Monday, July 26, 2010


As I read your letters this morning, I felt the power of the Atonement encompass my whole being almost as if it where a large blanket. Being in a public library, I didn't want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself, but I will admit that it was a tremendous challenge to keep my emotions in check, if only for a couple minutes. I have thought about Griff somewhat throughout these many months, with the hope that he wouldn't have to experience pain for much longer, but it still feels as though a part of me died with him. Nonetheless, as you said, the Atonement and its promised blessings of immortality and eternal life for animals is assured. Certainly there is grieving and sorrow at the death of a loved one, but at the same time there is tremendous peace and joy that results from knowing that the next life offers so much more, including a "next life" to being with! I came across a quote the other day from President Joseph Fielding Smith that illustrates the doctrine of eternal progression very well:

" Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things, and receive all things, even the fulness of the Father's glory."

It is comforting to know that we can't achieve perfection in this life because we are mortals, but it is within our vast, divine potential. I love his use of the word "faithful" in that quote, because it is the perfect word, I think, to define what enduring to the end is. I'm sure I've shared this thought before, but I think it bears repeating: "We aren't called to be successful in all things, but to be faithful in all things." Well, lucky for Griffey, he gets a free pass into the celestial kingdom! We human beings have to do quite a bit more, but we can be where he is if we hold out until the end. Funny I'm talking about this, being so close to finishing my full-time mission! 

And don't worry, I'm doing a pretty good job of fending off "trunkiness." I can take questions from people about it without problems, and I really just have to keep it from affecting my ability to do the Lord's work. I received my flight information in the mail this past week, and as you already know, I'm headed from Columbus to Dallas to SLC. Hmmm.....I wonder if I could sneak away to see the Cowboys' new stadium while I'm down there. Probably not. 

Being on a mission has certainly helped me see the value in taking imporant life's decisions, whether they are Church-related or not, to the Lord. I have made many mistakes along the way, but I have tried my best to learn what the Lord wants me to learn, and He has been merciful to me and granted me knowledge from you, the scriptures, mission presidents, the Brethren, members, and even investigators that has stuck with me. Brigham Young said that revelation comes from many different sources, and I can testify to the truth of that principle. That was the main theme of our Leadership Meetings with Pres. Jensen this past Tuesday and Thursday. I truly believe that it came at the right time for me. 

Elder Kirk and I are very lucky to be in Cincinnati at this time, when it seems that so many people are becoming interested in the truths of the restord gospel, and that a chosen 6 are ready to make covenants this Saturday. Yes, it is still on and everything is in place! Shawntae has said several times that she is getting tired of waiting, in a totally joking manner of course. I second that!! I'm just ready for it to get here, as I know the members are as well. There hasn't been a baptism here since November, and I'm not sure when the last time was that a family joined the Church. Family is an area where the members will continue to be a strength to the growth of the Church, and I see evidence of that in the conversion of Shawntae and her kids. Along with Jeff Even, the ward is very well prepared to shepherd them along after baptism, and I know that it is their goal to make it to the temple as well. 

I am also excited to attend the temple next week, hopefully with a member or two from Wilmington. We were hoping to do it this weekend, but some things came up on both ends and we won't be able to. Darn! Well, it was worth thinking about at least!  I will certainly be making a return trip to that area as well my other ones in the near future, and hopefully you will get to come as well. The next week and a half is going to be a whirlwind of events, but I am nonetheless grateful that a baptism is included in that. I really can't think of a better way to go out!! In the past couple months, I have truly seen the fulfillment of a promise made by then-Elder Eyring in a conference talk he gave back in 2002, I believe. In essence, he said that as your alloted time of service in a calling draws to a close, you will have the marvelous gift of seeing your service magnified by the Lord. IT IS TRUE!!!! May the loving arms of the Savior be around you each day and always.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Elder Ike-by his sister

I miss Isaac!
But I am sooooooooooooooooo
that he went on a mission!
He has learned and grown and
taught and been taught
and laughed and prayed
and probably cried, too
And now we get to see
what all of those verbs
did to him!
Raise your virtual hand if you're excited!
And by that I mean

Give a shout-out to my bro,
who has served diligently.

I have an inkling, though...that he won't be done when the tag comes off.
Hallelujah. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Death papers have been delivered

The names of Shawntae's kids who will be getting baptized alongside her, they are:
Jameisha (12), Jameill (11), Jaquell (8), and Jaquesha (7) who will turn 8 in less than a week. 

