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It's beginning to look a lot like...

Hello all:

Hope all is going well. Good news-- our members had a tree ready for us to put up (see pic attached).

We also had an interesting dinner last night:

We're teaching a part-member family here that reminds me a lot of my family. The Mom got married right out of high school, is going to school full-time (stressing over finals), has four wild, crazy little boys ages almost 2 through 8, she enjoys scrapbooking, and hates that her house gets trashed every 30 minutes or less. Gee-- is this my family?

Last night. watching the kids fight, quarrel, and play with uncontrollable energy was a HUGE trip down memory lane. The youngest dumped sprinkles all over the floor, and the gingerbread houses they were making ended up all over the walls. After the mom cleaned up the youngest one (almost 2, named Joseph), Zachary (age 6) came in with her expensive lotion all over his hands. Zachary tried to blame the older child, Christian (age 8, who was at the time jumping on Elder Mooney and trying to feed their puppy to their blind monitor lizard).

After cleaning off Jacob, little Jacob (age 4) came in with an unwrapped (*cough cough*-- "female hygiene item) in his hand and was playing doctor-- pretending to give us all shots with said item. Then, Zachary pushed little Joseph off the chair so that he could get into the raw meat and piroulines (we were having fondue). After being expelled from the chair, young Joseph screamed, and came up to receive consolation by wiping the frosting off his hands and onto my slacks.

This was all a big trip for me, and it felt very nostalgic to see/ hear/ clean up so many of my childhood memories. I got a big kick out of it, and definitely enjoyed the visit.

Well, gotta go. We have a baptism Saturday-- yay!
-- Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113

Mission rule changes


Hello all:

I decided to get a little festive with my text above-- forgive the 80s style, but without access to any other website, I'm relatively limited in my decorative abilities. =)

I can't believe I'll be calling home in a few weeks-- has it really been 7 months since Mother's Day already? And to think I only have one call home left after this one! Gah! This whole mission time vortex is starting to annoy me.

The transition of the mission under direction from the Lord continues on. Almost all mission rules that aren't specifically in the White Handbook are gone. Pres. Monson said:

When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates (See Ch. 8 in PMG).

But at the same time, Pres. Packer and other general authorities tell us that (can't quote it exactly):

To the degree that your mission is regimented, to that same degree will the Spirit be absent from your mission.

I guess it's all about finding that happy medium of responsibility and accountability.

I've found that having that much freedom and opportunity is both liberating (we can be more personable and happy with everyone when we're not stressing over numbers), but it's also more difficult, because we have to get more creative with our work-- we can't just "do as told." It takes revelation and the Spirit, both of which are extremely hard for me to obtain and recognize. Well, we'll see how it all goes.

Also, we've been really pushing our "Give the Gift" member missionary program. And we've been seeing some success! It's interesting-- I've found that the Lord's ways truly aren't our ways. it's not a "Keep a commandment in category A and get a blessing in category A" sort of thing-- often it's "Keep a commandment in category A and get many blessings in category N." As the members have been praying for missionary opportunities for themselves, the Lord has been giving more to us. We've been finding more results from inspired tracting.

A member also referred his son's fianceé for us to teach. She quit smoking and coffee before she came to the US. We had a fantastic 1st lesson (The Restoration). We issued the baptismal and prayer invitation, and she prayed out loud at the end, asking if the Book of Mormon is true. After that question in the prayer, there was a long pause, and then, "and now that I know it is, please tell me Lord if I can get baptized next Sunday." She opened her eyes crying, and described the warmth she felt.

It was pretty cool. We explained that she still had 3 lessons, a time or two more at Church, and an interview to accomplish first, but that the Lord certainly must admire her enthusiasm... as do we =). Anyways, she has committed to be baptized on December 18th. The Spirit was palpable-- definitely one of the more powerful experiences of my mission.

Anyways, there's my rant. Hope you all have happy holidays.

-- Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113

Give the Gift

Hello all:

Hope all is going well in the civilian world. Here's a quick update...

Not a whole lot going on in our area-- we're still working on building a reliable teaching pool.

It seems we get new investigators all the time, but none of them are very solid. We have one man that we're working with that seemed at first to have so much potential. H'e's somewhat of an archeologist. While doing work in Ecuador, he and his teams found metallic plates in some caves over there that talk of the city Babylon. He wants to prove the Book of Mormon is true by digging up some more plates and donating them to the Church.

We've been trying tell him that that's nice and all, but that faith and revelation are still crucial. It's hard because he has so many different theories he's toying with to explain religion and theology that the Spirit can't work very much with him. He just doesn't seem to understand that he needs to read the Book of Mormon and pray with faith and an answer will come. It can come no other way.

We've also got some great work going with members. We and our WML have put together a great activity for the ward families. It's called "Give the Gift." Basically, the best gift we've ever received is that of our Savior Jesus Christ. Hence, the best gift we can give to our friends and family this holiday season is the message that He lives, and that He speaks today. Members put together a family mission plan, read a missionary/prayer- related scripture each day, can pray each day and as families for the opportunity to share the Gospel. We have the full endorsement of the Bishopric (and their own note on the flier), so we expect some great success.

Already we've seen a few member referrals, a new member-referred investigator, and even some investigators from tracting(!) now that we've made a goal as a ward to involve the Lord and really focus on our member missionary duties.

I know that we receive great blessings of joy and our own spiritual growth when we share with our spiritual brothers and sisters our greatest treasure-- the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-- Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission

Transferred to Peru?

Hello all:

Boy was this week interesting! Here's the pictured events:
  • Llamas: That's right-- llamas. While checking up on a media referral in an apartment complex, we stumbled onto a guy who was walking his pet... llamas. Couldn't resist a photo opp. (Wanted to tell y'all I got mission transferred to Peru and these are our mission cars, but the snow in the background ruins that idea.)
  • The Kemptons: Our wonderful senior couple who've been controlling our "frat house" are leaving. They are absolute angels, and we will all miss them..
Not photographed:
  • Prison visits: This week, we have visited a media referral and a less-active member-- both incarcerated. After an application and interview with the chaplain, we are now official clergy as recognized by the Jefferson County Sherriff's Dept. We visited these people (one in minimum security; one in medium) this past Sunday. What an experience that was! There is a definite spirit in that building into which I never want to immerse myself. To tell the truth, a lot of it looked like a high school inside minus the lockers.
  • Food poisoning: For this first time in my mission, I have missed a full day of work. =( It was definitely the most miserable day of my mission. Thank Heavens it's over!
  • P-Day: It's changing. Pres. Maynes decided we'd go ahead and conform to the rest of the Church and take Monay P-Days starting next week. I guess God is Lord of the Sabbath and preparation days, too.
We've also got some great progress on the way with some investigators, but that will have to wait until next week.

I'll go where you want me to go

Hello all:

Lots of time to email today-- be prepared for a long letter

We've been making a big push this transfer to tract better. Instead of just hitting random streets, we've been relying more heavily on revelation to find God's prepared children. Sometimes, we'll drive around a neighborhood for 20 minutes or so (one of the luxuries of having a car), praying and listening until we find a street that we feel we should visit (after 20 minutes we give up and just start working somewhere hoping God will help us on our feet). We have found the majority of our success in our area in this manner-- by prayer, by revelation, and by work.

