Week 69 – Mission Tour with Elder Robbins!

Elder Ash and I with Elder and Sister Robbins
January 11, 2016

Bummer about the Redskins losing in the playoffs, but I think they are just waiting to go all the way to the Super Bowl so that way I can be there to watch the games...so I am not worried. 

But this week has been a spiritual FEAST. Wow. We had Elder Lynn G. Robbins, of the Presidency of the Seventy come to our mission for three days. It was truly a huge blessing to spend time with him and learn from him. He is such an inspired man who has a strong, deep testimony, and a wonderful perspective on life.

He arrived Thursday afternoon and we were asked to attend an hour-long meeting with him and his wife, along with President and Sister Chesnut. Just the 6 of us!!  We discussed the mission and the results that we received from the mission survey that we took about a month ago. He told us after looking over the survey that we are a very obedient mission comparatively, which was nice to hear. But we also discussed some of our weak points as a mission, and what we can improve on. It was cool to work so closely with a general authority like that.

Night before MLC with the ZL's from Elko
(looking like a bunch of hoodlums.)
On Friday morning, we had a short MLC meeting with all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders.  Elder Robbins took the whole 3 hours of the meeting himself and trained us on accountability and agency and how Satan can take control over us without us even knowing, by letting us place blame on other people, or self-justifying our sins and mistakes. It was spectacular. I wish you all could've been there to hear and learn from him. It was interesting because I feel like his comments and teachings were often geared towards us after our missions. He talked a lot about marriage and how so many people these days have failed marriages because they let Satan take control over their lives, and they aren't willing to forgive one another, and aren't committed even when the going gets tough in life. 

With friends David and Michelle
After MLC we had a quick lunch and then we zipped over to another church building, where we had a huge 6-zone gathering, with about 130 missionaries. Elder Robbins presided over the meeting, and he took most of the time in that meeting, too. This bigger meeting was more focused on missionary work, and how we can help our investigators progress and keep commitments by being more bold – but still do it out of love. That concept is a constant battle that I have been having my whole mission...getting investigators to keep their commitments, especially coming to church! He also talked about studying the scriptures, and how he studies the scriptures.

With the Bigney's
Then Saturday morning we woke up, got ready, and drove 4 hours to Elko, where we had an east-side meeting with the other 3 zones over there. It was interesting because this big meeting was 100% different than the other big meeting. He talked in this meeting about being successful, and how, "Success is going from failure to failure without losing our enthusiasm." He also talked about love, and the doctrine behind loving someone. He taught us that nobody "falls into love" because that implies that it was by chance or by accident that two people come to love one another. But rather loving people is a commandment, therefore it is a choice. He said that in his days as a church leader, he has dealt with many couples who don't get along anymore and say that they have "fallen out of love" but this isn't possible. It was a good lesson for me to learn for the future!

Here are a few thoughts and notes that I took from the meetings with Elder Robbins:
  • We can't reach our destination and be upset...we chose the road.
  • The only perfect parent never forces his children to do anything
  • Forgiving is trusting in the Lord's justice, sometimes we must forgive even though we are in the right, and have done nothing wrong.
  • Pride is like bad breath, everyone knows but the offender.
  • The Savior never remained silent when someone judged another person in His presence, he always spoke up.
  • Spend time with your wife
  • Confessing sins is not a punishment, it is a gift
  • 2 things to always remember when married: 1) Your wife is always right 2) When your wife is wrong, re-read rule #1.
  • The Light of Christ is in EVERYONE and is ever-present.
  • You cannot gain a testimony from the 5 senses
  • Seeing is NOT believing, the world tends to think otherwise, but there are way too many examples to prove the contrary, such as Laman and Lemuel.
  • Smooth seas don't make for a skillful sailor
  • Don't forget which way you face
  • We need to stop holding our investigators’ hands, and let them hold onto the Iron Rod.
  • Someone who has true faith in Jesus Christ you can't keep out of the baptismal font.
  • We glow 
  • I need to expect more miracles
  • God knows everything past, present, and future.
  • I feel as though the more experience people have in the church, the better their perspective, they are not worried about the un-important things. 
  • The Book of Mormon and the Bible are like having two eyes...there is a whole lot of overlap, but each can see something that the other eye can't.
  • True happiness in life is found by forgetting ourselves.
  • A problem is a goldmine
  • Don't let good works and excellency become transparent (meaning we forget about it and don't recognize it. This is especially important when I have children.)
  • The phrase, "I love you" is a promise of our behavior. 
  • There are tons of promised blessings that are given to us in the preface of the hymn book. 
Those are just a few thoughts I had as he was teaching us...I have about 8 pages total. It truly was a spiritual feast. My life has been changed because of the things that I learned over the past few days. I am very grateful for that.

