Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Field Trip - again

Another field trip today - this time we went to the control tower at Merrill Field (the airport at which the school is located) instead of a radar center.  These guys definitely have the coolest job in the world.  We got to go up in small groups to the tower cab and watch and listen to the controllers directing the planes.  It wasn't a particularly busy day, so they were pretty talkative and told us all about their job.  I can't wait to get started.  (of course, the whole college experience is a blast, too, so I'm not in that much of a hurry...)

Merrill Tower



A couple planes at the airport are so weighed down with the snow on their elevators that they are sitting on their tails instead of their wheels.  Gives new meaning to the word "taildragger"...



Friday, October 28, 2011

Field Trip!

The other day one of my classes met up at the Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) to take a tour of the facility.  (An ARTCC controls high altitude traffic during the cruise portion of their flights, and hands the planes off to other facilities as they approach their destination cities.) It was a really cool place and they showed us and told us about a lot of newly implemented innovations such as GPS navigation, radio telemetry, and new radar systems that help keep the air traffic flowing smoothly.  Interestingly, they still use a lot of old-fashioned equipment right alongside the cutting edge stuff - the hardware at their controller workstations is cold war vintage.  Even though it dates back to the '70s and '80s, though, they said that the total downtime of the system in 2011 so far is 9 seconds.  Not too shabby.  I can't wait to get me a Hawaiian shirt and start talking to airplanes!

We weren't allowed to bring phones or cameras since it's a high-security federal facility (we had to go through airport-esque security and everything), but these pictures are from the internet, so we can just pretend.


There are 22 ARTCCs in the USA



Which one do you think is the biggest?


A typical controller workstation with Radar screen, flight strip bay, radio controls, and that stylin' trackball mouse


Controllers work individual sectors of airspace (in the background) while others keep an eye on the "big picture" (foreground)


Anchorage ARTCC from the outside


Saturday, October 15, 2011

It hurts to move. It hurts to sit still.

I just played ultimate frisbee and football for four straight hours.  It was 45 degrees and raining.  Stopping and turning were all but impossible, which means there were a lot of collisions with other players and the ground.  End result: covered in mud, stepped in moose droppings, whole body feels like it got run over by a train.  I can't wait 'til next Saturday!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Skyping

So Mom just got an ipad for her birthday and I got to Skype with the family after some clandestine text-messaging with Cody to get it all set up.  I was reminded of a time on my mission, right after Christmas, when I was talking to a sister missionary about the experience of Skypeing with her family.  She said it was fun but it might not have been a good idea because "You would think I'd be more mature than this since we haven't talked in six months, but most of the time we were just laughing at eachothers' funny faces on the computer."

Here are some of the fun screenshots from our conversation: (not all of them, of course - I had almost 40 pictures by the time we hung up)













Happy Birthday, Mom!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Moose Warning

So..."Matt's Post-Mission Blog" was kind of a mouthful and didn't really roll off the tongue that well.  Accordingly, the name has been changed to "Towerbound" based on the results of the poll that was posted last week to determine the blog's new name.  I thought "SophoMormon" was a pretty good idea, but I'm a junior so it might have been a bit of a misnomer.

So check out the picture below of the "moose warning" that was posted on the front door of the residence halls today - Anchorage rocks!  There have been a couple moose hanging around the campus lately - mostly cows, it seems, but there have been a few bulls as well.  Nothing huge, though.

The other pictures are shots of the Lake Hood Seaplane Base - apparently the largest seaplane base in the world.  It's made up of two lakes - lakes Hood and Spenard, connected by a couple big waterways large enough for floatplanes to land on.  We had to visit as part of a class assignment. I thought the truck with no rear wheels (used for moving floats around on land) was particularly funny.

Moose Warning

Lakes Hood and Spenard

Planes docked on the shore of Lake Spenard


Crappy picture of a plane taking off from Lake Hood


Front-wheel only truck

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

N300PW, Merrill Tower, Winds 200 at 6, Runway 25, Cleared for Takeoff

So school is pretty cool - it should hardly count as 'going to college' because all my courses are about the fun stuff - aviation! Today I got to go up in a Kingair (a really nice twin engine turboprop) for about an hour and fly around (see the pictures below).  The Marine Corps was doing a recruiting thing at the school and had offered to take the aviation students flying as part of it.  I'm still not joining the Marines (much to Mom's relief and Cody's chagrin, I'm sure), but it was a cool experience.  I asked the pilot who took us how much it cost the marines for the hour long flight and he said that after including fuel, maintenance, and the per-hour lease on the airplane, it was about $1,200 per hour.  Thanks to all the faithful taxpayers out there for financing this trip for me!



It's fun to live here, too.  There are a lot of campus activities to take advantage of, plus hanging out with roommates, other aviation students, and the singles ward.  I can't say the weather is horrible, but it seems to be about 30 degrees below what it is in Riverton on any given day.  Yesterday we got snow in the mountains and it was about 40 degrees.  Shorts, flip-flops, and a T-shirt did a little bit to voice my objection to the temperature, but not much to change it.  Despite living in Alaska now, I still haven't seen too much of it - I've only really been in Anchorage (which does, in its defense, sport the occasional moose).  It was pretty cool today to get to fly up to a glacier without having to go too far from the city, though!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mission Summary

Due to popular request, I'm writing a post to give some 'closure' to the last two years of letters from Ohio.  I'm somewhat at a  loss for words when I try to think of how to describe my mission in summary; after much deliberation, I thought a few excerpts from my journal, written the day before I returned home, would best convey my feelings and thoughts. Brackets like these [ ] indicate additions made today for clarity.  Ellipses (. . .) indicate that some material has not been included.

August 3rd,  2011

It's Wednesday morning - Elder Bills and Elder Baird [our zone leaders] will be here in a little while to pick us up to go to transfer meeting - me to return home, and Elder Barlow to meet his new companion ( he's training).
. . .
I'm excited to see my family - I can't wait for the emotion to hit me like a brick wall when I get off the plane and see them.  But, despite the anticipation of good things to come, it is bittersweet.  I've often reflected on my mission as the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life - although it often feels like just a day or two has passed.  Many times during these two years I've told others or thought to myself how everything that happened before my mission seems like just a dream - like it was all just imagined and none of it actually happened.  If it were so, then I guess I'd now be embarking on a trip to dreamland.
. . .
I don't think I've ever really been trunky on my mission, but I have looked forward with anticipation to a couple things that will be happening today.   First, my departure interview with President Sorensen.  There is a special bond between missionaries and mission presidents.
. . .
One of the choicest blessings of my mission has been the opportunity to learn and serve under his tutelage.  It will be difficult indeed to say goodbye to him and Sis. Sorensen.
. . .
I also look forward to returning and reporting in the School of the Prophets.  I am excited to give an accounting of my stewardship.
. . .
Finally, I look forward to this last night in the mission home with some of the good friends from my mission.  These relationships with the other elders are among the richest of treasures.  I've grown a great deal in love and respect for other missionaries with whom I've served here, but there is a special bond among us who came out together and will return together. [Also, I had served as companions with a couple of the elders with whom I was returning home]
. . .
[continued that evening]
After departure dinner, we had a testimony meeting.  All the testimonies powerfully affected me, but it was the closing hymn, the Ohio Cleveland Mission Song [a rendition of the primary song "Armies of Helaman" with a couple modified verses], really got to me.  I was so choked up that I could barely sing every other phrase between the sobs.

It was great to kneel in the School of the Prophets and end my mission with a return and report to the Lord about my ministry and give an accounting of my stewardship.  I was initially disappointed to not have an overwhelming witness that my mission had been acceptable to the Lord.  Thankfully, I did not have to wait long. . . .
. . .

[end quotation]

Thank you everyone for your support all throughout my mission.  I have a strong testimony of the power of prayer, and I'm sure I couldn't have done it without yours.  I have come away from my mission experience with an invigorated knowledge of the reality of our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ, as well as a heightened testimony of the power of His Atonement.  I know that Joseph Smith saw Him and was directed by Him to begin this final dispensation of the gospel, and that President Thomas S. Monson is called of God as a prophet today just as were the prophets of old.

Love,

Matthew Smith

ps my new email is: whatamatt@hotmail.com
pps I'll probably write some updates about how school is going now and then, if anyone is interested.

The group that I went home with, plus Pres. and Sis. Sorensen:
Standing left to right: Elder Palladino, Elder Anderson, Elder Berry, Sis. Sorensen, Pres. Sorensen, Elder Martinez
Seated left to right: Elder Leake, Elder Haines, Elder Farmer, Elder Smith, Elder Hunt
The same group in front of the Newell K. Whitney store on departure day

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wow - see you in a few days‏

Dear Family,


I don't really know what to say - I'll see you in two days.


