Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sept. 29th E-mail from Matt


Sorry the email is a day late but this is transfer week so P-day switches to Tuesday and our district meeting was on Monday. We found out last night that Elder Marini and I are both staying here in West Cleveland. No one is leaving our district except for our district leader, Elder Waterman, who has served his 2 years and is going home. Elder Carter (from the Parma area to the south of us - he is the one who acts just like Elder Chris Nestman) will be our new district leader. We should find out tomorrow who will be replacing Elder Waterman in Strongsville to be Elder Brown's companion.

Good job at the youth duck hunt everyone! It sounds like it was zounds of fun. I can't believe dad would wear a BYU shirt in public! Just kidding, I knew there was some good in him the whole time. Tell me how feeding the Sisters goes.

That's cool that Nate had his farewell. Does he do all his MTC time in Provo or is there an MTC in Argentina he will be going to for a while also? How many weeks is he going to be in the MTC?

That must be confusing keeping up with 2 different parts of the Book of Mormon's storyline at once! What part are you reading other than 1 Nephi? It is good to hear that you are still doing family scripture study (and prayer, I hope), though.

Sorry to hear about Lauren's wrist. I hope it gets better soon. Is a buckle fracture better or worse than a normal fracture? It sounds like the zoo was fun. We went to a zoo a couple weeks ago for P-day, but there wasn't anything that great there.

Too bad Delaney won't get to play in Satan's orchestra, but I guess you don't want to have too much on your plate at once and bite off more than you can chew. School is more important.

I like that quote about families - it is pretty cool. (note from Patty-the quote is "A missionary leaves his family for two years...so that the people he teaches can be with theirs for an eternity".)

Yes, please send me the coat liner pretty quick since it is beginning to get colder. I could also use a beanie or some other kind of warm hat. Did I leave any boots behind other than my hunting/hiking ones? If not I will probably have to find some. Also, please send a scarf. I am pretty sure I had one or two laying around.

Thank you for praying for me and for the temple prayer lists, I wouldn't have thought of that. If you are putting my name down that must also mean that you are going to the temple, so good job!

We didn't have much success this week overall, and Elder Marini hasn't been feeling well, but he is starting to get better. We talked to a less active member yesterday who recently moved into our ward who I think is going to start coming back to church so that brightened my day. Then we visited a media referral who had requested a free bible. It turned out to be a Baptist pastor. At first he just wanted to bible bash with us, but when he realized that we weren't going to get belligerent with him and our response to everything was just to testify of Jesus Christ, he mellowed out a little. I am glad we didn't try to bash with him, since that would drive away the Spirit, but I couldn't help looking up a bunch of scriptures that I wished I could tell him about once we got home.

Like I said, we didn't have much success this week. Our "teaching pool" consists of basically 3 investigators, but the only one we have been able to teach this week was Dorothy. We had a good lesson with her early in the week, but she wasn't there for our next appointment, and her phone has been shut off for a couple days. Tenika we have been able to contact, but she hasn't been there for the last two appointments we had set with her. She seems to really enjoy talking to us, but I think she just forgets, even when we call and remind her. Pauly we have not been able to contact all week. We talked to the man she lives with, Merle, and he is pretty nice, but he said that Pauly just has a meltdown every once in a while and disappears for a few days or weeks. I guess we will see her when she gets back. In addition to them, please pray for Elder Marini to get better.

We haven't found Mike yet, but we are still looking. Not much else to report.

I am way excited for conference. Sister Frisch (From the North Royalton area in our district) said it is like "Two days of Christmas in a row". The sessions are two hours later here because of the time difference, so we will get home late from the Priesthood session. That is weird. We will be watching conference at the church, I found out.

I love you! Thank you for your prayers!

Love, Elder Smith

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Letter to Costanza Family

Dear Costanza Family,

Thank you for the beautiful picture of the rainbow you drew me.

Thanks for sharing my letter with mom and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Carl Anderson was an Amazing tour guide. He knew just about everything about Kirtland and obviously enjoyed sharing it with us. He asked if any of us had ancestors who had lived in Kirtland, and some of the other missionaries names off some names. He knew something about Every One of them! He and the Community of Christ tour guide obviously both had strong testimonies about the manifestations at the temple, and I will never forget singing "The Spirit of God" in the same room where angels, prophets, and the Saviour had all stood. The Spirit was so strong there! I have talked to some people who said they didn't feel the spirit when they visited the temple, so maybe the tours the Community of Christ tour guides usually give are not very inviting of the Spirit, but ours was amazing. The School of the Prophets was even better. After we left, Elder Farmer (He came out with me and was in my MTC district. He is a spiritual giant and has an amazing testimony of the atonement.) and I were talking about how amazing the Spirit was and how being there in the School of the Prophets felt just like being in a temple. I can see why we are encouraged to take investigators to Kirtland.

