Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just when I was starting to get used to things...

Well, I have been expecting it my whole time here, and it came. I now have a Latino companion and I am leading an all-spanish district. Well, there is Elder Smith. He loves his new companion. Probably the one person here that is wackier than he is. His name is Elder Villar and he is from Santiago. He is by far the biggest guy here, but he runs and jumps around like he´s five years old. It´s pretty fun being in the same room as them. He also really likes rugby, so we talk about that. And he says the snowboarding is amazing in Chile. I told him I´ll have to come visit him someday. We also have Elder Ruiz, a little Peruano (person from Peru) who talks so fast that I cannot understand a word he says. I have to tell people all the time to slow down. But he is really nice, as is his companion, Elder Ferreiros. He is from just south of Buenos Aires and is going to BA north, but he doesn´t mind. He is always happy about everything, so it is great to have him around. We also have Elder Cañiza from Paraguay and Elder Cabeza from Mexico. I really like every Mexican I have met here; they are always soft-spoken or crazy, but very nice either way. Then, of course, is my companion Elder Juan Mendoza. He is also from Chile, and he has only been a member for four years. He knows quite a bit about the gospel from Institute. Unfortunately he is the only member in his family and they do not support him very much. He sometimes gets nervous to talk to people, but when he gets going he teaches very well. Sometimes I just have to sit back and enjoy the ride because I can hardly understand what is going on. It is good to have someone who tries so hard to study and teach effectively. Overall it is a great district; they are all awesome men. Brother Cooper--and others--kept telling me I was going to get mostly trouble missionaries, but I sure haven´t had that yet. My only challenge is just the combined stressed of leadership with trying to do it in Spanish. Not easy, but doable. I have been blessed with a lot of Spiritual help. It is amazing how fast we are all picking up the language. Sometimes I have conversations and I can´t remember if I said it all in English or Spanish. It is great to know the Lord is on our side. This morning I was teaching my district how to lead music in Spanish, and that was fun. Still playing soccer and working out, which is also a blast.

Proselyting last week was also great. It was fun to be doing it with Elder Adamson this time. We had two people (separate occasions) who just happened to be sitting on their doorstep doing nothing when we came by and talked to them who were very receptive. One was an old lady named Savina. We taught her to pray but forgot to tell her to do it out loud. So we sat their for a couple awkward minutes, and then she started crying. Elder Brown started to explain that it was the Holy Ghost, and then he started crying. It was a nice experience. The missionaries who get our referral better talk to her because she is ready. The other one was a man named Dario, and he answered some of his own questions as we talked to him, such as why we don´t use crosses or why the Book of Mormon is needed as a second witness. Unfortunately, we went back to Argelia (the empanada lady), and after reading all of 3 Nephi 11 with her (great to do that with someone for the first time) she said she is happy with her religion. Not much you can do their but testify and hope she tries reading eventually. So there have been ups and downs to everything.

One more fun experience. Last P-Day we bought churros and donuts from a man who was selling them outside the gate. Then Hermana Openshaw bought everyone McDonalds! Elder Smith summed it up best, "If we did this at the Provo MTC, we`d be getting sent home." Haha, it sure is a different experience here. It`s fun to see the new group of Elders, espeically the Norteamericanos, get used to it. There are about 80 missionaries here, so it can be a little hectic. But I sure love it. Cannot wait to get out in the field and teach the people I have been sent to, but I know I need these weeks to be ready for that. I also got another set of Dear Elder letters; that was great. Hopefully next time I get letters from the Joshua Stevens and the Mataus, I will be hearing about where they are going on their missions. I am glad your trip to Mexico went well and everyone had fun. Love you all, and I can`t wait to hear more from you next week.

-Elder Morgan

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One "Transfer" Done

I have now been out here for six weeks! The time is flying. Glad to hear that everything is going well with our family. I hope Aunt Karen and Grandpa continue to recover. I´ve got a little extra time to email this week, so I will send out a couple more emails to the family. Did Daniel get my email from last time? I couldn´t remember what his email is these days, but I´d love to hear from him. Glad to hear he is doing his AP homework. That really will help. Did he get his EHS classes done? It´s unfortunate that he has not found a job, but honestly I have never gotten a job that was not through someone I know in some way, so I can see why it is hard. Also, I definitely know Johnathan Rose. Gotta love the Hale.

