Week 97 - Preachin’ in the Sun!

The 6 Elders and Sisters in our district

July 25, 2016

Well it has been a sunny, blue-sky, HOT, week here in Nevada. But man is life good!

This week we had some really awesome lessons with the Coto family and a few other investigators. The Coto Family is doing well. They came to church for the third time in a row yesterday, and they even brought a cousin and their nephew! Their cousin is just in town for a week with his parents, but their nephew is named Jose and he is actually moving in with the Coto family for a month or so. Jose is a young guy YSA-aged, and he loved church!! He looked and acted like a regular member yesterday at church. It was awesome.

Hermana Coto (the mom) and the two daughters are 100% on board for baptism on August 13th. Hermano Coto told us Saturday night that he likes the idea of the church and is grateful for the way the Gospel has blessed his family even in these past few weeks, but he hasn't felt a spiritual confirmation that it is true.  We encouraged him to read the Book of Mormon and continue praying about it, because that is the key. 

Family Night with the Coto Family (on the right)
and the Martinez family!!
Last night after church we had a Family Night with the Coto family and another family in the branch that lives close by. It was a lot of fun! I uploaded a picture of the event. It is so cool to see families reaching out to other families to support one another. It is also crazy to see how many blessings come from living the gospel. It teaches us so many great and powerful principles – even beyond just what you might consider "church-related stuff". 

We were scheduled to have a lesson with Alicia and her family tomorrow with another family in the branch, but the member family got in a car wreck yesterday! So we aren't going to be able to teach them tomorrow night. However, a small miracle happened yesterday at church. Alicia's husband, Isidrio, came up to us afterwards and said, "We have a few questions and want to meet with you, can we come to church an hour early next Sunday and have a talk?" !!!! We were super pumped. So we will update you next week on how things go. They are certainly warming up to us…we talk together before and after church and they have two little girls who are really funny. They are a great family and will be solid members after they are baptized.

The lesson yesterday in Elders Quorum was about sacrifice and I really enjoyed it. We read the scripture Matt. 16:25,

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

The entire zone
On my mission I have seen so many examples of people who have sacrificed time, money, talents, and themselves for the Lord. One of the biggest blessings that I have received here in Reno is learning from the examples of the members. So many members are willing to sacrifice to help us out, whether it be to feed us, to help us out with rides, or to join us for lessons. I am SO grateful for all that the members do for us. I remember a few months ago a member, Brother Mathews, joined us for a few hours in the evening, and afterwards he mentioned that it was his anniversary!! We were shocked! I can think of many other times when members sacrificed their time and energy to come and help us out as the Lord's servants. I am so grateful for all of them.

I know that truly the Lord blesses us when we turn outwards and serve. Just as the scripture says, when we lose ourselves in the service of others we really find ourselves. I know that to be true. I hope that I can follow the example that so many members have shown me, and that I can continue to serve in whatever way possible.

I love being a missionary. It is not everyday that you get to wear the Savior's name on your chest. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to put it on everyday.

This gospel is real.

I love you guys!


Elder Todd

Week 96 - Girls’ Camp = Miracles!

With my man, Elder Ash
July 18, 2016
Hey everyone!!

I say this every week, but the mission just keeps getting better and better. I have never had so much fun or been so happy in my life.

Our investigators are all doing great. This past week was crucial for many of them, and it seems that they all made steps forward. 

Fun activity with our zone
The Coto Family is doing awesome. Their 15-year old went to girls’ camp this past week with the stake and absolutely loved it. She told us that she didn't want to leave. She also came home and told us that she wanted all of the books we have so that she can study them and read them. The parents are kind of shocked because two weeks ago their daughter was an atheist and didn't want anything to do with any church. The parents attended church again yesterday and they liked it a lot. We are going over tonight to teach them. Last week's lesson in church was about temples and so when we went over to their house last week they had lots of questions about temples, and they loved the idea of being sealed together as a family. At one point in our lesson this past week Hermano Coto said, "This is what we have been looking for, not just any church but a real religion." Hermana Coto sobbed throughout church yesterday again. Please keep this family in your prayers that they can continue to progress! We love them a lot.

The Luciano family all came to church yesterday and are back on track after two weeks of sickness and stuff.  They now feel like part of the branch and are really well fellowshipped. The next step for them is the M word.......marriage!! They avoid the subject but with time I know it will happen. They brought one of their neighbors who is a 19-year-old boy to church again, named Johnny. This was his second time at church, and last night we had a lesson with him and set a baptismal date for August 13th. He is super solid and really likes church. He is a funny kid. 

Francisco is doing well. He is working two jobs right now and is super busy. His fiancé comes home in a week, and he wants to get baptized soon after that! We just have to get him a few Sundays free. He got his new job through a member of the branch, and the member said that he will have every other Sunday off in a few weeks, so we are hoping that turns out to be true. I love that man a lot. He is seriously considering moving to Provo where nothing is open on Sunday haha.

Alicia is doing well, we were able to set up a Family Night with them and a family in the branch for next Tuesday, so we are looking forward to that. 

