Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27 Letter

Hey everyone!

Well, chalk up another L in Satan's win-loss column! Kathy annihilated him last week, culminating in her baptism. Like I have said, she is an incredible lady, and studies more than anyone I've ever met. But, we had the same problem just about everyone in Western New York has: smoking. We had it all scheduled out for her to be fully quit by the Wednesday before her baptism, and it was all looking completely doable. Then, we got a phone call telling us that Kathy had just received an eviction notice... We thought for sure the stress of the situation was going to destroy her. But, we called her up, and the first thing she said: "Well... you told me Satan was going to work his hardest this week, didn't you?" She stayed completely off cigarettes, and had a beautiful baptism!

Possibly my favorite part of the whole baptism, though, was the combination of talks. We had Liz, Kathy's investigator daughter, give a talk on the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Freddy, Liz's investigator fiance, give a talk on baptism. We definitely had multiple people in the branch express concern about nonmembers giving talks, but we stuck to our guns on it. We helped them a little bit here and there, but really the vast majority of the talks they wrote themselves, and man did they stun everyone! Freddy, who is 18 and has a learning disability, used the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Preach My Gospel, True to the Faith, and The Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlet to really figure out what baptism was. We've found in the past that he struggles internalizing information, but when he writes it down, it forces him to process it on his own and really figure it out; this was no exception. At the close of his talk, he talked about how much he has seen Kathy change as she's accepted Christ into her life and how excited he was as he nears his baptism in just a month and a half, now. I expected Liz, who is just 16, to do well, and she definitely did. My favorite part of her whole talk was her close: "Without the Holy Ghost, I don't know if living a completely happy life would be possible." Even our branch president was just staring in awe at both of them!

Holy crap! I just looked at last week's letter and totally missed what was probably the most important event of last week! We got a new investigator (three, really, if you count her kids) on Sunday. Her name is Amy, and she just got out of an abusive relationship that left her permanently disabled with a broken back. She was at the pool one day, when she met Sister Forster, who is a single mom in our branch. Amy was really impressed with the way Sister Forster had raised her daughter on her own, and Sister Forster immediately credited the Church. In not much time, she'd invited Amy to Sacrament Meeting. Amy had been raised Catholic, and apparently when she mentioned that she was going to church to her mom, her mom started crying, just thrilled that Amy was going to any church again.

Then, we spoke with her a week before yesterday, and the discussion went PERFECTLY. She agreed it made perfect sense that there would still be prophets on the Earth, that Jesus wouldn't only give His gospel to the Jerusalem area, that anyone else with the gospel would probably write their own scriptures as well, and that there would need to be some sort of authority to do things in the name of God. We invited her to be baptized, and often with people raised in other faiths their first question is, "I've already been baptized, do I need to be baptized again?" Instead, Amy's first question was, "I've already been baptized, am I able to be baptized again?" and was clearly relieved when the answer was yes. She said she needed to find out if it was all true for sure, but she has been reading the Book of Mormon every day since and already has a habit of prayer, so that is a phenomenal place to start!

Then, last night, she came with us to a fireside in Buffalo where President Christianson (my mission president) was speaking. Really, it's near impossible to listen to President talk and NOT be converted, so it was already a solid plan. What surprised me, though, is how quick she was to feel the Spirit. Before President even started, there was a musical number where a family of five men sang "Come Unto Jesus." By the end of the first verse, Amy was in tears, and they didn't stop for an hour of a fireside. We'll meet with her again on Sunday to talk about the Plan of Salvation, and I can't wait!

I figure someone out there is probably getting fishy about how positive all my letters seem to be. I think it will be important that we save these letters to combine with my journal, because I swear this is where I put all the positives of the mission, and my journal is where I sort out all my frustrations. I've come to realize real quick that having a companion is going to be my primary struggle. Look at my past two years, even. What are my big groups of friends? The Rainbow Brigade--seven guys--and SigEp--a bunch of guys. But, who are the friends I build the strongest one-on-one relationships with? Kelsi, Haelee, Sam, Tab.... all girls. I don't know what it is, but I butt heads with companions like crazy and definitely need to sort that out! But, there's a song both me and my companion are loving now, from EFY 2012, called "Give It All to Him," which hits the nail on the head! 

