Wednesday, April 27, 2016

27 April 2016 - If only we could teleport

Dear All,

I do apologize for my rather lengthy letters. I think I've figured out
how to shorten them so they will no longer be ridiculous lengths.

There's been something happening a lot lately that I think is really
cool. Anytime Elder Bell and I are talking about one thing or another,
oftentimes I'm thinking something and then he just speaks exactly
what I was thinking. These occurrences happen especially when we're
discussing how to help out investigators or members, or what to talk
about for a lesson. They also happen a lot when we are discussing
something from our personal studies, or just discussing scripture in
general. It's pretty obvious to us that this is because these thoughts
we're having are from the Holy Ghost. It's super cool to see that as
we are obedient even our thoughts are able to be
lead by the Holy Ghost. It really is true that He can literally be our
constant companion and our guide. If we are worthy and doing
everything we can to be obedient, then we have the right to have holy
thoughts at all times because of their influence in our lives. It's
just something that we realized, and it's super cool.

My subway experience for the week was a new one. There was a
crazy guy on the train who was periodically rapping. Then we got to
the Grand Central stop, which is one where many people get on the
train. So once he noticed how crowded the train was gonna get he
yelled this: "No one step on my sneakers! I will knock a ***** out! I
don't give a **** about no cops! If anyone steps on my sneakers I will
crack their jaw!" It was ridiculous.

Our new apartment is in a much less ghetto location than the old one.
Better enough so that I'm no longer afraid that I'll get shanked
outside of our apartment when we go home at night.

Moroni 8:16-17 - It's just such a good scripture. It's got so many
awesome things in it. "I speak with boldness, having authority from
God; and I fear not want man can do". This is so so directly related
to missionary work. Especially as missionaries who are set apart as
official representatives of Jesus Christ, we must not be afraid to
speak boldly - but not with rudeness. We must show our faith in Christ
by our confidence in this calling. And it applies to more than just
missionaries.  All people should "fear not what man can do" because of
the faith you have in Jesus Christ. It's so crucial that we do not
fear man, but rather that we fear God. "Perfect love casteth out all
fear. And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love."
Charity is the pure love of Christ. Christ didn't fear because His
love and faith were perfect. This scripture is just a good motto.

"She'll just have to get used to America."
"Suck it up."
"Is one box really gonna be enough?
What am I, 10?"
"Goals: Improve Eglish."
"They say an empty can makes the noise."
"If anyone steps on my shoes, I will knock you out. I don't care about
the cops, I will crack your jaw!"

Moroni 8:16-17 -  I speak with Boldness
The Family is of God
He is Risen

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Newly Polished shoes
Upper East Side- View out our apartment

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

20 April 2016 - Moving and Cleaning - Elder Bell and Elder West edition!

Dear All,

Wow, this week has been so busy, but not necessarily with normal missionary work.

We were on the subway and there was a nine-year-old rapping while his dad
recorded him. He was just getting up and his dad was recording him
multiple times. He did it again each time a new group of people got onto
the train. Each time they finished, they sat down and his dad would
give him tips on how to improve and make the next time better. It was
kinda strange. The kid just kept on singing, "I am a Jamaican boy." It
was definitely interesting though.

On Thursday there was a conference call with President Smith where he
announced a few miracles that were sent to him from missionaries. This
is the miracle that we sent in, written by Elder Bell: "We have been
praying in our area for more service opportunities for the past couple
of weeks, and the Lord is providing. We've been offering service to
everyone we visit, and in the process were able to help a less active
member assemble a bed frame; push another less active in her
wheelchair to go buy groceries; and have plans to help pick up others
to go to church on Sunday. This week we were praying during personal
study and the Spirit strongly prompted me that we needed to go to 1765
Madison Avenue. We had never been there before, and I didn't even know
if the address existed, but we looked it up on Google Maps and it was
a church of another faith. We were a little confused but decided to go
anyway. When we arrived, all of the doors were locked and no one was
there, but we saw a sign outside that said there was a food pantry
that had distribution on Friday mornings. We had prayed specifically
for another food pantry to volunteer at and the Lord answered our
prayers by the Spirit the very same day. Such a miracle."
I hadn't quite realized how much of a miracle that was until I heard
it from President Smith on the phone. It was really cool. He talked
about how wonderful it was that we got to experience that. Possibly
the thing that stuck out to me the most was the fact that President
Smith talked about how we were granted our desire because of how
righteous a desire it was and how hard we had worked for it. It's
just so amazing that Heavenly Father does those sorts of things for

