HAPPY BIRTHDAY KIMBALL!!!! And Judy’s Awesome Baptism.

I just sent you a bunch of pictures. The first I sent are of Judy Albee, who got baptized this week. I love Judy. She has so much simple faith. She was baptized by her brother-in-law. Judy’s daughter was baptized 6 months ago. Judy’s husband, Grant Albee, is super nice, but politely and firmly declines invitations to talk with missionaries or be involved with the church. He came to Judy’s baptism and came to church the next day, and through tender mercies of the Lord he met a few people at the baptism whom he was good friends with in high school. The Lord is working on Grant.

I love Judy because she realizes there is a lot she doesn’t know, yet she stays steadfastly true to what she does know. She texted us after she was confirmed at church and said “Some days I feel overwhelmed and will honestly try to follow the teachings, because I know that they are true and can help me through anything.” The ward did a fantastic job of fellow-shipping her and welcoming her. All of her friends (and family from California) were at the baptism. The High Priest Group Leader introduced The Albee Family (not just Judy) to their new home teacher during the baptismal service, and the spirit was strongly manifest during the entire weekend.

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The other pictures are:

of the Sunrise Service I talked about last week (and a tiny part of the cemetery it was held at). The man speaking is our fantastic stake president, President Powell. We are teaching a lesson to one of his neighbors at his house tonight. He is a man of God.

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A couple of pictures from our temple trip, including a picture of Elder Jacobson and I.

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And an awesome sunset we saw the other night while driving on Whittier Blvd.

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Brother Finger again.

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A street sign Elder Jacobson wanted me to take a picture of.

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Elder Jacobson and I at The Warner’s house.

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Mom: It sounds like they have been working you hard at school! Summer is only six or seven weeks away! Also, I’ll either go to Brazil soon or probably not at all! And yes, I have been striving to keep up my Portuguese.

Dad: Wait you are going back to Utah? What for this time? I’m glad you and Mom had a chance to spend some time together. And yes, your parable made sense. It’s crazy to me that Hyrum is old enough to be capable of that. I heard an awesome analogy about faith and a powerhouse on a river, but I’ll have to wait until I come home to share it. I don’t have enough time on an email, but it is very similar to the light switch analogy.

Grandma: That is awesome that you went out with the missionaries! I’m sure your friendship and experiences will help Brother Cummings mother, whether or not she joins the church. That is a great opportunity. And I do know what roadshows are, although I have never seen one. If I know Aunt Liz at all, the roadshow was probably good. And when it is over she will be able to sit down and breathe again. With Rylan passing away, it helps us appreciate the Plan of Salvation even more; knowing that he has now moved on to a greater work and is eagerly awaiting the rest of his family to join him. I love you, Grandma!

Ryan: It sounds like the youth in Hong Kong are really applying the covenant we make to share the gospel… and they see that it doesn’t have to be scary. That choir sounds like an awesome opportunity.

I love everyone. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to serve my Savior Jesus Christ through the people I am serving here. I am grateful for the changes I have seen in others and the change I am seeing in myself. And I am grateful that I know it is true.

Happy Birthday, Kimmie!

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Temple Trip, Zone Conference, Birthday, Easter, and First Sunburn!

I’m not sure if everyone got the chance to see the video “Because of Him” on easter.mormon.org. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It is a fantastic video.
We had Zone Conference last week. It felt like it had been forever since our last Zone Conference. The last one was only three hours because all the members of the stake were invited (and apparently they didn’t want to give up their entire Saturday). I love President Tew, our mission president. He is an inspired man. If there is a man who has the image of God engraven upon their countenance, it is him.

After Zone Conference (when our cars were inspected) the office elder over cars gave us a huge list of repairs (tires changed/aligned, elecrical issues, etc) that needed to be completed, and we had to spend most of our Saturday doing that, although we talked to a lot of people at the mechanic, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste.

On Sunday we had the opportunity to go to THREE Easter services. It was simultaneously immensely spiritual and tiring. Especially since the first started at 6:00 AM. It was called the Sunrise Service and was held at Rose Hills, the largest cemetery in The United States. Rose Hills is essentially an entire mountainside and you can see all the way to Catalina Island from the hillside. It was a beautiful setting for a church service. We attended it because it is put on by the Whittier Interfaith Council, of which our stake president, President Powell, is an active participant. This year he was asked to give the Easter Sermon, the first member of the church in 62 years to be asked to do so. It was fantastic. There was no doubt for any of the 1000+ in attendance at the end of his talk that “Mormons” believe in Jesus Christ. Also, Cathy Warner, the member we live with, spoke as the mayor at the beginning. She said this one of two opportunities she will get as mayor to talk at all about God, so she used the opportunity to the fullest.

