Monday, December 30, 2013

Life is so great!!!!

Good morning beautiful people!

It was so good to see and hear my wonderful family last week! That was a great experience; I just wish the time didn't fly by so fast. I hope everyone else had a wonderful Christmas as well! Thank you so much to all of my marvelous friends and family for he facebook message and thank you Brandon for sending them to me! That was a wonderful gift to receive and it was so good to hear from all of you. :)
Life is so fantastic! Not just missionary life, but life in general. It is just so great! It has been a very slow week here due to the holidays and everyone being out of town, so I had lot's of time to think and reminisce about life. How tremendously blessed I have been. How blessed have we all been! This life is such a blessing. To be able to have this time for us to become like our Savior is a wonderful gift and I am so grateful for the decision I made with all of you to follow our Savior and gain this mortal body. I have been studying the resurrection a lot lately. It amazes me to think of how much more we are capable of doing... ( "WE CAN FLY!!!!" -Elder Ivey ). The resurrection will definitely rock.
But even this time before that is so amazing to me. Elder Ivey always says, "Everything happens for a reason, we just don't always know the reason." Well, I believe everything does happen for a reason, whether positive or negative, things are allowed to happen to us. I think the reason is because every single thing that happens gives us an opportunity to react as Christ would. We are here to prepare to meet God; Christ showed us the way to do that; He is the Way. Everything we do every day is preparing us to meet God. Everything that happens to you, happens *"to give you opportunity to respond by applying the in your life the teachings of Jesus." This is such a beautiful thing! When we truly understand that principle our attitudes and behaviors will change; trials and obstacles become blessings and tender mercies.

...So yeah, there's some of my thoughts for you this week.

It was a glorious weekend! Mike and Adrienne Bailey were baptized on Saturday night at 7pm by their next-door neighbor, Brother Hubbard. It was SO GREAT!!!!! They were just glowing and the spirit was so thick. It was an unforgettable experience. The next day Elder Ivey and I had the pleasure of confirming them as members of the church in sacrament meeting. It was such a neat experience confirming someone who wasn't acting as proxy for someone who is dead.
The Baileys already feel like family to everyone in the ward. That is such a blessing. As a missionary it is so comforting to see these people who you have been teaching and grown so close to be accepted and welcomed by the ward so openly. I know that when I am needed in another area they will be left in excellent hands. :)

I do hope all of you had a super week and a happy Christmas. Enjoy the new year! Always look for opportunities to serve those around you; it is the key to happiness, I know it is. Always follow the Saviors example in every situation. Turn to Him when you need help or need answers. He is there. He is listening. He is answering and helping. I know He loves us. I love each of you so much.
Have a great week!

Love, Elder Curtis :)

*The Fourth Missionary: Lawrence E. Corbridge

Monday, December 23, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's been a cold week in Jeff City. I don't know if you know what an ice-storm is or not, but we had a couple of those this week. Every tree branch down to the smallest twig is covered in a layer of ice about a quarter of an inch thick if not more. Even every individual blade of grass is covered in a coat of ice. I have never seen anything like it. It really is quite beautiful, especially when the sun is shining. Every plant is glimmering as if they were made of pure diamond. It's a fantastic sight... but it sure needs to end. It is far too cold for me. No snow though, so that's good. It doesn't stick here very well.
I'm afraid I have bad news concerning our investigator, Eric. He was not able to get baptized on Saturday. We lost contact with him for several days. When we were finally able to get in contact with him we found out that he had lost control of himself and gave in to some old habits of his. He still wants to come closer to Christ and be baptized eventually, but we're going to have to give him a little more time.

Mike and Adrian are still right on track to be baptized this Saturday though. We had an awesome lesson with them on Thursday. We got there and began the lesson on the word of wisdom. They didn't have any concerns with it other than tea. They LOVE tea, especially Mike. We thought we might have a problem with him committing to the word of wisdom before we even arrived for the lesson. We discussed the issue with them further but as we were about ask them to commit to keeping the word of wisdom the oven alarm went off and it was time for us to eat. After friendly conversation and good food we adjourned back into the living room. Adrian was the first one to speak up. She asked us how soon they would have to stop drinking tea and if they could ween themselves out of it. I opened my mouth to answer, but to our great surprise Mike answered for us. Mike is a very timid and quiet guy and not very bold at all with anything, but when he spoke then it was with direct boldness and certainty.
He said, "We need to stop now. They have said it; it has been declared. There is no excuse for us to do it any longer. We've gotta stop now." Elder Ivey and I just looked at each other in awe. This man was in love with tea, but already he had gained a testimony of the word of wisdom and he was ready to live it. After he spoke there was a rush of energy from the Spirit. We asked Mike if he felt it too. he did and so did Adrian. They were ready to commit to the commandment. It was so awesome.
Yesterday and church Adrian told me that she had dumped all of the tea they had down the disposal. We are so proud of the two of them. It had been such a blessing to teach them and witness their progression. We are so excited for their baptism on the 28th! It's gonna rock!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope you all have a wonderful week and a VERY merry Christmas!!! I love you all so much!!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

End of Transfer


I was so excited to hear that baby Claire will be welcomed into our family today! I am so happy to be an uncle again! I hope that all goes well. I must say, I am super jealous of my family flying out to Georgia this Christmas. Of course it's the Christmas Jen and I are not around for. However, I am very, very excited to talk to you guys on the 25th! I really don't know any details on times of whether I'll be calling or skyping. I know that's frustrating and I wish I had details for you but I really know nothing about it. Hopefully I will be able to contact one of you this week or before Christmas to coordinate everything.
This weekend we got to travel back to St Louis to witness Troy's baptism. It was so great! He has changed so much and his countenance was illuminating. The Spirit was so strong!
We are excited to work with our investigators here in Jeff City and prepare them for baptism. It is exciting and scary too. Satan is work SO HARD on Eric to drag him down. We are really hoping everything will work out with him and he will be able to make right choices and remember the spirit that we know he has felt. Mike and Adrian, who will be getting baptized on the 28th, had a fright yesterday. Their dog was almost killed by another dog. This was very hard on them because their dog is like a child to them and they don't have money for the vet. But they seem to remain faithful and excited about baptism. They are even inviting lots and lots of family over to see it and celebrate with them. But please pray for all of these people. Prayers are needed.
Transfer call came on Saturday. They say that Elder Ivey and I are staying here, but I'm not sure how much I believe that fully, considering what happened last transfer. I can't believe how fast this transfer flew by! I am almost 1/4 of my mission done and that honestly makes me really sad. I love my job and I don't want to quit. I will just use the rest of my time wisely and do as much as I can to build the kingdom.
I hope you all are doing well. I hope you're staying warm and safe. Enjoy the holiday season and always remember why we even have this season of joy.
I love you all so much!
-Elder Curtis :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Hello dear family and friends!

I hope this letter finds you well and happy. As I write it I sure am happy! I have wonderful news for you: We set four baptism dates this week!! Eric will be getting baptized on the 21st, Mike and Adrian will be getting baptized on the 28th, and Michelle will be getting baptized on January 10th! Eric, Mike, and Adrian are especially ready and prepared to enter into their first sacred covenant with God and each of them are SO excited!! I can't tell you the joy we receive from them. We didn't even know them before last week, and now they are preparing to be baptized before the end of the month! We are truly blessed.

In addition to those four, Troy Outlaw will be getting baptized this Saturday! He is the one we were teaching and set a date with back when we were in St Louis. We will be driving down there this weekend to be a part of that experience with him. I am so excited for that! This is going to be the best holiday season EVER!!! Five people entering the gates of baptism. That is so great! I am overwhelmed with joy!!

We also picked up a new investigator this week as well as a really solid looking potential investigator. Her name is Barbara and she was very pleased and receptive to the message of the restoration. We asked her what it would mean to her if what we told her was true, and she sincerely said, "Everything!" I really think she will progress well, if she is willing to do what's necessary. 

I hope all the snow in Utah isn't causing too much trouble for you. It snowed yesterday and the day before but nothing stuck too much. It's just freezing! No matter what we do, we are cold. I will just have to deal with it.

I hope you all took the wonderful opportunity to listen to the Christmas devotional last night. It was wonderful! I hope we all desire to give the Savior something for Christmas this year. Just as President Monson said, the best gift we can give Him is our heart.

I love you all so much! I profusely thank my Father in heaven every night for the wonderful people in my life. All of you have blessed me so much and there will always be a place for you in my heart. Enjoy the holiday season and always serve others!

