Wednesday, February 24, 2016

24 February 2016

Dear All,

This week was stupendous. 

To start, we have a semi-permanent solution to some of the issues in our program. Elder Bell, Elder Holloway and I are now a trio for at least a week longer. We don't know what will be the long-term solution at the moment, but something will likely be figured by the time transfers comes up.

We got a cigarette thrown at us on Tuesday. We also got offered a "reefer" by a guy we taught on the subway. He offered it to us twice, and he was so high on potenuse  (did you notice the attempt at wordplay?) when we were teaching him. He was pretty cool though. He also said he was on his way to 65th Street to panhandle, where he once made $3000 in one week and spent it all on, and I quote, "drugs and women". So he had some obvious personal problems, but still a good guy. The first/second New York moment of the week.

We went to teach a less-active member on Tuesday and check up on him again. This was the same member that Elder Bell and I visited on my third day in New York, the one we ended up committing his mom to baptism even though we didn't plan on even meeting her. So on our way up the elevator a man walked in with us and we started talking. We eventually realized he was going to the same floor as us. We then realized he lives in the same apartment as the less-active member. We taught him and he mentioned how he was thankful, and how he knew God had sent us to him to help him. He's been struggling a lot in life, like hardcore struggling. We taught him specifically about prayer and the Book of Mormon. It's so incredible that Elder Bell felt inspired to go to the member's house last time, and we committed Evelin, his mom, to baptism. Then we go on an ET (emergency transfer) together and Elder Bell feels inspired to go see how the member is doing again. Boom, we meet another person and I sorta committed him to baptism. He said that once he learns more he'll do it. Oh my goodness another miracle and it's just so legit how it happened in the exact same way! Every time that Heavenly Father inspired Elder Bell to go visit the less-active member it lead to meeting someone else in his apartment and teaching that person instead. 

Sometimes we think people aren't ready for the gospel, or for the missionaries, until they've gone to church and read the Book of Mormon and want to be baptized. This is a very false assumption. Something we learn as missionaries is how to relate the gospel to all people. If you get to know someone a little bit, there will be a part of their life that will truly relate to the gospel. I remember the few times when missionaries came to our house and would ask if we knew anyone who might want to know about the gospel. My thought was always, "Well let me think: which one of my friends is ready to be baptized?" And usually I'd have nothing for them. Here, I've quickly realized that a referral is someone who a member cares about and knows would benefit from the gospel. Just by being a good example to your friends they'll be a heck of a lot more ready to hear from missionaries. The Lord is preparing people to learn about the gospel, specifically the gospel principles missionaries are ordained to teach. This has been humbling as a missionary. Missionary efforts to find people are only so successful. Member referrals are far more successful and honestly, just generally more meaningful. I have absolutely loved teaching people with members: it's just super fun and far better than without. Honestly it strengthens their testimonies just by going out and doing missionary work; it strengthens ours too.

You know, Elder Bell and I have had so much success. We had similar amounts of success when we were companions at first too. Elder Holloway and I didn't have nearly this kind of success, but Elder Buckley and I did. I think it's a direct correlation to our motivation and obedience. Elder Holloway and I weren't quite as motivated, and to be quite honest, we didn't follow the schedule with exactness because he had issues that affected us. When I've been with Elder Bell, and when I've been with Elder Buckley, we've been much more obedient and way more motivated, therefore eliciting far greater results. I believe Heavenly Father is much more willing to help us because we're showing our desires by our actions, so He then allows us to have more success in helping others come unto Christ. Once we've done our part, He does His part. Heavenly Father is bound when we do what He asks. When we don't do what He asks, He is no longer bound.

We were on the subway and all of a sudden a guy asks me, "Hey white boy! How much was your jacket? Was it expensive?" My response was something about Jesus, trying to avoid the answer. In my head I said, "Well it definitely wasn't expensive so I wouldn't steal it if I were you." It made me a tiny bit nervous, but I was just amused that he called me by the name "white boy." Another thing -  we're standing on a different train and some Asian guy gets on with a massage chair hoping someone will want to pay him for a massage on the train. I've seen people playing all sorts of instruments, singing, begging, selling movies or headphones, you name it. But that was the first time I'd seen someone offer a massage on the train. Just another New York moment.

Random thought: I've had 5 different companions in 45 days, which is the most legit thing ever. I've averaged a new companionship every 8 days. Now that I've been with Elder Bell and Elder Holloway for 4 days, maybe it'll change in another four days... 

We were walking to the church in Harlem and we walked right past two people who were loudly preaching to the public. They were members of a particular religion that believes all white people are going to hell and that Jesus Christ is about vengeance rather than forgiveness. That's the first time I've seen people preaching to people that they need to hate others, especially when it relates to Jesus Christ, who we know is all about love. In John 13 and 15 Jesus teaches, "Love one another, as I have loved you." Jesus Christ loves everyone. He's made it possible for everyone to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father. It's all based on charity, which is "the pure love of Christ." Paul describes charity as the greatest gift of all. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Paul also taught, "Charity never faileth." This is something I've never understood: how can religions preach hate upon other people? You are not becoming a better person by learning to hate other people. The best way to become a better person is to become more like Christ. If you're learning to hate other people, then you're becoming less like Christ. 

You know, I fall asleep on buses and trains makes me feel like an old man. I would always kinda joke with my dad about how he could fall asleep anywhere or anytime. I never understood how he could fall asleep so easily. Now I think I might understand. When you're working all the time and don't really have time to relax or rest in general, you find time to rest, even if it's an accident. I'm just super tired all the time, so my body sometimes finds time on the buses or trains to sleep. I just start to doze off and the next thing I know, we've gotten to our stop and my companion has to wake me up. Now I don't do this often, but it has happened a couple times so far.

