The Lion Remembers, The Tiger Forgets

There is a nice man that we see every day standing on the median of an intersection we cross frequently. He knows us by now because we usually roll down the window to talk with him for a minute. He always writes jokes or bits of wisdom on cardboard, so you can thank him for the subject of this post.

This week, we had the awesome opportunity to listen to Elder Uchtdorf, one of the 12 living Apostles of the Jesus Christ in the world today. In his wonderful German accent, he talked to us about The Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is many things. Some of its characteristics are more important than others. Here are a few of them:

The Book of Mormon is:

  1. A 531 page book. If you read in English.
  2. Free, for anyone that asks on Mormon.org for 2 guys like me to come bring it to them
  3. An extensive history, spanning a thousand years and 2 continents, that follows several nations’ cultures, wars, and teachings.
  4. A collection of philosophical writings encouraging moderation, kindness, selflessness, and courage.
  5. A book written by God’s anointed servants that supports and complements the Bible.
  6. The strongest tool God has given us in these last days to help us know that He loves us and that we can be blessed in this life and the next through His son Jesus Christ.
  7. Another Testament of Jesus Christ

There is a reason that the subtitle of The Book of Mormon is not “A 531-Paged Book.”

Whatever you believe or don’t believe The Book of Mormon to be, I hope you understand that you will get out of it exactly what you put into it. If you read it with the intent of reading a 531 page book, it will likely have little impact on your life. If you read it, however, to know and understand God and His plan for your life, and to get to know Jesus Christ more fully, then I promise you you will not be disappointed in your reading.

The Book of Mormon has changed my life. I love using it to help other people change their lives as well.

“Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.”
—Mormon 9:21


He has made His promise, now let us take action to receive those blessings.

The work is going great here in Richmond! Missions are awesome!

Love,

Elder Mortenson

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A Mid-summer Missionary’s Dream

Hello everyone!

I’m sorry I haven’t written a post in a while! Things have been busy up here in Richmond.

Elder Corrigan and I have been praying for an opportunity to help someone take the step of being baptized ever since we became companions 6 weeks ago. Unfortunately, about a week ago, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen during this 6 week period. We are working with a lot of amazing people, but none of them were ready yet. Or so we thought.

One of the most important and frustrating aspects of missionary work is that no matter how much we do as missionaries, people have to make their own decisions, and use their own agency to obtain personal conviction of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to act on that knowledge.

Lehi explains this better than I can. He said:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”

This week, a man who has been coming to church for a long time, decided to start choosing liberty and eternal life by being baptized. We got word on Friday that things were in order for him to be baptized, and we organized it in two days. Last night he was baptized by his nephew. We all cried. They have waited so long for that day. It was a wonderful service.

As I reflected on the experience, I was filled with gratitude for being able to participate in that event.

Elder Corrigan and I didn’t do anything that extraordinary. We did our jobs as missionaries, but his conversion can’t be explained by our actions. He felt the holy spirit whisper to his soul that he ought to enter into the fold of God, and that alone led him to be baptized. There was no dramatic surge of emotion or brilliant sales pitch that could have produced the feelings we felt last night as he was baptized. It was a missionary dream, but not because we deserved it. It was a gift.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that through Him we all have all the hope in the world of living forever in a state of happiness, if that is what we want. If you find yourself thinking that you have lost that privilege or that you are just not cut out for such a thing, I would kindly remind you that you are wrong. “The Son of Man hath descended below all things, art thou greater than He?” Who are we to limit the reach of His infinite sacrifice? I would also tell you that I have been there before. If I could send myself a message from that time, I would probably tell myself that help I didn’t deserve was on the way.

I testify that he loves us and wants us to come home, and deep down, that is what we all want too.

I’ll be in Richmond at least another 6 weeks with Elder Corrigan!

Love you all!

Elder Mortenson

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Saquen sus Cabezas

The Oakland Temple Visitor’s Center has this awesome exhibition about families that we often view with the people we are teaching. The Spanish voice-overs are funny to us missionaries, and so they become inside jokes in the Spanish program in the mission.

At one point, the dad in the film tells his kids, who are behind a rock formation in what looks like St George, “saquen sus cabezas” which translates to “take out your heads”.

This week we watched that film with our investigator and her son. She has been through a lot of difficulty after losing a close family member.