Love, Elder Curtis

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Good morning my dear family and friends! :)

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and had a wonderful week. Thanksgiving was great here in Jefferson City, but oh man, it was so bizarre without my family and moms outstanding cooking. It was just weird eating thanksgiving dinner with people I only met an hour earlier. But it really was great! We were fed by the Nelson family and they are just the nicest people! This whole ward is packed with people who are trying so hard to live a Christ-centered life and love helping missionaries. I feel like a celebrity here. We are fed nearly every night for dinner and sometimes even lunches! Many of the youth in the ward come up to us with admiration in their eyes and just talk to us non-stop. People love and respect us so much, it's impossible not to love them back. But one thing I've noticed about being a missionary is we have such an increased capacity to just love everybody. I meet people on the street or in a store and all I have to do is look at them and instantly I have formed a love for them that drives me to help them and forces me to be sorrowful when they hurt or choose wrong but on the other hand I receive so much joy and relief when they choose righteously and when they are happy. This love is especially evident for those we teach. I love every single one of my investigators so much, no matter how much they frustrate me because they wont progress and keep commitments. All I want to do is bless their lives and bring them closer to Christ; some of them just wont let me. It's the worst feeling. But where there is opposition, peace and joy come to those who endure.
 Heavenly Father has heard my prayers and has felt my desires and He has blessed me and Elder Ivey with three new investigators this week, and all three have progressed so much just within a couple of days! Mike and Adrian were introduced to us by members in our ward. These members signed up to feed us dinner one night and also invited their next-door neighbors to join us. After our meal we gathered in the living room and started talking to Mike and Adrian about our beliefs. They started asking lots of great questions. Adrian eventually asked, "What sets your religion apart from all other religions?" That was the golden question we were waiting for; we began explaining the restoration of the gospel of Christ and the priesthood. We had the whole first discussion with them. The Spirit in that room was unreal! Elder Ivey expressed to me earlier that that was the most spiritual experience he has ever had on his whole mission so far. It really was amazing and I truly believe it was because the members that were present. There is a profound difference when there is someone there who the investigator knows and loves and can relate to. The testimonies shared by the members have such a greater impact on them. I love it when members invite friends to meet the missionaries in their own home. That is the way The Lord intends missionary work to go. It is the most effective way to further the work and build the kingdom. Mike and Adrian are reading The Book of Mormon! Yesterday they came to church! We have another dinner appointment with them on Thursday where we will talk more about Heavenly Fathers plan for our happiness. They are looking forward to it, as well as coming to church next Sunday! 
The other investigator we picked up this week also came from a member. His name is Eric and he was brought to church last week by his girlfriend. We talked to him there and set up a time to meet with him. When we met with him he had a bunch of questions for us. That took all the time we had with him, but as we talked with him he expressed his desires and his reason for coming to our church and being willing to meet with us. He said that all he wanted was to find a way to build his relationship with Christ and continue making it stronger. I could not believe my ears. You don't get more golden than that!!! That is our whole purpose as missionaries, to help others come closer to Jesus Christ, and all this guy wanted was just that! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!!!!!! He is so prepared and so ready! After we explained that that was the exact thing we as missionaries try to do for people we set up a time to meet with him again the very next day. So the next day we arrived at his house, he fed us chicken tacos and then we dove right in to the restoration. I have never seen someone grasp it so well. He said it made so much sense and it put a lot of puzzle pieces together in his head. He loves the gospel already. He told us he intends on starting the Book of Mormon and finishing it very soon. He couldn't wait to read it. After the lesson we invited him to pray. He got a very worried look on his face and said he couldn't do that. We discussed the matter with him. He said he hadn't talked to God in a very long time and there are too many things he had done that he was ashamed of. We bore testimony to him that God is our loving Father. NO matter what we have done to disappoint him He loves us and wants us to talk to Him frequently. Eric has a son, and we were able to make the comparison: "Just like you love your son more than anything, Heavenly Father loves you. If your son stopped talking to you it would break your heart. But you would be so thrilled to talk to him again, no matter what he had done in the past." This softened his heart and he agreed to offer the prayer after we taught him the order of prayer. 
I don't think I've heard a more sincere prayer, even among missionaries and members. I felt the Spirit so powerfully and I could literally feel the love that Heavenly Father has for Eric as he spoke to Him. After his prayer we asked him how he felt. He said he felt good and we told him that was the Spirit. Tears formed in his eyes and he choked up a bit as he quickly looked down. He looked back up and shook our hands. All he could say was a quiet "Thank you!"
It was so wonderful; beyond words. We are truly blessed. I am so blessed to be doing The Lords work. This is the greatest thing ever! I love this so much! I love the gospel and I love The Savior more than anything. I am so grateful He has trusted me to bring His truth to the people here. I hope each of you will do your part to serve Him. He has done so much for us and He expects us to serve others in return as well as share the gospel. Read (if you haven't already) the first presidency message in the December Ensign. 
 Behold, I sent you out to atestify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to bwarn his neighbor.  (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81) 
That is why we are here, dear friends and family. Let us do our part in assisting our Father in His work. 

I love all of you so much!! I am so grateful for each of you. 
Have a great week! And get out there and serve and warn! :) 
Love, Elder Curtis

P.S. Sarah, Congrats on getting the house! I am so happy for you guys! I have a wonderful feeling about it. Good luck with everything! I love you.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm moving

Hi every body! 

I've got some interesting news for you today: Elder Ivey and I are moving out of St Louis and going to Jefferson City. Apparently two visa waiters who were in Jefferson City got their Visas and the church want's them to leave right away instead of waiting until the next transfer. So on Friday night we got a call from President Morgan and told us he want us to go take over that area from now on. It was quite alarming and very short notice, but of course we were willing; we go wherever the Lord needs us! We leave today and will have to find our way there on our own. We have to meet at the mission office where they will give us our new phone and information as well as the keys to a brand new car and then they will send us on our way. Should be an adventure! Plus, I haven't driven since July. That will be weird. I hope I still know how. Haha! 

We are pretty excited about the change; it should bring awesome new experiences. Poor Elder Ivey. So far his whole mission has just been moving from place to place and trying to organize new areas. But we can do it! He is adapting so well and there is so much I am learning from him. Despite how different we seemed to be at first he and I have been getting along super well! I will really enjoy serving with him and training him. A big bummer about this whole thing is we are leaving a ward that I have gotten very close with. I have made so many awesome new friendships here and I will miss everyone so much. The biggest bummer for both me and Elder Ivey is we will now be missing out on the progression of our investigators. For instance, Troy now has an official date for baptism! He and his son will be baptized on Dec 7th!!!!!!!!! On top of that, another investigator we had (who I don't think I told you guys about) is scheduled to be baptized on Dec 14th!!!!!!! His name is Stephen and he is so ready to make the atonement a key part of his life and come closer to Christ though covenants. He is solid! We will most likely be able to drive back down here for their baptisms but I really was looking forward to watching them progress and progressing with them. But we are so blessed to be a part of their conversion thus far an we know the next elders will do great with them. And we will do everything in our power to make Jefferson City explode with the gospel and help everyone there progress further and endure to the end (we hear that it has been struggling lately). 

Sorry to change addresses so soon again, but here's the next one:

101 Amador Ave Apt 36
Jefferson City, MO 65109

Hopefully that one is a little more permanent. 

I think that's it for this week. Oh wait! I tried deer heart for the first time last night. It was like a more chewy steak. Not bad. We also had some of the most amazing street lessons I've every had. I wish I could tell you about them but that would just take way too long. 

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support. Keep it coming! I love you all so much! Keep up the faith. Look for opportunities to bless the lives around you. 

Love, Elder Curtis :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Transfer 2

Hi everybody!

It has been a crazy week! I can't begin to tell you. 
My new companion is Elder Ivey, form St George, Ut. He's pretty great, it will just take me some time to get used to him. I can already tell that I will grow a lot through this companionship in many ways, not just because it's my first time training and I'm doing it so early... I am excited to work with him and learn from him. We are so different from each other so it's cool to see how two very different people can have the same testimony and unite in one cause! 
Despite the craziness we were able to go see some people, such as Troy! He kinda has a date rescheduled! Even though he wanted to be baptized pretty bad he really wants to take his time. We don't have an exact date with him but he was thinking like the end of December. Well we were able to talk him into being ready before that. I really believe he can and he need not put it off. We were able to compromise and go for the middle/beginning of December. This week though at our apartment we are going to show him a baptismal calender and map out all the lessons for him to show him he can be ready and then we will testify that with the help of Christ, through the Spirit he can and WILL be ready. He just needs to doubt his doubts. 
We are also going to try and get a date ready for an investigator of ours named Rachel. She is so ready, there is just a lot of chaos in her life. But I know she can do it. 
The work really is beginning to explode! We just got an new ward mission leader who is great! I see a lot of wonderful things happening with the ward through him. There were a couple people we were hoping to get for the calling and he was one of them, so hopefully things go well with that. I will suggest that book to him, dad. Thanks for that! 

That's all I can really say this week. I need to go get a haircut now. 
I hope everyone is continuing to do well. Thank you for all of your love, prayers and support. I am overwhelmed with the love I feel from everyone back home. This week I had 34 new emails!...? You all rock!
Just a reminder, if you are going to send something make sure you use USPS. In the new apartment only USPS can get in to give us the letter/package. Any other shipping company will send it back to you.

I love you all so much!!

-Elder Curtis

Friday, November 8, 2013

Transfers. New Address!

Hello everyone!