Then we had the Santa Gertrudes family ward (where all of the speakers were awesome youth speakers) and Mar Vista Singles Ward. I love the Mar Vista Ward. Beside the incredible musical talent in the ward, the talks were fantastic. A girl in the ward gave a talk about the crucifixion. She is a biology major and went very in depth with what happens to the human body during crucifixion and how that knowledge helps her to relate to her Savior and our Savior. I learned I would prefer almost any death over crucifixion.

This past week we did a lot of service. One for a man who was going to get sued by the homeowner of his residence if he didn’t complete a landscaping project that he had to postpone because of a shoulder injury and another for an older guy in our ward who, according to his wife, won’t admit to himself that he is getting to old to be building a shed alone in his backyard (I love him, but she’s right). During service I finally got a sunburn on my mission. I’m amazed at how incredibly long that took. I mean, it’s sunny every day. I’ve discovered it is actually quite possible stay pasty white, even in Southern California.

I loved my birthday yesterday because it was just like every other day where I have the opportunity to serve the Lord. Plus, it was bookended by Easter before and a temple trip today!
I love the temple. Somehow, four zones were scheduled to attend the same session, so the rooms were packed (at least with elders). And for anyone that has been to the LA temple, it takes a lot of people to pack those rooms. Only three more months until I get to go to the temple again!

Judy is getting baptized this Saturday. I am so excited for her. I’ve learned (through a lot of prayer) that Judy needs: support, constant reminder of the truths we have taught, and prayers from us to continue progressing (now and after baptism). None of those things are mind-blowing or revolutionary, but we were struggling with knowing how to help her retain and apply what we have taught since she has short-term memory loss. And no, Dad, I don’t have short term memory loss ;). Not officially. Although it would be a great excuse for everything I forget.

Dad: For me, I remember a few times where the spirit testified to me as a kid that Jesus is The Christ, but especially I remember when we would sit as a family upstairs in the family room in Rexburg and talk about the scriptures. And what we learned in church. And one of us would teach a lesson. I remember you sitting in that chair and the rest of us sitting on the couch (or sometimes the floor) and I knew I felt the spirit undeniably teach that the things we talked about were true. I think those are my ealiest memories of knowing truth because I felt it. In the past few weeks, I have had a lot of opportunity to think about the eternal nature of families, whether at the home of a member whose husband died that morning or at the subsequent funeral or while preparing a lesson for a Preach My Gospel class or teaching the Plan of Salvation or going to the temple. But I know that even during the painful suffering that comes with the loss of a family member, there is also the comforting truth of the resurrection and of eternal families. I will pray for them.

Mom: Just you and Grandma for Easter? Tell Dad he needs to come home at least once a month! I hope you at least know that even if there aren’t many bodies at home, that is where our hearts are.

Grandma Mooney: Thank you for the birthday wishes! I’m glad you got to celebrate yours as well with some sisters from church. You have a few more years to celebrate than I do. This is the first year I can remember where I haven’t made Easter Eggs at home or done some sort of Easter Egg hunt.

Lacey: For a few short months, all six of us kids will be in the same decade of life. We are all in our twenties. It’s crazy to think that one of us (and I’m not pointing any fingers) will break out of their twenties soon. I didn’t know Mesa had a pageant! I’m not quite sure how you could fit that much into an hour. That’s literally over 5000 years of history.

Kimmie: I was randomly asked to sing in the choir in our singles ward. It had been a while since I sang in choir. It was a nice relief. I think my companion would have rather had his teeth pulled with a shovel, though, so he didn’t sing with us. I’m jealous that you are still playing your flute. I miss french horn. 😦 Did you take your flute on your mission?

Isaac: I hope someday I can go to Washington DC. Are the cherry trees in bloom or is that already over? It is amazing how during certain seasons we feel such a strong pull toward Jesus Christ. I guess the goal is to keep that permanent so we can always feel the spirit in the ways we do around Christmas and Easter and other times of the year.

Ryan: Those pictures look awesome!!! Is it cloudy often in Hong Kong? I miss nature a lot. It’s a good thing this work is so true or it wouldn’t be worth it living in a concrete jungle for two years. The most nature I’ve seen so far is the cemetery we were at on Sunday… which is a cemetery. Not exactly natural, but at least green.