Year, there are some pretty rough areas here. We usually take our bikes everywhere, though. We have locks and everything. Interestingly, Elder Marini says that "Jesus people" like us are pretty well respected in the projects. From what I've seen so far, he seems to be pretty much right. With some exceptions.

Every transfer cycle is 6 weeks. Since I am a "Greenie" I will probably be with Elder Marini for 1 or 2 transfers. He and I are the only missionaries in our apartment.

How was your Labor Day? You probably read about "zoned out" on the blog. We also ate dinner at a less active member's house that day. His wife is a really good cook. She made barbecue ribs. Have fun at Swiss Days. I am SOOOO Jealous.

Again, thank you for your prayers! I wish I had prayed as often as I do now before I came on my mission. I can definitely see that as I try to "Counsel with the Lord in all (my) doings" like it says in Alma 37:3-37, He makes good on His promise to "Direct (me) for good".

Lots of Love,
Elder Smith

P.S. I am getting much better at speaking black. If you "axed me" "What time is it, dawg?" I would totally understand now. Other, more complex phrases, are still hard though.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hello Mom and everyone else,

Whew! I was worried that I wasn't going to get an email today. The only emails I had when I got here were my weekly reports. So sad... So alone... No one loves me... just kidding. I guess now I know how you felt on Labor day when I didn't email until Tuesday, mom. Luckily your email arrived right as I finished writing my weekly letter to President Sorenson.

Good job everyone for their hunting success. How did Macy get the ducks? Did Colton hunt? Did you go, mom? Well done pawning the ducks off on Chris Neu, by the way. Super sneaky! How come I never got promised a quarter for every time I shot? I'd be a rich man!

That is pretty cool that Delaney's orchestra is good. It should be fun to play with Satan. (note from Patty - they will be performing with Michael Ballam at their Christmas concert.) It sounds like there will be some pretty amazing performances.

I was disappointed to hear about the game against FSU. Plus I heard that Utah also lost and Bingham got beat in Dallas. Too bad.

Yes I remember Sis. Bird. It's nice of you and Peyton to do service for her. I guess that's why we have visiting teachers. By the way, home teaching here is way different than at home. These last two Sundays we have gone on home-teaching splits. All it involved was stopping by inactive members' houses and trying to ascertain if they still even lived there. Of the four people on our records that we stopped by, two of them were Catholic, one was "not interested", and I think only one of them even realized that they were a member of the Church. I think there are something like 900 people or so on our ward list (its 21 pages long), and only about 200 come to church.

I think Elder Lambson might be the concert pianist I was telling you about. Elder Anderson was in my MTC district. We would call him Mr. Anderson because he looked a little like Neo from "The Matrix". He always looks like he is plotting murder. Not because he's mean or anything - he is really nice - but his face just seems to be stuck in a perpetual glare of deadly anger.

For conference, I think we will be going to the church to watch, but I am not sure yet.

It's okay that the letters take a while - nothing you can do about it. I still enjoy getting them a ton. Elder Marini and I are always excited to check the mail. We are always so happy when we come home and see the mail truck parked in front of our apartment. Thank you for all the letters that people have sent, they always brighten my day. By the way, thank you for the package Katie & family, it is awesome!

I am sorry to hear you are getting laid off, Lori, but I am sure you will be okay. I hope you find a great job in NY.

As a matter of fact we do have some new prospects. We got a call the other day from Elder Brady, a "Spaniard", or Spanish-speaking elder, to give us a referral for 2 people named Pauly and Merle. I guess Pauly chased Elder Brady down to talk to him. So we met them on Saturday and found out that she had talked to missionaries about fifteen years ago. We talked more and we found out that she has read the whole Book of Mormon. She also said that she had prayed about it and knew that it was true. So we started talking about the Gospel - Faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end - and she said that she wanted to be baptized. Merle didn't seem as interested as her, but he also asked questions and participated. I have a lot of hope for them. We talked about the Word of Wisdom, too, (Yeah, this lesson went all over the place. We had planned on just teaching about the Restoration, but we ended up teaching parts of lessons 1,2,3,and 4, since that was what we felt like we needed to talk about. The Spirit was really strong.) and she smokes, but she said she wants to quit, so I would really appreciate if you guys could pray that she will have the strength to quit smoking, since I am sure that won't be easy for her between the physical addiction and the fiery darts that the adversary (or Michael Ballam) will be throwing at her. Usually we don't even count people on our records unless we have taught them at least twice, but Elder Marini and I are super hopeful about Pauly and Merle. We are still teaching Tenika (I think I talked about her last week), and she seems happy to see us and she reads what we ask her to read, but I am worried that she doesn't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith yet. We will keep trying and praying with her.

