Monday, October 28, 2013

28 October 2013

This morning I sat and made a list of how my mission has changed me. It'll be an ever-growing list I hope.

This coming week is going to be tough. From 5-9 PM tonight we have MLC where we will be at the mission home discussing the mission, goals, and the future.

Tomorrow from 9-12 we will have another MLC and the Director of Proselyting and some other SLC officials are coming to train the zone leaders about the iPads. From 1-4pm the mission will be coming in by zone to get the iPads and be trained quickly on how to use the AreaBook Planner app and other tools.

So we're not working tonight, half of tomorrow, and from 4-9pm on Thursday since it's Halloween. Joy.

Last week was the last "greenie" meeting for half of the zone as they completed their 12 week training program. Half of the zone got transferred. One sister missionary who has been out six weeks is training and three who have been out 12 weeks are training. 60% of the missionaries in the Arizona Tempe mission now are in their first 6 months. Things are changing dramatically! 

We made the last greenie meeting fun. From the stand, Elder Gaspar and I did announcements but only saying one word each. We played the opening hymn by playing one note each too. 

It has been really hard for a lot of the new missionaries to come into the field and then be put on Facebook. They said goodbye to their family 2-6 weeks before and now they can potentially talk to them everyday. That's not the idea of Facebook unless it's focused around a missionary purpose. 

The wards we cover have been very enthusiastic about us being on Facebook. We get lots of "thank yous" at church. We're still waiting for other people to start sharing the gospel over Facebook though. We invite, invite, invite, then follow up, follow up, follow up, and usually nothing happens. We are very grateful for the few who have taken it to heart and are sharing all over the place on Facebook. 

It has been fun to see friends and family posting on my statuses to answer questions and doubts of other people posting on my statuses on Facebook. The discussion is great! And it gives everyone a tiny tiny glimpse of the opposition we meet everyday :)

This past week we got a referral from other missionaries about a woman who wanted a blessing. We went over and gave the blessing. She has been very sick. Three days later we returned and she said she has felt dramatically better emotionally and physically. 

We also had the opportunity to give a blessing this past week who is struggling with giving up smoking. He's working towards baptism. Twice before he had "fallen off date" for smoking and so we decided we would step it up. We'd been praying for weeks for our investigators to get "recommitted," but it wasn't until this day that I realized we had to become recommitted as well.

That's not to say we've been lazy, no. I've just gotten in the mentality that I can teach correct principles and things will work out. I've taken a step out of the day to day affairs of those we teach. I've stopped caring about their personal lives as much as I should.

So I recommitted myself and we recommitted our companionship. We visited this man, taught a lesson around feeling the spirit, and then offered him a priesthood blessing. He asked me to administer it. He said that as soon as we said "Amen," that he felt a burden taken off his back. We sat down, finished the lesson, and left.

The next day we walked up and he had a cigarette in hand. He looked at us and said, "I have a curse." He told us that every time he had tried to smoke he felt sick and nauseous and like throwing up. 

He couldn't smoke anymore.

I left that day with an increased testimony in the power of priesthood blessings.

But as I pondered this morning on what helps me endure it isn't the amazing miracles that I see. What helps me keep going are the little things; the blessing given to me in the MTC by a dear friend, the personal revelation that has assured me of my purpose, the miraculous changes I've seen in those around me and in myself. Miracles are great. They reaffirm my faith. But I don't look to them in the times of trial - I look to the quiet and personal answers I have received from a loving Heavenly Father.

The work is picking up in the Spanish ward. We are finding people who are prepared and they are progressing in the gospel.

This week was another week with over 50 lessons taught. Facebook has clicked for me.

We got played. We were teaching someone who looked so interested. She did everything we asked her to do, she came to church, general conference, and made friends in the ward. And then she asked for welfare. She got it. And then she disappeared.

I've been thinking a lot about that this past week. The church helps random people out with everyday problems, why? Not because they're expecting them to get baptized and come to church, but because the church solves problem. Christ told us to sacrifice all we had for others. Through our sacrifices, through our charity, through our Christlike love, we can help other people recognize in themselves their true identity as sons and daughters of God. All we can do is hope they act on that.

I also realized this week that in my entire mission I've only come into an area and had one person that was already being taught get baptized. Of everyone I've ever baptized, I have found and taught them all except for one. That's pretty cool.

Well it's official! The Mesa Alma stake is part of the Gilbert temple district. We are 10 minutes walking distance from the Mesa temple and yet we are assigned to the temple 30 minutes away. Classic. All that that means is that we get to be super involved in the open house...assuming I'm here in two months.