Incredible song, eh?

Also, there's a scripture I found that I want to share with you all. In Colossians 3:12-14, it reads:

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."

The bond of perfectness. I love that line! We always hear about charity being the pure love of Christ, which is spot on, but I love this scripture in Colossians as an appendage to it. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul repeatedly says he can do all sorts of great things, but without charity--without that pure love--it simply doesn't matter. Here in Colossians, Paul lists off all sorts of great traits: kindness, meekness, forgiving, the list goes on. But it is truly loving people and wanting to use these traits and these gifts to help other people out that serves as "the bond of perfectness" and helps us become truly Christlike.

I love you, but I don't miss you!

Elder Allen

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20 Letter

Well, another week has come and gone. This one went by super quickly! It's weird...

This Saturday, we have a baptism for--brace for it--the mom of the fiance of the son of a recent convert family. Haha, the son, Freddy, and his fiance, Liz, are both planning on getting baptized a few weeks down the road, though, so it's not quite so weird. But Kathy, the one who's getting baptized this week, is an incredible lady. She has a lot of back problems, so sometimes it's been hard to meet up with her and she isn't able to make it to church some weeks. Normally, that'd be a big red flag that we'd be worried about. But, instead of it being a sign of her unenthusiasm, we just found out that she usually spends from about 10:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon reading the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets we gave her about each of the lessons. If that's not preparation, I don't know what is!

Freddy and Liz are making some incredible progress, too. Freddy for a while had been struggling picking up on the concepts. But, we've been figuring out that he is VERY visual with his learning. When we went over the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we drew him a circle with arrows going from faith to repentance and on and on, until it reached faith again. Liz didn't make it to that lesson, so we went back to teach it to her, with Freddy there. When we asked what faith was, all he could remember was the circle haha. We're definitely figuring out how to teach him, though, and the changes that he's been making are awesome. A member of the ward even talked to us about seeing him in the store earlier in the week and the completely different way he treated her compared to months past.

We also set a baptismal date for a man named Justin for the 22nd of September, which is incredible. He's what we call an eternigator--someone who investigates for what seems like an eternity. Luckily, he's only been a couple years where some go for more than a decade. His wife, Tanya, was actually baptized when he started taking discussions a long while back, and he's taken them completely through three times before now, but he just couldn't quit smoking. (In New York, everyone  smokes. My clothes are starting to smell like cigarettes already.) But, he's gone from two packs a day to about twelve cigarettes a day in a couple weeks, is planning on being down to five cigarettes by the start of September, then just cut himself off completely. What I think is really going to push him is we talked about the opportunity he'll have to baptize his 9-year-old daughter, Savannah, who goes to church every week in just a month or so after his baptism, as well as the chance to go through the temple with his family a year after his baptism. It made it so that baptism was just one step along the way to a much bigger goal, and I think made it a lot less intimidating of a step, plus it will give him a reason to stay strong on not smoking.

With Andrew (the man who we helped clean up his fallen tree) and Matt (his friend, who asked us if we were the same people who had helped Andrew with his tree), we have found a golden way to make sure we don't lose contact with them. Every week, their sons Owen and Marcus, agreed to come play soccer at the park with Elder Inkley and me and a few others. Right now, there is only one member of our branch's Young Men's program, and we got him on board with coming and playing with us. What we're hoping to do is eventually transition from a fun pick-up 3v3 soccer game to having them all go to Young Men's activities together. It's great, because it guarantees that we see Andrew and Matt (or their wives) at least once a week as they pick up and drop off their sons, it makes it so Dougie (the solo Young Man, who is actually a recent convert of about 7 months) is actively involved in missionary work, and it gives us the chance to meet a whole bunch of the youth in the Delevan area.

