Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Rainy Season is Here!

Received May 25, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope that you are all doing just great. It has been a wet and rainy week this past week here in Puerto Rico. I think you could say that we are in the rainy season. It has rained really hard for the past week now. And it has been raining for a few hours already today. It is so beautiful and it feels so amazing to be in that cool rain. It feels like taking a nice warm shower. And it makes it really fun to be a missionary. I just want you all to know how much I love this work. Thanks to all of you for supporting me in my journey to this point. There has been nothing more incredible to me in my life besides my mission. Nothing has been more important other than my family. Please GO ON A MISSION! It is the only thing that you could ever do to try and give back a little of what the Savior has given you. I love Him! He lives! And there is nothing better than being one of His servants in these last days.

This week has been an incredible week for us. We have had several meetings where we have studied and discussed prayer and faith. We read some scriptures in the Book of Mormon that talk about how our Heavenly Father is capable of doing His own work but that He lets us to grow and struggle to do it along side Him so that we can come to know Him more. We talked a lot about faith and prayer and how prayer is not just pleading for a wish list from the Lord but that it is seeking His will. We also communicate with him and act upon the promptings we receive in response to those supplications that we made. These were some incredible learning experiences for our group, especially with what we are doing right now (with the Sons of Mosiah project).

Last Wednesday we put our new learning to the test. Elder Zenger and I had been a little discouraged because some of the people in our area we have met have decided to stop listening to us, or they have just picked up and moved to the Dominican Republic, which happens sometimes. But we knew that this is the Lord's work and He is capable of doing what He wants. We just needed to seek out His will and then act with Him and go for it. That night, before we went out to search for families, we promised that we would talk to every family that we saw. We asked that He would bless us with a family to teach. Then we went out and went to work. At the end of the night, the last house that we called out to, a sweet Dominican man named Freddy answered. And he invited us up to his balcony to talk with him and his wife. We talked about families and we talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We invited them to take the challenge to test our words and invited them to be baptized if they were found to be true. And they accepted the invitation. We returned a few more times throughout the week and things have been just going great. Last night we shared the good news of the restoration of the true gospel. We had invited one of the recent converts in the ward to be with us and help us share our testimonies. It was one of the most powerful lessons that we have had in our time here. I also had a new missionary working with me because they came in yesterday and are awaiting transfers. Anyways, with all of us there, the spirit was so strong. They understood the lesson so well. And when we told the story of Joseph Smith, Maria, Freddy's wife, just kept saying "wow." At the end of the lesson she talked about how she had grown up with parents who attended two different churches and had always wondered which of them to be true. She said that I promised myself that when I found the truth I would follow it for the rest of my life. We left them with the invitation to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. I know God will answer their prayers because I know that this is His work. I know that we were led to them. I know that He answered all of our prayers, both ours and hers. I know that this family will someday become an eternal family and I will be forever blessed to be able to have known them.

Our tradeoff experience this week was absolutely incredible, I was in Caguas with Elder Gines and Elder Delgado. Elder Gines is from St. George and actually played baseball with Uncle Chris. Anyways, they are both fairly new missionaries. Elder Gines is in like his 3rd transfer and is training Elder Delgado. I went in knowing that we could really have some neat experiences together and all grow a little closer and I was so excited. In the morning they were doing their weekly planning session and we began to talk about baptismal dates. They talked about how it is hard for them to invite people to be baptized in the first lesson because they feel that the investigators don't know everything that they need to know to make that decision. So we talked a little about it, searched about it in the scriptures, and then went to work. I was praying all day that we would be able to have some growing experiences and I was absolutely amazed at how the Lord set forth His hand and blessed us with one of the most incredible days that I have had in my mission.

The first visit we made was a young man that we found. His name is Samuel. We found him and talked to him a little about the plan of salvation. He said that he wanted to know what will happen to him after this life. We explained the plan to him and then I led our discussion to the importance of following the Lord and demonstrating that faith through a covenant that we make at baptism. Then I left the rest to Elder Gines and Elder Delgado. And I was so blessed to feel the power in Elder Gines' invitation. It wasn't the most perfect invitation Spanish-wise but the spirit was just there, and Samuel couldn't deny what he was felling. He said, "yes" and explained that he said yes because of what he was feeling. He said those were the feelings that he was looking for in his life. After that we went and visited one of their continuing investigators. When we arrived there Elder Delgado couldn't wait to invite the man to get baptized. We were in the middle of the lesson about the restoration and he just jumped out and invited him. It caught the man a little off guard but once again the spirit was just there and he couldn't deny it. He said "yes."

The last appointment of the night was just incredible. We went to visit a less active family for the first time. The mom is a member and was baptized like 20 years ago. The dad was really warm and receptive and fun. We sat down and talked for a bit and then the dad asked what is going to happen to me after this life. He said, "I love my family and I want to be with them forever. Tell me how I can. I am 40 years-old and I smoke. I don't like how I feel and I want to change all that I need a change in my life. But I don't know what I can do. Please help me." I was shocked! The missionaries in years past had probably passed by their home lots of times, but it just happened to be on this night that he was prepared for us. We talked about the Atonement and the Doctrine of Christ and he accepted the challenge to be baptized. I wish that you could have seen the excitement in the faces of these Elders. Elder Gines said that he finally understood why we invited people to be baptized in the first lesson and Elder Delgado said that, for the first time in his mission, he had a spiritual experience. I was just so thankful that the Lord had answered my prayers and that we were able to have a great building experience together.

I love you all and I am so thankful for all you do. I know that Jesus Christ is the Head of this work. I know that He is the Savior of the world and that it is through, and only through Him, that we will ever be able to be with our families forever.

Have a fantastic week all of you and know how much I love you.

I left my Voice in Tortola

Received May 18, 2011

Good morning Everyone!

I hope that you all are having a fantastic week so far. Things here are going so well. This morning we had a great district meeting with the sons of Mosiah and with President Alvarado and members of the mission presidency. It was absolutely incredible. We talked about prayer and about how heartfelt and sincere prayer is important to our work. It is just as much a part of the work here as talking to people and teaching lessons. It was a really great meeting. Elder Zenger and I have been searching for what more we could do for our area and for the investigators and less actives with whom we are working. What we learned today was an important answer to our prayers and pleas for help that we might be successful in this assignment. So we are really excited to put what we learned today into practice and I know that we are going to see some huge miracles.

A lot of you have asked and are wondering about Tortola and our experience there so I will start by sharing a little bit about it with you. Tortola was great! It is one of the British Virgin Islands which means they talk a type of English that you can hardly understand and they drive on the wrong side of the road. It was great to be there. It reminded me a lot of Curacao. It is a lot greener than Aruba and Curacao were but the humility of the people was just as great. The scenery is just amazing! Off in the distance are all of the other Virgin Islands and every house is built on the hills facing the bays and looking off to those other islands. It doesn't matter where you are on the island, everything points out to that great view. It was such a blessing to be able to marvel at just how impressive the creations of the Lord are. I wish you could have seen it because it was absolutely incredible! We got there on Friday morning and had some fun experiences. The senior couple came to pick us up but our flight was delayed and they had to run and met somebody on another island. So the Branch Mission Leader came to pick us up. He gave us some keys and wished us luck and we were on our way. We thought that we would be staying with the senior couple missionaries but when we tried the key in their door it didn't work. Luckily the window was propped open a little so we broke in hoping and praying that it was the right apartment. Fortunately it was. Anyways, we went and got some food for the weekend and then went out to work. Our Branch Mission Leader had a flight to catch when we got there and the Branch President is the husband in the senior couple so we were kind of without direction. But we just went for it and were blessed to be able to find some great families. We eventually met up with the senior couple in Friday night and they told us that the reason we couldn't get into the apartment was because the keys were for another apartment. We had no idea that the other apartment was still open in the area so that was the start of our weekend, but things turned out great.

We spent most of the weekend working with three young men who are at, or approaching, missionary age. They were doing great! There was one particular young man that everyone in the Branch was really worried about because he had been saying recently that he wasn't sure if he wanted to go on a mission. We went with one of the other young men to visit him and we talked about the miracle of the mission and what a blessing it is to be able to be one of the missionaries dedicated to serving the Lord full-time. We talked about how we were called before we were born to do this important work and what a miracle it is to be able to meet and work with people, many of whom you just know that you knew before this earth life and whom you promised that you would find and bring to the truth. The spirit was so strong and when we left him he had a huge smile and was full of desire to serve the Lord, it was great.