This stems from a story in 1st Nephi 15. Lehi in chapter 8 has a dream that no one else in the family understands. Nephi comes up withe the bright idea: "If the dream came from God, then perhaps God might be a good guy to go to for the answer!" So he does, and receives 4 writable chapters of vision and "the interpretation thereof." When he comes down from the mountain, he sees Laman and Lemuel arguing (surprise!). Nephi later asks them what is "the cause of their disputation." They tell him they don't understand the dream. "Have ye inquired of the Lord?" Nephi asks?

Their answer is stunning: "We have not, for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us." TRANSLATION: "Nope-- because we don't think God's going to tell us."

I laughed out loud when I realized what knuckleheads these apes were. How logical is it not to even put the Lord to the test. Like Naaman with his leprosy, and like the Israelites with their brazen serpent, and like Lehi's family with the Liahona, Laman and Lemuel would not ask God, "because of the easiness of the way."

Later, when pondering on how to find more success in tracting and where to go, I had a conversation with God in which the Spirit asked:

"Elder Watkins, have you inquired of the Lord?"
To which, I sheepishly responded, "I have not."
"And why is that?"
"The Lord maketh no such thing known unto me."

Boy did I feel stupid! But I have learned to be less like Laman, Lemuel, Naaman, and Israel, and to be more like Nephi and Joseph Smith-- to inquire of the Lord. As I have applied this principle, I and my companions have found more success than we ever would have though we could tract and OYM for a decade or more. Only by seeking out guidance from the Lord have we found real success.


* A favorite poster in my room, and the theme of this letter
* We have elk! ALL OVER!!
* The city of Denver at night (I love this function of my camera!)
* A car driving by-- looked really cool!
* The foothills area
* Ran across (and almost into) a herd of deer-- they're everywhere!
* Me and "Batman" at the Ward Halloween Party

Hope you all have a good week!

Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission

I love temple Wednesdays

Hello all:

I love Temple Wednesdays! Today was significant because Elder Mooney and I decided that we'd prefer waking up at a reasonable hour and catch a different session than the rest of the mission. Consequently, we arrived to a practically empty Temple-- peaceful, quiet, and still. The Spirit is so much stronger in the Temple when it's not full of noisy missionaries. Throughout our entire service today, I marveled at how reverent an atmosphere silence can create.

Not much to report this week. Just a lot of the same old stuff. I'm finding that it often takes a long time to solidify potentials into progressing investigators. This area has so much potential-- even from tracting! It just takes forever to contact those potentials again and start the lessons (about 3 weeks on average). Still, though the progress may be slow, the work is definitely picking up. I'm am pleased to see our weekly progress records and how the cells are slowly filling up with honest people searching for truth.

Heard about the election. Sounds like Republicans have gotten a bit more of a toehold in the US Congress and NC Assembly (thanks for the update, Dad). We're glad the election is over; maybe people will start answering their doors now that politicians aren't coming by every week or so.
Well, no more news today. Hope everything is going well on the home front. Here's some pictures of the fall here in the Colorado Foothills!

Weather turning cold

Hello all!

Boy, what a week! Seems that the week passes by like lightning! Within one short week, the temperature has dropped from great, crisp, weather, to extremely windy (as in 70 mph gusts) and downright cold (as in lows in 20s). The leaves are starting to fall, and the roads are starting to get covered with yellow, red, and orange. It truly is sight to see. Hopefully I can take some pictures next week.

We have a new investigator as well. She's really sincere and looking for truth. We are so excited to be teaching her.

We also had an interesting Colfax experience yesterday. We tracted into a 3 people who want to come to Church. Being Colfax apartment, 2 out of the three were drunk, high, smoking, and/or had mental complications. But there was a really cool guitarist who was surprisingly both sober and sane. He sang a country song for us he wrote-- it was SO good! Then I got on the keyboard and we jammed out with "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." It was pretty fun.

They were all really nice people, and who knows whose life and situations may change? The Gospel is wonderful-- it really is the answer and enabler of life. No matter what the situation of problem, all people are best helped as they learn and accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think even we, as Church members, don't really understand it. I believe it was Dieter F. Uchtdorf that said in a recent General Conference, essentially, that the Gospel is the answer to all problems-- individual or societal, religious, moral, economic, physical, and anything in between. I never understood that until my mission. When people accept and live the Gospel, all aspects of life improve. I know that to be true.

Attached is Scott Petersen's rendition of the average mission-- I think I can personally identify 95% of these cartoon characters to real missionaries in our mission.

Now here's a question: which one am I? =)

Have another great week! And if you've been having rough weeks, here's my expert mood-lifting medical advice: try praying for and taking advantages of opportunities to share the Gospel-- it works! As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, I promise that in His name, amen.

Beautiful Foothills

Hello all:

Boy, what a fun area this is! The Foothills area is amazing! We've only been within 10 miles of our eastern border once, but that area is beautiful. The mountains are gorgeous (see pictures), there is wildlife everywhere (see pictures), and lives up to the Rockies' reputation.

In terms of missionary work, we are going forth searching for those who are ready for our message. If tracting responses are any indicator, this area is truly "white and ready to harvest." I'm so excited to see the work go forth here.

I've attached two drawings:
  • The Book of Mormon-- The Ultimate Missionary: This drawing was created by my youngest brother Joseph. I don't know if he quite understands exactly how on target he is. Every time I look at it (it usually hangs in our room), I am astounded by how profound it really is. It reminds me of how blessed we are to have the Book of Mormon. What a wonderful gift it is! I have seen experiences on my mission that confirm every day that the Book of Mormon is true. It's not until I got on my mission that i realized that everything we believe can be founded and based on the Book of Mormon.

    When I began my mission, I taught mainly from the Bible, trying to prove the doctrines we teach from the Old and New Testament. While this is nice, it lacks the convincing power the Book of Mormon has in conversion. It truly is far more powerful a witness, and has more potent a power than any elder or sister this world can send forth.

  • Asking for Referrals: This is a comic an elder in our mission drew up. Preach My Gospel instructs us to ask for referrals from everyone. This is supposed to help us find more people to teach, However, it is ironic to note that active members and uninterested people at doors have about the same referral rate. Usually when we ask members to share the Gospel, or to invite someone to hear our message, we get the same response, "Not right now, Elders!"

    I think we as active members tend to take for granted the blessings we've received from the Gospel, and don't really feel motivated to share it. We don't realize how much others need and sometimes even recognize that they want what we have to share!

    On the other hand, investigators who've received testimonies, and members returning to activity in the Church, are "easy to be entreated--" they know the new-found joy of activity in the Gospel a part of their lives, and are desirous to share that joy with others.

Hopefully we as members don't feel burdened, pressured, or even annoyed when missionaries ask us if we have any acquaintances they can teach. May we take a careful inventory of our lives and truly account for where we would be if someone had not freely shared the Gospel with us. It is only fair that we should be willing to share the Gospel with others freely as well. This I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

PS: Yes, we have a wheelchair in our house-- it's kind of fun =)

First week in Foothills Ward

Wow, what a week! Definitely one of the most hectic if my mission.

Thursday was transfers. I am now in the Foothills Ward covering portions of Lakewood and Golden (see map). We're re-opening the area after missionaries have been absent for a while. Got a new companion (Elder Mooney), and got a car (2010 Ford Fusion). I'm rather excited about the car-- after 13 months on a bike, I've racked up enough cycling miles to get me to NC (and back) a few times.

We spent 3 hours on Sunday making a large wall tracting map and a mini navigational map based on borders left over from previous missionaries, and then found out yesterday that our borders go MUCH farther than we knew-- we extend from Wadsworth to out past Lookout Mountain! So we cover literally scores of miles... and yet we only get 165 miles per week. Oh well-- we'll count our blessings.