So I gave a talk on Sunday and taught Priesthood with Elder Holloway.
Afterward, a few of the members came and complimented us on our
teaching, and my talk. It was nice to see them appreciate our efforts.
We then went to interpret for a member's temple recommend interview,
where she started to criticize my talk. I just kinda nodded my head and
watched her sign away. It was less than pleasant, but I just kinda took
it with a grain of salt. Oh Deaf Branch, you never disappoint.

New Yorkers are so kind: We saw one of them allow his neighbor to
use his milk crate to open his beer bottle. Then we saw a guy peeing
on a wall in a very crowded and public place. Oh New York, you never
disappoint either.

Now it is time for the main event of the week!


The Assistants let us know something pretty random this week. I
gotta explain the background first: Our apartment is getting shut down.
Elder Newbold is getting transferred to Lincoln Square and becoming a
District Leader, which is in the legit city, and it covers the area
where the temple is. Elder Davis is going to train a missionary, and
Elder Bell and I were supposed to move into a different apartment,
along with Elder Davis and his new trainee. It's super close to the one
we're currently in. A potential problem was that the new apartment is the 
only one in both their area and a Spanish companionship's area, and it
wasn't meant to accommodate six missionaries. ASL missionaries'
areas are so big that we generally have more options. Even so, the plan for
the whole transfer had been that Elder Bell and I would move in with the
other four, and it still had been the plan up until Monday. However, out of
nowhere we received a call from the Assistants (who had already
confirmed with us that we were moving to this apartment near ours.)
They let us know that plans had changed, and we would be moving to a
new apartment alone. That kinda stunk to hear that we wouldn't be with
Elder Davis, but we knew that the call had come from President Smith,
which meant it really came from Heavenly Father, so of course we knew
we would be fine. And then we checked the address and found out that
the apartment was in Inwood. The ASL area splits the city in half, and
Inwood is out of our area, but for some reason, we were getting moved there.
It was about as far away from our transportation routes as possible. That
apartment was actually in one of the worst locations for us because
it's nowhere near any of the transportation we use to get to church
or to any of our investigators and less active members. Elder Bell and I
were completely at a loss for understanding why we were going to this
apartment. We would be living alone in an area where we 
don't proselyte. We had absolutely no idea why we were going
there or how to make it work effectively, but we were gonna
figure it out. 

So because our old apartment was getting shut
down, we had to deep clean it. And I mean deep, deep clean. We probably
spent about 30 hours (combined) cleaning it. It was horrible because
we lost all of our proselyting time for almost 3 days, and we still had
to move all of our stuff. Deep cleaning an apartment that's had
missionaries living in it for five years is not the most fun thing in
the world; in fact, it's one of the least fun things in the world.

President Smith called us right after we had first arrived at the new
apartment to deliver some news to Elder Bell. He then asked about our
current situation in this apartment. Elder Bell explained it, and
President Smith's response was something like, "That doesn't make any
sense for you guys to be there. There's clearly been some
miscommunication in this situation. We'll see how it goes in the next
few weeks." It was a huge relief that he wasn't telling us that we
just moved to the wrong address or something: That would've been