Oh goodness this past week someone asked what we did as missionaries and I said, "we are eating people, I mean teaching people..." That was embarrassing. I was hungry...

Six weeks ago Elder Gaspar and I taught someone who we ended up referring to the young single adult ward in Tempe. He was a cool guy and had some things to work on, as we all do. That was the last we heard of him. This past week we were teaching the friend of one of our recent converts and this guy we had taught six weeks before randomly walks out of the house and says, "Hey! I'm getting baptized this Saturday!" 

That made our day.

That very recent convert is amazing. Every week she brings a friend to church. This past week she brought a family to church with her. Why do we, as lifelong members, lose the missionary spirit that these recent converts so clearly love, live, and share? I hope we can all recommit ourselves and follow Elder Ballard's challenge from General Conference and invite one person to church by Christmas.

I posted this status on Facebook this past week but I will repeat it here for those who missed it.

Talking with people on the street can either the best or the 
worst part of the day. 
Last night we were visiting someone who turned out not to be home. While we walked away I noticed two people on the third floor balcony. I wasn't planning on talking to them originally but as I walked away I felt something tell me to go back. So I did.

From 40 feet below them I said, "How's your evening going?" The woman yelled back, "I'm feeling blessed!"

I asked her why and she said, "Do you think I'm happy?" "Yes," I responded. She said, "Well, I'm not."

She and her friend were both smoking and had clearly been drinking. It wasn't a great situation and being 40 feet below didn't help.

I replied, "What can I do to help?" She quickly said, "Give me a 40 [ounce] to drink!" I told her, "I probably can't do that..."

She said, "Then what can you do?"

I thought for a second and said, "I can pray for you."

Thirty seconds later she was walking down the three flights of stairs with her friend to the ground level.

We gathered together and she said, "My best friend just died and I'm lost. I'm struggling with several addictions and I don't know what to do."

We bowed our heads in humble prayer.

As I said amen and looked up I saw them in tears. The woman thanked me repeatedly and said, "I feel better."

Watching her walk away with a smile on her face put an even bigger one on mine.

Just like I said the other day, it is those tender moments that make it all worthwhile. Watching one person struggling with the loss of a loved one, addictions, sadness, and depression is humbling but watching them overcome those and get back in their feet is truly inspiring.

May we all remember that He is the healer.

Missionary work is great. 

Thank you all for your support! Thanks for the letters Eric, Mom, Mark, and Will! 
Con amor,

Monday, October 21, 2013

21 October 2013

Waiting for transfer calls last night was really annoying.

It all started at the Mission President's Fireside (MPF). We were asked to translate but all the receivers were out of batteries so we drove to the mission office to get some more.

On the way there I found out I had been "red lighted," meaning my driving privileges have been permanently revoked. 

Which is ridiculous since I haven't driven since I was put on the temporary suspension. There's something wrong with the system and I'll get to the bottom of this! There was a bug when I got yellow lighted and there's no doubt a bug since I got red lighted really and truly and honestly for doing nothing since I haven't driven for two weeks.

Buuuut anyway.

Translating was fun. I always leave with a headache and confused about what the person spoke on since I'm not really listening, just listening, if you know what I mean.

So after the MPF ended we headed home. Transfer calls, for leadership, come usually between 9-10 and the Assistants call the Zone Leaders between 10-10:30 to say which zone members are going then the Zone Leaders call the District Leaders who call their stewardship and spread the news.

From 9-9:15 we planned, 9:30-10 we did zone stats. Still hadn't heard anything.

We sat and waited.

At 10:45 we still hadn't heard anything.

At 11:15 we still hadn't heard anything.

At 11:30 we still hadn't heard anything.

At 11:45 pm they finally called. I've never waited so long! 

So the news? I'm staying. This'll be the longest I've ever stayed in a single area. I was in Yuma for six months but covered different "areas" or wards or parts of a ward. In 6 weeks I'll have been in these wards for 4.5 months. I'm ok with that, they're both doing really well right now. 

One of the cool things we did this past week was meeting some Jehovah's Witnesses. We taught them a lesson (they probably think they taught us too now that I think about it) and set up a return appointment. We prepared for that return appointment carefully knowing that if their attitude and our attitude wasn't just right it would clash.

I started it off with, "We are different, we all know that, so lets focus on what we agree on for this time!" 

That lasted for ten minutes until we talked about priesthood authority and then the response you here every time it goes in the direction they don't want it to go, "So, do you know God's name?"

