Monday, June 16, 2014

"Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon." Ron Swanson

Hey all,

I can't believe that this is the last letter that I'll be writing. It's the weirdest thought in the world, going home. At the beginning, the focus was, "What will I do once I get home?" Lots of Elders would ask that, and lots of Elders would focus on that. Now, ending up, my thoughts are "Why do I have to go home?" It's really hard and a very strange feeling. I'll be excited one minute to see everyone, and then in two minutes I'll be sad and almost crying. This mission has been so awesome for me and so needed by me, and thinking about not doing it anymore is the hardest thing in the world. Like I said last week, I feel like I am betraying the Lord by being excited about going home and that I am betraying my family by wanting to keep working. I would make a very good Two Face if they were ever going to remake Batman.

Well, a lot of time has been spent reflecting on my mission, and much more time will be spent in the coming days. I have done my best to pick out 10 of the best memories that I have and the lessons I have learned from each one. I will try to be brief so as to not bore anyone, and I also want to point out that I have a lot more than 10 awesome memories from my mission. These are just some of the bigger ones. I think that it'll be a good way for me to end my writings, seeing as everything else I can tell you in person. But, these are memories that are very special for Elder Thomas, so Elder Thomas should write them down before he is released.

1. Sector: Guamaní. Companion: Elder Richimondg. Moment: Finding the Escobar family.

When I got to my first sector, everything was a mess. The house was a mess and the work was a mess. There was a lot to do. We spent a lot of time contacting, which wasn't the most fun thing in the world, but we did it. One afternoon, every appointment fell and we faced yet another afternoon of knocking on doors. Just as we started, it started pouring rain. Pouring. And in Quito, when it rains, it's cold. Plus, there was thunder and lightning. It was terrible and we could barely see in front of us. We talked about what we should do. We had a few options, such as studying in the house while the rain stopped or visiting a nearby member to wait the rain out. We praying as the rain poured, and I remember looking up and seeing a lady entering her house and feeling something special. Instead of doing the easier thing and waiting out the rain, we decided to be diligent and contact. It wasn't fun. I felt again that we should go to that lady's house and contact her. We did so, and we left the appointment with a new family with desires to be baptized, and that happened. The lesson that I learned there was that good things can happen on rainy days.

2. Sector: Guamaní. Companion: Elder Sanchez. Moment: The Morales family.

Part of this happened while I was still with Elder Richimondg, but basically we were working as hard as we could in our sector and seeing few, if any, fruits of our labors. It was getting hard to keep going, working without any success. One Sunday, after a hard week of work with no investigators in church, the bishop called us over to him and presented us to Veronica Morales. She told us that she had listened to the missionaries about a year ago, that they got married to get baptized, but they never got baptized. Right there she told us that she wanted to get baptized, and she did two weeks later. Later, her husband, who could only come to sacrament meeting for his work, called us Sunday around 9 and asked to be baptized that day before sacrament meeting, which started at one. We filled the font as we could and he was baptized that day, completing the family in the Church. Those were unexpected blessings, total surprises to us. The lesson that I learned there was that when we do all that we can, the Lord will bless us with what we need.

3. Sector: La Gasca. Companion: Elder Paz. Moment: Esteban LeGrand.

Esteban LeGrand is probably the strongest convert that I have been able to teach. He is awesome, and has already gone to the temple for his endowments and all of that jazz. He has his calling, he is at church every week, he is awesome. And, he contacted us. Elder Paz and I were at the bus stop, and he contacted us thinking that we were high school students, and he wanted to ask us if there was work available in our school. The inital conversation was brief, but we presented ourselves and set up an appointment for the next day. We had little to do with his conversion. We visited him every day, for he lived right by our house, and he did everything on his own. He read almost the whole Book of Mormon in three days, prayed always, and did everything he invited us to do. I get to see him frequently in the offices, and I have grown to love him greatly. I learned there that we don't always have to find them, sometimes they need to find us.

