Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Happy New Year! It's weird that 2013 is coming to an end. I have been a missionary for the entire year. It has been an amazing blessing. I am so grateful. So much has happened. So many good and difficult moments. Time really does pass by quickly. That's why we should do everything in our power to help others, love others, and serve them. Serving a mission has really opened me up to this concept. Before, like most people my age, I was pretty much solely focused on myself and what I wanted to be, do, and become. As a missionary, I have gotten to know so many people from all walks of life. I have learned to love them and feel compassion for them. I have learned how to open myself up to them and teach and testify to them of things that are very precious to me and that are very close to my heart. How empty my life would have been if I had not served a mission. I am so grateful.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Life in Altamirano and Huetamo reminds me a lot of small-town American life. Tons of kids riding around in the back of pick-up trucks. Rodeo rings. No form of normal entertainment. More dirt roads than paved roads. One long "main street" that has all of the biggest stores and where all the "city life" is at. I love it.

2) Mexican street markets are so funny. People sell whatever they can find. But literally anything. And they literally shout at you trying to get you to look at their merchandise instead of the other guy's merchandise. People say that if somebody steals something from you of value that you can go to the street market that week and there is a 99% chance that you will find it there.

This week I was studying 3 Nephi 17. I felt the Spirit very strongly. I think the part that impressed me the most was the desire that the Nephites had to be in the presence of the Savior a little longer. I imagine that the Spirit that they felt was so powerful and wonderful. It gave them energy. They felt his love. His perfect love. They felt healing. They wanted to be with him. They wanted him to tarry with them and be in their presence. I know that people can change. Feeling these feelings of the Spirit soften and change the hearts of those that are seeking after the truth. We have some investigators right now that feel like that they can't change. They are unwilling or too afraid to start keeping the commandments and change their lives. The task seems too great to them or the change too radical and impossible. It is possible. Everything is possible through the power of the Atonement. The Savior knows us perfectly. Our successes and strengths. As well as the most embarrassing, difficult, and horrible that we have within us. The virtues and the vices. The part of us that is destined to become like our Father in Heaven and the weaknesses that would bind us to the misery of sin, regret, and pain. With all of that intimate knowledge about each and every one of us, he still loves us. That is perfect love. That love is the only type of love that has the power to truly change men and women. There is no other power or influence on this earth that has that type of power. Because of the Atonement, we can change.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a missionary. Being here in Altamirano and Huetamo has taught me to be more humble and teachable. Sometimes we think we know the way. That we know what we need. When, in fact, it is God that knows what we need. And sometimes we just need to be willing to accept his will. It is so hard sometimes but it is the only way to feel peace during difficult moments. I have also felt a lot of joy. I love Mexico. I love the people here. I love the culture, the food, the different accents and words, and the love that they express. I love it when people make correct choices. I feel happy. I feel joy when they walk into the chapel, when they read the Book of Mormon, when they begin praying, or when they begin to keep the commandments. They literally change. They are happier. They have more light. I love seeing them enter into the waters of baptism. I love seeing them express small and simple acts of faith. It strengthens my own faith. This is Christ's church on earth. His love is everywhere and in everything. How grateful I am to be able to contribute a small part in the building his kingdom in the country of Mexico.

I hope you all have an amazing week. And again, Happy New Year!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Merry Christmas! We had our annual Christmas Conference with President and Sister Kusch this week, in the which, every single district had to present a funny sketch. There are a whole heck of a ton of sister missionaries arriving in the mission field (there are actually some districts now that have 6-8 sisters and 2 Elders), so the name of our sketch was, "What is President Kusch going to do with all the sister missionaries?" Just to let you know, we are one of the few all-Elder districts left in the mission. There were skirts, high voices, Katy Perry-like wigs, crying, and much, much more. It was a hit! We also played White Elephant. I won a ceramic baby Jesus from a nativity set that's worth $95 pesos. It was a success!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) We had our branch Christmas Party this week. Oh my heck. A ginormous sound system. Live banda music (the singer was Cuban?). Piñata. Members salsa dancing. 30 people. It was insane.

2) The bells on top of the Catholic Cathedral in Altamirano were playing Jingle Bells this week. I thought that was festive.

3) In México the people actually gather together as families more on Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day. They basically don't do anything on Christmas Day because the big day for kids to receive presents is called the Day of the Three Wise Men which happens during the first week of January. So instead of asking Santa Clause to bring them presents, little kids here ask for the Three Wise Men to bring them presents. Weird right?

4) Common Christmas things from the United States that don't exist here: Candy Canes, Real Christmas Trees, Ornaments, etc. 

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve and be among the Mexican people. I really love them a lot. I'm sad that this is the last Christmas that I get to spend here. My love for them continues to grow each and every day. When you get to know them they are so funny, quirky, and sincere. They would give anything for family and friends. They are a people that have gone through a lot of trials and hardships and find the strength to keep going and remain strong. I've learned so much from being among them. I wish to be more like them in a lot of ways. I don't know. I've just felt a lot of love for them this week.

I've also seen a lot of unecessary suffering here in Mexico. My eyes have been truly opened to the sweet and the bitter. Good, and extreme evil. A lot of people that I have come to love have suffered a lot for the unrighteous actions and decisions of others. It breaks my heart when I hear their stories. It reminds me of what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

We are in the last days. God is gathering in his chosen sons and daughters. He is fighting, harder than ever I think, to bring his gospel to all that will listen and accept it. Yes, evil is raging in the world. Yes, there is so much darkness. Yes, more and more people are making incorrect choices and moving away from God's light and love. But I have such a strong testimony that God's light is so much stronger than the evil of the world. His love penetrates. His Spirit enlightens the mind, soul, and body and causes men to change their lives. His gospel unites broken families and broken hearts. If we accept his gospel we can be healed. The Atonement of Christ provides that healing power. 

I have so much love for my Savior. Through him I know that we can become pure again. Clean. Whole. Completely aligned with God and his will. He is the reason why I keep going. I can't imagine my life without a knowledge of his Atonement. It is a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to represent him. I still have so much to improve. But that is what the gospel does. It gives us the tools to improve. I testify that he lives and that the love he has for us is perfect and unchanging.

I love you all so much. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. 

