Monday, October 28, 2013

I never thought that it'd be this cool

Another letter from Apple Valley, CA, where it's almost November and still 80 degrees!  It's pretty different from Washington, but it does make proselyting a lot easier.  I feel sorry for the poor missionaries in Vancouver who are on bike during this time.

This week was a little overwhelming, but that's good when you're a missionary.  We had so many appointments to teach and things to sort out that we were a little stressed, but I'd rather that than not be working.  We've been blessed with lots of people to teach and to work with.  We're forging great friendships and getting a lot of work accomplished here in the Ranchos ward.

(Carter's apt--apparently they need a maid)
First off, one of the families that we've been working with has a young boy named N.  He's an eight year-old boy but his dad wanted him to hear the missionary discussions before he was baptized.  We talked to him about what it means to be baptized and how we make a two-way promise with Heavenly Father when we do that ordinance.  He really understood and has agreed to be baptized!  We're very excited for him to be taking this step in his life.
While on exchanges and visiting some of our investigators, we ran into an old man who was putting away his trash.  We got started talking and he had a crazy life.  Apparently he was a Christian missionary for quite a few years and has been all over the world.  We asked him if he wanted to hear our lesson and he said "Why not?"  We taught him twice but we found out that he's kind of too old to really take our message to heart.  We told him how much we liked meeting with him and said we would say hi if we were ever in the neighborhood again.
One of the kids that we taught in the Sermon in the Dirt keeps finding us when we're in the neighborhood and keeps BEGGING to hear the missionary lessons.  We keep telling him that we need to actually meet his parents first and he keeps promising us that we will.  Then every time we go over to teach his mom is mysteriously gone.  It's strange how that works, haha.  We keep joking that the church needs to do a campaign called, "Missionaries.  They're normal people."
Speaking of people not thinking we're normal people, it's a funny feeling being a missionary.  We went out to lunch last week after P-Day sports and I forgot to clip my nametag on.  It was a REALLY weird feeling to not have everyone stare at me.  And I've only been out in the field for a month!  I'm sure it will be an even weirder feeling when I go home and have to readjust from mission life.
Speaking of mission life, it's dang awesome.  I never thought that it'd be this cool.  Is it hard?  Yes.  Is everyday absolutely fun?  No.  Is every single day that we work hard the most rewarding feeling in the world?  Absolutely.  I never feel like our efforts are in vain, even if we don't accomplish things on the surface.  For example, just the other day we ran into a dead end in the work.  We didn't really have any idea what to do.  So we decided that we would just get down right in the middle of the sidewalk and say a kneeling prayer and choose a name from our ward list of someone to visit.  We did and there was a definite name that we felt prompted to visit.  We started to bike and felt like we needed to get there really fast.  While we were biking the name "Cassie" popped into my head and I started to think about it a lot.  When we got to the member's house she started to yell at us about how she never wanted to see the missionaries again and she wanted her name removed from the records.  Needless to say, we felt that was odd considering we were prompted to go there.  But we stopped for a second and knew that there was obviously a reason that the Lord sent us here and we felt like we hadn't accomplished our purpose yet.  We were near another family, the Bs, and I asked Elder E. if Sis. B first name was Cassie.  He didn't know, so we pulled out the ward list and tried to look it up, but we were missing the page.  But, lo and behold, while we were looking it up, guess who drove by?  The Bs!  We stopped them and told them that we felt like we needed to talk to them.  We asked them if they had anyone that they thought we needed to visit.  They pointed to a house and said that a less-active member lived there and was home at the moment.  We thanked them and then went up to the house and knocked a few times.  We could hear a hushed argument between the two of them indoors and knew they were home.  We felt impressed to just talk to them through the door and let them know why we were there and that we were always available to help.  After that we left and felt like even though we didn't understand exactly what just happened or why, that we had accomplished what the Lord sent us there to do.  It was a rewarding feeling.
We taught one of our investigators, S again about how the Book of Mormon is structured and who wrote what exactly.  It was a really interesting lesson and my compendium of useless knowledge about the Book of Mormon finally came in handy, haha.  After the lesson we had ice cream and her daughter, E, gave me a toy cell phone to call her on.  She told me that she was an air pilot and that she was going to Treasure Island.  It was an interesting "phone call."