Me and Elder Short
On Saturday, we had a branch Elders Quorum activity and played soccer. We went (but didn't play) and we had 6 investigators show up, including Hermano Coto and Johnny! Soccer is the big sport in Hispanic countries, and so everyone gets excited about some soccer. It was fun. 

Have you ever thought about how wonderful the principle of repentance is? So many people hear that word and they freak out; it has a negative connotation. However, repentance is one of the biggest blessings that we have in all of our lives. Jesus Christ has paid the necessary price for all of our wrongdoings and mistakes. Because of his sacrifice, we can be set free and feel free, too!  Repentance is the 2nd principle of the Gospel, and follows faith because if we don't have faith then we will never even have the desire to repent. However, when we do grow our faith, we understand the wonderful blessings that await us when we repent.

Christ wants us to use His Atonement, which is why he says, "Come unto me". Sincere repentance begins when we stop our wrong actions and feel sorry for doing them. We then confess them to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and when needed, also confess to a church leader. We then do all that we can to "un-do" our mistake and strive to never do it again. There are MANY examples in the scriptures of people who had a change of heart and repented and felt the joy and peace that comes. One of them comes from the Book of Alma, when Alma the younger is sharing his conversion story with his son. He says, "Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy." He felt both ends of the spectrum, the sorrow that comes from sinning, and the joy that comes after repentance. I know of the joy that comes from true repentance, and I invite everyone to seek for that joy each week as we take the sacrament. 

The Church is true. Christ stands at the head of it, and it is truly his church.

I love you guys!


Elder Todd
Golfing into a lake as an activity with our entire zone

Week 95 - Miracles Keep Coming!

With Elder Lyman
July 11, 2016
Hello everyone!!

This has been one of the most miracle-filled weeks of my whole mission. The Lord is blessing us with lots of success and I know that it is all coming from the Lord. It has been a really fun week, even the weather was perfect...80s and sunny all week!!

But let me fill you in:

So La Familia Coto that I told you about last week is super solid. They are the family of 4 that we found last weekend. We had a church tour with them on Wednesday, and committed them to baptism on August 13th (the whole family!) when we were standing in front of the baptismal font. It was a powerful church tour. One of the biggest reasons that the church intrigued the parents was for their 15-year-old daughter, who hated going to church in the past and didn't believe in God. They wanted to help her. But she came to church for the tour.  She was kinda skeptical and put on a "too cool for school attitude" but she committed to baptism also. We went over to their house on Saturday and had a lesson and taught the Restoration. It went great. The parents told us on Saturday that their 15-year-old daughter had declined an invitation to hang out with her friends so that she could go to church instead. And so they came yesterday!  They were like 5 minutes late (which is really like 20 minutes late, but because of Hispanic time we always start about 15 minutes late) so we were worried, but they arrived!  Sister Coto cried for the entire sacrament meeting. They stayed for the whole three hours and loved it. In fact, they loved it so much that their 15-year old daughter decided to go to girls’ camp with the stake this week. (They left this morning!) She came out with a big grin on her face and came up to us and said, "I love church!!" The parents loved it also, and the Mom commented to a member that she didn't know why she was crying so much in all the classes but she couldn't stop!  We are super stoked for this family. When we have such big miracles like this it forces to stop and look back and think, "Wow, God has to be real." 

The Elders of the Rama Sierra
Jesus Mesias came to church again this week and liked it again. We haven't been able to go and teach him much yet because he is so busy, but we are hoping to go over tomorrow with an appointment that we have set up. 

We have also gotten to know another family: Alicia came to church with her two young daughters three weeks ago out of the blue. She didn't know anybody, just saw the church and wanted to try it out, so she got online and checked it out. We of course went up to her and introduced ourselves and offered to come over and teach her, but she declined, said that she was just looking. She came back the next week with her husband, and we again talked to the family for a while. They are an awesome and super cool young family! However, last week, once again, they declined our invitation to learn more in their home. They came again yesterday and brought their 17 year old son, and he actually knew some of the youth and he had a great time, also. We had a "Noche de Hogar" with the whole branch last night, (which was way fun) and they came also! They loved it and had tons of questions that the Hermana missionaries answered. We still do not have their information to go and teach them. They are slowing warm up, however.   It is interesting, because usually it is the opposite with investigators, we can't get them to church for the life of us, but they love having us over. This certainly shows lots of real intent and true interest, so we can't complain. We are praying and hoping that we can start to teach them soon.

Hiking in Washoe Valley with Elder Hadley
I got to go on two exchanges this past week, one in the YSA area with Elders Lyman and Ash, and another in Washoe Valley with Elder Hadley. Both exchanges we had tons of fun and were able to find new people to teach, which was huge because both areas have been struggling to find people to teach.