Anyway, everything for that special event is still on schedule, I am counting down the days with eagerness! They are absolutely consistent with their prayers, studies, and Church attendance. Shawntae was unable to attend yesterday because she came down sick, but she STILL made sure to have family scripture study! My goodness, they are living the gospel and haven't even been baptized yet, and the same can be said for Jeff Even! I know it seems repetitive, but the highlights of our weeks lately have been involving them, but how could it not when someone you've taught and prayed for is ready to make covenants with the Lord?!

I believe that there is a couple other people right behind them, most notably being Michelle Baker. She is still having her struggles and we actually haven't had any contact with her since last Thursday, but her desire to change is so strong that you can't help but assist in anyway you can. The big step we're trying to help her make is finding another place to live, and we'll be meeting with her this evening, in company with Bro. Josh Judge, a member who lives in the area and has obtained some good info as to some possible treatment places she could go to. I say it all the time, but members truly make everything better in missionary work! 

We have been doing our best to survive the humidity here, which has made the days at least 10 degrees warmer than otherwise. Luckily, we carry some handkerchiefs around to mop off the constant flow of sweat from our faces and arms. My pants especially are feeling the effects, and I've concluded that dry-cleaning them at this point would basically be pointless, and I probably wouldn't be wearing them much at home anyway. Man, wait 'till you see them, as well as my shoes!! The shirts are okay, but not quite as white as Elder Kirk's are, but that's only because he's a lot newer in the field. 

We had my last Zone Conference this past week with Pres. and Sis. Jensen and all 3 of the Cincinnati Zones. It was really cool, and we were introduced to some new Preach My Gospel DVD's that we are supposed to use in district meetings. The food was also very good, which makes sense because it's the Relief Society!! One thing this mission does a little different than the last one is that traditionally we would have the departing missionaries share their testimonies in Zone Conference, but in the Columbus Mission we share them at transfer meeting. And that's another thing they do differently is transfers. Members take us up to Columbus, and EVERYONE meets at the chapel located next to the temple, so it turns into this big, huge meeting which is pretty Spirit-filled from what I've heard. It's also an opportunity for members to see missionaries who are going home that have served in their areas, so I'm definitely looking forward to that. 

I received a call on Saturday from Sis. Earl, the office secretary, instructing me to write out my departing testimony for inclusion in the next newsletter, as well as telling me that my departing papers will be arriving in the mail this week. As missionaries, we call them "death papers." Yeah, kind of strange but I didn't start that tradition. Elder Kirk is kind of depressed about it because once I leave, ALL 3 of his companions thus far will be home, and he was the last companion to 2 of them. The other one had one transfer left when Elder Kirk was put with me, so he's had nothing but oldies for companions. I think it's pretty funny, but he doesn't think so as much. 

Well, this week I will be in Middletown all day on Tuesday and Thursday for a special leadership training with Pres. Jensen. It is named Middletown because it is exactly halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton, so thus it is a good place for the missionary leadership in Cincinnati and Dayton to meet at. It should be pretty interesting to see what comes out of those meetings, I'm looking forward to it. Well, I think I've about covered all of the news this time around. I'm happy and relieved to know that I've been officially accepted at BYU-I, although something tells me that Kenz is a little more excited than I least right now. There are many important decisions ahead that I will need to make, but with the Lord's help I will be just fine. However, NOW is not the time or place to be making them. I think I can wait just a couple more weeks for that. I'm probably going to spend some time today going through my suitcases and getting books and other heavy, bulky things set aside to be packaged and shipped. Man, I really don't like packing anymore, but then again, I've only had to do it 4 times as a missionary. There are plenty of elders who've been in like 10 or more areas, and so they more than likely hate it much more than me. Guess that ends my complaining session about THAT topic! Hope all is well in good ol' AF and elsewhere. Thank you for your thoughtfulness on behalf of my investigators and others, I know that they definitely will appreciate it! Have another great week!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Have I done any good in the world today?

What a great week this was!! We reached almost all of our goals, and overall had 25 lessons for the week! We have been given several new standards to reach as a mission, and they include achieving at least 5 member present lessons per week, which we did and it made a HUGE difference! Shawntae Stone and her kids are on track for July 31st, and we committed Jeff Even to be baptized that same day, and he announced it to the priesthood brethren in Church yesterday! Part of me couldn't have said a week ago that they were sure bets for baptism on that day, but after the great lessons we had with members helping, I have a lot more confidence. Both of them have been unfazed by the adversary's tempations to smoke, and certainly he will keep working on them, but I think they will pass the test! That means 6 baptisms scheduled to take place on July 31st, so could you ask for a better way to close out your mission?! 