Elder Nielsen

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
Well we got a surprise on Saturday! Changes. Elder Millan is off to Cuautla and I will be staying in Huetamo and Altamirano. My new companion's name is Elder Gonzalez (still haven't met him yet, I'll let you know a little bit about him next week). I was actually really bummed out. Elder Millan was a really good companion. I cannot believe that it's almost Christmas! My last Christmas in México :0 The fiestas for Christmas officially start today in México. You know the drill. Piñatas. Loud Music. Closing down entire streets. It is going to be a good Christmas.

Impressions of México!
1) The Mexican people do not know how to say no. They are literally the nicest and most polite people that I have ever met. For example, we knock on a door, they answer and say "Thank you very much, but can you come back another day, it's just that I'm so busy right now." Now, young missionaries get confused and think that they really want you to come back. But in reality, phrases like that and others like that are code for "Not Interested".

2) Branches are funny sometimes. The members in Huetamo have been preparing a choir for when President Kusch comes. They were thinking about singing "Whom Shall I Serve". Now. What we are used to in church special musical numbers is reverent singing accompanied by piano, violin, etc. But no. Not in Huetamo. They literally whipped out the acoustic guitar and sang so loudly while rocking from side to side. I enjoyed it.

3) The sign outside of the house of prayer in Huetamo that says the name of the church is mispelled. In Spanish, Jesus Christ is Jesucristo. We are the Church of Jesuscristo. As a result, Elder Millan and I say that our church is almost true in Huetamo.

I have been reading and studying the general conference talks this week during my personal studies. There were two talks that particularly struck me. In his talk, President Monson taught a lot about how to overcome and persevere through the trials and difficulties of life. He told the story about how he went to visit one of his friends that was 105 years old and was about to die. He was completely blind, could not hear, and was confined to a small room in a nursing home. His wife and two of his eight children had already passed away as well. He asked to be with "Tommy" Monson before he passed away. When President Monson arrived and made it known that he was there (this is the part when I got emotional), his friend got excited and put his hands on his head, asking for a priesthood blessing. After the blessing was given, his friend said, "Thank you, my Heavenly Father has been so good to me." He then made the comment that instead of focusing on what he was lacking, he thanked God for his many blessings. Elder Scott, in his talk about the Atonement, made the comment that the surest way to protect ourselves from going back to who we were before and being enticed by the same temptations and old habits is by dedicating yourself to serving others.

During this Christmas season, and for the rest of my life, that is what I want to focus on. I made a personal goal that everytime things get hard, or overwhelming, or seemingly impossible, that instead of complaining or wondering "Why me?" I will say "Thank you. You have been so good to me," and start recognizing the blessings that I have received during the day. Our Heavenly Father gives us so much. He gives so many good gifts daily. Sometimes we just don't recognize them because we are so caught up in what we lack. I want to recognize all of the good gifts that he gives me daily. I think the greatest gift that he gives me, each and everyday, is the opportunity to be a missionary. A representative of his glorious and perfect Son. My Savior and Redeemer. And for the opportunity to work in the work of salvation. I love my Father in Heaven so much. He really has been so good to me. And to each and every one of us. His love is perfect. We may look at ourselves and see old baggage, trash, incompleteness, and imperfection. But he sees what we can become if we cleanse ourselves through the Atonement, make and keep covenants, and then strive to endure to the end. Exalted. Eternal. Home in his presence once again.
I share my testimony, and testify, that Christ lives. I have seen the strength of his Atonement in my life personally. It has given me the strength to do things and become what I never thought I could do or become. It is a literal power and energy that enters into both body, mind, and spirit if we ask for it humbly. The love and timing of our Father in Heaven is perfect. I think a lot of the time we are impatient for change or progress. I am learning that patience and humility are usually what he wants us to learn. We should be content with where we are if we are keeping the commandments and our covenants and striving to be like the Savior. Because it is exactly where he wants us to be. He is preparing us for eternal life. He is preparing us for perfect purity and love. Enjoy the process. Accept his will. When we do, that is when we will start to feel peace. And when you feel like you can't anymore, remember, please remember that the Savior knows you personally. He knows how to succor the sick and afflicted, heal the soul, provide strength to the weary, and give love and support to those who honestly seek after him. Keep moving forward.

This church is true. Every single day God allows me to have experiences that strengthen my testimony. Missions are difficult. But I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve.
Merry Christmas!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, December 9, 2013

My zone after a service project. We helped clean up/paint a park in Iguala!

Me chasing a cow in the street. This occurs more frequently than you would think.

Me in front of the House of Prayer in Altamirano!

This is Elder Millán and I strolling around in the center of Chilpancingo after our zone conference!

Hello Family and Friends!

Challenges. Learning. Growth. It seems to be the pattern for a missionary. I feel very grateful for the blessings of my Heavenly Father. That he is teaching me so much about myself while I try to serve and work with others. We are meant to learn and grow, I think, by loving and serving others, even when it is difficult. I have learned so much this week. It was a hard week to be sure, but I have learned so much. For that, I am grateful.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) I saw two pharmacies this week. Both in Huetamo. One was called God's Pharmacy...and the other...Christ's Pharmacy. HELLO PEOPLE.

2) For some reason it is popular here, instead of buying bottled water, to sell purified water in small little plastic bags. They literally just give you the bag, you rip off the corner with your teeth and drink the water. This week someone gave us bags of water, and while drinking I saw a picture of the Virgin de Guadalupe on the bag. I thought, "Why?" And then noticed that they had placed emphasis on the fact that it was PURIFIED water. Pure. Like the virgin. HELLO PEOPLE.

3) Sometimes, when we teach people, and we state a declaration that a person feels is correct, they will say Amen after you say the statement. For example, "Brother Hernandez, You are a child of God {AMEN} and he loves you so much {AMEN}."

4) The most common name for women in Mexico by far is María. For example: María, María del Refugio, Luz María, María de Guadalupe, María de Jesús, María Fernanda, María Magdalena, are some that come to mind.

I still find a lot of joy in recognizing the uniqueness of Mexico. I literally love the Mexican people. They are so funny and quirky. I love spending time with them. They are a people that have been prepared to receive the gospel.

