Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Not just getting baptized, he's going to be a convert!

We have had another great week of seeing people desiring and acting upon that desire to come closer to Christ by receiving His restored gospel. 

Rayli is progressing well and there is no concerns. Her family is on board, she loves church, her fellowship and we are meeting consistently twice a week. Every time I meet with her, I just picture her serving a mission in a few years or going to the temple, that's how prepared she is and I am so beyond excited for her strong desire to follow Christ and this exciting new journey she is starting. It's been such a blessing to teach her.

Uhila is likewise progressing remarkably well and is loving the gospel, even though he is starting to face some of the opposition that is often talked about that comes before baptism. His work schedule has been grueling recently, yet he still is clinging to the gospel. His future father-in-law got him a really nice quad when he proposed to his now fiance and he was beyond ecstatic. He was showing it off like a little kid at Christmas. It melted Elder Gulbranson's and my heart to see that. He too is not just getting baptized, he's going to be a convert. 

We have also picked up not a lot of new investigators this week, but their quality was amazing. In the lessons we had with two of them, the Spirit was so obviously present that the investigators recognized it. We immediately helped them recognize what they were feeling, bore testimony and invited, and it has truly worked. One's name was Omar. He is so humble and so aware of the Lord in his life. He has a strong desire to follow Christ in all he does. Sunny is the other one, and she is so sensitive to the Spirit. She was so touched by the message and couldn't wait to learn more and wanted her mom to hear it to (whom we were originally stopping by to teach). She also happens to be dating a member, so that is a huge plus too, since she's already had so many positive experiences with the gospel.

This week in Sacrament meeting, a recently returned missionary shared that talk by Elder Holland about the Atonement and missionary work. In it he states that missionary work is tough because salvation was never a cheap experience, and that to reach conversion both the missionary and investigator must take their own small, token journey into Gethsemane, so that we can greater appreciate the sacrifice the very Son of God made for us. Life never was easy for Him, and He asked if there was another way, but He submitted to His Father's will and came out on top. If we follow His example, we can expect similar results. When we have hard times, we can be assured that we are "standing side-by-side with the best Life this world has ever known". This, even though I have heard it before, touched me in a way I have never experienced before. I honestly can't remember a time I felt the Spirit stronger, and besides the temple, I have never felt closer to my Savior. I will forever cherish that memory, and allow it to carry me through those tough times.

You're going to Hurricane?! What for? Is there anything there? Look out for a Sister Jordan there. She just got home from the mission here and she is from Hurricane. If you happen to see her, say Hi for me!

 I do not mind getting the updates, in fact I love it! I love being in the loop. It doesn't really make me trunky. I enjoy seeing how everyone is doing! That is great that the Karl baby is doing well and that Tyler is getting all ready for the Navy! Proud of him!

We had cross-fit today as a mission and it was really cool to see a lot of my old friends from previous areas. It is crazy because Elders Hale, Foy, and Smith as well as Sister da Silva are all heading home in two weeks! It makes me kind of sad. I'll miss them all. Missions go so fast. This transfer has flown! I've heard the mission just goes faster from here on out.

Sorry that all the pictures are kind of the same! We went up a mountain and had a photo shoot! And here's a sweaty me after cross-fit today. Have the best week!


Your Elder Jackson​

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Moreno Valley Is Great!

      Moreno Valley is great! There is just so much success to be found here and it is awesome to see the light in missionary's eyes as they see that the field here is so incredibly white and the Lord is just waiting to pour out His blessings if we just believe and do our part. Elder Gulbranson and I have seen so much success that we don't even really know how to handle it. Our mission fast for success in missionary work really worked, and the Lord did pour out His Spirit to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the word of the Lord with gladness. As things stand currently, we will be baptizing each month in September! We have been floored how incredibly solid the people we've been finding are and how enthusiastically they accept to learn more and be baptized by proper authority. 

