Monday, May 26, 2014

May 26 Letter


So, Elder Holt and I would often joke that the area slowed down simply because he was here. There was no good evidence of that, aside from coincidental timing of when things started stalling and when he arrived. Nevertheless, it made for a good joke. Haha that joke took a whole new turn on Tuesday morning, though, literally an hour and a half before we were going to drive Elder Holt up to transfer meeting. Right in the middle of our studies, we get a whole stream of texts from.... can you guess who!?


Haha he explained that he'd become overcrowded with work and was starting to notice the effect it was having on him spiritually. So, we have an appointment set up with him at the Steele's for Tuesday! Shane is back in action! Haha Elder Holt, who had really only even said hello to Shane once in almost three months, was a little irritated, but I am stoked.

Transfer meeting was fun, though. Most of the missionaries I've developed friendships with out here were getting moved, so everyone was there in Rochester. When we were listening to the testimonies of all the missionaries who were leaving, I realized how hard/scary it is to imagine that I'm next. I also noticed something really interesting. So many of the missionaries, both elders and sisters, really seemed glad to be leaving. As hard as it is to imagine going home, it's even harder to imagine being happy to leave. That doesn't mean everyone should be miserable and depressed and hopeless as they head out, obviously... but at least act like you enjoyed your mission! I hope that by the time the transfer comes to a close that I'm still in a state of mind where going home, while exciting, is still going to feel at least a little sad.

Aside from that the week was mostly tame. We were able to meet with Mallard and Diane again, which was good. It's just tough because they are (or at least he is) big time born-agains, and it's not that any of our conversation every becomes contentious.... It's just that I don't know if they realize we are trying to offer something different than what they have. It's like they think we are affirming every bit of what they believe, and not recognizing some of the stark contrasts, even when we try to overdo it's starkness to make a point. Oh well... at least they are listening! We think if they'll just get into the Book of Mormon than the wheels will start turning for them.

We weren't able to meet with Jared this week, unfortunately, but he's reading the Book of Mormon and loving it again!! Hopefully we can meet up this week. That would make it so we had appointments with him, Shane, and Mallard and Diane, which would be phenomenal.

We also finally made a set schedule with Vinnie. A while back he asked us if there were any classes that explained the Book of Mormon, and we explained to him that that is what we did. But, between his ADHD and his move that fell through, all of our stops since have just been casual chats that haven't really gotten anywhere. But, now we are planning on meeting up at a set time everyThursday, so I hope that helps things along a little bit.

Other than that, I don't know of much excitement to announce.... Oh! I went running a lot this week! Elder Moulton is a cross country runner (actually he ran with Wesley in Grantsville for one year, I think!) and so we've been waking up each morning and going running. Haha I'm really out of shape... I was also jump roping every night, but then my jump rope completely snapped right in half. How? No idea. So I guess that's not going to happen anymore. Buuuut, hopefully with running and trying not to only eat Dr. Pepper and soft serve ice cream I can be a little less fat by the time I get home haha.

Well... That's about all for this week folks!

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

May 19 Letter

Transfer 17 starts today! Someone asked me yesterday how many more
transfers I had left, and it was really weird to say "one." I didn't
like it. But, I'm dying here in Geneseo like I expected and will be
finishing off my mission with Elder Moulton.

This week went pretty well, actually, although it was very
irregular.... and kinda drama-filled. Tuesday went pretty typically.
But then Wednesday came around. We'd pretty much blocked out the whole
day to help Vinnie and Linnea move. Then we had missionaries and fen
church members arranged in Pennsylvania to help them unload the next
day. So we get there a few minutes late, just after 11 and
were confused at the lack of a moving truck. We get out and knock...
nothing. We finally get ahold of them by calling them, and they pretty
nonchalantly explain that the house they were going to buy failed its
safety inspection so they can't move in. But they get kicked out of
their current place this week... so I'm not sure what happens haha.
It's all a big mess.

Then, Thursday rolled around. We had interviews with president first,
(Guess what?! I'm temple worthy still!) followed by district meeting.
Eventually we got rolling and visited Bridgette. So she got baptized
in January or so and was doing FANTASTIC. Whenever she got brought up
in ward council or anything, it kind of got pushed off because she was
doing so well. Well, we went over, and things definitely weren't
right. Even in our small talk, friendly conversation, she seemed
different. Well, without going into details too much, she says she's
been feeling overwhelmed in the church lately. See, she is one of
those girls who can't let someone go unhelped, which is great, but now
she's taken on a thousand roles that she shouldn't have to, and it's
taking a toll on her big time. She's gone from being a daily scripture
studier and prayer, to not doing either for weeks... Annnnd so that's
been fun to try to reenergize her without hurting any feelings.

