Monday, September 27, 2010

Week 10- Salt Lake City South!

Hey Guys! This has been Brad's first week in the Salt Lake City South Mission. His address there is:
Elder Bradley Smith
Salt Lake City South Mission
8060 south 615 east
sandy, UT 84070

Alright I am in mission field and things are going great. As hopefully you all know by now I got called to the Salt Lake City South mission. Right now i am in one of the smallest areas in the world and half of it is covered by a golf course in Taylorsville Utah. I thought that my mission was going to be actually in Salt Lake City and the temple and Elise's house, but that is the Salt Lake mission. My area is the furthest area north in my mission and there is a street that if we cross it we go out of our mission area, we've gone halfway over a bridge so that we were right on the line yesterday and took pictures real quick.

Seeing as it has been two weeks I have a lot to say. I have the whole last week of the MTC and the whole first week in the field. I will try to remember everything and I wrote pretty well in my journal too so hopefully I'll be able to relate all the good parts to you all. Last week was what they call teaching week in the mtc (Missionary Training Center). It is where you have to schedule lessons and try to teach progressing investigators. Elder Thompson and I taught 37 lessons that week. It was very stressful trying to get them all done in not very much time. We had all of our regular meetings and things and also only an hour of class a day, but they were all really great classes and I learned a lot in my last week at the mtc and was able to really improve my teaching ability because we did it so much. I found out on Friday of last week that I was being called to the Salt Lake City South mission. As you probably know, SLC is very different than Villahermosa Mexico. It is odd being called to a different place while I wait for my visa, but honestly when I got my call, I was very excited to get out and actually get to do some work. I got called to Salt Lake City with 4 other elders in my district (Elder Knight, Hubbard, Clark, and Poulsen). Elder Dewey and Packard got called to Atlanta, Then Elder Thompson (mtc companion) got called to Colorado Springs, Elder Plummer got called to New Mexico, and elder green and Elder Eliason got called to Pocatello Idaho and also elder Hausman is staying at the mtc a little longer because he had surgery last week. The last few days in the mtc were kind of sad in some ways. I grew really close to the elders in my district and we had a lot of really great spiritual times together and we were really unified. I am certain that we had one of the best mtc districts ever, and I mean it. Every elder in our district was amazing and added something that helped each one of us grow. We all supported each other and were all friends with each other, and I cant really think of a single issue that we had over the whole two months of being around each other 24 hours a day. I will miss them, but it will be amazing to see them all in Mexico when we get our visas.

Before entering and also in my first few weeks at the MTC i kind of heard mixed reviews of peoples experiences. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect going in, but I know how I felt coming out. The MTC was an amazing experience and I am so thankful for every aspect of it. I had amazing teachers Hermana Rivas, Hermana Tate, Hermano Goodrum, and Hermano McPherson. They all pushed me to be better and help strengthen me so much. They are all amazing teachers and I'm sure they were all amazing missionaries. I love them all and am so thankful to have been able to learn from them. They put so much time and effort into us and it was easy to see how hard they worked to help prepare me and the rest of my district for the field. In our last few days we got to see Hermana Rivas again and her new baby who is very cute. It was fun and our whole district got really excited. She wouldn’t do her signature hand gesture for us though, but it was fun to see how happy she looked with her new family. We also go to see Hermana Tate and Elder Thompson and I practiced some of our contacts on her too. And we had really great classes with Hermano Goodrum and Mac our last few days. It is weird to not have them around to answer questions and tell us how to do things anymore, but they taught me enough to know how to find answers on my own and I feel ready and capable to teach, though I have so much more to learn and to improve in.

In our last class with Hermano “Mac” we had a district testimony meeting. It was very powerful and my district is so strong. They are all going to be such incredible missionaries. We all shared our testimonies, and it was cool to see how much we all had grown from the very first day when we shared our testimonies to the very last day when we shared our testimonies.