Our ward had their Trunk or Treat party this week.  I'll send pictures soon when I get them of my companion and I's costume.  He went as Clark Kent and wore a Superman shirt under his white shirt and tie and I went as a secret agent.  I got sunglasses, an ear piece, and adjusted my nametag to say "Agent Morgan" and "FBI."  It was pretty sweet.
Well, I hope everything is going well back home.  To the youth of the Mountain View Ward: I got the banner.  Thank you very much for it.  I've included some majestic pictures of me with the banner.  It's very windy here in California.  I'll write again next week, but until then keep it cool.

Your friend,
Elder Carter Morgan

Monday, October 21, 2013

"And the little children shall lead them..."

It's me again, emailing from the... interestingly landscaped Apple Valley, CA!  It's been quite a week and the missionary adventures continue to roll forward.  This week we had the opportunity to hear from Elder Lynn G. Robins, a member of the first Quorum of the 70.  He was a fantastic speaker and he gave the missionaries tons of advice.  He spoke once at a zone conference for all the missionaries in Apple Valley and Victorville and then he did a special fireside that was only for missionaries, recent converts, and investigators.  It was a fantastic fireside.  One of my favorite quotes from his talk was "You don't have to eat the whole pizza to know it tastes good."  He was talking about the Book of Mormon and how sometimes there's a prevailing attitude of "I like the Book of Mormon, I believe it's true, and I feel the spirit when I read it, but I want to read the whole thing two or three times before I'm baptized."  We read in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament to "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits."  The message of the Restoration of the Gospel, the truth that God has once again called a prophet and still speaks to his children, can be difficult to believe, especially if the concept is of a foreign nature.  That's why in these Latter-Days the Lord has brought forth the Book of Mormon to prove that  "God does binspire men and call them to his choly work in thisage and generation, as well as in generations of old;"
What a wonderful fruit the Lord has given us to bring us to a knowledge of the truth.  I know the power of the Book of Mormon and the essential role it plays in conversion.
Speaking again of Elder Robins, he told us missionaries some fun facts that he learned from President Packer.  When the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and the First Presidency make a decisions, they all study it out together and then vote.  If the decision is not unanimous, they then study it some more until they can come to a unanimous vote.  President Packer said in his 40 years as an apostle there have only been two decisions that were immediately unanimous and did not require any discussion.  The first was the decision to change the name of "Genealogy" to "Family History."  The second was the decision to add the subtitle to the Book of Mormon "Another Testament of Jesus Christ."  I thought those were pretty interesting.
So, before I relate what else has happened, I thought it would be relevant to include a special promise that was given to me in my setting apart as a missionary.  When the Stake President, President Nashiff, laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing, he gave me a specific promise that I "would teach children first and their parents would come to a knowledge of the truth through them."  Even though I've only been out in the field for about a month, I'm already starting to see the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Here's how it happened:

One day while biking to a teaching appointment about two weeks ago we ran into a group of about 9 middle schoolers.  We talked to them for a bit and they responded about as naturally as any 14 year-old would when approached by two white guys in suits.  They were not very receptive.  We gave them all cards and asked them if they knew anyone else that would be interested in our message.  One of the boys gave us the name of a 17 year-old girl and her family that live across the street as a joke, because he has a crush on her.  Well, the joke was on him because as missionaries we don't care how, who, or why we get a referral, we will contact that person.
Fast forward to this past Thursday.  We finally had time to go contact this referral that lived at a little block of apartments.  We ride up to the entrance and lo and behold, eight children between the ages of 6 and 12 come running up to us and asking us questions.  They asked about our bikes, who we were, why we're here, why we both have the same first name (Elder), if we were brothers, and what do we do.  Now, I remembered the words of my blessing and recognized this as a great opportunity to share the gospel.  We showed them some of the pass along cards we have with pictures of Christ on them and they went nuts.  They wanted all the free stuff they could get, haha.  They started jumping up and down and practically were begging us to teach them "church lessons."  So we set up a return appointment the next day to teach them outside their apartments in their little dirt yard.  That's when we began to prepare to teach the "Sermon in the Dirt."
We came back the next day and found all the children eagerly waiting outside to hear from the missionaries.  We gathered them around in a circle and taught them the about the Restoration.  One of the kid's older sister, Nicole, a 17 year-old, wanted to hear the lesson as well.  They were initially talkative and jabbery while we were teaching until we related to them the story of the First Vision and the Book of Mormon.  They were amazed by this story and so was Nicole.  She was craning her neck to look at the picture of the First Vision and she was listening intently.  We pulled out a copy of the Book of Mormon and they all asked if they could borrow it.  I said, "I'll do you one better.  You can KEEP this book.  It's yours forever."  We gave them each a copy of the Book of Mormon and they all promised to read.  They wanted us to come back and teach them the next day!  So we did.
After we left, though, we decided that we couldn't keep teaching the kids as just kids.  They need their parents.  They can't act without them at this age.  So we drafted up a letter to give to the parents letting them know that we'd love to keep teaching them but that we need to split up the group and teach them in their families.  The kids were pretty disappointed about that, but we did manage to get a return appointment with Nicole's Family.
One of the boys in the group, Johnny, told us when we got back that he had read all the way to 1st Nephi Chapter 7.  We figured he was just trying to impress us and probably hadn't read that far, but then he said that it mentioned Abraham, which is the name of one of his friends, and Isaac, which is the name of his brother.  We were amazed because that's a reference from 1st Nephi 6:4, proving that he actually read all of it.  We were very excited for him.
So that was my adventure in teaching the children this week.  But the small children hilarity doesn't end there!  The Ranchos ward had their primary program this week, which is always hilarious.  Our investigator's daughter, Ella, who is four, was very excited to say her part.  She's been practicing her part for weeks.  Her part is: "Heavenly Father wants me to be married in the temple someday.  I want to be with my family forever.  I love my family."  She got up to the microphone and practically screamed into it her part.  She said it perfectly!  "Heavenly Father wants me to be married in the temple someday.  I want to be with my family forever.  I love my family."  ... Then at the end she added, "And I love purple pansies."  The problem was, do to her practically eating the microphone, the impromptu line came across as, "And I love purple PANTIES."  Oh man, the whole ward lost it.  The primary program came to a screeching halt for about two minutes because everyone in the ward was busting up.  It was a truly fantastic moment.
I have to sign off for now, but let me just say that the work here is real.  I know the gospel is true, and I too love purple pansies.
I will again leave you with a lyric from Sons of Provo.  This song is about a newly engaged couple and their young love:

"You make me feel so handsome
Like a shining dark stallion
I love the way you wear
Your Young Women's Medallion
I love you girl
But I hope you comprehend
This body is a temple
Buy you don't got no recommend."
Your friend,
Elder Carter David Morgan

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another week in paradise?

Another letter from the tropical paradise of Apple Valley, CA!  A few days ago it rained all day.  It must've been about 50 degrees!  I remember thinking how cold it was, haha.  Summer in Utah and Fall in California has made me soft.  That and the fact that I pretty much only have short sleeve white shirts, haha.  It's good, though.  Biking in the cold rain in a white shirt and tie makes me feel like a real missionary out here.  The only downside is that when the weather gets colder there are less people on the street so it's harder to contact people.
Today has been a really good week as far as the Work of Salvation goes.  We have added four new investigators to our teaching pool!  Carlos, a young father working at a grocery store to support his four children, and Brandy, Eric, and their daughter who is over the age of 8.  They've been taking the discussions in Nebraska for a while and they just moved here and got in contact with us.  Our teaching pool is growing and every day we get more and more appointments.  It's fantastic!

Since Halloween is coming up we taught one of our investigators how to hold a family home evening.  Elder Escamilla and I went over to her house and we carved pumpkins with her family.  I'll make sure to send pictures of my awesome CTR pumpkin.  It's pretty much the best.

We had the opportunity to attend a Bishop Youth Discussion with all the Young Men and Young Women in our ward last night.  It was great because there was a ton of food and Elder Escamilla and I had been fasting all day, haha.

One of the people that we've been teaching is a boy named Nykolus who is 8 years old.  His dad wants him to hear all the missionary discussions before he makes the decision to be baptized.  We've found that as we teach him he makes a lot of comparisons to school and how church feels like schoool.  We're trying to make the gospel more applicable in his life.  We started to tell him some Book of Mormon stories and when we asked him if those sound like stories he'd like to read he seemed really interested.  We asked him to read the story of Ammon when he defends the king's sheep (which is about 7 pages of dense, scriptural reading) and when we saw him at church three days later he told us that he had read the whole thing!  I am cautiously optimistic that one day when he's an apostle he will tell the story of the kind missionaries that taught him how to love the Book of Mormon, haha.

Well, even though it's P-Day there's still a lot of work to do here in California.  It's great hearing from you whenever you get the chance and every missionary loves to get mail.

 I'll leave you all with a lyric from the song "Mormon Daddy" by the group Sons of Provo:
"I'm a dilly whack mack Mormon Daddy,
Yo, my peeps all be conformin' cause it's cool to be a Mormon
I'm a blackjack saint, I'm a mack daddy oh."
Your dilly whack mack Mormon Daddy,
Elder Carter David Mormon

PS:  Carter mentioned that he would love to get some "real" letters if anyone has the time:-)  His address is:

Elder Carter Morgan
6541 Woodruff Place, 
Rancho Cucamonga, CA, 91710.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Greetings from Apple Valley!

Greetings all, from Apple Valley, CA!  Today there was a rare sight here in the desert.  We saw a cloud!  I couldn't believe my eyes!  I felt like I was back home in Washington.  Except instead of grass there's a lot of dirt and instead of rain there's more dirt.

This week has been great!  We had the opportunity to go hiking up in the mountains today.  It was quite the hike!  It was a hard climb but it was totally worth it once we got up there.  Because we were up in the mountains there was actual greenery and water and such!  It was fantastic!  When we got to the highest point of the hike we all sat down and did our personal study.  What an amazing experience!  I read about the missionary work of Aaron and how he taught King Lamoni's father in the Book of Mormon.  Now that I'm actually out here on my mission, the stories of Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah mean so much more to me.  Fun fact: What Aaron teaches King Lamoni's father is essentially the second discussion in Preach My Gospel.  It's cool to see that even though thousands of years have passed we still teach the basic doctrine of the Lord.
I had the opportunity to watch General Conference with one of my investigators the other day.  It was a great experience for everyone involved.  I found that I learned so much more this General Conference than I have in years past.  I particularly enjoyed President Uchtdorf's, Elder Holland's, and Elder Oakes' talks.  What a blessing it is to have living prophets and apostles on the Earth today.  When we're out teaching we find so many good people who remain confused by some of the common and contemporary questions that life poses today.  General Conference is a true witness that God loves His children just as much as he did in times of old and has provided us with all the same blessings that they had, namely prophets and apostles.

The investigator that we watched General Conference with, Sara, has a four year-old daughter named Ella.  Ella always wants to say the prayer when we come over.  However, I don't think that Ella quite understands the concept of prayer yet.  Whenever Ella prays, she just recites her part for the upcoming Primary Program, haha.  She says, "Heavenly Father, I love my family and they love me.  Heavenly Father wants me to be married in the temple someday and I want to be too."  It's both cute and hilarious.  Elder Escamilla has been taking care of some paperwork with Sara, so it's fallen to my responsibility to entertain Ella while they work on that.  It's a job I'm more than happy to do, haha.  I have a racquetball that her and I throw back and forth and when she gets bored of that I take the BYU keychain off my key ring and make her guess which hand it's in.  It's not too hard to make her think that I'm magic, mostly because I've figured out that she always guesses the opposite hand that she guessed before, haha.  She also is happy because she says that we have almost the same name because she's ELla and I'm ELder.  Also, apparently I'm the only missionary whose last name she's ever remembered so I feel pretty cool right now.
The work is going strong here in Apple Valley.  When people ask what our job is we say, "Teach people and when we're not doing that we find more people to teach."  That's exactly what we do, day in and day out.  I'm so glad to be out here serving a mission.  It's the best decision that I've ever made in my life.  I found myself thinking today, "I don't know if I ever want to come home."  Are some days hard?  Yeah, definitely, but no day is ever not worth it.  I love this church.  I know that it's the Lord's church and I know that He governs it today.
Elder Carter David Morgan

PS--From Carter's Mom:  Carter's birthday is coming up on November 2nd and I'm sure he'd love some birthday mail:-)  It takes a few weeks for him to get mail because it goes through the mission office.  Here's his address if you are interested:

Elder Carter Morgan
6541 Woodruff Place, 
Rancho Cucamonga, CA, 91710.

When I asked what he wanted/needed for his birthday he mentioned the following (not that he expects to get anything--but some have asked):

-BOOKS!  I get so bored at night.  I loved the Joseph Smith book you sent me written by Truman G. Madsen.  All the church books you can send, especially about Joseph Smith, the Restoration, or the Book of Mormon.
-CDs, especially more contemporary Mormon music