On Friday, we were planning on a few things before heading up to the
temple for a couple in our ward's endowments and sealing. But that
morning we got a text from Dan, who is back in the hospital.
Overnight, it had rained a lot, and his basement flooded. So, we went
on over and spent a couple hours helping his daughter clean out the
basement while making dozens of calls trying to track down a
dehumidifier. Well, we eventually found one and got it all taken care
of just in time to make it home, change clothes, and head up to the
temple! I like the temple.

Unfortunately, while at the temple, President Jackson from Warsaw said
that Jimmy hasn't been to church in quite a while... which is
mindblowing. Apparently Stephen has been sporadic, at best, and hasn't
made it the past three weeks, either. Sooo, of 13 baptisms in my
mission, one is excommunicated, one has had their name removed from
the Church's records, 10 are less active, and one is on the brink of
less-activity.... It's pretty frustrating/disheartening/really, really

Saturday was packed as well, and among the most hectic. Haha I really
can't get into it much via email.... But some crazy crap went down!
Remind me to tell you in six weeks :)

But, after the crazy crap settled down for a while, guess who I got to
get lunch with? Richard Orcutt! He is working out in Albany now, and
was driving to Niagara Falls so he swung down to see me. That was fun!
Although... He says I'm fat. Which is worse than most people, because
he's the only one who has seen me recently who hasn't seen me since I
left of my mission... It's depressing :/ Buuuut, then we swung over to
a big ward service project for a lady whose husband was just given a
month to live. It was pretty neat to see the turnout there.

Finally yesterday rolled around! We hadn't weekly planned yet, so we
were figuring our day would pretty much be church, eat, study, plan,
eat, bed. But then some MORE (of the same) crazy crap went down haha.
Luckily, what is quite possibly the highlight of mine and Elder Holt's
time together ALSO occurred. A few weeks back, we were moving records
from our binder to our iPads, and setting aside the teaching records
that looked interesting to contact again. One of them, a guy named
Jared, stood out but it said his address was wrong. So we called him
and just left a voicemail. Well, yesterday - a good two weeks later -
he called back! He said he'd been thinking about faith a lot lately
and wanted to meet up again soon... So we made it very soon and went
over last night! He's so cool. He is about 20-21, and is brilliant,
but in a really humble, looking-for-direction, kind of way. He has the
coolest library of history and religion books. He talked about the
Church, though, and said the missionaries met with him his junior and
senior years, and that he'd had a full testimony of the Book of Mormon
(which he said he received quite emotionally) and had wanted to get
baptized. But then a whole slew of things went down in his life, from
his family to his girlfriend to school, and all of a sudden he was far
from where he should be. Well, lately he's quit smoking, quit
drinking, and decided that it is time for him to figure out what God
wants him to be doing! Haha it was pretty sweet! We're going back
Thursday, so I'm pretty psyched!

Well... I should probably head off! I love you, but I don't miss ya!
Elder Allen

Spring in the Sacred Grove

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 12 Letter


After a great job of buying oatmeal last week... I just bought a dozen
donuts today. I'm so fat....

Ummm well, I talked to you yesterday, so I'll let this be short so I
don't overstay my welcome.

But, ultimately, there's really not much to update from this week
anyways. Haha we visited too many people a week ago to possibly have
anyone to see this week. Ohhh the frustration haha.

We did, however, meet with a guy named Jeremy. We met him at a
"Reasons for God" event on campus. He's a Christian apologist, and
wanted to meet up and talk with us. Well... It was mostly a waste of
time haha. He claims to have studied Mormonism for four and a half
years, yet he pronounced Nephi in a way that rhymes with "Jeffy" and
also offered to buy us coffee, so it shows you how good of research he
accomplished. However, he did seem to know all about the King Follett
discourse, blood atonement, and supposed problems with the Book of
Abraham. Haha it was just silly. I think he also expected me to know
less about those things than I did, because it was almost like he was
asking them just so he could have some sort of shock value. But,
pretty much any time I answered his challenge, he would dart to a
completely unrelated topic. The only time he tried to hold his ground
was on the Book of Abraham, but he didn't get that all I was saying is
we don't have the papyri that the Book of Abraham was translated from
over and over and over again. It was silly and useless. The weirdest
part is he never really offered anything in return. He didn't want to
hear what we had to offer (just kept continually asserting that he'd
studied us for four years) but never offered anything else. Futile...