Sunday night I also had a very spiritual experience. I don’t want to share all of it, but I will share parts of it. We had a devotional that was really good and then as they do every Sunday night they showed a movie. The movie we chose to go to was “The Testaments”. I had never seen it before, but it is the movie about Christ’s life, and then Christ coming to the Americas, and also about some of the people in the Americas who were waiting for Christ to come. It was a very powerful movie, and at times brought me to tears. Watching the miracles that the Savior performed was so powerful. The love He has for each one of us is unimaginable. The Savior's life was a sacrifice for us. He lived His life as a pattern and as a perfect example for us to follow, and as a missionary I am trying to follow Him in every way, though I have so many imperfections and weaknesses, I do my best to strive to be like the Savior. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real, and is the way that we find our happiness. This is the thing that I have come out of the mtc with a much more powerful testimony of, and was the thing that I probably had the strongest testimony of going in. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered for each one of us personally, because he loves us, and because he wants us to be happy and it is only through him that we can obtain eternal life, and eternal joy, living with God, Christ and our families forever.

I am missing a lot of the events of the mtc, but it will have to suffice to say that it was such a blessing. The last thing that we did before leaving was our district went out into the hallway and all put our arms around each other and sang our districts song of "Jesus es mi luz" (the Lord is my Light). We always sing it loud and we sang it extra loud this time, and i think we sang the last verse twice; we didn’t really want it to end. Our district definitely found power in the hymns and songs of Christ. And when we sang them loud and with all our hearts as we often did, it always brought a special spirit. That is probably the thing I will always remember most about my mtc district.

Here in the field things have been great. I am assigned to a 4 some, which is kind of interesting. There is Elder Carr (one yr), Elder Pense (4 months), and then Elder Thomas (waiting for a visa to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico) and Me (both have 2 months). Before I got assigned we all met at the mission home in Sandy, Utah (which is where you should send letters to me) and I saw Kyle Rose from Beaverton and from my BYU dorm floor. He is doing great and I think he's getting Spanish down pretty good already too. I have been able to learn a lot and have been able to teach a bit, even though it is hard to have enough appointments right now with 4 Elders. The biggest challenge is to find Spanish Speakers. We aren’t supposed to teach the English speakers here, and were not supposed to just straight up tract and go door to door either. We can only ask for referrals and refer English speakers to the English missionaries. The area is having a lot of success right now though. We have 10 people on date for baptism right now. And we have the Depaz family, a family of 4 that is going to be baptized then next Friday. I have only met with them a few times, but they are great. I love the people here. The Hispanic people are all so nice and loving, but they also all talk SOOOOO fast. It is hard for me to understand much of what they are saying, though I am getting better at it. We had dinner with a family last night and we talked to them about how to say things in English, and English is definitely a lot harder than Spanish is, so I am grateful. They were also a lot easier to understand because they were from Venezuela. The Mexicans are the hardest people to understand hah.

