Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hello family and friends!

Well, this week has been HUGE so I hope that I have enough time to express everything that I want to express. To start off with the big news, I will be leaving the MTC on Monday, September 3rd to fly down to Mexico! It's so crazy to think that a week from right now I will be with my trainer, teaching in Mexico...in Spanish 24/7 but I am so excited! All the other elders in my district have received their visas and are leaving on the same day as well! We are all starting to get a little antsy but we are all dedicated to finishing our time here in the MTC strong. We fly direct from Salt Lake City to Mexico City. I guess the mission president will meet us at the airport and drive us down to the mission home in Cuernavaca!
Which brings me to the next item of business...our Las Vegas trip to sign our visas. It was so weird to leave the MTC. After having been here for so long, you get used to feeling that super strong spirit and seeing thousands of missionaries every single day. So it was interesting to walk into a public airport, with a suit on, and with my badge with the name of Jesus Christ and have that be an odd thing for other people. People were staring at me funny and when I'd notice that they were staring and I'd look at them they'd quickly turn away their faces and start talking to someone. It was really funny! I had a few good experiences though. While we were waiting to leave from the Salt Lake Airport, this Tongan lady named Sister Blake came up and started talking to me. She said her and her husband both work in the Salt Lake Temple on Temple Square and they both really want to serve a mission together. She then started telling me that she had two sons that were returned missionaries and that one of them has fallen away from the church and refuses to talk to her. She started crying and said she just wanted to call him and tell him that she loved him but he will never answer her. I felt impressed to just sit and listen to her and I felt so much love and compassion for her situation. At the end I felt impressed to say two things: That I thought her son would come around eventually and how wonderful it is that we have a Savior that can heal these situations for us and make us whole no matter how deep the wounds are in our lives. As she was leaving she grabbed my hand and shook it and looked me in the eye for a few seconds and said "Thank You". She also said this motivated her to start doing more missionary work. I was so grateful for that experience. It taught me the importance of caring for the members just as much as my investigators. Everyone needs help. Everyone needs to be healed. To build God's kingdom we need to both add to our ranks but also strengthen and uplift those that are already in the fold.
So...we make it to Vegas and are picked up by a Senior missionary named Elder Greer who took us to the institute building at UNLV where we met his wife and had some very nicely cooked baby-back ribs (YEEEES FINALLY SOME REAL FOOD). So, Elder Greer is one of those people that could probably talk for 10 hours straight without anyone else saying anything and feel completely comfortable with that. Good thing most of the stuff he was saying was interesting. He and his wife had served a senior couple mission in Mexico City and he had served his own mission in Peru. So he talked about Mexico, Mexican Culture, his mission, his life...and lots and lots of things. I got in a few words here and there. That day he took us over to the consulate where we met with a worker and we got all our paperwork done to sign for our visas! We have them! I'm so happy because I thought for sure that we would be delayed. After the consulate he took us to the Las Vegas Temple where we did a session and then out to dinner to eat some good authentic Mexican food. We stayed at his house that night and he dropped us off at the airport the next day. It was nice to get away from the MTC for a day and a half and the phrase that just kept passing through my head over and over again as I was passing people was "the field is white already to harvest". I'm so excited to go to Mexico!

Now for the MTC stuff this week. On Tuesday we finally had our first apostle speak to us! Neil L. Anderson spoke to us about missionary work. The moment he walked in the room I felt the spirit testify to me so strongly that he is an apostle and a special witness of Jesus Christ. What impressed me most about his talk was the testimony that he gave at the end about Jesus Christ. It was so strong, so direct, and I know that he has been in the presence of our Savior and Knows that Christ lives. On Wednesday, since we are the antiguos of the MTC, we got to host the new missionaries which was so much fun! It was weird to think that I had been one of them only 7 1/2 weeks before. I feel like I've been in the MTC for so long. I got to see Aunt Ali and Uncle Arlin and Max (Elder Neser), drive by as I was hosting another missionary which was cool! Since then I've seen Elder Neser a handful of times and he is doing great! He seems to really be enjoying the MTC and liking the language and his companion! His class is a floor above me and he lives on a different floor in the same building!