We have been teaching an investigator here in Altamirano named Luz María. She is the owner of a restaurant and was actually a reference from President Kusch when he came to visit Altamirano. She is a perfect example for me of someone that is looking for the truth. Someone that is honestly seeking after it. When we first started teaching her, she put up her barriers. She said that she was curious about the church but that she would never change religions because of her mother. As we have taught her and as she has attended church, I have been able to see the Spirit working in her. She is changing dramatically. She has that desire to know more and more. That spiritual hunger. That is what the gospel does for people. It has a familiar ring for them when they start learning about it. It has that ring because it is eternal. If we are open to the Spirit, we will not be able to deny the truthfulness of the message. She has been reading the Book of Mormon, always tells us that she is only going to go to church for the first hour and then ends up staying for all three, and tells us how much peace she feels when she goes to church. She actually told us a funny story this week. She said that she was reading the Book of Mormon in her restaurant during her down time and that she had been asking God for a sign that it is true. She said that she put down the book and opened up her Facebook and the first thing she saw was that one of her friends "Likes" The Book of Mormon. I said, "Well there you have it." I love teaching people like her. People that God has prepared. There are so many of them out there. We just need to find them. 

I love Christmas. People are a little more open to talking about the role that God, Christ, and religion play in their lives. I take the opportunity to testify of my Savior. Of the reality of his mission as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. That he was chosen before this world began, that he was born, just in the way that it is described in the Bible. That he taught the true and eternal gospel of his father. That he established his church. That he performed miracles. That he healed. That he performed an eternal Atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane. That he was betrayed, judged falsly, mocked, beaten, ridiculed, and crucified. That he was resurrected and appeared to his disciples in Jerusalem and in the American continent. And that he appeared in the year 1820 to a young fourteen year old that wanted to know which church was the true church of God. That he lives and directs his church today through a living prophet. And that he will come again. I love my Savior. His Atonement gives me the strength I need to do hard things that I could not do alone. It gives me the hope of eternal life with those I love. It helps me to be what God needs me to be. It allows me to grow and change. It is the most important thing that has been done or that will be done on this Earth. I testify of these things to each and every one of you. I know that they are true.

I am learning more and more to walk by faith. To let God take control. And to try to share the same vision that he has for me and for his work in Altamirano and Huetamo. I love you all so very much. I hope that you have an amazing week. And Merry Christmas!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Sometimes it is hard for me to express everything that I have learned throughout the week. So many things happen during the week of a missionary. I guess that is the part I love the most about being a missionary. Every day is unique. Every day I learn something new about myself and about others. There are highs and lows. There are spiritual and learning experiences if I pay close attention. I cannot believe that December is here again. Time is passing by very quickly.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) I would say that, at least a few times every single week, people ask me what time it is. Now, I know what you are thinking. That is not weird. The funny cultural part is that sometimes people walk right up next to you or from behind and grab or move your arm so they can see your watch and then ask you what time it is. That happened today. Or sometimes they literally shout out the question to you from the other side of the street. "Hey white boy, could you tell me what time it is?"

2) For most of the new members of the church, we are not the Elders, we are the Hermanos. In Mexico, there are two classifications for Christian churches. You are either Catholic, "Catolico" or a Brother, "Hermano". "Los Hermanos" are basically every other Christian church outside of the Catholic Church. So when slightly intoxicated men call at us in the street they usually say, "HERMANOS (in Spanish) Hey you dude come over here (in broken English)". 

3) Other famous "English" phrases that every Mexican knows are..."How are you my friend?" "What are you doing here?" favorite..."Do you speak a Spanish?"

A few days ago we met two men in the street in a pueblo outside of Altamirano named Coyuca de Catalán. One of them was completely intoxicated and started telling us about a ton of serious mistakes that he has made in his life. He told us that now he was ready to accept God and that he just wanted everything to go away. The other man we saw was walking in the street selling hammocks door-to-door. He told us that he had lived in the United States for almost his entire life, but, due to serious mistakes that he made, he was put into prison for 8 years and then brought back to Mexico. I started to reflect on these experiences and thought about how sad it is to suffer the consequences of sin and disobedience. Just like the great and spacious building must have seemed so attractive to those struggling to hold on tight to a rod of iron, people today are going off in droves, feeling their way towards that building instead keeping the commandments of God. Every single Sunday the churches are almost empty but the markets and stores are booming with customers. The breaking of the word of wisdom and the law of chastity have caused so much heartache in the lives of so many that I have come to love here that it is impossible to describe. And I have seen, firsthand, the prophecy being fulfilled that in the last days men's hearts will fail them. I have learned, on such a deep level, that disobedience, however freeing and fun it may seem in the moment, only brings pain, regret, bondage, and, ultimately, the destruction of our spirits. Obedience to the commandments and the honoring of covenants brings freedom, light, growth, and peace. God's path will never be as flashy as the world's path. But it is the only path that leads to eternal life.

I want to testify that God answers prayers and fasting. The answers do not come immediately. They do not come when we want them to. But they come when we need them most. We had been praying and fasting that God would lead us towards families, priesthood holders, and individuals that are ready to receive the gospel. And this Sunday we saw the miracle. A lot of part-member families and a few investigators attended church. I know that when we give all we have to give, then it is enough. When we exercise faith in God, he answers us. He is very active in our lives. I was so elated. There is nothing greater for a missionary than to see growth and progress in others. This is God's work. This is his church. Of that I am sure.

I know that Christ lives. I feel a lot of tender feelings for my Savior. It is still very humbling for me to be his representative on this earth. I know that his Atonement, his grace, and his mercy make up for what I lack after I give all that I have. I cannot wait for that moment. That moment when I will be able to see him again. Be in his presence. Feel that penetrating love he has woosh over me. To feel completely tried, pure, and proven. Ready to receive the greatest gift of all, eternal life. It is my goal to make it there. What an amazing opportunity I have to help others start on that same journey. I love being a missionary.

I love you all and hope you have an amazing week.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hello Family and Friends! Happy Thanksgiving!

A lot of missionaries from the United States have become experts in price-negotiation here in Mexico. They see something they like and then almost always successfully lower the price of said item. I mention this because I recently had a show-down here with a four-foot tall Mexican woman that was dressed exactly like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz over a backpack that I really liked here in the center of Iguala. I lost. I still have a lot of practice to do....

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Mexican medical treatments never cease to amaze me. We visited with a family this week and I noticed that they had goats behind their house. Come to find out that the sister has been sick for a while and the doctor told her that she should start to drink goat milk to get better. So they literally go into their backyard and milk the goats everytime she starts to feel bad...

2) Another goat story. We were walking in the same little pueblo and suddenly, out of nowhere, we were attacked by a herd of goats. They just start running and charging towards us from around the corner. The scariest part was that they literally started jumping like 3 or 4 feet in the air. I was so scared.

