Pura Vida Mae

Hey!

Things are going well here in Oakland! We are on bikes in the heart of Oakland, which is awesome because there are SO MANY people that speak Spanish here!

This week I got a new companion, Elder Mendez, fresh from the Missionary Training Center in Provo! He is from Costa Rica and he is awesome! So bold and loving with the people! We’re going to have an awesome time! His catch phrase is “pura vida mae” which roughly translates to “pure life, dude”. He’s awesome!

This Tuesday, we taught some people that we used to visit, but had stopped visiting because they hadn’t acted upon the things that we were helping them to learn. So, we read Alma 32 with them, and they finally began to understand the importance of ACTING on our faith. As James said, “Faith without works is dead, being alone”

Anyway, that principle really sunk in, because at the end of the lesson, our investigator J said, “I’m going to the church on Sunday! No matter what! I don’t care if it rains, or if there is a storm! I will take the bus if I need to!” We were absolutely floored by his desire to begin acting on the faith that was growing within him.

When I called him on Sunday morning, I asked him how he was doing, and he said, “Con ganas para ir a la iglesia hoy!” (with desires to go to church today). And he did. He brought his wife and their 2 little kids, and had an awesome experience there!

I invite you all to act on what you believe in, so that your faith is not dead! Every time we act in accordance to God’s will we get one step closer to Him, and we become a little bit more like Him. Don’t lose out on that opportunity every day!

With love,

Elder Mortenson

 

 

Advertisements

Double-Dutch Miracles

Hello everyone!


So, I was very much satisfied with our miracle in finding and talking to H last week, but this week, we had a follow-up miracle!


We went to tract the same street where H (the godless atheist) lives, but the other side. We noticed that her lights were on, so we called the English Elders really quick to find out if they had contacted her yet. They said that they had tried, but that she wasn’t home/didn’t respond. So, we went to go to talk to her. Miraculously, she was home, and she opened up! Even more miraculously, I had a fresh English Book of Mormon to give her! She was so eager to get her hands on it, but I made her promise that she would read it first! The power of The Book of Mormon to attract attention and bring the spirit is incredible, and it can happen to anyone.


This week, we also invited Y, one of the coolest people ever, to be baptized on the 30th! When I asked her about what she thought about the Book of Mormon, she said that she loved it and knew that it is true!


I repeat the same testimony. I love it, and it is true! I just finished annotating the book of Alma, and it is incredible how much meaning one can extract from every page of that book! If you don’t know what I mean, go to the Book of Mormon with a question or problem in your life, and read closely until the answers and comfort come. It is incredible!


Do it!


Elder Mortenson

Dutch Miracles

Hello everyone!

I’ve now been transferred into Oakland, the heart of our mission. My new companion is Elder Alvarado. He is awesome! He is from Peru, studying Mechanical Engineering at BYU-I and is just out of his first 12 weeks in the mission. I’m really excited to be working here!

I don’t have much time, but here is a little experience I’d like to share:

On Saturday we started talking to this Dutch atheist college sociology professor with 7 cats. She was a character. Anyway, as we got talking to her, she said that she was raised godless and that she was a scientist, that she wouldn’t believe anything without evidence. We also found out that she knew a significant amount of LDS church history. We explained that The Book of Mormon is our evidence to the world that Joseph Smith really did talk to God, and that the church of Jesus Christ has been restored anew. She remarked that she has always seen discarded bibles around, but she’d never been able to get her hands on a Book of Mormon. We said we didn’t know why that was, but that we could bring her a free copy of The Book of Mormon that she could read and examine for herself. Then we sent the referral to the English Elders. Anyway, it was incredible to see that The Book of Mormon really does respond to people’s questions, even if they have a completely non-religious background. It is true. It was truly written, starting from the time of the Tower of Babel in the Bible up until four centuries after Christ. The authors of it were real people, and Joseph Smith was able to translate it by the power of God.

