Monday, June 21, 2010

Email from 6/21/2010

Here's some pictures Sis. Ort sent us of Elder O'Donley's "Greenie-meal" If you can't tell, we're having green lasagna, green salad, and green tang.
Hello and happy holidays! I hope your Fathers day and Peyton's birthday party went well. In this ward, all the young women made tye-dye ties for their fathers and the bishopric. They were pretty cool-looking.

Funny story - we were sitting in PEC yesterday with the door open because it gets hot in the bishop's office and nobody else was at the church yet and a young couple walked in looking lost with a marriage certificate in their hands. They peeked in and asked if there was a minister there. We directed them to the bishop and they asked if he would marry them. He said he would so we finished up our meeting and the bishop talked to them for a minute or two and then married them right there in his office between PEC and Sacrament Meeting, with Elder O'Donley and I as witnesses. Afterwards we taught them briefly, got their information, and set a return appointment with them. Bishop Best calls the tye-dye tie his "marriage tie" now.

That's so cool to have the BOM on a nook. Do you take your real scriptures to church, Delaney, or just the nook? Do you have other scriptures on it, too? Good job being the best at clogging, driving, and dating!

It sounds like the big event was a pretty big event. I couldn't help but laugh about you talking with President Beck about your wives being angry for how much you would spend on a shotgun.

So, we actually do have to go to Kirtland today anyways. I was wrong, sorry. If you're working on talks to send, here are a few more requests (some will probably be repeats, I can't remember):
remember lot's wife - Holland
they knew you were coming-Holland?
none were with him-Holland
safety for the soul-Holland
beauty for ashes-Holland?
walls of the mind-Hunter?
the 5 cent lightbulb & L1011 crash talk
Quick to Observe-Bednar

Youth conference sounds pretty cool. What kind of service are you doing at the hospital? We've got Pioneer trek coming up here, so we've been pushing the less-active kids to register for that. The dutch oven cooking sounds great and I would love to hear what Bishop Jacobsen has to say. Sorry you only have two more weeks of school to enjoy, Peyton. I'm sure you'll get by somehow, though. What did you get for your birthday? Did you eat any dove meat?

Below in "quotes" are questions we asked Matt, followed by his answer:

"Thanks for the good rundown on your investigators and less actives you are working

with. We really enjoyed the part of the young lady the sister's were teaching who had seen the light in the faces of the members at church. Did she get baptized as planned? "

Yes, she got baptized on Friday. We took Steven to the baptism and he felt the Spirit and we were able to identify that with him. It was a really good experience.

"Who baptized her since she was taught by the sisters?"

The branch president of her branch baptized her. I don't know him.

"Which of your investigators and less actives came to church today?"

We had a pretty disappointing church attendance yesterday. Steven had to work and a couple of our other committments fell through. Bro. Hanny was at church, though, which makes it all worth it every time.

"How is Steven doing?"

Well. The baptism was a great experience for him. We just wish he had been able to come to church. We've recommitted him to be baptized - now on the 17th of July, and are pushing the Word of Wisdom really hard again. Prayers would be appreciated.

"The Elliots?"

Great. Sis. Elliot usually works on Sundays, but she got next Sunday off specifically so she could come to church. We taught them yesterday and brought the Relief Society President with us to explain the RS and invite her to attend on Sunday. She did great and Bro. and Sis. Elliot both committed to come to church, including RS and Priesthood.

"The Hanny's?"

Awesome!!! Sis. Hanny is now back in town (she went to Atlanta with her dad for a couple days), and they are basically reactivated. We suggested and Bishop agreed that they need callings.

"Caitlyn and her friend?"

Not so good, unfortunately. She called us on Saturday and basically told us that we didn't need to come back. Not sure what happened.

"New investigators?"

The only new investigators we found this week are the ones who got married yesterday. I can't pronounce their names - they are chinese or taiwanese or something. It sounds like "eee" and "jing-lung".

"I also really enjoyed your discussion of the man who asked all the questions. Did he ever ask for another discussion?"

Nobody ever asks us for another discussion, but we sure ask them! He is out of town right now, though, so we'll start working with him in two more weeks or so, hopefully.


Elder Matthew Smith

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Letter to Costanza's 6/19/2010

Dear Diane, Randy, and Kids,

So how are my favorite aunt, uncle, and cousins that own a Labrador doing? Any exciting escapades with Rocky lately? It sounds like the sleepover was pretty intense! How was girls' camp? did you do anything fun? did you have to sleep in tents or did they have cabins or something for you? To answer your question, we usually play basketball or volleyball on P-days.

