Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas week

So actually, Christmas is not really a big deal in Korea. It's definitely here, though, and everyone knows what it is. As a district, we wrapped a bunch of Book of Mormons and plan an giving them away as kind of a fun and hopefully successful project. In Seoul, most all of our finding activities are streetboarding - we go out on the street in a crowded area and ask people to pick a question on our board and put a sticker on it. We nearly never go door-to-door, which I'm quite okay with. 

Something I've wondered about a lot on my mission is why so many people reject the word. I think of examples of great missionaries in the scriptures who converted nations of people and wonder why we don't see the same thing today. In Seoul, there are many churches. It is astoundingly clear when, from any point you stand, you can see at least three churches, with the typical red-lighten cross high in the hair. Looking out at the city from a higher point of view, the city is literally covered in these crosses (I'll try to get a picture at some point just to show you). There are so many churches in Seoul, and they come in shapes, sizes, and names I never imagined a church having. It is easy, then, to wonder about this. People recognize us immediately on the street, and usually see us like any of the others calling "lo here" or "lo there." One funny and weird thing, too, is that we often streetboard next to Jehovah's Witnesses who are also proselyting. They are really nice and great people, certainly following Christ in the way they know how; but with such obvious "religious excitement," how is our church different from all these others? Certainly, as missionaries, we are physically doing the same thing as the others. 

The answer is the same message we share when we first meet someone: The Restoration and the Book of Mormon. There are many who share our core belief in Christ. I've met many great, warm, Christlike people here who have strong testimonies of Christ and who aren't of our faith. But when we consider this sea of crosses across Seoul, many similar is message and appearance, but no two being exactly alike, I am reminded of Joseph Smith's own question: Which one is true? Our message is bold: Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ. Considering the doubt and confusion I am just starting to see and understand, having always been a member of the church, it only now is clear why that is significant. Christ leads His church himself through living prophets, like in times of old. He has declared, yet again, like in times past, His word and gospel through the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is the foundation of my faith. As I study it, the depth, power, and spirit that it contains make it clear that the book is true. The implications of this are massive - all the revelations and truths taught in the church are true, and all that has been spoken of really will come to pass. Many people will turn it aside without a thought, and many will deny it. But the truth is simple - The Book of Mormon is true. We can find out by obtaining the word it contains, praying about it, acting upon it, and witnessing the precious blessings it brings. This process we complete over and over again as we strengthen our faith, and again and again it proves true. Thus, the church is true, and it can never be proven anything else. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season! Take a little time to think of all the miracles in our life, including family and the greatest gift of love, which is our Savior. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Transfers--Elder Moore goes home

Temple day.

Well, Elder Moore finished his mission and is with his parents for about a week, then he'll go home. My new companion is Elder Kim Taewan, and he is awesome! I was so surprised when I heard my companion was a native Korean. Naturally, like all the other Korean missionaries I've met, he is really good at English, but he almost always speaks Korean to me. That is good, because what I need to work on the most is listening. I still can't understand most of what anyone says, so I hope this transfer with Elder Kim will help with that. 

Elder Kim Taewan is from the Busan area. He is super focused on the work and extremely diligent in getting things done. I hope to learn a lot from him and find some people to teach. 

Our investigator got confirmed on Sunday, which was great! We will still be meeting with him regularly, and we are praying a lot for him to continue building faith and pursuing this commitment he has made. 

I've been wondering a lot recently on what really brings the Spirit to people and how to testify in a way that invites the Spirit. I am learning that every testimony must be sincere - that is, when we testify to someone on the street that the Book of Mormon is true, we are saying that with an honest desire for them to find out for themselves if it is true. When are intentions parallel Heavenly Father's, he will bless our actions and words with power. President Hinckley was told by his father during his mission to forget himself and go to work. To "forget yourself" is not easy to do, but as we strive to serve the Lord because we love Him, and thus serve His children, he will pour his Spirit upon us. Heavenly Father wants His children to know he loves them, and he wants them to come unto Him and to be able to bless them. When we do all we can to be in a position to accomplish this will because of our sincere desire to serve Him, He will be there to help us. The intentions within our hearts, when pure, create room for the Spirit to fill us. 

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying Christmas season!

Monday, December 7, 2015

100 Hour Week

This last week has been so busy! We woke up at 5:30 each day and only did an hour of prep and an hour of study before we went out for the day, then stayed out until 9:30. We made lots of contacts streetboarding, met lots of members and a less active, worked with our investigator, and got a lot done. As I reflected on this past week I saw that the Lord has been teaching me many things. First of all is diligence. I've been wondering a lot about not reaching my goals and what I can improve that will allow me to fulfill them. Christlike attributes that I've focused on a lot since coming on my mission are humility and diligence, and from this past week I saw and learned that diligence and putting our focus, effort, and heart primarily into the work before anything else, we will accomplish our goals. Our vision, which ought to be aligned with our Father's will, should be concentrated on our purpose and the plans and goals we set to accomplish it. These lessons, I believe, were the most valuable part of doing the 100 hour week, because they will make me more effective for the rest of my mission. 

The coolest part of the week was 이상호's baptism. It happened right after church, so most of the ward was there. The speakers welcomed him to the ward, it it was all-around a very joyful experience. One rather unfortunate thing that happened was that the water in the font was too hot right as we were going in, so we had to wait and sing songs while some cold water was pumped in. It's been great working with him, and I've really grown to care and develop Christlike love for him as we have worked with him. 

