Thursday, October 18, 2012

October, 16th, 2012

Oh hey family!

So I forgot my planner... So all recollection for this last week may be teetering upon the feeble power of my mortal memory. And it's looking grim... Also my brain is kind of... Space-y? So I may struggle to get out as detailed of a letter as I usually do.

We tried multiple times last week to get in contact with the family who has been going to church for a long time.. And, oddly enough, the three teenagers who have been going to church regularly have somewhat decided that they no longer want to be baptized... And the dad, who has been opposed to talking to the missionaries in the past, has warmed up a LOT to us. We volunteered to do service for him on Saturday and spent a while scraping paint off of the house to prepare it for painting. Fun fact - it was raining on and off the whole time. But we stuck it out, and he talked to us quite a bit afterwards about his views on God and his experience with religion. He sees the truth in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and more than anything he knows that it has the power to heal and bind his family from all the problems they have been having. It's been really a challenge because we just don't know what to do to help them. We've been praying for them a lot, and this Sunday they didn't even come out to church. I know that everything we teach them will help them, but it seems like Satan is deflecting any attempt we try and make. It's definitely frustrating because I want so badly for them to progress and find joy in coming unto Christ, but we have to take that first step ourselves. As I believe President Eyring put it last general conference, the hardest part of taking the journey towards Christ is taking the first step into the dark, trusting that the Lord will place solid ground under our feet when we do.

Tim is doing awesome. Mostly. He wasn't able to make it to church because his now 8-months pregnant fiancee had to go to the hospital unexpectedly. But we've since taught him the Plan of Salvation and he soaked it all in. Which is pretty astounding considering how amazingly complex and intricate the Plan of Salvation is... But he's had many experiences that have lead him to search for the answers that are found in our Heavenly Father's plan. The most exciting part of the lesson for him was knowing that after he is baptized he can prepare to go to the temple and be baptized for his recently deceased father, who committed suicide in January. We're going to be teaching him again on Thursday.

Heidi is still awesome! I think she's officially beyond the point where she even needs us to help her anymore. She's quit smoking, faithfully attending church, gone to general conference, enrolled in institute, preparing for the temple, and has a desire to receive her patriarchal blessing. Check, check, check, check! :) We also went to church with her on Sunday and she got up and bore her testimony! It reminded me of something one of our MTC teachers told us... That some of the choicest moments from his mission were when people he taught bore testimony of what they had learned. It's so amazing - I know that it wasn't me that changed her life. I'm not the one that's been blessing her for every step she's taken towards re-activation...

I literally can't think very well right now... I think I took my medication at the wrong time. My brain is SHOT. Oh - I just remembered that on Sunday I ran into a guy who's going to be home teaching another family we're working with.. And he asked if I knew the Carr's in Sioux City. He said he's Amy Carr's brother.. And then I told him I didn't know them. :) Haha kidding! But it was another small world moment. Tally 'em up!

Mom - Did you get those pictures up yet? Or are you being a technotard? :) And I had thought you had ordered a plaque already? I had thought about things for Christmas.. And the only things that came to mind were some v-neck long sleeve sweaters to wear over my shirts, ketchup chips, and a new watch. Because my $10 Kohl's watch is completely worn out. I was actually thinking it would be really sweet if you could get one of those watch bands that just turns my ipod nano into a watch  That would be awesome if you could find one of those in orange. :) That's about all I had in mind, so surprise me as you will. The watchband is probably top of the wish list, so it depends how much you love me! Tell Ryan to send me a letter! Or, if not, to e-mail me! And have him let me know what he thinks of that piano arrangement.. I love that song. What new car should you get? How about... A Kia Soul? :) Haha that's just seems to be the trendy car around here. I don't know how big of a car you want, or how many seats you want.. I'm not really suggesting that that's the car to buy. It's kind of an inside joke.. Oh - and if you saw the $100 charge on my debit card, it's because I bought a winter jacket and it's actually really awesome. I bought it with a 40% missionary discount, so you're welcome. It's not a super heavy overcoat - but it's more of a medium jacket and it should work perfectly for me.

Dad - Stake Young Men's President! That means you have to hang out with all the snot nosed kids for once! :) That's actually way exciting. Who are your counselors? That's also way cool that Sister Carr is Stake Young Women's President. Her brother that I ran into on Sunday told me that Malena is planning on only this semester for BYU and then leaving on a mission in January. That's so sweet - I'm still so pumped about the announcement.. I wonder how long before we get an influx of newbie missionaries? There are exactly zero HuHot's around here! I actually reminisced with an RM that served in Omaha who said the thing he misses most about serving in Sioux City is eating at HuHot after district meetings. We'll definitely have to go there in November 2013! I'm still praying for and hoping for Ryan. I don't know what else to do either. Please let me know if you need me to do anything. Any sweet pumpkin plans this year?