The work has been going very well here also. We've been seeing a lot of success bringing less-active members back to church. I should rephrase that - we aren't bringing them back, we just get them to start praying regularly again and they just about bring themselves back. (with a lot of help from the Spirit, of course) We've got a couple families that have recently come to church for the first time in many years, and a couple more who seem like they're about to come around. our investigators are doing really well, too. We've got a couple people who have baptismal dates, and others with whom we want to set dates in the next week or so. Steven is doing well, but having trouble with smoking, so we have to move his baptism from June to July. Something that was really exciting, though, is that Bro. and Sis. Hanny gave up tea and coffee without us even having to ask them to! It shows that they are truly learning to fish for themselves and not just getting fed fish by us or the members of the Ward.

I've got a brand new companion, Elder O'Donley, and he's a really good missionary. He's a little bit shy and quiet, but we're working on that. That makes him pretty easy to get along with, at least. He has a good testimony, though, so he's halfway there already. We've been having a lot of strong spiritual lessons and other experiences and witnessing miracles, so he's had a good first week of his mission!

Well, I hope everything is going well with you! Thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers - I know that it makes a difference! A couple of weeks ago we were having trouble finding new investigators, so we fasted and had everyone we met pray for us, even if they said no on the doorstep. We found a ton of people that next week. It was really cool.

I got to interview someone for baptism the other day who the sister missionaries in my district have been teaching and it was so cool to hear about how when she first walked into church she noticed that everyone was so happy - she could see a light in their faces that other people didn't have and she wanted to have that light, too. Well, she's got the light now. She's being baptized on Friday.

Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Like Cleveland!

!!!Happy Birthday, Peyton!!!

The subject line comes from the taxis in Cleveland - you would think their bumper stickers would say "I love Cleveland", but they usually say "I like Cleveland". Fail.

Hi everybody!

That's pretty cool that Trevor and Brittany are on missions. Where did Brittany go? When does Chris come home? No, I'm afraid I don't remember (great?) aunt Janet. Note: Aunt Janet is JoAnne's twin sister who died last week.

Good job on your marathon, Dad! (and everybody else who ran) Was the PR that you ran sub 3:25, or that you didn't throw up even once? Just kidding. I'm glad Utah has had such good marathon weather. Note: Merrill ran a marathon and had his best time ever - 3:24:50 and didn't throw up at all

The RS fireside sounds like it was pretty inspirational! I love that kind of stuff - great to bring investigators to, and great to be at and feel the Spirit. Hearing Bro. Neu sing probably didn't hurt, either. I'm a little jealous. By the way, which of your friends are you working on preparing to be taught by the missionaries in your home? (that goes for everybody).

Have fun at the big event, guys. That should be a hoot. Is Dad working there for the range or anything or is he just going with our varsity team? When is your court of honor going to be, Cody? Way to go on swimming 1000 yards at once! Don't you just love that numb feeling that comes when you've swam a long way and are tired and feel like you're falling asleep while swimming?

Have fun at clogging camp, Delaney. Take a Book of Mormon with you. Say hi to Savannah if she's there. Good job on your driving, also. How much more drivers' ed do you have to finish before you get your license? Sorry you have to go back to school, Peyton. Do well. Sounds like you had a good birthday, though. What did you get? What did you want to get?

That's pretty cool that you felt the earthquake. Did you stop, drop, and roll? What is the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado? Check out this video President Sorensen sent us today: . I know those guys! Actually, somebody called us the other day and said that he'd seen the missionaries helping with the tornado cleanup and wanted to ask us some questions. We're still trying to get in contact with him.

Yes, I'm pretty sure you can leave a package at the Kirtland sites for me. I've talked to the Butterfields a couple times, but I don't really know them. They work mostly with the senior missionaries and the sisters who work the sites. We go to Kirtland on lots of P-days, but probably won't go the next couple weeks - we get to drive 1500 miles per month and having to drive to trainers' meeting, transfer meeting, and mission conference this month have been tough on our miles, so we have to conserve by staying near home on P-days and probably riding bikes a couple days. The butterfields can give a package to the sister missionaries and they'll make sure it gets to me on P-day or at District meeting or something. Note: We have a neighbor who's sister and her family are going to Kirtland and are related to the Butterfields. I want to send a package with them.

I'm glad Sis. Dudley is all right. Is she home from the hospital and everything? She must be about as tough as nails. I have probably given 4 or 5 blessings of healing on my mission, and a couple more blessings of comfort and counsel. Note: Merrill helped give Sis. Dudley a blessing.

My new companion is Elder O'Donley from North Highlands, California (near Sacramento). He is the oldest of 4 with three younger brothers from 12 to 17. He has never killed a deer. He has a good testimony, though, and he loves the people we are working with. He's kind of shy and quiet, but he's working on it and starting to get over it. I love him.