It literally took us 10 hours to move our stuff yesterday! We just
filled up our suitcases and moved it all. We had to make 3 trips back
and forth. We're still not even done moving all our stuff into the
apartment. We lugged our 60+ pound suitcases up and down countless
flights of stairs. Each trip took about an hour and fifteen minutes,
one way. So all in all, we spent about 7 hours moving our stuff and 3
hours putting our stuff in the new apartment and cleaning the old one.
We've still got at least 5 hours of organization left at the new
apartment and 5 hours of cleaning at the old one...oh my, it's insane.
We haven't even been able to do regular missionary work these last few
days. But hey, sometimes it's nice to do something different for a
while. I'm so sore today though. We legit had to carry our suitcases,
one in each hand, up and down the stairs. And each time, they weighed
about 40-60 pounds. The worst part was the first trip, where we took
the Bronx cart that was completely full and too heavy to carry by just
one person. (Note: a "Bronx cart" is similar to a grocery cart.)

We had two interesting experiences on the subway during our various
trips to Inwood. One involved a group of young people, and the other
involved an older person. The first one was just a group of kids having fun.
They were waiting by one of the poles near the door, and as soon as the
doors opened, two of them would race to the wall and then back to the
pole as many times as they could before the doors closed back up. The
conductor then came over the speaker and chastised them. It was
definitely a new and original activity to do with friends. The next
experience involved a crazy old man. Elder Bell and I were signing to
each other, as we do on trains, and some crazy old man started signing
to us. It wasn't real sign language, he was just being crazy and
moving his hands. He also tried to speak to us, but Elder Bell was
standing away from him. I was sitting near him, but I didn't respond
because he already thought I was deaf. Additionally, I was a little 
afraid of what he might say - based on the weird things he had
already said. Undaunted, the man continued to try to communicate
with me via CMSL (Crazy Man Sign Language). When we got off
the train I shook his hand and waved goodbye.

Yeah, this was definitely one of the strangest weeks of my mission
because we really didn't do that much missionary work. We didn't have
a ton of spiritual experiences with investigators or members because
we just didn't get to spend a lot of time with them. However, we did
have an investigator just randomly show up to church, as well as a
couple of people we haven't seen at church before who were apparently
members. That was really awesome. The week was still very good and
fun, just not the standard week.

"No thank you we're Christians.
Okay, can we leave a picture of Christ?
No thank you we're Christians."
"No guns or drugs guys, huh? No guns or drugs."
"Yeah, that doesn't make any sense for you to live an hour out of your
area." -President Smith

A little bit different this week -
Children's Hymns:
Love is Spoken Here
When I am Baptized
Families Can Be Together Forever

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Shake Shack for dinner
Cleaning with Elder West
My District, all ASL Elders

13 April 2016 - Elder Bell's Birthday

Dear All,

We did a lot of service these last few days and it was awesome. Work
in the deaf program with investigators has been extremely slow and
kinda rough, but we were able to work with a lot of our members and
serve them a lot too. Overall, it was a great week.

We were over at a Less Active's house on Wednesday. We had originally
went over to teach her and hopefully her kids. But as soon as we
walked in, she said, "We're kinda busy right now." We immediately
asked if there was anything we could do to help. We've really been
trying to find service, especially with deaf people, so we were really
hoping she'd say yes. She was like, "Well I mean if y'all have time."
At the time she was putting together a bed frame. So the next hour and a
half were spent making a bed frame, and it was super fun. We also got
to talk with her and her grandkids, it was a wonderful service

A man and a woman got on the train at the same time and the man
started talking to the woman. It looked like he was bothering her. He
eventually offered her a dollar for something, and I was pretty confused
what was going on. Then I realized that he asked her for a kiss in
exchange for a dollar. The woman declined and said something sassy
back to him; it was super weird. Then there was a guy next to him that
was like, "Really? I'd kiss anyone for a dollar." It turned out to be
a light-hearted joke so it was all good. Just another interesting
thing to happen in the subway.