 I'm gonna end with two radically incredible miracles. Both of which happened when I was on a split with Elder Burrell, one of my zone leaders. This was another planned split, which I think is mainly so the newer missionaries can get to know their zone leaders.

So I was riding to Elder Burrel's apartment with him for a zone leader split and I had a thought, which was: "I'm going to find a deaf person when I'm with Elder Burrel." I wasn't sure when or where, but I had faith that we would. So I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to help us know how, when and where and lots of other stuff. We didn't run into any deaf people all the way past 5:00 pm, but I honestly wasn't discouraged. I was willing to accept that it may not be His will for us to find a deaf person, but I hoped that it was. So we ended up not being able to leave the apartment for a while because the bishop was talking to Elder Burrel forever. This turned out to be the reason for the miracle happening. Eventually we got out and when we got to the subway I was focused on our next lesson. (Just a side note: on each bus we rode I would sign a short sentence to myself hoping a deaf person would be on the bus and they would know that I knew ASL. Nothing came of it, except for me making myself look crazy.) So back to the subway. We were standing there waiting for the train and I don't remember why but I just turned around and noticed a young kid with two hearing aids. I was like, "Oh my goodness. This is gonna happen. Miracles on every split." So I told Elder Burrel to follow me and he just did it. The kid was with two older kids and he was walking away from us so he was never looking at me. I wasn't too sure how to approach him, and honestly, here in the Bronx there's no guarantee the kid will even know how to sign at all. I just started signing to Elder Burrel hoping that the kid would notice me. After about 3 seconds he looked at me and I stopped signing to Elder Burrel and started signing with the kid. It turns out, he's super educated and knew lots of ASL. He knew more ASL than most of the adults I've met so far. He also knows Spanish and English. Elder Burrel spoke Spanish with the older two kids, and so now he's gonna go talk with them and we ASL Elders are gonna talk with the deaf kid. It was such a legit miracle. Later that night I texted President Smith and asked if he had time to hear a miracle from Elder Burrell and me. He had time and he was so stoked about it. I've had so many miracles happen, and it's not because I'm this awesome person or something, but hopefully my faith and obedience play a role. It's amazing what God does for us when we show our willingness to obey and love Him.

The other one has to do with being in a lesson with Elder Burrel. We were teaching one of their investigators (in Spanish because they do Spanish proselyting) and I had previously hoped to be able to help in lessons even though I don't know Spanish. It was so incredible: I understood most of what was going on. Like I legit was able to contribute. I didn't just start speaking Spanish, but I would tell Elder Burrel what I wanted to say and he'd translate. The Spirit helped me understand what was going on, which was so super cool. The lesson went baller too. He was super educated and super willing to get baptized once he found out for himself that what we were teaching was true. Honestly I know almost no Spanish. I've been learning a little bit here, but still almost none. When they were speaking Spanish it's not like I knew each word and each sentence, but I knew almost exactly what they were talking about at all times. It was super awesome and incredibly crazy cool. I DON'T KNOW SPANISH, but the Spirit transcends different languages. The Holy Ghost allowed me to contribute in the lesson and simultaneously made the lesson flow super well. If it weren't for Elder Burrel's preparation and our worthiness and our obedience to the mission rules then I may not have understood anything and the lesson may have gone horribly wrong. I'm not saying that the reason the lesson went well was because I understood what was going on, but the understanding of what was going on was just an added bonus. It was so amazing. The Lord allows us to have miracles when we work hard for them and then show our appreciation for them by sharing and/or recording them.

That's all for the week. I hope everyone's still doing well.


"Have you ever vaulted a barrier with a banana and a water bottle in your pocket? Because I have."

"Maybe she likes big hoodies, I don't know."
"So, when can I get baptized?"
"Have you ever been in a district of three people? Because I have."
"Wait, is that man a member?   Yes he is. Does he even know what that means? It's up for debatable."

"I think the reason Apostles are the way they are is because they're so good at repenting."
"Have you ever looked in your 'murse' and seen an iPad, applesauce, and popcorn?"
"Because, whatever."
"My only question is; on a tandem bike, who holds the javelin to fend off the bears?"

John 13 - love
John 15 - more love
Alma 11:23 - O thou child of Hell, why tempt ye me?
Alma 11:40-41 - The Lord has redeemed us, but we will still be judged for our actions.
Alma 12:14 - We will not want to be in the presence of God if we are wicked.
Alma 12:35 - God will not allow the wicked to prevail
Alma 13:3 - We are pre-ordained for certain things.
Alma 3:19 - We bring condemnation upon ourselves.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Daniel, his companions and and M. Harris

Homemade Pizza - West style
Look what was sleeping under the sink - RATS!!!

Taco Bell!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

17 February 2016

Note:"Taco Tuesday" is a group of friends from Daniel's high school racquetball team who all went to Taco Bell after Tuesday night practices.

Dear All, 

It has been yet another crazy week. 

I've been on two emergency splits this week and one planned split. For those who don't know what that means, a split means I am companions with someone else for 24 hours. It's generally with the missionary's leaders so they can just spend a day proselyting with them to see how everything's going. So Friday was a planned split with Elder Buckley, who's one of my zone leaders. It was awesome. We had seven lessons that day and met a ton of people. We worked super-hard and just honestly went hard in the paint. We had a ton of success, but were completely exhausted by the end of the day. It was nice to have a day like that because it reminded me that even in this ASL program, which is struggling very badly, we can have success. Elder Buckley serves in the Spanish Harlem area, so one of his major purposes in splitting with me was to learn more about the ASL program. So I gave him a lot of information about it. It helped him realize why our program has been struggling so much. There are some personal issues, and our branch really struggles. I bring this up because I've gained a strong testimony of why I've been called to this specific mission. Our branch needs a lot of help before we can go find a ton of investigators. This is not to say that we shouldn't be finding people, but we want to make sure that when people are baptized and they join the church, they have a strong group of people to support them. However, we can't help a lot of other people if we can't even help ourselves. We've got to work hard to make sure our district works well together and functions before we can help others. Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not saying, "serve yourself before you serve others." What I'm saying is that maybe a successful mission starts with companionships who get along well and work well together. President Smith and my district and zone leaders have involved me a lot in the potential changes and have asked me to voice my opinions many times. In these moments, I do everything I can to allow the Spirit to speak through me rather than just say what I think. I have felt a strong witness from the Spirit that this is a huge reason I've been called to this mission. 