Trevor Haines (Haynes?) (the guy from the funeral) and his wife fed us this week. That was good. I learned that burritos and fajitas are not Mexican food - they are "Texican". Bro. Haines went to Mexico on his mission and he said down there they roll up their tortilla and take a bite of food then a bite of tortilla, and so forth. I guess if you put your food inside your tortilla they laugh at you and call you a gringo. We are still getting fed a lot. I think we have 11 meals lined up for the next week - 8 dinners (one day we are going from dinner at a members house to a ward barbecue that we are going to invite some of the less-active members we are working with to.) plus 3 people who have said they would like to take us out to lunch. I am going to get so fat. I have already gained five pounds, but I am hoping that is because I am working out so much more now.

I'm good, the food's good (and plentiful), it's all good.
Love you!
Elder Smith

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14th Letter

A few pictures of Matt's apartment:

A seldom used stove

Matt's "desk"

A nice clean tub/shower!

It has been pretty warm here, too - I think it was in the 70's all week.
Good job to dad on getting an antelope-can you send me a picture? For what unit is Randy's elk tag?
We eat a lot of chicken, but there is a good variety. I think my favorite meal was probably with brother and sister unknown. I don't remember their names-they are a young married couple and he is in his 1st or 2nd year of graduate school for podiatry. Anyways, she made orange chicken and sweet/sour chicken and it tasted just like Panda but better. Then she had an ice cream pie for dessert. That is one nice thing- just about everyone who has us over for dinner feeds us dessert as well. That is nice, but it is a challenge for Elder Marini, who has decided this week to start trying to lose weight. So he is dieting and I am helping him with morning workouts. We are kind of limited with what we can do for workouts in the morning, though, since it isn't light enough to go outside at 6:15 and our apartment is above someone else so we don't want to make much noise that early in the morning. Usually they consist of pushups, situps, and leg lifts.
The youth duck hunt will be awesome! I am glad to hear that you are so excited and enthusiastic about going! Don't worry, it isn't that early - you can probably sleep in the car anyway. And don't let dad scare you with his horror stories about these alleged "mosquitoes". Next thing you know he will have you believing there are alligators and snakes in the swamp, too. I'll bet Cody will limit out in 20 minutes and Delaney and Peyton...will have fun, which is really what matters.
So how many wards or stakes do the sister missionaries cover back home? Our area is only half of the Cleveland 1st ward, but then again, you could probably fit 10 or 15 Utah stakes in the area of our ward. Remember to make them dessert!
That is so cool that like everyone I know is going on missions! How long will Nate and Eric be in the MTC? Do they spend time in South American MTCs once they get there? Tell me what Nate talks about at his farewell.
Good job to Delaney for getting into a super cool orchestra. How much cookie dough will she have to sell to pay for this stuff? Going to Los Angeles and San Diego should be cool, though.
Thanks for working on the debit card. I will need the liner of my coat pretty soon, but I don't know exactly how cold it gets here yet, so I don't really know how to prepare. I'll find out what kinds of hats and gloves I am supposed to have.
I'm glad Delaney likes having a phone. Are you going to get her a text plan? Good job figuring out the mysteries of the texting world in only five minutes! That is funny that she didn't receive it though-I wonder what happened? Too bad about Cody's team. Is Cody doing well, though? Has he had any awesome plays or hits?
Did you read Alma 56-58 in family scripture study you mean? Those are some awesome chapters. "they did observe to perform every word of command with exactness", "they did not fear death", "they fought most desperately". They truly had a LOT of faith. I am always trying to develop faith that will be just like the sons of Helaman and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Those two groups of people are like my role models of unwavering faith. What a blessing I have to have been taught by a mother just like they had.
OK, I am running out of time so I must make this quick now. People we are working with and could use prayers (still no progressing investigators unfortunately, but I am really hopeful about a couple of these people):
Tenika: Book of Mormon media referral who we have taught several times. We taught her about the restoration and the gospel, and she seems interested, but doesn't have a testimony about Joseph Smith or the B of M yet. She works most Sundays so hasn't come to church yet.
Jim: Less active member. He was a convert a few years ago and was the ward mission leader for a while. From what I've heard he was the best ward mission leader ever.
Jerry: Hasn't been active for something like 25 years. We just found out the other day that he still reads the bible and B of M every day, though, so that is encouraging.
Rochelle: Bible media referral that we met on Saturday. We talked about the Bible and the restoration and she seemed interested. We will be teaching her again later today.
Mike: haha...I haven't met this person yet, but I am sure he will be one of the elect and ready to receive the Gospel message, so I will look out for him. (Note from Patty: We accidentally prayed for Mike - even though that wasn't a name Matt had given us)
So, we don't have any progressing investigators. So sad. Oh well. "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed...ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence...and it shall remove" Mountains don't have agency, though. People do, or else we could just "faith" them until they got baptized, received the holy ghost, and endured to the end.
I have to go, but I will give you a rundown of an average day in a letter. I sent letters out today. I haven't received dad's letter yet, so still waiting on that. Mail takes forever because it has to go to the mission office and then they forward it to me.
Elder Smith