One thing I've gained a strong testimony of on my mission is the power of the scriptures. I've found that almost all of my prayers are answered by the scriptures. The time I get to spend just studying God's word (Alma right now) is one of the most spiritual and powerful during the day, and as I've learned how to better study and apply the scriptures to myself, I have been immensely blessed. If there are any concerns, doubts, struggles, questions, or trials we have, simply studying the Book of Mormon will help us overcome. Any chapter will do. In fact, nearly any verse would work. Search for an answer and revelation to whatever your specific trial or question may be. The Spirit will be there, and you will obtain a joyful remembrance of our Heavenly Father's love and plan for us. Your testimony of the Savior will be strengthened. These things will bring you joy and remembrance that can overcome anything. The scriptures are an incredible blessing to us, and one of the things I am most grateful for in my life. 

I love you all and hope you are doing well and loving the Christmas season. Elder Jones, you are a great example to me! Keep being awesome!

Evolution of the Nametag

​Thanksgiving dinner: Ordering Chicken. Left to Right: Elder Huckvale, Elder Kim, me, Elder Moore, and our streetboard in the background

Thanksgiving Dinner
​First snow from the apartment window. Didn't stick. 

​Kim bop! (Making Kimchi) 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Week

This last week we've spent a lot of time with our investigator who is going to be baptized on Sunday. It's been so awesome working with him. Seeing him change and start recognizing the joy of following Christ has been incredible. It's inspired me to do better to keep the Spirit with me, because that is what has brought this change to him. Were it not for the joyful feeling of the Spirit that he was so ready to receive, being such a humble person, I don't think he would have seen any reason to keep meeting with us. I'm so grateful that I've had this opportunity to work with him.

We got snow for the first time this week, and it was very cold. Unfortunately, I was on an exchange when that day came, and I didn't have all my great winter stuff with me. On top of that, my exchange companion needed to go to the office with another elder for choir practice, so I went on another exchange with Elder Hall during my current exchange. We were both greenies (I actually know Elder Hall from the MTC), and we were both in a totally new area on the coldest day of the year. The only thing for us to do was a 4-hour street contacting block. Not super effective, but something cool to mention. 

During an exchange with Elder Cable this past week or two, he committed me to pray about five things I did well that day, and then to ask about something I needed to improve in. I've often hesitated to ask questions in prayers, and that was probably because I was afraid of not getting an answer or not being worthy or sincere enough to receive it, but the answer and impression I got from doing that has stayed firmly in my mind. Since then, my prayers have become of utmost importance to me, and I see them as my time to account to the Lord how I have cared for His children that day. This has helped me stay humble and continually diligent, something I've always struggled with. I've learned that experiencing a single powerful personal study, meaningful prayer, or really focused, consecrated day of work isn't enough. Every study, prayer, and thought must be increasingly meaningful. The Spirit is a Spirit of progression, I have learned, and contentment will not invite it to remain with me, keep me humble, and keep my mind and heart close to my Father and His work. Having the Spirit with me always is one of my most earnest desires, and I know that when I do, I am a much more effective and Christlike person. Now, I must seek always to remember this, and keep my eye on Christ in order to stay humble and focused. 

Elder Moore and I are doing the 100 hour week this week, which means for 7 days we will wake up at 5:30 AM instead of 6:30, get ready and eat breakfast for an hour, do an hour of study, another 30 minutes of personal study, then leave and not come back to the house until 9:30 PM. Unless we eat with a member or investigator, we have only 5 minutes for lunch and dinner, so basically we just eat while we work. I've heard it's pretty exhausting, so I'm excited. Because I've been focused a lot since coming on my mission of being continually humble and focused on the Lord and His work, I hope I will learn and develop this throughout the week. If I can stay totally diligent, then I hope to apply this Christlike attribute throughout my mission. 

I hope everyone is doing well and had a great Thanksgiving. We ate some chicken, because there is no turkey here (that we know of, anyway). I can send pictures next week. Have a great holiday season! 

Hwae ting, Elder Jones! I sarangheyo you too! (That's some really bad romanization right there)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Answers to Prayers

First of all, our investigator is progressing so much! We had a baptismal date for December 12th and we moved it to the 5th just because we believe he is ready. It has been awesome teaching him because he is so humble and desirous to meet with us. He doesn't feel or interpret things the same way we do, but what has been so incredible is how he said he can feel the Spirit. The fact that he understands what we teach and wants to be baptized is a miracle in itself. We've been working a lot with the bishop and members to make sure he is taken care of, and they have been so helpful and loving. We are so excited for him!

We had a big Kimchi making service project this week. There were tons of people there from a bunch of different organizations, and there were about 50 missionaries there. Basically, crates of Kimchi, sauce, and moo were brought in. Some people would bring it to tables, where other people would mix it and prepare it. They would put it in shipping containers, which were then weighed. It was my job to run those containers over to another table to be packaged. It was lots of fun and very educational to see how Kimchi is made (or part of the process, anyway). I have no pictures, but apparently Sister Sonksen took a ton and put them on Facebook. You might try to find them there. 

This week's funny experience: On on exchange with Elder Saunders, we met a ninety-five year old man on the street. He was super energetic and happy to see us. We had only said we were from America, and he called us family, pointed at each of us individually, then firmly asserted that he loved us. Then he went berserk making the sign of the cross over and over again as fast as he could, which was actually pretty impressive. We just smiled, said "nice to meet you", and walked away. 

