Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Pharisees and a New iPad

Happy Thursday everyone!

I had a really busy week and a half. We taught almost 30 lesson last week! We had an amazing lesson with our investigator Ramone about the plan of salvation. He told us he tried using an app that tells you which religion you're best suited for and his came up as LDS! If an answer like that coming from an app that's free on the AppStore isn't revelation from God, then I don't know what is! The only unfortunate part about the lesson is that the member who went with us went deep doctrine and talked to Ramone about the earth being celestialized. No investigator needs to know that! That's too deep for them to understand! This is why having a member present scares me sometimes. We only need to teach the doctrine of Christ to our investigators. This doctrine of Christ is stupid simple. It's so simple, it's stupid. At least the Pharisees thought it was. I taught in district meeting last week about the doctrine of Christ, and one of the first things I did was type "doctrine" into the gospel library search bar. Why not, right? Just about everything that it came up was in the New Testament and was from the four gospels. In many of the references it included the phrase: "they were astonished by his doctrine." It occurred to me that the Pharisees were so astounded by what Jesus taught the people, not because it was mind-boggingly complicated, but because the teachings of Christ are so simple that even a child can understand: faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. I can see the Pharisees just standing there thinking: "Seriously... That's it? That's lame!" It's not complex or hard to understand - the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the epitome of simplicity.

I went on exchanges with the Greenie in my District, Elder Lamunyon. We went to a lesson in his area with a recently baptized 8-year-old girl. We taught her the first lesson, the Restoration, and got to the third principle which is about prophets. It was Elder Lamunyon's turn and he asked her if she knew what priesthood keys were, and then proceeded to explain them. Priesthood keys are not something someone teaches to a little girl. It made me think of how green I used to be and how far I've come in 15 short months. I've grown a lot since I came out on a mission. It's helped me in ways that going right to college wouldn't have been able to provide. It's helped me to think about others more than myself. Missionary lifestyle doesn't leave any room for selfishness. The whole purpose of embarking on a mission is to serve the Lord and serve others. I read this really great talk by Elder Holland, "Are we Not all Beggars?", which is very inspiring. I invite all to read it!

 So many people came to church on Sunday! It was great! Alfonso and his kids, two other less actives, and one of the Ellis families all showed up! Also, our recent convert, Van Meno, received the Aaronic priesthood. It was suuuch a good day!

Okay, many new announcements... So we are getting a new white handbook, which for those of you who don't know, is the missionary guideline handbook. The mission is also receiving new iPads that we actually keep after our mission, but I'm sure my mommy already knows this since she's most likely already paid for it. (This is Elder Ellis' mom and this is the first I've heard about the iPads. It must have been paid for by a generous benefactor. Thank you!!!) Using Facebook to proselyte is totally pointless now. We can only proselyte to people in our assigned area and can't be friends with anyone outside the mission. If I can only use Facebook to talk to people in Napa 1st Ward, then why not just go knock on their doors? The Santa Rosa Mission isn't even the same mission it was when I got here, it's completely unrecognizable.

I went with Elder Nichols on Sunday to talk to the Walkenhorsts. Darren Walkenhorst was in The District 1 videos that missionaries watch to learn about how to be a missionary. So that was pretty cool! Elder Chan and I, Elders Tognetti and Moua, and Nichols and Lamunyon tried out a creative finding idea. We went to downtown Napa and drew the plan of salvation on the ground in chalk. Be creative with missionary work! Missionary work doesn't have to just be tracting!

I started feeling sick on Sunday and Monday.  I caught a bit of a cold and I still have it! The members and investigators around here are pretty funny - when people found out I had a slight cold, they all started loading me up with tons of vitamin C supplements and cold medicine. I feel so loved.

I had zone conference on Tuesday. I felt the spirit very strongly during it and I learned much. The main thing I took away from it, though, is how great of a mission president I have. President Alba is an incredibly hard worker and has all my respect. I'm really lucky to have such an exemplary individual as a leader and example in my missionary work. President Alba is without a doubt going to become a General Authority. The work is really beginning to take a toll on him. I can't wait for him to go home in June just so he can finally relax. He has a much deserved break coming his way.

Elder Chan and I went to visit a Native American investigator we have named Gina. The lesson ran an hour and a half, and the two of us probably talked for a collective 10 minutes of it. Oh my, she can talk! I feel fairly informed about the Native American's religion now. She even gave us yellow medicine, which is a type of medicinal tea leaf. Am I going to drink it? Of course not. But I accepted it just for the experience! A Native American gave me tea. I'm pretty sure I'm a honorary Cherokee now!

Hannah Ward, congratulations on your mission call!

Hope everyone has a great half-week!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, February 23, 2015

Flash Gordon and Loving Mom

Elders Chan and Ellis with Flash Gordon

Hey everyone!

Sorry party people, I forgot to mention last week that my p-day this week is on Thursday since we are going to the temple that day. So weeks that we have a temple trip we don't have p-day on Monday. Anyway, my email shall be coming on Thursday!