Exchanges with Elder Knight
This week will be the first week that Elder Ash and I don't have a single thing going on since my first transfer as an Assistant. It is great!! We have no exchanges this week, no meetings, no nothing. We are really excited for the chance we have to work together for an entire week, without interruption. I do think that I am coming to the end of my days serving with President as one of his Assistants, but this week we have our personal interviews scheduled with him and we will see what he has to say about it. It will be sad, going back into the field. I have loved serving with him and spending time with him. I will also miss the Prater Ward, they are my home ward now! I know the ward, and the ward knows me, and it is fun when that is the case. But I am looking forward to getting out and spending my last months just working as hard as possible.

Well that's about all that I have for this week. I love you guys!! I know that the Church is true. The Book of Mormon is, too. 


Elder Todd

Week 68 – Happy New Year!!

With Elder Nieves
January 4, 2016
Hey everyone!!

Ringing in the New Year
Prospero Ano Nuevo!! Or Happy New Year!! I cannot believe that it is 2016. That just blows my mind. It sounds like everyone back at home had lots of fun at the different parties and dances, New Years is always a fun holiday. We rang in the new year by putting on the party favors that were sent to me and then posing for a picture together while looking like a couple of dufuses. It was great. 

With a new year comes lots of reflection on the past year, and lots of reflection on the year ahead. 2015 has easily been the best year of my life. I can't believe it's over. It will be the only year I give 100% to the Lord until I serve a senior mission. And what a great blessing it has been to me. I have learned SO much about so many different things, and my testimony has never been stronger. I am also excited for the year 2016, it will be a big year for me as I come home from my mission and go to school. I am sure that I will learn even more this year. 

It has been SUPER cold here in Sparks this past week. It didn't get above 25 for a few days, so we have been bundling up with long johns and the whole nine yards of clothes. Most of the snow is still sticking around, and has turned to ice in many places, which honestly I really like. I prefer that when it snows it sticks around for a little while.

With Elder Fisher
This week, Elder Ash and I zipped up to Lake Tahoe so I could do a baptismal interview for a Spanish investigator that the Sisters up there were teaching. It was actually a way fun little excursion, because the little town of Kings Beach was bustling with skiers and snowboarders. There was a fun vibe up in Tahow. The interview itself however, was quite strange.  Of all the interviews I've done, none went quite like the one I did the other evening. As soon as we sat down, the first thing that the man told me was, "I'm not ready to be baptized." I was quite shocked, the Sisters were telling me about how pumped he was and how he had been taught everything and they had just had a lesson with him the night before and he was still on board and ready.  So I was really shocked when he told me, but I decided to go ahead with the interview and ask all of the questions and discuss them with him.  He passed the interview and knew his stuff, but he still wasn't ready. I then went into Mr. Fix-It mode, and began to think of anything I could teach him or share with him to get him to change his mind, because in my mind he was 100% ready!  I shared a few scriptures from Mosiah 18 with him, asked lots of questions, but he still wasn't feeling ready. I then got the distinct impression in my mind, "He's not ready. Don't try and be a hero and force him to change his mind, he is simply not ready." It was exactly what I needed, because I thought that I could be the hero and save the day and the baptism and everything, but that was not the case. I needed to be humbled. So we closed the interview with a prayer and my testimony, and left it at that. He didn't change his mind, and I wasn't the hero, but it was a good lesson to me that I don't have the answers to everything, and this isn't Elder Todd's work, this is the Lord's work. The sisters were disappointed, of course, but he wasn't ready, so there was nothing to be upset about. The rest of the evening went well.  The Sisters invited us to come to their dinner with them and some members, so we went and had dinner with some awesome members in Truckee. There is SO much snow up there...like 3-5 feet snow banks everywhere! It was fun.

Last week we said goodbye to Elder and Sister Bell, who worked in the office for the past year. I've grown close to them having served as an Assistant, and it was sad to see them go. They were awesome, and will be very missed! We could always rely on them if we needed something. Sister Bell was the mission secretary and answered all the phones, and Elder Bell was over the finances and housing. We could always rely on him to find us a new apartment when we needed to open up a new area. I love them so much.

Last night we went up to President's house and had a great chat with him about the mission and the direction we want to head. We recently learned from the mission headquarters and the brethren that there are a few changes that are to be made across all the missions. The biggest one is that there will be no more transfer meetings. So this really messes up our usual transfer plans, and we will have to figure out a new way to have transfers without having large gatherings of missionaries.