An interesting thing about Korean culture/language that I don't think I've talked about are the different forms of speaking. There are actually three ways we might say hello: "an young," "an young ha se yo," "an young ha shim ni ca." Korean society is very hierarchical, and whenever speaking to someone, you use the form that suits that person's rank. To elderly people, we say the latter form of hello. To middle age, we use the middle one. Normally, one would use the low form on children or people beneath you, but as missionaries we are simply told never to use low form, which is called "pan mar." Every sentence ends with a verb, and it is conjugated to one of the three forms. It can be very rude to use to use the wrong form in the wrong situation because of Korea's high standard of formality and respect. Luckily, it's actually pretty natural to feel which form we need to use on what person. 

I've seen powerful answers to my prayers this week. I feel that my weaknesses are patience and continued diligence, because I might work and be focused really hard on learning, sharing, and opening my mouth one day, but fall short the next. I've been praying really hard to be able to stay focused continually on doing His work and forgetting myself. One night, I prayed to know what I need to do and remember in order to stay strictly devoted to what Heavenly Father wants me to be doing. The thought that has permeated through my mind since is: "Am I a servant whom the Lord can trust?" I've thought about this a lot. The first thing we teach others is that we have a loving Heavenly Father. He is literally our father, spiritually, and like us has a body of flesh and bone. His desire, work, and glory is for us to return to live with Him. Everything He does works toward this end. I have only just starting realizing the sacred trust He has placed in us as missionaries. We are to bring his children back to Him. Our purpose, through the Gospel of Christ, aims to bring Heavenly Father's children Eternal Life and happiness. This realization really sunk in the past week. The Lord pours blessings and miracles out upon us. Do we use all of these, to the very best of our ability, to fulfill His eternal purpose? If so, then He can trust us with more. This eternal impact and significance of this work is overwhelming. But, through His Spirit, the Lord can make us instruments in His hands. We have the potential to receive an outpouring of the Spirit, but only if we are 100% dedicated to serving Him and, thereby, his children. The blessings he pours upon us, namely the gifts of the Spirit, are a sacred trust. They are to be consecrated for His work, which is of infinite importance. We show our love for Him and our desire to submit ourselves to His will when we use all our heart, might, mind, and strength to follow every prompting and serve. The greater we show and act on our commitment to use all He has given us for the salvation of His children, the more he can trust us with. We must continually be diligent, patient, and consecrated to His will. Doing well for a while but slackening our effort from time to time does does not make us someone He can trust. We cannot follow the Nephite cycle of compelled humility in order to pour our hearts out to Heavenly Father. Rather, we must be like the people of Ammon - forsaking that which inhibits our conversion and pursuing only what the Lord would have us do. When we consistently show that we will do what He wants, He blesses us with a greater portion of His Spirit. I know that this brings more joy, peace, love, and happiness than anything else we can experience. 
This church is right outside our house. Seoul is full of churches, many of which are massive. Right across from this one is another big church that isn't in the picture (just to the right). ​

Monday, November 16, 2015

Stake Conference

This week has been incredible! A major highlight was stake conference, where President Whiting (Area Seventy president over Asia) came and spoke on Saturday andSunday. He spoke in English with a translator, so I could actually understand his talk. One of the most memorable things he said was that Seoul is filled with huge, beautiful churches. We can hardly go anywhere without being in sight of one of the lit-up red crosses. He compared them to them to the fig tree visited by the Savior in the New Testament. It was beautiful and large. But, because it had no fruit, it withered. It was of no worth. Only Christ's true church has fruit. He went on to talk about how in Asian culture, getting into the best university and the best jobs are of paramount importance. He told everyone that things, though worthwhile, should never interfere with the Sabbath or in feeling the Holy Ghost. It was a very powerful and spiritual talk, and I learned a lot about how some of us have to sacrifice different things that may be very difficult. Scholarship is culture in Asia, and this can make it very difficult to teach someone because all time is spent studying to pass exams. Church attendance and the Sabbath may seem like major roadblocks to this. President Whiting promised, however, that if the saints put the Lord first and keep the Sabbath Holy, they would have all they stand in need of. 

I've seen many miracles this week as I've sought to accomplish the zone commitments (challenge someone to be baptized every day) and our own companionship and personal goals. More than anything, I've learned about the gift of the Spirit. I've felt it so powerfully this past week, especially as I've focused my thoughts, energy, and strength on others. An ongoing goal or vision I have for myself as a missionary is to develop a Christlike love and charity for others. As I thought about this, Moroni 7:44-48 really stuck with me. Elder Bednar said in his Character of Christ talk that complete conversion occurs when we naturally turn out in love, meekness, compassion, and patience during even the greatest of trials. This is a great party of what it means to have charity. It can often be very difficult to overcome our natural tendency toward pride and selfish thinking. I have learned this week, however, that is can be actually be very simple. We need only consider whether each action invites a greater portion of Heavenly Father's spirit to dwell with us, strengthen us, and prompt and strengthen us to direct our thoughts and efforts toward others, or whether our actions and behavior inhibit it. 

I've gained a much more powerful testimony of the Spirit this week. I did not understand well how it worked before my mission. However, we had a lesson with one of our investigators who is extremely humble. When he felt the Spirit during our testimonies, he said he felt something, and he even asked if we would baptize him the next day. He struggles to understand much or what we say, and he doesn't feel or understand things much the same as most others do. Yet, he wanted to keep feeling the Spirit. There is nothing more wonderful than feeling an increase of our Father's Spirit. It is incredibly simple. If something is right, we can feel the Spirit's presence. If not, the Spirit will not be there. I know from my experiences that following the Spirit, though usually not the easier path, brings the most happiness. It inspires us with worthy goals and desires, gives us strength to act on them, and confirms that what we are doing is right. Alone, I really have no idea how to build more charity, patience, and meekness. All I can do is pray that Heavenly Father will bless me with the guidance I lack to do it, and He will do so through the gift of His Spirit.