I hope you all are doing well and are reaping the joys that living the gospel brings!

I have some exciting news. On Tuesday night we got a call from the zone leaders and they told me that I will be training a new missionary next transfer. Yup, I will be training. I don't know why. I mean I just got done officially training and I am still getting used to everything and there are scores of elders more experienced than I am, but I guess The Lord wants me to train. I feel so inadequate to do it but I know I am called of God and therefore I am qualified. He seems to trust me, and I trust Him with all my heart so if this is His will then I know I can do it. I was shocked when I got the call. That wasn't what I was expecting at all. I didn't understand why I was being asked to do this so early in my mission, but I guess I have been prepared for this and I am not on my own at all. On top of training though, they are moving me to a different area. So I will training in an area that I am not familiar with. Should be fun. I am being moved to St Louis Hills 1. 
So last week our ward boundaries were changed. Before our ward (Carondelet Ward) was split into 3 different areas: Carondelet 1 (me and Elder Vincent), Carondelet 2 (the other elders), and Carondelet 3 (the sisters). Well now the ward is called St Louis Hills Ward and is split into two different areas: St Louis Hills 1 and St Louis Hills 2. I will be located in St Louis Hills area 1 which is pretty much taking the place of Carondelet 2's area plus some whereas the sister missionaries will take my former area, formerly known and Carondelet 1, plus some. I hope that makes sense. So I've been moved, but at the same time I haven't because I'm still in the same ward. So my new boundaries east to west are the Mississippi River to Kingshighway Blvd. From North to South it goes to Arsenal Street to River Des Peres. If you look on a map you should be able to figure that out fairly easily. 
Along with the new area they are giving me the other elders apartment (address below). 
I get my new missionary on Wednesday. Until then I will enjoy the rest of my time with Elder Vincent and continue working as hard as I can for the Lord. Oh! Troy finally came to church!! He loved it and he said he want to come every week now with his family. He is also designating every Thursday evening to the discussions. We finally have a progressing investigator!! I don't know if you remember, But he was originally scheduled to get baptized last month but he never kept commitments. Well he is now scheduled for the end of this month. Hopefully all goes well. 
The week was full of tender mercies from God. We were completely out of our monthly funds the whole week as well as food. Like really, we had no food at all, but SOMEHOW we had breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. Every day was a miracle. We are so blessed and Heavenly Father loves us so much. 
I love each of you all so much and hope for all of Gods blessings to be with you. Remember that giving up our own will and following Gods is the only way to true peace and joy. 
I hope you have a great week! 
-Elder Curtis

New address:
7412 Gravois Ave
St Louis, MO 63123
Apt. 1D

From two weeks ago...

Hey everyone!

I hope everyone is doing well! 
Things are so great here! So I told you about all of those referrals we got, right? Well we went to go see these potential investigators but none of them followed through except one. His name is Jerry Porter and we were able to sit down with him and have a really good lesson with him. He seemed so sincere and interested. He said he wanted us to come by the next day at 2:30, so we did. Well, there was no Jerry. So for a back up we had a whole list of people to go see. But we only found disappointment; nobody opened their doors and we were having no luck at all. We had another scheduled appointment at 4:30 so we made our way to that. Well, no answer. We were close to Jerry's house again so we tried to see if he would answer this time... no answer. We decided to give the other appointment another try but... no answer. We just wanted someone to talk to, but even the streets were simply empty. It was so bizarre! 
You might think this was a discouraging day, which it could have been, but I just knew Heavenly Father had something great in store for us. Well needless to say, I was right. Since nobody wanted that on the next day we would go see one of our "not very progressing" investigators, Antonio who is always willing to talk to us but is distracted so easily and usually cuts us off short in our lessons. but since he was the only one of our investigators that we hadn't tried yet we decided we should give him a try. 
We arrived at his door and knocked... but no answer. Then we heard someone calling for us behind us. This guy came running up the steps to us. He told us his name was Levi and said he really needed help. That's when he burst into tears. He explained how his family is falling apart and he doesn't have a clue what to do. He was desperate for anything and that's when he saw us and he just knew we would be able to help. We talked very briefly about how the gospel we teach about is designed by God Himself to bless our families. It was just what he needed to hear and he cried even harder. It was so touching. Unfortunately we couldn't teach him more because he had to get inside to some meeting. Turns out that starting on Friday he will be moving in right next door to Antonio!! How perfect! We gave him our number and told him we will be by real soon to talk to him more. Thanked us and then said, "If you're looking for Antonio, he's in the back." 
So we journeyed to the backyard and found Antonio and his wife there. They were thrilled to see us. We grabbed some chairs, sat down next to them and began talking about how they've been and all that stuff. The moment we began our lesson with him this guy just plopped down in a seat next to me and began listening to us as well. It seemed like he just came out of nowhere, but he was actually playing some catch with Antonio's son in the yard over and he decided to stop and listen to us. I hardly even noticed him when we entered the yard. 
But anyway, we continued our lesson. We taught about faith and felt inspired to read parts of Alma 32 with them. We stopped at every verse of so to explain and expand on what it was saying. Man, there was a great feeling there! It was the best Antonio has ever listened. And this random guy had all sorts of insights that led us to teaching even more then we expected. Many of his comments inspired me to read other scriptures and to ask them questions. This really got them thinking and many times they weren't quite sure how to express their answer (they were very deep questions). We would then read another scripture to answer for them or share our own insights and testimonies and they would just light up! They would then say things like "this is true!" and "wow, I've never thought of it like that. I like that." 
We could see the Spirit testifying to them of the truths we were sharing. It was so amazing and uplifting. We concluded with a commitment and a prayer. After that I turned to Kevin, (the random guy that sat down next to me) and offered him the Book of Mormon. He looked at me in awe and said, "You just read my mind. I was just thinking I want to get me one of those books." he graciously took it and a card with our number on it. On our way out we spoke with him about coming to church with us. He was a little skeptical at first for some reason but he said he will see if he can... 

Man, I wish you guys could have been there that day. It was a blessed day full of many more miracles. As is every day. I absolutely love my calling as a missionary!!! I love these people so much!! I know this gospel is our guide to eternal happiness and life with each other and with our loving Heavenly Father! I am so humbled and honored to wear Christ's name on my chest everyday. He is our perfect Savior. He is our perfect example. I am so grateful for the trust He has placed on someone so imperfect as me to bear His name and to represent Him to these people. It really just blows my mind how perfect He is and as missionaries and members of His church we need to be perfect as well. But He doesn't expect us to be perfect. He expects us to simply do our best. His grace is sufficient and His mercy is full to those who will follow Him and keep His commandments. The only thing we can be perfect in is repentance, and that is such a blessing!! 

I am so grateful for the atonement! I am so grateful for all of you! I love you all so much and I pray for you every day. I know that if we continue to do all that we can possibly do for The Lord then we will qualify for His eternal blessings and will one day live with our Heavenly Father once again, and we will bask in His glory which we too will obtain. Oh I can't wait for that!!!!!!!!!! 

I hope you all have an amazing week! I love you.

Love, Elder Curtis

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Area Expansion

Okay, this one won't be as long, I promise. There really isn't much to tell. We spent most of the week doing administrative stuff. Last Sunday the bishop announced that the stake would be dividing many of the wards and making other changes. So yesterday the stake gathered together to see what these changes included. Well, the Carondelet Ward (which I am serving in) is no longer called Carondelet. It is now known as The St Louis Hills Ward. But that's not all. They expanded it too. It used to stretch from the Mississippi River to The River Des Peres, which is located right next to our apartment. But now it stretches far beyond The River Des Peres. This makes our area potentially a lot bigger. But we will find out how it effects us more specifically at transfers, which are NEXT week, Nov 6. For some reason all of you thought it was last week. I don't remember telling anyone that though. Chances are Elder Vincent will be transferred away from me, which makes me really sad to be completely honest. I love that guy. I can't see myself having a better companion than him for the rest of the mission. That will probably be the hardest thing for me in the next few weeks. Oh, because transfers are NEXT week, Nov 6, do not sent me anything after tomorrow just to be safe. I will send my next address if it changes. But after Nov 6th, feel free to send me anything you want. :) 

Congratulations to Cody!! That's way awesome! I'm very excited for him! Tell Carson hi for me! Man, I wish I could be there for his homecoming. I know it will be great! 

I'm sorry this is kind of a lame report, but it's all I have time for. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers. I am praying for as many of you as I can think of and I think of you daily. Oh, I have a challenge for everyone actually. Study Moroni Chapter 7 and seek the Spirit as you do so. Then pick something that you are going to apply better in your life to bring yourself AND others closer to Christ. 

I love all of you so much! Have a great week. 

-Elder Curtis

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great Week!

Hey everybody!