I experienced a depressing thing on Friday, though.... I stepped on a scale. I've been gone for only 6 (maybe 7? I don't know) weeks now... and I've put on 10 freaking pounds! What the?! Haha I was really stunned by it... then I got home and saw this and it all made sense:

And that doesn't even include the bottles that are in a different recycling bag... or the Fudge Round wrappers.... Ladies, don't get too hopeful for when I come home: I may be a nice young RM, but I'll be a nice young 240 pound RM...

So, I finally had my economics know-how come in handy! I was able to finally explain my big confusion of the past few months: the relationship between faith and works. The Bible makes it very clear that we are saved based on faith, and that the law of works will never get us saved. That seemed contrary to almost everything I'd learned since Sunbeams. We always sang "Keep the Commandments" and learned about repentance. If the law of works didn't matter, then why repent? Why keep the commandments? Well! I think I figured it out, by using econ.

In economics, we measure a thing called "utility." Utility is essentially how happy an action (usually a purchase) makes you. Even while we use a unit called "utils" to measure utility, it is pretty much an arbitrary measurement. Saying four utils is like saying four happies. What the heck is a happy? However, what we can do, is measure what you are willing to give up for that happiness. We are willing to give up $2 for a piece of pizza, but we aren't willing to give up $2 for a small pebble. So, reasonably the utility of purchasing pizza is higher than purchasing pebbles, because we are willing to give up more for it.

In life, Heavenly Father has to measure our faith. Just like utility, it is pretty much impossible to put a concrete measurement on our faith and our love for Him. What we can do, though, is measure what we are willing to give up for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The commandments are all about sacrifice. Elder Inkley and I were talking about this, and both agreed it would be absurd for us to sacrifice two years for a mission if we didn't have faith that 1) we were called on a mission by a living prophet and 2) our message could actually benefit people's lives.

I read Hebrews 11 this week, and it skyrocketed to one of my favorite chapters in all the scriptures. Everyone should go read it. It talks about how prophet after prophet does incredible actsbecause of their faith. Then, we realized that all throughout the Book of Mormon, it talks about us being judged according to our works. Not necessarily judging our works, but using our works to judge our faith. In James 2, it has the "faith without works is dead" line. Notice that it doesn't say "faith is dead, so just have good works"? It is faith that matters, and Romans 3 does an excellent job explaining that we will be judged by our faith, but our works are how we can show our faith.

Well, that's about all that's coming to my mind to tell you about.... just keep the letters coming! I love to hear from people in the real world!!

I love you, but I don't miss you!

Elder Allen

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13 Letter

Hi there!

Unfortunately, this week isn't nearly as exciting to report on as last... but it still definitely had some perks!

First, I want to reiterate the appendage I put on last week's email. I was on exchanges with another missionary from our district on Tuesday, and we went over to see if Elizabeth--the former investigator we had been trying to see when we met with Andrew the first time--was home. She was, but quickly told us she wasn't interested. Just as we were leaving, though, she asked, "Are you the two boys who were helping Andrew in his front yard last week?" Later that week, we were out tracting in the same neighborhood and found a man loading up a bunch of old wood and some really old tires into a trailer to haul away. Elder Richardson and I walked up and started helping him load things into the trailer. Not long into us helping him, he said, "You two must be the same boys who were out helping Andy last week!" 

I'll take that reputation! If the whole Village of Delevan sees us biking around and thinks we're the two who helped Andy and Matt (the man loading the trailer), that's hard to complain about! Plus, even though he wasn't super excited to talk about religion, Matt told us we could come over any time we needed a drink or needed to get out of the rain. Even more, his 13-year-old son, Marcus, agreed to come play soccer with my companion, me, and one of the young men in our branch sometime. It's quite the "in" with that family!

We also made awesome progress over at Kelly's this week! Her husband, Jim, definitely doesn't like religion. I think I said that a week or two ago, but it is important to notice in this story. Kelly's told us that a few months ago, he essentially told her she couldn't have missionaries over anymore, but was willing to give us one more chance to come when Elder Inkley first showed up. Luckily, Elder Inkley was likeable enough that Jim let them keep coming as long as they didn't talk about religion to him. He actually has thrown missionaries out of the house when they did try to talk religion with him. I'm just saying this so you can realize the miracle that I'm about to explain.