My earliest memory, at least I think it is my first memory, is from my Great Grandfather Francis Mortenson’s funeral. I remember sitting in a church somewhere and listening to the children’s song “Families can be Together Forever”.

I shared that this week at the end of the film, and as I did I was struck by the beauty of that memory.

There isn’t much that sticks around in this life. Our high school promises to Keep In Touch sublimate faster than the dry ice in our 7th grade science class, and often our values change at the same rate.

Suns rise. Suns set. Protons decay. Ankles break and heal.

The beauty of being a missionary and of the Gospel is that there is another type of object that does not break, decay, vary, or waver. The truths taught by Jesus Christ are eternal. One of those truths restored through Joseph Smith is that family relationships need not decay or dissolve, even after death.

Families can be together forever.

Alright, now saquen sus cabezas. I have riddle.

I die. I expire. You want me now, but you’ll hate me later. All of my supposed positive effects are quickly replaced by negative nonperishable woes. You won’t believe you could be rid of me until you are.

Now, whatever sin you’re thinking of, kill it and save your eternal family. There is nothing perishable worth losing the only eternal hopes you have.

I am well here in Richmond. The mission is awesome. I love helping other people find the truth! I’m sorry I’ve been bad at weekly emails/blog posts.

Love you all!

Elder Mortenson

De Regreso

Hello Family + Friends! I hope everyone loved conference.

Things are good here in Oakland! Conference was awesome, and we’re all super excited for all of the changes that our Prophet announced. We are so blessed to be living in a time where the fullness of the gospel is present and it’s dispersion is accelerating.

This week I saw that people can really flourish and grow when we carefully minister to them, which was a major theme of conference.

Salvador, our awesome member who had a terrible accident (fell three floors) a few months ago, told us about an awesome member of our bishopric who called him out of the blue one day. He took time out of his work schedule to go pick Salvador up, take him out to get some food, then to see the temple, then up around a park, and then to get food again, and ice cream. He said he picked him up at about 10 am and didn’t drop him off until like 5 pm. That is ministering. A man who has been in his house and the hospital with a dilapidated leg for months, was able to spend a whole day with his old friend. It meant the world to him to have someone besides us reach out to him.

So go minister to the world!

I’ve been transferred! I’m going back to San Leandro! The area I left in November was dissolved into the Zone Leaders area in San Leandro, and that’s where I’ll be serving now. I can’t wait to be able to visit with all the people that I worked with and to help them progress toward eternal life! The work continues!

Love,

Elder Mortenson



The Phone Call

So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with strange Mormon short films from the 70’s, there is this one called “The Phone Call“. It’s worth a watch if you have a moment. Basically, it tells the story of an awkward high school boy getting the courage to ask a girl out. He plays the “Bassoon, which is like a Balloon but with ‘s’s”. Anyway.

I haven’t seen it in years, and it has almost nothing to do with this post.

But,

On Tuesday last week we had a miracle! I was going through a bunch of Former Investigator records. People that who were thinking about becoming members at some point (usually years ago) but for some reason didn’t continue.

I came across this one that was from like 2011, and it looked like the family had probably moved away based on the comments there. So, I almost just skipped it and kept going. But, I had a strong impression to call, not the investigator, but a member who was friends with the investigator, whose information was on the sheet. I didn’t recognize his name but resolutely called him anyway, not having any idea what I would say. That’s how we met Salvador, who is a wonderful member of the church who had a terrible work accident a few weeks back. He had fallen 3 floors, and landed on his leg, fracturing it in several places. As I talked to him, he started open up to us, and invited us to come give him a blessing that same afternoon. We did so, and he was so grateful for the visit and the blessing. It was so incredible to see how much those meant to him, and I felt so blessed that the Lord had helped our paths cross in such an improbable way. He since has been to a fireside at the chapel, and we even went to the Family History library to help him search for his ancestors! He is such an incredible man, and we were able to bond just a little over broken ankles and physical therapy and such.

Moral of the story, if you want to help someone that needs you, pray for guidance, and then follow the whisperings of the spirit, even if it is awkward or strange. The Lord will guide you to someone who has been praying for your help! Make that awkward phone call! It could change your life!

The work goes on! Go be a part of it!
Love,

Elder Mortenson

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

 

 

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

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​Elder Alvarado and I
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Homemade (almost) Pizza for P-day
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Favorite scripture of the week
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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