Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 27, 2015 - Stop Counting Down the Days!

Honestly not too much else to report since a few days ago, but life lurches on in an unnaturally fast way. Our investigators are doing pretty well. We've taught the kids Jimmy and Jacky a total of 4 times this week, which is a ton for Hong Kong. Their lessons are so crazy, because Jacky's got no attention span and loves asking questions, and our fellowshipper always gets pulled way off track by them. Friday I was on exchanges with Elder Buss, who knows sign language, so we made sign language names for them to help them get into the lesson. They will both probably be baptized on the 9th of August.

Brother Chi should be back from mainland this week and hopefully in the water by the 9th. Our whole ward is pretty excited for him to come back. We weren't able to meet Justin this week, because like I said last time, people are too busy here.

We didn't find any new investigators this week, but our zone did amazing. We had set a goal for 60 at the beginning of the month, and by the 2nd week we were at about 17 or 18, so it looked hopeless. But they destroyed it this week, and the coolest part is there are a lot of historically struggling companionships that got them. Being a Zone Leader has helped me start to really rejoice in the success of others. It's not easy for me, honestly, because I'm too competitive, but God doesn't want us to beat each other up on our way home. Life can be a lot more joyful, I've found, when you turn outwards and care for others. That really hit me when I was reading Alma 26 in the Chinese 摩爾門經 about how Ammon felt about his converts. He loved them so much, it just struck me how happy he was and how focused he was on the people he served, how he wanted them to feel what he'd felt and not just to be baptized but to really endure to the end, to see them again in the celestial kingdom. I've begun to feel more of what he describes there.


Good thing that bike riding is a low impact sport. We'll have to get some good mountain biking in when I get back. It's really cool to see how much everyone has grown since I've been gone, and just since before, I guess. Old Joseph would view that sort of hike as a Herculean task, but it's clear that Now Joseph takes on physical challenges with ease.

I agree with you about the half-civilization thing. I think that Hong Kong people don't really get that too much. Usually when they go camping it's just to these "camps" with houses and bathrooms and everything. Not nearly as cool as the King's Peak hike or the 60 miler. It seems that though people change, you and I are still the main proponents of wilderness pilgrimages.

I've had a couple dreams about being home on my mission, but they're usually very stressful. Mostly I dream about teaching people. Last night I was dreaming about teaching some family we're meeting today.


Yeah, I think having a temple right here in the mission has been a big blessing. One difficulty is that I always stress about having a perfect temple trip because we can only go once every two months. I hope to go very regularly when I get back so that I can relax a bit and get more out of it. It's always very comforting, though, to be in the temple. We had interviews with our Mission President after the temple, and it was interesting how different he was from President Hawks. The biggest difference, which I think is neither good nor bad, is just that he's way more relaxed and approachable and casual. It's hard to describe the difference. With President Hawks there was a feeling of respect and soberness, with President Lam there's respect but more casual and open.


I loved reading what Dad said about your physical ease on this hike. I look at you as 2 or 3 levels evolved above Old Joseph. Like in Spore, or Pokemon, you added new abilities and your card got all metallic and shiny to show that it's now a level 9 monster, If you have sprouted giant bat wings by the time I get back I'd be a little perturbed but not surprised. As for me, I think you'll mostly just be jealous of my AMAZING 2 NEW TAILORED SUITS. They look way too nice for my head.

The mile run was really incredibly painful. But I feel great about it now. I'm sure you could get pretty fast now if you wanted to, but it sounds like you're more of a distance running guy. What's your running schedule like?

Try not to be too disdainful of life, sometimes there's no van to run to. You've got to learn to love the good and forgive the bad in order to be happy.


If you think a red tailed skunk bear is going to be afraid of an AR15 (of course I know what that is, where is your faith in me?) then you've got something coming. In about 78 hours. The incubation period. Of the rage. Of the


Flee to the north lands, before it arrives.

See, you're such a bad influence on me. Every week your letters make me revert to a 9 year old. That's cool to hear that you and Joseph both are in better shape. I still think of you as bones and skin and organs, but maybe I'll be surprised when I get back. Make sure you don't forget the temple trip this Tuesday. That habit will be so worthwhile in your life if you can keep it up.


