Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And you thought last week's letter was good....


We had a truly AMAZING week. A little background: Brother Andres in our ward is the only nonmember in his family. I think he has four daughters, two of which have been married in the temple. His wife is a strong member as is everyone else in his family. He's been taught on and off by missionaries for the past 26 years or something like that, with the sisters in our ward making a renewed effort on him during the past year or so. He comes to church just about every week and holds a calling even though he's not a member. He just never felt like he had recieved a strong enough answer about the BOM to leave behind his Catholic roots. Well, every year the Kirtland stake puts on the musical theatre production "This Is Kirtland!", depicting the life and times of mormon settlers in 1830's Kirtland. Bro. Andres' wife and 2 daughters that live at home were in the play and it was suggested that he participate as well since he had to drive them down to the stake center every day for practice. He conceded and played the part of Elder Green, one of the 12 Apostles. Everyone was so sure that the play was going to be a great, powerful, spiritual experience for him and it definitely was; so much so that last Sunday morning as I was talking to the sisters in our ward (Sisters Wirig, Golightly, and Decker), they were very confident that he would commit to baptism during their lesson later that day. By all accounts the lesson was powerful and compelling - the spirit was palpable and the sisters were guided by the Lord's hand in presenting their lesson. Finally, the time came, and with the Spirit's piercing flame bearing witness of the truth, they comitted Bro. Andres to set a baptismal date. Time stood still. Every breath was bated. The seconds of silence could audibly be heard ticking by as they waited what seemed an eternity for his response.

Finally he spoke

And his answer crushed their soaring hopes into oblivion. His wife broke down and left the room in tears. The sisters were devastated. They had been so sure that he was ready-the cast of the play and everyone in the ward had friendshipped him so well, the spirit had been so strong...how could he persist in his obstinance? Sister Wirig's dream had been to see Bro. Andres baptized before she went home from her mission just a week and a half later, and now she knew that her vision was not going to materialize...

We talked about it at district meeting that Tuesday (a week ago today). They were crushed.

Later that day, the sisters called me, ecstatic. At 3:00 am that morning, Bro. Andres had come to a conclusion: stopping haltingly between two faiths wasn't getting him anywhere - he had witnesses enough and he needed to follow them. He decided to be baptized that very Saturday.

The rest of the week is a whirlwind from that point - On the way back from a leadership meeting in Cleveland we stopped at Kirtland where he had arrived early for the play and I interveiwed him for baptism. The major factors in his decision to keep moving forward were the spiritual influence of playing one of the 12 in the play, the love showed for him by the cast and crew of the play, as well as the rest of the ward, and the amazing diligence, persistence, and love showed by the sisters in teaching him.

He was baptized this past Saturday at 4:00 by Bro. Hay, one of his longtime friends from the ward. We brought Steven to watch it and it was a great experience. The Spirit was strong throughout the baptismal service, the attendance of which overflowed the chapel at the Stake Center. The cast of the play payed to fly in his two daughters and their husbands so they could witness his baptism as well. He was confirmed by one of his sons-in-law right after his baptism, and ordained a priest the next day by his other son-in-law. After the baptism, we went with Steven to the historic Kirtland sites and Sis's Wirig, Golightly, and Decker gave us an amazing tour - another opportunity to feel the powerful spirit. After that we went back to the stake center (only about 1/2 mile away) to watch the final performance of the play. In one scene of the play, Joseph Smith, standing on a table at a feast in the N.K.Whitney store, says "we rejoice with the Snow family in the baptism of Brother Lorenzo". That night he added in, "and we also rejoice with the Andres family in the baptism of Brother Lawrence." The overflow crowd went wild.

(please note: By necessity, literary license has been exercised to help the reader feel more intimately and accurately the mood and atmosphere of the account. The writer has drawn from several sources including personal interviews with many of the involved parties to ensure the maximum possible fidelity of the present narrative.)

Anyways, that's Bro. Andres's story. I hope you liked it.

On Sunday we took Bro. and Sis. Elliot to a musical fireside at the Kirtland sites and again had a powerful experience. They both felt the spirit and we were able to identify that with them. A couple weeks ago Sis. Elliot fasted with us that she would be able to get Sundays off from work so she could come to church. She asked her employer about it and things are looking good at this point. I think we will be able to set a baptismal date with her pretty easily once she is able to consistently come to church.

Steven and Bro. Elliot came to church on Sunday.

Sounds like you guys are doing lots of fun things back home, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world.

Congrats on being DQP, Cody. One of my first experiences with recieving personal revelation that I can remember is feeling impressions as I prayed about who should be my counselors in the Deacons' Quorum Presidency.