Anyhow. Put pictures up - and keep up the faith! Sorry my letter sucks this week! I love you guys!

- Elder Tyler Grant

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9th, 2012

Oh! So Heidi put some pictures up..? Haha. Mom! You should put up SOME pictures onto facebook! I mean I've sent you hundreds - you don't have to hog them all to yourself! Have Ryan help you... You don't have to put all of them up! Just select/awesome pictures that let everyone know that I'm still alive and loving every second. :)

So before we get to Saturday, we had a miracle day on Thursday! We had 6 lessons set up that day and were honestly just praying for all the help and guidance we could get. At 9 AM we taught a lady (yes, we start early..) named Christina who had met with the past missionaries. She had been going to church for a while and then, just like what happened to Mom, her life suddenly became EXTREMELY loaded and unable to fit us in. So she kind of slipped through the cracks... But we taught her that morning and had a short lesson with her about prayer and baptism. We didn't even have to ask her - she straight up told us "I know that I want to get baptized." We committed her to pray about a date and she accepted! It was pretty cool because normally, since I'm training, we don't get to leave the apartment till 11:00 AM because of the extra study time for new missionaries. But we made an exception and picked up a baptismal commitment even before our zone meeting we had that day!
Later on, after all the meetings were through, we had a lesson with a 25 year old guy named Tim. Tim's uncle called us about a week ago and said he might want to talk to the missionaries. We visited and set up a lesson the very next day. As we taught him, he shared a lot of experiences that he had had over the course of his life to lead him to the beliefs in God and religion that he now has. He was in a horrible car wreck 6 months ago and shouldn't have survived - but as he was at the hospital 4 Elders from the church came and administered a blessing to him. And he's now completely healed. He also told us that in January he walked upstairs to find his father had committed suicide, and he was the one to discover him. Everything that he's been feeling has led him to seek the peace and redeeming power of the Atonement. We taught him the first lesson and the Spirit was so strong. His younger brother was there too, and his brother was baptized about a year ago. He bore an extremely powerful testimony of how baptism and living the Gospel have helped him turn his life completely around and start over in God's eyes. The coolest part of the lesson was when I was committing Tim to baptism - because while I was giving him the commitment he didn't even let me finish. In fact, before I finished the "Preach My Gospel"-style commit (Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?) he said "yes" four times. He's now preparing for baptism in November.

That same day, right after Tim's appointment, we had a dinner with a family in Smithfield who was housing a German exchange student named Chiara. And while she's not allowed to be baptized while she's here, she had been going to church and had some questions that she wanted answered. So we began teaching her the Restoration as simply as we could - her English was pretty good, but the language barrier was still there! As we got to the point where Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, she began to open up and tell us about her upbringing as a Catholic and how she believed in the Trinity and how it made so much more sense that they were all one being. Except for when she prays. And reads the scriptures. And other things... So I still don't get how the Trinity makes sense. But! We began to share scriptures with her and she was starting to understand, when the host family's dad just interrupted and started teaching some extremely complicated doctrine. In fact, he taught like three quarters of the Plan of Salvation without explaining ANYTHING at all, trying to show that Jehovah was Jesus Christ and all these different things... Members in lessons can be wonderful. But they can also drag the lesson in ways that you don't want them to go haha. Luckily, since he was elaborating so little and covering so much, she didn't understand anything and turned her attention back to us. It was all in all a pretty sweet experience - and we saw her in Salt Lake on Saturday because the ward took her young women's group down to General Conference.

Which brings us to the good part! We woke up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, met up with Heidi and her older brother, and drove down to Salt Lake. It was AMAZING! Temple square is so much cooler than I expected it to be, and the Salt Lake Temple is so big! We were watching conference in the Joseph Smith Memorial building for the Saturday Morning session, and when they made the announcement changing missionary age my jaw about dropped to the floor. My first thought was for Ryan. He could literally start his papers right now, set his availability date for after graduation, and leave immediately! That's so crazy! I couldn't believe it... So many people raced through my head both from home and people I've met on my mission. Especially the change from 21 to 19 for sister missionaries! That's a HUGE change! I guess it just means that I can't just assume that sister missionaries are old and gross anymore.. :) Kidding! But the entire first session of general conference was just amazing. We had tickets to go see the Saturday afternoon session, and the size of the conference center just amazed me. The coolest part is the fact that I've watched conference for my entire life and I was just finally there. It was an amazing experience. The protesters there are so overhyped! There was like, 6 protesters there and they were just standing there holding signs. Some of them were yelling at people but only when they took the time to pay attention to them. And who would? It was definitely not enough to detract from the overall Spirit of being in the presence of the prophet and all the amazing speakers there. Sadly, we had to miss the priesthood session so I haven't gotten to see it yet... Blast! But I'll see it soon.