That is terrifying about all of the fires! There have been some here and parents have been calling out of concern, but all have been 20+ miles away, even though the destruction was fairly severe in some cases. That is good though that there wasn't any crazy dangerous fires and that everything turned out alright. Fires are scary! Nature really is a powerful thing, and we really are "dust". Thank goodness we have been blessed with the safety we've enjoyed so far!

That is great about Simone Biles. I am happy for her and the rest of team USA. I heard they were a class act, especially compared to the swim team. Usain Bolt is crazy fast. Did he beat his own records again?

We taught Crystel the remainder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of Wisdom, and even though she has a few issues with coffee, she said that she is excited for the challenge and knows that living a commandment of God will bless her life! She says she is slowly, bit by bit, receiving a sure witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and that she loves church. She is preparing well to be baptized on the 4th of September.

Hila is a miracle. He is so incredibly humble and prepared to receive God's word. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and Tithing this week, and he was so grateful for the new knowledge and direction that the plan of happiness brings. His tears of gratitude make all the hard work we do worth it. He also proposed to his member girlfriend this week and said that he wants his future father-in-law to be the one who baptizes him. He has built my own faith so much that there are solid future converts out there for each one of us to find, teach and baptize, if we are but diligent, faithful and positive. He is preparing to be baptized on the 10th of September.

Oh, we got rescue some stray kittens!

Rayli is someone who is truly elect. She is so sensitive to and cognoscente of the Spirit. She was a referral from a member in Redlands (her aunt) and said that she was excited to learn about the church, because she felt so great when she had gone with them to church. As we taught her, the Spirit was so incredibly strong and there was not an ounce of doubt in that room that what was being taught was completely true. She enthusiastically accepted a date and has been devouring all of the material we've given her and already feels strongly that this church is true, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that baptism is the most important step she can make. She will be baptized on the 18th of September and we couldn't be more excited and grateful for the opportunity we have to teach her. My testimony in unplanned finding opportunities has so been strengthened so dramatically these past few weeks as we have really been diligent in doing it. We've found so many people to share the restored gospel with through it. 

Andrew C. got baptized yesterday!! It was so cool! He had so much support and love from everybody. I am so incredibly happy for this wonderful step in his eternal life!

Today we got to go to the temple (which is why I am writing today) and it was great! I was able to do a session for a man from Delaware.

We also got to meet one of the actors from 17 Miracles, who just moved to Moreno Valley! His name is Travis and he is super cool! He was kind enough to talk to us and allow us to take pictures with him. He gave some of the other Elders rides to the temple. Blessings of a mission! Oh, and we had a member pay for our lunch :) So many blessings! We also rescued some stray kittens!

  Have the best week ever!


Your Elder Jackson :)​

Monday, August 15, 2016

Unforgettable Week Full of Grace

    This week is one that I will probably remember for the rest of my life! It was one were grace was so obviously present in my life that I fear I'd be struck down if I said anything otherwise. First off, we had a very spiritual MLC (Mission Leadership Council, or Pretend Power Council as we call it haha) and I learned so much about how I can improve my studies, planning and how my faith can grow. The Spirit is always very sweet in that meeting. It was exactly what I had been wanting to improve on and wondering how I could improve. We also had a great exchange this week in which I learned a lot. We had a missionary with us this week named Jorge and it was great to feel of his desire to work and to hear his story of how much the Lord had helped and changed him. But the most amazing part of the week was how much we were able to get done in such a short amount of time. We had worked hard and had not seen much success by the time Friday had rolled around, yet we were determined that we were going to do all in our power to strive to achieve the standard of excellence. All day Saturday and Sunday, we kept our faith super strong that the Lord would provide a way, and we were some how able to teach 8 member present lessons and have 5 people come to church, with two of them progressing and keeping their commitments. Elder Gulbranson and I have been determined that we will do all we can to baptize here in Lasselle and it has been amazing how the Lord really has allowed us to do way more than we could on our own. We did more than was possible by ourselves. The Lord definitely provided us with strength that was not our own. 

