ward was pretty sparse Sunday as well - most of the students have gone home for the holidays now that their finals or mid-terms (depending on what year of school they are in) are over.

Hannah's wedding sounds like it was really nice. I don't think I've ever been in the Oquirrh Temple while it was dedicated. It seems to me like sending a son (or daughter) on a mission would be tougher since you can't call except for twice per year, but I don't know either. You'll have to tell me when you find out.

So at Cody's concert was it a whole orchestra and he played drums, or is he on a drumline or did percussion do something by itself or what? I don't think I fully understand what he does other than bang on drums loudly.

Thanks for getting me Eric's email. I asked about his mission because if I know the mission I can find out his mailing address. Thanks also for Nate's mission. Is there more than one mission in the Czech Republic? I think Jordan is in the Utica, NY mission, right? How about Jacob VanWagoner? I can't believe he's on a mission! I can't believe I'm on a mission! I take that back-yes I can. Even though I've only been out for 5 months it already seems like all I've ever known. I wonder what it will feel like when I've been out for another year?

I'm not sure where we will be calling from, but we will be eating brunch at the Lights (same place we had Thanksgiving dinner) and we have been invited to the mission home as well. We will probably stop by the Youngs sometime as well.

I got to go on exchanges with Elder Baxter (Spaniard) this past week. That was pretty fun to be able to talk and teach in Spanish. I could understand every single word HE said (he's a gringo), but the rest of the investigators we talked to varied from very clear and easy to understand to very slurred and low and hard to comprehend.

Good luck with your talk on Sunday, Dad. I would love to be able to hear all the talks given by the missionary dads-I know I've heard those types of talks before, but I definitely have a new perspective now. It's kind of like the talks given about the need to prepare for a mission-you pay a lot more attention to them after you arrive in the mission field and realize that everyone else knows the scriptures like the back of their hand and you have got some catching up to do. I think I was pretty well prepared, but I definitely could have done better.

You mentioned that I should have enough faith to move a mountain. If it was the Lord's will, I'm sure I could, but that's because mountains don't have agency. However inconvenient it may be, people DO have agency. Half of me wants to wish that I could just faith away people's Word of Wisdom challenges - and certainly faith and prayers of their own and on their behalf can help them along the way - but they have to use their agency as well, and I am sure it is still very hard.

I sent home the SD card in a letter; you should be getting it soon (or maybe I sent it last week and you already got it, I can't remember). I think I received all the packages you mentioned and some letters as well. Please say thank you to all my cousins for the letters and pictures they wrote. That was really nice and brightened up my day a ton. Thanks. The same goes to the cub scouts, their card was very thoughtful.

It hasn't snowed that much, actually. I think we've only got an inch or less on the ground right now. The weather has been pretty mild all week.

We got to go caroling to some active and less active members of the ward last night. That was pretty fun. A member with a huge van took us, the Parma elders (neither of them are being transferred, by the way), and some ward members. That was a lot of fun and very Christmas-y.

We have a new investigator, Brenda, who is pretty cool. She had been taught by the elders in the neighboring Lakewood ward and moved into our area. I guess she has come to church before also. Unfortunately, like every single one of our other investigators, I think she smokes. Tim and Barbara and Destiny are all good. Tim had surgery for a hernia the other day and is still pretty knocked out with pain pills so we haven't had too much contact with him this week but we still visit and will start really teaching again probably this week or next week. If you would, please remember him in your prayers that he will be able to recover, and Destiny and Brenda that they will be able to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon's veracity through the manifestations of the Holy Ghost.

Well, I'll talk to you on Friday!

Elder Smith

Friday, December 18, 2009

Letter from 12/9/09

Dear Mom & Dad,

Hello! How is everybody doing? Hopefully this finds you warmer than you were when you wrote the letter I just received! (dated 12/3/09)

So yesterday we had mission conference at the Kirtland Temple. WOW. I don't even know where to start! The Spirit of God like a fire really was burning! We sang the mission song (the variation of "Armies of Helaman", and then Karl Anderson (former Kirtland Stake President, Stake Patriarch, and Guru of all things Kirtland) and President Sorensen both spoke about
D&C 109 & 110 - the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple and Christ's manifestation there. They talked about all the promises made there and how they apply to missionaries. It was really cool. The Spirit was strong, but that wasn't the half of it. Then we broke up into zones and each zone met in one of the corners of the temple's lower room (where the meeting was conducted). As you may recall, the Kirtland Temple was designed so curtains could drop down and split up the room into separate classrooms. We basically did that, but without the curtains. As zones, we had testimony meetings for about an hour and everybody bore powerful testimony, which of course invited the Spirit even more. Finally, we all stood and, from the four quarters of the Kirtland Temple, where Jesus Christ the Savior has personally appeared in His Glory, and for whose dedication the song was originally written and sung, we sang and we shouted with the armies of heaven and made the exultant notes of "The Spirit of God" ring through the air and reverberate through our hearts and souls as if the very choirs of Heaven sang with us. And I know that they did, for the Spirit bore witness to me that, while I may not have been able to see then with my physical eyes, we were not alone in the temple that day. The Spirit was so strong that I don't know how the veil wasn't rent in twain. Definitely it was at least thinned.

After that, we left the temple and, with shining countenances and beaming faces, went to the Kirtland Stake Center for lunch and further instruction. President Sorensen has challenged us to read the book of Mormon in 90 days starting on the 1st, highlighting Christ's attributes and circling references to Him. Also, we got the letters they asked you to write - thank you. They were very inspirational to me and it helps build my testimony to hear about how you have been blessed since I've been away.

I want to thank you both again for being the most loving and supportive parents I could ever have asked for. I have definitely grown to appreciate you both more since I have arrived in Ohio. The funny thing is, it's not the delicious meals or free laundry or things like that that have made me so much more thankful, although I would have thought they would be. What really has given me a testimony of how blessed I have been is how tragically common it is for me to see broken homes and families here. So often, it seems, one or both parents are missing from children's lives. Even if they are not, it is even more common to see parent figures that are terrible examples to their children. Thank you for being good examples for me and always being there for me. I can truly say that I, like Nephi of old, have "been born to goodly parents" who love the Lord. Again, thank you for showing forth your love for each other, me, Delaney, Cody, Peyton, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that it could be clearly seen in our home, and for teaching us and sharing with us your testimonies of Jesus Christ and his gospel, so that we can now say, like the Sons of Helaman, "we do not doubt that our mother (and father) knew it".

Bed time - going to bed
Next day - lunch time 12/10/09

Wow. I just read the letter over again - I kind of waxed eloquent there, didn't I?

Anyways, I just wanted to share with you my testimony that I know God is our Heavenly Father and that He knows and loves every one of us. I know that Jesus Christ is His only begotten son in the flesh, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and of each one of us personally. I know the through Jesus Christ's atonement and gospel we can be cleansed of our sins by repenting and having faith in Him. I know that the Book of Mormon - another Testament of Jesus Christ is truly the word of God, written by inspired prophets and preserved by the matchless power of the Lord to come forth in this last dispensation, and that anyone who truly searches it and prays with faith and real intent will come to know by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true. I know that Joseph Smith was called of God as a prophet to restore His church and the original truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which had been lost and changed over the years. I know that the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses individuals and families abundantly - that is something I have come to know much more surely since I've been here. I know the church is true and I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet called of God to lead and guide the church. In the Savior's love I trust and in His name I testify, even Jesus Christ, amen.

(I couldn't decide if you are supposed to write "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen" after writing your testimony - never thought of that before).

Well, see you later. Time to go tract in the snow!

Elder Smith

Monday, December 14, 2009

E-mail from Dec. 14th


So-Forgotten Carols+Music and the Spoken Word+Mini concert afterwards+Stake Night of Music+Laurent singing O Holy Night=Christmas music overload? Is there such a thing? Probably not. Did you sing in the Choir?

I still don't understand why they didn't go hunting. (Note from Patty: I explained to Matt that there were no swans in the area and they decided not to go hunting for that reason. Even though that usually doesn't stop them.)

We've gotten a little snot - whoops, I mean snow - here. Luckily we haven't got anything like a real utah snowstorm yet. We did get some snow and it is still on the ground, but nothing much. What I didn't expect is the wind. It is very wet and cold and cold and wet. Not very nice at all. We have to bundle up before venturing outside on windy days, which occur quite frequently.

