Monday, December 30, 2013

Holidays and Alien Abductions

Greetings Family and various associates!

So I had a pretty good Christmas, but unfortunately the go-to gift for a missionary is cookies and lots of candy... which is awesome at first, but after a while you just open a gift hoping for a fruit basket.... (oh and Tammie, thanks for the Tupperware of cookies, I got it when I was still excited about cookies so don't worry. Soooo should I send the tupperware back? I'm not really sure what the protocol is at this point.) It was weird being away from home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas but it wasn't too bad. I've adapted to Crescent City pretty well (yeah, with the beach it wasn't all that hard.)

Well the work is progressing here in California (and it's going to speed up a lot more when Elder Moore gets here! I'm sooo excited! I managed to make a fool of myself when I read about it because I was celebrating like an idiot). We have 3 baptisms coming up - we don't have a date for any of them but we're working on that. They all want to get baptized so the hard part is out of they way.

There are some really colorful people up here... I've had more than a couple people come up to us and start a conversation with us that seemed normal at first. That's how they lure us in. Then they start talking about being abducted by aliens, and because of this, they plan on mind controlling all the world leaders to wage war on the mantis men..... We just sit there and nod... and think about how we can lead this conversation to the Restoration, which isn't easy at all. In addition to the colorful people there are a lot of really great people up here too.

Well I hope everything is going well for everyone. I can't believe it's already been a month. Next week I'm going to have to lead out, so I'm going to be in charge of everything. That will be.... probably disastrous... so we'll see what happens. I'm doing very well up here and the work is hastening! There's a lot of wheat up here and I'm going to find them! Sorry for how short this letter is but there's just no time to email here! Well, I love you all!

Love, Elder Ellis

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Baptisms and a Pit Bull

Hey family!

Thanks for the gift mom! It's so cool. I'm the envy of all oil vial carriers everywhere. I also got your s'more care package as well, so that's something Elder Whittleslow and I can bust open on Christmas! On Christmas we're going to see what Santa brought us, have a meeting with DAN, then we're just going to look for service opportunities. Afterwards we have a couple of dinner appointments. It's going to be an interesting day, that's for sure.

The Santa Rosa Mission devotional was really cool. We all brought a gift to put in a pile and everyone came over and took one. My gift was the ugly vest I was wearing in the picture that I'm fairly sure I sent you.... but I later found the Elder who got my gift and he was wearing it and seemed to enjoy it. I got a pen, but ti doubles as an ipad pen too, so that actually came in handy.

This last week has been insane - we had 3 baptisms on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Three of them were children of record, but one was a women that Elder Whittleslow and I have been seeing. Her name is Jenette Flores and she is such a honey badger. She is just awesome! It was so cool seeing her make these changes in her life and have this desire to follow Christ's example. Funny story: on Friday we went to see her and have a quick lesson with her before her baptism. We were talking about the gift of the Holy Ghost and the different ways it can help her. So as we are sitting there, listening to the member that was present talk about times how the spirit prompted him to be in certain places or to do certain things, and as he is talking Jenette's pit bull (mom, it's awesome up here! There are pit bulls everywhere!! I've seen like 8 of them, and I just revert to an 8-year-old every time I see one. It's awesome) who had been fed multiple pretzels at this point comes over and puts his head in my companion's lap and vomits all over his legs and back pack. Then I looked over at Jenette and told her that was an example of what happens when you don't heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It was so funny. But after that, we couldn't get back to focus on the lesson. I tried to keep it going, but she had to leave the room with Elder Whittingslow to get him cleaned off, so I just turned to her inactive husband, A****, and started teaching him. At first he didn't even like missionaries and wouldn't let them in, but after seeing the change in his wife and how much happier she has been he's warmed up to us. Well yesterday we got a text from Jenette saying that A**** said he wanted to come back to church! Us coming over so frequently and sharing lessons have softened his heart and he wants to get back to church. It's so awesome!

We're always busy, and it's pretty exhausting. We have so many people we visit. I've really liked all of the people I have met.....some of them are just a little... interesting, to say the least. Oh, I've actually met Brother R**** and had a conversation about it already. He's a pretty cool guy.

I will call you around 11:00 am to get your Skype address and then I'll Skype you. Sorry, but 11:00 is kinda the time we scheduled for it. I'm really looking forward to seeing you all, even though I talked to you, mom, just a couple of weeks ago. I'll have a lot to tell you on Christmas.

Love you all! The church is true.

Love, Elder Ellis

Monday, December 16, 2013

Missionary Life at the Beach

Hi everyone!