4. Sector: La Gasca. Companion: Elder Paz. Moment: Santos Ganán.

Santos was a father of a family where everyone but him was a member, and he had listened to the missionaries off and on for 16 years, never getting baptized. When we first got the the sector, the bishop introduced us to him and asked us to visit him. The first appointment was to mostly get to know him, but the second appointment was game time. Elder Paz was very new, and I taught a lot of the lesson, but it was basically an hour battle with him giving excuses to not get baptized, we'd read a scripture to tell him that that excuse wasn't valid, and we'd keep going like that. Finally, he ran out of excuses, and he accepted a baptismal date right there after the hour battle, and he got baptized. He was sealed to his family about a month ago. I learned there that good things are worth fighting for.

5. Sector: Various. Companions: Various (esp. Elder Paz and Elder Burr). Moment: Being with them.

All of my companions were great. Not one of them was disobedient, not one of them had any major problems. I was very blessed by my many companions. I don't remember how many I had, it was around 13 or 14, but two very special ones were Elder Paz and Elder Burr. Elder Paz was so much fun to be around, and we worked so hard together. We had to open a sector where missionaries had done dumb things, and we worked so hard to build up confidence again and to find people to teach. We worked so hard, and we had to much fun. We saw lots of fruits from our labors, and fruits that have remained strong in the Church. I am glad that I have gotten to see him again in the offices so often, and he'll be at BYU studying, too. Elder Burr was such a great companion for me. We got along right away, and we never had fights, yelling, or any ill feelings one towards another. We worked so hard and were so dedicated to the work. Together, we saw many miracles and were blessed in many ways. That was probably the time in my mission where I thought least about not mission stuff. It was 100% working, and we made a great team. I've kept in touch with him ever since he finished last year, and his friendship and brotherhood and very important to me. He was a wonderful companion.

6. Sector: Lago Agrio. Companion: Elder Burr. Moment: The Fast.

Things were a disaster in Lago when I got there. Bad leadership, bad membership, bad progress. We worked so very hard with everything, but something would always happen between the members and the investigators and it would impede the progress of the work. My first change, we didn't really see too many fruits. When changes were made and Elder Burr was put in as the branch president, we started it off with a fast. As we finished the fast, I went into a room alone to pray, alone and out loud, something that I hadn't done before. I was going to ask the Lord if what I was doing was what He had wanted from me, for I felt that it wasn't. As soon as I started praying, it felt like someone came up behind me and was giving me a hug. I started crying, and I knew that I was doing all of the right things. I just had to keep going. That was the day that missionary work changed in Lago. We found many families after that fast and saw many fruits from out labors. But, more importantly, I changed a lot that day and became a much more dedicated missionary. What I learned there is that when we are weak, the Lord can make us stronger.

7. Sector: Lago Agrio. Companion: Various (Burr, Tumpay, Murphy). Moment: The people.

We helped a lot of people in Lago receive the restored Gospel, and it was amazing to see their lives change. Membership more than triple in the time from April 2013 when I got there to October of 2013 when I left. Families like the Cedeño Gordón family, the Lopez family, the Lema family, the Moreno family, and many, many more were all changed by the Gospel. Those friendships I formed there are very important to me. Saying goodbye to them last week was so hard for me, because I had grown to love them so much. They feel like part of the family, and it is great to visit a year after their conversion and to see that they are still strong. What I learned from the people, those very important people, in Lago Agrio is that changing others changes you.