I know you're not back yet but I love you! And apparently in Dad's mind we're the same person! I did always feel that in the family you and I were really similar. The reading, the hair, the physical prowess, though I think you are a lot more diligent and disciplined than I was. Oh well, I'm taller at least. But really, I love you. Thank you for your prayers.

The wolf-queen of the North,

(Only she can withstand the Skunk Bear)

I am really quite impressed at the diet thing. That is super cool. I've never gone on a diet before, though I do eat pretty healthy now a days. I like how your diet includes Pizza and was preceded by Wendy's. But really, that is so cool that you're doing that. Something I always think is interesting is how God cares about our everyday problems and desires, like a diet. He won't just magically make you skinny, but if you really pray to remember what to do and to have strength to do it, he will help you. The 2 and 3rd week are always the most important because that is where your desire and your determination are tested, and where the habit is formed. I'll be praying for you!

Recently we've been making a ton of smoothies, and I made one on Saturday that was about 2 frozen bananas, one ring of canned pineapple, some ice, and some maple syrup, and it was amazing. But I didn't add enough milk so it was like ice cream, which I think is okay.

Love you all! Stop counting down the days!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 23, 2015 - My Mission Has Been No Sacrifice At All!

Well, it's been a while. Sorry, we have temple today and as usual I forgot to warn anyone.

This week was pretty good. We have been having a bit more success getting people scheduled and taught. It's one of the big challenges here, getting people scheduled. I don't really believe that people are that busy, but there's sort of a culture of "Hong Kong People are Super Busy" that we always have to break down with common sense, daily planners, and backup plans. It doesn't help that our lessons are longer than they really should be. I'd like to teach more simply and quickly, it's something that PMG is very clear about but that is hard to put into practice. Especially because seeing someone more than once a week is abnormal here. If you want to get someone baptized and you only have one meeting a week, it's hard to fit it into 45 minutes.

Brother Chi is probably doing great but you'd have to ask the Chinese consulate to get more info because he's still in mainland. We taught Justin again last week, and it was a great lesson (partially because, like I said before, we got it all taught in 35 minutes.) We were able to really teach out of the scriptures, and our fellowshipper (who's a recent convert) shared a lot of really great experiences that helped him a lot. He just needs to be able to get to church this next month, which is a challenge because of his work schedule. The other main thing we did this week was teach the kid Jacky and his brother Jimmy, a ton. We met them every day from Sunday to Wednesday this week. He could be ready to be baptized, but he's often yaaih, or naughty, and contrary, so it's hard to tell if he actually wants to be baptized or if it's just us trying to manipulate him. 9 year olds. Did you guys ever wonder about that when we were young?

Our planning for Zone Training has been pretty tough. Stumped is an excellent word with no Chinese equivalent, meaning unclear or unable to figure out how to move forward. Elder Boyd included it in his otherwise Chinese prayer ending our 3 hour planning bonanza on Tuesday. But I felt a lot of peace knowing that we'd all prayed, we'd all prepared, and God certainly wouldn't drop us now. And sure enough, on Wednesday we started to un-stump ourselves (would that be a tree growing up, or finally getting the stump pulled out?)

Something I read recently that I loved was King Benjamin's address in Mosiah 2. He spends some time listing all the things he's done and how great a king he'd been, but follows with the statement that he's not doing it to boast, but to serve God. I used to think it a bit odd how that'd not be boasting, but I realized this last read through that Benjamin simply really wants his people to know how worth it is to serve God. He's felt it, and he wants them to feel it. As a missionary we often have people tell us we're "hou san fu", such a tough life. I can say totally honestly, with King Benjamin, that I am only in the service of my God, that He's given me everything I have and am, and that my mission has included no sacrifice at all. In the words of Brigham Young, I've given up one situation for a better one. God is good, he has no obligation to repay us, but pay us he does. He's answered my prayers, he's redeemed my soul, and he's given me my family, for eternity.


That sounds like a pretty idyllic week. I remember at Abby's birthday, you'd often mention that you remembered back before she was at school, you'd have a girl's alone morning. Now you can relive those happy days. You should read Caroline's email about grandmas in Russia; it's almost a perfect description of grandmas in China. Very weird to think of flight plans. All my friends are about to finish and I feel super weird reading their emails, because I really don't feel that old at all.