Mom - It was pretty tough to actually be in the conference center for the sole reason that you just want to watch the big TV there instead of just look at the speaker. And Heidi's ward is supporting her in every way. Actually the stake president just got her enrolled in a weekly institute class. Des Moines has an airport? And dad backed into the 'blazer? It's not time to get a new car is it? I don't know what I want for Christmas. I'm interested in things. But nothing specific. I haven't bought any new ties since February and I'm okay with that. Best of luck with Ryan. Tell him to write me back. And I'll keep praying. And tell Matt to write me a letter!

Dad - That letter you sent me was formatted so strange.. You're getting a calling in Stake Conference? Are you going to be in the Stake Presidency? :) I think it would be so sweet to be able to travel as a high councilman. Who knows what lies ahead? Would you have left on your mission at 18? I probably wouldn't have been ready to. I'm glad I was able to leave at 19 - but I can see that year between high school and leaving being advantageous to close the gap. Less time for temptation. Is Jacob Olson going to be leaving soon then? You should get in contact with your mission buddies! They've gotta be out there somewhere! I honestly know already that I've made some lifetime friends. Send me videos of when you decide to ultimately detonate those poor pumpkins. And hopefully Ryan will make it to the doctor.

I love you all! Sorry I forgot my camera cord! I'll send some home soon. Put pictures up on facebook for the world to marvel! :)


- Elder Tyler Grant

October 2nd, 2012

Hey hi surprise!

This past week... Has been crazy! As much as I stressed and worried about getting a new missionary, my brain still hasn't completely adjusted to it yet.. But hey! My 'son' slash trainee is named Elder Bengtson and he's from Las Vegas, Nevada. And they gave me the quietest, shyest missionary they had! Hahaha.. What were they thinking? :) Only joking! I breathed a sigh of relief  when I learned that he's actually not brand new! Well he is... But he actually served a 2 month trial mission in Las Vegas before he went to the MTC. He's still brand new to the mission field around here, and I think the biggest adjustment for him has been just trying to open up to people as himself. We're having a LOT of teaching opportunities open up around here and we have a lesson with 4 nonmembers set up tonight. So he'll adjust. It's just a scary thought to know that I'm the one who he's going to remember as hi trainer. Everyone has to love their trainer! I absolutely loved my trainer and a lot of the habits and beliefs that I have about success in the mission field have stemmed back to the experiences I had in my first transfer with Elder Scoggin.

Well, for starters we had a zone conference all day yesterday. President Hiers is so awesome. I've been told by some people that the people in Salt Lake have named him as one of the top 10 mission presidents in the entire church right now. His vision for the mission is so clear and makes so much sense. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved President Olson. But I feel like President Hiers is what the Ogden Mission needs right now. Instead of laying the hammer down and trying to place a lot of rules that will 'fix' behavior, he's come in and tried to shift the focus of why we are here as missionaries and our purpose. Serving a mission shouldn't be there to restrict and to enforce, but to promote growth and alignment with Heavenly Father's will. A lot of what I've heard about the new Salt Lake mission is that they're buckling down on rules incredibly hard and the missionaries are really struggling. But President Hiers has come in and asked us to take a step back and discover for ourselves what things need to be adjusted in the mission in order to best represent Jesus Christ in our calling. I'm probably not explaining this very well. But I know that the changes that we're going to be making in terms of boosting obedience and streamlining our purpose are going to bring miracles.

And we just had two miracles last night! We had a lesson set up with the family that I had told you about who has been going to church regularly for a long time. We visited them and the daughter asked us to come back in a little bit because they were having dinner. However, when we returned she came to the door again and said "We're not ready right now. We don't want to be baptized anymore." I asked her why she had been going to church every week and she said it was because she loved the feeling there. But when I tried to expound on it, she said "Sorry" and closed the door. Defeated, we started walking back to our car... And we saw a man walking from the backyard beckoning to us. We didn't know who he was at first, but we soon learned that he was the father of the family, and he is NOT a member of the church. He came up to us and said, "Please. Don't give up on them. They need you right now more than they ever have. I've been praying for my family every night that they will realize that they need to be baptized and invite God into their lives." With tears in his eyes, he then bore his testimony of the church who he's not even a member of. The Spirit was so strong - he said that he knows that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what his family needs to overcome their struggles. We set up another lesson with them for Thursday. I was so humbled by this man's faith. He has been going to church for a long time now and has a testimony that it's true and his family needs it. I was almost brought to tears myself.