Good job, Dad, for getting four patents this year. That is pretty cool. Bonuses are nice too. Now I can tell Elder Pickett that my dad is smarter than his school-teacher dad. Bwahaha!

Sorry you have to listen to Cody practicing his drums. Ask him if playing Rock Band prepared him at all for drumming. Does it sound like it did?

What's inside of Delaney's bottle-truck-drivey thing that makes it go? Tell me how that works, it sounds cool. If anything is wrong with it, you can probably fix it by using enough duct tape. "What do you MEAN duct tape doesn't count as a simple machine, teacher?"

OK, I will look forward with bated breath to receiving your Christmas box. Soooo...what's in it? Anything I need? No, not really, the church takes pretty good care of us. Anything I want? many things, but nothing in particular. Maybe a family to teach and baptize.

Anything you can tell people they could send? Letters, cards, or packages, I guess. Sorry, I'm not being much help, am I? More thermals would be nice-it's colder than I anticipated. Maybe a CD/MP3 player with some churchy music? (it would have to be in the hymnbook if you do this) candy? money? OH! One thing I do want! - Could you get me the addresses of all my peeps currently serving missions or who will soon be serving missions? Even if you can just tell me in which mission they are serving, I could probably find their addresses from the mission office.

I'm not sure if we get to email next Monday since P-day will probably be Christmas, and there will be transfers going on Tuesday or Wednesday. I'll send the SD card as soon as I get the box that has the other one in it.

Yeah-I haven't had many things I really needed and those things I have needed to get I've been putting off, so I haven't used the debit card yet. I probably will soon. By the way, does somebody need to buy a pack of gum or a tank of gas or something with my credit card? Does it need to be used every six months or something? Any rules like that for my debit card?

No, we're not singing a song by ourselves-we are just singing in the hastily thrown together ward choir that was convened for the first time yesterday. It consists of the 4 elders, 3 other men, and I think 6 women. We are singing "with wondering awe" and "while shepherds watched their flocks by night"

Yes we already had mission conference at the Kirtland Temple. That was pretty cool, and I guess it was fulfillment of a prophecy in DC 109, which is pretty cool also. I already wrote and sent a well written, eloquent, ambient, articulate, affluent, etc. letter about that. It may have even been a little superfluous. I think I sent it thursday or friday so you should probably get it soon. How long does it take for mail to get from here to there?

As for investigators, we are still teaching Tim & Barbara and Destiny. We set a baptismal date with Tim and Barbara for January 23rd, but Tim still needs to quit smoking. Unfortunately none of them could come to church yesterday. Tim is having a surgery today and Destiny was pretty sick. That was disappointing. Maybe if all of our investigators didn't smoke they would feel better more often. We did get a referral from the assistants in the next ward over who has apparently come to church a few times but recently moved into our area. I am looking forward to meeting her later today; hopefully there will be more to talk about later with her.

Elder Smith

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7th email


My week went pretty well. Sounds like yours was exciting. The Nativity scene would be cool to see. I hear they have something like that in Kirtland around this time of year. Hopefully we'll be able to see it. fun without a furnace. Just think of how the animals feel. The Spanish speaking missionaries were in the same boat as you a couple weeks ago-they moved into a new place and the gas wasn't turned on for the first 4 days. They ended up just coming to our apartment every morning to shower instead of freezing.

Those angel stories are a good idea. It really is cool that we have the opportunity to be the answers to other people's prayers if we just pay attention to them and to the promptings of the Spirit. That sounds like it was really inspirational. If you had a Christmas lesson this week, what are you going to talk about next week? Christmas again or just a normal lesson? Is there going to be a Christmas program in Sacrament? Our ward is going to have a Christmas program on the Sunday before Christmas-I think it's the 20th. We don't have a ward Choir, so a sign-up sheet was going around for people to sing. Of course I didn't sign up, but after Church Elder Cardenaz said that he had signed up both me and Elder Pickett, so I think I am going to be roped into it.

Yep, we got to watch the Christmas Devotional-it was broadcast to the church building. I loved the singing, and especially President Monson's story about the Christmas at Atlanta Airport. All the talks were great, though.

Tell Dallin congrats for me. Also, per Jason's questions, yes we have been mistaken for good guys, bad guys, ugly guys, FBI, Police, Family Services, Mafia, Dealers, you name it. Nobody else wears suits these days, I guess.

I'm glad the chicken is OK. Thats funny that you had to cuddle it to warm it up. Wouldn't it have been easier to just throw it in the oven? Or microwave? Just kidding. Was it stuck in the water and unable to get out?

Junior Jazz and being off-track should be fun. Tell me how that goes. Anything new and exciting with Delaney?

Unfortunately, Tim and Barbara couldn't come to church today. Bro. Branch (their awesome fellowshipper) called them in the morning and they said they couldn't make it. We have an appointment with them tomorrow so we'll put on our devastated faces and find out why.

Another one of our investigators, Destiny, came to church, though. It was really cool. There was this guy at church this week who is neither a member nor an investigator, but a self-proclaimed "man of the Holy Spirit from Greece" and he was making some interesting comments in Gospel Principles class. We were talking about the Plan of Salvation and the Spirit World and he made a comment to the effect that the Spirit World wasn't mentioned in the Bible and how we couldn't add to the scriptures. What was really cool was that Destiny - on her first visit to Church and only having been taught twice - turned around and told him off about how the Bible didn't contain ALL of the truth and that was why we had the Book of Mormon and continuing revelation. It was awesome.

I don't know exactly how we decide we're going to take someone to Kirtland, I think we just try to take everybody there. We would have a member drive us and the investigator to get there.

The weather has been cold, but thankfully dry. We are bundling up a lot before we venture outside. We don't ride bikes anymore-too cold for that now. I haven't bought any boots yet. I know I have to but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I don't like shopping.

It's probably better to still just send packages to the office. With transfers a couple days before Christmas, I might not be at the same apartment by the time packages arrive, and if I am still here, one of the office staff will probably call me to tell me it arrived and we can just go pick it up since the office is so close.

There's not anything I desperately need-the church takes good care of us. More thermals would be nice. Yeah, Elder Pickett gets lots of mail-his family seems to be on the ball too. You probably don't NEED to send him gifts, but if you did I'm sure he wouldn't say no to them.

Love, Elder Smith

Monday, November 30, 2009

Email from November 30th plus pictures

Matt and Elder Marini

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! Mine was great! We ended up only having 2 dinners on Thanksgiving. (but in the last 7 days I think we've had 6 Thanksgiving dinners) We ate at the Youngs and at the Lights, and they were both really good. Nothing new or specific to Cleveland that you need to add: I think Thanksgiving is pretty much the same across the US.

Also, our ward played Turkey-Bowl football in the morning as well. That was really fun, especially being in a student ward with a lot of young guys, plus 3 sets of missionaries (us, parma, and the Spaniards). The next day I was probably the most sore I've been since I stopped swimming, though. I'm only 19! That's not supposed to happen to me!

Glad to hear that righteousness prevailed over evil once more. Too bad neither teams were very impressive, though.

So...Randy fell of the roof, got amnesia, and then climbed back up? That's no good. Too bad about Sis. Clawson also, but I'm glad everybody is OK in the end.

I can't wait to try mystery flavored jerky! What are the other two flavors?

Per your questions: I typed Diane's letter at the library. I thought the other elders were done emailing and waiting for me so I got up to leave, but then I realized that two of them were still on the computers so I went back and typed up a letter while I waited.

I do not have a CD player. I am allowed to have a CD player. No headphones, no radio. We can only listen to music that is in the hymnbook or the primary songbook, or that was at one time in the hymnbook, or "This Is The Christ", or "Beautiful Savior", and I think one other song. I have heard that around Christmas time the rules are relaxed and you can listen to Christ-centered Christmas music as well, but we have not received any guidelines about that yet.

Unfortunately, Tim and Barbara (his mom) were not able to come to church yesterday-it was Barbara's birthday and they had plans with family I think. However, we are really excited because they have both been reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. Not too much new there, although we did teach and commit them to live the Word of Wisdom. We are hoping to take them to Kirtland pretty soon also.

I don't have any amazing stories right now really. No, nevermind, I guess I do. So we taught Tanika (I think I have been misspelling her name Tenika) yesterday night. Last time we taught her we had been talking about why bad things happen and we have trials. She was pretty bitter and couldn't understand why God would let her lose a baby a couple years ago. So Elder Pickett and I had been praying that her heart would be softened and she would be able to understand why she had had that trial, or at least have the faith to accept it. So yesterday we taught her about hope using Romans 5:3-5. It went really well, and she said how interesting it was that we talked about that and her pastor at her church had talked about the same thing earlier that day. I think it really helped her resolve that concern....I think my prayers might have just been answered through a baptist pastor.