Rayli came to church after having major jaw reconstructive surgery and loved it. We were unable to meet with her due to her pain from the surgery, but we will be putting her on date for baptism this week and she will be well on her way to making covenants to follow Jesus Christ. Crystel is practically already a member. She participates in Relief Society and Gospel Principles as if she's been there her whole life. Everyone has done a great job at reaching out and getting to know her. Hila's first time at church was great! He made a ton of friends and felt the Spirit immensely. He said that he felt the talks were directly for him. He is basically planning his whole baptismal service as well and has already invited his whole family and some of his friends. My good buddy Andrew is getting baptized this week. He is super dope. He will be a solid, life long member. We are going to the mall with him after this and eat lunch with him all the time. We also found a kid named Edgar when I was on exchanges in the Jurupa Stake and taught him. When I was there this past week, he was progressing well and will be baptized in a few weeks! I got to teach him the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom as well. The work is no doubt progressing here, and the Lord's hand is apparent in Moreno Valley.

Here are some pics of our zone with our suit coats on inside out :)

I heard about the meteor shower and it sounded really cool! I heard that it was really amazing. I heard the US is tearing it up at the Olympics and that the US Swim team got jumped at gun point and that the South is flooded! I am pretty bummed I am missing it but I can watch it when I get home. I heard that Phelps is done after this year?

So as of right now, I will be coming home Tuesday 8 August 2016, but with the change in how long missionaries are in the MTC, I may be coming home Tuesday 15 August 2016. I am not sure when I will know which exact date, but I am hoping for the 8th. Unfortunately there was no tie or shirt burning. It's outlawed here. :( I was actually on exchanges with some Elders in the Jurupa Stake (where my greenie area was) on my year mark. It's all downhill from here! Not trying to sound trunky when I say this, but I feel so relieved. As much as I love my mission, I finally don't feel like I'll be spending eternity wearing slacks and waking up at 6:30 AM. But I am really loving it, trust me! 

I am for sure getting tired of all of this political debating. We have our dinner appointments trying to pry out of us whom we are voting for, and then telling us all the reasons why Trump is amazing and Hilary sucks, or vice versa. It gets really annoying and uncomfortable. Oh well. I feel completely in the dark on it.

That is crazy about the flights. I am glad you got home OK though. And Rob too. 

I'm glad you enjoyed the letter. Keep on preparing your soil so that the Lord can cultivate great things with in you! And yes, I feel like I've been able to learn how to handle people who are mean to me or oppose the church in a much more Christlike manner, especially recently. It is hard though. I in some way know how the Lord feels when He laments about how hard-hearted we can be.

I love you so so much! Thank you for all that you do! I can't wait to give you a big ol' hug in a year's time! You and dad are the best parents in the world. Have a great week!


Your Elder Jackson 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I Don't Care About the Olympics, I Don't Care About the Olympics, I Don't...

Oh man! I'm having a hard time missing the Olympics! We had dinner with the Tatums last night and they "accidentally" left the Olympics on. I tried my hardest not to watch, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't sneak a few peaks. It was the Canada v. USA volleyball and USA v. New Zealand women's rugby. But I didn't look for more than a few moments! haha That is what real temptation is. It was intense! I'm glad to hear that Michael Phelps is still on the prowl! He's awesome. I heard a gymnast broke his tibia and fibula during his routine? That must be so painful! At least I'll be back for the Winter Olympics!

I'm glad that your visit to KY went as well as it could have. That would be hard to do. I am glad that Grandma is doing as well as can be expected though. I wonder if she'll still be alright when I get back. The knowledge of the plan of salvation really does make things like this so much easier though. I am grateful for that!

So if you get teary-eyed seeing other missionaries in the airport, what are we going to do with you when I get home? Haha just kidding. I remember watching missionaries return with you once at the airport and it touched me how much you loved seeing them greet their families. That will be such a sweet reunion. One year from today I'll be giving you a hug! I get home in 365 days! Crazy! I can't believe I'm halfway done! 