The youth here are just so great. We walked into the early morning seminary class on Monday and I was shocked to see eight youth gathered there. This is on an island with a population of probably 10,000 people. And they had that many kids in seminary!?! I was shocked. Church on Sunday was just incredible. We walked into the Priesthood class and I was just blown away by the spirit that I felt. There were probably only 40 or so members meeting together on the third floor of the office building that the church uses. But it was such a strong spirit. It was the first English Sacrament Meeting that I have experienced in two years and I was just amazed at how strong the spirit was. I was amazed at how much things have changed during these two years for me. Church seems like a totally different experience now than it ever has.

There was one family that we visited that afternoon. There are two young men in the family who were the first ones baptized. Their mom is Hindu. But last week she threw her Hindu things into the ocean and said that this is what her family needed. She said that her family needed to have the church in their life and she was willing to give up her traditional beliefs so that she could be with her family forever. One of the young men was really sweet. He sits in front of his house and the family told us that when people walk by they ask him who he is what he is doing, He replies by saying, "I am a child of God. And He wants me to be like Him." Pretty profound stuff for a 10 year-old. But that is just a taste of the kind of people that we met on our journey to Tortola.

We did a lot of work with the less active members. We met one family in particular. The Dawsom family. They live at the very top of Tortola. We had to hike up a huge hill that went straight up to get to their house. But once we arrived we were able to have an incredible lesson. Brother Dawsom had served a mission and Sister Dawsom was baptized when they were married. They have a son who was 8 years-old and is preparing for baptism. It was a great opportunity to sit down with them and talk about the reason why we get baptized. Really that is the same reason that we do anything that we do in the church, to follow the Savior. The family just moved from here from South Africa. We talked about the temple and they said that it was where they wanted to be and we challenged them to set a date and make a goal to get to the temple as soon as they could!

The highlight of the trip was working with Chela and Alex. Chela has been listening to the missionaries for years. Alex has a brother who is a member of the church and served a mission. The brother just got married in the temple. Chela and Alex have been together for seven years now. Chela has set a couple of baptismal dates but told us that she just wasn't ready at those times. Anyway, we called them the night we arrived in Tortola and she invited us to come over and visit. When we arrived on Saturday it was obvious that the Lord had prepared them to receive our message. We sat down and talked about what they were searching for and talked about how King Benjamin's people found peace and joy after receiving a remission of their sins. We explained the doctrine he taught his people concerning humility and repentance and sincerely seeking to know and follow Jesus Christ. When we are prepared to do that we enter a covenant and invited them to be baptized. Chela looked us in the eyes and said, "I have been thinking about this lately. I need to make this change in my life and I am going to do it this time. This is what I need in my life."

Alex, who was listening to the missionaries teach for the first time, said that he had been searching for the truth his whole life. He said he sees his brother and sees the happiness that his brother has in his life since he has chosen to join the church and said that he feels and wants that in his own life. He said that he still had a lot that he needed to learn but he really liked what he was feeling and that that he, along with Chela, knows that there is a change that he needs to make in his life. They have a baptismal date for the 2nd of July and they are really excited to get there. When we told the senior couple that they had two new investigators with baptismal dates they were very excited. I went with them to visit with Alex and Chela on Monday night before we left Tortola and we had an excellent lesson. Alex said that he wanted to read and pray about the Book of Mormon because he knew that was the only way that he would be able to know that it was truly from God. It was amazing that it was Alex who said this and that we did not have to point this out and ask him to seek this confirmation himself. I think I can count on one less than one hand the number of times that somebody has said that they have wanted to to do that. It was such an incredible blessing to see that the Lord has prepared the way for this family to accept the gospel of the Savior into their lives. It is exactly what the Branch in Tortola needs. They have been struggling for a while now and to have these new families is going to get them all excited about helping with the missionary work.

All in all the trip was absolutely incredible. It was such a blessing to be among more of the Lord's children and to be able to see, just as I have seen everywhere else, that it doesn't matter who you are are. It doesn't matter what kind of possessions you have. Or what kind of things you have done in your life. Our Heavenly Father loves us all and wants the best for us. He wants us to be happy and is always willing to bless us with the truth when we are ready to receive it!

I know that Savior lives! I know that He suffered for us and gave His life for us that we could find peace and joy in this life and with Him and our Father in the eternities. The Book of Mormon testifies of Him. The Book of Mormon is true and I know that without a doubt. I know that because the Book of Mormon is true, and because Joseph Smith was a prophet, that I can be together with my family forever, which is the greatest blessing that I could ever imagine.

I love you all so much. Keep us in your prayers. I hope that you have a fantastic week!

Hope it was a Happy Mother's Day

Received May 11, 2011

Dear Family and Friends!

I hope that all of you wonderful mothers and grandmothers, wives and daughters, had a fantastic Mother's Day this past Sunday. It was such a sweet experience to be able to talk to you mom! I love you so much! It was great to hear all of your voices. You all sound like you are doing so great and you are really excited for what is to come in the future! I hope that the rest of you had a great day as well and that all of you mothers felt appreciated and loved.

Mom had an interesting question in her email today. She said that it was the Mexican Mother's Day yesterday and that in France they will celebrate it in two weeks. She asked if it was like that here in Puerto Rico or if it was just the same as the states. Because of the influence of the US here, most of the holidays are the same. So when you have Labor Day there, we have Labor Day here too. So Mother's Day was on Sunday. However, the area where I am currently serving is full of Dominicans and so . . . they celebrate on the last Sunday of the month instead of the second Sunday of the month like we do. Just a little tidbit of info for y'all. And sorry mom, as much as I would love to be able to call you again that day, they aren't going to let us do that. But know that I love you nonetheless!

This past week was great for Elder Zenger and I. We are still trying to find some solid families to get this new unit going in the San Juan area, I have never worked so hard in all of my life. We are all giving it all that we have and I can't wait to see the miracles that are going to come of it all. Some of the families that we are working with have fallen a bit but our faith is still high and we are going to keep moving forward knowing that the Lord is going to bless us.

Mom and dad and Fam, I told you this story on Sunday but its a really good one so I am going to repeat it for you and everyone else who did not hear it. This Sunday, for the first time in months, maybe even a year, we had the Antigua family return to church. I'm not sure if I have told you about them but last week during church, we left to go and find those that had committed to come but who did not show up. We got to their house and we asked them what time it was. We pointed out that we weren't in church and they asked us why we had left. And we told them that we left church for them. That the Lord had sent us to find them. Elder Zenger and I have come to realize that we don't have a lot of time to beat around the bush. There isn't a lot of time for us to gradually help people see that they aren't keeping the commandments we just have to tell them they are not and challenge them to do it. But make sure that we do it in the most loving way possible. We talked to them about how wickedness never was happiness and the spirit was very strong as we spoke. We showed them in the scriptures the blessings that await those who keep the commandments and that some blessings are not available to those who don't. We learn so much about humility, enduring to the end, and exercising our faith to follow Heavenly Father that will bless us with more peace and joy in our lives if we keep the commandments. That hope, confidence, peace, and joy may not come to us to the full extent available of we fail to keep the commandments. This is the blessing that we fail to obtain when we are disobedient to the commandments and the covenants that we have made. At the end of the lesson they committed to come back to church. After the commitment I asked the Hermana, "why do you want to come back to church?" And she said, "I don't want to lose my family." I guess when the truth is understood it changes behavior.

We were so excited we couldn't keep our excitement down. As I mentioned, one of the families that we are working with informed us that they would be moving back to the Dominican Republic. That had us a little down but we kept up our faith. We knew that we had been doing all that the Lord had asked of us and that He was going to bless them. The next day we passed by a family that we had talked to last week, the Luna family. They are such a solid family. They are a great mother and father and three just incredible kids. A lot of the youth here in Puerto Rico are kind of lost. They aren't really sure where they are going and they aren't really sure who they want to be. But this family is "just spot-on." They know what they want and they are looking for it. We sat down with them on the first night and shared with them the Proclamation to the World on the Family. They loved it and had all sorts of questions about eternal families and how our families can be together forever. We talked a little about Joseph Smith and about how the power and authority had been restored in our day because our Heavenly Father loves us and wants the best for us. On Sunday we went back and shared a little bit more. We talked about the Book of Mormon and they were all so excited to read it. We told them that it was the key to knowing whether Joseph Smith was a prophet and whether the gospel of Christ did indeed provide that our families could be together forever. We are going to pass by once again tonight and we know that the meetings we have had have been filled with the spirit and that they are seeking the truth with real intent. Things have been going great and its going to be just incredible. Even though we took a hit with the loss of the Espinal family, we have been blessed to have the opportunity to find a truly prepared family. Keep them in your prayers. At this point in the game we are running a two minute drill and there is not a lot of time to waste, so yeah. We need all the help that we can get.