There were two lessons that we taught this week that have really stood out to me as being pretty spiritual experiences. The first was with our investigator Maria. We were teaching her about the Book of Mormon and decided to read 3 Nephi 17 with her to increase her desire to read the Book of Mormon. As we were reading it together and reading about how the Savior was healing the Nephites, I felt impressed to ask her a question I had asked her before. "Do you believe that Christ has the power to heal you?" Before, she had said I don't know. This time she paused for I swear what seemed to be a minute and then she looked up and said, "Yes". The Spirit literally just flooded over me and I started tearing up. It was another one of those experiences when I felt that the love I would feel for my real investigators when they would come to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is their Savior and that he has the power to heal their lives. I remember when I started to understand this and come to this knowledge that my life became so much happier and I had so much more peace. I'm so excited to share that with others. Another came in TRC when we taught a member named Hermana Ardono (she served a mission in the LA Temple visitors center which I thought was pretty cool!). Elder Davis and I each shared a scripture that we felt impressed to share D&C 121:7-8 and his was in Helaman). She started crying and said that those were the exact two scriptures that she needed to hear. We had her bear her testimony to us and she said that even though she feels lonely and that this life has been so hard for her, that she can always turn towards the scriptures and the Savior and find peace that she is a daughter of God.

Well I guess that's all I have for now. I want all of you to know that I love you and that I pray for you. Don't be afraid or mad when bad things happen. I've realized that during my life, the sweetest and most tender experiences I've had with my Savior have been when things around me have been the darkest. Light is more brilliant and shines brighter when it's dark. That light is our Savior Jesus Christ. It's the scriptures. I love the scriptures. Please read them. But don't just read them. Search them. This gospel is so true. I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to begin my missionary service in Mexico with my brothers, sisters, and friends down there. But most of all, I love my Savior Jesus Christ, my Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost, my constant companion and friend. Have an amazing week. This time, next week, I'll be somewhere in Mexico with my trainer!


Elder Nielsen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


So first things first.  We're flying to Las Vegas on Thursday morning to go sign for our visas to Mexico! We're getting our visas! I'm not going to be delayed!

It's crazy to think that my experience here in the MTC is almost over. It's been an amazing experience but I'm starting to get anxious to be in Mexico. Even though I won't understand anything anyone is saying (I hear they slur their words so bad and talk about 20x times faster than I'm used to) I'm so excited to be out in the field and bringing God's children in Mexico closer to Jesus Christ.

Fun Things

1) So..I have started getting a little better at sand volleyball. Yesterday, I had a relapse though. There was a ball that was obviously short and I decided in my infinite wisdom that I would go for it. So, I started sprinting forward, tripped, face-planted in the sand as the ball landed next to me and bent my big toe in a weird way during the entire process. Once again, my superior athletic skills have surfaced during my stay here in the MTC.

2) This week Elder Davis and I got to teach the newest district that came into our zone all the orientation material and gave them a tour of the MTC as zone leaders. We also got to bear our testimonies to them about missionary work which was really neat. We have another new district coming in this week which is crazy so we'll be doing the same thing all over again. The MTC President said that the MTC is in it's peak season right now so there should be around 2,900 missionaries here in the MTC pretty soon. They said they're going to have to start putting elders on mattresses on the floor because there are not enough beds!

3) This week my district is old enough to host the new missionaries that come in tomorrow so maybe I'll be able to host Max tomorrow!

4) Elder Davis and I were in charge of coordinating Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, which turned out to be an epic failure. Somehow the hymns got mixed up and it was really awkward because Brother Bradford and the Elder in charge of hymns were just arguing over what we were going to be singing. We buried our heads in shame. But we're learning and that's all that counts, right?

5) We teach at least 2 a day now. My Spanish is getting a lot better and I feel pretty confident teaching church lessons in the language. However...if someone asked me what I did before my mission I'd be like...ahhh....ahhh....escuela. So, I'm working on making my everyday conversational Spanish a lot better.

6) Someone compared Sacrament meetings in the MTC to the Hunger Games because every Sunday the Branch President selects two elders/sisters to give talks in Spanish that day. Like the Hunger Games at selection time, you can literally hear a sigh of relief once you find out that you haven't been chosen.

7) This past Sunday Elder Davis and I taught both priesthood meeting about the Book of Mormon and our District Meeting (Sunday School) about the Holy Ghost. Both turned out to be pretty spiritual experiences for us.

8) Every Sunday they play either one of three movies: Legacy (Pioneers), The Joseph Smith Story, or The Testaments. I have now seen all of them at least twice. We've started memorizing the dialogue.

There's just a little taste of what's going on at the MTC!

