Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014 - Banner Finding & Chinese New Year

Hello family. One of these days I will start a letter and say "WOW this week we found 6 new people and taught 20 lessons and baptized a family!' But that is not this week.

A better summation of this week would be a rereading of last week’s intro. But, this week was special, because we had BANNER FINDING!

Banner finding is as thus; the church in Hong Kong (and maybe Asia in general) is doing a big focus on families because Chinese New Year is coming 'round, which is the China equivalent of Christmas in terms of family gatherings. They are doing an ad campaign, online stuff, and we all got these banners that have, in a big colorful font, 'family' 'father' 'mother' 'children' 'marriage', then a little quote. We had 3 days as a district to use it. So we set it up and stood next to them for a couple hours and passed out cards while the sister missionaries occasionally talked to people. It was pretty fun, actually. I don't know if it was super effective, but I felt like it taught me a lot about some important principles.

One, you have to be very energetic and personable when sharing the gospel. I got to where I actually felt like I could force people to accept cards from me by sheer enthusiasm and cheerfulness, which, though blatantly false, definitely helped me pass out a couple hundred cards over the course of a couple hours. I am not a very extroverted person, and I don't like being physically dramatic. But by really throwing yourself at people, some of them get scared and take a family card from you. Like deer in the headlights.

Two, there is much to be said about what you aim for. Our mission, and probably every mission, has priorities for who you find. 1. Families 2. YSA age people, preferably male because there are not enough priesthood holders, and 3. Anyone who is interested. Obviously we never ignore people if they aren't a high enough priority, but I learned when passing out cards what the effect of focusing on people is. The marriage poster has a matching marriage card, and all of us missionaries felt like it was super awkward to hand out, for obvious reasons. But, I decided I wanted to hand 'em out so I ended up handing out more awkward marriage cards than anyone else, a ton. It was because I looked at every couple or any parent with a child as the highest priority and essential to receive this card that I did it. We haven't had any time to go normal finding since then but I want to apply this principle to that; you get what you go after.

Other than that, quick update on who we're teaching:

A 14 year old kid who we're teaching, the sisters are teaching his mom, he's cool but super busy, can't meet very often, and he and his family just left for mainland China for Chinese New Year.

A 20 something guy who I have taught from the beginning who has made very little (though not no) progress in the last 3 1/2 months.

No one else.

But we have a guy who we met on the street who we can meet with after New Year, another guy in the same situation, a guy who speaks perfect English who we might meet this week, and another guy who just hasn't picked up his phone for a while. So I figure if I want the Lord's help finding I have to use these people first.

Very tough these days, but still worth it. Oh, I want to give a special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Carmack, who have sent me more letters than the rest of you all combined, and Morris Matthews, who is their only competition. Your letters inspire me and lift my heart. Thank you.


There are very few Costcos in Hong Kong because the people usually have tiny refrigerators. Someone in our apartment last night said that Elder Ah Mu was very huggable, and it reminded me that my little sister is the most huggable person ever. SO you're not entirely forgotten.


I am intrigued by your mention of 'video game'. What is this curious art form you have discovered? From the name I can divine only that it involves some sort of interactive entertainment, game, in connection with a video. Do you do actions along with a movie? Or does the movie in some way modify the conditions of a real time game, thus rendering a constantly changing set of rules? And what is the role of these 'programmers'? I assume they are important, as you mention 3 of them, but cannot fathom what they are.


I think Sister Hawks might be concerned about Acutane side effects. I also feel like it would be really inconvenient to have to do it on a mission, but if I must I shall. Right now I'm just on new pills, benzoyle peroxide wash, 2 creams, and a regular face wash. Nothing new, but this guy seemed pretty legitimate, so we'll see.

Yeah, I bought a few socks because it was becoming an emergency. Not too many because the store was a little pricey. If I need to I'll charge the visa credit card, but the mission reimbursed me $2600 HK, so I should be good with cash for a while.

I am really happy to hear you doing member missionary work! As a missionary now, I think that I realize that I would have been a pretty bad fellowshipper before, because the thing we're always scared of is fellowshippers going off on tangents. So don't do that. The best thing you can do is be available, bear sincere testimony, be a good friend to the person, and show them that all Mormons are not missionaries. But you served a mission, you already know it. Don't worry!

Well, I hope I will do something worth updating soon. Or this could be awkward. I am SYLing a lot more. We have a comp goal of Wed., Fri., & Sun. SYL that we stick to pretty well, and I personally have decided after nightly planning I won't speak English. Lot of vocab, lot of weird grammar, but at least I'm not learning English.