The new duty to God program seems pretty cool. I was SO sold when they pitched it in conference. Cody and his peers are going to be the most prepared missionaries EVER.

Unfortunately, Steven isn't making much progress with the Word of Wisdom. He reads and prays every day, comes to church, and keeps comittments, but I don't think he has a very strong desire to quit smoking at this point. We're working on it. Prayers are greatly appreciated.

More loosening of the rules: Now we can listen to anything in the hymnbook, childrens songbook, or any mormon tabernacle choir.

elder matthew smith

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Your mothers would be proud" 7/12/10


We had a really good week, thank you very much. Yes we did go to "This Is Kirtland!" on Saturday. It was really cool, and very professionally done. I didn't see the Butterfields there, but we sat by President and Sister Sorensen. It was in the cultural hall at the stake center (which is only about a mile from the Kirtland sites). I have introduced myself to the Butterfields, but I didn't remember to tell them that I live by the Britos.

I had meetings in Cleveland Thursday and Friday (and will again this week Wednesday and Thursday) with the rest of the mission leadership. It struck me over and over again that I will likely never again be able to associate with people of the same caliber as the elders and sisters in that room again in my life after my mission. First of all, where are you going to find a group of 20-year olds who can sit through a 7-hour meeting (with an hour-long lunch break) about teaching the gospel and be scribbling like crazy and hanging off of every word for so long and wish that it would not have to end? Not to mention the great, inspired comments, questions, and testimonies. The meetings were about some changes that the missionary department is making and what we need to do. Zone Conferences and Interviews will now be quarterly instead of every 6 weeks, which is good. I always feel like we have too many meetings and not enough time to work. Also, the MTC is changing it's curriculum to simplify it and focus on some more important points of PMG next year in May and the missions have to make some changes to be prepared. It's amazing how it seems like even the church and the missionary department seem to always be learning about Preach My Gospel. It was definitely written on the other side of the veil, and it is as multilayered as the scriptures and the 2nd most correct book on earth.

So Elder and Sister McQueen, a senior couple, came to our place this morning for an apartment check. Sister McQueen, a very motherly individual, said "Well done, Elders, it looks great. Your mothers would be proud." How's that for a mighty change of heart? I thought you'd like that, Mom.

Well, have fun at the cabin. Careful with the chainsaws. You can see the scarring on my pinky finger but the only really blatant scar is the one on my wrist. haha...thanks for keeping me up to date on all Delaney's 'social engagements'. Isn't it so cool how you have an instant network of connections as soon as you join the church? That's pretty cool how the guy from Mark & Lori's ward had someone from the church here waiting to pick him up at the airport. I love hearing the cool stories about that stuff. Mormons rock at coordinating!

That's kind of weird to think of Delaney driving by herself or driving Cody and Peyton. Is she nervous at all? Probably not, huh. What is "mission"? I don't know if I've ever heard of that game before.Whatever, Delaney, you probably aced the AP Spanish test. I'll bet you got a 6!

So Elder O'Donley's parents sent him this:

The Way It Is

A Mission President:
leaps tall buildings in a single bound
is faster than a speeding bullet
is more powerful than a locomotive
walks on water
associates with God

An Assistant to the President:
leaps short buildings in a single bound
is just as fast as a speeding bullet
is more powerful than a switch engine
walks on water in calm seas
talks with God

A Zone Leader:leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable winds
is faster than a decelerating bullet
is slightly less powerful than a switch engine
walks on water in indoor swimming pools
talks with God if special request is approved

A District Leader:
barely clears a mud hut
can fire a speeding bullet
loses tug-of-wars with locomotives
swims well
is occasionally addressed by God

A Senior Companion:
makes high marks on the wall when trying to jump buildings
can usually handle a gun without inflicting self-injury
gets run over by locomotives
doggie paddles
talks to animals

A Junior Companion:
runs into walls
is not issued ammunition
can recognize a locomotive 2 out of 3 times
can stay afloat with a life jacket
talks to walls

A Greenie:
trips over doorsteps
says "look at the choo-choo!"
wets himself with a water pistol
plays in mud puddles
mumbles to himself

A Sister Missionary:
lifts up buildings and walks under them
catches bullets in her teeth and eats them
kicks locomotives off the tracks
freezes water with a single glance
knows God

I thought it was funny

Steven's doing alright, but he's only made a little progress on smoking. He came to church yesterday, though, and he's been reading the book of mormon and praying. His baptismal date is no longer July 31st because you have to be clean from smoking for 3 weeks to get baptized. We haven't reset his date yet.Bro. and Sis. Hanny don't have callings yet, but they're active. Mission accomplished. Now it's mostly up to the ward to support them. We're not going to actively teach them anymore - they don't need it and their home teachers can take care of them now. (We took their hometeachers with us for several appointments to help them get started.)
Great news! It has been revealed to President Sorensen that we now need to wake up at 6:30 instead of 6:15. It may be a tough adjustment, but I will go and do what the Lord hath commanded. I know that the Lord will provide a way for me to accomplish this thing which He hath commanded and give me the strength to sleep for 15 extra minutes every day.