I have also learned that humility is, perhaps, the most important factor in feeling the Spirit. Do we wish for correction, or eschew it? When others do or say things that offend or hurt us, do we take it meekly and patiently, or do we quickly irritate? Humility allows us to take all the whirlwinds of life with an eye single to Christ. We know we need and rely on Him every day, forever. Thus, we obediently seek only to do as he would have us do. We disregard anything that might distance us from His presence. It isn't easy, nor should it be. But as we do this, we allow Heavenly Father to lead, and He will work miracles. We have already gotten two people to agree to be baptized when we met them on the street. The Lord is capable of anything. We just need to allow Him to work through us by seeking and following His guidance through the Spirit. 

I don't have time to talk about all the amazing things that happen here, because there are so many every day! I hope everyone is doing well. Thanks for your messages, encouragement, and advice. Have a great Thanksgiving! (That's this week, right?) 

In answer to your question, we don't do hardly any knocking on doors. There are always people to talk to on the street in Seoul. Not sure what we do when it gets cold, but when it is raining a lot we try to do other finding activities. This could mean scanning through our area books (all FOUR of them) looking for people that look promising to call back up. We have a current investigator we found that way. We also do streetboards, which are boards with questions like "where do we go after we die?" and we ask people to come put a sticker on one of the questions. Lately, we have had a large focus on visiting members and building relationships. In Korea, that is extremely important, because members will not give referrals if they don't have a solid, good relationship with the missionaries. We also work a lot on English class, because there are lots of Koreans who want to talk to native English speakers. We hand out flyers and try to advertise it. We share a spiritual thought at the end of class, and this is a way that is often very effective and getting people interested in the church and spending lots of time with missionaries. 

A lot of time is also spent trying to visit less actives. This part is difficult, because the address system here is ridiculous. We can spend hours just looking for one or two houses. Still, we are trying to work on this, because there are fewer than 10,000 active members out of more than 80,000. So, we are trying to work on bringing people back, but the main focus right now is helping members start doing missionary work. 
Jangwi - we travel this street every day and take those blue buses all the time to go to the stake center in Gireum

So far, this is the most delicious meal I've eaten in Korea.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chicken anyone?

I'll start this one out with a really funny experience that happened on Tuesday. We were walking home when we passed by a man eating chicken from a cup with a spork, and I asked to shake his hand. He responded unusually enthusiastically. He shook our hands, then immediately, before we could say anything, began to feed us chicken by putting it in our mouths with his spork. He gave each of us a piece, then started walking away. We hurried after him to give him a restoration pamphlet, and he turned around and fed both of us another piece of chicken. It was so weird, and Elder Moore and I just had to walk away laughing. The next day, I accidentally flushed my pen down the toilet while we were cleaning, but that's another story. 

A really cool thing happened during English class when a member brought me a cheesecake for my birthday. I was so taken aback, and could only say thank you. Elder Moore's birthday was three days later, so I think we will break into it today to celebrate both of them. 

We finally got a service project here for a member family that was moving. We carried lots of heavy boxes and furniture up some really steep steps in the rain, which was actually pretty fun. I feel like we actually helped the family out a lot and sped up the process. It was actually a miracle that we were able to do it, because we were going to their old house, which we hadn't realized they had already moved out of. We just so happened to find them walking down the street to the new one, which was a very unlikely thing. We would never have known where to go if we hadn't been where we were when we were. 

We had some great lessons this week and finally got an investigator to church. We're hoping to get two more there soon. One is Mongolian and is investigating because his girlfriend wants him to. The other has a few roadblocks. Because of some negative past experiences, he doesn't want to associate religion with Korea, but he is very interested in talking to us and learning more about the church. We hope to have a foreign member there next lesson and to take him to a foreigner ward. If he starts seeing the sincerity and love of the saints, we hope and pray that his heart will be softened and he will be able to forgive and forget. If there's anything that can help him do that, it is learning more about Christ and His Atonement. 

This week has been hard for keeping our goals and commitments. At zone meeting, we were committed to challenge someone to be baptized every day. This has been a challenge, but a theme here is the Seoul Mission is "Faith to Baptize." I'm working and praying to be less worried and afraid of making mistakes or talking to everyone on our path so that the Lord can lead. I've learned repeatedly that my own abilities are far from adequate. I've been focusing a lot on seeking inspiration for goals and commitments and trusting in the Lord to fulfill all of them. 

Thanks everyone for your messages and encouragement. It means a lot, and I hope you are all doing very well! 

After moving the family into their new place.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween in Korea?

This week has been fantastic! We got two new investigators. One of them is from Spain and will only be here for another two weeks, so we are just hoping to get him to read the Book of Mormon and meet with missionaries back home.

The other is probably our most interested investigator. We found him going through our area book and noticing that there was no reason that he was dropped, so we called him up and he was excited to meet again. He really likes us and what we teach, and he seemed very desirous to take and read a Book of Mormon. On major challenge we will have with him, however, is that he will not associate religion with Korea or Koreans (keep in mind that he himself is a Korean). He had bad experiences in the past that have caused him to not want to associate religion with Korea in any way, even refusing to take a Korean Book of Mormon and taking an English one instead. This will be a difficult challenge for us to help him overcome, but am praying a lot for Him, because I know if there is anything that can change his heart and bring about a spirit of forgiveness, it is the Atonement of Christ. 