Saturday, we got a call from Jim asking him if we could come over and help him keep building their barn. We went over and helped for a few hours, but then had an evening appointment and had to leave before dinner. The next day, though, we had a voicemail from Jim saying, "Hey missionaries, if you want dinner, come over by seven or I'll kick your *****." Already that's incredible that two days in a row we got a call from him wanting us to come over. Even more crazy? When we were about to eat, he said, "Hey, hurry and bless the food before I get to the table." Compare that to what he told us the first evening I was in Freedom: "I made the food, not God, so cut that out." He definitely isn't anywhere near coming to church or anything, but this is some incredible progress! Keep in mind, Kelly met with the missionaries for nine years before she was baptized. Nine years steadily meeting with them, too, not just on-and-off. We are making some real progress with Jim.

We are finally making some progress learning how to tract and utilize Facebook, too! We were tracting in Franklinville on Saturday evening, and were able to actually teach three separate 5-10 minute lessons in just an hour, plus leave two pamphlets to follow up on. We've struggled in the past at getting anywhere. Preach My Gospel advised that we don't ever say, "We have a message about Jesus Christ that we'd love to share if you have a minute..." or something along those lines and instead just jump right into testifying, but you have no idea how hard it is to just come out right away with gospel-related things. Finally, we were able to pull it off this time around, though! It was quite exciting. This week, we were also able to teach six lessons via Facebook. I don't know how well I've explained it, but this mission has started using Internet proselyting using sites like Facebook to find and teach people. It's been difficult, but we are definitely getting the hang of it finally.

Thank heavens we finally started getting fed by members this week! Apparently a missionary about six months ago had them stop passing out a sign-up sheet because he was too picky of an eater. We finally got that going again, and at four of our six meals at member's houses. Unfortunately... I'm going to get fat now. Meh, oh well. Eating at members' houses is really awesome, because it makes it so we can get some branch-fellowshipping in even during our "free" time. At our Saturday meal, we actually got five referrals from Brother McCown!


Okay.... So I have to do this. I haven't been able to go on political rants for sometime, and Sister Boyack wrote me in the MTC to say that I can on these emails. So I need to talk about how excited I am for Paul Ryan to be Romney's running mate. Megan, highlight this stuff red or something, so people who don't care can just skip down or something haha.

Now, Paul Ryan is hands-down my favorite American politician in the country. There is no one who is a more straightforward speaker and legislator. As the House Budget Chairman, he has proposed the only realistic solutions to the budget, Medicare, Social Security, and other issues. Plus, he is fair; he recognizes that spending on supposedly "conservative" programs hurt the economy, too. There is no one who has a better grip on free-market macroeconomics.

Selecting Ryan as his running mate made it so that Romney refocused the election on the economy. Obama can try all he wants to make the election about gay marriage, immigration, or who knows what else, but this just reemphasizes that the election is about the economy. Romney's microeconomic, real business experience combined with Ryan's macroeconomic, legislative experience is going to make for a mean combination. 

Ryan also brings the youthful energy that Obama too often steals. He is just in his forties, and is among the most charismatic politicians out there, albeit in a bit of a nerdy, awkward way.

Just watch these videos and fall in love with this man!!!!

Plus, this is what really excites me. I have been hoping for some time that Paul Ryan would run for president in four or eight years, but was a little doubtful that he'd be willing to, or if he'd be satisfied with being Speaker of the House. His acceptance of a VP nomination, though, means that he is willing to step up to Executive offices! If Romney loses, Paul Ryan will automatically be THE leader of the conservative movement (if he isn't already). If Romney loses, Ryan is naturally the front-runner in the 2016 election. If Romney wins, Ryan will be a clear replacement for him in 2020. Either way, I am excited to see what this economic powerhouse combo can do! This is SUCH a better pick for VP than Rob Portman or Rand Paul would have been!