Yesterday we had a really neat experience with this man named Fernando. He is a Seventh-Day Adventist. We had passed by on Saturday and he told us that he was going to be getting baptized soon. We asked if we could share a message about baptism. He said that he wanted to ask his Pastor first. So we went back yesterday he said that his Pastor said that it would be a waste of time, that we didn't believe in Christ and didn't preach the truth. You know all of that distorted jazz that seems to have misled even the best of us. Anyways, we asked him if we could still share a quick message with him and he invited us in. For those of you who know me, you know I like to argue and I like to win, It was hard for Elder Zenger and I to both hold back with this man but we tried our hardest to insure that the spirit was there and to love and teach so that it would stay with us. We talked about the Savior for the entire time and talked about how we were there to help him come to know the Savior more fully. At the end of the lesson we had covered the restoration and had done so without a single bit of contention. Knowing who I am inside at times, and my tendency to want to win the debate, I was shocked at our ability to let the spirit teach the truth to this man's soul. Our words would have been so inadequate alone, even though they were right.

At the end Fernando said, "I have one thing I want to tell you." He said, "I have felt the Lord here with me so strongly today as you have been here. I want you to know that I am going to keep working towards baptism. But I love what I am feeling and I want you to come back anytime that you are here because I would love to feel what I am feeling again." We testified to him that he was feeling the spirit and that it was testifying to him about the truth. We walked away and I was so happy. Fernando probably didn't understand. In fact, I know that he didn't understand completely what we had explained to him. But he had recognized the strong spirit that was present which was testifying to him of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. And he said that he wanted to feel that more in his life. This is exactly what we are here to do and we couldn't be more excited that we swallowed our natural instinct to become defensive and refute the untruths that were told Fernando by his Pastor.

I know that this is the work of our Heavenly Father. I know that He loves His children and I know that we are constantly being guided in his work to those who are looking for the truth but only don't know whwere to find it!

I love you all so much! I hope that you all have a fantastic week!

Wish me luck as we head off to Tortola . . . Oh yeah . . . I forgot to tell you. I'm off to Tortola. If you have questions, Dad will tell you what's up.

Adios mis amigos,

Les amo un monton

Tu misionero Favorito

Elder Oviatt

It's Mother's Day this week?????

Received May 4, 2011

Dear Family and Friends!

I hope that all of you are doing so great. It was a great blessing to be able to hear from all of you and hear about all that is going on back at home. I can't believe that Trent went to prom already. That is so crazy to me. But hey buddy, you look great in your pictures and I hope you had a blast! By the look of things, it appears that it might have been a little cold. You'll have to tell me all about it. I hope it went well.

I just got done talking with a less active member here in the library at the university. It was a really neat experience. We just sat down and he started talking to us. "Hey elders!" he said (which is always a surprise). I was especially surprised because he just didn't look the type of person that would know the missionaries. We talked to him for a little bit but he looked busy and we are all trying to get done as fast as we can. But after he finished on his computer he came up to me and asked if we could talk for a little bit. We went and found a place where we could talk quietly and we talked for a bit about all that is going on in his life. It was a really neat experience. We talked about the basic three" prayer, scriptures, and church. He talked about how he was cold and that he knew he needed to get warm and revive his heart as far as his activity level in church goes. I told him that if he would do those three things, there is no way that he couldn't heat up. He said that he has really missed the gospel in his life and he wants to come back. He said that he would come play some ball with us today so we will see how it goes. But because I had that visit with him, I am running a little behind. So I am sure that this email will be a little shorter today. But don't worry, the sacrifice is for a good cause.

This past week was a great week for us. We have been working so hard with the families that we already have found. And with the goals that we have for our Sons of Mosiah project we are seeking more. That is all we are looking to find. Families, families, families, families . . . and this past week we have been blessed by some of the miracles that we have received from the Lord.

I think I told you guys about the family Espinal last week. They were the Dominican family that we found on the way to their friends house. And when their friend wasn't there, they invited us in to talk a little bit more. This past week we were sitting with them and Elder Zenger and I both had the feeling that we needed to talk about our purpose as missionaries and that we needed to tell them why we were there. We talked about baptism and they seemed really interested in what we were talking about. We taught them about the example of Jesus Christ and the importance that it was that we make the decision to be baptized for ourselves when we were accountable because it is a covenant we make with the Lord. That decision cannot be really following the example of the Savior and making a personal covenant with Heavenly Father when that decisions is made for us. The Domincan Republic is exactly like her, even the pets are Catholic. So it was really neat as they began to understand the doctrine and as it began to click the real purpose for baptism. There was such a neat spirit there. When we invited them to follow the example of Jesus Christ and prepare for baptism and the making of a covenant, it was just so easy. There wasn't anything to doubt. They said "of course we will prepare for that."

Once again the Lord blessed us and put us in the path of somebody who needed to hear the message of the restored gospel. A family who needs this more now than ever. A family who needs to truly know Jesus Christ and all that He truly did for us. And a family who needs to know how they can be together forever. We passed by last night and reminded them about why we were coming to visit and they all seemed really excited about their baptism. We talked about the Book of Mormon last night and the grandma was a little hesitant to accept anything at the start. "I only believe in the bible," she said. We told her to just give it a try after explaining to her what the book was. By the time we left she wouldn't give me back my triple combination. We had to show her that the missionary copy that we gave her was the same copy as my leather triple that we were taking away. She couldn't put down what she was reading. It was so great!

The Rodriguez family is doing well. We haven't been able to get all of them together again for a while. Sven people is a lot and with all of the work and school schedules that everyone has going on right now it's even harder. But things are going well. We have been able to see different members of the family at different times and things are going great. They are reading in the Book of Mormon and they saw the restoration video and are loving it. Right now we are working with them about praying together. Its crazy how shy they are when it comes to praying. Everyone here prays except they do not feel comfortable praying out loud. They just don't do it. And they really feel uncomfortable when we pray with them or ask them to say a prayer that we can all hear. But slowly and surely they are getting more comfortable praying as a family and the spirit is starting to enter more into their lives. I love it. Its the work of the Savior and I can't get enough of it.

I am really sorry that this email is so short. But I have to get going! I love you all so much! I am looking forward to talking to you a little bit on Sunday.

Mom I want you to know that you are my hero and that I love you! Thank you so much for being the type of mother who has put me made it possible for me to be in the place where I am today! I am so thankful for you mom and I hope that you have the most incredible Mother's Day morning that you could ever have!

And to all you other mothers, sisters, and daughters out there, I love you too . . . you know in a missionary kind of way.

Have a fantastic week and know that I am always praying for you.

Easter Conference

Received April 27, 2011

Dear Family and Friends!

I hope that all of you had a fantastic Easter weekend. This past weekend was so spiritual for us. We had a great Easter conference and the spirit was so strong as all of us gathered together to remember the miracle of the Savior's resurrection, and also to remember the love that He showed to us. Friday night we had a really special fireside for all of the investigators and less active members in the area. The entire mission was there and we lined the auditorium walls singing songs about Easter throughout the entire fireside. President Alvarado gave a great talk. The spirit was so strong. There weren't a lot of dry eyes by the end of the night.

The biggest surprise of the whole weekend happened at that fireside. I was talking to some people who were visiting from the English-speaking islands. We were trying to figure out who would translate and I felt a tap at my shoulder. I turned around and there, standing right in front of me, was Mary Pabon. I was so shocked and so happy to see her there with her recently baptized husband Angel Pabon. I don't know if you remember this couple but thy are the couple that I found the first weekend that I was in Vega Baja, almost a year ago. And here they were at the Easter fireside that the mission was presenting. Angel looked so great in his white shirt and tie and he just looked so happy and peaceful. Mary said that she was preparing for baptism, but like always, is taking her time because she doesn't like to read. President Alvarado came up and talked to them afterwards with me and he told her that he would get her the CDs in English and that Elder Ward and I would be able to come up and visit her while we are here in the north during the week. It was such a special experience to see somebody that I had worked with for so long who was still faithful and strong. Even though I was never able to see them make the commitment while I was serving there it was still meaningful to me. I felt so happy and peaceful to know that Angel had done exactly what he knew that he needed to do. I got just a little taste of that joy that it talks about in Doctrine and Covenants section 18. I can't imagine what it must feel like after this life is all over.

Anyways on Saturday we had a lot of really neat activities as well. We went to the biggest mall in Puerto Rico for lunch all dressed up in our suits and ties (Elders) and dresses (Sisters) and we did another flash mob. Just a few of us started singing and eventually everyone slowly joins in. It was incredible and it was really neat to see everyone in the mall just kind of stop and listen to the words of the songs that we were singing. With all of the hustle and bustle, and especially with a lot of things that the churches here do this time of year, the poeple tend to forget the true message of the season. Not only did He atone for our sins and give His life for us, but that He is not dead, He is risen! It was great to be able to bring that spirit and that testimony to all gathered there.