Housing is fun, too. A ward family owned a sort of really, really old folks' home in our area. When the last resident, um... "moved on," they agreed to let the missionaries stay there. It's super nice-- it's the size of a mansion with 3 stories and more tunnels and passageways than a haunted house. It has 11 bedrooms-- perfect because at the moment there are 9 missionaries being housed there (my companionship, a threesome, the Zone Leaders, and the Kemptons, a Senior Missionary Couple)

It was really weird to come to because it still looks like an old folks' home-- shower seats and toilet assistance thingies in the bathrooms,oxygen tanks and wheelchairs everywhere, and the smell of a hospital.

The Kemptons (the Senior missionary couple) are fantastic. They've been working with less-actives and part-member families in this ward for several months and have really been a blessing. Sister Kempton is an angel-- she's always helping us elders out (although she says she feels like a frat mom sometimes). Elder Kempton is hilarious-- he constantly reminds us that people have died in our house, our rooms, and very likely our beds.

All in all, we're super-excited to get to work in this area. There is so much potential. Streets have gone many months since being tracted (contrast to Orchard South where they go maybe 2-3 weeks). We're already finding people who are expressing interest in our message. I've got a good feeling about this place.

OK-- Pictures:
  • My new companion: Elder Mooney, from Chandler, AZ
  • The Southglenn District after General Conference (Assistants included)

A big letdown

Choose You This Day Whom Ye Will Serve (Joshua 24:15)

Hello all:

This week has been the worst week of the best two years of my life.

Our triple baptismal service is canceled. It amazes me how quickly Satan can find chinks in the armor of otherwise strong people. I suppose it's true that when people set a baptismal date, a giant spiritual target immediately appears on them. It's the last chance the adversary has to throw everything he's got at them to try and scare them away from the best thing that they could ever do in their entire lives.

We've seen it happen yet again this past week. With both of our prepared, confident, earnest, sincere investigators, "that old serpent" has chosen to use his most powerful tactic to try and throw them from the path-- he uses the family.

Families are intended to be centers of spiritual strength, growth, encouragement, and support where members are bolstered and uplifted, but in the hands of Lucifer, they can be obstacles to God's work-- stumbling blocks to progress. When someone is standing at the gate of heaven (baptism), Satan loves to use the family. Family opposition is more potent than ridicule from friends and coworkers, anti-Mormon literature, and all the other forces of hell combined. How sinister to pervert the use of God's most sacred institution to discourage, demean, ridicule, terrify, and even threaten a sibling or spouse who has chosen to covenant to follow Christ!

More ironic still, such attempts at dissuasion are usually preceded by heart-wrenching statements to the extent of "If you really loved us, you wouldn't do this," and terminated with a cold, sneering "So which is it: Mormons? Or me?"

There's no easy way to answer such concerns. The closest I've heard is when two elders told an investigator facing complete disowning by his family, "You can not get baptized, and tell your family that you love them for this life, or you can make this decision and in reality tell them that you love them for eternity."

Well did Christ say: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." (Matt 10:34-35)

We truly have seen that here in our area. But we all have agency, and though our judgment is often clouded and our vision obscure, we must choose what we will do with our lives. Only on a mission have I ever come close to tasting the sorrow of others' decisions-- the sorrow of parents watching a son or daughter go down a "forbidden path" (1 Nephi 8:28), or even the sorrow of God Himself watching one of His precious children choose sorrow over happiness.

Well, I'm sure there's hope yet. God will still win the war, and the work must go forth "boldly, nobly, and independent." The designs of men and devils cannot frustrate the work of God. Next time I need a reminder of that, I'll take Joseph Smith's analogy to heart and try to dam a river with my own puny arm (D&C 121:33). Until then, I hope all goes well with all of you, and pray that as we each labor in our own parts of the Lord's vineyard, we will find success, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Watkins

Choose Joy

Hello all:

Hope all is going well all over the world. not a whole lot of time to write today, but that's OK because there's not too much to report today. A lot of tracting and not a lot of success. It's just been one of those weeks, I suppose. The Lord allows us to experience them every so often to remind us that we need Him. All we can do is do our best, and put on a happy smile. Then, no matter what, we can find joy in the journey.

That's really what it's all about, right? "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). So the work may be rough at times, and the weather my not be cooperative, and people may not have the slightest idea how important the message is that we're sharing, but we find the joy, and sometimes the joy comes when life is hardest. We are to have joy-- not have constant ease.

I love serving here. I love the people. I love Pres. Maynes. I love working until I feel like I just can't work anymore. When I come home tired, ragged, and completely void of energy, that's when I know I'm a missionary, and that the Lord has accepted what I have given-- my all. Some this makes missionaries get pretty trunky*, especially in harder areas. They daydream of going home, they find it harder and harder to maintain a cheerful outlook, and they start to strive less and less. Happiness becomes more and more fleeting.

But if there's anything I've learned from serving a year in one of the most difficult jobs on earth, it's that happiness is a choice! We can always choose joy. We can always choose to be pleasant. We can always choose to enjoy life. Without simply choosing happiness, we cannot muster through this life. As I always like to say [as does a certain someone else :) ], "You must be happy, do you understand?"

May we always choose happiness, I pray, even when times get rough, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

*trunky (n., miss. sl.): To be homesick or lazy, referring to packing a trunk or suitcase with the idea of leaving.

Triple Baptism

Hello all:

We now have 2 investigators with a baptismal date! The North elders also found someone out of the blue, and set them for date. So, if all goes well, we should be having a triple baptism on October 9th. This is what missionary work is all about-- watching people make changes in their lives and come closer to God. How wonderful it is to hear someone accept the commitment to be baptized for the remission of sins. Wow-- what miracles are taking place in the Orchard Ward! I'm so excited to be a part of that.

The mission is going well right now. Pre. Maynes has asked us to continue inviting members to pray for missionary opportunities and for peoples' hearts to be softened. Lots of times, we come up with our own plans, and fail miserably at our own member missionary work (or at least I do), because we forget Nephi's words that we "must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place [we] shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he may consecrate [our[ performance to the welfare of [our] soul[s]" ( 2 Ne. 32: 9). Missionary work definitely falls under the "any" category.

I issue the following invitation to everyone reading this: "Will you pray for missionary opportunities in every prayer you offer (including over meals and the quiet silent prayers of your hearts)? I promise that if you do, and quietly offer up petitions to the Lord for the opportunity to share the Gospel (which is simply the 'good news' of the Atonement) as a small part of every prayer, you will find that the Lord will place opportunities in your path that wouldn't have had otherwise."

But don't forget 2 N. 32:8, which reminds us that the devil "teacheth man that he must not pray," and if I can take a little bit of literary license, sometimes "teacheth man that prayer is not a must." You can be certain that when you commit to pray, the devil will do all he can to keep us from remembering, meaning, or seeming to have any time. Don't let him win.

That's where it all starts. If there's one thing I can ask, it would be that-- pray, pray, pray. Don't pray for us to find missionary opportunities so much as for yourself to find missionary opportunities. Hope all goes well-- keep up the good work and pray always.

One Year Anniversary

Hello all:

Well, Elder Chapman and I have reached our year mark. 6 days ago last year, we entered the Provo Missionary Training Center and began on this journey that seems to have passed in a the blink of an eye. To quote Jacob the Nephite prophet, "the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream" (Jacob 7:26). I've never seen time fly by so quickly as on a mission. There really is no experience that can quite compare with this "marvelous work and a wonder."