3) We were walking up a hill and saw a man holding a really odd object wrapped in a plastic bag. As we get closer...we realized that he was literally holding, by the nose, a straight-up cow head. Recently severed from the body. We started thinking seriously about what he was going to do with it.

So yes. My life has pretty much been insane the last few months. I have actually loved being able to spend the greater part of my mission in little pueblos outside of the big cities. Life is just so different. So unique. I love it.

I just want to bear my testimony to you all. I know that God lives and that he answers prayers. This week was difficult. Sunday was very disappointing and I was really down on myself because of the lack of progression that we have seen here. I started to doubt and be really negative with myself and our situation. As a result, I felt a lack of the Spirit. The Spirit is always the same. When we demostrate a lack of faith in God and his plans for us, he leaves us for a little while. Doubt and fear and negativity cannot coexisit with the Spirit. Because the Spirit invites us to love, to serve, to be patient, and to be humble. I am grateful that my mission has taught me of the need to have him with me always. I feel so empty without his presence. I feel like I am missing something important. On the bus ride from Huetamo to Altamirano, I started to pray. I started to think about my favorite scriptures and the words of my favorite hymns. I wanted the Spirit to give me clarity and peace and to return again. And he did. I love the Holy Ghost. His companionship gives me strength. But literal physical and spiritual strength. He has comforted me, given me feelings of peace and love, and helped me to know what I should do. I know that having his companionship is more important than anything else. I was reminded of that this week.

I know that God lives and that if I am patient, and trust him, that he will bless me richly. I know that he loves his children. He loves them so deeply. He wants us to have more faith in him and to learn of him and his Son through the restored gospel. I know that Christ lives. He performed the Atonement for each and every one of us. His Atonement gives me strength. Strength to keep going and give what I otherwise would not be able to give. I am learning to be content even in the hardest of situations. I am learning to be humble and patient. I am learning to work hard and continue working hard even if I cannot see immediate results. I am learning to love people for who they are. I catch glimpses here and there of how much joy God feels when we make the right decisions and choose to follow him. I will forever be grateful for the lessons I have learned and will continue to learn as a missionary. A mission is not easy. It is so, so hard and challenging. But it is worth it. I have been thinking about my converts and the people I have taught and helped and gotten to know during my mission. They are the reason why I continue to serve. I love them so much.

I love you all as well and hope that you have an amazing week.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, November 18, 2013

The district went to Taxco.  I was here over a year ago! 
I feel so old!  The statue of Christ overlooks the city.

Hello Family and Friends!

We arrived in Huetamo this week safe and sound! Huetamo is not the first, nor the second, but the THIRD area that Elder Millán and I have opened together. We have become experts. We have actually felt a lot of peace in our new area. I feel like we are going to have a lot of success. We are excited!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Sometimes I feel like the members get together and decide to make the same meal for the missionaries every single day of the week. This week was...Chile con Huevo! Or spicy salsa with little chunks of egg...and beans...and lots of tortillas. Just so you can get a little taste of how the food is in my little pueblito in Michoacán.
2) People in Mexico are very proud of the trades that they have learned. A lot of them have been working the same job since they were really little. We entered the house of an investigator and I saw wood, machinery, and paint and I proceeded to ask him if he was a carpenter. He told me that he was and then said, "And here is the proof!" he stuck his hand in my face...a hand that was missing two fingers.
3) A member that went to a Quinceañera this week told us on Sunday that the Catholic Priest made a special announcement in Mass that the young men in ties have returned to Huetamo and that the people of the pueblo should not open their doors to us...that made me sad.

Sometimes the best thing that we have going for us as missionaries is that we are different from the rest. I mean come on. We are in the middle of a small little pueblo walking around in a white shirt, tie, and dress pants with a name badge. And for the first time in one of my companionships, neither one of us are Mexican. People are naturally curious as to what an Argentinian and American are doing in the middle of Huetamo. I love it. But I have also learned that even more important than how we look is how we act. People can sense where your spirit is and the type of life that you are living. If you are being sincere or just teaching and preaching what you were taught to teach and preach. Even after so much time, I still think a lot about that concept. That as a missionary, I am called to be a literal representative of Jesus Christ. Like, I am called to serve like he served, teach like he taught, and be like he is. And to minister unto the people of Huetamo and Altamirano. A lot of times, when we have the chance to sit down with people and talk, it always surprises me how open they are with us. They tell us about challenges and difficulties that I would never even think about telling someone that I had just met. But they do it because they feel something when they are with us. They feel the Spirit. I love it when that happens because it means that we are doing our job. It is a constant fight. You have to be doing and thinking the right things to have the Spirit with you. But to have him there with you and the example you give to others makes it worth it. It is the most powerful tool we have when sharing the gospel.

The only way I can describe how I feel is peaceful. I am happy with where I am at. I have reflected on my mission a lot this week. It has always been my goal to work hard everyday and seek to honestly improve every single day. I have learned that comparing our outward results with others can be very deadly. When we compare ourselves to others, it really just means that we care more about what the world thinks of us than what God feels and thinks of us. I read a talk from the April 2013 General Conference by a 70 that was entitled Accepted of the Lord. He taught, very simply, the guidelines that we need to follow in order to be accepted of God. To be accepted you need to have...

A) An honest and broken heart.

B) A contrite spirit.

C) And be willing to keep and observe the covenants you have made by sacrifice.

I always want to be strive to be accepted of him and not of man. His opinion is becoming more important to me than the opinion of man. I, and I think each and every one of us have a lot of growth to experience here, that is why I thought I should share it.

My testimony of Christ and his Atonement has grown very strong during my mission. I love him so much. We are given the chance to be completely healed and enjoy eternal life if we strive to obey. I will forever be grateful for his love, mercy, and grace. It gives me the strength to keep going and keep striving to improve. My mission has been perfect for me. I have been humbled and have faced so many difficult situations. But the promise that Christ made, that he would be on our right hand and on our left, in front, and behind, and that his angels would be round about us to bear us up is true. Each day I strive to serve him a little better. It is the least I can do.

I love you all so much and hope that you have an amazing week.

Elder Nielsen

P.S. We went to Taxco today as a district (I felt so has been over year since I went the last time) and here is a picture of the Christ that overlooks the entire city. Love you all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

I cannot remember if I have told you all, but the specific part of Guerrero/Michoácan that I am living in has been given the name "Tierra Caliente" or basically "Hot Land" or "Hot Earth". In keeping with this theme, I will relate the following impressions in...