Please, if you haven’t, read the Book of Mormon. You will come to know, if you search it sincerely, that it is the word of God, and that by reading it you will receive guidance for your lives!

Happy December!
Elder Mortenson

DSC01704
​Elder Alvarado and I
IMG_0004
Homemade (almost) Pizza for P-day
IMG_0117
Favorite scripture of the week
IMG_0115
We said goodbye to a lot of great friends last week.

 

Working ‘Tirelessly’ in the Service of God

So it has been another interesting week in Oakland!


At 8:35 on Thursday night, my companion and I were about to start biking back home (it’s a 20 minute ride), but we felt like we should go by one of our former investigators really quickly before we went home. So, at 8:45, we locked up our bikes and chained our wheels, and went and knocked on J’s door.


Miraculously, he was home, and invited us in. He then told us about some things that he’s been struggling with, and we had a really great, short lesson. We left filled with the spirit at 9:10, to get home by 9:30.


We walked to the corner where our bikes were, and quickly realized that someone had stolen all 4 of our tires. They had cut the chain lock and our frames were left chained to the stop sign. We’d heard of that happening before, so we just started to laugh and called the Zone Leaders for a ride. 🙂


The next day, we were all tired out, so we got temporary bikes from the mission home, which worked ok, but I obviously wasn’t very familiar with mine, because I misjudged a railroad track and crashed. Luckily I didn’t hit anything but the ground, and escaped with only some skinned knees, bruised hand and torn pants.


At that point in the week I wasn’t feeling so great.


However, last night, we had a last-minute and incredibly spiritual lesson with our investigator M at the Oakland Temple Visitor’s Center! We all felt the spirit very strongly, and he decided that he will be baptized in 2 weeks! The blessings of the week have far outweighed the rest.


I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who is always willing to pick us up after difficult moments. When we fall, when our wheels our stolen, when we think all is lost, He is there to pick us up. And, if we happen to go through a little suffering while in His service, we’ll be as those of whom Paul spoke in
Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.


Trust in the promises of God. You’ll find them in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon. He will never vary in what he has promised, and as long as we persevere in diligence, we will receive a place in that city that He has prepared.


Love,


Elder Mortenson

Aquí mire

Here in Latino Oakland, whenever you ask someone “como esta?” (how are you?) You either get the answer “bien” (fine), or, more commonly “aquí mire” (here, look!). You bi-lingual linguists can try to figure out why they think they are so funny. 😉

But, in more serious tones, we as missionaries have real reasons to say “aqui mire” (Here, Look!) because there is much value in what we have here to share with everyone.

Aquí, mire que tuvimos estas experiencias esta semana:
Here, look we had these experiences this week:

Elder Peguero and I have had another successful week here in San Leandro. We’re moving forward with several investigators whom we hope will be baptized in a few weeks. As we have sought the spirit’s guidance, we have been guided in several lessons this week.

We met with M and C (and their 3 little kids) on Thursday. They have been reading the Book of Mormon frequently for 2-3 weeks now, but said that they haven’t felt their answer. But, then, as we asked them about what they thought about what they had read, they said that “there is lots of great advice,” and then that “there is no way a 20-something-year-old could write this book.” We affirmed these feelings, and are working on helping them to link those good feelings with the Holy Spirit so that they feel good about being baptized. We hope to solidify their baptism date of Oct. 21st with them this week.

We met with Sister T on Friday. She is a less active with 3 children. Her husband has been having mental health troubles due to some medication he has been taking, so he was in the hospital, and she and her children were all fairly worried about him. We had asked Bishop if he could come with us to a different visit that night, but instead we asked him to join us at the T. Sister T explained it all to him, and then we gave her a blessing of comfort. It was a tender and incredibly difficult moment, but we felt the spirit so strongly.

