Sunday, August 25, 2013

19 August 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

Elder Cardon of the Seventy came to our mission this week. 

He did a special fireside for all investigators in the mission on Saturday night. We were asked to translate from English to Spanish and it was an interesting experience. Before the fireside we went and knelt to pray and ask for help translating. I was nervous since what he would say would be powerful and I wanted to be able to convey it to the audience in words just as powerful but in Spanish. It was a humbling experience as I was able to translate far above my skill level. There was definitely much divine help involved in that. I was using words I didn't use any conjugations I didn't know. 

The next night he held a special missionary leadership council and sat down with 14 of us in a small room on ASU campus to talk about "the Work of Salvation." The church is moving away from "Missionary Work" and is going to be using the words, "the Work of Salvation" more since it is more inclusive and is more inviting. It was a really cool meeting and it got really really intense at one point. He is a powerful man and not scared to say what's on his mind haha. Much revelation was received. 

I was thinking this week about missions. It struck me that I think we go on missions for more than just other peoples' benefit. Duh, I don't know why this hasn't hit me before but it hadn't. It struck me that missions are a huge benefit to our personal salvation as well. I was just thinking about where else I could be and what else I could be doing and nothing seemed half as important for my own well being as well as of others. I then thought about how much the church membership is blessed by full time mission service, not just during the mission but for the rest of their lives and eternity. The principles you learn as a missionary are for far more than 24 months: planning, dedication, concentration, how to love, serve, lose yourself to help others (and then find yourself), the list could go on. 

It was also really cool to teach a lesson over Facebook with Mark this week! I've been trying so hard to find ways to be effective on Facebook. I had a meeting with President Toone this week while on exchanges with the Assistants and we talked about the progress of the iPads, Facebook, and the technology initiative. He mentioned some really cool things that I won't repeat but also mentioned that the missionary department isn't getting as much feedback as they wanted. So this week I made a survey and sent it out to the missionaries using the iPads and Facebook - kind of a self assessment. This morning I got all the results back and they were really interesting. Most people didn't understand how to be effective. So today I'm going to put the results into a presentable document and send it to SLC and the Director of the Missionary Department and President Toone to let them do whatever they wanted with that information.

I've been in contact this week with the Director of Proselyting in the world (he's awesome!) about Facebook asking for ways we can be better and other missionaries' success stories. He mentioned that one mission tripled their weekly teaching opportunities because of Facebook. I told him I set a goal to help two people get baptized through Facebook before I get transferred away from it. But maybe it'll go mission-wide before that, we'll see. Just these past two weeks we've seen hundreds and hundreds of new missionaries get on Facebook.

 It's beginning.

We had a really awesome experience this week. One of our most amazing investigators was reading "for fun" in the Lorenzo Snow manual this week and discovered that he lived in the same city as her great great etc grandpa! She hopped online and did some family history. Turns out she loves family history and has gone back more than 500 years into her family history. Crazy!! 

She is so prepared for the gospel. She's getting baptized next week and was interviewed yesterday. It will have been two  weeks since we met her and she was ready for baptism on day one. Yesterday she taught me an amazing principle during our lesson. I was getting ready to teach a commandment and commit her to it and before I even presented it she said, "ok, I'll live it!" She has received her personal testimony and it continues to grow everyday.

I left thinking, "am I willing to accept  so quickly the words that come from the living Prophet today?" I'm not a prophet, by no means, but what I mean was her willingness to accept something new from someone called to teach it. The Prophet is called to teach it. So, are you willing to commit to live a commandment before you even hear it? Is your faith that strong? I hope we can all get there and be like this wonderful woman we are teaching.

But it gets better! She repented in the lesson we taught! We told her something, she mentioned she did it, and without a direct invitation from us she prayed and asked for forgiveness during her prayer. Ah, so much faith.

At a family home evening activity this week I won a laser pointer pistol that shocks you when you pull the trigger. Needless to say, I shocked many people this week :)

Oh, I forgot I haven't even written about the anti that punched me this week! Ok, here goes!