I got into the habit of expecting to be given candy and certificates when called down to the school office. You get used to it.

I am now dying of curiosity to find out what mersenne primes are. Why?

The best thing you can do for the IA (refers to an Internal Assessment, a term from the International Baccalaureate Program) in math is USE TECHNOLOGY. If you're like me it will feel like cheating, but I got a 4 out of 7 in the subject that came most naturally for me, so don't follow my example.

What's interesting is that Hong Kong is not really like a big city in most places. It's really just a tiny country. Central Hong Kong, and most of the island, is like New York. Where we are is kind of like suburbs but all the houses are tiny and stacked up 30 levels high. Have you guys google earthed where I am ever? Do it. Tai Wai, Ma On Shan.


Just tell people that read my blog that they can't read it, because he's MY BROTHER! That'll confuse them. Unless they're already reading my letters, then they'll be expecting it. Now it'll be really awkward when they mention it, because you'll both know that I spent a whole paragraph talking about it and neither of you will know what to say about it.

Good job on reading the Book of Mormon! Keep it up, though. One of the things I'm trying to learn is how to keep up goals. Set some specific time to do it. Have you shared anything cool or learned anything? Tell me.

I am really so proud of your dancing, Becca. You understand that hard work is enjoyable, and because you kept it up you are being rewarded. You are going to do well in life because you will bring that attitude to other things. I love you and miss you a lot. I think it's interesting, having my mission be first time I’m away from home. I miss you guys, but I can't really let myself think about it. It's not too bad, anyway. When I'm working I feel happy.

(Glen’s Letter to John this week)

Hi John,

Today I was imagining you street contacting. We were talking to Sister Bangerter about how some people (like her) are naturally very outgoing and like to talk to strangers, while others (like us) are not. It makes missionary work more awkward and painful. Sometimes on my mission I felt like some kind of freak when I was trying to contact people. They treat you like a freak and after a while you start to believe it yourself. As time went by, contacting became more natural, and as my motivation became more real people began to react more positively. But it’s pretty brutal at first. I’m imagining you in this situation and it’s activating some of my protective parental instincts. I hope you can find the courage to just keep at it. The truth is that someday when everything is clear they will thank you for your efforts, even if they just brush you off now. I guess part of losing yourself in the work is not being upset about the fact that people totally misunderstand you and your motives most of the time.

We were talking about you and missionary work in general in our Sunday School class. It’s the small Gospel Essentials class taught by Brother Cline. We were talking about how on the one hand you can’t allow yourself to be discouraged by lack of success, since it’s all in the Lord’s hands and you just have to keep doing your part, but on the other hand you can’t lose sight of the goal of missionary work, which is to find, teach, and baptize. Some missionaries set up alternate measures of success for themselves when they aren’t having success as missionaries. Like, how many hours did we tract. That’s not a bad one. Other things like how many Chinese characters do I know or how well do I cook are not so good. You know what I mean. I hope you can stay focused on the actual measure of missionary success, finding, teaching, and baptizing, and yet not judge yourself by presence or lack of visible success. It reminds me of the exercise of goal setting. I assume that every week you have “companionship inventory” or whatever it’s called nowadays, where you talk about any issues as a companionship and set goals for the next week. I remember many times thinking, the realistic prediction based on the last several weeks would be to say we’re not going to find anyone this week. But goals are not predictions. They are commitments. If you set a goal and find that at the end of the week you have not reached it, but you have worked harder because of the goal, it has succeeded. You’ve just got to stay positive and keep making the most of every opportunity, so that when the person crosses your path who is ready to receive the Gospel, you are there.

My words seem a little empty to myself because you’re the missionary here, not me. I’m not going out on Foothill Boulevard and street contacting. But I hope that some of the impressions from my own mission have some meaning for yours. I feel more focused on keeping the family afloat in terms of material things, trying to do my job well, not get fired, etc. I think of time spent on the choir as service in the Kingdom, but we clearly can do more with our friends and acquaintances to share the Gospel. Mom’s doing a really good job with the Young Women’s program at including non-members. She’s pretty missionary minded.

I love you and we are praying for your success. I hope you are happy. There’s nothing more meaningful you can do to solve the world’s problems than being on a mission. People like to imagine that there are big solutions to big problems, that the right government program could solve the problem of crime, or unemployment, or other societal problems. I think in reality the solution to all of these problems lies in the individual recognizing their own intrinsic worth as a child of God and taking responsibility to do the right thing and improve their own situation and the situation of people around them, on an individual level. That’s the only way big problems really get solved. You’re on the front line of this battle.