The most memorable thing about my mission? Definitely not the tracting hours. The people are definitely what I am going to hold in my memory as most precious. It's amazing to see changes in peoples' lives and countenances that come from living the gospel. The relationships I have built up with other missionaries are very valuable to me also.


Yes, Bro. Horn was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! It was great - I was especially impressed with the ward for having such a good showing at the baptism to support him - they've really done a great job of welcoming him into the ward.


He was baptized by Elder Kesweder (Elder and Sister Kesweder are church service missionaries serving from their home here in Akron. They are in charge of the cannery and storehouse in Brecksville.). Elder and Sister Kesweder have been his ride to church every week, and Elder Kesweder is one of his hometeachers. The baptism had to be done 3 times (4 if you count having to repeat the prayer once) because of legs coming out of the water. Finally the last time we had them start out on their knees and it worked out much better. Bro. Horn was confirmed the next day by Bro. Packer, our ward mission leader. Bro. Packer has come with us to most of our teaching appointments with Bro. Horn, in conjunction with other ward missionaries and fellowshippers.


Through both the baptism and confirmation, the Spirit was strong and peaceful, and these are days never to be forgotten.


Pretty much everybody I talk to now talks to me about coming home. It's really weird. Despite the constant reminders, I'm not sure if it has really hit me yet - I don't think I really understand that I am coming home yet.

The Book of Mormon journey sounds great! I'll bet that was a fun and spiritual experience for all involved.

I'll be fine without cafe rio on Thursday - I figure if I've waited two years, one more day probably won't hurt. Too badly.


Any requests for food? Ummm...Watermelon?

School stuff sounds good.


Yeah I got a printout from church travel with my flight itinerary and saw that your email address is down as an msm.com address instead of msn.com. Your information is correct: I take CO 871 from Cleveland to Denver (9:00 am - 10:21 am) then a layover at Denver then CO 7902 from Denver to SLC (12:57 - 2:24). Yes I remember your phone numbers.

Well, it's been a great two years - probably the best. I can't wait to tell you all about it on Thursday.

LYMNB!!!
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, July 25, 2011

See you next week...

Dear Family,

Happy pioneer day! That's pretty cool about the fireworks - now people won't have to go all the way out of the state to get them! Why did they decide to repeal the law when it's so hot and dry?
I tell you what, it has been HOT and HUMID recently - and we've been tracting a lot in it. We tracted 19 hours last week, which is not much compared to some missions, but it's more tracting than I've ever seen anyone report when I was a DL, ZL, or AP. Luckily everyone feels sorry for us when they see the sweat running in torrents down our faces, so they offer us drinks.

Yesterday we were tracting and were going to write down somebody's phone number at the doorstep, but realized that neither of us had a pen - good thing, because he invited us in out of the heat while he went to look for one. In his house were a bunch of football trophies, plaques, and pictures and stuff. Elder Barlow about went nuts - I guess this guy was a pretty good college player and his son is in the NFL and used to play for Ohio State - I think his son's name is Pittman, or something like that - maybe somebody back home knows who he is. Elder Barlow seemed to think he was a pretty big deal. Anyways, we got his number and a return appointment, so hopefully he gets baptized.

Our church was good as well. Bro. Horn was there, of course, and is all set to be baptized on Saturday at 5:00. He's well fellowshipped and already has a couple of friends in the ward. Sis. Coburn spoke about modern pioneers and had some really cool stories. We ate at the Coburns later that day - they're a really cool family; they've got a son on a mission in France, two return missionaries (one at home for the summer - going to BYU studying mandarin after his mission in Hong Kong and another living elsewhere), and a younger son who's pretty solid. I just love being in the homes of so many solid families. It's really cool to have so many examples of gospel-centered homes. (none as good as ours, but they all remind me of it)

They read a letter from Elder Coburn in sacrament meeting today - they regularly do that from the three missionaries serving in the ward. Anyways, Elder Coburn and his companion are teaching an olympic marathon runner from Cameroon - I can't remember what his time was, I think 2:20 or something...? Whatever it was, it was really fast. Cool, huh?

I'm glad grandma is doing at least a little better! Hopefully she continues to recover.

Youth conference should be great! I'm excited to hear what that is like. Yes, don't forget to hold on to the Iron Rod no matter WHAT Bishop Taylor says!

Okay, I will bring all my ties home. I've cut down a great deal on the number of ties I have, though, so hopefully it's enough. Does Delaney go to the singles' ward? I'm excited to hear "I Stand All Amazed".

That's great that Mekeli is going to Fiji. There is a Fijian brother in our ward here who goes out teaching with us pretty often and served his mission in Fiji and the Gilbert Islands. He loved it and had a lot of great things to say about the people there. I didn't know you could have guitar music in church - that's awesome! We sang "Come, Come, ye Saints" as a choir yesterday, but it would probably have been a lot cooler with guitar accompaniment.

Eric comes home pretty soon after me, right? I'm glad he's doing well. He probably deals with a LOT more heat and humidity than I do.

So, it's getting a little bit old that everybody here is asking how long I have left, how many days, if I am excited, what I'm going to do when I get home and stuff. I know they're just excited for me, but it's a little bit distracting.

Yes, Brother Horn is looking good for baptism. We haven't seen nor heard from Bro. Hall recently. We've got a couple investigators committed to baptismal dates - Raymond and Britney, but they didn't make it to church yesterday. They're pretty solid when we teach them, but in between not so much.

Thanks for sharing the letter from President Sorensen. That's nice.

Well, it's really weird to say this, but I'll see you next week.

Loveymnb,

Elder Matthew Smith

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Email from 7/18/11

Dear Family,

I'm glad to hear how great the week went, but sorry the hike didn't work out -I'm sure ice cream and golfing was a good backup plan, though.

"How Great Thou Art" was probably pretty incredible on violins - way to go. Is anybody doing a musical number when I come home? How often are you visiting the nursing homes? Yes-I think my talk went well-hopefully I sounded just like a missionary and you could just feel my enthusiasm. I did overhear the stake president lean over to the bishop and say "you've got some great missionaries here, don't you?" and the response, "yeah, he was an AP". Even better, one of the priests said he actually paid attention, so I guess it was probably good.

I'll bet Delaney will have a lot of fun teaching Katie violin - how often are her lessons going to be? Way to go on rocking your AP tests, also! Good choice getting AP Research into your schedule. Are you going to be able to graduate from high school with a college degree? You've probably got a lot of it out of the way by now...

Bro. Horn (as it turns out, there is no "E" on the end of his name) is still looking good to get baptized at the end of the month - he's making friends in the ward like crazy and is committed to getting baptized. Unless he's on probation or parole, it looks like that will probably work out. Bro. Hall has been really busy lately trying to become a foster parent, going to school online, and working on familial issues, so we haven't seen much of him recently. His baptism will need to be moved back.

I'm doing great over all, loving the area, the work, the investigators, the ward, the gospel, the food, the weather, Elder Barlow, and everything else about being a missionary.

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

7/11/2011 email

Dear Family,

Counting down by weeks and weeks-and-a-half, huh? I hope YOU're not getting trunky! President Sorensen shared with me once that a certain missionary stopped reading his parents' letters when it was almost time for him to go home because "my family is just trunked out of their minds!". Don't worry - I think I'll keep reading your letters. (Note from Merrill: This paragraph was in response to the end of our email to him, in which we wrote: "Keep working hard and having faith to move mountains, or help Bro. Hall with the word of wisdom challenges, or find investigators, or help less active members return! Make these last 3 1/2 weeks the best of all!")

Good job on your swim meet, Cody - how did you like it?

We've made some good progress with investigators this week. Bro. Hall was unable to come to church, but we did have another investigator there - Bro. Horne. He is a member referral - his sister is in the ward. He is pretty cool and he accepted a baptismal date for July 30th. He definitely seemed at home at the church - I guess it helps that his sister is in the ward. It was his first time coming, though. He was making friends just fine and he even volunteered in Elders' Quorum to help a member of the ward paint their house, and to come to the ward service project in a few weeks! He seems like he will probably get baptized on the 30th, unless he has any Word of Wisdom issues; we didn't smell or see anything, but we haven't talked about it with him yet. That's the next lesson. Bro. Hall is doing well enough, too - he had some health hiccups relating to his diabetes this week and was pretty swamped with red tape since he and his wife are trying to become foster parents, and he's going to school online at the same time - all of which, put together, precluded him from meeting with us this week. He has been reading the Book of Mormon, though.