8. Sector: Lago Agrio. Companion: Various (Coram, Tuckett, Burr, Tumpay, Murphy). Moment: My conversion.

Before going to Lago Agrio, I was a good, obedient, hard working missionary. I worked as hard as I could every day, and was able to meet and to help many people receive the Gospel. But, I would say that Lago Agrio was the land of my conversion. I look back in my journal now and recognize my growth there so easily. Especially after the fast mentioned above, I became a different missionary. I didn't work hard because it was expected of me or to gain recognition, I began to work because I loved the Lord and wanted to show whatever thanks I could for His Atonement. I walked in the rain because I loved the Lord. I rarely, if ever, thought about home during the week. I thought only in the investigators, the members, the less actives, the people there. They became my family, they became so important to me. I learned so much serving as the branch president there, and learned how to be a loving leader. I studied hard and grew much in those wonderful six months in Lago. Part of me will always be in Lago Agrio, for that is where I became the man that the Lord needed me to be. I became converted. I became dedicated. I became His. I could talk about Lago Agrio for hours. I began working for love, not for anything else. And that is when I really lost myself, which is the lesson learned here: losing yourself really is finding yourself.

9. Sector: La Colón. Companion: Elder Ospina. Moment: Operación Matacuy.

The month of March was a hard month. We had some bad missionaries doing bad things. I have no need to go into the details of what happened, but it was a very real battle of bad vs. good. We worked hard, planned everything out super well, and started taking out the bad missionaries, and we did so successfully, every missionary involved. We took out the bad root in the mission, which allowed us to start growing to be better and more obedient. In my exit interview yesterday with President Richardson, he said that that operation helped the mission so much as we were able to get rid of the bad to replace it with good. I felt bad for the missionaries sent home, but bad things always bring bad consequences. Details can be shared once I am home, but it was a hard month with little sleep and lots of trickery and lies from the missionaries, but in the end, we took them out. There I learned that good beats bad, every time. It may take more time than we would like, but that is always the outcome.

10. Sector: La Colón. Companion: Various (Dearden, Ospina, Miranda, Burleson). Moment: The Richardsons.

Probably the biggest blessing of working so long in the offices is how well I got to know the Richardsons. They really do feel like second parents, offering such great advice and guidance throughout my time with them. What I learned most from them, of all of the many lessons, is the importance of loving everyone, no matter how stupid they are. Both President and Sister Richardson are so good at loving people, especially the stupid ones. I have learned a lot about the importance of love in leadership. Before, I would easily get upset with missionaries when they didn't do what they were supposed to be doing. I have learned that there are two ways to get people to follow you: they can fear you or they can love you. Instilling fear may bring you obedience, but not loyalty. Instilling love will bring you everything you want: obedience, loyalty, diligence, honesty, etc. The Richardsons understand the effectiveness of love, and show it so masterfully, which is the best lesson that I've learned from them. From them, I learned that true love and admiration are deserved by everyone.

Honorable mentions: Peeing blood for a week, loving to study Elder Maxwell's talks, shaking hands with a little monkey.

Like I said, there are a million more things that I could write, but those are some of the standouts. I tried to be brief, as with details I could talk about each memory for a long time.

I've had a good week this week, but I am almost out of time to write. Plus, I may as well just fill you in when I get home.

My mission has been so important to me. I have become my greatest converted, as promised in the MTC two years ago. I have become a servant of the Lord, a defender of the faith, a testifier of Christ. I know that the Gospel that I have preached for two years is true, and that it is worth defending. The truth will be attacked and hated by others, but it will never be abandoned by me. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, that He suffered for us, and that by living His Gospel, we can become perfect like Him. He loves everyone, a love that we must try to show as well. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and I know that because I know that the Book of Mormon is true through the power of the Holy Ghost. That Book is amazing and will be studied by me every day for the rest of my life. There is nothing more important than the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify that all of these things are true. My mission in Ecuador may be ending, but my mission on earth is far from over. Through my experiences on my mission, I come home ready to keep defending the faith and serving the Lord, and will do so happily until He calls me home. Nothing is more important than this work, the work of salvation.

I love you all and thank you for your love and support over the last two years. I have felt your prayers, your love, and you kindness from very far away. I have tried to serve in a way so that whatever you think a missionary should be, I have been. I have been obedient and faithful, and any success that I have had has come from that. I thank you all infinitely for all that you have done for me and the numerous sacrifices that you have made for me.

