Wednesday, May 25, 2016

25 May 2016 - Blessing the Streets of Harlem with Crazy People

Dear All,

We ran into a crazy homeless religious man at a bus stop. He was nice
to us, just really weird. He kept on talking about how we have to open
our mouths and how powerful our words are. He then mentioned that his
name is Michael and started loudly announcing that Michael the
Archangel would defend that street corner from the devil. It was awk
because there were just these two Mormon missionaries kinda confused
as to what to do as some crazy guy was yelling blessings at the street
corner. He then used his Crucifix to bless the street corner. Most of
the people there didn't think much of it. Because...well that level of
craziness is average for most the people there. Another classic
(Harlem) New York moment.

I was reading in the Book of Mormon at a time period where King
Benjamin is speaking to the Nephites. I came across Mosiah 4:9. I just
love the simplicity of the verse, especially the first phrase.
"Believe in God; believe that He is".  King Benjamin is just exhorting
the people to believe in God. This is why I chose to be a missionary.
I always think about how happy my beliefs make me. My beliefs make me
always hope for something better, and they influence me to always think
about the better things that are waiting for me after earth. Even if
there wasn't anything more to life than our time here on earth, I'm
still happier believing that there is more. It just seems like it
would be so depressing to me if I thought these 80 or 90 years were
all of my existence. This isn't even to say that I don't like living
here and just can't wait for the next part of the plan, rather it
helps me be more conscious of how to enjoy my time here and be
righteous so that I may be even happier after this life. The Plan of
Salvation is awesome.

We were headed home and walked past a guy and girl talking and the
girl said, "Well, I can't cheat on him right now because that wouldn't
make any sense." I mean I guess casual conversations in the Bronx
often consist of random stuff, but I don't expect it to be on how to
strategically cheat on your significant other. But hey, I mean that's
another New York Moment.

The miracle this week came while Elder Kerr (one of my Zone Leaders)
and I were on an exchange in our area. We taught Jason S. and it
was amazing. The Sprit was so so strong there. The best part was by
far when Elder Kerr taught the First Vision. We just kinda felt
prompted to have him teach it in that moment. Although he doesn't know
ASL he spoke and I interpreted. It was awesome because it was almost
like I wasn't there. The attention was focused on the words from Elder
Kerr's mouth and the incredible spirit we felt in those moments. We
asked Brother S. how he felt afterwards. His response was so simple
and yet so profound. He said, "Inspired. I want to learn more". He
said he really wants to get baptized and continue in the Church. It
was just such a miraculous lesson. Sadly, he did not show up to
church, because he slept in. He very evidently felt the Spirit too during
that lesson. So we'll just keep on doing our best to help him
and hope that he sees the importance of being involved in the Gospel.

"MLC's are basically mission-life hacks with President Smith for 7 hours."
"The fire is still lit."
"What about mouthwash..."
"Not my responsibility."
"No one lives in Montana, except for 8 people...and 18 antelope."
"You wanna know who I am? I'm nobody. You wanna know why? Because
nobody's perfect."

Mosiah 4:9-11
Alma 36:24
"Safety for the Soul" -Elder Holland's talk from the October 2009
General Conference.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder Daniel West

Brother Perez, an investigator.
Outside our apartment
New York City Wall Art

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

18 May 2016 - 6 Months Today

Dear All,

Today is my six-month mark as a missionary. We're getting settled in at our new apartment. It definitely kinda stinks having so little time for proselyting and other stuff, but it's okay because we're preparing for something better. I love what President Smith said to us. He said, "I know that you may be thinking, 'Another move? Really?' But I am reminded of when this very mission was hit by Hurricane Sandy [I'm paraphrasing and IDK if that's even the right one.] Those missionaries
took 6 months to do service, and that's it. They did not proselyte." This helped me be more positive about the whole thing. The issue is that this program already struggles, and then when we take out entire days we struggle even more. But what this does is prepares us to be ready for when we will be covering the entire city. It will all work out in the end.