Our investigators are doing great. Steven came to church yesterday and enjoyed it. He is still having trouble with smoking, so we are taking Bro. Hoffman over with us to help us teach him this week. Bro. Hofmann converted about a year ago (he just went to the temple last week) and recently has quit smoking, so he should be able to help. Bro. Hofmann has taught Steven before, but the focus of our lesson was something other than the word of wisdom. Bro. Hanny came to church, too (Sis. Hanny is out of town in Atlanta this week.). I'm sure I've told you about the Hannys before - if no one else listened to me for my whole mission, it would be worth it just to have taught them and seen the change they're making in their lives for the better. Their countenances just glow now - I can't even describe it, but they have a light in their faces that was absent before. In addition, Bro. Elliot came to church yesterday. Bro. Elliot has not been to church in many years, but he kept his commitment to come. (we made him pinkie-promise that he would be there - that must have been the trick). We are also teaching Sis. Elliot, who is not a member. She works every Sunday, but asked her boss and should be able to come on the 27th. Bro. Elliot committed to keep coming to church also. We also have an investigator named Caitlyn who is committed to come to church next week. I think I told you about her before - she's the one for whom the Lord kept it from raining for about half an hour while we taught. We brought another 16-yr old girl teaching with us who had seen her at school, and they hit it off pretty well, so her family is going to pick Caitlyn up next week if all goes well. It's been a really good week in general - we've had several very powerful lessons guided by the Spirit. One of them was with an investigator who had looked up some anti material online and was asking us about it. He had some really good questions - probably the best questions anybody has asked me on my mission - about Hell, the morality of God for creating us if some of us are going to be damned, or for creating the devil. But instead of asking questions meant to attack us or talk us into a corner, he really wanted to know the answers. After we had answered his questions and explained a lot of the plan of salvation, he agreed that we had the best answers to his questions that he had heard from anybody. He said most people or religions he asked would give him the "cookie-cutter answer" and then didn't have anything to say when he asked the deeper questions, but that we had answers that really made sense on all levels. That was a real testimony builder for me on a couple different things - the truthfulness of the restored gospel and the plan of salvation, the Spirit's guidance (comparing notes after the lesson, Elder O'Donley and I got the same promptings at the same times), and preparation, even though the lesson went nothing like what we had planned.

Yes we still have the car. Yes we still tract a bunch. Yes I am the District Leader again. Yes, I have many inspiring stories to share with people, but unfortunately I think most of them will have to wait until I can tell you about them in person. Just one more from this week, though - I was giving a baptismal interview to one of the investigators the sisters in my district have been teaching and her story was really cool. She had a member friend at school (she's 16 or so) who invited her to church and when she was there she could see something different about everybody - how happy they were and that they had a light and joy in their faces that she wanted to have also. (she had also noticed it in her member friend at school) I could already tell she was ready for baptism before asking her any of the questions because she had Christ's image engraved in her countenance as well. It was really cool to hear her story about recognizing the contrast between those who did and didn't have that light. I've been really blessed to see people go from spiritual despair or desensitivity to having the hope of the gospel and the light of Christ in their eyes and faces as well, and it is really humbling to be able to observe the Spirit working on someone and helping them have a mighty change of heart, repent, and truly be brand new people. It's like watching the sun rise.

Anyways, that's my spiel.

Love you MNB!

Elder Matthew Smith

PS - can I make a special request for this package? Could you make a CD or two of some talks or byu devotionals we can listen to? If so, some of my favorites are:

"remember lot's wife" -Elder Holland, I think, given at BYU;

"the myth of mortal perfection" - possibly Hugh Nibley or Hugh B. Brown;

"Safety for the soul" -Elder Holland, 2 conferences ago;

a talk about member missionary work that compares missionaries to rescue people in orange vests and members to shepherds. It was given by one of the twelve, but sorry I don't have much more for you than that.

the conference talk by President Uchtdorf about the L-1011 crashing because the landing gear light failed.

"how to write an anti-mormon book" -a byu devotional, by Nibley or Brown

Other than that, my favorite speakers are President Monson, President Eyring, and Elder Holland

Letter to Costanza Family on 6/6/10

Dear Diane, Randy, and Family,

Sorry I haven't written in a while - it gets a lot harder when you have to write by hand and don't have a library that will let you print for free. Luckily, a less-active member that we are bringing back gave us this nifty typewriter thing.