I ran into a French less active member named Etienne while on exchanges with the Assistants. It was pretty cool. Do you have any contact with any converts or companions from your mission?


It sounds like you and Joseph aren't too excited about this High Adventure Trip. Just remember the truism the more horrible it is at the moment, the better the story later.

You know, every time I meet anyone who likes programming I say something along these lines, "That's cool, I don't know programming much, but my brother actually designed the engine for Counterstrike while he was in elementary school, it's just that they couldn't put his name on it because it'd be underaged labor."

Just so you know I’m almost out of time


I pity you. But it really is cool how much more in shape you are now. At the beginning of my mission I set a goal to run a 6 minute mile, which I've never come close to before. Yesterday, in the rain, we jogged down to the track, and with Elder Boyd and Elder Busby switching off running next to me as pacers I ran. It was horrible, incredibly painful, and I was reminded of why I hated swim meets so much, but when I finished my time was 5:47.5. I literally collapsed in the grass.


That is really really early and diligent. I'm surprised and impressed. Why do you get up so much earlier than swim team? Not that I disapprove, I think early mornings are healthier, but curious. TEMPLE! YES!


I hope you have a fun work-out week with Mom. You should find a time to go to the temple with her. And congrats on the swim meet! As I mentioned, I hated them. But you feel so good after you know you've done your best.


The thought I've really had recently is about a quote by President Hinckley on PMG page 93 about prayer. It's the desire and dream to feel the Spirit working through me to bless the people and help them come unto Christ. In recent days I've really come to realize that that is the truest measure of a successful missionary, and the sweetest privilege I have.

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 13, 2015 - Teaching the Gospel is the Most Enjoyable Thing

Hey, my great family,

This week was pretty good, if a little slow in the progress of investigators. I can really honestly say that I'm not trunky at all, I don't dream about going home, and I don't worry about it too much either, but I do feel a bit of time pressure helping this bunch of people get baptized already. We were able to visit Brother Chi twice this week, which has been pretty good, and our bishop got to visit him. He's quit smoking for about 11/2 weeks now, but the real challenge will come now when he goes to mainland, because people smoke a ton there. I have faith in him, though. Other than him, not too much else to report in terms of investigators. We weren't able to meet Kelvin or Jacky this week, but hopefully next week. We have one investigator from a while ago, Justin, who's really busy and hasn't been contacted for a while, but we've been giving him a scripture text each day. He met with us again recently (I was on exchanges) and he's doing great. He said that he's been reading all the verses we send him, and he now believes in Christ! The only challenge is that he's super busy with work, but miracles have happened before and they'll continue to happen.

This week I read the Book of Jacob, and I have just been amazed at his teaching. I think that I can sum up what impresses me about him in 2 lines; 1. He is consecrated. The scripture says he and Joseph were not only set apart but consecrated as teachers. His consecration comes in his absolute commitment to God and love of the gospel, and his amazing love for the people he teaches. Read his sermons, and you can't help but feel that he is doing everything possible, using all the energy of his soul to call people to believe in Christ and be saved. 2. As a result, when he speaks, he speaks the word of the Lord. He and Nephi both have this attribute, when they teach they truly represent the Lord to those they teach. Think of the confidence, the faith it takes to really say that with conviction. That's what I want to do. This week I've been praying so hard for the Lord to give me his spirit so that I can speak his word and really help the people we teach. Teaching the gospel, when you have the spirit, is the most enjoyable thing.


Honestly I would have welcomed some arrows, at least people would be paying a bit more attention. But honestly, I think it has some potential. Some ward member gave us an idea, if we could use a big poster with the Plan of Salvation on it, it might attract more people to stop. The best thing about soap boxing was just the conquering of fear. And the fact that I can say that I did it. Ha.

The spirit really cultivates the delicate and wholesome things in life. Like having a really clean house. There was a tropical storm on Thursday, so we had to stay inside in the evening. We called some investigators, but first we cooked a big meal together, made oreo smoothies, and then cleaned our whole house spotless. I love having a clean house. I've noticed that as a missionary I care about you guys a lot more than before. It always makes me really happy to hear about people going to the temple or reading. My life is just focused on people keeping commitments these days.