And boy are the days flying by now! With autumn setting in, the sun is starting to be much less willing to hang around and help us out. It sets probably around 8:00 PM now. That poses a problem because we're asked to be out working until 9:00. Back in summer when that hour was still dusk, this was no problem, but I've found that people judge time more by the sunlight than by their clocks. We can always expect some angry neighborhoods after sunset... "What do you mean you're sharing a message about Jesus Christ??? It's night time! Knocking doors, bugging neighbors, and Jesus Christ are not for the night time!! SLAM!"

In reality that's probably the most depressing thing. When we hit winter, the sun will start to disappear around 6, and we'll be facing angry parents for 3 solid hours each night. But as we go to tract our streets for the 4th time in 2 months (we have a really small area), although the majority of the people are just starting to get really irritated by us coming by every 2 weeks "in the middle of the night," we are still seeing small miracles; people are starting to know us by name, and even though they don't want to hear the Gospel, we're starting to become almost friends. Who knows what God will do with that? To those who are hostile towards us coming by after sunset, we can only respond to ourselves, "It's true isn't it-- Then what else matters?"

We may be annoying the palabrotas out of some people (and boy, do we hear about it sometimes), but we know that what we're doing is a good work, and that day or night, our message can bless the world. It doesn't matter what time it is, how light it is, or what they think, we know that what we're sharing is the most important news this world has ever heard. God speaks. He loves us. He had revealed additional Scripture. He has called a Prophet. He is coming (and soon-ish). He speaks to us individually. We can know His will. He loves us.

We as missionaries and as members are participating in the most important work in the universe, God Himself saying it is His work and His glory "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). We, in a concentrated, backbreaking way, get to participate in that-- how great a trust and how great a blessing to provide such service to our Heavenly Father. Call us fanatics, call us idiots, call us freaks, call us brainwashed, and call us weirdos (heck, we'd be glad if someone would just call us, period), but we know what we;re sharing is true, and though earth and heaven pass away, it will not. "The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly and independent," and we will do all we (legally) can to take that message to every creature under the sun... whether it has set or not!

I know that this Church is true. I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, and that God called him to do His work. I know that the Prophet today has called me to help for two years in that. I bear my witness of this to the world, and more especially to Colorado, and that, in the name Jesus Christ.

New Teaching Curriculum Announced

Hello all:

Hope everything is going OK. Got a few exciting tidbits to report:

My old companion who returned home for 9 months has come back to the mission field! We are all extremely excited to have him back (and I certainly do not begrudge him having left me to take over Willow Creek 2 weeks into it as a greenie and having no idea what's going on-- yeah, no resentment whatsoever☺).

President Maynes and the Assistants gave an awesome 2-day training to much of the mission all day Monday and Tuesday regarding the new "simplified curriculum" that is soon to be implemented in the MTC. It's designed to (hopefully) help us become better teachers. it involves the following 8 lessons:
  1. The Doctrine of Christ (Faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end)
  2. The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion
  3. Revelation through Prayer
  4. Revelation through the Book of Mormon
  5. Revelation through Church Attendance
  6. Teach People, not Lessons (this is the main focus and purpose of the entire curriculum)
  7. We Invite, They Commit, We Follow- Up
  8. How to Begin Teaching
For me, it really was one of the best experiences of my mission. I learned so much and felt the Spirit teach me so well. It was kind of like a missionary's EFY. The plan is to cycle everyone through the training over the course of several months. If we implement this, it could be the most revolutionary help to our teaching since Preach My Gospel was introduced! I set goals and made resolutions to be a better missionary, or as the book of Moses called Enoch a "wild man" (Moses: 6:38)

Here's your spiritual though for the day:

I wish everyone to take time to look once more at Moroni's promise-- the litmus test of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5). We've been working hard on helping investigators realize why they haven't yet received and answer to their prayers about the Book of Mormon. Almost without exception, the reason we don't receive answers when we want them is because we lack what Moroni calls "real intent." I liken it to asking your Dad for his credit card. Likely, a responsible father is at least going to ask what you intend to do with such a precious concession.

So it is with revelation. God is not going to give us an answer or a blessing until we make it clear to Him (and especially important, clear to ourselves) what we intend to do with what we would like Him to give/ tell us. When we have righteous intentions and a definite plan of action of how we will use that answer to our prayers, then He can trust us, and the gift is bestowed.

So with an answer to any prayer (especially regarding the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon), God doesn't want us to ask simply out of curiosity-- we must ask with the mindset that we will act upon the answer we receive. We must plan that if we receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is true, then we will be baptized. Once we are willing to pray with real intent, then the blessings will come an no sooner.

And here's your bit of missionary life for the day:

As missionaries in various wards, we usually greet members and investigators at the door, passing out programs and saying hello. With that comes the inevitable handshakes. What we have learned is that most women wear hand lotion. Some wear a LOT of lotion. And we shake a LOT of hands. Hence, here in the high altitudes of Colorado, we are well-moisturized every Sunday morning.

It's very tempting not to comment on people's lotion habits. "Hi Sis. Wilkinson! Here's a program. Oh, I see we're using Johnson & Johnson with Aloe this morning!... Ah, Sis. Anderson, I notice you've changed to generic brand! Is everything OK finance-wise?... Well, hello Sis. Wikenhoffer-- soaked your fingers in Crisco again today, huh?

Well, that's enough from me for this week. Enjoy the day, and spread the Gospel!

Browser Wars

Hello all:

Wow-- what a week it has been! I think the funniest thing is a lesson we had with an investigator about going to the source for correct information. He'd been checking out a lot of anti on the internet and not reading the Book of Mormon or even visiting mormon.org.

He's got a cool media setup and seemed to vibe with me, so I explained it the best way I know how. He's a Firefox user (a referral from a geek friend). I explained:

"Firefox is the fastest-growing browser in the market because it is great-- it revolutionized the ease-of-use, security, GUI, and compatibility of browsers. When Firefox started growing its market-share, Microsoft got very worried.

"Internet Explorer has been full of holes and errors hackers can easily exploit, sluggish, a huge memory hog, crashes easily and all-around a clunker. Firefox was fast, secure, had built-in pop-up blockers, easy-to-install add-ons, took up less memory, etc.

"Microsoft felt threatened by this new open-source alternative, and for good reason. Firefox 3 set the world record in 2009 for most downloads in 24 hours-- it's been growing in the market ever since.

At this point, I had him visit the Browser Comparison Chart, a ridiculous comparison of the different browsers on the Microsoft site.

"You see how in this chart by Microsoft shows that Internet Explorer seems to dominate over Firefox and even Chrome in every aspect from quality to speed? Yet you, as a Firefox user, know better. Everyone knows that the only real way to find out which browser is best is to download them, install them, and try them out individually. That way, you can get firsthand experience at which one really is best.

"Just as you wouldn't go to Ford to get reliable information on Toyota or another car company, you wouldn't want to search for reliable information on our Church from other churches and people.

"You will also notice that we do not come to your door handing out anti-Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or other literature. Like Firefox, we are the fastest growing Church in the world because people learn for themselves what we have to offer and gain a testimony of the truthfulness of our message.

It was really fun to get nerdy with a gospel parable. It was well-received, too. I think it was what he needed to here.

Anyway, enough fun for week. Will have more news next week!