Tyler: I love how Japanese that farm looked: the cow, the starving dog statues. And I have to admit, I am a little envious that you have something like that in your mission boundaries. The only farm we have is Knott’s Berry Farm.

I promise pictures next week. This week I couldn’t find my usb converter.

I love everyone! Fique Firme!

Happy Easter!

Each week I come to email with this thought in my head: “What happened this week?”

Sometimes I actually write out a summary of what happened before I email to kick start my memory. The weeks often begin to blur together.

This week we received a referral for a kid named Brady. He is 19 and attending BIOLA (bye-ole-uh) University. I don’t know if I have talked about BIOLA before, but it is the Evangelical version of BYU. We have taught a few people who attended the university, and it has a bad rap among missionaries because in some classes at the school students get credit for going to our church services, bringing in a copy of The Book of Mormon, having a discussion with the missionaries, or obtaining pamphlets from us. And also, they have a bad rap for wanting to bible bash with missionaries. Brady is a VERY smart kid. Very intuitive. And very inclined toward spiritual things. Yet if the people we teach don’t sincerely follow Moroni’s promise to read and pray about the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, they will never see that it is true despite their education or their faith. It is through that way that the honest seeker of truth who can barely read can progress farther in the gospel than the learned scholar who believes he has everything he needs.

However, Brady as well as two of our other investigators attend BIOLA. There are a few BIOLA graduates in our ward, and honestly the people I’ve talked to who attend there a) actually know what they believe and b) actually know what is written in the Bible. Sometimes it is nice to have a conversation with someone not of our faith who actually studies scripture and sincerely prays. I have however discovered that without the knowledge of the Restored Gospel and without partaking in the ordinances therein, we can only progress so far in knowledge and in faith. There is a limit that is reached, no matter how studied or educated or dedicated or staunch in your beliefs you have become.

Truth comes to the honest seeker. The same, plain truth can be presented in front of two people and only the one who humbles himself enough to see it can discern it. It pains me to see people sincere in their beliefs and highly educated turn away from the truth because they or the world has convince them it is foolishness.

Also, Satan should pat himself on the back for providing so many differing, confusing, and inaccurate translations of the Bible. It has served it’s purpose.

It is so exciting to see people progress. Anthony has already come so far. When we met him he was obviously prepared. I mean, he figured out the Plan of Salvation on his own. Let’s not forget that. However, his obstacle of non-commitment is being chipped away as he sees the goodness of the truth. By coming to general conference he knew without a doubt that the men who spoke were men of God. And for Anthony, who was floating around from belief to belief and pushing nothing away, coming to a session of conference centered on divine priesthood authority was nothing short of perfect. His perspective of seeing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as just a good way of life is beginning to shift to seeing it as the good way of life. The only lasting way of life.
And for Judy, she is learning that sincere repetition is key. And so are we as we have taught her. Having been in a coma for two months, she now has short-term memory loss and so she honestly has no recollection of some significant points of doctrine (ie THE RESTORATION) though she believes it to be true when her memory has been jogged. As she has read the scriptures every day, (and the same scripture again and again) it sinks in and leads to her conversion.

Mom and Dad: I feel like you see each other about as often as I see you! Dad, good luck with your project for work due today. It must be frustrating when your work is held back by other people. Hopefully you don’t end up having to sleep all day on Easter It will definitely be a day of rest for you (if you make it home by then)! Mom, yes I received my package. Thank you so much! The Burt’s Bees was perfect. I think I have a supply now that will last through my mission at least. And thank you for the cards as well. Between Elder Jacobson and I we have a pretty solid supply of snacks now.
Grandma and Grandpa Koetitz sound like they really appreciate the help you give them. I am certainly grateful for the miracle of modern medicine.

Kimmie: Thank you so much for the pictures! Holy stinking cow! Hyrum is giant and looks so darn old! Don’t work too hard! Also, don’t too forget to send pictures when you finish!

Tyler: From that picture it seems that your spirit is no longer connected to your body. Or something.

Grandma Mooney: Your birthday sounded like it was kind of quiet! Just you and Mom. We all know you have at least seven more years. I love you!

Ryan: Someone here said in parts of Hong Kong they hold church services on days other than Sundays (in very special circumstances). Is that true?

I love everyone! Happy Easter!