So as I said earlier, the work has been very slow, and so we're
currently looking for new deaf people to teach. Holy cow, it is hard to
find deaf people here. We've been doing some of the regular finding
activities that have always been done in the deaf program with little
to no success. So we decided to go old fashioned and just start
walking up and down every project building we were in. (It really only
happened on one of the days, because most of the other days were
filled with other activities.) So just FYI for all y'all, project
buildings are about as ghetto as it gets in New York. For example, on
one of the doors that I checked, there were multiple bullet holes.
They also have an overwhelming smell of marijuana, cigarette smoke,
and urine. Anyway, the reason we have been going up and down all the
project buildings is because we are looking for deaf bells on the
doors. They're generally a very distinctive kind of bell, but we just
rang every bell we found in hopes to find a deaf person. In total, we
checked about 1007 doors in the one day, and ran into 4 deaf bells.
We already knew all 4 of them would be there. We checked 8 buildings.
Those four bells belonged to people whom we had on record and were going over
to meet, but none of them answered. So it was pretty rough, but it was
also enjoyable because it was something new we got to do.

One of the big service opportunities we had this week was on Sunday. I
may have already described this opportunity, but I can't remember. So
for the next two-ish months, we will have two Elders from the North
Mission go Upstate to the Yorktown Ward to do interpreting for a
couple of deaf people. The interpreters that are normally there for them
have a conflict for the next while. So we'll have one Elder from each
of the areas go up to Yorktown each week so that there can still be
one Elder from each area at our normal Church building in South
Manhattan. This week it was Elder Turner and me. It was really good to
see something a little bit different from the city for a little. I
love the city, but I guess I forgot how much I love seeing actual
landscape and trees and stuff. The interpreting itself was also very
fun and a nice change-up.

One of the things we studied this week was the Proclamation to the
World. We read it because there have been some families who have been
on our mind. One of the most prominent line in it is definitely where
it says, "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when
founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." A lot of people
don't realize how much happiness comes from the Gospel. Honesty,
that's just the point of the Gospel - to make us happy. His teaching
just helps families be closer and love each other more. We discussed
this proclamation with each other and it's just so awesome that we
have things like that to help us have clarity in our lives. It helps
describe how to make our families happy and how mothers and fathers
can support each other in their divine roles.

So on Fast Sunday, I had been fasting to find new deaf people to
teach. I truly desire to find some, and Elder Bell and I have been
working really hard to do so. I know that Heavenly Father will help us
find new people if that's in line with His will. The next day, we were
at a train stop and a deaf person came up to Elder Bell and started
signing to him, I was reporting on a lesson and didn't see who it was
at first. Then when I realized Elder Bell was signing with someone I
looked over and it was Jason Smith! He was my first really solid
lesson on my mission. He's a super amazing guy and he was very
interested but eventually he wasn't able to meet us, and Elder Bell and
I both felt that he was just brushing us off. He wouldn't respond to
our messages so we just decided to stop bothering him. It was so so
awesome that he saw us and came up to us at the train station.
Apparently, he is still very interested and has read the Book of
Mormon a little bit in the almost 3 months since we last saw him. He
said his life is just super hectic right now and so he really wants to
meet with us next week. He even said that there was a train that got
there before we got there but that it was really full so he decided to
wait for the next one. Well lo and behold, he runs into us! It was
sooo awesome. I'm so excited to begin working with him again.

Yesterday we did our regular service at the Food Pantry, which was
awesome. We then went to help a Less Active member who's in a
wheelchair. She needed to go shopping and we went to Whole Foods
because that's where she wanted to go. It was certainly a new experience:
taking someone in a wheelchair shopping. It was also pretty weird to
be shopping at an actual store with non-ghetto stuff. Everything was
about 18 levels out of our price range though. It made me sad to see
all the stuff I wanted but couldn't afford. It was fun though, but
it took forever. It was also just full of rich white women: a few men
and a few non-while people, but mostly rich white women. The woman we
were helping took longer to shop than my mother. I'm serious, she
needed three hours to shop and it wasn't even that much food. It was
still really good though.