Sorry for the pontificating. Maybe they’ll make me pope!



Or maybe I should call you Holy Father or whatever the Pontificate's title is.

I actually really enjoy your letters. I always can use advice, because I don't know what I'm doing here.

The first couple of days contacting were super awkward. My first time finding I just wanted to talk to people walking the same direction as me because I didn't want them to think I was stopping them. It took me days to really be able to make myself stop people. Now it's pretty easy. Banner finding started out super awkward but I pretty quickly got to enjoying it a lot. I may not be a super good teacher or fun to talk to, but I can choose to be really enthusiastic, talk to everyone, and work harder.

I have been feeling recently like I haven't been using this time as well as I could. Not wasting it, but I've only got 600 odd days left, and I don't want to miss any chances. I think the thing to measure your success on is what kind of person you are, how you've changed, what you learned. Read a thing on Joseph Fielding Smith in Grandpa's letter, and he obviously learned a ton on his mission. Grandpa's last letter also showed that Grandpa learned a ton on his mission. I already feel like I am so much more able to talk to people. I may not have helped a ton of other people so far but I definitely am getting something out of it.

Some day you will mention that you can pontificate now because you did some missionary work again.

Thank you, family, for praying for me. I can feel it. Every time I get really down something cool happens. I think it's because of you guys.

Elder Morrell

P.S. Triads are very friendly, can't report how many I've baptized yet but let's just say I don't worry about getting mugged anymore.

P.P.S. Oh, if I sound wordy it's because I'm continuing my reading of Jesus the Christ. Talmage. What a crack up.
My acne ridden face.  Don't worry, I feel happier than I look.

View from Ma On Shan apartment.

Hilarious sign on bathroom.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23, 2014 - Repentance is Service

Hello family. You can cease your wailing lamentation, I have not yet died. We had our temple visit today, and I, like a fool, neglected to inform you. I am filled with shame.

Temple was, obviously, very nice. Today I was more grateful than usual for the temple, because most missions don't have them. It's pretty great to be able to go every couple months and sort of recharge. I realized that I could have done a lot more preparation to make it a really great temple trip, but that realization came this morning, so a bit too late.

This past week plus some has been about the same as the last couple. Not much. We have done a lot of walking the streets and not a ton of finding, but I don't feel too bad. I talked to President Hawks when we had interviews last week or so about how to deal better with the sort of finding exhaustion, and he had some great advice about taking breaks every couple hours, trying to talk with Elder Tong more, and cultivating an attitude of "well, this is the time in my mission that I get to talk about later as the really hard time that taught me a ton". I've mentioned it before, but I honestly do think that this is the time that I can become a really good finder, because we spend hours a day doing it.

Recently, in my studies, I've been learning about the key to salvation. Previously I always thought that salvation comes from not sinning. Lack of sin = eternal life. But if that is the case, why did the Savior spend the majority of his time teaching about how to treat others? Not commandments to keep, but how to be nice. And why does the bulk of Alma's teaching, or Jacob's teaching, or almost any prophet's teaching center on giving to the poor and being kind? I think the answer can be found in Mosiah 3, wherein King Benjamin teaches us to be childlike and 'yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit' in order to become saints. I have realized that since we are all imperfect, there's no way for us to be completely sinless. And we can't just keep repenting, asking forgiveness every time we mess up. Obviously we won’t ever be perfect, but repentance is giving up sin and changing. And Benjamin taught that it is the Holy Ghost that changes us. We can't do it on our own. And the way we get the Holy Ghost is by giving to the poor, serving, being kind, and doing the simple, obvious good things that allow the Holy Ghost to make us into saints. In other words, once we have taken the bad out of us, we need to fill the hole with good. If we don't, the bad will just fill back in. The only way to retain a remission of our sins and become Christlike is to follow His example and teachings and serve.

That is why I have been trying to get the girls to read together, and why I talked about missionary work last time. It is through those habits, acts, and service that we are protected from temptation and qualify for the Holy Ghost to be with us.