That night we all met at the stake center and he had a luau. We were all a little confused about why would be having a luau in Puerto Rico. But President Alvarado had on of the Hawaiian branch presidents explain why we were doing it. He told us that a luau is a family tradition and the family and the importance of family is something that is all over the Hawaiian culture. President Alvarado talked about how that message is what we are about sharing. That is what this plan is about. That is what the resurrection is about. It is about families and being part of the family of God. We wanted to have the biggest family that you could have. So we did! It was great! Elder Zenger and I, along with a few other Elders, and all of the Hawaiian Elders, got together and did the haka. It was intense! I have a picture of us all in our lava lavas. I'll send it to you soon. It was sweet! Kam a tee Kam a tee koorah koorah!

Anyways, so that was the Easter conference. Prior to taking time out of our work for the Easter conference we had some incredible experiences. On Wednesday night we were out working. As I told you in the emails last week we had to cut our p-day short so we could get to all we needed to before the weekend conference. That night we had a practice for the singing we had to attend . We were riding along one of the main roads and we saw a family pulled off to the side of the road talking. We were late for our practice but we could just feel the spirit directing us to pull over and talk to the family. Elder Zenger and I talked with them for a bit and we had a great conversation. They invited us back the to visit them at home the next evening. The next day we got off of the train and walked into the the plaza in our area and there, once again, was the same family. They were again having car trouble. We stopped to help them and it was kind of the like God reminding us about the need to help them and not to forget about this family. We went over and talked to them a little more to see how we might be able to help. We helped them out as much as we could and got them on their way. Before they left we asked if it was still OK for us to come by and visit that evening. They said they would watch for us. We passed by their place and they were there.

The name of the family is the Rodriguez family. Elder Zenger and I could tell that they were a special family and that the Lord had helped us find them for some reason or another. We could just feel it. We were inspired to talk about the doctrine of Christ and that they needed to be invited to be baptized. We talked a about how our families could be together forever and they were touched by the message. Then we started to talk about the example that Jesus Christ set for us and how we needed to follow that example. The spirit touched them all really quickly and they all testified that they knew that the baptism that they had received previously was probably not the baptism that God wanted for them. The spirit was so strong and we invited them to be baptized. Half of the family responded with a quick "yes!" The rest of them responded saying. "yeah, we want to do it, but lets get to know you a little more first." It was perfect. The family Rodriguez, a family of seven, said that they wanted to work towards receiving testimony of our message and preparing to make a covenant with their Heavenly Father through baptism according to Christ's example and by restored priesthood authority. We gave them a Book of Mormon and they said that they would read it.

I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows the needs of every one of His children. It has been a struggle to try and get this area moving forward. There are 18 of us in the same ward and the areas in which we are working feel a little cramped. Even though this has been a huge change for all of us and we are having to adjust to working this way, the Lord is leading us to people in our path. And we are not just finding individuals to teach, but entire families. These are strong families that are going to be a great strength in the church in this area and will help the church to continue to build here forever. Yesterday we had a meeting with President Alvarado and he talked about how we aren't just working now only to build a new ward, our work is to accomplish something that has never been done here in Puerto Rico. We are building a new stake! We are building a new mission.

I know that God loves us and that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. This past weekend was so special. Our meeting on Sunday was powerful! There were some families visiting with us. One was visiting from Saint Croix. They are from Utah but right they are living in Saint Croix. I was privileged to be able to translate the beautiful talks for them from Spanish to English. All of the talks had the same theme - that Christ died and that He lives again. One of the main results of His sacrifice is that our families can be together forever. During the closing hymn the father in the family turned to me and told me about their son. He is 20 years old. He said that one year ago he never thought of serving a mission. But something changed and he had just received his mission call to the Oaxaca Mexico mission (Go Punky!). He said that his son's life has completely changed. I talked with the son afterwards and it was incredible to see the spirit that was in his face. He was a living, breathing, testimony of the power of the Atonement and I could see what a blessing it was not only in his life, but in the lives of his entire family. And that's why we are here! And I am so thankful that I can be here and I can be a part of this work!

I love you all so much and I hope that you have a fantastic week!

Happy Easter!!!!!

Received April 20, 2011

Good afternoon everybody!

And Happy Easter to all of you! What a great and beautiful time of year that it is. What a great blessing it is to be able to look back and think upon the most important day and week that has ever passed in history. I love this time of year so much and there is always such a sweet spirit on Easter morning. I hope that you all have a very Happy Easter and that you know how much I love you all! Thank you once again for all of your letters and your packages, you all sound like you are doing great!

Because it is Easter this weekend, our mission is going to be having an Easter conference. We are all going to be together on Friday and Saturday, which is good because that is the day that all of Puerto Rico will be shut inside of their house praying, or out on the beach. So we are going to be taking time together as a mission to remember this special day, but because of that, our Pday ends in about 10 minutes, so I have to be brief. Sorry - but know that I love you!

The Sons of Mosiah project is going fantastic! It has been such a sweet blessing and special privilege to be able to come together with every one of the elders with whom we started the mission. It has been an exciting week. All of us are brand new to the areas where we are assigned and we are all doing a lot of finding and contacting. And although we aren't like the original sons of Mosiah, we are doing what they did and going to the scriptures and putting ourselves to a lot of fasting and prayer.

The area where I am working in is called Rio Piedras. Its the name of the section of the city of San Juan we are in. Its very humble and it has a ton of Dominicans. It feels like I am right smack dab back in the Dominican Republic and I am loving every single minute of it! We take the train every day and its incredible to see all of the prepared people that the Lord is putting in our path. This is truly something that has been being set up for years and we are already seeing so many miracles.

Elder Zenger and I were working in our area on Saturday afternoon and we had been praying for days that we could find some prepared families so that we could try and reach the goal that we have set as a group. That day we found one! Their names are la familia Clase. We found them sitting outside of their house on Saturday. We asked if we could come in and they let us right inside. They gave up their chairs and they all sat scrunched together on the stairs while we sat there teaching them about the family and about the doctrine of Christ. The parents told us that they had been praying and thinking recently about how they could help their children learn more about God and there we were. They admitted that they themselves could be better examples and were looking for how they were going to do that, then we showed up. Well, we didn't just show up. The Lord led us to them. And it is such a blessing. We invited them to be baptized and they said yes but that they wanted to wait to set a date until they learn a little bit more. We left them with a Book of Mormon and both mom and dad were very excited to read it! What a miracle and what a special blessing we received that day. I know that the Lord is watching over us and protecting us and that He is going to help us achieve those miracles that this area of the vineyard needs.

Yesterday i was on a trade-off in Caguas with 2 Hawaiian missionaries. It was great! Both of them are very young in the mission and they are so dedicated to the work that they were doing. Even though they have no investigators they are pushing as hard as they can to find those that the Lord has put in their path. It was really neat to see that fire as I worked alongside them. We had one appointment yesterday and it was with a member and her husband. They told me that the husband was less active. As we began talking about the doctrine of Christ it came out that he was never baptized. After speaking about this for a few minutes we discovered why he had not been baptized and determined that it was something that we would not be able to resolve that night. He talked about how for years his son, who is now on a mission, had always tried to talk to him about the gospel and get him to get baptized. My heart went out to his as I thought about all that he had gone through and the probable heartache that he had felt for his dad. Then it hit me! I told him to write to his son and ask why he was on a mission. He said that he would and then the mom did something unexpected. She asked us why we were on a mission. I want to share with you what I said.

On March 25, 1983 my family became an eternal family in Provo, Utah. My parents were sealed for time and for all eternity. Because of this I know that we are going to be together forever and I want that blessing for all. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He suffered and died for each and every one of us. I know that during this week we are commemorating and celebrating that He did atone for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and then He died on the cross on Calvary. I also know that he was resurrected on that Sunday. He lives! I know He lives and I know that He invited each and every one of us, with loving hands to "come unto me, repent and be converted, so that I may heal you."

I love Him! I want that all of His children in this world to receive exactly what He intended for us to receive when He suffered and gave all that He had for us.

Eternal life with my family and my wife and my children.

I love you all and I hope that you have a fantastic Easter weekend!

How great it is to be a part of this great work! How true it is and how true it is that He lives!

The Sons of Mosiah

Received April 13, 2011

Dear family and Friends!

Thank you so much for all of the wonderful emails and letters and packages that you sent for my birthday. I was able to receive all of them today. We had a great Zone Council on Monday getting ready for transfers and everything. It was really sweet because all of the zone leaders and the president's family were there and they sang to me! It was also great because it meant that I got to get all of your letters and packages as well, so thank you so much! I love you!