We met with R on Thursday as well. She is living with her sister’s family, all of whom are members. She has been to church many times, and is familiar with the doctrine, but feels like she can’t commit because of an incredibly difficult gambling addiction that she has. We felt like we should invite her to come to the Visitor’s Center with us on Sunday night, and so we did. We then found out that she had been planning to go out to a casino with a friend on that night instead. She still struggled with that decision to come with us, but in the end she did come with us to the Temple yesterday, and we had a great night of learning and peace there. We hope to set a date for this month with her in the next visit.

We met with M, a former investigator who we just picked back up, on Sunday, right before the Afternoon session of General Conference. He has a really solid testimony of the Book of Mormon, and told us that even though he has lots of friends and family who are discouraging him from talking with us, he knows that it is true. We re-committed him to be baptized on the 21st of this month. We couldn’t be more excited for him, and we are focused and committed to getting him as prepared as possible for the interview and ordinance of baptism.

The work of God goes on!

Con amor,

Elder Mortenson

Getting the Door Opened in our Face

It’s been a great week here in San Leandro!

Elder Peguero, my new companion, arrived here from the MTC on Wednesday! Since then, we’ve been stressed, very busy, and we have seen many miracles.

On Thursday, we went out knocking doors and visiting former/potential investigators. There were so many people that were happy to talk to us, but I’ll just focus on one here.

We went to find an former investigator named A, and we found his sister, C, instead! She told us that the Restoration pamphlet we showed her looked really familiar. Then, she went and found the same pamphlet that had been given to her brother years ago.

The night before, her baby had been up crying, and so she got up and turned on the TV to try to calm her. Apparently, someone on the TV was talking about Joseph Smith. She listened for a little while, and then turned it off and went into the kitchen. Looking for something to read, (she loves to read), she found the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ pamphlet. She read 2/3rds of it to her baby, and her baby went to sleep.

Then, a few hours later, we knocked on the door to share the message she had just been exposed to twice the night before. Say what you will, but miracles are real!

God loves us. He wants to guide us to happy places in our lives.

Love,

Elder Mortenson

IMG_0007IMG_0008

Brace Yourself

Hello Everyone! Sorry it’s taken me four weeks here in Cali to write!

A week ago, I had a really tough experience. I twisted my ankle playing basketball. The same ankle that once upon a time sent me home from Colombia a quarter-baked missionary. The pain was similar. I thought for a little while that my life was repeating itself, and that I would once again be uprooted and grafted somewhere else, against my will.

That night, I received a Priesthood blessing from my companion and some other Elders. I iced my ankle and hoped for the best. The next day, when I was picking up crutches from the Mission home, my mission president asked me if I would be willing to train a brand new missionary! All of the bad feelings from the night before fled as I was filled with the joy that comes from focusing outward, leaving your own problems and life in second place to those of other people.

Speaking of people, the work is progressing! Three of the Murillo Family have baptismal dates, and we have some really solid new investigators to work with! The work is so hard but so joyful!

On Wednesday I’ll meet my new companion. I can’t wait. I’ve been here for only 4 weeks, but I’m excited for all of the things that I’ll get to learn through training and from my new companion.

And, now my ankle is almost back to normal, but in a brace. I’ll have to go without basketball for a little while, but

“All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ”

-Preach My Gospel, Chapter 3, Lesson 2

Love,

Elder Mortenson

Like Riding A Bike

Hey guys! Elder Mortenson is back after a nice vacation in Vegas and Provo.

It is good to be in California! Stepping off the plane here was like stepping off the plane in Barranquilla, except that the air here is cool and awesome, not hot and sticky like the air there. The weather has been the best.

We’re on bikes in San Leandro! Most of the missionaries here have cars, which is super cool. But not us.

I’ve been realizing that being a missionary again is much like riding a bike.

At first, I had no idea if I could even do it. I wasn’t sure which way was up or down on the gear-shifter. I struggled to know how to talk to people here in California. It was kind of fun, but a lot of the time I had a feeling at the back of my mind like I might accidentally do something wrong and ruin everything.

But things have gotten a little better. My bike skills are coming back to me, and the missionary skills are coming back and evolving and adapting to the new environment.