On Sundays we do numbers with the whole zone, and last night I just felt a bit frustrated because I really want to help the missionaries, think of some solutions to help them get more investigators, etc, but I felt like there wasn't much useful advice I could give. What did you do when you were zone leader? You have a lot more experience than I do.


I have to tell you what I've been eating this week. It's been good. Elder Chan, who is a native missionary who lives with us, agreed to take some money from us and cook for all 5 of us in our apartment for a week. So we've been eating delicious Chinese food. It makes me realize how mediocre my normal cooking is. He made fried chicken, fried egg stuff, fried fish with corn sauce, steamed egg and chicken cake things, steamed fish, all seasoned amazingly. We wanted him to keep cooking this week but I think it almost killed him off last week.

My food is not bad either. Recently I've made some pasta stuff with ground pork, Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, and salsa, which was delicious. This week we'll be making two types of Thai curry. It's just difficult with so little time and two companionships.

I've been cleaning. A lot. The house'll be so clean for that week that I'm here. Oh, I found out that we might not be allowed to maintain public blogs through emails. There's a rule about using Facebook through family at home, and this might come under that. That's why Elder Boyd's blog went private. If you could make mine private for a while and I'll re-check that next week. Sorry. You could just tell everyone who's in about the private one.

Sabbath worship is so hard for people here. Their work schedule is sometimes just ridiculous. But I've noticed that the ones who find a way to keep the Sabbath day holy are also the ones who have the happiest families, who are serving as bishops and stake presidents and quorum presidents, and who seem to have kept the missionary fire in their lives the most. I'm really grateful you and Dad made us not play video games on the Sabbath.


I haven't been running as much as I’d like to be, certainly not 6 miles. There's one route we take in the mornings sometimes that we do in about 15-20 minutes that Elder Boyd reckons must be at least 2 miles, which if so would be pretty cool. But honestly I don't know if I'll be able to keep up too well when I get back. But I will say that at the end of the run I always sprint up the hill of dreams. The first long run I went on was in 10th grade, a measly 5K, and I felt that if I tried to run at all by the end I would fall down.

Thanks for going to the temple; honestly that means a lot to me. That goal to go every Tuesday is probably the happiest thing to me in this email. It'll be really tough, especially this first two weeks. Be aware, and plan, and commit yourselves.


Apparently some Elder in our zone from Sweden was almost a professional Counterstrike player. My companion's dad used to be a game designer before he went into app design and started a company. It's a good business to go into, and it definitely sounds like you've got the stuff to do it. I want to ask how the process of balancing a map out goes, but I think it'll distract me. Don't tell me. Congrats on going to the temple. It's worth so much in the long run. I try to drink a full 2 liters of water every morning during personal study, which then makes me urinate many times in the morning.

Horse Clan Chieftess Rebecca,

It's so sad that the twins don't love the Farming Game. I guess you can't be friends anymore. Oh well.

I've honestly never liked horses. Maybe it's my pride, maybe fear, maybe just lack of Martial arts skills, but I always am reminded that if they wanted to kill me with their legs it'd be too easy for them to. And most of my interaction is not with the actual horse but with the green stinking piles of stuff it leaves all over the hiking trails.

Seeing as Dance is not really in session right now, what do you do to stay in shape these days? Do you rely on natural young active lifestyle, or do you do some specific work outs to keep the dance muscles strong? What time of day do you usually get up at? What do you eat for breakfast? Did anyone do night games this summer?

The Duchess of the North (cold eyes of fury)

Do it! Go every Tuesday! It's totally your choice! That's what's great about life and the gospel, is when you find that something can help you spiritually and lead you to be a better person, you can choose to do it. It sounds so obvious but think of how many people just wish that they were better people without realizing that they can choose to be better people today! Just like you mentioned about reading the Book of Mormon. It's okay that you haven't read a ton, that's actually why I always ask everyone. You recognized you haven't been doing it, and now you can choose to do better and gain blessings. Life is so good!

There is almost no grass in Hong Kong, besides at the Hung Shui Kiu chapel (which looks like a random expensive Utah chapel stuck in the middle of nowhere). And even when there is lovely grass growing, they send people to destroy it with weed wackers. So weird.