We're on our way to South Manhattan right now as I'm typing this, and
there were three different performances on our train car for three
stops in a row. The first one was a strange dance of sorts; the next
one was a rapper; and the third one was a singer. They were all super
good too. It was nice to have a triple performance. One of the nice
things about traveling in the subway, so many people solicit it for
money. Oh, I haven't even finished typing this before another group
came onto the subway. This time it was a drumming duo preaching
respect and happiness as they drummed: too fun. They were also telling
jokes and stuff the whole time.
I haven't sent this yet and I have a couple more fun events to add.
For Elder Bell's birthday we went to the One World Trade Center with
our roommates. After about 15 minutes of pictures and stuff, we ran
into a member family from Australia. They were really nice. We also
ran into a member who was from Washington State with her family. She
was also very nice. We don't run into very many members in the Bronx,
like at all. We also ran into a member family at Union Square not too
long ago. They bought us dinner which was so amazing. We've run into
more members at tourist areas than all other areas combined.

The last thing for this week came from studying. We were studying the
talk, "Behold Thy Mother" by the Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland. It's a
really good talk to study. He talks all about how a Mother's love is
so precious. The realization I had as I was reading it was this: "The
love that a mother has for her child is the closest thing to the love
that Jesus has for all of us." There is nothing else on this earth
that quite compares to the love of a mother. I want to add a quote
from that talk in here. "To all of our mothers everywhere, past,
present, or future, I say, 'Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for
shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure
love of Christ.' To Mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, to Mary
of Nazareth, and to a Mother in Heaven, I say, 'Thank you for your
crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.' To all mothers
in every circumstance, including those who struggle--and all will--I
say, 'Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better
than you think you are. In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion, and
like the Master you follow, your love ‘never faileth.’ I can pay no
higher tribute to anyone."

"Hey! Yo Elderlies!"
"Excuse me, sir, are you Jewish?
Have a good day."
"Well, shoot. Shoot me in the head, is that family sized Reese's Puffs?"
"...Church disciplinary action. That means they'll put you in time out.
Ya, time out from the Gospel."
"You kinda find out who you are and who your Jesus is."
"I'm Jehovah's Witness and Mormon."
"Only God can be this organized."
"I am not a domestic violence person."
"Marriage is easy."
"Pray like everything depends on Him and work like everything depends on you."
"I look like Buzz? Buzz freakin Lightyear?"
"I could keep track of our district's investigators on like a quarter
of a post-it note."
"We are essentially glorified vacuum salesman."

"Behold Thy Mother" - Jeffrey R. Holland
"Tomorrow the Lord will do Wonders Among you" - Jeffrey R. Holland

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Elder Bell's birthday gifts and my new iPad keyboard (thanks dad)

My new inspiring wall

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

6 April 2016 - 3 Months in New York

Dear All,

This week was full of ups and downs, but mostly ups.

The end of last week was really slow, and both of our investigators
with baptismal dates dropped them. One of them was going totally crazy
on us about how water doesn't work for the sacrament, only wine. I
could see how that was a legitimate concern, but then he listed a ton
of other random reasons that didn't really make sense. It was pretty
obvious that he just wasn't ready and didn't seem interested anyways.
He was also just not all the way there, mentally, and even was under
the influence, which is never a good thing. It was getting to the
point where we were afraid it would become physically confrontational,
so we offered to come back another time and just got up and left as he
showed us to the door. That was severely disappointing, but he didn't
want to continue being taught and we respect his agency. The other
thing was our beloved investigator, Brother Harris, did not come to
conference, and we later found out he was no longer ready for baptism on
April 17th. We are still working with him and trying to help him
figure out some stuff. Those were really the most disappointing parts
of the week.