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Letter to Katie - Sept 3rd

Dear Katie,

Yes, I am adjusting just fine to Cleveland. It was actually a pretty smooth adjustment for me to get used to Cleveland. It reminds me a lot of Downtown Salt Lake City. Just dirtier. Also, the streets that run East-West never have numbers, just names. It has been tough for me to try to memorize where all the streets are in my area.

Yep, the last few weeks of doing no teaching and all finding are starting to pay off. We have a few people who might be interested enough to progress more. While we've been tracting I've noticed something: most people seem willing to talk to us once we say the word "Jesus", but not too many of them understand what we are talking about. They just nod their heads, smile and say "Amen!" and "I love Jesus!". So I have not yet had a door slammed in my face, but few people seem to comprehend anything more than "Jesus loves you".

It is indeed a blessing to have temples all around you. I am realizing that more and more now that I won't be able to go to the temple for 2 years. (I did get to go to the School of the Prophets in the N.K. Whitney store at the start of my mission and will be able to return there at the end of my mission. It is a temple where endowments have been given, revelation recieved, and where Jesus Christ has appeared.)

It sounds like everybody loved the dedication. Presidents Uchtdorf and Monson are a great combination, I love both of their talks. Unfortunately we were not able to watch the dedication; we had to be about our Father's business. Which is a good thing, of course.

Thank you for your prayers. Please keep them coming. Even though I have only been here a short time, the Lord has really started showing me my weaknesses.

Helaman 13 is a great chapter. (although you guys will probably be in 3 Nephi by the time you recieve this letter. 3 Nephi is my favorite book in the Book of Mormon.) It really illustrates that the more we have been given to know about the gospel, the more responsibility we have to live by its principles and share it with others. I'm not sure if it was Joseph Smith, but one of the latter-day prophets has said that riches and pride will be one of the greatest stumbling blocks for the saints in the last days. Sometimes I wonder if we who have been born into the church truly realize the importance and eternal magnitude of the gifts that we have been given. Are we like the man in Matt 13:45-46 who after finding a "Pearl of great price" (the gospel) gave all that he had to get it, or are we more like the man in Matt 19:21-22, who when asked to forsake the world and follow Christ, was not willing to pay the price?

Good job on your Scripture reading! 5:30 a.m. is really early, but keep it up! You are coming up on some really good parts. I especially like 3 Nephi 10 and 11. They really "bring it all together" for me.

Elder Smith

Letter to Katie - Aug 28th

Dear Katie,

Hello! I am having a great time here in Cleveland! Yes, it is certainly very different than the MTC, but I am getting along alright. My companion, Elder Marini, is awesome, and the members of the ward are definitely not slacking off when it comes to food! We have had a dinner appointment every night so far except for P-days, so its a good thing I'm in a biking area or else I would already be fat. I think it would be great for you to read "Jesus the Christ". I have been reading it and I can't get enough of it. (although I never seem to have much time to spare for reading). But I really enjoy it - it is like having Clif notes for the New Testament! Congratulations on conquering potty training AJ. That can't have been easy. By the way, did you get to see the Oquirrh Mountain Temple dedication? I heard it was great, but unfortunately I couldn't go see it. What would we like in packages? I am a big fan of Whoppers & Reeses, and Elder Marini likes Starbursts, but anything is great. The real treat is getting to read letters from home. That is cool that Savannah and Delaney can motivate each other to work hard on their music... Do you think they could play together when I come home? Maybe I am getting a little ahead of myself, considering I've been here for a week. Any ways, I hope things keep going well at home, I may be far away but I haven't forgotten my family in my prayers and I hope you will pray for Elder Marini and me as well.