Knock-knock jokes

Hello all:

Got a few missionary knock-knock jokes for y'all:

1. Knock Knock... No soliciting! Oh, no we're not solicitors-- we're the missionaries!... Well, go missionary someone else!

2. Knock Knock... Who's there?... It's the missionaries!... I'm not interested... Interested in what, sir?... Interested in people knocking on my door.

3. Knock Knock...Knock Knock... (sh! Be quiet-- the Mormons are at the door!)... Ding-Dong!...(Are they still there?)... Hi! We can hear you... Oh well. Next house!

These are such fun jokes! We love telling them at every single door! Problem is, people seem to know them already. There's millions of variations of this joke, all with new, creative punchlines (excuses) such as:

* You're a cult.
* You're soliciting (time is money and you're asking for my time).
* I can't talk-- I haven't finished paying off the house
* Sorry-- I have a pet rat.
* My son already belongs to your cult.
* I talked to you guys last week (this means about 4 months ago)
* I left my children in the bathtub (we get this one all the time)
* I left my dog in the bathtub
* I left my child in the bathtub with my dog.
* I was just in the bathtub (it's always obvious when this is true)
* My religion is football
* I'm already Mormon (translation: "I was hoping Mitt Romney would get the Republican nomination")
* I don't believe in John Smith
* What Church are you from? We're from The Church of JESUS CHRIST sharing our testimonies about the SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST how JESUS CHRIST is the Son of God, and- I'm not interested; I'm Christian.
* I'm not interested-- my pastor told me you're a nudist colony sacrifice chickens and babies to your Martian devil gods.
* Come on in and let me tell you why you're a nudist colony sacrifice chickens and babies to your Martian devil gods.

Oh, it's fun-- maybe I'll pick up some more next week. Until then, have fun!

Clean and Scrub

Hello all:

Wow-- what a P-Day! My bike got a flat, we spent three hours of spot-shining our housing, things keep breaking and falling to pieces, and no time for much of anything really enjoyable this week. Oye-- oh well, we've got 109 P-Days though the mission-- I suppose I can let this one slide, right?

On the plus side, we've made some progress on our investigators, and hope to help them set a date for baptism soon.

Here are some pictures to keep you happy-- a lot of Zone Conference Reunions:

  • Elder Jensen: My old MTC companion-- he's been out West since the beginning of his mission-- glad to see him at ZC this week. He's now out in the Arapahoe Zone (I think)
  • Elder Rambo and Elder Andersen (and me): Elder Rambo was an MTC roommate with Elder Jensen, Elder Chapman, and me. He's now Zone Leader Rambo =) Likewise, I haven't seen him since before Christmas. He was just too happy to see me to let me stay on my feet, apparently. Behind us is Elder Andersen (my son)-- he's now serving in Elder Rambo's and my old area (Crestmoor).
  • Our mission rendition of the Army of Helaman song. When we sing it at the end of Zone Conference meals, we always add a fitting refrain (listen at the end)
  • Elder Jensen: at the MTC
  • The MTC District (back to front, left to right): Elders Jensen, Watkins, Gneiting, Rambo, Naylor, Chapman, Lyons, and Trust (also Zone Leader-- not as silly now, are they?)
  • Elder Chapman: the only picture I have of my new/repeat companion =)

I'm glad to be able to come out here in Colorado to serve the people and serve the Lord. People may heckle and laugh, but most just ask us why. "Why do you give up two years of your life, and at such an important age, to come out here and do this?" "Why do you put up with dressing in a suit every day and working such long hours?" "Why do you always look so happy?"

To that we have to answer "Because we have been called by a prophet of God to share this message. And because we know this message is true. Because we love sharing these truths that have blessed our lives, and can bless everyone we meet. Because like Alma, we cannot rest, and like Nephi, we cannot be restrained, as the Holy Ghost always prompts us to bear testimony of those things that we know. Just... because.

Another Transfer

Hello all:

Whew-- what a week! Transfers are always a crazy time! Sadly, Elder Harper is gone on to the Aurora Stake. For President Maynes's first transfer run, he threw everyone for a loop by throwing a few missionaries back to areas in which they'd already served, and a few to companions with which they'd already served! Such is the case with me-- my new companion is none other than Elder Chapman-- one of my MTC roommates, and a one-week companion just 5 months ago in Willow Creek!

We've run into a few hard-nosed people while knocking doors recently. One guy got really angry that we were tracting in a covenant community. He screamed that he was a lawyer and that what we were doing was illegal, so we went ahead and left the property to call the Centennial Sherriff's Department to reconfirm that we are breaking no laws. We had already gone through the routine with Greenwood Village, so it wasn't exactly breathtaking news when the Arapahoe County deputy called us back re-iterating that "there are no laws or ordinances against proselyting in any neighborhood, covenant-controlled, no-soliciting, or any other community or apartment complex, per established precedent from the US Supreme Court. " Fun stuff- that's our life.

At any rate, here are some pictures:

* Elder Harper and me going forth to preach the Gospel
* Elder Harper and I went to a sushi place. He'd never had the stuff before. Having lived in Korea for two years, I was OK with it. Elder Harper... not so much. He could only choke down two pieces before retiring to his drink for the rest of the meal
* A picture from last transfer: Elder Andersen and I found this random grassy hill in the middle of Metro Denver right next to I-25 and a bunch of busy streets. We couldn't resist the opportunity-- we just had to run to the top of the hill, grab a copy of the Book of Mormon, and cry repentance to this untoward generation. We got a few stares and cocked eyebrows, but we didn't care-- it was a good photo-op, and we were on our way to a baptism, anyway, so nothing could ruin our celebratory mood. Doesn't he look like Dan Jones?
* A picture at our place-- though I'm not 100% sure that's what the artist had in mind when he painted it.

Well, gotta get back to work now. Hope everything's going well.

I know this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was His Prophet, that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that our Savior lives and speaks to us today. love this Gospel, and I love this work. I bear my witness of that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

New Mission President

Hello all:

Sorry I haven't written for a LONG time-- hope Mom and Dad have been keeping up on everything.

We just had interviews with Pres. Alan R. Maynes and his wife. To be honest, it was like seeing a 4-yr-old play dress-up in his dad's clothes-- he hasn't quite fit into the mission president calling and legacy left behind by Pres. Christison yet (well, it's only been a week), but before we know it, he'll be filling, then overflowing that role. In three years, the next president will have a humongous legacy to live up to as he takes on the tattered but amazing mantle of responsibility left over from decades of high-quality mission presidents.

So we've discovered the HighLine Canal! We are expected to get 100 Quality Gospel Conversations ea. week (extremely hard without a downtown area or busy street), and the HighLine Canal Walking/Jogging/Biking trail helps. We're learning to be bold-- even chasing down bikers with headphones in-- we talk to absolutely EVERYONE. It's so much fun to see people's bewildered faces when we're tearing after them at 25 miles per hour in our top bike speed to tell them about our message.

We also tracted into a lady who was out working in the yard with her parrot. Before she could voice a warning, I had it in my hand and talked to it. Apparently it really likes missionaries and bites everyone else-- even the owners.

Also, here's a pic of Elder Harper.

Gotta catch a bus-- we're going bowling. Have a good week!

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Met an almost cabon-copy of Grandpa Watkins a few days ago-- it was jarring. He fought in WWII, and flew over Germany as well. He seemed upset that I didn't know which model of aircraft Gpa Watkins flew. So is Harry Jenkins (our investigator-- he is 90 and fought for the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain). Do you know what he flew?