We found a couple other new investigators from tracting this week that are in the very beginning stages of investigation. We were really excited for yesterday to meet a member's neighbor who the member had set up an appointment for us with, but they no-showed. Too bad - Bro. Jones moved up a stake high council meeting, shortened a high priests group meeting, and pushed back high council Ward Mission Process visits with the Medina ward in order to make himself available to introduce us to his neighbor that he invited to meet with us.

I interviewed a girl yesterday for baptism that the Wadsworth elders (a neighboring area) have been teaching, and it was pretty ridiculous how prepared she was. Not only did this 12-yr-old have all the textbook (but still heartfelt) answers to the baptismal interview questions, but as we read Mosiah 18:8-10 together, she recognized the phrase "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places" as part of the Young Womens' Values! I'm not exactly sure why she wasn't baptized yet, since her family seemed to be pretty solid and active, and it was pretty obvious that she'd been through the whole primary program. Interestingly, we talked a couple weeks ago with a recently returned missionary from the Utah Ogden Mission, who was in town visiting a relative - he said that they would go through lists of unbaptized 9-yr olds given to them by the bishops of the wards in which they served and see if they could baptize them, which usually involved reactivating families - he said that he once visited a family with his companion for one of these situations and found that the family was entirely active (even in leadership positions in the ward) and had simply forgotten to baptize their child! I guess they were on an extended vacation right around her 8th birthday and never got around to it. Thanks for remembering to have me baptized.

Well, I need to go while I still have a little computer time so I can look up some information on LDS.org for my talk in church this Sunday on the Gathering of Israel.

LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Letter from President Sorensen

05 Jul 2011

Brother and Sister Merrill Kay Smith
2978 W. 12130 S.
Riverton, UT 84065

Dear Brother and Sister Smith,

On 4 Aug 2011, your son, Elder Matthew Kay Smith, will complete his missionary labors in the Ohio Cleveland Mission. He has made a significant contribution to the work in the areas in which he has labored. I don't have adequate words to express my gratitude to him for the excellent work he has accomplished. We love him dearly, and we will miss him a lot. He has a fine reputation among the other missionaries and has demonstrated his ability to work well, even in difficult situations.

During his 24 months of service in the Ohio Cleveland Mission, Elder Smith has served in the areas of Barberton, North Olmsted, Lakewood, Sandusky, Perry, Southland, and Garfield Heights. He has served in the important positions of District Leader, Zone Leader, Trainer and Assistant to the President. This time of service can be a springboard for many wonderful achievements in the future.

The Ohio Cleveland Mission will miss Elder Smith and his dedication in doing the Lord's work. We thank you very much for sharing your son with us during this important time in his life. We appreciate the love and support which you have provided during his mission. We extend our best wishes to you, and pray the Lord will continue to bless your family.

Sincerely,
(signed)
Darwin D. Sorensen
Ohio Cleveland Mission President

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Email from 7/5/11

Hello Family (also from a hot and sunny Ohio)

Apologies in advance for a short email since we have to squeeze in time on a non P-day and we're at a different library than usual that doesn't give as much computer time.
I'm glad the party went so well, and that Grandma was able to enjoy it free from dolorous distractions!

Testimony meeting in our ward was great as well - the Bishop specifically invited those who hadn't shared their testimonies in a while to come up and a lot of them did. I didn't qualify, but I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity since this was my last fast sunday as a full-time missionary. I love singing the patriotic songs in sacrament meeting, too.

(we wrote:) "Mom has had her internet phone since October. We all have texting plans now. Delaney sends thousands per month, and the rest of us are in the low hundreds."

(Matt wrote:) mind-blowing

Elder Barlow got a package (it was his hump day last week) and in it was a letter from his mom saying that mom had emailed her. cool!

We found a new investigator this week who is pretty cool: his name is Bro. Hall. Elder Yukish and I originally contacted him a couple weeks ago tracting and we just got to teach him for the first time this week. He's really cool and open and he's accepted a baptismal date for the 30th of July. His main hurdle will be quitting smoking, but he mentioned to Elder Yukish and I when we originally found him that he was trying to stop smoking and drinking coffee already. He came to sacrament meeting on Sunday and had a good time. We're going to teach him later today, as well, and hopefully set some goals with him pertaining to the Word of Wisdom.

LoveYMNB,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mom has an internet-enabled phone?!?!?!

Mom has an internet-enabled phone? Wow.

Sorry about your technical difficulties. I'm impressed you have so many recourses to try: home computer - work computer - test computer - laptop.

I'm glad Lake Powell was fun. Are you and Mom still awesome slalomers, too, or just Cody and Delaney? How much air can cody catch on the wakeboard? Like two feet? Did Penny go with you?

How long has Mom had internet on her phone?

Have the Lays come to church any time recently? Will they be able to come when I come home? Any hunting escapades they have had recently? New companion info: There's two of them again. This is the sixth time on my mission that I have served in a triple-up.

1st: Elder Malbica, from Vancouver, Washington (Vancouver, not BC, Washington, not DC). He was in my MTC district and came out with me. He's going home a few weeks early, though, so we'll be driving him up to the airport in Cleveland on Wednesday. President came down yesterday to have his departure interview with him. He works on cars.

2nd: Elder Barlow, from Salem, Utah. He's been out for almost a year. He's really cool to work with - very good at teaching and contacting both. I really appreciate his ability to think outside the box and have new ideas to try with investigators or ward members to better fulfill the purpose of missionary work. He went hunting once and shot a duck. He likes football and weight lifting.

Tim didn't come to church today, nor did anybody else - unfortunately we haven't seen nor heard from Tim all week. We did a whole lot of contacting in parks and on the streets and tracting this week, so we've got a couple new potential investigators to start trying to work with. I think I'll just try to sell the bike.
Sorry to hear about Grandma's shoulder - Is she going to be alright? There are going to be a whole lot of jealous hospital or rehab center patrons when you walk in with a multiple dutch oven dinner.

Where is Greg going to school?

As it turns out, Elder Malbica has a cousin in this ward - Bro. Evans. I hadn't met him yet because he is a resident physician and usually doesn't make it to church, but we went over this weekend and had dinner with the family - it reminded me of when I was serving in Cleveland and Elder Pickett's cousin would feed us all the time.

I was talking to Sis. Sorensen the other day and she said a lot of the missionaries who went home last week had trouble getting there - one had his seat on the flight dropped and had to reroute through Dallas - then they didn't have a connection to his hometown from there so he had to spend the night with the Dallas missionaries. Another group got to Chicago and had no flight home - they had to stay the night in a hotel. I'm sure their parents were exquisitely stressed - especially the one whose parents aren't members! Hopefully we won't have any difficulties like that this time around, though.

We had a pretty cool experience the other day when we were contacting at a park - we talked to a guy who was sitting at the waters' edge and fishing, and he opened up about some of the marital and other challenges he is facing in his life right now and how his faith had waned. He was totally taken aback by how upbeat, happy, and genuine we were, and he couldn't stop asking how we ever got to be so happy in life when he was quite the opposite. In essence, he asked us, "men and brethren, what shall (I) do?". Of course we invited him to repent and be baptized. He seemed very sincere and genuine.

We got a return appointment, but unfortunately he wasn't there. His phone sounds like he is out of minutes.

I'm working hard and loving it - missionary work is the best.

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Email from 6/21/11

Happy Fathers' Day!

Dear Family,

Congratulations on having a week packed with so much action - especially spiritual action, like going to the temple. Way to go, Peyton! What is the Oquirrh Mountain temple like on the inside, by the way?

I'm always impressed with the dancing prowess of my female siblings (not so much with Cody, though...). I'm sure he's got drum prowess, though.

I didn't know the waves on Utah Lake got high enough to really be dangerous - good thing you realized that discretion is the better part of valor. I'm sure the sprinklers working right was very gratifying, though. What has the weather and temperature been like back home? I saw some sprinklers the other day in Akron and nearly did a double-take. They're pretty rare here.

It's firefly season, too - I don't remember seeing them in Utah either.

I hope Lake Powell is awesome! That is a LOT of water to bring the lake up by a foot per day! How high is it? Is it just the immediate family going to Lake Powell this year or is anybody else going to be accompanying you? I guess you probably won't receive this email until Saturday then.

Awesome about Greg and Mekeli getting the Melchizedek Priesthood - do they have mission calls yet?

Unfortunately no, Tim hasn't come to church yet - we arranged for a member of the church to pick him up on Sunday morning, but he said he had some unexpected issues with his landlord and was unable to come.

Transfers is tomorrow and Elder Yukish is leaving. So is Elder Gullerud, my former companion who was serving in our sister area in the ward. I'll be excited to let you know all about my new companion, though.