I have showed my pictures to other missionaries, which is always fun. No one believes that Daniel is younger than me. Is Chris still getting cuter? Let me know when he starts talking, crawling, or whatever is next. More good news: something strange is happening with mail, so we never know when it comes, but I got 11 Dear Elder letters! For some reason, DearElder put them all on the same pages and said they were from Cambry Parrish. Kinda weird, but I was able to figure out who they were all from and their addresses. They were all dated around June 25-28. I also found out that I can send letters to other missions for free! So I sent letters to Elders Claypool, Byers, and Blanchard. Hope they get to the two in the MTC before they take off.

Recently we have been doing a lot of moving. Construction is almost finished on the CCM and the temple, and we are gettting 60 or 70 more missionaries tomorrow. We have been moving a lot of furniture and pictures. We carried this safe down the stairs that took four of us, and it was only about the size of two computer towers. Elder Smith called it the Golden Plates. I should also let you know that for this last week I have a new companion! Elder Cutler was switched to Elder Suprise so they can both get some extra Spanish help before we get Latino Companions next week. So now I am companions with Elder Adamson and Elder Brown, the two missionaries I knew beforehand. Who would've guessed?

Over this past week we have also had a lot of the new teachers do their trial runs on us; which is fun. They're always bringing new ways to teach and study. Sometimes I am learning so much I feel like my head is going explode. We have learned about teaching to meet needs, helping investigators study the scriptures, feeling the spirit/receiving revelation, and the importance of the Book of Mormon. That reminds me, a couple weeks ago I asked for advice on how we can get people to read the Book of Mormon/understand its immediate importance. Could you ask the family about that? Definitely something we need to work on. There is a page in Preach My Gospel about how the Book of Mormon supports the Bible. It has examples of correlating scriptures between the two and encourages you to find more, so I have been doing a lot of that in my Personal Study recently. That will be really good when we teach Evangelicals or anyone else who thinks the Bible is complete. We can show that we aren´t adding any perverse doctrine to the Bible, we are just adding clearer explanations that are applicable enough to be worth reading.

Speaking of Evangleicals, we actually didn´t find any this week in Proselyting. I like our new area; the people are a lot more willing to listen. We have run into a few members, and there are more young people, which is good. My favorite experience was with a young guy I ran into at the beginning who didn´t believe in God. We gave him a Book of Mormon and, even though he didn´t want to, I explained that this book could change his life if he let it. I felt like it all came out naturally and confidently, which is why I felt really good about it. Hopefully he decides to read and pray. I also drank soda for the first time in years. We talked to this old Catholic lady for a long time, explaining the restoration and such. Then she gave us some empanadas and a glass of coke, so I had to drink a little just to be nice. And those empanadas were amazing; they tasted like chalupas from Taco Bell. Unfortunately, she has the belief that many people down here do: all churches are good. That is such an obstacle in getting people to learn more about ours. Maybe next week we can teach her again and help her make progress, and then I can learn how to answer that question when it comes up again.