Now for the spiritual stuff. On Monday, our teacher wrote this question up on the board asking us what Jesus Christ meant to us. She gave us 30 minutes to study from the scriptures and find out what he meant to us. It was such a great experience. I was able to go through the Four Gospels, the BOM, and D&C and find those scriptures that have moved me to change and really taught me about who my Savior is and what he means to me. I was able to write down all of the references and have a list now that I can look at whenever I need spiritual strength. I encourage you all to do this. Just look through the scriptures and write down all the references about the Savior that mean something to you. It just strengthened my testimony about Jesus Christ. It is crazy to me that a man walked this Earth and was willing to perform miracles and atone for our sins, sicknesses, and feel every pain we've ever felt, and then die for us. My Savior means everything to me. Here in the MTC I've felt his presence even stronger. It's so funny. I'll pray at night over things I want to improve on and then during the day I can see specific situations that I'm put in that try me in the exact ways I wanted to be tried in. He is my friend, my judge, my brother, and in the end, the Savior and Redeemer of my Soul. I love the Scriptures because they bring me closer to him and help me understand him better. He is everything to me and because he is walking with me through this journey, I can do anything. He did not send me here to fail. I love the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 88:63 "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." I promise that this scripture is true. I've seen it work with me here. No matter what I want to improve on, whether it be relationships with the Elders in my district, zone, or my companion, teaching, spiritual questions, comfort, reassurance, strength, I receive it all when I draw nearer to my Savior. I promise you all that he is standing there at the door. Waiting for us to knock. His arm of mercy is extended to all of us. We need only grasp it and move towards him. One such experience happened last night. My companion and I were thinking about how we could get one of our investigators to want to read the Book of Mormon. I felt impressed to read 3 Nephi 17 with my companion. As we went through it slowly and read each verse and really thought about each verse. The spirit told both of us again that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. As we read about his mercy, his love, his desire to heal, we were both filled with the Spirit and now have the chapter that we will teach Maria.

This gospel is so true. The scriptures are my best friends out here. I love being a missionary. I can't describe how honored I am to wake up every morning and put the name of Jesus Christ on my chest and then go to work for him. I am so blessed to have developed good friendships with the elders in my district and zone. In every way I can see the hand of the Lord guiding my life and shaping me into who he will have me be. I want to be the best instrument in his hands that I can be. I love you all and pray for all of you. Thank you for your letters and your thoughts. They mean the world to me. Until next week,

Elder Nielsen

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wello Hello from Provo! (yes I just realized that rhymed and I am very pleased with the outcome)

Well, I want to start with some funny stuff from the Provo MTC.

1) Whenever anyone from my district is lost in the cafeteria and we can't find them, we do that call that they did in the Hunger Games and we are able to find them.

2) Yesterday our teacher made us practice door approaches on each other and someone answered the door while another elder acted like he was an angry dog at the feet of the elder that answered the door.

3) Now, besides teaching our teachers, we are now investigators as well! My investigator's name is Guillermo.

4) We had to practice the Law of Chastity lesson yesterday...nough said.

Well, everyone, I have some bad news. I am no longer the district leader. But...my companion Elder Davis and I were called to be zone leaders on Sunday! It is such a great feeling to know that the Lord trusts that we will be able to lead the zone and offer help to those missionaries that are struggling. I just feel very blessed and honored. I'll keep you updated on how it goes! I guess I should tell all of you about my Branch President. His name is President Bradley. He is probably the most spiritual man I know but also the most intimidating. He is literally a Nazi when it comes to appearance and missionaries. During branch council on Sunday he reamed everyone in there for practicing bad habbits (tapping feet, touching hands to the face, biting nails, blinking too much, not keeping eye contact, etc.). He said he makes no apologies for it because he knows that when people see us, there should be nothing distracting them from the name of Jesucristo on our chests. We are meant to be literal representatives of him. At first he was very intimidating, but I've grown to love him. I know what he's saying is true and because of it I've worked my hardest to get rid of bad habbits and be exactly obedient to all the rules. I think because of that, I've been able to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I think I'm finally moving to the point where I'm being obedient because I want to be, because I love my Savior and Heavenly Father and I trust that their will is the best for me. I know that by following them exactly, I can give back just a little for everything the Savior sacrificed for me in Gethsemane and on the Cross.