Now for some stories. The second day that i was here in the mission It was me and the other new elder on our own for a little bit walking around the apartments that we go to most often because there are the most Spanish speakers there. The other two elders were at an appointment so we didn’t have anything set to do. We saw two ladies and a young boy carrying a table so we offered to help. We thought it would be close to their room, but it was very far away. We talked to them as we walked about the church a little bit and about themselves. They were from Nepal and had only been here for a few months. Only the younger girl spoke English so we just talked to her. They said that they were Hindu but that they wanted to be Christian, and that the English elders had found them the other day and given them a Book of Mormon and everything. They said they really liked the message and had done the readings that they assigned and were having another lesson soon. We helped get the table in the house then took away an old couch and then we had to go meet up with the other elders. I'm pretty sure they are going to get baptized and I was really excited for them. As we walked out of the house a guy sitting out in front of his door said hi, so of course I walked over to go talk to him. As i got closer I found that he had a half empty bottle of alcohol and had just finished rolling up something (though I'm pretty sure it was just tobacco). Anyways then started the most interesting conversation I've ever had in my life. He explained at the very start that he was schizophrenic and told us he was crazy and then described some of the things he says. He said he talked with his cat and he saw people’s heads fly off and he imagined fire around himself often. I immediately felt sad, but in another sense very calm. He then continued to explain how he was a member when he was young, but then that he had come up with his own belief of "self-creation". The rest was hard to follow and very detailed, but basically from a verse in revelations (that I couldn’t find later when I looked) that said that God said to John don’t write these things, he'd decided that the Bible was not true. I tried to explain how he got his reasoning from the Bible, but he kind of pushed that aside and just said he had a strong feeling that only that part was true and kept going. He explained in detail, how we all created ourselves, and what things will be like after we die. And in reality it was very much like the gospel, just with a very different spin. He explained agency but that it was only our will and that there was no Father or Son to follow, and by having them it wasn’t really agency. and Idk (I don’t know) he had a lot of different ideas. He talked to us for about 20 straight minutes and we were kind of trying to get away, but at the very end, I just told him to read the Bible again and try to have that same powerful feeling that he had for that one verse, with the rest of the book. As we walked back to our bikes, which I prayed were still there because we left them very far away for a long time, I told Elder Thomas that even though it was a crazy story, I felt the spirit in that calmness that I described before testify to me so that I knew that that guy would be alright because our savior Jesus Christ is our advocate and a perfect Judge, and this man obviously had so many trials that were hard to overcome and the Savior knows exactly how he feels. And that is the Blessing and Miracle of the Atonement!

I also had the opportunity to teach a man by the name of Luis Cardenas. I thought it was very funny and a coincidence that he had the same name as my old Young Men’s President. He just like Brother Cardenas is a very kind, cool guy and I like him a lot. I taught a doctrine of faith and in trusting in Christ and then we related it to church. From that point on he taught himself and described how he needed to come to church with his family and how he couldn’t make excused to us, because he knew he couldn’t lie to god. It was a cool experience, and then this Sunday he didn’t come. I was disappointed, but then at night on Sunday Elder Pense and I rode by his house and I said we should just go knock and see what was going on. He explained how they had a friend come in town and how they went to temple square earlier that day. I'm not sure if he went or not, but he wants to go to church with his family, so we set up an appointment to teach him tonight, and hopefully we'll get him to come to church this week.

Church was an experience. I didn’t really know what anybody was saying, but it was fun. They also had a guy translating into English and you could pick up a headset and listen. My two companions who had been here before got one so we could listen more as a joke. I could only hold the headset up to my ear for about 5 seconds before i would have laughed too hard and made a scene in sacrament meeting. It was an older man who fell asleep occasionally and it sounded like he was just using gibberish. I didn’t make out a single word that he said. So i decided to be safe, I'm just going to continue to only do Spanish.

I also found out yesterday that because I'm a visa waiter i get to go to conference. I'm going to either the Sunday afternoon, or priesthood session I think so be looking for me.

Ah there’s a lot to say, but I feel like this is already scatterbrained enough, and very long so I'm sorry. Thank you all for all of your love and support and prayers. I love you all and am so thankful for each of you in my life. I will be here in SLC for probably a month or two so send me a letter if you want. It's always fun to get mail. I hope you all have an excellent next week, and I will try to have a better put together letter for you all next week.


Elder Smith

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week 9

I am sorry but this will be short. I leave tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 22) at 6:00 a.m. to go to Salt Lake City South Mission. I am excited to get out and to get to work although I have much still to learn, I have learned a ton here in the MTC and am looking forward to putting into practice the things I’ve learned and learning in new situations. Something that one of my teachers told me (Hermano Gooodrum) that I really liked is he said, “You are going to Salt Lake for a reason. You are maybe being sent there to learn something that the mission in Villahermosa needs. Learn how to turn Villahermosa into Salt Lake City.” I am going to work hard to learn all that I can and apply it when I get to Mexico.