This past weekend we had a baptism! Brenda Garcia, the miracle that found us three weeks ago entered into the waters of baptism and it was such a great service. The spirit was so strong and she looked so content. The meeting that we had on Sunday was one of the most powerful testimony meetings that I have ever attended in my life. It was strong! We had several events combine to soften the hearts of the members here and lead to a powerful testimony meeting. A dear sister who everyone loved pass away this week. Some of the missionaries were leaving the area. And Brenda told her conversion story to everyone. It was just so special and neat.

Brenda talked about meeting us that day she was ready for everything to be done. She told how she had decided that she needed to end it. That was the only way that she would be happy and that she would be happy with her kids. She told how she didn't know where to turn, but then the Lord led us to her. She said that she put off her planned suicide for a day and when she read in the Book of Mormon the next day she found the answers that she was looking for. It was a bitter-sweet goodbye last night. Reflecting on the story has made me think so much about the talk "Teaching helps Save Lives." She said that the only reason that her kids were still there was because God had led us to her. And it was all Him. God is our Heavenly Father and He lives! And He knows each and every one of us. It was a blessing for me to be able to see that love shown in the life of Brenda, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to see how the gospel literally saved her life and to see the change that the Savior's love has brought to both her and her family. It truly is the work of angels.

As I mentioned, yesterday was my last day in Ponce . . . THE SPECIAL PROJECT HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN!

On Monday, while the rest of the zone leaders were discussing transfers, President invited the five of us that were there from my group to meet and discuss the big plans. He said. "take off your glasses Elders, and put these ones on." He said a miracle needs to happen. Something that has never happened before. He told us that all 14 of us, every missionary that came with me, will be living in the same apartment. We will be working in the ward of Hato Rey. He said there are 150 people attending Sacrament Meeting right now and we need 100 more, with 46 new priesthood holders. The goal is that by the end of the project the ward will be qualified to have another unit added in the area.

We are also assigned to travel to all of the zones as well. We will be going and ministering to all of the young missionaries. We will also be taking two visits to the islands to the east of the main island to explode them so that the couple missionaries serving on those islands will have people to teach out there as well.

As far as my companion . . . you may have heard of him. His name is Elder Zenger! Yup, the same Elder Zenger that we all love and who was my CCM companion in the Dominican. I don't think there has ever been two more excited missionaries in all of the world. We can't wait to get out and get to work! And our area? We are serving in the biggest University in Puerto Rico. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

God has prepared us for something great! And I know that if we do all that He asks, we are going to see those planned miracles. As we were in the President's office talking about what we were going to call our group, we opened up to Alma 17, and it was there. The Sons of Mosiah! Not to be boastful, but its such a miracle that we are all still her. And after having gone our separate ways, the Lord has prepared each and every one of us so that we could be right here, right now, for this great project.

I love you all so much! I won't be able to write much more because we have a ton to do.

BUT know that I love you and that I know that God Lives! That Jesus is our Savior! And that the families can be together forever!

I hope that you all have a fantastic week and know that you will always be in my prayers!

Families are the Best

Received April 6, 2011

Good Morning Everybody!

Wasn't Conference just amazing? I wish you could've seen all of the missionaries reaction on Sunday morning when all of us realized that the white stuff on the trees were not blossoms, but that, in fact, it was snow. I think my favorite view of the entire conference was when they scanned the huge pine tree, lightly painted with snow, standing next to the beautiful temple towering in the background. What a beautiful conference it was. The spirit was so strong in each and every single talk. How truly inspired it was. I couldn't get enough of it. It flew by! We had been invited to leave church building as quickly as we could between sessions so that we could get on the streets and invite those around the church to come and hear the Prophet of the Lord. With that excitement going on, I'm not sure that I've ever had a more thrilling weekend in my life. We got spiritually stuffed at the rich buffet offered in conference and then we would get out filled with fire as we talked to every single person that we saw. I loved conference! I loved all of the talks. Each and every single one was sent from God to me and I loved all that I felt there. From your emails it sounded you felt the same. So I am thrilled that you enjoyed it and I hope that it continues to bless your lives as it continues to bless mine.

Brenda was able to come to the afternoon sessions on both days. On Saturday afternoon she came with a friend. On Sunday she came with her family. It was interesting. On Saturday afternoon people are always a little confused when we start the sustaining of the officers. But luckily, at that point, we were in the process of changing from the Spanish to English room because her little baby wouldn't hold still. There was such a special feeling during the Saturday afternoon session. Brenda was loving every single minute of it and was eating up every single word. At the close of Elder Nelson's talk, she turned to me and said, "I'm convinced! This is it! This is the truth! This is what I have been looking for." I knew it would happen. There is no way that somebody can attend a conference session and not have the spirit witness to them that what they are seeing is truth sent from heaven for the blessing of His children. She told us a story of her first experience with us after one of the sessions.

She said that the day that we had found her she had decided that she was going to end her life. She said that she was ready to throw her car in front of a semi because she just couldn't take it anymore. She had gone as far as to tell her son that she would be doing that. She said she felt so lost. She said she couldn't feel God in her life anymore. She couldn't see Him. She didn't know what to believe or what to do. She said that as we were talking to the man who was next to her that she felt it. "Something told me that you were talking about, what you were saying, was exactly what I had been looking for." She said that the words that I had said to her when she approached us was exactly what she needed to hear. The spirit had spoken to her since that first day. And as she has exercised her faith, and taken those small steps, as President Uchtdorf talked about, she has come to know that these things are true.

Last night we taught her entire family about the gospel of Jesus Christ. She won't stop about her baptism this Saturday. She is so excited and already has it all planned out. But we wanted to help the rest of the family see why she was going to be baptized. As we talked about the example of Jesus Christ and the things that he invites each and every one of us to do, and as we discussed the baptism of fire and by the Holy Ghost, the spirit was there and it was so strong. Everyone in the room testified that what we had taught was true, including her father and her son. We found out yesterday that her son, Manuel, has decided to move down to Ponce to be with his mom so that he can come to church with her and find the path that God wants for him.

It has been such a miracle to be able to witness how finding the truth about her Heavenly Father has changed Brenda's life. She went some through really hard things on Monday, but I saw a completely different person this time. She went through it with her head held high. She knew that whatever was going to happen would be for her good and that God's hand was in it to lead her and to guide her. The spirit has done that to her. And it has come as Elder Bednar talked about, like a sunrise. It has come little by little. And as she has decided to act upon that it, the knowledge of the truth continues to grow. Now she is so convinced that this is the truth. I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who reveals the truth to each and every one of His children. I am so thankful for that love that He has given me. I am also thankful that I have been able to feel it every single day for the past year and half. I know that He lives and I know that He sent His Son to die for us. Every mission requires you to leave something behind, to sacrifice something major in your life. Just as Elder Andersen talked about. Jesus Christ gave that ultimate sacrifice for us. His mission required the ultimate sacrifice. Sometimes I feel pitiful for whining about the kinds of sacrifices that I have gone through. But the miracles that I have seen and the spirit that I have been able to feel has been worth it all. My mission means the world to me and I wouldn't change it for all the treasures of the world. If any of you are doubting about going on a mission, please, kneel and ask your Heavenly Father to guide you and then go to work. You will be amazed at what He will bless you with.

The Galarza family had some real car difficulties this past weekend and they weren't able to make it. I am a little worried about them. Nelly is so sold on going to the temple. Its the only thing that she wants for her family. Last night we passed by and told her to watch the talk given by President Monson about temples and about sacrifice. We are hoping that will help them wake up a little more and that they will start pushing a little harder to that baptism on the 16th. Please keep them in your prayers! We are going to need that help every single step of the way.

We had a really neat experience with the Rivera family. For the past week I have been having the scripture in 3 Nephi 9:13 run through my head over and over. I was searching for when I could use it. For whom were these promptings intended? We went over on Monday night for their Family Home Evening and we sang "Families Can Be Together Forever." We talked about the temple and we talked about how in Spanish the song says that we need to prepare ourselves "desde hoy" to be able to be ready to enter into the temple. We talked about how they had made that goal since the very start. Alexia said that she felt terrible because she had slipped up a bit, then it hit me, that scripture was for her. We read it, and it seemed to turn on a light. She saw how, even though when we mess up, the invitation is the same. Repent and come unto me so that I can heal you. We talked about the conversion process and we invited them to apply the principles that we had learned in the conference to their family so that they would still be able to go to the temple. I had been pleading for weeks to know what was up with the Rivera family. They just felt like they were in a funk. But Alexia understood exactly what she needed to. The spirit taught her. The Savior doesn't require us to never screw up. He requires us to do our best. But when we do screw up, He is there. It was so special to be able to learn that principle along with her and to have the spirit confirm that to me as well.