Anyways, back to the gospel: 

I had a cool church-politics combination experience this week. Our branch president asked us to come with him to a presentation a few villages over by the author of the book The Mormonizing of America. Haha, clearly, we were a little apprehensive about what sort of a take he would have on things. However, it was actually VERY well done!  He did a lot of his research for the book at BYU and by speaking with bishops and the church advertising coordinator and normal members--including Mitt Romney--so it was legitimate stuff. He was not only fair to the Church, he was honestly a little bit more generous than even purely historical. When talking about the First Vision, he flat out said, "From the time that Joseph entered the grove behind his house, the only account we have is his own. So, that's what we'll go with..." and proceeded to talk about the Restoration. He talked about the priesthood and its restoration, about prophets and apostles, and just about everything. He understands it all better than the majority of our investigators!

He also made a couple of very interesting points. He was talking about our influence, and pointed out that members of the Church only make up 2% of the U.S., yet have significant influence in the media, pop culture, business, and politics. He pointed out that there is not a single business model that hasn't been changed based off of Stephen Covey, a Mormon. Something that I hadn't realized, he also said that there are actually more LDS congressmen than there are Catholic congressmen; that there is crazy! He said that Pew Research has done a lot of studies that show that more than 40% of the population still think we practice polygamy ("It hasn't been part of their religion for 120 years, for heaven's sake!" he said about that), but that people are almost ALWAYS more supportive of the religion as soon as they know a member. I wish I could tell you all about his presentation, but I don't think most of you care enough about it.... if you do, though, write to me and I'll tell you all about it!

I came across a scripture this week that I really like, because it kind of amends what had always been one of my favorite scriptures, 1 Corinthians 10:13, which reads:

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (Emphasis added)

Now, when I was reading this week, I found this scripture in Alma 13:28:

"But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;" (Again, emphasis added)

Clearly, the parts I italicized are almost identical. What stands out to me, though, is the part that the Alma verse adds on. In order to not be tempted beyond our capabilities, we need to "watch and pray continually" and be "humble... before the Lord." Then we can be "led by the Holy Spirit" in a way that can help us overcome any temptation that might hit us. These are prerequisites! It's not like Satan is going to soften up against people who are already following him just so that the game can be more fair! That is why sin is so addicting. However, if we make a habit of always striving to get closer with God, then can we be sure to overcome any temptation that might come.

Well, that's bout it. Except of course my all for you to write to me!!! 12100 Countyline Rd E-19, Arcade, NY, 14009!! DO IT!!!!

I love you all, but don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Friday, August 10, 2012

Addendum to August 6

Bracken sent me (Megan) an email the day after the big one with an update to THIS letter... 


Paul's name isn't Paul, it's Andrew. But the point of me telling you this?? Because we had two people we met ask us if we were the same young men who helped Andrew clean up his tree. I can't complain about having that sort of a reputation in this neighborhood. Now three people in the area have our phone numbers and know us as the missionaries who are willing to help people out, especially because we helped one of those two, a man named Matt, clean up a bunch of stuff in his backyard to take to the dump. We're getting a good name for ourselves out here!


He also wanted me to add a few more pictures of Freedom (the town he's in) and the farm life he is experiencing. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6 Letter

Hello everybody!

Don't worry, only 23 more months until you can see me again!

It has been a crazy week, but I'm headed to Niagra Falls in about an hour, so I have to make this all quick!
On Saturday, Cora was baptized! It was very cool, and I didn't have to repeat anything; she went fully under and I said the words correctly. When practicing, I was getting nervous, because I kept wanting to say the baptism for the dead words, since I've heard those literally hundreds of times, and the baptism words about a dozen. But, I was able to pull through. To be fair, she had a lot more to overcome. As I said last week, she went from smoking two packs a day to nothing in under two weeks. Incredible!

Ready to baptize Cora!
We also met a number of awesome new people this week. The one who stands out the most is a man named Paul. We were going to do some service for a man in our branch one evening, but there was an insane rainstorm that started about ten minutes before we went. Instead, we went to the apartment and looked through our area book, where we found a former investigator named Elizabeth who seemed very promising. 

As soon as the rain cleared up, we biked over to her house. We kept on passing people, and I kept on wimping out and not saying much more than "Hi" to them. Finally, I promised myself/Heavenly Father that I would try to have a conversation with the next person we saw. We got all the way to Elizabeth's before that happened.

