I was trying to think of other things to include in the title of this email, but nothing else really compared to the highlight of this week. But we'll get to that.
On P Day, I got to spend a good hour or two on the grand piano in the chapel playing while everyone else played basketball and that was just... really really nice. I feel like my piano skills may be improving (or at least are not getting worse!) even though I'm not able to practice super often, so that's a definite blessing!
We had our first district meeting of the transfer, and that went pretty alright. After a Wendy's stop, we did exchanges with some of the elders in the 2nd ward. It was probably the hardest exchange I've been on... my companion for the day really struggled to plan out what we would do, and then fell asleep for 30 minutes while praying... That whole time, we only knocked on 2 doors. I tried my best to get him up and going, and hopefully I left him with something new to think about, but idk. It was rough. Of those 2 doors, one of them didn't answer, and the other one was an adventure.
This older lady, a member we were going to introduce ourselves to, answered the door with tears in her eyes, and said "maybe you can help me, come in." So we sat down and she talked for a little bit. By the end of it, we were thinking she might have dementia, but she was talking about how her daughter was stealing from a hotel and had told her she was going to send her away. So she was trying to get to her other family in Illinois, and didn't seem to have a solid understanding of the fact that she was in Arkansas. She had locked all her windows and doors and mentioned something about knives to keep the doors closed. As I looked around, I saw that she had actually put a butter knife through the molding around the back doorway to try to act as a second deadbolt in the door. (But in practice, if someone were to open the door, it would just tear the molding off... which is what happened to her front door.) So that was interesting.
We biked back to our apartment in time to pick up dinner from another member, and then spent an hour finding the 2nd door we knocked on during that exchange. Thankfully, biking is still a breeze compared to what it was in Collierville. I guess biking slower and having the seat at the right height makes a difference haha.
The next day their Ward Mission Leader took us to Quiznos for lunch and we exchanged back. It was good to be reunited with Elder Evans haha. Went into houses on opposite ends of the spectrum, some very nice, and others... less so. Like hoarder houses w/ calendars from 2011 hanging, and the very air just saturated with animal pee. I'm definitely learning a lot about what I do and don't want in life and in my home, and so on.
[We met a cat named "Seven." Not because it was the 7th cat the people had adopted, but because it had 7 toes. On more than one foot. Picture below.]
Found another trailer park to tract in, and had some success there. (One person said we could come back, and we were able to chat with another guy for a while who just wanted a better understanding of what we believed.)
That night was actually one of the other spiritual highlights of the week. The sisters found somebody a few weeks ago who they had been trying to teach but just weren't able to set a solid appointment with. They had asked him if he would want a Priesthood blessing, and he said yes, so they let us know and we were able to join them and give the guy a blessing. Back in 2008, he had been shot, and the bullet is still in his back. (That's the extent of the story that I know.)
When I first met the guy, I was feeling a little cynical and like this guy was just trying to be polite to the sisters, but it ended up being awesome. I was able to give the blessing, and as we visited afterward, he was just a different person. He was smiling, and said things like "I can feel it," and "That was exactly what I needed." It led to the sisters being able to set a more solid return appointment, and being able to explain some more about the Priesthood to him. He wasn't the only one who learned and felt something that night, though.
We then had our Book of Mormon class, and had a less active guy join us who shared his testimony about wanting to come back into activity in the church because he saw how happy it made his younger sister. We were in charge of teaching the class, so I was trying to keep the tears in haha. I hope that my younger siblings can see how happy the gospel makes me, and want to be involved in it more, too.