So this ward is... interesting. It's not nearly as warm or friendly or missionary-active as Willow Creek was (this is surprising considering the Assistants work here, too), but we're pressing to get things done. We have only one investigator (Harry), and he's... what I call a "spirit world baptism." Once he's free from his church and the social addiction he has to it, you know he'll accept the Gospel, but until then, we just have to keep trying. I wish we had other investigators with more potential, but we don't-- just a few people who we met with once and never are home or return calls.

It's kinda funny because the best way to regain trust from the ward is to have well-publicized baptisms. But the only way to get a bunch of baptisms is through members trusting us and referring their friends. Kinda funny isn't it? Kind of a hole-in-the-bucket situation.

Ran into a guy last night that was hilarious: he started trying to bash, saying that the Bible contradicted the Book of Mormon. We asked him in which point it contradicts. He was, of course, speechless, told us to hold on, pulled out his phone, and called his anti buddy. I almost laughed out loud and said, "Hey buster-- this isn't 'Who wants to be a Millionaire'-- you don't have lifelines, and you don't' get to phone a friend!!"

The friend couldn't remember it either, so he just contented himself to stick with a little trite rant about some more normal stuff: polygamy, faith v. works, Jesus having brothers, exaltation, etc. I have to admit he was super nice guy, very polite, very friendly and courteous, and rather open-minded (better than his phone friend), and we enjoyed the talk. My greenie Elder Harper seems to think that all bashes are contentious-- I hope he's changed his mind after this one. We left a restoration pamphlet, and challenged him to call us later.

The funny thing was we talked to him as his wife and kids were getting in the car to head home at 9 PM, and he kept talking to us-- we chatted for near 40 minutes. His wife sent kids out to get him in the car, and he kept saying "I'll be there in a minute"-- reminded me a lot of you, Dad =). I'm sure he faced a stern talking-to from his wife that night =).

We had President's last Zone Conference-- it was super-powerful. He recapped all previous Zone Conferences. I'm going to miss him.

Hello from Orchard Ward South

Hello from the Orchard Ward South Area!

Yes, transfers have happened. Last Tuesday, I stood with Elder Andersen on the Northeast corner of the Willow Creek Ward, looking West to the super-rich area adjacent to us, and commented "I'm so glad I don't have to deal with those people!"

Well, at that exact moment, President's "I need to send Elder Watkins to that super-rich area" senses started tingling, and now, after a short jump across Holly, I am in the most financially successful area in the mission-- the home of many Broncos players and multi-millionaires. Contrary to my expectations, however, people seem very polite and willing to at least talk to us for a while. The work is going to increase this next transfer as we continue tracting, teaching, and spreading the message of the Gospel.

I'm here serving with Elder Harper from Paul, Idaho (Never heard of it? Neither has anyone else ☺). He's been in the mission all of 6 weeks, a greenie from his small 650-person farm town. He's a good kid and a hard worker with a powerful spirit.

We had a huge storm yesterday (sorry Leah-- your letter did get rather wet). I actually had a hunch that I ought to bring my umbrella, so I was prepared-- it was awesome. Huge thunderclaps-- wow. Unfortunately it didn't last long enough to try out my idea: we timed the flash to the boom at about 7 seconds, and we figured we could knock a door at just the right time, and shout "REPENT!" such that our command would be echoed with the reverberating crash of heaven (Isn't there a scripture about "after your testimony" coming the testimony of lightnings and storms?). =)

This was all good, until it flash-flooded and a monsoon-like downpour soaked us.... well, more my companion =). Then the hail started coming, so a guy let us take safe harbor in his garage for a few minutes while water and ice fell in buckets.

But rain or shine or dark of night (all of which are apparently possible simultaneously in Colorado), we will go forth and do this, the Lord's work. I know that this church is true. I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, and that God called him to do His work. I know that the Bible is true, and that the Book of Mormon truly is another witness, another testament of Jesus Christ. I know my Savior lives, and that He is in this work, helping us and guiding us every day of this fantastic journey. I have seen too many miracles to doubt.

OK, quick Mormon joke:

Question: What was the song that the Beach Boys wrote for the Salt Lake
Answer: ♪ I Wish They All Could Be California Gulls

Have a great week, and enjoy the summer!

Leaving Willow Creek

Hey all:

Like our Salt Lake Temple plastic cup sculpture?

Well, another successful end to a transfer. I got a call from the assistants at 11:00 last night informing me that I'm being transferred tomorrow.

I really have mixed feelings about leaving the Willow Creek Ward: I love this ward to death-- I know almost all the members, and love the unique leadership the sets such a fantastic missionary-oriented example. But then again, at the same time I've tracted every street in the area once, twice, or three times, and we've gotten to the point where we can recognize people at their doors and tell you how receptive they are and their whole story. That's not good-- we need some new elders in here without that sense of repetition and preconceived notions.

Well, I probably had better get going soon-- we have a dinner appointment in a few minutes and people to check up later tonight, and then tomorrow we will find out where everyone is headed.
It may not be on the mountain's height,
Or over the stormy sea.
It may not be at the battle's front--
My God will have need of me

But if by the still small voice He calls
To paths that I do not know,
I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I'll go where you want me to go.

I know this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is His Prophet, and that the Book of Mormon really is the word of God, and that it came forth the way He said it came forth-- a further witness and testimony to the Bible that our Savior lives and speaks today-- confirming the testimonies of ancient and modern prophets who have gone on before. I love this Gospel, and I love this work. I bear my own witness that this work is God's work, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen

Second Baptism

Well another week down, and another baptism! One of our investigators has decided to make that covenant with God. We are so excited for her-- she has such a wonderful spirit and a good testimony.

Well, the work is picking up. We are tracting, and tracting, and tracting, but we are also teaching. We have several new investigators, and we are looking forward to those new opportunities to preach the gospel to all those that we can.

Here's an insight into the life of a missionary: we do everything by revelation and inspiration. At the close of each day, we plan for the next day. This involves prayer-- applying D&C 75 verse 27:
Let them ask and they shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto them, and be made know from on high, even by the Comforter, whither they shall go.
When we receive revelation about where to go, miracles occur. We find new investigators and run into circumstances that just can't be coincidental. It truly is wonderful to see the hand of the Lord in the lives of those we meet, as well as in our own.

I'm grateful for the Gospel we have received. It's sometimes shocking to see the contrast between the worldly theologies and the message we bear. We tracted into a guy who did not hesitate in bashing with us. It all came because we said that "God is fair and looks on the heart and loves all His children."

Well, apparently He doesn't. This guy brought up the theory of predestination (I though that went essentially extinct decades ago), and said that God is not fair and everyone does not and will not have the chance to accept Him-- only those whom God has chosen to be saved will have the chance to hear the word. If you accept it, it's because God chose you to accept it. If not (whether by choice or inability), it's because God has not chosen you, and you must therefore be condemned. All our actions and our eventual placement in heaven or hell is conditioned on God's whims and arbitrary selection of those few of His children that He would like to not burn in hell. We are miserable slime that God detests, and though we are His "children," he despises us and may perhaps save a few of us so we can worship Him in the afterlife.