My re-trainer is Elder Steinke from Bountiful. He’s a pretty cool guy. He wears baseball caps whenever he’s not proselyting, and that becomes his hairstyle. He is a really hard worker, and I’m excited to work with him. His Spanish isn’t bad either. Mine is coming back.

DSCN7434[1]

I studied King Benjamin’s address this week in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 2-5), and I found myself very grateful for one of the truths he taught. He said,

“if ye should serve [God] with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants”

I’m learning to be a missionary again. It is hard. I am awkward. I don’t know what to do when someone answers the door who doesn’t speak Spanish. But, I know that even if I was the most practiced missionary, with the best language and social skills, it still would not be enough. The only way we can teach people and have them be converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is through the holy spirit. I will never be enough, but He whom I serve will always make up for my inadequacies, if I am doing my best.

So, yeah! Things are going well here in San Leandro! The mission is completely different than what I am used to, but that’s ok. I have gone where the Lord has asked me to go, and it is good to be here.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Daniel Mortenson

With my eyes wide open

Returning to the mission field is an interesting thing, especially after 13 months of life at home and at school.

About two months ago, I made the decision to return to the field. It was not the same as my initial decision to serve a mission for a few reasons, but it has been a rewarding experience.

I had always planned on serving a mission. My father served a mission. Many of my cousins have served missions, and my older brother served a mission. I was expected to serve by everyone around me, and I expected my self to serve as well.

So, when it came time to complete my mission application and prepare to serve a mission, I prayed to know that it was right, but I never expected any other answer, because I already knew the right answer. The living Prophet on the Earth today has said:

Every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much.

-President Thomas S. Monson

As We Meet Together Again

So, before I left for Colombia, I felt sure of my desire and plan to serve a mission, as I should have.

This was not at all how things went when I was making my decision to return to the mission field for  two reasons.

Reason #1: the leaders of the church have been clear that returning to the mission field after coming home for any reason is not an obligation.

I love how Elder Holland responded to an RM (returned missionary) who had returned after 4 months of service in the field due to mental health trouble.

I don’t know that in all eternity, every mission was outlined to be two years or, for thyoung women, 18 months. That’s kind of a modern invention. . .

I want you to take the dignity and the strength and the faith that came from your four months and cherish that forever. I don’t want you to apologize for coming home. When someone asks you if you’ve served mission, you say yes. You do not need to follow that up with “But it was only four months.”Just forget that part and say yes, you served a mission.

-Elder Holland’s Counsel for Early Returned Missionaries

I have had the privilege of discussing this with many Early Returned Missionaries at BYU, at the Mission Fortify ERM (Early Returned Missionary) Conference, and at home in Las Vegas. Each one I’ve met was a great help and strength to me, and they have some of the strongest testimonies I have seen. Most of them decided not to return to the field after deep prayer and counselling with their bishops, stake presidents, families, and medical professionals. I know them and I know that they are going to go on and accomplish anything and everything that a “full-term” two year RM would.

In fact, only about 24% of early returned missionaries return to the mission field. Based on what I have seen, the other 76% are just as valiant as the 24%, but have found that God needs them to serve elsewhere, or that going back would be detrimental to their health. I love those returned Elders and Sisters.

And, I was nearly one of them. For months, I struggled with my desire to serve as a missionary again. I prayed many times, and many times I felt that I would not be able to do it because of the stress and anxiety that I felt toward missions.

But, as I discussed in my last post, I was able to find that desire to serve and deal with the anxiety I felt about Colombia. Eventually, I received the impression that I would be able to help many people if I did serve, and a distinct impression that my next mission would be very different, in a good way, than my last one in Colombia. That was the personal answer that I received for me, but it doesn’t mean that I am better than those who decide not to return.

Reason #2: When I first flew to Colombia, I was going in relatively blind. I didn’t know what being a missionary would actually be like. This second time, I’m going in with my eyes wide open. Not that Colombia is at all like California (except for the ‘C’ and ‘ia’ a their beginnings and ends).