Immediately after this experience, we went to another family who we had met last week. It was a single mom and three teenage kids who have been going to activities on and off for young men's and young women's.. When we visited last week, the mom was SUPER hesitant about letting us in. We were only able to set up this lesson because we agreed to just teach more about Jesus Christ and not try and push them to be baptized. She told us she would completely support them if they decided to be baptized, but they 'weren't ready' and wouldn't be for a while. Last night we had a mini lesson with them, and the kids just LOVED it. They knew the answers to almost every question, and it was actually a lot of fun. I felt like it was one of those moments where I knew I was called to the Ogden Mission for my personality and not just throwing a random dart at a board. After the lesson the kids were like "So.. Are you guys going to be our missionaries for the rest of the time we live here? Because you guys are awesome!" They committed to pray every morning and night and even to come to church! I think we gained a LOT of trust with their mom - she was scowling at the beginning of the lesson and seemed uncomfortable that we were there, but by the end she was laughing and answering questions, and we ALMOST got her to say the closing prayer! Next time! :)

Mom - After "Ctrl + F"ing your last letter, I have concluded that you asked 14 questions. Gah! Okay.. Down the line... 1) I saw Joseph outside the Wal-Mart in Logan! 2) I recognized him.. He didn't realize who I was until I told him. He said it was the long hair... 3) I guess I was happy to see someone from almost home! It was pretty weird nonetheless. 4) Yeah I figured I would be staying in Richmond. 5) USU would be an awesome area because its like, all RMs who invite their nonmember roommates to tak the lessons anyway. Especially at this point because it's the beginning of the semester! You just walk around and talk to people all day. 6) We still get fed 6 nights a week in members homes. 7) Each ward out of 28 gets a night. So it's approximately one ward per month. 8) We ARE the only missionaries for those 28 wards. 9) We may be going down to Salt Lake for the Saturday afternoon session, but other than that we don't know where we're watching conference. We got invited to go watch with an RM and his nonmember friend, so we might go there. 10) Star Valley feels like it was literally a week ago. It's so crazy! 11) I'd like to see the Salt Lake temple for sure, and Brigham would be sweet too. And Bountiful. 12) I've been studying in 2 Nephi lately and I'm about to hit the Isaiah chapters... Gah! 13) I haven't been running a lot since the MTC! But I still workout (sometimes!) in the morning. I'm not getting fat yet!

Dad - Haha.. I have had my noob for a week! And the fact that I don't have to speak Japanese makes it a bit easier. Are you still in contact with your trainer? Or the missionary that you trained? Actually... Are you in contact with any of your mission companions? If you needed to talk to Pres. Moriyama I can get you his address :) Haha. The non member family is still iffy.. Not sure if they're worth working with right now. But we're still praying for them. You guys still seem to be having a lot of baptisms in Storm Lake! When I come back I'm not going to know anybody! I'm glad the little branch is having so much success. I kind of have to go.. But I'll get back to you with more questions next week! :)

I love you all! If you feel like rebuking anyone who hasn't written me in a while, feel free.. But don't tell them I sent you! :)


- Elder Tyler Grant

September 25th, 2012

Oh hey transfer day! How are you doing?

So! The good news is that I'm staying in Richmond! Elder Cox is being transferred to the USU campus to serve there... I'm so pumped for him - that's an amazingly fun area and so much missionary work gets done there. But! In scary news, I got the transfer call last night... And by that I mean the assistants called me about leadership. I'm going to be training! Ahh! Tomorrow I'm getting a brand new fresh-out-of-the-MTC companion. Isn't that a scary thought! I'm pretty scared and definitely nervous. Everything that he thinks about missionary work initially is going to be based upon my attitude and my abilities. But I'm also extremely excited - this is going to definitely be a circumstance where the Lord doesn't call who is qualified, but he qualifies who he calls. I can't even imagine how different this is going to be. It's going to stretch me in ways that I am definitely grateful for, and I think I'm going to be praying a whole lot more. So if you could pray for me as well that would be awesome. :)

On Sunday was the dedication of the Brigham City Temple... And it was awesome. They broadcasted it to all the local stake centers in the area and essentially turned all of them into 'extensions' of the temple. That is, to see the dedication broadcast you had to have a recommend. They also did 3 broadcasts so everyone could have a chance to attend.. It was one of the neatest experiences I've ever had. For one, the apostles are a lot more laid back when they're not in conference. Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson were all there and they were just addressing each other by their first names. It was just pretty funny to hear Elder Packer talking and then turn to his left and say "Isn't that right, Russ?" Hahaha. The dedicatory prayer was amazing too. The Spirit in the room just exploded as the temple turned from just a pretty building into a sanctified, dedicated house of God. That whole "Hosanna Shout" thing was kind of strange... But it was just awesome because Elder Packer grew up like 2 blocks from where the temple was built. He was just so touched and excited that there was a temple in his hometown - he said that when it was announced to him that there was a temple that it was his 85th birthday.. And he prayed to Heavenly Father that if it be His will he would be able to live to see the dedication. I love Elder Packer - I hope he sticks around for as long as he can.