With all of my love,

Elder Joshua Jay Thomas

P.S. I may hop on quickly on Monday to see any last messages or information I may need.

"I know these vents like the back of my chang." Señor Chang, Community

Hey all,

I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Grandpa Thomas. I've been praying all week for everyone involved. I hope that you're all doing okay and that your testimonies of the Plan of Salvation and of the Savior have been strengthened.

I'm writing in Lago right now. President is going to be in Lima all week, so he has a lot to get done today (like changes for next week), so while he's doing that I'm writing on the hotel computer. I won't have the full 2 hours probably, but I'll have enough.

President was so good to have "planned" this trip conveniently at the end of my mission. We did need to come out here to do interviews and trainings, which we did yesterday, but I know that the date has to do with my leaving. Just I came with him, the other two are in Quito. Yesterday, we spent about 6 hours training. It was tiring, but fun. I had to do it all alone, which was very weird for me as usually I train with at least one other missionary. It's hard to keep their attention when just one missionary is talking, so I had to put up a bunch of videos to keep their attention. We even had nap time. Not really, but it would have been a good idea. Whenever we come to Lago, we do the trainings that we would normally do in three meetings over three months in 6 hours. It is a lot and we go fast, but they seem to do okay with it. There are only 8 Elders in the jungle, so it's easier to move faster. At night, we had dinner with a great family, recent converts that got baptized in April. They love President Richardson and really brought out the big guns.

This morning, we attended the meetings in the branch for my last time. I was asked to speak by Elder Coram (my old companion and the branch president right now), and I spoke on missionary work. The branch is continuing to grow a at a great rate, but it could be even better. There are 4 or 5 solid families that attend and that keep the heart of the branch pumping, and they have anywhere from 6 to 10 baptisms a month. If they can keep pushing, they'll have a chapel soon, which is the goal of everyone there. There is a wonderful, wonderful spirit there, it is contagious. At the end of the classes, it was time for me to say my goodbyes, but I told them that hopefully I'll be back in July with Dad. It was still very hard to say goodbye, because I'll never be back as a missionary. There are a lot of important people there from my mission. It was hard, but it's part of the process. Missions end.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, was my last leadership council. That was hard, too, because at the end, the missionaries who are "dying" gave their last testimony. I thought I would be okay, but I cried like a little baby, diga. I started out talking about how sad I was when I started my mission because I wouldn't be able to see Batman before I started. I spoke how that was my prize at the end--after serving an honorable mission, I would get to see Batman. I then said that the best prize that I received is the person that I now am. That's when the waterworks started. I don't remember a lot about what I said specifically, but it was a sincere testimony. After, I took pictures with all of my good friends in teh mission, and that was really hard, as well. A lot of them, especially the latinos, I'll probably never see again in this life. But, that, too, is part of the process.

We were also in the coast for two days this week, which was a good visit. I've grown to love the heat, and the missionaries there are great, as well. We had a leaders meeting and a zone conference there, it went well. Sister Richardson didn't come this time, so I got to be in the hotel with President. It is right on the beach. I wasn't complaining. He's been so great to me, I'll miss being around him so much.  

I read a couple of great talks this week, one by President (then Elder) Benson and one by Elder Maxwell. President Benson talked about 14 principles of following the prophet. It was a great talk, I won't talk too much about it, but at the end he makes the statement that if we want to measure our faith and our obedience to the Lord, we should analyze how well we are following the prophet. Great talk. Elder Maxwell's talk was called "Our Creator's Cosmos," and it as a killer sweet talk that he gave at BYU in 2002, if I remember right. He uses pictures from telescopes to explain scriputres about the creation. It is a great talk, you should read it.