The lesson went downhill from there. We accepted a copy of the watchtower but he refused to take a Book of Mormon. He would not pray with us either. To this date I've only ever gotten one Jehovah's Witness to pray for/with me.

I think I shocked him with how much of their doctrine I knew. I learned a lot (about and from them) in Queen Creek. 

Revelation of the week: Apostate and apostrophe are very similar words.

Mesa is getting decorated for halloween. I guess I've never really thought about Halloween before. There are a couple of apartments nearby that went all out. We're talking decapitated heads, knives, corpses, body parts all over the place. It's disgusting. I realized that Halloween can get way out of hand really quickly. I like the candy side of it though.

We are still waiting for the mission policy for what to do on Halloween. Last Halloween we sat inside a church for 9 hours and read from the New Testament. It was pretty fun. 

We had THE funniest dinner this past week. 

Oh, to preface all of that, we moved this week. Our new address is 949 S Longmore St #177, Mesa AZ 85202. It is down the street from the last one.

Our new apartment isn't 10 years old and is a lot smaller. We sleep in bunk beds in the living room and use the two bedrooms between the four of us to study in.

The day after we moved (which took until 1pm...) Elder Gaspar got sick. At Sister Toone's request he stayed inside and slept. We worked until lunch time. I took spanish study on my own and then realized I couldn't do "internet proselyting hour" since he wasn't able to watch my screen. Then I realized our area book was in the car and that I couldn't leave to get it alone. So I went to work cleaning up from the move. 

Mom, I know what it was like to have to have dealt with me growing up. I'm always the one cleaning dishes and picking up trash.

So I unpacked everything into the kitchen. Set up the bathrooms and beds. Cleaned our room of the trash from moving, put things on the walls, and set up my desk. I had everything nicely organized. Eventually our roommates showed up and I sent them to the car to get the area book. For the next two or so hours I entered the teaching records into the iPad to "digitize" that information. 

Then I played spanish Jenga all by myself. That wasn't fun.

Then I wrote in my journal.

Then I cleaned some more. 

Then our roomamtes came back and offered to send me to the dinner appointment with one of them while the other prepared to pack and go home.

I jumped on that invitation and finally was able tog et out of that apartment. Dinner was in a retirement community. The average age must have been at least 80. Everyone wore name tags because everyone forgot each others names.

As we sat outside of the cafe we saw dozens and dozens of elderly people walk in and out. We sat in a tabled area and a bunch of women in their late 80s came over and started gossiping about George Clooney and other people. I felt very out of place. We sat and listened and I was dying of laughter inside. It was the most cliche thing in the world.

Finally we got inside for our dinner. The food was nice. As we sat down with the woman who invited us, someone else, a less active member of the church in her late 80s, joined us. Her daughter was serving a mission in Tennessee. The missionary I was on the exchange with was in his first six weeks. So naturally I offered for him to write her. She got so excited, got up, and ran to her apartment to bring back some pictures for him. Turns out she was Miss Utah at some point and she got so excited about the idea of him writing her. 

So basically I'm a matchmaker. 

It turned out to be one of the funnier dinners of my mission.

This week I learned one of my friends at BYU was in the same stake and is close friends with one of the sister missionaries in the Mesa zone. Small world!

The highlight of this past week was being able to go back to Gilbert zone for a baptism of someone I taught in the Ray 5th ward. 

This was one of the most special baptisms of my mission. Why? This is why:

When I got transferred out of Queen Creek I was told I was going to train. So I picked up my companion, Elder Diaz from Argentina, and we got straight to work. We saw many miracles and I think he taught me more than I taught him. 

We "whitewashed" in, meaning we were both new to the area. We spent many hours that first week reading in the area book about the names of people the missionaries before had taught. One name in particular stuck out to me. I felt very strongly that we needed to visit her. I pulled the record out and wrote myself a note to visit her.

Turns out this person had been taught by Elder Myler, my MTC companion and close friend, in his first weeks in the mission field. Cool!

Soon after we were told we were moving. In the move both the record and the note were misplaced. Four weeks later it showed up and we went to visit her.

She was awesome. The teaching experience with her was one that has helped me and one that I continually look back on for what we as missionaries can do to help find and solve concerns. 

When I was transferred out of Gilbert she was on date to get baptized. Due to some unforseen problems that didn't happen.

However last week I heard the news that she was back on date to get baptized. I made arrangements to get there and called and told Elder Myler. He went as well. 

