Week 80 – Happy Easter!!

With Elder Han at the Reno Zone Conference
March 28, 2016
Hello everyone!

Happy Easter!! I hope that everyone had a fun weekend with chocolate and colored eggs, and also had the opportunity to remember our Savior, Jesus Christ. Yesterday, we ran into a teenager on the street who said he didn't care about Easter anymore now that he was grown up – and he said he had never heard that on Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  How sad. Hopefully none of you are in the same boat.

I also want to give a birthday shout-out to my little sister Mary Jane, who turns 18 today…wahooo!!  I thought I was the only one in the family who was allowed to be 18 years old, but I guess I will let her turn 18 also.  Happy Birthday MJ!! 

Four inches of snow on March 28th...
Today we woke up with 4 inches of snow on the ground, so that was interesting, cuz last week we had great weather. I hope that it warms up and melts soon so we can get back on our bikes.  Elder Han and I have developed a passion for proselyting on bikes now haha!

This week we were teaching a lesson to a man named Andres.  He already had a copy of the Book of Mormon from a while ago, and while we teaching him he randomly held up a pass-along card of Jesus Christ and said, "Mira, Aqui esta Jesucristo." Which means, "Look, this is Jesus Christ." Elder Han and I just about fell out of our seats laughing because it came out of nowhere. I love teaching funny Hispanic people.  It is the best.

This week we had tons of opportunities to find new people to teach.  We literally talk with everyone that we see on the streets. There are tons of Hispanic people in our area, so we don't have to worry about talking only to white people. I am a math nerd for those who know me, so I did some math to figure out how many people it takes to find a new solid investigator. I figured that about 5 out of 10 people we talk to give us their information and agree to have us come back. About 1 out of 10 of those people that tell us we can come back are there when we set up the appointment. Then about 1 out of 10 people who keep their appointments, actually keep their commitments and become solid investigators. So I figure about 1 out of every 200 people that we talk to on the streets becomes a solid investigator. Because these odds are not necessarily in our favor, we need to talk with everyone!  If we only talk to half of the people that we see, then the number gets even smaller. So for this reason, we talk to everyone, and we find lots of prepared people. Hispanic people are so friendly and will let us come into their home and everything, but then they are also very flaky and don't keep their appointments and commitments. 

Games at Zone Conference
Last Monday night, we were walking back from knocking on a referral's door, and a man named Manuel was outside changing the lights on his car. We struck up a conversation with him and he told us that he wouldn't mind us coming back sometime to teach him about Jesus Christ. We got his info and set up an appointment for Thursday. We didn't think much about Manuel, and he didn't seem to be super solid, but we went back on Thursday like we agreed and of course he wasn't there. But a different dude – a 24-year-old guy – opened the door and even though he was playing Pokemon, he paused and told us Manuel wasn't home, but that he might be back later in the evening.

We decided to go back later in the evening, and when we went back, the older guy, Manuel, was there along with the 24-year-old named Felipe. There were also a bunch of little kids running around. We sat down and assumed that Manuel was the father and the 24-year-old (Felipe) and the other kids were all his children. However we soon learned that Manuel was the GRANDfather, and the Felipe was dating his daughter, and the kids running around were Felipe's. He had a 9-year-old daughter (you can do the math) and two other boys who are about 7 and 5. We sat down and only had 10 minutes that night, but Felipe was glued to us. He agreed to everything we said, and agreed to let us come back. I could tell that he felt the Spirit, and knew that this is what he needed.

We went back on Saturday and taught the Restoration to Manuel, Felipe, his girlfriend, Seline, and their children. It went great! They understood everything and said that they would like to teach their children about God, but didn't know what church to go to. If I were in Felipe's shoes, I would be eating up the Gospel, because it is exactly what he needs. He is a young guy who doesn't really know how to be a father, and already has young children who need to know what is the right path. They didn't make it to church yesterday because it was his sister's birthday and they wanted to celebrate that instead, but we are really excited about this family. We will keep you posted.

