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