This week was awesome! We really had the Lord shower us with blessings. As we worked hard we were able to really feel His desire for us to find success and find and teach those who were prepared. The meaning of the word "prepared" really took on a lot more meaning this week. I used to think that it meant that the Lord just kind of magically softened certain people's hearts and  voila! they are ready to receive the gospel. But as I was studying in the Book of Mormon, in the Book of Mosiah, I was really touched in how much the people of Zeniff prepared themselves to conquer the Lamanites who were seeking their destruction and the Lord blessed them for their preparation. Then the words of Elder D. Todd Christofferson rang in my mind, that the Lord blesses us according to our preparation. Then all the dots connected! The prepared people we teach and baptize are not people who are just more spiritually sensitive or favored of the Lord, they have spent time preparing themselves to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether they know it or not, and they are blessed by receiving it, just as the people of Zeniff were blessed for their preparations and how we as missionaries are blessed by the Lord when we prepare ourselves through diligence, obedience and faith. The gospel really is true! I feel so blessed to have been able to find and teach a little bit of divine and eternal truth that will help these beloved sons and daughters of God on their journey back to Him, and be able to do so because of their preparation in so receiving. I'm baffled how aware the Lord is of each one of us and how much He cares for our well-being a happiness.

We had an amazing couple of lessons with our investigator. She's great. She's reading the Book of Mormon everyday. She says she doesn't know it's true yet, but is praying to know if it is and likes what she's felt so far. She's recognizing the Spirit in lessons and at church. She's really liking the people at church and her and her fellowship are like best friends. She really was prepared. 

This week we also taught the most spiritual lesson of my life! We got a referral for a man from some other missionaries and after a while we were able to agree on a time to meet. The Spirit was without a doubt there. As I was relaying the words of Joseph Smith's vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit engulfed us and there was no way I could deny it was true. There was one time I just opened my mouth and the Spirit definitely filled it because I don't remember what I said, but it allowed the investigator to feel the Spirit and it was what he needed to hear. It is so cool being an instrument in the Lord's hands. He was balling at the end of the lesson. If I never teach another lesson my whole mission, at least I was able to be there for that one. The Lord really does love and is aware of each one of our needs. He knew I needed a lesson  like that to boost my faith and He knew our investigator needed and was prepared to hear the message of the restoration of the full and true gospel of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! 

There haven't been any gunshots recently, but there are still random fireworks. The next 2 baptisms should be in 3 weeks. We picked up 8 new investigators this week so it will be awesome to see what happens there! 

Thank you so much for the past two packages you've sent. I really appreciate it. They help out a lot. I sent you and dad a letter and it should be there any day! I love you tons! Have a great week and fly home safe!


Your Elder Jackson


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Change is in the Air

It's officially August! Only 11 more days and I'll be halfway done  with my mission! There are 25 missionaries leaving this transfer (including Elders Andrus, Westenskow, Dyer, Glathar and Vang) and 34 coming in. With 1/3 to 1/2 of our mission changing in the coming days and weeks, it has been sad to see some of the missionaries I look up to most, like Elder Westenskow and Andrus and Dyer and Hale (he's still got 6 more weeks), going home. They had a huge impact on me and have changed the kind of missionary I am. I hope to be more like them! I heard this next year flies though! I'm starting to feel old. There are 18 missionaries in our zone, and 4 will be brand new. 

 We had another rough week, in all honesty. We worked hard, but could not get in to any doors or share any messages with anyone about the Restored Gospel. Elder Hale and I both identified things we could improve on, especially continuing to grow our faith and trust in the Lord. We also both feel that the Lord is about to bless us immensely because of our work. Even though we are far from perfect, we have been growing in our diligence and fully believe that the Lord will bless us with an increase of people to teach because of that. Elder Mock also reminded us to make sure that we are diligent in praying oft and always keeping a prayer in our hearts. I am excited to be working with Elder Gulbranson and will continue to improve as a missionary and disciple as I am with him. We will work hard, work smart, and be obedient; and we will baptize in August. 