Service at the AME church was really good Friday morning. They really needed us, especially with heavy lifting. I feel like they're really starting to warm up to us because they talk to us and joke with us now. Donna definitely trusts us now because they were out of bags and she gave us money to go buy some from a store. That was sweet. While we were handing out the food, I heard Donna say to one of the others, "He can't hear," referring to one of the people getting food. Elder Bell and I were helping lots of people bring their groceries up the stairs, but as soon as we came down, I asked Donna if the guy was deaf, and she said yes. So Elder Bell and I immediately offered to help him take his bags up and asked if he knew ASL. Sadly, it was apparent that he did not know ASL. I then saw his hearing aid, and he could speak perfectly fine too. So we're assuming he went deaf later in life. He may not have known ASL, but it was yet another testimony to me that we can find deaf people. Literally as I was typing this, we were about to cross a crosswalk and this woman told us her brother was deaf. So we asked her about him and she said there's no way to contact him, but we gave her a card and asked her to give it to him. So that was yet another deaf person. It's pretty legit.

We moved all of our stuff on Saturday. The apartment is right next to Yankee Stadium, and there was a game that had just finished. It was a nightmare. The worst part was that we had all our giant bags and carts, and the subways were packed and everything was crazy. There was a group of college-aged kids who were super hammered. They were just yelling and acting super tight. I echo what a wise man once said to Elder Turner on a train: "They say an empty can makes the most noise." That group of kids was what I like to call, "A group of white people in the Bronx, obviously visiting from Manhattan."

(Note: Daniel wrote the following paragraph in a separate email to
us, but we've included it here because we found it interesting.)

The new apartment was an absolute mess though. It appeared that previous missionaries may not have cared much about cleanliness. There were plenty of cockroaches, which was disgusting, but didn't surprise me. We're gonna go hard in the cleaning and organizing aspect of it, especially because we're supposed to be here for a long time. I haven't put my food into the cabinet yet because there were dead roach carcasses and droppings all over it. So I really deep-cleaned
that thing. It was certainly not an experience I wish on any of my enemies because it was foul. Another interesting fact: you can almost always tell if an apartment has a roach problem the second you walk in. There is a very particular smell to it. It's not a particularly bad smell, it's just strange. The second we walked into the apartment, we knew.

We had an awesome miracle on Monday. So for district meeting, Elder Bell had us discuss the topic of testimonies and share our favorite testimonies from the scriptures. He then had us practice the NY Minute (it's teaching one principle of the Gospel in a minute) with the principle being the Book of Mormon. He specifically wanted us to focus on testifying and then backing up your companion's testimony. It was really awesome. This is where the miracle comes in, later that day, we were VideoPhoned by a random deaf person who was legitimately interested in learning more. He was asking us questions and was very
educated - educated enough to understand our answers and to read scripture! That is very rare in the deaf community in NY: having the ability to read English and fully understand ASL. We had a full-on unplanned lesson, and what do you know, we ended up teaching almost the exact same lesson we'd practiced at district meeting. I'm not kidding, we used almost the exact same teaching for the principle of the Book of Mormon with brother Platt - he's the man who called us. He lives in Brooklyn so we referred him to the South Elders. He's absolutely golden too. It was so awesome.

Well we're glad to be back in the Bronx and in an apartment that we should be in for a long time. And hey, we're living right next to the famous Yankee's Stadium. Although it is weird because there are legit giant company stores near us like Target and BJ's, and other random stuff. It just doesn't seem like it belongs here, but it's awesome for shopping, so it's all good.

"When life gives you anxiety, count the dimples on a golf ball...
How man-
There are 356".