Contrast: We believe that all those billions of people who don't/didn't have the opportunity to hear the message of Jesus Christ in this life will have that opportunity to hear it in the next, and to make the same decision of accepting or rejecting it that we have had, that God loves all His children. Though he knows what path we will choose, he allows us to exercise our gifts of agency and will to bring to pass our own futures and the choose our own destinies-- will we try our best to learn of Him and to do His will, or will we repeatedly turn away from Him? We believe that when we make bad choices, God is grieved, because He loves us and wants us to return to Him, and when we do good, He is pleased for that same reason.

I know that this Church is true. how marvelous and beautiful is the message of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ! I love this, His Church. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

May you all have a wonderful week.

Springtime Snow

What better way to welcome in the Spring with an inch of snow and freezing temperatures in mid-May! So glad to hear that NC is resting in the 80s and AZ in the 90s while we folks in Colorado are having fun in the 30s.

So what's new? Not much. Our investigators are... investigating, and our upcoming baptism is... upcoming.

The mission is getting ready (albeit with some sadness) to bid farewell to President and Sister Christison at the end of their 3-year "volunteer" assignment as the fantastic leaders of the Colorado Denver South Mission. We are excited to meet Pres. Maynes and his wife in early July, but I would be amiss is I were to say that we aren't going to miss Pres. Christison and all he and his wife do for us. They truly lead in the spirit of power and authority, with a generous splash of Christlike love.

I have been learning a lot these past few weeks about watching not just how much work you do, but how you do it. I used to think that if you are willing to follow the Spirit, put your shoulder to the wheel, and expend all your energies, you would find success, but I'm realizing that, just as any good earthly parent (and I have two really good ones), our Heavenly Father won't let us just work and find miracles-- yes, we must work our tails off, but we also have to keep monitoring the quality of the work. If we don't watch how we work, then the work becomes fruitless, and pretty soon a hundred hours of tracting will get you only one investigator. I really need to work on learning how to work effectively.

Still, my testimony is undaunted. I know this Church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is His Prophet, and that the Book of Mormon really is the word of God, and that it came forth the way He said it came forth-- a further witness and testimony to the Bible that our Savior lives and speaks today-- confirming the testimonies of ancient and modern prophets who have gone on before. I love this Gospel, and I love this work. I just wish that time could just slow down a bit so I can cherish these two years more. I bear my own witness that this work is God's work, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tracting Fun

No update today-- just pictures of having fun while tracting and no one is home...

My first baptism

Hello all! Hope everything is going well back home. On 20 April 2010, our top investigator entered into the waters of baptism and made a covenant to "come into the fold of God, and to be called his people... to bear one another's burdens that they may be light... to mourn with those that mourn... and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as [a witness] of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places" (Mopsiah 18: 8-9). What a marvelous and spiritual experience it was! Our Mission President, Pres. Christison, and his wife attended with 11 brand-new missionaries straight from the Provo MTC. The Spirit was there, and the investigators who attended were touched. Elder Jefferey R. Holland estimated that something like 80% of investigators who attend someone else's baptismal service will feel the Spirit and be baptized themselves at a future date.

The work is going well. We just moved to another member's host home-- it really has a good feel to it. We are very grateful to the members of the Willow Creek ward who have consecrated their time, their energies, and their homes to this work by allowing us to live there.

Gotta go now-- lots to do. Until then, love you all. Keep up with what you're doing!

Funny Stories For April

So-- limited time this week-- gotta make it quick:

1. Conference was amazing!!! I loved all the talks (that and we had two investigators here for it!).

2. Fun story: while tracting, we knocked on the door, and a young adult (aka delinquent) answered. We could hear grumpy parents loudly asking "Who is it?" and he tried to balance a conversation between us and his loud old folks. The cat started coming for the door, and they started hollering "Cat coming!" He responded, "I know!" Either because they couldn't hear him, or because they wanted to keep warning him, they continued, "Cat coming!" "I KNOW!" "Idiot-- the cat's coming!!!" "I KNOW! JES@!* CHR$%&!!!" And then, from the missionaries: "Yes sir, that's exactly who we're talking about, sir!"
Hello all!

Well, another week has come and gone, and I am still alive. This week has been pretty uneventful-- a good portion of our investigators have gone out of town for Spring Break. As a companionship, we've been reviewing our performance and the results of our efforts as measured against the Mission President's weekly Standards of Excellence, which are as follows:

* 70 Quality Gospel Conversations (QGCs) = Teach + Testify + Invite
* 20 Sit-down lessons (SDLs)
* 20 Hours Tracting (HT)
* 10 Baptismal Invitations (aka. BIs: "As you receive a witness from God that these things are true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding proper priesthood authority?")
* 5 investigators at Church
* 80% of Sit-down lessons (15+) as member-present lessons (MPLs)
* 20 New Investigators (NIs)

That, coupled with the standard of 2 investigators baptized and confirmed per month, and it all equals quite a hefty goal, and takes a lot of work to get to that level. We meet those standards of QGCs, SDLs, HT, and BIs, so we're doing well on the "effort" key indicators, but miserably fail at the "results" key indicators of NIs, investigators at Church, MPLs (tired of the acronyms yet? ☺), and of course baptisms.

We've been working on trying to focus our efforts on raising the bar for the areas we lack. Right now, we're putting forth a renewed determination to find new investigators. While we're still not achieving the 20 that is the eventual goal, we are trusting in the Lord to help us as we strive to push for it, and expect to see an increase as we strengthen our focus there. once we get that indicator to a maintainable, steady clip, we will redouble our efforts on another key indicator.

So that was a little dive into the logistics of missionary "return and report" numbers. Although some of those numbers seem unrealistic, we have been promised divine assistance in achieving them and that those are the possibilities for every area in the mission, regardless of the elders, the ward, or the conditions of the people in relation to the Gospel.

If it weren't for the miraculous success that this mission has seen over the past three years, I wouldn't have believed President when he said that these things are possible, but I've seen growth here from the time when QGCs seemed doomed to remain at 40 or less, and SDLs seemed perpetually stuck at 13, but as we've prayed and worked hard, the Lord has blessed us and allowed those goals to come into fruition.

There's a great quote in preach My Gospel by a General Authority (I think it's Elder Ballard) that says:

One of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work. If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit. If he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit. If he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people, and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time, talents, and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. That's secret-- work, work, work! There is no satisfactory substitute-- especially in missionary work.

Well, time's up and I have to leave. Elder Andersen and I are doing well, and we will continue this marvelous work and a wonder. Enjoy Conference!

Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
Happy Spring!

Well, Colorado has welcomed in the new spring with blizzards and a whole lot of wet snow. On the plus hand, though, this is fairly normal (March and April are Colorado's snowiest months), ad providing much-needed moisture. Also, weather here tends to produce 60-70⁰ days immediately following an onrush of snow ad 10⁰ weather, so it usually melts really fast. Attached is a few pics of a minor blizzard when we felt daring enough to get out our cameras. People thought we were crazy for going out and knocking doors in that weather (and by people, that includes the members who were driving by), but that's how important this message is-- even if it gets down to -30⁰ and 6 feet of snow, we will still be out there pounding on your door sharing our message (although we may elect to tract some roofed apartment complexes for part of the time).

As far as the work goes, it going forth "boldly, nobly, and independent." "No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, and calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth... 'til it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in ever ear, 'til the purposes of God shall be accomplished, ad the great Jehovah shall say 'the work is done'" (Joseph Smith).

Can you tell I'm still super-pumped from Zone Conference a few days ago? =) Zone Conferences, if attended with the right spirit, are always really life-infusing to missionaries, and get them through the ext transfer.