Now let me explain the whole emergency split and district problems thing. So on Saturday night at 8:00 we were called and asked how quickly I could pack my bags. As I'm sure anyone can imagine, that phrase made my heart drop really fast. Eventually he explained that the other companionship needed an emergency split, hopefully for 24 hours but possibly for multiple days. I will admit that I did not have the best attitude about this. I really didn't want to leave the East area to go to the West area, I also didn't want to leave my companion. I didn't want to be at the other apartment for multiple days. There were a lot of things I didn't want. But I reminded myself, "It's not about you," from Elder Bednar's "Character of Christ" talk. So I was on splits at the other apartment for a couple days. I don't want to explain any of the details of who, what, when, where, or why so I'll just keep it at that. Now this may sound a little rough in the beginning, but it gets good.

Lots of people come on the subways playing music with their instruments and asking for money or just straight up selling stuff. It's illegal, but no one really cares anymore, nor do I know if anyone ever cared. So we got on the train and there were 6 cops on it. This is something that has been pretty common: lots of cops on a train usually searching for someone. On the same train there's a guy playing the guitar, the way people do it asking for money. The cops didn't care, at all. I think it's funny how this guy doesn't care that there are cops, and he just continues to play, and on the flip side, the cops don't care either. Although it's a very minor law and really not a big deal, it's still a law. Just a funny thought I had. New York cops seem pretty relaxed as a whole.

Taco Tuesday, this one's for you! I WENT TO TACO BELL ON FRIDAY WITH MY ZONE LEADER. It was so awesome. It had been almost three months since I had Taco Bell. That's got to be some kind of record for me. Going every Tuesday and usually another time during the week for a few months, and then going almost three without it makes it taste so much better. That was definitely one of the highlights of the week.

Oh my goodness there was a straight-up miracle this week, although sadly, there wasn't the immediate happy ending I had hoped for, but I have faith that there will be a happy ending ultimately. So we (Elder Buckley and I) were supposed to meet at the Harlem Chapel at 8:30 pm on Friday to end our split, but then the bus didn't come to co-op city until 8:45. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 8:05, and we would have been late even if it came at that time. At the time I wrote this, "There's either a really good reason for this craziness or some bus driver decided not to show up for work." But wait, there's more. Elder Buckley and I got on the bus and within a few seconds I realized that there were three deaf people signing to each other. What the heck! Elder Holloway has been out for 18 months and he's only run into like 3 deaf people his whole mission. I tried to join in the deaf people's conversation but they weren't very welcoming. I almost gave up but Elder Buckley was like "Dude, this is why the bus was super late, don't give up." I thought the same thing so I just inserted myself into the conversation, thinking that if they really didn't want to talk to me then I wouldn't bother them, but I had to at least give it a shot. One of them really didn't like me, the other was just super ticked off for whatever reason and staring at the corner, and the third was completely refusing to give me her contact info. I taught her a lesson and gave her a card and also gave the other girl a card. I continued to try to get her contact info but she swore she would call us at some point. I have no doubt that the reason the whole bus thing happened was so that I could meet one of those three people. Something is going to come from it, I just don't know when or if I'll even have any more of a role in it.

So we get on a train and I sit down, I'm looking forward and there's a very inappropriate advertisement, which I've seen on a lot of other trains. I just move to the other side so I can look forward without seeing that ad. I move to the other side, look forward and there's another inappropriate advertisement for something else. So my only option is to look down. That happens pretty frequently here, which kinda stinks. You know, I've talked with a lot of the other Elders here about New York. We all agreed that before we got here, whenever we thought of New York, we'd think of the famous pictures of the skyline from Roosevelt Island. That's the only kind of stuff they really show on TV and movies. It's always Manhattan, and it's only parts of South Manhattan. It's always a ton of rich people walking around in these beautiful areas and so it portrays New York as the American Dream. Let me say something, most of New York is not that. Most of it is pretty ghetto with garbage everywhere, unhappy people, lots of crime, and just a general awful environment to live in. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love serving here and this place is super legit, but I would never want to raise a family here. These awful things that I see help me appreciate what I have, and it helps me just love it here even more. It makes me realize that I've been unhappy at times for silly reasons, like because a hotel wasn't as nice as I wanted, or something else wasn't exactly the way I wanted it. There are plenty of people here who are extremely happy with what they have. The Bronx is a very popular place for immigrants, specifically from the Dominican Republic. We commonly ask what made these people come here, and it's always how they wanted a better life. These people are usually very grateful for the better life they have here, which seems to me that they must have come from a truly awful life. I cannot imagine how growing up was for them. It makes me sad to think about, but it's incredible how awesome these people are. So hey, the American Dream is still alive.

We've got a few members/investigators with Usher syndrome. I'm not exactly sure what Usher's is, but essentially it means you slowly go blind. The members that have it are getting worse, rather than getting better. One or two of them have it so bad that they're pretty much blind, so they have to hold your hands when you're signing to them. They'll understand what you say as long as they're holding your hands as you sign. So one of the deaf/blind members is here, and Elder Brown (from the South Mission) would sign everything the speakers and teachers signed, while the member held his hands. It's really incredible to watch. He's selflessly serving her to make her experience at church better. Through Elder Brown's service, she is able to learn the Gospel. And signing nonstop for three hours isn't always the most fun thing.