So, do you think I should pay to ship my bike home (costs about $150, I guess) when I go home, or have a member try to sell it on craigslist or something like that?

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Email from June 13th

Hello Family,

No, we didn't get a new replacement for our 3rd companion - it's just me and Elder Yukish now.

I'm really excited that Peyton has her first temple recommend! It will be amazing for her to be able to go and do baptisms for the dead in the temple! My temple recommend expires next month and I'll have to get a temporary one from President Sorensen.

Good job not throwing up at your marathon, Dad.

I'm glad that doctoring the horses was less injurious this year, and that Cody has mastered the racing start and flip turn.

What's been going on with us: we're mostly tracting right now. We haven't been able to find any new investigators that have gone anywhere really, but we were able to set a baptismal date with one of our investigators, Timothy (the one from Arizona). He's committed to baptism on July 16th. He has a lot of changes he needs to make in his life to prepare for that point, including giving up smoking and alcoholism, but he understands the requirements and seems willing to change. We're also teaching a part-member family (kind of: the parents used to be members but had their names removed after being offended. Their eleven-year-old son was never baptized), but they seem to be gradually losing interest. The father still has a pretty good testimony, but the mother doesn't really anymore. It seems like she doesn't really want to feel the spirit, though, so she doesn't.

We do a pretty good mix of biking and driving. It's probably about evenly split between the days that we bike and the days that we drive.

We have a pretty good ward, with a lot of very supportive members. It seems like there's plenty of members trying to share the gospel, but not having too much success. There have been a couple members who have talked about the gospel with others and are working themselves up to referring their friends, but none that have really come through yet. There seem to be a lot of members who are willing to come with us to teaching appointments, and we take them out with us a lot, but we aren't really utilizing the full potential there because of lack of investigators to teach. We take active members with us pretty often to teach less active members as well.

I'll probably be here the rest of my mission, yes. That was the plan when I came here, at least. Transfers is next week, so we'll know for sure then. (Because of transfers, I probably won't be able to email until Tuesday). I expect that I will stay in this area for my last transfer and Elder Yukish will be transferred, giving me a new companion.

It's great working with Elder Yukish - he's very easy to get along with and a lot of fun to be around. I really appreciate that he knows how to have fun being a missionary and still work hard all day. He's a good teacher and is able to connect to people on a personal level very well.

Sorry for 'starving' you of information on the work! It just seems like you wouldn't really want to hear about the people we are teaching who never show up for their appointments, or who don't keep any of the commitments we leave, or who aren't making any progress towards being baptized or reactivated. (or course, if people fall into those categories, we generally don't teach them for very long anyways.)

Sorry about the lack of pictures, too. My camera broke, and I've never gotten around to getting a new one. (I guess it's not totally broke, it just has 'issues' - sometimes the buttons don't work, sometimes it runs out of batteries the same day you put new ones in, sometimes it won't focus, etc.) I don't think I even unpacked it when I moved from Sandusky to N. Olmsted.

LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, June 6, 2011

Email from 6/6/11

Hello Family,

No near-death experiences this week, thankfully!

Any of us would have loved to shoot the 2nd groundhog, but the missionary handbook says we shouldn't handle firearms. Your cruise sounds like a blast - especially the ancient Nephite and Lamanite references found among the ruins. That sounds like a ton of fun to learn about. I'll bet your class was spellbound. Do I know Elise or AJ's spouses? That is exciting news to hear! The guy from Arizona's name is Timothy. We haven't taught him this week because he was gone on a camping trip. Elder Quarnberg went home on Saturday for medical reasons. He may be able to return and finish the last 3 or 4 months of his mission, depending on how his treatment goes.

Brother Schroth from North Olmsted was baptized on Saturday! Since we had already driven up to Cleveland that day to take Elder Quarnberg to the airport, we just stuck around and worked with some of the elders in that area for most of the day until the baptism. He was baptized by his son. The line-up of people who spoke at (and attended) his baptism was something like "who's who in the Cleveland Stake". Seeing him baptized was an amazingly fulfilling experience for me, and I can't imagine what it must have been like for him, Sister Schroth, his son and his son's wife, his home-teacher of many years, (the stake president), and many others from the ward and stake who have known and befriended Bro. Schroth and waited almost 40 years for this event. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.

We had a moderately slow week - we've found a couple of people who we taught once or twice and then they've lost interest, but nobody really solid that is new. However, there have been a couple of members of the ward who've had missionary experiences in the past week or two with neighbors, friends, or other acquaintances. While these interactions didn't result in invitations to be taught, they laid the foundation for interest in the restored gospel and hopefully will soon result in these individuals actively investigating.

Too bad about the bunny.

Are you running a marathon sometime soon, Dad? How long do you have to work off all those 2nd main courses or 2nd desserts?

Thanks for checking on the school stuff.

LoveYMNB,
Elder Matthew "Matty" Smith

Tornados and shootings ... a dinner to die for...‏

Dear Siblings,

I'll bet Mom will love this email...

Junk food and frozen dinners, huh? Sounds pretty much like a missionary diet. (except for the times when the members invite us to dinner, which is generally delicious, and sometimes even ... to die for...

So guess what? There was a tornado that touched down in our area this week! It was awesome! The sky was all inky-green-black, the rain, thunder, and lightning came down in torrents, the tornado warning sirens went off and everything! It was intense! I didn't see the tornado, though, which is probably a good thing. I thought I was going to die, though. A member was driving us home from a teaching appointment to our apartment during the terrible tempests that day. We got soaked to the bone running the 20 feet from the house we were in to his car. The windshield wipers were nowhere near keeping up with the deluge of water coming down from the ominous obscurity of the clouds. The visibility was terrible. As we were driving, the windows started to fog up. I asked if his defroster was on and he assured me that it was. It most assuredly wasn't, so I turned it on for him when he wasn't looking. By that time, he was using his hand to wipe portholes in the windshield (which quickly fogged up again) to see as we raced down the road. As I did my best to peer through the mostly opaque windshield, a parked car zoomed by us, inches from the side of our car, that I hadn't been able to see until moments before we passed it. Later, as we were stopped at an intersection, I looked out the passenger window and saw a double yellow line - we were on the wrong side of the road. I think he must have been driving by Faith and not by sight or something, because we got home safely.

We also witnessed two shootings this week! It was a double homicide (or, more appropriately, a double pesticide). We were at dinner with a member family, eating around their dining room table, which had windows and a glass door to their backyard. As we ate, on of the teenage children cried out, "There he is, Dad!", pointing to someone walking through their backyard, heading for the vegetable patch. The father jumped up from the table and ran upstairs, quickly returning with a .22 rifle. He opened the glass door just a crack, took careful and steady aim, and fired, hitting the target in the middle of his body. The culprit fell to the ground, writhing. The father then walked outside and shot him again from point blank range, finishing the deed. The victim was a big, fat groundhog that had been plagueing the family all fall and winter long, digging holes in the yard and under their deck, and being a general nuisance. They had been waiting for an opportune moment like this for some time. You can doubtless imagine how excited they were when another groundhog was sighted and shot only minutes later. What was really funny about it was that, after the first one was killed, the mother of the family we were eating with was protesting how gross it was and how it wasn't appropriate to be shooting animals while the missionaries were over for dinner, but when the second groundhog came out of hiding, she was the first one to say, "Quick! Go get some more ammo!".

The shooting was on Sunday afternoon, so when Sunday night came around and it was time to call the zone leaders to tell them about our statistics that week, I dressed up the story something like this:

"Hi Elder Bills, we may have to be quick with our numbers tonight - I'm waiting for President to call me back - he said he'd probably call at about 9:30 once he gets off the phone with the police. We actually witnessed a shooting in our area today, but I can't really talk about it right now...

He took it hook, line, and sinker. I told him the grisly truth eventually, though.

So, did anything exciting happen back home this week?
What's going on in San Rafael? Rafting? Your swim meet sounds exciting - I'm prettyy impressed that you can swim a 200 free. What did you do for memorial day?
So now that you have no more math homework or calculus flashcards, what comes next in your life, Delaney? Just start studying for next year? Yes, we try to take the youth out with us as much as we can. We regularly go on splits with the priests, but we can't really take young women teaching with us. Sister missionaries take the mia maids out with them all the time, though.

We've started teaching a couple new people, including a guy who moved from Arizona and had investigated the church a little bit there and gone to church a few times. Nobody came to church this week, though. You know that if Peyton gets a bunny for her birthday, it is going to be the butt of all the "target" and "lets go rabbit hunting" jokes instead of marshmallow, right?

LYMNB!

