Is it even a weekly missionary letter if you don't say something about how fast the last week went?
Last p day was pretty fun! Got a haircut, checked out >$80,000 cars at some of the shmancy car dealerships in Collierville, went to an awesome army surplus store, and had a dinner appointment with a great family hosting three foreign exchange students from Brazil on soccer scholarships. We ended up teaching them about the Book of Mormon!
The one lady we had that awesome experience with weeks ago answered the door again finally! She admitted to us that she felt better after our first visit and that it had been God who had led us to her door that day. Life is still hard but she told us she had signed up for rehab in Nashville. We asked if we could come in and teach her and see what we could do to help. She told us in an hour. So we walked around the neighborhood.
There's a less active member who we had knocked on his door a couple times, and the last time had seen his finger through the blinds and then proceed to not answer the door. Well, I saw him park and go inside so we figured we would try him again. He answered the door this time, apologized for not answering last time, and gave us two Gatorades each. He grabbed our number and said he'd take us out to lunch sometime. What a change!
We returned to the first lady's house after an hour and she proceeded to not open the door. Ugh.
The next day, the less active guy called us and invited us to lunch the following day! Our ward mission leader advised we take along another ward member to be his friend. We called to make sure that was ok and he said it was, but then a few hours later called to cancel because his wife didn't feel comfortable with the other member coming over. I guess years ago some member had offended her so bad that she had her name removed from the records of the church. (Which shows the importance of having a strong testimony, a forgiving attitude, and of taking each success as it comes... lesson learned)
So both of those fell through.
Tuesday night we we were having dinner with this family, and got talking about member missionary work. The mom had come to lessons with investigators before with countless sets of missionaries, and had done her own missionary work but had never had success with it. We kinda got talking about what a struggle it is, and then bam... her son's boss came over, and the son invited in her in to join us for the spiritual thought at the close of dinner. Then we ended up spending a good 20-30 minutes on the book of mormon and our church, it was really cool! God has a sense of humor.
We had another investigator drop us but we helped our remaining ones quite a bit this week. We had interviews with our new Mission President, and that was good. I went last out of our district so I sat in the foyer with the mission presidents wife, sister Hansen for a while. She's pretty awesome.
At our district meeting, we learned how the parable of the good Samaritan in the bible is an allegory for the plan of salvation. My mind was BLOWN. In 5 verses, Jesus teaches an incredible lesson on loving and serving everyone. While at the same time providing a discourse in metaphor for everything from Adam to modern day prophets. (Check out "The Good Samaritan: Forgotten Symbols", from the February 2007 Ensign Magazine, p.40)
Elder Johnson's flight information home came this week! He heads home one week from today. I'm gonna miss him!
After a particularly hot day, we had dinner with an awesome couple in the ward. Their less active daughter and her family came, and one of the Brazilian exchange students was there, too! So we were teaching like 3 different people at once again, it was cool.
We had exchanges this week. I stayed in Collierville and elder Johnson went to Southaven, I think his first area that he served in. So he got to see some old member and investigator friends again. We kept busy here, knocking doors with little success. One potential though, and next door to her a KOOKY guy who kept going on about the Clinton scandals and then having a short term memory lapse and saying it again. He then called us and shared his thoughts on the Clintons AGAIN over the phone. It was pretty hilarious, but the guy is out of his mind, so it's also a little sad.
Had dinner at this Indian family's house. They made authentic chicken in sauce and bread from scratch... it was way good. I don't think I've really had Indian food before then, so it was something new. Killer Indian food was not one of the things I expected to be eating in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission but I'm glad it was!
We also had some killer sushi one night... the recent convert and his girlfriend we are teaching the post-baptism lessons to took us out to dinner. I've liked sushi in the past but really haven't had it more than a couple times, so this was way good.
While on exchanges the next day, we volunteered to help a less active and his family weed their yard at 10AM. There was a tiny little garden box along one side of the fence, not more than 12 feet long. And two smaller square garden boxes just barely big enough to surround a tree. So not a lot to weed. It only took us an hour to pull all the nasty viny grass out. (The grass here is different from back west... it's like a weed. You pull up on one strand and the root comes up and pulls out another food of grass, its weird.) So... not too bad right? An hour of casual weeding at 10AM? I've literally never sweat so much before in my life. I was dripping everywhere, constantly. It was so hot at 10AMalready. As we were leaving the guy told us he would see us tomorrow at church!
Got home and showered again haha. It was a good way to spend the morning, I felt really good after that. Exchanged back and reuniting with elder Johnson felt like seeing an old friend again. We spent most of the rest of the day in a car driving with a ward member out to the boonies to try more less active members with not a lot of luck, but it was fun.
Guess what? That guy came to church! And he dragged his whole family along, too. He told me "everybody always asks if there's anything they can do for us, but y'all are the first ones to actually do anything." So to hear that and then see he and his family at church the next day was awesome. I felt like I'd actually made a difference, even if just for one Sunday. I was also able to give another priesthood blessing for a lady seeking guidance on how to help her less active husband want to come back to church and be a good example to her kids. What a tough situation. The priesthood is so cool, though. I think it really helped her already.
Had an awesome lightning storm last night. Didn't really get rained on, but the sky couldn't go for longer than 5 seconds without some epic lightning strike. (I counted.)
So anyway, this is running long but it has been a good week! We've had some pretty big disappointments, but also some really good surprises and little miracles. I'm getting used to the whole waking up at 6:30AM thing a little more. The heat has been tough, but every night--and now most mornings :)--I am just full of gratitude for all that I've been blessed to have, do, feel, and experience. Life is good. Hard but good, and better with the gospel!
Hope y'all have a great week!
Fun quick stories for the week: talked with a lady who just moved from Nigeria, received a crash course in Hinduism, built a fence, had a guy complain to us that Jesus was black, met a WW2 AND Viet Nam veteran, and a guy with a swastika tattoo on the same day.
Oh yeah, and I went to Mississippi.
But first, I helped put a fence together, set a baptismal date with our one consistent investigator, and got to give my first priesthood blessing, which was really neat. It was cool to see how the words and promises came to mind as I blessed this guy with health and an increased desire and ability to quit smoking. The spirit was there, no doubt.
On Wednesday, we had a district meeting and then I traded places with one of my MTC buddies, Elder Barney, and got to spend the next day in Oxford, Mississippi on "exchanges." It's about an hour and a half drive away, and a pretty different feel. It was really fun. In the first neighborhood we went to knock doors in, we got like 5/7 people to open the door and give us a return appointment, which... is kinda unheard of?
I haven't heard how those appointments went but I hope they went well! The rest of the day, we had less success tracting, but did interupt somebodys weed smoking party in an apartment complex, and have this Indian guy invite us in to teach us about Hinduism and learn more about Christianity. That was pretty interesting, especially to see some of the commonalities. (33 million ["give or take about a million," the guy said] gods not being one of those haha)
The next day we drove back to Collierville and then that evening had the chance to have a member drive us to Moscow, a super tiny town about 30 mins away, to visit some less active members. It was around then that I started realizing I had a cold.