As we pulled onto her street, I heard a chainsaw down the road and went to go see what was going on. Sure enough, a man was outside, cutting up a huge downed tree in his yard. We went up to him, and he just said, "You here to help?" We later found out he meant that as a joke and just wanted to scare us off, but we jumped to it and started carrying the logs to his backyard for firewood and throwing the junk branches in the back of his truck. As we drove to the dump to empty his truckbed, we finally got talking to him.

He started the conversation by asking "Okay, I've got to know. What made you stop and help? My own neighbors were outside, across the street, and they didn't even ask if they could help." We could tell he was deeply touched. As the conversation went on, we found out that he had been raised Catholic (as I said, his name is Paul, and his brothers' names are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John hahaha), but wasn't very religious anymore. He told us that his dad had died a few years back, which had really hurt the entire family. He also talked about his younger sister, who has Down's Syndrome (just like Elder Inkley's younger brother), and the "special spirit" that she has. Finally, he talked about his son, Owen, and how much he wants to help Owen have a good path to grow up on.

The problem, is he also talked about the pushiness of the Jehovah's Witnesses and how off-putting that is. Like I said, he expected us to book it as soon as he asked for help, because he was under the impression that missionaries wanted nothing but to teaching. So, instead of talking about the Plan of Salvation for his dad, or about the spirit of his sister, or about how the restored gospel blesses families for his son, we stayed mostly quiet. I still am debating whether that was the right thing to do or not, but we were able to bear our testimonies to him when he asked why nineteen year old boys would give up two years for church. In the end, we were also able to set up a dinner appointment with him for the upcoming week. It had better work out, or I'll really struggle forgiving myself for not testifying there and then.

After the rainy bike ride
We met another incredible man on Saturday. We were biking home from Kelly's house, and stopped at a gas station to grab some drinks. We try not to proselyte too much in stores for the sake of the privacy of the store. But, when we were in line, a man just flat out asked us, "Are you guys Mormons?" Of course, we answered yes. "Do you baptize for the remission of sins?" he asked. Again, we answered yes, then started asking him about his own religious beliefs. As we got to talking to him, we found out he was a pretty strong Christian, but was getting irritated by the church he had been going to. From the sound of it, there are some weird people at that place. We ended up talking to him for about half an hour outside, all about the Bible and about how it takes both obedience and faith to make it to heaven.

As we were about to leave, we asked him if we could meet with him again, sometime. But, he said he was "busy" (the classic excuse), and probably couldn't. Still, we gave him a passalong card with our number on it and told him to call us if he ever found time. I kid you not, twenty minutes later, we got a call! He wanted to know if it would be "all right with us" if he came to our church Sunday morning. Haha... that was a tough call for us.... hahaha. Unfortunately, some stuff came up in the morning, and he wasn't able to make it out, but we gave him a call as soon as church was over to check on him, which seemed to touch him that we would actually care if he was there. He then not only agreed to go to church next Sunday, but also to meet with us later this week and take us fishing one of these upcoming p-days! Such an awesome guy!

We had a really neat experience with Lindsey. She is the daughter of Kelly, who I talked about last week. We'd been sending her Book of Mormon chapters to read, always telling her either 1) she wastes an hour by reading something she doesn't think is true, or 2) she'll completely change her life. She kept on putting off meeting with us, though, so finally we drove the twenty minutes to her house to force her to meet with us (if you understood our relationship with that family, you would understand that that isn't out of line haha). There, we went over what she'd read, especially focussing on Alma 32 and Ether 12, both about faith and taking leaps of faith simply on the hope that something might be true. She doesn't believe there is a god, but we asked her what it might mean to her if there was one. She finally admitted that that would be a good thing.

