Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 26, 2014

Have you ever wondered what it is like to almost die?

I'll tell you.

Mexicans here love dogs. All dogs. Maybe it's a $5,000 pit bull. Maybe it's a $0.10 Chihuahua. Whatever it is, they have it. 

This last week we went to visit the house that has the dog that almost killed Elder Myler a few weeks back. Bad idea. As Elder Myler and I (on our last day as companions) pulled up to the home, I noticed something was wrong...

But what was it?

As I looked closer I could see the evil German shepherd lurking behind the fence. And then I saw it! The gate was open just a crack! I knew that if it got up and ran for the gate before I could close it we would die. And this guy was important enough to risk it! So I slowly got out of the drivers seat and asked Elder Myler to grab a rock.

But in my excitement I did not wait for him to be behind me.

I slowly approached the fence...

Stared the dog down...

and then it was up! Around the corner of the house came running the other dog: a huskie! I sprinted for the gate, the dogs sprinted for the gate, and we met in a clash of life and death at the gate! 

I put my hand out to push it closed right as the German shepherd jumped it with its mouth open. It beat me to the gate! The gate flew open. 

Not knowing what else to do I kicked my leg out and hit the gate with my foot, closing it again and almost squishing the German shepherd at the same time. I kept it closed with my foot as the dog stood up, probably 5 feet tall on its feet with front paws on the gate, barking at me.

I was sure I was dead.


When we started to drive the car away I had to pull over and pause for a second. That was one of the scariest moments of my life haha.

That's a true story.

I got an amazing letter this week from one of the families that I baptized in Mesa. In it they talked about their recent trips to the Mesa temple to do baptisms, their plan to get sealed in January, and a progress report on callings and other things that are going on. It made my day to get that! 

I thought my week could not be any better after that. 

And then transfer day came.

I was heartbroken to learn that Elder Myler would be leaving. He got sent to Yuma in a pretty hard situation. I've been praying for him. 

I learned that coming to Mesa would be Elder Sylvester! He is almost identical to Elder Harder. And we are almost in the same situation. When I was called to be a zone leader last July, Elder Harder was in his last six weeks and taught me the ropes. I had been out a year. Well, Elder Sylvester has been out for a year and I'm in my last six weeks. They have the same mannerisms and the same way of speaking, the same interests, and many other similarities! We already teach really well together because, well, I've already had him for six weeks (as Elder Harder!)

We're having a lot of fun. He's a great missionary with great intentions. And he speaks Spanish suuuper well! 

But transfer meeting got even better when I heard a missionary say, "Elder Johnson, someone from Yuma is outside waiting for you!" 

What? for me? from Yuma? Do they even remember me? It has been two years! I had no idea who it could be.

I walked outside and heard a man yell for me...

I recognized that voice...

I got a little feeling of what heaven feels like when I turned around and saw the very first person that I baptized! He was heading my way and we met up and gave each other a big hug. He was in tears as he told me how grateful he was for everything we did for him. He continued on about how much better his life has been in the last two years.

I can honestly say that I have never felt so happy in my life.

And then he made me even happier. He said, "In the last two years I have baptized my mom, my dad, my aunt, my uncle, and my sister!" He is very active in the branch and has had leadership callings down there. You'll recognize the face in the attached picture if you scroll back on my blog to last November :) :) :) :)

What a great moment that was. I have not seen him in two years.
Words cannot describe the joy that I felt in that moment. And now he's baptizing everyone down there! 

Before transfer meeting, President Toone called us into his office to tell us about the upcoming transfer. He told Elder Myler about his assignment and me about mine. And then he said, "You two need to know how I feel about you..." The next few minutes were very humbling to know how much President Toone loves and trusts us. He did not want to split us up.

That man has changed my life.

As we were walking out I looked back and said, "I'd love to see the transfer board before I die, President!" (Die is slang we use for finishing the mission.) 

He said, "Close the door," with a smile on his face. What?! Transfer meeting hadn't even happened yet! It was the fulfillment of 23 months of imagination.

He walked us through each aspect: why some pictures were sideways, what colors meant, etc etc. 