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Showering here in cold water is not a problem at all. It is actually one of the most joyous parts of the day. The not so fun part is that within about 2 minutes after the shower, you begin to start sweating profusely and feel the need to shower again.

2) Sometimes when we cannot take it anymore, we literally change our walking route just so we can walk in front of the banks or a department store here in Altamirano just so we can enjoy the blast of air conditioning that hits us when the sliding doors open as we walk in front of them.

3) People have made comments that during the summer you would be crazy to leave your house during the middle of the day because you literally feel like you are in the middle of a pressure cooker....and I feel like that now...and it's "Winter".

So yeah. It is hot here. Really, really hot. I have heard that our house in Huetamo is one of the few that has air-conditioning which made me content though. So, Elder Millán and I will be stationed in Huetamo, but also traveling to Altamirano two days every week in order to help out the branch as well. That will be in addition to our weekly trips to Iguala (about four hours away) for the district meeting every Monday. So yes, we will be moving around like ping-pong balls in the greater part of Guerrero and Michoácan but we are up for the challenge!

I have learned a lot, being here in Altamirano, of the importance of music. In Doctrine and Covenants Section 25, in a revelation given to Joseph Smith the prophet but directed towards his wife Emma, the Lord said that the song of the righteous is like a prayer unto him and will be answered with a blessing upon their heads. I love that verse. I love the hymns of the church. It has been a fulfilling experience for me to play the small keyboard in our little house of prayer for the members of the branch. Even though I make mistakes while playing and even though the members sing so loudly and so off-key that it is not even funny, I still feel the spirit very strongly. Yesterday we sang the hymn about Joseph's first prayer. "How how lovely was the morning....” It helped me feel even greater love and appreciation for him, as a prophet, and for the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. Hymns are prayers for me as well. Sometimes singing a hymn expresses what we wish to say to God better than words can. In my companionships, I have always loved starting off our studies and weekly planning sessions with hymns. Also, at the end of the day, if I have a little time, I like to sing one or two hymns in order to feel the spirit and the peace it brings. So sing. When you go to church, sing loud. Sing reverently. And pay attention to the words. If your heart is in the right place, then you are offering up a prayer to our Heavenly Father.

I have also learned here in Altamirano that there are no excuses to not do the right thing. There is a sister here in the branch named Sister Pérez. She lives in a little ranch about 4 hours away from Altamirano and just does not have the means to come to church on a regular basis. This sister also cannot read or write. We ate with her about two times in the last few weeks and I just felt so much love and admiration for her. Every time she comes to Altamirano, she goes to church. Because she cannot read, she bought all of the scriptures on CD and listens to them over and over again every day. She also listens to and has memorized her favorite hymns. She loves God and has a strong testimony of the church. I love people like that. That keep their covenants despite adversity. That love God and seek to serve him and learn of him always. They are his elect on this Earth.

I cannot express what being a missionary has meant to me. I cannot even begin to describe or write about all the things I have seen, felt, and learned. The most important thing I have learned is this. God lives. He is real. He is active in our lives. He loves us. He is full of both justice and mercy. He desires to save all of his children. Christ lives. His life, the miracles he performed, his teachings, his Gospel, are all very real. He performed the Atonement for us. He was resurrected. He broke the bonds of death and hell. There is strength to be found in recognizing that he is our Master, Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. Then we need to repent fully and completely and change. The Holy Ghost calls us to change. Testifies boldly of the Father and the Son. And is always with us when we need help, comfort, and protection. The Church of Christ is restored and is on Earth once more. Priesthood power is here again. The power to seal families, baptize, heal, and preach the gospel is here again. The Book of Mormon is true. That book carries a special power and a changing influence to those that read it with real intent, having faith in Christ. I am forever grateful for my Savior. For his love and compassion and patience towards me and towards his children. He is inviting us to enjoy eternal life. His love is infinite and we can enjoy it eternally if we will exercise faith in him, repent, be baptized and confirmed, and endure to the end of our lives. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I love you all so very much. I hope you have an amazing week.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, November 4, 2013

My companion and I in Altamirano!

Hello Family and Friends!

Well, another week has come and gone here in México. Time is starting to pass by really quickly now. I'm not sure how I feel about that...Just to paint a mental picture for you all. I am in the town square of Iguala. There is banda music (the Mexican form of country music in the United States) blasting outside of the internet café that I am in. I'm looking at a tree right now that literally has 10 squirrels jumping from branch to branch. It smells strongly of enchiladas, it's November and it is hotter than California in the dead of August right now, and there is a monster Cathedral painted neon orange that was playing Ave María from the belltower a few minutes ago. I love México very, very much.

(More) Impressions of México!

1) So the Day of the Dead was this week. They celebrate it every 2nd of November, and as far as I know, México is the only country that celebrates it. It is actually so unique. People literally loaded into the back of pick-up trucks in droves to go out to the cemetary of Altamirano. It is traditional to carry flowers (the two principle colors were red and yellow) and things that the deceased person loved (a favorite food, game, drink, etc.) and to spend the entire day at the gravesite.

2) Mexicans do not speak Spanish. They speak "Mexican". Like, a lot of people have asked my companion if they also speak, "Mexican" in Argentina. HELLO PEOPLE.

3) Every once in a while, members, who want us to try things that we would not normally try if we knew what it was beforehand, just put it on the plate without saying anything. After said item is consumed, they proceed to ask how it tasted, if we liked it, etc. That happened this week. They gave us meat that tasted like chicken, just a little tougher, but that had tiny, weirdly shaped bones. Missionaries know how to recognize a chicken when they eat it (most-commonly eaten meat), and I knew that what we were eating was not chicken but did not say anything. Turns out...they fed us Iguana...

We found out this week, that this next transfer we will be taken out of the branch of Altamirano and moved even farther away from Iguala to a branch in Michoácan named Huetamo. It is about 5 and a half hours away from Iguala and you need two buses to make it there. We are still going to be traveling to Altamirano once in a while to help out the branch president, but it just was not very effective for us to be there as full-time missionaries. So, in a week, Elder Millan and I will be opening up our third area together as a companionship! 

This change has been difficult for me. There have been a lot of changes, opposition, challenges, and bumps in the road. Doing simple things have helped sustain me.