I mean - look how sharp 
Elder Ash and I are...
"model" missionaries in this pic - haha!
They also instructed us that they want the Assistants to the President (AP’s) to spend as much time as possible in their area working, and not driving around helping other missionaries. This is something that we've talked a lot about, and President Chesnut was planning in the future to use the Assistants to help him more with the administration of the mission rather than worry about our area. But this also changed, and he wants us to focus more on our area and making it a "model" area for other missionaries. So in other words, he wants us to see lots of success, so other missionaries can see how we do it and then apply it in their area. This is a big change for us, because lately we have been more focused on the mission than our area. So we have cancelled some exchanges and we are really just going to get to work in our area and build it up. There is no doubt that our area has suffered as a result of the many administrative things we do with the mission, but we are going to change this. We want to have at least one baptism a month and set the tone for the rest of the mission. It was kind of a wake-up call for me, because I haven't seen tons of success on my mission thus far in terms of reactivated members and baptisms, which isn't at all a bad thing, in the end, the numbers don't matter.  That’s not at all why I am out here, or what our goals are as missionaries, to have tons of baptisms. But we do want to put a better emphasis on it. So it is time for us to hit the pavement and go to WORK. I am pumped.

I have been reading the New Testament for the past 6 months, just a chapter or two a day, but it has been really neat for me to do so. It is cool because it is a different kind of scripture, most of the Bible and the Book of Mormon have stories with characters and story lines and stuff going on, but Paul's epistles don't have much of that, it is just a letter to the different people telling them what they need to do and explaining the doctrines. It has been very cool and informing, and I have learned a TON. Paul teaches us in 1 Timothy 6:7 "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."  What great wisdom! That really puts things into perspective, about what we worry about here on earth. Because we won't be taking items with us into the next life, but we will be taking knowledge and relationships. Both my own dad and President Chesnut have taught me the importance of relationships, as well as how we honor and respect the relationships we have. First and foremost, the relationship we have with our Father in Heaven and his son, Jesus Christ, and how we can show the love we have for them through our actions and obedience. Then the relationship we have with our family members, and those we will be able to spend eternity with, especially our spouse. And then of course, our friends and people we meet. It is those things that we will be able to take with us into the next life…not a nice car, or house, not even a boat. I know that we can gain more knowledge and better relationships by using our time wisely, and by spending our time with those who are important to us, and who can help us become better. There is no better way to strengthen our relationship with Christ than by doing a little CPR...Church, Prayer, and Reading the scriptures. I know and have personally experienced that in my life. The church is true. It blesses lives.

I hope everyone has a great week this week and stays warm...(or cool if you are on the east coast.) I love you guys!!

Elder Todd

P.S.  This week, Elder Lynn G. Robbins will be coming to the mission!  He has asked my companion and me to have a one-hour meeting with him on Thursday, and then on Friday, we will have an MLC where he will preside and teach us for a few hours. Then 6 out of the 9 zones will gather and we will have a GIANT mission tour meeting where he will teach us some more. Then on Saturday Elder Ash and I will jump into our truck and zip out to Elko and we will hold an east-side meeting out there with the rest of the mission. We are pumped to spend so much time with a General Authority, I will certainly have to fill you all in next week.

Week 67 – An Awesome Christmas!

December 28, 2015
Well Merry Christmas everyone!!

It sure was a blast talking to you on Christmas morning and to see the fam! Everyone looked great, and I can't believe how much everyone is growing up. I'll have to put on some high-heels so I am still taller than Nathandawg when I get home.

Thank you for all of the Christmas gifts that were sent my way! I am so blessed to have such an awesome support squad back at home that includes family, friends, and the Goose Creek Ward! I am excited to wear all my new ties and show them off and use all my gift cards, too! I won't have to pay for another meal for a while!!

It was fun to have a white Christmas. It has been freezing here this past week, and hasn't gotten above freezing even in the day, so the snow is sticking around, which makes it lots of fun!

Cooking breakfast
We had a great Christmas day. We had a few Elders over to our place and whipped up a big Christmas breakfast and opened presents together. Then after I spoke with all of you back home, we went to the Stake center and played basketball for a few hours with some other Elders. We went and had dinner with a couple in our ward and then went up to President Chesnut's house for the evening. He had two of his kids come over from Utah for Christmas, so they were both there with their grandchildren. We had a fun time hanging out with them and playing games together. President gave us each Nerf guns for Christmas which we thought was pretty funny. We also gave him a gift card to Panda Express, which is one of his favorite places, and then we gave Sister Chesnut a little blanket because she is ALWAYS cold and is always asking us to turn on the heat when we are in meetings and stuff, but usually we are always super hot in our suits and stuff when she is cold, so we figured if we gave her a blanket then she could keep her self warmer. But we had lots of fun, we almost feel like part of the Chesnut family!! They live close to BYU and all of their kids live close to BYU too, so we can go and visit them after the mission. They are an awesome family.