Luke 22:42 - "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." This is when Jesus Christ is suffering for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus Christ is suffering so much pain that he asks God the Father to remove his burden, but then follows it up with stating to only do it if it is His will. This has kinda been a theme for my mission so far. A lot of things happen that I don't want, I often ask Heavenly Father to help me, and sometimes I even ask to be removed from the trial. But if I am going to be the best missionary and person that I possibly can be, then I need to be submissive to His will. The sign for the English word "submissive" is "willing to give up" in ASL. That is exactly how we need to be. We must be willing to put aside our wants and think about His wants. I may not want to go on emergency splits or want to get up at 6:30 each morning, but it's not about me. It's about Heavenly Father, about his children. I will do whatever He requires of me if it hastens the spreading forth of His Gospel. As imperfect humans, we often believe that we know what's best for ourselves. God knows us better than anyone else and better than we know ourselves. Also, his purpose is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." He wants us to be as happy as we can. Therefore, every commandment we are given and every prompting we receive from Him will help us. The commandments are not limitations that stop us from having fun. Rather, they're instructions on how to live a happier life. To be submissive would be to be willing to obey all the commandments with exactness, even when we think we'll be unhappy by doing so. This has just been on my mind so much because it's so true and so important. 

Holy cow it got below freezing this week. The cold never bothered me before. But there was a windchill of -17 and humidity of almost 90%. It was awful: I felt like my face was on fire from the freezing cold. It was not something I expected. 

So on Wednesday we had plans to visit a deaf less-active member and her hearing son, who is a new investigator. The thing is, we knew that if that were the case then we would have to do an English and ASL lesson. From what I've heard, that does not generally work out too well, but we were optimistic going into the lesson. It was super successful. So Elder Bell and I started, and another one of our deaf investigators was at the house too! We kind of expected that, but it was still awesome. Also there was a man whom I have met at Church, so I assumed he was a member. We didn't know much about him though. So the point is, we had 3 deaf people there to teach and one hearing person. The son was kinda tuning himself out, and I was a little bit worried that he wasn't really that interested. So Elder Bell and I started teaching in ASL and I was like, we need to teach the son too. So I tried to include him a lot and started teaching the full Restoration lesson out of the pamphlet. Elder Bell continued teaching the deaf people and I decided to focus on the son. I was kinda lost as to where Elder Bell was in his lesson because I wasn't able to talk with the hearing kid and watch the ASL at the same time. Eventually I just removed myself from the ASL lesson and went to talk with the hearing kid. It was super legit. I was going hardcore with the kid and the lesson went really well. Every now and then I'd watch Elder Bell for a few seconds and try to gauge where he was at and I'd add some stuff in ASL. It felt super cool to have the two lessons happening simultaneously, but it was also kinda tough for each of us not having a companion in our lessons. It gets even better: I had my first dinner appointment! We didn't even plan it. At the less-active member's house we were going hard teaching multiple lessons and it was super legit, and then her Dominican mom just totally made us fried chicken, white rice, and beans in some kind of tomato sauce. It was super nice of her and totally unexpected. I'm super grateful they did that for us. She just came up to us mid lesson and was like, "(insert Spanish here)". Her son translated and said it was about chicken. We were totally stoked and it was pretty dang good. That was probably the actual highlight of the week. Two amazing lessons, two people committed to baptism on April 17th, and free dinner. So legit.

One scripture I read last night was super awesome. Alma 26:9-12 - it talks about how Ammon is glorying in the greatness of his life. Eventually his brother rebukes him and tells him to be humble. Ammon's response is this, "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." That was super legit when Elder Bell shared that with me. I asked him to help me remember to be humble and not be thinking I'm the best missionary because of our much success recently. His response was if I'm glorying in the greatness God is rewarding us with, then that's wonderful, but to not be giving myself the glory for any success. That was just something that stuck out to me. 

Anyways. That summarizes this last week. It's been crazy-busy and awesome but also hard with all the transfers and so much uncertainty. I'm hoping everyone else is enjoying life too.

"If you don't take the time to be well, you take the time to be unwell."
"I can tell you things about the Book of Mormon that you never thought about. I can tell you every detail about the great apostasy. But none of that matters if I haven't been converted."
"Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
"And the Elder Bell keeps splitting, with Elder Hollowayyyyyy and you." -a new version of "Happy Holidays".
"Jesus Christ loves you."
"Some bus drivers are happier than others."

Alma 26:9-12 - I don't boast of my own strength.
John 6:38 - I'm here to do the Father's will, not my own.
D&C 121:7-8 - If we endure, we'll be blessed greatly.
Isaiah 1:18 - You can be forgiven of your sins.
D&C 6:36 - Go your ways, and sin no more

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

10 February 2016

Dear All, 

This week was incredible. It was extremely difficult and trying, but incredible nonetheless.

My Zone
So in my personal studies from the Book of Mormon I am currently in Mosiah. At the beginning of the week I was struggling a little bit, and I had been depending on the scriptures and prayer for strength. I felt beat from the weeks prior and I was just depending on our Heavenly Father. Let me testify of something real quick: The Book of Mormon is where we can get true revelation and answers to everything. I know I've said that before, but it's just so true. I can't get over how amazing it is that God communicates with us as we show Him efforts in our studies or just our lives in general. One thing that popped out to me was in Mosiah 4:11 - we must remember "the greatness of God, and (our) own nothingness and his goodness and long-suffering toward (us), unworthy creatures, and humble (our)selves even in the depths of humility". This scripture comes off a little bit blunt, but it gets the point across. He is all-powerful and we are nothing without Him. We owe Him everything. When we're struggling or just not feeling satisfied, the best thing to do is just pray and show God that we need Him. Depend on the Lord, not on your own strength. Proverbs 3:5-6 has got it right. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." My goodness, the scriptures are so true.