Never A Dull Day

Before my mission, I worried that I would become “weary in well-doing”, that I would become bored by doing the same exact thing every day for two years. But I’ve learned two things:
1. The Lord always throws curve balls. We don’t just walk the same path every day.
2. As mentioned in General Conference, selfless sacrifice brings joy when we might expect to see weariness. The joy of Christlike service overcomes weariness.

In our ward, there is a man named Brother Duncan. He was baptized a 13 months ago, although his wife has been a member her whole life. On March 1 he went to the temple, received his endowments and was sealed to his wife for time and all eternity. On Monday March 31, he passed away. We had been visiting the Duncans weekly helping them prepare for the temple. His story is evidence to me that the Lord has a plan for us. I don’t see it as coincidence that this man received all of his saving ordinances and died within the month of their completion. The Lord has a work for him. I played the organ at his funeral on Friday.

This was transfer week. Elder Bernard is now in my old ward in Long Beach and Elder Jacobson and I spent most of the day on Tuesday cleaning up and closing a missionary apartment, returning a car to the mission office, and waiting for our zone leaders to pick us up. It’s incredible how gross and unclean some missionaries are. After all, they are 18-25 year old kids.

Wednesday, we had a lesson with Judy on the importance of scripture study. We committed her to study every day for the rest of her life… and she accepted. We talked about how feasting upon the words of Christ doesn’t need to be like a parent force-feeding us our least favorite vegetables, rather it becomes a daily opportunity for personal revelation from our Heavenly Father. She then gave us a stack of papers and pictures and showed us she already planned her entire baptismal service… talks, program, songs, etc. She is looking forward with faith to her baptism on April 26th at 2:00 PM. It is awesome to see her progress that came (and still comes) line upon line, precept on precept, according to her diligence.

We also had a fantastic lesson with Valerie on Wednesday, a teenage girl and friend of a recent convert in our ward. She is prepared and the situation is perfect. Lessons at a member’s home where the spirit is already present with her best friend who is a recent convert that loves the gospel with all her heart. We had the opportunity to give Valerie a blessing (at her request) after the lesson. She was in tears almost immediately. She knows the power of the priesthood is real. She also came to General Conference Sunday morning and loved it.

Every time we meet with Anthony, I love him more and more. (If you don’t remember, he is an investigator in the Singles’ Ward who figured out the Plan of Salvation on his own). He came to the Priesthood Session of General Conference and cheered at the end of President Monson’s talk. He loved it. We asked him afterward what he though about conference and he told us, “It was awesome! On my way here, I was talking to Jasper (his member friend) about something and when we walked in the speaker was talking about the exact same thing!”
I am learning now that the prepared will recognize the truth immediately. The not-yet-prepared will see that exact same truth and see nothing. The purpose of the Savior’s parables is still replicated today. Also, as talked about in conference, Truth is truth whether or not anyone believes in it. It doesn’t cease to be true when it becomes unpopular. Then it would cease to be a firm foundation.

As I’ve said before, I wish I had time to share all of the sacred and faith-promoting experiences I have every week, but there is simply not enough time. And honestly, my emails are potentially more interesting to me than anyone else, so maybe it’s good I don’t make them any longer.

Dad: I think you may be single-handedly be keeping any number of airlines in business. You probably spend as much time on an airplane or on the freeway as you do sleeping. The picture of the dog was at a recent converts house. She has three German shepherds, one of which was a police dog and the other two were trained service dogs. We did service for her in her back yard and as part of the service we took her dogs on a short walk.

I didn’t even know Tanasha was expecting! I will be praying for her. President Monson’s talk, “I Will Not Fail Thee, Nor Forsake Thee” from the October 2013 talk as well as many talks from this conference might help her. A man in our ward whose wife just passed away always tells us, “I never realized until Kathleen died how close the emotions of sorrow and happiness can be.” I always think of that now when I think of loss.

Mom: The swimming pool is not at the mayor’s house. It is just a member of our ward whose house we were at for dinner. The peppermint burt’s bees is perfect. I don’t have my package yet because our zone leaders didn’t pick up mail this week. 😦 Hopefully I will get it this Thursday.

Grandma and Grandpa Koetitz: I miss you too!!! My mission has showed to me the eternal importance of families. Specifically of our family. Being away seems to align my priorities in the order God would have them. And family will always be first.