So, that is one thing about Argentines: they are very accepting people. I don´t know too much more about them because I haven´t mastered the language or been down here enough to find what the major differences between the Hispanic cultures are. People always have fun things to say about Paraguayos. And like I said, Argentines are great. They love soccer. There is pretty much no racism. The city can be pretty dirty and run-down in parts, but I still love it. It´s always a guessing game when shops will be open in the afternoon. And you never know who will be willing to listen. Sometimes even the rougher looking people have had a nice encounter with missionaries and they are wiling to talk. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Alright, so I am finally going to give you an outline of my typical day. We wake up a little before 6:30 so we can clean the bathrooms. We do that every other day, mostly because the other missionaries had chores to do in the morning and I felt bad that my district didn´t so I asked cleaning guy how we could help (don´t tell them that). Then I shower and eat an awesome breakfast. Same cereal, croissants, fruit, and hot chocolate every day. Sometimes I have a meeting with the President, otherwise I use the extra time to read a little, usually in Jesus the Christ. Then we have an hour of personal study, where I will read from the Book of Mormon and study lessons in Preach My Gospel. I also try to memorize scriptures in English and Spanish. Then during Companion Study we put together Lesson Outlines and practice phrases we are going to use. The rest of the day is classes, which are about teaching skills and Spanish. The only real difference next week is that all the classes will be in Spanish and about teaching skills. We might have a little time to get some grammar help. Lunch is usually at 12:15 and dinner at 6:45. We have a lot of meat at both meals, along with other new vegetables and things that I have learned to enjoy. We get physical activity from 3:30-5:00. I try to run and do a 15-20 minute workout, then we all play soccer, 9-square, or volleyball. From 9:00 to 9:30pm we plan for the next day: what we will do, study, and teach. Then we get ready for bed, write in our journals, and sometimes have a little more time. We use that to read, sing hymns, or wrestle. Every day we have a chance to teach a progressing investigator, which is a great opportunity. Sometimes we also have CRE (called TRC in Provo), where we just teach a one-time lesson to another teacher. Then there are other things that change up the schedule: P-Days, Service (washing cars or moving), Proselyting on Saturdays, and Firesides. Sundays are full of meetings and studying. We always have a fireside with President Agüero, the first counselor. Then we watch a movie like The Testaments, which is one of my favorite things here. 

One more thought, which I had while praying last night (it is amazing how much longer your prayers get when you are a missionary and when you are trying to do them in a new language). How many other missionaries can say they are serving a mission at the same time as their dad? I mean, I don´t know exactly what his mission is; it could be helping me out here or sharing the gospel with those who didn´t get a chance to hear it in this life. Whatever it is, I think that is really cool to say be able to say. I hope I can live up to Dad´s example.

-Elder Wesley Morgan

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Sword of Laban

In Wesley's last letter, he asked us to find out what the sword of Laban* would have looked like.  Our own researching skills did not turn up anything, so we turned to BYU's 100 Hour Board.  You can ask them a question, and they'll try to answer it within 100 hours.  They were more successful than we were, and here's what they had to say:

"Well, Googling this, here's the first result: "Low Prices on Sword Of Laban Free 2-Day Shipping w/ Amazon Prime." Thank you, hyperactive search engine optimization bots. Undeterred, I did some good poking around the interwebs and especially the Maxwell Institute's archives. We know from the scripture that the handle was gold and the blade was steel, and it apparently was heavy enough to decapitate someone in a stroke. Beyond that there really isn't much to go on, scripturally or otherwise.

It's apparently rare to find swords since they tend to rust quickly, but an article by John A. Tvedtnes suggests the sword of Laban might have been similar to one archaeological find, the Vered Jericho sword. That sword is too rusty to show me much about its original design, (picture here) but it more or less straight and around 3 feet long. The earliest known curved scimitars from the Middle East date from only about the 9th century A.D., which also suggests that the sword of Laban was probably straight. And I think that's about all we know."

So it looks like all those church pictures are correct in depicting the sword as straight.  Cool fact for the day!

*The sword of Laban refers to a story from the Book of Mormon.  In 1 Nephi Chapter 4, Nephi is told by the Spirit of the Lord to kill Laban in order to obtain the brass plates, which contains the scriptures and the genealogy of the Jewish people, including Nephi's family.  It is important that Nephi and his family take these records with them to the promised land, but Laban is a wicked man and has tried to kill Nephi and his brothers and stolen their gold that they used to try to buy the plates from him.  Nephi does not want to kill Laban, but the Spirit tells him, "Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;  Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief."

Nephi uses Laban's own sword to kill him, and he takes it with him to the promised land.  It is mentioned later in the scriptures, when Nephi says that he used the sword of Laban as a model to make other swords for his people and his brother Jacob mentions that the people love Nephi, in part because he has often wielded the sword of Laban in their defense.  The sword is again mentioned as being passed down with the plates to later leaders and prophets.  Also, when Joseph Smith found the golden plates that he later translated the Book of Mormon from, he also found, among other things, the sword of Laban in the stone box.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Little Late Again