Is there some kind of drug that makes you fall asleep super-fast? Another guy seemed to be in a similar situation on the train this week as the guy last week. He kept on dropping his phone but he was sitting down this time, whereas the guy last week was standing up. I would watch this guy wake up and check his phone, turn it on, and then fall asleep as he was doing something on it. He didn't seem all the way there, so that's why I ask about the drug thing. Yeah, he was definitely on something...he kept on saying random stuff out loud and responding to random people's conversations. He continued doing his falling-asleep thing, and this Dominican guy next to him would chuckle every now and then. We'd make eye contact, and he'd laugh a little bit too. At some point the Dominican guy tells the other guy he should probably put his phone in his pocket (just trying to help out.) The other guy just slurred his words back and looked super confused. The Dominican guy suggested it again, hoping he'd understand, but the other guy was still confused, kinda like an "I'm too high to understand you" kind of confused. The other guy looks and is like, "OH!" and answers his phone (it wasn't ringing) and just goes, "HELLO!?" and continues to have a jibberish conversation while also yelling, "Hello!" every now and then. The Dominican guy and I exchanged chuckles a few times. Eventually the other guy just puts down his phone and thanks the Dominican guy, and then proceeds to fall asleep. Ah, the New York moments just keep rolling in.

You know, it's funny. You can pretty much always tell when people don't belong in the Bronx. I just see some people and am like, "What are you doing here?" Their clothes are too nice, or maybe they're white and seem too happy. Idk what exact things make it obvious, just general stuff. We walk by someone and I just think, "Yeah, you don't live here. I wonder why you're here." It's funny that I think that because I wonder if people think the same thing about me and other missionaries: two young guys or girls in nice clothing, smiling and happy, usually white. Although I will say, it's pretty legit how many people recognize that we're "Men of God". A lot of people will mention something about us being just that. They generally respect religion, and it's really nice. That makes it a little it easier to talk to people about stuff related to the gospel. 

One of the miracles for this week: We went to visit a less-active member of the Church, which went well. The cool thing is that afterwards, when Elder Holloway and I were walking down the stairs on our way out, Elder Holloway just stops, turns around and walks into the 4th floor. I was thinking, "Oh he's got some prompting, probably." I asked him what we were doing, and then voila, we walked right into a door with a deaf bell! Deaf bells are semi-hard to come by. If you go into a projects building your chances of running into a deaf bell (they just look like cheap door-bells attached to the door frame, and instead of making noise they flash a light in the house) are slim-to-none. Out of every 100 doors you might run into one bell, and even that's unlikely. So yeah, he just stopped, turned around, and walked to a door he felt prompted to walk to and boom, it's a deaf bell, dang. Nothing came of the lesson but it was super cool to see that happen. Straight up miracle. He just listened to the s
Spirit and started walking, I'm not too sure why we were lead to that door, but there must be some reason.

Sacrament meeting was Testimony meeting, and there were a couple interesting "testimonies". One sister explained an experience she had where she had to call 911 or something and eventually related it to how hearing people are less than deaf people because this hearing person couldn't or didn't call 911 or something like that. She then bore her "testimony" about how blessed she is. It made me kinda sad that those are the things she chooses to say in the name of Jesus Christ. This just occurred to me as I was typing this; our testimonies are in Christ's name, that's kind of a big deal. Knowing that, we need to make sure that our testimonies are solid and have a firm foundation "whereon if (we) build (we) cannot fall". So our testimonies should be based on Jesus Christ, not on an experience we had once, nor should they be built on something negative. Sometimes people will dwell on negative experiences they've had and make it their testimony about how Satan is real and that he's ruining the world. Although these things may be true, why would you want that to be the focus of your testimony? It seems to me that our testimonies should be built on positivity and love, and just Jesus Christ in general. Kind of a strange comment from Elder West, but it's just something that stood out to me this week.

I've noticed a problem I've been having recently, and in the MTC it's something that I'd worried I might struggle with. I seem to get caught up in having lessons with people, but not always for the best reasons. Sometimes the entire purpose would be so that we could report on having more lessons. One of the fundamentals of missionary work is, "We teach people, not lessons." I believe this is something I sent back in an email my very first week in the MTC. The point in me bringing this up is that I was getting caught up in teaching lessons, and oftentimes it was so that I could report high numbers. It's not because I want my leaders to think I'm a better missionary based on numbers, but because I just want to see my work and efforts pay off for myself. Part of the requirement for something to be classified as a lesson is you must teach a gospel principle. So in pretty much all my conversations I would try to involve a gospel principle, especially the Restoration. This is a very good thing, but I wasn't always doing it for the right reason. So I realized that I need to have the desire to teach more lessons simply because my purpose as a missionary is to help others come unto Christ, and helping people know about the Restoration will allow them the opportunity to do so. So my whole point in this is that I was making the mistake of just trying to teach teach teach, but I'm learning that I should teach. The thing is, I should teach to help the person, not to have high numbers.