There are few things better than being able to see people progress on their own, and I know I've said that in a letter before, but it is so true! When the Spirit touches people and they recognize it, they are so motivated to make changes that you can't help but be as excited as they are!  The ward is definitely gearing up for that, and the program is starting to take shape. I was asked by Jaquell, Shawntae's 8 year old son, to perform his baptism, so that will make the experience that much sweeter. As if it couldn't get any better, I was contacted by Pres. and Sis. Kennedy from Wilmington who are trying to arrange a branch temple trip to Columbus so they can see me before I come home! There are still a few things needing to be worked out, mainly a solid date, but I'm sure I will be able to work something out with Pres. Jensen. I think he would understand, don't you? Luckily, I'll be seeing him tomorrow at Zone Conference and will be able to ask him in person. 

Well, I suppose that Shawntae and Jeff are the big highlights from the week, but really all of the lessons we had were very high quality. I've had plenty of practice with painting as well, as we have been painting Shelley Capell's home one room at a time. It's fun to see the different colors she wanted us to use and also the reaction her kids have when it's done. I think I told you about Shelley, but in case I didn't, she's a single mom of 4 who we found in Price Hill and have teaching steadily since May. Our biggest challenge is getting them to Church, if only because Shelley is already attending one. We'll see what happens, the Lord is in charge. 

Until last week, coordinating rides to Church was difficult because we always needed a big fan for Shawntae's family, and there are only two families that I know of who have them. Well, last week a new member in the ward said he can get an 18-passenger van from work that we can use each Sunday, so we're excited to start doing that. In fact, we were on our way to pick up Shawntae and Jeff yesterday in one of the bishopric's vans, and the emergency brake kept sticking so we had to turn around. Thankfully, we were able to use two cars to go get them all, and actually got them back to the Church on time! Another miracle! 

Lastly, I have funny story that happened the other day. We were visiting with a less-active family, the Higgins, and they gave us both soda pop so we wouldn't get too hot and thirsty, which is tricky not to do in this sticky weather. Well, Elder Kirk doesn't drink soda at all, so of course I got to have his. However, I only finished half of it and then discarded it in the trash. Well, as we were waiting for the bus to come, a bum comes over and starts rooting around in the garbage for something to drink. Yep, you guessed it! He finds my pop and starts guzzling on it with great relief on his face! Guess he was pretty thirsty! When I saw him drinking it, I started singing "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today"? Elder Kirk and I were both laughing pretty hard. Funny stuff happens on a mission, that's for sure! Well anyway, I best be headed off. We're helping the Norwood and University Elders move a member today, but it shouldn't take more than an hour. Thankfully, they have everything boxed up already! Then we're going to play some b-ball at the Church and just take it easy the rest of the day. Well, until 6 that is, then we're right back at the Lord's work! Hope you all have a wonderful, safe, and blessed week!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Great is the Lord, and marvelous are His ways

I don't know what's so special about the day AFTER July 4th here in Cincinnati, but we were rudely greeted yesterday by a sign at the library reading, "CLOSED MONDAY, JULY 5TH!" Oh, the nerve!! It's not the first time on my mission that the library has been closed on preparation day, but I'm pretty confident it will be the last. So anyway, I'm sitting here at a computer at the downtown library on this clear but VERY warm Tuesday morning. It's been amazing that my clothes have held up under this abuse known as humidity, but one pair of my shoes took a definite beating thanks to the roads down in Hazard. I plan on bringing them home just to show them off, then straight to the garbage. I know, I'm weird aren't I? 

Since I got on the subject of clothes, I'll make a point of mentioning that Bro. Blackwelder Sr., a member of the ward, has offered to pay for my clothes to be dry cleaned before I come home, so that takes care of that expense. He came with us yesterday to visit Jeff Even and also Shawntae, two appointments that actually weren't scheduled, but resulted from others that had fallen through. We were VERY grateful, as were Jeff and Shawntae, for his testimony and input throughout the lessons. We really didn't do a whole lot of talking, which is fine since they have heard more than enough from us. Both of them are struggling with quitting smoking, but Shawntae has a firm commitment to stop by the 9th of this month so that she can be baptized with her oldest kids on the 31st. And lately, Jeff has been reading and praying more earnestly about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, something that he really hadn't done in the past. This was only because he felt that God wouldn't answer his prayers since his wife died many years ago and he had prayed for the Lord to heal her, and his faith was pretty much destroyed. We have been making a concerted effort to help him build it back up, and he's been attending Church regularly for over a month and seems more and more willing to do his best. It's very interesting watching how the people you teach change the longer you are around them. 