The next day the cold got worse, and in the evening it finally poured rain on us while we were out. We had umbrellas, but the back of my pants from the knees down were soaked. It cooled down the air, thankfully, cause it had been hellishly hot and humid earlier in the day, so it actually felt really good. The rain came down the hardest I've seen it here so far. Thunder on the umbrella, rivers in the street and gutters especially. Socks got wet, and then the back of my shirt... a nice lady pulled over and gave us a ride back to our car but I had to put the umbrella away before getting in, and in the 2 seconds between doing that and jumping into her back seat, I feel like I might as well have dumped a gallon of water in her back seat haha. It was awesome. There was thunder and lightning, the whole shebang. That late in the day, and with as wet as we already were, it almost didn't even matter after that how wet we got cause we were on our way home anyway. Thankfully the cold only lasted about 3 days. If it were up to me I'd have slept for 55/62 of those hours but I kept to the schedule, and endured going out anyway. Wasn't easy but Heavenly Father didn't want the work to slow down, and he wanted me to know that I could do it.
Last fun story, in one of the wards Elder Johnson and I are over, there is a Dahl family! Only the dad is here for now, since he's working, but yesterday I learned that we are related! (Our grandpa's are cousins, so whatever that relation is!) So that's cool!
We had another kinda bible bash this week (it was very polite haha) and no one could win because that's how bible "bashes" work. Learned a couple awesome lessons from this one, though.
1. If there is a verse in the bible that the Book of Mormon supposedly "contradicts," there are 2 options.
Option 1: that contradiction is based solely on interpretation and personal opinion
Or, more commonly, Option 2: there is another verse in the bible that also contradicts the verse in question. Which doesn't help the bible's case for being "perfect and the only word of God you need."
2. Which is why I'm thankful for the Book of Mormon. It clarifies and answers so many questions, and helps us understand which interpretation is correct. It adds so much incredible doctrine that has been lost. It provides a single source to which everything we believe can lean on. We don't have to rely on just the Bible. That'd be exhausting, and millions of people have had to, and continue to so in such different and frequently opposing ways.
3. Furthermore, if the Book of Mormon is the word of God, (Which witness I have received by the Holy Ghost) then Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who restored Christ's original church back to the earth, and received the authority and power of God like prophets of old. And if that is true, then we have a living prophet on the earth today, and all modern revelation is of equal value to the scriptures. How cool is that?
So arguments over the Bible "vs." The Book of Mormon aren't fun, but I'm always left with a stronger testimony than before. The two books don't contradict, but as I've read more of the bible in my personal studies, my love for it has grown. There's so much evidence and support for modern revelation, it's awesome.
Anyway, another week has come and gone! It was fast, and as I was thinking about it, it didn't really seem like a lot happened. But as I'm reading over this, it actually was kinda eventful. Hope y'all are doing well and enjoying your summer! I'd love to hear all about it! Have a great week!
Address: 866 Schilling Rd. Collierville, TN. Apt. #103, 38017
I know they said the weeks fly by on your mission but wow! This was a quick one.
The mini version w highlights: (but not all the good stories cause I need to keep y'alls interest to read the whole thing somehow!)
Continued feeling the hand of the Lord in my life, had 4th of july steaks, saw Mike Conley and a Lamborghini Alventador, I gave away my first Book of Mormon, discovered the world of Cashew Milk Ice Cream, (thanks again to Brother Boggs) played a fun board game called "Forbidden Island," passed a whole pickup truck full of watermelon, had our old black lady investigator cackle about the word "stiffnecked" ("it's when you don't have no clothes on!") And then had a good ol traditional oreo fry in our apartment that left Elder Johnson and I feeling the need to repent afterward. (Although they were very very good, we ate.... a lot of them haha.)
It's definitely warmed up. The high so far has been 91, which isn't too bad... Boise gets over 100 quite a few times every summer. But it's the humidity, man. Allow me to explain. You know that feeling you get, when about 2 hours ago you sat in something kinda wet but you can still feel it even though it's been 2 hours and there's nothing you can do about it really? So imagine that but all over your body and the air is heavy and there's no clear cool air to be found. But it's not too bad. :)
Read in 2 Nephi 8:15-16 and felt that it has definitely applied to me already. "I am the Lord thy God... And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion: Behold, thou art my people."
I've definitely felt like the Lord has been shading me and taking good care of me as I'm trying to "plant the heavens." He has done this really well through the ward members here. There are some awesome people, and they treat us so well. Another way is through my companion, Elder Johnson. He is one stellar dude. So good at talking with everyone and just being friendly and having cool conversations with them. Learning lots from his example. He's going home after this transfer, though so I'll miss him! He told me I'm one of 3 companions he's had out of 13 that he's really liked. (Awww.) (And not [necessarily] because his other companions had been bad, but not like best friends or anything.) So that felt good and boosted my confidence, which I've needed!
I've been talking more, or trying to, and knocking on doors doesn't really scare me anymore. I've discovered I actually really like teaching. Problem is... we don't have a lot of people TO teach. We lost one of our 2 or 3 regulars, and probably have 3 or 4 others that have put us on hold or are out of town or so on. So the remainder of our time has been spent knocking door to door.
We have better success talking with people in their yards than knocking doors. Most people still aren't interested, but this week we did get a couple people tell us we could come back.
We've felt prompted to wait for the one lady with the addiction and whose mother passed away as she goes through this hard time. We're trying to ride this balance between "thinking about and being there for her" and "not scaring her away." So we will try again this week and see what we can do. Our first meeting was the coolest thing to happen in my mission so far, so I hope we can keep that up.
On the 3rd of July we did some service and then ate at "Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken" which is a fried chicken chain down here and is... amazing. Wowza. The member who took us let us get dessert so I tried their chocolate chess pie. Imagine everything you love about pie crust, rich and gooey brownie batter, and crispy brownie corner pieces all on one desert. It was legit one of the best things I've ever tasted.
We get fed really well here. Every night I go to bed feeling pretty darn happy and tired and full. (Still on the last belt loop hole, we'll see how long that lasts though haha. Thank goodness for a fast metabolism.)
Collierville did their fireworks show on the night of the 3rd, to avoid competing with the neighboring town Germantown, who had their fireworks show scheduled for the 4th. We didn't get to watch either, but we heard it was really really good and included a jet flyby!
On the 4th of July we reacted as usual but no one was really home or willing to listen (surprise surprise) but at the end of the day, we had killer steaks and guacamole at Brother Bogg's house. He's an especially awesome member who apparently really enjoys feeding and hanging out with the missionaries. He's such an awesome guy. It also rained pretty hard on the 4th, but only when we were inside.
It has rained pretty hard a few times since I've been here, but while we're outside we've never been hit with more than a pleasant sprinkle. Another way the Lord is shading us.
Elder Johnson has made it his final transfer goal to give Mike Conley a book of Mormon. He is the point guard for the Memphis Grizlies. (This is all news to me.) I guess that entails being super wealthy and famous because he lives in s gated community in a mansion w a Tesla and some other way nice cars. Well, a member of the ward lives in the same neighborhood so we have the key code. We tried him last week, but no one answered so we tried again, and no one answered. As we were driving out of the neighborhood, though, he drives in! Elder Johnson waved at him and he waved back with a lil nod. So that was fun.
As we were driving to our next appointment, the excitement from that wasnt even over before we drove past a Lamborghini Alventador in someones driveway. Elder Johnson parked in a nearby neighborhood and we walked over to take a picture. It's like a $450,000 car. Yeah. So that's Collierville for ya. (Ok the extreme of it, anyway.)