I also want to update a bit on day to day living. These days we do exercise in a park nearby in the morning. It's always freezing, so it makes me exercise with increased vigor. Our apartment is decently clean, but still a bit gross. Elder Tong has been fighting an ongoing war with that, largely on his own. But I am doing my part. I make sure the dishes are always all done by the time we go to bed. The other Elders don't care too much and the enemy can easily become entrenched in the sink. Today we bought bug spray and killed about 30 cockroaches under our sink. So that was fun.

I am a bit poor right now, so I'm cooking my own food a lot. I cook chicken a good deal, usually in curry because it's super common, easy, and it makes a ton of really good food. Also noodles. We have ramen noodles in the U.S. Here they have about 100 different varieties of ramen noodles. Not actually much better than Top Ramen, but at least you feel like you're choosing. Dumplings are pretty cheap, and extremely delicious. And then there's egg salad, tuna salad, tuna patties, etc. Oh, I started drinking a lot of soy milk because it's cheaper. My breakfast used to be pancakes but I got too lazy, so now I have cold oatmeal and VITASOY brand soy beverage. Sounds gross but soy milk is super sweet so it's actually great.


That bites. We all have situations we regret, but most students don't have a 36 on the ACT to make up for it. Your GPA should turn into about a 3.998, so don't worry too much.

I'm impressed with your youth leadership. (Joseph is on our Stake Youth Council and they were in charge of a meeting for all the youth last week.  We went to Temple Square and talked about what goals we can make to "Come Unto Christ" this year.)  I know it must torture you to take the place of those you always despised, but persevere. If you have read 1984, employ doublethink. And I can easily see your eloquence outweighing the other people's ward-youth-osity.

There is science behind it, if you're interested. It is called quantum entanglement. Two particles can become 'entangled' and essentially are the same, so if one changes the other changes. Unfortunately, I believe Einstein's relativity basically means that there is no 'now', no moment for them both to change simultaneously, until they could be reached by the speed of light. Kind of like one didn't change until the other could see it change. But I don't know the science, just a thought.


Your letter amuses me. I can see you being reluctant to cuddle up while partner dancing. I just wonder who the lucky 5th grader is. Wink wink. (The 5th graders have been learning how to dance in preparation for a Valentine's Dance.)

The treadmill sounds pretty cool, but not as cool as you two girls reading together. When you read, make sure you stop any time you have a thought and share. That will make you wise. Very wise. I know that that is a habit that will bless you, seriously. The one thing I've learned since coming on a mission is that it's only awkward if you make it. And that the little things count a lot.


Very good. I actually have to resist the urge to think about games or movies or books or Minecraft fairly often. Pretty tough.

There are some crazy trees in Hong Kong. They drop roots from all over the tree, trunk, branches, etc, and if the roots hit anything they just start growing. So some of the old ones are massive, twisted, and look like they're flowing over everything.


Let me set you at ease. I went to see Doctor Leung, who was a very smart, probably extremely rich, lavishly decorated, and importantly, an English speaking dermatologist. He didn't do anything unexpected, said he would try some new medications, switched things around, and then said Acutane is probably the best solution. Same old,same old. But his consultation fee was about $170 and the medicine wasn't cheap. But fear not, the mission reimbursed it all! So now I have $2600 in HK dollars! I will see him again in about a month, and at that time the mission will send in the report to Salt Lake, where it will go to insurance and you might need to pay a deductible, but don’t worry. I have the money.

Curry is the most dependable and good tasting thing to eat in Hong Kong. Any restaurant that serves curry probably does a decent job. We made curry recently, and it was pretty good. The way we do it is you just cut some potatoes and carrots thin, maybe an onion, and some chicken. Then you just put it all in a pot with water and curry sauce, boil it for a while, then eat it with rice. I like it because it's easy.

I don't have the camera cord right now, sorry.

I think 18 year olds being on missions can be good because there will be more and they're probably more humble (out of fear and confusion). It can be bad because they don't know how to live together and are generally less experienced. But my perception is skewed.


I am really happy to hear that your dancing is going better and better. You are a good example of extreme determination yielding results. And I'm extra happy to hear that you read. You may talk to me on Mother's Day.

I still don't know what a turning board is.

If you came to Hong Kong people would love you purely because of your hair, they like blond hair a lot here.

Thank you, Dad.

I do think you're right. I've been thinking recently about how we can have our nightly planning be more spiritual so as to qualify a bit more to be led. I have also been learning that spiritual promptings have a very short expiration date. You have to act immediately, or they leave.

I feel like I have had a lot of really good self motivation recently. I feel a strong desire to use this time, because it is running out much more quickly than I expected. But it's hard to keep up all day all the time. Still, I feel good. Your advice is really appreciated.