We had a great Halloween two days ago! We all decided to dress up as missionaries and go to the office for a devotional with P.J. Rogers. I doubt anyone will recognize the name, but in Korea he is a legit, huge celebrity. He is a return missionary who went back to Korea for school, graduated from a top Korean university (an EXTREMELY hard thing to do, and he did it all in Korean!), was a business man for a while, had a television show, and is now a professor at BYU Hawaii. When we were told he would be speaking, Elder Moore, who had been to one of his devotionals before, started acting a bit like a kid on Christmas morning (in a good way, of course). I can understand why now. He is an incredible speaker. He taught all about Korean culture, language learning, and something called Jeung. Jeung is sort of the hierarchy or order of respect in Korea. Jeung is the connection between people, and it can be student to teacher, junior to elder, child to parent, or anything else. He talked all about the importance of showing the proper form of respect, like bowing, shaking with two hands, and standing up when an adult walks in the room. He also talked a lot about the importance of developing proper Jeung with members. I can't possibly explain this the way he did, or with all the stories and examples he shared, but I felt very inspired afterward. I definitely act differently now to try to appear as proper as I can. It can be difficult when something that may be rude or odd in Korea would be totally normal in the U.S. For example, he set up a fake role-play situation and suddenly asked a Korean in the audience if he would refer the a friend to the missionaries in a situation like this. The answer was something along the lines of, "No." As U.S. members, we tend to refer people to missionaries even if we don't know the missionary's name. In Korea, that would never happen. Missionaries must develop Jeung with members for the members to be willing to refer people to them. 

After the meeting, I realized just how little I actually understood the importance of understanding the culture and the way Koreans think. I can't explain everything that was talked about, because P.J. Rogers talked for more than three hours, but it was such an awesome experience. I've committed to put more effort into learning and understanding the Korean culture and language, because it is so different, but also very cool. I had a very cool experience the next day that I wrote in my journal:

"Today I felt a lot of powerful impressions from the Spirit. I've been praying for an increase of love, especially for the members, because of the inspiring P.J. Rogers devotional yesterday. I certainly felt a lot different today than I have before. Despite language differences and my inability to understand them often, I felt a strong desire to connect with them and more willingly embrace their culture. I bore my testimony in Sacrament meeting and really wanted them to feel the missionary's care for them. A few members actually approached me today about a few different things (language help, getting to know me, talking about ward choir/singing). If this isn't a miraculous, character-changing answer to my prayers, I don't know what would be." 

Thanks for all your messages and encouragement! I hope everyone is doing great!

By the way, go Elder Jones! Glad to see you are doing awesome work just a little way away.
Tyler's Birthday Heart Attack Package from home.

Home away from home--Apartment in Seoul.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Meetings with President Sonksen

This week we did a lot. My favorite moment was 12-week follow-up meeting, where President and Sister Sonksen talked to trainers and trainees. A lot of things were talked about, but what I really remember taking out of it is that I only need to do as much as I can. There are so many thing to worry about all the time - planning, filling records, finding new people, preparing lessons, deciding how to help people, service, English class, studies. Then, most of these have to be in Korean. We are promised, however, that this is the Lord's work. If we just do our best and trust in Him, he will take care of the rest, making up for all our mistakes and shortcomings. Lately, I've been concerned about having useful and meaningful personal, companion, and language studies. There are so many things that I need to get done every day. There really isn't any way I can do this on my own. I rely heavily on the gifts of the Spirit every day to help me make it though, and even then sometimes I get tripped up and overwhelmed. I have realized from this week, however, that every time I feel overwhelmed or down, it is because I am thinking of myself. I am striving to get better at following simple advice at times like these: forget myself. This is the Lord's work. I have witnessed this week that when I am focused on serving others for the blessings it can bring to them, they understand me better, and I understand them better. When I am humble enough to just go and do because it's what the Lord asks of me, I am far happier and more able to accomplish everything I need to. 

Another very fun event this week was music night over in Gireum, an area bordering Jangwi. I was amazed repeatedly as different performers, especially piano players and a few singers, created some amazing music. One of my favorites was a ten year old who got up and played a very complex and beautiful piano solo perfectly. I attribute this to the fact that when Koreans want something, they work, work, and work for it. Students, especially, are extremely hard working. In the U.S., I would suggest that the most idolized people are sports figures or singers. In Korea, scholarship is what is considered accomplishment, and the title of "teacher" is one of the highest respected. Thus, Koreans must study hard their whole life in order to get into a good college, because it is so competitive and difficult. It is much the same with music or anything else one might pursue, even if it isn't their career or occupation - when they do something, they buckle down and work and practice so that they can do it very well. There was definitely no mediocrity during that music night, and I heard some pretty incredible musicians. There were a lot of investigators there and nonmembers performing, and I'm sure everyone had a great time, because I did. 

Another snippet of Korean culture I can't remember if I've shared is that every person has a title. There is no word for "you" in Korean (actually there is, but it is considered very rude and/or accusatory to use it). Thus, people are referred to by their titles, whether they be occupational, personal, or religious. For example, to a old lady on the street, I would call her "grandma," which sounds exactly like "harmony" in Korean. 

Thanks for the messages and encouragement I always get. It's very helpful and appreciated. I hope everyone is doing well!
Hiked up the Mountain on P-day again.  This is before sunrise.