1) Praying. But truly praying. I have started to truly learn that prayer is a literal conversation. Sometimes we just need to be quiet, be still, like the scriptures say, and listen. Pay attention to the images and feelings that God puts into our hearts through the Spirit, and let him teach us. Prayer has given me a lot of peace. When I pray with real intent, I am able to be taught and instructed from on high. I can come to understand the "Why" of things. I feel closer to my Father and my Savior. True prayer has sustained me.

2) Reading the Scriptures. I trust in the promise that is found in 2 Nephi 32. Feast upon the words of Christ, for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things that you should do. During my scripture study I both learn and also become more intuned with the Spirit. Reading favorite passages literally gives me more physical and spiritual energy. Thinking about my testimony of the Book of Mormon makes me excited to preach the gospel. The words found in the scriptures have given me direction, caused me to meditate and ponder, have been the catalyst for much needed changes, and have healed some of the wounds that I have had for a long time. The scriptures have sustained me.

3) Serving others. This is perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned as a missionary. When I strive to serve and love others and forget about myself, I truly feel closer to my Father. In some of the darkest moments in my mission, I have realized that my Father in Heaven has given me significant opportunities to serve that have lifted me and taught me truly how much he loves his children. I have grown to love the Mexican people and those that I have served and taught. I know God will always be with and support in unimaginable ways his children that strive earnestly to help, uplift, love, and serve his other children. Serving others has sustained me.

My testimony has sustained me as well. I have come to realize that my testimony is simple. But it continues to grow as I continue to comprehend the Gospel of Jesus Christ and serve God's children. He lives. God lives. Jesus is the Christ. I know that healing is to be found through his Atonement. His grace and mercy are sufficient to bind up the deepest wounds that we have received. I have felt his love penetrate me and others. I know he was resurrected. That life continues on and that one day, we will be with those we love if we prove to be faithful here on this earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints is the Church of Christ on this Earth. The Book of Mormon is true. I invite you all to improve your relationship with the Savior. When we realize how much we need a Savior, we will begin to change and become more like him in word, deed, and thought. I know that God loves us deeply and eternally and that we are eternal. I will praise forever the name of my God for the opportunity to be a missionary, and for the opportunity to serve his sons and daughters in Mexico.

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Ziga Family in Yautepec!

President Santos of the branch in Yautepec!

One of my favorite sisters and best friends in the
Yautepec branch, Hermana Edith and her family!

All of the cities and pueblos have large statues of the
revolutionaries.  For example, this one is Yaute!

Hello Family and Friends!

This week has been absolutely insane. On Sunday, I think about 16 members attended church, therefore Elder Millán and I gave talks, I played the piano, taught Sunday School, taught Priesthood, and then handled all the computer work of the branch after the services. Every Sunday has been a little stressful for us as you can see. During the Sacrament, I felt the Spirit whisper to me that I needed to be patient and that God would work miracles in the branch. I am giving heed to and trusting in what I heard. It gave me a lot of strength to receive that impression. I know that God is a God of miracles and that he works according to the faith of man.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Many people have told my companion that he speaks Spanish very well and then proceed to ask him what language they speak in Argentina. HELLO PEOPLE.

2) Lots of times as missionaries, while walking in the street, we strive to recognize service opportunities to help people out. Lots of times, however, the people do not accept or want our help. But their form of rejecting you has always been really funny to me. They just say, "Gracias". And "Gracias" for them means "No". But as we know, Gracias, directly translated, means Thank You. So in the beginning of my mission, when I asked someone if I could help them carry or move something and they said, "Gracias", I thought that they were saying Thank You and Yes. Turns out no. It is just a nice and strange way of saying no :(

Last week, after I wrote, I had the opportunity to visit my converts David, Cinthia, and Susy, here in Iguala. I had heard that they had stopped going to church a few months ago and went to encourage them. When I entered their house again, I just felt so much love. Like, I felt the love they have towards me and I was able to express the love that I have towards them. I truly love them so much. I cannot imagine how much God loves them. I invited them to return to church. They have experienced so many trials after their baptism and felt like they could not handle it anymore. I bore them my testimony. The spirit was palpably strong and they promised me that they would go to church the next Sunday. Leaving their house, I started thinking seriously about charity. The message that I shared was not unique. I would share that same message with any less-active. But the difference was not what I said, but how I said it. The key to touch the hearts of those you teach is to feel Christ-like love for them. That pure love that gave Christ the strength to atone for our sins and give his life for us. They can feel your intentions. They can feel if you love them or not. I made the goal after the lesson that I would strive to teach every single person that I come into contact with with the same love that I would teach a convert or a family member that has strayed from the truth. The words we speak and the way we speak them and the feelings that we put behind them truly matter. Without charity we are nothing.

I was also able to finish reading the Book of Mormon this week. I was so sad when I finished. Every time I read it my testimony grows stronger and stronger of its truthfulness. I felt the faith and complete trust that Nephi had in the Lord. I was strengthened by the examples that Ammon, Alma, Amulek, Lehi, and Nephi left as strong missionaries that lost themselves and gave everything to serve others. I cried as the Savior presented himself to the Nephites and healed, blessed, and prayed for them. I felt my faith grow. Reading gave me the strength to make a lot of much needed changes. I am a better person now. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It has the answers to all of our questions. It testifies so strongly of the risen Savior and his gospel. It is true.

I am striving to act well my part and be the best representative of Christ that I can be. I think that comes when we love and exercise pure and simple faith. I know and bear testimony that God puts plans in place to save us. He gives us the experiences that we need to have in order to return to live with him again. His plans are perfect. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve him. When we truly give all we have to give, then it is enough. If we are faithful, then we will be blessed. If we are grateful, then he blesses us with more. Be sincere with God. Pray to him and let him know how you feel. Ask for the help that you need. I promise you that he listens to you and that he answers prayers.

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

So today has been strange. Every Sunday we have to take the four hour bus ride from Altamirano to Iguala because we have to attend the district meeting here in Iguala on Monday. Today I decided to go visit my old stomping-grounds in my first ward where I was trained, Los Tamarindos. I am currently sitting in the internet café that I always used to go to with my trainer Elder Miguel, we already saw my old apartment, and later on today we are going to visit some of the members that I love very much and my converts here in Iguala! Weird. But I am enjoying it very much. I cannot believe that it has been a year since I have been here.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) It is customary here in Mexico to eat the entire chicken. Like, they waste nothing. One time they gave me an interesting-shaped piece of the chicken while eating with the members and I started picking away at the meat...only to realize later....that they had given me the part of his head, surrounded by meat. I realized this as I started picking at his brain. They also enjoy eating chicken feet here.

