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