Sorry it's not longer but I do my best.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 13, 2014 - Little Things Add Up to Big Things

Hello family. Sorry, but this week I am really short on time, have about 12 minutes for you all. I apologize, next week will be better.

This week has been extremely hard at times but amazing in retrospect. Not because of new investigators. I always imagine you reading that and getting all excited, then being crushed as things go on as normal. Oh well.

We had some extremely hard days of finding. Very very discouraging, finding for hours at a time with no success and very few people willing to talk at all to us. That made me pretty sad, but I have really learned recently that perspective is so fickle that looking really far forward is never really a good idea (unless you feel happy). During finding I can be really sad, then later I realize it was just because we were finding and I was tired and hungry.

And we do have some contacts who MAY become new investigators, no promises. We were finally able to teach a guy who hasn't been taught for 10 weeks because of silly mistakes and people switching off who would teach him.

Church was cool; the missionaries were in charge of the program so I gave a talk. Honestly I think it could have been better but it was probably understandable, so that's good.

Had a chance to meet with President and Sister Hawks this week as well, as they did tri-annual interviews. Amazing. President Hawks is an extremely funny, but also very serious and smart guy. We talked a lot about goals.

I have been feeling recently like goal setting might be the most important skill I can learn on my mission. I looked back at my life so far and realized I could have gotten a lot more done if I just concentrated and set some more goals. So that is what I am practicing this week.

I also wanted to preach for a bit on something I have been gradually learning. I think we sometimes think that if we don't have sins, we are going to the Celestial Kingdom. I am starting to learn that that is not true. We have to do more than just NOT do bad stuff. Read the Savior’s teachings in 3rd Nephi. They're all about the extra stuff. That is what is meant by the higher law. As we try to not sin we naturally will do these things more, but the opposite is also true. As we go out of our way to serve others and become more Christlike, we will sin less, be more perfect. And the best way to serve others is through missionary work.

Man, I wish I had more time to talk about this but Elder Ah Mu got a book called "Power of Everyday Missionaries" by Clayton M. Christensen. In it he talks about ways that members can be more effective missionaries, and I thought it was awesome. He has a big section where he talks about the blessings of missionary work. I testify to the truth of them. Missionary work, and (as dad said) throwing yourself into service is how we are happy, how we are forgiven, and how we qualify for the Celestial Kingdom.

Please get it or find something on it. Buy it with my money as a late Christmas present. Read it. I know that this is the way that missionary work can be successful and the way that we can be happy.

Things are hard, but I feel like I'm starting to understand what it means to work with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. And we've read a ton of examples recently of people who's faith was tried. Try Enos, or Alma and Amulek in Alma Chapter 14. I hope that's what's going on right now. I know that this church is true and will bless us.

Wish I had more time.

Little bit of time.

Dad, I love your emails. They are really applicable. Honestly. I think that I'm starting to get what you said. I have a saying from you written several places in my notebooks, and all my companions keep hearing some of the principles that you taught me. So thank you. Keep sending the vicarious living. (Note: Glen told John that he’s reliving his mission vicariously through John)

The hardest thing is figuring out HOW to work hard, and working hard in the little things. Big ones are usually easy.


I got some actual vegetables today. In China they eat a lot of curry. I don't know why we don’t in America, it's delicious. So I will try to make it this week.

We bought a calling card for the Christmas call home.

Oh, Mary. Something needs to happen to her face so her looks are destroyed. (Note: I told John how the new season of Downton Abbey has begun and that Mary was very depressed and bitter about Matthew dying right after their son was born.)

Becca, your dance is looking pretty good. I actually wear glasses sometimes here because I'm lazy. But I hate them. Chinese people always fast earlier so it's torture every week. They give us food and we can't eat it.


I got 2 free suits so far, so there. And yes, IB is useless, but at least you get the best teachers. Mostly. Don’t slack off on math, I feel like I regret not putting more effort into it. Don't survive, thrive in math. Other subjects, okay. BUT math, my brother. Math is everything.


SORRY SORRY SORRY, but I've got to go. Love you both especially. Actually have a few seconds. David, nothing is important besides missionary work. So there. ABBY they have something called 1000 year old eggs here that are sold, packed in straw, don't need to be refrigerated because nothing can survive on them. I haven't eaten one yet but will soon. David, do well in school. I don't know.

Oh, have the girls read together. Set a goal. Do it. Please, for me. These little things are important. They add up to big things. And you'll be a lot happier looking back on life if you've got a lot of good habits like that.