So, every Friday we teach something called TRC which is basically teaching a family-home-evening style lesson to members from the area that volunteer to come in and be taught (in Spanish of course). On Friday we taught a student at BYU named Mariana. As we were teaching I felt prompted to ask her to bear her testimony to us. She did and started crying heavily. Even though I couldn't understand everything she was saying, I could feel the power of her words. After she was finished, I felt impressed to share about my experiences with the Savior, the love I have for him, and my feelings about the Atonement. The Spirit was so strong...everyone in the room, her, myself, and my companion were all emotional. Afterwards, she wrote a little review and said this "I felt the spirit stronger than I have felt it in the past several years." And also, "The power and spirit that was felt in this room allowed me to feel his presence (Savior)." Our teacher, Hermana Castillo said she was sitting outside the room and said that she felt such a strong and sweet spirit coming from the room that it almost made her cry. This experience was such a testimony builder to me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to speak Spanish perfectly that I forget that if I just trust, like I did then, and let the Spirit work through me, the Spanish will come and people can be moved to change by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Anyway, it's crazy to think that the end is nearing for me and my district in the MTC. We have about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks left. This week I was stressing out so much and felt bad even because a lot of the Elders in my district were expressing how excited they were to be out in the field. I wasn't having the same feelings. I was feeling very nervous and scared and inadequate because I can't speak the language fluently and I'm not a perfect teacher. It was always my goal to be an effective missionary the moment I got to Mexico and I could see that goal slipping away. I was so confused because I can honestly say that I work my hardest everyday. Once again, my Heavenly Father lifted me up and brought peace into my life. I was talking to Hermana Arroyo and she said she wasn't surprised at all that I was experiencing this. She said that I was an amazing missionary, that my Spanish was great, and that I was doing so much good for the elders in my district. She said that the adversary knows this, and he was working through discouragement to try to shut me down. She reminded me that missionary work is a battle. And that we as missionaries are called to the front lines. She said if Satan can take out the missionaries, the whole battle is lost. I know this is true. I know that there are brothers and sisters of mine in Mexico that I am meant to find and that he doesn't want me to find. This was such a great reminder to me of what I'm involved in. She also told me something that I really love and that is applicable to all of us, "God is not sending you out there to fail. You will succeed, just remember who you are and in whom you trust."

So, for your reading assignment this week, read Mosiah Chapter 4. If you have time, read all of King Benjamin's words. They are so powerful and they have spoken to my soul this week.

I want all of you to know that I love you all and that I pray about you. I am so excited to go to Mexico. This work is so difficult but it has also made me so happy. I’m happier than I've ever been. I know in whom I trust. I trust in my God, my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ and my comforter the Holy Ghost. I have never been more reliant on them. I feel so blessed and so happy. I hope all of you are happy as well. I hope you're looking to God for answers. Pour out your souls in prayer to him. I know and testify that he is there and that he is listening. There's so much that I want to say but I don't have enough time. Just know that I love you. That I am fine and happy. And that I know Jesus Christ lives. I know my Savior died for me. I have such a deep love for my Savior because he went through so much to save me. He's given me this gospel so that I can be happy and find joy in this life. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've had to serve the other elders in my district and the opportunity I've had to impart whatever wisdom and experience I've had to them. God be with you all.


Elder Nielsen

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hello family and friends!

Wow. This last week in the MTC has literally flown by. A lot has happened and there's a lot I want to share so I hope I can adequately express the things I have felt and experienced. First, let's talk about my companion Elder Davis. One of the cool parts of being a missionary is learning how to work well with people that have different learning styles, teaching styles, and personalities. This past week Elder Davis and I were trying to prepare a lesson for our investigator Maria and we just weren't on the same page for anything. We were both so frustrated with each other and I could tell that the Spirit had left the room. I asked him if we could pray together. In the prayer I apologized to Heavenly Father for acting selfishly and for not working together and driving out the Spirit. I asked for the Spirit to return so that we could effectively plan. I felt it come back in the room. We both put our pride aside and started working together and ended up having a great lesson. I love Elder Davis. He has such a strong testimony of this church and we have a lot of fun together. Here is an example of that. Last night we started teaching two new investigators (now we as missionaries are the investigators in addition to both of our teachers so we were teaching Gus and Juan a.k.a Elders Nish and Healy for the first time), and we had just met them and found out their names. I started to give the opening prayer and thanked Heavenly Father for the faith he had given Gus and....I forgot the other name! I just sat there for literally like 10 seconds and then Elder Davis said under his breath Juan! And then everyone just started laughing. It was so funny and just a tad embarrassing but we laughed about it! I guess I better pay more attention when people introduce themselves to me in Mexico!