Elder Matthew Smith

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Email from 5/23/2011

Hola familia:

Way to go on everyone's performances! We joined the church choir this week and we'll be performing "come, ye children of the Lord" on Sunday. My companions and I have also decided that we need to have a special musical number prepared for baptisms, zone conferences, etc., so we'll probably work on that too.

Sorry about the horses. I vote against Lady, if that matters at all.

We've been working really hard and tracting up a storm.

We didn't get much success from tracting this week, but we did get a media referral for a book of mormon that we got to teach the other day. He's pretty cool and we had a good lesson with him. We'll be going back this week to teach him again.

I also had a good experience on Friday when I went on exchanges with the fairlawn elders (the other companionship in our ward) - we got to teach a member referral for the first time. It was really cool how she has been prepared and is searching right now. She was very excited to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, and she came to church yesterday and loved it. Her member friend, Sis. Shaw, got baptized about 3 years ago and is very excited about sharing the gospel.

Yes most of our time is spent in a pretty ghetto environment now. We have a car, but we mostly bike so as to conserve our limited miles. The two investigators we challenged last week haven't really progressed this week. We taught them once early in the week, but they stood us up on Saturday.

LYMNB,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, May 16, 2011

Email from 5/16/11

Hi Family,

How's Akron?
Akron is pretty cool. It's an interesting change going from a wealthy suburban area back to the ghetto. Back in North Olmsted, nobody would talk to us, but if they did, they were usually pretty solid. Here everyone is willing to talk to us, but we don't get as far with them.
We've been wondering how you're liking your new area, companions, responsibilities, etc.
I love them.

How is the work going there?
It's a little slow right now when it comes to investigators. The only investigators we are teaching are a couple people we found street contacting in the last couple of days. We have a lot going on in the way of working with less-active members of the church, though, and the Elders have been seeing some good success lately of bringing people back.

Did you inherit any golden investigators?
No. We inherited zero investigators, but we've set a couple baptismal dates with new investigators in the past couple of days.

What are your companion's names and where are they from?
Elder Andrew Quarnberg - Harrisville UT
Elder Jordan Yukish - Gilbert AZ (mostly grew up in Washington state, though)

Siblings?
Elder Quarnberg - 2 older sisters
Elder Yukish - 5 Brothers, 2 Sisters. He is 2nd oldest.

Hunters?
Elder Quarnberg - No
Elder Yukish - Yes

Other important info?
Elder Quarnberg - very very intelligent, a little bit quiet, he's a very experienced missionary (been out 6 weeks less than me). He got transferred into this area with me this week.
Elder Yukish - Totally filled with love for this ward and this area. He's been serving in this area for 6 out of the 9 months he's been on his mission.

Bomdiggity's sounds like a great idea for a restaurant name. Wow.

Yesterday we had a stake or area or region conference. I'm not exactly sure what it was. We had an opening hymn and prayer, some stake business, and then most of the meeting was taken up by watching a live broadcast from Salt Lake City. They said it was being broadcast to 168 stakes and 1 district in the eastern United States. Bishop Edgely of the presiding bishopric, Sister Esplin of the Primary general presidency, Elder Ballard of the 12, and President Eyring spoke. It was really cool. Elder Ballard spoke all about missionary work and the need to share the gospel. President Eyring spoke about being 'wise optimists' and looking forward with an eye of faith to the fulfilment of seemingly impossible promises the Lord has made. One of the things from his remarks that really touched me was him sharing a vision he has that I've often pondered on myself. He said that the effects of Preach My Gospel on missionary work are only beginning to be seen, and that returned missionaries from the Preach My Gospel era will be the fulfilment of President Ezra Taft Benson's vision "Every Member a Missionary".

He also shared an experience he once had with a wise optimist, an experience with which I was able to relate pretty well. He was in a mission office one day talking to one of the assistants who was soon to be released. President Eyring asked where he was going, and, when the elder told him what area he was soon being transferred to, President Eyring asked how the work was going there. The elder replied, "It's the deadest area in the mission - until I get there!"

I'm glad you had so much fun at the pasta factory, Mom. I remember going to work there a couple years ago. I thought it was really cool. Maybe I should just ditch the whole college idea and work on an assembly line at a macaroni and cheese factory instead...

I'm glad Cody has perfect flip turns sometimes. That's some progress. It took me a while to figure out what you meant by "We went to a swim team party (DRAT)". What an unfortunate name for a swim team. I thought you meant (DARNIT) or something like that at first.

Yep, I saw the email about the physical. I'm thinking maybe I should just get one after I get home.

On that topic, have you submitted the WUE application to UAA? Have my transcripts definitely arrived from UVU? Am I definitely applied for both the AAS and BS degrees at UAA? Also, to what extent do you think I will need student loans? I need to either "accept", "partially accept", or "decline" the available student loans on the UAA UVLINK website.

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, May 2, 2011

Email 5/2/11

Hello Family,

Well, I've been feeling a little sorry for myself because of how cold and rainy this april has been, but it sounds like yours has been even more mediocre. It was funny - yesterday as we were driving we passed a church with a marquee sign that simply stated the summation of everyone's feelings: "There better be a LOT of May flowers!"

The cruise sounds like a lot of fun. I'd be interested to hear how the game show worked - good thing mom didn't lose: that would have been a bummer!

The calculus bowl sounds like a pretty fun activity. Delaney must have loved it! Well done on scoring and preparing for the big test! When are the AP tests, by the way?

That's really cool to hear about Mekeli & Hunter! Thanks for the update.

We got a new companion Yesterday: Elder Tracy is going to replace me as an assistant. He came out the transfer after me and has been serving in the Lakewood area for the past two transfers. (Lakewood is the other ward that shares the building with N. Olmsted ward). The Lakewood elders live in the same apartment complex as we do, so it wasn't much of a move.

Our investigators are doing great! We anticipate setting a baptismal date with Bro. Schroth on Wednesday when we teach him next, and the two children from the part member family will almost certainly be baptized on July 3rd. They've already invited all the family and everything. The parents are pretty much fully active at this point, and were just set apart for new callings yesterday. They were all at church yesterday. Bro. Schroth was, too, of course.

I will be in the office and have opportunities to check email tomorrow and Thursday. I could potentially call on Tuesday or Friday at 6:00 since we don't have appointments yet, but a P-day would be best. Unfortunately, we don't have a P-day next week because of new arrivals and transfers and everything. Two weeks from today would probably work well, unless that's too far away. What do I need to ask or talk about with the counselor?

loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

btw, the mailman just came into the office while we were sitting in staff meeting this morning and brought in your letter. I'll take care of it today.

Cool story: I was on exchanges with the Findlay zone leaders in their area this week and we taught a super solid guy - he's known a couple of LDS families throughout his life and always been very impressed by the ways they lived up to their high standards and stuck together as families. He's had questions, but never been invited to learn more (until this week he was invited to meet with us by his friend who got home from his mission a couple weeks ago). It was an amazing lesson - the Spirit was super strong and he wanted to learn. A couple quotations from that lesson:
"So, I'm not sure if you have to be born a member of the church, or can I join?"
"I'll be in this area until August - is that long enough to become a member"
(after teaching the apostasy): Yeah, I've definitely seen that in a lot of my churches I've gone to - everybody's got a different interpretation!
(after sharing Joseph Smith's experience): Whoa - Hold on - I don't want be rude and interrupt or anything, but I just have to say that that makes SO much sense! Where did the prophets go?

We invited him to be baptized on May 28th, and he accepted readily. He went to Kirtland the next day and had a great experience. The night after, he stayed up all night reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know the truth. He now knows. He is excited for baptism and would like to serve a mission as well.

Arches sounds exciting! what was the weather and temperature like? Way to go doing the 9 mile hike! that's impressive - how long did it take?

We had plenty of nonmembers at church yesterday, but no investigators (the Schroths were out of town). We're working on trying to get some of those nonmembers to become investigators, though. Easter is a great day for getting people to church. Sunday was probably the shortest and unorthodox sacrament meeting I've ever attended, though. It only lasted about 40 minutes and some of the pretty standard components of a sacrament meeting were missing - like the closing hymn, etc. (Due to a series of unfortunate and confusing events.)

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith


I emailed and said: We're all wondering what events happened to make sacrament meeting so interesting!