After translating for the meeting with Elder Cardon we hopped in the Cruze and started driving home only to realize we were out of gas. Oh no! So we pulled into a Circle K and went inside to buy a drank. As we walked inside a woman approached us and immediately started to anti us. I'm not going to write everything she said but needless to say she was an excommunicated woman who had been through the temple. She went off and off about things she shouldn't have and said things that didn't make any sense. Among some of her claims were that the Catholic church founded the LDS church, that we are Masons, that Mormons run the government, that we are connected to the mafia and the iluminati, and that she was a descendant of Christ and was Christian royalty. She followed us outside and continued to talk to us. In an attempt to change the topic, Elder Harder said, "This is a good milkshake!" She promptly took it and drank it. She told us to follow her home and see her Porsche and how she was connected to the highest ranked Jews. She said because I'm 20 she will know more than I will ever know since she was 45. Ok. I started to testify to her and she talked over me. So then I said, "Listen, these conspiracy theories don't -" and then she cut me off. "CONSPIRACY THEORIES? KENNEDY HAD HIS BRAINS BLOWN OUT TO BRING THESE FACTS TO LIFE!" I smiled because it didn't make any sense and I had heard enough and then she went berserk.

Like really, she went insane. More than previous, which I didn't think possible. She walked really really close to me and started screaming in my face what my name means, how I'm iluminati, and then she did what made me most mad; she flicked my name tag twice. At this point I was starting to get pretty angry so I just turned around and walked away. I didn't want to say anything I would regret. As I walked away she screamed obscenities at me and then ran at me from behind as I was walking and looking forward and punched me in the back.

A bunch of people saw and heard her since we were in public.

Anyway, I forgave her and moved on but it was really intense. If she had had something to hit me with other than her fist I'm sure she would have used it. I've never seen anything escalate so quickly.

And it turns out that Elder Perez was anti'd by her a year ago at Walmart! Small world! I mentioned her name to him and he just looked at me and laughed and said, "I know her!"

So that was exciting. 

We have two baptisms coming up next week. We were supposed to have one on the 17th but something intense happened. 

We fasted as a zone yesterday for miracles and in the middle of the fast we got a text from the Ward Mission Leader saying, "Prepared family of three ready to be baptized!" followed by address and information. 

Miracles, man.

Elder Harder's flight information for his flight home arrived this week. He leaves in twenty days. He is hanging in strong and I frequently thank him for that.

What mission is Arlington in now?

Thanks Mom, Eric, Will, and Elizabeth for the letters!

Hope all is well with all,
Elder Johnson

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

5 August 2013

Dear family and friends,
Well, I'm a Facebook missionary now! Friend me @ As a disclaimer, I'm there to do missionary work, send inspiring messages, and things along that line, not to catch up on old times. We get one hour of designated "internet proselytizing time" and then throughout the day for a few minutes at a time)

Yeah that's still kind of weird to say. I'm serving in Mesa too with Elder Harder, the companion I had for five days in Tempe before I got emergency transferred. Obviously we were meant to be together. I was excited to be with him again. He's a great missionary and you'd never expect he will be home in 5 weeks.

We had a cool experience last week. They put three companionships in the Ray 5th Spanish ward where I was the last three months. So they had to re-draw the boundaries to make it fit. We sat down with the zone leaders over there and looked some lines over and nothing seemed to fit. I offered a prayer and immediately the boundaries came to my mind and it made everyone happy. It was cool to see an answer to a prayer so quickly and so precisely. 

To be more specific on my new area. This is my new address: 922 S. Longmore #109, Mesa, AZ 85202. Use it lots! 

We cover two wards: the legendary Liahona 5th ward that baptized over 200 people in three years and the Kleinman Park English ward. Both wards are excellent and we're really excited to work in them. We have great potentials in both wards.

The members are all used to the iPads and iPhone 5s that we use. They've been in use in our mission for three months. There are only 100 iPads in the world being used and we are two of them. They call us pioneers of the digital age of missionary work. 

So, to explain what that means...

Each companionship has two iPad minis and one iPhone 5. They are all synced together meaning that all notes are auto synced, etc. They each have an Area Book application. Inside that is a record of who has been taught and who is being taught as well as addresses. Planning is way easy because there is an option to "find people nearby" and it gives you everyone in a certain area. 

I missed Siri. We've been reunited!

We have access to ward lists, callings, and more information. Staying in contact with members has never been easier. Facebook only makes that easier. Coordinating events, contacting investigators, sharing little status updates... It really is totally different. For example a lesson was taught last week to someone in France over Skype. Basic principles were taught and she was then referred to the local missionaries.