Members are so very important to this work. Missionaries can do stuff, members can do stuff, but missionaries and members together can create miracles through the power of God. I'm serious, if we had a member for every single one of our lessons, I'm pretty sure we could baptize the whole state of New York. Okay maybe not the whole state, but a lot more people. To all you members at home, please please be willing to go along with the missionaries for lessons and refer them to your friends who might be interested in the Gospel. It's so amazing when members combine with missionaries, members add a whole new perspective that is commonly lost among missionaries. I love our members very much, but it's sometimes hard to get them interested in missionary work. Something from Adjusting to Missionary Life mentions this, "motivation generally follows action. If you lack motivation for something, just do it." Ah Nike, you've done it again. As members, I can promise you that you'll be more interested in missionary work if you just do it. Going to lessons and sharing your testimony strengthens it. If you've got the knowledge, you've got the responsibility to share it. The interesting thing is, this thought came to me on Monday. It was so obvious to me that I needed to show our members more love so that they would trust me more. If they don't trust me, and know that we missionaries love them, why would they want to help with the work? So our goal as a district is to involve the members more for many reasons. 

The Lord works so many miracles through our families. My sister, Rachel sent this to me on Monday, and I really needed it: 
"The other day I was doing my personal study. It hit me that we've had a lot of success lately. I started to wonder why that was. Have I become more obedient? Does God all of a sudden love us more? (ha, jk.) I feel that the Spirit whispered to me, 'It's because Daniel is working hard.'  Dan. Way to go! I know that as we give our all and do our best, our missions can bless each other's. So, keep going! Stay awesome! I promise to do my very best for you, too."
My companion and I have been working super hard but we're just not having success and I do not understand it. I just kinda accepted that we're doing what we can and other people are using the beautiful gift of their agency, but then my sister sent this to me. Is she just saying it to make me feel good? It's possible, but I'd like to think it was revelation. When I told Elder Holloway about it he was clearly touched in a similar way that I was. This happened the day right before the Zone Conference and this leads into my next thought.

We had a zone conference yesterday and it was pretty sweet, President Smith was talking about how we don't always know the results of our missionary work. He was giving examples of people who met with missionaries and then stopped, or didn't seem interested, but then down the road they'd remember that or want that feeling again and be baptized or whatever. It was awesome, especially because he just randomly threw my name in there and said, "Yeah, this one time Elder West came and said this thing". He just randomly threw in my name, but I'm pretty sure that was inspiration, which I know may seem silly, but I think it was because that's totally something I needed to hear. I don't see a ton of direct results from my work here, and I often wonder if there are results, and if I'm really doing any good. But I got the email from Rachel about feeling prompted that she was being blessed by my work, and then President Smith just happens to throw my name in there as an example. I believe the Lord is telling me that people will be blessed, and that good will come of my work, even if I don't see it. This can totally relate to all people. This concept of not seeing the results of my work and being disappointed is pretty much me wanting immediate gratification. If we can learn to be patient and learn to not always expect instant gratification, then we will be happier. 

So this week was full of miracles and just straight up joy. There's a poem that I don't have and can't remember the name of. But it's from a missionary and just mentions that a mission is so so much harder than he expected. Yet it was so much better, he learned so much more than he expected. Most importantly, he came to know his Savior and love him more than he possibly could've imagined. This is already accurate of my mission. Truly, I love my Savior so much. We had that question asked at our Branch Party for Valentines Day. "Why do you love Jesus Christ?" I thought about it and realized the reason I love Him is because He loves me. He loves each of us, enough that he gave His life for us. When someone shows that much love, how can we not return it? 

I hope everyone is still doing great.


"if we don't know what we've done, then we don't know where we're going."
"learn to love the Lord, then you will have a desire to serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength"
"others don't know. They need to know. They need to know this!"
"I don't care what your reasoning is for coming on a mission. You're here, so it was a good reason. But why you will stay here is up to you."

2 Nephi Chapter 31 - Amazing representation of the Doctrine of Christ.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Meeting the mission president and his wife

World Trade Center

World Trade Center Reflecting Pool

Empire State Building

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

3 February 2016

Dear All,

This week was kinda tough again.

I woke up with a 103.2 fever and that was after resting on Wednesday. So we stayed inside most of Thursday and all of Friday too. We went out on Thursday to do some interpreting for a deaf person, but by the time we got back I was completely exhausted. The worst part was that we had to get up at 5:30 the next day for another New Missionary training meeting in upstate. But I must say, that meeting was with President Smith again and it was pretty sweet. There were two big things I took away from it. Elder Wulf, one of the assistants, made one of those comments that stuck out to me. He said something like, "When you get home and people ask you about the coolest experience you had on your mission, that experience won't have happened on a P-Day. It won't be when you were writing home or when you were doing your laundry. That experience is gonna come on a day when you were working your butt off for the Lord." That was something I needed to hear, because I generally enjoy my P-Days. Getting to write home and getting food for the week is nice, because it's just a little less tiring. The thing is, these two years I'm here aren't my time. This is time I'm giving up for the Lord, and I need to make sure I remember that. If I'm getting too distracted by my life in Oregon, then I'm not truly serving with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. So far, the best experiences I've had have been on days when I'm exhausting myself in service to my God. Really, that's why I'm here; to serve my Heavenly Father. The other thing that really stuck out to me was something President Smith said. He said this, "Oftentimes missionaries come up to me with a giant list of weaknesses. You better have a list of your strengths with it, and it better be twice as long. Don't you dare be ungrateful for all the numerous gifts of strengths that God has given you. You should have more strengths than weaknesses, because God doesn't create junk. He didn't create junk." That was another great thing to hear. I think it's very common for people to classify that as being humble. I was actually studying humility at some point and one thing stuck out to me, "Humility isn't saying you have no talents, humility is acknowledging that your talents are gifts from God." This is so true, just beating yourself up can't get you anywhere. But we are human, so we can't accomplish much of anything on our own. I believe that the only way we can accomplish miracles is by working as hard as we can to do something, and only at that point will God come in and make the task accomplish-able. It's really confusing when I type it out. Kinda like something I've said before: without the help of God we can do very little. The power of a human is pretty insignificant, especially in comparison to Heavenly Father's power.