Matt replied:

no "amen" in the sacrament prayer

no closing hymn

no "in the name of Jesus Christ" in closing prayer

the bishopric left the stand when the choir got up to sing. The cantata was much shorter than expected. There was one speaker afterwards, and it didn't take too much time. After he got down, everyone kind of just looked around at eachother. The bishop had left the chapel to take care of one of his kids. So, the 1st counselor just pointed at the person assigned to give the closing prayer, and up he went. After that we all pretty much sat there in the chapel, because the other ward wasn't out of their sunday school classes yet

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Easter

Hello Family, Happy Easter

We've had a pretty fair week. We tracted a lot last week and this week we got to start teaching a couple of the people we found, including a couple that moved from California about a year ago and used to live right next door to a bishop there. They were really friendly in inviting us in, and excited to tell us about all the members of the church they knew back in California. We also got a referral from a less-active young woman in the ward who we've started to teach. It was pretty cool, the young woman, who hasn't been to church in years, invited her friend to come to sacrament meeting if she wasn't working on Sunday. The ward seems to be pretty excited about missionary work in general. The ward mission leader asked during the opening exercises of priesthood if anyone had a missionary experience they could share and three people wanted to talk about their experiences. After that, the bishop spoke from the pulpit on an experience he'd recentlyi had with sharing the gospel.

My birthday was great! Thank you everybody for the cards, packages, and letters! Yes, Mom, people knew it was my birthday. They actually announced it at a ward activity we attended on Friday. So how into golfing is Dad getting? He seems to be pretty serious about it now. Is he any good? Elder Hunt played on SUU's college golf team before his mission.

Good job beating some little girls, Cody. I knew you could do it. Tuck your chin to your chest when you dive in and your goggles won't fall off. Or just make them tighter.

We had a stake easter cantata yesterday, with all the ward choirs from the stake singing, as well as the stake choir and a couple solos, duets, and quartets. It was really beautiful. It was funny - we were eating at the Nelsons' house the day before and brother Nelson said he was singing a solo in our choir's song. He only had two words: "Crucify Him!". He said he wondered who picked him for that part.

Mothers' Day - the second most important holiday of the year! I'm excited, too.

Things are going pretty well with our investigators. Bro. Schroth is pretty much set on getting baptized now. He's even talked about how he wants to fly out a couple previous bishops from out west to see his baptism. He still hasn't decided on a specific date, but that seems to pretty much just be details now. We've got a couple new investigators in the beginning stages of investigation, so we'll see how they work out.


LYMNB,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, April 11, 2011

Email from 4/11/11

Hello Family!

So, how good is Delaney at the violin, anyways? It sounds like she's pretty much a master violinist - I'm pretty excited to hear her play after all the hype she gets. Apparently she's a master scholar, too. Way to go on the 34! Peyton also plays the violin, right? (Note: Delaney received a "Maestro Award" for Outstanding Soloist at her Orchestra Festival in Seattle last weekend, and got a 34 on her ACT test)

Congratulations to Cody on surviving week two of swim practice - sorry you get beat by little girls all the time, though. That's always tough on your pride. I remember when little girls could beat me at swimming, too - it was frustrating. Don't worry - after a couple more weeks the little girls won't be able to beat you any more. Keep working on the six pack - I expect it to be rock solid by the time I get home.

With regards to the Hanny family, it was just the husband and wife that went through the temple a couple weeks ago. The children are in the UK, but they are active members of the church as well. Bro. Hanny recently made a trip back to England and had the sacrament passed to him by his grandson!

I haven't followed up too much about Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne since their confirmations, but I know Robbie spoke in Sacrament meeting a couple weeks ago.

Yes we did attend the commemoration of the temple dedication. It was amazing and inspiring - the holders of all the keys that were restored in the temple were present and spoke. It was really cool that the Community of Christ allowed the picture to be taken in the temple - that's a really rare occurence.

I think there are 159 young missionaries in the mission right now. It's hard to keep track - we just sent two more elders home this weeek and we're getting a Sister from Temple Square to serve in our mission for two transfers this week. The numbers are always changing.

Yes, I have seen the John Tanner story video - it's really touching and powerful.

The work is coming along pretty well - we've stopped teaching a couple of our invesigators, but the ones we are still teaching are pretty solid. We've had a lot of finding opportunities this week, and we anticipate starting to teach a couple of new investigators in the coming few days. Our next baptism isn't scheduled until June 24th, but we are hoping that Bro. Schroth will be ready pretty soon as well. We are having some success reactivating people as well, but we worry about how much effort we have to put into some of the families that we are teachng to help keep them active and wonder if they will keep coming if the focus is taken off of them.

No, I will not likely remain an AP for the rest of my mission. I anticipate that I will be released at the end of this transfer. So probably in 3 weeks or so we will be in a triple-up with the next assistant, who will be Elder Hunt's companion.

I tried to think of some cool "small things" experiences from this week, like you asked for. I thought back on what a great week this was, but nothing particular seemed very impressive. I kind of realized that the things that are really cool and impressive and powerful for me, probably wouldn't sound that interesting in an email. The type of things that happened this week are like "we were teaching and testifying to an investigator, and the Spirit bore witness of the truth!" - it doesn't sound that cool, but it is amazing to be there in the moment. I don't know if that made sense at all. Sorry if it didn't.

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Conference

Dear Family,

What an amazing conference, eh? I especially liked the talk by Elder Maynes (I think) of the 70 who read the poem about sheep and lambs..."when the sheep are lost, what a terrible cost the lambs will have to pay.". It made me very grateful to have some good sheep for parents. There are plenty of families who I work with or have worked with to whom I wish I could get the message across how much they need the church and gospel in their lives not only for themselves, but for their children. In the most humble way I can (this sounds prideful), I just want to yell at them, "Don't you want your children to grow up and be like me and Elder Hunt!?!? They need the gospel!"

So President Sorensen's picture was on the church news website - last Sunday was the 175th anniversary of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and there was a commemoration service where the holders of all the keys that were restored there spoke - President Sorensen, the temple president, and the stake president of Kirtland. The Community of Christ even let them take a picture inside of the temple!

Don't worry - the Kirtland Temple will never be a chore! I never go but what I learn something new and feel the Spirit testify of the sacred events that happened there. It's amazing to read the revelations right there where they were recieved in Joseph Smith's office on the temple's 3rd floor, or to read about the keys being restored while sitting only 10 yards from where the angels and the Savior stood. Maybe driving to and from the temple could be considered a chore, though.

So at transfers this week, somehow things got mixed up between us, the ZLs, the DL, and the missionaries, and one elder who wasn't supposed to be transferred showed up at transfer meeting, while his companion who was supposed to be transferred stayed back in his area. Imagine our perplexity. To make matters worse, it was all the way out in Wauseon - almost as far from Kirtland as you can get and still be in our mission. It made for a long day of driving to get everybody to where they were supposed to be - we were in the car from 1:00pm to 11:30pm driving people to their proper areas who had been part of the mix-up. At 11:30 we had everyone to their new areas (except for us - we stayed with the Canton elders for the night and drove back home in the morning.)

Good job taking care of business back home! Sounds like a hectic week for you as well. Way to go Cody for surviving the first week of swimming!

I think I would probably rather fly home than be picked up if that's alright. The work is going pretty well.

Do you remember me writing about the Hanny family back in July or August when I was in Perry? We were helping them become active in the church again. I got a letter from them this week to let me know that they had just been sealed together for time and all eternity in the Columbus temple! Interestingly, they were replying to a letter that I sent just after I was transferred, but that got lost in the mail and was delivered just a couple weeks ago.

We watched conference at the church building. Bro. Schroth came to the priesthood session, and we were very pleased to see a couple less-active members coming out to watch it also. Most people just watched the other sessions at home, though. Bro. Lewallen watched conference from home as well.

Wow, I Totally forgot that it's my birthday this month - thanks for the reminder! There's not much that I want or need - maybe some good-lookin' ties and some candy, I guess.

Love YMNB,
Elder Matthew Smith

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Email from your loving child

Hello Family,

It sounds like Mom and Delaney had a pretty hectic couple of days!

We've got a fun couple days coming up too; last night was the part where Elder Hunt and I take a big breath and don't come up for air until Thursday. The new missionaries come in today and the old missionaries go home on Thursday and the whole time in between will be a whirlwind of shepherding people around between meetings, transfers, orientations, the kirtland temple and visitors' center, the mission home, and the airport. In addition to that we have a bunch of clerical stuff to be done in preparation for transfer meeting. We also need to collate the mission's statistics and send them out to SLC, the missionary leaders, and the local priesthood leaders to whom they pertain. I have no idea when we are going to finish everything that we're supposed to do, but I'm sure it will work out somehow.