Patty Wrote: "When you said last week that it was your fault everyone slept in because you didn't get up one morning until 6:40 - I don't believe that the Lord would use your investigators to punish you for that! And since when do you use a cell phone for an alarm clock? I know we bought you an alarm clock! Wow - did that sound like a typical mom comment or what?"

No, the Lord wasn't punishing us, we just didn't exercise the faith to be obedient to the law upon which the promise in Malachi 3 and 3 Nephi 24 that He will "pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to recieve it." is predicated. Keeping the Morning Schedule is how missionaries pay tithing. And yes, that is a typical mom comment! It is just the mission culture that everyone uses the cell phones to get up, I guess. It's just what you do.

Well, now that I'm not serving in Cleveland and can't just go into the mission office whenever I want, I don't see as much of President Sorensen. I saw him Saturday at the play, Thursday and Friday at leadership meetings in Cleveland, Tuesday when he had a meeting with the ZLs at the same time and in the same building as our district meeting, and a couple weeks ago at both interviews and zone conference.

I'm kind of surprised you know what hump day is, Mom. Yes, I will be burning a shirt for hump day. I'll take some pictures for you. I'm guessing the tradition is to burn it on that exact day, but that doesn't always work. Yes, I'll burn an unusable shirt. I had to slice up one of my old long-sleeved shirts to make some "tie-buddies" so that's the one that will burn. A tie buddy is made of two button-holes of a shirt and it goes through the loop on your tie and keeps it from flying over your shoulder, etc.

Yeah, I am pretty scared by how fast the time is going. I feel like I just got to this area last week, Toledo was a two or three day blur, and I left Cleveland about a month ago. The MTC experience and civilian life just seem like a vague dream.

Elder Matthew Smith

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Email from 7/6/10

Pictures above:
Matt & Elder O'Donnley on his first day in the mission field
Bro. & Sis. Hanny

Hello, happy 6th everybody

It sounds like Rupert and Burley were hoppin' this weekend! That's pretty sad to hear about the mortar exploding, though. Is Paul going to make a new one? I imagine he has all sorts of connections with people who can get him 6-1/2" steel pipe with 2" holes drilled in it. Where did he get the original one?

We've been doing well around here. We don't get to watch fireworks since we have to be in by 9:00 and neither Madison nor Geneva had fireworks anyways. Ohio's fireworks laws are even stricter than Utah's - they can only have things that smoke, but no flame or sparks - not even fountains or ground-bloom flowers are legal. So, the big thing to do at parties and barbecues here in Ohio is cornhole. Everybody is crazy about it. Basically it's a beanbag toss. It's fun and all, but I don't understand why it's such a big thing.

You say "Cody and Dad got to shoot Paul's AR-15 yesterday". Did he not let you shoot it? Why just Cody and Dad? It seems like everybody has an AR-15 around here, too. When "Red Dawn" goes down, I can think of at least three different members' homes that are basically armories. Since when does Paul have an AR-15 and why didn't I get to shoot it?

Who is Rich that Delaney was texting?

I guess Elder O'Donley's family has been reading my blog - you guys should email them or something and tell them how to set up a blog for Elder O'Donley as well. Is his mom on the email group? We had a pretty slow week. A lot of our appointments canceled, and two of our investigators are out of town. The 4th of July doesn't help much in missionary work, I guess. Anyways, here's the update for investigators and LAs:

Steven: We had a great lesson with him last week and committed him to baptism on the 31st of July. We've been maintaining daily contact with him by phone on the days that we don't teach him, which is definitely helpful in getting him to remember to read and pray daily. He's working on quitting smoking. We taught him about fasting and then he, Elder O'Donley, and I fasted with him that he would have added strenght to quit smoking. Prayers would be appreciated, as he's struggling with it. I think he can do it, though - his daily reading and prayer, as well as fasting are a whole lot of faith being exercised. He didn't come to church on Sunday - he slept in, I guess.

Bro. and Sis. Elliot: We taught them about fasting, too, and they fasted that Sis. Elliot would be able to get work off and come regularly on Sundays. They are reading and praying together daily and doing great. Bro. Elliot should be at church Sunday, but Sis. Elliot is working, as usual. Bro. Elliot slept in on Sunday also. I'm pretty sure that everybody slept in because one day this week we left our phone in the kitchen when we went to bed and didn't hear the alarm, so we didn't get up until 6:40 and didn't fully keep the morning schedule. We've repented.