Things are progressing here in St Louis. We've been picking up new investigators and potential investigators quite a bit. We got a new one at the beginning of last week and two more at the end of the week and we have an appointment with a potential tomorrow. I was set up for us by the sister missionaries in our area so we don't actually know her. The sisters met her accidentally. I don't know all the details of their meeting but it sounds like it was quite serendipitous. Unfortunately they had to turn her over to us because she lives in our section of the area. Hopefully everything works out with that! Also, we got a text from church HQ this morning about someone who referred themselves online who lives in our area so we will go see them this week as well. As you can see the Lord has blessed us with many opportunities to teach His lost children. It is a blessing in many ways. Before all of these new people came to us we were having difficulties finding new people to teach. But we remained diligent and faithful and the Lord has now sent people our way so that we may help bring them back to His fold. Mm. I just love missionary work and seeing how everything just works out.
I've been picking up on some jive here. Instead of saying "gonna" as in "I'm gonna use the bathroom." I've caught myself say "I'm finna go to the bathroom". That's so common among black people here. Also instead of saying "What's up?" We've been saying stuff like "What's good with you?" That one sounds kinda normal but you gotta say it in a black voice. I've also been craving fried chicken a lot. Haha! One thing I hope I don't pick up that is common among Caucasian people here is saying warsh instead of wash. Like we have a member family who are so awesome and they volunteer to do all of our laundry for us (which is so nice!!) but when they stop by in the morning to pick up our laundry they call us when they arrive and say, "Bring us your laundry that needs to be warshed." We even met a guy who referred to Washington as Warshington. Like where does the r come from?! 
Anyway, this past week remained really nice as far as weather, staying in the 80's and higher 70's but today is colder and weather reports are saying it will only get colder from now. Oh man. I'm not looking forward to cold humidity at all. Dad, I think it would be safe to send that coat now. Some nice earmuffs would be excellent as well. 
So to be honest, my ward here isn't as great at helping us out as I might have made it sound. In our efforts to find more people to teach we have been trying to work with members to give us referrals but we haven't been getting anywhere with them and to be frank, our ward mission leader doesn't do much. There are the same few members who always help us out no matter what but we feel like the ward is dying. This is a struggle because the mission is starting a new finding technique called harvesting which is supposed to completely take over and replace tracting. The thing is it is so centered on the help of ward members. So yesterday I gave the lesson in Elders Quorum and totally gave them a piece of mind. I felt like Elder Holland, rebuking all of them. Don't worry, it was still a lesson and not some rant. It was based on the the teaching of Lorenzo Snow and I used several scriptures. So despite my firmness I really believe the spirit was felt very strong in several of the elders. I even used a baseball reference to get their attention because that seems to be the only thing on anyone's mind lately due to the Cardinals making into the playoffs. I hope it makes a difference in the hearts and priorities of the members here. I think it might; a couple people told me it was actually the best lesson they've had in elders quorum in forever. Hopefully others agree.

Well, I need to go for now. Thank you for all of your prayers and thoughts! And thank you Alex for your letter. It made me very happy to get it. Keep them coming! Andrew, good luck with the driving test! Just keep studying and you'll be fine. Same goes for school. 

I love you all! Have a great week!

Love, Elder Aaron Curtis 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Greatest and Most Important Duty

Greetings to all!

Wow. What a great weekend it has been. I agree wholeheartedly with President Monson when he said "This has been the most inspiring General Conference." How true that was for me. I was inspired by the spirit non-stop. My notes are full. I drained TWO pens!! They literally have no more ink left in them. How blessed we are to have the word of God spoken to us by true prophets and apostles! Exclamation point! I loved all the talks that were given. Some talks that especially stuck out to me were Elder Dube's, Elder Bednar's, President Uchtdorf's ("Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith" Ah, that was beautiful!), both of President Eyrings, both of President Monsons, Elder Christopherson's, Elder Hollands of course, Elder Nelson's, and especially Elder Ballards! Every single member (even the ones in Utah) need to thoroughly study his talk and apply it into your lives!!!!!!! EXPLANATION POINTS.
 There was so much inspiration this conference. It will be a conference I never forget. I feel so pumped with the spirit right now. Within the first ten minutes of getting out of our apartment this morning I handed out a Book of Mormon and a card to a young woman on the bus named Destiny. I told her all about it and our goal as missionaries to help others come closer to Christ. She thought that was quite commendable and gladly took the wonderful book of sacred scripture. I also gave her a brief explanation of how Christ's gospel is restored in its fullness; the same church that He set up when He walked the earth personally. I literally saw the light of her soul get brighter and brighter through her eyes. Missionary work is Gods work and it is amazing and it is for all of us no matter if we are set apart or not. Get involved in missionary work. It was quoted multiple times in conference and I will quote it again: After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel. Greatest and most important! It is a duty for all members to preach the gospel. Always remember that. Or better yet, always remember God, because when we remember God we remember all that He wants us to do through His spirit, just like it explains in the sacrament prayers. Throughout your week ask yourself if you are truly fulfilling that promise you make to always remember Him. If we really are remembering Him then we will be serving Him. So if you're not serving Him in some way are you really fulfilling that promise you made? 

Okay, I'm done preaching to you guys now. I am just so passionate about this marvelous work. 

I am glad to hear that all seems to be going well.  Everything is going well here. I am so happy to be here; to be sharing the gospel with everybody. It is difficult finding people who are interested.  I face so much rejection every single day, I can see how the work could get discouraging. But I don't. This is Gods work and we follow His plan. If someone rejects the gospel then I just think it might not be their time to get it. It doesn't mean they never will. Everyone will get it and it is such a blessing to be the one to give it though. Oh how I love this gospel. Oh how I love the Savior!! I am so proud to be serving Him. I am so grateful for the atonement and for the opportunity it brings each of us to improve ourselves each day. Without our Savior we are lost. As I pass people everyday I like to look at them and think how much the Savior loves them. I say in my mind "the atonement covers them too". This is especially helpful when people persecute us. Thinking like this drives the natural man out of me and I feel Christs love more abundantly. 

I love all of you so much. Thank you for all or your thoughts and prayers. Pray for opportunities to help others around you and to be a missionary, then do it. It will bless and strengthen you. When someone comes to you and says "I need your help right now." think of it more like "The Lord wants to bless you right now." It will make serving others easier. 

That's all for this week, even though there is much I wish to tell about. I hope everyone has a wonderful week. :)

Love, Elder Curtis

Monday, September 30, 2013

O to Grace How Great a Debtor, Daily I'm Constrained to be.

Hello wonderful people!

I hope everyone is doing well. Things continue to move along here. We have done a lot of tracting this week. A lot. We met a couple people who showed interest and said that we can come back and teach them, so we will be seeing them later this week and I really hope it goes well with them. 
We were looking through a list of former investigators to see if we could find one who may still have interest in learning about the gospel. We found a John Drochelman who had been dropped by the missionaries a few months ago but it didn't have a reason why he was dropped so we decided we would go see him to find out more. When we got to his house we were welcomed in with open arms. He was very pleased to see us. He explained how he has been turning his life around lately and therefore was very willing to sit down and listen to missionaries again. He has a great desire to become a member of the church. He loves everything about Mormons. His only problem is his wife. She just has sketchy feelings about Mormons I think and so she's not very willing to sit down and listen to us. She is also quite timid. We really hope we will be able to help John out regardless. The first time he met with missionaries was probably just not the time for commitment, but hopefully now is. As we left he gave us big hugs and said, "I really think God sent you guys here today for a reason." The Lords hand is so evident in this work! 
All of our other investigators seem to have hit a wall and aren't progressing anymore. Hopefully we will be able to help them get over those walls and help them see the importance of the gospel and how it is vital to them. 
Last night I had a little time to myself. Elder Vincent was figuring out the weeks numbers (he is district leader), so I decided that instead of just waiting there for him to be done I would go in the other room and listen to some MoTab. It was the first time in so longs that I have been able just sit and listen to that beautiful music. I was singing along and feeling the spirit SO STRONG!! There really is power behind music. I find that singing hymns is one of the most satisfying ways to bare testimony. Tears flowed down my face from how strong the spirit was. My companion said he also enjoyed listening to me sing valiantly. 
I love the song 'Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing". As I sang the words " O to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be." It made me think of the atonement. How Christ in His mercy, love, and grace suffered and died for all of us and how it is because of Him only that we will live with our Father in Heaven again. We owe Christ everything! We are continuously indebted to Him and can never repay Him for the great gift that He gives to us. But we can show Him our gratitude by the way we live our lives. If we continuously try to do better and be like Him and to give up our will and follow His instead, we show Him that we love Him. He asks so little when you think of how much He offers in return. We tend to think He asks a lot sometimes, but if we think of just how much we will be given in eternity by following His commandments in this life, every second of every day and everything we have becomes worth it. 
I hope we will all focus on becoming more like the Savior this week and recognize the blessings that He gives us. 

That's my thought for this Monday. 

Happy birthday to my wonderful grandma R!! I hope you have a fantastic day and know how much I love you. :)

Family, I got your package. The office elders held on to it forever, but I finally got it. Thank you so much! I loved it! I love you guys. 

For now just use this address to send letters and packages:

7009 Weil Ave Apt. 302
St Louis, MO 63119

I love you all!