I'm getting to a really weird point where I'm not sure what I should write you and what I should just wait to tell you. It still hasn't truly hit me that the end is so near. Obviously I know that the 17th is my return date, that in a week I complete my last change, but I think that I don't want to accept quite yet that I need to end. It is a very strange feeling. Part of me is excited to be home and to move on to the needed stages of life that follow, but the more dominant part of me doesn't want the mission to end. It really is the greatest, best thing that I have done or ever could have done with my life. And I feel like I've finally got it down how to be a good missionary and it's time to end. Elder Waddell talked about that, saying that our way to work is 100% contrary to what a business would do. To bring someone new in, train them, and then right when they get good, release them makes no sense in a business, but that is why we know that it is the work of the Lord. He makes it work. But, it's a very weird time for me. I feel like I'm cheating the Lord when I think about going home and finally watching Batman, but then I feel like I'm cheating my family when I think about not going home. It's hard to explain well, but all in all, I feel weird. I'm not letting myself cry, but I feel like I'm constantly on the brink of tears.

I always thought that serving a mission was a brave thing to do, but really the brave thing is to go home and keep doing what was expected of me for two years. I don't have a companion at my side the whole time nor such a spiritual environment 24/7. Keeping up what I've been doing will be harder and harder as the world gets worse and worse. I realize now that ending a mission takes a lot more bravery than starting one. One phrase that I said in my last testimony was that a mission was ending, but my mission still has a long ways to go.

There is one thing that I would like to ask of anyone who reads my letters that I liked that Elder Burr did when he left. His last preparation day, his parents send him letters to print off to read on the plane. I don't know what they said, but I liked that idea. If you would like to, I would like to ask you to do something similar, send me a letter to read while flying home. I got my flight schedule this week, and it is going to be a long day. It'll be a sad day, too, I'm sure, and I feel like it would be nice to have some good letters to read. Jack and Eliza should know how to write by now, so I expect letters from them at the very least. If you don't have time, no worries, I can read the scriptures eternally now, diga.

Next week will be my last letter to you guys as a missionary, I think that I will make it my "Top 10," letter, the bests of my mission. It would be cool if you could send me a similar list of your top 10's over the last two years. A lot has happened, and I need something to talk to you about when I get home so I don't bore you with mission stories. I know that #1 on Nikki`s list will be "Walking into a wall and consussing myself."

I am so grateful for the Gospel that we have. That video that the Church made for Easter, "Because of Him," is so great because it helps us to remember the simple truths that we have again from the Restoration. One of the phrases is that "because of Him, death has no sting." I know that it's been tough with Grandpa's passing, but I know that it's not the end and that we'll all see him again. Temples are great for that. I will be praying for you all, as always.

I am ready to work. I'll give it my all this last week that I have. There is nothing greater than the work of salvation. Sorry that the letter is a bit shorter, but for question of time and for knowing that it will be easier to say in person, we'll keep it shorter. I love you all tons!


Elder Thomas

That is a picture of me eating a worm.

Monday, June 2, 2014

"What's living if you don't pull your shorts down and slide on the ice, Ren?" Louis Stevens

Hey all,

I am so sorry to hear about the state of Grandpa Thomas right now. He's been in all of my prayers, and I hope that everything goes well with the situation. I send my love to everyone and hope that we can all feel the peace that the Gospel gives us in tough times.

This week, we finally had a day without any travels. Just one day though, Tuesday. We took the day to plan and to do a lot of good stuff that we had neglected for a long time. It was a very weird experience for me. We planned a lot of stuff and I won't even be here for most of it. This coming week we have meetings every day, but the next week, President is in Lima for a mission president seminar, so we don't have meetings there. The majority of the stuff happens after I leave, which is very weird to think about. I'm planning stuff that I'll never even do. Weird stuff.