More construction, more late letters. But I guess that´s okay. Even though it has been less time in between this email and the last, I feel like I have so much more to say! I´ll try to answer all your questions...we´ll see how this goes. We have 40+ missionaries here right now, but we will probably have twice that next transfer. So we have been doing a lot of moving and cleaning to get this place ready. My Spanish is getting better and worse, depending on the day. I feel more comfortable in what I can say. We have pretty much learned all the grammar we need and I am more comfortable with teaching a lot of basic concepts (the Joseph Smith story, the fact that our leaders don´t get paid, etc.). However, I feel like I am understanding less Spanish recently. I am not sure why. But this last proselyting week was somewhat frustrating for that reason. There was a nice old man who would only say a few words at a time and I didn´t recognize any of them. And there was a muslim guy who talked to us for about an hour about the randomest things. Missionaries definitely attract crazy people who need someone to listen to them. Hopefully I can continue to learn vocabulary so I can understand as much as I´d like to. We are getting better at being pushy about talking to people. Often, people will make an excuse about how busy they are, but if you keep them talking they are too nice to slam the door or anything. So they´ll say they are busy working, I´ll ask if they work Sunday mornings, they say no, and I start telling them about our church and why they should come, for example. There was a man who didn´t want to talk to us, but we got him like this and we conditionally challenged him to baptism. We have been practicing doing that: something along the lines of "If you find out that our church is true, will  you be baptized?" That way they can say yes without feeling too committed, but they are still committed towards working towards something and getting baptized if/when they gain a testimony. We had a younger man who said yes to this, and unlike the first man he seemed very interested. His name is Padricio; I hope things go well with him next week. He actually is not in our area; the bus driver dropped us off pretty far away from our area because of some scheduling mistakes. So we met him on the way. We also helped a guy who was sawing branches off trees. That was actually really fun. I love service, especially like that.

Back to your questions. We do practice teaching our teachers...which can be kind of monotonous. But it serves its purpose and we are making progress. I just can´t wait to teach real people in real homes every day. In church Elder Bayles or I will conduct the meetings. Sometimes I have taught the class and played hymns. I´m glad Kamalei is going to SOAR. I had some friends who went to that and they really enjoyed it. I am sure it´s somewhat like HOBY, which was one of my best experiences ever. Glad little Christopher is doing well, and I will pray for Aunt Karen. On Makade´s address, I was actually referring to his Ukrainian street address. Should have been more specific. And Elder Brown´s stamps did get here a while ago. The Argentina mail system has been having issues recently, so we haven´t gotten mail, but they tell us we should be receiving them soon.

Now to answer a few of the questions I received in letters from the Parrishes and Haven & Erica. Yes, it is winter down here, but it is not bad at all. Which way to the toilets flush? I don´t think "flush" is the proper word. Chaotic splash would be more appropriate. I love being in Argentina, and I am sure I will miss it. As a District leader, I have meetings most mornings with the President about my district. I also pray for them, worry about them, remind them to stay focused (not easy), and try to keep things organized. Next week I should be able to give you an outline of my typical day, which is funny because my schedule will be about to change. I will get a Latin companion for three weeks, and then off to Paraguay, which is not far at all. 

Cool experience we had: a newly called Area 70* came and spoke to us. He was awesome, and he demonstrated what he was teaching by sharing how he was converted by an American named Elder Cutler who couldn´t speak much Spanish but had a love for the people. Turned out to be the father of Elder Cutler, my companion! What a surprise for both of them. I sure love my companions, they are great to work with. We have watched a lot of great videos recently. I love the Joseph Smith movie--such a testimony builder--and we watched a fireside from Elder Holland about missionary work. He shared something I did not really know about before. Preach My Gospel was not brought about for the investigators. It´s for us. Almost every chapter begins with "How can I..." They introduced it because they were concerned about all the RM´s who go inactive. The purpose of PMG is for us to become converted before we convert others. So it is for members, too. I hope all young men read it before they go. One thing I wish I would have done in the lesson chapters, which I am doing now, is to write down a short summary of what all the scriptures in the lessons say, rather than having to look them up every time you plan the lesson. Elder Holland also pointed out that we are not to teach from PMG, we teach from the scriptures. It just helps us learn to appreciate the scriptrues. So read PMG and study the scriptures, as much as you can!