Love, Elder Curtis :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

I Am a Child of God

Hello dear people!

What a week. I wont go into details but we had a very interesting experience concerning us, a few Bosnian members, the bishop and an ex-mafia leader... I don't know what else I can tell you other than that. We are alright and we resolved the issue but I regret to inform you that because of this issue Sabrina (the 11 yr old girl we baptized), and her family had to move away to Chicago. It was so sudden and unexpected so it was hard to take in. It was especially hard on her sister, Zilha who was baptized with her. She is having the "hardest week of her life." Apart from her family moving away her daughter is sick in the hospital, her car broke down, she can't find a job, and the electric company is telling her that they are going to take her electricity away from her if she can't pay her bills. As you can imagine she has been extremely stressed in many ways this week and any prayers you can give for her are very appreciated and needed. 
Besides all of that it has easily been the slowest week of my mission so far. I knew it would happen eventually, but all of our appointments with people have canceled minutes before we arrive. The only people who we were able to go see were the Albanian people who came to church last week. But I can see how this is a blessing to me. Because none of our investigators or recent converts could see us this week we were able to tract for the second time of my mission. That's right. Only the second time. That's how busy we have been. The first time was just because I was on exchanges and I wanted to see what it was like. This was the first time I was able to do it with Elder Vincent. Man, there sure are some strange people in this world. We knocked on this door when a large man walked out the door and as soon as he realized who we were he said "You know, you need to take your cult down the street and figure out what's wrong with you." I honestly had to stop myself from laughing! The very thought that we are a cult and that we are so "wrong" is so silly to me. Elder Vincent wasn't as amused. I saw a little fire in his eyes as he replied "Oh yeah?" I wasn't sure what was going to be said next but I quickly thanked this man for his opinion and wished him a great day. Later Elder Vincent and I were both able to laugh about it. The very next door after his we were able to land a Book of Mormon! Tracting is fun!
So as I was writing this very email a young woman with Down-syndrome sat next to me to whom I said hello and smiled to and she shook my hand and said her name was Gracy. She asked me where I was from. I told her I am from Utah. She then explained how she didn't understand why she sees people like us, dressed in white shirts and ties and walking around everywhere. I explained that we are missionaries for our church and we go around and talk to people about Jesus Christ. She lit up (even more than she already was) and said "talk to me!" and she then sat straight toward me, ready to listen. This was awesome! I talked about the Book of Mormon and handed her one and told her it testifies of Jesus Christ as our Savior. I then explained how and why we have a Savior. I then told her about how God is our loving Heavenly Father and he loves us and wants to bless us more than anything. She was taking everything in SO well and saying things like "Wow" and "that is so good" but then she had a question about why God gave her down-syndrome. I started by telling her that Heavenly Father has a perfect body of flesh and bone and how when we lived with Him we wanted to have a body of our own, so God sent us to live on earth where we could receive our bodies but that this is also a time to learn and get experiences but one day after we die we will get our bodies back and they will be perfect and flawless and how it is certain to happen because of the atonement of Christ when He rose from the grave, making it possible for us to do the same and that is when we will have perfect bodies. After all of that she was so excited! She kept saying over and over, "He loves me! He loves me! He is my Father! I will have a perfect body!" Smiling so big, I said. "Gracy, I know that one day you will live with Heavenly Father again. You are going to. And you will be happy forever." She gave the biggest, cutest smile and said the most sincere thank you ever! She then said, "Can I hug you for this?" ...She was just so happy and thankful for that knowledge. I am so grateful to God for sending Gracy to me today. Her spirit is so strong and my experience with her was so touching! I will never forget it! I don't know if I will see her again here, but I can't wait to see her in her kingdom of glory where she will have that perfect, glorified body that she longs for today and that eternal happiness. I sit here amazed at the feeling I had while talking to her. I am grateful for the atonement. It is the greatest thing ever!! I know it, and now so does Gracy! I love this gospel!!!!! I love being a missionary!!! I love being a child of God!!! I love the Savior with all my heart and I love each of you so dearly! Thank you for you letters, thoughts and prayers. Keep God close and always remember how much He love you.

love, Elder Aaron Curtis

P.S. To any of you who have sent packages, if you used FedEx or UPS to send them then I have not received them. The office cannot forward packages from those companies. I guess I will just give you my apartment address... which I just realized I do not know and do not have it written down. I guess I will give the info to you next week.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Great week in Carondelet!

Hey everybody!!!!!
So it sounds like Utah has been pretty stormy... that disappoints me because I love storms and I'm missing all of them. Usually Missouri is really stormy around this time of year but we haven't been getting anything. Maybe Utah is just really sad and upset to see me go and Missouri is happy to have me...?
Quick shout out to my darling sister and niece: Happy birthday Alicia and McKenna!!! I love you so much and I hope you both had a fantastic day!!!
Another shout out to Alex: Happy birthday buddy!!! This is a big year for you. I know that receiving the priesthood will bless you for the rest of your life. Live worthy to hold it and respect it. I wish I could be there to see you get it. It is so weird to imagine you passing the sacrament. You are still ten years old in my mind. Anyway, happy birthday and congratulations!!! I love you!

So we had a couple of really great experiences this week. On Sunday we had a lesson with a potential investigator who we have been trying to teach for weeks. It was just so good to finally sit down with him and talk. We taught him the restoration of the gospel. He was so attentive and we could just tell he was feeling the spirit very strong and that it was testifying to him that what we were teaching is true. We invited him to be baptized and he immediately said "Yes!" There was no hesitation. He said it so quickly and surely. We could tell he wanted it. We are hoping to have him ready by the end of the month!
Yesterday we had a cool experience. We were in a Walgreen's trying to find some sort of adapter for Elder Vincent's G.P.S. On our way out we were kindly stopped by a police officer. He wanted to buy us some water because he likes the fact that we are good people so he wanted to help us out in some way. I just wish he would have let us teach him a gospel principal as well, but we were very grateful for his kindness. As we walked out of the store and across the parking lot we heard someone shouting at us: "Hey! Hey you! Wait!" We looked across the street and saw a security guard motioning us to come over to him. We crossed the street to meet him. He explained that he was a security guard at the bank a couple buildings down the road and how he saw us walk out of Walgreen's. When he saw us he dropped what he was doing and ran out the door after us. He then explained how he avidly reads the Bible and how a few nights ago he finished it from cover to cover but when he finished it he had the most profound feeling that he needed to read The Book of Mormon. He didn't know why or even how to get one; he just knew he had to read it. So when he saw us he knew we would be able to tell him how to get one. That's when he asked us, "So, how do I get a Book of Mormon?" Elder Vincent and I looked at each other in amazement and I reached for my bag and said, "I can give you one right now!" I pulled out a Book of Mormon and handed it to him along with a pass-along card with our number on it. He looked so excited and pleased to finally have his hands on it. Elder Vincent very briefly explained a little about it before he(Doug) said he really needed to go back to work.
That experience was so neat to me. I know that God is preparing the minds and the hearts of people all around us and that experience gave me the excitement and urge to go find more. We had a mission conference on Monday where Elder Godoy of the Seventy gave us a lot of great counsel. One of the things he said to us that came back to my mind after our experience with Doug was "Leaders, bishops, Stake Presidents, sealers, temple workers and general authorities are all around us. The only problem is they aren't members yet." I am so happy to be on my mission, to find those people who are ready and willing to hear the gospel. I love teaching the truth. I have seen the effect that the gospel has on people who have lived their whole lives without it. The gospel truly blesses our lives and the lives of our families. It brings lasting peace and joy. I am so grateful for the gospel in my life and even more grateful for the chance I have to share it. I know it is true and I love it with all my heart! Christ is the head of this church and when we make the gospel our first priority our lives will be blessed and everything will go much better!
I love you all! Thank you for your love and support! Have a great week! :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Baptisms!

Hello my beloved family and friends!

I sure have been blessed this week with more amazing experiences. I got my first baptism of the mission!!! We baptized two investigators, Zilha and Sabrina Suljic. It was truly an amazing experience!! I baptized Zilha first and then Elder Vincent baptized Sabrina. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you teach someone the gospel and then baptize them and see them receive the Holy Ghost. I wish I could describe it for you, but I can't. Just know it is fantastic and I am so happy because of it. 

I have learned a lot about hope over the past couple of weeks. I have gained new new insight of it. Hope is a firm trust in God that He will fulfill His promises to us and trusting that He will bless us for our faith. Hope, or H.O.P.E. is Having Only Positive Expectations. Hope and faith go hand-in-hand. Our faith feeds our hope while our hope gives our faith a purpose of foundation. There is a lot more about is hope that we can learn. Just remember that we need to have a perfect brightness of hope and have faith in doing what is right and what The Lord wants us to do. I know God blesses us when we have hope in Him. 

I don't have time to say much more. I am doing very well out here and I am learning so much. As I have put my whole heart into serving The Lord I have come closer to Him and I know that in your everyday lives there are opportunities all around you to serve those around you. By serving them, you serve The Lord. By serving Him we come closer to him and that is our purpose in this life. 

I love you all. I know God loves you and wants to bless you. Keep Him close.

-Elder Curtis

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Gospel is Better than Fried Chicken

Hello everybody! First off I just want to say how glad I am to hear that Sarah finally had her baby! I have been wondering if she has had it yet all week long. Congrats Sarah!! The pictures of him are awesome!... Andrew, you need a haircut, and I hear that you need to clean your room as well.
So I learned something interesting this week. My companion, Elder Vincent used to date Moriah Breeden before his mission. He was very surprised to hear that I knew who that was and that she lived in the same ward that I did. What a small world!
Speaking of Elder Vincent, he and I get along so well. I am actually very surprised at how well we get along with each other. He says that he hasn't been as comfortable with any other companion than he is with me. We have some very awesome spiritual discussions during companion study. The other day we were having an especially deep discussion which led to me giving him a blessing of comfort as well as healing (he has been feeling quite under the weather). I am so grateful for the blessing of having a good companion.
The members here are awesome! We have been fed by members almost every night. The best thing about the members in this ward is that they are so eager and willing to bring their friends and family to church and to meet with the missionaries. It's so great! We have had a member present at almost all of our lessons too! They are keeping us busy. On Saturday night we got a call from Brother Dobbs (second councilor in the bishopric). He asked if I could give a talk in sacrament meeting the next day. So I ended up spending the evening preparing a talk on repentance. It was so short notice but I got so many wonderful comments about it and I really think the spirit was felt, and it was a good opportunity to introduce myself to the ward as a whole. Oh, and you will be glad to know that I kept it at about 15 minutes instead of 30.
Our investigators are doing really well. Although we had an appointment with Larry last week and he never answered the door or answered his phone. He didn't come to church either. We were very disappointed by that. Hopefully we will be able to meet with him this week and help him more. We met with two specific investigators last week and they are ready to be baptized!! Their baptism will be this Saturday. I am so excited for them!! Their names are Sabrina and Zilha Suljic (they are sisters and are both from Bosnia). We picked up some new investigators as well! Two are referrals and we haven't able to meet yet but they said that they are interested in joining the church! We will probably contact them today. We were able to meet with two other new investigators as well. Percy and Stephanie. Although they did not even know each other at the time we were able to teach both of them at the same time because they were able to meet us at the house of the member who had referred them to us. That lesson went so well! I don't know if you've heard the stereotype of black people and how much they love fried chicken but it is so true! The member provided all of us with a fried chicken dinner and the two investigators (both black) had piled their plates high with the chicken and were really going to town on it. They invited us to begin teaching them as they ate, so we did. As the lesson went on they began paying more attention to us and less on their food. By the time we were done they were both just sitting on the couch with eyes the size of their plates. Literally, their eyes were HUGE!! And their chicken? Well, they didn't even get half way done with it because they felt the spirit so strong and were listening to our message so intently. Elder Vincent and I really had to leave so we gave them each a Book of Mormon and invited them to church. They quietly said thank you and continued staring into space with their giant eyes. It was honestly kind of awkward leaving them like that, but I was amazed at how strong they had felt the spirit. As we were leaving I heard Percy quietly say "That made sense." I with we could have stayed to get their feedback, but I look forward to meeting with them again. I wonder if they every finished their chicken.
Okay, I really need to get going. I know this church is the true church of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that through Him we can be made clean and be forgiven of all of our sins. I know that by living by the principles of the gospel and by keeping the commandments we will be happy in this live and will find joy.
Thank you everyone for the blessing you have been in my life. Thank you for your prayers and support! Please write me letters. I love all of you so much! Keep God close!
with sincerest love, Elder Curtis.
P.S. Mom, for my birthday, next month I want everyone in the family to find someone to share the gospel with, and then do it, and then tell me about it. I know that might be hard in Utah, but it can be done. I know it will be uncomfortable, but it is our sacred responsibility as members of the church to share the gospel with others. God will help and bless us. Just open your mouth and share. If you guys could all do that then that would give me a happy birthday indeed!

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Week in Missouri

Hello everyone! Oh my goodness, isn't life just grand! Missionary work is the best!!!
Anyways, I made it safely to the mission field. On the plane ride over here I sat down next to a Catholic lady who immediately fell asleep for most of the ride but as soon as she woke up I started talking to her. I tried to give her a simple card but she just kind of chuckled and refused the card saying, "Oh no. I'm Catholic." as if that was all the information I needed to give up. I wanted to say, "Okay, that's cool I guess. But I'm a Mormon. Let me explain what we believe." but I didn't feel like that would be an appropriate approach. I told her if she ever wanted to know more about our church then she could just go to the web site. It's too bad she didn't want to listen to me. But I found out that one of the sister missionaries who was also on the plane with us was talking to this ladies son the whole time and he seemed extremely interested, so that's good! So we arrived in St Louis and met President and Sister Morgan. They are so great! They took us to the mission home and fed us a marvelous dinner. The evening was spent visiting with everyone, playing ping pong, eating, a testimony meeting and one-on-one interviews with President Morgan. It was very nice. There were 35 new missionaries that arrived so they couldn't house us all, so all the elders spent the night at a hotel while all of the sisters slept at the mission home. The next day was transfer meeting where we were introduced to our new companions! My new companion is Elder Vincent. He is from Orem and has been out here for about 15 months. He is very great! He is diligent and productive but also very patient. We get along very well. He seems like the perfect companion for me to start with. Our area is Carondelet 1. It is a small area situated just south-west of downtown St Louis, so I am in the busy city. We don't have a car, we just take the bus everywhere which I'm definitely not used to. There are so many black people here, it's so awesome!!!! I hope by the time I get home I will be able to speak jive fluently. Ha ha! The members here are awesome!! We've had a dinner appointment almost every single night I have been here and the only night that we haven't had a dinner appointment with a member we ended up having dinner with some very less-active members who we had been with all day helping them move. I love service!! We hoped that by having us around them all day that they might build a desire to come closer to Christ, and it just so happened that the next day they came to church!! How awesome is that!
We don't really have many investigators, but we have a bunch of potentials. One of the two investigators we have is named Larry Davis. We were able to meet with him on Friday to give him his second discussion (my first one out on the field). It went so well! I felt the spirit so strong as we taught him about the plan of salvation. I could tell that he was understanding it and really feeling the spirit with us. He committed himself to being baptized but we don't have a date for him because he has a hard time keeping commitments. He has told the missionaries that he would read The Book of Mormon and attend church but he hasn't been able to keep those because he has trouble reading and getting up early (our church starts at 9). Hopefully we can follow up with him more and get him to keep the commitments he makes. I haven't met our other real investigator yet. Her name is Sabrina and we'll meet with her on Wednesday. Those are our only two real investigators right now but we actually have an appointment with a promising potential investigator today so hopefully that goes well. There is one potential investigator that we have who we are thinking of dropping because we are pretty sure he is a drug dealer...
I am so happy to hear that you are all doing well and enjoying yourselves! I love you all so much and would absolutely love to receive written letters from any of you. ;) Oh, also, could I maybe get a picture of the family or something? I would really like that; besides, I think Elder Vincent thinks I'm making you all up and that I don't actually have 8 siblings. And please tell Grandma happy birthday for me and that I love her very much and that I hope that she has a wonderful day!
Sarah! Oh my goodness!! From the sounds of it that baby is going to pop out of you at any second! How exciting!!! Have you picked a name yet?? I would assume you haven't. Man, this kid is going to be two years old before it even has a name. Good luck this week! Say hi to me new nephew for me. I love you!
Alicia! I heard that you found out what you are having but neither mom or dad would tell me! That's not cool! It's either a boy or a girl, just tell me, please! The suspense is killing me. It's not like it's going to be too much of a surprise. It's either a boy or a girl. There's no other option. I mean, unless you're not even carrying an actual human and there's a hippo in you or something... Just tell me!
Okay, I should go. It takes me so long to write these emails because I get so distracted and I've taken too much time. Everyone, please write me! I love you all so much! Rest assured that I am in good hands and that I am enjoying myself greatly! Seriously, I love what I am doing!! I am so glad to be serving a mission! It is the best thing I could be doing right now and I know I was meant to do this. I know that God loves us and He watches over us. He wants us to be close to Him. One way to do that is through prayer. My testimony of prayer has been strengthened so much since I have arrived here because we constantly pray as companions. I can literally feel my relationship with Heavenly Father growing stronger and closer through prayer. I encourage everyone to pray more often then you do now. Prayer is a gift and we should use it as often as possible. Try praying right before you leave the house every day. Even if you get back and need leave again: Pray again. Pray constantly in your heart for the guidance of the Holy Ghost to be with you and guide you. I promise you will notice a significant difference in your life. And don't forget to thank Heavenly Father for everything through prayer! Study the scriptures diligently and daily and involve prayer in that! These are some good ways to get revelation from God. Who wouldn't want more advise or insight from somebody who knows everything?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ. God is our loving father in heaven. Jesus Christ is our savior and redeemer. Thomas S. Monson is truly a prophet of God. Remember who you are and who you can become. Keep God close! I love you!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Instruments in the Lord's hands

I don't know where to begin. Oh my gosh, there's so much I want to say. Okay, first, when I heard Andrew had tipped his canoe I had one thought: "Oh my goodness. He would." That sounds so much like Andrew, I wasn't surprised at all when I read that. I wish I could have seen that happen. Dad, good job fixing up the room. It sounds like it looks super good. I wish you had decided to do that a lot earlier. Andrew has no idea how lucky he is that he doesn't have to sleep on that mattress. I am still shocked at mom for trusting Andrew and Alex to be home on their own for the week. You're putting the entire house into the hands of a kid who can't even keep a canoe upright. Make sure to let me know what the new address is when we have to buy a new house. But mom, I hope you and Heather enjoy your trip out to Georgia. Brandon, I am sorry but I think it is hilarious that you have ended up back at KZ! I laughed so hard when I read your letter. The elders in my dorm are the coolest elders EVER!!!!!

Okay, let me talk a little bit about the MTC. I absolutely love it! I have never felt better in my life. I am learning so much about how to teach the gospel to people. I love the fact that our whole purpose is focused on other people. We are instructed by Gordon B. Hinkley to "forget ourselves and go to work" and that is exactly what we are learning to do. I love it because that is how The Savior taught. He forgot Himself and focused on the needs of those around Him. The teachers here are so great. My favorite in particular is Brother Corbitt. His enthusiasm for teaching us how to teach is contagious. He and I are quite similar in a lot of ways; we both noticed that. All the teachers are so great though. My district is so great too! I'm amazed at how close we have all gotten already. There's me, Elder Fenelius (my companion who is great!), Elder Krikava, Elder Caraway, Elder Thompson (he's the one from my school who got the same mission call I did), Elder Julian, Sister Huppi, Sister Sheppard, Sister Williams, and Sister Calton. We are all like a little family. I was called to be the district leader and for some reason everyone said that they saw that coming... Elder Fernelius and I get along so well. We probably get along better than any of the other companionships. We are definitely becoming great friends. He explained to me that before he got his mission call he wasn't very sure if he wanted to go on a mission or not so he prayed and pondered about if for a really long time and he came to the conclusion that he had to go. He then kinda bore his testimony to me that God answered his prayer as to why he needed go when he got here. He said he found his answer as soon as he met me and how my testimony has really strengthened him and helped him build a desire to serve people and share the gospel. I think he's just being nice. But we really work well together. He is usually pretty shy when it comes to talking to people he doesn't know (which we have to do a lot when we have practice discussions with teachers pretending to be investigators). But together, he does just fine. We were given the nick-name "The Power House".

So we do this thing called TRC. This is an opportunity for companions to go and give a discussion to someone who is either pretending to be an investigator or who is actually a real non-member and is willing to come to the MTC and see what we're all about. Elder Fernelius and I were assigned to a man named Jose Meza. He is a real investigator that moved here from Guatemala a couple years ago and was encouraged to go to the MTC by his friend Pedro to hear a message about Christ. So he did. When we were first introduced to him he straight up told us that he didn't want to hear about Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon. So we got to know him a little better. He wasn't very comfortable opening up to us but eventually we got him to start sharing some of his experiences and soon he just kept going and going. He started to become upset because he grew up in poverty and he had to start working when he was seven years old and made 25 cents a month to help support his mom. He was upset because we didn't have to go through what he had to because we live in America. He explained a lot more about how life isn't fair and how people seem to have a natural inclination to be selfish and hurt other people. Well, this gave us the perfect opportunity to talk a little bit about the plan of salvation and the agency of man. We helped him understand that God loves us and wants us to have experience so we can become like Him and how if we keep His commandment then we can return to live with Him and have everlasting peace and happiness. This message prompted him to share an experience where he had said and done some not so good things to his mother before he had moved out of her house. A few years later, having felt really bad and guilty for saying those things, he got a feeling that then was the time to apologize to her. So he called her up and asked if she remembered what he had done. She said yes. He then asked if she would forgive him; she said "Of course I forgive you Jose. I love you." He explained to us that that was the happiest he had ever felt in his life. This whole experience was one of the most humbling experienced of my life. The spirit was so strong after he shared that story. We then explained that the feeling he had after he was forgiven was from the power of repentance and how it is possible to feel that happiness and freedom from our guilt from everything we have done wrong in our lives and how that feeling comes from The Holy Ghost. This is what Christ offers us. Remission of our sins and the pain associated with them. We had to leave, but we set up an appointment for Thursday with him and he seemed so excited! He said he really loved our message and he wanted to learn more. We explained a little about church and invited him to attend church with his friend Pedro and to start reading The Book of Mormon. He said he would do both!!

I can't wait to visit with him again!! The spirit was SO STRONG!!!!! Elder Fernelius and I were on a spiritual high the rest of the day! This work really is the work of Christ. I am so blessed to be here in His place to help God's children receive the message of the gospel. I really am an instrument in His hands and I am so happy about it. "How great shall be your joy" is kind of an understatement.

Okay, my companion is getting annoyed because I am taking so long so I need to go. Please write me letters!!!! I never realized just how great they really are. (I'm sorry Jen!!) And don't hesitate sending me any packages either. I love you all so much. Thank you for all your prayers in my behalf. Keep God close. Keep on missing me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Farewell Talk: Lord, I believe

July 28, 2013
“Lord, I believe”
In this mortal life we all experience great joy; we experience happiness, bliss, cheerfulness, gladness and peace. There are times of such tremendous joy that we might often feel that nothing could ever go wrong. However, for many, these feelings can be quite rare; and unfortunately for all of us these feelings do not usually last as long as we hope they will. This is because this mortal life is full of challenges and difficulties that seem to inevitably get in the way of our search for lasting happiness. Some challenges will demand every bit of effort and perseverance that we possess. Many difficulties we face will test and try all of our weaknesses. But if that’s not enough we are constantly surrounded by the negativity and selfishness of mankind. Complaints and curses are heard almost everywhere we go. There are people who seek to rob or hurt you for their own gain, pleasure, or for no apparent reason at all.  The adversary is constantly attacking us. He never ceases to try and tempt, beguile, belittle, distract and ultimately destroy us. He wants us to feel like there is no hope; that there is no help for us. He wants us to be as miserable as possible. He pushes us until we feel like we are doomed to suffer forever. In these times of adversity we become desperate. We seek for resolve and the very second we see a chance for it, we go for it; whether we know for certain it will help or not.
Such was the case of a certain young father with an afflicted child. In desperation this man carried his beloved child to the feet of Jesus and cried:
“If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”
This man had an urgent, emphatic desire in behalf of his only child. With no other hope remaining, this father asserts what faith he has and pleads with the Savior “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Elder Jeffery R. Holland states that the plural pronoun “us” is obviously used intentionally. This man is saying, in effect, “Our whole family   is pleading. Our struggle never ceases. We are exhausted. Our son falls into the water. He falls into the fire. He is continually in danger, and we are continually afraid. We don’t know where else to turn. Can you help us? We will be grateful for anything—a partial blessing, a glimmer of hope, some small lifting of the burden carried by this boy’s mother every day of her life.”…
“If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”
Jesus says to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
“Straightway,” the father cries out in his unvarnished parental pain, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” In response to new and still partial faith from this desperate father, Jesus heals the boy, almost literally raising him from the dead.
This man’s conviction was limited, but his urgent, emphatic desire was good enough for a beginning. Alma chapter 32, verse 27 says, “…even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you even until ye believe…”
That young father found his relief. He found the ultimate source of all hope. It is the same source that we can all turn to for relief no matter what situation we find ourselves in or the severity of it. That source is The Savior, Jesus Christ who is the Redeemer of the world. But we must have faith in Him. I repeat His words “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
Elder Holland finds a few observations from this story. One observation is this:
*Quote* “When facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: “Lord, I believe.” I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” *Close quote. You might wonder if you possess enough faith to do such a thing. But the size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.
Elder Holland counsels us to lead your quest for faith with the belief that you do have, not what you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief”. We are not asked to pretend to have the faith that we do not have, but again, be true to the faith we do have. That being said, you might ask yourself “What if the faith I have isn’t enough?” To this I would advise you to remember the young father in the story. His faith was brand new, fragile and untested. It was more of a desire to believe rather than actual belief. And yet, it was good enough for a beginning and his son was healed. Use what amount of faith you have and let it grow. President Eyring said: “Acting on even a twig of faith allows God to grow it.” In example to that truth we can use Elder Holland, who I believe to be one of the greatest examples of faith in these latter days. He described his own faith as a tiny seed of belief that has grown into the tree of life. This great growth is possible for all of us.
One might ponder to themself whether or not they have any faith at all. To you I say that you do have faith. “Furthermore, you have more faith than you think you do because of what the Book of Mormon   calls “the greatness of the evidences.” “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Jesus said, and the fruit of living the gospel is evident in the lives of Latter-day Saints everywhere.” a notable miracle hath been done in the lives of millions of members of this Church. That cannot be denied! The evidence of the gospel being true is everywhere. 14.7 million people living today and counting, have willingly accepted it as the true gospel of Christ.  The church is growing substantially because the spirit of the Lord is testifying to people all around the world of the truthfulness of the gospel. Even prideful, stiff-necked teenagers, at a most pivotal time in their lives leave their homes, families, friends, jobs, relationships, school and more to share this gospel with people whom they have never met. They do this because they love The Lord and His gospel. The blessings that come to those who live the gospel are obvious. Church members are happy. They are pleasant. They are optimistic. “There’s just something about them.” That “something” isn’t something that can be explained. It just has to be experienced. If you haven’t experienced that “something” for yourself or haven’t felt it in a while, then I invite you to try it for yourself. Come unto Christ in faith. Use His atonement; repent, you can be forgiven! Be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Endure to the end. I promise you will notice a change. Your life will be better. Not necessarily easier. But better. That “something” will become your reality. And if ye do these things and keep His commandments, ye shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest gift of God. So if you do not trust yourself to use the faith that you do have, then you are invited to use the faith of those faithful members around you until you can say for yourself, “Lord, I believe.” It is never too late to start believing. Just put some effort in your desire, and He will help you. If we are trying to follow His teachings and paying attention, we can almost feel the Savior’s arms around us and feel those assurances as the Spirit whispers of The Saviors love for us: ‘I love you. Trust me.’ And if we do trust Him, he can help us, whispering through the spirit: ‘Okay, now attend sacrament meeting. Very good. Now accept a call to serve.’ And so we begin to make progress and our faith increases. This is the same for any commandment we struggle with.
 A quorum advisor or a Sunday school teacher or even a bishop might make a mistake. None of us are perfect; we are all a work in progress; all of us make mistakes, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will trump what we do not know for now. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith. Elder Holland goes on to say: Quote* “Be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” *Close quote… “The limitation is not in the divinity of the work.”… To help you understand that phrase I’d like you to imagine the work of the gospel in the image of a most delicious, refreshing, and precious drink. Now imagine that drink is being poured into cups so that everyone can have an equal share of this most delightful drink. But as the drink is being poured into a certain cup, some of it spills onto the floor creating a small mess. One cannot blame the divine beverage for spilling to the floor. It was the mistake of the one pouring it into the cup for missing even though they did not intend to do it. However, messes can be cleaned up, and they can be cleaned up better and faster if people work together. Failing to separate the mistakes of man from the divinity of the work of God will only impede your belief and will put you in danger of not receiving the glorious blessings and miracles that having faith in Christ brings. Do not let your doubt and/or questions about people or even the gospel stand in the way of faith working its miracle!
Another observation made by Elder Holland is this: “When doubt or difficulties come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God” In response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief.”
There are those of us who are here, and everywhere, who do believe in Christ and do believe the church is true, but aren’t sure for themselves if they know it is true and therefore might feel inferior or even uncomfortable in a setting like this. Brothers and sisters, belief is a precious word, and an even more precious act. We need never feel bad for “only believing.” Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” Belief is always the first step toward conviction and surety. The definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.” And frankly, we are all merely new believers who are striving to build more and more upon the rock of faith that we do have. Do not feel bad because you don’t know for sure yet, for we all fall short with the relatively small amount of faith that we all have. Act on the belief that you have, fan the flame of your faith, and God will let it grow. A testimony is a gift that is granted to us after we exercise some faith in God. There is no reason to wait for a testimony of Christ, for the blessings He offers are so great and we need them every day. He is “the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and Believeth in me shall never die.” He is the bread of life: he that cometh to Him shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Him shall never thirst.
Many have said, “Seeing is believing.” But even seeing things requires faith, for without faith not even seeing is believing. First have faith, then you will see. A more accurate phrase would be this: Believing is seeing.
 I would strongly advise you not to compare your testimony to the testimony of others. This allows Satan to place doubt and despair in your heart concerning all of your characteristics, making you feel inadequate. But when the Lord looks at us, He measures us against ourselves. He works with everyone individually. His expectations are based on our abilities. He simply asks, ‘Are you doing all that you can do at this time?’ Consider the principle of tithing. The man with ten million dollars is expected to pay one million dollars in tithing. The child with ten cents is expected to pay one penny. Both offerings are a full tithing in the eyes of God. Everyone walks at their own pace. God knows this. He is willing to help you at whatever pace you need. He loves you no matter how strong your testimony is. And remember, it is always okay to ask for help.
 If you find yourself to be on the other side of the testimonial scale and you believe that you have a strong testimony, it is still just as important that you do not compare yourself and your testimony to those who YOU THINK are struggling. This invites a poison known as pride to enter your heart, and it easily goes to your head and it will tear you away from the presence of God and His spirit. It is your reverent responsibility to be a humble, Christ-like example, as well as to love and encourage those around you. Assist those in need of help when you are asked or prompted to. But always love and encourage! Also, I might add, if you have discovered for yourself that the church is true and you come to church each week to hear the teachings of the gospel, it is important to show your faith. “Be you doers or the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” We cannot simply say we believe and then expect to be saved. Faith is a principle of action, and faith without works is nothing.
I have one more observation from the young father in the story, only this observation is my own. It is something that is not only evident in the young father, but also evident in the lives of all those who remain faithful in adversity. This man was at the lowest point of his life. He was constantly suffering from deep sadness and depression. He didn’t understand why he and his family had to go through such a hard trial that none of them deserved. He could ask himself, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I meant to suffer with this forever?” He hadn’t felt stress-free or peaceful in years. That stress was only building and he was tired of it; he was almost ready to give up. But it was in this time of great sorrow that he became closer to The Lord than he ever would have had he not had that burden cast on him and his family. This is the same for all of us. We all go through these depressing times that make us feel like we have been completely abandoned. Even Christ, the perfect Son of God, who had never done wrong or spoken evil, nor touched an unclean thing, went through such a time when He suffered on the cross in Gethsemane for many hours, having already felt every burden of every soul. It was at this time that the Spirit of God left The Savior, leaving Him utterly helpless and alone. But there was a reason for this. The reason that the Savior had to suffer that was so the Atonement could be complete; so that He would know exactly how we would feel at the times when we feel utterly and completely alone. So He could help us.
Now, the reason God allows us to be placed in adversity, despair, and utter loneliness is for our growth. That may sound very simple, but in truth, it is quite profound and most important for us because the growth that is promised to us is growth of our testimonies and growth in our relationship with Christ and our Heavenly Father. It is in our darkest hours and the times when we feel like God has never been further from us that He is actually closest. He gives us trials in hopes that we will turn to Him. (Open scriptures) Matthew 11:28-30 says… He is there helping us, lifting us up. All we must do is trust Him and put our faith in Him that He knows what He is doing. He trusts you to be able to go through any trial you face. He will not make you do anything too hard. And as it says in Doctrine and Covenants section 121, “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” The Lord loves us and only wishes to bless us as much as possible. Being faithful in adversity allows Him to bless us the most. He compensates the faithful for every loss. What is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude. I know this is true. It was in my hardest, darkest times that I have come closer to Christ. I know I have a great relationship with Christ, and it is because of my trials that that growth in relationship and testimony was possible. My advice to anyone facing a trial in their life right now would be to trust in The Lord and believe in Him.
It is my fervent prayer that we will accept Christ, for unless we accept Him, He cannot accept us into His presence, which has been our goal since before we came to this earth. (Open scriptures: Mosiah 26:23-24) Christ said… Believe in Christ and be steadfast in your belief in Him and not be ashamed. Do not let this discouraging world or the evils of the adversary make you doubt or abandon the faith that you have. I pray that we will all strive to increase our faith in Christ and in His gospel; that we will put all our trust in Him; that we will stand strong in His ways; that we will put behind us all of our doubts, uncertainties, questions and pride, and instead, rely upon The Lord and put all our trust in Him for He is the way of light and of truth. He is one with The Father and He is The Fathers only begotten son. He is the only thing in the universe that we can trust with a certainty. He is perfect and He knows all. He is the ultimate source of hope, peace, comfort, help and love. He loves us dearly and wants to help us. If we humble ourselves and pray earnestly with pure intent then He will help us. He knows what we need most in our lives at all times. He will allow you to go through rough times. He does this because he knows you can handle it.  It is not until you experience adversity that you learn and grow the most. It is through adversity that we become closer to Christ, but only if we endure it with faith in Him. I pray that we will be kind, forgiving and understanding with everyone we associate with; in doing so we will be greatly blessed from on high. In any situation of life may we follow the profound counsel of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, when he said: “Come what may, and love it.” And in the times when our faith is tested, I pray that we will be able turn to God and say with a certainty, ‘Lord, I believe. Yea, Lord, I know!’…
…continue with testimony.