What does it smell like in Utah? What does the house smell like? What is the most stressful part of your day? What is the most relaxing part of your day?

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 6, 2015 - New Mission President

Well, my excellent family, I've got some cool things to tell you this week!

1. Mission Leadership Council: though it caused us to miss an awesome trip to Crossroads where the other Elders were assigned to clear out a house by throwing things out the windows and smashing the larger objects into throw out of window-able objects with sledge hammers (perhaps you can tell, I really missed it) it was a very very cool meeting. We had to spend quite a lot of time preparing, and we got over there more than an hour before it started because everyone's terrified of being late. I wasn't too nervous this time, having done it twice before, Elder Boyd was a little nervous. That was the first time we met President and Sister Lam, who are really interesting and incredibly nice.

2. Zone training meeting, which I was much much more nervous for. Again, lots of time spent preparing that one. We gave a training about goal setting, discipline, and asking yourself "Who am I?" It was not bad, but the feedback we got was that it wasn't sharp or focused enough. We also had a recording that we played intermittently through the training from a Bible video of a Pharisee asking Christ "WHO ART THOU?". We thought it'd be funny and dramatic, but people didn't like it overall. Oh, well, learn something every time.

3. President and Sister Lam: We met them at MLC and again at a 2 hour Meet the President Meeting. They are so nice! Really, incredibly open, very approachable, and humble, and frankly sometimes goofy. He's an obstetrician-gynecologist, and you could tell from the cavalier way he described them having 6 kids. They're both converts, their English is almost perfect. Oddly enough, because they learned the gospel in America, they don't know the Chinese for a lot of gospel vocabulary. They are more relaxed than the Hawks, but also very focused on the same things; exact obedience, and building us as missionaries.

4. Soap boxing: I think every missionary has openly or secretly dreamed of soap-boxing Dan Jones style and just telling the people straight that they need to repent, but they've always been too afraid to do it or admit it. I went on exchanges with Elder Busby on Friday, and I'll be very honest, I arranged it in large part because I knew that he wanted to do soap boxing as well. So we did. We practiced at home during companion study and Elder Chan and his summer missionary Brother Lau came out and mocked us. Even practicing was terrifying, honestly, but we were undeterred. We had a dream to realize. And so we went to the Tuen Mun Park with our fold-able table, 1/2 foot stool, 8 Book of Mormons and a bunch of pamphlets, and a vision in our minds. Then we found out we couldn't set up the table in the park, so we went next to the park. The time came, I stood up on a wall, and we preached the 1st lesson for about 10 minutes. There weren't a ton of people, so we went to a bridge with a better audience, and again I stood up upon the chair and preached to them. We preached the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd lessons, as well as sharing some about families and just general concerns people have, for about an hour. If you've watched the Testaments, it was like the part where Ammoron is standing and preaching to the people and many look at him oddly before walking on, except we mostly didn't have a crowd. An old lady was the first heckler, shouting at us to "put on a hat, it's too hot and sunny today! You'll get sunburned! Drink more water! Silly young people!" We ignored her taunts and derision, and in true Biblical fashion "fear[ed] not what [we] should...drink" And sure enough, some random members came and gave us sports drink. One guy stopped to take a picture with us, and once a group of Pakistani kids came and tried to steal our pamphlets. It was so much fun, because it was terrifying and we did it until our fear was gone. I felt so uninhibited.


I always knew I was an amazing baby.

It sounds like this concert tour has been pretty successful, more in the style of the good ole' European tours. Which piece of music was your favorite?

Our investigator Brother Chi saw a miracle this week. We gave him a paper with a day by day calendar of scriptures to read and some topics to look for, and it helped him a lot. We visited on Friday and he said that he understood more about God, that he had decided that day to quit smoking and was going to go to a doctor to get some quit-smoking drugs (which he ended up not really needing) and he was really determined to keep his commitment to me to be baptized. I think it's for the right reasons as well. He brought his cousin to church, and she became a pretty good new investigator.

We also taught a 9 year old Jacky, but this week was tough because he was sulky about not having as much time to play video games as his brother, so he decided he doesn't want to be baptized. He'll come around, his main concern still seems to be 1. water and 2. people watching him.