My man Elder Nieves on Christmas morning
On Christmas Eve, we had Elder Nieves and Elder Palmer stay the night with us, and in the middle of the night Elder Nieves comes over to my bed and shakes me and wakes me up and says, "Yo Todd, What time is it?!?! Is it 7:30?!" And so I groggily rolled over and check my phone and it said, "4:22 am" so I told him, "Dude its 4:22 am go back to bed!!" He was all like, "Oh shoot, my bad...Hey let’s go open Presents!!" and I was like “uhhhh...dude its like the middle of the night, we will in the morning..." He said just kidding, and then shouted, "MERRY CHRISTMAS" and then jumped back into his bed. Needless to say, this experience made for some good laughs the next morning. I love Elder Nieves...and this isn’t the first time that he has done something similar with me...back when we lived in the Loft he woke us all up at 4 am one morning by doing the dishes...

Christmas morning!!
We just received some training from the mission department and the leaders of the church, that it is no longer acceptable to hold transfer meetings, or any large gatherings of missionaries. So we are going to totally have to revamp our transfer day...and because they don't want any large gatherings, we will probably have to arrange a way for everyone to meet their new companion in a different way. So it kinda throws a big wrench into the plans that we already have, but oh well, we have to be obedient! It's too bad, because those big transfer meetings are always lots of fun and excitement.

Our awesome friend, Steve
We have been working on and off with an awesome guy named Steve for quite a while, (like since the summer) and just recently he has found some new motivation to progress. A few months ago we were able to sit down with him and really get down to it and be bold with him and push him. He knows the Church is true, and he reads the Book of Mormon regularly, but he just has never been baptized!  We found out that he lost his white shirt and tie, and so we went to Wal-mart last P-day and bought him one and wrapped it up and gave it to him for Christmas. He came to church yesterday and looked great!! He had an awesome time in church and got up in class and introduced himself as such, "Hey my name is Steve Floyd, I'm a convert to the church, and I'm going to be baptized in January." We were PUMPED when he said that, because that is what we want. We want to baptized converts, people who are converted to the gospel. We don't want to baptize investigators, or people who are still unsure about it. But please keep Steve in your prayers that he can quit smoking and get baptized next month. We are really excited for him, and it has been cool to see the change in his countenance as he progresses and comes closer to our Savior. There has literally been a visible change within him. 

With Elder Han
I was able to go on exchanges this week with Elder Han in his Spanish area in downtown Reno, and we had a great day together. He is easily one of the best missionaries in this mission, he is a powerful teacher and knows what he is doing. I learned a lot from him, and he is really good at using the Book of Mormon in every teaching situation. But we were both really sick the whole day we were together, which kinda stunk. The night we were together I didn't really sleep well at all. I couldn't breathe well and my throat hurt, and I was getting really frustrated. So finally after a few hours I got on my knees and asked Heavenly Father to allow me to sleep well for the last few hours so that I could have the energy I needed to have a great exchange with Elder Han the next day. And that's the last thing I remember doing that night! As soon as I climbed into bed I passed out and slept until the alarm rang in the morning. And that next day, I wasn't tired at all!!  It was an answer to my prayers that I really needed. The sickness didn't go away, and I didn't feel all that great, but we still had a great day.  I wasn't tired, and we found some awesome new people for those Elders to teach. (Also, that same night at about 10:40pm after I finished praying we had an earthquake!! It was crazy, at first I didn't know what was going on, but then it donned on me that we just felt an earthquake! It's not every day that you feel one of those...)

A white Christmas!
I have gained a testimony of prayer on my mission. I have had many small experiences such as the one that I just shared that have allowed me to grow my faith in what I ask for in my prayers and what kind of prayers I should have. I don't think that I really had much of a testimony of prayer before my mission. I had heard lots of stories about cool answers to prayers, but I had yet to experience and learn from them myself. We learn from the Savior,  "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you." This is a true statement. We don't always get exactly what we ask for, or we don't get an answer the way that we would like, but he hears and answers them because God is our loving Heavenly Father. 

Being a missionary is the best job on this planet. I am so lucky. There is no place I would rather be in my life right now. I know that Christ lives. I know that this is HIS church. I know that HIS gospel blesses lives, and that it can bless anyone who just gives it a try.

I have the best family on Earth! With the best parents and the best siblings. Hands down. I love you guys!! 


Elder RichmanDawg
Christmas Eve dinner with the Campos Family