On the other side of things, there's a trailer park about 15 minutes away, and 20 minutes away into another town, smaller houses, garbage in the streets, and literally fried chicken remnants under people's doors. The range of wealth makes this such an interesting area. But the vast majority is a lot more wealthy, which makes finding good, humble, truth seeking people difficult, and the poorer areas have already been tracted to death by past missionaries.
We met our new mission President and his wife on Thursday! President Hansen is kind of a goob but in an endearing way. He's excited about the work, I can feel his love, and I like his way of thinking about baptisms. No monthly goal or quota except that we will baptize "every single person the Lord has prepared each month, whether that's one or two hundred." His thing is "Hurrah for Israel" which is super cheesy but it's ok
A returned missionary from the France Leon mission spoke in church yesterday and I guess one of their mission songs was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," the Christmas song. Apparently the lyrics in French pack a bigger punch. Essentially the 2nd verse in English carries the same idea, but it's asking what the glad tidings are that all this rejoicing and all these singing angels are celebrating. That good news is the birth of Christ and we get the chance to rejoice and share those glad tidings with people today, too! As we sung that as our closing hymn, it wasn't weird at all, singing a Christmas song in July, but actually really cool. Music brings the spirit to me more consistently than anything else. (Speaking of which, I've missed playing the piano and listening to "normal" music. Just about every morning I've had a new favorite song stuck in my head like an itch I can scratch. But spiritual music is good, too.)
One more story!
On P day last week, I went to Wal-Mart to get a new electric razor since my old one was on its decline. Got one, brought it back to the apartment and upon closer inspection came to discover that the charging cable didn't fit in it, and... it had been used... there was hair all over it. Someone had opened the package, taken the new razor out and put their old one back in. (Joke is on them, their charging cable won't fit it) So we had to run back to Wal-Mart to return and replace it. Gross. But the new one was unused! :')
The work is hard but life is good! Life is hard, not the gospel. I so appreciate your prayers and support!
PS. I can get and read emails any day of the week. I can only respond on Mondays, though. (I can technically write draft responses in free time and send them on p day though, so...) if you wanna give me something fun to read during the week, email me anytime!
Before I start this email I realized after p day last week that I forgot to tell one last MTC story! Donny Osmond gave our last Sunday devotional and did a really good job. Funny guy, sang his "let's get down to business" line from mulan and another song he's working on for us, so that was cool.
Ok. Now this week.
After my email last week, we went tracting (door knocking) in the evening. There was a cool graveyard at the end of the street and Elder Johnson and I decided to check it out. Pretty cool, beautiful, and even some confederate soldiers--including an unknown--were buried there. Fireflies were starting to come out, it was cooling down a bit... it was awesome.
The next day we had a district meeting in Oxford, Mississippi. We drove down there and enjoyed a place called cook out. Basically 5$ for a ton of food, and $2 for any of like 40 different shake flavors.
On the drive back to Collierville, our promising investigator from China (with whom we'd scheduled a baptismal date my first day here) dropped us. I guess her parents had talked her out of meeting with us again for a while. Ugh. That was no fun.
We continued teaching this lady, who, bless her heart, is just very... slow. She has a very hard time reading but over this week has seemed to start remembering what exactly Joseph Smith did. We also taught this other lady and that's been going well, but she has a hard time finding time to read the book of Mormon. We keep telling her that's the only way to know if what we're teaching her is true, but for her and a lot of others it's just not a priority for them.
So those 2 plus another lady in the next town over have really been our teaching pool this week. So we've been trying to find new people. Members don't have referrals for us, so a-knocking we go. Probably 80% of the time no one answers the door. Probably 20% of those are people just ignoring us, peeking out the blinds or even going as far as to lock the door while we're waiting for them to open it. (That one was funny.) Of the remaining 20% of people who do answer it, not one has been rude us. They're kind, patient, and tell us they have their own religion already. Of those people that answer, maybe 1 in 40 say that we can come back. 1 in 100 let us in. Had an amazing experience with that this week.
We dont knock on every door. I was thinking to myself "we should knock on this one" when elder Johnson said we should try it. Sweet, we're on the same page.
We knock and this lady answers, she doesn't look to happy. We ask how her day is going, she says not good. Well, a message about Jesus Christ can help improve your day! Surprisingly enough, she lets us in. Within maybe 2 minutes she is crying. She tells us about a serious addiction and other issues she is struggling with. She admits right then that God sent us to her for a reason and I could feel the spirit nodding along to that inside of me. We talked about the atonement and about the love of her heavenly father for her. Elder Johnson shared an awesome video on addiction recovery, and as i shared my testimony of how I came to know my Heavenly Father loved me, the spirit came into that room so strong I was choking up a bit. (I'll admit it!) Long story short, we got her to say her first prayer in over a year and as we left, she seemed brighter. We walked quietly back to the car and just talked about how much this lady needs the gospel in her life. We knew we had been led to her and that she knew that too. I hope she could feel the holy ghost as strong as I could.
For that one experience this week, we spent literally hours every day knocking doors in humid hot and in pleasant evenings alike. Nothing quite like that had happened before, or since, but I'm okay with that because I know how much that meant to her.
Before I move on from this story, I want to add that we checked in on her yesterday. She looked rougher than before and told us her mother had died of a heart attack after having been in an argument with her. Life isn't treating her super well, and we just feel so much for her and want her to come around and open back up to us again because between the plan of salvation and the atonement of Jesus Christ, everything she's going through can be made easier. Don't pray for me this week, pray for her.
We helped a ward member move out this week. He had something like 40,000 rounds of ammunition stacked almost floor to ceiling in the backseat of his pickup truck. That was fun.
Bamboo grows a lot here, surprisingly and we came across some big pieces laying on the sidewalk so we did the only sane thing and grabbed some for our apartment.
Rather than canceling on us, a less active member invited us over to where he was working. (He was painting another ward members gorgeous home. The owner is a tax attorney for FedEx, which is headquartered here, and he does really well.) Visited with him for a while and then got to help clean up the tape and everything so that was also fun.
Ok and there are these really yummy chocolate pomegranate snack things that are amazing by themselves. But we put them in pancakes one afternoon and that blew my mind. Please try it and either tell me I'm 100% right or just totally crazy.
Brother Boggs, a member here who spoils a lot took us out to Cajun Catfish Co. We had sausage, fried catfish on rice, gumbo, and hush puppies. Boy I tell you, that blew my mind it was sooooo goood. He took us out to one of those grill your own meat at your table Korean barbecue places the next night and that was also yummy. We talked about our Italy trips for a while and that was fun to reminisce on.
While tracting, a guy showed us his gorgeous 65 (replica?) Cobra racing car in his garage. He told us about it for probably like 20 straight minutes, that was pretty cool haha. Lots of fancy cars here, and even more fancy houses.
Not ALL of the area is super rich, but most of it is at least upper middle class. There are some legit mansions here, though. Super gorgeous neighborhoods with enormous 2 story homes, but also like legit warehouse sized mansions. We don't have a ton of success tracting those. :)
It's been getting warmer. Into the 90s and humid. It's hurts a lil to be outside but I'm so grateful for our car. Usually we park somewhere and walk around the neighborhood in a circle, but it's still so nice to be able to come back to air conditioning after that.