Working with less-actives can be extremely frustrating, but I got a letter on Friday that made it all worth it. Heidi has officially quit smoking and is working with the bishop towards the temple. She wrote me a note that almost made me cry. She basically thanked me for all that I had done and said that I was the reason she was where she was today. She bore her testimony to me and said she couldn't wait to go to the temple and hoped that I could come with her. I know that she is one of the reasons that I was supposed to come to the Ogden mission. She told me she had been approached by 2 or 3 other sets of missionaries and after talking with them she fell deeper and farther away from the church.. But when we showed up it was exactly what she needed to get up and get going. I may send you the letter so that you can keep it somewhere... I love being a missionary so much. Even if the area has been kind of slow and I may feel like I'm not accomplishing all that I could, Heavenly Father blesses us with those tender mercies that lift us up and help us to carry on. In the past week we've gotten 2 member referrals; one for a whole non-member family who wants to take the lessons and one for a German exchange student who bought a German Book of Mormon on her own and has been reading it. I know that if we, on our own, can't find the people to teach, that they WILL find us. But only if we are doing what we are supposed to do.

Which reminds me - last Wednesday we had an awesome training in district meeting that talked about a lot of the new overarching principles behind the mission change. Many of us realized that we had been looking at it wrong. We are NOT here to be full time home teachers. But the people who have fallen away from the church NEED those saving ordinances to experience the joy and fullness of Christ's Atonement. Baptism is the only way that we can unlock the Atonement. And while I've never been crazy about the idea of baptizing 9-year-olds, baptism IS the gate that they must enter to return to Heavenly Father. It is a saving ordinance and there is no shortcuts. If the window is there, we have to seize it. Anyone can benefit from the gift of the Holy Ghost. Christ suffered for our pains, afflictions, sins, guilts, all so that we CAN utilize the Atonement and be forgiven. And we cannot fully access the Atonement without the ordinance of baptism. Christ showed us the way. I'm excited for this next transfer and for what Heavenly Father has in store for me and who he wants me to become.

Mom - Yes, they deliberately tricked us into going to the concert.. Because after the fact they asked us what they thought and wanted to discuss our feelings on what was said. So we have a lesson with them tonight.. Cool. I'm glad you got the e-mail from Sister Allen! She's a member family that we had dinner with last night, and when she asked us what our mom's thought about us serving in Utah, I told her that people liked to take pictures of us and send them to our moms. And she jumped ALL over that idea... Hahaha. I've studied my patriarchal blessing several times since I've come out and keep finding different things that I now recognize have been promised blessings all along that I was unaware of. It's so awesome. While I would love to write to Evan this week, I MAY not have time to.. So if he doesn't get one then tell him I promise I will next week. I'll try my best though. I saw "17 Miracles" on Thanksgiving last year in the MTC haha. It's a pretty awesome movie! Kim never sent me my white pants!

Dad - I don't notice it while I'm typing, but as I go back and re-read some of the things I have read, even I am amazed at how my mind seems to seamlessly interweave all of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences into one complete letter. Because honestly all I do is type and the words just kind of come to me. Luckily I don't have to think about typing too much. :) I usually spend about 45 minutes writing my letter to you guys... Cross referencing events from my planner and my memory as well as the questions you ask. I can't believe you had 122 people at church! Gonna have to start opening the overflow if you're not careful! That's so awesome.. I wonder how big it will be 2 Novembers from now? Thanks for your advice on the dead areas. It seems like that keeps happening to me, and I guess Heavenly Father is just trying to mold me into the instrument that HE wants me to be to touch the lives of those in the areas I serve in. Oh - the guy from the anti-concert told us that he was a zone leader most of his mission and that he served faithfully even after he realized he had been "saved." Which makes the story kind of unbelievable. Also - how can you disregard the priesthood? That is the part that I don't get. I'm going to send Ryan another song as SOON as he writes me something back! And I promise it will be more difficult this time! :) I've got a really sweet one in mind if he acquiesces to my request!

I love you guys! I'll continue to take lots of pictures of my mission adventures, including my new "greenie..." :) Training is scary, but I know that it's happening right now because Heavenly Father feels that I am ready. And I pray that I will be!