An Update on Our Investigators:

Maria: Maria is a single mother of a two year old daughter named Abby. She works long hours in a Mexican restaurant in Spokane, Washington and says that she has lost a lot of faith because she hasn't felt God in her life and she told us that it is very hard for her to be happy. This week we really taught her the Atonement and Prayer. I love the scripture in Alma 7:11-12. I know that we can feel happy because Jesus Christ felt everything that we have gone through. He experienced every pain, every sorrow, sickness, doubt, and fear. Because of this, he knows how to succor us and redeem our souls. She's beginning to understand. We taught her how to pray and she was soo nervous to do it! We literally were on our knees for like a minute before she said she would do it on the next visit. So we challenged her to pray with her daughter. She said she did and we asked her how she felt after the prayer. She said she felt peaceful. We were able to teach her about the Spirit and the blessings of truth, peace, and knowledge we receive when we have the Spirit in our lives. I love Maria. Even though it is really our teacher Hermana Arroyo, this is someone she taught on her mission. She is expressing to us the same feelings and doubts as the real Maria. I'm beginning to feel what it will be like when I see people making changes and coming closer to Christ in Mexico. We just committed her to a specific baptismal date yesterday and we asked her why she wanted to be baptized. She said because everytime we teach her she feels peaceful and that she's learned that she is actually important to God. I loved that answer.

Luis: We have finally committed Luis to baptism and taught him about the word of wisdom this week. Surprise, surprise, he had problems with drinking, tobacco, and coffee. I started asking him questions like Do you give your children rules? Do they understand why you're giving them rules? Why do you give them rules? Do you see the wisdom in the rules your parents gave you when you were young? Who is someone in your life that has wisdom? And then I told him that Heavenly Father has all wisdom. He's given us these guidelines because he can see the beginning from the end. He wants to protect us and keep us safe. Just as when we were children, we may not see the wisdom in these rules right now, but we need to have faith and trust in Heavenly Father that he will guide is in the right direction and sacrifice just a little in order to come closer to the Savior and Heavenly Father. We got him to committ to living the Word Wisdom!

Every week I feel myself growing in my teaching capabilites. I'm learning how to ask the right questions. How to really understand and know my investigators and how to teach from the scriptures. This week I studied the parable of the Vineyard in the Book of Jacob. I love verses 71 and 72. I shudder at the prospect that I won't find those brothers and sisters of mine in Mexico that are waiting for me and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am putting everything I have into this work and sometimes I wonder if I can still be doing more. At the end of my mission I want to look back with no regrets, knowing that I gave everything I could to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ suffered and atoned for me. He sacrificed everything for me so I can live and enjoy life. Having the knowledge that I can return to live with my Heavenly Father and my Family again. I owe him everything. Once I start thinking about that, waking up at 6:30 doesn't seem so hard anymore.

I had a great experience yesterday that I want to share. There's this elder in my district named Elder Robertson. I love Elder Robertson. He's the strangest and most different person I've ever met but he has such a good heart and really wants to be here. Yesterday he asked if he could talk with me and I said yes. He started crying. I told him to stand up and I gave him a hug. He said that he just can't understand the language and that he was losing sight of why he was on the mission. I was able to give him some counsel. I told him to express gratitude for everything he DOES receive. And then pour out his soul to Heavenly Father in prayer and tell him what he needs. I was so touched that I have developed relationships with the elders in my district to the point that they would trust me and talk to me about the things that concern them most. I try everyday to lead by example and work the hardest I can and to be their friends. It was such a tender moment.

Prayer: In one of my morning prayers I prayed that I would run across Derek Buckner because I really wanted to see him but since we're speaking different languages we don't cross paths very often. As I was leaving my residence hall that morning I ran into him on his way back from service. Brother and Sister Buckner, he looked great! And looked very happy! Also thank you for your card, it meant a lot! I know that prayer works. I know that when we are specific with what we want, Heavenly Father will provide for us.

Well, my time is almost up. I just want all of you to know that I love you all very much. I love your letters and packages. Every week I want to bear my testimony. I know that God and Jesus Christ (I keep wanting to type Jesucristo) live. I need the Savior to be my brother, my friend, my judge, and in the end, the Savior and Redeemer of my soul. This work is hard but so fulfilling. I see miracles daily and I have felt the Spirit testify strongly to me each day in different ways that this gospel is true. I am so excited to share it with my friends in Mexico. I love you all. You are in my prayers. Pray for strength. Use the Atonement. Make changes. Never be afraid to say you're wrong. Look up to God and the Savior, stay present, and look out to others and I promise that you will find that happiness and peace we all want. I love you all. I'm learning and growing and I've never been happier. Until next week!

Elder Nielsen