I'm approaching the one year mark of serving with Elder Hardy! He was "born" into Mesa when I got transferred there. We have been together ever since. He's a wonderful missionary.

This last weekend was the first part of our mission fast. It will continue next weekend. At transfer meeting, President introduced to the rest of the mission the plan he had to fast as a mission so that every companionship could baptize this transfer. In each zone, we are to assign each companionship another companionship that they will pray and fast for so they can achieve that. For example, we are praying and fasting for some sisters and they're doing the same for us etc etc. We're already seeing the miracles come in.

For example, Phoenix South zone led the mission in almost every single statistic this last week. A few months ago it was second to last. 

We heard amazing stories yesterday of people showing up to church and asking to be baptized the next week, of the First Presidency giving two men in our stake permission to be baptized less than a month from when the letter of recommendation was sent (unheard of) and even more amazing things! 

I have never fasted without a miracle. Never. Not once. 

Miracles happen. Every. Single. Day.

Let one happen in your life! You need to ask for it! 

I was able to go back to Mesa this past weekend to watch one of my recent converts (from December) baptize the rest of his family :) He did amazing.

I was OVERJOYED that 3/4 of my recent converts from Mesa have gone to the temple to do baptisms. That made me so happy! 

There were 16 missionaries at the baptismal service. President Toone called us beforehand, upset, and asked what we should do about it. There will be a policy change in the future because half of those missionaries didn't ask to go until the day before or day of. I asked a month ago! But the new policy is no going back to old areas for baptisms. 16 missionaries is way too many at one baptismal service! 

Well, the miracles continue! I'm feeling really good. We're working hard. I've prepared 23 months for these last six weeks - I'm ready to make them my best yet! 

Thanks for the letters!

Love you all,
Elder Johnson

Monday, May 19, 2014

19 May 2014

Transfer calls came at 11:00pm last night. I will be staying in South Phoenix and Elder Myler will be leaving for his last transfer elsewhere. The phone call was devastating and a shock - I really believed we would finish together for reasons that I will clarify later. But I know that President Toone is inspired and whatever happens happens for a reason. 

Today begins my last six weeks as a full time missionary. That's a humbling thought. But it's also one that I am determined not to forget about. 

I have served around a lot of missionaries. For almost 23 months I have watched them in their final months, weeks, and days. Some have prepared for the next step, others have not. The idea of "work hard until the end and then think about the next step" has been lived by many. They worked hard until the end but I've seen them have hard transitions at the end. Other missionaries couldn't stop thinking about going home and burned out before that day came. They also had a hard transition.

I'm going to work hard until the end and think about the next step the whole way. Not in a distracting way but in a way that allows me to set real goals for what is to come. President Toone confirmed that inspiration last week. Having done so, I feel like I can focus more in the moment as I know where I want my long term goals to take me. 

We had an eventful week. But outside of our area our zone had an eventful week as well. I can't really explain it but conversion is happening here with these great missionaries. Four weeks straight with almost every stat doubled. What a great way for Elder Myler to finish his time here. 

Facebook success is exploding. However, with that, there are also challenges. I am teaching a man who lives in a small village in India. I 'know' the mission president there; he is one of my favorites. This last week I emailed him the referral and he informed me that this man lived 2-3 days away from the nearest church building. There were no missionaries in his area and so contact and teaching would be impossible.


I asked him what he wanted me to do. He advised me to give the man access to the church websites and then allow him to learn from there on his own until that part of India is ready for the church to be established. I knew he was right but that was a hard moment. The man who disappointed but understood. I told the mission President that we'll send them enough referrals for that entire city to justify a stake there :)

You see, these are neat experiences that would be impossible without online proselyting  What a unique situation for a missionary in Phoenix, AZ to have. 

This was another week of "dropping" people. When they're not willing to do their part, we can't do our part so we "drop" them until an undetermined future date when they are ready to act. It's never fun but you know when it is right. There is a reassurance amidst the sorrow.