- Elder Tyler Grant

September 18th, 2012

This week has been MUCH better. Not entirely because of success.. But I've felt a much lighter burden on my countenance. If you're praying for me, keep it up, and thank you :).

Last week I was feeling very discouraged. Especially with Heidi... She was trying her absolute hardest to do what Heavenly Father asked her to do, and couldn't take what was thrown back at her. She had a panic attack and was completely overwhelmed... When we visited her last week she was extremely discouraged as well. However, one thing that she has going for her is she is gaining an amazing testimony of prayer. When we first met her, she had been praying for help and that was the day that we showed up. In response to her panic attack, she needed to get on some  medication and her prescription was looking to take a month to finalize the change... But after she prayed for help, she received the new prescription 2 days later. She was even praying for her little brother who was living with a member of her family that refused to allow him to go to church. And just 3 days ago, he moved in with Heidi just so that he could go to church. She has even been praying that her mother, who has been against the church for a long time, would have a change of heart.. And 2 days ago her mom called her and said that she had just gone out and bought some new scriptures and was going to go back to church. It's truly been a miracle. Everything that she has been searching and asking for is happening... Heavenly Father is so willing to help us as we try and do what he has asked us to do. She quit smoking last Thursday, and when we talked to her on Sunday she told us that she felt like she hadn't ever been a smoker and that the desire was nearly gone. She's truly an amazing person; I feel so blessed to be able to witness and be a part of her return back into the fold of Christ.

On a slightly funnier note, we went to church with Heidi on Sunday and there was a missionary giving his 'homecoming' talk, who had just gotten off his mission in Honduras only 4 days before. He kind of looked like a .. umm .. let's just say a goober! But I wasn't too quick to judge - and I was excited to hear the joy in his returning to home and tell of all the amazing experiences he had as a missionary. So when it was his turn to speak... He got up, set his scriptures on the pulpit, and then just sat there for a good 20 seconds in silence. Then cleared his throat... And sang "I Lived in Heaven" in the most squirrelly voice I've ever heard. All four verses. He then gave his talk about how his talk was on receiving a full change of heart from a mission.. But he took it literally. That Jesus Christ is a "master surgeon" and is extremely good at transplanting our hardened heart for a new one. And how when we try and do it ourselves, we end up just putting staples, stitches, and gravel in our heart. It was extremely awkward but rather amusing... Everyone around us was looking at each other nervously and uncomfortably. He sang two other primary songs at the top of his lungs before the talk was over... Gah. At least I know what I'm NOT going to do...

Later that day, we were out in Clarkston (population approximately 700) for dinner and then went to the cemetery.. Only to discover that in this middle-of-nowhere town in Utah is the grave site of Martin Harris! Yes, THE Martin Harris! There's a huge monument and historical site there, as well as an amphitheater where they put on the biannual "Martin Harris Pageant..." How awesome is that? I got pictures! But I left my camera in my backpack and we went to the temple this morning and I didn't bring it. Next week!

Oh. I almost forgot to write about the single most interesting experience I've had since I've been in Richmond... Here goes!

So we've been trying to teach this family in Smithfield who is entirely nonmembers - they're wonderful people... They're non-denominational Christian, but they're extremely welcoming and VERY knowledgeable with their Bible. And we've been trying to set up a lesson with them, but they've been extraordinarily busy lately. Well on Thursday we got a random text message saying: "Hey missionaries! There is a concert being put on tonight by some return Mormon Missionaries and we'd like to invite you! They're AWESOME!" We asked our district leader and got the OK to go - we were actually pretty stoked because it seemed like it would be a great venue to try and teach them or answer some of their questions. They invited us to dinner and then took us down to Logan to this concert, and we walked in a tad bit late... As we walked in, the leader of the band was at the front on the microphone, but he wasn't singing... He was bearing his testimony. About a Baptist Preacher that he met on his mission in Florida who convinced him that he was saved by grace and everything in the church wasn't true. He was bearing his testimony of why he left the LDS church and returned home from his mission early to share the 'good news' with his family, who he converted ALL to his new revelation. As the show went on, every single one of the band members had the same story. They had gone on a mission, and returned home because the church WASN'T true... And they went on to convert their entire family. Some of their parents had been bishops, high councilors.. It all sounded ridiculous. We got completely tricked into going to an anti-Mormon concert. They kept saying "Take what you have learned tonight and share it with your LDS friends so that they too can know the truth!" Afterwards people swarmed us and were asking us questions and trying to Bible bash.. Luckily, the biggest indicator to me was the simple fact that the Spirit was not there. Everything they shared with the audience was twisted circular logic and scriptures out of context - and the Spirit was NOT testifying of truth. I felt so uncomfortable - but I guess it was a lot like my experience at the Jehovah's Witness church. The Holy Ghost will tell you if something is true. He will also tell you if it isn't. I even studied my scriptures after the fact and found ZERO references saying that we are "saved by grace" and saying that all we have to do is "accept Christ" into our lives. If anything said something remotely similar, the verse before or after would mention "after our works" or describe repentance and faith. I'm so grateful for the scriptures and for the power that they do have in telling us what we need to do to return to heaven. They truly are the words of the prophets - and prophets aren't there to deceive us. These guys were trying to deceive 100% and CONVINCE us that they were right. The Holy Ghost doesn't convince. It testifies.