We have found a couple new people who are pretty cool, but we haven't run across Mike yet. Still looking. I haven't seen LeBron in person yet, but I think I sent home the picture of the huge "we are all witnesses" poster on the side of that downtown building. I am glad to hear that Shaq has my back. I guess the Lord going before me and His angels on my right and on my left can always use some reinforcements, right? I'll bet most angels aren't as tall as Shaq!

Unfortunately I can't check on the blog. The only sites we can visit are,, and

Yeah, everyone here is happily baffled how mild the weather has been. I'm not complaining either. I haven't seen that many lights, but Saturday was "Winterfest" at public square (downtown). I guess that is when they turn on all the lights and stuff. Unfortunately, we were just there to catch a bus, so we couldn't stay and watch the lights.

well, I have to go before this computer kicks me off.
Elder Smith.
The mission home .

Matt's apartment complex.

LeBron James

Downtown Cleveland (we assume)

Matt's scar on his wrist. He had the stitches removed on Saturday before he left for the MTC on Wednesday.

The Cleveland Indians baseball stadium.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Email from November 23rd

This is Matt's new companion Elder Pickett. Maybe this picture was taken after he found out he was Matt's companion.

Hello Everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

I am still just living on a cloud today because I was so excited that Tim finally came to church yesterday. Allow me to include an excerpt from my weekly letter to President Sorensen that I just finished writing: "Dear President: Tim finally came to church yesterday! I was so excited. Church was great, the ward was very friendly and welcoming, and all the men were introducing themselves, talking to, and fellowshipping Tim. Also, this week was the ward's primary program so he got to see that as well and he said he loved it. I am really grateful to be serving in such a wonderful ward. Tim even said that he would bring his mom next week, too." As you can tell, I was pretty excited. We have had Bro. Branch teaching him with us a couple of times (I think I have sung Bro. Branch's praises to you before), and he picked him up on Sunday, showed up to church early, gave him a tour of the church, looked at all the pictures in the building, sat by him at church, and everything. We (Elder Pickett and I) were there too, but Bro. Branch would have done just fine without us.
Congratulations again on the deer. I don't know what I should congratulate you for more: getting four deer or giving away four deer. Well done either way. I will be waiting with bated breath for the letter with all the glorious details and for some jerky.

So it sounds like everybody in Utah was saying their prayers or going to the temple often or doing their home/visiting teaching or something this week, since BYU and the U both won, RSL won the soccer thing, and Bingham won state. I can't wait to hear about the holy war.
I am so jealous that you got to go see Les Mis! These musicals - it seems like everybody is into them. Just this past week we couldn't find a member to come with us to a discussion because all the students were going to see wicked. Think you could send me the lyrics to the "look down" and the song where Javert confronts Valjean? I think it is the one after "who am I?". (I would just look them up online, but that would be a no-no.)

Well, I'll tell you how Dad could tell Penny wanted to go Pheasant hunting. It's pretty simple: the same way you can tell if a fisherman is lying. Her mouth was open. I'm pretty sure she also wants to go hunting when her mouth is closed, as well, though. So there you have it: if her mouth is open or closed, she wants to go hunting. (You can use the same rule on Dad as well.)

Elder Pickett is good, he works hard, he's easy to get along with, he's a good teacher, he has a strong testimony, pretty much all you could ask for in a companion. He's been out for 14 months or so, I think.

Oh, I forgot to mention: we had our once-per-transfer interviews with President Sorensen last week and he thought it was funny that I wrote in a letter that he lost the revenue from the donuts and drinks because Holiday was closed at 4:00 am.

I'm glad you liked the photos/videos on the SD card. I wasn't sure if it recorded audio as well, because I couldn't figure out how to get the camera to play it with sound, but I guess it did. The halloween decorations were from a member's house, I think. Sorry I don't take many pictures. There's just not much here that makes me think "oh! I should get a picture of that!"

Yes, I got the box from Grandma Wilson. I had meant to send her a letter last week (and a lot of other people, too), but I just keep running out of time. I'm hoping to write a bunch of letters this week, though.

Per your question, the Lights have 3 kids, I think. They all look to be middle school or elementary school age. (This is the family they are spending Thanksgiving with.)

Well, I have got to be going.

Love you!

Have a happy Thanksgiving and say hi to everyone for me!
Love, Elder Smith

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16 email


So, I sent you a letter that talked all about transfers and stuff, but it sounds like you didn't get it yet, so here goes:

My new companion is Elder Pickett. Elder Marini was transferred to Warren-walking. I am still in West Cleveland. Our district now contains just Elder Pickett and I and the 2 Spaniards. Our old district is the same, except that we are no longer in it, Elder Carter was replaced by Elder Cardenaz (pronounced like Car-di-nezz), and the Strongsville elders were both transferred out and replaced by Elder Johnson and his new trainee or "greenie", Elder O'neill. Elder Pickett is pretty cool. I sent the SD card in the aforementioned letter and it has a picture of him on it. He is from Oceanside, CA. He has been out for about 14 months. Also, one of the Podiatry students in the ward, Bro. Utterback, is his cousin. That is pretty cool.

It sounds like the hunting trip was good. Way to go everyone on your monster-sized deer. I can't wait to hear all the details. Sorry your drive back from Challis was so miserable. I am sure enjoying our balmy weather here, though! From what I hear, though, Ohio winters are more severe than Utah winters (at least in Cleveland they are supposed to be once Lake Erie freezes.) Oh, by the way, with so many of the leaves gone off the trees we can see the lake from the apartment windows pretty easily now.

For Thanksgiving, a family in our ward, the Lights, is feeding us. Other than that I don't know exactly what we're going to do. We'll probably visit the Youngs, a less active family that has offered to feed us as well. If we time it right, we might even end up with 2 Thanksgiving dinners!

As for Christmas, that is even more in question. Transfers are the day before Christmas Eve, so we will find out three or four days before Christmas if we are staying or going. No doubt that will complicate things nicely. Assuming I stay (which is not by any means guaranteed), the Lights have again signed up to feed us.

Of course, we also get to call home (I think we even get to call home on Christmas Eve to set up a time to call on Christmas).

As for Christmas gifts, that's a tough one. I've been trying to think of what to get you guys I've been pretty much drawing a blank. Ideas would be appreciated. As for me, I think I could use a GPS - like, the kind that gives you driving directions where to go when you are lost. Other than that, some Christmas treats would be very much appreciated. I'm not sure if I mentioned before, but having something to munch on makes it much easier to stay awake and alert during morning studies. Lately I've been eating those "wasabi nut crunch" things you sent me. They taste...painful...but they sure wake you up when you start nodding off.

The investigators are doing good. We are still teaching Tim & Barbara, Tenika, and John. Also, we are back in contact with Reba, who we lost track of for a while. We had a really good lesson with Tim & Barbara the other day about the Plan of Salvation. Tim asked a lot of questions and asked if he had to be baptized again since he was already baptized, which was a great invite to talk about authority again. It went really well all in all.

I'm good, the food's good, it's all good!

Elder Smith

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Letter written 11/6/09

Dear Mom, Dad, and Family,

Hello! I am indeed staying warm, although it's been chilly for the past few days. Yesterday Elder Marini and I were commenting on how cold it was, until we saw something that said it was 50 degrees. We didn't believe it until we saw another sign that said the same thing. It was just humid with a strong wind, so that probably made it seem colder. We decided we are both wimps if we are cold and all bundled up when it is 50. Later in the evening we taught John in his house and it was like a furnace. One extreme to the other.

That's funny that they have to remind everyone in RS (and probably Priesthood too) of all those things that would seem to be no-brainers about the temple. Texting during sessions indeed! (Note from Patty: we are having to teach a lesson on wearing modest clothing, no flip flops, no cell phones, white under clothing, etc. (basically proper respect) in the temple.)

That's good to hear you have got another set of missionaries in the 2 stakes. I didn't realize they had senior missionary couples who are full-time proselyting. Do they tract and everything? Do people volunteer to feed them?

Good job Peyton for inviting another person to activity days. That's also cool that Bro. & Sis. Bott came to the Halloween activity.