We are very proud of our two primary investigators, who are starting to really show their commitment and faith in trying the fruits of the Gospel and keeping their commitments. If everything goes well, we should have at least one baptism coming up in April.

Last night, we got even more snow-- I'm guessing somewhere near a foot or more. We spent all night on the corner of Quebec and Dry Creek helping push cars up the slippery hills and getting them out of ice and mush. It was so good to help people in a moment of need like that. Maybe people don't like the Mormon missionaries at their front doors, but when we're behind their cars in a snowstorm, they're a bit more appreciative.

I thought of something interesting as I worked there. Many times, the cars don't see us helping them through the darkness and the heavy snow, and they just realize that there's an unexpected shove from behind when they get stuck. I remember the Willie and Martin Handcart company's experience as, when they couldn't push their carts one more step on their own frozen wintry journey, the handcart would seem to move on its own and push them. I wonder if that was from angels behind the cart, and if they felt the same joy of service that I felt last night.

I really love this work, and I hope I can stay here forever. I wonder if that's what our super-missionary role-model Ammon meant when he was brought before King Lamoni, and declared that he wished to remain in the land for "a time," and even added that he may wish to remain all the rest of his life. What dedication! Perhaps I may not wish to stay all my life (at least not yet), but I certainly don't feel like leaving anytime soon-- esp. a mere year and a half from now!

But I must put such thoughts of departure aside. I always thought they told missionaries not to count their time because they would get trunkie (always thinking and wishing for home), but for me it's just the contrary-- I keep getting terrified about how quickly time is passing, and now that I'm training my greenie "son," as usual, he makes his "father" feel really old.

Well, my time is short, and I must run and get back to work. I am so happy to serve as a missionary. I love you all, and God bless you!

Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
Hello all:

So I'm still alive and well. Still serving in Willow Creek and loving the work. We work hard, too. Last week, we found out that we put in almost 50 hours in lessons and tracting, not to mention the many meetings and transfers prep that went on last week. Surprisingly, my old companion Elder Baker stayed close by-- serving only a few miles away in Cherry Creek.

Attached is a picture of my new companion-- Elder Andersen from Rexburg, Idaho. He definitely has that admirable greenie fire, and is super obedient to every mission rule. It'd nice not having a companion with a disobedience issue to deal with. He is that caliber of missionary that is bound to be a Zone Leader someday.

So we had an interesting experience yesterday: we got yelled out of a neighborhood by a very irate lady that is convinced that what we are doing is illegal and that we ought to just be shot for sharing our message, so we changed plans and went tracting on Magnolia Court North of Costilla (not that I expect you to know where in the world that is). We were out for all of two minutes there when a Golden Retriever came running up and started frolicking all over the cul-d-sac. We got him to hold still long enough to read his tags (his name was Chase) and call his owner to leave a message informing them of their dog's whereabouts. They weren't home, so we had to get Animal Control involved, but until they could come, we used my belt as a makeshift leash and walked around with him for a while. What a playful little thing! No teaching appointment came of it, sadly, but it was neat to be able to help out a little.

Now news in investigators. Our primary investigators are doing wonderfully. They have made huge turnarounds this week, and it seems that with the oncoming of Spring, that they are starting to take this missionary thing a bit more seriously. It was wonderful to see them finally feel the Spirit that the message brings and to recognize that it is testifying that the principles we teach are true. They are finally realizing that the source of our message and a testimony of it is the Holy Ghost. To quote from D&C Section 6: "...what greater witness can you have than from God?" That's really why our message is so powerful. We literally call God as our witness to testify of the truth of this wonderful message. Whether opponent or amigo, every person will freely admit that our message-- that God speaks today through a living prophet, that the Heavens are not closed, that families can be together through all eternity, and that God has a plan for His children, made possible through our eldest brother Jesus Christ-- if true, is the most wonderful message the world has ever heard. Those who despise us call our message too good to be true, in fact.

Well, that's about all I have to report on (or vent about) for now. Have a great week!

Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
Hello all-- I have big news

Well, I'm pregnant! If you are familiar with mission slang/lingo, you will know that far from the literal and altogether disturbing implications of such a statement, it is simply a way of saying that I have been called to train a brand-spanking new missionary from the MTC. Continuing my mission slang, my "first-born in the days of my tribulation" will be born tomorrow (at transfer meeting) from the pre-mortal spirit world (the MTC). So.... I'm a daddy! =)

So that's the good news-- the bad news is that Elder Baker will be heading out. We hoped to stay together and work hard this next transfer, but at the same time we were both praying individually that if one of us had to leave, that it would be the other one. This area is just such a great area and a fantastic ward that we didn't want to leave. Well, my prayers were answered, so I get to stay. I guess the Lord just likes me better =)

The work has gone very well while he and I worked here. We even achieved 20 lessons last week! Also, we have a new investigator. He's a young man that is friends with several current missionaries from his high school. He wants to know why they're doing what he's doing, and what this whole religion and Mormon thing is all about. He's a very bright intellectual agnostic (at the moment, anyway). We're helping him to learn to recognize when the Holy Ghost prompts him. He's interested and honest. He also has a sense of humor and is as much a music theory geek as I am. Great kid.

We also received a request for a visit from a Catholic Priest. We were a little hesitant about that one-- whether or not he would be open or friendly. We are proud to report that he was and we had a wonderful discussion and answered many questions about our theology, our doctrine, our practices, and even our organization-- how the Church is run and how meetings are conducted. It was awesome to sit down with such a good man and have such a great conversation.

Well, it looks like it will be an interesting transfer-- lots of work to do, and we're glad to do it. A personal note to Dad: You were right-- it is possible to work hard, give all your energies, and love the work. I enjoyed my jobs at the school cafeteria, and even more at Tekelec, but although those jobs were fun and fulfilling, they can't quite compare to the wonderful feeling of coming home after 9 or 10 hours of missionary work with no energy left, but that sweet feeling of knowing you gave it your all.

Well, I guess I can report back next week on my new baby companion. I saw the list of new elders coming in (there are 9), and my official prediction is Elder Mullenhall, but we will see. Until next week, bye! Stay warm!
Hello all!

Hope everything's going well for everyone! Being a missionary, I don't get to watch, read, or listen to news (distracting-- go figure), but I have heard something about earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and other "diverse places," some killer whale incident, and snow covering the east coast. Hope everything's OK back home anyway.

This week has been pretty good. The work here is really picking up-- we are so close to getting our requisite 20 lessons per week that I'm sure we can achieve it this next week. Also, we are now up to 5 solid investigators! This is fantastic-- the members are finding people, and the Lord is blessing us in helping us to know where to tract to find people receptive to our message. We expect that at least one will respond to our invitation to be baptized by the end of March or mid-April, and hopefully more soon to follow. Gah-- this transfer is ending too soon. On March 11th, it's possible that I will have a new companion (and possibly a new area). I sincerely hope that I get to stay here and help out the work in this wonderful Willow Creek Ward, but "qué será, será, y no murmuraré ni quejaré, porque sé que el Señor guía a este misió, entonces, confiaré en él siempre."

Sorry-- I don't get much of an opportunity to practice my Spanish very often in this area.

Well, keep up the good work on the home front. I know this work is true, and that Jesus Christ guides this Church. I'm glad for the opportunity to share the message in Colorado and all over the world. I just wish more people would listen, even just to one 20-minute lesson. Or even let us do some yard work-- when they see the white shirt and ties, they never let us help out in any service whatsoever. =( Oh well, we'll keep up the good work.

Thanks, and love you all!