We're going to be focusing in June about how to retain better and how to find better. In the mission council on Tuesday, the focus will be retaining, and in the zone conferences in June will be training and practicing on finding new people to teach. We're seeing a problem in the mission that too many missionaries think that when we say that they need to find people, the only way to do that is to knock on doors. But, there are tons of awesome ways to find people. Chapter 9 is full of awesome ways to find people, and few of them talk about knocking on doors. And, as the chapter teaches, the best way to find people is through the members.

A lot of times the members don't even realize that they have references until they are asked the right question. For example, a lot of times if the missionaries ask, "Who do you know that could benefit from the message of the Gospel?" a mental block is put into play because the question they hear is, "who do you know that could be baptized?" And no one thinks that their friends would be baptized. Better questions to ask are, "Who do you know that has recently had a birth/death/accident in the family" "Who do you know that seems to be lost in life?" "Who do you know that is struggling with a sin/addiction?" Questions like that don't shut the mind off, they actually open them up. When we ask like that, the members don't think of the word "baptism," they just think of people that need help. And the people that need help are 90% of the time ready for the Gospel. So, that's one thing that we'll be training on, well, that the other missionaries will be training on, in June.

There are other great ideas for finding, many that get invented as you go. A great way that I have found that works for me is to just offer to sing someone a hymn. We knock on their door, and mention that we are missionaries, and we offer right away to sing them a hymn. That has gotten us into a lot of different houses, and some of the people that let us in have gotten baptized. The trick is to find a good balance between finding through the members and finding on our own. If we try to do just one, it's not very effective.

Another good way for all of us to find people to teach is to talk about the family. No one gets mad talking about their family, unless you are the Kardashians. We contact a lot of taxi drivers in our travels around Quito, and the fastest way to get to a Gospel discussion is to talk about the family. Always, always, always, something comes up that you can tie to the Gospel. A common line here is, "My son is a chump. He drinks all day and is a bum." Well, we've got good news, we can fix that. But, they all live in the other mission so we never get to teach them. There are just so many excellent ways to find people, we just really have to have the desires to do so. Chapter 9 is a bomb chapter, you should read it.

Wednesday through Friday, we were in beautiful Otavalo for my last time as a missionary, I think. It was a great trip, there are tons of missionaries there, around 80. Poor President, that's a lot of interviews. But, they were good meetings. Like I've explained, we talk about the Book of Mormon the whole time. We've done the training around 20 times in the month, so we had it down pretty good for these last meetings. We just keep talking about the Book of Mormon and we watch various videos until President finishes all of the interviews. Depending on how the interviews go, that can be a long time or not too long, and we had a good mix of both in Otavalo.

The last one, I changed it up a bit to not get too bored and busted out a fun analysis of Mormon 7. I think that it is one of the best chapters for missionary work, and we hardly ever use it. It's the last chapter that Mormon actually writes himself, what he would consider to be the end of the book. He busts it out big time, and it is in that chapter that Mormon himself explains what he would consider to be the purpose of the book he put together.  He explains a few key things in just a few short verses:
The Lamanites (and many others reading the book) are part of the house of Israel.
We have to repent if we want to be saved.
We have to abandon our weapons of war, or submit ourselves to the will of the Father.
We have to both learn of and follow Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we can return to live with God again.
The Book of Mormon was written to support the Bible, and the Bible was written to support the Book of Mormon.
We must live the doctrine of Christ, or His Gospel (Faith, Repentence, Baptism, Holy Ghost, Endure to the End)
It's pretty much everything that we need people to know to follow Christ, all in 10 verses. Pretty dope, it's like he's a prophet or something. We talked about the chapter for various minutes with the missionaries in the last group, and hopefully they will use it more in their teachings, because it is a power chapter, much like Mosiah 4 or Moroni 10.