Sorry I have not been diligent in telling stories about all the little 'tender mercies' of missionary work. I'll try to do better about that in the future. Interesting 'small thing' - Sister Lee (super cool recent convert) from the ward is our meal coordinator - she's in charge of the meal calendar and making sure that we are well fed. (And she is VERY good at that job!) When there are holes on the dinner calendar, she calls people and asks if they can feed us on those days. When we are trying to get into the home of a less-active or part-member family and are having trouble getting an appointment, we just call Sis. Lee - she has a 'hit-list' of people whose homes we want to get into, and she calls them first about feeding us. No sister can resist the motherly instinct when they hear about two poor, hungry young boys with nowhere to go for dinner! Alma 43:30: And he also knowing that it was the only desire of the Nephites to preserve their lands, and their liberty, and their church, therefore he thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem.... Alma 18:23: ...and thus he was caught with guile.

To my younger brother: Cody, what would your mother think of such nightmarish spelling and punctuation? Good luck swimming, though. Just work hard. End of writing to Cody.

Way to go Delaney on a 34 ACT! Why is the writing part not included?

Yes. In light of getting the physical, I probably will want to attend UAA.

Well, I have got to get going in about five minutes ago, so I will have to conclude. Sorry this is a pretty weaksauce email.

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, March 28, 2011

Email from 3/21/11

Hello Family!
Yep, Esther and Yazmeyne's baptism was an amazing experience - it's always nice to see the fruits of your efforts and not just the buds!

Great! I'd love to hear from Chris. It's no problem for you to have given him my email.

Well done everyone on your musical, athletic, academic, and community service accomplishments!

It sounds like the backyard landscaping project was probably a lot of fun. Maybe I should just go into construction when I get home so I can drive some of those cool machines!

I got a 2nd class FAA physical last P-day. No problems - all good to go.

Too bad about the bear tags.

Our investigators are pretty much at 'status quo ante' from last week, except that Bro. Lewallen's baptism will be postponed. I'm doing really well, eating well, even gaining weight (believe it or not). North Olmsted is a great place to be a missionary right now!

Next week is transfers week, so emails might not come on monday, but maybe they will. Not sure yet, sorry.

LoveYMNB!
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Spring‏

Hello Family!

Happy Spring - I love Spring (except for the part where we 'spring forward'). We keep on thinking that springtime is here to stay with 50 degree weather, but then it turns around and snows a few days later. We keep on saying "maybe this is the last time". Maybe this time it really is...

As it turns out, Esther and Yazmeyne were both baptized on Friday by Robbie and confirmed yesterday. Their baptismal service was great and they were all super surprised when I showed up! Perks of being an assistant...

No, Elder Fronk was transferred 4 weeks ago - Elder Talbot and his greenie Elder Marshall were the missionaries who sealed the deal with Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne.

I'm really excited that Chris came home. That is a really cool story about the man whose daughter was in the MTC with him, too. Is he living at home until the fall semester, or what is he doing? Can you get me his address?

Our area is doing well - Bro. Lewallen is set to be baptized on the 26th of March. He's been taught everything except a few of the commandments, he's felt the spirit and recognized spiritual growth and conversion, and is doing alltogether very well. We had to get special permission from Pres. Sorensen and the stake president to baptize him in our ward since he actually lives outside our boundaries, but it was approved because he is getting married to a member of the ward and will move in with her once they are married.

Bro. Schroth is also progressing. It's hard to imagine him not progressing considering that he's good friends with the stake president and his wife, the 1st couselor in the mission presidency and his wife, and most of the rest of the ward. He also knows President and Sister Sorensen pretty well, and of course, Sis. Schroth is an active and faithful member. He's got a lot of good examples around him of people who simply exude light. We have a lesson with him and the stake president today.

We've got another part-member family, the Tusbergs, whose 8 and 9 year old children will probably get baptized next month. It's great to go there and teach the children and have the (recently reactivated) parents joining in teaching the gospel to their children.

Thanks a lot for being such a supportive and encouraging family. I don't know where I'd be without great gospel examples like all of you in my life! I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ really does bless, lift, ennoble, and strengthen families and individuals. Truly there could be no more honorable title than to be called a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

LoveYMNB,
Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, March 7, 2011

This week was much less crappy

Hello Family!

Sorry to not have given you all the crappy details about our flooding. Per your questions:

-No, I don't need you to send my anything. We both threw away all our shoes, but President & Sister Sorensen bought us new shoes and gave us old ones, so we're good there. I didn't lose anything else significant. Every single one of Elder Hunt's ties were ruined, but somebody sent an email out to the ward and he got a ton of ties from people yesterday at church.

-The flooding was caused by torrential rain and warm temperatures that melted the snow on the ground and overwhelmed rivers, streams, and sewage treatment plants alike.

-The town you were probably watching on the news that got heavily flooded is Findlay, Ohio. The elders down there have been doing a whole lot of service this week. Church was cancelled down there this week also. When I first came out on my mission I would often hear legends from the oldest missionaries of the "Findlay Flood" of 2007. I guess it was even worse then than it was this week and half of the mission was sent to Findlay to help with the relief effort and as a result the hearts of the whole city were softened towards the church. Findlay has pretty consistently led the mission in baptisms ever since.

-We are always at the office late on Sunday nights - we take the mission's numbers from the zone leaders and stuff and it takes a while. Since I have been an assistant it has gotten a lot better, though. In the past the assistants have pretty consistently been unable to get home and get to bed on Sunday nights until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Several weeks after I was called as an assistant, we changed the way we do a couple things and now we usually get home at the comparatively early hour of 11:30 or 12:00ish.

Good job everybody on being great athletes, temple cleaners, connoisseurs of fine art, and archaeologists (finding the plates).

How long have the horses been at the equestrian center now? When are they coming back? Why didn't we do this magical drainage thing a couple years ago? That's nice of Steve Bott to do it for us. Is he a member?

I'm pretty excited about you getting the Haimen boy out to scouts and activities. Hopefully he will keep progressing and start coming to church soon. Have you seen the lds.org video about youth missionary work? You should check it out: https://lds.org/youth/video/inviting-all-to-come-unto-christ-sharing-the-gospel?lang=eng
Our investigator at church this week:

Bro. Schroth: has been married to an active and faithful member for about 35 years. Comes to church every week and if you didn't know better you'd think he was a member. His heart has been softened recently by some life experiences, and we are now actively teaching him. He has committed to baptism (this is tremendously significant - a lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time). It is a little bit intimidating to be teaching him becuase we really don't want to mess things up! The stake president and his wife are his fellowshippers and close friends, as well as members of the bishopric and mission presidency, and many members of the ward are friends with him. Of course, this is an opportunity that Sis. Schroth and half of the stake have been waiting for for a long time! We figure that nothing could possibly go wrong, though, becuase we've got 35 years of prayers and fasting to draw from.

Other baptisms coming up:

Harrison Tusberg: the 9 year old child of a recently reactivated family. He should be baptized shortly - probably in April - it's mostly just a matter of when the family can fly out to see him get baptized. His 8-yr old brother is also being baptized, but that is under the Bishop's keys.

Bro. Lewallen: The boyfriend (possibly soon to be fiancee?) of a member in our ward. He's been progressing and learning well, including keeping the commitment of the Word of Wisdom. He's got a baptismal date for the 26th of this month, but it's a little bit shaky.

Thanks for the weather forecast.

LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith

And in a follow-up email:
Oh I forgot to tell you - Robbie (from Sandusky) got baptized Saturday and confirmed Yesterday! He and Esther got married last week. Yazmeyne's baptism is this Saturday and Esther's is hopefully soon (pending continued word of wisdom struggles). I called and talked to them and it was great!

Monday, February 28, 2011

What a crappy day --- literally...‏

Hello!

Here's the story behind the subject of this email:

So we got home from the office last night at around 12:00 or 12:30 ish and went to bed. Sometime between 3:00 and 3:30, Elder Hunt was woken up by water falling on his face. The window well above his bed was filled with water and leaking rapidly, as were all the other windows in the basement. There was about an inch or two of water on the ground. We got up, woke up the members with whom we live, and started rescuing stuff. Pretty soon the sewers backed up through the tub, toilet, and floor drain as well and the water level rose for the next few hours until we had about 18" of water on the ground. Luckily we didn't lose too much stuff (it doesn't take long to rescue all your worldly posessions when you live out of two suitcases), but the members we live with will probably have taken some pretty heavy losses. The water was very cold and smelled quite nasty. We are staying at the mission home now and will be moving to an apartment tomorrow.

Luckily the rest of the week was very good. Zone conferences have been great - we only have one left. Our role is to present workshops and demonstrate roleplays and otherwise assist in making it an amazing and spiritual meeting.

Church was great - we had five investigators there, and two more nonmembers came to the "linger-longer" activity afterwards (they had been invited by member friends), so we'll start working with them as well.