2) The members in Mexico are so humble. Sometimes we enter homes of members where all the members of the family literally live in one, tiny room. And yet, they so happily feed us and give us the best they have to offer. I love them very much.

3) Members that have cars here change their cars so often. Like they buy a car. Get tired of that car after like a month, and then sell the car so that they can buy another car. And a lot of the cars are so funny. They just will not let them die. There are cars from the 70s or 80s that do not have the floor in some parts, windows, some of the doors do not open, etc. but they continue using them until the bitter end.

So, I just wanted to tell you all a funny story first (well, at least funny for me). Sometimes when things are difficult in my area I specifically ask Heavenly Father to let something really funny happen the next day that will make me laugh. Well, Saturday night I asked him for that, and he answered my prayer on Sunday. So, the bus ride from Altamirano to Iguala has a lot of curves. The roads are SUPER-windy and the bus driver drives very quickly. My companion, Elder Millan, suffers from car-sickness (I think you all know where this is going). About 2 hours into the bus ride my companion looks at me and says, "If I get up and go to the bathroom, it means that I am going to barf." About 5 minutes later, he gets up and goes to the bathroom. He said that after he drained the toilet, a HORRIBLE smell shot up in his face, and then subsequently into the entire air-conditioning system of the bus. The people sitting next to the bathroom got up, gagging, and said that they would rather stand up the entire bus ride than sit next to the bathroom. THEN, the bus pulled over and a representative from the bus company had to examine the bathroom. THEN, everyone that had perfume or cologne started spraying it in the air. I was literally dying from laughter.

This week has been very long but very wonderful as well. It is hard being a counselor in a branch. The Branch President, President Montúfar, has been a member for about 2 years. He desires greatly for the church to grow, but lacks a lot of experience and gospel knowledge. My job is basically to guide him along and counsel him on the decisions he should make and what he should do to help the church grow and fortify the members. My companion is in charge of all finances, records, etc. Basically the job of a ward clerk. We work so hard and come home exhausted every single day. To be honest, we have not seen a ton of results or success yet, but we are confident that God is with us and that he is guiding us towards the people that need to hear our message and towards future leaders in the branch.

One of the fights that I have always faced as a missionary is the fight to have more faith and hope. I know that God lives and that Christ is his son and that this church is true, but so often I find myself turning to myself and depending on my own strength and intellect to solve problems that arise. It has definitely been a process of taking the knowledge and testimony that I have gained and turning it into real action and living it every single day. It is that process, I think, of literally turning ourselves, physically and spiritually, towards our Heavenly Father in every moment of our lives that really tests us each and every day. One day, about 2 years ago as I was walking home from a class at BYU a scripture popped into my mind and I felt that it would be an integral scipture for me during my service as a missionary. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden it light." I think that scripture was meant just as much for me as for any person that I have taught. There is so much peace and rest to be found when we put our faith and trust in the Savior. We act. We repent. We love every child of God we meet. We strive to literally be like him in all that we do. Because his path, in the long-run, brings so much greater joy and peace than our personal agenda, goals, desires, etc. I have been praying for more faith and have seen it developing. But I can always trust more. I think the moment comes for all of us, that humbling moment, when we realize that all we are, everything that we have achieved, and everything that we will yet achieve is completely reliant on the grace and mercy of the Savior and through obedience to the commandments and ordinances of the gospel. I think that in this moment, that beautiful moment, when we kneel down and recognize how much love the Savior has for us is when the gospel really clicks for us. And we also realize how much loving and trusting in him lightens our burdens and makes life not only bearable, but enjoyable, fulfilling, and worth every moment.

Full and complete trust. Faith and hope. I continue to strive to learn and grow in these areas. I know God lives. Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior. Our Friend. It is through him that peace comes and remains. It is through him that complete repentance and forgiveness comes. It is through him that we can once again become pure, white, clean, and completely worthy to enter the Kingdom of God. I feel his love for me and for his children that surround me. That makes me love them even more. Do not be afraid to change. Change is necessary and so worth it.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 14, 2013

My convert Gemma trying to hurt me!  She did
not want me to leave!

Jorge!  A really good friend in the branch.

Another family that I love, the Celon Guzman

I love these guys.  Hermana Gomar and
her son Nestor (our branch mission leader)

The baptism of the Citalan Vazquez

The baptism of Guillermo!

I love this kid!  His name is Jesus and he is crazy
and the most sassy child I have ever met.  He is the
child of Jaime and Gemma, my converts
in Yautepec.

Our funny Relief Society President that I love a lot
in Yautepec.  Hermana Gomar.

Our chapel in Yautepec!

The town square!  Notice the Independence
day decorations!

This is a combi.  This is what we used for travel.

The center of Yautepec

Goats on a hillside in Yautepec!

Me arguing with Sister Pech.  Common!

Me in front of the room where I had my
district meeting!

This is the chapel where we had our district
meetings in Cuautla.  It is the oldest chapel in
Cuautla and was dedicated by
President David O. McKay.

This place is called "Los Arcos" in Yautepec. 
Here we would get on the combi that would take
us back and forth from Yautepec to Cuautla.
We were here a lot!

Hello Family and Friends!

So we are here in Altamirano! It is stinkin' hot. But no. Really. This is the greatest amount of heat that I have ever felt in my life and we are supposedly in the coolest months of the year. To just put an example out there for you to understand, it would be like walking around in the streets of Las Vegas during July in pants. Without air conditioning. We are slowly adjusting to life out here in Altamirano, Guerrero!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) I have made many comments about Mexican bathrooms but they continue to surprise me. In our new house, the bathroom is literally located in the little space that is underneath the staircase. My head literally almost touches the ceiling while I am showering.

2) The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico have very limited talent in the music department. Vocal and instrumental. I have had the blessing to play the piano in Yautepec and here in Altamirano and the members are so grateful. It makes me happy to be able to serve them in this way.