This picture has all the missionaries that taught her in it. It was an awesome day. There were over 14 missionaries there to support her and like always the Ray 5th ward showed up in huge numbers. It was so awesome to see all those members again. I really connected with them and love them all.

There was a very special spirit at that baptismal service and it was one of the moments I hope I look back on forever. The seed of faith was planted and harvested. It may have taken over a year and an 8 month "break" but it happened!

This past week was the culmination of much coordination and effort for some people I'm teaching on Facebook! Someone I'm teaching in London AND Pakistan were able to go to church and make contact with the local missionaries! They LOVED church! 

Elder Gaspar and I are also on special assignment to literally teach an entire congregation in Mexico that wants to get baptized. Another set of missionaries here helped a woman there meet with missionaries and get baptized into the local congregation in Mexico. She has been helping many many people prepare for baptism. Last night President Toone extended to us the assignment to teach and help them prepare for baptism.



We set personal records for number of people at church yesterday. We had 13 people  between our two wards and three at church overseas. So cool.


Another really cool experience I had this past week was during my personal studies. I was sitting there thinking about what we could do to help the wards missionary efforts be more focused as well as the stakes. The idea came to help the stake create a stake mission plan. Then I thought about the power that would exist if wards organized their ward mission plans along the keys of the stake president and the stake mission plan. And then if the families used the ward mission plans to make family mission plans! 

We are going to be delivering a copy of the ward mission plans to every dinner we attend.

The following day I was reading an Ensign from 2007 and stumbled upon an article addressing that very idea. It gave clarification to my idea and helped us to refine it so it could be presented. That was cool in and of itself. I had never heard of stake mission plans before and using it in wards and the ward plan  in families.

We met with the stake presidents in the two stakes that our zone covers and presented the ideas to them. They loved it. They got so excited. They have committed to using a "large majority of our stake council time" to forming and creating the plan.

The work is moving forward.

Anyway, thank you all for your support! Love you all! 
Elder Johnson

Monday, October 14, 2013

14 October 2013

Paul OYM'ing with a parrot

. . . a little peck
 Dear Family and Friends,
This week we set a Mesa zone record for total teaching lessons at 225. That led the mission. We set a companionship record at 56 lessons taught. Which was a miracle since 30 lessons cancelled this week.

We have a ridiculous amount of work going right now. 

We had a pretty cool teaching opportunity this week. It was on Tuesday, the day after every single lesson on Monday fell through. We OYM'd him in the parking lot. He was in his 20s and the first thing he said was, "I have a MMJ card." Haha, ok. He was smoking but very interested in what he said. He told us his concern was when Christians or Jews or whatever told him that what he did was bad when they would turn around and do bad things as well. He said he didn't like to be told he was wrong.

Who does? We slowly built up the conversation around his faith and how he lives his faith. We eventually introduced prophets to him and he said, "well yeah, if a prophet told me to smoke I probably wouldn't!" We told him, "One has." His eyes got wide and he inhaled the last breath of the joint until it went out. We set up a return appointment with him but he wasn't there. Hopefully we can find him this week - he got really excited about the idea of living prophets. 

Unfortunately the Skype lessons this week with Tracy Watson failed. There was a technical problem on his end and apparently the power in Pakistan was out. Devastating.

Well, it finally happened. I officially had my driving privileges temporarily revoked. Apparently it was supposed to start on September 1st but no one told me until October 5th. As I drove into the mission office the vehicle coordinator said, "whatcha doin drivin?" So, President Toone told me to take a break for the next 1-5 days as he figures out what to do. Hopefully he figures it out soon! Tiwi, the GPS unit that is put into our cars that measures speed and G's pulled in turns, made me "yellow-lighted." I had a good case as I argued my way out of the longer suspension ha. I had been "green lighted," meaning a safe driver, just a few weeks before and the only "aggressive driving violations" that I had gotten in that time were accidentally turning too quick or going over a bump too fast. Nothing purposefully aggressive...

Anyway, that has been fun.

My letter is going to be shorter this week - we've been asked to review everyone's Facebook profiles to make sure they follow the guidelines and we're already short on time as is. 

The highlight of the week was eating Menudo - cow stomach lining soup. We were invited over for dinner and told that we would be eating carne aasada! It was with a single sister so the sister missionaries had to be there for us going inside. 30 minutes before dinner we found out they were sick but they decided to come anyway. We were all excited for carne asada!

As we walked in the door, something spelled...different. It wasn't the smell of grilling steak or lettuce or salsa. No. It was something far different. A smelly smell that I had smelled before. I could never forget that smelly smell that smelled...smelly.