Thanks to the Lord's tender mercies, I have had the privilege of observing this many times in each area I have been in, which thankfully also has been for long periods of time. It certainly takes a great deal of patience when working with these children of God, not only the investigators but members as well. However, when impatience and frustration is trying to set in, I am reminded of the words of my patriarchal blessing regarding my mission and the specific need to love the people and patient with them. What a promise, and my how the Lord has rewarded me for it! There is, of course, still room for improvement, but I've learned very quickly in the mission field that God will reward us for being FAITHFUL in all things, and not necessarily SUCCESSFUL. I love the promise in Preach My Gospel that says our success as missionaries is measured by our commitment level, and that is definitely true not just for full-time missionaries, but also member-missionaries and even investigators as well. It is an eternal truth that whatever we are commited to, we will be successful at. It may not be immediately, but it will come as we remain faithful and press forward. 

We had a wonderful meeting with Pres. and Sis. Jensen this past Wednesday, and among the many things I learned from them, perhaps the most exciting was learning that I will in fact get to spend my last day in the mission field, August 5th, at the Columbus Ohio Temple!! There will be 18 missionaries in my group going home a month from now, and it's so many that Pres. Jensen had to contact the temple president and reserve temple clothes for our particular group. After our session, we will visit with Pres. and Sis. Jensen in the matron's room, during which time we are free to discuss any gospel topics for as long as we would like!! I am incredibly excited for this opportunity, as it is something I have been missing out on for the past two years. My interview with Pres. Jensen was likewise memorable, and it was very evident that he has the gift of discernment. I think I'll wait to share with you what he told me for when I get back. It was amazing, espeically considering we had never met before! He designs ties for a living, so I'm wondering if it's a tradition to give departing missionaries a tie, 'cause that would be sweet! 

My last Zone Conference will be held a week from today, at which time I suspect I will have to share my testimony with all three Cincinnati zones. In regards to shipping things home, most likely I will be sending books since they are usually the heaviest thing we carry around. I may even send all my letters home as well in order to clear some extra space in my suitcases. And any food I have left (don't worry, it's still good) will be eaten by myself and Elder Kirk and probably Shawntae's kids since there are 7 of them! I will be giving my bike to the mission since it is almost in virtually mint condition, owing to the fact that I've been spoiled with car areas the entire time.....until now, that is; but we use the bus ALL the time, so my bike will certainly be a welcome gift to whatever missionary gets it. 

Well, other than all that, there isn't much new to report on. We are concentrating our efforts right now on having more members come teach with us as well as teaching them, and especially in getting rides to Church better coordinated on a weekly basis. Some have already responded to our requests, and things this week are already looking better than they did last week by far! Members truly make all the difference in the world, and it's one of my hopes to live up to what Pres. Robbins told me one time: "If you keep the same spirit at home that you have enjoyed here, then you will be a better member-missionary than you were a full-time missionary." That remains to be seen, but boy am I excited to see that fulfilled. 

Oh, and before I forget, there was one last thing I wanted to ask. Could you make sure and invite(if you already haven't) Pres. and Sis. Robbins to my homecoming talk, as well as Coach Meacham, Larry and Denise, and anyone else you can think of. Perhaps you've already invited them all, but I thought this would be as good a time as any to bring it up. Also if you could invite the following former companions of mine: Nathan Hall, Luke Allred, Chad Durling, Jared Lundquist, Zach Janiec, Ryan Remington, and Fred Bittner. A few of them don't live in Utah, but they could be there or at BYU-I for school. I imagine you could find all of them on Facebook, but if you would like I can get you their addresses next week. It's up to you, but if you could do that it would be really great. Well, I think that's about all I've got to say for this week! 

Sounds like you had an enjoyable Fourth of July (or 3rd), as did we. It was nice to reflect on the reasons why we celebrate this holiday, and we owe it all to the hand of the Lord. Without it, we wouldn't enjoy the fulness of the gospel, since such a land of liberty was needed for the Lord to restore His Church in its fulness. What a wonderful thing to know that the Lord sees the big picture and that we, as we seek for it righteously, can know what it is too. Have a great week!