 I am half sad and half happy. Transfers are today and I will no longer be with Elder Hale :(. He is leaving to be a ZL in the Jurupa Stake for his last 6 weeks. I wasn't able to serve my mission in Canada, but I won't ever escape the Great White North! My new companion is Elder Gulbranson from British Columbia and he is super awesome! We are going to tear it up this transfer and it will be so great! I am so excited to work with him. He's a great kid who just got done being companions with a former AP, Elder Westenskow.

That is really an adorable baby. She'll be a great mom. I still find it crazy that she is only a few months older than me and she already has a kid. I'm happy for her. You sure do look tiny compared to the Smithson clan though! There are two sets of missionaries in our ward and Elder Hale is 6'4" and bigger, and we have a 5'2" Elder Vang who is slim and Hmong there too. It's funny to see them side-by-side. You look good though!!

That is scary about the fire! I'm glad it got put out. That is never fun. I'm sure that got your nerves. Enjoy Kentucky! There was a fire here and it was super humid and muggy, so I know how you feel! I love you lots! Stay safe and know that I love and miss you mucho!! I pray for you guys every night too!


Your Elder Jackson

First Training!

The mission is going to change so much in the next 6 weeks! We have about 40 missionaries leaving and 53 new ones coming in! I won't know anybody!

Oh, I gave my first training this week at our Zone Development Meeting (ZDM) and I was super nervous, but apparently people liked it! It was really cool. I enjoyed designing the white board and making it all fun for my trainings. The zone is great and I think the trainings that we did will help us all be better missionaries. Elder Hale and I are super unified and were able to teach with such fluidity. We also made a poster for our favorite Elder Westenskow.

This week was one of those weeks where the Lord humbles you and shows you what it is that is stopping you from progressing. Elder Hale and I had had a hard time finding any success in any phase of our work, whether it be finding, teaching or getting people to church. We didn't get it; we seemed to be working hard and using our time wisely, but no fruits were showing. When we prayed to know how to get out of this rut, the Lord chastened us well and told us that we needed to lift our expectations and increase our diligence. We saw that we had not been believing that our efforts would bring forth fruit. We decided to change our attitude and expected to find success, and in one evening we were able to contact 56 people and pick up two new investigators and put one on date for baptism. The Lord really does bless us when we truly believe that we will succeed. I'm ashamed that I had not had that attitude the rest of the week and expected that the Lord would bless us. My faith was weak. I know that as I keep this attitude of working hard and completely believing that success will come, we will see more precious souls progress toward baptism and eternal life.

Oh, I wanted to tell you that there is a Brother Roberts here who was missionary companions with Chris Street! Do you have Chris' phone number or address so I could give it to him? He said he wants to get back in touch with him. I also met someone who was a companion with one of the Farr boys on his mission in Detroit! Such a small world. 

Elder Hale is from Pleasant Grove, UT, which is by Provo. He will be going to UVU in the fall. I'll give you his contact info so you can get in touch with him. He says you sound like a saint and wants to meet you and dad! 

I learned so much from Elder Sy (one of the assistants to the president. The AP's ward is right next to my greenie ward! It was like going home!) on exchanges. He is a fantastic missionary and does an excellent job of teaching doctrine very simply and always listening to the Spirit in what he should say, and not just being repetitive. I learned that we should view each contact in the same way we do a prayer: some of the words will be the same, but it needs to a sacred, spiritual experience that is unique every time. I really enjoyed that. We took that idea into our proselyting area and saw much more success. Elder Sy has a great heart. 

With Elder Westenskow and Elder Pennington I also learned a lot. Elder Westenskow was my 3rd AP. I was really impressed, as I always am, with just how Christlike Elder Westenskow is. There are not too many people that are more loving and genuine in all that they do. I so love being around him and learning from him and I am so blessed that I was able to serve around him this transfer. I'll miss him when he goes home next week, along with Elder Andrus and about 23 other missionaries! 

I love you so so much! Thank you for all you do! Is there anything I can do for you?


Your Elder Jackson :)