And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
- D&C 18:15
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Saturday we had the first convert baptism in Schertz Ward since its creation over 15 months ago. It was a great feeling. The bishop was elated. He was signing the baptismal record and said, "you know Elders, it's been too long since I've signed one of these. Good work." Lots of members came to A's baptism and some surrounding missionaries had investigators show up. It was an awesome experience. A, the little 9-year old that was baptized, is such a great kid. It was a pleasure to teach him.
This week started with throwing my back out while working out in the morning. After finishing the set I dropped the weights, and I couldn't move. That was pretty fun. NOT. It turns out that to do just about anything, you need your back. By the time Elder V and I came home from a day of biking I wanted a back replacement. But what can you do when you have appointments and meetings all week? Out of the many lessons I've learned on my mission, responsibility is a huge one. If you don't do your job, who else is going to do it for you? And why would you want somebody to do your job for you? Responsibility, stewardship, whatever you want to call it, is part of growing up.
To try some different ways to use every honorable means to find somebody to teach, we ware going to be part of a radio talk show. Us and the Elders that we live with have been invited to be on a member's radio show. He said that over 30,000 people will be able to listen to us. That's a ton of people that we can talk to! What an extraordinary thought that we could be sharing the gospel to thousands of people all at the same time. Our mission president is all for having us on the talk show. The person who owns the station wants us to do it weekly, but I'll be honestly, I don't know what we'd talk about after the first few podcasts, but what an incredible thought.
Wednesday we were able to rake leaves for one of our investigators who has been having some major medical issues. Her front yard was ankle deep in leaves, and for that 70-year old lady, it would have been way too much. She came out so surprised. "You do this for people who don't go to your church? That's crazy!" She put on her favorite Christmas sweater and tried to help us. She's a funny old lady. I'm just glad we could spend a few hours helping her out.
Thursday I had a feeling that I've wanted to have for a long time. It was the feeling of being a new missionary again. New missionaries have this fire to them that is addicting. Every moment is a spiritual high, every experience is a treasured memory. Sometimes when you get further into the field, it's not that you run out of experiences, you just get used to them. But what a shame that is. Thursday night my companion, the bishop, and I were meeting with a less active part member family and the spirit was so strong, they were so grateful to have us there, for the first time in a while, I was overwhelmed with the spirit during a lesson. What a wonderful experience. I hope we all get overwhelmed with the holy ghost.
Elder Richard Hall
1. Some missionaries going through some sound checks at the radio station
When beginning my weekly email, I usually think, "it's a good thing
that I wrote in my journal this week, so I can transfer all of the
great stories I wrote down throughout the week to the email." Then I
reach for it only to remember that I left it at the apartment. So I
usually add in the thoughts that I remember, the most savory parts of
the week. Hopefully, they are memorable to you as well.
Early on my mission, days felt like weeks and weeks felt like days.
Then for a good chunk of time, days felt like days and weeks felt like
days. Now I've decided to give up counting the days because I know I'm
going to be wrong, and the weeks sort of blend together the same way
your vision does when you on a teacup ride.
Members homes tend to be easily recognizable, both inside and out. On
the outside there is almost always some child-friendly decorations and
a welcome mat with kind words. On the inside there are pictures of the
family, and the faint smell of seasonal candles- or doterra. There is
at least one picture of the Savior and one picture of the temple. A
few quotes from prophets and scriptures hang on the wall as well.
Figurines of the temple where the family was sealed, or maybe an
angel from the top of the temple. Everything beautifully matches. A
patch of chevron here, flowers either on the table or on the window
sill. It's always so well decorated and so homely. I may get to see it
every day, but I love it. The spirit is invited so easily.
We were having dinner with a member family where the husband was very
active, and the wife didn't believe in the church at all, but came
from a long line of active families and whose whole social group was
faithful members of the LDS church. While entering into the house it
looked much like the warm houses of other member homes, but there were
no pictures of the temple, no scriptures or church history books
laying around. It was almost like something was hollow. Yes, you have
the flower arrangement, yes, you have the perfect matching colors, the
argyle tablecloth you found on pinterest was perfect, but something is
missing. It is the gospel. It was almost strange to feel the lack of
the gospel around me. The branches were there, but the roots were
gone. The fruit isn't worth much if it doesn't taste likes much.
Sunday we said "amen" at the end of sacrament meeting, and we turned
around to see the first person I ever taught sitting in the back row
next to his friends. I left this area only six weeks into my mission,
and I've tried to keep tabs with this 19-year old. From what i last
heard, he stopped investigating the church because his parents
wouldn't let him get baptized without kicking him out of the house. I
was a little depressed, but it is understandable. I was so excited to
see him I ran up to him and had to say hello.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"I just really need to get baptized."
He pulled us over and we tried to make a plan to help him be baptized.
He said that he's been going to different churches for the past year
to try and see if he could find what he found in this church, and that
none of them come close to what he's found here. He said he was tired
of his parents telling him he couldn't be baptized, he was tired of
not being a member. He;s read the Book of Mormon 4 times. "I can't
live without the spirit."
It was wonderful to see A again, but painful to see him in this
state of longing. Hopefully, after meeting with our mission president
he will be given proper counsel on what to do in this situation. It is
amazing to see his courage, and his fire for the gospel.
We've been teaching two people on different sides of life who both
want to be baptized. One is a 9-year old, who wants to be baptized by
his Dad before his Dad is deployed out to the Middle East. He is a
sweet soul and actually understands the doctrine very well. He should
be getting baptized within the coming weeks. We are also teaching a
lady who recently had a bad accident. While laying on the pavement
after her fall she thought, "I need to let Bishop Schneider know that
he need to baptize me in proxy before I die! Thank goodness, she
lived. Unfortunately, she can't be baptized in proxy anymore. She's
fine with that. All we are doing righteous now is waiting for here
cast to come off, review the lessons she has been taught many, many
times, and she is ready.
Life is great. The gospel couldn't be any truer.
Elder Richard Hall
1. A picture we took with our mission president and general authority
when they came to visit our mission. Out of the 14 people in this
picture, only 1 of them is from Utah. Go figure.
I am super ready for Christmas. The holidays are always some of the
best times of the year. Families come together, hearts become warmer,
the eggnog comes out, it is just a good time to be alive.
This week we din't have any time. We had to take the car into the
dealership for a weekly checkup, and after we got it out somebody
slashed our front left tire. That left us walking for two days,
because the missionaries we live with use our bikes. Personally, I
wasn't too impressed by whoever cut our tires. They only cut one of
them. Everyone has a spare. If they really wanted us to feel bad then
he or she should have slashed at least two.
Thanksgiving was wonderful. Last year, we had four dinner
appointments, and as good as that sounds, that's a lot of food. This
year we only had one, and then we had appointments to teach members
and investigators the rest of the time. I love this area. The members
here love to work with us and there is plenty of people to teach.
It has been six weeks since I've been here. Things have been going
great. I feel that I am at home, to be honest. Not because this is
like home at all, but more because I have returned to this place. Many
times when reunion is more sweet than the first union. It's the
recognition of what is missing that makes what you have receive
greater importance. Now that I am in the area that I first started my
mission, everything is like being somewhere familiar. Perhaps
familiarity is something that we look for more than homeyness.
Many people that I talk to throughout the week seem to have that
thought. Even if what we are sharing its true, people like to say
they're uninterested- it's not because they understand the
implications of truth. Lots of times they say they are comfortable
with where they are at, or the grew up a specific faith their whole
life. Even if they aren't being true too that faith, they'll
occasionally say that they were born one way. It's what they know, so
it must be okay.
This week we were teaching our investigator with a baptismal date for
this Saturday, and his nonmember sister came to join us. We were
discussing the difference between the trinity and the godhead, and
Brother L was explaining what it took for himself to accept the
restored truth. It takes humility. More than reason, it takes
spiritual willingness to accept that which God has in store for us.
You could see H's brain whirling as he told her that maybe there
is something on the other side of the mountain, perhaps there is
something better. The grass is always greener on the other side,
unless it doesn't make any worldly sense. But that is the gospel. It
is not of this world.
Elder Richard Hall
1. our zone did service for a recent convert. Of course, my companion
got the machete.
2.exchanges with Elder H
3. There was frost on Sunday. Elder V freaked out.
The amount of Tongans I knew in my last area: 0
The amount of Tongans I know in this area: 6
The amount of people that they mutually know: over 100,000
I guess when you come from a country who's major island is a 2x21 bump
in the ocean, the community is small. My companion, a Sister
Missionary in the zone, and four members of the Wards I cover are all
Tongan, and they are all related. By how far? I don't know, I can
hardly keep up, but whether the are first cousins or eighth cousins
twice removed, they know exactly.
Elder Vaitai and I have been having a great time in my old stomping
grounds. It is strange to be serving in an area that you have already
served in. Everything is like a really long span of deja vu. There are
a few things that changed since the 15 months ago that I served here.
It helps that most of the ward are in the military, which transfers
their members almost as much as the church transfers their
missionaries. It's been so much fun though. If anyone tries to tell
you different, let's get this straight now. Missionary work is fun.
Feeling the spirit is powerful, the work of salvation is serious, but
if you are cool, calm, and collected, it is fun.
This week Elder V and I were able to go on the bikes for two
days. Let me tell you- it has been a long time since I have been on a
bike, but you have so much fun when you understand your purpose.
Sure, it might be 85 at the end of October, your on a bike in the
humidity, but you can't complain. If you know who you are and if you
are and why you are here. We actually had our most successful days
when we were on the bikes. Personally, I think that our willingness
and our attitude made it more successful than whether we were in a car
This week we were also blessed with a few meetings with Elder Do Hoyos
of the seventy. It was a lot of fun to travel around to the different
areas. I went to the West side of San Antonio for the first time in
ages. Halloween is going to be spent having dinner with some recent
converts and a lesson with some less active members of the church.
I hope that you are all having an excellent and chilly November week.
I am beginning to miss the fall.
I am getting transferred. Wow. I honestly never thought it was going to happen, and I was going to be okay with that. I have grown to love this Ward and the people of Round Rock, Texas so much. It is kind of weird to think that I just got to this area before Christmas, and now it is almost Halloween. Who would have thought that this would be my home base, 2.0. 10 and a half a months in one area almost makes you feel at home.
So where am I going to? Cibolo, Texas. Sound familiar? It should! That is one of the three area that I was trained in. I was there for five weeks, and I loved it. Now I am hoping to enjoy it once again, with my new companion, Elder V. He is from Tonga and was on their national volleyball team there. It will be fun to work with him. He has been out for a very long time and he is known as one of the hardest working Elders in the field. There's many great things to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.
This week has been wonderful. We found a lot of new people to teach, and it's a nice way to send off the area to the new missionary coming in. We have also made a lot of progress with those who we are teaching. The highlight of the week though was the Old Settlers Ward primary program, which featured almost 100 children betweeen the ages of 3-11 singing about Jesus Christ and teaching us great truths about the restored gospel. It was very well done for consistently mainly of a group of kids who can hardly get a frame of tag going for twenty minutes yet alone be a part of a fifty minute program. It really was beautiful though. All of the songs sounded great and some of the older kids even wrote talks about Jesus Christ, Joseph, Smith, temples, and other things. You can truly feel the spirit come from these little children. It reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures
"And their little children need no repentance... But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons" - Moroni 8:11-12
Today I don't have much time to write. I've been spending much of it packing, since I'm going down to Cibolo tomorrow. Have a great week, enjoy the blessings of the atonement, and enjoy the weather wherever you are. It is still nice and hot down in Texas.
Last night the relief society president of the Old Settlers Ward asked us to come by for cake and ice cream and to discuss missionary work in the area. Her husband travels five days out of the week and most weeks of the year, so it was one of the few times we have ever been in her house. The cake was delicious, the ice cream was fine. The message we shared with the family was heartfelt, and the work we got done there was perfect. However, the moment I remember the most came from signing her guestbook. She asked us to put our names and contact information with our note, so her family could contact us after the mission, but I added one more piece of information. How many days I've been serving in the ward. After counting them all up in mind I signed off with "Elder Hall, day 296 of serving in the Old Settlers Ward." Yep. I've been officially been in this Ward longer than I went to my ward in college. Fun times! All of my missionary friends like to joke around about it. We had a zone conference a few weeks ago in South Austin, and it was so strange to see some people. Even in the tight knit community of missionaries, when you're in an area for a while, you lose track of some of your friends.
Not that I'm complaining. I love this area! It's been great. This week we had a great amount of success with working with the members. As a missionary, you may be susceptible to the notion that members of the church aren't allowed to participate in missionary work as we do. Not so! Every christian on earth has a commission to preach the gospel. As a missionary, I am in the interesting position of being their leader and servant. I lead them to people that we found that they can invite and teach alongside us, but I also serve them when they have friends and family that they want to share the gospel with. I've been able to teach families and families of latter day saints valuable missionary tools, such as practicing sharing the gospel with friends, teaching them how to pray for missionary work, inviting them to hand out Books of Mormon, and sharing the principle that no effort is wasted when you are serving the Lord.
One of my favorite stories starts with my first Sunday of my mission, and ended with my first week in Old Settlers Ward. The S Family invited us to dinner, and they asked us how they can be better missionaries. We practiced inviting a coworker to meet with missionaries, and bearing your testimony. For the rest of the weeks I was in the Cibolo Ward, they didn't give us a referral, or let us know if they did it or not. They did invite us back to dinner after their vacation to California, and bought me an A's jersey. I was transferred, and months passed, and I forgot about that dinner with the S. I was transferred again to Old Settlers Ward, where I was shocked to see the S family sitting in the chapel, an hour and a half away from Cibolo. I asked them what they were doing, and they said, "We're meeting an old friend. She is giving her first talk in sacrament meeting." On the stand was V, a 17 year old who was baptized only months before that sacrament meeting. After that dinner I had with the S, they prayed about how to ask to meet with missionaries, and remembered some family friends from long ago. They invited V's family to meet with the missionaries. The parents denied, but V said yes. With the parent's permission she was baptized not too long later, and today she has taken four trips to the San Antonio temple, filled out temple work for dozens of ancestors, and now is the Laurel Class President of over 13 young women. She plans on attending BYU next fall.
Who knew that the hour or so of time spent with the Ss would touch the lives of so many others? It is the miracle of faith. Having the faith to extend an invitation, having the faith to ask missionaries for help with your own missionary work, and having the faith that something good would come of it. Out of small and simple things shall great things come to pass. V and the Ss are just one of the many stories that I have been a part of. To me, I have felt like I've been writing my name in the guestbooks of many families, leaving behind my witness of the gospel to add upon the testimony that is there. Flipping through a guestbook is like dumping out a jar of memories. They come fast and there's a lot of them. I may be one of many, but I am proud, because that means that there are thousands- maybe even millions- of people who are able to share such sound testimonies and stories as mine. May God ever be with you.
Elder Richard Hall
1. A good day of soccer 2. Me and the other Elders with S, an awesome youth in our Ward that loves missionary work. 3. A set of missionaries with a man who was baptized on Saturday. After his baptism he testified of the church- specifically of the restoration- for almost 15 minutes.
It is always a good week when you have General Conference. General Conference is one of the great blessings of being a member of the church. You can listen to men and women of the lord speak words of truth and comfort to you, and you are able to feel God's love for you through them. If you remember from the April session of 2016, I created an awards ceremony for conference to help add remembrance to the special event. It was called the Tommy's. I'll take some time this week to offer my thoughts and comments through these enjoyable awards ceremony. Your condensed Tommy Awards Ceremony Begins!
Best Costume Design (Who wore the best tie in conference) The Tommy goes to.. Elder Enrique R. Falabella! He gave the opening prayer in the Sunday Afternoon Session. It was beautiful. Second place was Elder Rasband's, and Third goes to President Eyring Saturday's tie. Note: President Uchtdorf wore the same tie Saturday that he wore on Sunday tie in April 2016. That tie won the Tommy as well.
Best Picture (Best Visual Aide used in a talk) The Tommy goes to... The Savior in Gethsemane, used by Sister McConkie. It's a powerful moment to catch in a photo. Second place goes to 1991 Elder Andersen, and last place goes to the Compound Gears from Elder Cook. Sorry, never was into mechanical engineering.
Best Adapted Screenplay (Best Use of Scriptural References and Quotes) The Tommy Goes To... Elder David A. Bednar! A Doctrinal wizard, he beautifully intertwined scripture upon scripture. other nominees were Elder Ashton's lecture on the Doctrine of Christ and Elder Cook's excellent analysis of Paul's sermons.
Best Sleeper Pick (The one you probably Slept through) The Tommy Goes to... Elder Brian T. Ashton! The two spot in the Sunday Afternoon session paired with a monotone voice probably got your eyelids closing. If not him, then Elder Cook probably got you right afterwards. Sound doctrine, soothing voice.
Best Original Screenplay (The most memorable stories and one liners) The Tommy goes to... Elder Legrand R. Curtis Jr.! I loved his stories of finding a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Powerful, personal, lovable. A very close second and third are Elder Nattress and Elder Holland.
Best Soundtrack (Best Song in Conference) The Tommy goes to... Called to Serve! How could anything be as powerful as a choir of missionaries singing Called to Serve with millions of members throughout the world. Beautiful. A close second is "I'll follow him in faith", a heartstring plucker, and priesthood sesison's "Hope of Israel"
Best in Show (the best conference talk) The Tommy goes to... Two time winner of best in show, Elder David A. Bednar. You cannot write a more straightforward, empowering talk than he can. A great step by step instruction on how we can come to know our Savior Jesus Christ. Elder Quentin L. Cook is my second favorite, filled with great references and compelling thoughts on stumbling blocks and stepping stones. Elder M. Russell Ballard's powerful thoughts on "to whom shall we go to?" Takes my third place vote. I feeling I've had in the back of my head for a long time finally explained to me. Elder K. Brett Nattress almost made me cry with his great talk on children, parenting, and conversion. Beautiful talk. Elder Russell M. Nelson's talk on joy was wonderful, and it made me realize the importance of being happy. Other favorites were Elder Ronald A. Rasband, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and Dallin H. Oaks.
Conference is always such a great time. The main takeaways I received from conference this October was to - Repent often. It's not a bad thing. It's the best thing. - Have a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They love us more than we can imagine - Do missionary work!
Conference is the best. I love it. Now, if you want to know what happened in missionary work this week here it is. On splits, my companion and his split knocked on the wrong door. The woman opened up and was excited to see them! She's been "studying Mormonism" as she puts it, and was glad to have us come in and teach her. We've had two lessons and great conversations over the phone. She is truly searching for the truth. We had a great lesson with a part member family this Wednesday. The nonmember is more excited about being active in the church than the member is. She wants to be baptized, but wants to wait until her husband is active the church again. The gospel is meant for families, it is best felt within them. We hope to have him active and her baptized this month. We had a member with us to every single lesson this week. It is great to see just how much these wards support missionary work. They do it with us, they do it on their own, they are an inspiration to me and my companion.
I'm going to wrap up this email before it gets too long. Have a great week. Study, re-study, and re-re-study General conference.
Elder Richard Hall
1. District Preparation Day. Fun times. 2. A great exchange with Elder C