So I just finished reading the Book of Mormon again and now I am trying an idea from chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel (the chapter about the BoM). I am trying to read the BoM and circle every reference to Christ and highlight all His words spoken by Him or the prophets when they say "thus sayeth the Lord" or things like that. I decided I'm going to have to circle references to God the Father as well as the Lord because they are sometimes difficult to tell apart in the scriptures. Also, in the Isaiah chapters of 1-2 Nephi, I found out that it is hard to tell when Christ is speaking apart from when Isaiah is speaking.

Well, I had better be going.

Elder Smith

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Email from Matt


Sorry for the late email. P-day is Tuesday the week of transfers. I wrote a letter, but I'm not sure if you would have received it yet. I am horrible about writing a letter one day and not finding a chance to mail it until a few days later. So I found out that I am staying in West Cleveland, but Elder Marini is getting transferred out. Elder Carter is also being transferred, and Elder Leake is staying. Both of the sisters are staying. Elders Brown and Allen are being "shotgunned" out - they are both being transferred. So now the suspense is on until tomorrow when I meet my new companion. This is going to be weird - half of the district is leaving.

I'm glad to hear that Cody and Peyton were both finally able to 'move', even if their respective rooms aren't completely done yet. Are Peyton and Delaney super excited to have their own rooms? Does Cody like being able to look out his window and look over all his kingdom - horses, chickens, dogs, etc?

Good job Delaney with your piano number and getting your driving permit. Did you decide if it's time to get your patriarchal blessing yet? You should start driving. It's less stressful if you start with Dad.

So - are they going to Idaho this week? Who all is going? Are they getting a flight into Bernard from Challis?

That's funny - "thanks for all the crap you gave us!". Are the new family that just moved in members or not? (Note from Patty: We gave this family 14 garbage bags full of horse manure for their garden and they thanked us with a treat and the thank you card said "thanks for all the crap, we've never had anyone give us so much crap before". It was funny!)

So the other day we were contacting a referral we got from church HQ for a bible. It was after dark and it was in a less-desirable part of town - right by a CMHA (Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority/government housing project) tower. The man we were looking for wasn't there, but while we were talking at the door a car pulled into the drive with a couple older ladies in it. We walked past the car to get back to the street and they cracked the window and asked "are y'all church people?" we said we were and they said something like "oh thank goodness, y'all about gave us a heart attack. We thought y'all was a couple a' killers!" We thought it was pretty funny. I guess I am more intimidating than I thought. Just the next day, someone at church said I must have been hugged a lot as a baby because I always smile so much. Interesting contrast. Good job mom and dad (and everybody else who contributed hugs), I guess you hugged me enough as a baby.

Update on investigators:

John:Not too much to update. We taught him several times more. We taught him the first half of the plan of salvation (premortal life, creation, fall of adam, and earth life) (we'll teach the last half of it next time) and a cool lesson that teaches about the organization of Christ's church, the great apostasy, and the restoration of the gospel by using a bunch of little cups and making towers out of them. It would be too tedious to explain the whole thing, but it's cool. He is in pretty poor health and thinks he's going to die soon. I hope not, but from the way he looks, sounds, and coughs, I can believe it.

Tim and Barbara: We taught them the same lessons as we taught John. They had somewhat of a hangup with original sin, but not too bad. They really like Bro. Branch and I think he is going to be a great fellowshipper for them.

Tenika: Taught her about authority and the restoration (the cups lesson) also. You may have heard about the serial killer they just caught in cleveland. She got a call at the start of our lesson and found out that one of her old friends had been one of his victims. She was understandably a little bit distracted, but otherwise everything went pretty well. I think that is just about everybody that we are teaching consistently. I am really thankful to finally have investigators who we can consistently teach. I just wish they would come to church, read the book of mormon, pray with faith to know it's true, quit all their bad habits, be baptized and confirmed, go to the temple, and endure to the end now.

Not much else to report. It's getting colder, the members are feeding us, Bro. Branch and Bro. Wray are amazing, and it's all good.

I'll probably send home the sd card this week or next week. Sorry I am not very diligent at picture taking. I have started carrying my camera with me in my coat pocket, but I never think to take pictures of things.

Love you!
Elder Smith

Friday, November 6, 2009

Excerpts from letters written to the family this week

10/29 - to the family
It's about 3:15 and we just got home because Elder Marini isn't feeling well. It seems like everyone is getting sick. Hopefully I'm not next in line. Staying home is boring. I hope he gets better soon. Not much to do. Is everyone staying well at home? On the plus side, i got to take a nap and read a lot of the Book of Mormon today. I am in the war chapters in Alma. We read Alma 26 in comp. study this morning. That was good; it has a lot of inspirational and missionary-appropriate scriptures.

9:50 p.m. now. I'm going to bed once I finish writing. We had dinner at the mission office. It was good except for the foul concoction they had for us to drink: wassel. (Not sure how to spell it, but wassel by any other name doth taste as foul.)

Have fun hunting, painting, etc. Good job on having family prayer and scripture study - keep it up. Like Elder Bednar said in his talk at conference, "more diligent and concerned at home", each brushstroke isn't amazing or notable in and of itself, but they make an amazing picture when seen together, so good job at being consistent.

10/28 - to Cody

Elder Marini's full name is Larry Charles Marini, but before his mission he went by "Chas" or "Chaz". He has sisters, but the youngest one is 34 or 38 - old enough to be your mom. So you might have to wait for me to have a different companion - unless you are into older women.
Elder Marini just woke up - his youngest sister is 36. She is married. Maybe one of her daughters is your age, I don't know.

10/28 - to Peyton

I heard you taught family home evening about the proclamation on the family. That is really cool. God job. One of the first tings Elder Marini and I usually teach people is about how much the gospel blesses families. The family proclamation definitely shows that it is true.

No baptisms yet, I'm working on it.

- To Diane's Family

Today is P-day so Elder Marini and I and the Strongsville elders played Euchre all day until about 5:00. Then we had an appointment in the projects. We took Bro. Branch with us. He is a huge black guy who is a security guard and working on becoming a police officer. The Lord promises that He will send angels on our left and on our right, but extra reinforcements are always welcome when walking into drug-dealer town.

Well, hopefully this Swine flu epidemic won't be as bad as hey are projecting. We don't have any special precautions for swine flu that I've heard of. Obviously, after we go to a hospital to give a blessing to someone who is sick, we wash our hands, but I don't even know if we get regular flu shots. It seems like everybody is getting sick - members, investigators and missionaries alike.

The service we do is not usually assigned. Usually people ask us or we ask them if they need anything.

It was getting cold for a while but we've been having a warm spell for the past week or so. It even broke 70 the other day and we could go out in our shirts without coats. I expect the weather will be taking a turn for the worse shortly, though. The trees are looking pretty, though, which is nice.

After a week of having to fend for ourselves for several dinners (which usually means frozen waffles, top ramen, or grilled cheese. We would go for fast food, but it's the end of the month and our funds would start running low.) because of general conference and stake conference which means the meal calendar didn't get passed around priesthood and R.S. meetings, we are again being fed very well.

The work is going well. It was slow for the past couple weeks, but this week we found a lot of promising people who we hope to start teaching. We don't get many member referrals : we are lucky to get one every few weeks. We do a moderate amount of door-knocking - about 3-5 hours a week only. We do a lot of media referral contacting still - giving out Bibles, Books of Mormon, and DVDs and teaching about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we do a lot of traveling to-and-fro, even though we try to stay in the same general area for long periods of time.

Elder Smith

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2nd Email


How is everyone? I am still doing great here in the lovely, leafy, soon-to-be white state of Ohio. There are a TON of leaves here. Way more than in Utah. They are everywhere! We were doing service for someone, raking their lawn, and it took hours - and they didn't even have that big of a lawn. I guess in a few weeks they will have big vacuum trucks driving up and down the streets sucking up the leaves off of peoples' tree lawns. I think driving a vacuum truck would be a sucky job. I guess they just have to suck it up and do it, though.

I'm glad you all had fun on Halloween. I said I was dressing up as Elder Carter. Pretty scary, huh? Just kidding. We had a ward Halloween party/dinner on Friday and then on Saturday we just hung out at a less-active member's house and had a ton of food and candy. (they said we weren't supposed to be out after 5:00 pm.)