Friday was a little more rough. I started out so excited! We had five appointments for the day. This is like... unheard of. Having two teaching appointments is enough to get us pumped for the day. So five?! Long story short, every single one of those five appointments either canceled, or wasn't home when we knocked on their door again. Which is, you know, annoying. But at the same time, we got to the end of the day and were able to feel good about what we did. We did our part. We met our expectations. We kept our word and gave people their chances. It was other people's decisions that led to them missing out, not our own weaknesses or mistakes. That's definitely a freeing feeling, and one I've learned to appreciate on the mission. We can be happy with the things that we do and the way we react to the situations we find ourselves in. We don't have control over what other people do, so why feel bad/angry/sad/upset over it? We need to choose to be happy about those things we do have control over. (hopefully this makes sense lol)
After one of those 5 failed return appointments, our ward mission leader took us to Andy's Frozen Custard, which was pretty dang good, and that added to our "feel-good" feeling despite the "failures" we had today. He then dropped us back off at the church, and we were able to help load up almost all the chairs in the building to be taken to North Little Rock for the apostle visit the next day.
And then it was Saturday!
Got up at 5AM and picked up the trio serving in the 2nd ward and headed to North Little Rock. We had breakfast there and were arranged on these risers like it was 4th grade class photos again, and then waited for the apostles to come in. After a few kinda painful minutes squished in between ~184 missionaries, in walked Elder Holland, somberly strolling from the entrance to the gym and only looking up to see us til he got closer. Elder Uchtdorf came in a few seconds later, and then Elder and Sister Klebingat. The feeling I had as they walked in was kinda hard to describe, so bear with me as I use the word "huge" to attempt that. Maybe you've heard the phrase "giants among men" before, but I gained a deeper understanding of that seeing them. Like you just feel that they have these big souls. They don't command attention or really look like anything other than normal people. But when they walk in, you feel it.
They told us we looked great and has beautiful smiles, ("most of you," - Elder Uchtdorf) and then we took the picture and then got in line to shake their hands. They asked us to tell them their name and where we were from, and I'm pretty sure I was smiling pretty wide when I introduced myself as "Elder Dahl from Boise, Idaho!"
We sat down in the chapel in our pre-assigned benches. I was the first of our zone in there, so I got to sit in the front row off in the right row of benches, close enough to see Elder Uchtdorf's eyes tearing up a little bit during the 10 minutes in which Elder Holland praised him. That was one of the most powerful parts of the meeting, I thought. "Let me talk to you for a minute," he began. And then he just talked about how wonderful Elder Uchtdorf is.
Pres. & Sister Hansen spoke, and then Elder Beheshti, (the area 70) and then Elder & Sister Klebingat (General 70 and wife) and then Elders Uchtdorf and Holland. It was like having a spiritual dump truck unload on top of us, in the best kind of way. After Elder Holland had finished extolling E. Uchtdorf, he added, "In a second language, I just wanna get up and slap his face! That he can teach that well in English, his second language, and I can't even get a 'guten morgen' out in German. If I did, it wouldn't be that 'gut.'" Outside of General Conference, they were all really really funny. Also a little less organized in presenting their thoughts (largely because they didn't come prepared with a talk, they just spoke extemporaneously) but I think I liked it that way, because we got more, and it's making me study and organize their thoughts myself in a way that helps me internalize what they shared.
After the missionary meeting, we blitzed North Little Rock with the missionaries there, and then returned to the church after a trip to David's to catch the evening young adult session. Elder Jennings and I walked all over NLR, and past some kinda sketchy places with boarded up apartment buildings and stuff haha.
The evening session was just as good. So many incredible one-liners and mind-blowers. Missionaries were invited to come if they brought investigators/recent converts, and we had Prashanth with us, so we could go. People came all the way from Memphis, which was awesome for me, cause I got to see a couple people from Collierville there! Including Caroline and Wendy! It's so so good to see that they're doing well and getting to hear such awesome stuff from our apostles.
Got back to Conway kinda late, and, much like Lehi, "cast[ed] [myself] upon [my] bed, being overcome with the spirit and the things which [I] had seen." And then Sunday came, and they had a third 2-hour meeting that was broad-casted to all the church buildings in the mission. So all in all, I have notes from like 7 or 8 hours of different church leaders. A little overwhelming at first, but man they shared so much good stuff it's crazy. A point that was made in each of these meetings was essentially, "Of all of the [missionaries/young adults in the church/church members] in the world, it's pretty likely that you are the luckiest ones in the world right now." Definitely felt that that was true.