Lots of Love,
Elder Smith

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

E-mail September 8, 2009


Sorry I couldn't email yesterday, but we had a huge thing called "Zoned Out" which the mission does once a year where half of the mission (3 zones + Kirtland sisters = about 70 missionaries) goes to the Johnson Farm to have a short devotional and then a big field day. The zones competed against each other in an obstacle course type thing, and then we played dodgeball, softball, football, volleyball, basketball, etc. After Zoned Out, Elder Marini and I and the Parma Elders, Elders Carter and Leake (did I mention that Elder Carter's personality and behavior are almost exactly like Elder Nestman? Except I found out today at ZDM (Zone Development Meeting) that he is a hunter...Can you imagine Elder Nestman being a hunter? I was way surprised because I just could not imagine someone with that kind of personality being a hunter.)

We went to a less active member's house for dinner and were fed barbecue ribs and brownies. They were really good. We gave him a blessing because he is having an operation this week. So thats why the email is late. No, Mom, I haven't died, I am not terminally ill and incapacitated, nor have I been shot.

Please delete the pictures on the SD card before sending it back so there will be room on it for more pictures, but you can take your time because the camera's batteries ran out and I just recently had the chance to go get new ones. Besides, I don't carry my camera with me very many places and don't take many pictures anyways.

Tell David I'm sorry I couldn't come back, but I was too busy trying to find LeBron. I haven't even seen him yet except for a HUGE poster that covers the whole side of a building downtown. I'll get a picture next time we go to the downtown area. However, we did eat dinner Sunday with a family in the neighborhood right nearby where the Cavs practice.

I'm sure your relief society lesson was great, you are just being pessimistic. The Lord does answer prayers, but sometimes the answer is "no". (Of course, for me, sometimes the answer is "no, moron".) I like how you said that we need to meditate and contemplate (ponder) what we are praying about, and listen to the Spirit to give us answers. Sometimes we receive answers to our prayers right then while we are on our knees, and sometimes the answer will come from the Spirit as we prayerfully study the scriptures and the words of the prophets, and sometimes they will come in entirely different ways. Also, when we ask, we can receive instructions from the Spirit about what we should be praying about. There was a really great workshop today in ZDM about Lehi's dream and Alma 5 where it says to look forward with an eye of faith. The Elder giving the workshop invited us to ponder what our "tree of life" is that we are working towards, and what our vision of what we wanted to become was. I wondered if what I want to become is different from what the Lord wants me to become. That is why we should listen to the Spirit tell us what to pray about: because, like the Lord taught us in the Lord's Prayer "THY will be done", prayer is a way that we bring our will into line with our Father's will, not the other way around.

Good for Delaney, for bearing her testimony! What does Bro. VanWagoner's face look like under his beard?

What elders' mom's are you talking to that serve in the Ohio Cleveland Mission? What do they think of the grocery stores? We have some Giant Eagle stores nearby, but we only shop at Walmart because it is so much cheaper. Unfortunately, there is no Walmart nearby, so Strongsville (Elders Waterman and Brown) have to drive us there to shop on P-days. Our whole district always gets together on P-days, I guess, so that is pretty cool. I am getting kind of hooked on Speedway's slurpies. They are addictively delicious.

That is funny that Delaney needed help to use the supercalculator as a normal calculator. Does she have tons of homework all the time? Does she stress out about it a bunch? Wait...Delaney is in HIGH SCHOOL? Holy Holiness! How does she like it? Does she have a boyfriend yet? Diane is supposed to be keeping an eye on her for me. Does she walk to school? Has Riverton majorly lost to Bingham in any sports yet?

Hahaha Bo is so fat. You should see the cat that lives with the members that Strongsville lives with. He is HUGENORMOUS! His name is Mr. T (for Tank). I will get a picture for you. He is way fatter than Marshmallow, and he snores.

I prefer cookies to not have nuts, but if they do that is okay, they are still good.

Cody: did I already tell you that Elder Marini is a huge baseball nut? Plus he likes Chris LeDoux, Garth Brooks, and the other good country singers. You would like him a lot.

Your prayers are much appreciated. It always makes me feel good to know that there are so many people praying for me: me, my companion, my missionary leaders, my mission president, my family, thousands of people in the temples, and maybe even a general authority or two. Put it all together and that is a LOT of faith. I don't know if it is too much hassle for you if I ask you to pray for specific investigators, but if anyone would like to pray for investigators by name, you can pray for Tenika, Mark, Jim, Fred, and Jose.

Did Diane share with you the letter that I sent her? I asked her to, so if she didn't, you should pester her. I was actually kind of worried, because I think I may have accidentally written our home address on her letter instead of her address. If you get a letter that says "Dear Diane", you should probably show it to her also.