He lives. I know He lives. I feel His love every single day. I hope that you all have a great week and that you know how much I love you and care for you all.

Thank you so much for all of the birthday wishes. You have no idea how much it means to me to know that, after all of this time, you are still there. That you are still thinking of me. And that you still love me. I love you guys so much!

How much I do I love you too. I just wish I could help you to feel it more than an email. But I know you know that. I love you!

Its beginning to look a lot like conference!

Received March 30, 2011

Buenas Tardes a Todos!

Espero que se encuentran Bien, Todo esta bien aqui!

I hope things are going well with all of you back home. Grandma and Grandpa, thank you so much for the email and the story about President Albrecht. That was a really touching story about them having to feed all of the missionaries and having more than enough food! Wow! I am sure all sorts of miracles are happening over there. I am glad to hear that everyone back home is safe and sound.

This has been a crazy week for Elder Putnam and I. We have a lot on our plate. But God is guiding us through it all and everything is going to turn out just fine. This week we moved apartments. So if you are going to write me for now just send it to the mission office. Anyways, so things are a little crazy right now and because we had to clean out the apartment today and close it things are a little tight, so I apologize if this letter isn't the best. But I hope you know how much I love you and how thankful I am for your love and support.

We are having conference fever right now on the island. I have never seen so many people so excited about conference before. We have been listening to conference for weeks and, we too, are also really excited for whats going to come this weekend. Some of the most excited people would probably be the Garcia family. Brenda and her kids. The first time that we taught Manuel last week we told him about conference and invited him to start on planning to come. It turns out that he has spring break this weekend so he is going to be down here all week with us. On Monday Brenda called us and she told us that she wanted to have a family home evening with her and her parents. When we were there she excitedly told us that Manuel would be here with her the entire week this week and that she wanted us to come by and teach him all of the lessons. I thought "how in the world are we going to keep coming up with creative ideas to be able to teach him and his brothers and sisters?" But we have felt the spirit guiding us as we have been pondering and we have received some great ideas from heaven. We are really excited to get teach all of the lessons to them.

Her father is doing great. He is still reading in the Book of Mormon daily and is really excited for conference. When we taught him the first lesson he told us how he had kind of lost confidence in God and in churches 30 years ago when he saw something awful in his own church. He said that he thought that the truth wasn't on the earth. But when we told him that the prophets and apostles would be speaking to the world he was so excited. Brenda keeps asking about her baptism on the 9th. She is ready to start moving onto the temple. We are hoping to get Manuel on board as well. And soon . . . grandma and Grandpa will be following. The most incredible part about this whole process has been the change that we have seen in this family. When we first found Brenda she just looked lost. She looked like she didn't know what more she could do. She looked like she didn't know where to go. She didn't know what God wanted for her and she was just lost. But as we have been passing by, and as she has been studying the Book of Mormon and praying, I have seen the influence of the spirit in her life. I have seen her situation start to transform right in front of our eyes. She knows who she is. She knows what God wants for her and her family. And she knows what she can become. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today. And it is true! It changes our lives and I know because it has changed my life. I feel it every single day - changing me as it is changing those around me. I couldn't be more thankful to be a missionary right now and to be able to feel that changes that have happened in my life.

This past week we had a really neat conference with President Alvarado. It was a training meeting for all of the leaders in the southern part of the island. It had a lot to do with the fundamentals of Preach My Gospel. We are really pushing on getting these fundamentals to be a fluid part of our teaching because all of the new missionaries that will be arriving soon in the mission are learning them right now in the MTC. Anyways, we talked a lot about the basic lessons and the doctrine behind the basic lessons. It was an incredible meeting! An incredible opportunity to see just how simple the restored gospel is. But at the same time, how perfect it is. It is so obvious that it has come directly from our Heavenly Father. There could be no other way. The next day we had the opportunity to go out with the district leaders and try it out. I was with one of the companionships and we went to see one of the families that they were teaching. We talked about what we could share with them and the overwhelming feeling came that we needed to teach the plan of salvation and that we needed to have them pray about it at the end. We had one of the most incredible lessons of my entire mission.

The mother on the family was asking questions left and right, citing references to the Bible that I had to write down. But every time we taught another principle, she asked a perfect question, and through the spirit her doubt was resolved. At the end of the lesson we could all feel it in our hearts that what he had just talked about was true. We invited the father to kneel down and pray and he gave a beautiful and humble prayer. The spirit was so strong! We didn't want to leave. But we got out of there quick and left them to feel the warmth of the spirit in their home. My feeble description may not male it sound like that big of a deal, but for this companionship i was really hoping to apply all of the things that we had learned the day before. We learned that we would have faith-building experiences together and that we would be able to become even more converted to the gospel together. I had been praying all day and I was starting to get a little discouraged because nothing was going on. But, at the end, the answer came. God answers the prayers of His children, I have no doubt about that in my mind whatsoever.

On Sunday we were out searching for families and we talked to a young grandmother who said that she had some youth in her home and she thought that they would love to hear what we were sharing. We told her that we would stop by on Tuesday and that was that. We went on Tuesday and I was a little surprised to find that she wasn't home yet. It seemed like such a solid contact. As we started to leave she pulled up with her youngest granddaughter and said, "wait! Don't Go!" We sat down with the family of seven and had such an incredible first lesson. The spirit was there and it was guiding us. We were so focused on the teenagers that there was no way for them to get distracted. It was perfect. At the end of the lesson the grandma commented that she could feel God there with them. She knew that what we had told her about the restoration was true. At the end, when we gave them their copies of the Book of Mormon and we invited them to read, the grandma said that she knew already it was true. "I am going to read it, but I know already that its true. I am so glad that you came over." The youth are all great and they are exactly what we need right now. Hopefully, soon we can get them coming to seminary with us and we can start to get a solid future built up here in the ward.

I love you all. I am sorry that I have to go. But I want you to know that I know that this is the work of our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and I know that it is only through Him that we will ever have the chance to be truly happy in this life. How blessed we are to be a part of His church today and what strength it will be to hear His words this weekend spoken through His apostles and prophets. I hope that you all have a great conference weekend and that together we can have our faith built even stronger!

I love you all with all my heart. I hope that you have a great day and week . . . and an incredible conference weekend


Received March 23, 2011

Family and Friends!

I never thought that I would live to see the day that I could ask any youth on the street in Puerto Rico about a guy named Jimmer Fredette and they would all get a huge smile on their face and say man, that guy is goooooooood! It sounds like things are going well back home. You should just know that the madness has reached all the way down to the Caribbean. Its funny. You can ask them who BYU is and they have no idea but if you ask them about Jimmer, they know everything about them.

Anyways, we aren't here for that. I just thought that I would give you a little update of what is happening here at my home country!

But I hope that everything is going well back at home for you guys. It sounds like things are starting to warm up and that the winter is starting to move out. I hope that Aunt Audrey is doing ok! I wasn't aware that she was going in for surgery so I hope that all went well and that she is well on her way to recovery!

Things here are going great. We are now into the full swing of things with this transfer. We have 3 training sessions scheduled this week with the zone and I am really excited to see how things will go. It has been hard to look back and think of all of the things that weren't done right in the zone on our part but it is more amazing to look back and to see that even though we didn't do everything to 100% perfection, we had done our best. And because of the effort trying our best the Lord made up the difference. I know that this principle is true! All we can do is the best that we can and every time he will make up the difference.

Things are going well with the people that we are teaching. We taught the Galarza family the word of wisdom once again this week. It was rough. It took two nights to commit them to live it. The first night we thought things had gone well but we went back the next night and Nelly was really mad about having to stop drinking coffee. It was an adventure for us. And of course me being from Utah and "never having to deal with that kind of stuff," anything I said just kind of got thrown out the window. But thank goodness we had Elder Putnam there with us. What a blessing that was! Elder Putnam was able to tell his story and about all the things that he went through in order to get ready for his own baptism. He shared how much his life has changed and even though it was hard to give up stuff like coffee, the blessings that he has received in return have been so much greater. I was shocked at the difference that occurred in Nelly. She sat back in the chair and it was like a light bulb had gone off. The spirit touched her and all that we were teaching just made more sense.

She is a little worried about her kids she said that they have agreed to baptism but she just wants them to be a little more excited about it. We were a little stumped on what we could do and so we prayed about it. On Sunday night we got our answer. We were at our Mission President's parent''s house. We asked his mom if there was anything that we could do for her. It turns out that she is the seminary teacher and she said that she would like us to start coming to her seminary class in the morning. She said that when the missionaries are there things just start to go better and she said that it was a great tool in getting youth ready for baptism. She talked about when she had taught the seminary class of our mission president and how that year three or four youth had been baptized just because their friends had invited them to seminary! So there it was! We told her that we would start to attend seminary. So this past Monday we started to attend early morning seminary and its going great! We are so excited about the changes that we are going to see in the youth in our ward. But even better this is the answer to our prayers for the Galarza children that we were looking for!