We had a tough day last week. We ended up dropping a family, three lessons in a row fell through, and our member had cancelled. We thought back to why we are still not baptizing in our area and it was a discouraging moment. As we headed to our next appointment, Elder Myler took a wrong turn and brought us down a street that a family that is never home lives on. We did not plan to be there or visit them but I had a strong impression to stop and knock their door. Surprise! They were not home. But across the street was a man sitting under a tree drinking a 40 oz. We determined to talk to him and seconds later he yelled at us to come over. 

So we did! He stood up and met us at the gate, clearly drunk, but clearly wanting to change. He had experienced some hard things in his life. Right from the start we were very direct and bold with him. We wanted him to know what we do as missionaries and that we would not waste time with people who did not want to act. I asked him, "what are you willing to change?" He quickly responded, "I need to get baptized."

If you insist! We talked for a while and asked him how he could prepare. He said, "church, scriptures." I looked at his 40 oz and said, "are you willing to give up drinking?"


"Then pour that out."

"But, I'm not ready yet."

"If you're willing to change, you need to show God your faith."

"You know what, you're right!" And then he poured out the entire bottle. 
Those are the best moments on a mission. He had a big smile as soon as he finished pouring it out. He knew it was right. 

It was one of those moments when we knew that God was watching out for us. If our lessons had not fallen through, we never would have had time to visit this man. If our member had not cancelled, we likely never would have turned down that street. If we had not taken a wrong turn in our car, we likely never would have met this man. 

But all things happen for a reason. All we can do is make sure we're doing "what we ought to do, when we ought to be doing it."

This week included a great success story from the Philippines. I am teaching woman who has distraught when I first found her on Facebook. She wanted to abort her unborn child and felt lost. We taught her the gospel of Jesus Christ, about the importance of families, and about God's love. She decided to keep the baby and practice her faith. We sent missionaries to visit her but they could not find her home. They emailed me back (through their mission president) reporting that the address was a blank lot.

Devastated I contacted her again. She said she had watched the two missionaries go by but was unsure about how to approach them. So she didn't. She gave me her address again, I sent it, and the next day I got the most wonderful message to her about how much she loved their visit, how excited she was that they spoke Tagalog, and how their ENTIRE FAMILY had been in the meeting. They have all accepted baptism. The husband is taking the Book of Mormon to work to share it. The mission president excitedly emailed me saying that the missionaries were also reporting great things about the family.

You see, these are neat experiences that would be impossible without online proselyting  What a unique situation for a missionary in Phoenix, AZ to have. 

We visited a beautiful family this last week. The husband is progressing much slower than the mother who is ready. We talked to her about it and invited her to be baptized before him. In the past she has rejected that because she wants to make this decision with him. We invited her to pray about it. When we returned she said that she felt like she shuold go ahead with it first. We read 1 Ne 8 about Lehi's vision or the iron rod and how she can lead her family. She, being an amazing wife to her husband, said that she needed to counsel with him about it first before she set a date. She wanted to respect him as her husband and make sure it was ok with him.

This family is one of my favorites. They teach me so much everytime we visit them. And what a humbling experience it was to see her get the answer to the prayer that she initially was unsure about! And so quickly, at that! 

This past week Elder Myler and I exchanged with our roommates, Elder Hardy and Olsen. Elder Olsen got sick so we came in and I died of boredom. I managed to read dozens and dozens of pages of old Ensigns, practice the violin for an hour for an upcoming opportunity that we will have to play, and clean the house. I don't like being inside.

Saturday and Sunday was stake conference in the Phoenix, AZ stake. President and Sister Toone spoke at both sessions. 

After the Saturday night session, Elder Myler and I had our temple recommend interviews since ours expire at the end of this month. I've never felt more prepared for an interview - it was a great experience. I took the opportunity to ask President Toone some doctrinal questions that I had and was blown away, like everytime, by his answers. I have learned so much from him.

Before the interview ended he asked me how I would feel if our companionship was affected by the transfers the following day. For 5 minutes I told him that we should stay together. It didn't work. 

He asked how Facebook was going. I told him some of the miracles we have experienced recently. He was touched. I showed him this map (attached). It is a sacred evidence to me that this is the Lord's work. It shows where all of our Facebook investigators live.