Yep, I'm at the beach! It's really strange waking up to the sound of a fog horn and seals barking. So it turns out I'm really out of shape. We go jogging every morning to the pier and by the time I get to the end of it, I've already died a little bit inside. But then we get back to our room and we lift weights, which I'm a little better at. My companion, Elder Whittingslow, and roommates are pretty awesome. And Sister Seely told me you talked to her, Mom, so I already know that you're a creepy cyber stalker... I've known for a while now...

Crescent City is awesome! For the most part, people are really friendly and are pretty open to listening to our message. There are a lot of meth heads, smokers and whatnot, so the Word of Wisdom is a pretty popular lesson to teach. Yeah, but it's great here! The first day I was here we taught three lessons. In the first one, we talked to a man named Brother Douglas and we discussed the plan of salvation. He had some really good questions about the spirit world and temple work. He and his 11-year-old daughter want to get baptized, but he just had shoulder surgery so he's putting it off for a while. (We're going to talk to the both of them again tonight.) Then after we left Brother Douglas, we contacted someone by the shore. He wanted to know which was more important, works or grace. We said both, and he said it sounded like the true gospel to him. It was awesome! That night we had a lesson with a guy named Emilio. We talked to him about faith and I invited him to be baptized. He said no, like he's done so many times already, but it was still awesome. It was so much easier than I thought it would be.

I'm in a bike area, so I had to buy a bike here, but I found one that was dirt cheap. It was like $60 and it was pretty much brand new. It was used once so they knocked 35% off. The blessing are pouring in already! It's been a month since I've driven a car and I feel like when I finally get behind the wheel of one, I'll just sit there clueless, wondering how I make it move. But the weather is so nice here I don't even mind being on a bike.

So I'm learning some awesome missionary vocab. Honey Badger: someone who is just awesome beyond words. B-Dog: Beautiful daughter of god. Celestial parking: pull through parking space. And when DAN (daily afternoon nap) comes by to visit, it's a pretty exciting thing. He hasn't come by since I've been here, but I'm hoping he'll show up.

Well, I'm doing very well. I'm out of time, so this email is going to have to be shorter than normal but I'll do better next week. Tell everyone I didn't email this week I'm sorry and I'll get them next week! I was experiencing some technical difficulties and lost most of my email time, but I'll leave you all with this:

Inline image 1

I have more pictures that I'll send eventually... but I figured this one took priority. How does everyone like our thrift shop vests!?!? (My companion is the one in front....being a cat....)

Well, I love you all! Again, I'll post more pictures and try to write everyone I missed next week.

Cordially and with highest regards,

Elder Ellis

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving in the MTC

Hey Mom!!! 

Where to start…. so much has happened. Well first of all, Elder Christensen and I are the new  leaders - that's why we are staying a week longer than normal. We are going to meet the new arrivals today, show them the ropes, make them feel welcomed and whatnot. The last package you sent me, with all the food, I’m going to take that to their rooms tonight as a "welcome to the neighborhood" gift basket thing.

It’s really cool, we are pretty much the grey-haired veterans now. Oh and yes, that KSL news report about the MTC was us and I was definitely a part of that. It was amazing! We were making bagged casseroles for children in Utah. Apparently one in five children here miss a meal and go hungry. Our goal was to make 350,000 bags of food... and we made 350,280 bags. It was so amazing! That was probably the first Thanksgiving I got the warm fuzzies in my tummy that weren’t a result from too much gravy. I think they went around and filmed the first group and I was in the second one. But when you watch it, just imagine me holding the bag under the funnel, because that's what I did most of the time. It’s harder than it looks! We were working at lighting speeds. My table alone made over 900 bags! We were only 280 over our goal, so if one table was slacking off then we wouldn't have made it. It’s cool to think about that - everyone worked so hard. Oh, and Elder Russell M. Nelson gave a devotional that day too! As soon as he walked in, everyone got spiritually slapped. You could feel the Spirit fill the room instantly. It’s to be expected from an apostle though. Oh, and last night Elder M. Russell Ballard was supposed to talk, but since it was snowing really hard he couldn't make it so Elder Bruce C. Hafen came instead. He gave a really good talk. 

Well, we have a lot of classes…. just hours and hours of classes – it’s brutal. Elder Christensen and I role play a lot and practice talking to each other for when we have investigators. We're getting pretty good at it. We do the same thing with our teachers. We set appointments with them and teach the persona they take on. Last night was awesome. (I feel the Spirit just thinking of it.) We talked to a TRC investigator yesterday (someone who volunteers to come to the MTC and be taught - they could be a member who is acting, a recent convert, or an actual nonmember). We were supposed to do one last week, but he was a no-show, so this was more or less the first person we taught that wasn’t one of us or our teachers. Anyways, last night we had a woman named Belinda, who has ZERO knowledge about Christianity, doesn't even know who Jesus Christ is or what the Bible is. We talked to her for an hour and, long story short (I’ll supply details later, but I’m being rushed now), we got her to commit to reading the Book of Mormon and to pray too, which is apparently a big deal around here since she is a really hard investigator. I hear only one other companionship had success with her and committed her to do something and the TRC people (I don’t know their official title) were astounded that we got her to do that. But it was easy for the most part! You just have to get to know her! It was really awesome, even though she is probably an actor, but it was still so exciting, Moments like those make all the failures worth it.