Brenda Garcia is doing fantastic. We were really nervous this week as she explained to us the situation with her son. She said that she was really worried about her 17 year-old son. She is sad because he is starting to go down a path that she doesn't want him to go down. She asked if we would prepare a really special lesson so that we could capture his attention and get him interested in our message. I was scared. The youth here are so hard to reach with our message. They have everything and just aren't really concerned about what we have to tell them. I knew that this was the chance that we had with Brenda. This was either going to make it or it was going to break it. We began praying really hard so that we would know what to teach the young man. As we thought about what we could teach, the same topic kept coming up in all of our studies and conversations that week. It was to teach about the atonement. And as we thought about the atonement we thought about the push-up lesson.

So on Saturday we set off to Brenda's house to meet Manuel for the first time with 18 doughnuts in hand. We got there and we met him and he seemed like a great kid. We sat down and we told them that we had a really special treat for them that night. We said that we had brought more than enough doughnuts. By this time the visitors who were at the house began to enter the room. Brenda's sister and her mom both kind of turned us off us before . . . they took a seat and we explained what was going on. They handed out the doughnuts and for every doughnut I got to do 10 push-ups. We got to the point were nobody wanted doughnuts anymore because they realized what was going on, but we kept going. It was an incredible experience for me. I know that the Savior did so much more for us than just a few push-ups. As I was struggling to get the push-ups done so that they could have an excess of doughnuts, I thought about all that He had gone through just so that I could have the chance to even be in that room. Just so that I could have the chance to even be alive! He gave everything for me. In that moment I think the mind of every single one of us was opened to just what exactly the Savior did for us. I know that He lives! I know that He suffered for each and every one of the errors that we will ever commit in this life. And not just the errors . . . every thing! Everything we ever felt, feel, or will feel. He knows these feelings and to know that He did this just because He loves me makes me want to follow Him. And that is why I am here. And that is why God has revealed the truth. Because the only way back home is to follow the Savior.

It was a really neat lesson after that. We had a returned missionary with us who gave such a powerful testimony about how the gospel had changed his life and the life of his family. It was one of the sweetest, strongest assistance of the spirit that I have felt in my entire life. And every single one of us could just feel the love of the Savior.

The next day we went back before Manuel left for San Juan again. He was so happy to see us. It felt like seeing an old friend. Brenda talked about how they had talked about what we had taught them and Manuel also wants to get baptized. She said that there are some things that still need to be worked out with his living arrangements but he said that he wanted to come down every weekend to be with his mom so that he could meet with us and talk about the Book of Mormon and about the Savior and so that he could come to church with his mom. We talked about the restoration of the gospel on Sunday and her dad was there. Her dad was absolutely thrilled about what we were telling him. When we told him about the Book of Mormon he said that it was exactly what he had been looking for. He told us "I haven't been to church for 30 years because they all come from man." He said that he thought that God's church wasn't on the earth today and that he would most definitely read the Book of Mormon to know if what we were telling him was true. He agreed to finish our lesson with the prayer and he gave such a humble sincere prayer. He asked to know the truth and for confirmation that this is what he has been looking for for the past 30 years.

On Monday we passed by and he had read 30 pages in the Book of Mormon. He said he will be in church on Sunday and Brenda could not have been any happier.

Out of all the emotions that I feel right now probably the greatest feeling that I feel is complete gratitude for all that our Father has given to us. Brenda is the answer to nights and days worth of prayers. And it is not just her. Her entire family, each and every one of them, are the people that we spend all day looking for. And the thing about them is they found us. God led them to us because He loves us all. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior! I know that He loves me and I love Him with all of my heart. I know that the invitation that He makes to each one of us a simple one. Responding to that invitation will change our lives. He invites each and every one of us to come unto him and follow him. I know that if we do as he asks, our lives will be changed.

I love each and every one of you so much

Trent? A new driver? They are expensive! March 16, 2011

Received March 16, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Trent! I hope you had a happy birthday yesterday buddy! I can't believe that you are 16 already. That is so crazy! I hope that things went well and that you were able to have a great birthday!

I hope that you are all doing well and that this week was a great week for you guys! It was really sad to hear about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Everyone here is really worried about it so I hope that everything over there is going OK and that you are all safe and sound! Thanks for all you do for me. I love you all so much!

This past week has been way busy for us. We are doing so many things in the zone right now that I haven't had time to even think about myself! I am loving it so much because that is exactly what I need right now. We are in our area for three days out of each week and the other days of the week we are out working with the other missionaries in the zone. We are seeing so many miracles and I am learning more at this point in my mission than I ever have before. So things are going good and if you are expecting a letter from me and you haven't received it yet, this is the reason and I apologize. I'm not sure if things will calm down before the transfer ends. I hope not because I am loving every single minute of it.

This past week was just incredible. We have been so blessed to have been able to find Brenda Garcia. We passed by on Saturday night to remind her about church on Sunday and we were teaching the plan of salvation. That was one of the doubts that she had. She was worried about her and her childrens beliefs in God. I don't know if I told you this last week but she has been going through some really hard things in her life and she said that lately she has been doubting if God even exists. She said that the day that we were led to her she was ready to just throw herself in front of a bus and call it good. But she said that through the Book of Mormon she has come to receive answers to her prayers and she is coming to know a lot better that, yes, God does exist, and that He loves her.

We were talking about the plan of salvation and there was such a neat spirit. The pre-earth life made so much sense to her and it seemed to build her faith even more. When we started talking about the fall, the reasons we are here, and the purpose and importance of the atonement, it seemed like a light bulb just turned on in her head. After we talked about the atonement we reviewed again the lesson about the gospel that we had taught last Saturday. She said that it was just so clear to her. She said "Wow! So I really do need to get baptized. When will I be ready?" We weren't really expecting that but we hurriedly said the 9th of April would be a good date for her baptismal service. We also told her that we knew that she would be ready by that day. She said yes without even thinking about it. It was so neat to see how simple it was. All she needed to know and feel was that it wasn't the missionaries alone who were inviting her to be baptized. It was the Savior. When she connected the dots and realized that we repent and are baptized because it is what the Savior asks of us, she had all the desire in the world to do it. The spirit touched her heart and it touched our hearts as well.

The next day she was at church and she was a little timid. It was her first time but she liked what was spoken and she seemed to enjoy it. The teacher talked about the word of wisdom in relief society and there were some comments that made her really confused. We were both really worried that somebody had said something and that she was going to be really scared about everything now. But I need to repent because that is the opposite of what happened. We passed by that afternoon to go see what was up and she said that she was a little confused. But her real concern was that she just wanted to know all of the commandments that she needed to live in order to be baptized. We went through every single commandment and it was incredible how strong the spirit was. I have never felt the spirit testifying to all of us so strongly that what we were talking about were in fact commandments from God. We went through them with ease and after every single commandment, including the word of wisdom, she said "Yeah, that's what I already do. That's what I already believe. Of course I will live it." It is an absolute miracle to have this family right now. We have been going through a dry stretch trying to find the people the Lord has prepared for us. And he answered our prayers and hers by leading her to us. She is so chosen and is so ready to go. We still haven't been able to visit with her son because he is living in San Juan studying at school. This week we are going to send the missionaries over and I am sure that he is going to be touched by the spirit as well. God answers the prayers of His children. Brenda and her family are an answer to our prayers and we are so blessed to have them in our lives! We are so excited for the 9th of April because its going to be an incredible day.

We were over visiting the Galarza family on Sunday night as well. Raul was the only one who showed up at church on Sunday and we were a little concerned. It turned out that Nelly had a huge tooth infection in her mouth and she was at home recovering from the pain that she had. Anyways, we sat down and talked a little bit more about their baptism. We talked a little bit about the things that are required from us as members if we are baptized and asked if they felt that they knew that God would help them meet those requirements. Nelly responded with an answer that I wasn't expecting at all. She started talking about the temple. She said the night that we had invited her to be baptized all she could think about was the temple. She talked about how that was the reason why she said yes. She said that "yes, I know that we will be ready to go on the 16th, and you know why? Because I want to be in Salt Lake City at the temple on April 16th of 2012 so that I can be sealed to my family for time and for all eternity." I was really surprised by her answer but it touched me. Her goal isn't just baptism. Her goal is exactly where it needs to be. Her focus is on the temple! That's what we are constantly trying to do with all of our members and investigators. Get them focused and get them to have that goal of the temple. And here is this lady who for months we have been trying to get to feel in her heart that this is what she needs to do. And the thing that got her there is the testimony and the witness that she has received that families can be together forever, That the priesthood has been restored to the earth and that each and every one of us can be together with the ones that we love forever. It has been a crazy road to get to this point but I am absolutely amazed at the effect that the spirit has had on the heart of our dear sister. Her husband has been ready to go for a while but now that she is on board, we are going to see miracles continue to happen for them!