Reno Zone
Yesterday and today, I was studying about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the stories that followed in the scriptures. I found two stories that had a common theme. The first comes from John 20 and is when Mary Magdalene discovers that Christ is gone, and then Christ himself comes up to her. When he first starts talking to her, Mary mistakes him for a gardener, but then looks up and discovers that it is indeed Christ himself. The second comes from Luke 24 and is when two disciples, one named Cleopas, are walking to Emmaus. They are talking together about how sad it is about Christ's death, when Jesus himself joins them in their travels, but the two disciples don't know that it is He. The Lord joins them in their conversation and accompanies them to their destination. He teaches them that all of the prophets have been prophesying of Christ and His resurrection since Moses, so they have no reason to be sad. Then after he breaks and blesses bread for them, the disciples realize who it is, and as soon as they realize who it is, "He vanished out of their sight."

In both of these stories following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the people did not recognize the Savior at first. However, after spending time with him and hearing his voice, they realized who it was. I think that this happens to all of us at times. The Lord is around us in all that we do, but far too often, we don't recognize it. Elder Han and I have noticed this and as part of our weekly goals recently we want to recognize and point out to each other all of the many small miracles that we see each day. Many people think that miracles have to be big, life-changing experiences that include angels and fireworks and everything, but rarely do miracles happen like that. We see tons of miracles each day, like when someone is put in our path and they tell us that they have already attended the LDS church and would like to attend again. Or someone pays for our lunch, or even as simple as someone says a great prayer at the end of a lesson. I know that the Lord has his hand in all that we do.

My ponderize scripture for the week is Doctrine and Covenants 123:17:

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

I know that as we do our part, and we work hard and are obedient, then God is with us always. In connection with this topic I found another scripture in Doctrine and Covenants section 59, that says,

"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments."

So truly it is a commandment to recognize that the Lord is with us always.

On this Easter weekend I want to share my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that he suffered for all of our sins, sorrows, and pains, and was crucified. I know that He completed the Atonement by overcoming death, and that He rose on the third day. I know that He still lives today and that He guides this church. I know that Christ is closer to us than we think and knows how we feel when we are going through hard times. I know that as we look for the hand of the Lord more in our life, that we will see that He truly is blessing us immensely. I am grateful for the short 2 years that I have to share this message with EVERYone that I see. I love getting dressed every morning and putting on my nametag, because it is only for these two years that I get to represent my Savior Jesus Christ. It is truly a privilege to testify of Him and of His goodness. I know that he is willing to forgive anyone who has made any kind of mistake, and that he is there with a helping hand for anyone who is struggling.  I love My Savior very much and I know that he loves me in return.

Have a great week everyone!! Thanks for the birthday wishes!! I love you!


Elder Todd
Homies from the Sierra Branch before Elder Romney went home

Week 79 – A Week of Miracles

With Elder Han and Elder Krey!
March 21, 2016
What’s up everyone?? Happy Spring!

This week has honestly been one of the best weeks of my whole mission! We saw SO many miracles each day. I have never found so many prepared people as during this past week. It seems like every corner we turned there was someone waiting for us to come, and just about everyone we talked to accepted our invitation to learn more about and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. Literally…Elder Han and I couldn't believe it at sometimes how awesome it was.

It was beautiful weather for most of the week, and so we hopped on our bikes and did a lot of biking. I love to bike – especially when we have beautiful spring weather outside! The blossoms on the trees are all popping out right now and it is so much fun to be outside. Nice weather makes missionary work twice as fun. Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day and the bus system here let everyone ride the bus for free after 4pm on Thursday, so we took advantage of that and didn't use our car on Thursday again.  We just biked into town and then took the bus back at home that night.

Making transfer calls last night
Last night, we got the transfer information and sent it out to everyone, and Elder Han and I get to stay together for another transfer! We are super excited, especially because we have found lots of solid people, and now we want to start teaching all of them and help them progress! This past transfer has been a ton of fun, and we had a great zone. Honestly our zone was very unified and we all got along great together. But although we are losing some solid people, we are also getting some awesome missionaries transferred in – so it’s all good.

The awesome Reno Zone
Most of the investigators that we have been working with this past transfer have really stopped progressing for the most part. We haven't met with the Luciano family in three weeks, and we haven’t seen Beba and Otto either. Its kinda too bad, because everyone we have been teaching has shown tons of potential, but Satan works hard to keep us from meeting with them…whether it be work or school or other things that impede us from getting together. It is really sad, but that is why we always have to be constantly finding new people to teach, so our teaching pool never dries up.