-2 Nephi 33:6
-2 Nephi 4

Keep on Truckin

-Elder Daniel West

191st Street Stop on the train

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

11 May 2016 - Post Mothers Day Call

Dear All,

I was studying Elder Kevin R. Duncan's talk from this past General
Conference, and it is an awesome talk. It's titled, "The Healing
Ointment of Forgiveness." Although forgiveness isn't something that I
struggle with particularly, I still do fail to be able to forgive
everyone sometimes. He says some really awesome stuff. One thing is
this: "We mistakenly think that if we forgive, somehow justice will
not be served and punishments will be avoided. This simply is not the
case." I love that because it's accurate. Oftentimes we don't forgive
others because we think that they deserve punishment and they deserve
our resentment or some other petty idea. The truth is, if we don't
forgive someone, all we're doing is causing more bad feeling. God says
this in D&C 82: "Leave judgment alone with me, for it is mine and I
will repay. Peace be with you; my blessings continue with you."
Judgment is not ours to carry out. Our job is "to forgive all men."
Once we can find it in our hearts to forgive others, then we will be
free once again. Elder Duncan goes on to say, "One key to forgiving
others is to try to see them as God sees them." Of this I can testify.
The best way to learn to forgive others and love them is to try to see
them through the Savior's eyes, because as Elder Duncan says,
"Forgiveness is the very reason God sent His Son." The Atonement is
such a marvelous power. It is where we may draw power to forgive and
be forgiven. General Conference talks are awesome.

We were walking down 125th Street (it's like the Main Street in
Harlem) and one guy saw us pass and was like, "Hey it's Mormons,
Joseph Smith's people." Of course we just laughed, waved, and walked
on. Then about 20 seconds later we walked by a guy who said, "Brigham
Young; bring them young." We have actually heard of this guy from
other missionaries. Apparently, all he does is stand in the same spot
trying to upset missionaries by saying that we marry a ton of young
women. Ah it's a classic New York moment.

I was studying in Alma and I came upon one of the saddest moments in
the Book of Mormon. Alma and Amulek (essentially two missionaries)
were taken by the government and forced to watch women and children of
the Church be thrown into a pit of fire for no reason other than to
punish them for their beliefs. As they're watching this, Amulek asks,
"How could we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth
our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save
them." He simply wants to save the innocent people, but Alma's
response is, "The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth
mine hand." He then goes on to explain that the Lord is allowing this
to happen because those who are killed are innocent and will go
straight to heaven. I love Amulek's response back. He says, "Behold,
perhaps they will burn us also." Amulek has such great trust in his
companion and is so submissive to the Lord's will and doesn't question
the decision at all. Alma then says, "Be it according to the will of
the Lord. But behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us
not." It's so awesome how they're so willing to suffer, even to death
if it so be that it is the Lord's will. But then he has the faith to
be able to say that their work isn't done and so they will not be
killed. Although this is such a sad chapter, it's also so awesome
because there's so much we can learn from these two.

I think we met our first truly happy bus driver this week. He said
"Good morning," to the people who walked onto the bus, including us! He
then would sing into the mic every now and then. He didn't just
announce the next stops on the bus, but he sang them. Ah it was great.
This was a reverse New York moment.

We were at a bus stop and we saw a random guy with hearing aids! At
first we were unsure as to how to approach this random man
whom we were assuming was deaf. So we just walked up and signed, 
"Do you know ASL"? We figured there was no point in beating around the
bush so we explained about ourselves. He was clearly not interested in
the Church, but there was something about him that just made us need
to keep talking with him. The cool thing is that we had a Branch Party
the next day, so we invited him to that. But even then he said he was
busy and wouldn't make it. We really wanted to talk to him and
continue but he obviously did not want to. So we got his contact
information and hoped for the best, planning to contact him soon. He
showed up to the party the next day! He was really nice and actually
talked with us. There has been no progression yet, but it was still
pretty legit.

"Holy Bungie."
"If the gun loads, shoot it."
"I like this book called DogMan. It's a dog, but it's also a man."
"I have never seen someone eat 20 tic tacs at the same time. you have."
"Okay, I'm going out for a smoke, so please hold the door for me. And
I'm getting coffee for everyone on this train. For anyone who doesn't
keep the door open for me, you're not getting any coffee."-random man
on the subway
"The Lord never promised eloquence, He promised power."
"Mormons here, Joseph Smith's people."
"Brigham Young...bring 'em young".
"Righteousness is relative...
I wouldn't necessarily phrase it that way the first time I met someone."

Nearer My God to Thee

Keep on Truckin'

-Elder West

Zone Conference

Random Subway Sculptures

Top of the Brooklyn Bridge.  
So couples write their names on these locks, lock them, and then throw the keys into the river.