Then yesterday we had this random man come into the church.
Unfortunately it was already over... But he lives next door and was
curious so he came at noon when he thought church started. We took
him on a quick tour of the chapel (it's new so it actually is quite
nice) and introduced him to Bishop. Now he's planning on being there 

next Sunday! Pretty neat!

Additionally, yesterday just turned into our hang-out-with-kids day.
We were in the nursery all third hour at church, then went to the
quad's grandparents for dinner with them, then went to the park with
Barbie and her kids to prep for FHE tonight. Fun day!

Buuuut yeah... I really don't have much more, so I'll just call it good now,

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 5 Letter


This week I decided I was going to eat healthier so I would be less fat. The fact that 2 liter Dr Pepper was on sale for a dollar didn't help that, but that is beside the point. All I wanted to emphasize is that I decided I was going to try oatmeal for three reasons:

1) It's dirt cheap.
2) It's healthier (I think) than Lucky Charms
3) I like it little enough that I wouldn't eat bowl after bowl of it.

So, I bought a box of assorted fruit and cream instant oatmeal, and decided to brave it. I started with Peaches n cream... and it was awful. I was distraught because peaches are one of my favorite fruits, and if that didn't cut it, nothing would. But the next morning, I tried again,this time with strawberries n cream. But this time, I made an important discovery!! It's SOOOOO much better not cooked! I don't like oatmeal; I like oats and milk and flavored powder! 

Now, as far as missionary work goes, I suppose I could talk about some stuff there too. We actually had a good week again, so it shouldn't be too hard to come up with stuff.

On Tuesday we had a meeting at the Peter Whitmer Farm. That should be super cool. How many missionaries get trained at the location of the first sacrament meeting since the original Apostles? So, parts of it were really cool, but then they spent the greater part teaching about random things like how to cook, how to shine your shoes, why we need to exercise, all sorts of weird stuff haha. None of it was bad, but a) it was a weird use of time and b) it was a REALLY weird use of the Peter Whitmer Farm. Oh well, so be it, I suppose.

So, we taught Debbie again! She's the less active who we have met with a few times who knows her Bible really well and has asked questions about the historicity or writing on metal plates and the like. Anyways, she is seriously one of my favorite people to teach, and it just drives me bonkers how rarely she can meet with us. But really, she understands scriptures well enough that teaching her is a blast. Last time we were over, she'd mentioned that she wanted to know more about how we know not only that Joseph was a prophet, but his successors as well, since we obviously don't believe the Catholic line of authority worked out too well. Well, what it really turned into was the most in-depth Restoration lesson in history! We talked about old time prophets, and how often they got rejected, cast out, and stoned. Ultimately, it was just about always the people who go astray and reject the prophets, not the prophets getting too haughty and warping God's word. We then talked about the faith crisis that occurred when Moses died and the authority fell to Joshua, when the calling went from Elijah to Elisha, and even from Jesus to the apostles. But as we were talking, I mentioned the apostasy, only to have her (thankfully) say that she really didn't know what we meant when we referenced the Apostasy. So we went through the New Testament and read all sorts of verses about the Apostasy, be them prophecies (e.g. Acts 20:28-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 2 Timothy 4:2-4) or occurrences of the start of apostasy (e.g. Galatians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:15). We then talked about the corruption of the early church, the rejection of the Apostles, the rise of unbaptized Constantine proclaiming himself Pope, and the detriment here. We bounced ahead then to the Reformation, emphasizing that they realized something was wrong, but kind of played the role of the scribes in between the Old and New Testaments; they recognized the absence of revelation, so they relied on learned exegesis instead. But what was coolest of all was how we were able to really dig deep into Joseph Smith's story, really reading the first half of Joseph Smith-History with commentary throughout. We were really able to show the conflict and dilemma that Joseph was facing and show how human he was in his search for truth. We then made sure to not make the mistake that we often make of acting like the First Vision was the Restoration. We talked about the abuse and persecution he went through after first attempting to explain his vision. We talked about Moroni's visits, and how Joseph had to be instructed for four years from the time Moroni first came to Joseph until Joseph could receive the plates. We then went through the persecution that forced the saints from state-to-state, culminating in Joseph's martyrdom. Then, luckily I did my homework, because I showed her some quotes from multiple people who were at the meeting trying to figure out who was now to lead the Church, where person after person testified of how much Brigham just sounded like Joseph. Debbie offered an insight there that had never occurred to me on how similar that is to the Day of Pentecost. Haha so I know I just rambled freaking forever about that... but it was just SUCH a fun lesson. I put things together in my head that I don't think I have ever put together before, and certainly read more of JS-H with anyone out here than I've ever done before. Really, it was just a blast!