Lots of people have been asking me how is it serving back in Spanish again? And to be honest, I LOVE it. The Hispanic population is so loving right off the bat. I certainly felt the love from the members from the moment I arrived here in the branch.  It is great. As far as actually speaking the language, there has definitely been a learning curve, and when I first got here it felt like I jumped on a treadmill that was already going at like 8mph, so I had to jump on and get going quickly, but finally now things have slowed down and I feel like I can express myself in Spanish. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have been blessed with to learn a whole new language on my mission! I hope that I can use the Spanish language for the rest of my life.

Making breakfast for Sister Chesnut's birthday
This past week was Sister Chesnut's birthday, so the Reno Zone decided to get together for morning sports and then Elder Han and I cooked the zone and Sister Chesnut breakfast. We fried up a bunch of eggs and bacon and pancakes for everyone. It was actually a ton of fun to have the zone together and the Chesnuts in the morning, it was a big hit! #RenoZone4Life

I can echo the words of Nephi in the first verse of the Book of Mormon when he says, "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents..." I love my parents. I am so grateful for the opportunity that they have given me to grow up in the gospel. I am willing to argue with anyone that I have the best parents in the world. They both have very busy lives but they somehow balance their church responsibilities, a full time job, coaching and teaching sports and musical instruments, AND raising the 5 children who are still at home, while managing to find

time to write letters and send packages to me. They have been my coaches, my role models, my teachers, and my best friends. Training a new missionary is considered the most important leadership position someone can hold, because their trainer shapes who they will be for the rest of their mission...whether they are a lazy missionary, or a hard-working and diligent missionary. The same is true with parents, except like 100x more important...they are our trainers for life!
  We often meet teenagers and kids who are not respectful and very immature, and 99% of the time their parents are to blame. I got so lucky to have two awesome parents who have taught me and raised me in the Gospel. This is the best gift that anyone can give. I know that there is nothing more that I want for my future family than to follow in my parents’ footsteps and marry someone in the temple of God and bless my children with the Gospel as well.

Breakfast and morning sports for Sister Chesnut's bday
That is about all for today, I wish I had more time to go into detail about all of the miracles finding people to teach, but maybe next week! 

I love you guys! The Church has never been more true! Try not to have too much fun without me in Rosemary beach!  (Nevada is better anyways.)


Elder Todd

Week 78 – Bikin’ and Bussin’

At the main bus terminal in Reno
March 14, 2016

Congrats to my Dad, Mary Jane, and Nathan for running the half-marathon this past weekend!  You are my heroes!!! That is awesome. It sounds like we have a family full of runners...and I am not one of them. But maybe I can beat you guys in a race on the Wii some day.

Biking with Elder Peterson
Here in Reno, we have had a great week. I got to go on exchanges with Elder Peterson in the Truckee River ward for the day on Wednesday, and it was a lot of fun. He is a great elder who came out last summer – so he’s been out about 8 or 9 months. The Truckee River ward is a biking area, so I got to bust out my bike and put it to use for the first time in a few months. The Truckee River ward covers downtown Reno, so it was fun to be biking around all the big buildings. It is lots of fun to be on a bike in that area because it is arguably the most densely populated ward in the mission, and we are like moving billboards for the church, so tons of people see us out and about. It was a beautiful day that we were out working, which of course makes it more enjoyable. 

I'm a total map nerd.  I LOVE MAPS!!

I actually had so much fun on a bike for a day that Elder Han and I thought it would be a brilliant idea if we rode the bus and biked for a day, instead of using our car like usual. We cover most of Reno except for the North Valleys and the Southern part, so our area is pretty big, and we live outside of the zone in Sparks, so we couldn't realistically do the whole day on bike. But we decided we would do it on Saturday, and a few days before, we went to the bus station downtown and got the bus book and map, and then I went to town mapping our route with the appointments we had set and stuff. Of course anyone who knows me knows that I am a map nerd and love doing stuff like that, so I really enjoyed figuring it all out.

Elder Han and me
It cost us 5 bucks for a day bus pass, and we were able to use it a handful of times throughout the day. We took our bikes with us because each bus here in Reno is equipped with bike racks…so we would just throw our bikes on the rack, hop on until we got to our stop, and then jump off and bike to our appointments. It was actually a BLAST. We got to talk to so many people, and sitting on the bus was a great opportunity to talk to lots of people. We started many conversations with the question, "Have you ever talked with missionaries on the bus before?!" and most people said "No! But I’ve seen you walking around before!" So it was lots of fun to talk on the bus. We would try and scout out the Hispanic people and sit by them if we could manage that.