It was menudo.
Inline image 2

We all looked at each other in silent fear, knowing what was to come. A prayer to bless the food was said with all of us adding our own silent prayer that the food would stay down. From bowl to mouth went each spoonful of broth, hominy, and cow stomach. The mixture of stomach in my own stomach was not a pleasant one. The battle continued. I attacked the bits of stomach first, thinking that if I could get that down I could get the rest down easier. The first spoonful in and it almost came right back out. In a stroke of ingenuity, I reached for the Coke. Hmm, coke. I don't like coke that much. But that night it was my best friend. Spoon in mouth, fake chew, pour coke, swallow everything. Repeat.

When half the bowl was gone I looked around. Everyone was pale in the face. Full, yet not sure how. All of the sudden we hear, "THE RICE IS READY! How much meat do you want??"

What had we just heard? Not that. Noo, not that! MORE FOOD?? Another plate of rice was delivered to the table and put in the middle. And then pork mixed with egg was put on the table. I don't like eggs. 

Nevertheless between the coke and the rice I won. I left that house victorious. Five minutes later I realized the Menudo had won. Recognizing an emergency, we raced home for some menudicine (toothpaste.) It worked miracles. 

That night reflecting on that day we all agreed that that would be a good experience to look back on. In 50 years.

Hahah good times...Mexicans love that stuff, we just can't do it for some reason.

Also, last Monday we went to a member owned bird shop last Monday. I found a new friend then he attacked me and cut my arm!

Yesterday Elder Lanier, I mean Lanier, returned from home to visit us! It was way fun to see him. We had served together for 4.5 months in Yuma. He and I both looked back on those days with a smile on. Good times were had. 

Anyway, I'm about out of time! Thanks so much for the letters John and Aunt Andra and Anika [and Mom and William]! Hope everyone is having a great week!


Monday, October 7, 2013

7 October 2013

If you all remember, a couple of months ago I went to a leadership meeting where Tracy Watson, the Global Director of Proselyting for the Missionary Department spoke. It was to this date one of the best 8 hour meetings I've ever been to.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I opened my Facebook inbox today and saw this message in it.

"Elder Johnson,
I am training a group of young men and women this wednesday evening on using social media to share the gospel. Is there any chance you could set up a lesson at that time that we could join? I am looking at around 6:20 p.m. your time (7:20 Utah time)? What do you think? I don't want to do anything to distract from your work, but this would be really powerful for them to assist in some real live teaching.
Brother Watson"

 Okokokok! I was surprised, then excited, then nervous, the humbled! Of all the missionaries in the world he asked me to help him out with that! 

I said yes. Hopefully the people I'm teaching in England, Pakistan, New Zealand, and the Philippines will be awake that early (for them)! To say I'm excited is an understatement. The work is soaring on Facebook right now and to say I have a testimony of sharing the gospel online is probably the understatement of the century. Amazing things are happening and I can't even begin to explain them well enough.

But I'll try. I am teaching an amazing man in England. He reached out to me, if I remember right, through a hashtag he found that I used. It was that or a christian page, I can't remember. Anyway, I taught him the basics and focused on the articles of faith. I shared with him a link to and some talks from the apostles and he went to town there. He referred himself. However, it has been a week and still no missionary contact. He is "anxiously awaiting the book!" I contacted the London mission office and they'll be visiting him today.

Another update on the Pakistani man I'm teaching. The mission president told me that he is actually going to be the one making initial contact with him! How cool is that! The mission president is going to visit and teach him! 

It has been fun to be in contact with mission presidents all over the world and watch them get excited as I hand people off to them. What a cool world we live in.

This week started off to a great start. We found an amazing woman outside her home sitting alone and smoking. We were with a member and decided to talk with her. She was smoking and looked exhausted. After a couple of minutes talking about her move to Arizona, her work, and her family, we connected it to the gospel and we are going over this week to visit her and her husband and two young kids.

I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference it makes when we approach people as "people" and not just the "HEY, COME TO CHURCH?" They see and feel our concern and care and open up more. Miracles.

One of the things that we've been working on is connecting with the people we meet in the street over Facebook. We are always making posts on Facebook and people comment on how they have helped them in whatever way get through a hard day. So our goals is to give them a pass along card with our Facebook URLs and get their accounts and bam, be friends. We did that this past week with a very faithful man in his own church and he said, "we ran into each other for a reason!" Maybe baptism isn't on his radar (yet) but he will be touched, no doubt, by the restored gospel.