The sky is the limit.

There are some faults with it, clunky area book app, not being able to schedule reoccurring events, no access to LDS Tools app (we have a special one that is worse). They are really good at implementing our recommendations though!

Since the program is so new, we are writing the rule book. A new "white bible," or "white handbook" is coming out in the new future with updated rules. Salt Lake is in constant contact with us seeking input on features, wanted features, etc. It's a really really cool experience.

Since there are no real written rules (except filter everything to our purpose), we got together as a zone last week to make some ground rules about usage, specifically with the internet. The device is pretty well locked down but we established some baselines. I left kind of amazed at how a bunch of 18-24 year olds set self limits on electronic devices. We are different, I guess. I took notes of everything (on the iPad :)) and read it afterwards. President Toone looked at me and said, "will you be my executive secretary?? Those notes were great!" hahahaha

Moving on.

Transfers were this past week. The Phoenix zones have officially been incorporated into the Tempe mission. Every single companionship except like 5 in the mission were changed. There was some contention between mission pride at the start but it has died down. Hopefully that dies down since there's no reason for that. Having met a bunch of missionaries from the Phoenix mission at MTC I left with one conclusion: they're awesome. One of them spent the night with us and it was hilarious. 

We drive a 2013 Chevy Cruze. It has a, ah, what's it called.... a semi-automatic gear box if I remember. It has a shifter but no pedal so I can drive around shifting how I please. It is a quick little car with really weird gear ratios but it's fun. I mean it gets us to and from appointments safely.

Mesa is pretty great. I love it. Last week we were driving past a Circle K and I suddenly saw someone on a BMX bike come FLYING around the corner. Then a woman went running out of the Circle K swearing and screaming, then an SUV went flying by, and then 6 or 7 guys sprinted out of the Circle K and chased the guy. He had just stolen her bike and we had seen it all! So naturally we put the car into chase mode and followed looking for the guy. He got into some apartment complex and disappeared unfortunately. Exciting moment! 

The Mesa zone is a super "green" zone. 7 or the 9 companionships (excluding us) are training someone in their first 6 weeks. And that's why we're so excited - so much energy!

We heard a crazy border crossing story this week. Someone in the area was coming across with a  group when border patrol showed up. This guy ran and ran and ran and found a pole that he climbed 10 feet up. Everyone in his group was caught except for him because border patrol never looked up.

For one of our dinners this week we ate tacos. Not just any kind of tacos, but cow head tacos and cow tongue tacos. The tongue tacos actually weren't too bad. The head tacos were slimy and greasy and soft. Those weren't my favorite. Grilled steak tacos (carne asada) takes the cake. You know you have a good Spanish area when two of your first three dinners are carne asada tacos!!

Last night we met an awesome guy on the street. The first thing he told us was that he was atheist and that he was a bad man. We assured him that he wasn't either of those things (haha) and had an inspiring lesson with him. By the end of it he had accepted a Book of Mormon, accepted a return appointment, and accepted a baptismal date for the 24th of August! We are really excited to work with him. He asked me to pray for his kids right there and he said he was at seven. I couldn't even remember three names so in the middle of the prayer he said their names and then I finished the sentence haah)

We are also teaching an angel of a woman. She's older and struggles with an addiction to smoking. She wants to get baptized so bad and loves church. We asked her what time she is most tempted to smoke and told her we'd be there to visit her. She said 6am so we set up a lesson for 6 am but she had to cancel last night unfortunately. It has been fun to see her see how much we love her and how much we want to help her. She says she is alone frequently and we told her we'll change that! She asked for a calling in the church because she wants to serve everyone. More on this in the coming weeks!

Last night I set the other Elders' alarm for 6:02 am without them knowing. Well, that prank backfired and I was the only one to hear it and when it went off I thought it was 6:30 so I got up and started getting ready to exercise then realized it was 6:09 and flopped back on bed. Not doing that one again...

I traded two ties this past week for a silver Skagen watch. Score!

Thanks Andra, Tanan, Eric, Will, Mom, and Dad for the letters this week! 

I got a phone call this morning from my old area saying the 6 people I left on date with Elder Diaz are still on date. Made my day. 

Anyway, I'm really excited to be where I am with whom I'm with. This is a great area and the technology pilot program just makes everything more exciting! 

Thank you all for your continued support!