Funny story of the week: while walking around we walked past this black guy sweeping branches out of the gutter. I had such a hard time understanding him. He introduced himself like so: "I'm Willy L. Mason, I'm not sure what the L. Stands for."
"Well, Willy, I think that's for your middle name."
"Yeah but I can't 'member it."
"Can we make one up for you? Give you a new middle name?"
"Hmm... how about Leonard? Willy Leonard Mason? That has a good ring to it."
He nodded and we said goodbye. So that was funny hahaha.
The ward members here are awesome, some really great, very generous people. Not a lot of progression with our investigators or with finding new people yet, but as we keep trying our best and teaching people a bit at a time, things are gonna start blossoming.
Have a good 4th of July everyone! Your prayers and support mean so much and are definitely felt here. Until next week!
Mail random stuff to me at
866 Schilling Rd. Collierville TN
Apt #103, 38017
So we can get a library card
Also tell me about life, new music reviews, memes, etc. at email@example.com
Hello All! Once again it feels like forever since I wrote last. A lot has happened since my last p day in the MTC.
I was a part of the first missionary departure devotional to be held in the gorgeous new buildings, so that was cool! Packed up over the course of two days and had our last classes.
Got up at 2:30 AM to leave the MTC and get to the airport. Waited there like 2-3 hrs for our flight to Atlanta. Went to Jamba juice and the guy in line in front of us paid for elder Miller and I's drinks. Found a member of my home ward in the airport, and just one thing after another worked out really well. The burrito place we ate at in the ATL airport's slogan was "burritos on a mission" which... idk shows me God's watching over me and knows me and has a funny sense of humor. I am a burrito.
Said goodbye to the awesome sister missionaries in my MTC district. I look up to each of them so much, they're amazing. They'll be serving in Atlanta.
As we were about to land in little rock, I looked out the window at all the fields and thought about the people I'd be meeting and helping in the next two years. Then proceeded one of the most powerful spiritual impressions I've ever had. I felt like I got a glimpse of what my Heavenly Father was thinking right then. I felt like he is SO FLIPPIN EXCITED that ELDER DAHL is right where he needs to be. Now he can get to work on certain people that he's been wanting to come to Him for a while, now. Tried to hide my tears from the nice lady I sat next to haha.
We landed in little rock, and met the mission President, Pres. Wakolo. We're his last group of missionaries he'll pick up before leaving to be a member of the seventy! As we were walking out, he stayed behind to give one of the airport workers a copy of the book of mormon and to schedule a return appointment bc he could tell the worker noticed something different in this group of missionaries than he saw in most people.
Had some training that evening and met my new companion, Elder Johnson of Salt Lake City, Utah, and also learned what area I'd be serving in. Colliersville Tennessee! (The Arkansas little rock mission is the name of the geographical area that I've been called to serve in. It includes a good portion of TN, and tiny corners of missouri and Mississippi!)
Stayed the night in a hotel. It was so nice to have a real shower and to sleep in s real bed, not the MTC kind or a bunk bed.
The next morning we headed out and got some more training from the mission President and then drove to our areas that afternoon.
Colliersville is a super nice part of TN. Pretty wealthy area.
We got to TN in time for a dinner appointment with this awesome guy who works logistics for Nike golf. He used to house the missionaries, I guess, but now we have an apartment. Super nice single guy in maybe his early 30s? We went to a burger place that was really good and then went to our apartment for the grand tour and to unpack.
I knew daily studying was a big chunk of missionary schedule, but they weren't kidding. We get up at 6:30, exercise, shower, etc. And then from like 8 to 1pm with breakfast/lunch breaks... its all studying.
After studies, we went to our first appointment. We visited with this lady from China, actually, who somehow got her MBA from BYU being exposed to the church there. She's here for work now, and at the start of the lesson was open to there even being a God in the first place. We taught our 1st lesson on the restoration of Christ's original church on the earth today. Part of training to be a missionary is being challenged to extend the baptismal invitation on your 1st lesson. So I did! We asked her to be baptized and she said if she could come to know for herself what we told her was true, she'd be baptized on July 29th! So prayers for her are appreciated, so she can get answers to her own prayers about the Book of Mormon and so on. She asked lots of good questions, followed along, and then Elder Johnson showed her how to get the book of Mormon in Chinese on her phone so it'd be easier for her to read. Super neat lady.
Met more members of the local ward here. So many great people. And living in just gorgeous southern homes. This is a beautiful, beautiful area.
Had dinner with a nice family and one of their daughters dog sits for a neighbor. That neighbor pays her $100 a day, and hires someone completely different just to walk the dog. So yeah, that gives you maybe a "high end exaggeration" of what this area is like.
On the other hand, we did walk through a local "ghetto," in the area, basically a few steps up above a trailer park. Us two white kids in white shirts and ties walking by black people shouting at each other... its fun hahaha. There was literally a watermelon cracked open on the road with flies buzzing around it. It was hot and humid, and there were lots of old cars in everyone's back yard... it really felt like I was in the south haha. And it was awesome. Knocking doors is still hard and worrying, but just walking around made me so happy cause everything is so cool!
Met with a ward member who spent 30 mins showing us his custom made guns collection so that was cool.
Pretty much everyone here believes in Jesus already, which is awesome. Most people seem pretty content with their faith as it is, though. When we ask people how they came to be religious, or have faith in Christ as their savior, though, they really have to stop and think. They talk about how they like the community of the church they go too. And they talk about the bible a lot. So far it's not too often people say they know because they've really felt the holy ghost testify to them that it is. Which is sad!
We've had 2 kinda bashers so far. Both really polite people, both trying to convince us we're wrong, but both times I walked away even more sure that what I believe is true. They rely on bible passages open for interpretation and on using "logic" or taking some things very literally and others metaphorically. Their faith is based on archeological or historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived, not actual faith received from God telling them truth through the holy ghost.
The restored gospel, though, is absolutely logical! But I'm so glad my faith is founded on experience, on living it, on praying about it, on feeling the holy ghost in my heart as I read the book of mormon. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Not just because people tell me it is or because there's historical evidence, but because I feel God's love for me as I live it.
Ate at red robin with this family from India one night. Another funny sight to imagine. It sounds like the start of a joke. A Red Robin full of white folks and black folks coming for their free birthday burgers, and then an Indian family and two white mormon missionaries come in. Their parents didn't speak much English and wore the cool traditional clothing you imagine. It was fun hahaha.
That's most of the highlights!
Yesterday was church and there are some characters. One lady with a legit mustache. And one of the congregation members preassigned to speak talked about breaking her arm at a family reunion and how her favorite part of going to the hospital is the level ten pain killers. ("Say 8!!!!" Anyone?) And then in elders quorum one of the teachers talked about the holy ghost's influence on science and its ability to measure distances in space?? I'm exagerating just a bit, and the rest of the church meetings were actually really great. There's some awesome awesome people. And a lot from Boise Idaho, too! I was told most of the members are either from Idaho or utah in these wards. It's fun to talk street names and fun things to do in Boise with people.
The weather has been awesome! We're in an all car area so we dont have to use our bikes. There's a tropical storm or something I guess earlier this week and we were getting the tendrils clouds up here, so it'd be cloudy and sprinking one minute and sunny the next. Kinda like Idaho but in a definite pattern. I think it's passed, though. Yesterday was gorgeous. 75-80 degrees maybe, not really humid at all. Walking around that evening felt like an Idaho summer evening. (Aka the best)
It was a busy week. Lots of adjusting and growing and improving I need to do. I feel very lucky to start my mission and that growth here in Colliersville.