So, we asked her to pray about the church and the Book of Mormon while we were there. She complained that we were putting her on the spot, so I made a deal with her. I would say the prayer on three conditions. First, we would turn off the TV and kneel. Second, we would sit quietly, still kneeling with our eyes closed, for a couple of minutes after the prayer. Third, she would do the same thing that evening after we left. She agreed to that, and we went ahead. During the prayer, I pleaded with Heavenly Father to touch Lindsey, to make her feel warm and comforted. After, during our quiet time, Elder Inkley and I both kept praying like crazy, just hoping she'd feel something. After about a minute, she just yelled, "I can't do this anymore!" and jumped up, eyes full of tears. PERFECT!! We are working on meeting up with her again!

Haha, we also met a very interesting lady out tracting. We knocked on her door, but she said she didn't have time to talk because her husband was just out of surgery getting a new kidney. We then asked if we could help her with her yardwork since her husband was out of commission. We ended up mowing her entire lawn, but then she invited us inside! As we got talking to her, we got very interested, but very confused about her religious background. Either she was a member of the church in the Seventies, but then was part of a group that broke off of the church on their own, or she was a member of the Reorganized LDS church, that then doubly reorganized.... or something. The hard part is that to her, all three churches are "Mormon" or "LDS," so we have no idea if we are teaching to convert, to reactivate, or if we are teaching an excommunicated member. Fun stuff!

Hmm... I'm trying to think of other exciting things from the week, but I'm not coming up with much. Oh, we finally passed around a dinner sign-up sheet, so that is good! I'm definitely not a healthy eater... It is too easy to just snack all day, and there are minimal healthy small snacks that can be carried in a backpack and don't involve vegetables. But hopefully member dinners make things a little healthier!

Oh, I need help here: How many of you would follow a blog that I kept of my own spiritual insights? Then, not just follow, but repost links elsewhere (Facebook, Twitter, etc)? Here in Rochester, we have missionary Facebooks and can have blogs, but both are fairly ineffective until you get circulating. Unfortunately, I can't friend any member back home, but anyone is allowed to follow the blog. If it seems like I'd get enough support, I will go for it. Let Megan, Emily, or my mom or dad know and I'll see what I can do if it seems like a popular idea!

I found a really cool combination of scriptures and quotes from a book by George Durrant that the Boyack's gave me. In the Book of Helaman, it is talking about one of my lifelong heroes, Samuel the Lamanite (Samuel B. Lamanite, when I was three). Something I never thought about until I was a missionary was glaringly obvious to me this time. First, Samuel goes to the city, preaching repentance to the people, but they got very angry and chased him away. As he's headed home, though, an angel comes to him and tells him to go back. The angel says "Go back and teach the people the thoughts that I will place in your heart." As missionaries, the MTC really hammers into us that we aren't teaching our thoughts, we are teaching the Lord's thoughts. Until we can get a grasp on that, we will be fairly unproductive teachers. I can definitely agree to that, because of the random questions that have came to mind while teaching Chet, Paul, Tracy (the guy from the gas station), Lindsey, and who knows who else. George Durrant says, "When a missionary finally decides to unleash his heart, that is when he begins to have power in his teaching. The Lord has promised us that He will place thoughts in our hearts. Then, if we have the courage to say these things, He will by the power of the Holy Ghost carry the truth of these thoughts into the hearts of the hearers."

Well, that's about all! I included two pictures here. The first is of Elder Inkley and me after the rain storm that ended up leading to us finding Paul. It was the most Monsoon-like rain I've ever seen. We went to an appointment with clear skies, but suddenly it was pouring buckets with tons of lightning. It was really scary actually, because we had to bike home in between completely flat, empty fields. I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but we are completely soaked. The second picture, of course, is Cora and me right before the baptism.

Write to me! I love getting letters from all of you, and work my absolute hardest on getting back to everyone! Please keep me updated on the workings of the real world!

I love you all, but I don't miss you!!

Elder Allen

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Bracken sent home a whole bunch of pictures from the MTC and his first few days in New York.



"I'm really supposed to get on this plane??"
"Ok, fine."

First view of Rochester from the air.


President and Sister Christianson

Lots of churches in town!

The Smith Family Farm

The Smith Family Farm

The Smith Family Farm

The Smith Family Farm

The Smith Family Farm

The Smith Family Farm
Sacred Grove

Sacred Grove

Sacred Grove

Sacred Grove

Sacred Grove