Our investigator Kelvin came to church for the first time in a long while, but left after sacrament and thought it was a bit boring. He's on the brink of really progressing, I've been trying to figure out how to help him for a while now.

We also have some less actives we're working with, including one new one named A Chung, who is 30-something, no job, just plays video games all day and lives with his parents, who worry about him a lot. He's living in denial, basically, and told us that the games were him training his reflexes. But I feel a lot of hope for him. It has also made me really afraid to play video games when I get back.

Thanks for all your advice over my mission. I always find it really relevant. You've got a lot of quotes written in my Preach My Gospel. There're some missionaries in our zone who are sort of struggling with attitude, not obedience but just being more faithful and positive. What would you do to help them? And did you do much less active work on your mission?


It's good you gave me the Abby style report because she said almost nothing. I'm not too worried about the credits or the classes anymore. Recently I've been really trying to teach the zone about the principle that you can do whatever you really want to. If you decide to do it, and you spend the effort, you can basically do it. I think having an intense semester will help me focus more and exercise more faith than a relaxed one, and should help me keep a better feel for my priorities.

Do you think you and Dad will ever do a senior mission after us kids are gone? There are some senior missionaries in our mission who are really amazing, and they play an interesting role in MLC. Sister Holbrook, the mission nurse, gave a presentation about foot health, with pictures to give motivation.

The haircut might not be strictly allowed, but no one ever said anything about it, and it's been really comfortable. Have you gone to the temple again with the girls yet?


You don't understand. It's so tight I can't even lift too much or my muscles will tear some seams. The pants are fitted exactly to the legs, the sleeves to the arms in a similar fashion. The guy said Korean pop-star style. Do you hear me? KOREAN.

I always really enjoyed teaching swim team. You need to learn to rejoice in the success of the children. I think the process Joseph Smith himself went through to prepare to have the plates and be the prophet is also interesting. His role was a lot more grand and exalted than we sometimes realize. I love the example of how he had to return to the Hill Cumorah each year on that one day to receive more instruction. I imagine that there's an untold story there about the struggle to be at the hill each year. I'm certain something came up every time. Would he choose to procrastinate until later in the day? Would he endure?


I feel you for the blurry eye thing. It's pretty vital as a missionary that our conduct at church meetings be above reproach and an example to members and non-members, which means you cannot under any circumstances fall asleep. But sometimes it's a mighty challenge. Especially when it's all in Chinese and you have to really focus to understand. Luckily if worst comes to worst I can just make it a language study and write down words I don't know. Yes, that still happens. Regularly.

Congrats on fulfilling the assignment! See, that's a useful thing you've learned. Now you can really tell if people are being intentionally disobedient or accidentally. How goes the game design? And are you willing to go to the temple this week?


Yes, questions!
How’s life going for you? Life for me is very good, because I know that I'm doing righteous things, and when I succeed I have a lot of satisfaction.

Are you happier than you were here? Am I happier? I think so, though I think it's very hard to really remember how happy one is. I feel the spirit a lot more. I feel a lot less anger and resentment towards people. I live more honestly because I don't make excuses for myself as much. I know that I'm living the commandments to the best of my ability. Does that answer it? I feel my potential is a lot more unleashed and apparent to me.

Is there super weird food there? Yes, though it's not all Chinese. I’ll eat anything, though. A member gave us some food that had cilantro in it, and it was amazing, made me think of Mexican food. I ate some super spicy noodles this week.

Is there one companion you liked the most? No, I can't pick one.

Is there one type of food you love now? I love curry with rice. It's so satisfying. I really honestly love rice. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but an average nice Chinese family meal is my favorite meal.

When did the chicken start chasing the cat and not the other way around? I think you're just jealous because my hair is so comfortable and awesome. What crazy things did you say? I agree, I think we were very good friends before the mission. You and I are very similar, I think. Do you think you'll do a mission?


I'm also curious for that last question for you. And nice job giving the gift to David. You're very considerate, which is more important than we sometimes realize. I've tried to learn to be more considerate on my mission.

What color is it in Utah right now? What is the best and worst thing you ate last week? (as in from now on) Where are you reading in the Book of Mormon?