We were also able to meet with Dan again! His health has been AWFUL the past month or two, and so it's been tough, but last night he was easily the most lively I've seen him in quite some time. He'd earlier messaged me on Facebook saying, "I miss you and a Elder Holt. When do you good night to let me make you dinner?" Haha he's just the nicest guy. But we'd talked about wanting to share from 1 Nephi 2 about the difference in how Lehi and his sons responded to God putting them through a hard time, really emphasizing that Nephi was only better off than Laman and Lemuel because he asked a God to unfold his mysteries. Well after dinner we just naturally got into a conversation about trials and overcoming them faithfully and what faith really is and the need for free will and opposition and all sorts of things and our planned chapter just fit wonderfully. So, that was exciting too!

Oh, guess what?! I finally figured out the difference in i.e., e.g., and viz.!! Yayyyy! Did you know viz is pronounced, "namely"? Haha makes sense, right?

We also did a bunch of tracting this week. And by a bunch, I really mean about four or five hours of it... but that's a lot out here. But we met the coolest guy! He was another one who just really understood the Bible and was willing to talk about what he knew and didn't know. He said he had an easier time accepting the miracles and visions that took place in the Bible than some that took place 200 years ago, but it was funny because he was the first one to admit that that was silly and illogical. At one point he asked if we considered him saved, and he didn't like our "well... kinda" answer, which lead into a discussion on the Kingdoms of Glory. At first he really didn't like it, but after we talked about "in my Father's house are many mansions," "some received an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold," and the whole sun, moon, stars deal, he acknowledged that there was some credibility to the idea. We then somehow got on the conversation of how do works play a role in our salvation in we are just saved by grace, and after discussing a number of scriptures, he admitted that we had some good points there, too. It was just cool to have real questions from someone who was willing to accept answers. Unfortunately, he didn't want us to drop by again sometime, but did willingly and almost eagerly accept our invitation to read Alma 32 and call us if it touches him. Ha, I hope it does, because I'd really like to talk to him again!

I also got to teach Sunday School yesterday! I didn't find out until 3 minutes before Sacrament Meeting, but it was still (in my opinion, at least) one of the better lessons that I've taught. It was on charity, and we were able to do the whole class without opening the manual. (I have developed a loathing for reading from the manual here in New York. I can't tell you how many lessons I've been in where the teacher's role is nothing more and nothing less than choosing who will start reading first, and we just read in a clockwise circle paragraph by paragraph. Blech...) But really, the lesson was fun. We were just able to read all sorts of stories about Christ's love, tying it into Ether 12:34where it says that the love Jesus has is charity. And so we talked about how Jesus never let anything get in the way of helping someone, no matter how much of a nuisance they might be, no matter their race or background, he just loved them and helped them. Megan saved the day with the book she sent me, because as it introduces hope (which the book is about), it first discusses faith and charity. I love these two quotes that I used in the lesson:

“When we say that charity is the pure love of Christ, most of us immediately think of His love for others, but let us not forget that He also loved God. And didn't he also love truth? Justice? Purity? Service? Should we not seek to follow His example in those things as well?”


“I believe that the gifts of faith, hope, and charity provide us with ‘spiritual triangulation,’ an SPS, or spiritual positioning system, if you will. Working like satellites in the sky, faith, hope, and charity help us chart our spiritual position, determine our speed and direction, and indicate how much distance there is between us and our final destination. We might even say we can us faith, hope, and charity to measure our ‘elevation’ -, our position on the upward path to exaltation.”

But I really liked the idea of triangulation with faith, hope, and charity. For the lesson's sake, I really emphasized that "the greatest of these is charity" and that "without charity we are nothing." Finally we just rounded it all in to talk about how we really start feeling charity when we develop a strong enough relationship with God that we realize just how much He lives all of us. We eventually get to the point where we don't just remember that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son and we even go past that God love meenough that He sent His Son; soon we get to where God loved Jim and Sarah and Jacob and every single individual so much that He sent His Son. We end up loving people for who they are, and who are they? Sons and daughters of God. 