Monday, January 6, 2014

January 6, 2014 - 'Stillness and motion; it only a relative matter'

Hello family.

This week continued to be pretty tough, not a ton of investigators, actually none now that I think of it. We have had some pretty bad luck for a while, people keep fonging us (to fong fei gei means to release airplane, or to stand someone up. Very often applicable, hence code switched a lot by missionaries.) not really anyone showed up at church, etc. Pretty depressing. But, our finding over the last couple days has gotten progressively better. We had several days where we literally didn't talk to anyone besides saying hello and getting shut down. Recently, we've had several people actually stop to talk to us, taught one lesson on the street, and HAD MY FIRST BIBLE BASH!!

It was a pretty interesting story. Yesterday, after church, we did a little finding, decided to go somewhere we hadn't planned on, and started talking to this old man. He started off with the classic Chinese 'seun jih gei' or I believe in myself, or basically non-religious hedonistic standard person. But, as we taught him, a few odd things occurred. First, he actually let us teach him. That should have set off warning flags. Second, he was very interested in understanding our exact beliefs on things like heaven, the god head, the gospel of Jesus Christ, why we need the atonement, if we knew that we were saved or not, etc. Last he kept saying we could use English to explain some weird points if we needed to. No old Chinese people who ‘suen jih gei’ (I believe in myself) know English. Little odd, but I was too excited to actually have someone to teach to notice. Then, after we finished a rather comprehensive discussion of things, he said something about 'the word became flesh'. He quoted the Bible, in English. I, with a voice thick with suspicion, said, “haih mh haih yeuk hon fuk yam?” Isn't that the gospel of John? To which he responded yes, do you know which chapter? One, verse one, “haih mh haih?” Yes, that's correct, “The word was with God, the word was God, the word became flesh.”

Thus began our true discussion with the man who turned out to have perfect English, and very likely a theological degree. He was a classic saved by grace and faith in the Lord Jesus, pulled out the Bible on his phone, very very friendly but quite convinced of his beliefs. We argued for about 30 minutes, and then ran off because we were really late for numbers reports. It was a very interesting experience. He had pretended to be a classic Chinese guy to see how we preached, which I found hilarious. He genuinely believed his stuff, wanted to help us, but he just doesn't have the truth and it showed. There were weird loops of theological logic trying to support uninspired doctrine. I thought it was really fun, which is probably why I am in a country where we don't get to do that often. I really feel a lot of love for him. At the end we defaulted to 'bearing down in pure testimony' and gave him a Book of Mormon. I said I would spend 40 minutes studying saved by grace if he would spend 40 minutes reading Book of Mormon. I don't know if he did, but I really hope so. I know the church is true, and this experience strengthened that knowledge. Our doctrine is inspired. The Book of Mormon is our proof. I thank God for it.

Thank you to other non family members who have sent mail, such as Morris Matthews. Your letter showed up when I was feeling pretty down, an answer to prayer.

Also it was really cool to hear from the Kinnisons. I don't expect all family to write every week, because honestly I couldn't read it all if they did, but it was very cool to hear from you and Marshall's advice is great.


Your letters never cease to bring me smiles. You have a very interesting writing style, my young sister. The play, "Peter and the Starcatcher", would make more sense if you'd read the book, Peter and the Starcatchers. We have it, I think. You should get it. Life always seems boring when you get back from vacation. I just hope the opposite is true of missions, but I doubt it. You very quickly develop an odd perspective on what is really important, what is a good use of time, etc. I'll probably feel like I'm wasting my time when I go home.

I bet you were super happy your violin string broke.


I would love to see some pictures. I wonder if you guys have changed at all. I haven't, except that my acne is much worse. I have weighed myself several times, literally no change in weight. We'll see, though, A lot of missionaries get pretty fat in Hong Kong.

Perspective changes things. Motorcycle, car, bike, all feel very different speed wise. Once at a Chinese restaurant I read a fortune cookie that said 'stillness and motion; it only a relative matter' exact quote. Oh, on that regard, we're not allowed to start 'studying' characters until at least 1 year in, but I have already started learning some just from seeing them around. 口 hau, mouth 易 ma, horse 因 yan, I don't know what it means but it's part of becasue 主 jyu, Lord


Your letter this week is uninspired and frankly disappointing compared to last week’s letter, but I suppose I will forgive it if you attained a 36 on the ACT. Not shabby, mein Bruder. I bet that showed the cousins what's what.