Kimmie: Hyrum’s vocabulary now includes words I don’t even know in portuguese! Darn it! I don’t know how to say “stuck” or “broke” in Portuguese. In other words, I wouldn’t even understand a 2 year old in Brazil ;). Today in the Doctrine and Covenants I read the words of the Lord to the early members of the saints, telling them that blessings always come after we are in the furnace of affliction if we steadfastly look forward with faith. Sometimes we’d rather skip the furnace or the refining fire, but without it we wouldn’t grow. Hey! I might even be home for number 2’s first birthday! But a lot is going to happen between now and then.

Lacey: HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADELAIDE!!! She’s so old! I can’t watch the video 😦 but having a birthday the same week as general conference is pretty much as good as it gets. Sharing a birthday week with the Savior of the World and the Restoration of His Church is pretty cool. How are you? Is work still crazy busy? Have you had time to breath?

Tyler: I have learned to enjoy or at least tolerate an increasingly growing list of foods on my mission, although I’m sure in Japan you will experience much more of that than I have in California. I actually enjoyed eating a mushroom a few weeks ago. However: two things will never change: Egg-salad sandwiches and cooked spinach. Also, you are lucky to be so close to church! How big is your area?

Until next week! Fique Firme! I love everyone!

P.S. If I could pick a theme for conference, it would be Helaman 5:12, which was referenced by at least four speakers and happens to be one of my favorite scriptures in all of scripture right now.

Shaking Things Up in Whittier!

So first of all…. yes we had an earthquake and yes I am completely and totally fine. The earthquake is the largest anyone in our ward can remember feeling in Whittier. It was a 5.1 (or 5.3, depending on who you ask) and the epicenter was inside our ward boundaries and only a mile underground, fairly shallow. We were in one of the best places we could be during an earthquake: at our stake president’s house in kneeling prayer. I mean, we knew our stake president could call down the powers of heaven through his prayers, but we were all a little surprised at how immediately those powers made themselves present. At first we didn’t think there was really any damage anywhere, but as we went around to people’s homes we saw it was a little more damaging than we at first thought. Apparently a bunch of houses and apartments were condemned after the earthquake because of structural damage.

Also, this was the last week of the transfer. We expected Elder Jacobson to get a new companion since his went home, but instead Elder Bernard got transferred to my old ward in Long Beach (Long Beach 4th Ward!) and Elder Jacobson are going to cover three areas now. Wish us luck. In fact, they are taking a lot of missionaries out of Whittier. Instead of having two companionships in each ward, now each ward has only one set of missionaries (except the Spanish ward. They have a bunch). Except we are covering two wards on our own now.

We began teaching a kid this week named Anthony. He is the good friend and neighbor of a girl in the Singles Ward named Katrina. Anthony is awesome. He is extremely intelligent and curious. He goes through life just trying to learn everything he can from every moment and every person he comes in contact with. He is searching for the truth. We asked him what he believes the purpose of life is and that is the answer he gave: to search for truth. We then, in that lesson and our next with him, taught him the plan of salvation. The incredible part was that when we asked him before we taught the lesson where he thinks he came from and he already knew the plan of salvation. Yes, he used different words, but he explained what he believed and it was almost identical to the truth. We asked him how he figured all of that out and he said he just talks to people: Muslims, Native Americans, anyone who has anything to say. Anthony was so excited because he’s never met anyone before who believed so much the same as him. He’s really nervous to associate himself with any religion, but that is something that he will overcome as he reads The Book of Mormon.

This week has been a good week. The nice thing about combining areas is how ridiculously busy you become.

Kimmie: WOOO!!! I’m so excited to have another nephew! Also, send pictures when you are done with the basement. Also, I still don’t understand. Are you teaching full time? Are you tutoring? Where are you teaching? When did this happen? Also, when is your due date?

Tyler: You are in Japan! Holy cow! I’m so excited to hear about all of the awesome experiences you have.

Dad: I hope you survive all these scrapes and cuts. I’m excited to see what it looks like when you are done. Also, how bad is the suburban? Is it going to be expensive to fix? It seems like you have been on the road or on the plane a LOT since my mission has started. Either going to grandma and grandpa’s or Utah or Maine or wherever else.

Mom: I will let you know when I get the package. Also, I just get the Burt’s Bees original. It’s just mint flavored.

Grandma: Don’t worry. The mission gave us a whole bunch of earthquake tips so we should stay safe.

It’s amazing to me how much can happen in one family in one week.

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This is the closest I will ever get to swimming on my mission.

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