Anyways, I'm doing really well here. My companion is awesome but president Sorensen just called a few minutes ago and said that he and I will both be training new missionaries this transfer, so we won't get to stay together any longer. I'm a little bit disappointed, because I've only been with him for about 4 weeks. Usually companions last a little bit longer than that, at least.

Our area is doing well and we are having some pretty good success lately. We have a couple investigators that have baptismal dates and we've seen a lot of success working with the less-active members of our ward, as well. I think the thing that has helped us the most when it comes to motivating people to progress in the gospel is getting people to pray. Our leaders challenged us to ask everyone we teach to say the closing prayer at our lessons and we have seen some miracles come from that. Praying aloud definitely invites the spirit in powerful ways.

Anyways, how is everything going on the home front? School should just about be out, I hope - anything exciting planned for summer activities? How is rocky doing? Is he pretty well house trained by now? I hope so. Have you guys taught him any entertaining tricks yet? Or how to be a good hunting dog? Definitely don't let him hang around Bo, because he needs a better example than that! I'll bet my mom is super excited about her elk hunt! She probably doesn't talk about anything other than that, huh? Help her get psyched up for it, ok?

Elder Smith

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Random Pictures

Email from 6/8/10


Sorry if I forgot to tell you that this week is transfer week, but that's why I'm emailing on Tuesday. Our week was pretty good, and I'm glad to hear that all is well at home, too.

Yeah, we're in a pretty country area. It's about an hour east of Cleveland and there are miles of country in between the cities in which we work.

That trebuchet sounds pretty impressive! It must have been a lot of fun to work on. Was it mostly made out of wood? Good job being fluent in Spanish and being a pro driver, Delaney. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to be a driver's ed instructor, though.

How hot has it been getting back home? It's just about perfect here, usually in the 70s for most of the day. (the 70s is the perfect temperature, because if it is 70 degrees or more we don't have to wear our suitcoats.

I got the picture of mom + horses, thank you. I'm glad that they were all so good. What's the verdict on Zorro - is he a good horse or is he too lazy or fiesty or skittish or something?

Our fast and testimony meeting was really good, too. One of the members who came out teaching with us this week bore his testimony about feeling the Spirit at our lesson, which was good. There were lots of good testimonies in general, including one of the sister missionaries in our ward who is going home tomorrow. (There are 2 sets of missionaries in the Perry ward - us and two sisters)

Yep, all is well with me and Elder Baxter, but he's being transferred tomorrow. He is going back to the Spanish Branch in Cleveland (his first area, the area where he was serving before he came to this area). It's funny because he is going to hit his year mark in his first area. He will be training a brand new 'verdito' in the Spanish Branch. I am not being transferred, and I will be training a new missionary in this area. I'm pretty sure he'll be an English speaker this time, though.

You'll do a good job as DQP, Cody. How many Deacons are there that come regularly? Any less-active ones you are going to work on bringing back?

Anyways, our investigators are doing well. The Hanny family has come to church three weeks straight now. Bro. Hanny even gave up Tea and Coffee without us teaching them about or committing them to live the Word of Wisdom. That was amazing and inspirational. We've started working with another less-active family who I am almost positive will come back to church, and another family that has a lot of potential. I'm excited to continue seeing people progress.

The Hanny familiy gave us an old typewriter, too, so writing letters should be somewhat easier. However, President Sorensen has asked us to limit our communications with others outside our immediate family and that parents should let them know how we're doing. The blog probably makes that pretty easy, so I'm sure you're doing a great job.

How have the family prayer and scripture study been going? How about FHE and temple attendance? Have you been teaching your hometeaching lessons out of Preach My Gospel Ch. 3? In our recent associations with members and less-active members, we have been making sure to commit everybody, active or not, to continue or begin to have a daily vocal prayer individually and with their family (if applicable) Those who have accepted that commitment have been able to notice the change it made in their lives. I would encourage you to make sure all of your hometeaching families are praying daily out loud. Also, I think it would have helped me immensely in my mission preparation, and still would help Cody immensely in his preparation, if instead of one person giving a quick "spiritual thought" type message, you could both, prayerfully, prepare a lesson in which you could both participate in the teaching. I don't know if that is too much to ask, but I know that would have helped me be much more familiar with the doctrine of the missionary lessons and with the teaching skills from Ch. 10 of Preach My Gospel. As Preach My Gospel says, "hometeaching is nothing more than missionary work to those who are already members of the church, and missionary work is nothing more than hometeaching to those who are already members of the church" (Gordon B. Hinckley, I think). Maybe you could pray about it together and seek the Lord's guidance. But of course, you guys are probably already doing that anyways.


Elder Matthew Smith

Email from 6/2/10

Hello everybody, how's life?