I wanna hear from you!!! Send me emails plz. Tell me about your life. Your day. Your dog. Send me memes. Music reviews for albums I'm missing. Whatever!
You can also send mail to
866 Schilling Rd. Collierville TN
Apt #103, 38017
Big takeaway this week: life is hard, not the gospel.
Think about that for a while. I really like that.
Until next week!
Made it to Little Rock! It's hot and humid already, but not as bad as it will get, apparently. Ill be serving in Collierville, TN w/ Elder Johnson of SLC! President and Sister Wakolo are awesome! Saw some fireflies flashing in the church parking lot, and heard the cicadas buzzing outside. We're staying in a hotel tonight while the sisters stay in the mission home. Excited to be here and serving in TENNESSEE!
Well, it seems as though this last week went by even faster than the one before it. Which is fine by me! I've been really enjoying being at the MTC though. If I could stay here my whole mission I'd be tempted, but there are people to save, new places to go, non-cafeteria food to eat, and adventures to be had!
Last Sunday was one of the longest days of my life, though. Meeting after meeting. All good ones, don't get me wrong! It just was so long. 6:50AM to 9PM!
Oh and President Uchtdorf came.
(I didn't see him, but a couple people in our zone did. I guess he came to tour the new buildings on the MTC campus. For those who don't know, President Uchtdorf works closely with the Prophet, above the quorum of the 12 apostles.)
So while he was here, there was a rumor that he would be the speaker at the Sunday devotional. And then we heard he had gone home already so we were kinda disappointed. But the devo ending up being good anyway. As of that day, there were 1300 missionaries in the MTC, 700 of which were sisters! And then we got 500 new missionaries on wednesday! The sister missionaries are just crazy incredible. Like... I wanna be as good as the sister missionaries are haha.
On Monday, we started meeting with 2 new investigators. Even though they're acting, you really come to love them and hope they keep commitments and feel the spirit and choose to be baptized. Thankfully, it seems we managed to do that this week!
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I got up with a few other elders at ~3AM to say goodbye to the elders in the district that left the MTC for the field. They're all such great, hilarious, immensely spiritual guys that I look up to a lot. They're gonna be great. The next time I get up that early will be this Tuesday to leave for Little Rock!
(We got our flight itineries. Leaving the MTC at 3:30 for an 8:30 flight. A little earlier than it needs to be if you ask me, but...)
On tuesday, Elder Nielson of the 70 (The group of people under the quorum of the 12 apostles) visited for the Tuesday devotional. I realized that I had heard about him before from my parents. So my grandparents lived on the same street as them and their kids and my parents grew up together. So after the devo (Which was awesome, talking about how God protects his missionaries and is involved in this work) I made my companion go wait in line with me up front to meet him. It kinda felt like being able to meet band members after a concert? But anyway, I introduced myself as the grandson of the holmsteads and he asked who my parents were. I said Tiffany, and he brought his wife over and she was like "oh, are you Oliver?" So that's cool! She knew me before I introduced myself. We got to follow them out with the MTC presidency into this special room where the speakers and presidency hang out before the devotionals. Got pictures taken with them there and talked a little bit about my family and twin falls Idaho. It was cool to have someone who knows the people I love the most so well!
Another takeaway or 2 from the devotional (actually from sister Nielson):
-Qualifying for, receiving, and acting on spiritual promptings is the single greatest skill we can acquire in this life
-My whole life and the whole lives of my future investigators have been preparing us for this.
-Jesus Christ has called ME.
After the older district left, the janitors came to clean the room. They found a screw on the ground and looked up at the air vent. They found all kinds of goodies in there. We were freaking out next door like a drug bust was going on. Kinda hilarious.
So this isn't super organized at all, but... another thing I love about the MTC happens at about 9PM. As various districts go back to dorms, some of them will just sing a hymn on the way. As they walk past people chatting, they join in. So its just cool to see that spread across campus. I've sung "called to serve" more times in the past few weeks than maybe my entire life before then haha. But it's awesome when people you've never met before join in and spread the song around!
So my four square reign has continued stronger than it ever did in 4th grade. We decided to try something else last night. While most of the zone played volleyball again, a few of us tried botchee (sp?) Ball. Elder Miller and I won 6/12 games... and there were 4 teams. So we schooled haha. When it comes to basketball and volleyball etc. I'm pretty lousy, but with weird sports like four square, botchee ball, wallyball... I'm pretty good apparently?
Yesterday some of our district (me, and sisters Gardner, Pollard, and Landon) started practicing the song Nearer, My God to Thee for church tomorrow. To clarify, I'm playing piano, and they are singing and sound really good. I'll have to see about doing a video? https://youtu.be/DSKhtVfsIOo
Soooo that's this week, really. We went to the temple again today. No big impressions today, really, but as I was walking out I just felt really happy and like I'd done the right thing. That same feeling I'm hoping to get on the flight back home from Arkansas in 1.9 years. :)
Got a haircut here this morning, too. It took all of about 8 minutes, but turned out pretty good I think. I've been wanting to get a haircut since before I even reported to the MTC but scheduling an appointment was a pain. But anyway, My head feels a lot lighter now, Yay!
It's weird to think that my next email will be sent from Arkansas! P Day will most likely be on Monday, which means it'll be just over a week til you hear from me again.
So keep doing good things! Read the Book of Mormon. Pray to your Heavenly Father. He's there. And Jesus Christ is there to make your burdens light! My testimony of my Savior has grown so much while I've been here. I hope you can feel His love for you as much as I do here!
Until next time!
Time is weird here! It feels like forever since my last email, but on Monday of this week, we did a service project and that feels like yesterday. The days are long, the weeks are kinda faster?
I've made it to P Day! (P[reparation] days happen once a week and is basically the day we get to send emails, do laundry, all that stuff! My P Day while in the Missionary Training Center is Saturday.
It's already kinda hard to believe that this is my 4th day in the MTC already. Every day is pretty packed and long, but I think with the "less sleeping" part of things, it really just feels like one really long day altogether haha.
So after I got here on Wednesday, I went inside the MTC, got my nametags, my books, dropped bags off at our residency, and then went to our classroom to meet our teachers, and do some Orientation type stuff on the computers. Met my companion, Elder Miller from Surprise Arizona. He's kind of a quiet kid, but has definitely been warming up, and is really funny and very insightful when he wants to be. After that we went to a kind of "welcome" fireside/meeting in one of the older chapel-like buildings in the MTC. There were a lot of new missionaries in there! Definitely got the distinct impression while I was there that "yes, this is where I need to be" and further had the thought "this is where EVERYBODY needs to be." The spirit is definitely here. A clip from elder Holland this last conference was shared, when he said essentially Christ tells us to "Come as we are, but don't intend to STAY as we are." Man, Elder Holland gets me every time.
On Thursday, we experienced that first 6:30 AM alarm. It wasn't too bad! I think the novelty of being in a new place helped. Got up, got ready, and Elder Miller & I started studying for imaginary investigators we had already been assigned. We had a few classes throughout the day, and study time as well. Classes are usually an hour or so of instruction, ways of changing our perspective and the way we look at teaching. (Teaching to invite people to act on principles of the gospel rather than just teaching them information.) After that, we role play, and even Thursday afternoon (our first full day!) had a lesson with the teacher playing an investigator that we prepared in class. It went... okay. Thankfully, our lesson with her the next day went really well, and Elder Miller and I felt a lot more confident about it.
Thursday night, we met our Branch Presidency. (The adult leaders around to specifically help our group of missionaries.) They're all nice. We all introduced ourselves by sharing our name, families, where we were serving, what made us want to serve a mission, and so on.
So of the members of our zone (our group of missionaries here in the MTC) that came in on Wednesday, there are 4 Elders, including myself, and something like 16 sisters? I was moved by each of my fellow elders' introductions and stories, but wow. These sister missionaries are just incredible. They have such strong testimonies and faith. Afterward, we got some more orientation stuff, and were taken out one at a time for just a quick interview with one of the members of the branch presidency. They asked if we went to school or worked before our mission, if we'd taken mission prep classes before, and stuff like that.
After the meeting was over, the Branch Presidency came in and talked briefly about leadership positions. They said after prayerfully considering who should be District Leader, Elder Dahl was that person. Um yup so I'm district leader now. Within the new members of our zone, our district (that I am leader of) has the 4 elders [all going to Arkansas little rock w/ me], and 6 sisters [all going to Georgia, I think?] The other district within our zone is entirely sister missionaries, [Going to Georgia, oklahoma city, Cincinatti? We're all in-states, and the midwest/south area] and another one of them was asked to be Sister Training Leader.
So yeah, I was already kinda overwhelmed with all the newness and stuff I had to do before, and then I was called to be District Leader. Fortunately, most of what that means, I've discovered, is that I check the mail for everyone and just conduct our district classes.
The Elders of our zone (my district + the district of elders from each previous week) are all in one corner of the residency hall. Like 4 rooms of 6 beds each [3 bunk beds] and 4 Elders in each room. So lots of room, thankfully. Some of the Elders that have been here longer have taken the vent off of the A/C system [like the tubes that carry the cold air around the building? I forgot what those are called] and use it to put their extra sodas and treats in there to keep it cool. They then put the vent back on to keep it secret. I guess there's a banana up there that's been in there since before these Elders got there haha. The other guys in our zone can be kind a rowdy, but it's fun. And actually really cool to see them doing human-wheel-barrow racing down the halls after curfew one minute, but then planning lessons for investigators and saying really meaningful prayers the next. Idk, they work hard and play hard. Two of them are going to the Orem, Utah mission (yikes) and our "neighbors" downstairs are actually going to be serving service missions in Russia! Which I guess I thought was a totally closed mission. Apparently 1+ of these neighbors had actually been assigned to a different mission while they were here! Whoa.
Friday morning was a lot harder to get up haha. Pretty typical day already though. We had a part of one class outside, next to the new buildings on the MTC Campus, which are set to open next week. (Idk if you've heard about these, but I guess they've been in the works for a while, now, and the missionaries this month will be the first to ever use them!) Our teacher did some talking and got our district a chance to walk inside the doors to check out this cool wall-sized mural of the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi. He said walking in that building was like walking into the temple, and that even though you can feel the holy ghost on the MTC campus, you can notice a difference in the feel of that spirit in the new building. With that in mind, we walked in the front doors. Wow. Yes. This mural was of Nephi overlooking Jerusalem, on the verge of something kinda scary, being "led by the spirit" but "not knowing beforehand" what he was going to do or say. And you could feel the spirit so strongly--stronger than I've ever felt it because of a building before. Temples are sacred, but the different power of the Holy Ghost testifying of the sheer amount of potential for GOOD that everyone who walks into that new building will have was just amazing. Exactly what I'd imagine walking into the Sacred Grove would feel like. This was definitely the spiritual highlight of the week.
We had our exercise time after that and played volleyball. I was reminded that I wasn't very great at it, but it was fun, and one elder from the UK with the perfect accent from our zone made it pretty hilarious.
So basically that's been life the last half of this week! Classes, study time, meals. Meals are pretty good! We're eating well, here. But I'm still on the same notch of my belt, so I'll keep you updated on that haha.
This morning we got up at like 5:45 and did a session at the Provo Temple across the street. It was hard to stay awake, but looking at the picture of the Savior in the celestial room there was also a spiritual experience. I felt like He was proud of me.
We got back and now i'm in a computer lab in the MTC writing this email!
As for a funny/embarassing story: last night I was kinda tired, and so, as one does, I grabbed my like toiletries bag and went to brush my teeth in the bathroom. I put the toothpaste on, wet the toothbrush, and started brushing my teeth. Man, this toothpaste didn't taste great. [spit, rinse, continue.] I look over at the "toothpaste." yeah, no, it wasn't toothpaste. I'd accidentally put anti-itch cream on my toothbrush instead of the same-travel-sized toothpaste I got from my last dentist appointment hahaha. I'm still alive to tell about it. I wasn't afraid to laugh about it, and got just about every other elder in the bathroom at the time laughing to tears. It was actually great.
So that's that! The days are long, already kinda blurring together, and it seems like the wednesday I was dropped off was simultaneously yesterday and a month ago. The MTC is good, though. I've had a great time here already, and have enjoyed at least most aspects of every day. :)
I love you all! The Gospel is true.
Elder Oliver Dahl
I was asked to speak in my home ward on charity. Specifically President Monson’s address during the Priesthood Session of this last General Conference. Here is the text of my talk, with the exception of quotations read from Preach My Gospel's section on Charity. (Which can be read here)
He didn’t speak for very long, so there wasn’t a lot of material from him to go off of. But somehow, the words he did speak seemed to have double the meaning packed into them, the way that prophets and apostles seem to be able to do really well. And fortunately, the topic of “charity” is a pretty vast concept. And an important one, too! Most of President Monson’s talk focuses on defining charity, and describing just how important it is.
To define Charity, he quotes Moroni 7:44-47:
- "Charity sufferereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked... / Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--but charity is the pure love of Christ and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
This definition includes the bold statement that “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”
President Monson, in his own words added: “brethren, we do not honor the priesthood of God if we are not kind to others.”
Those are pretty blunt. Between scripture and a living prophet, it’s clear that having Charity is important.
President Monson expands on the definition by quoting Elder Joseph B Wirthlin: "kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes. Jesus, our savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion.”
Preach My Gospel has a chapter dedicated to Christlike attributes—what they are, how we can demonstrate and develop them, and how each one can bless lives.
P1 – This section also starts off by illustrating the importance of this principle.
P2 – “we are to seek to develop that kind of love”
2 commandments right there. 1) seek to develop it, and 2) develop not just charity for the people in our circles, or that we like, or that are easy to be charitable to. We’re to develop God’s “eternal love for all his children.”
P3 – “As you follow this counsel and strive to do righteous works…” promises, responsibilities, blessings… [a list of what changes]
We just read that Mormon said that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love.” So, to develop charity, we need to pray and do our best to develop it ourselves.
First and foremost, To understand and develop charity, we must (as usual) look to our perfect example of all things, Christ Himself.
Charity is "The pure love of Christ." ->>> We 'know' that Christ loves us. We’ve read how he loved the people of His time, and about the love He had for the Nephite children He visited in the Book of Mormon. And we know that he loves us so much that he suffered and died for us. But feeling His love for ourselves is so much different from knowing of it. When we have felt the love He so freely gives to us, it helps us realize how much He loves every single one of us, and how we should feel the same for everyone around us.
I testify that He does love you. And your Heavenly Father loves you. And if you haven’t experienced this for yourself, it truly is as simple as asking. Our Heavenly Father is a perfect father, who loves us so much. And when any of his children humbly, and meekly kneels to know whether or not their Eternal Father loves them... He's going to show them as best as He can just how much He loves them. As I prepare to serve and teach the people of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission, one of the experiences I look forward to having the most is being able to witness people feeling Heavenly Father's love directly from Him like I have as they pray to Him and ask if He loves them for maybe the first time in their lives.
This love is powerful, and humbling, and when I feel it directed at me, I want to be better and to share that love. It helps me realize why Heavenly Father organized the plan of happiness, and how exactly the Savior could fulfill His redeeming role by way of His atoning sacrifice.
Within our religion, the Book of Mormon is often called the “keystone” of our religion. It’s metaphorically the center brick of an arch, upon which everything else is leaning. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, we have a living prophet today, and so on. A lot is leaning on the Book of Mormon. To further this analogy, I think the love of our Heavenly Father is the mortar that holds all of these bricks together.
Because He loves us, He provided prophets in ancient and modern days to teach us the plan that He created so that we could return to live with Him. He loves all of His children, so He didn’t limit the spread of the gospel to one continent of people, but made it available to everyone—living and dead, Nephite or Israelite. Through our charity, love, and kindness, we can be Heavenly Father’s hands as He reaches out in love to bless all of His children. We can do this within our families, our communities, or while serving a mission!
That’s quite the calling, especially considering Charity is a perfect thing—the essence of a Christlike attribute. It’s far from the natural man—long-suffering, not selfish, and so on.
We are imperfect people, and frequently give in to the natural man. We do what's easy and comfortable. We have to strive to become Christlike because we are imperfect. There are a lot of improvements that I need to make, but I came up with a short list of some of these as they relate to charity, that we can all work on together.
1. 1. Not judging. When we see how Christ treated people, and look at people through a Christlike lens, we don't see what they're wearing, or their past mistakes, or their current struggles, or what they lack. We see their potential, and love the person that they are right now, regardless of anything else. (1 Samuel 16:7 – look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.)
a. This goes back to understanding the love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us. When we know how much they love us despite our faults and mistakes, we can recognize the value they see in others.
2. 2. Not doing nothing. Charity, like faith, invites us to act.
a. "Never suppress a generous thought"
i. Tell people you love them, that they look nice. Commend them on accomplishments. What good is keeping those nice thoughts to yourself?
b. Serve (PMG – You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself)
i. Jesus spent so much of his ministry serving others. Serving others out of the love we feel for them is a powerful thing. (PMG – As you… strive to do righteous works….)
ii. We develop charity as we practice charity.
c. This goes along with service, but the final thing is to Be Kind. Stand up and do something kind. Go out of your way to just be nice. Be generous. Put others before yourself.
3. 3. Ultimately, the goal as we strive to be more charitable is to change our mindset.
a. To serve and love people regardless of xyz, not because we have to, or we’re taught to, and not even because it’s just the right thing to do. When we become more Christlike and charitable, we do so because we genuinely love the people around us, and want to serve them.
These all sound like fairly simple things, but quite honestly can be really challenging. These are things we may be striving to improve for the rest of our lives. And that’s okay, as long as we’re trying. Because while we may not attain a perfectly Christlike-amount of Charity in our lives, I would say that our love, and our charity (as imperfect as it might be) has a similar ability to change lives, and to point others to our Heavenly Father.
We don't have to be perfect in loving other people for them to feel loved. We don't have to be perfect teachers or leaders in order to help others feel the spirit, feel closer to God, or feel inspired to change. We’re pretty lucky that’s the case!
Anyway, I think that’s the main point I’ve been trying to get to. Even though we may not be an exhibit model for charity like Christ was, whatever efforts we do put forward will have immense power in improving others’ lives, and in reaching out to them on behalf of our loving Heavenly Father.
As a soon-to-be missionary, everything about this is comforting! I can become better, I can become more Christlike. And as I try my best to do so, my efforts will be magnified to have powerful results. PMG teaches us that as we develop charity, we obey God’s commandments and do all that we ca to serve others and to help them receive the restored gospel.
I’ll close with this call to action and promise from President Monson.
"Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior's example by being kind, loving, and charitable." -> "as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home."
Those are tremendous blessings promised to us by a prophet of God. I know that as we do our best to develop charity, these blessings and so much more will be ours, and that generations of our brothers and sisters stand to benefit from our charity. I look forward to realizing these and many other blessings on my mission. I know that charity is a powerful principle that is capable of blessing every life it touches. I know that this church is true. I know that President Monson is a prophet, and that Jesus Christ leads this church. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I pray that I may be able to continue growing up in Christ, and that I can be an instrument in His hands.
So I've talked about why I'm serving a mission. Now I want to share what it is I'm going to be teaching. I don't think very many of you reading this have to worry about me knocking on your door to share this message, but... since I might not be able to do that just now, this post is what I would tell you if I was ringing your doorbell right now. This is what I believe, and what I want everybody to know. I've done the best I can to explain these beliefs in my own words, but I have leaned on some of the particularly effective wording of the actual lesson manual for missionaries in a few instances. That said, my explanations are far from perfect, so if you have questions, or something doesn't make sense, get in touch or visit www.lds.org. If you want answers and you look in the right places, you will find them.
My testimony begins simply. I know that I have a Heavenly Father, and I know that He loves me. He is the perfect father. I like to imagine my barely seven year old sister asking our dad if he loves her. The answer she gets from my dad, and the answer I receive from my Heavenly Father when I pray to ask if He is there and if He loves me is the same. I feel his answer almost like He's right there giving me a hug and with tears in His eyes telling me, "Oliver, of course I love you." I know that you can feel this same love for yourself.
Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He wants us to be happy! God doesn't want us to be lonely, miserable, or despairing. While we'll definitely feel these and more throughout life, God has given us so much in order to be happy! We were created to have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25) Families are such a key part of His gospel and plan of happiness. God organized families to bring us happiness, and provide a place where we can learn the gospel, and prepare for eternal life. I love my family, and know that the principles we've been taught together have made our home a happier, more unified place.
These principles have been taught to people for thousands of years, through prophets. If you're familiar with the Bible, you know of the writings of prophets like Noah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. Prophets in every age--including our own--received the Priesthood and through revelation testify of and teach about our Heavenly Father's plan for us to be successful in this life and to return to live with Him. This whole plan is centered around the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died so that we can be freed from the burden of our sins and continually strive to improve. When we live as Christ did, and are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end as He did, we are following our Heavenly Father's plan. When people do this, they're blessed, and when they don't, they don't receive the blessings otherwise promised to them. When enough people choose to reject this message and live in spiritual darkness, this results in something called an apostasy. When this happens, God takes away his priesthood authority until it can be restored, sometimes through another prophet. This happened with Noah, Abraham, and Moses, who each were called by God to start a new "dispensation" of the gospel. (Basically another time when the Priesthood and Gospel is available on the earth.)
A few hundred years before Christ was born, the world was in another apostasy. When the Savior began His mortal ministry, He established His Church again on the earth, starting a new dispensation. Before his atoning sacrifice, death, and Resurrection, Jesus gave His Apostles the priesthood authority required to teach His gospel, baptize people, and establish His church. Unfortunately, the apostles were persecuted and killed. With the death of the Apostles, the priesthood was once again taken from the earth. Without this priesthood authority, people were left to rely on human wisdom to interpret scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were added, and a lot of truth was lost, like a game of telephone through the generations.
But then it's really cool cause during the Enlightenment following the Middle Ages, people like Martin Luther and others realized that what was on the earth then was not what was established by Christ. They realized that there were things missing, and things added. This realization, and their consequent organization of many Protestant churches, resulted in an emphasis on religious freedom, which helped pave the way for the final Restoration and dispensation.
So, knowing that our Heavenly Father has historically revealed his Gospel and his Priesthood through prophets to His children, His next "move" really isn't a surprise.
The early 1800s was a weird time for the United States. It was one of the only countries to really have religious freedom at the time, and so there was a lot of religious excitement, and even competition, especially in the eastern states. As a part of a religious family, the amount of different religions, (and the extent to which they all disagreed with each other over the same passages of scripture) was overwhelming to a young man named Joseph Smith. As he did his own research, trying to find out which church to join, Joseph read James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Joseph Smith took that literally, figuring that he lacked wisdom, and trusting that he would receive an answer.
As he prayed, asking God what he should do, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. In this vision, they told him not to join any of the churches. Even though many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they didn't have the full truth, or the priesthood authority to baptize. They'd inherited the state of apostasy from the last generations. As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and so on, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet and to restore the fullness of the gospel through this dispensation.
The Bible tells of these prophets, and many others. But they're all located in a relatively small geographic location in the scope of the whole planet earth. To me, it just seems right that a Heavenly Father who loves all of His children and wants them all to return to live with Him would provide opportunities for his Gospel to be shared to all His children. That's where the Book of Mormon comes into play. The Book of Mormon is a record very much like the Bible. It testifies of Jesus Christ as our Savior, and relates stories of civilizations being taught this Gospel by prophets in the ancient Americas. It also teaches of the resurrected Christ's appearance and ministering to these people. The records that are now the Book of Mormon were translated by Joseph Smith through the power of God and testify of our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness, the atonement of Christ, and God's love for all of His children.
Today, this same gospel--the Gospel established by Jesus Christ during his life, with apostles, prophets, baptism by immersion, and the power of His atoning sacrifice still exists! Today, we have a living prophet, who is the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is the authorized successor of Joseph Smith, and can trace his Priesthood Authority back to Joseph Smith, and therefore to Jesus Christ himself. He and the present Apostles receive revelation from our Heavenly Father, and guide his kingdom here on earth.
They aren't the only ones capable of receiving revelation, however. While they are authorized to receive revelation regarding the church and world as a whole, any person, as a child of God, can pray and seek revelation for themselves.
This is a lot to take in and think about! And there's really only one thing holding it all up: The Book of Mormon. And there are two possibilities with The Book of Mormon.
One: The Book of Mormon is True. Accordingly, it was translated through the power of our loving Heavenly Father by a prophet of God in this day and age, and teaches truth about God's plan and Christ's atonement. It encourages men to do good and be more Christlike. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon validates Joseph Smith as a prophet, validates the revelation he received, and validates the revelation that continues to be received in the present-day through prophets and apostles who can trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith.
Or, Two: The Book of Mormon is utterly false, potentially inspired by the devil, and exists to lead people away from God. Accordingly, it was written by a charlatan who never saw God or had His authority. If none of the events recorded in the Book of Mormon transpired, God's word wasn't ever available to continents of His children, and so maybe He's not that loving after all.
This is really the ultimatum. It cannot be decided without reading the Book of Mormon, and it cannot be decided without praying to our Heavenly Father to know for ourselves if what we've read is true, either.
I've read the Book of Mormon, and testify that it is the word of God. It invites God's children to follow Him, to utilize the atonement of Jesus Christ, and to do good. The devil would not have a part in advocating what this book testifies of. I know that God is our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. I know that Jesus Christ suffered, bled, and died, so that my mistakes and sins can be overcome, and so I can improve myself, grow, and become more Christlike. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that we have a living prophet who leads the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. I know these things are true, and I know that you can know these things for yourself, too! You can get a copy of the Book of Mormon, or read it online! However you can read it, do it. It will change your life, improve your days, and help you feel of God's love for you. If you really want to know whether or not this is true, God will do whatever it takes for you to recognize your answer. And it probably won't take as much as you think it will. I bear my testimony of these things in faith, knowing that I don't know everything, that I'm far from perfect, and that I have a long way to go. But I know what I've felt and I know it has brought me joy, so I want to share that. I do so in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Dear Elder Dahl:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is expected of me that I will serve a two-year mission. (Yup! The "riding bikes, wearing name tags, and knocking on doors" kind of mission.) But this isn't something I'm doing because it's expected of me. This letter didn't just come in the mail as a surprise. This is something that I've planned on, looked forward to, applied for, and chosen to do. I'm doing this because the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life SO much, in SO many ways. I'm serving a mission because I can't think of a greater honor or responsibility than being able to play a part in someone's story of finding and enjoying these blessings, too
And yes, that means being away from my family, away from social media, away from my hobbies, postponing college plans, and giving up a lot for two years. It means getting doors closed in my face, riding a bike through the humid south, and not getting to sleep in. It's not a super easy choice, but I can't imagine anything more spiritually rewarding or personally edifying. I'll enter the Missionary Training Center as... me. And I'll come back home in two years as a better me. With increased faith, new stories to tell, powerful friendships, and having "made a difference" of eternal value to those I encounter, and to myself!
I really would not be doing this if I didn't know for myself that what I will be teaching is true.
I do believe it. I'm eager to share it. I'm excited to develop my love for the people of Arkansas. (And Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi, should I end up serving there... parts of those states are within the mission boundaries!) These next two years are gonna be tough. But my Savior has been through harder things, and I've already enjoyed blessings far greater than the difficulties that I will encounter. I'm excited to serve my Savior, and to serve with Him in His work. I'm excited for the people who will change my life, and for the opportunity it will be to watch the Savior change their lives. There's a lot to be excited about.
So here's the plan. I have one day per week where I can send and respond to emails. While I'm away, my Mom is going to be posting my weekly emails here on this blog. I should be able to send and include some photos, too, assuming no technical difficulties occur! So, with fifty two weeks in a year, for two years, there should be 106 posts on this blog before I'm back. (104 + this post & my testimony post.) It sounds like a lot, but it'll go by fast!
Serving A Mission!
What's all this about? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is expected of me that I will serve a two-year mission. (And yeah, the "riding bikes and wearing nametags and knocking on doors" kind of mission.) But this isn't something I'm doing because it's expected of me... I'm doing this because the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life SO much, in SO many ways. I can't think of a greater honor or responsibility than being able to play a part in someone's story of finding and enjoying these blessings, too.
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(May 31-June 19 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
2005 N 900 E Unit 149
Provo, UT 84602
(After June 20, 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116
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