I also listened to the talk "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane" by Bruce R. McConkie yesterday. Such a powerful testimiony of Christ. I am not at that point yet, but I do know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. Nothing is every going to make me deny that. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet and I am thankful for all  he did. I should also thank you, mom for raising me with the gospel. I have never doubted my testimony, and that is not a blessing most of the Latino missionaries had. Thank you so much for helping me have a testimony all my life and being a great example.  I love you all!

-Elder Wesley Morgan

*Area Seventy: Leaders called seventies assist the Twelve Apostles and serve in various locations throughout the world. There are currently eight quorums of the Seventy. Each quorum may have up to 70 members. Some seventies are assigned to headquarters administrative functions, but most live and work within a specific geographic region of the Church.  (Definition taken from here.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Better Late Than Never

As I have mentioned, there is a lot of construction going on around here. Things are getting unhooked and moved and re-setup all the time. So the internet was not working for the past few days. It´s back up, and we do have a little time to email again. Time is going so fast every day, although it still seems like I have a lot ahead. The new guys did show up, and they are awesome. They aren´t quite as exciting as the last group, but that´s okay. We had a few guys from El Salvador who were crazy. Elder Mojica loved playing basketball and he would shout "Apostasy!" anytime anything didn´t go his way. Yeah, there is no one quite like that in this group. I am talking to them a lot more and making friends. Understanding more definitely helps. There are a few from Guatemala, so I was wondering where it is that our 2nd cousins live and what their names are? Just in case anyone knows them.

Erica & Haven win the prize for being the first non-family members to send me a letter. (Well, the first one to get here...who knows if there are others floating around in the messed-up mail system). Grandma Nell and the Parrishes have also sent me letters through DearElder. I´ll probably respond to their questions in my email next week if I get a chance. Like I said, things have been kind of disorganized so I´m not fully prepared. We have three lessons to teach in the next 24 hours and we are not fully prepared for any of them. We just need to use our time more wisely, but that is a lot easier said than done. We are working on putting together lesson outlines that we can adapt and reuse, which helps. However, with three people we don´t always agree exactly what to say, which is a challenge. Guess that´s why we´re here; we have a lot to improve before we get out in the field.

Speaking of being in the field, we got to proselyte in the same area. Marisela, the first lady I gave a Book of Mormon to, did not read it. That is a struggle we have encountered a lot. We have been working on ideas as to how to fix that, and I could also ask you all for adivce: What can we tell people to help them understand the importance of reading the Book of Mormon? I am interested to see what ideas you have. We stopped by our old friend Luís, but didn´t get to say much to him. We ran into a man and his sister who we talked to for a while. He had read the Joseph Smith pamphlet pretty well, so we gave him a Book of Mormon. She was an Evangical preacher (they always seem to find us), and we had quite the conversation. She talked so fast I am surprised I kept up. In between her ideas about the trinity and preaching the gospel, I was able to slip in mty testimony about praying to know the truth through the Holy Ghost and living prophets/priesthood. Hopefully it did something. We got to talking about the Bible, and they were impressed when I could name all the books. Tell Brother White and Brother Judd thanks for teaching me those songs! There was also a young woman we ran into who didn´t really want to talk to us. She seemed to know a little about our church and said "You have a book for me, right?" I wasn´t about to turn that offer down. Overall, a great week, and I am excited to do it again tomorrow.

I don´t have too much more time, I will try to answer your questions next week. Thanks for the Guaraní joke, and I loved the Barack Obama Guaraní one from last week. You can read Tony´s email, but I do remember telling you I was not going to tell you most of the dangerous things that happened to me. We take pictures every third sunday with the outgoing group, and I will probably just send all of those after we have done all three sets (it is really slow to send things here). Oh, random question that Daniel might be able to find out: what kind of sword was the sword of Laban? Our district was discussing if it would have been straight like European swords or a scimitar like the Arabs use. Also, could you send me Makade Claypool´s mission address? The ink smeared when I wrote it down. I have letters to send to him Truman, and Corbin, but I might not get to send them until I leave. We shall see. Like I said, things are great, and I don´t have much to complain about. Hope you all stay strong, let me know if there´s anything I can do to help.

Elder Morgan