We are teaching people in:

the USA, including: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York

Canada: Alberta

Mexico: Quintana Roo

South America: Ecuador, Peru, Brazil

Europe: England, the Ukraine

Africa: Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa

Asia/Middle East: Kuwait, Pakistan, India, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia 

Pacific: Australia, New Zealand.

Over 20 countries. Over 10 languages, connected over google translate and broken English. 

President Toone was touched and asked if he could share that in the Sunday session of stake conference. We didn't expect him to cite our names but he definitely did and told everyone that we had six weeks left haha. It was a little embarrassing; President Toone is a king of making you feel special. 

We had people come up to us afterwards and offer to help us teach people in languages where they had served their missions. 

You see, these are neat experiences that would be impossible without online proselyting  What a unique situation for a missionary in Phoenix, AZ to have.

Do you remember last week when I wrote about that Iraqi family? Apparently they told the man that brought them that they saw "coronas" around our heads when they talked to us. I told the  man that we saw them around them as well. What a special family.

Last night was the Mission President's Fireside. We translated. It wasn't the best job we have ever done but it was sufficient. Afterwards I was overjoyed to hear that the last three members of a family that I taught and baptized would be getting baptized next week in Mesa! I'm making plans to go. I love that family. The mother pulled me aside and said, "You will always be our missionaries. We will never forget you and everything you have done for us."

That was a tender experience.

I also saw another wonderful family that I taught in Mesa! They went to the Mesa temple for the first time last week. They're doing so strong. So well. :) :) :)

Life continues to move on here. Miracles happen everyday. This transfer has made me sad but we move on in faith and trust in God :)

PS: I made some calculations today...there's a chance that I go back with Elder Diaz again for my last six weeks. I'm 40% sure that will happen. Start praying! 

Love you all!
Elder Johnson

FB sotory

Monday, May 12, 2014

12 May 2014


Good thing they haven't found my bed yet. Poor Elder Myler is getting eaten alive. We tore the house apart this morning and somehow did not find them. Three apartments in the Phoenix South zone are infested now.

...South Phoenix is under attack! 

This was a week of success on Facebook. I committed two people to get baptized in Africa, sent three referrals to local missions, two were contacted, two have a Book of Mormon, two are reading it, and one is meeting with missionaries later in the week.

The people of Africa are prepared.

This past week I was able to go on an exchange with Elder Nelson  He, totally by chance, was traveling through the Arlington 2 ward when I gave my farewell talk. He entered the field six weeks after me and is a wonderful missionary. We had a lot of fun and saw a lot of success in those few 24 hours. He will be living in the same apartment building as Elder Myler and I and we hope the three of us are in the same ward! 

This week was also a week of continued miracles in the South Phoenix zone. Things are exploding. We've seen our average lessons double for two weeks straight now. This week was particularly exciting as the success was spread very evenly across the entire zone. Every Sunday night we meet at 8:30 to report stats and send them to SLC (via wifi sync) and it was so exciting to watch companionship walk through the door at random intervals and shout for joy as they reached a goal they set and run around and give everyone high fives. There is a special family feeling in this zone right now that is drawing everyone together. It's amazing how happiness is the best medicine for anything. 

With that success so evenly spread, we often wonder what makes it so hard to put people on date in our own area. We've never done more than we are now but the people just aren't saying yes to the invitations. We extend invitations literally in every single lesson. But joy is abundant in the face of opposition because this is the Lord's work and we know who wins at the end of the day.

Montana del Sur is a ward that never ceases to amaze me. The Bishop has been a member for 16 years, three of which in the Mission Presidency and three of which as a Bishop. He is a saint of a man and a living example of love, consecration, and service. Nothing makes us happier than when we get a call during the week from Bishop saying, "Elders...I've been thinking and praying about _____ (investigator.) How is he/she? How can I help?"

This ward has the missionary spirit because the Bishop has the missionary spirit. It's amazing!

The temperature has been uncharacteristically nice in Phoenix this past week.

One of the things that never gets old about missionary work is talking to the most interesting people. This past week we visited a home that was listed on the membership list. As we got closer three men approached us, obviously drunk, and when we asked if a woman lived there they said, slurred voice and all, "SHE'S DEAD..." Ok..."Wait, she lives down there, by that red truck!" 