But I know that missionary work isn’t really fun most of the time. Most of the time it is hard. There are lots of challenges and a good deal of discomfort, especially at the beginning. It is really work.

This, I think is the advantage to being a returned missionary (not returned home, returned to the field). I feel like I have much fuller perspective on serving missions and returning home.

During my six months in Colombia, I often found myself dreaming of and looking forward to the day of my homecoming, which I can tell you is not healthy. I thought about how great it would be to be an RM and have all of the freedom in the world combined with the experience of two years serving the Lord. It seemed that coming home was the great prize at the end of two years of drudgery.

But now I know exactly what it is like to be an RM. I’ve done it for a year now. And, I’ve come to understand that mortality gets to you no matter what you are doing. Being home was at least as hard as being a missionary, but with less sense of purpose. RM’s still have trials. They still need to repent. They still are young and inexperienced in the world.

So, to me a missionary life has become very attractive. I am more excited now than ever to be able to help people come unto Christ. I understand the atonement better know than ever. I know that there isn’t anything more important that I could do with the next year+ of my life.

So, when I got the phone call from my Stake President that I had been reassigned to serve in the Oakland / San Francisco mission, I was overjoyed. I can’t wait to be there tomorrow!

img_3883.jpg

I am returning to the field, to serve in Oakland and San Francisco because I love the Lord and because I love to help other people. I testify that he loves every one of us, and that he is more than willing to understand your situation, whatever it may be. He suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross so that He would understand you. He has experienced every trial in your life, and He knows how to heal you.

He loves you. Just let him in.

-Daniel Mortenson

 

One Year Later

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my return home from Colombia early for ankle surgery. What a year it has been.

 

A year and a week ago, I was a fledgling missionary, ready to be the best one my mission had ever seen. I had experienced some unpleasant things in the mission that I will not discuss further here, but those experiences did not matter because I knew that I had another glorious 18 months left to experience the “good” part of the mission where the other missionaries respect you, you have numerical success and your emails home aren’t lies about how you are just loving it and having a great time. I was going to be a senior companion. I was ready to start being honest in emails home without worrying that everyone will think that I must have been doing something wrong because I was unhappy in my service. I was prideful enough to believe that I was entitled to such an experience, and I was certain that God wanted that for me too. I knew that everyone “loved their mission,” and so it followed that I just hadn’t reached that part of my mission yet.

Then, we received the MRI results. My ankle was broken. Thursday morning we decided that I would return home for approximately two months to undergo a routine ankle surgery, after which I would be back in my mission field. Friday morning I boarded a plane in Barranquilla. Saturday morning I received my honorable release.

Things slowly disintegrated further. The surgeon recommended we postpone surgery for a month to try physical therapy first. That failed. Then we tried immobilization. I wore a boot for 2 months. That didn’t work either. Finally, I was on the operating table in late September, three months after my return. The necessary surgery turned out to be much more complicated, requiring six months recovery. I was in bed for two weeks, then on a knee scooter for two months. We decided I would return to BYU.

At that point, I felt very far from God. I had tried to just “have a good attitude” about this “learning experience” that was meant to “grow my faith” as so many told me. And, of course, it was a learning experience that grew my faith. But it didn’t feel like that at the time.

I had lost all desire to do missionary work. The aforementioned unpleasantness of my six months in Colombia dominated my memories of the mission, and I developed real anxiety about returning to the field. I was at home in Las Vegas, without many friends close to my age. My 20th birthday was dismal. I honestly felt that the life I should have been living had long since split from the life I was living, like I had fallen off the celestial stallion, and it had galloped on without me. I couldn’t look someone in the eyes and tell them that I loved my mission like other returned missionaries could. To me it seemed like either most returned missionaries were lying about their missions or there was something seriously wrong with me. I was experiencing borderline clinical depression and anxiety because I felt that my life was shattered before me. I felt utterly alone.