Do you know if Josh Rueckert is going to be able to go back to his mission any time soon or if he has already left? Isn't Nate leaving next month? You should tell him (or his mom) that he should volunteer as an "investigator" at the TRC (teaching resource center) at the MTC.

Well, I have to go. Got to be about my Father's work and all that.

Elder Smith

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Letter home

Dear Mom and Dad,

Nice to finally hear from you! Diane's letter will probably arrive before this one, but it was really a general letter to everyone and I asked her to share it with you so you can post it on the blog.

It sounds like the dedication was pretty good, if it is available, could you send me the talks that were given?

I hope the Toby Keith concert was fun. Elder Marini likes almost exactly the same kinds of music that I do, which is super cool. We are always singing Garth Brooks songs and other old '90's country songs. Plus we both like a lot of the same rock bands. It is really convenient. (of course we also sing hymns a lot too: we are missionaries, after all) Not only that, but he is way into aviation as well! (Dad: I need you to find out some things for us; because our whole area is underneath the approach course of the two southwest-oriented runways, which are usually in use, 1: what are the runway numbers of those two runways? 2: What tpe of planes does Continental fly? A320's or 737's? 3: Does Cleveland have a weather ASOS number?) Our area is a slant from downtown southwest to the airport so no matter where we go in the area planes are always coming in to land. Elder Marini and I have a lot of fun talking about planes and stuff.

That's cool that you are volunterring at the cannery. I don't think we have a cannery here, but people volunteer at the Bishop's Storehouse I think. Find out who your cousin's son is and where he lives. He might be in my area. My area covers the Cleveland 1st ward, along with the Parma elders (our neighboring area). If you want to find our area on a map of Cleveland, our northern border is Lake Erie, our Eastern border is I-90 until it gets to I-77 then left on I-490 then South then West on I-71, then Sourth on West 130th St then West on I-480 until the Rocky River. Then North up the river, East on I-90 and North up W. 116th to the lake. I will attempt an illustration: (hand-drawn map that also shows the East Cleveland area to the East, and the Parma area to the Southeast, which shows the approximate area of the church there).

On the SD card I am including in this letter you should find a couple pictures of our area map with post-it flags of people we want to visit on it. I hope you can interpret the drawing!

I'm glad you all are having fun with the beautiful water and the new clay pigeon throwers. I hope Cody keeps getting better. When Peyton and Dad went riding up Yellow Fork, was Dad on Candy and Peyton on Lady? Is she ok to ride?

On the SD card there is a picture of a poster that Elder Waterman, our district leader, has hanging up in their room. It shows Master Chief from HALO, and has a diagram of how he is clad in the whole armor of God (D&C 27:15-18). Show it to Cody; he will like it.

I would tell you all about our tour of historic Kirtland the first few days I was here but I am running out of time and I included hat in the letter that Diane is supposed to share with you.

I am eating really well: Yesterday, I had leftover pizza and hot wings for breakfast, nachos for lunch, and pizza for dinner at a member's house. Today for service we were helping someone move and their wife went to McDonalds and ordered a TON of food so I had 3 double cheeseburgers and a ton of fries. Don't worry, neither of these things are typical.

Quick note about the pictures: Up until the picture with two beds and two fans in a room are from the MTC. After that they are from Cleveland. Elder Marini is the last picture on the card. Yes, I know most of the pictures are crappy, but I haven't really had time to read the camera instructions so I'm sorry.

Elder Smith

PS Thanks for the pants. They fit well.
PPS Thanks for the pictures.
PPPS I'd love to hear the story about the paycheck.
PPPPS The picture near the end of 2 guys is Elder Waterman (the bigger one that is squinting) and Elder Brown.
PPPPPS Mom, hurry up on my room.

Letter to Cody

Dear Cody,

I hope you enjoyed the dedication, thank you for writing. Cleveland is definitely exciting, it is weird to get on the train or bus and me and my companion be two of the three white people on board. It is hard for me to speak black-people-English.

I encouraged mom to hurry up on the room for you (it was the PPPPPS at the end).

My companion is way cool, you would like him. You would like Elder Carter better though; he is like clone of Elder Nestman. Yes, he likes tacos, but he likes burritos better. There are Taco Bell's here too. But, if you really want to really get on his good side, I would send him a Sonic gift card, if they even have those.

Do WELL at school, eat lots of pizza, and paint the cat a different color every day!

Elder Matthew Smith

PS I forgot what I was going to write here.
PPS Oh yeah, you would like Elders Waterman and Brown, too.