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2015/10/25-We climbed the mountain today with a lot of the zone - from right to left - Elder Moore (orange hoodie), Elder Kim (blue sweatshirt), Elder Saunders (grey hoodie), Elder Yetter (you can just see his legs under Elder Sanders), Elder Bean (Black Shirt, red shorts), Elder Gottfredson (you can see a piece of his head behind Elder Bean), Elder Littlefield (blue t-shirt), Elder Seeley (bright red sweatshirt), Elder Cable (you can see just a piece of his head above Elder Seeley's left shoulder), and Elder Eagar (grey hoodie, furthest to the right). Elder Cable, Littfield, Cable, and Gottredson were all in the MTC with me.
Just before sunrise.

2015/10/25-​These are our mats. I sleep on the one that is second closest to the camera (the one next to the one with the soccerball on it)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Because my companion, Elder Moore, is district leader, and therefore has to go on exchange with every elder in our district once per transfer, and because we have 5 teams of elders in our district, we end up going on a lot of exchanges. Last week, we went on three exchanges. Exchanges last 24 hours, so, taking P-day out, I spent half my time with a different companion. It was really awesome, especially because two of those exchanges were with the zone leaders, Elder Bean and Elder Eagar. They are truly incredible missionaries. When they are talking or teaching about something, the Spirit enters into the room and just grows more and more powerful as they continue. Elder Bean trained me and his trainee, Elder Littlefield (whom I actually know from the MTC), about being spiritually open to everyone, all the time. He made a comparison to "Amish friendship bread," which is dough which, when continually added yeast and flour, will grow and produce more and more dough. This allows the person to cut parts off and share it with others, while the dough just keeps growing. The yeast and flour here refer to our own personal conversion, the things that make us stronger and more like Christ, such as sincere prayer, knowledge, and, most importantly, charity. As missionaries, we grow and build knowledge and faith every day through these things. It is our commission to share these things with others. He bore testimony about the power of sharing. Like the friendship bread, we obtain more room to grow as we share pieces of our testimony and the Spirit with others. He talked about a lot of other things, but what I really learned is that I need worry less and share more. It is so easy to say, "talk with everyone." It is much harder to actually do. I've felt prompted throughout this week that I need to start with my companion. We need to be completely open and comfortable sharing pieces of ourselves with each other so that we, as a powerful team, can bring the Spirit to others in a way that will astonish them. 

The language has come along a lot recently. It takes a ton of focus all day to try to improve at the rate I want, and I still more frequently fall short of how hard I want to be working on it. Elder Moore's example of diligently working is very impressive, though, and I am getting lots of great advice from him. 

We had a great fireside at the mission office yesterday (Sunday). The speaker, Mark A. Peterson, talked about religions most prominent in Korea - Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shamanism. I really loved it because I've been wanting to know more about what these religions believe. I knew very little about Buddhism and Confucianism, and almost nothing about Shamanism. He explained how each are similar to and different from what we believe. Each one has truth, and we don't seek to replace that. Rather, we want to add and build on the truths they already know. This is also a good way to help them understand what I'm teaching, they way Ammon helped King Limhi understand, and to be more open to the truth and spirit of what we are teaching. It was also very interesting to learn how Confucianism and Shamanism, thought hardly practiced at all today, is actually visible in every person in Korean culture. The respect of and deference to Elders, leaders, parents, and seniors is a very Confucian ideology. One very interesting thing I learned was that the ceremonies for ancestors that some of these religions hold are not ancestor worship, as we might tend to think. Rather, it is showing the same respect to their ancestors that they would have given to them in real life, such as bowing to them when greeting them. In fact, in our church, we do a lot of genealogical work and ancestral ceremonies in the temple. This is a similarity I've never seen before, and it is something I can use to introduce and relate the church to others in a way that may interest them. 

Another exchange I had last week was with Elder Yetter, who is incredibly sensitive to the Spirit's promptings. I learned from him how to recognize when we are receiving gifts or guidance from the Spirit, and I had an experience later in the week where this occurred. Elder Moore taught the first lesson to a student we met on the street a few days before. The lesson started a bit awkward, and Elder Moore and I were both praying for the Spirit. Our prayers were answered when we started to talk and testify about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. I experienced a miraculous remembrance of vocab and grammar I'd never used outside of study before, and it come much more quickly and clearer than ever before. It may not seem amazing to think about, but I know it was a gift from Heavenly Father at that moment, not because of the difference in ability that could intellectually be measured, but because of how it felt. The feeling was that of the Spirit, allowing me to help our investigator understand the importance of what I was saying. It's not always easy to know if it is the Spirit that is blessing us, but I'm am starting to learn a little about it. It has more to do with how we felt when we received it than how we can try to logically come to a conclusion. 

Thank you for your messages, advice, and wisdom. I love to hear how everyone is doing, and I hope you are all well!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Finally starting to know what's going on.

This week has been a spiritually uplifting week. Zone training on Wednesday was incredible. Our zone leaders are such great examples of missionaries and superb teachers. General conference, also, was fantastic (we watched it last weekend so that we could do it the same time as the ward, and it takes a week for it to be translated). I felt so uplifted and inspired to do better. I don't have time to write everything I learned, but there was certainly a focus on Sabbath day observance and family. My goal at the end of this week was to make a commitment to talk to everyone and to share what I can with them. In many cases, this may only be giving them a pass-along card, but I already know of one person who has a baptismal date because of only receiving a pass-along card. It's so easy to pass by someone on a bus or subway, but I've committed to spend every spare moment I have when moving from place to place and all my energy when proselyting to talk to everyone. Most don't want to hear about what I have to say, and it quickly can get frustrating and disheartening when people reject something that I know is unfathomably precious because they don't understand it or are too busy. But the few who may come closer to Christ because of anything I do make it more than worth it. 