I find myself wanting to have time for a lot of random things, like sitting on benches, or watching plays, or watching TV, etc. Obviously not important, but for at least a couple weeks when I get back I will have an impressive appreciation for such things. It's hard having no down time. We watch the Testaments a good deal in our free time. I watch it while making flash cards for the sake of my sanity. I shall soon have it memorized, but we don't have any other material, so oh well.

Oh, David,

At such a day as this, when dirt piles are attended by a lone boy, ye shall know that Elder Morrell is departed, and has left his kindly home. Oh well, dirt piles got to be dirt piles, just keep it up.

I ran up 34 flights of stairs for exercise this morning, (which, as a side note to my more physics-minded father, requires the more gradual exertion of the same amount of effort as would be expended by throwing myself off the 34th floor. The thought is impressive, you could really do something with that if the human body was capable of using it all in a few moments. And to think that a bowl of cereal contains more than that...) and got stopped pretty quickly. Fast Sunday aftereffect. But I can sympathize with your 50 mile bike ride.

Referencing back to Joseph's letter, one of the other things I sorely miss is time to look through libraries. We showed up today and found all the computers taken, so we had to spend 40 minutes waiting while they freed up. I sincerely enjoyed my time. Obviously, I didn't start reading any fiction, a little too ‘buhn gaau’ (buhn gaau means apostasy, which is used as a missionary term to mean any rule breaking, also conveniently can replace the ‘chyuhn gaau’ of ‘chyuhn gaau sih’, or missionary, giving a concise and lyrical title for disobedient missionaries. Cantonese is a very Adam-ic language) for me. But I did find a fascinating and pleasantly written CHESS ENCYCLOPDIA, entitled Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom, by Eric Schiller. Very good. You should find it and buy it. I'll buy it from you when I get back if you don't like it.

Mom and Dad,

I want to write to the cousins a bit so I will combine your letters. I hope you will not be offended. Things have definitely been rough. I won't lie, I've had a lot of really low moments. It's hard to stay positive with very little progress, and there is a danger in becoming too introspective and self critical. But I feel good about things. I have realized that if I use this time well, this can be the time that I look back on and remember as the turning point for my mission. Hopefully.

Don't worry too much, but please keep praying for me. I miss you two a lot, (no offense sybs) much more than my siblings. But this is the Lord's work. I want to be an effective missionary, and I really do feel like I'm starting to love the people. At church and at English class this week I felt overwhelmed with happiness. I know that the message I'm sharing can help these people. I had a revelation a while ago as well that no selfish motivation can make me be a good enough missionary. Only love unfeigned. You two have taught me a lot about how to treat others, and how to be a missionary. Keep it up with your own missionary work! There is a lot to be said about what you expect to achieve. If you know you can help people and you base your efforts on that belief, you can get a lot done. I have come to really appreciate the example of Nephi as I start reading Book of Mormon again. I used to think he was a bit overrated, being the first prophet, but you can learn a lot from him.

It was very weird to have Katharine write see you in a year and a half in her email. Not quite that close, but time flies. I know the Church is true, and I love you all.

Editor’s note: While the Morrells were with the Kinnisons in California, Paula made fried rice. Marshall commented that in Japan they would never put soy sauce on rice like that. I asked John about it and he replied, “Yeah, they don't put soy sauce on rice. Rice is just like a filler that makes all the rest of the meals calorie-worthwhile. Lots of restaurants have meals that are basically meat chopped up on top of rice, the meat is the flavor, and the rice is just there to feed you.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December 30, 2013 - Missions Make You Malleable

Hello ngoh ge ga tihng, as they say in the Kong. This week has been pretty interesting. We had almost no success whatsoever. I feel basically all the way better from being sick, and I have been pretty happy, but we honestly had no success. We taught one lesson with a member present, one lesson without, and had one person come to church. The member present was an investigator who I've been meeting my whole mission who hasn't progressed much (though he has some, it's been pretty cool). The one person at church was Elder Tong's Grandpa, who despite being 82 walked what I think must be at least 3 or 4 miles early in the morning to go to a church that he doesn't belong too. Pretty amazing, but it might just have been that he wanted to see Elder Tong.

