November 7th, 2011
So, as I said in my last letter, I got reassigned to the Rochester, New York mission and arrived here on the 31st of October. I absolutely love it here so far! On Monday I got to spend the day with the mission president and have a fantastic dinner over there.
Tuesday was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life though! I got to go visit Palmyra, New York (only about 20 minutes away). First we visited the gravesite of Alvin Smith, the oldest of the Smith children so that we don’t forget the importance and example that he was to Joseph. Then we went to the Smith farm, which was so cool! I got to see the room where Joseph Smith read the famous James 1:5 scripture and the room where the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith telling him about the plates that contained the Book of Mormon. While we were in the upstairs bedroom where that miraculous event occurred, we had a testimony meeting with the mission president, his wife, and the assistants. That was a very powerful experience and a huge testimony builder to me right there.
Right after that, we left to go to the Sacred Grove (which I took pictures of but forgot my camera at the apartment so I’ll have to show pictures next week). The Sacred Grove was definitely the highlight of the trip. You could feel the difference between this forest and any other forest. Surprisingly, it was still pretty green, so I was very happy about that. President Christianson allowed me to be alone for a bit to pray and to have my own “sacred grove experience,” (meaning to know for myself about the truthfulness of the gospel). It was such an experience.
After that experience, we went to the Hill Cumorah where the plates were burried. We didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time there though because I took so long enjoying the Sacred Grove that we had to keep moving. But I got plenty of pictures and it was an absolutely gorgeous view from the top of the hill (though thank goodness we drove up instead of hiked).
I met a whole lot of new people, all of which I already love being around. First and foremost, I have two companions as my trainers, Elder Ingram and Elder Miller. Both are amazing workers and have great attitudes about the work. We also met up with a lot of people we are helping to join the gospel, but I only have time to talk about the 3 main ones.
Mark Bangs is a character. He’s about 52 but has a bunch of energy. We spent from Tuesday to Friday helping him set up an art show that he was hosting, which was a great service opportunity. He is a photographer and has some great shots of the Rochester area (which I was fortunate enough to get a couple from him). We haven’t officially taught him any lessons, but we’ve taught him a lot of principles throughout our service with him and we’re meeting with him because he is wanting to know more about what we do as missionaries.
Bob Wheeler is about 70 or so and is a professor at the University of Rochester. He is a huge fanatic of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and has every CD ever made by them. He seems to agree with most of the doctrines, but he only wants to be baptized if he is allowed to keep drinking coffee. We think there might be a little more to his reluctancy to join the church though, but I’ll update more as I find out.
Susan is the person who is progressing the fastest out of all of them. She does very well with keeping her commitments and is reading the Book of Mormon at a very fast pace. She has a baptismal date for the 19th of this month but thinks it might be too soon. She has a problem with our claim to be the only church that has the authority to baptize. This lesson, the best we could do was to bear testimony of the truthfulness of what we were saying and the spirit touched her and I think it told her that what we were saying was true. She committed to praying about our message and getting back to us during our next meeting with her.
So, Thursday I realized how horrible my Spanish is because I just spent 9 weeks shutting off my Spanish. I am in a Spanish area of the mission in downtown Rochester (though most of the time we still teach in English). I can still understand most of the words being said in Spanish, but when I respond, it’s Portuguese and few people can understand me. This might be a little interesting haha.
Friday we went out to find more people to talk to, and it turned out to be a very productive day! We found 2 people who wanted us to come back and talk to them more about the gospel, so we got their contact info. We tried to contact them this Sunday, but none were home so we’ll try again this week. Friday was also District meeting, which was a great spiritual teaching moment. I learned a lot about really taking our Purpose to heart and making it become part of you. We also had Mark’s art show, which was a huge success! It was really comforting to see our service have such a huge impact and it made us all feel really good.
Saturday we went to the Peter Whitmer Farm, where the church was organized in 1830 and where the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed. It was really cool to be there, and we ended up having a recent convert with us, who was also really enjoying the experience. We’re taking him to the Smith farm this weekend also supposedly, so I’m really excited to see it again!
Sunday was also a really good and productive day. We went to church and then spent the day finding people and found 2 really good teaching opportunities. One was Raulph, who was referred to us as someone interested to hear the gospel. He already knows a lot about the church and was very interested in learning more about the church, seeing as his first wife was reading the Book of Mormon before she passed away. It should be a good opportunity for us! The second one was Carmencita, a recent convert. It was a good visit as well.
Well, that was my week! Whew! Lot of stuff! It was a lot of fun though! I really almost hope I don’t get my visa so I can stay here in New York though! But I know that I’ll be perfectly happy either way.
Hope to hear from everyone!