Anyway, Korea is awesome. Before coming, I had never even taken a taxi or public bus in my life. Now, I am already familiar with the subway and taxi system around Jangwi, and taken several taxis. I still haven't been on a train. As far as the food goes, Korea food is great. Kimchi is especially delicious. I never liked spicy food before my mission, but I immediately loved all the spicy things here, which I thought was very interesting. Rice and kimchi are served with every meal. The pears here are called bae (not a real English word) and they are delicious. There was only one weird thing I've eaten so far, which was during mission conference. It was grey, rectangle, squishy, and floppy. I had to try hard not to gag and spit is out. Hopefully I can avoid this in the future. 

We've had several meals (called shieksaw in Korean) with members. What people have told me about Koreans trying to feed us as much as they can has proved true. I've learned to act like I'm stuffed before I really am, because then maybe they will only push one or two more courses upon us. Also, desert is actually fruit. After every meal, usually the last course is apples, pears, or grapes. The apples are the same, but the grapes and pears here are so good. 

I'm learning a lot about Korean culture and language. It's still really hard and very different. Even if something is translated exactly into English, it still makes no sense. For example, I know all the words for "how are you," but saying them in Korean would make no sense at all. Translating how a Korean would actually say that would be, "rice ate?" It makes sense after being explained to me, because in Korean history, right after the Korean war, the people had nothing. To ask how someone was doing, one might ask if they had eaten rice, because food was so scarce at that time. So, the saying is still, "Did you eat rice today?" The Korean Language's words can often be way more specific and can only be used in one way and one situation, whereas in English every word is pretty versatile. Still, it's getting better, and I'm starting to pick out words here and there that people say. 

Thanks for your messages and thoughts. I hope everyone is doing well. Conference was great, and I look forward to hearing from our new apostles again in the future!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Character of Christ

This week I've learned so much about the character of Christ and our mission to develop that character in ourselves. I'm only beginning to see why it is so important as a missionary to develop these attributes. In order to teach with the power and authority that we see in the scriptures from Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we can't just believe the things we teach. A testimony is great, but it is only a start. A testimony is our incentive and drive to be converted. We hear this word a lot, but I don't think I ever considered what the word literally means: to convert, or to change from one thing to another. The key word here is "change", and to me, this means repentance. To truly change from the more natural man to a more Christlike character requires constant repentance. Repentance requires the Atonement. Thus, the Atonement is not just there for us to use when we feel we have made a mistake. Though this is a great blessing it provides, the Atonement is really there for us to become like Christ - to change. I made a goal a few weeks ago to use the Atonement every day to progress in some aspect that I feel needs to be improved. I actually wondered a first if I could think of something every day that I would need to repent of. The answer to this has been a resounding "yes." One attribute in particular that I have focused on is humility. Humility is incredibly important because it enables and gives us the desire to change. Repentance, or changing/converting ourselves to become more like Christ, requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In other words, without humility, we cannot develop any of the other of the Christlike attributes. It is the channel through which we can use the Atonement to develop and progress. 

I have found humility is important when interacting with other missionaries, especially my companion. We are not the same person, and therefore don't agree on everything. It is so easy to get irritated or frustrated when I don't fully agree with the way he does things. Nobody is perfect, however. 3 Nephi 14:3-5 teaches us that we must first seek to cast off our own flaws and imperfections and forsake the natural man (to be converted unto Christ). After we have done this, we can seek to help others to cast off theirs. But, how do we know when we have sufficiently been humbled and cast off the natural man, so as to be able to help and care for others? I feel that 2 Peter 1:5-7 answers this question very well. Our conversion starts with faith. Then, we add to our faith, in this order: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, then, finally, charity. It is very significant to me that the final Christlike attribute is charity. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, is an incredible gift. In Elder Bednar's "Character of Christ" talk, he tells us that charity is the character and natural tendency to turn outward in love and compassion during all our trials, rather than in to ourselves, as the natural man would do. When we have obtained this genuine charity, we can no longer fall away or be led astray. Thus, it is when we have obtained this love for others that we can seek to cast off their imperfections, because we are doing so out of love. The desire to teach, serve, and correct should come from Christlike charity. It is this attribute that allows miracles to occur, because we seek only to use the power and gifts of God to bless others. When we do nothing for ourselves or because of our own pride, the Spirit can powerfully manifest that love to those who speak to and serve.

 It is my hope and goal to develop at least a little of the love and charity that Christ manifests. I know I have so much to learn and do before I can do this, including improving in my diligence in obtaining knowledge, and especially in being patient. I am so thankful for the Atonement, which allows us to strive towards this goal, despite how quickly and easily I fall astray. I need Christ to show me my weaknesses and provide me with opportunities to be humbled, because I know on my own I am extremely prideful. I need Him to give me His word and guidance in order to see the path I must follow toward my goals, and to happiness. I need Him to help me stay on this path, and be with me every hour to pick me up when I fall down. It isn't easy, but it was unimaginably more difficult for Him; and, because He did suffer for all of our shortcomings, I know that if I only do all I can, I cannot fail. 