Pretty slow week all around, and we have been working pretty hard. On average we do at least 3 hours of finding a day, sometimes more. Christmas day we did 3 hours, no Christmas miracle. No one is available to talk to us. But I feel like it is not too bad of a thing, though. It is very discouraging at times, and all that walking around gives too much time for thinking. (A middle aged man just walked past me in the library and recited some Catholic prayer, I think for my benefit. Weird) Thinking for long amounts of time is usually bad on a mission. You get too introspective and depressed, or you get distracted. But our lack of success has been giving me some really strong motivation to improve things. I really want to become a good missionary. Really. And if we weren't having such hard times right now, I probably wouldn't want to that much. It makes me willing to practice finding techniques a lot, willing to humble myself and look at what I'm doing wrong, willing to try to learn Cantonese harder, etc. I feel like Missions are cool because you become very malleable. It's very easy to change yourself, because you have a ton of pressure on you. And hard times just amplify that effect.

I also have been thinking recently a lot about what Dad said. I think that I have not tried hard enough to love the people, not developed enough charity. I want to work hard, but when I work I'm doing just so that I can have a good mission, not to actually help people. So I'm going to try to serve more, try to be more sincere, and as always try to be more obedient.

Oh, fun tidbit, today we ate at possibly the most expensive buffet I have ever been to. It was in a hotel in Shatin, called 2+2 if you want to try to find it, all you can eat, lamb chops, curry, ice cream, all sorts of ridiculous stuff. So I feel pretty sick full right now. We were chenged out by some friends of Elder Tong's family. We both felt pretty guilty, because it probably cost them $700 or $800 for the two of us (Hong Kong, not US). But all we could do was make sure their sacrifice was not in vain.

Before I forget, thank you to everyone for the emails. Brent Gray, your email was really cool. I did feel like I understood what Christmas was actually about a bit more this year, as I think we all can. And Grandma and Grandpa have been pretty amazing at sending letters.

Well that was quite a work of art, my young sailouh (that means younger brother). I like how you implied that I would be able to do that given enough time, but I probably wouldn't. That level of eloquence eludes me, to my chagrin.

Your presents sound lovely and sophisticated, which sounds a lot like sophistry to me. But, to each his own. I got candy. So there.

Being on a mission really makes you realize what is most important in life, but unfortunately it doesn't make you not want the unimportant things. In fact, you find yourself wishing you had time for some pretty random stuff, like sitting on benches, or getting up early and not doing anything, or walking at night, or playing video games. Oh well. I think I really do need to develop greater desire to serve, so I'm with you there.

Carry on, my pen wielding Brother, until we again meet to say farewell. That's quite poetic.

Dear Dad,
We are pretty starved for music here. Your gift was appreciated, but I would like to listen to some rock and roll every now and then, and I didn't listen to music much when I was home.

I really do feel like I have some barrier, some incorrect attitude that I need to breach. Something about going out finding and actually working towards a goal instead of just putting in time. I appreciate the advice a lot.

The hardest thing for me right now is that I often find myself just not having much desire or excitement or hope for what we're doing. Actually, not often, I feel pretty happy and pretty good most of the time, but right now for example it's hard to really have a lot of hope towards what can be accomplished, or towards me becoming a really good missionary or even person. I'm not sure how to explain it, but it's pretty difficult to shake at times. Don't worry too much about me, but that's the hardest part right now. I do really want to work harder, but somehow I just don't feel right some how. Like there's something holding me back. But that's just me typing right now. If I didn't feel a bit down right now I probably wouldn't have this view.

Love you and miss you Dad. You've been a really good example to me.

It has been pretty chilly recently. Chinese people don't heat their buildings well, so church is always a bit frosty. You wouldn't like it.

Not much time, but I have been working on just caring more about helping people like them. One thing that I've found is sometimes I just have to imagine what people would look like as members, at church, because all the members are just so happy all the time. It is a pretty cool contrast.

I liked the call, but it was a bit weird. Email is fine for me, I think. Have a fun time in California.

That sounds impressive. You should find somewhere to use it, I don't know which of your friends have air soft guns. Chinese get pretty into that.

They don't have embellishments, they have things missing. Like open pipes, unclean water, corridors open to the outside. It's pretty weird. The middle aged man just blessed me again on his way out.

Becca & Abby,
Sorry, no time this week. Your presents sound pretty cool. I loved the stuff you got me. Make sure you read. Becca, I have no idea what that is, the dance thing. Send a picture. Abby, you got a ton of stuff. And that was a really good idea for David. I am going to send back some pretty awesome presents next Christmas, so get excited.

Love you all, but I need to focus, so goodbye.

Please note the correction to John's email. It was previously wrong.