We thanked them and walked away.

There was no red truck on the entire street. There was a red bush.



On Friday afternoon during my spanish study I finished my reading of the Book of Mormon in Spanish. It took me 10 months to read the first 100 pages and two months to read the last 500 haha. I guess I wasn't really trying for those first 100. 

That book is true! Before I read it I would pray. After I read it I would pray. And every time I read it I knew that it was true. Read it. It will change your life! Reading it has brought me closer to God and has helped me make even the smallest of decisions. I set a goal to finish it in a certain amount of time and I made it. It was an enlightening experience. I'm currently reading through the New Testament and set a goal of four weeks to read the entire thing. The scriptures are the best.

Spanish wards are exciting in ways that English wards can never be. For the Mothers day party on Saturday the ward had a dinner that was prepared entirely by the men. Guess what we ate? Spaghetti with meat sauce and salad haha. Then there was a night of talents. The Elders Quorum did the best mariachi that I have ever seen. Except none of them sang or played an instrument. They made instruments out of cardboard and danced to Mariachi music and pretended to sing and play it. It was absolutely the funniest thing that I have ever seen before. They did a great job and it made everyone laugh. 

Next week I'll have the pictures.

There's just a different air in Spanish wards. In the face of so many trials there is so much joy! True joy comes from faith.

Happy Mothers day Mom! It was fun to Skype home yesterday and talk to you. Did my letter get to you this week? Thank you for everything you have done for me! You'll find more in that letter :)

I have had the best timing to go on a mission ever. In the past two years: missionary age has changed, my mission has been split, I've experienced two mission presidents (each for a year), online proselyting has rolled out, we have received iPads, AreaBooks have gone electronic, a temple open house has happened. Can you imagine more exciting things happening!?!? 

Yesterday at church I saw something very unique. I saw a family of 5 Muslims walk through the door and sit down! I went over and introduced myself and quickly learned that they came with their friend, a retired Air Force officer. He had served for years in Iraq and this man was his translator. I don't know how much detail I should go into for safety reasons but it was an amazing experience to meet this humble, humble family. I tried to shake his wife's hand and was politely denied: Muslim women do not shake hands of foreigners. They were very scared that they would offend me with that. They are an angelic family.

The man that brought them was sent by the First Presidency to be the first mission president in Afghanistan. He organized the church there, was the first branch/mission president,, baptized the first convert in Afghanistan. During his service he had zero proselyting missionaries with which to work. And do you know what is cool? I'M TEACHING PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN OVER FACEBOOK! 

Good things are happening. Next week is transfers. If you would like to send a letter (which you should) and cannot do so by Thursday, you will have better luck sending it to the Mission Office. I hope and pray that Elder Myler and I stay together. This is our last transfer. If this was ever likely to happen, the timing is perfect for it now. I'm going to remind the Office that we have bed bugs and we wouldn't want to spread them around the mission with a transfer :)

Have a fantastic week!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

28 April 2014

What we're doing isn't working. The people we're teaching are great. They're solid. But they have barriers that we cannot cross until certain things happen. And it's driving me crazy!

So we're changing plans. Starting this next week we will plan to visit members for almost every hour of the day. Paradigm shift. This is a long term investment since, looking short term, there are few results to show for member work. 

So we'll be focusing on teaching the members the lessons, active or not. We will help raise their vision and their faith so that they can catch the wave. Hopefully it goes well.

For six weeks I've had the nagging feeling to work through the PM/OAY  (part-member, out of area ?) lists. Every time I've asked for one I haven't been able to get them. So this last week we took matters into our own hands and sat down with the clerk and showed him how to do it. On first glimpse it was disappointing to  see that the majority of people are out of our area. Oh well. I also, using LDS Tools, made a custom list of everyone in our area. It can then display the list geographically superimposed on a map. As we visit them we'll tap a button and take them off the map. 