That was one of my realizations this week. We're invited to talk to everyone. But not everyone is going to be receptive and open and excited about God. So we talk to them about them! Sometimes the best OYMs (or street contacts) never even mention the church or God. We teach and speak to their needs.

We are moving. Probably just send letters to the mission office for now (1871 E. Del Rio Dr, Tempe Arizona 85282) until we know when and where we're moving. It could be as soon as tomorrow or next week. We were supposed to move today but it wasn't ready. 

The brief and willing invitation. What is that? President Toone went to a training with Elder Neil Anderson and came back excited to share it. It is a way for members to invite and is not intimidating and is very simple.

The idea? Have a normal conversation! That's not hard, is it? That's it! Talk normally! But the key is that when someone (this is them prompting the invitation, not you) mentions something like, "why are you so happy?" or "why do mormons have such big families" or "what are those big temples?" or "what is that blue book?" you respond with, simply, "would you be willing to hear a brief message happiness/families/temples/the book of mormon? We have two great ____ that would be more than willing to talk about that for ten minutes!" 

When I heard him train on that I smiled. This is exactly what we are doing in our OYMs! Connect their interests and comments to the gospel! That way, they have already expressed an interest and all you're doing is allowing the means for it to be addressed! If the person says no, just continue with the conversation. As easy as that!

The Dallas Mission President and his wife tried it for a week. In everyday life, in everyday conversation, and in everyday actions, they were able to use it FOURTEEN times! And only ONE person said no!

They said that since introducing it in one stake over there, new investigators have increased over 150%, referrals received more than 250% and lessons taught over 100%. 

It is easy, simple, brief, and effective! Will you try it this week? 

This last week was zone conference. We played violin, a duet, of Nearer, my God to Thee. It was a lot of fun and wasn't as smooth as it would have been three years ago but it was a good time. The members here were nice enough to lend us two!

OHMYGOODNESSWASNTCONFERENCEAMAZING? I got so many answers to questions it isn't even funny!

Can I remind you all one thing? Elder Ballard committed all of you to invite one person to come unto Christ before Christmas. Are you willing to live up to the promises of an Apostle! DO ITTTTT!!! HE PROMISED BLESSINGS!

And guess what else? This week was a good week for nice cars driving through Mesa! We saw a Fisker Karma, an LP640 Lamborghini Murcielago, AND two of the BRANDNEW Corvette Stingrays! Sweeeeeeeeet! 

We met an amazing man this week. He said he was a devout atheist and while he cooked his hotdogs we taught him a lesson. The next day we returned, and, long story short, committed him to baptism! Aren't miracles awesome? More on this to come :)

Last night I almost died. We went to the church at 8pm to grab something and as I walked around a corner the building security guy walked around it and we almost died together. That would have been an awesome story on the other side of the veil. 

Attached is Mesa District 1! Represent! 

Thanks for the letters this week Eric, Will, and Mom! You're all awesome!

Love you all,

30 September 2013

This past week I had the weirdest member present lesson of my life.

Below is what I wrote right after to remember it in its beautiful simplicity.
"Weirdest Member Present of my Life."
By: Elder Johnson
Sunday, 12:25PM

We were teaching someone who just walked into the church building looking for the Bishop. He stayed for church and afterwards we pulled him aside and sat down. A member had accompanied him throughout the day and in the lesson for five minutes but had to leave soon after it started. So, leaving the room for another reason, I found a member and asked him to come join us so this man could get to meet some people.

We invited him into the room and, having sat down, the first thing he said, "I have less teeth than you!" ...Weird... We started talking about prophets, priesthood authority, and the true church. Turning to the member, I asked him, "how have you been blessed by following the prophets?"

He sat for a second, clearly contemplating his answer, and said, "I have been in many fights in my life. A while back I was stabbed with a 12 inch melon knife through the gut. And  I'll tell you, that bled!" And I've been in so many fights. About  six months ago, a 400 pound man punched me in the back, dropping me to the ground. I looked up and I said a quick prayer..."

Elder Gaspar and I looked at each other in shock.

Continuing before we could stop him, he said, "I am a 69-year-old man, but I jumped back up as fast as possible. I got my shovel and hit him as hard as I could across the head. He fell down to the ground and hit him in the mouth a bunch of times. And this guy was supposed to be a good Mormon! He told us that he was a killer from Afghanistan and I didn't like him. And I've been in a bunch of fights like that!"

Trying to rescue it, I said, "and it's so great to know that even through trials, prophets are there to guide us."

That is a true story.

Speaking of intense stories, here is another one that I will never forget.

We are teaching a woman. She has been taught for about six months and has gotten close to baptism a few times. Well, she overcame her addiction to smoking and we were so proud of her for that. The week before her baptism, someone moves in with her and, very long story short, buys her cigarettes that she smokes.

We got a phone call from her that night cancelling our appointment but she mentioned something about the police so I told her we were coming over anyway. We floored it out of our appointment, raced the car (at the speed limit speed!) and flew over to home. As we approached the door we heard screaming. 

We were on edge. Tensions were high and things seemed to be happening at 100 miles per hour. 

The door opens and we hear more screaming. We walk inside and sit down between them for five minutes in silence as they scream. I was so angry, the spirit was not there and I thought I was going to punch someone.

These people are over 50 years old. Both of them. Eventually, after quiet attempts to quiet them down fail, I stood up, grabbed the Book of Mormon, and told them both to shut up for five minutes. I sat down and started reading from 3 Nephi chapter 11 where it describes the still small voice of the spirit. One of them kept mumbling and I spoke to him pretty loudly about how the spirit was not there and that was why everyone was angry.

He stopped. So I read. And read. For about five minutes I read in silence, both of these people in different rooms. When I finished reading I bore testimony. That testimony turned into a 15 minute monologue.

I can't remember anything of what I said, only that it was super intense and bold. I remember feeling terrified to say what I was saying but as the words came to my mind and out my mouth I remember the spirit being intensely strong. I remember looking at Elder Gaspar in confusion about what I was saying and him telling me to keep going.

After my little monologue things were quiet in that house. I pulled one of them aside and told this person, in very plain and simple terms, what the significance about what had happened was while Elder Gaspar spoke to the other alone. 

Afterwards we brought them back together and sat them down together and said, "You need to reevaluate this relationship. Is being together helping you get closer to Christ?" We left them with to think about and excused ourselves. 

I remember feeling overwhelmed after that encounter and we drove to the church where we went on splits and I stayed behind to vent to the bishop about it haha. He asked, "your eyes are red...have you been crying?" I replied, "No, I'm super stressed." It was a cool experience being able to counsel with him, receive good advice, and figure out the next step to take.

I don't think I'll ever forget that night. We're 20 years old. We shouldn't have been able to control that like we did. But we did. And I know it's not because I was speaking loudly but because the spirit was there and guiding all of us.

We spoke to President Toone about the situation the next day. We pushed the baptism back. Sister Toone was in SLC at the General Relief Society Broadcast that day and had lunch with the presidency of the General Relief Society. She is bringing back a hand signed note from the three presidency members which she will deliver to this person. 

Things can turn around, we hope they do. Please pray for a miracle.

That same night a very drunk man stumbled to the church but didn't speak English. The English ward was there and worried since the youth were there and this man could barely even walk. Since we were still on splits they asked me to take care of this guy so I went out, put my hand around his back, and explained the situation to him. He walked away with two bowls of salad that he was given in hand and we haven't seen or heard of him since.

This past week we also had the unique opportunity, at P. Toone's approval, to go and do some OYMs with two new sister companionships. They have been struggling with speaking with random people so we took them out and gave them some pointers. It was a really productive experience and we ended up teaching five lessons in an hour to random people including two sets of Jehovah's Witnesses.

I don't know how many of you saw my status on Facebook this past week but I'm teaching someone in Pakistan now. He said he and his congregation are looking for "more guidelines from Christ." I have his address, I'm emailing the mission president in the New Delhi, India Mission (which covers Pakistan I guess), and I'm going to be skyping this guy! Turns out there is a branch and missionaries in his city in Pakistan!!! THIS IS SO COOLLLLL!!!!

We had a cool experience of "being in the right place at the right time doing the right time." It was 8:40 at night and we were in a complex talking to some people. We ran into this one guy who was outside smoking, drinking, and listening to music. We asked him what he was listening to and after a couple minutes he said, "I'm a Mormon, guys." We talked a bit more and I told him, "Hey, I feel really strongly to show you a little clip, four minutes long, is it ok if we come a bit closer?" He said yes so we sat down and watched, "Mountains to Climb," the Mormon message. Afterwards he said, "Wow. You two were here for a reason tonight.That was exactly what I needed to see. I feel so lost. I don't know how to come back. I know it is all true and I know I need to come back." He had been through some hard things that I won't write about. I told him, "If you want to change, start now. Pour out that beer." He did and the spirit was so strong. He got a big smile on his face and he is excited to meet tonight. Another blessing of this technology we have. Nothing we could have said could have impacted him like that message from President Eyring did on that Mormon message. I'm convinced it was made for him.

Moments like that remind me why I'm out here walking in the heat, getting bitten by dogs, feeling sick, tired and stressed. It is all worth it in those small and simple moments when people decide to improve their lives. It is all worth it. We ended that night with big smiles on our faces.

Last night we taught a lesson to someone who moved from Saudi Arabia 2 months ago. We were able to use the translator on our phone to speak with him and even had a prayer with him! I asked him if could record his prayer since prayers in Arabic, or Muslim prayers in general, are so musical.

Six cop cars went flying past us this past Saturday night, sirens blazing, and drifting around corners. One of the Crown Victorias under-steered hardcore and took a corner way wide. lololololol. Anyway, we did what we should have done....and followed them! We saw rifles out and guns out at a door and decided to leave. That was an exciting end to the day.

I almost died at dinner this past week. Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it hurt! I was drinking a smoothie and started choking and all the sudden smoothie was flying out my nose and I couldn't breathe. Meanwhile, while I'm suffering of what I thought was the end of my life, everyone is dying of laughter while I suffer in bitter agony! 

Ok, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration as well, but it hurt! Mostly my pride.

This past week Mesa zone broke three records that have existed since 2008. We blew away total teaching opportunities by more than 50 lessons, lessons to recent converts or less actives by 30, and "other lessons" by 20! Wooooo! Mesa Pride!

I think the week highlight was watching someone we've been teaching get baptized. This woman is an amazing woman and is a great example to me. I was pretty stressed out and angry at the baptism since only 10 other people showed. None of the speakers or prayerers (?) showed up either. I was honestly fuming in my chair haha. Luckily the baptismal ordinance was flawless and the spirit again was super powerful. After the baptism Elder Gaspar and I, on our recently borrowed violins, played a duet on the violins. We played "I know my Redeemer lives" and it was the first time either of us had played in three years. Luckily it went really well. We are practicing to play at a zone conference this Wednesday. 

This past week President Toone asked me to head up a not-yet-created group on training on using the internet to share the gospel. The story behind how he asked me is kind of cool.

I have been having a ridiculous amount of ideas on how to use the internet come to my mind. Like it's ridiculous. After MLC I asked to sit down with President and told him I'm getting too many ideas and don't know what to do with them or how to implement them and it was a little overwhelming. He looked at me and said, "Elder Johnson, you are an answer to my prayers." He said he has felt a little behind on everything with Facebook and the iPads and has been praying for direction and he feels like it has been coming through me. So now I'm supposed to keep a record of all my ideas. I've written up a document about vision, direction, dangers, potentials and whatnot of what we have at our fingertips, literally, now. The big struggle right now is that since 50% of our mission are in their first 4 months, they JUST said goodbye to family, friends, and facebook, and now all of the sudden they're back in it. But I'm confident we can get around that distraction.

I was asked to write some advice on the "how to" of preparing for a mission. I'll write some of my thoughts below in the few minutes I have left.

Read those leather bound books we call scriptures. You can't teach what you don't know for yourself. Start young and read. You don't need to be obsessive about it but make it something you do for a little bit of time each day.

Attend seminary. It is fun, the teachers are great, and it helps you know where to find the evidence of our doctrine!

Practice sharing your testimony in formal and informal ways! It's not hard!

Pray for whatever!

Invite people! It is not a scary thing to do, you make a bigger deal about it than anyone you invite does.

Visit with the missionaries. Practice makes perfect.

Obey the commandments and what your parents tell you to do. Believe it or not, they usually know more than you or me. Sometimes :)

Enjoy, laugh and be happy. No one is going to believe the gospel makes you happy if you aren't genuinely happy. Let them see that "light" and feel the love you have for them and for the savior. Don't take it all overly serious or you'll have no fun. Recognize the balance between seriousness and enjoy-ability and connectivity. 

And, newly available option, use social media for sharing the gospel! It's as easy as a status, as nonthreatening as a "like" and as powerful as a "share." Recognize the blessings we have through technology and use it! 

I didn't take my preparation, at least the memorizing scripture part and seminary part, seriously enough. I felt prepared by knowing the doctrine and wasn't scared to share it with people but I regret not spending more time memorizing things.

To this day that is a weakness I have.
Thanks Elizabeth, Mom, Eric, Will, and Grandpa J for the letters! 

Love you all!