It is really weird leaving the MTC. In a lot of ways it is a lot like leaving to come into the MTC. I’ve had to say good-bye to three of my amazing teachers for the last time, and two elders in my District (The Bolivian elders got transferred to Atlanta), and tonight I will have to say good-bye to all the other elders here and my teacher. As I’ve said good bye I’ve realized this will be very much how my whole mission is. I will get very close to and love the people and the area and then have to change. The thing that’s good though is that there are people everywhere to love, and in every area anywhere in the world, there are many who need to hear the Gospel.

I love you all and will try to tell you more when I know more soon.

Elder Smith

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week 8

Hey Guys- So we've heard where Brad will be serving temporarily until he can get his visa into Mexico. Brad will be serving in Salt Lake City, UT. He seems very excited to head out on this next step of his mission, and we know he will do great wherever he is! I don't know what his new address will be there yet, but I will post it as soon as I know. Thanks for the support!

Hello everyone. I hope that all of your weeks have gone great. My week here in the mtc has been another amazing week, and i actually have some news of things that have been different finally. The mtc has basically stayed relatively the same. I have news considering where I am going to be serving. I found out in the middle of last week that there were 44 out of about 130 Elders trying to go to mexico who had their permisos (letter saying their visas will be coming in a few weeks), I am not one of those 44 Elders so my name along with the rest of my district and Villahermosa Elders have been resubmitted the the First Presidency to get a new temporary assignment. I will serve somewhere in the United States until I get my visa and i am guessing, though i have no idea, that I will be there for about one transfer or 6 weeks, but it could be much shorter or much longer, but i will willing go to where ever i am called, and know that that is the place where I am supposed to be and where the Lord wants me. I am excited about the transfer and think taht it will be a blessing for me. I think it is a good intermediary inbetween the mtc and mexico ha.

This week is our teaching week. That means that this week we have to teach 35 lessons. That may not seem liek too many lessons but when combined with an hour of class, 3 hours of study, 2 or 3 for eating, one hour for gym, and then usually some sort of meeting or devotional or both, that it a very packed schedule. We have our whole week booked up with appointments with different elders and sisters. We had to schedule all of our with missionaries from other zones too so i dont know any of them really too well unless our calssed had taught them before. It has been great so far and the spanish is really coming along. i feel pretty comfortable teaching most priciples, especially everything in the first lesson, but obviously there are still a lot of things i can do better and i cant say everything the way i want, but am excited for when i can.

I am very sorry that i dont have time for a long message today but i will just share a quick one of my go to messages about our life here. Our life here is to follow our savior. Todaay is a great day, and it always is because we have a savior jesus christ who suffered for us and took our sins so that we could be happy and through his gospel we can all live together as families with our heavenly father and the savior forever in a state of eternal joy!

I love you all and wish you the best over this next week, i will let you know where i go tonight or tomorrow


Elder smith

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Week 7- Sep. 8, 2010

Hello everyone. I hope that you all had a great week. I am loving life here and everything has been going great.

This week was a good week and had a lot of great experiences. It is weird to think that i have been here for 7 weeks already. I have really learned so much and have been able to grow into a better person. The experiences I've had here already have changed my life, and i look forward to the rest of the experiences I will be able to have here and in Mexico. We had our first full week with our new teacher Hermano Goodrum. He is a really great teacher. It was sad to leave Hermana Tate and she was great, but we have been able to really learn a lot from Hernamo Goodrum in a different way, and I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from his taechings and experience.

Spanish is definitley coming along. I am beginning to feel more comfortable talking, but i know i still hvae a very long way to go before i can say anything that i want. There is so much vocabulary and phrases that are unfamiliar to me, but i feel like i am beginning to get the basics down a well enough that i can at least communicate what I feel and bear my testimony relatively well to a native, though I probably still couldnt keep up with anything that they are saying. It is fun to learn and to grow and i know that i am being helped by many sources and by God to continue to grow and to learn all that I need to learn.