Did everyone enjoy their extra hour of sleep? I sure did. It is weird that it is already November, though. I can't believe transfers are next week already. As for what we will be doing for Thanksgiving, I am not entirely sure, since I might not still be in this area come Thanksgiving. I think that I probably will be though. Since Elder Marini has been in this area for four transfers (six months) now, he will probably get moved out, and I will probably stay here so two missionaries don't have to get "shotgunned" into our area without knowing the ward, our investigators, the less-active members, the bus routes, etc. So I will probably stay and Elder Marini will probably go. We think. For Thanksgiving we will probably be eating with a member family, but I am not entirely sure yet.

I'm glad Bro. and Sis. Bott came to the mystery dinner. I mentioned before that we had a ward Halloween dinner on Friday. It was amazing because there were so many less-active members, part-member families, and non-members (and members) there. There were probably close to 300 people in attendance - that is more than we usually get at Sacrament meeting!

Red Hunting Vehicle=the Escort?

It sounds like Lee Kay and pheasant hunting were both fun. Who got the three pheasants? I don't remember what a spire point bullet looks like. Were the nosler partitions and spire points all your reloads? With which rifle will Cody be hunting in Idaho? And who all is going this year? And when is it going to be? Are you going to fly in to Bernard again?

Wait wait wait...Jacob is already going on a mission? Next thing I know you're going to be writing me saying that Cody already has his call. Where is Jacob going?

Yes, I received the package, thank you. The candy, letters, thermals, etc. were all good. I also sent letters this week, not sure if they will have arrived yet, though.

That's good that Delaney got her driving permit. No, she didn't almost kill us ALL in the book cliffs: we were wearing our seat belts so chances are someone would have survived after we rolled five times. Just kidding, she was just fine. She just had to slam on the brakes once, that's all.

Sorry you got cheated out of your rightful title of chili champion at work, dad. They said we were going to have a chili cook-off at our ward party, but it ended up just being a bunch of chili. They were good chilis and all, but there was no competition. The dutch-oven bread sounds good, though. Maybe I will have to buy a dutch oven so I can make great food every day that we don't have a dinner. No, that would probably be too much work.

So a few days ago Elder Marini and I were in the van with Elder and Sister Hartman (senior missionary couple who work at the office) and Elder Hartman was talking about this book he was reading about a bunch of people who left Jerusalem. I told him, totally straight-faced and level-toned, that I was also reading a great book about some families who left Jerusalem and were guided by the Lord to the Promised Land, and that maybe he should try reading it sometime. It took him a minute to get it, but it was really funny.

About saying the baptismal prayer verbatim: I know we are supposed to, but I don't know the answer of whether or not it is absolutely necessary. I do know, however, that the Holy Spirit of Promise, which is the Comforter, bears witness to us and to the Lord that covenants and ordinances have been performed properly and sealed by the proper authority. (see Preach My Gospel ch. 4, subtitle "the holy spirit of promise", and the scripture reference to the D&C in the "scripture study" box on the next page.) (Sorry I don't recall the exact page number or reference.) So if the Holy Ghost witnessed to everyone there that the baptism was sealed up by the Holy Spirit of Promise, it was probably performed satisfactorily. If not, it will probably be cleared up in the Millenium anyways. Either way, she's covered. (Note from Patty: This paragraph is in response to my asking Matt his opinion on the baptismal prayer. Peyton and I went to a baptism where they left out the "of"s at the end of the prayer.)

I don't have much time left, so here's a quick update of who we are working with:

Tenika: we lost contact with her for a while but are teaching her again. When we talked to her yesterday she talked about how she disliked the church she was attending so we invited her to church. Also invited her to read and pray about the BOM. We left her with Alma 32 to read. (she already read 1 Nephi 11 and 3 Nephi 11) (1 Nephi 11 was on accident, but it worked out alright)

Tim and Barbara: Tim and his mother Barbara are investigators we found last week and have taught a couple times. We gave them each a BOM and invited them to read as a family 3 Nephi 11 and pray about it.

John: Retired police officer with one leg. We've taught him a couple times as well, and have yet to see if he has kept his commitment to read and pray about the BOM.

Basically the thing we need for all of our investigators right now is for them to feel the Holy Ghost testify of the truth in response to their prayers so that they can know of the truth of the Book of Mormon. Moroni says in Moroni 10:4-5 that if they read and pray with faith and real intent they will receive an answer, so the thing to pray for is that they will be able to recognize the Spirit when it comes.

Sorry but I am about out of time, I'll try to give a more complete run-down of investigators next time.

Love you!
Elder Smith

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Email from October 26th


Good work on my old room - it is hard to say Cody's room. You will have to send me a picture of what it looks like, but it sounds good.

A missionary returned the other day from his mission in Washington to our ward. I asked him his name and he said Elder Hineb ... I mean ... Nate. It was funny how he looked for all the world like a missionary without a name tag. He just seemed to naturally congregate with the other missionaries wherever we were talking and stuff like that. He just had missionary-ish mannerisms. It will probably be difficult for me to adjust to saying my name is Matt again. I hope I don't forget what my first name is within the next two years.

Congratulations on being done with Sis. Bird's house. That must be a welcome relief. I am glad you are being such a good example of a visiting teacher.

Ouch. Sorry to hear that BYU and the U didn't do too well. It's probably your fault for leaving Super Saturday early. I hope you learned your lesson. Just kidding, but wouldn't it be funny if BYU or the Jazz prospered or failed based on the faithfulness of the members in Utah? Then the coach of the Jazz would probably ask everyone in the audience to say a prayer before every game started.

Sorry you guys didn't get anything hunting. How far away was the deer Cody couldn't shoot at? Who rode which horse? I will make sure to include in my weekly letter to President Sorensen your advice that Holiday should be open earlier to not miss out on revenue from hardcore hunters. I hope you have fun pheasant hunting.

The birthday party sounds like it was a hoot. Falconing is way cool and red-tails are pretty. Did Delaney and Cody wear a glove to feed it? Did Peyton get to feed it? Do you know if the falconer guy goes falconing-hunting with his hawk? Way to go Delaney for being super-fluent (but not superfluous) in Spanish. I hope you can transfer on up to Spanish 4. That would be awesome. But who ate your eraser?

Well done Peyton at the primary program. I can't believe you memorized 3 different parts and the harmony to the song, and on such short notice. That must have been hard.

I love 3rd Nephi! It is probably my favorite book in the BOM. I really like the scripture in chapter 10 where it says "how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chicks" and chapter 11 when Christ comes to the Nephites. The rest of the book is good, too, of course. The only book I might like better than 3rd Nephi is Alma because it has so many good scriptures and stories, but it is probably an unfair comparison becuase Alma is so much longer.

To answer your questions: yes, church news is kosher for us to read. Thanks Diane for the conference issue.

We still get a ride to church with Bro. Davis. After Sacrament Meeting we go to Gospel Principles class, which is like gospel doctrine but more simplified. That is the class to which we take any investigators. I like the Gospel Principles book a lot. It just makes things so easy to understand. Like President John Taylor taught, "It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it"

The church is about 10-15 miles from our apartment, I think. We do not live in the same building as the other missionaries in our ward. They are Elder Carter and Elder Leake, and they live in Parma, which I think is about fifteen miles from us. However, there are some places where more than one companionship live in the same apartment. I think the Spaniards live like that and maybe two or three other places as well.

No, we are not making much progress with any of our old people. Yes, we found some new people. This week we actually did really well when it comes to finding people. We had set a goal to find four new investigators this week, which is higher than most areas. We ended up finding seven new people, thanks to the helpfulness of the ward members. We went teaching with members twice this week, and both times we had lots of set appointments. Well, most of the appointments either called us to reschedule or no-showed, but we brought the members with us to our back-up plans (that is going to be another thing tough to get used to when I come home: not having a plan and one or two back-up plans for every minute of the day. I won't know what to do with myself.), which consisted of contacting media referrals. We ended up teaching several of them, and it made it even better that we had members with us. I am definitely gaining a strong testimony of member involvement in missionary work; whenever we have members with us teaching, the Spirit is stronger and the lessons just seem to go better. Some of the people we found this week have a lot of potential. Our zone leaders also left a message for our whole zone that the zone's numbers have been off the charts this week, so that was encouraging. We had zone conference this week and it was really good. President and Sister Sorensen, President and sister Titera (Stake President), the APs and the ZLs all spoke. It was really good. We talked a lot about how we can adjust our teaching to meet different peoples' needs.

Cody can use my ghillie suit for halloween, hunting, etc. I just want it back in two years. I am pretty sure it was hanging in my closet when I left. It's the green leafy one, you can't miss it.