Lots of crazy stuff happening right now which I'm sure my mother is already partially aware of. Speaking of my mother,  I love her a lot! Everyone read the October 1973 General Conference talk, "Behold thy Mother," by Thomas S. Monson. It's good. It's very good. I'll talk to you all on Thursday!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Significant Valentine's Day and Adversity

No caption needed

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day! Does everybody know what this V-day signified for me? It is the last Valentine's Day that I'm mandated to spend all day with a dude. Yes! And yeah, Mom, I got both packages. The shirts fit well and I really like the snacks you sent! Thanks, Mom! I'm so glad you'll be starting your new job soon. You have endured well, thou good and faithful mother.

We had awesome miracles this week. We had some amazing lessons, one with Kara, one with a new investigator named Stephen, and one with an investigator named Tanya. We had such a powerful lesson with her. We planned to teach her about the restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith. Before the lesson she started smoking, which I mention because it comes into play later. Elder Chan taught her about the Great Apostasy and about having proper Priesthood authority. Then I taught her about Joseph Smith and his experience and she was totally with it. She really understood Joseph's question about why there are so many churches around because she often wonders that herself. Once I finished teaching about the restoration, Elder Chan testified about what I taught being true. The amazing part is she then testified to us that what we said was true! That Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and was called by them to be a prophet. She even said that she felt good and didn't have the urge to smoke a cigarette at that time. I've never had someone testify to me that what I was saying was true before. We almost didn't know what to do at that point. It was an amazing lesson and we invited her to come to church and she was all for it! That being said, we called Tanya Saturday night to remind her about church and she spitefully told us she wants to stay Christian and that she doesn't want any more visits or calls from us. I have no idea how she went from super solid to dropping us. Needless to say, we are pretty bummed about it but things like that happen. We just need to have confidence that the Lord has a plan even if we can't see it yet. We had another lesson with Brenda that went as expected. She didn't read the four verses in Nephi we bade her to read, and then when I read them with her, she got caught on one tiny little detail she didn't agree with and went on a rant. "He says right here he wrote this with his own knowledge, so he's saying he's not inspired by God, so he's not a prophet. You won't ever find that line written by the prophets in the bible. Nope, none of the prophets wrote that. Not Moses, or Abraham, Adam, or Mark, James, Mathew. None of them." We could've pointed out that half those men aren't prophets, but apostles, and that Abraham and Adam don't have any of their own writing in the Bible. But needless to say, that wouldn't have helped anything at all. So Elder Chan just kinda cut her off and said, "that's a very interesting perspective" - which apparently is a go-to one-liner that Chinese people are taught to say when they don't understand what a white person is saying. So I took advantage of the subject change, told her to call us if she wanted to learn more about the Book of Mormon, and left. We decided to drop her then. Every lesson we have with her is ridiculous. The first one we had with her Elder Chan showed her a video about how families can be together forever and she disliked it because she doesn't get along with her family. So I'm not sure why we tried teaching her as long as we did, because even though lessons with her are entertaining, they go absolutely no where. So sorry everyone, no more amusing anecdotes about Brenda.

It's interesting you bring up adversity, Mom. I've been talking about that a lot with missionaries lately. One missionary, Elder Lamunyon, is brand new, straight off the plane. And he's having struggles with his trainer, Elder Nichols. They just couldn't be more different. Elder Nichols loves to hunt, Elder Lamunyon loves animals - just not dead ones. That's just one example of how little they have in common. Plus, Elder Lamunyon has Asperger's Syndrome, so of course that makes him even more interesting to work with. Last night I was with Elder Lamunyon and we were talking about how he's having a hard time. I told him that the companions he doesn't get along with are the ones who will help him grow and learn the most. Having a companion who's perfectly like you is great and all, but the ones you struggle with are the ones who prepare you the most for the rest of your life. Trials help us grow. My zone leader, Elder Despain, shared with us at zone conference that temptations are from the adversary and trials are from God, which is so true. Don't be upset or bitter when life throws a curveball at you. It just means God loves you enough to let you go through a trial, in order to help you become who He knows you're capable of becoming. Always trust in God, because he will never lead you astray.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sushi and the Restoration

Elder Ellis and his Italian Mafia
A photo sent by a member in the Napa 1st Ward

Happy Valentine's Day!

Great googily moogily, my ward loves the snot at out of us! One member took us to dinner at this sushi place in downtown Napa and he ordered $138 of sushi. Never thought I could eat enough sushi to fill me up! It was pretty funny, while we were sitting there eating, we noticed a tour bus stop and a ton of Chinese people got off with their cameras. They proceeded to walk into the Japanese restaurant and started taking a bunch of pictures of everything. Really? You come from China to California to take pictures of a Japanese restaurant? That seems rather counterintuitive. Though I digress. My ward is fantastic,everyone loves us and takes care of us. Our dinner calendar was already full by the first week of this month. We have a really great ward that's very missionary-minded.