Things are really great! I get lonely sometimes, but I always power through. Give my love to the family for me. Tell Gianni to put his tooth under a pillow and tell Stephen to hang in there. I still can’t send pictures so I’ll send them when I’m in the field. Just one more week!

Well, I’m being rushed so we can go do laundry. Love you all!

Love, Elder Ellis

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Elder Ellis' First Letter from the MTC

Hey Mom!

Just want to put you at ease, the MTC is awesome. I'm having a great time!

My companion and I are essentially best friends now. His name is Elder Christensen, and he's just the coolest guy ever. We get along so well and we have the same sense of humor and like all the same things. Most importantly we both like Psych. So everything is going to be alright. I could not have gotten a better first companion. We work really well together when we're talking to an "investigator". When he's talking he says what I would want him to say. We were talking to a recent convert who volunteered to be an investigator at the MTC just a little while ago. His name was Brandon and the three of us had such a cool conversation. He's from Louisiana so we talked a lot about food, of course. Elder Christensen and I just work really well together. We just give off a wave of camaraderie everywhere we go. 

My other roommates are Elders Hansen and Smith and they are such great guys. We all get along really well. Elder Hansen is so funny, he reminds me a lot of Landon, just in his sense of humor, and we're always going back and forth. My district is really awesome, and we just became family right away.

Thanks for the package - my roommates and I appreciated it. But next time could you send a bottle opener?! We sat there for 30 mins trying to figure out how to open it with out losing all the skin on our hands. So I took the opportunity to practice my tracting and went door to door asking for a bottle opener. One elder came over and tried to do a trick he knows to get it open but something was different with the bottle cap and it wouldn't work, so he looks at me and says, "Don't try this at home kiddies" and tries to bite it off. I was just standing there saying that I didn't advise it, and was asking if he could at least sign a waiver before attempting that. He didn't have any luck but he dented the bottle cap, so I guess that was an achievement in itself. Luckily one of the elders in another district in our zone, Elder Steinegle, had a swiss army knife, and popped that bad boy open. Then I proceeded to question why he brought a knife to the MTC, but I had a bubbly beverage in my hand so I didn't really care that much.

It's so amazing here mom. The all day classes are kind of long, but the teachers are really stellar and I'm really blessed to be here. The food is pretty adequate and I've gained 5 lbs since I've been here. I want to send pictures but I don't know how, so they will have to wait. And could you tell others to use DearElder if they email me, since I can just get it throughout the week and write them back immediately. 

Well I have other people to get to and little time to do it. I love you mom - don't worry about me, I'm just enjoying life right now.

Love, Elder Ellis

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Elder Ellis

Elder Ellis is gone.......on Wednesday, November 20 Hayden unloaded his suitcases from the car, hugged Gianni and me goodbye and walked into the MTC. We are really going to miss him, but he's exactly where he should be and we are grateful for his desire to serve the Lord.

Hayden' s Farewell Talk - November 17, 2013

Good afternoon Brothers and Sisters

 It’s so great to be back at this ward, even if it is for a day. Many of you may not know me, or may have forgotten who I am, my name is Hayden Ellis and I have been called to serve in the California Santa Rosa Mission. I moved here from Kansas a couple of months ago and I was attending this ward for about 5 weeks before I moved to Alpine and went to church there, which was a good experience for me, but I’ve really missed this ward……. especially priest quorum. The young men in this ward are really incredible guys. They welcomed me with open arms and treated me like I’d been there just as long as they had. And Bishop Roy is such a wonderful Bishop. He has such an uplifting and infectious spirit that makes it impossible to be in a bad mood around him. So priest quorum was always something I looked forward to. Something I thought was really special about the priest quorum here is after the concluding prayer, there is a standing tradition that Bishop Roy goes around and gives everyone a hug before they leave. Which I think is really cool; it shows that our Bishop really loves the people of this ward, and that we’re just one big family. I only wish I had remembered after moving to Alpine that Bishop Roy’s tradition was unique to this ward.  First day of church, after we finished the prayer, I was closing in on the Alpine bishop for a hug and one of the priest asked me what I was doing, and I said “…. Stretching… its good to stretch and loosen up after a large spiritual intake….” And then I quickly fled the room.