We have committed ourselves to continuing the private Facebook trainings as well. We have now done our entire district and the Sister Training Leaders. The results were mind blowing  All of those areas taught 2x as many member present lessons this past week. One area tripled theirs. As a result the zone increased by almost 40 lessons taught with member presents. There is an energy and excitement going throughout the zone as everyone is catching the vision.

It's so important that other people catch the wave. Facebook is best taught on the individual level between companions. If we can train these 16 missionaries how to use it it will quickly spread throughout the mission. 

This past week was MLC. It was all about goals and plans. Unfortunately I didn't leave too inspired, maybe I didn't prepare enough for it. In the middle of one of the presentations President Toone walked over to me and handed me an iPad and asked me to check it. The way he walked over was super intense haha. Then again, watching anyone who is 7 feet tall walking towards you is intimidating. 

President and Sister Toone used some of the MLC time to reemphasize the importance of prayer language. They've asked all of us to teach the zones why and how to pray correctly. Afterwards I was reflecting on how the scope of their calling is far greater than the people the missionaries are teaching: mission presidents/wives prepare the future members of the church. President Toone has taught me much about the how and why of counseling, prayer, and priesthood keys. Relatively thinking you'd think those are small but I can see how they make all the difference for the stability of the church.

And it just enhances what I learned yesterday. Every month we meet with the stake presidency to discuss the work of salvation in the stake. Yesterday the first counselor told us something that Elder Bednar had shared in their coordinating council meeting. Summarizing, he said, 'If a mission has zero baptisms in two decades but there is lifelong growth in the missionaries, they have had a successful mission. We aren't just baptizing people, we're growing and shaping the future leaders of the church.' He also mentioned that every missionary is given two missions: to serve in the area and to be a companion. 

Interesting thought!

Our ward is amazing. It is full of amazing members who love people. And they serve them. A week ago, a member invited our district to go caroling with him and his wife to some of the members for the following week (last night.) The hour came and we piled into his car and drove around singing, "I'm Trying to be like Jesus" to a list of members that he had selected. It was a surprise for every one of them. As we showed up it was exciting to watch their faces brighten. We're not the greatest of singers but the spirit was definitely present. Many smiles were left as we left their homes. Our visits were no more than 3 minutes: the hello, song, prayer, adios. Good times and good memories. 

I've had some amazing experiences working with President Toone. I've also had some unique ones haha. This morning I had one of those. At 7:15 am he called and had some questions about Facebook. It is an interesting situation to be in to counsel with a mission president. He is such a humble person and has taught me so much about humility. He doesn't pretend to know everything even though he secretly does. I'll often text him random questions about scripture or church history and he always knows the answer. Apparently he used to give nationwide tours of church history sites. He knows everything

Anyway, life goes on. And it goes on very well. Tomorrow is zone meeting and Wednesday will be interviews. Exciting week! 

Thanks for the letters, family!

5 May 2014

A lot of crazy things happened this past week. Why don't we start with Tuesday?

The Tuesday following MLC is always "zone meeting," meaning that we train, not the district leaders. Prayerfully, we chose to discuss goals and goal achieving as our topic. The Sister Training Leaders (STLs) trained on goals that are wishful thinking and faith-filled goals. We followed up with how prayer is involved.

There is a lot of power in prayer. One of our wishes was that every missionary serving in the Phoenix South zone would leave that meeting with an increased desire to pray for specific goals and then pray to achieve them. 

We switched things up a bit and put the chairs in a giant circle and gave some time so that missionaries could share experiences that they had had with setting goals, in whatever sense, and achieving them. We heard some great stories about scholastic goals, music, scouting, sporting and more. All of the success came as the people did everything they could, consistently, to hit the goal they had set.

And then one missionary shared the best story I have ever heard. His story was about how he had become the best at Call of Duty. It was the funniest 5 minutes of my life because he was completely serious. He ended by saying, "And then I did it. I did what no one else had done! I unlocked the gold UMP! My eyes literally teared up. I paused my game. I turned off my PS3. And I went to school so proud of myself! But no one cared! And then I decided that there was more to life than games!"

Hahahahahahah I wish I could give it just a little bit of justice to how wonderful the story was. Everyone was dying. It was the perfect story. The missionary who told it is one of my favorite people in the world.