Letter to Diane & Family

Dear Diane and Alyssa and family,

Yes, of course you can share my letters! Kirtland was great! First we got a tour of the Kirtland Temple ("we" is the missionaries that arrived that day plus President and Sister Sorenson). The Community of Christ tour guide was really great and she focused on things that our churches both believe. She was very motivational and she talked a lot about the celestial and angelic manifestations that were seen in the Kirtland Temple, especially during the dedication. Even better was that Carl Anderson, the man recognized by he Church as the authority on Kirtland, helped her give the tour and added a lot of historic insight. Then we sang "The Spirit of God" in the lower court in the temple and the Spirit was very noticeably present. Both Brother Anderson and the Kirtland Temple tour guide focused a lot on the blessings promised to servants of the Lord in the dedicatory prayer of the temple. After that, we went to the Newell K. Whitney store and the School of Prophets and had some quite sacred experiences there. After that we talked more about the history of the church. It was really interesting to learn about the scourge placed on Kirtland and how it was lifted. I also really like the Mission Song of the Ohio Cleveland Mission; it ties in to a lot of Kirtland's history. It is sung to the tune of "The Army of Helaman":
We have been born, as Nephi of old
To godly parents who love the Lord
We have been taught, and we understand
That we must do as the Lord commands
We are as the Army of Helaman - We have been taught in our youth
and we will be the Lord's missionaries - to bring the world His truth
We have been taught and we will obey
Repent and work with our might each day
We'll call on Him through fasting and prayer
and with His help we will be prepared
We are in the Ohio Cleveland
We have prepared since our youth
and we are in the Ohio Cleveland to bring Ohio His truth
We have been called, to serve in the place
Where Christ, our Savior has shown His face
We know the words our Lord has proclaimed (crescendo)
(piano pauses) (BANG!)"Kirtland will be built up again!!!"
(repeat chorus)
It is really inspirational to sing that as a mission, plus an elder in our mission is a professional concert pianist, so he is always improvising little variations to the songs.

It sounds like the temple dedication was great. I would have liked to have seen it. Fortunately, we had a mission conference the other day and Elder Packer (President Packer's son) spoke about missionary work and it was really good.

Cleveland is pretty much like a cross between downtown SLC and Tijuana. Downtown and the nicer parts are ok, but there are some pretty undesirable government housing projects we get to go to also. There are a LOT of drunk people here, too, just like the TK (Toby Keith) concert it sounds like. People here are surprisingly nice for the most part, if you don't count the not-nice ones. I am assigned to the Cleveland 1st ward. Most of what we do is finding people, we don't have any progressing investigators. They put all our investigators in a different area when I came in.

It hasn't been too hot so far, but it is definitely humid. I am definitely enjoying being here, but I am really busy; I have been writing this letter for 3 days so far, so sorry if I repeat myself or don't make sense.

Elder Marini, my companion, is really easy to get along with, and our District Leader, Elder Waterman, is super funny. Also, one of the elder's in Parma, our neighboring area, Elder Carter, has a personality just like Chris Nestman. I don't know if you know him, but my family will know what I mean; he is super funny and is always talking and gesturing with his hands.

As for packages, Whoppers and licorice sound good to me. Elder Marini says he'll take anything, but I would probably go with Gobstoppers for him.

Thank you for offering to pray for our investigators, that means a lot to me. I wish we had some investigators who were progressing for you to pray for! You can pray for Tenika, Mark, Netty, and Moses, and pray for us to be able find families to teach.

I've just realized that this is quite a long letter. Would you please share it with my mom & dad so they can post it? Also tell them that I got their package/letters today and am replying as fast as I can, but I never have much time to spare for writing.

Elder Smith

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August 31st Letter

Hello everyone!

I already wrote a letter, but I didn't get to send it until this morning, so even though I wrote the letter first and this email second, you will get this email first and the letter second. Weird. I am sorry if I totally repeat myself or don't make sense. Included in the letter is the SD card I have been using, so you can see the pictures I took of the MTC and the first week or so here. Isn't it awesome that just about everyone I know is leaving or has already left on their missions? I was sad to hear that Jason might be going home, but he said if he did go home they would leave the door open for him to come back so that is good.
Lucky Delaney, getting early morning seminary! Is Bishop Taylor going to be her teacher? That would be really cool if he was. I'll bet you are really excited to hear Cody practicing his percussion.

Yes, I got the package with the pants and SD card, thank you. They fit just fine. The other SD card is on the way in the mail.
Hahaha...Penny is very funny to watch when Dad comes home from a trip! What do you mean she isn't the smartest dog in the world? Everyone falls down the stairs now and then. What other dog is smarter than her? Certainly not Bo!