So, Altamirano is a city located 4 hours outside of Iguala (the city where all the other missionaries of our zone are working). We are literally out here all alone. It is a little weird and exciting at the same time. The church here is really, really young. REALLY YOUNG. There is no chapel, instead we have a cute little house of prayer in the center of Altamirano (one of the few buildings here that has air conditioning!) The branch has an attendance of about 15 to 30 every week and Elder Millan and I have been called to serve as 1st Counselor and Secretary in the branch presidency. The city borders the state of Michoacan and our area is bigger than the entire state of Morelos. The city is actually really unique. The streets are super wide, clean, and the city is super tiny and surrounded by a ton of tiny pueblos. One more interesting fact. Two of the most active members in the branch are the McFarland family. I know what you are thinking. McFarland...that is not a Mexican last name. That is because Brother McFarland is from Provo, Utah and speaks very little Spanish, but his wife is from Mexico and they are the sweetest couple that I have ever met. I am so glad that they are here with us in the branch!

So this week has been really difficult. Just adjusting to something completely different and foreign. We had some pretty low moments this week, Elder Millan and I. Some pretty dark moments as a matter of fact. We have so much work to do here. The branch needs so much help. But I have no doubt that we are here for a reason. God wants us here and wants us to bless this branch with the talents and abilities that he has blessed us with. This week, I was singing the hymn "Because I have Been Given Much" and really thought about the words. I have been given so much. And it is the time to give, to bless, to lift up, and to build. It is the time to forget about ourselves completely and go to work. To love and serve. We both talked a lot last night and have come to the conclusion that we are just going to role up our sleeves and work our hardest and give it our all. Talk to everyone we see, challenge the less-actives bravely to return to church, and get the organizations and the branch presidency working again. We are excited now and are ready for this week!

I know that God puts us where we need to be. A lot of the time we do not like the answer. But I know that if we act in faith and follow his councils that he will bless us in greater ways than we can imagine. I have seen those blessings. I know that Christ lives and is the Savior of the world. His Atonement is infinite and eternal. His love and compassion are greater than I can understand. I wish to be more like him. I know that it is going to take a lot of work. But I know that each and every one of us can do it. I know that this church is true. I felt a lot of love during sacrament meeting this week. Even if the church only had 2 members attending on Sunday it is still the true church of Christ and it will roll forward, progressing, always.

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

So...I am sitting here writing you all from Iguala, Guerrero! I know. Last week I was close to Cuernavaca, this week I am in Guerrero, my life as a missionary is crazy sometimes. But we will be heading out to Altamirano tomorrow to begin our assignment in the branch! I am having trouble adjusting to the heat here in Guerrero again. I had forgotten all about it. It has been almost a year since I have been here. But I am very excited!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) This week, while peacefully writing in my journal at the end of the day, I suddenly looked up and saw the biggest scorpion I have ever seen running down the wall in front of my face. 5 minutes, a sandal, a church dress shoe, and lots of courage were what it took to finish him off. Everyone in Mexico has been bitten at least one time by a scorpion.

2) My companion, Elder Millan, is from Argentina. He talks funny. He is really funny (he is Jack Fixa in the form of an Argentinian missionary). And he tells funny jokes. Everyone here in Mexico believes that those from Argentina are super prideful. With that in mind, listen to the joke that my companion told me this week.

Elder Millan: "Hey, Elder Nielsen, do you know which country is closest to the heavens?"

Elder Nielsen: The United States (wanting to make him mad).

Elder Millan: No.

Elder Nielsen: Argentina (thinking that this would be the answer).

Elder Millan: No.

Elder Nielsen: Okay I give up, what is it?

Elder Millan: Paraguay, because it is the country closest to Argentina.

I think the Mexicans hit the nail on the head with their description of the Argentinians.

So, I had a pretty amazing week. Made even more amazing by general conference. I do not know if I have mentioned this before but my view of general conference has changed so dramatically since being in the mission field. I remember being here in Iguala, a year ago, listening to the messages of our Prophet, the Twelve Apostles, and other church leaders and just not wanting it to end. Like I craved it more than anything else. This general conference was so spiritually impactful for me. There were a number of talks that were pure direct revelation for me. They made me cry and feel so peaceful. The spirit was so strong. The spirit testified to me so strongly that those men and women are chosen of God and set apart to lead us in these latter-days. How wonderful it is to know that God has restored his church here on the earth again. That what they just said are words directly from the mouth of our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. Like Elder Hales said in his talk, the best part of conference is what comes after, or basically, applying what we have learned. I plan on striving my best to do that.

I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have had to be a missionary. I know that Christ lives. He is the Christ. I have reflected a lot this week on the process of repentance and the importance and vitality of the Atonement in our lives. This culminated in a number of talks given in General Conference. We all make mistakes right? We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Satan, well, his goal is to try to shame us. Make us live in the past. Live and relive everything that we have done and said. Over and over and over again. He uses guilt and shame as a mechanism to make us weak, depressed, without energy, and without hope to improve or become better. His doctrine is a doctrine of complacency, despair, and shame.

Now let me tell you what I have learned. I have listened to that doctrine. I believed that doctrine. But I confused that doctrine with the true doctrine of repentance. Like it was said in general conference by Elder Scott, repentance is not a punishment. It is a beautiful change and transformation. It means that we turn our heart, our desires, our actions, and our will to God. We humbly kneel down and recognize our reliance on the Savior and his Atonement. We recognize that we cannot fully be healed unless we submit oursleves to him and we also recognize and believe that full and complete healing can and will occur. God is not an impartial or a changeable God and neither is the process of repentance. If we repent fully, if we come unto Christ with that sacrifice that he requires of us, a broken heart and a contrite spirit, we can be fully healed. I know that it is sometimes hard to believe. I know that sometimes we feel that we do not deserve to be forgiven or that the Atonement only covers us to a certain point. We do not want to forgive ourselves sometimes. I testify, so strongly, that repentance is real. It is liberating. It is freeing. There is so much peace and hope to be found in change. We can have an expèrience like Enos had, our sins and feelings of guilt and shame can be washed away and replaced with peace. I am a witness of these things. I know these things are true. I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of others. It is so wonderful.

I know God lives. Christ is his son. I am about to get to the point in 3 Nephi when he arrives here on the American continent. My favorite part. When I truly think about him, and as my life goes on with all of its experiences, my love and appreciation for him grows deeper. It makes me very emotional most of the time. I know he lives. I have felt it. I know that I am on the errand of the Lord. I will ever be grateful for the power and strength I receive through the Atonement and this gospel. He lives!

I love you all so much.

Elder Nielsen