When you say the lady you met playing volleyball whose son is in the OCM do you mean that he lives in the mission boundaries or that he is a missionary?

I didn't get the box yet, but I'll look out for it.

Sorry I haven't been very diligent about taking pictures. I'll work on that.

Elder Smith


Friday, October 23, 2009

Letter received October 22nd

Oct. 18, 2009

Dear Family,

Today is Sunday night and I'll be e-mailing you tomorrow, so I'm sorry if I am repetitive.

I am glad you were able to feed the sisters. So, I never really paid attention to the missionary setup in Utah. How many wards does each companionship cover? Here in the Cleveland 1st ward there are two companionships in the ward, but I seem to remember it wasn't like that back home.

I never really thought about if people are nervous to feed us. Maybe they are, but I think that a lot of them have fed the missionaries so many times that they don't even worry about it. maybe I'm wrong though. I never asked. That is really cool that Peyton and another girl both gave them a referral for Summer. That would be exciting.

Because it is getting colder and rainier, we are pretty much done with the bikes for the year. We walk now. Alot! We are tracting more now and getting fewer media referrals. We are hoping that our increased emphasis on family mission plans will yield more member referrals.

So today we went with Bishop Shaw to visit less-active members. That was cool - we found a few families we want to work on reactivating. Perhaps even better, we got to work with the Bishop and continue gaining his trust, which "Preach my Gospel" says is important.

I got to teach another lesson in Spanish the other day. We were tracting a street in the drizzling rain, not having much success. A couple houses up someone came out and stood at the curb with an umbrella, looking like she was waiting for someone to pick her up or something on the other side of the street. We tracked on, but I kept feeling like we needed to talk to her, so we turned around and went over to her. She spoke Spanish, so I had to do all the talking, but I taught her most of the 1st lesson and she agreed to have the "Spaniards" come over and share more with her. That was fun. I just wish I knew more gospel terms in Spanish.

Yesterday was Stake Conference and there were some really good talks. President Sorensen was there and he talked about his testimony of the Book of Mormon. It was much like Elder Holland's talk in general conference. We didn't get to go to the Saturday session, unfortunately.

I haven't had to speak in church yet, just bear my testimony.

Elder Smith

Monday, October 19, 2009

E-mail from October 19th


I'm still doing great, and enjoying the respite from the cold and rain - today it is sunny and in the sixties I think. I wrote a letter yesterday and sent it today so sorry if I am repetitive and boring. Sorry I haven't taken many pictures, but I will send home the SD card sometime soon. I hope you enjoyed the deer hunt and taking a nap. Those both sound delightful.

Regional conference sounds like it was great. How big is a region? We had stake conference yesterday and it was really good. President and Sister Sorensen spoke, as well as the stake presidency and the president and matron of the Columbus, Ohio temple. Last month was the tenth anniversary of the Columbus temple's dedication, so our stake had a temple trip. The temple president said in his talk that another stake decided they wanted to 'create' a stake on the other side of the veil. I guess the magic number for a stake is something like three thousand members, so that stake wanted to do the work for three thousand people. The temple president said they had done the work for three thousand people and more, and they were at about fifteen hundred names submitted and still working on it. I thought that was a pretty cool project. It is such a strange thought that they have to commute for hours to get to a temple. I remember at general conference everyone was holding their breath and crossing their fingers as President Monson announced the new temples, hoping that we would get one in Cleveland. If a stake from Cleveland can do that much work at a small temple like Columbus, imagine how much more responsibility we have and how much work we can do if we live very close to lots of large temples where you don't even need an appointment! It is cool that you are going to the temple weekly - have you already been able to recognize the blessings that are coming from that?

I will ask Sister Gibbs or Sister Moore, I can't remember which of them does mail (they are both senior sister missionaries) why some letters are being returned. What dates were they sent?

I haven't received dad's email yet, but I will check again before I leave. The library we email from is not very close to our house. We meet the Strongsville elders - Elder Brown and Elder Allan - in the morning on P-days and do everything together. We alternate weeks - one week we will take the rapid to the Brookpark Road station and they will drive there and pick us up, and the next week we will take a combination of buses to a stop right up the street from their house. It is easier for us to take the rapid and it takes less time, but they have to drive farther to pick us up, so every other week we take the bus, which takes longer and is less convenient, but saves them miles. (Every car area is allotted a certain amount of miles per month.) Then we email, shop, etc. and eventually we usually meet the rest of our district at the church or wherever we are doing our district P-day activity which we usually do. This week, though, it is just going to be the Strongsville elders coming to our apartment to play euchre because the sisters have something else they are doing and the Elder Carter has to go to the Cleveland Clinic to talk about getting some huge moles looked at or something along those lines. I am excited to learn how to play euchre.

Okay, update of who we are working with:

Pauly: Sadly, she dropped off the face of the earth for about a week, and her boyfriend said that she was just having a meltdown like she does every few months and that she would be back eventually. We found out that she has several mental illnesses and we are probably going to stop teaching her. That made me really sad, since she seems to have a testimony. We are going to continue trying to get back in contact with her, but whenever we are over she always seems to be too sick to talk to us. It looks like we will probably end up dropping her, though.

Reba: New investigator we got as a referral from the APs this week. We taught her once and committed her to read the introduction to the Book of Mormon and the restoration pamphlet and pray about it. When we called back, she had read the pamphlet and introduction, and the first five chapters of 1 Nephi. That was exciting. We have another appointment with her tonight.

Orosz (Oh-rhosse) Family: They have been less active for a couple years, but they came to church last week. We were going to do service for them Saturday but their kids were sick. We have been stopping by and talking to the mom on the porch once or twice a week and we finally got an appointment where the whole family would be there last week. It is difficult because of the dad's work schedule and that we can't go in without a man there. Luckily, Brother Davis (a convert of about 5 years who is now the second counselor in the bishopric and the Orosz's home teacher) is really good about coming teaching with us a lot so we are going to start bringing him with us so that we will be able to teach them even if their dad isn't there. It definitely helps that he is their home teacher also, and has built up a good relationship with them. We are hoping to set a baptismal date with their 9-yr old daughter, Heather, pretty soon, provided the family keeps coming to church.

Jim Fritz: Less active guy who we do service for occasionally. He has some health concerns that are challenges for him, as well as word of wisdom concerns. He definitely still has a testimony of the gospel - we talk about it with him a lot - but he doesn't seem to be doing much about the word of wisdom concerns. Elder Marini and I both keep feeling like we need to keep going back and trying to get him to come to church, though.

Brenda: Referral we got from Sis. Reef, who used to be her neighbor. I think I wrote about her before but I'm not sure. We've taught her once and she seemed pretty interested. We had an appointment Friday but she had to reschedule.

Sis. Kilroy: She is a less active member in her seventies but tries to come to church every now and then. She had a stroke last week so we visited her and gave her a blessing. It sounds like the stroke was pretty small and not too serious. We do service for her occasionally like yard work and such.

Still looking for Mike. We'll find him.

That is just about it for our investigators and less active members who we are working with that are closest to being 'solid'. It seems like everyone is getting sick these last two weeks. It must be flu season or something. I would appreciate if you could remember Jim, the Orosz's, and Sis. Kilroy in your prayers that they will all be able to get better, and that Reba will know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.

Thank you for your prayers and putting my name on the temple rolls, that is much appreciated. There is a whole lot of faith backing up me and every other missionary! Who can possibly stand against us?

No, I haven't taken a picture of the apartment building I live in yet, but I will and will mail you the SD card. Again, sorry I am not very diligent at taking pictures. You could probably look it up on google maps streetview. It is at 1210 West Blvd. You might even see Elder Marini and I walking up the street, since a google maps van with cameras all over it drove past us once. We would be on the West side of West Blvd. right around Clifton rd. (which is right next to our apartment).

What was I doing Saturday at noon, you ask? That would be around 2:00 pm my time I think, so let me check my planner...We were tracting W. 91st street, which is the street on which I got to teach a lesson in Spanish. (details in the letter I mailed today)

I look forward to receiving the thermals, that will be a welcome relief. I can't say I really NEED anything else, but I wouldn't say no to some licorice.

Delaney, how did your friendboy do at football? Was he playing in the game that Riverton got beat 35-7 by Bingham? Sorry for teasing you, but I am your big brother so it's what I do. Being on a mission just means I have to do it from a distance. Hopefully Cody is taking up the slack.