Going along with that, it is interesting to note the most important chapters in the Book of Mormon, as most of them are the final words of the prophet teaching. We can consider 2 Nephi 1-3 are the final words of Lehi, 2 Nephi 31-33 are the final words of Nephi, Mosiah 4 the final words of King Benjamin, Samuel the Lamanite, Mormon, Moroni, many of them were the authors of the power chapters, and those chapters were their final words. I feel like the prophets are at their strongest when they are physically weakest and know that the end is near. That may be one of the reasons why Mormon 7 is so powerful. Mormon knew what he wanted his last words to be, and he made them good. I love the Book of Mormon.

I set the goal to read all of Preach My Gospel one more time in my last change, and this coming week I should be finishing it up. I don't know how many times I've studied it but now, but even after two years of doing so, I am still learning from it. It's interesting going through it again. There are parts that I never remember having read, but things that I recognize that I do while I teach, kind of a natural development of a skill that Preach My Gospel says that I should have. But, there are also tons of things that I feel like they weren't there before that would have been so nice to have known during my mission. There is so much to learn in the book, and reading it again and again helps me to recognize how much more I need to improve to become a better missionary. There is always so much to get better at in life, always something to work on.

For example, in chapter 12 there is a section about filling out the baptismal record. I testify that I have never done anything that it suggests there, and they would have been great things to have done if I had known about it. Woops. Did you know that you're supposed to fill out the record in the baptismal interview? I sure didn't until two days ago. Also, did you know that it's a commandment to live the Word of Wisdom? Just kidding, I'm not that lost.

Preach My Gospel really is such a blessing to have today. We can be much better sharers of the Gospel with the things that it teaches us. It is so packed of so much good stuff, that everyone needs to study it as often as they can. I loved the invitation in Conference for everyone to have a copy and to study it. It's true--we're all missionaries and for that we all need to be studying how to be a better one. I'll keep up my study of it as well as I can so that I don't lose my missionary habits, diga.

I read a great talk this week by President Benson. He talked a lot about the Book of Mormon. His talks caught my attention after having used Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel so much in the interview trainings this month. The talk I read was called "Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon." It is a great talk, and be summed up in a few words: "You losers, use the Book of Mormon more." The talk is not very long, but that really is what he wants to say. It is such an important key in everything we believe, and we have to rely on it more. There are a few quotes that I would like to attach:

“Few men on earth,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about. Few are they among men who know the part it has played and will yet play in preparing the way for the coming of Him of whom it is a new witness. … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. … There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?”


I do not know fully why God has preserved my life to this age, but I do know this: That for the present hour He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner. You must help with this burden and with this blessing which He has placed on the whole Church, even all the children of Zion.

It is a great talk that really inspired me to find more ways to use the Book of Mormon in everything that I do. We really do need to focus a lot more on our reading of and sharing of the Book of Mormon. He says a lot more about it, but we can get the picture with the two quotes I pasted on. So, you losers, use the Book of Mormon more.

You may ask, "Elder Thomas, you are always traveling and in meetings, how did you study so much this week?" Well, my friends, the answer is simple. We had about 20 meetings for interviews, saying the same things in each one. President and Sister Richardson each train for about an hour and a half in total, and after 5 times, we have what they say memorized. So, we discovered that we can sneak in to the back and take that time to study. Brilliant, we just jumped up 300% in study hours. Boo yah.

Well, that's about all that I studied this week and about all that went on. Tonight and tomorrow and Monday we'll be in the offices planning all of our trainings, it's a lot to do. We need to plan the leadership council on Tuesday, the zone conference trainings, and the leadership meeting training. Lots to do, but it's good to be busy. I'm excited to fast, although I am already hungry. Here we fast lunch to lunch instead of dinner to dinner. Dinner to dinner is better. Plus, hardly anybody actually fasts here. Yay, South America!

Anyways, I love you guys! I hope that all is good, and I hope that everyone can feel the peace of the Gospel as some tough things are probably going to be happening this week. I'll keep you all, especially Grandpa, in my prayers.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Also, I may not be able to write next Saturday. If all goes according to plan, I'll be going out to Lago next week with President to do interviews. If you don't hear from me, don't worry, I haven't died.