It’s hard to believe that I’ll be leaving for my mission on Wednesday. I’ve always wanted to serve a mission, but I planned to go to college for a year first and then put in my papers. That all changed a year ago when I was watching General Conference and President Monson announced that they were lowering the age for missionary service to 18 for young men and 19 for young women. All of a sudden, my plans became a little more complicated. On one hand it was exciting that the Church had made this change and the ranks of missionaries would swell, but on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go as soon as I graduated from high school. It took several months of contemplation and prayer for me to decide that I wanted to serve a mission after I turned 18. It was difficult to not be affected by the enthusiasm of my Young Men’s leaders and the other priests in my ward as we discussed the prospects of serving a mission at an earlier ago. I finally decided that I wanted to be part of the wave of youth who responded to the Prophet’s announcement a year ago, and I made the commitment to put my mission papers in shortly after I turned 18.

The Bishop asked me to speak today about how the Lord prepared me to serve a mission. Actually, the Lord started preparing me long before I was born. It was missionary work that was the most important factor in preparing me to serve a mission.

My grandfather was the oldest of five children, born to a chronically sick mother and an alcoholic father. Grandpa Larsen’s family was very poor and lived in modest motels in Bountiful and the West side of Salt Lake City.  My great grandparents, LoRen and Phyllis Larsen, were not big fans of the Mormon Church, but they did permit their children to attend church activities with their LDS friends. My grandpa was fortunate enough to become really good friends with six boys, five of them were from strong LDS families. Grandpa played sports with the boys and spent time with their families. When Grandpa was 17 years old, his mother died. It was shortly after her death that grandpa and three of his younger siblings were baptized into the Church. The youngest was later baptized when he turned 8 years old.  It was the influence of good friends and the fellowshipping of ward members that were instrumental in the conversion of the five Larsen children. The legacy of their conversion is impressive:

·         2 of the 5 children served fulltime missions

·         3 couples’ mission were served

·         All 5 Larsen children were sealed in the temple

·         13 grandchildren served fulltime missions

·         19 grandchildren were sealed in the temple

·         There are currently 66 great grandchildren of Phyllis and LoRen Larsen

·         I am the fourth great grandchild to serve a mission…and there are many, many more to come

 My grandmother was also a convert to the church. Granny was the oldest of three girls born to a Methodist family in Red Bank, New Jersey. Gran’s best friend was LDS and she often attended church activities. Around that time, my grandpa was stationed at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey and he attended the same branch that my grandmother was attending. My grandpa, along with other ward members, were key in helping to influence and fellowship my grandmother and when she was 17 she and her younger sisters were baptized into the Church.

 Brothers and Sisters, it was missionary work done by members many decades ago that is the reason I am standing here today.  President David O McKay once proclaimed “Every member a missionary” and it has never been truer than it is today. In the last Conference President Monson said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.

As President Monson stated, the Lord has prepared a multitude of ways to share the Gospel. This point was clearly illustrated in a letter I received from my mission president a month ago. President Alba wrote: “Much has changed very quickly in missionary work and our mission is no exception. The California Santa Rosa Mission has been chosen to be the very first mission in the world to receive the new “Hastening “ devices. We call them the 88:73s; as in D&C 88:73 which says: “For behold, I will hasten my work in its time.” President Alba continues, “The time is now…..the hastening has begun and you will be a big part of it. We are the first mission in the world to go global. We are the first mission in the world without boundaries. We are spreading the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. We are fulfilling prophecy.”

 It’s very exciting to imagine all the possibilities that technology can bring to missionary work and I am looking forward to be a part of this work.  You don’t need to have a nametag to do missionary work. Most of us already have hastening devices and we can all be part of the world wide missionary effort.

 Elder S. Gifford Nielson also gave some advice on how members can participate in missionary work. His game plan consisted of three points. First, specifically pray for someone to be brought closer to the savior. Second, pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day. To do this you must greet the missionaries, learn their names, and ask them whom they are teaching.  And thirdly invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home, which I believe is the best way for youth to extend a hand of fellowship to others. Invite them to a camping trip or mutual. If there are two things a young man can’t resist its basketball and free food.

Brothers and Sisters, it is my hope and prayer that as I am serving my mission, that each of you will consider how you can do missionary work. Whether it be inviting less active members over for dinner, or even something as simple as posting a church video or a scripture on Facebook, because your actions might touch somebody, and could result in someone like me coming into the world… now don’t let that scare you, I know a world with a bunch of Haydens running around is a frightening thought and a sure sign of the second coming, but don’t let it dissuade you from missionary work.

Brothers and sisters, I want to bare my testimony that I know this church is the true church of the Lord, and I know that President Thomas S Monson is the mouthpiece of Heavenly Father. I know the lowering of the missionary age is the Lord hastening his work upon the Earth. There are a multitude of people on this earth that are ready to receive the gospel, but the missionaries cant cover all of them, so we need everyone to be a missionary so no ear with go untaught and no eye will be unopened. And this I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.