The last week had a lot of ups and downs. We met a man in the park who told us he wants to know why there are so many different churches and interpretations of the same scriptures. At first I though he would be a golden investigator, because he asked all the same questions as Joseph Smith, but it turned out that he didn't really want to believe anything we were teaching about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. He just wanted to talk about the Bible. We met lots of people randomly this week who also seem quite interested and willing to meet. The Lord places all kinds of people in our path, often when we aren't even looking for it. I just need to get better and talking to everyone and doing what I can, because the Lord can take care of the rest. Just yesterday a man called back that we had only given our card to on the street as he was running past, saying that he just "wants to believe." We don't really have any idea what we are doing out here. It's the Spirit that does 99% of the work. We just need to be there to provide the opportunity for someone to feel it. 

Thanks for all your messages and encouragement! I hope someday I will understand what someone says in Korean. It's a very deceptive language, because it is so easy to read. I thought for sure it would only be a matter of memorizing words, but the grammar is so different and weird. Most things, if not all things, when translated from Korean to English word for word would make absolutely no sense. It's improving, though, and I'm always praying and fasting for the Lord's help. We watch general conference next week, so I'm excited for that!

Monday, September 28, 2015


(Choosuk)  is basically Christmas in Korea. Choosuk day was yesterday (Sunday), so we had a conference and a cleaning day over the weekend because pretty much no one is on the street.Choosuk, from what I learned, is when everybody meets with family for a few days and takes time off of work (often for the only time all year). Choosuk is about celebrating harvest time, and it takes place during the fullest moon of the year. I guess that makes this holiday more like Thanksgiving, but the feeling is more like Christmas because everything is closed and everyone is with family. We learned all about Korean culture during the conference, focusing a lot and their recent history of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. Korea was left totally devastated. In the pictures we looked at, there were absolutely no trees to be had. When the Japan occupied Korea, they took all of them to Japan. The people had no food, no homes, and no infrastructure. Koreans, however, picked themselves back up. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley visited Korea during this time and talked about how he was touched by the strength and hope of the Korean people during their greatest trial. They worked together to rebuild their home and their lives. It's an incredible story that brings a lot of meaning and nationality to the Korean people. 

We also learned about the history of the church in Korea, and about some of the first members and missionaries. They were also pretty amazing. When the Seoul temple was built, it was expanded from its original plan because the members in Korea donated more than four times the allotted amount. Korean culture and history really is rich and complex. I'm learning a lot about it from Elder Moore, whose knowledge and love of the culture amazes me. He has tons of great advice and wisdom, specifically about the importance of understanding the culture. In order to understand and connect with the people, we must understand their culture. One very cool thing about the Korean people is their desire to help people. For example, no matter how busy someone is, they will always stop what they are doing to give you directions. They are very close to their family and those around them, and the success of others is important to them. This largely fits into what I learned about their history as well.

I've been very humbled this past week by how much I need to learn and understand, as well as by how much Elder Moore can teach me. I've realized how much I've been focused on my own goals and what I need. While these goals are necessary and good, I need to be more focused on helping others as well. Though I rely heavily on Elder Moore, especially for the language, I also know he isn't perfect. I know see that there is no such thing as "my" success, because it will always be "our" success. If I want to teach and spread the gospel to the best of my ability, I need to help Elder Moore and others to do so as well. We always share our goals with each other, and now I need to work on helping Elder Moore with his. When we are both progressing, serving, and sharing our strengths and gifts, we can be a more effective and perfect unit to bring the gospel to others. I need to do all I can to be a self-reliant and equally contributing member of our companionship and focus on bringing "us" up, rather than just myself. He has a lot he can teach me, and though I just got here and he is about to leave, I have strengths to offer as well. During my personal study, I've realized that it is as important to share our knowledge and abilities with others as it is to obtain them. When we do this, not only do we selflessly provide others with these same gifts and same joy, but we further increase and remember these things ourselves.  

Because of 추석, we didn't have much time as usual to do proselyting or teaching. A couple cool experiences, however, came from my exchange with Elder Seeley this week. We went street boarding as a district, each of us individually trying to get as many contacts as possible. A couple days ago, Elder Seeley told me that someone I handed our phone number card to actually called back. Elder Seeley and Elder Kim visited him, and he said how he just wants to go to heaven when he dies. They assured him that, through the message they brought, he would certainly accomplish this, and he now has a baptismal date. I don't even remember who this person was, and he probably didn't understand most of what I said to him. But, talking to everyone is so important. Even though I won't understand them or be able to communicate much to them, I can at least provide every person with some kind of opportunity to hear the Gospel. Heavenly Father provides so many opportunities for us to open our mouths and declare His word. The least we can do is make the most of every opportunity we can, even if all it means is handing out a card and saying a thing or two. We don't know who might be searching for the truth and just not know where to find it. 

Thanks for all your messages and words. They mean so much to me. The language is coming along, and I'm and getting a little better each day. There are so many aspects to this work to think about, and I'm learning to just trust the Spirit, make goals, and focus at one thing at a time. The Lord so clearly blesses us in accordance with our obedience, humility, and commitment to use His blessings and gifts to further His work and glory. 

끄리스프 장로 (Crisp Chang no)

Pictures from Bukhansan National Park
Buddhist Temple

Today was a great P-day! We climbed a mountain and got a great view of Seoul. The skyscrapers just never end - they went all 360 degrees around us, everywhere we could see past the mountains. It was my first view of what Seoul is actually like when I can see more that just the buildings ahead of me, so that was cool! 

There were cats all over the place for some reason.