Good job on reading Jesus the Christ, it is super good. I just wish I had more free time in which to read it.

How come you guys start getting all the nice clay pigeon throwers and pellet guns and antelope hunts AFTER I leave? Next thing I know, Cody and Dad will probably be Caribou hunting in Alaska! Hahaha, obviously Mom wrote this letter.

Good luck antelope hunting, send me some jerky or steak or something. I would never have thought to wash meat with laundry soap, but whatever works, I guess. Good luck with baseball, Cody, I hope you win a game or two! What position will you be playing? 1st? Did you see the Rockies win that game where they were losing in the bottom of the 14th inning and they won it with a grand slam? (Our district was eating at a restaurant and it was showing on this HUGE TV right in front of me, I couldn't help but watch.) Have fun annoying the heck out of Mom and Dad with your percussion set.

I am doing OK for 'stuff' right now. I will need the liner of the coat pretty soon. I have plenty of ties, and if not I can always take some of Elder Marini's; he has about a bazillion ties and he would probably never notice. Also, is it possible to change the PIN number of the Mtn. America debit card to a different number if I mail the number I want it to be to you? I would rather it be the same as the PIN of my missionary debit card so don't get all mixed up.
Thank you for your work on getting my paycheck. You payed the tithing for the last few paychecks that I wrote down for you, right?

Yeah, I am getting a little better at speaking black. I guess it actually has an official name for the language: "Ebonics". Also, we finally got to teach some lessons! Yes, when we eat at a member's house we share a short spiritual thought. We switch off who does the thought, and if two companionships are there (Parma eats with us a lot) (Parma is our neighboring area; we usually refer to Elders Carter and Leake as "Parma", Elders Waterman and Brown as "Strongsville", and Sisters Frisch and Grimnes as "North Royalton". Thus we say, "We're meeting Parma for dinner", "North Royalton is calling us.", or "Strongsville will pick us up at the rapid station.") (Our district is made up of 6 elders and 2 sisters.)

Something strange about Cleveland (among many other things) is that just about everyone seems to have a stone goose. Have you ever seen that anywhere else? I guess it is just a Cleveland thing. When we are tracting or visiting people, we pass little stone goose statues everywhere. They are between 1 and 2 feet tall, grey, and they are usually dressed up in some humorous fashion. Even the mission office (which is in our area, which is nice) has two stone geese sitting inside of it. They are dressed in white shirts and have nametags: Elder Hendricks and Elder Bushnell (the APs).

Yesterday (Sunday) was the 5th Sunday so our ward had a combined priesthood and relief society thing in the chapel. It was about members participating in missionary work, and it was really good. In our ward, every family is supposed to develop a "family mission plan", which is like the ward mission plan, but tailored to each family. That is something we ask about when we go over to dinners. I think they are a really good idea. So the ward mission leader (who is a really cool, hard-working guy, by the way) talked about those for a while and had a couple share their family mission plan and how they came up with it, then President Sorensen spoke about members being necessary to missionary work and about following the Spirit and it was really good. Does our home ward have a ward mission plan? If we do, I have never heard of it, but here in Cleveland it is something they are always talking about. My letter that you haven't received yet says that you should check this email to find out about the two people who said they would come to sacrament, but neither of them showed unfortunately. At least this week we had some people who might come, last week we had nothing. We have some people we are teaching now, too, which is a big improvement over when I got here. If anyone would like to pray for people by name, you can pray for Moses, Mark, Tenika, and Jim (and Elder Marini and me, of course).

Oh Mom, I met that guy you met at the funeral. His name is Trevor Haines, I think. He walked up to me after sacrament and said "I know it's a long shot, but your grandpa wouldn't be Rex Wilson, would he?" I said, "no" and walked away. Just kidding. He said he talked to you at the funeral and so we are like third cousins four times removed or something. He said he might feed us, too, so good job on getting a meal for me.
You have fed the missionaries? Good for you. Was I there? Was it here in Utah or somewhere else? In Utah is there like a 6 month waiting list to sign up to feed the missionaries?

I finished the Book of Mormon again during Personal Study this morning. I don't have it with me right now, but I really liked a few verses in one of the last chapters of Moroni- probably 7, 8, 9, or 10, where it says that God is still a God of miracles and that angels still minister on the earth. Then it said that the calling of angels was to proclaim the gospel, warn the people, and prepare for His second coming. I thought, wow, that is kind of like what our calling is.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed letters, snacks, money, or prayers to my mission! I really appreciate it and I love you all.

Love, Elder Smith