Walking on the top of the Brooklyn Bridge

My ASL District enjoying P-day

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

4 May 2016 - The Bell and West Moving Company

Dear All,

At about 9:50 am today, we found out that we will be covering the
whole mission once Elders Holloway and Turner go home, which is

in July. We were notified that we will also get to close down this
apartment. We have to move out before the end of the month. Where we
will move to is not yet known, but it will be a much better location
to cover the whole city. Technically, we'll also be covering Upstate,
I guess you could say that nothing is long-term for Elder Bell and me.
But it's okay, because it's gonna be fun.

Something I realized during a study session is that Jesus Christ is

literally the center of all things that affect us eternally. When
we face God and are not fully cleansed from our sins (because
we're human and imperfect,) it is only because of Jesus Christ's
Atonement that we'll be able to receive His mercy. That's the only
way that Justice and Mercy will both be able to be satisfied. 
It's so 
profound that I cannot describe how it makes me feel.Because Jesus 
Christ was resurrected, we will have theopportunity to face God in an
immortal state. Jesus Christ is how we'll get there, and Jesus Christ 
is the way we will be able to have mercy during that judgement. That
is why this church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints (italics added.) Although I always knew this, for some reason
it was different for me to learn this time.

Last Thursday was really rough at first. At weekly planning meeting
we had almost no investigators to plan for. It was really hard on us.
We spent a lot of time trying to think of different ideas to fill our
days with meaningful activities, but we were just stuck with look-ups
and phone games. Obviously those aren't wastes of time, but there are
so many better things we could do if we had more people to teach.
We said that we need to hope and pray for a miracle this week
because nothing has been happening through our own efforts.
We spent tons of time trying to figure out what to do for the
next day and had to resort to four hours of look-ups
and one lesson, (which is a terribly slow day, just FYI.) A little bit
later we were able to contact one of our newly found Less Active's,
Joy B.! It was super awesome, and it was even better when we were
able to set up to meet with her on Friday, which was the exact day
that we needed good activities for! It was such a miracle. The Lord
truly does reward us as we are faithful and learn to rely on His power.
That evening,while planning for the next day, the phone started
ringing. It was Donna from the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
She told us that she would really appreciate it if we would be able
to go to the church the next morning to do service for 2-3 hours.
Of course we quickly accepted! That, combined
with the lesson with Joy Brown and the other previously planned
lessons, made us completely full, with no more room for anything to
add. It was super awesome, and it's just so amazing that the Lord
provided so much for us after we were faithful and working for it.
Such a miraculous day.

On Friday, while we were waiting to start our service with the African

Methodist Episcopal Church - which is the building/address Elder Bell
felt inspired to go to a couple of weeks ago, by the way - there was a
funeral viewing happening outside. One of the drivers for the hearse
was chatting with us, and he said that he used to be a taxi driver
but had been working with the funeral home for 40 years. He then said
something pretty funny about being a driver for the car with the
He said, "Yeah, now I don't get any complaints from the passenger."
(It was a funny joke because now the passenger is dead.)

We were in Relief Society upstate interpreting for a deaf member, and
the teacher was crying. She asked if anyone had a tissue, and literally
the second she said it the entire class goes quickly rummaging through
their bags to get tissues. It was hilarious. That was a classic Relief
Society thing to happen. Although I've only ever been in Relief
two times to interpret for a woman, I could tell it was a classic response.

That's all this week!

"I'm not happy Bob, not happy."
"Dominican cake, I would highly recommend it...
Yeah, if you want to kill
"That awkward moment when you're on a crowded train and you mean to
airdrop something to your companion but instead you airdrop it to a

random stranger, who then stares at you."
"We were the married couple that just looked like a Mutual activity."
"In (insert specific city here) anytime you break up with someone it's 
because you can say, 'It's alright, we can still be cousins.' "
"When you don't think you can do this, you're right. Only through

Christ can you do this."

Phillipians 4:!3 - I can do all things through Christ

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Homemade Naan bread pizza -  Thanx Mom
Dinner with the Martins in upstate
We ran into the West Family