We saw a few miracles riding the bus, as well! On our first bus ride of the day, we sat next to a man named Angel and he was a pretty chill guy.  He was just on the way into town to gamble a little bit. We talked to him for the ride, but he didn't want to give us his information or let us come by. We left him with our number and that was all. But then, our very last bus ride of the day, we hopped on the bus, and there was Angel again, this time with a funny smile on his face that almost said, "DANG! I can't get away from you guys!" We talked to him some more, and he admitted that it was no coincidence that we rode the same bus twice in a day. This time he accepted the invitation to let us come by and teach him, and we were able to get his information and pass it along to the other Elders.

Bus map of Reno
Then, Thursday night we had an awesome first lesson with a man named Gabriel and he committed to baptism on April 23rd in the first lesson!  Unfortunately, we went 2 days without seeing him again or talking to him, and we were quite bummed out. But then on Saturday morning, we got off at the transfer station after our first bus ride and lo and behold, Gabriel was getting on the very same bus that we were getting off!  So we had a few minutes to talk and set up another appointment with him, and he apologized for missing the last one. Another miracle!

Finally, we were on of our last buses heading home for the night and a Hispanic man jumped on. We were chatting with a different man, but Elder Han leaned over to me and said, "I know that guy, I can’t remember his name!?" I didn't recognize him. As we got off at the transfer station he came up and we started talking to him, and it turns out that it was an investigator that called us my first day in this area and told us that he read the Restoration pamphlet and wanted to be baptized – but the number he called us on was no longer in service, so we hadn't talked with him in about a month!  So we got his new number and that was a HUGE miracle. Elder Han and I had a blast riding the bus all over town and doing some biking here and there in between. We want to do it more, but our budget doesn't really allow for extra bus rides. 

Opening Hermano Guillen's car
One more quick story...this week, Elder Han and I prayed specifically that we could do one random act of service throughout the day.  We were walking around this apartment complex where we have a few investigators and we saw two other Elders in the English ward over in the corner so we went over and said hello and they were actually helping a Hispanic man named Luis try and open his car door because he had locked the keys inside. He drove this van that had the back windows open just a crack, and Luis had dug out a long pole thinger from the garbage to stick through the crack and open the window. The 4 of us spent about a half hour trying to get the door open and I was about to throw in the towel because at that point it seemed useless, when we finally got the door open! We switched up our approach last minute and it worked. The man then invited us into his home and wanted us to meet his family. He has 4 teenage kids and a nice wife, and they invited us to come back and meet with them! We haven't been able to meet with them since, because they have been super busy and super involved with their other church, but he was really grateful for our service. It was cool to see how our specific prayer in the morning before we left the apartment was answered, and it gave us an opportunity to serve and find a new family to teach, the Guillen family. I will keep you posted on them in the future.

My ponderize scripture this week is Doctrine and Covenants 42:61…

"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal."

I chose this scripture because it is so important and crucial that we understand how to receive our own personal revelation. Joseph Smith once said, "Salvation cannot come without revelation" and so we all need to learn how to receive that personal revelation...and the scripture tells us plainly..."ASK." I know that we can all receive revelation and answers to our prayers by simply asking questions and then pondering and waiting for answers. Too often we pray and we just ramble on for a while without letting Heavenly Father talk back to us. It would be like if I called someone on the phone and then, without letting them say anything, I just went on and on about how my day was and all the things I need help with and then hung up without letting the person on the other end of the call say a single word.

The 6 missionaries in our branch
At MLC (Missionary Leadership Conference), the Assistants trained on this exact topic and had a Sister missionary come up to the front and call another companionship of missionaries and without explaining what was going on, they had the Sister just ramble on about how great her day was so far, and then hang up before the missionaries on the other line could say anything. It really put it into perspective for me of how important and sacred our prayers should be. If we want it to be, we can make each prayer a revelatory experience. A few months ago President Perry trained about prayers in an MLC meeting and it changed my life. He told us that we don't always need to pray out loud, but definitely not every prayer should be in our mind. I have found that praying out loud helps me focus during my prayers and make them very spiritual experiences. I know that prayer is a two-way communication, and we really can receive answers.

This was a great week. We had lots of fun on bikes and the bus, and teaching the truth. I can't complain! 

I love you guys!!


Elder Todd

Exchanges with Elder Peterson