And so six months ago, I had been home for six months, and I was three months post-surgery. I could finally walk almost normally again, and I had some nice scars on my ankle. I also had some scars on my testimony.

I still believed intellectually everything that I had taught and been taught my whole life. I knew the Plan of Salvation, the scriptures, and about Jesus Christ, but I did not truly believe that His sacrifice was working in my life. It caused turmoil within me: the truths that I knew and believed directly opposed my life experience. The Book of Mormon says.

“For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.”

2 Nephi 4:4

Yet, here I was. I had kept the commandments of the Lord by leaving to serve a mission in Colombia, but my resulting experience resembled being “cut off from [His] presence” much more than it resembled “prosper[ing] in the land.”

People asked me constantly when I was planning to return to the field, and I was grateful for my broken ankle, because it allowed me to mask the fact that I was terrified of going back there.

Then, in January, I returned to BYU to continue my studies. I did not mention to most people that I wasn’t a 24-month RM, but a 6-month “quarter-baked” RM. I still felt bitter about the way things had gone, but I was ready to be happy again. Slowly, the clouds parted. I found friends that were my age, several of whom were also early returned missionaries. I even went to an ERM (early returned missionary) Conference . I would highly recommend it.

I realized that the majority of my prayers since returning home had been rather superficial. Deep down, I was angry at God for the way things had gone, but I knew that I ought not to feel that, so I pretended I didn’t and proceeded with my life.

My prayers changed. I began to be completely honest with God, not holding back any of the emotions I had built up for months inside of me. I realized that I was holding onto those feelings for dear life, never letting my Father in Heaven in to let Him teach me. I began to let them go. It was difficult. I began to realized that I needed the Christ to come and take those feelings and unpleasant memories from me, because they were paralyzing me with fear.

I began to be more open with everyone with exactly what I had experienced and what I was feeling. I made more friends. I began to find joy in focusing on them, rather than basking in dismal glow of my own self-pity. I met with a few counselors that showed me how to separate my experiences and emotions from who I was.

Then, in May, I received an impression to start running. I started by just running around the block, but soon I was running miles at a time. Running, as it did for me in High School, helped to relieve my stress and to reset my priorities and perspective. I started smiling and laughing despite myself. God was proving to me that He loved me.

I have come to know that that is really what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can do for us. I had experienced some unpleasantness. I had emotional reactions to my life. It seemed in December like there was no redeeming quality to my experience. It destroyed my ankle, my happiness, and my faith. It made me cynical and numb to the world. And maybe I could have prevented some of that.

People say that “everything happens for a reason,” but I disagree. We don’t have to go very far to find a myriad of events that clearly shouldn’t have happened, the very least of which I experienced.  I faced a relatively small trial. However, broken families, poverty, war, and abuse, etc. all happen, but there is often little to nothing redeemable about them on their own. The beauty of what Christ did for us is that He can take the most vile events in our lives and make us better and stronger despite what we experience. He can help a family mend despite their previous struggles. He lets the rain fall despite the fire that burned a forest.

He allowed me to run despite my broken ankle. He relieved my stress despite my anxiety. He helped me to learn to love helping people despite the negative feelings I have from my mission in Colombia.

Those negative things did not happen for a reason. Christ negated their ill effects despite their previous choke hold on my life.

Yesterday, I ran a half marathon with my brother in Long Beach, CA. For me, it was an incredibly symbolic victory through Christ. I was broken, and He healed me. I wasn’t sure when I had the surgery if I would ever run again, but I have run a hundred miles in the last two months despite that. I wasn’t sure if I would ever want to be a missionary again, but now, I do despite what I felt before.

img_4896.jpg

I testify that God loves us each so much. He allows us to pass through difficult things here on earth, but He sent His Son to heal us despite what has happened. If we seek healing from Him, He will grant it to us.

Christ extends His loving hand to us all. He says,

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Today, I am of good cheer, and I have peace because I know that He lives and loves me.

I testify that He lives and loves you as well.

-Daniel Mortenson