Here are some of the lines/thoughts/takeaways that I'll share rather than relate more boring stuff about meetings hahaha.
- "There are no vertical movements in the kingdom of god, except in our personal righteousness. We have one head, the lord Jesus Christ, and all the rest of us are disciples. A leadership position is just a diversion from what we really are. The issue is the cleanliness and purity of our souls." (Holland)
- The dots of life connect only in retrospect or from a spiritually higher vantage point. (Uchtdorf)
- Going through life thinking it will be easy is like going to the gym and hoping there will not be weights. (Klebingat)
- "True friends are like angels, they will lift us to our feet when our own wings have trouble remembering how to fly." (Uchtdorf - how poetic is that??)
AND, MY PERSONAL FAVORITE QUOTE:
"The great tragedy in life is not failure. It is not struggle, or heartache, or pain. The great tragedy in life is success... when we aim too low." (Holland.)
They also had some funny ["funny" if you are mormon, at least haha] lines like Elder Uchtdorf's "I went into the Stake President's office and they still had the wrong picture of the first presidency in there!" and "After 10 years in the first presidency, I get to finally sit between Elder Holland and Elder Bednar. Wow!!"
And Elder Holland's "When I hear stories about missionaries going home and leaving the church, it about makes me want to hurl myself into the Arkansas River!" and "I know of some Stake Presidents who, after fasting and prayer were released and assigned to the nursery! Of course, the ones who didn't fast enough to be assigned to the nursery were called as Scout Leaders." Man, Elder Holland had some jokes, I'm telling ya. Maybe I wouldn't have found them as funny before my mission haha.
He talked briefly in the missionary meeting about the importance of representing the image of an LDS Missionary well. He said something to the effect of "don't go home and tell people about that time you short-sheeted your companion, tell them you are a different person." So... I was a little bit rebuked by the spirit with that one, haha.
Pretty often, [read, "very often,"] my emails are about the crazy stuff like... dead rats and eating 200 Buffalo Wild Wings haha. I try to also include the spiritual things, but maybe I don't give those the weight I should. So here's me making clear a few things:
I am a different person now than I was when I left on my mission. If you expect me to come back as the same "Oliver Dahl" you will... not be disappointed, because this Oliver is a better Oliver. I have been changed not just because of "my mission" or from "living in the South," but changed through the Atonement of Christ. It is real. This is his church. There are too many "coincidences," miracles, and lives eternally changed for this to be anything but real. If God exists at all--and I know that he does, then this is His church and kingdom on the earth today, led by prophets and apostles like the very church He established in the New Testament. I am His disciple, and no other thing on this planet matters besides my ability to stand at the judgement bar and tell Him I gave it my all. I'm not at that point yet, and every day is a gift from Him allowing me to get closer to it.
I feel like maybe me not being clear about what all my mission is doing for me could be distancing me from that point. Yes, it's fun, yes, I laugh a lot. But this is changing my life, it's changing me. It's true and it's all that matters, and I have come to know that. I want everybody to come to know that. Thankfully, God has provided one simple way for us to know, and that is reading the Book of Mormon. Get ahold of a copy, and read that thing. Nothing evil could have written it, and nothing good would have written it, unless it truly came from God.
So anyway. This has kinda been a different type of email than I usually do. Hopefully it made some sense and helped you feel something good, warm, happy, curious, or wanting more. This is the "more" in life you need. Not gonna apologize for being "preachy" or testifying of what I know is true, cause that's what I do. (And increasingly, not just what I do, but who I am.)
I hope y'all have a fantastic week and can feel God's love for you within it!
Spiritual questions immaterially:
Spiritual questions tangibly:
3080 Pebble Beach Rd., apt. #1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
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This weekly email brought to you by:
- Elder Dahl's long-as-heck writing style. Sorry.
- Andy's Frozen Custard
- The Arkansas River (don't go less-active after your mission)
- David's Burgers, as always
- The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ
- and readers like you, thank you!
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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Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116