This week in our TRC the man that we taught was a Buhdist. This went a long well with the exercise we did last week where i played a Buhdist monk. This man was a little more down to earth than I had played and was interested in all religion so he knew the basics of Chirstianity. It was a good lesson and me and Elder Thompson felt like we did a good job at teaching the person instead of the lesson, but as i found out later this week, we still have a lot to learn.

Sunday was a great day. I was able to teach a lesson of the restoration of the gospel. I started out talking about our goal is to tell everyone about this great knowledge we have. That the gospel and authority of Jesus Christ has been restored. I related the states of apostasy and restoration to the school year and summer, where the school year is the restoration. I dont have time to tell it, but i'm sure you can make the connections of how hard we work, and the excitement stages. In sacrament meeting i bore my testimony, and it was probably the best ive ever spoken spanish. When i talk about Christ and when i bear my testimony, I am helped by the Spirit to speak clearer, more fluently and express my thoughts and feelings so much better, and it is a very comforting feeling.

Also on sunday when i went up to the temple as we do every week, my district decided to walk around once before we left for dinner, and as we walked around the far side, I turned my head and saw Chelsea, Sierra and one of their roommates sitting in the grass. I am not sure if they were there on purpose or not, but it was definitely a surprise to me. It was nice to see them and to talk to them briefly about how everything was for me here and how things were for them at school. I spoke a little bit of spanish, but it is kind of hard to do it on the spot. It was weird to see them and i kind of understand the awkward rm feeling a little bit, and understand how big it must be when i get back.

In class the main thing that i learned this week was to try and break down the spanish barrier. OUr teacher had us close our eyes as he said the name Jesus Christ and then he had us do it again with Jesucristo. It was much harder to have the same thoughts and feelings when he said the name Jesucristo as it was when he said Jesus Christ. I am working at breaking down this barrier so taht i can be a more effective missionary and share more of my feelings and joy of this gospel.

Yesterday was the first day that i would consider to be a challage. It was brought upon by varrious reasons that arent really taht important to focus on. The thing that i came out with at the end of the day is how blessed i am to have the knowledge of the gospel, and to have a savior jesus christ. He is my savior and i can always rel y on him though any hard time. I have to always remember to be strong and to be an example of the church. Today is a great day, and every day is a great day because of the blessings taht we have in our lives. Some days, as yesterday was for me, it is harder to see those blessings as we focus on ourselves and our problems. We need to humble ourselfs and need to take a step back, out of the world, and see how truly blessed we are to be here and to have the opportunity to have trials to become more like our savior and to choose to follow him.

I love you all and am so thankful for you love and support. I hope that you all have an excellent week and that you will be able to be guided by the spirit always and act. I love you and will talk to you soon


Elder smith

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 6- Sep 1, 2010

Well another week here in the mtc has come and gone, and it has been great. I love life here at the mtc and the atmosphere is so great. I have been able to learn and grow so much. This week as last week we have focused a lot on teaching in spanish. It is hard, as any effective teaching is, but i am improving. I have been able to really see growth in my vocabulary and my fluency while i have been teaching. We are using it more outside and inside of class, and virtually everything we do is in spanish. It is fun to learn and challenges me to work hard. I have so far to go and there is no way i can be satisfied with where i'm at spiritually and with my knowledge of the gospel or with spanish. I cant wait until i'm in the field to learn to be an effective teacher. I have to learn to teach and to communicate to the people as soon as i get there in as much broken spanish as i can pick up here. I'm very thankful for the opportunity i have to learn.

Thank you everyone for your letters and for the packages. I have a ton of candy now and it fills up one of the drawers on my desk. You are all so kind to think of me. Mom thank you for all of the music and the folders as well. I dont have much time to play but hopefully i'll be able to practice those a little bit sometime soon.

I'm sorry that i dont have too many non spiritual messages or stories, but thats cause there really isnt much that i do that isnt spiritual. There are some funny conversations at lunch and stuff i guess, but really all of my time is spent studying, eating, and sleeping.