We're having a lot of success with the investigators we have and we're really seeing how effective member-missionary work can be. We've been getting a lot of member referrals recently.

Thanks for taking care of so much college stuff - that's great to hear that I was accepted to BYU.

How are you getting invited to everyone's houses to watch movies? Are you really that popular? Are the Beachams members of the church?

Alma 17:2 - I can't wait to see Chris and Jordan again!

I love to hear about missionaries leaving like Ryan - If he's having visa troubles we could always request a couple of visa-waiters from the MTC to come to the OCM, especially in light of having lost so many elders recently.

No, I haven't had time to unpack my suitcase yet, but that's probably a good thing in light of the flooding.

Well, it's been a pretty hectic day, so I'm going to have to go.

LoveYMNB!
Elder Matthew Smith

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Email from 2/21/11

Happy P-day, everyone!

It's always good to hear from home.

This week was pretty hectic. Transfers was Wednesday, and we kept on feeling unsettled about where people were being transferred, so we made changes to the 'transfer board' just about every day from last Thursday to last Monday, when we called and announced the transfers and made them official. Tuesday was spent taking care of the new arrival missionaries, Wednesday was taken up with transfers and taking care of the departing missionaries, and Thursday we took them to the airport to go home. Then on Friday we had to do a lot of driving to do some last-minute transfers because we had to send three missionaries home early (including one of my best friends from the mission, to whom I've looked up for a long time).

We're gearing up for another exciting week since this week is zone conference week, hence a lot of driving and exchanges with other missionaries and, again, not much time spent working in our area.

I'm excited that you're praying for missionary opportunities so diligently! I can't wait to hear what you come up with and how it goes. It seems like just about all we do when we're not teaching investigators or less active members is seeking referrals from the members of the church. It works a whole lot better than tracting (if the members follow through and do the missionary work, that is). What we've been doing to help members fulfill their missionary responsibilities is watching the Preach My Gospel DVDs with them about member missionary work or the purpose of missionary work and then role-playing with them how they will invite their acquaintance to church, to an activity, to dinner, to meet with the missionaries, etc. Did you do much in the way of seeking member referrals on your mission, Dad?

Our investigators are making halting progress. The Schroth family has been vacationing and as such has been out of town and mostly out of our reach. Brian is progressing but was sick on Sunday. We just found out that the 9-yr old son of a recently reactivated family is unbaptized, so we're starting to teach that family and they came to church (as usual).

I wish you good success with your missionary work and all other work!

Loveymnb,
Elder Matthew Smith

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Email Received from North Olmstead, OH


.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Hi Moms!
Attached are two pictures of your sons after dinner at our house on Feb 3, 2011.
As you can see, they are happy, healthy and full of the Spirit.
Thank you for raising such wonderful young men and sending out to spread the Gospel of our Saviour.
They send their love to you.

Respectfully,

Terry
Terrence M. Brown

Email February 15, 2011

Hello Family,

Sorry about the late email last week. Hopefully this one will arrive in a much more timely manner.

So Elder Hunt is from Las Vegas, Nevada. He's the 2nd of 5 Children. He's big into golfing, and played on SUU's golf team and has a spot waiting for him when he goes home. He came out one transfer before me, but had to go home for medical reasons (all resolved now) for six weeks, so he will go home with my transfer. He has one year of school under his belt and is thinking about majoring in economics. He's not a big hunter, but he has hunted birds before. He's a really good missionary and is good at thinking outside the box to get things done. I'm pretty excited to be serving with him.

No, Elder Farmer is not going home. He doesn't go home until August 4th (same time as Elder Hunt and me). APs are more like Seventies than Apostles - they are given emeritus status and put out to pasture after they've served for a while. (although sometimes they die APs instead)

Robbie and Esther's baptism has been postponed until March 12th, and they are on track to be baptized then.

How is the 21 days of praying for a missionary experience going?

Thanks for the 4-gen chart and stories. Now when we go on the tour of the temple tomorrow with the new arrivals I'll have some names when Karl Anderson asks us who from our family was in the Kirtland area. Last time the only one I knew of was Adam.

I'm glad Lauren enjoyed her birthday present so much. And that she was wearing a helmet. When do you think the horses will come home at the Smith Ranch? Is it weird not having them back there?

That's really funny that Cody got a foul for Mom's team. Who was the Ref? It's also really funny for you to call Mom's team the "old lady's team".

No, I haven't scheduled a physical yet. We have transfers this week and zone conferences next week. I'll probably do it sometime. Let me know what BYU says.

Thanks for the valentines' day box. Elders Farmer and Hunt and I have been enjoying all the jerky and goodies.

Well, I'd best be going now. We've got a lot of stuff to take care of before we pick up the new missionaries at the airport this afternoon.

Interesting fact - I've still yet to unpack my stuff from my suitcases after transferring to this area in the end of December.

Thanks for being such a great and supportive and functional family!

Love,
Elder Matthew Smith

Friday, February 11, 2011

Email from 2/11/11

Hello Family,

I thought I had better jot off a quick email and apologize for not writing last week.

Sorry I never got around to emailing on Monday - We had a lot of stuff to deal with - there were a couple emergency transfers we had to pick up and take to new areas. But Elder Farmer and I got a new companion out of the deal - Elder Hunt is now serving with us in a triple-up, and we will be tripled up until transfers this coming wednesday when Elder Farmer will be released and I will be serving with Elder Hunt. Elder Hunt is an amazing missionary - a real go-getter. I'm really excited to work with him. Him and Elder Baxter (one of my previous companions) were having a lot of success in Shaker Heights. I'm excited to tell you all about him, but I need to be going here.

Love,
Elder Matthew Smith

ps thanks for feeding the sister missionaries. I can't wait to brag to the whole mission that my family is so solid that they skipped the superbowl to feed the missionaries! Who have you thought about to refer to them? By the way, who among our family is not members of the church? Do you think you could get me Bob McGraw's phone number so I could have the Kirtland sisters call him?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Email from 1/31/11

Hellooooooooooooo, Family!

Thanks for writing - it's always good to hear from you!

Way to go everybody with all your fun pursuits - sports, dances, choir, stake conference attendance, etc. Would you believe that while you're a missionary you look forward for weeks to stake conference? Who would have thought?

Thanks for jogging my memory about the hunting excursions, Dad. Good times...

The work has been going great! Thanks for asking! We've not been able to spend much time working in our area this week, since we were traveling to all the different zones for training meetings and exchanges, but the time we spent here was magnified. We had three investigators at church yesterday, plus four more nonmembers who technically aren't investigators yet (we're working on it). One of the investigator we've only met with once - he's a young ex-marine named Mark. He's super cool, respectful, commitable, positive, and confident. He's kept his reading and praying assignments, and loved church. We're really excited about him and his potential to progress. We also had Brian to church - a member referral from a sister in the ward. He's committed to baptism, but we haven't set the date yet because he balks whenever we bring it up - he doesn't think he can be ready anytime soon. We're working on helping him change that view. Bro. Schroth came out as well. He's been married for a long time to an active sister in the church, and even sent a son on a mission. We've recently started working with him - his heart has been softened a lot in the last year since one of his sons passed away. It's kind of tricky teaching him because he doesn't usually open up to us and express the feelings of his heart openly when his wife is around - I guess he doesn't want her to get too excited about him being baptized. On the plus side, the stake president is their home teacher and has a really good relationship with them. We've got a lot going for us here, and we are confident that he's going to be making some great strides in the right direction. A couple weeks ago, when I met him for the first time, we were prompted to skip right over baptism and ask him if he saw himself being sealed to his family in the temple. After a long pause of introspection and soul-searching, he said "yes, yes I do. And I think I'm a lot closer now than I ever have been before." We were understandably overjoyed.

Elder Farmer spoke in sacrament meeting yesterday. Do you remember President Uchtdorf's talk about things that matter most when he said "At this point you may be wondering, that's all well and good, Pres. Uchtdorf, but what does that have to do with flying an airplane?" Well, my joke with Elder Farmer is to say, "That's all well and good, Elder Farmer, but what does that have to do with Alaska?" It's hard for him to teach a lesson or speak at a meeting without referencing crab fishing in one way or another.

Thanks a lot for all you do for me and have done for me. I really appreciate having had a positive and supportive upbringing, and I especially am grateful that our family has high standards and expectations of us. I see so many people out here who have little or no drive, and I think one part of the issue is that parents don't require excellence and effort of their children. Thanks for expecting all of us children to excel.

Well, I love you all and keep you in my prayers. I sure am grateful to be in yours.

LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith.

(look at that - I got 2 lymnbs in one day! I'm so winning!)