Yes, the guy burning the suit was going home. That was Elder Wayment, with whom I served in Cleveland for 3 weeks or so in a triple-up before he went home mid-transfer. The missionary tradition is that you burn a tie at six months, a shirt at a year, a pair of slacks at 18 months, and a suit at 2 years. So that's why I was burning the tie. Yeah, the shoes were pretty bad.

Glad to hear you had an uneventful week - those are always nice. Good job building a trebuchet twice, Delaney. How many people worked with you on it? How big was it? Were you able to read my email segment to you that was in Spanish and probably correct the grammar on it?

A .500 batting average is pretty stellar. Good job being a great baseball player, Cody. Did you make any good runs or outs?

What kinds of things did the scouts have to do for the horsemanship merit badge? What did Dad do? Which scouts were there?Are you super excited for your elk hunt, Mom?

Did you see the picture of the Vizsla? We were eating dinner in the Fowlers' backyard and their neighbors were outside and they had a vizsla!! How cool is that? Her name is Bella and she's about 2 years old. She had a TON of energy - I don't think her owner takes her running with him. She wasn't as well behaved as Penny, either. Or as pretty.

The pictures of the smokestacks are from the nuclear power plant that is a couple miles away from us. The chickens, rooster, and other dogs are from the Hall's farm (the Halls are members in our ward, as are the Fowlers). The little labrador/retriever mix puppy was so cute - he was attacking an empty pop can for about 5 minutes, but his mouth wasn't big enough to bite it so he was wrestling with it and jumping on it and stuff - it was cool.

Is everybody excited to be out of school? What are you guys going to do over the summer? (Except go on dates, of course).

I'm pretty excited to meet Rocky, even though he'll probably be a boring old lazy dog by the time I get home. Hopefully his fighting skills will improve a little. Was he trying to fight Penny or were you guys trying to wrestle with him or something that caused you to discover that he's not a good fighter? Note: Rocky is Diane's puppy.

So - differences from serving in a student ward. The biggest one is that there are no students here. Instead of having easy, flexible schedules like medical students have so that they can come teaching with us pretty much any time of day, the members of this ward have jobs and can mostly just come with us in the evenings. Other differences from being in the city to being in a small Ohio town - there's pretty much nobody to talk to on the streets here. In Toledo or Cleveland we could just walk up the street and contact people, but there's nobody just walking the streets here. I guess they have nowhere to go or something. I don't know why black people are nicer than white people, but they are a lot more willing to talk to us and a lot less likely to be rude if they do say no.

We had a pretty good week, except for the part where no investigators could come to church. We did great at finding new people, though. We had been struggling in our finding efforts so we fasted last sunday for help and then this week we've been having everybody we talk to pray out loud with us and pray for us to be able to find people who are searching. The results were pretty miraculous. Also, the other day we were teaching one of our new investigators on their back porch and it had been raining earlier that day, and we could see a big huge storm coming over us as we taught. By about halfway through the lesson, we were totally overshadowed with inky, black, sinister clouds. I'm convinced that by our faith the Lord held back the rain for us until the lesson was finished. Literally seconds after we stood up to leave, it started POURING. I was dripping wet by the time we got to our car in the front driveway. That was a pretty cool miracle.

The Hanny's came to church again on Sunday, that was really exciting. I am so glad to see them coming back to the gospel and talking about the temple. SO cool. In addition to the great success with investigators, we also had a phenomenal week working with less active and part member families. We talked to the Nelson family who hasn't been to church in a long time and they were totally prepared. Sis. Nelson had had a dream a few days before we came over of her whole family being in the temple together except for her and her husband, so that made our job pretty easy. They were super committable and agreed to read and pray together daily and come to church regularly. That was awesome. Also, we started teaching the Dautartas's. The mom is less-active and her 10 year old son isn't baptized but she wants to come back and wants her son to learn about the church and be baptized as well. He (Ethan) is sick, please pray for him to get better. We also met for the first time with a couple more less-active families who agreed to have us back over, so hopefully some fruit will come of that as well.

Thanks for watching out for my debit card account. I ran out of MSF when I left all the food I bought in Toledo when I got


Yeah, the weather has been pretty good - usually in the high 70s or mid 80s. It rained a couple times also. Definitely no snow.
Yep, I'm doing well, thanks for asking.

Yes I got the box with the shoes and stuff. Thank you.

The exchange with Elder Jensen was good. It was in English - he doesn't speak Spanish. We worked in thier area (Shaker Heights). It was a nice change of scenery from Madison, Geneva, and Perry - I actually got to see black people and the rapid and other stuff that I miss from Cleveland.

Respectfully, etc.

Elder Matthew Smith

Note: Pictures will come shortly