Again thank you everyone for your prayers, letters, and support. They are dearly appreciated. I love you all and I pray for you every day.

Elder Smith

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Letter from October 12th

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Surprisingly, the library is open today even though it is Columbus day. I guess the Lord really does love us.

Yes, I am staying warm and toasty. Actually a lot of the time I am too warm since they have turned the radiators on in our apartment and we don't have control over them, so on warm days like we have had the past few days, it gets hot. I enjoy the warm days, though, because I am sure there are not many of them left. I don't need sweaters or under armor, I think, but I will probably need thermals before too long.

Good job Cody for shooting the grouse. It sounds like the cabin was fun. How did you find the grouse?

So how long has Mac Evans been back? That is cool that he can bear his testimony in Farsi. I am glad that Eric is doing well. It should be pretty hot in Honduras, right? Does it get cold there? Will he have to send back the thermals and sweaters before he leaves the MTC?

Good job on not messing up while conducting relief society. I'm sure that was nerve-wracking. Imagine how Elder Eyring or whoever was conducting must have felt in General Conference when he forgot to mention those seventies who had been called!

I'm glad you had a good birthday. It sounds like everything was delicious. I'm jealous of the malts, though.

My wrist still looks pretty much the same as it did before, I think, except you can't see the stitch-marks so well. You can hardly even see the scar on my finger now, but I still can't hold it straight out. The smaller cuts and scrapes on my hand have totally disappeared. I will take some pictures and send them home.

So here's the drug dealer story, if I didn't explain it well: Elder Marini realized he had misplaced the phone after we got off of a rapid (train). We couldn't find it for a while, but we were supposed to meet a member for dinner at the rapid station so we waited for them to come pick us up. When they arrived we used their phone to call our number and someone picked up and said he had our phone and we could pick it up at the airport convenience store on Rocky River Drive. We knew where that was because one of our investigators lives in the government housing projects right next to it so we said we would be there in a few minutes. The members took us there and we waited outside the store in our black trench coats, just loitering for a few minutes, looking for all the world like drug dealers. Eventually the guy who had our phone showed up from the projects and walked up to Elder Marini, handed off the phone, and walked away. Some policemen that we hadn't noticed were there must have been watching us suspiciously, because out of nowhere Elder Marini was cornered between two very large and muscular policemen who asked him what he was selling. Elder Marini stammered out something, but then the member who was sitting in the van right next to us opened the window and explained the situation to the police officers. Also, while all this was going down, we happened across the investigator who lived near there and set up another appointment with her. So, the police sent us on our merry way and told us to be careful and we had a heck of a laugh with Elder Marini. Of course, when we were telling this story to Elder Carter, our district leader, there were fourteen policemen with shotguns at the ready and Elder Marini got tackled and frisked.

Unfortunately when we showed up at the appointment with the investigator we happened upon, her boyfriend said she wasn't there, but we saw her as we drove away. (Brother Nebeker, one of the ward missionaries, was with us, which is why we were driving away instead of walking away.) We will try her again in a few weeks.

Not much else to report this week, except that a less-active family, the Orosz's, came to church yesterday. We have been talking on the porch with sister Orosz for weeks trying to get an appointment when the whole family would be there and Saturday we finally were able to talk to them all. We invited them to church and they showed up. Hopefully we will be able to help them see the blessings that come from attending sacrament meeting and they will keep coming, although the dad's work schedule will be a challenge for him. When he can't take them, though, we have a member family who will probably be willing to give them a ride.

Oh! also we got a referral from a member for her old neighbor and had a good visit with her. We don't know if it is going to go anywhere yet, but we are hopeful. It is really great when members have the courage to talk to their friends about the gospel, and it also really invites the Spirit when members are with us at appointments when we are teaching people, since they can add their testimonies to ours and be another witness of the truth. Plus, when we bring members with us to teach and fellowship people, it helps them build relationships and friendship with the investigators so they will have a friend who is in the church who can answer their questions when the missionaries aren't around. I am learning that when members are involved, missionary work is much more effective.

Good job Peyton for inviting your friend to Activity Days. That is actually one of the reasons that helped us get the Orosz's back interested in church: a member in our ward bringing their daughter Heather to Activity Days. It was also interesting that when we talked to the Orosz's they were kind of timid to come back to church because they were afraid people would condemn them for not coming for so long. I guess when the mom came to church once last year someone said something stupid and offended her, and it has taken us months to try to repair that hurt. It is really important that we be welcoming to everyone. I think it helped that we told the bishop and everybody else that we could that they were coming so everyone was very nice and welcoming when they walked in.

Love, Elder Smith

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Missionary or drug dealer?


Dear Family,

Hello, I just thought I'd write and tell you about a funny story that happened yesterday. Elder Marini and I pretty much got mistaken for drug dealers.

It all started when Elder Marini realized he didn't have the phone. We thought he had probably lost it on the rapid (train) so we searched a few train cars and talked to the drivers, but no luck. Our dinner appointment was supposed to pick us up at a train station so we waited for them and when they arrived we used their phone to call our number. Someone answered and said we could pick up the phone at the airport convenience mart on Rocky River Drive, so we headed that way. We have an investigator in that area and it is a pretty ghetto store surrounded by government housing projects. We got to the store and proceeded to wait for our man. We were dressed up in our black trench coasts, arms folded, loitering in front of the store, looking for all the world like drug dealers. Then the guy (shabby looking) with our phone waves at us, we go pick up the phone, and we all walk away. A couple of cops had been watching us and pretty soon Elder Marini was cornered between a wall and two very no-nonsence body-builder looking cops. They already must have had us tried and convicted in their minds. It probably looked exactly like a drug deal.

It reminds me of the time dad and I got pulled over for poaching - we were already guilty.

Anyways, I just thought I'd tell you since I thought it was funny. I have an appointment to hurry off to, so goodbye.

P.S. I might not be able to email til later in the week, I am not sure.

Elder Smith

Letter During General Conference

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hello! I am doing well, as usual. Thank you for your letters and the package. It has arrived just in time to save me from a cold, windy, rainy day, much like it sounds like you are enjoying. The scarf definitely looks missionary-y. Sorry to hear the roof is leaking again. The jerky is really good. You should try it, mom. You can't even taste the lysol. Plus, it is super juicy and not dry like most jerky is. Amazing! How can it be so juicy?

I hope you get the inspiration you are looking for at conference. I can't wait for it! A lot of times Elder Marini and I will listen to old Conference talks or BYU devotional talks if we are at home during lunch or dinner.

I wrote that last night. I am now waiting for Priesthood Session to begin. What a great conference so far, though! I loved the talks! Especially Elder Scott about writing down and praying about inspiration we receive. I hope you have had some ideas about the Relief Society theme. I also really liked Elder Oaks talk about love not overriding the laws or commandments and Elder Bednar's talk about being consistent. I can just see Cody yelling "Peyton is breathing my air!" They were all really good and inspiring. I wish I had payed more attention at past conferences! Well, the Priesthood Session is starting.

Sunday morning now. Priesthood session was good. In case dad hasn't told you yet, mom, they said wives should be nicer to their husbands. (Note from Patty: According to Merrill that is what they say at every priesthood session!) In light of Elder Ballard's talk dad, I thought I should thank you for fostering the kind of relationship that Elder Ballard said is so important. I always loved being alone with you in a car, a plane, a tent, a hunting spot, or wherever so that we could talk about God, people, politics, science, school, animals, or whatever we felt like. I thought everybody had parents they could trust and talk to, and I never realized what a blessing it is. Many of our investigators here have kids but aren't married or aren't living with their spouses. I see young men acting like total punks (yes, I know I was a punk, too, but I wasn't THAT bad) and low-lifes, and I wonder if any of them would act that way if they had been raised by goodly mothers and fathers who had personal, positive relationships with them. Thank you for letting me know that if I was going to act like that or talk like that, it would earn me a few stern words and a swift kick in the rear--or worse--a disappointed and disapproving look. You are doing a good job. Keep it up. I love you.

Sunday night now. Has conference always been this good or have I just never payed attention before? Elder Holland's talk just blew me out of the water. The Spirit was SO strong, too! What a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I could study these conference talks for a month and still be getting stuff out of them.

Well, goodbye. I can't wait to read your email tomorrow!

I love you everyone!