Our lesson with one of our investigators fell through. So we wanted to stop by this other person's house but no one answered, so we went to a sister's house and she was sleeping. I was sad that we had no lessons again, so I was like, "Alright we're finding someone to teach on the subway." We got on one and it was almost empty...I was like what the heck. So I looked around for someone or something that caught my eye and nothing. Eventually at one of the stops a woman walked on and I felt like I should talk to her. I said, "Hello, how's your day going?" She responded, "Fine, thanks." She seemed to be totally uninterested. So I just kinda sat there thinking about how I could continue the conversation. And then she starts reading a book. The book was titled, "The Everyday Life of a Normal Christian". I was in luck. How could I not try to chat with her about Jesus now? So I waited for a time when I wouldn't be interrupting her reading. The problem was I couldn't gather the confidence to just be like, "Yo, so you love Jesus?" But I was thinking, "If I don't ask her then I may miss an opportunity to help her know about the Restoration, or to just know who the Mormon missionaries are. Ugh, why do I have to be nervous at all?" Then I realized that by not opening my mouth, I was fearing man more than God. I knew that if I opened my mouth with the right intent, then my mouth would be filled with some kind of words to help this woman. So eventually I said, "So, judging by the book, I'm guessing you believe in Jesus Christ?" We then had a real conversation about Jesus and religion and church and other stuff. She let me know that she was actually searching for the right Church and that she felt it was time to move on to a new one. She said she had a Book of Mormon and loved it. She said she reads it often, and I was like, "Well, come to church!" We found the church that would be nearest to her and she said she'd definitely show up. It really was a great experience. I learned that sometimes I just need to open my mouth. I also learned if my day or week seems slow because we haven't taught many lessons, to find someone and teach a lesson. It's not that hard. Nike's got it right: "Just do it."

Sunday was crazy because the classes at church got super off-topic and honestly, the Spirit just wasn't there. People were arguing and there was a lot of confusion, and it was just no good. But something that happened outside of church was interesting. (By the way, crazy people really like to shake the missionaries' hands.) So, on the subway a guy was reading a magazine about some guy coming out that he was gay. There was something different about this man but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I wanted to talk to him but for some reason I just didn't. Eventually a man with a suitcase sits down next to him and after like 15 seconds says, "I hate the subway because of nosey people like you." (He actually used many choice words but I took them out.) The strange man was kinda looking at the guy with the suitcase but then immediately stopped once the other man flipped out. The guy continued to rant about the subway and how annoying people are and whatever. He was just yelling curse words on the quiet train. He seemed drunk, or maybe just not all-there mentally. The strange man seemed nervous and I noticed him looking at our nametags. At the next stop Elder Holloway and I got off the train, and the sad-looking guy reaches out his hand for us to shake, kinda looking like he needed saving. So of course we each shook his hand and as he shook mine he kissed it too. I wished him a good day because the other guy was still just screaming a ton of curse words. It was kinda funny because he said, "I hate how people can't just keep to themselves! It's just so annoying how people can't mind their own business and be quiet!" By the way, he was screaming this out loud. It was quite ironic. People just really like to yell and scream on the subways here. This was one of the New York moments for the week.

Later in the day we went to a fireside. Elder Holloway and I got to interpret, and one thing we interpreted was very interesting. There was a musical number with two people, so we decided that I would be one character and he would be the other. I interpreted as the prophet, Mormon, who was being chosen to lead the Nephite army. Elder Holloway was interpreting as Mormon's mother. It was actually very touching for me because it made it all feel so real - how it must have been for Mormon to be chosen to lead an army of wicked people, and to imagine how his mother must have felt! It may be hard to watch your child leave on a mission or to college, but imagine sending them off to lead an army destined to fail. In Mormon 8:3-7, Moroni (Mormon's son) writes about that group of people that Mormon lead. It's very sad to read: "And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not." Can you imagine being the last person of all your people alive? And the Lamanites were looking to kill Moroni too! Moroni goes on to say that he has no friends or family left, but he still has the task of hiding the records (Book of Mormon) so that they can be found again at some point in the future. Pretty much Moroni's sole purpose at this point is to "preserve the record of (his) people". Can you imagine how much different life would be if Moroni had been slain before he could hide the records? We would have no Book of Mormon! And to those of you reading that think, "so, what's the big deal? It's just like another Bible," think again. The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. As I continue to read it, I learn more and more. It applies to our lives so, so much. It contains the fullness of the Gospel within its covers. That book will show you the way to happiness. As missionaries, we're told that our main tool in our work is the Book of Mormon. If someone is interested in the Mormon religion and reads that book with an open heart, they will know that it is true. By reading that book, you're allowing the Spirit of God to testify to you of the truthfulness of this Church. It's just so amazing I could go on and on, but I've got more to write. Just read the book, it will make you happy. I promise.

We saw a guy at the subway with a Denver Broncos hat on, AND he was reading the Bible. I looked at Elder Holloway and signed, "Yeah, we're gonna teach this guy on the subway. He's probably an awesome guy based on what I've seen so far." I'm really trying to focus on opening my mouth to everyone, and I figured this was an easy opportunity to have another lesson for the week. So I started asking about the Broncos, and we talked about them a tiny bit. Then I asked him about the Bible. We got to talk for a little and talked about the Restoration and such. It really helped motivate me, kinda like re-energize me to open my mouth. His name was Henry and he's an awesome guy. This is something that I didn't think I'd struggle with, opening my mouth to all people. It's a lot harder than expected. But what's the worst someone can do, tell me I'm wrong and mock me for being a missionary? Okay, cool. So I figure that's the worst that can happen, so why not just always open my mouth? The more people I talk to, the more likely I am to find someone who's been prepared by God to meet me. That's kinda been the theme for this week. 