I dunno if my thoughts are making sense here... And I've just rambled about a bunch of to random lessons over the past bit..... So hopefully you aren't bored. Long story short, I guess what I'm getting at is I like teaching haha.

Oh, one thing not just lesson related! Today in Sacrament Brendan got up and bore his testimony! Haha it was pretty cool. He talked about the power of forgiveness and love and all sorts of things. He even called himself a member of the church! Haha and he brought a friend to church... And said he stayed up late Saturday night watching Jon Bytheway... And all sorts of stuff. He's a funny guy.

Haha buuuut, I guess I should let you go.

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

April 28 Letter

There are some weeks where I am stoked to write an email because of
all the super exciting things going on out here. Buuuut, this week was
slow. So hopefully I don't bore you out of your mind with this
email.hopefully I can also find something to write about haha.

I guess I'll start with a story that is legitimately cool, even though
it is from a full week ago. But I don't know if you all remember
Michael. He is the guy the Sisters in Buffalo were teaching and who
was doing really well until he came across some anti Mormon stuff
online. Since then I've been working with him via text and email, and
it's definitely had it's ups and downs. But about two months ago, he
wrote Elder Bednar (yes, THE Elder Bednar) asking for advice on how to
deal with doubts and how to strengthen faith. Well, he wasn't sure
what to expect, but after waiting quite some time, he got a response
last week! And it was a legitimate response, not just some random form
letter from a secretary! Haha the letter was cool enough, but then at
the end, it essentially said, "Please keep in contact and let me know
how your progress is coming and if I can help with anything. Also, if
you are ever in Salt Lake City again, please call my secretary at
XXX-XXX-XXXX and set up a visit with me." Soooo cool!

It was also particularly interesting, because he had previously
written Sandra Tanner of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry (a professional
anti-Mormon organization) asking a question. Her response was a list
of edits in different editions of the Book of Mormon that "prove" it
false. In comparison, Elder Bednar's advice was the normal read the
Book of Mormon and pray about it, plus he added in some topics like
the Atonement, the Fall, agency, and a few others to study.
Essentially, our dear Sister Tanner said, "Here's a list of things
that prove the Book of Mormon false. Trust me." Elder Bednar, though,
said, "You can know for yourself that the Book of Mormon is true.
Trust God." Which is more enticing??

Buuuut, now for the rest of the week... Most everyone didn't meet with
us this week. In our weekly planning, we set new limits of where each
person has to be by the end of the transfer if we are to keep
dedicating time to them for now. We just structure our whole days
around people who then bail or just don't reply or something. So we
end up meeting with them once every four or five weeks, by which time
they have forgotten what we talked about, what they committed to do,
and most importantly, how they felt when we taught them last. We'll
see if that leaves us with hardly any investigators by the end of
three weeks haha.

We were able to meet with Vinnie and actually had a decent chat with
him. We talked all about obedience and how we often have to go against
our better judgements, trusting the Holy Ghost and acting in faith in
order to really receive all that Heavenly Father has in store for us.
He's been reading and enjoying the Book of Mormon, and is doing quite
well. Unfortunately, where we might be dropping everyone in three
weeks, he is moving in four weeks... Hopefully we'll get him nice and
primed for the missionaries down in Pennsylvania.

The other highlight only kinda applies to me. Well, it applies to me
for this week, but nor much past that. Anyways, a few weeks ago, our
stake president called us to let us know there was a guy named Brendan
who was going to be getting out of jail soon. So, this guy has been in
jail for 14 years... and is 28 years old. But early on, he started
meeting with missionaries and got a full testimony. For a while he was
allowed to leave jail on Sunday and go to church, and did so weekly.
Even though that privilege was eventually taken away, he has read the
Book of Mormon more times than he can count, has The Testaments as his
favorite movie, and used to hand out Book of Mormons to any inmate who
looked like they were going through a rough time. Starting ten years
ago or so, he and our stake president have really buddied up. Well, he
finally got out last Friday! Since then, I've been to his place twice
and he came to church on Sunday. He lives in the other elders' area,
so we won't work directly with him too much, unfortunately, but we've
been helping him get on his feet a bit. We bought him some clothes,
helped arrange regular rides to church, and so on. He's doing
remarkably well for a guy who has spent half of his life in jail! We
gave him a suit that had been left in the apartment by another elder
and he looked sharp on Sunday! Haha and he has a baptismal date!
August 30, 2015! Haha dang parole... Oh well. He's still awesome.

Buuuut, that's probably about it of good stories to tell!

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