Yesterday I was working with a missionary who is going through some struggles right now. My work with him is part of the "centers of strength" program that we are doing every week. This is when all of the missionaries come to Ponce and we just go nuts in the work. We were working really hard yesterday talking to family after family and nobody would listen to us. We were both getting a little frustrated. We both felt bad because it just seemed like nobody would listen to us. We have been working a lot lately to try and get this missionary's faith built up and all day I had been praying, pleading that we would be able to have a faith building experience and that we would be able to have a testimony building experience together. It was a little frustrating to me that the answer had not come. It was getting late and we saw a family down the road. Neither of felt like we were ready to go and talk to them. I stopped him for a moment and we talked about the day that we had. We talked about faith and we talked about if we were ready to go and talk to that family. We talked about believing that God would bless us and that we would be able to teach the family. He said that he had never been able to teach that family and that they had passed by a few times already and the family had already said they did not want a lesson. I promised him that if we had faith a miracle would happen. We prayed and went for it. And what a miracle happened. They let us teach them about eternal families. I know that God lives and that He answers the prayers of His children. Maybe the lesson didn't have the greatest impact on this family and maybe they aren't a family that is going to get baptized in three weeks. But when we needed it most, when there were two missionaries giving it all they could, our Heavenly Father blessed us with the faith and testimony building experience that we needed. The rest of the night seemed like paradise to us. I know that God lives! I know that He hears our prayers and I know that this is His work. He is mindful of every single one of us and knows our needs. I know He lets us grow. He tries our faith. But in the exact moment that we need Him, He is there. And I know that is true.

I love you all with all the love I have to give. I hope you know how grateful I am for your love and support. Have a fantastic week and know that you always have somebody down here praying for you guys.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TRENT! (Finding the Prepared)

Received March 9, 2011

Dear Family and Friends!

I love you guys!

I hope that all is going well for you back home. Brother and Sister Howe I am so sorry for your loss. I love you both so much and know that my prayers are with you!

I am so thankful for each and every one of you and all that you do for me! How blessed I am to have loving family members and friends like you who are always there for me! I love you guys so much and I hope that this week goes great for you!

I apologize if this email is a little short. We are running behind schedule today. We had some business to do with president today and this afternoon we are going to meet up with him and his wife for some tripletas (mmmm Puerto Rican heaven) so I hope that all has been well and you know how much I love you guys.

This past week was just an incredible week for us. Things with Elder Putnam and I are going great. He has so much fire and is so ready to get out there and learn and to be able to become the best zone leader that he can be. Training him to be a zone leader reminds me a lot of when I was training the Elder Martinez. You don't want to screw up and you realize once again just how crucial it is to rely on the Savior for your strength and not upon your own strength. If you rely on yourself you fail. And I have already been reminded of that a couple of times this week. But things are going just great and things are looking incredible for the zone!

This past week we had a great meeting with one of the Seventies in the area presidency. Elder Coleman came and we were able to sit down with him and discuss some of the things that are going on in the mission. But even better than that, we were able to sit down and hear one of the Lord's special witnesses teach the gospel. He talked about some really cool things. I wish that I had my notes with me but I don't. One thing that he said that has really stuck with me is when he talked about Doctrine and Covenants section four. He talked about how this revelation was given to the prophet Joseph Smith and it is intended for his father. He talked about how a lot of times in the church we see this section as a missionary section but in all reality it is for the entire world. Anyone who wants to come unto Christ and participate in His work is invited to come and is invited to serve with all of their heart, might, mind and strength. It was an incredible meeting and we were all so enlightened. What a blessing it is to live in a time when the Lord has living apostles and prophets on the earth!

As we left the meeting and got back to our area we had a huge miracle occur. We had a little extra time before our first cita and we went to a school to try and find some families. We found this couple and began talking to them. As we were talking to them we talked about the families and we read with them a little in the Book of Mormon. We invited them to listen to more of our message and let us come by. They politely said no. As we were ending the contact a lady who had been sitting down next to them started to walk by us. She handed me a business card and told me that she was really interested in what we were saying and would really like to know more. I think my jaw hit the floor. I was so shocked. She was contacting me?! What is this? This never happens. I am glad that I got my act together before she walked away. We stepped aside and I talked to her a little bit more. Her name is Brenda. She said that she has a 17 year-old son that she is worried about. She said that he is not into bad things but she saw us and she said that she knew that two young men like us must have been sent from God to help her out. She wanted to find out what we were all about. I handed her the Book of Mormon and told her that we would be by the next day to talk a little bit more with her.

We were so pumped to find that she lived in a closed urb of one of the strongest families in our ward. She lives right next to them! Every time I pass by the neighborhood I always drool because there are so many families on the inside but we can never get in because it is closed. Now that we have an investigator and a member family that live on the inside we might be able to spend more time there. ANYWAYS, we sat down and things were great.

The first things out her mouth were, "I am shocked, this book is incredible." She told us the story behind it all. She said that things in her life haven't been going that well and lately and she has really been doubting if there even was a God. She talked about how much confusion there is in the world and just how lost she is. "There are so many churches", she said, "God can't be the author of all of this confusion." She said that she prayed to God the morning that we found her and she asked God to show her if He was real and if so what He wanted her to do with what was going on her life. That afternoon we talked to her and gave her the Book of Mormon. She said that as she read it she could just feel God's love for her and she knew that the Book and our contact with her were the answer to her prayers.

We went on to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it can bless our families. We mentioned baptism and she quickly asked "how should we get baptized?" We turned to 3 Nephi 11 and talked about the story of Joseph Smith and how that authority had been restored. We invited her to be baptized and she quickly said yes. We then moved on to the date and she had some trouble with that. We invited her to kneel and to pray and ask God if what we were teaching her is true and if to be baptized, at the end of the month, is what He wanted for her. She knelt down and offered such a humble prayer. As we left the spirit in the room was just incredible. It was a miracle. We had been praying and working so hard to find another family like her and the only thing that needed to happen was that God needed to lead us to her. She found us. Right when she needed us most. And I have no doubt that the hand of God was in the process the entire time. Tonight we are going to teach her with the rest of the familiy and I couldnt be more excited! I know that Heavenly Father lives. He answers his children's prayers because He answered the both of ours.

And that wasn't the only miracle that happened this week! On Saturday we sat down with the Galarza family and once again talked about the Sabbath Day. I remember the first time that we taught them about that commandment that there was so much opposition. There was such a change this time around. I am so amazed at the humility that has occurred in this family. We taught about the Sabbath Day. It was so simple. The spirit was there and it testified to them of what needed to be done. Raul said that he would have to work, but Nelly said that she would be there with the kids. Raul had always been the driving force behind it all so I was a little doubtful (sorry to say) that she would really show up. But sure enough the next day in church I looked behind towards the back of the chapel at 9:10 and there was Nelly with her kids! We went and sat with them and they were so happy to be there. It was incredible. That afternoon we passed by their house and talked about how they had felt during church. I brought up baptism and asked Nelly if she would get baptized she said yes! She said she knows that its what she needs to do. I invited her for the end of the month and she said no. She said that she wants to quit smoking and stay quit. She wants enough time to make sure that the habit is completely broken. We talked about the 16th of April and she said that would be a perfect day! After so long, after so many lessons, and so many prayers, we finally have a firm date with the Galarza family. There is still a lot to be done. But I know that miracles happen. I know that faith and love changes hard hearts and, more than anything, I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families in their times of need. I have seen a huge change in the Galarza family since we found them in October. I wish you could see it for yourselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives. How incredible it is to be able to help people live those changes.

Ramiro and Dalia are doing great. We will be teaching the Word of Wisdom this week and we are hoping that all will go well. They are up and down with the baptismal date. We had an incredible experience last week and we are hoping to try their faith this week to get them even more converted to the message. Keep us in your prayers. We need all the help we can get.

I love you all so much and I hope that you have a great week!

Trent! I hope that you have a happy sweet 16! I can't believe that you are now going to be driving and dating. Whatever happened to that sweet Jr. high kid that was at home when I left? Have a killer birthday bro! I hope you know how much I love you and how blessed I am to be your brother! Don't party too hard!