This week we had a few districts leave to mexico with visas on time. It gives me a little more hope that i might be able to get out of here on the 19th of this month. That is crazy to think that i'm going to be right in the middle of a mexican city in less than a month trying to speak spanish and teach, but i know i'll be ready and will continue to be blessed with what i need to accomplish the work.

This week we got another new teacher. Hermana Tate had to work less hours because of school so we got Hermano Goodrum. He served his mission in Honduras just like Hermano Mcpherson and is a really great teacher. We've only had one lesson so far, but he knows a lot and is very excited to teach and i know that i will be able to learn a lot from him. It was sad to lose hermana tate though. She was a really great teacher and you could tell that she cared a lot about us and about our learning and growth. She was a great teacher and had a very strong testimony and i am very thankful for the time that i was able to have with her and for the things that i learned from her.

This week a slightly funny story was that we practiced teaching people who did not have a christian background. We sometimes watch short videos of people answering questions and then come up with lesson plans to teach them what they need. The man that was our investigator this day was named Fra. He was a 56 yr old Buhdist Monk who lived in Thailand. It was very hard coming up with a lesson plan and in not very much time, but it worked out for me becasue i got chosen to act out this person for another companionship to teach me. For my preparation for being this man i thought of a book that i read senior year called siddartha. I actually did like this book and so i read most of it i think, but it is about enlightenment and part of it is about buhdism. Though i didnt know much, i tried to relate what i knew and then kind of made up some stuff too. It was fun to act out. For the opening prayer i assumed my "meditating position" and crossed my legs on my chair and everything. Then when they asked me what i believed. I talked about how i had been reencarnated and how i was one with nature and stuff. It was interesting to try thinking like that and i posed for a difficult person to teach about God and Jesus Christ to. After this somewhat of a funny experience we came back to the classroom where Brother Mcpherson critict us a little bit, which turned into a lot a bit. All the groups who taught kind of got into taht this was just another lesson. He enphasized the importance of teaching the person not a lesson. It is something that is hard to do especially in spanish, but is esential. Planning for a lesson is just as important as teaching it, and this principle can be adopted into any other aspect of our lives.

the last this i want to share is about the devotional yesterday. Elder Hinckley (the Late President Gordon B. Hinckleys son) came and spoke to us with his wife. I'd liek to share one point from each of their messages. From Sister Hinckley i learned taht attitude is everything. From this i reflected on my missionary moto of "today is a great day"! today and everyday is a great day, and we have to always remember to be happy. happiness is a decision, and its one that we make everyday when we wake up, and everytime something not so good happens. Life is so much better when you go through it while smiling, its as simple as that. This will be something that i will try to always remember when i face the inevitable trials ahead.

From Elder Hinckleys talk that thing that hit me that most was about how to love the people. The way to love someone is to serve them, and to see them the same way and with the same potential that our heavenly father sees them. Everyone is a child of god and we can learn to love everyone that we are around. he then shared a story about when he was a mission president about one of his missionaries. I will outline it thought it was a very good story, i dont have much time. There was a lady whose husband was an inactive member and died. The missionaries went to try to teach her and she said she didnt want anything to do with the church, but the missionaries began to do service for her and it softened her heart enough to let them teach her. They taught her and she felt the spirit testify of the truth of the book of mormon and she was converted, and two weeks later she was baptized. The missionary then told of the experience he had of seeing this woman be sealed to her late husband in the temple for all eternity and while they were there she mouthed the words "thank you" to the missionary. The impression i had was that who am i to think that what i am doing is a sacrifice. and this is just how this missionary felt as well. I am doing the happiest most joyful work there is on that face of the earth. I am serving my heavenly father and i will be teaching his gospel to the people that he has prepared and though i will have trials and hard times, those are nothing compared to the blessings and the joy that i have and will have by learning and sharing his gospel and seeing the changes in peoples lives and see the eternal choices that they will make while in this life.

I love you all and am so thankful for you. You all support me in your own way. Thank you for your prays and your love and support. I hope that you all have a great next week. I love you and miss you, but i am so happy and am excited to continue to learn and grow.


Elder Smith