Bro. and Sis. Hanny: Are basically active now. We're ready to not actively be teaching them anymore and just let their hometeachers (Bro. Talbot, who we brought with us to several appointments to help him establish a good relationship with them, and his son) take over. They are working towards the temple. They were at church on Sunday (just like the last 6 weeks)

Bro. and Sis. Nelson: Haven't been active for a while, but we've been working with them and they came to church on Sunday. That was really exciting. They have strong testimonies and are really great people. They are feeding us this week!

That's about it...Todd and Sis. Dautartas and Ethan are all out of town, so they're temporarily on hold. Hopefully we can start teaching them again this week.

We've been having great lessons with a lot of members of the ward about member-missionary work. We have committed several families to do the activity on p. 172 of PMG, which asks them to pray about who they can prepare to hear the gospel and set goals of what they can do to help prepare them. We've been following up to make sure they did the activity and set goals, and now we're making appointments with them to discuss their people and goals and roleplay with them to help prepare them to effectively invite others to hear the gospel. We've been struggling with trying to motivate members and get them excited about missionary work, so hopefully this will help. Today in district meeting we roleplayed roleplaying with members.

On a related note, one member was coming teaching with us and on the ride to our appointment we roleplayed with him how he could talk his wife into letting him buy a four-wheeler. I thought that was funny.

On Saturday we're going to "This Is Kirtland - a musical theatre production depicting the life and times of mormon settlers in Kirtland". Sis. Hanny is going to bring her nonmember father, which is our ticket in. We're trying to get Steven, the Elliots, and another family we're working with, the Barths, to come to it also. It's a really big deal to the people out here - like as big as the pageants (or at least they think so).

Sorry about not labeling the pictures. Here's a couple explanations

sanyo105.jpg is bro. and sis. hanny
sanyo108.jpg is elder baxter
sanyo111.jpg is me and elder o'donley at transfer meeting his first day
sanyo102.jpg and 103.jpg are taped to the door of a sister in our ward who is one of the armories i might have to head to on d-day

lymnb, Elder Matthew Smith

Email from 6/28/10

Hello all,

Sounds like youth conference was good. What kind of service did they do at the hospital? I love hearing people talk about agency (especially myself). That's definitely among my favorite principles to learn about and/or teach about. It's just so inspiring (and more than a little bit intimidating) that our agency and ability to choose what we will be and become is so absolutely up to us.

Good job driving Delaney! How many books can your nook hold at once?

How did you do golfing, Cody? Ready for the PGA yet? Who did you 'really accidentally' hit with a rock?

Good luck with los cavallos diablos. Now that you mention it, I don't seem to recall the airplanes ever punching, kicking, or bucking people off...I don't get why you don't like flying, mom.
So tell me about Crystal's husband Kyle. Where is he from, what is he like, what does he do, etc. Is he a member of the church? We've been invited to a couple barbecues on the 4th, so we'll probably get stuffed at a couple of them. Other than that I don't know what we'll be doing. We probably won't get to email on Monday so it will probably be on Tuesday.

Was Sister Elliott able to come to church today?

Yes, she and Bro. Elliot both came. I was disappointed that they had to leave for a doctor's appointment after sacrament meeting, since we wanted them to come to priesthood and RS. I think Sis. Elliot will have a great experience at RS once she comes, so hopefully next time that will work out.

How is Steven doing?

Well. We took Bro. Hall teaching with us yesterday and talked about Bro. Hall's experience quitting smoking and the blessings he received from living the word of wisdom. It went well. He had to work in the morning, though, so wasn't able to come to church. Hopefully this week he will be able to come.

Have you had more contact with the newlyweds?

Not much, unfortunately. We came to our return appointment and tried to talk to the old Chinaman that answered the door but he didn't speak English and just waved his hands at us.

How about the guy with all the questions?

He's still in Colorado - no updates

Any new people?

nope, no luck this week. Not for lack of trying, though.

Is the greeny dinner that you sent pictures of a mission-wide phenomenon?

Yeah, I think a lot of people do them. It probably just depends on which ward you are trained in.

Did you have one?

No, I don't think so. I can't remember much from my first couple days, but I'm pretty sure I didn't.

Sweet! 2nd Nephi is the best!!! Jacob's sermon in 9 and 10 is timeless!!! And Nephi's exposition of the Doctrine of Christ in 31-33 is just about unmatched! Only the Savior's own words in 3 Nephi 27 can compare!

Oh yeah, and Isaiah is good too, I guess.
Loveymnb, Elder Matthew Smith