I also had another really cool experience.. We were driving to an appointment and were going to be rather early. As we were driving down the highway I got an extremely strong prompting to go and knock on the doors on a nearby street. I figured it was just in my head, but the feeling didn't go away. Before I knew it I had hit the turn signal and we had turned off the highway onto this abandoned looking street. My companion was pretty confused to say the least.. But I just knew we had to be there. We parked our car at the end and then started knocking doors. The first home was an elderly couple who was extremely active, and they said that no one on the street were non-members or needed us. Undaunted, we visited the neighbors next door who we had JUST seen pull into the driveway. We talked to them only to discover they were members too - but they gave us 2 less-active referrals and a former investigator who lived just down the block who wanted to meet with us. We visited all 3 referrals and none of them were home... But at least now I feel I know why we were there. We also talked to a SUPER less-active guy who was very stand-offish.. But I noticed he had an Iowa Hawkeyes decal on his car. When I commented on it, I learned that he was from Davenport and had even gone fishing in Storm Lake once or twice. Sometimes people won't talk to you as a missionary, but as a person they open right up. It was super sweet. I've never had a prompting that strong before... I was just glad I chose to act and I'm grateful that Heavenly Father was guiding us to where we needed to be.

In other sweet news, I spent 8 and a half hours on Friday digging holes, planting trees, weeding, and mulching. I got some amazing blisters.

Mom - Hot chocolate? Really? It's not even that cold here yet. It hasn't started frosting or anything, but it's getting close. I can feel it. I also know that home teaching IS important, even if they don't seem receptive at the time. If you plant any sort of seed, you have done your job. You never know what may trigger that seed to sprout and rekindle a long lost testimony. That's crazy how much happened before your baptism.. At least you didn't end up like Wendy  in Star Valley - the lady who committed for baptism and then died... I'm still blown away by that. I sent Ryan a letter yesterday so hopefully he gets it soon. He needs to write back! I'm still praying for him every day and night.

Dad - Thank you for that scripture. I never do get tired of you guys saying you are proud of me - especially because I finally feel as if I'm earning it. I want to have my Heavenly Father proud of me as well. The discouragement has blown over for now. I have no doubt it will return, but luckily we have the tools to combat adversity in any form. Spiritual warfare is real - and if we put on the full  armor of God like it talks about in Ephesians, we can be prepared. As I've come to understand that, I feel particularly drawn to the scripture where it describes "feed shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace." Preparation. Scripture study. Prayer. Fasting. All of those are what protect our feet and keep us marching forward. Armed with the sword of the Spirit, we can and will be ready for whatever "fiery darts" Satan will deploy next. I'm very pumped for general conference - I hope Ryan is too. I'm going to write Evan a letter immediately after this!

We're going to the trampoline park again right after this. So that's way sweet - I'll try and get some pictures/videos to show you what it's like. I love you guys! Thank you for your support, prayers, and faith in me. I couldn't do it without you!


- Elder Tyler Grant :)

September 11th, 2012

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Oh man. I just had another one of those moments where I get here and I blank out completely. Uhh... Okay!

So when the mission split in July, there was a huge push to teach less active members of the church. Which, I admit, I was kind of irritated. Every time people gave us referrals, they were for their neighbor or person from their home teaching list that people wouldn't exert the effort or muster up the courage to go talk to them on their own. As a missionary, we are specifically set apart to teach those who are learning more about the Gospel, and outside of Utah, that applies almost entirely to non-members of the church. And while we have no problem with teaching less-active members and I had taught many in the past, we had been given strict counsel from our mission president that we were to focus and spend the greatest amount of our proselyting time working with those who are not members of the church. So when this change was announced, I was hesitant to be thrilled about the idea. I was irritated because all of the people that they were telling us to visit didn't want the missionaries there and they weren't ready for them. Fun fact: if a family won't let the home teachers come by, there is about a 0.01% chance that they'll be completely stoked when the missionaries show up at their door. More often than not, they're extremely stand-offish and a lot more rude than people who aren't members. I saw all these names that they were giving us and I was mad because if people had been doing their home teaching and making that little visit once a month, these people would not have been forgotten for so long and had so much time for Satan to work on their hearts.