Oh my gosh, you don't know what it means to be on a crowded subway until there isn't even room for your bag. Your entire body is being pressed up against numerous other people's bodies. Yeah, there was a subway that was packed so much that no more people could fit on it, and then it broke down. It got delayed hardcore. Like enough where we were stuck on the track for a solid 20 minutes, so we just got off at the next stop and started walking. I'm sure we were traveling faster by walking than by train. Oh yeah, and on the stop before the train that was super-crowded, something interesting happened. There were two older men, one had a suitcase. The one with the suitcase was kinda pushed onto the train by the other one. The guy's like, "Come on, you can make it! There you go man! Now don't fall asleep! Get off on 125th, and do not fall asleep!" It sounded like he was gonna die if he fell asleep, super dramatic. And then the train started to move and the suitcase guy starts falling over onto people (lucky for him, at this point it was crowded enough that he was falling into people.) After falling into them he'd apologize and stand back up, only to fall back asleep and into a different person 5 seconds later. I have no idea what was going on with that guy. He just kept on falling into people and apologizing and standing back up, then doing it all over again. Eventually someone offered him their seat and he just fell asleep on the seat. It was super-weird: just another New York moment.

Yet another crazy Subway experience! The subway ride home was even more packed than the other ones. So packed, in fact, that I was pressed up against the railing. I really didn't think there was more room, but a mother of 6 sure did. She squeezed her way in with her kids and people were not happy about it. At this point there wasn't a part of me not being touched by something or someone else. By this point, every time the train slowed down, the momentum from the crowd of people behind me would just slam me into this barrier-type of railing. Even if I had wanted to say something to this lovely mother of 6, I wouldn't have been able to move my lungs to get the air to speak. So obviously the train was ridiculously packed. And then a woman gets on, and there really just wasn't enough room for her, but then she must've pushed up against a person because she starts flipping out. She accused the guy of touching her inappropriately, but the guy denied it continually. It escalates and she's talking about how the guy needs to back off because the last time she was in court it was for hitting some guy with a hammer, so yeah, she's wacko. At this point people are all looking in my direction because this fight-thing was happening right next to me. People are telling the woman to quiet down and to have dignity and telling the man to quiet down, and he stops talking but the woman just keeps on going. She yelled about how she values her personal space, and then some random yells came back from the crowd: "Yeah, well, welcome to a crowded 2 train during rush hour". She didn't appreciate that and just continued acting like a child. She was screaming all kinds of profanity and people were like, "Yo, there're kids on the train, relax." Luckily, Elder Holloway and I were getting off at the next stop, so we didn't have to hear much more of that. Just another New York moment. You know, people here are sometimes super prideful. They often try to prove their dominance or how they're right and someone else is wrong. It's really hard to talk to someone about anything when there's a screaming wacko on the train, or when someone is doing illegal drugs on the train, which we also saw today. Oh New York, you never disappoint.

I'll end on a spiritual note. This is something that I'm sure many of you have heard or seen before. So there was this amazing demonstration of the Atonement that I saw a couple years ago in a Seminary class. There was a person chosen to do some push-ups. There were also some Twinkies, and a lot of hungry teenage boys. So the class leader asks a boy, "Do you want a Twinkie?" And of course the boy responds, "Yeah, I do." So the leader says, "Alright. (Name of the person chosen to do push-ups, who we'll call John for now), do ten push ups." John then does 10 push-ups with ease. The leader asks the next person, "Do you want a Twinkie?" "Yeah, I do." So again, the leader says, "Alright. John, do ten push-ups." John does 10 push-ups with ease again. This process continues for a while and eventually John is starting to get tired. At some point people are saying, "No I don't want a Twinkie because John's obviously tired out." But the leader still responds with, "Alright. John do ten push-ups." This continues for another long while. At this point John is really struggling. He's sweating pretty bad and needing to take breaks and clearly in pain. Boys are now saying, "Come on, I'll do the ten push-ups, John is in pain. Just let me do it for him." The leader responds with, "No. John is the only one. He volunteered. He's got to do this for every single one of you." It didn't matter if the boys wanted the Twinkie or not. They couldn't take John's place. John had to work for every single person in the class. It was an extremely powerful demonstration of the Atonement. Jesus Christ has already suffered for our pains, afflictions, sins, and every other bad thing that happens to us. "Here I am, send me". Can you even begin to imagine how much He did for you and me? It's incredible what He's done for us. He knows each of us and our struggles better than we know them. He wants us to take advantage of the wonderful gift of repentance. Just do it. All the guilt and pain we feel is known by Jesus Christ. I hope everyone is happy and ready to change, because we all need to change all the time. We are not perfect, but we sure can try. The way to do that is by becoming more like Jesus Christ. We need to be humble. We must humble ourselves before our Father in Heaven and accept His love and grace. We must acknowledge how imperfect we are, but how much better we can become. President Smith always says, "Don't let 38 seconds of embarrassment stop you from the powers of the Atonement." Show Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ your love by doing what you can to come unto Them. They love you. I can promise everyone reading this that you will be happier if you are willing to change your life to be in harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Anyways, keep on being great! I hope everyone is still happy.

"The tiwi made me cry."
"Mmm, hydrolyzed corn protein."
"There's nothing like that sprint down the stairs to the subway when you hear the subway through the grate from the sidewalk."

2 Nephi 33:1 - when we speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, He will testify of our words.
Jacob 2:18 - Seek God before you seek money.
Omni 1:26 - Come unto Christ
Enos 1:4-8 - Beautiful representation of the repentance process.
Enos 1:27 - Our Redeemer has made it possible to live with God again.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West