On Saturday and Sunday we had General Conference. Most of you already
know what this is, but for a short summary, it's a broadcast from Utah
where the Prophets and Apostles of God speak to members of the Church
and anyone else who wants to listen. It happens semi-annually, and it is
full of information on how we can improve as people, and other assorted
Gospel topics. That was super awesome. Especially because we watched
it at the church with our members, which meant there was ASL
interpretation for the whole thing! It was really cool to be able to
watch and listen to the talks from the Lord's servants. A couple
things that were mentioned many times were as follows:
The absolute main point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: God
loves us. We are all literally children of God. Oftentimes we don't
quite realize how much that means. He and His son have done everything
for us. They've made it possible for us to be happy. We just have to
be humble enough to find the path they want us to take and then be
humble enough to accept that we can't reach our full potential without
We have the ability to have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.
That's a big deal. That means we can have the third member of the
Godhead with us at all times. He provides a lot of protection and
power and He even makes it possible to communicate with God.
We have the ability to forgive anyone for anything. Us forgiving
someone does not mean that that person won't see consequences for
their actions. "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of
you it is required to forgive all men." We do not get to decide who
does and doesn't deserve forgiveness. If we're having trouble
forgiving people, try seeing them through the Lord's eyes instead of
our own. If we are successful in this attempt, we will then be able
to love them far beyond our own ability.
This is Jesus Christ's Church. This is the only Church with God's
authority once again on the earth. Although other churches are good
and do help people be happier, and even bring them closer to God, this
is the only one that can perform saving ordinances.

We went to go visit Sister Rivera to see how she was doing, and she's
been doing a lot better since the last time we saw her, even her
husband seems to be doing way better. Also, quick side note, there had
been like 3 shootings in the last week right outside of and inside of
their apartment complex. What the heck. I love serving as a missionary
here, but I would not want to raise a family here. Props to anyone who
has successfully done that. The city really just isn't a very good
environment for families.

I've had a few times where we've been teaching a lesson and I've had
very clear impressions to ask a question or bring up a topic.
Sometimes they've felt completely random and it just doesn't make
sense why I would think that. So it's been pretty evident that it's a
spiritual prompting: it's just been obvious when I've had promptings
from the Spirit. The sad thing is I didn't always follow them. It's
only taken me a couple times to realize how much I don't want to
ignore them. All the other times that I've asked the question or
brought up the comment which I felt prompted to say, it ended up
working so perfectly. The Spirit just leads those lessons and it's so
wonderful. Every time I've followed them the lesson continues
smoothly. I've very easily learned to follow the promptings from the
Spirit, even when it doesn't make sense. The Spirit can teach a heck
of a lot better than we can.

About a month or two ago, I had put up some pictures of family and
friends above my study desk. It was nice to add some color to the wall
and to be able to look at the people in the pictures. As time went on,
they stayed on the wall and they looked nice. I'd never even thought
twice about putting them up. I didn't and still don't feel that they
were distracting me from being a missionary in New York. But earlier
in the week, I just felt very specific prompting to take down the
pictures. So I did. I don't know why, it was kinda out of nowhere,
but it was very clearly a prompting from the Holy Ghost. I haven't
seen any specific blessing from following that prompting, but because
I was prompted to do so, I know that it helped and/or will help me in
some way.

I saw a guy sit down and start eating his chicken in the subway. As he
was eating he would just spit out pieces of chicken onto the floor
that he didn't like or something. He would also throw the bones on the
ground every time he'd finish. This lady next to me was disgusted. She
was absolutely flabbergasted. Although I do not condone such behavior,
it didn't seem too out of the ordinary and for that reason, I didn't
think much of it. Oops! Another thing that happened earlier that day
was when Elder Bell and I were in a pizza place. We were eating and
some guy comes into the store with tons of different pastas and starts
selling pasta to the customers. It was pretty funny.

That's all for this week. Tune in next time, Wednesday at 1:00pm
Central Time, for more.

"Hello Mr. Police Officers!"
"Be obedient to the principle, not the sentence."
"I think there's more ways to be good than bad."
"If there were a perfect woman, do you really think she would be
interested in you?"
"Um, sir, your dog's hanging."
"Did you just take the pasta into the bathroom?
Yup. It's on the sink."
"Easy money."

Moroni Chapters 7 and 10. That's all I gotta say.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West