I have learned to be even more careful about overestimating the understanding of my investigators. Elder Chan and I were teaching a women we picked up a week prior named Tammie. Our game plan was to teach her about the restoration, specifically about the first vision, which I would do, then Elder Chan would invite her to pray about the things we taught her. When I had gotten to the part where Joseph Smith was going to the woods to pray Tammie was still with me comprehension-wise. Then I recited the first vision to her in Joseph's own words, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" Right when I finished I asked her what she thought was happening from what I said and she, with tears in her eyes, firmly proclaimed "He died". "Uhhhhh, not quite. Love the enthusiasm though, keep that going." It helped me realize how simply I need to teach to people. I can't assume everyone knows what I'm talking about right away.

Another unfortunate event involved Elder Chan and me teaching a women named Brenda. Brenda has a very interesting perspective about church. She doesn't believe in coming to church since Christ didn't have a name for his teachings when he was on the earth. At least according to her, that's why she doesn't attend church. Really it's because she hasn't had good experiences with different churches. Example: Elder Chan and I were teaching her about the Book of Mormon, and I asked her if she thinks God would provide another set of scriptures for his children. I made sure to phrase it in a way where she couldn't misunderstand it as anything other than a yes or no question. She proceeded to go off about paying tithing in another church and how they would take the parishioners tithing for themselves. She ranted about this for 30 minutes - absolutely no dialogue from us. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally managed to find enough open air to say, "I just asked you if you think the book could be true or not..." She then just gave me a half shrug and that was the lesson. Fantastic.

We had stake conference yesterday and something was said that was particularly powerful. One of the speakers shared a story where Elder Holland went to the MTC to speak to the missionaries, and was informed one of them wanted to go home. When he heard this he stopped right in the middle of his talk and addressed the missionary. He said, "I don't know who you are, but don't you quit. Don't you ever quit. Everything I am, and will become was because I served a mission." And I know how true that is. It's the reason I decided to return to California. I knew how much my mission still had to offer me, and how much I had to offer to the Lord. I know there's a lot of work I still need to do in the short 9 months I have left.

Lots of Love. Cordially, Elder Hayden Ellis, Esquire.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Rant and a Ripstick

Elders Sutterfield, Tepox, Chan, Moua, Guthrie and me.

Elder Moua and me taking some tool selfies.

So I've had an exhausting week. Every night my pillow beckons to me with immense persuasion. Elder Chan and I have been working really hard these past couple of weeks! Our ward-mission leader, Brother Pike, actually got up and bore his testimony yesterday about how we are the hardest working missionaries he's ever had - which leads me to believe he's had some pretty bad missionaries if I was able to beat them :-) I have such a great ward! I really love the people here, and they really love us, so it's a good two-way street. We got transfer doctrine and Elder Chan and I are staying together another transfer so I'm happy about that. BUT, what I'm not at all happy about is they closed one of my areas! They closed the Cordelia 2.5 area! I'm so upset! Many tears...

Well, we possibly have several baptism coming up soon. By soon I mean within the next couple of months, probably after I leave. But, hey as long as they get baptized at some point, right? One of our investigators with a baptismal date, Rhett, will get off probation in April and will be able to be baptized then. So that's a pretty sure thing, as long as we can get him to start coming to church again. My ward is a little cautious with baptisms now since many missionaries would dunk someone who wasn't ready, (and on occasion unaccountable, that's happened more than once here) and numerous recent converts have dropped off after only a few weeks of being a member. So we are being very careful of who we think is ready to join the church. We have found multiple people who have a lot of potential to be baptized in the upcoming months. We are going to start teaching three grandsons of one of our members who haven't been baptized and frankly, we feel inclined to fix that. It's really complicated why they haven't been dunked yet, which entail reasons of divorce and whatnot, but they are totally ready.

It's been a very good week for developing skills for me! Elder Chan and I have been running laps around Fuller Park every morning for the last two weeks and now I can run 2.5 miles before wanting to die! Remarkable improvement! Also I have learned to play a new song on the piano which I shall video and send home. I believe Stephen will particularly find joy from this song. Not to mention, I've learned how to ride a Ripstick, which is a skateboard with two wheels. It may be a totally useless talent to have, but I have it now!

I really don't like sending negative things home in my emails, but that being said, I'm very frustrated with some of the leadership in my mission right now (not President and Sister Alba though). It's frustrating because they seem to be more concerned about getting 20 contacts everyday so we can "win the game" and look good. And unfortunately, I don't see them leading by example on many things. I have learned a really important lesson as a result: there are two types of people in this world - the ones who get ahead by working hard and earning responsibilities, and those who just slack off and kiss up to authority and are good at looking like they are effective but really aren't. I really don't want to be the latter. I don't want to be that guy who glides through life and gets everything without earning it. I mean I already didn't want to do that, but now that I've seen it in action, I really don't want to be that guy! Kids, the moral of this diatribe is: work and work hard. And when you can't work any harder, still work harder. Because if you get somewhere you didn't earn, you won't be the right person for the job. That's your daily life lesson brought to you by Elder Ellis.

Well sorry for the rant but wanted to get that off my chest. Glad everything is going well at home! Pats and claps all around! Love you all!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis