November 4-9, 2013  Missionary Training Center Experience

We were excited and filled with anticipation for weeks at attending training at the MTC.   We arrived on Monday about 10:40 AM and registered.  We received our badges,  missionary certificate, small missionary handbook and other supplies and a parking hanger at the front desk and at the bookstore.  We paid for our meals while we would be there. 

We ate our first meal along with the young missionaries in the cafeteria in the main
building.  It was confusing at first as there were three or four serving areas and not all of them having the same entrees.  There was a salad bar, a wrap area, a grill and the main entrĂ©e area.  Considering the large number of missionaries to be served each day the food was adequate and we didn’t need to prepare it or clean up.  Paul thought the portions were small but Gail said they were normal and we could return for as much as we wanted.  There was a standard selection of drinks from milk, chocolate milk, and the carbonated versions.  Desserts were generally tasty.

We were housed at the Provo Marriott Hotel—a lovely room, a lovely place.

Our training took place in the Stadium chapel just to the north of the MTC.  We met every morning in the chapel for a devotional followed by large group instructions.  Then we met in our individual districts for more training and instructions.  Each district of four couples had it own classroom.  We sat at tables using “Preach My Gospel” as our text.

Our group included the district leader, Brother Porter and his wife, the Taylors, the Stecks and us.  Brother and Sister Porter, from Preston, Idaho, were “at home” missionaries who will work with the local  mission full time in Idaho.  The Taylors, also from Idaho, were going on a 6 months assignment to the Atlanta North Mission.  The Stecks were Physical Facilities Missionaries going to the Missouri Independence Mission.

All of our instructors were young returned missionaries.  A few were married.  They were all bright, enthusiastic and were very well-prepared with their instructions.  Our morning instructor was a single sister Amy Fillmore, a very enthusiastic young woman with an infectious laugh.  Brother Meyer taught us in the afternoon. 

Since most of us were assigned to the MTC for only five days there was no attempt to cover the whole manual.  Instead, on Monday and Tuesday we trained on teaching techniques, and how to get to know the investigator.  We were to issue 4 invites:  invite them to church, to pray, to read the Book of Mormon and to be baptized.  We prepared to teach the first lesson to a first “investigator” on Wednesday.  We were to spend at least 15 minutes in getting to know the person and their needs and then, through the spirit, meet those needs with a 30 minute discussion, with Book of Mormon scriptures and with appropriate questions to ask.

The next day, we put our learning into practice.  The cultural center was divided into twelve cubicles where we did our teaching.   The “investigator” was a younger divorcee, accompanied by an older sister from Tonga (she was for real and her father accompanied Elder Groberg as they crossed from one island to another—See “The Other Side of Heaven”).  We were monitored by Sister Fillmore.

We did the same thing on Thursday but the “investigator” had had the first discussion from other missionaries and was challenged to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. We were there for the second visit and, if appropriate, teach the Plan of Salvation lesson.  Our “investigator” was a rather sophisticated woman who moved with her husband and children to Utah from California.  She had several Mormon friends and just wanted to know what they believed.

In both cases we were to teach people--not lessons.  We could use our notes, but not our book.  In the past lessons were memorized word for word, but now we are to teach through the spirit according to the individual’s needs.

On  Friday we dealt with an LDS couple.  She was active.  Her husband had been, but felt no further need to remain active.  They had a daughter who had some serious problems.  We chose to hone in on how they could receive personal revelation in behalf of their daughter.  We gave it our very best, often challenging the husband to resume activity, but he remained the same. His wife was not pleased with him remaining so disinterested.

Friday afternoon was a time for testimony bearing before dismissal and to make our way to our respective missions.  We returned home for the weekend with the plan to leave for Reno Monday morning 

            Eating several meals with a couple from Price, the Adairs.  He was a former coal miner who was the general manager when a terrible disaster happened near Price and many men died several years ago.  She was a nurse.  They were going to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Meeting one couple, the Calls from Canada.  They will serve for a year in New Caledonia to partially replace our friends Mike and Eva Syphus.  They spoke French and anticipated serving in Canada.
            Attending the devotional on Tuesday night with all the MTC missionaries.  The  visiting authority was Elder Craig Zwick, a Seventy.  Paul spoke in his home some years earlier on plural marriage.  Gail can not remember the meeting so probably didn’t attend.
            One night driving past the former Provo Tabernacle, now destined to be a  Temple.  An enormous amount of preparatory work has been achieved on the foundation.  All that survives of the original building are the outer walls.

November 9-10, 2013 Preparing to leave for Mission

Arriving home from the MTC Friday evening we began packing the car. We packed the van and cleaned the house all day Saturday.  Sunday we went to the Parrish Heights ward and was introduced in Sacrament meeting as the ward’s newest missionaries who spent the prior week at the MTC.  Sunday night Sue and Greg Larson dropped by for a visit.  Brandon, Emily and Carson came by and ate with us a dinner of lasagna that Ashley had made. We got to bed about midnight.

November 11-17, 2013 First Week in the Nevada Reno Mission

We left Centerville in our Toyota van about 9 AM and arrived in Sparks at 4:30 in the afternoon.  We went directly to the Mission Home, 1146 Prater Way, where we met the Mellors (whom we will replace) and the Lynns who run the office.  The Mellors took us to their apartment for a tour and we  dropped off some of our boxes that we won’t be needing for the next two weeks.  The Lynns invited us to dinner at the Sizzler in Sparks.  Bonnie and Jay Thiessens and their grandson ate with us.  We will be staying, temporarily, in the Thiessens’ basement apartment until the Mellors are released Nov 27th.  While at the Sizzler eating we met Nevada Reno Mission President Hermansen and his family who were also eating there.
After dinner Jay and Paul went to the home of Jay’s son and gave him a Priesthood blessing as he will be operated on Tuesday for kidney stones.
Then on to the Thiessens’ million dollar home.  It’s a large lovely  home up on the hill overlooking Sparks.  The basement is huge.  Jay visited with us for quite some time.  He was in the sheet metal fabrication business starting out as an employee eventually owning his own business and employing many people.  He bought and sold machinery and property and ended up becoming a millionaire.  He is a very smart business man and the Lord has been good to him. But he has been good to the missionaries.  He had Elders and then Sisters in the apartment at one point. The interesting thing about his life is the fact that he didn’t learn to read until he was in his 60’s.  Few people knew in his business and in the church.  His wife and daughter helped him keep it secret.  He was called to become a Bishop and realized he needed to read in order to deal with the information coming from Salt Lake.  He went through the church’s literacy program and it took him 5 years to learn. He still has struggles with reading and writing but is a big advocate of literacy and talks in the schools and the community about his problem. He got a Blue Chip national award for his amazing achievements and has been featured in several business magazines.

This week we met with the Mission President Hermansen about our assignments, about the mission and just to get to know one another.    He was raised with Jeff Marsh, a colleague of Paul’s at the U of U Institute.  He has 8 children.  He is in partnership with Don Astle, nationally famous for his cleaning techniques.

We met a Sister Burt and her granddaughter at the mission office.  They brought in a large pot of homemade organic chili and it was delicious.  She included carrots, cut small, to avoid gas.  Her granddaughter was once employed by Dustin Hoffman, the famous actor.  She said that he stands just 5’4” tall and was nice to work with.

In the mission office we also met Sister Coy who entered the Bountiful Temple for her endowments the day we got our mission call.  We assisted her getting her endowment that evening.  We were going to the same mission.  It was fun to see her again.

 Our assignment is the Red Hill Ward in an area of Sparks called Sun Valley.  Senior couples are in reality part-time missionaries.  We pace ourselves and do the best we can, but can take time off to shop, go to movies, and so forth.  We are not restricted to boundaries.  Typically a couple assigned to a ward, while answering to the Bishop, is able to reactivate many people and lift the spirits. 

We contacted Bishop Donald Cox of the Red Hill ward and he enthusiastically invited us to visit with him in his office.  We drove to the ward building in the dark but thanks to the GPS made our way without any difficulty.  The building is new and beautiful—an experimental design soon abandoned because, among other things, overhead pipes freeze, thaw and break in the winter. 

The ward has a Spanish speaking branch which meets with them for some meetings. There is a set of Spanish missionaries, Anglo missionaries and us assigned to the ward.   Because of Paul being in Seminary and Institutes the Bishop asked us to teach a Sunday School class, ages ranging between 12 and 18, with a potential of 42.  Average attendance is 6 to 8.  Two or three teachers have been “run out” so far, but we will tackle the problem and resolve it!  The bishop feels if we can get close to them then possibly we can, in the future, work with their families.

The bishop introduced us to several ward members—most a bit low on the economic scale but very friendly.  Bishop Cox proudly took us on a tour of the building.  It is very nice.  Sunday we will attend class as observers, then undertake to teach in a week’s time.

Friday we decided to do some sight-seeing.  We drove to Virginia City, an old mining town, once quite large, high up in the mountains west and south of Reno.  It looks like Park City did years ago before the money arrived.  The day was quite cool.  Years ago we visited Virginia City with Helen (Paul’s cousin) and Milt Gold.  Today main street is filled with seedy “antiques” shops—typically a mixture of few old American coins and the sorriest collection of posters and cheap t-shirts and nick-nacks as can be imagined.  We went in the Bucket of Blood Saloon for the view through a rear window before realizing we probably shouldn’t be there as we were missionaries (but didn’t wear our tags).  The bar, you see, is fully operational.

Paul visited the basement of a store where Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) worked for a time for a newspaper called the  Territorial Enterprise.  Paul saw the large desk where he labored and, it is claimed, wrote “Roughing It” as well as a marble-topped table, badly cracked, where he wrote “The Jumping Frog of Calabasas County.”

We went on to Carson City where we enjoyed a visit to the Nevada State Museum. It featured an old replica silver mine in the lower level.  We followed rails laid down for the ore cars.  We saw various techniques for mining the silver and shoring up the mine.  We also saw the State Capitol which is very old and for a capitol building, much much smaller than Utah’s.  We walked through a self-guided tour on the second floor.

Our concluding visit was south and west to Genoa, a Mormon way station on the California Trail.  Genoa was the first settlement in what would become the State of Nevada.  It was presided over by Elder Orson Hyde in its day.  The original buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1921. A replica was erected in 1947-1948.  Unfortunately it was closed for the winter until May of next year.

This week we are watching the missionary training videos we were given in the mission office. One set called “The District” are actual missionaries visiting real investigators.  Their teaching is very impressive. They focus all their efforts on the “Preach My Gospel” manual, it’s lessons and suggested procedures. It encourages preparation before a visit and then after, recording your notes regarding the visit with  follow-up plans and goals.
We can see where a successful missionary will follow these guidelines.

Today we received the sad news that Ashley has had a miscarriage.  She wasn’t far along but we didn’t know she was pregnant. We hope she  gets pregnant again soon.

Sunday, 17 November 2013,  we arrived at the Red Hill Ward about 9:30 and were warmly welcomed by everyone.  Attendance was sparse for sacrament meeting—they average about 16%.  The organist did her valiant best, playing as best she could on both the piano and the organ.  It was clearly evident that many folk were of the lower income. The ward was situated near many trailers and was built in that location so members without cars could walk to church. 

The first speaker was a young sister Wolff and did a very fine job.  Then the counselor conducting explained that the other speaker did not show and they would like to invite the  new missionary couple, Elder and Sister Smith,  to talk to us.  Saturday Paul had had a premonition that we might be called on but thought it would be just for our testimonies.  I prepared a small talk just in case.  Thank goodness.  Paul took up the remainder of the time. 

We visited the Sunday School class we will be teaching. They meet in the Cultural Hall and there were 6 students in attendance.  Michael Moore, a fourteen year old and his sister, Kelly were both big pains.  They were in constant motion, making “funny” comments and giving wrong answers.  They left class and returned without any explanation.  They talked to each other and another girl, Brittany, during the whole class. 

We later learned that Michael’s condition is undiagnosed—perhaps a cross between autism, asbergers and ADD. His sister shows signs as well.   We later spoke with several who know him, including prior teachers and his mother, for clues as to how to deal with him.  The answer—lay down the rules, be consistent, and don’t get mad at him.  It doesn’t help.  We worried all week about our first class with him.

Novermber 18-24

Monday, Gail assisted Sister Lynn in the mission office all day.  She assembled binders for new arriving missionaries.  After leaving the office we ate dinner with Elder David and Siser Sally Mellor, the outgoing couple whose apartment we will claim next Tuesday.  They invited he Huff couple, (serving in Carson City) as well.

Tonight, on voicemail, Carson spoke!  He had several things to say including “I love you”  and “grandpa” and “grandma”.  We miss him and all our grandchildren.

We attended our first zone and district meeting this week in the “Rock” chapel.  Our Zone leader is from Orlando, an Elder King.  Gail didn’t get to talk with him to find out about his family, etc.  Our district leader is Elder Alvarez, a good looking elder and  a new convert from Mexico.  He did a fine job training.  Following our meeting we went to In-N-Out for lunch with the Mellors and to the Mission Office for he mail.

On Wednesday we toured the B & J Tool Company factory with Jay Thiessens, our host.  The 56,000 square foot plant is an amazing operation.  It has several pieces of equipment worth millions of dollars.  It was interesting to watch the latest, from Germany, rapidly stamp out and stack parts.   Another cut and designed products, both large and very minute, with a laser beam. Afterwards Jay presented us with a Grabber—an item they produce at the plant—and another plastic item that holds bags apart for trash or whatever.  We were then treated to lunch at Wendy’s with Bonnie and their granddaughter.

We got a light snow this week.  From our window in this apartment it is a beautiful sigh looking over the valley of Sparks and Reno.  One morning when the sun was just right we could see he spire of the temple. 

On Saturday we attended the Reno Nevada Temple.  We did sealing and initiatories for a number of Gail’s ancestors.  The temple is small but beautiful.  It is perched on a hill overlooking Reno.  Because of occasional high winds an entrance was added with heavy doors that can be easily secured.  The workers joked that because of the addition it is the “biggest little temple in the world’, a play on Reno being the biggest little city in America.   

This week we have prayed, fasted, attended the temple and prepared  for the long awaited day when we would teach our class.  We were able to move the class from the cultural hall to one end of the Young Women’s Room.  We arranged the chairs in a circle.  Five attended, 3 Latino girls and 2 Latino boys.  The Moore family were not there.  Paul suspected that Sister Moore kept them  home to give us a break from our first class.  Gail thinks they were out of town.  Class rules were presented on he chalk board but they were hardly needed with that group.  The lesson went smoothly—presented by he two of us. 

After church we hosted Jay and Bonnie for a delicious dinner of pork chops and biscuits.  As feared, they talked until 8PM—nearly four hours and could have gone on when Jay took mercy on us (and Paul kept falling asleep).  Great people but how they loved to tell us about their mission to the Heber YW Campground.  They were there for two summers, 6 months each summer.

November 25-Dec  1  Moving into our Apartment, Thanksgiving

Monday morning we packed up and started cleaning our basement apartment in order to move to our permanent place.

Tuesday we left the Thiessens’ home with the van packed.  We went to the Mission office for transfer day.  All the new missionaries arrive and are instructed in several areas. The old missionaries who have completed their mission bare their testimonies in a farewell meeting.  And transfers occur.  It was an exciting time.  We helped with the lunch.
That evening we went to the apartment.  Just our luck, the old missionaries didn’t have time to clean it-fridge, stove, bathrooms etc—so Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we cleaned.  The mission office was going to send in a cleaning crew but we would have had to have waited to get in and we were anxious to get settled. ( The OCD in Gail would have re-cleaned it anyway) 
Thanksgiving morning Gail made cranberry relish, p-nut brittle and 4 pies to take to Pres and Sis Hermansen’s for dinner.  They also invited another office couple and 5 sister missionaries.  The mission home is in Reno overlooking the valley and is beautiful.  We enjoyed the day.  That night we finally got the TV and antenna working.  We get CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and PBS.  Paul can satisfy his news craving and Gail can watch Downton Abbey in January. 
Friday we helped with the Mission Leaders Zone Conference and prepared a lunch.  While at the church we got the wonderful news that our Lexus had been stolen Thanksgiving night.  Rob had gone to Brandon and Emily’s for dinner.  We talked to them all that night about 9 PM—even face timed little Carson.  They watched a movie and at 2 AM Rob went to leave.  The car was frosted over and he turned it on to warm it up.  He went back inside to get some leftovers from Emily—was in the house a good 3 minutes—and the car was gone.  They called the police immediately.  It has not been recovered as of Monday.

Sunday we had 9 kids in our class—it’s growing.  All were the Hispanics except for the one sister, Kelly, who was such a troublemaker the first Sunday when we visited the class.  Without Michael there, she was perfect and even answered questions.  We have yet to teach Michael.  He has been gone the last two Sundays.  So each week the class has been perfect.  We love the Hispanic kids but they are mostly new in the gospel and need just the basic principles taught.  The older kids know more and so we will have them help us in the teaching if we feel they already know what we are teaching. 
Week of December 2-8, 2013
We have heard that winters in Nevada are not as bad as in Utah.  But this week it has snowed twice with frigid temperatures.  Tonight it will drop to -6.  It been hard to get around with snowy roads along with the bitter cold.  But we continiue to visit inactives and hope we can make a difference.

The highlight of the week was attending our first zone conference--actually Paul's first since 1962 in the Florida Mission.  Presided over by President and Sister Hermansen, the six hour meeting featured such sessions as 5 minute talks by missionaries, improvement on working with ward and stake leaders, teaching more effectively, how to jump start a car and so forth.  It was both inspiring and useful.  Lunch was provided by local sisters.  During that time President and Sister Hermansen gave a Christmas present to each elder and sister.

Saturday we were scheduled to attend an early morning breakfast held at the home of the local stake president, Dr. Joe Johnson.  He is, we are told , extremely missionary minded.  As a result every ward has good mission ward leaders, including ours.  Pres. Johnson cooks breakfast for the missionaries once a quarter.  It was cancelled because of a heavy overnight snowfall.

Saturday afternoon, however, we ventured out of our warm apartment to attend and help participate in a baptism--an older fellow in the ward.  His grandfather was an active member, he recalled.  The Elders, other Red Hill missionaries, had been teaching him when we got to the ward.  He will be a good member.

Sunday, the two extremely active youth, Michael and Kelly Moore, were in attendance in our class. They were certainly a disruption.  We are praying hard for inspiration about dealing with them.  Some of what we did was effective in keeping them in control but not all.  When they both come they play off of each other and neither one is reverent.  Everyone else was perfect.  We can see why prior teachers are run off.  It's hard to both teach and discipline.  It would be easy to quit trying.  Here is a picture of our ward house.  It is the most beautiful building in the whole area.

We are going to miss everyone at Christmas.  Holidays are probably the hardest times here.

December 26-Jan 5, 2014

Following our last post we have not been feeling well.  Gail got the flu the day after Christmas (despite the flu shot) so needless to say there was not much celebrating to usher in the new year .  She is still suffering from a very bad cough and hates to be among people.  She has missed two Sundays at church with Paul's tackling the class by himself.  We had an all time high attendance of 11 today in our SS class--however that includes 4 active 12 year olds coming from Primary.

 Paul just has a bad cold but has kept going. It was probably a good time to get sick as the missionary work slows down during he holidays.

The week before Christmas we found an inactive family of two of our students.  In talking to them  we encouraged them to start attending church. The mother said they were thinking about it.  The older daughter, who is not in our class, was visiting her family and indicated she wanted to start back to church as well.  She had a 4 month old baby and said the non-member father was willing to hear about the church--was a good man-- and would probably take the discussions.  So we turned the names over to the elders and they are always happy with that.  The older daughter and what-we-thought-was-her-husband have now had two discussions.  We plan on teaching them a lesson on temple marriage (or just marriage of any kind) when the missionaries are ready to have us do that.   But we feel good about this family.  We have not seen the other two siblings who should be coming to our class but we'll be working with them when we get back to feeling better and can get to work.

We hope to give the elders more teaching opportunities and encourage them to follow up on many of our visits.  It's working well.  Well, we hope to be feeling better and will report more next week.  It's not so cold here now and easier to get out and about.

Despite his cold (which always seems to center in his voice box), Paul accepted a speaking assignment in the singles ward in Sparks.  He was invited to speak by Brian Crane, first counselor in the bishopric.  Brian is a nationally-known cartoonist who draws Pickles.  Pickles is carried in 800 newspapers.  A retired couple named Earl and Opal Pickles are featured.  For three years, Paul described Pickles and a few other cartoons once each week for the Utah Radio Reading Service, then a radio station for the blind.   Not long after arrival in Sparks, Paul had called Brian to tell him about his recording work.  He asked Brian if he and Gail could visit his studio.  He agreed, but Paul felt embarrassed to have been so bold.  Brian recalled Paul's call, asked him to speak, and presented a copy of his latest soft-cover book of Pickles cartoons entitled "Oh Sure!  Blame It On the Dog!"  Inside, Brian had drawn the face of Earl Pickles, with the caption, "Thank you Elder Smith!" with his signature.  Brian invited Gail and Paul to visit his studio anytime.  As soon as we stop coughing and hacking, we're going to do it!
January 6-12, 2014

We are both feeling much better this week.  Because school was still out this week, for the holidays, we sought for and found 8 of our students.  Most were positive visits with promises that they would attend our class.  Some were indifferent and on one visit we only met the grandmother.  She claimed "Oh, I know about you people.  The family is not interested and they are attending another church."  We'll try again when grandma's not home.

We had 10 in attendance this morning in our SS class--two for the first time.  One of the 17 year olds we found this week came to class.  She is a darling girl, Tiana, and we hope we can encourage her to attend each week.  Her older sister goes to the Institute here and the singles ward. Tiana's sister is now engaged to be married in August in the Reno Temple.  We found her through the Institute program.  The girls have a non-member mother and an inactive father.

We just wish we knew how to put some fire under some of these parents and their youth.  They seem like they want to get back to church but when it come to actually attending that's another thing.  Pray that as we represent the Lord well and that we can make a difference.

Our mission recitation this month is a quote I love from Elder Bruce R. McConkie;
I am called of God.  My authority is above that of kings of he earth.  By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is my master and He has chosen me to represent Him--to stand in His place, to say and do what He Himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me.  My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts; my words are His words and my doctrine is His doctrine.  My Commission is to do what He wants done, To say what he wants said; to be a living modern witness in word and in deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous Latter-day work.  How great is my calling!

Tuesday was transfer day again--every 6 weeks.  Our favorite Elder Miller was moved to Denton, NV and we will miss him.  He was good to work with in the Red Hill Ward.  He is on the right.

Transfer day with the whole parking lot full of cars and bike racks.

January 13-26, 2014

Thirteen years ago while Paul worked in the CES headquarters in the Church Office Building, Salt Lake City, he was, for a time, in charge of library services for the seminaries and institutes.  On occasion he was sent to evaluate seminary and institute libraries.  He traveled from Cedar City to Pocatello, Idaho.  He would remove books from the shelves that had little  or no value and heap them up on a table.  He pulled 700 such books from the institute library in Pocatello.  He identified books that might be sold to assist the budget.  He also removed books that were controversial and anti-Mormon.  He spent nearly the entire day, the 13th, at the Reno Institute of Religion, pulling over 200 books and numerous audio cassettes. It was great fun.  Some of the shelves looked rather bare when he finished.

The next day, Tuesday, was the weekly district training meeting for the missionaries held in the Sparks stake center.  Gail always brings a treat for the 35-40 there--such as sweet rolls, brownies, apple crisp, etc--in large quantities that are cheap and easy to make to fill up the elders and treat the sisters.  She was left to carry on with that voluntary responsibility when the senior couple we replaced--the Mellors--went home.

The Monday WalMart run

We are still trying to locate families with children who should be enrolled in our Sunday School class.  We found a large family of 8, the Deckers, with 2 boys for our class.  They have been inactive for a time but expressed a desire to return to church.  We picked them up this past Sunday, and they stayed for the entire block of meetings.  They just bought a used van but had not yet registered it.  So they should have a car available in the near future. We had a lot to talk about comparing our big families.  We hope they continue to attend.  Paul was inspired to bring our van  instead of the car on this mission and we have certainly used it--hauling missionaries, mainly, but now offering rides to families.  It reminds me of mother taking all the kids to Primary each week years ago--the Cox family, Michelle and Craig, etc.  Of course we lost the Lexus because we brought the van.  With the insurance money we will have to buy another car when we get home.

On Stake Temple day Gail was able to get many of her baptisms, initiatory,  endowments and sealings performed.  It was Paul's first time seeing the new motion picture.  In the Bountiful Temple he was never assigned an endowment session.  He was greatly moved.  We understand another film will soon be shown in the temples.

One Sunday we accompanied two missionaries who taught a lesson on the Book of Mormon to a mother and two children who are inactive. They live in a run down trailer that has empty pop bottles and other trash laying around on the floor.  Paul was specifically invited to answer questions.   Another daughter, age 14, was too ill to join with us.  The young man, Noah, age 16,  is very bright and had a lot of interesting questions.  Paul did a good job of answering them to his satisfaction.  Noah's sister, age 13, played with her enormous dog (in the small quarters no less) and had on her ear phones the entire time and probably didn't hear a word we said.  But Noah committed to reading the Book of Mormon and we think he will.  He seems to be well read.

At the end of the discussion we all bore our testimony of the book as well as the mother.  Her testimony was very interesting.  She has made some very poor choices in life--a terrible example to her children.  They all have different fathers--none of them married to their mother.  WE really feel sorry for the poor children.

Four missionary sisters from the district came to dinner last week and four elders are coming tonight. The elders like to have Paul to answer their questions.  They are always a lively and energetic group and fun to visit with.  I am always amazed with the amount of food the elders can consume.

Last Saturday we attended our second missionary breakfast at President Johnson's home.  A Hindu man from India spoke briefly.  Next Saturday President Johnson is sponsoring an interdenominational prayer service at the Stake Center in regard to the terrible ongoing drought in Nevada.  President Johnson expects Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders to be in attendance.
 President Johnson's breakfast

Hindu man with Paul

Three new members attended Sunday School class, making an all time high of 12!  The lesson was on the Holy Ghost and they loved Paul's interesting stories.  We had one of the Elders come into class and sit with Michael, (the A.D.H.D. plus young man).    Elder Ruiz even suggested he help us out as he wants a profession as a youth counselor.  It is working very well when Michael has constant  attention and encouragement to sit and listen.  One of our class rules is "If you warm your seat you get a treat"--aimed at young people such as Michael who frequently walk in and out of class.  So every week I bring them a treat.  Elder Ruiz says under these conditions he doesn't mind helping us out!

January 27 - February 7, 2014

Since our last posting we have been doing much of the same things we've talked about prior--visiting inactive families, attending district and zone meetings and  inviting Elders and Sisters to dinners at our apartment.

Last weekend the BYU group Living Legends, formerly known as the Lamanite Generation, were in town.  We were very interested in taking our class to the performance as many of the class members have Lamanite blood--from Tonga, Mexico and Peru.  By the time we tried to get tickets the performance was sold out but they consequently added a free shorter Saturday afternoon show for missionaries to bring investigators.  We were thrilled because one of the girls in our class is investigating with her family.  The Spanish Elders are teaching the family and they will be baptized next Saturday.  One other young man, we think, needs to be baptised.   Six of our youth in the class were going to the night performance with their families as the Bishop had some tickets to distribute.  But many were not.  We invited all the rest to go with us that afternoon.  We also held a pizza party at the church prior to the show.  We ended up taking  four Elders and only four youth.  More came to the party.  Sunday Paul opened the class taking about why there were Polynesians, Native Americans, and South Americans who took part in the Living Legends, and how each group could tie to the Book of Mormon.  There was no attempt to do this during the afternoon performance, but we understood they would that night.  Otherwise they are just  groups of highly talented performers, but makes their touring pointless.

Native American and Argentina Dancers

Hispanic and Alaskan Dancers
Today we were invited to eat lunch and speak at the local Institute Friday Forum.  This is the Institute at the University of Nevada at Reno.  Paul felt so at home teaching the students.  He gave a 30  minute talk entitled "Harmony to Tonopah".  He began by introducing Harmony, Pennsylvania, as the only church history site that has not been restored.  With his prior work with the Historic Sites Division in the Historic Library in SLC he told why that site was so significant.  He pointed out five important Church things that happened there.  1. Major part of the Book of Mormon was translated.   2. 116 pages of Book of Lehi were lost.  3.First three baptisms took place there.  4.  Restoration of the Aaronic  and Melchezidek Priesthood.  5.  Joseph Smith learned how to become a prophet--15 revelations received there.  So the church is planning to restore Joseph and Emma's home and the Isaac Hale home.
Then Paul said Joseph and Emma's family began there and told about their children.  That led to Tonopah, Nevada, a town in our mission.  A young boy, named Michael Kennedy grew up there.  In high school his assignment from history class was to write about an ancestor who had affected American History.   His father then told him he was related to Joseph Smith.  He ended up joining the Church and became the first progenitor todaylof the Prophet and Emma to join the Church and receive the Priesthood.  He and his wife have formed the Joseph and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society.  Elder Ballard"s commission is to search out every living person from the family today and help them understand and be proud of  their heritage and later learn about the Church.  The students responded very positively.  
February 7-23, 2014

7 February
Paul spoke at the Reno Institute's Friday Forum on the topic, "From Harmony to Tonopah."  Beginning with the marriage of Joseph and Emma Smith, Paul described their years at Harmony, Pennsylvania, living in a home built by Emma's brother Jesse.  Joseph purchased the home and a barn as well as 13 1/4 acres.  It was in a grove of sugar maple trees that John the Baptist appeared and conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver Cowdery.  Joseph translated most of the Book of Mormon in the kitchen, in full view of Emma.  She did not, however, see the plates, as they were always covered.

The home was destroyed by fire in 1919.  Because of its historic significance, the Church plans to rebuild the home this summer.  Over 200 acres are in the possession of the Church, as well as six acres of waterfront property.  The state road will be relocated, and a visitors center built that will approximate the two story home built by Isaac Hale.

Paul then gave a brief synopsis of each of the children born to Joseph and Emma, pointing out that there are living posterity from only three of the ten--Joseph IIIrd, Alexander, and David Hyrum.  David Hyrum's line is through an adopted son.  He spoke of how the Prophet Joseph pleaded with the Lord to look over Joseph's family as he gave the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple.

Since Emma did not come West, all of her children remained behind.  Many of her posterity became involved with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ).

In 1972, a Miss Glass, teaching at Tonopah High School, Tonopah, Nevada, challenged her class to write about an ancestor who made a difference in the history of our country.  At home, junior Mike Kennedy asked his father for help.  Among three names he mentioned Joseph Smith, and said he thought that Joseph was the man who led the Mormons to Utah.  Mike asked, "Who are the Mormons?"

Mike's father brought out a box full of pictures, a Bible, and histories of the Smith family.  Mike begin setting out the material on a coffee table when there was a knock on the door.  It was two missionaries, and they were invited in by Mike's father.  When they saw the materials related to Joseph and Emma, they grew very excited.  They were invited back and taught the discussions to the family.  Mike didn't want to hear them and tried to duck out as often as he could.  But in the end he was baptized.  He had not been aware of it, but his girl friend Darcy was also taking the discussions.  She too joined the Church.  Mike was the first of Joseph and Emma's family to join the church and receive the Priesthood in this day.

Mike went to school at Cedar City (now Southern Utah State University), while Darcy was at Rick's College in Idaho.  About that time the Church decided to see if they could find any member who had ties to Joseph and Emma.  Someone knew about Mike.  He was invited to meet with President Harold B. Lee in Salt Lake City.  President Lee introduced him to Elder Bruce R. McConkie.

To make a much longer story short, Mike and Darcy were married in the Provo Temple.  Years later they organized the Joseph Smith, Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society.  They have a nice  website.  Their goal is to contact every living descendant of Joseph and Emma, and invite them to join the family organization so they can come to know and appreciate their great ancestors.  For example, they located 300 ancestors, descendants of Joseph and Emma's son Alexander, living in Australia. Today there are over 125 living descendants of Joseph and Emma who are Church members.

Sunday, the 9th of February, we joined with ward leaders of Red Hill Ward to receive lists of names from the bishop.  We were to see if the people had moved, or if they were at the addresses given.  If so, did they wish to receive visitors from the Church, or did they wish to have their names removed from Church records?  We went to the homes of the last few families on our class rolls that we had not as yet contacted with  much success.  Only one was home and neither she nor her mother seemed interested in the church.

Valentine's Day, 14 February 2014.  We joined with the three missionary couples serving in the mission office, as well as President David Nephi Hermansen and his wife at the Shanghi Chinese Restaurant.  The food was reminiscent of the food we enjoy at the Mandarin in Bountiful.  Afterward we made our way to a movie theater in Sparks.  We traveled separately.  Our group in our van stopped at a large building with a marquee that looked just like a movie theater but turned out to be a casino!  We were grateful we didn't walk through the door before discovering our mistake.

We arrived at the nearby movie theater just in time to watch the Saratov Approach, the true story of two missionaries who were kidnapped and held for ransom in Saratov, Russia, in 1998.  The kidnapper wanted $300,000 from the Church, not knowing that the Church will not pay ransom money.  After five days of not knowing if they would live or die, the missionaries were taken and released in a field outside of town.  After making their way back, the two men involved in the kidnapping were arrested.  One received probation; the other, four years in prison.

Due to the circumstances of their ordeal, the missionaries were given the option of a release to return home.  Both chose to finish out their missions.  They were transferred to missions in England, where they served honorably until their release.  The film was well done and interesting.   It showed the two Elders and how their thinking evolved about themselves and their labors, and their captors.

Friday, 15 February.  The Ward Relief Society sponsored a Valentines social, including a dance and plenty of good refreshments.  A ward dj played music we could relate to, but the dance floor was occupied by the children, all of whom were invited as well.  In spite of not dancing, we enjoyed the evening.  We now have come to know just about everyone in the ward and also in the Hispanic branch.
They do everything together except hold Sacrament meeting.

Monday, 17 February.  The highlight of the month was a multi-day visit with Zann and the children who traveled from Washington, during their Winter school break, to see us.  We were concerned about how well they would do, staying in our small apartment in contrast to the spacious Erb home, but they did quite well.
Quiet peaceful family dinner
Every morning while the family was here we continued our regular routine and had our study time.  We read the Book of Mormon and watched Missionary video clips from "The District".  These DVDs are actual live investigators being taught by real missionaries--their problems working with the people, their approach in dealing with questions and concerns that are typical of what the Elders and Sisters encounter every day.  The grandkids seemed to enjoy them.  We are so impressed with Nick's interest and understanding of the Gospel.

Tuesday was mission transfer day.  Grandson Nick accompanied Paul as he shuttled two transferring missionaries (and their companions) and their stuff to the mission office.  Then all went to a nearby chapel to listen to the testimonies of the elders and sisters who were released and preparing to return home.

Grandson Nick
Brighton and Grandpa
Mom and Zann

Carter (with missionaray name tag and Grandmother and Granddaddy

Tuesday we drove to Carson City, the state capitol.  At a nearby used mining equipment outlet, Paul found a very old shovel to use in his upcoming presentation on building the Salt Lake Temple.  Zann then took the kids through the Nevada Museum, including the mockup of a silver mine tunnel.  Because there was no sign saying she couldn't, Zann set the kids inside of a mining car to take their picture, but was startled when a loud voice told them to get out of the car.  The voice came from a fellow who sold tickets and saw them on a monitor.  He explained to Gail and Paul that they weren't concerned with them damaging anything, but mainly concerned that someone might get hurt on maybe a sharp edge and the museum would be liable.
Nick, Carter, Landon and Brighton

When Zann and the kids returned, Landon ran into a nearby elevator and began jumping up and down on the floor.  Zann ran in to grab him.  Landon drew a sharp reprimand from the fellow, who explained that sensors in the car would have soon locked the door and it would have taken people from the elevator company four hours to have gotten them out.  It had happened to a school group.  We could only imagine how Landon would have responded to THAT experience!

Brighton and Zann
Carter and Landon
Thursday Gail, Zann and the children travelled to Lake Tahoe.  On a spot not far from the Lake they found a popular snow hill for sledding.  It was full of kids and families having a great time.  In spite of Nick's first run which resulted in a traumatic crash, needing some Aleve from nurse Mom  to cover his pain, all had a good day.

Brighton and Nick

South Lake Tahoe is so beautiful with it's ski resorts and the hugh beautiful lake.  The town did reminded us a little of Park City.                                                                                                                                                                          

Thursday night, Paul subbed for an institute teacher (Teachings of the Living Prophets) and had a fine experience.   Friday Zann and the kids bid farewell to return home.  It's a two day drive for her so a bit of a worry for us but she arrived safely.

Again President Johnson of Sparks Stake invited all of the local missionaries, including the new missionaries, to his home at 7 am on Saturday morning for a breakfast.  He purposely designed his kitchen and living room to be able to accommodate over fifty elders and sisters.  The fare is always exactly the same--Sister Johnson cooks a quiche in three Crock pots, then slices up pre-bought muffins (and sometimes doughnuts) and has copious amounts of fruit, milk and orange juice on hand.  Afterward we hear an inspiring presentation by the president and a high counselor, Brother Prue in charge of missionary work.

Saturday we had another baptism in the Red Hill ward.    The father of two of our students, Francisco and Leslie,  was baptized.  The mother and two children joined the Saturday after we arrived in the mission.  The Hispanic missionaries have been working with the Dad, Francisco.  The entire service was in Spanish and  I led the songs.   After the baptism the entire branch brought typical Mexican food and we had a wonderful meal--and not what we are custom to getting in Mexican restaurants.  We really love these people!!