At the end of our zone meeting we had every missionary split up into their companionships, go somewhere in the church, and pray together about very specific things. There was a very special spirit as we left that day.

And since then the miracles have come. We doubled our stats last week. Doubled! Amazing miracles happened with people coming out of nowhere to get baptized, surgery dates being changed so that baptismal dates could be moved up, and many more mighty miracles (that's a lot of Ms). God is a God of miracles and if you don' t believe it, ask Him! 

People are interesting. We met a young girl this week who told us to come back later to talk to her parents. So, when later came around, we went back. We knocked on the door and she opened it with a big smile on her face. She was probably 9. From the back of the house we heard, "SHUT THE DOOR! WE'RE NOT INTERESTED, WE'RE CATHOLIC!" The girl innocently said back, "I'm not catholic!" Quickly the mother said, "SHUT THE DOOR."

95% of the "Catholics" we meet don't even know what Jesus did during His life. We know those are the ones baptized as babies who never ever went to church. The other 5% are my favorite ones: the ones who know and practice what they believe. If you're going to use something as an excuse, at least believe your excuse.

This past week we had interviews with President Toone. But they weren't normal interviews. They had a meeting with Elder Bednar this past weekend and were committed to getting the information to us as quickly as possible. So, instead of one on one interviews, we met and learned from President Toone. As part of that meeting, we were asked to give a training as well. More details on that to come.

The meeting with President Toone was amazing. I'm going to write some quotes. These come from Elder Bednar.

-"Successful missions can be measured by how active the grandkids are."
-For you to think about: What is it about missions that make them so powerful in conversion?
-"Talk to your missionaries about their memories from primary or young mens. What was their motivation to do something? Normally a treat. We have failed our children in helping them do things for the wrong reasons. Doing things because you get something is not the right reason. As missionaries, we need to act because it is what we are supposed to do, not because something is being offered. Our testimony of acting for the right reasons will bless us for the rest of our lives. 
-"Act, do not be acted upon."

The way that missionaries are called has changed.

This is the new method:

1) Three or four Apostles go, all together, every Friday, to process 200-300 new missionary calls each week.
--The set up is different. Each Apostle sits across from two screens. Sitting by him is a member of the Missionary Department.
--Each Apostle comes to this meeting while fasting and praying.
2) Picture of missionary comes on screen. Apostle asks questions while reading his background information. The representative from the missionary department responds as if he were the missionary. A small conversation is had. It is an interview [based on the information submitted by the missionary].
3) Then the Apostle says at a random point, "Show me a picture of President ___ from the ___ Mission."
--A picture of said mission president appears on other screen
4) The Apostle considers the Mission President. 
--"What do you have to offer Elder ___, President ___?"
--Another small "interview" is had.
--The relationship between the mission president and the missionary is now as important as the missionary and the mission.
5) The Apostle seeks for a confirmation on every single instance that the mission and the mission president are right for the missionary

Intimate evaluations are done with not only where the missionary serves but also with whom. Companions included.

"There is no mistake when Elder ___ is assigned to the __ mission with President ___. There is a reason a missionary is called somewhere, gets sick, and is reassigned elsewhere."

Amazing, right?

I had planned to go into a lot of detail about a devastating thing that happened to one of our investigators. It involves permission from a spouse but there is much more involved. I've been reflecting a lot about this topic this week. But I just want to ask one question to everyone who is reading this: What are you doing right now that is impeding the [spiritual] progress of someone near to you? Now why don't you stop

It was the saddest moment I've had in many months

As part of our training we also taught about the importance of fast offerings and raising the level of our fasts. Fasting isn't just going without food. It is a process of delicate preparation and then persistent prayer. And it works. We challenged all of the missionaries, under direction of President Toone, to donate fast offerings and fast with more intent.

It worked. Miracles? A less active family came to church for the first time in a year, a part member family did for the first time in months, and a family we're teaching managed to come! In a different companionship, a boy decided to get baptized in two weeks! 

I've never fasted without miracles. They're everywhere! 

Anyway, I need to run now! Thanks for the letters family! 

Have a great week and HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! 
Elder Johnson