Elder Smith

Monday, October 5, 2009

Letter from Ohio


Cody must be excited to get his new and remodeled room. Don't give in to Delaney wanting to paint her room yellow. I'm pretty sure that would be a sin. Sorry that the roof is leaky. When you say we need a new roof does that shingles? How do you replace the roof?

It sounds like the duck opener was a hoot. How many did you guys take total? Mom, were you sick or something or did she have a meeting to go to that made it so you couldn't go with them? I'm sorry you had to miss it. Cody, did you use your 870? Which gun did Delaney use? That's lucky that they didn't check Chris's license. It sounds like everybody had fun. Unfortunately I can't get this stupid library computer to show the picture. I don't know why Bo doesn't like the suburban. Maybe if you let him sit on the seats (like I did when I took him with me in the escort) he would like road trips better. That is sad to hear about Harley.

Wow Delaney, you must be pretty disappointed! First you "don't pass" your driving test and then you get a "B" on a math test! Holy smokes! You might as well just drop out now and become a ... farmer maybe? Or a hunting guide...or perchance an underwater basket weaver. No wait, I think you need a degree to do that. Yeah, you will probably end up as a fish farmer. Just kidding, of course, I am sure you will do just fine on your driver test and subsequent math tests. (Note from Patty: The testing was closed by the time Delaney got there to take her Driving test. They were open to take our money, but had stopped administering the test by the time it was Delaney's turn.)

Hi Peyton. Don't not pass tests like Delaney does once you are back on track. Can't have all my sisters being fish farmers.

Cody, good job on covering the whole side of the field in your game, that must have been fun.
(Note: Cody's team only had 5 players show up, so they forfeited but still played a game for fun, and Cody was the 3rd baseman, shortstop, and left fielder. BTW - they won)

I hope you watched the conference talk in priesthood session about what sons need to do to have a good relationship with their dads. I really liked that talk. Chuck Norris can blow bubbles with beef jerky. Watching conference was awesome! We got to watch it at the church here which I thought was the coolest thing ever. We got home from priesthood session at about 10:45 or so, I think. Everything is delayed by two hours here from Utah time. The conference talks were really good, though. I like how the whole theme of the conference seemed to be love. Did you find some inspiration as to what the relief society theme should be for next year? Yesterday (Sunday) the ward had a potluck between the sessions. Saturday our district ate at a chinese buffet between sessions.

Yep, I got the package, and thank you very much. The weather is definitely getting colder, but some days, like today, you can hardly tell. Today it is nice and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and a balmy 50 degrees! The rest of this week has been kind of rainy, sleety, windy, and cold, though, so I am glad you sent the package with the winter stuff. You will probably need to send some thermals (but not thermal garments, I have heard bad reviews from all the missionaries I talked to about them), since I guess it gets pretty cold and snowy in the winter, if you can spare any during hunting season, if not I can buy them here. The jerky is delicious and juicy beyond belief.

That must be hard for Elder Fleischel to be all locked down and not able to work very much if at all. They asked us in conference to pray for the areas where we can't send missionaries yet, but I guess we should also pray for the areas where we can send missionaries as well. I hope Eric doesn't have too much trouble. Do you know if all of Honduras's missionaries are in lock down or just Elder Fleischel's area?

Yes, transfers are just once every six weeks, so I get to stay here in the 'hood for at least that long. Unfortunately, this week hasn't been very succesful. We have dropped or been dropped by several investigators this week and it didn't seem like anybody wanted to talk to us. But we are praying and fasting to be able to find people who are ready to hear and accept the restored gospel. People like Mike. Still haven't found him yet, though, but we will. I guess that President Petersen (the old mission president) said in a mission conference that every area has at least ten people in it at any time that are prepared and ready to accept the gospel. We just have to find them. One person we are hopeful about is Sister Ondrick, who recently moved into our ward. She is not active, but when we visited her she said she would like to come to church and just needs a ride. If we can find a ride to church for her every week we think she might return to active church membership. It's just up to the ward to be willing to make the sacrifice to drive her to church. We also have the same problem with another lady, Sister Orosz, who can't drive to church and needs a ride. We will keep working with both of them and hopefully they will see the importance of taking the sacrament and attending church every week and become active again. Pauly, we found out, is back in town. She is an investigator who we lost contact with for a while but we hope to be able to start teaching her again.

Well, that is about it for now. I sent a letter today, so you should get it pretty soon I hope.

Love, Elder Smith

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Letters to Katie and Diane

To Katie's family:
Hello! How are things going? I am doing just great. I am still psyched about finding Pauly and Merle - you can read about them on the blog. We had an appointment with them today but they weren't there, but I am still excited about them.

That is hilarious that AJ ripped one right in the middle of the ordination. I don't know if I could have kept from laughing. Did the person doing the ordination hear it? I got a letter from Diane and she said she was laughing her head off.

What do you think about Delaney having a text plan? I hope you didn't let yourself get recruited to fight for her. We have a cell phone for each companionship here. We get referrals from church headquarters via text messages on our phones. We can't send texts though, only the AP's can do that. Maybe the ZL's too. I don't really think Delaney needs a text plan though.

Thank you so much for the letters and package. I thought all the cartoons I had seen about missionaries being crazy about mail were hyperboles. I am not so sure now. Elder Marini and I are always so excited to get mail! And when I got to the library on Monday and didn't see an email from home I was devastated. (Luckily it arrived before I left.) Eating candies makes it much easier to stay alert in the morning during personal study, so thank you.

I am getting much better at speaking black and understanding it, but some people have heavier accents than others or talk faster and they are still difficult to understand. There is also a bunch of missionary slang that I am starting to get used to as well.

I'm glad AJ likes preschool. I seem to remember preschool was much more fun than the rest of school though. I am sure you still think of an amazing and original idea for Christmas Eve. I can't wait to find out what everybody makes.

To Diane's family
Hello, how are things going? I am indeed well and enjoying the lovely fall weather. The temperature has been nice - usually in the 70's and sunny, but it is a lot more humid on some days. Yesterday was super humid and muggy. It felt like walking through a cloud. Plus, Elder Marini and I went over to do service for an old lady in our ward who lives with her sister who is a member, and we had to mow her lawn - which was over a foot tall - with a rotary push mower. I am not talking like a push mower with a gasoline engine, we do that all the time, this was an old-style contraption where the pushing makes the blades rotate. The grass was so long we had to go over it again and again, and it would get gummed up with grass every foot or two. It was tough. I won't even start talking about her 2 window air conditioner behemoths we had to move.

Thank you SO much for the letters and package - they contain just about everything I could ask for. Thanks especially for the Nesquick - I haven't had chocolate milk for a month! It's funny how I drink a lot less milk when I have to pay for it, huh? The best part, of course, is the letters. Elder Marini & I always can't wait to check the mail every day.

Congratulations on your elk, Randy! I can't wait to see pictures! I have no idea at all why Diane and my mom don't want magnificent, majestic, beautiful dead animals hanging on their walls. What could possibly look better on the wall? (Except a picture of Christ, the 1st Presidency, the 12, etc.)

Keep on keeping an eye on Delaney for me. This "friend boy", Nick, sounds a wee bit suspicious...

I'm glad some pictures got put on the blog, that is cool. The "armor of god" poster isn't actually mine, that is Elder Waterman's, my district leader. He goes home this transfer. Transfers are this coming Wednesday (today is Friday, Sept. 25th). So I should find out Tuesday if I am staying in Cleveland or going to a new area, if Elder Marini will stay or go, and if I will have a new companion. I am pretty excited to find out. (Note from Patty: Matt and Elder Marini both stayed.)

We have 4 people we are actively in contact with and teaching right now. Tenika, Dorothy, and Pauly & Merle. That doesn't count the less-active members and part member families we are working with. I will try to include a fuller description of everyone we are working with on the blog from now on.

Alyssa, Lauren, and Brynlee, I love the name you have for Randy's elk - Bob! No, I haven't had any baptisms yet, but I am meeting lots of new friends and investigators. Surprisingly enough, I actually have not yet had a door slammed in my face. I will be sure to share the package with Elder Marini. I haven't had any new spiritual experiences that were that exciting, but earlier today my companion and I were teaching a lady about the Book of Mormon and testifying about it and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost and the Spirit was really strong. That is a spiritual experience, even though it isn't anything supernatural or anything. What did you build your fort out of?

Wow, I just looked back at this letter - sorry my handwriting stinks so much. You'll need a urim & thummim to interpret!

Again, thank you for your letters, prayers, packages, & love! They are much appreciated!

Love, Elder Smith