So when the change was made that we were to be focusing more on less-actives, the opposite effect happened. People started focusing COMPLETELY on trying to send the missionaries to do their home teaching visits for them and weren't looking out for any opportunities to share the Gospel with non-members. As a result, the number of baptisms in the mission has dropped immensely and people are even LESS likely giving us referrals that aren't their stand-offish neighbor across the street who, while they could use the Gospel, is not ready for the missionaries. I've been praying for months for help and strength to not be discouraged or frustrated with it. It just seemed like everything had been going well and everything got flipped upside down and we're running up a steeper incline than we ever have before. It wasn't that I wasn't willing to go and visit the people who are already members - because I knew that everyone needs the message of the Gospel and everyone CAN be and WILL benefit most in their lives when they are living the principles that Jesus Christ exemplified. It was that people were sending us to everyone who was completely not ready to receive us and no matter what approach we took, we faced opposition and hostility; the "Who sent you?" mentality... I know that people are ready. I know that Heavenly Father is preparing people to receive us. I'm just running out of steam trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on "Let's see how many people will turn us away today!" It's tough because a lot of the people ARE members of the church. They're on our team. But when we walk to their porch to share this message that they at one point knew to be true, it feels like we're walking in enemy territory. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be negative. These feelings have just been weighing down on me for a while. I know that I'm not supposed to be discouraged. It just almost feels like back when I was in Tremonton when it felt like a lot of the leaders were working against us. Which I know they're not and I know that they're earnestly trying to do what's best.. Just do me a favor. Do your home teaching, please. The people out there need you. They may not be receptive at first, but they need you there. They need your warm spirits. They need your friendship. They need the Gospel and they need it from their friends - not from us. I love teaching less-actives - but they're not ready until they're ready.

I have a testimony that when people want to come back, they will come back. It doesn't take much to spark the Spirit back into their lives and rekindle the flame of their own testimonies. We've been teaching a young lady even more this last week and working with her to quit smoking, which she really really wants to do. She set a day to do it, and was super excited and willing to quit. She was doing awesome for the first two days... And then Satan threw EVERYTHING at her all at once. I hate that so much... When we are trying our absolute hardest to do what's right, Satan is fighting back just as hard to try and tear us back down to his level. He has no power over us if we don't let him, but he will do everything he can to make us think otherwise. He did everything in his power to tear her down when all she was trying to do was what she knew was right. And she became extremely discouraged. A scripture came to my mind when we were talking to her last night as she had almost given up and felt like there was no hope. I don't know where the scripture came from - since I don't know my Old Testament very well.. And I always thought this scripture was somewhere else. But I shared with her Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Heavenly Father will not desert us. Satan will try and make us feel like we are abandoned and we have failed too many times to be forgiven. But that is absolutely not true. Jesus Christ's Atonement is infinite. There is no amount of suffering, disappointment, misery, or pain that he can't uplift and wash away. If we turn to him and do all we can to keep the commandments, he will bless us. He will forgive us. We are his children, whether we are members of the church or not, we are his sons and daughters. We can turn to him in prayer... And he will hear us.

Sorry if this letter seems a bit more somber than usual. :) I just thought I'd share some of my thoughts with you guys... Any counsel or advice you can give me will be awesome.

Mom - So wait. Ryan is a "part-time" student now? That's confusing. I was planning on writing him a letter this week for his birthday. That punk needs to write me back! Gah! Actually there's a lot of people who need to write me back.. Do I need to send the wrath of Michelle after them? I'm glad you got to explore the liberty jail area. I wish I could go there. Concerta would be nice - sending it through the mission office is fine. Any pictures you would like to send me would be appreciated - use good judgment. :)

Dad - I'm pretty glad I had that experience with fasting. It definitely put the Lord's will back into perspective and what role I truly play. I'm sure the 50,000 miles in the mission field is the longest stretch that car will ever have to go through. Did you bike your entire mission? I think i recall drivers licenses in Japan being insanely hard to obtain and way too easy to lose. I'm gonna send Ryan some piano music in the next few days... Hopefully that will help. :) I forgot all about Yankton even being a place. 5 hours? That's kind of an incredible drive. Let me know what you name the truck when you send me pictures! And Darrell the gerbil is possibly the best name I think I've ever heard. Hahaha! We finally listened to those talks you gave me like.. 6 months ago! The Cleon Skousen talk was very similar to a talk of his that I had read.. But it's so much better when it's delivered!

Anyways. I love you guys!

- Elder Tyler Grant :)