It is such an interesting concept that Heavenly Father has his plans, and knows better than we do. So often we think that we know what would be best for ourselves, and even sometimes we think we know what those around us need. However, we do not. In Isaiah 55 we read:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

This is a pretty famous scripture, but it teaches us a powerful concept. So many times I have thought to myself, "This would be perfect for me, this is exactly what needs to happen!" and so then I pray about it and hope for it, but then the total opposite happens. At times when this happens it can weaken our faith because we think, "What did I do wrong?!" And no we didn't do anything wrong, but Heavenly Father just knows better. He knows that we need hard times and trials to grow stronger. He knows where we need to be in order to help other people out. I know that as we do all that we can, and allow ourselves to follow his will with his timing, we will find true happiness. Our human brains tend to only think short-term, but our Loving Heavenly Father has a long-term perspective. I love Him and am grateful for Him, even though at times it really stinks.

I love you guys, have a great week!!


Elder Todd
Exchanges with Elder Hadley

Week 94 – Happy 4th of July!

4th of July with the Castiblanco family!
July 4, 2016
Hello everyone!!

Happy Independence Day!!! What a great blessing it is that we live here in the United States  with such great freedom. I was actually reading a talk this past week titled "Why 1820" (great talk by the way) and it explained why the gospel really wasn't able to be restored until the year 1820, but a large part of that was before that time there was no religious freedom! I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to worship and celebrate in any way we want to. 

So many miracles - Reno is going to burn down!
This week has been super hot and smoky here in Reno. (Fires in California.)  Upper 90s all week, but the miracles have kept coming!! The Lord has really blessed us this past week with lots of new investigators, fun times, and crazy miracles!

First of all, the Luciano family recovered finally from their whole ordeal. Hermano Luciano was released from the hospital on Saturday, after a whole week! They found out that his heart wasn't getting enough oxygen to the body, and so at times it would start to beat really fast and then slow way down. But he now sleeps with oxygen and hopefully that will help. As crazy as their whole experience was, I truly believe that it was for their benefit. The branch came and supported them big time while he was in the hospital.  They provided meals every night the whole week, and many branch members came and visited them while he was in the hospital.

The Luciano Family had never seen so much love in their life. They were really shocked. They told us that they had never felt like they had been part of a family like this until they started coming to church. We went and had a few lessons with them at the hospital, and during one of them Sister Luciano asked, "Can the branch president's wife baptize me?" We taught her about the priesthood and how all that works, and then she said, "Ok well then I want the branch president to baptize me." So they want to be baptized…now the question is when! It has been so cool to see their faith grow as a result of all of this. I know that the Lord knows exactly what everyone needs and blesses them according to their needs.

Other miracle of the week:  we found a guy last weekend named Jesus (pronounced "Hey-sus") and set up an appointment to teach him. We went back on Saturday and found him sleeping at home…we woke him up when we knocked on the door and had a good first lesson, but nothing too special. He committed to come to church yesterday, but almost everyone we meet tells us they will come to church. But on Sunday morning we called him an hour before church and he said he would be there!! So we waited for him and he showed up! It was a fast and testimony meeting and in the middle of the meeting, our branch president got up and said, "I have never done this, but the Holy Ghost has told me that I need to speak to Jesus over the pulpit," and looked right at our investigator!! He was sitting right next to me and he was really taken back. President then just told him that he knows the church is true and that Jesus is a child of God. (Keep in mind that President just briefly met him and shook his hand before the meeting, but that was it!) He spoke to him for about 5 minutes and then sat down. Then the 2nd counselor got up and said that right before President got up, he noticed a bright light above Jesus and was going to say something, but then right then President got up. Jesus was really taken back and didn't say a whole lot. He stayed for the next two hours and said he loved church, and would definitely be back next week. We didn't really get a chance to ask him how he felt or anything, but when we go back this week we will see what he was thinking. I have heard about things like that happening, but I never witnessed it until yesterday. 

Eating watermelon at a church member's house
A few weeks ago, Elder Torres and I had a special fast that we could find a new family to teach that had two parents, and two children. We fasted and prayed and since then we have continued to work hard and talk with everyone to find them. Yesterday, about a month later, our prayers were answered. We found a family with two parents, Ricardo and Carla, and two daughters who are young teenagers. They don't attend any church right now, but want to help their daughters stay on the right path. Last night we had a BOMB lesson with them and they had lots of good questions and want to learn more. After the lesson, we invited the Dad, Ricardo, to offer a kneeling prayer and he did. Carla was crying and the Spirit was super strong. We are excited to teach them more.

I have gained a testimony about so many gospel principles on my mission. One of them is the power that comes from fasting. I know that fasting works. The Lord has taught us that we can fast for really just about anything, and it can be like a "SUPER" prayer. Whether it be looking for a job, or getting into a school, or ANYTHING! Fasting shows our humility that we can't do things without Heavenly Father, and in return he blesses us. An interesting verse in the Doctrine and Covenants says: "Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer." So even though at times, fasting is hard and we are hungry and thirsty, we have reason to rejoice because we know that the Lord will bless us. I know that anyone can fast at anytime for any reason. 

I love you guys! Have a great holiday!!


Elder Todd